Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 13 Old 04-22-2013 Thread Starter
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Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

I'm looking at making at a minimum:
- jib
- mainsail
- 8 large cushions
- large custom dodger
If those projects are fun and turn out well, I'll do some future work on the side and try and make it a hobby with positive cash flow (unlike the boat).

I like Sailrite's machines. Question: should I consider the long arm? Does the longer arm make those larger projects that much easier--I'm thinking yes it does.

Notes:
1. I will not be on long voyages that require the machine to be onboard.
2. I'm not very worried if this doesn't pan out. The resale of the machines is very high and the lost capital will likely be almost matched the difference from having a pro build all that canvas as opposed to doing it myself.
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post #2 of 13 Old 04-22-2013
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

Bravopapa,

You might want to clarify your post with the size of your boat.

I've never made or repaired sails. I'm DIY and have made cushions, biminis, dogers and covers with a standard sized industrial machines. Fabric management can be a hassle, and I think that fabric management could be mitigated by a long-arm machine.

For canvas, I think that I would prioritize a long-arm machine after a straight-stitch, rotary-hook compound walking-foot machine with servo motor.

I'm considering making sails and think that a walking-foot, multipoint, multistep zig-zag machine would be ideal. I passed up an almost new, very reasonably priced but still pricy machine and will probably end up with a well-used lower priced machine without these features. However, I have no intention to sew for profit.
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post #3 of 13 Old 04-22-2013
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

I think Tejas gave you excellent advice. I'm just starting to get into sewing. I made cushions last season and did some sail repair using my wife's home-grade Singer, but that machine can't handle some of the thicker fabrics that I want to use for new projects. Anyway, I think I'd prioritize as follows:

1) Commercial-grade machine - industrial machines are typically purpose-built and do only one thing, but do it really well, quickly, and reliably. Commercial machines have more flexibility, are typically made of all metal parts, and have decent motors to drive them. These can usually handle several layers of sailcloth (think about what's needed where you're sewing reinforcement patches) or Sunbrella. Most of these will have the rotary hook that Tejas mentioned.
2) Zigzag - really need this for bigger sails, in addition to the straight stitch that you'll want for the bimini/dodger and other pieces. If you can get one that does a double step zigzag (I think that's what it's called), that's even better. That's where each "line" in the zigzag is actually two different stitches, rather than just one.
3) Walking foot - Becomes more of a necessity as you get into the multi-layer jobs.
4) Long arm - Nice as the size of the piece increases. Especially useful on sails or other jobs where you'll actually be sewing in the middle of the project, not just around the edges.

As I said, I'm still learning the black art of sewing, but that's my take.

- Jim
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post #4 of 13 Old 04-22-2013
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

I have made all my own sails and cushions both for in the cabins and the cockpit area.

I have a treadle Singer sewing machine But it would have been eiser with a long arm machine...

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post #5 of 13 Old 04-22-2013
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

The long arm will be a good investment when you do the sails.

But if it comes down to a choice between the long arm and the walking foot get the foot.
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post #6 of 13 Old 04-22-2013
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

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Originally Posted by jimgo View Post
Zigzag - really need this for bigger sails, in addition to the straight stitch that you'll want for the bimini/dodger and other pieces. If you can get one that does a double step zigzag (I think that's what it's called), that's even better. That's where each "line" in the zigzag is actually two different stitches, rather than just one.
Jimgo is describing what I think is called multi-point, multi-step. A three-point, two-step machine sews two stitches each way. A four-point, three-step machine sews three stitches. Too long of a single zig-zag stitch can be a snag problem.
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post #7 of 13 Old 04-22-2013
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

Thanks Tejas! Yes, that's what I was describing. In reading over at the Sailrite forum, it seemed like the three-point, two-step approach was the desired approach, because it spread out the number of holes over a wider surface area. The analogy used was that they were trying to avoid creating "perforated paper" when sewing.

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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

My understanding is that lacking a multi-point, multi-step zig-zag machine, the same effect of strength and durability can be made by multiple passes with a two-point, single-stitch machine, and that because of the perforation effect Jimgo mentions, multiple passes with a straight-stitch machine does not distribute the load the same as a zig-zag machine and is not as effective.

Last edited by TejasSailer; 04-22-2013 at 06:49 PM.
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

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Originally Posted by TejasSailer View Post
Bravopapa,

You might want to clarify your post with the size of your boat.
My boat is 35 feet. The leech of the main is in the 29 ft range, give or take.
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Re: Sewing Machine: Long Arm worth the extra $?

Great replies. Thanks. To clarify:

1. my boat is 35 ft, leech on the main is 29 ft or so

2. The only sails I will make are for me. Good sail making is an art and science.. that many are very good at now. I don't plan a futile effort to break into that market.

3. "If" I do this for fun/profit (hobby income) it will be for little custom jobs like dodgers, pedestal covers, etc.

The "walking foot" thing is something I'm going to look into further.

The double-zig-zag may or may not be a issue.. since the only sails I make will be mine.

Shift topic: funny, when I was young, if you told me I would be interested in sewing, I would have laughed in your face. The most horrible ordeal in life was going with Mom to Jo-Anne fabrics... and all those "Simplicity" patterns on that tissue like paper.

Someone sent me a PM.. I can't open it because I am a new member.
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