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  #1  
Old 08-31-2012
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Sewing machine?

Hi all - I've decided I need to get a sewing machine - I've got some bimini repairs to do, and wouldn't mind doing cockpit cushions and the like - knowing next to nothing about sewing machines, I figure this is the place to ask.
I will be buying a used machine via Kajiji, eBay, etc. or perhaps some yard sale or similar to keep costs down. Sailrite would of course be nice, but prices are more than my budget. I don't want a full industrial machine, but I'm aware that many 'retail' machines are capable of doing the job.
What features should the machine have? Obviously a zig zag stitch, but what else?
What machines would you recommend?
What other stray thoughts do you have on this?

Wally
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

I bought an old Sears machine for $10.00 at a second hand charity store. That machine has sewn all the cushion and tiller covers for our boat. The admiral won't let me use her machine for some reason. Things to look for: all metal gears, name brand, smooth quite action, I like a built in light. Get the one with the accessories if you have a choice. Take material and thread with you to test the machines. Old jeans approximate sunbrella. Sniff the motor to make sure its not burnt. Pfaff is a good machine. Remember stay away from the computer driven multi cam, multi stitch internet connected machines. I wouldn't buy a machine sight unseen, ebay(?), try the second hand stores, and repair shops.
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Last edited by Captainmeme; 08-31-2012 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

If you can get a metal frame Pfaff and make sure it is a model that can take a walking foot.

But almost any domestic machine will cope with what you want to do.
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

Any "old" domestic machine...

Look for cast iron construction and all metal gears with a 1.5 amp or better motor...

Lot of them have zig zag and straight stich as standard, and need "cams" for fancy stiching...

I found this one in the attic and payed a $100 to get it timed and tuned...

Sews everything from cushions to sails to sailbags...
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Last edited by Squidd; 08-31-2012 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

A true walking foot. Nothing else will do, IMO.
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

ahhhh...I KNEW I'd find answers here. Now, please help me out a little more - is the walking foot that thingie (technical term, I know!) that sort of moves the cloth past the, is it a presser foot? (and people bitch about nautical terms, sheesh!)
I also just realized that I didn't mention I have some sail repairs to do (I know, that's SO hard to believe!), so are we talking another level of machine here, or do the above comments apply?
Now for a really dumb question - I know I want the thing to do a lock stitch - is that another term for a zig zag stitch?
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

For sewing canvas and cushions, zig-zag is less important than walking-foot, needle feed and even reverse. I started with a Pfaff 130 that had zig-zag and never used that feature.

The next machine was a $325 craigslist Singer 111W155 compound walking-foot (both drop-feed, needle-feed and an alternating presser-foot) but no reverse. The current machine is a Juki LU-1508N that would be way over budget.

True walking-foot sewing machines seem to be industrial machines. Not all walking-foot sewing machines have needle-feed. A significant disadvantage of a non-industrial sewing machine is amount of material that can be gotten under the foot. Beware that the number of layers of canvas and webbing might be more than you imagine.

However, search the archives or wait for a few more posts and opinions will vary widely.
The best opposed advocate might be Sumner who will probably post shortly. If I could sew as well as Ruth, I'd probable agree.

Ruth Canvas Mods Index

Contact me via PM if you'd like to discuss in more detail.
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

Wally:

I had many of the same questions. I purchased a Sailrite zig zag machine. The reason is that Sailrite has super support in the way of tutorial videos and starter kits, etc. Their website is fantastic and all of their stuff fits the machine they offer. I have completed many canvas projects for my boat and Sailrite helped me with all of them. I live near New Orleans, Louisiana - a long way from Sailrite's shop but they have helped me through all of my canvas projects. I purchased their sail pack kit and made a fantastic improvement to my boat with the sail pack alone. View a couple of their free videos on YOutube and I think you will be sold like I am.

Good luck,

Scott.
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Old 08-31-2012
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Re: Sewing machine?

Scott, I'm with you on Sailrite all the way. They're superb on support and training, no question about that. If I could afford one of their machines, it would be on board now. And come to think of it, I do have a friend who has gotten out of boating and has one....hmmmmm. Must make a phone call...
Tejasailor - you went way past me with things like 'needlefeed' - and what is the difference between walking foot and 'true' walking foot? Could you explain pls?
And drop feed?
In my very limited experience, reverse seems to be a must have but I'm willing to be corrected...
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Re: Sewing machine?

Walking-foot sewing machines have walking-foot built into the machine. There are walking-foot attachments to machines that lack built-in walking-foot.

Compound walking-foot sewing machines have both drop-feed (bottom-feed) and needle-feed (top-feed) and an alternating presser-foot. Bottom-feed moves the fabric via a feed-dog underneath the fabric. With needle-feed the needle follows an elliptical path and the needle pulls the material through the machine. Lacking needle-feed, the top layers of material lag the bottom layers. The following links might be helpful. Do click on "show more" on the YouTube video.

Sewing machine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Sailrite is a good source for materials, notions and tools, and also for video tutorials and support. That doesn't necessary mean Sailrite sewing machines are the best that can bought for the money. Sailrite sewing machines are reported to be made in Taiwan or China and do not seem to have a good reputation with folks who sew canvas for a profession. Not all Sailrite walking-foot machines have needle-feed. BTW, I failed to mention that I had initially purchased a Sailrite walking-foot sewing machine and returned it because even with excellent phone support could not seem get it adjusted.

Reverse is used mostly for back-tack. Lacking reverse, with the needle down merely turn the material 180 degrees and sew the back-tack. Having said that, reverse is also useful in difficult fabric manage situations. For example, sewing reinforcement in the middle of a large project, sometimes I'll stitch a short run entirely in reverse just because it seems easier than wrestling the fabric around to go forward. However, I'd even trade-off reverse for knee- or foot-lift just to be able get more material under the foot.

While only an industrial sewing machine consideration, servo motors versus clutch haven't yet been mentioned. More on that if anyone is interested.
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