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Old 08-03-2009, 01:11 PM   #1
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I've decided that if I ever want new sail covers, a fitted boom tent, and new cockpit cusion covers I'm going to have to make them myself (or get a woman on board that can sew ) ...

so for those who keep one onboard. What sewing machine do you have?... how would you rate it?... is it strong enough for boat canvas/sunbrella applications... obviously the smaller the better for storage purposes but when I look at the smaller ones at the store they all seem a bit.... well, cheaply built... but who knows....

recommendatoins appreciated.
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Old 08-03-2009, 02:22 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by atavist View Post
I've decided that if I ever want new sail covers, a fitted boom tent, and new cockpit cusion covers I'm going to have to make them myself (or get a woman on board that can sew ) ...

so for those who keep one on-board. What sewing machine do you have?... how would you rate it?... is it strong enough for boat canvas/sunbrella applications... obviously the smaller the better for storage purposes but when I look at the smaller ones at the store they all seem a bit.... well, cheaply built... but who knows....

recommendations appreciated.
If you only want to do straight stitch sewing, I would strongly suggest getting a rebuilt Industrial Pfaff or Bernina sewing machine. If going with a newer model Get one of the beefy Pfaff models that are basic and go slow and you should be able to sew through sail cloth with no problem (I once own a Pfaff 1145 model and could sew through 4 layers of heavy grade treated tent weight canvas). I would not suggest Necchi unless you get an older model as they are now made in China and the quality has suffered a good bit. Bernina is now made partially in Thialand and partially in Switzerland (We own and older model and I make trousers for us on it and have also repaired Military Backpacks with it). An older model Pfaff with the walking foot makes sewing through heavy cloth a much easier task. Industrial model will let you do it faster but remember that faster also means you have to have complete control of the cloth and the direction you are setting it.

I have owned/ used the following and will give an over all rating if you want more detail ask.

Singer Pre 1975 Model 8/10

Singer Post 1980 Model 5/10

Viking post 1980 Model 3/10

Pfaff 1950's Industrial plus model (A taylor grade machine, Professional level, unfortunately not mine) 10/10

Pfaff Post 1990 Model 9/10 (Mechanical)

Pfaff Post 1990 Model 8.5/10 (Memory Electric model)

Bernina Post 1990 Swiss Model 8.5/10 (Memory Electric Model)

Necchi Post 2000 Mini 7/10 Limited throat and must go slow

Huskavena Post 1990 Model 8/10 (Mechanical/Electrical model)

I have seen and helped others use "sail" style sewing machines. They are a medium industrial type with a 6 -10 throat to allow a rolled up sail to pass through easily. I have sewn panes for tents on a Pfaff 1145 that where 8' x 15' in lenght and required rolling plus dealing with the join to the roof of the tent which was another panel of the same material (Old style trappers tent). It all how much you have to sew through (needles also affect this) and how fast your thread can handle being fed through the machine (to fast and you put strecht in and that will either cause bunching as the thread contracts back or will cause the thread to break down faster). I do alot of sewing with natural and synthetic fibers (depends on what I am sewing) and they both have their must do one way or you pay to them.

Remember a good machine is going to cost a bit even second hand. In sewing machines you really do get what you paid for on most occassions.

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Old 08-03-2009, 02:25 PM   #3
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You reminded me that I needed to respond to another post about sewing machines. See link HERE for that one.

I have a 60's/70's era Singer zig-zag that can do everything you mentioned and I've done lots of upholstery on it over the years. I've had that machine since 1982 and it has seen me through many projects. You can find similar machines on Ebay or used through a local shop for $30-$70. However, I couldn't do sail repair with that machine nor could I do some of the leather sewing that I wanted to do. Thus, I purchased a Reliable 2000U Barracuda portable walking foot sewing machine. It is a knock-off of the Sailrite machines and I've been told they're made in the same factory but certainly don't know if that is true. I'd have preferred a Thompson machine but they are no longer made (old stock on the internet for sale) and parts are not possible to find. It works great and should do everything I want it to do.

Good luck in finding something that works for your needs.
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Old 08-03-2009, 02:52 PM   #4
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With one exception, everyone we met who carried a sewing machine aboard had a commercial one, which was strong enough to handle Sunbrella and sailcloth. *Sailrite offers a machine suitable for sewing sails, it's pricey if bought new: *Sailrite

Our friend who had a sail loft in St. Martin, and before that did all his canvas work on board his boat, used a commercial sewing machine, bought used in Germany. *You might look around for a used one in the States, but be careful to be sure it is working properly. *

You want a heavy machine to handle the heavy materials that are appropriate for a boat. *I suggest that if you've never sewn before that you befriend a sail loft to see how sails and canvas work is cut and sewn - there are lots of shortcuts and aids to faster, easier sewing, such as basting tape. *When I sewed all the cones for a Jordan Series Drogue I used a household portable sewing machine that I bought for AUD $20.00 in Australia's version of Cash Converters. *It wasn't nearly as good as a commercial machine, but I muddled through. *I had lots of time so it wasn't as critical for me, and the sailcloth used for the cones was lightweight, not heavy mainsail sailcloth. *the hardest part was figuring out how to adjust the tension on the threads, and doing a bit of repair work on the machine (Peter was invaluable for that effort).

I also sewed fitted sheets for the three bunks on the 'Melon. *It was worth the $20.00 and lots of time spent, but the machine wasn't really suitable for heavy duty sewing, and I got rid of it as soon as those projects were finished.

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Old 01-02-2010, 02:08 AM   #5
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We have sailed around the world (twice, slow learners...) with a Pfaff 130. Does half oz spin cloth, winch covers and dodgers all the sunbrella projects, and will handle sail repairs except clew patches where there is webbing and multiple layers. If you can find one and take good care of it (come with hand cranks too) it will last you a lifetime. My son asked me to will him mine...

Ours was about $200, back when a dollarwas worth something, but great value to date...

Robert

By the way, I learned to sew, because it is the main propulsion device, and then I don't (no matter how cute) have someone else muck up the machine. Mclube really works well to make material slide through easily, which is what gets you the uniform stiches that you want....

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I've decided that if I ever want new sail covers, a fitted boom tent, and new cockpit cusion covers I'm going to have to make them myself (or get a woman on board that can sew /tongue.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':P' />" border="0" alt="tongue.gif" /> ) ...

so for those who keep one onboard. What sewing machine do you have?... how would you rate it?... is it strong enough for boat canvas/sunbrella applications... obviously the smaller the better for storage purposes but when I look at the smaller ones at the store they all seem a bit.... well, cheaply built... but who knows....

recommendatoins appreciated.
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Old 01-04-2010, 06:21 AM   #6
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How does Pfaff organize their model numbers? I'm finding a 169, 260, 262 and 332 for sale locally. Any idea if any of them do zig-zag?
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Old 01-04-2010, 12:18 PM   #7
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How does Pfaff organize their model numbers? I'm finding a 169, 260, 262 and 332 for sale locally. Any idea if any of them do zig-zag?
Most of Pfaff numbers are by succession and go up as the model progresses. This is true except watch out for the named models as they are a cycle in themselves and can repeat over a time period (they have been making machines for a very long time). You should be able to contact Pfaff or a Pfaff dealer to find out if a machine can do zig zag. Hope this helps and good luck.

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Old 01-13-2010, 06:11 AM   #8
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Most of Pfaff numbers are by succession and go up as the model progresses. This is true except watch out for the named models as they are a cycle in themselves and can repeat over a time period (they have been making machines for a very long time). You should be able to contact Pfaff or a Pfaff dealer to find out if a machine can do zig zag. Hope this helps and good luck.

Michael
As a side line I make tents and pavilions for re-enactors. I have also made one suit of sails for a couple in Belize, re-upholstered various pontoon boats etc.

The biggest thing I can recommend is find a machine that is stoutly built that has a "compound needle feed". This is basically a walking foot combined with a needle that does not go straight up and down but rather has an elliptical orbit. In other words, the needle advances forward, burying itself into the fabric and then swings backwards during it's stroke advancing the fabric and sort of playing "leap frog" with the walking foot.

Why is this important? When you start to sew heavy fabric,s or multiple layers of fabrics (such as when crossing seams) the drag of the heavy fabric can cause the feed dogs on the machine to skid, and not advance the fabric uniformly, causing you to have uneven stitch lengths, unless you manually put constant forward pressure on the fabric. (Which, by the way, causes your trapezius muscles to tighten creating a spectacular headache, that starts behind your eyeballs, and travels backwards wrapping around your brain a couple of times, giving a combination of a weird pulsing sensation and someone hitting you with a ball-peen hammer.)

My only experience has been with large machines that would not fit on most boats. (Maybe the Baltic Trader that the Allcards used).

I have used old pfaffs 130 and 230, that ran like a champ and could be mounted in a box rather than a full table. I don't remember whether they were needle feed machines though. Another work horse that was metal and I have had success with that might fit your needs is an old Singer featherweight.

I have heard mixed reviews on the sailrite machines but have not had the chance to try them out first hand.

If you buy a machine please let me know what you find out. I have been thinking about the same thing, and also thought it could augment our cruising funds while abroad.

Cheers,

Dave G.
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:52 AM   #9
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I have "SINGER 7470 Confidence 225-Stitch Computerized Machine" that i buy from amazon and cost were probably $330 or above. This is a great sewing machine.
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:02 PM   #10
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I bought a very cheap reconditioned Janome. Maybe 70 bucks. I wouldn't do a lot of hard sewing with it (or if I started to do a lot of sewing and it broke I would buy a better one.)

OTOH, I have done 5 layers of sunbrella with it and no problem. I bought it to patch and replace covers. I've also fixed a light sail and have made curtains. Also fixed some jeans. So far it works great.

I use the same thinking with Ryobi tools. They cost so little and work so well, I don't concern myself with the beter gear. For the amount I use them they stand up to whatever I do for years. Good enough.

If you really expect to do a lot of sewing or expect to need your machine in a place where you can't replace it, that is a whole 'nother thing.
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Old 07-03-2012, 02:21 AM   #11
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Oh, sheesh. I got suckered into an old thread. How did that sewing machine workout for you THREE YEARS AGO.
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Old 07-03-2012, 03:45 AM   #12
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Old 08-11-2012, 09:08 PM   #13
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We have a sailrite sewing machine and use it for sail and canvas repair as well as home sewing. It's fabulous.
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Old 08-12-2012, 02:36 AM   #14
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Defender Marine's catalogue highlights the Barracuda for a base price of $500. (Page 177)
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