Consumer Reporter Heather has been hot on the trail of a new serger and I thought I’d get your input, oh wise Sewernet. I’ve been using a second-hand Brother 1034D for the last 2 years, and I think it’s time to acknowledge that it’s toast. I’m having major tension issues (the threads break all the time, especially over changes in fabric width) and I refuse to spend another $100 to get it serviced when I can find them so inexpensively on Amazon.

Here’s my dilemma; I don’t have a huge budget, so I can’t go for a Babylock or Bernina though heaven knows I’d love to get my hands on one of those beasts. I was actually quite happy with the Brother until it started flaking out on me, and despite the fact that it could wake the dead with its timber. I am tempted to just buy a brand new one to replace it since it’s universally acknowledged to be the best “cheap” model but I am open to other suggestions.

I’m really curious if anyone has ever purchased the Brother Designio Series DZ1234 . It’s functionally the same as the Brother 1034D but apparently it’s a little quieter, perhaps worth the $30 upgrade. Anyone have experience with it?

This Juki MO644D also looks promising. It’s apparently strong and quiet (the Lord Darcy of sergers?) but it doesn’t have a free arm which makes me uncomfortable.

Open to other suggestions as well! Let me hear your serger thoughts before I ship the wrong thing to my dad’s condo in Arizona…

CATEGORIES: Ruminating
  • Alexandra Ragland

    I have had the White Speedylock for over 5 years now, and still going strong. The reviews aren’t very fair as they complain mostly about threading, which is tedious for any serger without an auto-threader. It is loud, though. But has easily powered through 16 layers for cloth diaper inserts. Food for thought. 🙂

  • I’ve got a Brother 3034d, and it’s been dreamy for two years… fingers crossed i haven’t just jinxed that! Would you got cross-border shopping or buy in Canada? My family bought me a coverstitch for xmas in the states, and I know it was a big savings… or could Vicki bring you one back from Florida, since she’s buying herself a machine there too?

    • I’m going to visit my papa in Arizona in April. So I figured I’d ship it there and bring it back as my carry-on 😉

      • carla

        Packed it well and put it in your suitcase. Airport security will not let you go into the airplane as a carry on!

        • REALLY?!?! WHYYYYYYY! Are they worried I’m going to serge a flight attendant? I’d be so nervous to put it in my suitcase. Those baggage handlers are ROUGH.

          • carla

            It is not “vital” for your flight and also safety. It is too heavy for the overhang in case of turbulence. I know they exaggerate!
            Ask Rachel from House of Pinhero she had the same problem going to Brasil one time.

          • missceliespants

            I’ve carried sergers and multiple sewing machines is carry on luggage. Just remove the needles. The last two times I took a machine, I didn’t even take it out of the bag.

            I was going to suggest a Juki myself. I have a BL and it’s great. But, my repair guy says Juki makes the best home sergers. And, I think he’s a genius.

          • missceliespants

            I flew with my 30 lb bernina, a Singer Featherweight, a Singer 301 and a little 3/4 Kenmore 1030. Hmmm. I fly a lot with machines, no? LOL. Mostly me buying them and bringing them back to Baltimore or taking them with me in Panama.

          • I may risk it since the Juki I have my eye on would cost double here…. worst case I can check it at the gate. They are packaged with tons of foam and whatnot so it might be okay.

            Happy to hear your repair man confirms my suspicions! I’m going to try and find a juki to test but I like the look of them. Small and elegantly designed.

  • cecillia

    I have the Juki and love it. I haven’t run into issues with the lack of free arm, even when serging arm cuffs in the round.

  • I have the brother 1034d, but use the bernina all the time at work. I like my cheap brother better. The bernina works great but it doesn’t have the free arm so you can’t get around an armhole. It also doesn’t have the little bin to catch the scraps which I like. So don’t feel like your missing out on the bernina

  • I used to work in a sewing machine shop & the engineer always recommended janome sergers over brother. These were the sergers we recommemded when ppl could not afford or want to spend so much on a babylock, although we stocked Bernina & brother as well. I have a janome 6234xl and am very happy with it.but there are cheaper janome models too.

  • Oh yes, and I have to agree with Erika, Bernina sergers are not special or better. Just more expensive 🙂

  • Imakemanythings

    If you go for the Juki, I would recommend the Juki MO654DE, not the MOD544D, the DE has a feeding differential. I have had the DE since November and LOVE it! Threading is relatively easy, I haven’t had problems with tension, and it has powered through 6 layers of denim with no problem.

    • The DE has great reviews….. it’s where I’m leaning right now.

  • I have the Brother 5234PRW which is the Project Runway edition. It has been a great machine for me – no issues, and I’ve had it a couple years. Shhhh, I’ve never had it serviced or tuned up. I think I paid about $600 for it.

  • Carmen Ross

    I have the introductory husqvarna model: , and I’m pretty happy with her. I’ve had her for a couple of months now and am just learning how to serge. I paid $500. I just finished a blouse though and it serged beautifully. I used it to serge my seams, create gathers, and do a beautiful rolled hem all along the bottom. It can be a bit finicky, however, but am unsure if that’s due to my lack of experience or some fundamental issue with the machine. I’m a big fan of husqvarna, though. I sew on the husqvarna emerald and I love her.

  • I have a juki mo1000. It was a step up from what I have stored away in Sydney. It’s big plus is that it has the air threading – which in all honesty doesn’t actually make me want to change thread any more than what I did before. But air threading is still the goods when you have it. Although I wouldn’t necessarily purchase a machine based on this next time. Otherwise, when I purchased my particular machine, there were faulty foot pedals doing the rounds in stores, but juki recognised this and have most likely replaced all these now. I’m also not convinced it has the cleanest cut of fabric with it’s blade – which I’ve been told, is so strong, it won’t need replacing – and can only be done by a dealer anyway. I do like the way it sews, and noise-wise, it’s smooth and not as loud as some. Any problems – nothing major. It doesn’t tolerate cutting through layers of thick fabric – again, this could be a problem with my blade. Am I in love with it and will I cry when I have to leave it in the USA one day – NO. Do I, however, love my Pfaff sewing machine, and will I cart it back again, after carting it all the way here in the first place – YES YES YES. Just my two cents to help with your decision.

  • I have a Janome 1110dx and I love it. It’s easy to thread, powers through anything and i’ve never had a problem with it. I’ve also never had it serviced or changed the blade, yikes! I got it on sale for $600, which may be more than you want to spend but very much worth it in my opinion. I sew cuffs in the round by flipping them inside out and sewing with the right side up and just turning as i go (if that makes any sense at all!) and I’ve been able to sew even cuffs on my little girls’ shirts, so I don’t think a free arm is really that necessary.

  • I haven’t had a huge budget for machines either, but with some dedicated searching I’ve found used Berninas for a steal. My Bernina serger (a Bernette 334D) was $350 from my local dealer. It’s certainly an older model, but because Berninas are so well made, it runs like a dream and can be serviced by any dealer. I wouldn’t go back! Good luck in your serger search!

  • AuntyMaimu

    I have a Brother hobby-lock since I was 22, thats for…9 years? Still works! I of course oil every mooving part I can see after every use, have the blades sharpened once a year.

    I have heard a lot good about Janome sergers.

  • I have a Pfaff Hobbylock 2.0. It’s small and quiet and cute and it works really well.

    • Edurne

      Me too! Same manufacturer for Husqvarna and Pfaff, that’s what made me choose this model and I love it.

  • melissa

    I had a Brother 1034d that went out of tension, so I decided to go-big with a Babylock (which doesn’t have a free arm either). The service fee on a $200 serger shouldn’t be 50% of the cost! If I was budget conscious about buying a new serger, I would suggest getting a Juki with differential feed. I would rather pay a bit more for a Juki than have to replace another Brother in a few years. Brothers are very “user friendly”, so it might take some time to adjust to another brand. Also, don’t forget to look for reviews on pattern review! There’s a wealth of serger reviews on there.

  • Hi Heather, I shopped around for an overlocker a couple of years ago, like you with a pretty small budget. After poor experiences with inexpensive plastic machines, I decided to go the same route as my sewing machine and ended up purchasing an older, all-metal Bernette for Bernina machine. I’m guessing that my serger dates back to the nineties at least, but it’s a heavy, solid beast that so far has impressed me in every way. It’s a Bernette 334DS, and it cost me $350 NZD from a licenced sewing machine mechanic with a one year warranty. I got it on our version of Craiglist. I’m a big fan of older machines, as for the money, they often seem much heartier and sturdier than comparably priced new models. It’s hokey but they just don’t make them like they used to!

    Oh any my machine doesn’t have a free arm, but I haven’t been bothered by that at all. Serged a sleeve opening today no problem.

  • Maryrose

    Babylock is the absolute best….

  • Elisabeth

    I have a Brother 3034D and am SO happy with it 🙂

    • Mo

      Hello. Just checking in with you to see how you are liking your serger?

  • I have a Janome Pro 4Dx and it’s been a solid workhouse for me. I’ve been using pretty much non-stop for over a year now and it’s never let me down. I broke the needle plate on it once, but that was totally my own user error (umm hello pins and sergers don’t mix). Good luck in your search.

  • are you able to go to a department store and look at one in the flesh/try it out? i have a janome 9200d which was over £200 all i wanted was 4 threads and from a trusted brand. so maybe for you if you’re happy with brother stick with them x

  • Holly

    I have a baby lock Eclipse which I saved up for. It took me a while but I don’t regret it. You don’t need a free arm, Once you stop using it you’ll wonder why you ever did. Differential feed is really great to have as well.

  • Angelica

    If you are tired of tension-problems, I would save up and go get a Babylock with ATD. You’ll never have to adjust the tension ever again!

  • sallieforrer

    Oh no! I’m sure there are many other fabulous sergers out there worth the price, but I’ve been so SO happy with my Brother 1034D and it’s monstrous growl over the past few years (but, shhh, a $30 upgrade to make it hush it’s rumblings would be sorely tempting!) Honestly, everytime I start itching for a newer, fancier machine I have to pause and look at my wacky Singer and little Brother and realize that they really don’t give me a peep of trouble and have always done everything I’ve ever asked of them. Exciting they are not. Quiet, they are not. But replacing them would be like sending a perfectly good work horse to the glue factory. It’s just not their time! Anyway, long story short, if I was still tight on funds and had to make the decision again, I would STILL get the 1034D.

  • Caitlyn Myers

    I was gifted a Babylock Lauren for Christmas, and so far I have only used it once (and I haven’t tried any other sergers) so I don’t feel qualified to write a review. What I want to say instead is that it’s totally worthwhile to stalk Craigslist/Kijiji/eBay/your online used resource of choice. I’d told my dad that I wanted the Lauren but would probably settle for the ubiquitous Brother because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to save up for the more expensive machine, so he scoured the web and manged to find someone relatively local selling a barely used Lauren, with the manual and all the original accessories plus a small stack of serging books and about a dozen cones of thread in various colors, for just under the price of a new machine. While it was still expensive, he definitely got a lot of bang for his buck. Who knows, you might become another of those mythical creatures who scores an unbelievable deal–I never thought I’d be, and yet here we are.

    • I bought a serger off Craiglist a while back and it was a total lemon. I’m thinking new so I can at least take advantage of the warranty, but its worth checking out in case I stumble on a Babylock or something…

      • Caitlyn Myers

        I’m normally in the “buy new” camp for this exact reason, so I don’t blame you for wanting to avoid another dud. Best of luck in your hunt for the best match!

  • linda

    I purchased a Singer 14t968DC. It replaced a previous one I had for ten years. I got it online for $499. It is rarely mentioned in reviews, yet it has a 2-3-4-5 stitch capability and EASILY switches to cover stitch. It is quiet and handles tough upholstery as easily as fine silks. Most of the Singers mentioned in shopping reviews are the little overlock machines and I cannot understand why no one ever looks at this machine. It came with ten different presser feet, so I didn’t have to buy any.
    It’s worth a hard look!!

    • I am INTRIGUED! I didn’t know you could get a coverstitch on a serger for less than a grand…. Is the stitch comparable to what you would get on a coverstitch machine?

    • Although there are some particularly enraged one star reviews on Amazon….

  • linda

    And yes, it has a differential feed

  • Natasha

    I just bought the juki mo644D online from and had it shipped to the states (I’m in Ottawa) and i have been so happy with it. It if my first Serger so i don’t have a lot to compare it to but it is much quieter and faster than my sewing machine. It is pretty straight forward to thread and i have given it allot of different fabrics to chew through and so far it has not had any issues. The differential feed and tensions are easy to adjust too. I hope this is helpful and Good luck with your decision!

  • I’m probably the least qualified to comment. However, I was searching and searching your blog and others a few months ago when shopping for my first overlocker. I had no idea what to get! All I knew was that I didn’t like my friends Janome cause it was really difficult to thread. I thought the industrial overlockers were great (and not as hard to thread as my friends Janome) but I just didn’t have the room. I think industrial machines are the bomb though. I also had a tight budget but didn’t want to buy something ‘cheap’ that would last max five years or in some cases less. I am embracing my new ‘buy well – buy once’ philosophy all the way. I was looking at second hand Berninas and Bernettes (I don’t think domestic Jukis are sold in Australia – they get good reviews). I then received a decent arts grant and I ended up going Bernina cause there were less complaints. I bought the Bernina 800DL after trying it in the store. It is rather good! Sure it has no free arm but neither do the industrials. It is a shame it doesn’t have a scrap catcher but I’m much more interested in ease of use and nice tension. I got a free lesson to learn all the settings too. If I hadn’t secured the grant I would have definitely searched for the right second hand one. Good luck!

  • Texan

    I have the Brother 1034d. I have been happy with it but agree about the noise LOL. However that has never hampered its ability. I am a fan of brother machines I will admit. I work/do interior design so my sewing is heavier fabric a lot but can be silk as well. So far my 1034D has handled it all. My straight stitch I use is a commercial machine, built in table with motor, a Brother machine as well.

  • I have had the same Brother serger as you for exactly 2 years and LOVED it… until recently. It started dropping stitches last month – the left needle wasn’t catching the looper thread. I tried everything. After 2 trips to the repair shop, several weeks, and $100, and they finally fixed it. They said they had to redo the timing and adjust the needle bar position. So happily it’s working now. But it was a huge headache and in the middle of the ordeal I started researching other sergers thinking I might have to buy a new one. I was considering a Janome or Juki model, but wouldn’t buy a Brother again. Hope you figure it out, and your black gingers are bangin! (I love my black gingers too and wear them alllllll the time.)

  • melinda

    I found a used Bernina serger on Ebay a few years ago for about the same price as a new Brother 1034D and looooove it. I’ve never had an issue rethreading and setting the appropriate tension did not fix. I have been very happy with going the used route. Best purchase ever!

  • I too have that same serger and like yours, mine finally broke. I just blogged about it last week. She is a loud one isn’t she?! Mine would cost more to fix than buy new. Still undecided about what to replace her with. I look forward to hearing your review of your next one.

  • Debera Massahos

    If anyone deserves to have dependable sewing machines, it’s someone like you who designs for a living. After listening to me swear with greater frequency at my old Bernette 334D that I had to stand on my head to thread and fiddle with for hours to get the tension just right, The Man observed that sewing didn’t look like that much fun to him. He felt strongly enough about the redfaced blaze of swearing that he drove me to the local dealer and convinced me to buy a Janome 1110 dx. After you try threading the Janome, you will be hooked. It’s easy to thread, and the tension is a thing of beauty. Best of all, if I sit down for 10 minutes, I can thread all three machines (overlocker, coverstitch and conventional) and simply wheel back and forth among them. Now my swearing is reserved for things that really matter, like seeing Pablo Sandoval in a Red Sox jersey. Say it ain’t so!

    • I salute The Man who would drive you to the store for that. And you, and sympathy for the Sandoval thing. Baseball is cruel that way.

  • Rachael-Lynn

    I have the Brother 1034d. Had it for less than a year before the tension went all wonky on me. I have spent far too many hours on the darn thing trying to figure out what was wrong with it, thinking I had just threaded it wrong. Apparently, its not the user but the machine! Makes me feel at least a little better. To read on here it cost most people $100 to have the thing fixed well hell….I’m also not able to fork out a bunch of money for a fancy one…Maybe I’ll just stick to my zigzag stitch on my regular machine… 🙁

  • julie d.

    I have the juki MO654d and I loves it!

  • scooter

    I have the Juki as well, and I’ll echo the others in saying that it’s been absolutely trouble-free and rock-solid. It feels very substantial and has handled everything from chiffon to denim very well. I had a Husky before, and it was constantly needing tweaking and adjustment and still didn’t have great stitch quality. The Juki’s just solid, as befits, perhaps, its industrial forebears. I’m sure either choice will be good though!

  • patsijean

    I’ve been seriously looking at the Juki 644D, mostly because it has a heavy duty knife arrangement for cutting heavy or thick fabrics. Something even my BabyLock does not do well.

  • katerin

    I have the same Brother serger as you do and my mom just bought Juki MO644D and the differece is huuuge:
    Its quiet, fast, until now no problems with different fabrics…I really see the difference now, totally recommending that Juki, it really is worth the extra cost!

  • Gina

    I have the 5 thread Singer that was mentioned earlier. I never would have purchased it, but it was a Christmas gift from my husband. It is really confusing the first 3 times you thread it, and change from serge to coverstitch, but is learnable. I actually love it. The coverhem is beautiful. The bad reviews seemed to be from people who had never used a serger before, and you know, there’s a learning curve anyway. I have the lowest end Husky ($500) that was the used store model. I was extremely unhappy with it. The machine is a butcher to fabrics.

  • Grace

    I had my brother serviced last year for the first time in 4 years and the noise was reduced dramatically. Still, I think I’ll be upgrading rather than servicing in the next couple of years. Now about the free arm… I’ve never found the brother free arm to be very useful and have always serged cuffs with the cuffs above the foot. Also… the pattern room at my company has industrial Brother overlockers and they don’t have free arms and they purr like a kitten.

  • Amy

    You may have found your dream serger by now but I’m in a similar shopping situation. I have a 12-year-old Babylock Imagine that is having some issues and so over Christmas tried the Juki 654DE but returned it after five days. What I didn’t like about it: the knife is really close to the edge of the machine body so when fabric runs under the foot it has nowhere to go to the right of the knife. It’s hard to explain but you see how in your Brother there is free space to the right of your foot? The Jukis don’t have that–the body goes right up to the edge of the knife. I really didn’t like how this worked with knits. Wovens were fine but knits kept getting pushed to the left as they went under the foot. I tried over ten types of knits and it did this every time. Nice stitches, though.

    I don’t have any experience with Brother but just my 2 cents–I don’t think Bernina sergers have any leg up on Juki’s. (The regular sewing machines might, but that’s another story.) The best home sergers imo are Babylocks. My Imagine is a basic model and rather old but still a great machine. I’ve tried the other Babylock models at my local store when I had mine serviced. I know they are expensive but they really are nice machines, and so user friendly. I’m probably just going to bite the bullet and get another one.

  • Jill

    I bought a Viking Huskylock s21 right before Christmas this year. It converts to a coverstitch and I LOVE it. I live in Canada and paid just over $800 canadian tax in from my local dealer. The only issue i had with it was with the coverstitch skipping on swimsuit lycra but it seems to have been solved by using a different needle from the recommended ones (I asked a local tech who said they were fine)