Here is the newest addition to my sewing machine collection: A Babylock Bl101 Blind Hemmer.
This cute little machine does only one thing – a chainstitched blind hem. But, like most specialized machines, it does a fanatastic job.
I found this machine on Ebay for under $200 (including shipping). I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s hard to find information about specialty machines
The needle sits sideways in the machine, and moves from left to right. The guides lift the fabric up at just the right point for the needle to barely pierce the fabric. The single looper catches the thread and makes a single stich. You can watch the whole, facsinating process through the clear window that covers the needle and looper.
The handle on the right side of the machine controls the feed dogs. The lowest position is for inserting or removing the fabric. The middle position lightly grasps the fabric, so you can deterimine if it is correctly positioned in the feed guide. The highest position is for sewing
I hate threading sergers. I was a bit worried about threading this machine. It came unthreaded, with a cone of clear thread sitting on the spool, comfortably wrapped in a thread net. Threading was mandatory, not optional. I decided to use black serger thread for easier to see stitches, making any needed adjustments easier to see and fix.
Miniscule printing and photocopy quality made my copy of the instruction manual a little intimidating. The threading diagram is clear, concise and easy to follow. The few steps seemed simple, and were. Through the thread holder, then two large eyes, and around the tension disk. Open the clear plastic needle cover, and run the thread through another guide, under a little rectangular thingy, and then through one final guide before reaching the needle.
Turning the small handwheel on the right side of the machine moves the needle and loopers. For threading, the needle must be in the left most position, which you can find easily by lining up the green dots on the needle and the machine. Like most specialty sewing machines, it does forward only, so the handwheel turns counterclockwise only.
The sideways needle is threaded down to up. The intructions advise using an ordinary needle threader to do this. The first needle threader I grabbed from the sewing basket was too big to fit through the eye of the needle. The seccond threader I trie worked. When I was finished and cleaning up, I realized the small plastic bag that came with the machine included extra needles and a needle threader. Next time I will try the threader that came with the machine.
After threading, lower the handle on the right side to the lowest position. Pull the fabric into the machine, with at least 2″ BEHIND the needle and loopers. Move the handle to the center position, and make sure the fabric is positioned correctly. When you’re ready to sew, raise the handle to the highest position.
The First Test
I think the results would be better with the clear thread that came with the machine, or a regular sewing machine thread. Serger thread is lower quality than sewing machine thread. Thread runs back and forth through the eye of an ordinary lockstich sewing machine needle many, many times before finally ending up in a stitch. Serger thread isn’t made to stand up to that kind of wear and tear, and tends to break when used in a normal sewing machine.
My first couple of test runs were a bit wonky. The tension was fine. I had to adjust the guide on the front of the machine, so the fabric fold entered the machine correctly. I had to turn the stitch depth dial all the way up to 6, because at lower settings, the needle did not always pierce the fabric enough to catch the looper, causing skipped stiches. Strangely, the owners manual suggests depths of 1 – 3 for heavier wovens, and 3 – 6 for lightweight fabrics and synthetics. Perhaps my litte machine need a little tune up.
Hemming the Dress
The machine is fast and quiet, much quieter than my vintage Singer.Watching the needle and looper through the clear plastic window is almost hypnotizing.
Holding the fabric in your left hand as it exits the machine keeps the fabric from pooling and bunching behind the needle and loopers.
To lock the thread at the end of the hem, stop sewing at the very end of the fabric (or complete the whole circle of hem). Make sure the needle is positioned all the way to the left (you can see it through the clear plastic window) and, with your left hand, give the fabric a good, hard yank. The thread snaps and the stitching locks in.
My second hemming project is a re-hem job. This floral rayon Lekala dress came out shorter than I anticipated. I tried to preserve the length by using a facing for the hen. I wasn’t thrilled with the end result. So I trimmed away the facing, leaving the serged skirt/hem facing seam allowance in place. I used this as a guide to fold the fabric up again for hemming. This time, I used the clear thread that came with the machine and I like the results a lot better. The skirt is just a teeny bit shorter, but not too short.
The Final Result
Here is a close up of both the black dress and the floral dress.
The clear thread works so much better than the black serger thread. The machine is quick, quiet and super easy to use.
I like my little blind hemmer!