What sewing machine to buy??
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May 5, 2005 at 1:05 pm #1216126
I’m interested in making my own gear and modifying what I have. I borrowed a friends machine to make a Ray-Way Tarp with beaks. It was fun and I love my tarp.
So, I know nothing about sewing machines. I’d like something simple but that would handle slippery fabrics and the synthetic threads I’ll be using. I would like to hear any input regarding brands, models and features I should be looking for.
I would like a quailty machine without alot of features I don’t need. Also, it would be nice if it was easy to use and operate without having to spend hours studying the manual.May 5, 2005 at 1:50 pm #1337110Jim ColtenBPL Member
I get by with one made in the first half of the last century but would be happier if it did zig-zag.
You can get excellent sewing machine advice at thru-hikerMay 5, 2005 at 2:23 pm #1337112
The one I borrowed was that same vintage. I’ll check out thru hiker.
ThanksMay 6, 2005 at 12:05 am #1337126Douglas FrickBPL Member
> I would like to hear any input regarding brands, models and features I should be looking for.
Here’s a link to Ray’s page on sewing machines and sewing, in case you missed it.Jun 3, 2005 at 4:32 pm #1337835
Having made my own gear for 50 years using all kinds of machines, here’s what I think: Keep it simple, and practice.
Any home sewing machine that makes a lock stitch (as opposed to ‘surgers’ which are currently poplular) is superior to commercial machines for sewing the fabrics used for light weight gear. Afterall, you are sewing the equivalent of lingerie-weight fabrics. Commercial machines are too fast for amateurs, not as versatile as home machines, and expensive to repair. At the same time, most home machines will sew leather, heavy canvas, and light metal (no kidding). The secret is the right needle and lots of pins (to hold seams in alignment and to prevent bunching). There is also a neat attachment (about $20) called a ‘walking foot’ that advances the fabric from the top to assist the feed-dogs on the bottom.
A first-timer is better off 1) learning to use the machine right (take classes at your friendly neighborhood sewing shop); 2) practicing until you get it right; 3) test-sewing with the fabrics and thread before you start a new project; 4)learning to maintain the machine (oil, adjustments).
A machine that zig-zags is handy for bar-tacking, but machines that make lots of fancy stitches are usually not as good as simpler machines when stitching thick seams. Don’t even consider a ‘surger’ which is a very fast machine making a chain stitch. They are good for decoration, not real sewing. That’s it. Go make stuff.Jun 3, 2005 at 6:30 pm #1337841
I found a Pfaff from the 1970’s on ebay for $100 and have been doing a few simple things with it. It’s working great and it’s fun to be able to implement my ideas so easily. I appreciate all your thoughts and advice.
CarolJun 12, 2005 at 6:47 pm #1338080John austinMember
I think simple is probably a good way to go. i just finished sewing a backpack that i got from Paul young. he sells a small kit with a C-D and some materials you will need to make an 8.5oz backpack. you can contact him at [email protected] I used a very old simple machine that had forward and reverse. this came in very handy for lock stitching His kit is pictured on the minibull adventure site at http://www.minibulldesign.comNov 9, 2005 at 7:14 pm #1344783Jim ColtenBPL Member
The previous advice in this thread says most of what you need to know. A well tuned up older machine that does straight and zig-zag stitches is what you want.
Here and at thru-hiker folks have mentioned buying on ebay. I watched several ebay auctions and ended up buying locally due to these factors:
* nervous about buying a machine I can’t test drive first
* they are heavy and pricey to ship
* a tune up here in MN would cost $80
* after watching several auctions I shopped at sewing machine repair shops and found a tuned up 25-30 year old Viking that even has a transmission if I need to repair something heavy. $150 … which was similar or less than winning ebay auction prices plus shipping.
Based on what you’ve posted already I can’t wait to see what you develop when you get a sewing machine.Nov 12, 2005 at 10:15 am #1344994
This sewing machine is cheap, but looks good, with a 25 year warranty
what do you think, will it work for sewing with lightweight fabrics? (cuben, 1.1oz & 0.8oz ripstop)Dec 5, 2005 at 2:48 pm #1346562
last model posted is now discontinued
what abou the Brother Sewing Machine LS 1520
work for cuben/.8oz ripstop?Dec 5, 2005 at 4:20 pm #1346566
Simpler is better, but that looks like a great deal, so I would go for it. Brothers are China made. I’ve used the heck out of a Chinese Necci for 10 years. Good goods.
Sewing machines are like firearms- complicated machinery that almost always works much better than its operators. Learn how to operate and maintain it. A sewing class at your neighborhood fabric store is a good idea.Dec 5, 2005 at 4:26 pm #1346568
thanks Vick, I think I will go for it. $70 is good for a sewing machine, I think, I will make sure to practice alot with it before attemting anything.
thanks again, no one responded to my last post for a month so I gave it another try, and I think you know what you are doing, wait 50 years, I know you know what you are doing, so thank you again.
you say simpler is better, well this is cheaper, what do you think
cheaper is probably not better thoughDec 5, 2005 at 7:01 pm #1346573
The second machine looks smaller, but Google on the model to get more specifics on size. For outdoor gear, you need to be able to move bulky stuff under the arm – to the right of the needle. The more room, the better. But don’t get hung up on that. I did my first 3.5 million years of sewing on a very small Singer portable.
If going cheaper, go with simpler – fewer features – You will never need double needles, but a zigzag is very useful. The LS-1520 may be overloaded with features you won’t need. More stuff to break and more expensive to repair.Dec 7, 2005 at 1:53 am #1346636Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
I am using an antique (and I mean antique!) black Singer machine with the motor hung on the back. It does straight stitches, no zigzag.
Strangely enough, it works damn well. It will sew lingerie to canvas, with only an adjustment to the tension. I have been making packs for some time with it.
Fancy modern machines – too many features, none of which are much use, too expensive, and they usually balk at canvas anyhow.
CheersDec 7, 2005 at 1:06 pm #1346656
Roger’s right. Those old Singers are great. That was my first machine, and it’s still set up ready to go. They are especialy good on very light fabrics and for precise stitching.Dec 10, 2005 at 10:29 am #1346788Joy MenzeBPL Member
Althought backpacking fabric are lightweight, the fibers are more abrasive and harder on the needle. I only use Schmetz Microtex sharp needles.
A machine with a free arm is more versatile. It is easier to do things like top stitching tubular shapes: jacket sleeves, pant legs, etc. Those machines should come with slip-on flat work surface extension plate.
Cutting fabric with a hot knife, as listed on the Outdoor Wilderness fabric site is nice as it seals the raw edges as it cuts/melts the fabric. You can save money and just buy the tip and stick it in your own cheapo soldering iron. Cheaper yet, just use a soldering iron as is.
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