Forum Index » Make Your Own Gear » hand sewing vs machine - stitch strength, down-proof(ness), etc?


Display Avatars Sort By:
Brendan Mulholland
(dools009) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
hand sewing vs machine - stitch strength, down-proof(ness), etc? on 12/12/2012 09:48:04 MST Print View

Assuming appropriate stitches/technique how does the final sewn product compare between hand sewing and machine sewing with regard to strength, down-proof(ness), etc?

Acknowledging the huge efficiency gains to be had from using a machine is it possible to produce an equal final product by hand?


I spend the better part of the year travelling/away from home and would like to continue my MYOG projects away from my machine but am leering of putting time into projects that are doomed to be of inferior quality if I sew them by hand.


Interested in your guys' thoughts.


Cheers,
Brendan

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
hand sewing etc. on 12/12/2012 15:19:50 MST Print View

Brendan,
It all depends on the quality and skill of your hand sewing. For me, it would take forever and be a disaster. I only use hand sewing for on the trail repairs and for thick materials, like cutting down a leather boot height and sewing in a new scree collar. And then I have to use pliers to get the needle through the work, and spend a lot of time on it.

Nancy Twilley
(goodcaver2)

Locale: STL
hand sewing on 12/12/2012 16:15:23 MST Print View

I think it depends on what exactly you're making -- I've made quite a few things by hand: windshirt, sleeping quilt, jackets, bivy, hammocks, tree-straps for my hammocks, backpacking stuff-pillows, stuff-sacks, even one of my tarps. I like to quilt, and do most of that by hand, so making gear by hand was a natural extension for me. Also, I like to sew while I do something else, like watch TV. I made the quilt I did by hand while I was living abroad in Germany, where I didn't have a sewing machine, so that is indeed also a benefit of hand-sewing.

I think the only time you will see a real functional difference between a hand-sewn and a machine-sewn piece of gear (assuming good skill at sewing by hand) is with pieces that are really load bearing, such as backpacks. I wouldn't do one of these by hand, simply because there are several places I'd probably want to reinforce with several lines of bar-tacking, and while this is possible to do by hand it's pretty frikkin annoying! I have made tree straps for my hammock that are perfectly servicable and safe by hand, but sewing those lines through thick webbing several times over is a pain.

I didn't notice any problems at all with down-proofness on the quilt I made by hand, but I was pretty careful to keep my stitches even and small and to do french seams to close up the baffles where I added the down. I use my hand-sewn windshirt almost every day -- have had it for three years now with no issues. Stuff sacks, pillows, etc. are also all still in service -- the hand-sewn tarp I have doesn't get a ton of use, but it's still kicking too! I worry about the reinforcements on the corner, but I think that's all in my head.

Good luck, I think sewing gear by hand is a blast and I hope it works out well for you.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: hand sewing on 12/12/2012 16:33:57 MST Print View

How do you hand sew?

Front to back to front to back... along the seam?

But then it's not locking so it will pull out.

And how do you keep the end from pulling out?

Brendan Mulholland
(dools009) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
hand sewing on 12/12/2012 16:35:04 MST Print View

thanks for you input guys - much appreciated

nancy - about how many stitches per inch do you normally use when you are hand sewing french seams in down quilts/clothing?

cheers,
Brendan

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
how do you hand sew on 12/12/2012 17:45:14 MST Print View

Jerry,
When I'm hand sewing something permanent, like the boots mentioned, I hand sew twice, so the stitch appears as it would with a machine. It is easier the second time around, as the holes have been made. As your post suggests, it holds much better, and of course, looks much better.

Nancy Twilley
(goodcaver2)

Locale: STL
stitches per inch on 12/12/2012 18:20:38 MST Print View

Let's see, I've just measured one of my projects and it looks like I average about 6-7 stitches per inch.

As a side note: I never really go back over a line of sewn stitches. There's really no need to go back over your stitching on non-load bearing seams.

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
hand sewing on 12/13/2012 19:32:27 MST Print View

To hopefully clarify - I don't go back over the stitching, I alternate the stitching so that the thread is continuous on both sides.

Nancy,
Even on quilts and clothing, backpacking gear can be load bearing, especially when things go wrong, to use Roger Caffin's phrase involving extreme duress to equipment created by frightful weather; or even if OK weather, going off trail in very rough terrain.

Mike Oxford
(moxford) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley, CA
Heavy materials on 12/14/2012 12:24:24 MST Print View

I will point out that when hand-sewing heavy materials (Cordura 500/1000D comes to mind) that it's MUCH easier with a machine than pushing a needle through it yourself. It can be done, sure, but it'll tire your fingers and hands out pretty quickly. A really long thimble with good detents is a huge win .... but not as good as a machine! :)

-mox

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: hand sewing on 12/14/2012 16:44:40 MST Print View

> But then it's not locking so it will pull out.
Yes, that's the drawback to hand sewing. The machine lockstitch is more stable and will not cause puckering either.
I hand sew repairs in the field but oversew by machine when I get home.

Cheers

Thomas Vree
(Exploriment) - F

Locale: Niagara Escarpment
Sewing by hand on 12/18/2012 14:01:08 MST Print View

I've sewn LOADS of stuff by hand.

Just to give you an idea, here are a few things I've made by hand.(And this is only a fraction of it.)
http://exploriment.blogspot.ca/2012/04/messengemups.html
http://exploriment.blogspot.ca/2010/08/escapepod.html
http://exploriment.blogspot.ca/2010/09/ouchpouch.html
http://exploriment.blogspot.ca/2009/10/mapmups.html

While it's slower than doing it with a machine, doesn't look as sharp, I'm completely convinced it's as strong, if not stronger than stuff sewn on a machine. I have stuff I made a dozen years ago, and it's still fine. I've taken apart machine bar tacking from reputable manufacturers, and it is a snap compared to undoing bar tacking I've done by hand. Seconds compared to minutes. Nothing I've ever done has come apart, torn, ripped, etc. While I would love to have a machine, I don't, so instead of whining about it, I get on with making what I want and need. Another reason I make so much stuff by hand is that I spent 4 years commuting up to 4 hours a day by train. I wanted to use that time productively and sewing was an activity that allowed me to do that. I can also sit and do it while I watch TV, etc.

just Justin Whitson
(ArcturusBear) - M
Re: Heavy materials on 12/20/2012 15:27:06 MST Print View

"I will point out that when hand-sewing heavy materials (Cordura 500/1000D comes to mind) that it's MUCH easier with a machine than pushing a needle through it yourself. It can be done, sure, but it'll tire your fingers and hands out pretty quickly. A really long thimble with good detents is a huge win .... but not as good as a machine! :)"


tight fitting dyneema gloves with a polyurethane coating on the palm/fingers help a little bit, but yeah i agree.

Edited by ArcturusBear on 12/20/2012 15:29:01 MST.

Thomas Vree
(Exploriment) - F

Locale: Niagara Escarpment
YakBakDekPak on 07/22/2013 07:37:19 MDT Print View

Another example of what can be sewn by hand. Not necessarily "light weight" by any stringent criterion, but lighter than some things I've made.

http://exploriment.blogspot.ca/2013/07/yakbakdekpak.html