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

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.

Cheers

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.

Ryan

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

Michael Duke
(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) - M

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.
401a

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
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

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
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

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,
v.

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.

Cheers

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) - M

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

Derek,

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 .

Daryl

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?

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Re: Nylon vs. Polyester thread? on 08/13/2013 20:34:58 MDT Print View

"And I wear a couple pairs of shorts all the time for years."

Well, Jerry, live and let live but I prefer to wear one pair of shorts at a time and wash them at least once a week.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Nylon vs. Polyester thread? on 08/13/2013 20:51:25 MDT Print View

ha, ha, ha...

that's why I have two pair : )

David Scheidt
(dscheidt) - F
Re: Nylon vs. Polyester thread? on 08/13/2013 22:08:45 MDT Print View

#69 thread is about tex 70. Different measurement systems, so it's just coincidence the numbers are close. A home machine may or may not sew these well. Many will, some won't. you'd have to try on your machine, and see. For your purposes, I think either of the threads you mention would work. Buy some of both, and see which you like better. It's important to match thread to the needle size. If you're using a big needle, you generally need a larger thread. Different thread diameters may require some tension adjustment. The gutermnan Jerry is using is probably mara 100. That's what's on the little spools of 'sew all' at fabric stores. It's usually much cheaper to buy it from someone who calls it mara 100, and sells it on 1000 or 5000 M spools or cone; one downside is that the color numbers don't match from the two sales channels.



As an aside, thread measuring systems aren't measuring diameter. They all measure linear density -- the amount a given length of thread weighs, or in older system, the length of a given weight of thread. Tex is nominally the number of grams a kilometer of thread weighs, but that's just nominally. There are only certain tex numbers defined in the standard, and there's rounding. The linear density is because it's heard to measure the diameter of something small and squishy, and because even on good modern threads, there's pretty substantial variations in diameter. Variations of 10 or 15% in spun threads are usual, less in extruded threads.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
webbing with a cheap machine on 08/14/2013 09:41:01 MDT Print View

You have a few options.

Adjust tension as mentioned above.

Alter your design so you don't have too many layers of fabric and webbing at any one point.

Use poly webbing. It's not as durable as nylon webbing, but a lot easier to sew and for many applications is more than strong and durable enough.

A use a slightly older, high-end Babylock machine. It's on the burly side for a quilting machine, but has shortcomings when it comes to pack making. I've broken many needles, and last month stripped a bunch of teeth off the belt. Fortunately that was an easy and fairly cheap fix. I've learned that I get better results with thinner threads, and shorter and more dense stitch patterns. You can make a perfectly good pack with embroidery thread if you do everything right and don't cut corners. Many commercial pack makers use Tex90 thread as a substitute for good design and careful construction.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: webbing with a cheap machine on 08/14/2013 09:49:16 MDT Print View

On thin fabric, do not have needle holes closer than about 1 mm or it will weaken the fabric.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Pairing needle size with thread size on 08/14/2013 13:38:06 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the help so far, I feel like I'm learning a lot.

One point of confusion for me still is how to properly pair needle size with thread size. A few of you have suggested using a "denim" specific needle, which I take is in the 90/14 or 100/16 size range. Meanwhile, others have suggested using a lighter weight thread for ease of sewing...

But now I read online that pairing the size of needle with the size of thread is very important for getting a nice end result and smooth sewing. This implies that the heavier "denim" needles will require heavier thread, and the lighter needles will need lighter thread.

Which one should I go with? Also, should I be using sharp needles or more rounded needles?

I'll be sewing through 210 denier double ripstop nylon (pack body), nylon webbing, and maybe a little bit of 600 denier polyester (pack bottom), though not necessarily all of those things together at once.

Thanks again for all your help!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Pairing needle size with thread size on 08/14/2013 14:25:34 MDT Print View

"Which one should I go with?"

There is no one perfect needle size for everything. Be prepared to have a small, medium, and large one available to swap in instantly whenever your sewing changes.

--B.G.--

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Pairing needle size with thread size on 08/14/2013 15:47:57 MDT Print View

> heavier "denim" needles will require heavier thread, and lighter needles will need lighter thread.
Correct. That's part of the reason for having different sized needles.
You don't use light thread on heavy fabric or webbing of course.

Cheers

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Pairing needle size with thread size on 08/14/2013 15:56:23 MDT Print View

Could one of you make the distinction for me of what light, medium, and heavy thread is defined by in terms of something like tex number (or some other thread metric)? This is all getting a little relativistic and I'd like to bring it back to real world numbers if at all possible. Thanks!

David Scheidt
(dscheidt) - F
needles on 08/14/2013 16:41:32 MDT Print View

Denim needles are not a size; it's a needle construction method. The blade of the needle (the part above the eye) is thicker, which makes needle a bit stiffer, and less likely to deflect. they're hard to find in small sizes, but Schmetz do make them in sizes down to 70/10. The other style of needle that's very useful for gear making is a 'sharp' or 'microtex', which have a sharply pointed point.

As for matching needle size to thread (or vice versa), I'd suggest starting with these recommendations: http://www.schmetzneedles.com/learning/needle-guide.htm

on a domestic machine you can almost always get away with using a size or two smaller than that chart suggests, because the speeds are so low.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: needles on 08/14/2013 16:44:00 MDT Print View

smaller needle makes smaller hole in fabric which weakens it less and allows less water through?

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Check this out on 08/14/2013 17:37:38 MDT Print View

Derek,

Here is a good summary on thread size, needle selection, etc. for nylon thread. Should help answer some questions. It also has the same info under polyester thread and the others.

http://www.thethreadexchange.com/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=TTE&Category_Code=nylon-thread

Ryan

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Re: I need tips for sewing webbing! on 08/14/2013 20:31:53 MDT Print View

Hi Derek,

I just found this thread and was wondering how long it would take you to get back to the comment about 'Denim Needles".

My first sewing machine was a sort of cheap Walmart Brothers. I used it for several packs and one day was pushing pulling the webbing through the needle and the machine stopped. I couldn't get it to run.

Brothers has a repair service at a local Sewing Center in my home town. I called and told them I broke my sewing machine. The lady asked me how and I explained. I told her I wanted to buy a new sewing machine. She said bring what you were sewing to the store. It was a short drive and about 15 minutes later I was showing her what I was sewing when I killed my sewing machine. She asked me if I had a "Denim Needle, I said I what. (Deer in the headlights moment). She looked at the webbing a had been sewing and walked to the needle section. Picked out a "Schmetz - Jeans/Denim 130/705 H-J pack of needles. Went over to the least expensive Brothers machine they sell, put in a needle and sewed through the several layers of webbing like it was nothing. I said I want to buy that machine. She had sent my broken machine to the back to be looked at. A man brought it back and said it was fixed. I had knocked something out of balance or something. She sat the machine next to the new one, exchanged needles and sewed the webbing with no problem.

I think the "Denim" needle is made stronger and thinner then a standard needle. I still bought the new sewing machine and now use both.

For light stuff such as Cuben or Pertex Quantum I use a Titanium coated needle size 90/14. The pack of needles I am looking at is the Organ Needles brand.

The nice thing about buying a new sewing machine from the Sewing Center was a group of free class that went with the purchase.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Sewing 101 on 08/15/2013 08:19:38 MDT Print View

Derek,

This article really helped me:

Sewing 101

Daryl