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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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Discussion Starter #3
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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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.

Ed Reiss
Being There
Freedom 38 #154
out of Jamestown, RI
 

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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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Discussion Starter #6
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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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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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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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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Walking foot

From Wikipedia,

Feed dogs are the feeder mechanism in a sewing machines which is typically used to pull fabric through a sewing mechanism.

A set of feed dogs typically resembles two or three short, thin metal bars, crosscut with diagonal furrows, which move back and forth in grooves slightly larger than the bars. The type of motion used (forward, then down, then backwards, then up) serves to pull the fabric through, since the "dogs" are in contact with the material on the forward stroke, and are pulled down below the main plate on the backward stroke by the sewing machine's mechanism. The result is that, between stitches, the fabric is pulled along in discrete steps.
Feed Dogs work from underneath the fabric. A Walking Foot provides a similar coordinated feeder mechanism from the top, so that the two layers of fabric feed through without slipping out of alignment. This is useful for boat sewing, since much of the fabric is stiff and/or slippery, and does not like to STAY PUT unless strongly spoken to and dealt with. :laugher

I have a $300 Singer I bought new; seems to be working ok, but is struggling to feed the heavier fabrics. I've done alot of sewing, so I've got strategies to make the thing work; however, I have an older Singer model (Golden Touch & Sew), that is gear driven (as opposed to the newer belt driven models) that I suspect would feed and handle the fabric better.

If you decide to go for an older Singer, I'd look for the gear driven ones.
 

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Makes sense, now I get why SailRite recommends it.
 

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At risk of repeating myself, I think one will find the new Casey book worth the price of purchase just for the information on finding a used but capable machine for sailmaking, all on it's own. The treasure trove of other information on matters of boat restoration is similarly priceless.
 

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We've got a new Sailrite and an old Kenmore (from the days when Kenmore was all-metal). LOVE the Sailrite! 8 layers of Sunbrella, no problem. Isinglass, no problem. And as MMR explained, the walking foot makes all the seams flat and sturdy. Can you consider buying a Sailrite (new or used) for your project and then selling it when you're done? I'm pretty experienced at sewing and the sailrite has improved every boat project we've done. (bimini, upholstery, and (attention CD) a cover for our barbeque grill.
 

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Both of my parents are upholsterers and I've done plenty of cushions and canvas. You will probably never use zig-zag on cushions, canvas, or curtains. You will use it on sails.
To sew several layers of heavy material you must have a walking foot or it will be miserable.
You can sew up a pair of undies for granny without the walking foot, but that's about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Today we're driving down to Annapolis to check out the sailrites in person.

Thanks for the tip on the Don Casey book, I need to try and dig up a copy somewhere.
 

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Hi all

Last week got a quote from the "dodger making guy" for a price to replace the Sunbrella on my dodger. This morning I spent some time with the owner of "Sewing World" here where I live.

Bottom line:

He says - I (me only):

do not need zig zag
do need walking foot
do need a good strong machine
used is fine - especially pre-1965 - mostly good metal parts then

(According to him (his opinion only) Sailrite is good but over priced for what you get.)

I have seen Sailrite on-line for about $500.00 or so.

My good news is I expect the dodger and bimini to easily get me through at least one more season after this one so I have 18 months to find what I want.

Good thread.
 

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When I took stock last year I found that to buy all the canvas projects I wanted for my boat would be somewhere in the 12 to 15 thousand dollar vicinity if ordered retail. That was scary. I instead opted for buying the Sailrite zig zag machine. Over the winter I made all new cushions (six large for sleeping and countless others for comfort/storage), a mainsail stackpack cover, a storm jib, all the cones for a jordan series drogue, a parachute storm anchor, FWG locker cubbies, sheet bags and some fender holders for the cockpit lockers. I'm not half way through my list of to-do's, which still has - rebuild dodger, new bimini, storm trysail, binnacle cover etc, etc, etc......

I recommend sailrite as a great place for supplies. As someone who has done a fair bit of hand sewing (rebuilding spinnakers on long ocean races after taking the lead in blowing them out was a specialty of mine - especially the blowing them out part!) but I was completely innocent of sewing machine work. I found their instructional videos invaluable, the ones on how to use their machines and the ones that were project specific. They are great if you are starting from zero, as I was. There is a confidence quotient that comes from actually seeing something being done, as opposed to reading about it or trying to reinvent the wheel by not getting any reference.

Sailrite is a bit more expensive than you could probably find on the internet if you know what you are looking for, but I love the convenience of looking at their catalog, finding exactly what I need and then ordering the part or the kit, complete with instruction and having the thing arrive a few days later.

I am no expert on sewing machines, having only used two in my life, my wife's home machine and my Sailrite. I can say that when working on large projects the walking foot feature makes life easier and I like the zig zag feature that has permitted me both to make and to repair sails. I'll post some pic soon (camera is on the boat and it's raining on the east coast for a change)
 

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Today we're driving down to Annapolis to check out the sailrites in person.

Thanks for the tip on the Don Casey book, I need to try and dig up a copy somewhere.
Hey, Archis! Was just in Sailrite this am. Busy there today, with all the rain we're having!
 

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Hey, Archis! Was just in Sailrite this am. Busy there today, with all the rain we're having!
In Sailrite... I'm jealous! Raining again in RI now too.

Looking forward to the pics, genieskip. Perhaps we need a "show me your recent canvas and cushion work" thread.
 
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