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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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Old 06-18-2009
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Sewing Machine Advice Needed

I'm thinking about buying a used industrial machine for miscellaneous canvas projects. I'm interested in making/repairing sail covers, companion way screens, cockpit mosquito nets, etc.

I'm not intending to be a sailmaker, but may have occasional sail repairs and may be interested in producing some simple canvas products as a hobby business.

I like older equipment since it can have higher quality and can be purchased much more reasonably then new items.

My dilemna is that I know nothing about sewing machines and don't know what type of features I need. For example here's a machine for sale locally that looks pretty good:

Singer Industrial Sewing Machine

Should I be concerned that it does'nt have a walking foot?

What type of features are must have for the type of work I described above?

Thanks in advance
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Old 06-18-2009
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I only know about home machines but I will tell you what I know about those. Singer has a good reputation. They tend to be sturdy and last a long time. I think I remember seeing that you can get replacement parts fairly easily so you may be able to buy a walking foot for this one, I don't know. I would search to see if a walking foot is available for that machine before you buy it. My home sewing machine has the double needle foot and I know it makes for a much more sturdy seam.

Best of luck! My machine is very old and not doing very well. I've had it repaired several times and I am afraid that it is just about ready to retire. It is a Kenmore and was my grandmothers. It is probably 40 years old. So, I am very curious to see what you find in your sewing machine shopping.

Missy of Brightwolf
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Old 06-18-2009
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Singer was my first choice, but finding an industrial machine with a walking foot and zigzag looks like a lot of money, even used.

On the other hand, the sailrite demos on youtube look pretty compelling. They're made in Taiwan which in my mind is much better than China but still not my first choice for country of origin.
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Old 06-18-2009
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I wanted to make cockpit cushions (naugahyde type material) and purchased a used (Craigs List) Kenmore with a walking foot. The foot is an add on option. It did just fine. Don't think it would compare well with a Sailrite model but it had no problem with my project which sometimes involved 4 layers of naugahyde.

Best of luck.

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Last fall I bought a new sailrite LZ1 to make new cushions mainly.
So far I replaced the clear windows in my dodger and repaired my Levis.

I like the LZ1.

All metal (heavy) construction, easy to set up (I am a novice) and that machine will sew through anything Eight layers of Sunbrella- no problem.

Neal
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I'm very much a novice and I'm trying to figure out if I should jump with two feet and get the sailrite or just get an older singer industrial.

I'm still trying to find out how important the walking foot is. I also found out that according to sailrite the zig-zag is mostly for sail repair.
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Old 06-18-2009
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Don Casey's latest edition of This Old Boat has an excellent chapter on sewing, sail-making, and sewing machines. Here's your excuse to buy a great book. As I recall he recommends having a walking foot. But he's also a fan of shopping in the market you're already pursuing. You won't need or use the zig-zag stitch.
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I've also been looking into getting a sewing machine for my boat.
The Sailrite machines have an excellent reputation. I'm planning get one of those as soon as I get get some time to work on new covers.
There not very cheap, and not much cheaper second-hand. However, I guess that means if you don't like it you could sell it on and not be too much out of pocket.
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Old 06-18-2009
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I feel a walking foot is important to help move the fabric along. It is especially helpful when working with heavier (or more layers) fabrics. A zig zag option isn't necessary unless you plan on doing alot of sail work. The ability for the stitch to reverse to lock the threads is a must. Most industrial machines (Consew, Brother) are very heavy and would be difficult on a boat. A good used Singer sounds like a good investment. I would want to try out the machine before purchasing. Sailrite has a good reputation and I've heard the staff is helpful when you have problems with the machine. The important thing to remember when working on exterior pieces is to use thread that is UV resistant. The shop where I work uses 138 weight thread. You can use a lighter thread if you are making cushions, etc. that are for your interior. I recently purchased a Singer but have only used on light weight fabrics since I can use my work machine for canvas items. We're going cruising this fall and hope if I need to make repairs the Singer will do the job. I have tested with a few layers of Sunbrella but not any clear vinyl yet. We'll see what happens.
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Old 06-19-2009
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Dumb Question

I've been looking at doing some canvas work on my boat. I can hand sew OK but have never used a sewing machine, and I'd rather not spend $600+ on one of the SailRite machines. I'm sure they're good quality but I won't be doing enough work to justify the cost.

I've talked with the sales people in a couple of stores about new machines and they all said the same thing - buy an old Singer or Kenmore.

What I don't know is what a walking foot is and what it does. I could be looking right at one at a yard sale and would have no idea.

Can someone please explain it to me? Also is it a "have-to-have" or a "nice-to-have" accessory?
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