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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

My sunbrella sail cover has a few tears and I thought about purchasing a sewing machine to patch it up as well as doing other small projects for the boat.

Would a 200$ sewing machine be up to the task?

Florent
 

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Florent,

Jill is doing Sunbrella covers right now. We did a YouTube video of her making new cushons on our boat and in it you can see what type of sewing machine she used. AN OLD one!

After years of full time cruising the West Coast and the Sea of Cortez, we had a family emergency that required us to get back to the USA for some time. After we moved our Nor'Sea back to a place close to us. She was in need of some refit that we wanted to do. SO, we started with 3 tasks in mind, cushions, re-wire the solar panel system, and replace the standing rigging.

We first looked around at the cost to have new cushions made for us. WOW! Was the price high. So, we set off to replace them our self. I am happy to say that they have come out SOOOOOOO NICE!

This was our FIRST attempt, and it worked well!

*** Note, this video is in 3D, but you can turn that off by going to the bottom and clicking on the gear symbol, then selecting 3D off.

The video is at'

Greg
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the tip Greg, impressive work!

Sometimes old machines can be pretty rugged. Do you know how strong yours is?

Also do you use a special kind of thread for the outside jobs?

Thanks,
 

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The key is to get a machine with metal gears. An older household model should work fine for small jobs. If you plan to do some larger jobs that require 5 or 6 layer of cloth, a walking foot machine is necessary to get good results.
 

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Mechsmith
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I found a White "Jeans Machine" in a thrift shop for $25.It has all the power that you'll ever need short of doing it professionally. No walking foot though, and it would be better with one.
 

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I used an inexpensive White home sewing machine and could sew through 3-4 layers of Sunbrella, but 4 layers was pushing my luck. Sometimes it would stall it. The White was adequate to make many simple projects, such as a mainsail cover, or winch covers, or grab rail covers, outboard motor covers, etc.

Even if you don't have a Sailrite machine, watch their how-to videos, which are free on their website. You'll learn how to do lots of neat things, such as how to set a zipper.
 

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I too am sewing new cushion covers right now and am almost finished. I agree with everything that's been said so far.

For the cushion covers, I'm using Sunbrella furniture fabric, which is a little softer and easier to sew than their marine fabric. But I've also sewn topside projects with the marine fabric. I use a modest New Home machine but have gotten good results with it. If you're going to sew piping around the edges, I HIGHLY recommend getting a welting foot. Makes that job infinitely easier to get tight, straight seams. I also purchased a universal walking foot attachment that works surprising well, particularly when sewing multiple layers and if any layers are slippery. Besides holding the fabric together, it helps you get longer, more consistent stitches.

I also recommend using 3/8" Seamstick from Sailrite. It really helps hold things together for straighter seams and it's a great help when you're muscling several layers around corners. Something that I wish I had done from the beginning was to use a hot knife for cutting out pieces. Part way through the project, I made one from a cheap Harbor Freight soldering gun and it works great. No fraying whatsoever. Does double duty for cutting running rigging.

When the project is finished, I'll be posting the full story and plenty of pictures on my blog at the address in my signature. Subscribe and you'll be notified when it happens. You might find some other interesting stuff there too!
 

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Our Bernina will sew 4 layers of sunbrella, but you can have 4 layers when joining two pieces - in other words you are limited to single thickness covers.

I have made some covers myself, and they turned out great, but only single thickness, so they might not be as durable as I'd like.

My professionally-made cover sail has a liner and some areas with leather, and an ordinary home machine just isn't up to this. I can patch holes, but seams are a problem.

The fact is to really do repairs right, you need a Sailrite or similarly powerful industrial machine.
 

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A significant limitation of home sewing machines, even those called semi-industrial, is not only the space under the foot but the ability to sew layers of material. When the pressure foot is lifted, the thread tension discs are opened. On some machines even with the lift mechanism lowered on layers of material, the tension discs might not completely close.

Layers can mount up quickly. Simply sewing a corner with two double hems is six layers unless the corner is mitered.
 

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... you can have 4 layers when joining two pieces ...
There would be four layers sewing a flat felled seam. Sewing a semi-flat felled seam (aka : faux flat fell or faced edge seam) would be three layers and seems to be more common for boat canvas than a flat felled seam.

To sew, plain stitch with fabric right-side to right-side, open seam, press both seam allowances to one side, turn over to the right-side and topstitch through the three layers close to the original stitch. Plan the fold to one side and topstitch so that the three layer side is uphill on the boat. That way water will tend to run over the seam rather than through the seam.

Double hemming over a flat felled seam would result in 8 layers, but 6 layers on a semi-flat felled seam.
 
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