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My Brother 4234D overlocker review:
The 4234D is a good choice for sewers who want more stitch options, easy threading, and sturdier build quality.
It can do 2, 3 and 4 thread stitches. Most overlockers can only use 3 and 4 threads.
Industry specialists I spoke to said the 4234D is made to a better quality standard than most budget overlockers. Important for regular sewers who want a long-lasting machine.
It’s also one of the few overlockers with a built-in needle threader. When combined with Brother’s “F.A.S.T lower looper threading system” and colour-coded guides, this is probably as good as threading gets for the mid-range market.
Expect to pay about double the price of a budget overlocker for it though.
I bought this in 2018 because I was starting to sew jersey clothes and my sewing machine couldn’t cope (so many skipped stitches!). The dealer I spoke to recommended this model because he knew I wanted a well-built machine. One that could handle regular use.
It produces professional looking stitches, I like that it can do 2 thread stitches for lightweight fabrics, and the machine feels sturdy (there’s no flimsy plastic cover).
Price across the web: typically under £400. Check Amazon’s price.
If it’s unavailable, here are my next best overlocker picks.
Brother 4234D Overlocker Review – Summary
It can do 2, 3, and 4 thread stitches, giving you more stitch options than a 3/4 thread overlocker. Industry specialists have said it’s well-built. It has a needle threader for faster threading; most overlockers don’t. A waste tray and blind stitch foot are included.
Check Amazon’s price.
- It can do 2, 3 and 4 thread overlock stitches. 2 thread stitches are normally only found on mid-range and premium overlockers.
- It can make rolled hems, narrow hems, mock flatlock stitches, blind hems and pintuck stitches.
- It has differential feed to stop seams stretching out or puckering. This can also be used to create special effects like ruffles or wavy “lettuce leaf” hems.
- It’s easy to switch between overlocking and rolled hemming mode.
- It has a retractable knife. You can stitch without cutting the fabric.
- It has a needle threader. Most budget overlockers don’t.
- It has a well-designed looper threading system that’s better than older overlockers.
- The colour-coded threading diagrams are excellent.
Can it handle a variety of fabrics?
- It can handle a variety of fabric thicknesses thanks to its high presser foot lift (5-6mm) and adjustable pressure.
- The pressure dial is also more user-friendly than other brands.
Other features and accessories:
- It’s sturdy and well-built according to industry specialists.
- It has a free arm for sewing tubes of fabric. Some brands don’t include this feature, like many Janome models.
- It has some clever built-in storage.
- Freebies it comes with: a waste tray and 1 extra foot.
- A large extension table is available.
- Higher price.
- 2 cheaper Brother models get more free feet.
- The LED light isn’t strong according to 2 buyers, but I personally don’t agree.
- A buyer review thinks the seam allowance guides could be clearer.
- 2 buyers had issues with threads breaking free while sewing.
What buyers think:
I analysed 43 buyer reviews.
40 out of 43 were positive overall.
Most said it’s easy to thread and use, the stitches look professional, it’s relatively quiet, and they like the sturdy build of it.
There were a few comments about smaller flaws like the light and seam allowance guides.
How does it compare to other overlockers?
This model is the best overlocker from Brother’s UK range in terms of features and build quality.
It’s also a great mid-range overlocker when compared to other brands. I definitely prefer it over Janome’s mid-range model, the 6234XL, because it’s cheaper and yet still has more features.
Pictures of the stitching. (Skip to this).
Videos of the 4234D. (Skip to this).
What else do you need to buy for your 4234D? Overlocker needles advice. (Skip to this).
Brother 4234D Review – Stitch pictures
Brother 4234D Review – Pros
2, 3 & 4 thread stitch ability
The Brother 4234D can make stitches using 2 threads. Most budget overlockers can’t.
This will let you create more stitches like the 2 thread overlock, 2 thread rolled hem, and 2 thread mock flatlock.
This is a feature that’s great for sewers who want to experiment with different techniques.
You can’t add 2 thread stitches later, so now is the time to consider it.
It’s unnecessary for sewers who just want the standard 3 and 4 thread overlock. Many people don’t ever need to use 2 thread stitches.
PS. I have an entire post about overlocker stitches. Check it out here.
I talk about what the stitches look like, when to use them, and the pros and cons of each. There are lots of close-up photos of the stitches too!
The easiest overlocker to thread?
Brother has done a good job making threading easy. The most common point I saw in buyer reviews was about how easy the 4234D is to thread.
Granted, it’s not as easy as premium overlockers with air threading, but for the mid-range market, it’s probably as good as it gets.
- It has a built-in needle threader.
- It has a better designed lower looper threading system than some overlockers.
- It also has better designed colour-coded threading diagrams than some overlockers.
Let’s look at each more closely:
Built-in needle threader
The 4234D has a built-in needle threader that will save you from trying to poke a thread through the eye of a needle.
For comparison, most cheaper overlockers don’t come with this feature. If you have eye-sight issues I highly recommend it.
There’s a small learning curve to figure out how to use it, but the instructions in the manual are clear and well-illustrated.
The instructional DVD also shows you how to use it:
F.A.S.T lower looper threading system
Threading the lower looper is normally the trickiest part.
A problem with older overlockers is that you have to reach deep inside to thread the hidden lower looper. It’s fiddly!
Brother solved this with their “F.A.S.T lower looper threading system”. They created a switch that lets you pull out the lower looper. Now you can thread it in plain sight.
Many other brands have created a similar system.
It really makes a difference.
My lower looper threading test
The Janome model has an older lower looper design.
- It took about 3 minutes and 10 seconds to thread the lower looper on the Janome. It was very fiddly.
- It took about 40 seconds on the Brother 4234D!
What a difference. The modern lower looper design on the 4234D is much faster and simpler to thread.
Well designed colour-coded guides
The colour-coded threading clearly tells you where to place your threads. This will save you from going back to your manual every time you thread.
I especially like Brother’s colour-coded diagrams.
The stitch illustrations (pictured above) are really helpful when figuring out why your stitch doesn’t look right. The pictures help you identify which needle or looper thread is the cause, and then you can adjust the tension to fix it.
Some brands colour-coded labels are less detailed than this.
Industry specialists think it’s better quality
I called multiple overlocker salespeople and technicians to learn about good and bad quality overlockers.
After owning this model since 2018, I can confirm that it does feel more sturdy and substantial than some overlockers out there.
I have never experienced it moving even when sewing at higher speeds. It has weight to it.
It’s only when I put my foot all the way down on the pedal that I notice vibration.
It doesn’t make the machine jump around though.
I also never need to sew at such a high speed. I only tested it for this article.
Stronger metal frame
I learnt that most overlockers are made with an internal metal frame (aka. chassis), but the quality of the metal in some overlockers isn’t great.
Poorer quality metals can’t handle as much pressure and will wear out quicker.
You’re more likely to find this in cheap overlockers because the manufacturer has to make cost-saving decisions.
A salesperson said that if an overlocker weighs more, it’s a good clue that it’s made with a stronger, heavier metal chassis. (A chassis is the supporting frame of a structure).
The £300 rule
A general rule of thumb I was taught from a technician: overlockers from about £300 are normally more substantial machines.
This model is priced between £300 and £400.
*September 2020 update: due to the current shortage of overlockers, many cheap models have suddenly jumped in price. Some have artificially gone up by £100. So I think the technician’s £300 rule is more like the £400 rule at the moment.
Praise for Brother
A technician recommended Brother overlockers, saying you can expect a nicer machine from them.
It can handle different fabric thicknesses
High presser foot lift
If you’re going to work with thick fabrics, you’ll need an overlocker with a high presser foot lift so that loftier fabrics will fit underneath.
Brother says you can raise the 4234D’s presser foot to 5 – 6mm. I’m not sure why brands quote a range (maybe to allow for tolerance during manufacturing), but I measured my 4234D’s lift and it looks closer to 5mm to me. It’s normally 4mm but there’s a “boost” option to make it 5mm.
All overlockers that advertise a high presser foot lift are between 5 – 6mm, so that still looks pretty good to me.
Presser foot test
Here’s a medium to heavy weight denim jean that I folded and put under the presser foot when it was 4mm high.
I was able to get 8 layers of denim under there (each fold is 2 layers).
To be clear, I’m not saying the machine will happily stitch through that many layers.
I just want to show what can fit under a presser foot that’s 4mm high. Measurement stats can be hard to visualise.
Will it sew denim/upholstery fabric?
3 Amazon reviewers confirmed they successfully sewed denim and 4 layers of upholstery fabric.
According to a technician I spoke to, domestic overlockers can generally handle about 3 or 4 layers of fabric.
If that’s not enough for you and you regularly sew multiple layers of thick materials, he recommended looking at industrial overlockers instead. They have a lot more power and better blades to cut and stitch thick materials on a regular basis.
The 4234D lets you change how hard or light the presser foot is pushing down on your fabric. This is called adjustable presser foot pressure. Most overlockers have it.
You’ll need it to create more pressure to feed thick fabric through the machine, and reduce the pressure for very light fabrics.
Brother has made adjusting the pressure user-friendly with a clearly labelled dial.
I prefer this over other overlockers that just have a screw. There are no markings on a screw, so getting back to normal pressure can be confusing.
This model has a free arm to make sewing tubes of fabric (like necklines, trouser hems, sleeves) easier. This turns the fabric for you as you stitch.
Some brands lack this feature, like many Janome overlockers.
This will let you stretch out or gather fabric as you’re overlocking.
Why would you want to do that?
If you’re experiencing puckering seams, stretching out the fabric slightly will solve this and create a flat, smooth seam.
If your seam is stretched out, you can very slightly gather the material while overlocking to create a flat seam. You might have to do this when sewing stretchy knits.
You would also gather the material if you wanted to create ruffles or a gathered skirt.
Today all modern overlockers have a differential feed.
Easy to switch to rolled hemming
The 4234D has “instant rolled hem conversion”. This means you can easily switch from overlocking to rolled hemming by just removing the stitch finger.
In the past overlockers made you change the needle plate too. This made switching to sewing rolled hems slower and more difficult.
This is a normal feature in modern overlockers.
Clever built-in storage
There’s clever storage for most accessories that come with the 4234D. There’s space for the tweezers, spreader (aka. thread change assembly), 2 stitch fingers, a screwdriver and a pack of needles.
You need to close the front cover carefully or the screwdriver falls out. Everything else fits in securely though.
No space for
There’s no space for the cleaning brush or any feet. I just keep them stored in my sewing drawer instead.
The cleaning brush is the one thing I wish I could store on the overlocker because I need to use it often.
If you buy the optional extension table you’ll get more storage space inside that.
Free accessories it comes with
Unlike most Brother models, the 4234D comes with a waste tray included.
I really recommend having a waste tray, otherwise all those fibres you cut off will be on your table and lap.
Along with the standard foot, it comes with a blind stitch foot included. This will let you create blind hems, pintucks, and mock flatlock stitches on your overlocker.
Extension table available
Price across the web: typically £70-80. Check Amazon’s price.
Brother has designed a large extension table just for the 4234D.
It makes your sewing area larger and stops your fabric from dragging while overlocking.
This can be helpful when working with knits that might stretch out and distort if dragged, or heavy materials that might pull on the needles if dragged.
It also opens up to create extra storage space.
I don’t think the extension table is a necessity. I sew knits without an extension table and haven’t had distortion problems.
Brother 4234D Review – Cons
It’s double the price of budget overlockers.
For regular sewers I recommend spending extra for a better-built overlocker that will last longer.
For people who only sew occasionally and don’t want to spend too much on an overlocker, a budget one might be better. Check out my Brother 2104D review instead.
Cheaper models get more free feet
Brother gave 2 of its cheaper models more feet; the gathering foot and piping foot.
Neither of these feet are essential for most sewers though. You can also gather with the standard foot.
If you want them you can buy each separately for about £25 to £35 per foot (at the time of publication).
The LED light isn’t strong according to 2 buyer reviews. A reviewer said they had to turn on an extra light when sewing in the evening.
I have owned the 4234D since 2018 and don’t have any complaints about the light.
There are 2 lights, well-positioned in front of and behind the needle. They shine a bright white light onto the stitching area.
I only expect it to light up the stitching area. I turn on a lamp when sewing in the dark to light up the rest of my workspace, which is what I expect.
Seam allowance guides could be clearer
You can use these guides to trim off a consistent amount of seam allowance when overlocking.
A reviewer mentioned the lines can be hard to see. They are not printed on the machine, just raised surfaces.
It might be a flaw for some, but I wouldn’t say this is a dealbreaker.
Thread breaks free?
2 buyer reviews were frustrated with their threads breaking free from the guides and snapping. This led to ruined stitches. The reviewers couldn’t figure out what the cause was.
Brother has a list of possible solutions in the manual.
Rethreading the whole machine from scratch is often a good place to start.
I’m wondering if the threads broke free from the top guides because the reviewers threaded the needles with the presser foot down.
If the foot is down, the tension discs are closed, so the thread can’t squeeze in-between the discs. Because they’re not being held by the discs, they might have fallen out when the person started overlocking.
Overall, don’t freak out if you see reviews like this on any overlocker. Overlockers are complex machines and take time to learn. Many problems are caused by us users, not broken machines.
What buyers think
I analysed 43 buyer reviews.
(13 UK reviews and 14 international reviews from amazon.co.uk, and 16 reviews from sewingmachinesales.co.uk).
40 out of 43 buyers were positive overall.
3 out of 43 were negative overall.
Is it easy to use?
- 14 buyers said it’s easy to thread.
- 6 buyers said it’s easy to use.
- 4 buyers praised the instructional DVD that came with their machine.
Is the stitch quality good?
- 8 buyers said they were happy with the stitches their overlocker made. They were pleased with the professional finish it gave their garments.
Is it noisy?
- 5 buyers said it was quiet, but 1 reported that over the months it got noisier even though he/she had oiled it.
- 2 buyers said their overlocker was loud, noisy and that it vibrates.
It’s normal for overlockers to make a noise. I would say the 4234D makes a noise, but there are louder machines out there.
Oiling the machine correctly will help reduce the noise.
Regular servicing will also help. A technician will oil hidden parts of the overlocker that you can’t reach.
It’s possible that the reviewer whose machine was getting noisier over time might need a servicing to get the hidden areas oiled.
In my experience, this model only vibrates at the highest speed. It’s not enough to make it move though.
I also recommend using it on a sturdy table.
Are there quality problems?
- 3 buyers were happy with how the overlocker is built. They commented that it’s quite sturdy and robust. 1 said it’s heavy but that’s also an advantage because it doesn’t shake.
Any other problems?
- 2 buyers think the light isn’t bright enough. It’s fine during daylight, but an extra light is needed in the evenings.
- 1 buyer wished the seam allowance guides on the front cover were marked clearer. She/he thought they were hard to see.
- 2 buyers had issues with their threads breaking free.
- 1 buyer had trouble with needles breaking. They didn’t find the cause.
Here are some solutions from the manual about needles breaking:
- Wrong needles used for the fabric.
- Needles were bent or blunt.
- Needles installed incorrectly.
- The person was pulling on the fabric too hard while sewing.
Videos of the 4234D
See it stitching (not in English):
How to thread it in 4 minutes. (Not in English):
See stitch samples. (Not in English):
Watch the last minute to see it stitching and hear how it sounds:
Threading instructions from the Brother DVD:
How does the Brother 4234D compare to other overlockers?
Compared to other Brother models
I believe the 4234D is the best overlocker from Brother’s UK range.
It has more abilities than the cheaper models, and better build quality according to industry specialists I spoke to.
You can see my comparison chart of UK Brother overlockers for more detail.
Compared to budget overlockers
The 4234D is more expensive than the budget overlocker market.
However, it has more features than budget models, like:
- 2 thread stitch options.
- Needle threader.
- Better build quality and motor power.
- It also comes with a waste tray and extra foot included which some budget models don’t get.
- Older budget models may also have a harder to thread lower looper design.
Compared to mid-range overlockers
When compared to other overlockers in the mid-range market, it’s a really good contender.
I definitely prefer it over Janome’s mid-range overlocker, the 6234XL.
It has more features:
- Needle threader.
- Free arm.
- Extra foot included.
- Better-designed pressure adjustment dial.
And it’s cheaper.
Compared to premium overlockers
It lacks the automatic tension and air threading of the premium market. Premium overlockers are also likely to be even better built.
What do you need to buy for your 4234D?
The manual says you’ll need the 130/705H needle type in sizes #80 and #90.
This is a universal needle that you can also use in your sewing machine.
130/705H: size #80 needles
For fine to medium weight fabrics.
130/705H: size #90 needles
For medium to heavy weight fabrics.
A technician’s warning about needles
“Just a caution about your sewing machine needles.
We are seeing quite a few machines coming in with problems caused by a budget brand of needles being sold at some department stores.
These needles are made so poorly that they will actually cause your machine to not sew properly.
To demonstrate – the needle on the left is a Schmetz brand needle size 80 and on the right is the department store needle size 70.
This size needle should be finer than the Schmetz, and as you can see, not only is it thicker, but it’s also longer!
Other needles in the same department-store-pack are made backwards or are bent…”Technician Mike from mikessewingmachinerepairs.com.au
Make sure you buy your needles from a trusted manufacturer. For example, Schmetz is a well-known brand for quality.
Attach piping and overlock the raw edge in one go.
This will do 3 things in 1 go:
- Gather the bottom fabric,
- Whilst attaching the gathered fabric to a flat fabric,
- And overlocking the raw edge to stop fraying.
Attach tapes and elastic to stretch fabrics up to 12 mm in width.
Pearls and sequins foot
Attach pearls and sequins up to 5mm in diameter to fabric.
This post was originally published on 5 March 2020. It has since been updated.
Now it’s your turn
I’d like to hear from you 🙂
Do you have any questions about this overlocker?
Maybe I missed something you want to know?
Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Phone call with a technician at BSK Ltd on 17 Feb. 2020.
Phone calls with salespeople at sewingmachinesales.co.uk, Frank Nutt Sewing Machines Ltd, Gur Enterprise (UK) LTD trading as GUR Sewing Machines, and Lords Sew-Knit Centre on 27 Feb. 2020.
brother.com. ‘Brother 4234D manual’. [online] Available at: https://download.brother.com/welcome/doch000671/884_b01_om05enes.pdf [accessed: 4 March 2020]
Ken’s Sewing Center. (2012). ‘How to thread the Janome 8002D Serger’. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pSRH6ldom4 [accessed: 4 March 2020]
Syakademiet. (2017). ‘Hvordan tre Brother 4234D overlock’. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8DBV546nDs&t=92s [accessed: 4 March 2020]
amazon.co.uk. ‘Customer reviews: Brother Overlocker 4234D’. [online] Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brothers-Overlock-4234D-Brother-Overlocker/product-reviews/B004D2V4RO/ref=cm_cr_othr_d_show_all_btm?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=all_reviews [accessed: 19 Feb. 2020]
sewingmachinesales.co.uk. ‘BROTHER 4234D OVERLOCKER’. [online] Available at: https://www.sewingmachinesales.co.uk/overlocker/brother/brother-4234d-overlocker.html [accessed: 19 Feb. 2020]
mkcservice.co.uk. ‘P5110141.jpg’. [online] Available at: https://mkcservice.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/P5110141.jpg [accessed: 3 March 2020]
aberdeensewing.com. ‘Brother 4234D Overlocker’. [online] Available at: https://aberdeensewing.com/product/brother-4234d-overlocker/ [accessed: 6 March 2020]
thesewingdepot.co.nz. ‘EXTENSION TABLE FOR BROTHER 4234D OVERLOCKER’. [online] Available at: https://www.thesewingdepot.co.nz/product/1310115 [accessed: 3 March 2020]
Mike. (2018). Mike’s Sewing Machine Repairs. ‘An Important Point About Needles’. [online] Available at: http://www.mikessewingmachinerepairs.com.au/2018/10/08/an-important-point-about-needles/ [accessed: 3 March 2020]
support.brother.com. ‘4234D: FAQs & Troubleshooting’. [online] Available at: https://support.brother.com/g/b/faqlist.aspx?c=gb&lang=en&prod=hf_4234deuk&ftype3=100038 [accessed: 6 March 2020]