Sewing Machine?


Original Post
John mac · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 15

This could be my climbing name, but that is not what this is about.

I know some of you guys have made some rad packs, chalk bags and things. I am interested in trying may hand. I have a couple of questions:

1. If I just buy an old sewing machine off of Craig's List, will it go through tough nylon, slings, and other tough tech materials? (I am not looking to bar tack slings or anything like that, but can see wanting to incorporate tubular webbing into things.) Since I have no idea if I will be any good at this, I want to start cheap.

2. What kind of thread would I use and do you have a good supplier to share?

Thanks!

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Yer gunna die.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0
J mac wrote:This could be my climbing name, but that is not what this is about. I know some of you guys have made some rad packs, chalk bags and things. I am interested in trying may hand. I have a couple of questions: 1. If I just buy an old sewing machine off of Craig's List, will it go through tough nylon, slings, and other tough tech materials? (I am not looking to bar tack slings or anything like that, but can see wanting to incorporate tubular webbing into things.) Since I have no idea if I will be any good at this, I want to start cheap. 2. What kind of thread would I use and do you have a good supplier to share? Thanks!
Depends on the machine.
John mac · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 15

Thanks J!

Locker · · Yucca Valley, CA · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 1,640

This IS NOT the kind of sewing machine you need.

I am only posting this because I LOVE my nifty Singer sewing rig.

...

r m · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0

I've have a similar desire for about a year. My girlfriends cheap sewing machine doesn't have a chance of sewing through multiple layers of webbing. I have yet to buy anything though as it's either a lot of work (secondhand route, wandering around testing machines) or a lot of money (new semi/industrial machine).

But there's another option which is an OK amount of work for little things...
http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web13w/ms-jm-speedy-stitcher-tool-review

Regardless of if you get a machine or not, get one of those!

Dan Provasnik · · DeSoto, Missouri · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

You can use about any machine but once you double up enough layers you're going to be hand cranking the machine through the thicker parts.

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215

How much sewing do you anticipate doing and how much are you willing to spend?

It's probably out of your price range for now, but ideally you should get an industrial sewing machine (mounted on a table and has a separate motor mounted on the bottom of the table) which can run you a few hundred bucks. A machine with a walking foot is pretty important if you're going to be sewing through a lot of thicker materials (webbing, multiple layers of cordura, etc). Most of the used machines you will find come with a clutch motor. If you don't have a lot of experience sewing you're going to want to upgrade to a servo motor (maybe $100) as it is much easier to control. A nice feature is a machine that can do straight and zig zag stiches as the zig zag stich is good for reinforcing critical areas (you can make a pseudo bar tack with it). The downside is that it's rare to find walking foot machines that can do a zig zag and I'd take the walking foot feature over a zig zag machine.

Edit: Zig zag stitching is pretty common on home sewing machines.

Craigslist is usually the best option for buying as shipping is outrageous, but depending on where you live you may not have many machines on the market. You'll find a lot of people with "broken" or "non-functional" machines for sale. Often these machines are fully functional the seller just doesn't know anything about sewing machines. I think the first industrial I bought was merely threaded improperly.

For thread I would recommend nylon bonded #69. I learned to sew as a parachute rigger and that was the standard we used for most stuff. It's quite strong and durable, but not too thick. With the proper needle you could probably run this through most home sewing machines.

Suppliers: I haven't purchased materials in a while so I'd have to look through my old records to find out where I was buying stuff, but a lot of it was wholesale. There's several websites that cater to DIY outdoor gear enthusiasts who buy in small quantities(outdoor wilderness fabrics comes to mind and DIY Tactical if you don't mind military colors). DIY Tactical also has a good forum and a lot of tutorials.

I'll second whoever posted about the speedy stitcher. It's great if you only have a very minor mod or need to patch a hole in the bottom of a pack which can be very difficult to access with a normal sewing machine. Another option if you've only got a project or two in mind is to find a parachute rigger and see if they can do it for a reasonable price as they have all the equipment and materials on hand. If you're ever looking for a custom load bearing piece of gear hit up Fish Products or Runout Customs.

Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

I'm going to refute the above post: you don't NEED an industrial machine for pretty much any hobby sewing. They are nice, but also single purpose, meant to be run continuously in an industrial setting, purpose built for performing one function in a process that may comprise multiple different machines. A home machine will be much more versatile in what it can do, and much less expensive.

Industrial machines are often more difficult to find information on, and often are more expensive to service. If you don't have some knowledge of how sewing machines work, and/or aren't mechanically incline you may find yourself frustrated, and become one of those seller's will ar referred to.

For reference my Singer HD 4423 (a "heavy duty" home machine) goes through 2 layers of bar tacked tubular webbing, plus 4 layers of fleece no problem.

Older machine are nice, often a bit more durable, but usually less featured (often straight stitch only if you go back far enough). You'll usually need to have it serviced prior to use (if you're responsible ;-p). Older machines with nylon gear's tend to break more easily because the nylon has become brittle. The gears are usually replaceable however. Newer nylon gearing tends to be more durable. Metal gearing is usually touted as more durable, but often it will just continue chewing itself up, not sewing as well when it busts (where as a nylon geared machine stops sewing all together when it breaks).

For new machines: don't get pulled in by advertisement's on a bunch of different stitches - most are purely decorative. For gear making you use maybe 3 or 4 of those - if that. Straight stitch can do 99% of what you need. Zig-zag is nice if you want to be able to sew a bar tack (which is more than just zig-zag stitches), and buttonhole functionality is convenient. On top of that I've found good use for the "straight stretch stitch" feature on one of my machines.

For thread a lot of people are recommending nylon, but I'll recommend polyester. It will be plenty strong, and has better UV resistance properties. It's also easier to find. Gutermann Mara (also sold as Sew-all in stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics) or Tera are good options. Thread size is usually identified by TEX. A higher number being a heavier thread. I recommend TEX 35 - 50 for most projects. Make sure you size your needle based on the thread you are using. Too small, or too large, can create problems. A larger needle may be needed with heavier fabrics, or multiple layers. Higher TEX, like 75/80 can be difficult to work with (need's a large needle [like 16-18 size] and more thread tension to sew well). And example of heavy thread like that would be Coat's and Clark Outdoor thread.

For general, non-climbing specific materials here are some of my favorite sites:
makeyourgear.com
diygearsupply.com
ripstopbytheroll.com (more than just ripstop)
downlinens.com (for goosedown by the pound)
questoutfitters.com (if you can't find it anywhere else - tends to be expensive)
thruhiker.net (also expensive)
owfinc.com (also expensive)
strapworks.com (for different types of webbing/hardware)

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215
Brian L. wrote:you don't NEED an industrial machine
"Ideal" not "required"

Brain has good advice. For your first machine an industrial machine is probably not the best introduction.

Keep in mind a lot of the issues you might experience with a home sewing machine not being able to handle thicker materials can be avoided by smarter design. Think about how many layers you have going into a seam, the materials you're using, etc. Often flat webbing is more than adequate and easier to sew than tubular.
John mac · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 15

Thanks for all the great info!

I think I for sure need to get a speed stitcher as well.

Sdm1568 · · Ca · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

I've had good results using Spectra Fishing String, it lasts a long time and is incredibly strong for the diameter that it is. Obviously good around water and doesn't fray as easily when there's constant abrasion, even started reseaming some of my climbing pants.

Dan Provasnik · · DeSoto, Missouri · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
Sdm1568 wrote:I've had good results using Spectra Fishing String, it lasts a long time and is incredibly strong for the diameter that it is. Obviously good around water and doesn't fray as easily when there's constant abrasion, even started reseaming some of my climbing pants.
Better be strong. Isn't it made from dyneema?
Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0
Dan Provasnik wrote: Better be strong. Isn't it made from dyneema?
No, it's made from Spectra :-)

Spectra and Dyneema are both trade names for products made from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE).
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0

I've got an older Husquavarna that has a button that slows the stitching and stitches harder. It's essentially a low gear.

It won't do leather or super thick setups but it does a lot. It's a common rig. My momma gave it to me years ago but I've seen them in Goodwill and places like that.

Go to the local fabric store and talk to the lady working in the fabric cutting section. She's probably sewed all her own clothes and her kids and husbands. She's probably repaired more damaged clothes and backpacks than the Patagonia warranty dept too. Talk to her, she knows her shit.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0
J mac wrote:Thanks for all the great info! I think I for sure need to get a speed stitcher as well.
They're $6 at Harbor Freight. No reason not to have one.
Brady3 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 15
Dan Provasnik wrote: Better be strong. Isn't it made from dyneema?
The only difference between spectra and dyneema are the terminal molecules, they are both "ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene."

I have a Singer (I believe made in the 90's?) that my mom gave me. It is not at all designed for heavier fabric, but it still works (and was free). Make sure you get heavy duty needles, most any sewing store will carry these, you can bring in what ever needle came with your machine to make sure you get the kind that will fit (most needles will fit most any other machine regardless of manufacturer, but there are a few exceptions). And I use Gutermann B69 thread, which is similar in thickness as the Coats & Clark upholstery thread (what I first used). The Gutermann is 10lb test nylon (Coats & Clark upholstery is also nylon) and was cheaper to buy a big spool than a bunch of the little ones. But probably start with the little C&C ones to see if you like it. You will want to adjust the tension on your machine for using the thicker thread, lower the tension for thicker thread. As others have mentioned you will want to use the hand wheel to help get through multiple layers, I generally only have to do this when passing a previously sewn hem and I use k-dura quite a bit.
Josh Kornish · · tufaclimbing.com · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 245

Hey J Mac,

I would personally recommend going on to Craigslist and looking for a cheap industrial machine. They can quite frequently be found for less than $200 and will make your life much less full of the frustration and angst that comes with a plastic piece. Just make sure to test that it stitches well before purchasing.

At the very least I would recommend T-70 bonded nylon thread but as suggested heavy nylon thread for JoAnns will work just fine to start.

Rockywoods and OWF are great places to source low quantities of high quality material.

Best of luck, brother!

Josh

Locker · · Yucca Valley, CA · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 1,640

Ebay has many to choose from, with the advantage of their guarantees and such.

I agree with Josh. For the same price (Or close) you can get a machine that will kick ass for many years to come.

M Hanna · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0

Pfaff 130

Small but solid manual bartack stitching in heavy web

Mh

sherb · · Loveland, Ohio & Wheat Ridg... · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 0

A long time ago, I bought new industrial sewing machine off ebay. The machine was heavy metal unlike plastic house machines. I sold it soon after as it is more trouble than it's worth for the hobbyist.

First, you have to make sure you buy a compatible motor, and separately mount it. The motor of home sewing machines is enclosed within the machine itself. Many motors sold for industrial sewing machines run on 3-phase power and are not compatible with your residential transformer. So first, you have to make sure you have the right motor. My motor was 30-50-lbs (13 years ago so I forget specifics).

It came with its own dedicated blank table top (can't just tuck the machine away after use), and despite being more complicated than a home sewing machine to put together, it came with zero instructions. They figure whoever is buying the sewing machine knows what they are doing. I had to drill holes on the blank tabletop to mount the motor, and the machine, and make sure the belt was properly fitted. I finally put it together after an afternoon, using screws.

Unlike home sewing machines (I have a Husquvarna, and have owed Singer machines & sergers and a Brother) an industrial sewing machine only does ONE stich. They figure you are in a factory with 100 sewing machines, each one doing a different stitch. So I could only do a straight stitch. Although most stitches in a 200+ stitch function machine are merely decorative, I do appreciate zig-zag, 3-step zig-zag, reverse, blind hem and button hole.

Then I started it up. It was VERY powerful. My lights dimmed. Being on the 2nd floor and not on the foundation of the house, my floor shook. It was VERY fast. Fabric just zipped through. Between the speed and power, I was sure to sew through my finger. I had much respect for the factory workers.

Between the dimmed lights, shaking floor, and possibility of sewing into a finger, I dismantled the machine and sold it.

It is true home sewing machines are weaker, but since you wrote you are going to use it for chalk bags, packs, not body-weight bearing slings, a home sewing machine is good enough. They are much less scary. I made a gear sling with my home sewing machine. I used crappy generic thread, but used many tacks, and it seems to hold up. I even sewed padding onto it for comfort, and it went through the sling and the layers. The secret is go to slow so the needle doesn't snap off. Another thread option is heavy duty thread for denim. No special supplier necessary; they are available at Hancock Fabrics, Jo-ann's. I haven't shopped from them lately, but Beacon fabrics used to sell heavy duty duck, thread, rivets for boating, I used to buy stuff from them for my corset making (previous hobby).

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply