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Janet Versus the Juki

Janet Versus the Juki

You might remember that back in September, I lucked into a Juki industrial serger in Spokane. I had actually been looking for a second domestic serger, thinking that I would keep my Juki MO-654 set up for knits and have another one set up for wovens. The universe decided that putting an industrial serger in my path was a better plan.

The serger sat in the foyer of our house for two months until we moved it to the basement so I could set up the Christmas tree in the foyer. And of course, with the holidays, I didn’t get any work done on it. I made a deal with myself that when the canvas grocery bags made it back to the top of the sewing list, I would get the serger running once and for all so I could use it to assemble them.

I have a whole batch of grocery bags cut out and a whole batch of handles finished. I have no reason to put the serger project off any longer, so yesterday afternoon, I headed downstairs armed with tweezers, a bottle of Juki Defrix Oil No. 2, and a whole lot of determination.

This machine was well cared for and came with all the accessories, including a manual. The manual sucks—not to put too fine a point on it. The first page has lots of detailed instructions on setting up the machine in the table, putting the belt on (I did that a couple of weeks ago), and making sure it has sufficient oil. And then it says, “Thread the machine according to the following diagram.”

The next page features a large color-coded diagram for threading the machine. At that point, though, the manual writers apparently decided their job was done.

When I bought the machine, the guy at the sew ‘n vac place helpfully left it threaded, although the threads had been cut from the cones. The easiest thing to do would have been to tie on to what was left of the threads and pull them through the machine. However, I have never had good luck with that method. I can’t seem to find the sweet spot where I can make a knot small enough to get through all the holes and tight enough that it doesn’t come undone partway through the process. Also, I think it’s important for me to know how to thread the machine. The husband says that modern cars with all their electronics were designed for people like me who aren’t good about checking the oil and tire pressure (guilty as charged). When it comes to my sewing machines, however, I am not going to be one of those people who sits down at the machine and has no idea how to troubleshoot problems. I want to know this serger inside and out.

The threading guide in the manual is reasonably clear. I was able to set up all the threads on the “Christmas tree,” saying a blessing on my friend Tera as I did so for providing me with a whole bag of serger thread in various colors:


The threading order is a bit different from my domestic serger—the manual says to thread the needles first, then the upper looper, then the lower looper, and then the chain looper. The order is critical because some threads have to pass in front of, over, or behind other threads to form the stitches. This is a five-thread machine. My domestic serger is a four-thread machine. My domestic serger can finish edges with three threads and make a seam with its fourth thread; this machine finishes the edges with three of the threads and makes a separate seam half an inch in from the edge of the material with the other two threads. That separate seam is a chain stitch, not a lockstitch like a sewing machine makes.

What the manual doesn’t bother to tell you is a) how to access the loopers and b) that you can swing the presser foot out of the way to thread the needles. I figured out how to access the loopers by sliding the front cover to the side and down, which is exactly how my domestic Juki serger is set up. I didn’t get that second piece of information, unfortunately, until after I had contorted myself like a pretzel and managed to thread both needles with the presser foot in its usual position. I found that gem of wisdom in a YouTube video that I watched later when it came time to thread the loopers.

These are the needles, threaded, with the presser foot swung out of the way:


And this is the front of the machine open for accessing the loopers:


I would have appreciated having that information in the manual. Both those things seem pretty basic to operating the machine and should have been included. Thank goodness for YouTube. Also, thank goodness for the Juki engineers who made virtually every model of serger basically the same. (The loopers thread a bit differently on this machine than on my domestic machine, but the principle is the same.)

The fact that I am intimately acquainted with my domestic serger—I can thread it now in about 10 minutes—made threading this machine a lot easier. Still, I expected it to take a couple of hours and I was right. I got everything but the chain looper threaded in about two hours. (Whether or not I did it correctly remains to be seen.) At that point, the husband was home and I decided to run into town and get my errands done in case we get snow later this week.

Today’s first task is to get that chain looper threaded and do some test serging to see if I have everything threaded correctly. Part of the reason I am using a separate color for each thread is so I can pinpoint which thread might be wonky. Once I have this running properly, I might rethread with colors more appropriate to my project. Or not, as the seams will be hidden anyway.


We have a church council meeting tonight. I am the chairman. I’ve been the chairman for the past couple of years. My friend Twila and I tend to kick the chairman job back and forth between us; it’s one of those jobs that requires a good deal of administrative capability and there just doesn’t seem to be an abundance of administratively-capable people in churches.

I’ve noted before that our church is in a much different place than it was 20 years ago when I started attending. We’ve lost probably half our membership due to people dying. It’s become more and more difficult to find people to fill leadership positions. We have an elder board and a church council. Between those two groups, there are approximately 12 positions that need to be filled, which is about one-third of our average attendance on a Sunday. That pool is, in reality, much smaller because according to our governing documents, the leadership positions are supposed to be filled by members, and not everyone who attends our church is a member. We have gotten into the (bad) habit of plugging people into positions even if they aren’t really suited to that position.

I brought up this problem in our church council meeting back in August and asked for some ideas. We all agreed that we need to streamline and scale back our governing structure. Of course, because I am the person that brought up this idea—and because it’s a huge job that no one else wants to tackle—I get to be in charge of the committee to come up with a new structure.

Reorganization of our structure comes with some other, attendant issues: 1) We will have to redo our governing documents in the process; 2) We will have to determine what constitutes “membership” because that has some legal implications; 3) We really need to figure out how to reach out to the community to let people know we’re here.

That last one is a big sticking point. While we don’t want to become a mega-church or go chasing after members, we recognize that our current size isn’t sustainable in the long term. Our valley is filled to the brim with churches that toe the fundamentalist Christian line. If you were to drive through Kalispell, you would see church after church with the Ten Commandments displayed prominently on their buildings as well as churches with more strident messages such as “Repent! The Day of the Lord is Near!”

[The guy who was behind the campaign to get churches to display the Ten Commandments on their buildings came to our church. Our minister told him that if we were going to put anything on our building, it would be the commandment to “Love Thy Neighbor.”]

We know that there are people in our valley who would come to a church like ours, which welcomes everyone and tries to counter some of the messages sent by more mainstream Christian churches. (I totally get why some people hate Christianity, believe me.) The fact that we are a Mennonite church is something of a strike against us, though. People see “Mennonite” and they immediately assume a conservative church where people are required to dress a certain way. The irony is that our church is fairly progressive and probably only a few of the people in our pews every Sunday are what I would call “ethnic Mennonites.” The rest of us have come from other faith backgrounds.

This is a big challenge and while I like big challenges, it’s been weighing on my mind. We want to be deliberate, but we also don’t want this to drag on for years. It’s my goal to have something drafted to present to the congregation by next fall.

I Conquered the Machine

I Conquered the Machine

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