Frolic

Friday, December 20, 2013

Babylock BL3-408 = The Best $50 I Ever Spent

DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND: You can download the  BABY LOCK BL3-408 Serger Manual here.  I have scanned and saved it to a file sharing program because so many people have asked for it.

Not a vintage Singer this time, but a "nearly" vintage Babylock Serger (BL3-408) aka "The Best $50 I Ever Spent".


Actually it does rather look like an antique! 

I learned to sew in the 1970's before sergers were commonly available for home use.   In the 1980's-'90's I didn't sew a lot, and certainly not enough to consider buying a serger.  In fact I was still sewing on my Singer 15-91 - I didn't even have a zigzag machine!  

Like lots of old school sewers I figured I didn't need a serger, I was happy to do everything the old-fashioned way.  Besides they looked WAY complicated and too modern for my sensibilities.  

But as I began to step up my sewing in the last decade, it occurred to me that having a serger to finish off seams would really give my sewing a nice touch.  It wasn't until I came across a CL ad for this machine a few years ago that I finally took the plunge.  I actually liked the fact that it was older and didn't have the bells and whistles (the owner was selling it because she was getting a boss new machine herself.)   Yep, just $50, and she still had it in the original box with the original manual and accessories.  

First of all, here's what it DOESN'T do:  

It doesn't have automatic air-jet threading or differential feed or half a dozen threads (just three).  It doesn't do a cover stitch or fancy decorative stitches.  There is no automatic tension or anything else.  Everything is done manually.

What it DOES do:   Finish seams.  Narrow rolled hems.  Period

Today's example:  a child's flannel nightie

I needed a narrow, rolled hem for the collar.  And as much as I love my vintage Singers, I will admit that no attachment I've tried will make a narrow hem on a curve like this (no, not even that little rolled edge hemmer foot.  It works best on straight hems and even then is tricky to pull it off.)  

So in only "14 Easy Steps", I change from 3-Thread serging to  Narrow Rolled Hemming. 

(You think I'm kidding?) 


 And here we go - a lovely narrow rolled hem.  




My other favorite application is the seam finish.  14 steps to switch back to the 3-thread overlock and I'm ready to serge the yoke seam on the nightie.  I have never used any other serger, so don't have any basis for comparision, but I am pleased that it zips right through these layers - including the gathered layer - quickly and easily.  The result is a nice finish that I couldn't duplicate on a sewing machine.

(The zigzag stitches in this picture were for gathering.  On full skirts, I like to ZZ over a heavy thread for gathering.  It is much quicker and easier than the double rows of long basting stitches and much less likely to break.)



A neat seam and facing finish with layers of thick fleece. No balking even when crossing seams.

And THAT, my friends, is all it does!  It is a bee-atch to thread it.  It involves contortions, instruments and a few bad words to get the job done.  The tensions have to be manually tweaked and adjusted.   But I've been using it 4-5 years now and its never once let me down.  It is all metal like my sewing machines and weighs a good hefty 18 lbs so it stays in place no matter how heavy the fabric I'm running through it.   It handles a range of fabric weights with ease even though changing stitch length requires a screwdriver.   I have to oil it just like my sewing machines - but I am used to that so no big deal.


Do I want one of these?  No!  Really and truly, I don't. :)



20 comments:

  1. Hi, do you have a pdf version of your manual for this babylock?

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  2. No, I have the original manual. Do you have this serger too?

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  3. Hello, I'm looking for the manual to this serger, do you by any chance have a PDF copy?

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  4. No, I only have the original manual. I would be glad to scan you a copy except that I'm out of the country for a few months and don't have access to it!

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    1. When you return, may I please have a copy, too? Babylock doesn't provide the manual anymore.

      As I don't belong to any social networking sites, I'm not sure how to send you my contact information.

      Janet

      Janet

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  5. I may want to buy this model from a friend, but I'm just making sure I can work it first. She isn't familiar with the machine. Can you tell me what type of needle I need for it?

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    1. I know this is an old comment, but in the door of my BabyLock the needles listed are Organ DCx1 and Schmetz 621, and the manual specifies the same with #7 ~ #14. I hope that helps anyone else who is looking for this information.

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  6. I am not near my machines at this time, so I forget the exact type of needle. But it is a ROUND industrial type needle. I don't think you can find them in retail stores, but you can order them online. It makes it a little trickier to insert the needle correctly because you don't have a flat side to show you which way it goes - you have to make sure the grooved side is facing away from you when inserting it which isn't easy. But I have a tip for that! Thread the needle BEFORE inserting it. (Makes threading easier too, BTW.) Once the needle is threaded correctly - grooved side to the back - then you can see how to insert the needle. Once I figured this out, I saved myself a lot of aggravation.

    And don't worry about the needles, they are available online. Sorry I can't remember exactly what they are called, but you can find them on sites that sell sewing machine parts. Good luck. It is a basic machine, but very good quality.

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  7. If you want a copy of the manual, I will be happy to scan it when I return to the States next month. You can email me at marykb@gmail.com in January to remind me.

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  8. I just bought this model at an estate sale for 20 bucks. OMG! It still works like it's new and so much easier than my Hobby Lock to thread. My question is about the stitch width dial - is there a trick to adjusting it? Mine seems locked and it's set at the narrowest width. Any insight would be appreciated.

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  9. Thank you for your quick repy. The uploaded manual is very helpful.

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  10. I recently inherited this and have been searching high and low for a manual. Can't find one. Your link will not come up I'm hoping you could still help!!!!

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  11. I recently inherited this and have been searching high and low for a manual. Can't find one. Your link will not come up I'm hoping you could still help!!!!

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  12. Hello, sadly the link to the manual does not work any more. Could you repair it? Thank you very much!

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  13. bless you! bless you! bless you! I have a BL3-416 given to me by a friend and now MAYBE I can get more than a tangled mess out of it!

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  14. Thanks for sharing your manual. I couldn't find it anywhere! :)

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  15. Thank you for sharing your manual. Also the information you have shared on your page has been very helpful.
    Thanks

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  16. i recently obtained one for 60 with some other items as rummage bundle.
    I have to say this page saved my life as this manual was nowhere to be found on the internet but here.
    My only problem was the thread width dail was Seized. I used some pb blaster (liquid wrench) with no luck. When i took it apart to try and free it i Discovered a tap type screw cover on the lower front that let me gain access to the inside where i could get some lube into the thread width rod and low and behold it now turns easily.the knob is broken but less than 10$ in parts and i am in business. just mentioning this in case anyone else has this issue, as i took it apart but really did not need to.
    thing is a little tank.
    With out this page i would not have even been able to properly thread it, let alone use it/fix it.
    The adjustable chaining tongue is broken (just the little screw on part), but was able to get the part.
    the part i ordered looks a lot different than the one i took off, but i am assuming it was mangled somehow. but if someone could take a picture of theirs i would be eternally grateful.
    Dave
    wenzelranch@gmail.com

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