A few weekends ago, my friend Kate from Time to Sew came over to mine for an afternoon of sewing fun. She had a jersey project for her son and wanted to use my overlocker, which happens to be a Baby Lock Enlighten. After a year and a bit of owning it, although it’s great, I became quite blase about. But when I saw her amazement at how perfect every stitch is every time, I realised how lucky I am to be the owner of such a fab machine.
So, I decided it’s the time to share my impressions of this overlocker after one year of using it constantly. Whilst reviewing machines as soon as you get them is full of the excitement of a new relationship, I think that standing the test of time while going through the good, the bad and the ugly together is more important. Looking forward to sharing my impressions with you in this post.
When I first started sewing, I’ve been told that Berninas are the Rolls Royce of sewing machines. Well, if that is true, Baby Locks surely are the private jets of the sewing world. Here’s why I think so too!
THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST AND DOES NOT CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. I HAVE PURCHASED THIS MACHINE MYSELF WITH A 15% DISCOUNT IN A BABYLOCK PROMOTION (SEPT 2017).
A bit of a history lesson
Did you know that Baby Lock is, in fact, the company that invented the home overlocker (or serger, as our American friends like to call it)? In 1968, they created the first domestic overlocker, a miniature of the industrial one that was already popular in the apparel sector. That is why it’s called Baby Lock, as it’s a smaller version of the heavy industrial one. If you are curious what that very first model looked like, check it out here.
Whilst researching for this post, I came across a very convoluted history that points towards the fact that the original Baby Locks were in fact manufactured by Juki, and, as far as I can tell, still are. Yuki has a lot of subsidiaries and the one that owned the Baby Lock brand actually change the name officially to Baby Lock in 2016. So if you are hesitating between a Baby Lock and a Yuki, I think there is nothing to fear in terms of quality, as both are made in Japan by pretty much the same company.
Why a Baby Lock
I have been dreaming of owning a Baby Lock for ages! I knew about it of course, as every single person I came across that owns one can’t stop raving about it. But the first time I actually tried one for myself was at my friend Steve’s from Stitch Again. He has a Baby Lock dealership in Hampshire (also Bernina and Pfaff) and his wife Joy owns a sewing school where I teach overlocking from time to time. Suffice to say, I fell in love instantly! Whilst I am by no means afraid of regular overlockers and I can work my way around threading and tweaking pretty much any brand, the easy and design features of Baby Lock are something else. You would have heard about the self-threading feature, which uses compressed air to blow the thread through loopers. It’s super nifty, I have to admit. But what really blew my mind is the automated tension feature, that ensures a perfect tension every time, and lets you switch from viscose jersey to chiffon to sweater, denim or even wax canvas without making any adjustments whatsoever. Just stick the fabric in and go! I can’t explain how much time and stress and hassle this saves! My model also has manual needle threader for both needles, which is also quite handy. And I also really like the LED light, as opposed to my old Brother, that has a regular lightbulb.
This is how the self-threading works:
Of course, all this amazingness comes with a very hefty price tag, about £1350, one which in my early sewing days I could not even have begun to contemplate! However, I knew this would be my ‘forever’ overlocker, and therefore an investment for life. So I started saving for it so that it would not come like a mad spend all in one go. I was about two months away from my goal when Baby Lock offered a discount last September so I could get earlier, hurray!
The other reason I felt so at ease spending the money on this machine was because Steve, who is a sewing machine engineer with 30 years experience, told me that he was really impressed with the technology, having opened one and fiddled with the insides. Also, he hardly ever seen one come in for servicing.
Which Baby Lock model to go for
Baby Lock has a very wide catalogue of overlockers (and sewing machines too), so it might be a bit difficult to choose. I would break it down into 3 categories:
- regular overlockers (like a Janome, Brother, Bernina etc, only made by Baby Lock)
- self-threading overlockers (Acclaim, Enlighten, Imagine, Eclipse)
- combo overlockers (with both overlocker and coverstitch function)
For me, the whole point was that I got a self-threading model, otherwise, my old Brother was perfectly fine, so I did not even consider the regular overlockers. Also, I had had a combo machine in the past, a Pfaff Coverlock 3.0, and, fine as it was, the swapping of the two just drove me crazy and it was taking up too much space. So that was not an option either.
Therefore, the only choice was whether to get an Imagine or an Enlighten.
PIN FOR LATER
If you want a comparison of the all the self-threading models, you can do it on the Babylock site.
The main differences between Enlighten and Inspire:
- Light: Enlighten has LED lights, while Inspire has a normal bulb. You might think that it’s not worth the extra £200, but believe me, it makes a big difference to the user experience. I have my two Pfaff sewing machines one next to each other, one with LED the other with a bulb, and I can really tell how great the LED by comparison.
- Self-threading: Imagine has a manual self-threading, i.e. you have to push a lever for the thread to go through the loopers, while it’s automatic for Enlighten (you just press a button).
- Wave stitch: it’s a decorative stitch that finishes the edge in a fancy way. I never used it, so it definitely was not a selling feature for me.
Do you want to know if a Baby Lock Enlighten is really worth the hefty price tag? Alex from Sewrendipity has written a full review with all pics and info you might need to make a decision.[/ctt]Acclaim is the very newest model, and it wasn’t available when I got mine. I might have gone for that one, as it also has automated needle threaders and more harp space (the distance between the needle and the right edge of the machine).
As advised by Steve, I opted for Enlighten.
Review of Baby Lock Enlighten
It’s a bit hard to describe it, so I made a little video last year (cause I knew I would end up writing a post about it at some point).
All brand new sewing machines make one’s heart flutter a little bit. But this one is just so lovely, so pristine. The design is very smooth and slick, with a very shiny plastic covering and gleaming metal parts.
It’s actually quite a compact machine, and it doesn’t take a lot of space on my sewing table. It’s very stable, with suction cups that really stick to your table.
The setup was as easy as I imagined, and although I could have easily done the tie & pull through method, I could not wait to use the ExtraordinAir (that’s the fancy name for the self-threading). And it was super quick and I was ready to go.
When I put the first piece of fabric in and pressed the pedal, I just could not believe how great it felt, how quiet and smooth it runs. I have to admit, I did a mini fist pump then and there! Definitely, money well spent!
Manual & Instructions
To be honest, I did not look at the instructions before setting it up. Steve had already shown me the basics (and I also had the cover stitch machine from Baby Lock – more about that in a future post). However, it does come with a very handy quick reference guide, that has a cheat sheet for every single stitch it does, how to set it up, what buttons to push in etc. I do have that on a shelf in front of me, in case I need to make any changes.
I did have a look at the manual later on and it’s ok, it has coloured illustrations for the thread paths etc.
I did not take a class to use this machine, but if you get yours from Steve at Stitch Again, you will get a free lesson on how to use your new machine (if you can get to Hampshire for it). To be honest, it’s really not necessary, it’s very easy to use, but be sure to read the manual thoroughly before starting to play with it.
The machine came with:
- lint brush/needle insert tool
- Needle clamp screw
- Package on needles
- Screwdriver x 2
- Replacement upper blade
- Looper threading tool
- Machine cover
- Thread nets
- Spool caps
- Sponge disks
- Allen wrench
- Cone holders
Remember that there are two accessories holders. One is a pouch inside the polystyrene packaging and the other one in a drawer under the spool holders. You need to lift them and move to the side. That’s where the tweezers, screwdrivers and needles etc will be held.
It does not come with any extra feet, so you will have to purchase them separately. Here is the official Baby Lock accessory catalogue.
I bought a trim bin because it really annoys me to have trims dropping on the floor. Compared to the Brother one I had before, which fitted on the side of the overlocker and caught them closer to the cut point, the Baby Lock one is effectively a tray. The overlocker sits on top, and it has a slot for a bag that hangs underneath it. The bag sits on a frame that slots in the hole in the tray. It was a bit awkward to put in and so I try not to take it our when I need to empty it.
I also got a clear foot for my coverstitch and I think it also matches the overlocker (though haven’t tried it yet).
What I love
My absolute favourite thing about the Enlighten is the automatic tension. The fact that I can sew any fabric one after the other without making any adjustments whatsoever, and the stitch still come out perfectly, it’s just priceless. It just saves so much time that you had to spend before to test.
Obviously, the self-thread is handy, but I still would rather tie & pull, it’s quicker. The needle threader is handy too, but it still takes me a few attempts to get it right.
I also love how quickly it converts to rolled hem. It’s as quick as pressing a button (of course, you have to take the left needle out).
What could be better
Shock, horror, this machine is not absolutely perfect!
I think there is a bit of a design flaw that all the trimmings tend to fall over the length and width adjustment buttons and they are dirty all the time. And because they are grooved, it’s so darn hard to clean them.
The second thing that bothers me is how incredibly short the harp is. There is so little space to thread the needle and to move around. I was spoilt with the Pfaff Overlocker that has so much space in the needle area (it’s also much bigger, so swings and roundabouts…).
And lastly, I do miss a bit of control. There is a tiny dial that can do manual adjustments in case you need it, but I guess I’m too wired to the dials that I can’t get over the fact that I’m not in charge of everything. To be fair, clearly, the machine knows what it’s doing better than I ever will, as I only had to make a tweak only once.
Top Tips for the Enlighten
Here are a few quick tips I picked up:
- Make sure you are in threading mode when threading and you can see the threading tubes going across (you will know what I mean)
- If the needle threader is not working (i.e. is not coming down easily), make sure you are in threading mode (there is a lever inside the cover that needs to be pushed down). Ask me how I know!
- Remember there is a thread cutter on the side of the machine (like a regular sewing machine). I find myself using it more than the scissors.
- Remember the presser foot! I have sewn a few times when I forgot to put it down. It does run with it up, and luckily, it does not make a big lump of thread, but it will mess with the tension. Though incredibly, the tension was still pretty good!!
I don’t think you were waiting with bated breath for the conclusion of this one, right? You might have gathered that I really really love this machine. I never regretted for a second having spent all that money on it and I feel that I will be enjoying it for a very long time.
I would definitely encourage anyone to consider a Baby Lock if you can afford it (or at least consider a second hand one and save for it). I feel that all the hours of swearing and frustration on a cheap overlocker that can be avoided really do justify it. Kate was an instant convert after sewing with mine, and she ended up getting one the following week.
I would also encourage you, if you are in the UK, to support a small business like Stitch Again. This is not a sponsored post, and there are no affiliates,but I have known Steve for a long time and I completely trust his expertise and complete honesty. I would never get my machines serviced anywhere else (I prefer posting them to him to Hampshire, rather than going to some random person in London). If you can travel to Hampshire, he and Joy will train you on your new machine, but even if not, he will personally inspect every single machine that they send out, to be sure you can enjoy it to its best when you receive it.
Thank you for reading this very long review, I hope you find it useful. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or are wondering if you should take the plunge to splash on such a machine.
WHAT ARE YOUR OVELOCKER EXPERIENCES? WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE BRAND? HAVE YOU TRIED BABY LOCK? WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT? PLEASE TELL ME MORE IN THE COMMENTS BELLOW.
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