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Sergers & Overlockers

2 Best Overlockers with Automatic Tension (2020)

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This is part 3 of my ‘best overlockers’ series. Today we’re looking at the best overlock machines with automatic tension.

Automatic tension means the overlocker will choose stitch settings for you, creating (near enough) perfect stitches immediately. You won’t need to experiment with settings to get a good stitch. This removes a huge frustration.

To help me choose the best overlockers with auto tension, I received advice from 12 industry experts. This included 3 overlocker technicians and 9 overlocker sellers. Here’s what I learned.

———————–Best automatic
tension overlocker
Best air threaded
& automatic tension
overlocker
Recommended overlockerPfaff Hobbylock 2.5
(£649)
Babylock Victory
(typically £1149, check Amazon price)
If unavailable
(in order of preference)
1. Success Lucie (£399)1. Babylock Enlighten (typically £1399, check Amazon price)

2. Babylock Acclaim (typically £1649, check Amazon price)

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best overlockers with automatic tension

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Contents list:

  1. Summary of my best pick: Pfaff Hobbylock 2.5. (Skip to this)
  2. In-depth review. (Skip to this)
  3. Cheaper alternative: Success Lucie. (Skip to this)

If you want an overlocker with automatic tension AND air threading, go to my post about overlockers with air threading. I have 3 machine recommendations for you.


pfaff hobbylock 2.5 overlocker with automatic tension

The best overlocker with automatic tension: Pfaff Hobbylock 2.5

£649

Ideal for: people who want perfect stitches without fussing with settings.

If you need automatic tension, the Pfaff Hobbylock 2.5 is your best option.

It will automatically choose tension settings for you, creating (near enough) perfect stitches immediately. You won’t need to experiment with settings to get a good stitch. This removes a huge frustration.

A technician I spoke to said Pfaff makes nice machines, so you can expect excellent build quality.

Don’t forget that this is still a manually threaded machine. There’s no air threading.

Accessories you’ll need:

  • Pfaff machines require ELx705 overlock needles (sizes 90/14 for thick fabric and 80/12 for light fabric). 
  • Overlocker thread. Remember that overlockers take 4 threads. Get a set of 4 in black, white, and/or grey and beige (to blend better with coloured fabric). A size 2500m fits nicely on the machine and will last for ages. I would pick one that doesn’t lint too much. I use and recommend the Toldi-lock 100% polyester threads by Gutermann.

Review: Pfaff Hobbylock 2.5

pfaff hobbylock 2.5 overlocker with automatic tension

£649

Ideal for: people who want perfect stitches without fussing with settings.

It chooses the right tension settings for you!

Choosing the right tension settings is critical to getting a neat, professional looking stitch.

With manual machines, it can take many attempts to get the settings right for every fabric. For many, this is the most frustrating part of overlocking.

Luckily there are overlockers that will figure it out for you! They automatically sense what fabric you’re using and choose the best tension settings. 

If that sounds perfect for you, I think the Pfaff Hobbylock 2.5 is a well made option. If you want to make any tweaks to the settings, the machine will let you take back control.

Good build quality

A technician I spoke to praised the Pfaff brand as a company that makes nice machines. So expect the build quality to be excellent.

What stitches it can make

This overlocker can make 2, 3 and 4 thread stitches. This includes the overlock, rolled hem, narrow hem, and mock flatlock stitches (photos here). 

It can sew blind hems too, but you’ll need to buy the blind hem foot separately.

Good threading system

Don’t forget that this is still a manually threaded machine. It has no air threading. 

I would say the threading system is pretty good – it has a way to help you thread the tricky lower looper.

Accessories

A waste tray and needle threading tool are included. Note: the needle threader is not built-in.

Warranty

Pfaff machines come with a 5 year manufacturers warranty.

Limitations

It has no free arm or extra feet.

You’ll need to buy specific overlocker needles for this machine, not standard sewing machine ones. The manual calls for ELx705 needles in sizes #14/90 and #12/80. Needles aren’t the biggest expense, so I don’t think this is a deal breaker.

It sews at 1200 stitches per minute. The average for overlockers is 1300 to 1500, so it’s a tiny bit slower. But overall, it’s still fast. For comparison, normal sewing machines sew at 300 to 800 stitches per minute.

Videos


Cheaper alternative with automatic tension:
Success Lucie

success lucie overlocker with automatic tension

£399

There aren’t many overlockers to choose from with automatic tension and no air threading. 

The only alternative at the moment is “Lucie” from a brand called Success. 

Pros

It’s significantly cheaper than the Pfaff at £399. I was pleasantly surprised to see a brand trying to make automatic tension overlockers more affordable. You normally have to pay double for this incredible feature. 

It sews 2, 3 and 4 thread stitches. The threading system is good, it has a free arm, sews fast at 1300 stitches per minute, and includes a waste bin.

It comes with a 2-year warranty. If you fill out this form, it gets upgraded to a 4-year warranty for free.

Cons

Like the Pfaff, it requires ELx705 overlock needles in sizes #14/90 and #12/80. You can’t use normal sewing machine needles. However, I don’t think this is a deal-breaker. Needles aren’t the biggest expense.

I was hesitant about recommending a relatively unknown brand, so I contacted a dealer asking if you’ll have any issues with repairs or finding replacement parts. 

They said you shouldn’t have any problems because a much larger brand supplies the parts. 

They couldn’t say who, but from my own research I reckon it’s Babylock or Juki. These are 2 of the biggest brands in sewing, which is reassuring. I believe it’s them because they’re all owned by the same parent company: Consuendi GmbH.


Related posts:

Here’s how overlockers are different to normal sewing machines.

If you’re not sure what stitches an overlocker makes, or when you would actually use certain ones, check out my beginners guide to overlock stitches. There are lots of close-up photos.

If you’re not sure what features to look for in an overlocker, here are 21 things to consider. I also explain common overlocker terms (like “differential feed”) with lots of photos and videos for visual learners.

I also asked industry experts what makes an overlocker good or bad quality? This is a really eye-opening read. Learn what sacrifices manufacturers make for cheap overlockers.


If you want an overlocker with automatic tension AND air threading, go to my post about overlockers with air threading. I have 3 machine recommendations for you.

GO TO PAGE 1 FOR ALL THE BEST OVERLOCKERS

GO TO PAGE 2 FOR OVERLOCKERS WITH AIR THREADING


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