14 December 2013

Sewing Machine Review - Pfaff Hobbylock 4870

What brand and model do you have? This machine is a Pfaff Hobbylock 4870

How long have you had it? I was given this overlocker (serger) as a Christmas present from my father somewhere around 2005. I'm just guessing, I can't really remember. If you've read any of my other machine reviews, you'll know that my father used to have a sewing machine business. I had mentioned to him at some stage that I was in the market for a new overlocker, and hey presto, he gave this one to me (Well, maybe it wasn't quite like that). I wish things like this happened more often, like, wouldn't it be nice to have a million dollars. Unfortunately my luck doesn't extend that far.

I only recently found out the full story on why he was so willing to give me this machine. Apparently when my father bought his business, this machine was one that came with it as existing stock. It had been ordered in for a customer who changed her mind and did not go through with the purchase. Neither my father nor his predecessor usually kept Pfaff machines in stock, and try as he might, he had been unable to find another interested buyer.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? I can honestly say that I don't even have a clue as to how much this machine is worth, let alone the cost price when I acquired it. Let's say at least $500.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)? I use this machine for all of my overlocking. I generally use a 3 or 4 thread wide overlock stitch. I'm also partial to doing rolled overlocked hems on chiffon dresses - it gives such a nice finish!

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? This machine would be in use most weeks.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? No name (again). I don't actually hate this machine, but I have had my differences with it. I'll elaborate more on this below.

What features does your machine have that work well for you? Being a 5 thread overlocker, it is capable of a great variation of stitches which my old machine wasn't capable of. Even though I don't regularly use a variety of different finishes, it's nice to know that it's possible.

Rolled hems are great for chiffon dresses! (When they work).

Silk chiffon rolled hem
Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? Where do I start? I have had a few issues with this overlocker over the years. Most recently it had a full overhaul last Christmas. The cutting blade hadn't been going up and down consistently, so I had to drag my old Elna overlocker out of it's box and use that until I could get the Pfaff looked at. Dad took the whole thing apart and found a piece in bottom of the casing that had fallen off. No wonder the blade didn't want to go up and down! Unfortunately though, it hasn't worked the same since! It runs a lot smoother since it's mega servicing, but one of the grub screws that holds the needles in went missing, so changing needles is now a pain. The tension on the loopers is also a bit out of whack now. I used to be able to leave them on the standard settings with no adjustments, but now I have to adjust both of them to make the stitches regular. And I have to do this every time I change threads.

The thread that I use has also been an issue. I bought some very large reels in a few colours of overlocker thread from a local wholesaler, and they have proven to be particularly troublesome on this machine. It was recommended to me that I use plastic bags under the reels so that the thread runs through smoothly and doesn't get caught while feeding through. This hasn't proven to be enough though, and I often have the lower looper thread getting caught and breaking, and also the left needle thread. I'm not sure if it's a specific issue to the placement of these reels, or related to how much thread is left on the reels. I know that I don't have (as many) issues with other types of threads that I use, though I do get the occasional issue.

I quite often have issues of the tension playing up mid seam, which may or may not result in the thread breaking. When this happens I have to re-thread, and it has been known to need rethreading up to 10 times before it will sew more than a centimetre or two before breaking again.

Oh, and my thread frequently manages to work it's way from one thread guide to join it's neighbour! Oops!

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? No. It can be a little hard to thread (for the tenth time when it's being temperamental), and I've had a lot of problems with it. I have to say I've actually been using my old Elna machine a bit lately. It is easy to thread and sews consistently, but it just doesn't have as many features.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? Find a good reliable machine that suits your budget and your sewing needs.

Doing an outside corner 

Do you have a dream machine? I dream of an overlocker that is easy to thread, can easily do outside and inside corners, never unthreads itself for no reason or has thread breakages for no reason, and sews smoothly and consistently without too much attention. If you know of a good affordable overlock that does all this and won't take up more room than this one, let me know, I may be in the market for a new one!

Edit (January 13, 2014): My father took this opportunity over the Christmas break to take another look at this machine. His first question to me: "Have you had a problem with the foot?" I had, it occasionally slowed down and sped up again. Well, it wouldn't work at all for him, so he tried another foot, but all to no avail. When he asked me if it was alright if he kept it to have a better look at his leisure, and probably scrap it, it didn't really come as a surprise. It also jogged another memory. A few years ago I had some other major problems with it, and having connection with Janome, dad pulled a few strings, and I sent the machine off for the Janome machine technician have a look at it and fix it for me. Let's just say that his hasn't been the most reliable machine for me. I'm back to using my old (and by old I mean 15 to 20 years) Elna. I think I need to give it a good clean! I am on the hunt for a new overlocker, but at least I have something to use.

Catch up on my other sewing machine reviews:

Janome 1600P
Janome Memory Craft 4800QC
Janome Memory Craft 300E Embroidery Machine
Janome Mylock 634D Overlocker
Janome Coverpro 1000CP

Head over to sew mama sew to see more sewing machine reviews.


  1. I found you blog and this post today - enjoying it immensely.

    I had this machine. Bought it new 1997 for $1200. A lot of money then! It was much loved by me and repaid me the purchase price many times over. I used and abused it throughly for 15 years before it died. I used the 5 thread capacity for woven fabrics the most. Then I used the 4 thread for knits or edge neatening.

    Threading was OK, the free arm was wonderful, but tensions could be a right pain. I used up all my scraps on checking the tensions prior to sewing the actual garment. I rarely used the other stitches.

    I miss it, especially as I am currently using a 30 year old 3 thread without differential feed. SIGH.

  2. Thanks for the detailed review. I was considering purchasing this Pfaff model from ebay but I think I'll keep looking. It will be my first serger, as I'm relatively new to sewing.

  3. I bought the machine from my friend, a Pfaff dealer for $800 new. Havent used it much but now that I am retired and having time, I am finding problems. A regular serger seam works good but I have spent two days trying to get the rolled hem to work. Have the right plate, and am having difficulty getting the slider for the left looper to engage the thread The slider seems not wanting to move smoothly and the thread just doesn't catch. I took it one place to repair along with the manual and they called the next day and said they couldn't do anything for me Ugh.

  4. I like Accordian purchased mine new in the mid 90's for about $1,200 and have been very happy with the machine. Yes, there have been the occasional disagreements but all-in-all it has served me very well. I've used the differential feed quite a lot as I made and sold broomstick skirts. I also use the rolled hem frequently. I've had a few issues with the slider sticking but nothing I can't handle. And, there are sometimes tension issues. But, I personally think that is to be expected when, first of all, you are dealing with five threads, and secondly, when you change fabrics. In the end, I’m still very happy with this more than 20-year old machine. I think it was a sound investment for me.