An introduction, and more fun with drafting!

My machines

I would like you all to meet my long-neglected serger, Janomelock JL-603A, to be precise.

She is no beauty. She has neither the range of features of a new serger (4-thread setup, differential feed, easy to thread) nor the charm of a truly vintage machine (though as sergers go, I guess she’s pretty vintage). I’m guessing she dates to the late 80s or early nineties, when my mother-in-law used her to create figure-skating costumes for my sister-in-law . I wrangled her out of my mother-in-law five or six years ago (possibly to my sister-in-law’s disappointment, although she got the regular machine and doesn’t use it as far as I can tell). Whatever manual she came with has long since been lost, and my efforts at finding one online have come up completely bust, so I really have only the sketchiest idea of how to use her. In her favour, she serged just fine for me for the first three or four years I had her, even though I didn’t even know how to thread her properly for most of that time.

Then, about two years ago, I tried serging without the blade. I can’t even remember why, except that I knew the blade could flip up and I wanted to see how it would work. It worked fine, although there’s not a lot of room to the right of the needle/blade to maneuver fabric, so it’s really not much use. Then I went to put the blade back down and serge something normally.

The blade is stiff and kind of fiddly. I somehow put it down halfway.

Everything locked up in a terrifying grinding machine-screech.

I freaked out, ran around the room, eventually figured out the problem and got the blade in place properly, but the damage had been done. Everything sewed just fine—but the loops didn’t form. One of the loopers was hopelessly out of position.

And there she sat for about two years. Intermittently I’d take her out, vainly hoping that by re-threading yet again she’d magically recover. It didn’t, of course, work. Finally, a few weeks ago, I bundled her up and trotted her down to the sewing-machine repair shop. And there, for the low, low price of $100, they not only revived her, they threw in a package of needles.

This would be a bit more thrilling if I hadn’t seen a nearly-new, barely-used serger on Kijiji a little while ago for only $150. But anyway—

I can has serger! Now I have no excuse not to finish my seams. My knit tees can be

Syo's shirt

that much closer to the holy grail of “Ready To Wear”. And, I have the perfect project to try her our on:

Syo wants a shirt like my Frankenpattern shirt. I was not super-keen on the off-the-shoulders look for a seven-year-old (ok, largely because she wouldn’t be able to wear it to school), so with some back-and-forth, we settled on the design on the right, which is off the shoulders but with wide straps. She requested the short sleeves, as she always gets too hot with long sleeves (weird child).

I hunted through my rather limited stash of children’s patterns and found an early 90s-cum-50s ensemble that includes a fairly basic shirt to use as the block. Drafting the “cowl” wasn’t too tough (just a bunch of measuring off the block), assuming it ends up looking vaguely like the picture. The fabric will be this crazy print (to the left in the picture) that Syo picked out from the bargain section a while ago.

Syo's cowl pattern

In sick-baby news, Syo is much recovered, Tyo is sick and moping but not actually vomiting, my stomach is unsettled but that might just be from sympathy. So aside from cramping my style, all is well.



Filed under Sewing

21 responses to “An introduction, and more fun with drafting!

  1. It looks older than the nineties, just comparing to my mom’s machines at the time! Seems to me it’s always $100 at the sewing machine repair shop, whether it’s a tune-up or a major repair…
    Ooh, off-the-shoulders! I remember being in elementary school and there was a girl who was allowed off-the-shoulder tops, worn with the thick tank-top straps showing. She was seriously cool, with long dangly earrings too! Anyways.. I’m rambling. Good luck with the new-and-improved serger!

  2. I think you will have lots of fun with your serger. I know I wouldn’t want to be without mine anymore! And that over the shoulder top looks great. Girls these days seem so much more fashionable than when I was that age. I remember we all just wore jeans and huge shirts (preferable mens shirts) or chunky sweaters. Or maybe that was just this area, don’t know 🙂

    Anyway, knowing what you can create I have no doubt that your little girl will look great!

    Hope everyone will feel better again soon!

  3. That looks about the same era as my home overlocker!
    I have a Brother homelock, that I ‘acquired’ from Mum when I was at uni. It still goes really well, and I never maintain it! Ok – a few drops of oil now and then. But I haven’t tried it without the blade – and won’t!!

  4. What is it about sewing skating costumes – lately, that’s all I read about one way or another. I had no idea this was such a home industry 🙂

    I love the look of that serger – very retro chic. And now that it works, I like it that much more! What a pain to have to get it fixed – but sergers are the most beautiful invention. I think it’s worth the hundred bucks.

  5. Definitely worth $100 to have a serger, though if it needs to go in again I vote “replace.” Although I would never do a downward departure from my Bernina SM, cheap sergers are just fine for me.

  6. I fall into the frightened of sergers camp. I’ve never tried one, but after doing so much work with t-shirts recently, and some especially roll-prone knit the other day, a serger seems like it could be the solution to a fistful of problems.

    The idea for the top looks cute, we’ll be waiting.

    • They are really not that scary. The hardest part is the threading, and it’s time-consuming and fiddly but not actually hard. They go FAST. And the blade is so nifty, slice sice slice….

      Though, they’re not helpful for hemming etc except for a narrow rolled hem. Now I want a coverstitch 🙂

  7. Marie-Christine

    That poor thing looks not only vintage, but antique. If it doesn’t have differential feed, I’d definitely say.. eBay.
    But most importantly, no matter what you have, if you never take a class you’re not flying with all engines on. I’d been sewing for 30 years when I got a serger, and I’m not a mechanical idiot. But without the class I took initially, I wouldn’t have understood what I subsequently read, I’d have been nowhere. Every case I know of serger-in-the-closet is because of lack of a class. Don’t do that to yourself :-)..

  8. On my serger when I want to change thread I will clip the threads long enough that I can do a square knot with the new color. Then I put all the tension settings to zero and gently pull them through, then reset the tension and do a test run. Takes 5 minutes instead of 30 that way. Hmm… maybe I should do a post about it, huh?

  9. Sewista Fashionista

    I am using my serger without a blade as you described. Whenever I go online to find when they made a BabyLock Protege I come up with nothing. The tension dials are starting to go now so I can no longer be too fussy about setting. I am wondering if my machine is so old that repair is futile compared to buying another. (Three times at the shop did not cure it!) But I am putting off the research because I fear the cost will be prohibitive. Good luck with your serger. It sounds like it has been revived!

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  13. Ellice

    Hi! I have the exact same one and came across your post while trying to work out some problems with it. I just sent the PDF manual to your email address, hope it helps – a few years later but better late than never!
    Ellice – Australia

    • Vicki

      Hi! I have been given a very old Janomelock JL-603 (green) and have no idea how to use this old girl. Do you have a copy of a manual that you could email me?
      Cheers, Vicki – Australia

    • Sally

      Hi Ellice,

      I have this same machine, seems it is still quite popular (mine is a lovely green colour though =) ) I am not sure how i work out the tension. Can you advise or possibly send the PDF instructions?

      Thank you in advance

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  15. tess jeffs

    Vickie, I do have a manual for the green JL 603A,it may be helful

  16. Ooh, can I get a copy of the manual too, please? I just picked up the green one, and it’s a beautiful looking machine 🙂

  17. Anna

    I got this machine JL 603(Green) from a friend but none of us know how to use it, would you mind send me the manual?
    Many thanks!

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