on November 12, 2013
Allow me to preface this review with: I've never, ever used nor owned a Serger - I've never even watched someone else use a Serger... so if I can do it, anyone can. I primarily sew clothing, and finally, after 30 years, have decided it's time to take my sewing up a notch. I'm thrilled with the results! I absolutely love this Brother Serger. I spent much time reading reviews and searching Craig's List for an amazing deal on a high dollar Bernina or Juki, which could not be found. So I opted for this Brother within my price range, and could not possibly be happier with my choice. I selected this 1234 over the 1034 because I prefer the more sophisticated look of the Navy Blue dials over the 1034's colored dials - and because this model came with 3 additional feet, well worth the added expense to me.
Threading is simple and each step clearly marked and color coded; Inside the looper area, they have little numbered pictures - making threading essentially foolproof - the only thing you need the manual for is to tell you the proper order to follow. As long as you thread in order, you will have no trouble at all. My final comment on threading is to immediately take the thread spools provided with the Brother machine and THROW THEM IN THE TRASH - and thread the machine with quality thread purchased elsewhere. The "complimentary" threads kept breaking and made my first 2 hours on the machine more frustrating than needed. Save yourself the headache! Once I put some decent thread on the Serger, it was smooth sailing from then on.
Another advantage to this machine is that it uses standard sewing machine needles, so you don't have to buy special needles for it; you can interchange with your regular sewing machine, which is a cost savings.
Overlocking is a breeze. I've tested out denim, super-light stretch fabric, and swim suit fabric; and I've also stitched through 4 layers of Polar Fleece without any trouble (made my son a fleece bathrobe/PJ pants for Christmas). Love the differential feed which prevents stretching!! With only minor adjustments to stitch widths, lengths and tension dials, I have successfully serged flat seams on every fabric I've tried so far. I cannot gush and rave about this Serger enough. I haven't yet tried to do a rolled hem. But a flatlock seam was easy enough. Simply keep the manual open when trying new things and everything seems to work exactly as described.
The fabric cutting knives can be disengaged with the flip of a switch, and the upper knife can be easily moved out of the way by simply pressing it down inside the machine. Move it back into position when needed again. No danger of cutting yourself the way it's set up.
This machine has helped me make quick work of some pretty big projects that would have taken 3 times longer on my sewing machine. I couldn't be happier with it!! I love this Serger so much, I just had a second one shipped to my Mother... she's pretty excited to start sewing knits again. I highly suggest you save yourself the money and give this Brother a try... my experience has been high dollar results and amazing finished looks at an incredible price.
The Brother Designio Serger, DZ1234, is functionally identical to the Brother Lock Serger, 1034D. I own the 1034D, having purchased it from Amazon a few months ago. There are only cosmetic differences between the two, and the instruction manuals are identical. The 1034D has been used fairly heavily since purchase and it has performed flawlessly, so I expect good performance from this Designio.
People who know why they want a serger might want to skip ahead to the next paragraph. Some might wonder about the differences between a standard home sewing machine and a serger. A serger doesn’t replace the sewing machine. There are things a serger can’t do, or can’t do well or easily, like inserting zippers or making buttonholes. You need a sewing machine first. I sewed for many years before domestic sergers were introduced and I resisted getting a serger for a long time. Once I caved and bought one I wondered why I waited so long. The serger finishes seams professionally and fast. It can overlock the edges of fabric that is fraying much faster and better than using the zigzag on a regular machine. Believe me, you will come to depend on it to make your sewing easier.
The first thing I noticed about the Designio Serger is that it is quieter and smoother sounding than the Brother Lock, which despite its good performance has a rather harsh sound and groans a bit on start-up. The Designio has less of a grumble when you step on the pedal.
This machine has three dials and a switch on the left side. The switch drops the knife for decorative applications where you do not want to trim your fabric. The dial closest to the front controls the width of your stitch; the second one controls the length of the stitch, and the last one is the differential. Adjustable differential is a great thing on a serger. It controls the relative speed of the front and rear feed dogs and allows you to stretch or gather, as desired – or avoid stretching and gathering! Testing fabric is a must to determine whether you need to adjust this.
All of the dials have the default settings indicated to help you find a starting point for adjustments. These dials, on both machines, are a bit balky and don’t feel especially sturdy to me. They are the one major weakness of the machines and give me a little concern for long-term use.
The tension dials on the front of the machine are color coded to indicate which thread they control and the color coding is continued in the threading illustrations. Sergers can be a beast to thread, but this one isn’t too bad. It takes practice. I never cut the thread and tie on to change threads. Although this works as long as the threads don’t break while serging, sooner or later you will have a break. Then you will have to thread from scratch and it’s better to be in practice!
Serger manuals always tell you to thread the upper looper first, then the lower looper, right needle, left needle. This has always baffled me. How do the needle threads “know” whether the loopers are threaded? The paths don’t intersect. I do always thread the upper looper before the lower one. But if I break a looper thread, I don’t unthread the needle or needles. I just re-thread the looper in question, pulling both looper threads out of the guides where they intersect, and putting them back in order, upper looper first. I have never had a problem doing this with any serger I’ve owned and I have three now. Your mileage may vary!
This serger comes with a blind-stitch foot for hemming and a gathering foot, as did the Brother Lock. However, the Designio also has a piping foot, which excited me because I’ve never done piping on a serger. The feet slide off and on easily, using the highest position of the presser foot lever, and pressing the release on the back of the needle bar.
I sewed a standard four-thread overlock on woven fabric and it came out just perfect.
Gathering: Following the instructions on Page 12 of the Serger Techniques booklet and using the gathering foot gave me a nice, even gather on the lower piece of fabric. This was the first time I have ever used a serger to gather and it was a success.
Blind Hemming: Up until this point, I was using both needles. I rarely do this, finding that a three thread overlock is sufficient, using either the right or left needle. Using the left needle gives a wider overlock than when using the right needle. For most other techniques as well, including rolled hem, only one needle is needed. Instructions for the blind hem say to use only the left-hand needle.
So I removed the right-hand needle in order to try the blind hem. Here is where I ran into a problem. Both needles are held by one screw. So, you must loosen this screw while holding on to both needles to prevent them from dropping into the machine. This wouldn’t be fatal as you would be able to get them out, but still, better to keep a grip. This proves to be tricky, but I never had a problem with the Brother Lock other than dexterity. However, when I retrieved this machine’s included Allen wrench to loosen the needles, it did not fit into the hexagonal slot on the screw. I could not loosen the screw. I got the Allen wrench that came with the Brother Lock and it slipped right into the slot and I was able to remove the right-hand needle. This is a quality control issue that is a bit troubling.
If you have the problem with the Allen wrench, you can try sanding it down with an emery cloth. This worked and made the Designio wrench fit. Also, my husband has a multi-tool with a small Allen wrench that also worked to loosen the screw.
After settling the needle screw problem, I put on the blind stich foot and followed the instructions for settings on Page Four of Serger Techniques, as well as adjustments for the foot on Page 48 of the Handbook. (This need to consult two different manuals is a negative in my opinion.) I will say that I have never achieved an acceptable (to me) blind stitch with any machine and this was no exception. It worked but it is very tricky to have the needle hit close to the fold and even if you do, a machine “blind” stitch is visible. For very casual applications, you may be able to get closer to perfection with a lot of practice. For me, I’ll do my hems by hand!
Rolled Hem: For a rolled hem, as on a napkin, remove the stitch finger following directions in the manual. It’s easy, and it goes back in easy when you replace it. Take out the left needle if it’s in there and put a needle on the right side. Set the dials on the side to “R” for rolled hem and go! Very neat and clean.
Now for piping! I haven’t done piping in years. I followed directions, put the needle back on the left and installed the piping foot, which was no more difficult than putting on any foot. Settings are basically the normal ones for three or four thread serging. Wow! The piping went in the seam flawlessly! And for my next trick I decided to try making piping. Taking some cording, I placed it in the fold of a 1 1/2 inch strip of fabric and inserted it under the foot. Piping! Increasing the pressure of the foot by using the screw on top of the machine made it a smidge better. But very neat piping, ready to insert using this machine or your standard sewing machine.
TLDR: I like this machine. The motor runs smoothly and quietly, more so than its brandmate, the Brother Lock. The speed is easy to control, which is important. Threading is clearly illustrated in the booklets and on the machine. The thread finger is easy to remove and re-install for different applications. Needles are a bit tricky to put in and remove, but practice helps. The Allen wrench provided to change needles may give you a problem, or not, but it’s not a fatal error. The dials on the side don’t operate as smoothly as I would like, but they aren’t awful. I’d like it better if all the directions and settings were in one booklet, but it’s not a major problem. The feet go on and off easily. Especially for the money, this is a great serger. I have an Elna I paid over a thousand dollars for in 1996, which is still running, but is a lot more finicky about threading and settings.
I also own a Brother 1034D 3 or 4 Thread Serger with Easy Lay In Threading with Differential Feed that I got back in 2009 and these are very, very similar, which is a good thing because that machine works great and has worked well in the past 4 years without needing to be serviced, always a bonus. The big differences between the two machines is that the DZ1234 has more in the way of included accessories (with this machine you get two additional feet - a piping foot and standard foot vs. the 1034D), the machine comes pre-threaded and with an extra set of thread, and it also sews a little more smoothly and quietly than the 1034D. I do agree with previous reviewers that the thread that comes on this machine isn't as good of quality as what I would normally purchase separately. But I do think if you have never threaded a serger before it is a huge help to see it threaded before you attempt it for the first time. It also gives you the option of tying on from the first time you thread your machine. (Basically, you use the existing thread to help you re-thread the machine. There are lots of tutorials about this on the internet if you're not familiar.) If you are a beginner I would imagine this would be a huge help as it is my preferred way of threading because it is MUCH faster and doesn't seem to affect tension. If threading is a huge problem for you there are machines on the market that offer automatic threading, however they come with a huge price premium. For me, it made more sense to spend less money and concentrate on learning how to thread the machine because once you've done it a few times it starts to make more sense (especially if you tie on). Though admittedly it is much more complicated than threading a standard sewing machine.
Elsewhere I've seen this compared to Babylock and people often make the claim that Babylock will sew more smoothly. I can't address that because my only experience has been with Brother. But I will say there hasn't been a time when I felt that smoothness was an issue with this machine or that I've wondered if there was something better out there. I use this primarily for finishing seam allowances and doing rolled hems and have found both of these machines to be great at this task. If you're questioning whether you need this in addition to your standard sewing machine for garment finishing I also think this is worth it because the results look MUCH more professional and do a great job of preventing fraying and helping your creations last longer.
Overall if you are a beginning to intermediate seamstress and don't mind spending a little time to learn to thread the machine, I think this is more than sufficient and likely to last you for years and years to come without expensive maintenance.
on November 9, 2015
Finally found the time to unbox and sit down to figure this thing out. I am a beginner sewer and have never serged before. I took up sewing 2 months ago and was comfortable using this guy. I have to admit the reviews scared me a little, I almost didn't buy it because this thing seemed so intimidating. I am relieved to report that it took me about 30 minutes from unboxing to serging my first sample, and that was me distracted with the TV going. The manual is not nearly as comprehensive as the one for my Brother SE425, but it does the job. It helps if you flip through the entire threading section (just a few pages) before attempting to thread. For those who are too lazy:
1) The upper looper (3rd position/ green) thread goes first.
2) The lower looper (4th position/ blue) thread goes second. You have to pull out a metal tab to finish threading, the directions are on the machine and there is an arrow to indicate where the tab is.
3) The right needle (2nd position/ red) goes next, followed by
4) The left needle (1st position/ yellow)
Once everything is threaded, make sure the threads are to the right of the needle gizmo and start threading a chain. Once you have your chain, you are ready to stitch your first sample (see pictures attached for the 4 thread overlock stitch sample)!
If you are looking for fun projects to do, Craftsy has a few serging classes that will guide you through making fun things with your serger (like a scarf and a bag). I am currently taking a fun with knits class- the whole purpose of this class is to be able to sew knits without a serger, but I'm totally going to use my serger to sew my fleece hoodie! I will update with results.
A few things that annoyed me about this:
The machine came pre-threaded with 4 white threads. The 4 threads were all knotted up when I opened the box, and it took a few minutes to untangle everything. I also don't like the fact that it has an old fashioned light bulb in there....the light is not very bright and it gets hot a few minutes after turning the machine on. I still gave this 5 stars because I can easily change to an LED bulb when this light goes out....and the knotty thread problem was fixed in a few minutes.
Edit (1/18/2016): I had a lot of fun making pillowcases for Christmas presents with this baby. It made the process so much faster and the finished product looked really good. I still used my sewing machine to hem the edge to give it a nicer look, but 90% of the work was done on the serger. Ironing the fabric after pre-shrinking it took longer than serging the 3 sides, so it's a great way to make a lot of presents really fast. All you need is 1 yard of fabric, fold it in half on the fat side (rather than the long side), and serge two sides of it together (don't forget you have 1 fold and 1 opening). This is really great for straight lines, but I found it pretty tough to work with for L-shaped edges...almost impossible to have a completely closed seam with this kind of edges. I tried to make a knit dress the easy way but the arms got really tricky. I'm fairly new to sewing and serging, so there's probably ways to get around this.
Also, I made a stitch binder- this helps A TON. Every time I try a new type of stitch, I will make a sample and stick it on a piece of paper. I will write what type of stitch it is, what my thread tensions are, stitch length, etc. It REALLY helped me get to know the serger quite a bit more, I'm now much more comfortable with this tool.
I have never, ever used a serger before so I am a total newbie at this. That said, I am awfully impressed with what it does, and I'm still in the baby stages of using it. The serged seam was unbelievably beautiful and something I could never do on a regular sewing machine. I can see myself using the serger a lot in the future and updating this review as I become more and more familiar and competent with it. I am under a time constraint to write a review, so I will first say that this review so far, is from a total first-time user perspective, but updates will surely follow.
There were only two things that could have been done better with this machine, but I won't deduct a star since the machine itself works wonderfully. The first one is that the enclosed DVD and printed instructions were not very helpful. They became understandable only after watching some good Youtube videos of how to thread it. I was able to stop the videos at certain points and study what they were doing and then try to accomplish the same task myself. I removed the 4 white spools of thread and used the enclosed red, blue, green and yellow thread that came with the serger. I whole-heartedly thank those lovely women who did such good jobs at making these videos and clearly describing each step along the way. I really don't know if I could have figured it out without them. The DVD that comes with the serger is for another model, but the steps and parts of the machine are all the same. I just couldn't see clearly enough what the woman was demonstrating and not enough was said about fine detail points such as does the thread go behind, underneath or in front of something. It took me at least an hour to get the serger threaded to the point I felt I had done it correctly. I can see why they say to tie on new threads to the old ones so you don't have to go through the threading process. I still need to practice threading it several times just to make sure I have it thoroughly understood so I don't have to run to the computer to watch the videos again. The second thing that could have been done better on this particular model is the color of the guiding color lines. The color lines that guide you through the threading process are so close together in color that I had to take a bright flashlight and shine it on them to tell them apart. The blue and green lines were very, very close in color and I have excellent color sight. They should have stayed the same as on the previous model because even in the videos you can easily tell the difference in colors.
However, after getting it threaded I took some tests material and ran it through just like I do on a sewing machine and it was a fantastic experience! The serger trimmed the edge of the material before it sewed this incredible overlapping stitch that I've only seen on professionally sewn clothing. I still look at it and marvel at how precise it is. And I was super glad that my threading was obviously done correctly. I look forward to creating many cool clothes using this serger and will most certainly update this review as I need too. It's got a ton of features that I still need to try out and am anxious to do so. Honestly, I've used various sewing machines for years and there are things that only they can do, but this serger is friggin' unreal!!! If you like to sew on a regular sewing machine and have never used a serger you are going to be in for an awesome surprise! If you are on the fence about purchasing a serger I recommend buying this because I know you will not be disappointed with it.
UPDATE 2.3.14 - I've been having some problems with this serger. I tried to use it yesterday to serge some seams on some items I'm sewing, and it knotted all up and started making this awful banging noise. I cleared the knot of threads, re-threaded the machine (correctly) and though it works, it sounds like something in the motor is banging against the inside of the white, plastic housing. This makes me uneasy. I tried calling Brother to see what they might say about it but the office was closed. Will try again tomorrow.
The Designio DZ1234 is an update of the sturdy and tested Brother 1034D. In fact, it is the same machine, with some pretty graphics on the front, and two extra feet. These feet are also available for the 1034D--gathering foot and piping foot. So the price differential accounts for two accessory feet. Admittedly, they are useful, especially if you do home sewing. The gatheing and piping feet can be helpful in making bed skirts, pillows, curtains. Theater costumers also find these useful for quickly sewing up huge gathered skirts and other costume and props.
Like the twin 1034D, The DZ1234 is also a 3-4 thread serger (doesn't do 2 thread flat lock.) If you have a 1034D, you have the virtually the same machine. If you don't, simply price out if you need accessory feet or if overcasting, sewing seams and blind hemming is what you need. In that case, the 1034D can save you about ten percent on your purchase.
on January 10, 2014
I wanted to have my own serger instead of always borrowing from a fellow seamstress, and this one caught my eye. Brother has increasingly upgraded their products with not only attractive appearances but with performance. I love my Brother CS6000i and decided to go with the Designio serger and I cannot express how happy and excited I am. Everything is clearly marked and illustrated in the books as well as on the machine, and to me this is the most user friendly serger in my experience.
I haven't had a chance to watch the DVDs yet but the included books are very easy to understand. It comes with everything listed, which is awesome because you don't have to spend extra money for nearly all the accessory feet offered for the Designio. The machine runs very smooth, is surprisingly quiet for a serger and is SOOOOO fast!
The cover it comes with is flimsy and has a funky smell but it is just a dust jacket. You could sew your own if you want something more attractive or buy a case if you need something more sturdy.
Overall, for the value and quality, this is a decent machine for the price and the perfect investment for new users as well the experienced. (I've been sewing for 15 years, and yes it's nice if you can afford the pricey high end machines but why spend the money if you don't have to.)
If you need a good serger but affordable and functional, then you must get the Brother Designio Series Serger!
on December 13, 2013
I LOVE LOVE my new serger! I have heard so many horror stories about threading them and was apprehensive in getting one but it was very easy to thread all 4 threading areas! The great instructions also showed how to do stiches I never knew a serger did.... YEA BROTHER!!! YOU GET 5+++ STARS for this machine!
on October 25, 2014
Came sooner than expected. I would buy from this seller again. TIP: I read this from one of the reviews, Oil your Serger before using. I'm not sure why they state this at the end of the manual, page 57, Oiling, under REMARKS! It should be on the first page under a heading that reads "Before Using". That being said "I love this machine". I read all the reviews and did a couple of months of research, and for an entry level Serger, this is a wonderful product. Serge's well and I had no problems rethreading the whole machine from scratch! One of the white spools (upper looper) ran out and I panicked (lol) sat frozen for a moment and thought about all the reviews I had read and decided this machine was not going into a closet, never to be used again, so I bucked up and got brave and proceeded to start threading the machine. Wahla! I could not believe how easy it was and was relived that my wonderful little Serger could stay on my desk and continue to be used :-) Thank you to everyone for submitting a review on this product, the reviews were helpful in making my decision to purchase this Serger and I'm very happy with it.
First I would like to say I have never used a serger or even watched someone use one. Having said that I am in awe of this machine! Thank goodness is came threaded or I may have been afraid to tackle this machine. There are diagrams on the machine which will help you thread the machine but I can see why I have heard that people break the tread and tie on the new thread rather than re-thread. The thread that comes with this machine breaks easily, so do yourself a favor and replace a ASAP. Also, this machine does use regular sewing machine needles, another plus.
The dials each have their own function and have default settings for a starting point. One each for width, length, and the differential which controls front and rear feed dogs for stretching and gathering (or not). Just flip a lever and the cutting knives will disengage and for safety you can press down the upper knife into the machine, although they still stick out a little.
This machine comes with many feet, and I played with the different stitches:
Overlocking...super easy and just wonderful
Gathering....nice and even...love it
Rolled hem...very neat
Piping...did not try yet...it bit more complicated than over stitches
Over all I love,love, love this machine for function and value. It is super fast and does things my sewing machine just can not. I have a lot to learn and will update as my journey into sergering continues. Personally, I think a class would help, but I am more a trail by fire kind of person.