Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Do it yourself serger repair - How to adjust serger timing

So I recently did something awful to my serger and the needle broke, the upper and bottom loopers were loose, wiggled, and were not in the right positions. Since I bought the machine used, I didn't want to pay $100-$150 to repair it. Since if I ended up paying that much money for the machine, I probably should have just bought a new one in the first place.

So I went on the internet and searched and searched for information on how to repair and set the timing on a serger. I did get some help from the nice people in the alt.sewing google group but basically there is no information on the web on how to repair a serger. There also seems to be a lack of books, or even classes on sewing machine/serger repair. I don't really know how a person becomes a sewing machine technician. I assume they must learn the ropes through some sort of apprenticeship. I did get a "Generic Serger Manual Service and Repair" for x-mas but it is basically a photo copy of some info from the 80's and is missing some relevant pages. Plus it isn't really generic, it is basically some notes for some various older Singer sergers. However it did give me some good hints that let me figure out how to set the timing.

So I think there is some kind of conspiracy going on. Considering that the local repair shops charge $100, it becomes very pricy to get your machine(s) serviced every year as recommended. Especially if you have machines that only cost around $100-$200. Maybe the sewing machine manufacturers are trying to keep the relevant information secret so you feel compelled to buy a new machine when yours breaks. I don't know.
I am warning you that I am not an expert, this is my first time ever trying to fix a serger, and I had very little information to go off of. Fiddling around with things on your own could make things worse so that if you do bring the machine in to get repaired it could cost more. But in my case I figured it was worth it to see if I could get it working. So I am going to explain what I did so there is at least something on the internet for people to look at, but I wasn't even completely successful. After I fixed my machine I completed one project and it seemed to work fine, but the next day my needle broke again, so it still needs a little fine tuning.

I have a Kenmore 385.1664190 serger. You can get schematic pictures of all the interior parts, and order any possible part by going to the sears parts website and searching for your model of sewing machine or serger. However they do not offer a repair manual or tell you the specific placement of the loopers for timing. But the schematics helped me figure out what screws might be loose.

In my case both my upper and lower loopers were loose. So the upper looper (top red arrow) was wiggling forward and backward. And the lower looper (lower red arrow) was wiggling left and right. To tighten the upper looper I needed to stick an Allen wrench (the green thing) in the hole shown. If the lower looper is loose on the shaft you can use the screw that the blue arrow is pointing to, and I assume you can also use this screw for fine adjustments. But in my case it was the whole shaft that was loose (not the looper), so this screw didn't help me plus it was really hard to get to.

So to tighten the lower looper I needed to open up the bottom of the serger. There were two screws on the bottom plate, plus 4 screws in each of the rubber legs. The picture below shows what the bottom of the serger looked like. Once again I needed an Allen wrench to tighten the two screws where the red arrows are.

So now you need to know how to position the loopers so they actually do something.

Upper Looper:

Basically when the needles are at their highest position, the upper looper should be underneath the needles if you are looking straight on, but slightly in front if you are looking from above. If you had a repair manual I think it would tell you exactly how far the point of the upper looper should be in comparison to the left needle, and it varies from machine to machine. My generic manual was missing this information for their sample (Singer) machines. It did say that on the sample machine the looper should be 1mm in front of the needles.

Lower Looper:

The lower looper seems to belong exactly horizontal.

When the needles are at the lowest point the lower looper is supposed to be a certain distance from the left needle, for the sample machines it was 7mm. I had to guess on my machine. The needles do pass between the little pinchers in front of the looper.

When you rotate the handwheel the lower looper and upper looper's will pass very close to each other, they almost seem to fit together like a puzzle. There is probably a specified distance for this as well. The picture below isn't that great. Just think puzzle pieces.

Finally it is important to remember that when you thread the machine the thread that goes through the lower looper lies on top of thread that goes through the upper looper. If you thread the machine and you can't get the lower looper thread above the upper looper thread then its not going to work. In my case it wasn't too hard to get the loopers timed because I knew that the upper looper only needed to be moved forward, or back (not left or right) and the lower looper only needed to be moved left and right (not forward or back) and when you ruled out all the positions in which they ran into stuff it only left a couple of options.
Sewing machine technicians have exact measurements for where the loopers are supposed to be positioned in relation to the needles and each other, but this doesn't seem to be freely available information. So if your timing hasn't been disrupted too much hopefully the above information will be helpful.

If this article helped you and you would like to offer monetary reciprocation I would gladly accept paypal donations, or amazon.com gift certificates.  Even a dollar would be nice. ;) Thank you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Start of 3rd Trimester

So I am officially in the 3rd trimester no matter which way you count. Apparently doctors don't always do it mathmatically and divide 40 by 3. But no matter which reference you consult 28 weeks is always considered 3rd trimester.

For the last month I have been trying to switch from my doctor to a midwife. I really like Dr. Knowles from Sound Family Medicine, but after reading a bunch of books and birth stories online a frequent theme was that hospital policies can be frustrating and many of the standard interventions correlate with the fact that 1 out of every 3 or 4 births in the U.S. ends in a ceasarian. In my case I was concerned with the fact that Good Sam doesn't let you eat, it is standard to hook you up to an IV even if you don't need it, and they do continuous electronic fetal monitoring. Some of these things are negotiable but I was a little bit worried about getting bullied. The alternative is to go to a birth center and have a midwife deliver the baby. But, since most of these things were negotiable, I really liked my doctor, and I had already gone to her a few times I figured everything was good.

But then about a month ago I came to the realization that my insurance only covers 80% and it is expensive to give birth in a hospital. The very minimum is $7500, but that only includes delivery, not the other long list of other things they charge you for. The lady at the hospital said to assume 10-15,000. I think my insurance has a $3000 cap, so that was probably what it was going to cost me. So then I investigated what the birthing center would cost and they told me my 20% would be around $184. So I figured if they would take me I should switch because I don't want to pay thousands of dollars to give birth at a place that I didn't really want to anyways.

Well it took about a month, due to the holidays and power outages, to get all my records faxed to the midwives and have them review them and say that yes I am a low risk patient and can go to The Birthing Inn. In the mean time I had gone to my regular doctor, just in case it didn't all work out, and did the 1 hour glucose screening test for gestational diabetes, and I failed. So I was really annoyed by this because I didn't see how I could have gestational diabetes and the 1 hour test has a really high (around 50%) false positve rate so I had to go through the hassle of taking the 3 hour test with the likelihood I would pass it. Also this put a hold on my plans for the birth center because if I did have GD then I wouldn't be low risk. So I did the 3 hour glucose test and it was really annoying because I had to fast and I didn't get done till 1pm so I was really hungry, plus it wasted my Sat, plus my blood doesn't come out easy so they had to poke me a total of 8 times and my arms were all sore. But I passed the test, and the nurse was really great and called me basically right when the doctor had received the results, so I didn't have to harass anyone to get the results. Yeah! So I have an appointment scheduled to see the midwife and we can go and take a tour of the birth center on Monday. A lady at work gave birth at the Birthing Inn and said it was wonderful and she said all the midwives were great.

I am really excited, and relieved that I will be able to give birth in a way that feels most comfortable to me and I won't have to worry about hospital staff getting impatient and threatening ceasarians or trying to give me drugs I don't want or having to deal with anything like that. It could be that if I did give birth at Good Sam it would have been great, but it still had me worried that it was a possibility.