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#1004792 - 02/15/11 11:34 AM Sewing questions
DPS Offline
spray'prentice

Registered: 10/13/00
Posts: 3640
TRs: 19 Photos: 56
I know there are some folks here that have done some really cool projects. I have been doing some tinkering myself lately and have wanted to sew a few items. Lacking both a sewing machine and any knowledge of sewing I have been having a seemstress do my work for me. This has worked out well for the few pieces I have made. I am intested in possibly learning to sew to save the cost of the seamstress.

I have some ideas for simple clothes, some haul pack like duffels that fit most airlines size restrictions for checked bags, as well as some canvas for my sailboat.

What type of sewing machine do I need to get that wil sew soft shell, fleece, canvas, techy spectra grid stop and lighter weight haul bag material (like the white suff Fish uses)? I would want it to sew buttons and holes, heavy duty zippers and such. A bar tacker for full strength webbing projects would be cool but not necessary.

Wny ideas what brands or type of machines I should be looking at? Is buying used a good idea?

TIA,

Dan
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Dispensing piss poor advice for since October, 2000.

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#1004812 - 02/15/11 12:15 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: DPS]
max Offline
old hand

Registered: 12/08/00
Posts: 861
TRs: 3 Photos: 63
Loc: R6
Dan:

The following is put forward as my experience, not necessarily what you should do. smile

Regarding sewing machines:

1. Most commercially available machines at a reasonable price are oriented towards "crafts". They have lots of fancy stitch patterns, and programs, but aren't that "heavy duty". They just can't sew the thickness you'll likely want (my "home" machine can sew two layers of courdura and a single web strap ok, but any thicker, or heavier material (e.g. ballistic nylon, that urethane material haul bags are made of. etc...) get iffy. you'll put serious wear on your machine, foul up the tension adjustments, and end up with fouled up stitches. :((

2. You can buy used industrial machines at reasonable prices (at least compared to MSRP = thousands) that can handle heavier thicknesses. They're very specific (to stitch type and material) and require an experienced hand. Machines usually only straight stitch; binding, bar tacks, and "zig-zag" stitches are from completely different machines. They also run at a WAY fast stitch, meaning you can run a line up your nail (or worse, f*** up your project!) pretty quick.

3. In my opinion, if you could find an "industrial" machine that will straight and zigzag at a price you can stomach, you're in. Otherwise, a "home" machine will do ok for lighter projects. Consider making prototypes on your own machine with lighter material, then bringing cut pieces with alignment marks to a tailor/gear repair place. I've limped my way through 4 different backpacks, innumerable courdura pouches/csacks (he said sack...), w/ velcro and webbing.... but it's not pretty and I know it's been hard on my machines.

4. New "home" machines often have plastic gears. If you go back far enough you'll find "home" machines w/ metal gears, bushings, and bearings and more robust oiling systems. Supposedly the metal components are less prone to wear and jamming under high loads.

5. Oh, about service: get you machine serviced regularly, keep it well oiled, and keep you needles clean with some emery paper.

Regrading DIY gear:

1. There's a reason huge factories are the typical mode of gear production. Designing and constructing good gear requires a fair bit of thought, trail, error, and revision. I think for us grown up worker types, we can buy something much quicker and cheaper than we can make it.

2. Your knickers look great, but I'd challenge you to make a pair of pants (or better yet, a jacket) that has the level of "fit" commercially available stuff has. Store bought patterns work ok, but I've never ended up with gear that "fit" like the stuff you buy at the store. Modifying an existing garment.. a different story.

3. All that said, my experiences with DIY outdoor gear have been very rewarding. It's creative and WAS cost effective when I didn't have a job. But now I only do projects that involve creative designs or the desire to "waste" some time thinking and building. Layout patterns can get super spatially challenging.

If you end up making things, keep posting them up. It's cool to see what people do...

Dave

PS: I started looking at that summit pack you sent me trying to figure out if it was possible/worth it to replace the main compartment with wear/holes.... maybe I'll send it back to you when you get a machine going! smile

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#1004817 - 02/15/11 12:26 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: DPS]
markwebster Offline
addicted to cc.com

Registered: 02/12/04
Posts: 593
TRs: 16 Photos: 13
Stop in and talk to these guys in Renton:
http://www.sewingmachineservice.com/

They have a wide selection of new and used sewing machines, from household to industrial. Even the used ones come with a guarantee. They service the entire Puget Sound area and have an excellent reputation.

The sewing question comes up a lot on this board. Here is the last big thread I remember:
http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthre...acki#Post997177

One regret I have is that my machine doesn't do zig zag stitch, and I would happily sacrifice some of my speed for the ability to sew super thick material (thicker than one quarter inch). But that would have meant an extra $700 in price, and the machine would have been used.

That's right, a good used industrial machine can cost more than a new light industrial machine.

If you search supertopo you can find some excellent threads from climbers who turned their sewing hobbies into nationwide companies.
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I'm living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks

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#1004820 - 02/15/11 12:37 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: markwebster]
DPS Offline
spray'prentice

Registered: 10/13/00
Posts: 3640
TRs: 19 Photos: 56
Thanks for the well considered advice! Right now I am enjoying tinkering around and I have a few ideas running around my head. For the time being it may be cost effective to just have my seamstress do what I need.
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Dispensing piss poor advice for since October, 2000.

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#1004821 - 02/15/11 12:38 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: markwebster]
markwebster Offline
addicted to cc.com

Registered: 02/12/04
Posts: 593
TRs: 16 Photos: 13
Oh, I forgot to mention, if you are into machinery, a well built industrial sewing machine is a marvelous machine. It's not at all like most of the crap that is sold these days. Think of the finish on a $4000 bicycle. They are that kind of cool.



My Juki is relatively low end, and aimed more at people who sew garments, and long straight fast stitches on things like boat awnings. I had to buy a 1/4 size pulley ($9) to get it slowed down to a reasonable speed. Just like a car, it has an oil pan, and an oil pump, which keeps oil flowing as it runs.

It's really fun to turn off the computer and head out to the garage for some creative, hands on sewing projects. My last project was goretex bibs. For around $40 I sewed some reinforced bibs that typically cost $300. Patterns can be found at seattlefabrics.com. I'm going to do a goretex parka next.
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I'm living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks

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#1004822 - 02/15/11 12:41 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: markwebster]
wfinley Offline
veteran

Registered: 04/27/04
Posts: 1203
TRs: 9 Photos: 12
Loc: anchortown
A climbing partner of mine quit his day job and started sewing bike packs a couple years ago. Now it's a full-time business and he never has time to go climbing anymore. However when he does find time to go climbing he usually cranks out a new climbing pack and some custom clothing a few days before the trip. Check out his gear here: http://www.revelatedesigns.com/

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#1004823 - 02/15/11 12:44 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: wfinley]
DPS Offline
spray'prentice

Registered: 10/13/00
Posts: 3640
TRs: 19 Photos: 56
Wow Mark, cool machine! What does something like that cost if you can find one used in good condition?
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Dispensing piss poor advice for since October, 2000.

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#1005050 - 02/16/11 12:25 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: DPS]
markwebster Offline
addicted to cc.com

Registered: 02/12/04
Posts: 593
TRs: 16 Photos: 13
Ask SMS, they might have one used. My experience was that the used ones were a couple decades old; rebuilt and tuned up, with a guarantee...but still old.

Perhaps if you have the resources to step up to the plate and buy a new one, you keep it?

Never know though...
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I'm living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks

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#1006363 - 02/22/11 03:15 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: DPS]
crackers Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/03/06
Posts: 769
TRs: 0 Photos: 9
Loc: PDX
Originally Posted By: DPS
...I am intested in possibly learning to sew to save the cost of the seamstress.

What type of sewing machine do I need to get that wil sew soft shell, fleece, canvas, techy spectra grid stop and lighter weight haul bag material (like the white suff Fish uses)? I would want it to sew buttons and holes, heavy duty zippers and such. A bar tacker for full strength webbing projects would be cool but not necessary.


I agree with Max and markwebster above over all. And just in case you don't know, I own a small business which makes alpine climbing packs here in Portland, Oregon.

However, I disagree about machines that do straight stitch and zigzag. They suck. I'd recommend staying away from them on the whole.

Also, the thought you're going to save money over a tailor / seamstress / expert? Yeah right. No way. Sorry, you'll have a blast and you'll spend countless hours amusing yourself but it will not be cheaper.

Industrial machines are made to do one thing really well. For bartacks, you need a bartacking machine. To attach buttons, you generally have a buttonholer and a button attachment machine that works with your specific button.

A cheap bartacker, used and not modern, can be had for $1k if you're patient. A modern one is about $2500. I have no idea how much buttonholers cost...

Soft shell and fleece totally different needs in terms of construction than canvas or a cordura type product. And then you want to sew heavy vinyls...You want a serger and an overlocker, a plain jane straight stitch, a needle feed and a walking foot.

SMS has a good reputation. You might be well off to go up there and talk to them. You could probably do most of the stuff your want with a needle feed machine. Check it out.

One thing I'd recommend: markwebster has a clutch motor on his machine. they're loud, noisy and use tons of power. Get a cheap servo motor put onto any machine you get if possible.

good luck.

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#1006660 - 02/23/11 05:09 PM Re: Sewing questions [Re: crackers]
Hugh Conway Offline
spray'prentice

Registered: 11/10/07
Posts: 4416
TRs: 1 Photos: 24
I definitely echo crackers and maxs comments that doing it yourself is much more work and expense than buying new, and ime it takes regular sewing to maintain the capability to produce high quality results. To save on seamstressing I suggest buying a bunch of good material and taking it with you to Thailand. Have them make stuff up for you wink The other, possibly bigger problem, is sourcing materials - retail supplies of high end fabrics are crappy and getting crappier.

Not sure what you are looking to do for boat canvas - I recently finished making a sail for my small boat which, while fun, and cheaper than buying a new one required alot of time and space (even a small sail needs a big room). If you are interested in sail cloth the like a decent source of info, machines, and fabric is Sail Rite http://www.sailrite.com/
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#1008278 - 03/06/11 12:56 AM Re: Sewing questions [Re: Hugh Conway]
tugboat Offline
n00b

Registered: 03/05/11
Posts: 29
TRs: 0 Photos: 18
A good industrial starting machine for you might be a pfaff 138 zig zag. Because its a two step zig zag, it will straighten out nice when you want to straight stitch. And this can be done on the fly,...zig zag to straight. It has a nice wide (6mm) zig zag, and is very well made, being originally from western germany. It was (and still often is) the machine of choice for parachute repairs, boat canvas work, and general tailoring. The machine has such cult following that they can be hard to track down. But once you own one you'll never go back. You may add machines, but you won't sell your 138. Expecxt to pay 1000$ for a mint newer one (cream color), and 500 for an older (black) TLC one. If your not seasoned at sewing and using your right hand as a brake....then you can swap out the clutch motor for a servo motor that has rpm control. Don't mess with swapping to pulley reduction unless your looking to maintain heavy punching power. The pfaff 138 is dogfeed vs walkingfoot/needlefeed. This has its pros and cons....but should be fine for your use.

The above members' comments are all valid. you get what you pay for, and machines on the industrial level are built to do their one specific task (exculding pfaff 138).

If your looking for a mechanical bartacker, really do your research here. You can spend good money on what you thought was a "deal" and end up with a machine that can't get the job done.

For climbing sewing, you need to generally run size 138 nylon thread. Since older mechanical tackers were built for the blue jean industry,....most of them are not happy without modification when you try and make them sew #138 thread. You will need to find a dual speed reduction pulley (so your thread doesn't heat and break), you will need to change the cam timing, needle timing, and needle clearance....and you made need to run compressed air to the needle tip (preferably titanium needles) for cooloing. oh, and you may have to "mitchell cord" open up the needle plate hole.

The better advice on a tacker is to wait it out, and find a heavy duty, newer, servo controlled, programeable tacker. 3 axis if you can get it, but two axis will suffice. Try to get one of 20mm by 50mm field if you can get it. It should sew 138 with a dp 17 #23 needle and pull the lock thru the back side no prob (assuming you got your tensions right)

Remember....bartacks are just lockstitches.....thus one can reproduce one with a PFAFF 138; 3 srtraight stitch passes, and then zig zag over. There is nothing magical about bartacks....other than the convience and consistent replication of a given strength stitch. Oh yeah, your bartacker should be able to do at least a 42 count stitch at 5-10mm wide on a 1 inch webbing.

Also remember that bartacking is actually a weaker stitch theory than traditional straight stitch safety sewing (eg Box X, Or multi point W stitches (seatbelt, parachut harness stitch). I dont want to go into the theory about this here (im tired), but its true.....bartacks technically do more damage to the fabric your sewing and concentrate the strength vs distributing it over a wider area of fabric.

Sailrite machines are kinda pricey for the quality and are now manufactured in china (quality has dropped)....they are good if you want walking zig zag...but a consew rb or rbl-2 or -3 would be better or the pfaff 138... good luck




Edited by tugboat (03/06/11 02:31 AM)

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#1008279 - 03/06/11 01:00 AM Re: Sewing questions [Re: tugboat]
tugboat Offline
n00b

Registered: 03/05/11
Posts: 29
TRs: 0 Photos: 18
some of my cherished machines....the pfaff is the best "all around".[img]


Edited by tugboat (03/06/11 01:23 AM)

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