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sewing machine for making gear
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Margo Costas
(margoC) - F

Locale: Savannah Georgia
sewing machine for making gear on 01/30/2008 20:27:33 MST Print View

I was reading ray jardines site and he recommended certain sewing machines. He specifically stated that departement store machines would not perform well.

I've become intriged with the idea of makeing some of my own stuff, his tarp and tarptent kit in particular but I have a department store machine. It has quite a bit of settings. I don't really sew though, besides hemming scrubs and repairing things, nothing that requires a lot of pickyness.

Is it really that important? I wonder if that was written before better machine technology came out. I have an old white rotary machine but to tell the truth it's a real pain in the butt to use.

What experiances have y'all gear makers had concerning sewing machines? Is there some sewing tests I can do to see if mine is adequate enough for the task? I didn't get the impression that the tarp needed a heavy duty machine to sew but it should be able to hold it's adjustment. I don't know how picky silnylon is to sew or about the jardine thread he sells for his projects.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: sewing machine for making gear on 01/30/2008 20:45:33 MST Print View

If you have just about any machine and know how to use it, don't worry about it. As long as it makes a lock stitch rather than a chain - IOW uses a bobbin - it will do just fine.

If you are making lightweight gear, you will be sewing lightweight fabric - more like making lingerie than jeans.

Search this forum for extensive discussions of sewing machines including good reference sites - as well as DIY projects.

Edited by vickrhines on 01/30/2008 20:49:03 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: sewing machine for making gear on 01/31/2008 02:34:44 MST Print View

> ray jardines site and he recommended certain sewing machines. He specifically stated that departement store machines would not perform well.
He's wrong.

I have two sewing machines at the moment. One is an antique black Singer from about 50 years ago. It does a straight stitch, period. I have made many UL packs with it.
The other is an old domestic Elna. Most of the time I use the straight stitch, and sometimes the 3-stitch zig-zag. That's about all. It won't handle heavy pack fabrics the way the Singer will.

I started off with a very basic (straight and zigzag) generic Asian machine. It would still suffice.

You want:

* Lock stitch rather than a chain stitch, but very few machines provide a chain stitch these days.
* Loadable bobbin
* Adjustable upper tension
* Straight and 3-step zigzag
* Variable stitch length
* A light
* A wheel at the side to allow manual movement of the needle.
Even the cheapest of domestic machines will provide these features.

Note: you do NOT want an overlocker machine. These are fine for clothing, but are not the best for making gear.

Silnylon is tricky to sew: it is very slippery. Use fine thread and a fine needle. And use LOTS of pins to hold the seams together to prevent the layers of fabric from sliding around.

There are some useful articles by Jay Ham on this web site about sewing.


Mike Hinsley

Locale: England, UK
Re: Sewing machines for gear on 01/31/2008 06:20:20 MST Print View

I've sewn a lot of stuff with a very old Toyota.

I've also sewn a lot of stuff with a new Bernina. The Bernina has twice the power of the Toyota and will easily punch through many layers of thick fabric.

But, in reality the Toyota was perfectly adequate for gear sewing. Sure the Bernina does it slightly better but it's more than 3 times the price of a store machine.

Any old sewing machine will work for gear sewing. If you spend serious money then you can get things like specialist presser feet that make life a little easier but frankly there is no point saving $300 by DIY gear if you spend $500 on a machine.

Margo Costas
(margoC) - F

Locale: Savannah Georgia
. on 01/31/2008 19:14:23 MST Print View

Thanks for the tips. I might try something simple like stuff sacks to practice on silnylon.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Sewing machines on 02/12/2008 11:39:55 MST Print View

If you live in a large city, you may be able to rent a commercial grade machine if you need to do heavy stuff.

Andrew Wilson
(andreww) - MLife

Locale: Vosges
Sewing machine on 02/15/2008 09:57:40 MST Print View

I have sewed on many old machines and new ones. It all depends on how much hassle you want to deal with. On the low end a used good machine is your best bet---the new brothers and janomes and kenmores will work, but will be less pleasurable to use.

In the end I bought a newer Elna, fairly low-priced all mechanical (3005), which is made by Janome. It is not because the old ones haven't worked well, but because the newer ones are easier to use. It has a _good_ drop-in bobbin (not like the 70s singers, or others that have automatic tensioning: they are impossible to get consistently balanced stitches in fabrics of varying thicknesses), a needle threader, easy foot-pressure regulation, thread cutter, internal spool holder, all kinds of useful feet stored right in the box, and all the stitches necessary for wovens and knits of all weights. It is also incredibly strong and quiet, and will require little maintenance. It carries a warranty on the mechanics for 25 years.

Lightweight nylons are tricky to sew without having the seam pucker. If you don't mind the look, a puckered seam does not affect the performance of the fabric. For perfectionists like me, use the lightest thread, supplest thread you can---100% poly continuous filament spun embroidery thread seems to work well, as seam strength is not so crucial---with the smallest needle, so that you can work with the lightest tension you can. Adjust the bobbin so that you can sew at 1-2 on the upper tension dial.

Stretching the seam lightly will work. A quilting (straight stich) foot will help. A walking foot helps too, and can help in reducing the number of pins you use. This is what AYCE at thru-hiker recommends. It takes a few projects, though, til you can sew very much without pinning and get a good product.

With silnylons, pinning is necessary unless you have a walking foot. It is very hard for this slick material not to slide against itself as it passes between the gripping feed-dogs and the bottom of the presser-foot.

Hope this is helpful.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Sewing machines on 02/15/2008 11:30:47 MST Print View

I have sewn on a $100 Singer from Walmart. I have sewn on a $1800 machine. Is the pricey one nicer? Well, yeah. Is it necessary? No.

In the end as long as you have good needles, high quality thread and keep your machine tuned and oiled life is good.

The only reason I have a nice machine now is I wanted it. Kind of like how I have a $150 dehydrator that replaced my hard working $50 Nesco. Does it do it any better? A bit, but for most people you'd never notice.

If you want to learn to sew an expensive machine isn't going to teach you any better than a well made cheapie. It is still up to the human to adjust the tension and to control the fabric.

Btw, for slippery fabrics and older machines - you can still find a roller foot for velvet, it helps roll slippery fabric along such as silk and silnylon. It will clamp onto most machines, even those with click in feet.