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I need tips for sewing webbing!
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Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 01:38:10 MDT Print View

I am about to start modifying my pack and in the process I know I will need to sew up to two layers of webbing.

I am currently working with my wife's inexpensive Brother XL2600i sewing machine
Sewing Machine

First of all, is this thing going to cut it for my purposes? I'm fine with it being less than ideal, as long as I can manage something workable with it, but please tell me if I'm expecting too much from a machine like this.

I tried sewing two pieces of webbing together a few days ago and it didn't go so well (the machine kept jamming up). I'm wondering if anyone can tell me how much tension I should be shooting for when sewing heavier fabric like webbing? Also, what size needles? What kind of thread (commonly available suggestions would be most appreciated)?

I am a complete novice right now when it comes to sewing, so I'm trying to learn as I go. Thanks for any tips!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 04:10:30 MDT Print View

I have very severe doubts!

I use an Elna for making tents, but when it comes to webbing and heavy pack fabrics, it's an old black single-stitch Singer. That has so much guts, compared to any modern machine, that it is a joke. Oh - and a #100 needle and bonded nylon thread.


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 07:55:14 MDT Print View

I use inexpensive machine (Janome).

Webbing is very loose weave so not necesarily that difficult.

Does the machine work on regular fabric?

Try sewing down the middle of a piece of the webbing as a test to see if it works. It's more difficult to sew sideways where you have to go onto the webbing.

Blake Buzzo
(XanderBuzzo) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Re: Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 07:59:25 MDT Print View

Like Roger said it's doubtful,

I sew with a Singer 237 fashion mate. It is an all metal sewing machine that's like 60 years old, I picked it up at a pawn shop for $50. Works like a charm, can sew through practically anything.

I would test it out, maybe the Brother would surprise you! But if not I would suggest just going to some locale pawn shops and seeing what you can find.

Greg Pehrson
(GregPehrson) - MLife

Locale: playa del caballo blanco
Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 10:47:22 MDT Print View

I've sewn stuff sacks, a tarp and a quilt without ever adjusting the tension but when I started on a backpack (current project) I too was getting jams and birds nests on the webbing (using an old metal Singer Featherweight straight-stitch machine). I googled "sewing machine bird nests" and found some helpful videos, which led me to loosen my bobbin tension very slightly to get a 1.5 inch thread drop when I try the "yo-yo test" and increasing my upper tension to 8 to sew layers of webbing (it's usually at 3.5 for me for sewing light fabric like silnylon). Each machine is different, though, so play with scraps. Good luck!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 10:52:26 MDT Print View

Sometimes I get a bird's nest if I push it through. If I just let it feed itself it's better.

Like I'm pushing the fabric and loop of thread underneath out of where the bobbin can grab it.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 11:14:58 MDT Print View

I have had similar experiences as Greg above. My machine does better with webbing when the tension is cranked up. My Janome machine will sew through several layers of webbing so don't give up on that Brother yet. Most home machines could handle it.

As far as needle and thread, I would try Tex 45 nylon in that machine with just a standard size needle. Nothing fancy. On the thread, if in doubt, go a little smaller given your current equipment.


Edited by ViolentGreen on 08/13/2013 11:18:45 MDT.

Mike D.
(mpd1690) - F
Color on 08/13/2013 13:11:04 MDT Print View

I would also add that you should use different colors for your bobbin and top thread when testing. It will make seeing what needs to be adjusted much easier.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Singer 401a? on 08/13/2013 13:57:33 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the replies so far!

There is a Singer 401a for sale for $75 on my local craigslist.

Will this machine cut the mustard for mid to heavy duty sewing through webbing and such? If so, is that a good deal for that model, assuming it is in good working order? I know basically nothing about sewing machines right now so your help is much appreciated! Thanks again!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Singer 401a? on 08/13/2013 14:18:14 MDT Print View

Can you take webbing to machine to see if it works? Also, some other fabrics samples?

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Re: Singer 401a? on 08/13/2013 15:28:03 MDT Print View

i am all with jerry on this one. try a piece of normal material. it sews ?
then shove in one webbing. it should still sew just fine. add 2nd webbing, and it might slow down, or you need to manually help the first stictch, but it should do it. more than that, you have to try it.
also, as was said up in the posts, if you pull the material things get bad quick. pulling unaligns the needle, and if you have ever actually Looked Close at how these machines work, thee will see that not much un-aligning is needed to muck up the results.
also i can confirm that bobbin tension is a very toutchy adjustment. if not actual backwards turning the adj screw on some units. watch the utube vids on it.
different color threads.. etc. that's all good council you are getting on your question.

my old singer 223 was boggy last week on thick material. it wanted to be opened up, and some oil drooled about inside, as well as a good wiping off so all nice and shiney clean. these machines make about 1/4000 of a hp, so any friction you can remove by thinning out dried oil goes directly into the material sewed. even too tight a belt will bog things down.
once it's all re-oiled, i wipe it thoroughly with a towel and windex. your machine wants to be clean and perfect inside to work properly.
note to the unaware : oil will dry out as arromatics leave it over time. this leaves us with a gooy thick ooze. more oil thins the ooze, removes some of it, and generally makes things better for mankind. it's not like a sewing machine consumes oil, it just wants new lube at occasional long intervals.
you can use an aerosol like TriFlon to good effect. although it may be too smelly for the delicate nose.
and needles ... have spares and be not cheap to deploy them when working thru a problem.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Re: Re: Singer 401a? on 08/13/2013 15:29:49 MDT Print View

you have adjustable foot pressure too . some times more foot psi can help more than thread tension.

good luck,

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Singer 401a? on 08/13/2013 15:30:23 MDT Print View

Interesting machine from the 50s. It looks like a tarted-up version of one of the 'old black' ones, with cams added. It is solid metal and gear-driven. Some call it an industrial model.

First check to see whether it runs. It should, provided the wiring is OK. The outside looks clean, which is good. Then look inside for signs of serious wear - or possibly negligable wear. Some of these old machines have sat in the corner for decades, doing nothing. Those can be a real find! You may need to clean it down, or find someone COMPETENT to do that for you, to get the old oil (which may have dried up) etc out. But with a clean-up it should sew most anything. Note - if the old oil has dried up that may even be good, but you will need to clean it out to get the machine to run smoothly. Use a light oil - you can buy it at sewing shops. Worth having.

You can get manuals from the web. Singer still support even very old machines, and there are even dedicated web sites for such old machines.

Caution: once you start MYOG, there is no escape.


David Scheidt
(dscheidt) - F
Re: Singer 401a? on 08/13/2013 16:02:49 MDT Print View

The 401 is a slant needle machine. the needle bar doesn't move straight up and down, but is mounted at a slight angle. (Why? Marketing!) That means they're more sensitive to timing issues caused by excessively thick material. It is a gear driven machine, so it does have decent power.

I'd think your existing machine should do what you want, though. Fit a suitable needle (a large denim needle), and properly adjust the tension.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Singer 401a? on 08/13/2013 16:27:30 MDT Print View

Some needles work better, some worse (drop sticthes or birds nest)

Buy several needles and see if one works better

Just to be contrarian, I never adjust the tension. It always just works. Maybe my machine is less sensitive.

John West
(skyzo) - M

Locale: Borah Gear
re: 401a on 08/13/2013 16:31:53 MDT Print View

I have a 401a, and it sews bar-tacks in 2 layers of webbing (even 3) just fine. Like the others said, make sure it is serviced and in good working order, but it should last you a long time if you take care of it. Use a bigger denim needle when working with heavier fabrics and webbing and it'll do great.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: re: 401a on 08/13/2013 16:40:35 MDT Print View

"make sure it is serviced..."

I bought my machine new (actually, my wife did but she has hardly ever used it)

I asked the sewing shop about servicing, and they said it would cost $100 or something so I've never done it. It sews okay so why bother?

I finally found a user manual on line which says to vacuum out the lint from around the bobbin area, which i've done a couple times

I remember my mom used to oil about 30 places as specified in the manual

I think newer machines have sealed bearings that don't need to be serviced

Eventually, I should pay that $100 and get all those sealed bearings serviced

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Nylon vs. Polyester thread? on 08/13/2013 18:03:56 MDT Print View

I think I'm going to hold off on the Singer 401a right now and see if the Brother sewing machine that I've already got can do the job.

After looking up pictures of the phenomenon online, I think the main problem that I've had so far is so-called "bird nesting" of the thread. Sounds like some of you have had similar issues before. Any additional tips to avoid this will be much appreciated.

Also, a few of you recommended nylon bonded thread. Is there any reason that this thread would be far superior to, say, Gutermann Mara or Tera thread? I understand that polyester thread will be slightly weaker than a similar nylon thread, but is there any other practical difference in their use (especially for my purposes)?

I was considering getting some Gutermann Mara 70 (Tex 40) and Gutermann Tera 60 (Tex 50) from DIY gear supply since I'll be placing an order over there anyway for some fabric, but now I don't know if this is what I should buy. To be honest with you, the thread nomenclature is still a bit confusing to me. I like to deal in standard units (inches, mm, etc.) but the people that developed thread nomenclature clearly didn't share my preferences.

What should I be looking for in thread width? I keep seeing that #69 thread (which I guess is Tex 70 / 0.0115" diameter???) is about as thick as most standard home sewing machines can manage. Is this right? Should I use something smaller?

I can see there is going to be a bit of a learning curve here...

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/13/2013 18:46:03 MDT Print View


I have the cheapest Brother Sewing Machine made. I bought it new for something like $75 a couple of years ago. I can sew multiple layers of webbing with no problem.

Sooooo I, as some others have suggested, suspect that the difficulty you are having has something to do with needle, thread, adjustment or technique. Hang in there and make sure your machine is running properly before going for another machine, in my opinion .


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Nylon vs. Polyester thread? on 08/13/2013 19:56:51 MDT Print View

I use Gutterman from fabric store. Polyester.

The only problem I've had is along tarp seam, near the corner, the fabric stretches, the thread breaks. Zigzag works better because it allows it to stretch.

And I wear a couple pairs of shorts all the time for years. A couple seams have begun to rip. And the hem at the bottom that rubs against my leg, the thread wears away but I'm too lazy to rehem it.

The Gutterman from DIY might be better, or maybe it will be harder to get tension adjusted or something?