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Old 10-20-2016, 02:14 AM   #1
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Learning to Sew

I've never sewn...Not in my entire mid 50 something years on this planet.
I don't have anything against sewing, its just not something I ever really thought of doing.

A few weeks ago that changed for me. I saw a thread here on TF where guys were displaying their canvas projects. That made me remember the $10,000 quote I got last year just to do the cockpit enclosure on my boat.

So... I thought, possibly I could do my own canvas work as well. I don't remember who referred me to the web site of a company called Sailrite (Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969) But I found myself watching their video series that documents step by step how to make an aft enclosure on a boat. Then I did some quick calculations of how much materials would cost to build my aft enclosure (they sell all the stuff on their web site.) Well, using the best sunbrella, and the best clear stratoglass I couldn't find a way to make the materials cost even approach $1,000.

The Sailrite folks even have their own brand of sewing machines, and the one in the videos is called the Ultrafeed, at a cost of about a thousand bucks. So I took a chance... Since I know nothing about sewing machines I clicked on the most expensive one at $1250, then clicked on some sunbrella, and a host of other tools and supplies. Well, yesterday all my stuff arrived.

I found the handy dandy set up guide, and went through the process of getting my new sewing machine unpacked. I followed their instructions, then watched a video describing how to set up their wiz bang ultrafeed sewing machine. Before long I was winding bobbins, and threading the needle... I was all ready to start sewing! Yippee!!!

More videos (Sailrite has videos on everything) and some of my Sunbrella fabric and low and behold I was making seams, and hems, and all sorts of cool sewing stuff.

Tonight was stage two... I decided to make a little sunbrella bag to hold some of my goodies. So I drew the bag out on paper, thinking about the seams, and the hems, and how to sew ther Velcro on and gave it a whirl.

Well, a couple hours later I had in my hands a spiffy bag that I made with my own hands.

It isn't perfect of course. sewing is something I am learning after all, but it is a Great start. Tomorrow night I'll probably make something else, but for tonight I am happy that I was able to actually sew something.

A couple months of little projects and I'll be ready to taske on that aft enclosure.
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Old 10-20-2016, 03:17 AM   #2
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Kevin,
You go man! It ain't rocket science! Before long you'll be able to tell us all about bobbin tension, timing the feeddogs, French seams, topstitching, zipper stops and so on.

Don't get frustrated, take it slow and you'll be amazed at the progress you make, and the wife might even get interested.

Were here to help, so don't be afraid to ask. Those Sailrite people are on to something ain't they?
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Old 10-20-2016, 04:11 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Crusty Chief View Post
Kevin,
You go man! It ain't rocket science! Before long you'll be able to tell us all about bobbin tension, timing the feeddogs, French seams, topstitching, zipper stops and so on.

Don't get frustrated, take it slow and you'll be amazed at the progress you make, and the wife might even get interested.

Were here to help, so don't be afraid to ask. Those Sailrite people are on to something ain't they?
Thanks!!

And yes, the sailrite folks seem to do a great job of supporting the DIY'ers.

I'm starting with simple projects. Things that will build skills, and provide useful things. Baby steps here.
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Old 10-20-2016, 05:44 AM   #4
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I don't sew, my wife does though.
My job is to keep the machinery working! We purchased a Sailrite machine 12 or so years ago and both of us have been happy with it.
We've had a few issues with it but with their help everything is quickly resolved.
Between written manuals, video instruction and phone help, I've always been able to keep that machine humming along nicely.
Before this, my only experience working on a sewing machine was in "cleaning and lubricating" my mothers Pfaff sewing machine when I was a kid...that event got me banned from touching anything mechanical in our house for years!
Enjoy your new tool!
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Old 10-20-2016, 06:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksanders View Post
I've never sewn...Not in my entire mid 50 something years on this planet.
I don't have anything against sewing, its just not something I ever really thought of doing....

A couple months of little projects and I'll be ready to task on that aft enclosure.
Kevin
Great start! Keep us posted as your journey continues.
Attitude is everything IMHO - aptitude will come w/ experience & practice

Another good place to learn is to look at many fellow boaters canvas - typically there are more than one way to do many tasks and you can many times figure it out by looking (in detail) back sides especially, reinforcing, finishing, etc.

As the projects get bigger you will have to start thinking about your work space.
No need to rush into it and everyone's situation is a little different...others here can probably help w/ what works for them so ask away.
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Old 10-20-2016, 06:41 AM   #6
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I commend you Kevin on a idea that I also thought about, I only thought about it, you acted on it...bravo.
After reading that thread about sewing I went to the sailrite web site and read and watched. A great resource indeed.

Looking forward to your progress report.
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Old 10-20-2016, 06:51 AM   #7
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Would it be a fair thing to say to beginners, change the needle more often than you think to?

The really never seem dull to the touch...but often quickly start getting hard to punch through multiple layers or dense material.

I find it hard to swap needles to frequently....but it seems to be the answer. Or am I doing something else wrong?
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Old 10-20-2016, 07:05 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
Would it be a fair thing to say to beginners, change the needle more often than you think to?

The really never seem dull to the touch...but often quickly start getting hard to punch through multiple layers or dense material.

I find it hard to swap needles to frequently....but it seems to be the answer. Or am I doing something else wrong?
Material is very abrasive and dulls needles quicker than you think.
My wife has sewed all her life. She ran her own business for years, alterations, dresses, custom decorating, window treatments, etc.
I learned a lot from listening (LOL).

However with all her experience she will not tackle anything in sunbrella more complicated that a simple small cover or "flat" projects like window covers.

So Bravo! to all you sewers! (somehow that last word doesn't look right)
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Old 10-20-2016, 09:41 AM   #9
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Kevin--

GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!! I started out about the same way other than the sewing machine. I purchased a Juki 1541su but that is a minor difference. I highly recommend that you also purchase a 6' X 2" (about) metal straight edge ruler. That will be very handy to both measure and cut straight lengths of fabric. I also use a carpenter's square at times.

Another suggestion to assist you in your new endeavor is to view merchandise at Rochford's. They augment Sailrite with great deals on YKK zippers, snaps and tools.

Be careful of different fabrics ordered at the same time from Sailrite. Insist they be rolled individually! I just ordered 30 yards of Sunbrella from them along with 5 yards of Shelter-rite. They rolled the Shelter-rite and interleaved and rolled 30 yards of Sunbrella on top of it. So in order to access the Shelter-rite I have to unroll 30 yards of Sunbrella first. I complained to no avail.

OH one last comment! Check EBay for fabric! Sometimes you can find shorts of Sunbrella to match your needs at half the cost from Sailrite.

Foggy
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Old 10-20-2016, 09:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
Would it be a fair thing to say to beginners, change the needle more often than you think to?

The really never seem dull to the touch...but often quickly start getting hard to punch through multiple layers or dense material.

I find it hard to swap needles to frequently....but it seems to be the answer. Or am I doing something else wrong?


Are you using the right needle? For example, you should use a "ball" pointed (#18) needle for canvas. I haven't had any problems with needles although I talked to a canvas guy who refuses to use Organ's needles. He claims they dull too quickly but they seem OK with me.
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Old 10-20-2016, 10:33 AM   #11
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There is also a such thing as a sewing needle sharpener.
They work pretty well actually.
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Old 10-20-2016, 12:33 PM   #12
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Great start! That's how I started doing canvas work, and sewing a sail for a catboat...or upholstery...gettting a large $$ quote is a big kick to try it yourself...
Hint to those that might want to try to sew and don't want to splurge on a heavy machine.
Most older home sewing machines can handle canvas etc just fine...I sewed five layers of Dacron for the sail on a Brother sewing machine....yes I broke a lot of needles but it worked out fine...just go slowly and they chug along.
Happy sewing.
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Old 10-20-2016, 12:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksanders View Post
I've never sewn...Not in my entire mid 50 something years on this planet.
I don't have anything against sewing, its just not something I ever really thought of doing.

A few weeks ago that changed for me. I saw a thread here on TF where guys were displaying their canvas projects. That made me remember the $10,000 quote I got last year just to do the cockpit enclosure on my boat.

So... I thought, possibly I could do my own canvas work as well. I don't remember who referred me to the web site of a company called Sailrite (Sailrite - Fabric, Canvas, and Sewing Machines Since 1969) But I found myself watching their video series that documents step by step how to make an aft enclosure on a boat. Then I did some quick calculations of how much materials would cost to build my aft enclosure (they sell all the stuff on their web site.) Well, using the best sunbrella, and the best clear stratoglass I couldn't find a way to make the materials cost even approach $1,000.

The Sailrite folks even have their own brand of sewing machines, and the one in the videos is called the Ultrafeed, at a cost of about a thousand bucks. So I took a chance... Since I know nothing about sewing machines I clicked on the most expensive one at $1250, then clicked on some sunbrella, and a host of other tools and supplies. Well, yesterday all my stuff arrived.

I found the handy dandy set up guide, and went through the process of getting my new sewing machine unpacked. I followed their instructions, then watched a video describing how to set up their wiz bang ultrafeed sewing machine. Before long I was winding bobbins, and threading the needle... I was all ready to start sewing! Yippee!!!

More videos (Sailrite has videos on everything) and some of my Sunbrella fabric and low and behold I was making seams, and hems, and all sorts of cool sewing stuff.

Tonight was stage two... I decided to make a little sunbrella bag to hold some of my goodies. So I drew the bag out on paper, thinking about the seams, and the hems, and how to sew ther Velcro on and gave it a whirl.

Well, a couple hours later I had in my hands a spiffy bag that I made with my own hands.

It isn't perfect of course. sewing is something I am learning after all, but it is a Great start. Tomorrow night I'll probably make something else, but for tonight I am happy that I was able to actually sew something.

A couple months of little projects and I'll be ready to taske on that aft enclosure.
That's great Kevin , It looks like you and Northern Spy will be learning about the same time . He bought my Sailrite machine just like the one you have .These are great machines. I tried but I just couldn't get the hang of it . I needed a dedicated place for it with plenty of table space . I'm a woodworker and just gonna stick to that. Baby steps are the way to go here.
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Old 10-20-2016, 01:03 PM   #14
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I want to offer a suggestion to those who have industrial clutch style machines. If you own one, you understand the full on, full off motors that many replace with servos. Well, many of the servo motors have short life........I know, mine also failed. Back to full on, full off.

Very difficult to control although I did find a way that works. Mine has a 110/220vac motor. I now operate mine on the 220 setting and there is huge difference in control. It is so controllable that I no longer need a servo motor.
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Old 10-20-2016, 02:17 PM   #15
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Congratulations - we bought the same machine. My wife made window shades and fender covers, I made a helm cover, and she is in the process of enclosing the fly bridge. They offer a full DVD series on enclosures. A fellow at our marina had a full enclosure made this summer that is much smaller than the one we need, and his price was in the $8000 range. That helps make a decision!

On that machine, if the material fits under the foot, it will sew it. We played with two layers of 2" trim, 30 gauge Stratoglass, and Sunbrella Plus - and it stitches just fine. The #20 needle seems to be fine, and you need a fresh needle to go through Stratoglass.

We did take it into the salon once to work at the boat, but schlepping it onto the boat being careful as not to turn it into a Sailrite anchor caused us to work at home. We also purchased the carrying case and all of the items you did. The 1" binding attachment also comes in handy.

Let the fun begin!

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Old 10-20-2016, 06:27 PM   #16
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For years we used an old (1973) Pfaff 1222 to sew things for the boat. We successfully did a set of sail covers for our Seabird 37 Ketch, that was fabric similar to Sunbrella. The machine was robust enough, though getting heavy thread tension just right in the bobbin was a pain. Plumb wore out that machine, so the boat projects came to a halt after 30 years or so.
This year my son bought a sailboat. It needed a sail cover, so he ordered all the fabric, zippers, thread, basting tape, etc ( a kit for his size sailcover) and when it came in, we bought a Reliable MSK 1541S (similar to both the Sailrite and the Juki) and turned him loose. In one day, he had learned how to control the machine (It is a very fast machine, with the slow speed using about 1mm of foot pedal travel) and sewed himself a professional looking sailcover, all for about $200.
Since he finished that job, we have made a new Gazebo cover for our place in the sun, a BBQ cover for home, and are collecting plans for other things.

Though my wife has sewn all of her life, she didn't want to tackle any heavy fabric projects, so I had to learn on the Sailcovers, and I ended up doing other projects, including most of the upholstery on the present boat, but with the new machine, she is more enthusiastic, and tackled the Gazebo cover with gusto. My BBQ, so My project.

Lots of interest in your project, Kevin, so don't be bashful.
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Old 10-20-2016, 07:14 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koliver View Post
For years we used an old (1973) Pfaff 1222 to sew things for the boat. We successfully did a set of sail covers for our Seabird 37 Ketch, that was fabric similar to Sunbrella. The machine was robust enough, though getting heavy thread tension just right in the bobbin was a pain. Plumb wore out that machine, so the boat projects came to a halt after 30 years or so.
This year my son bought a sailboat. It needed a sail cover, so he ordered all the fabric, zippers, thread, basting tape, etc ( a kit for his size sailcover) and when it came in, we bought a Reliable MSK 1541S (similar to both the Sailrite and the Juki) and turned him loose. In one day, he had learned how to control the machine (It is a very fast machine, with the slow speed using about 1mm of foot pedal travel) and sewed himself a professional looking sailcover, all for about $200.
Since he finished that job, we have made a new Gazebo cover for our place in the sun, a BBQ cover for home, and are collecting plans for other things.

Though my wife has sewn all of her life, she didn't want to tackle any heavy fabric projects, so I had to learn on the Sailcovers, and I ended up doing other projects, including most of the upholstery on the present boat, but with the new machine, she is more enthusiastic, and tackled the Gazebo cover with gusto. My BBQ, so My project.

Lots of interest in your project, Kevin, so don't be bashful.

Juki 1541s! I have that machine, what a bull....the kind with horns! Now I am not trying to disparage less expensive machines but my Juki has never displayed a performance issue such as punching through anything nor any needle issues. Other than occasionally breaking the needle, mine just keeps on chugging.

If your machine has the 1HP clutch motor, consider trying the 220v setting for better speed control. Your son must be thrilled!
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Old 10-20-2016, 07:54 PM   #18
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If you can do woodwork, you can sew. Just remember that all you are doing is connecting planes together.

I just got back into it and Bess and I just did our first bimini for a client. We have done lots of shades and stuff, but a bimini is different animal.

Good luck.
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Old 10-20-2016, 09:26 PM   #19
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Wifey B: I thought I had suddenly entered sewingforum.com or something. Now this topic is one I definitely know nothing about.
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Old 10-21-2016, 10:09 AM   #20
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I'll sing the praises of Sailrite and their UntraFeed sewing machine. Purchased mine years ago, and as a sailor, learned to repair sails, sew sail covers, bags, winch covers, dinghy and motor covers, et al. With my Nordic Tug, after about 8 years, my UltraSoft upholstery was in tough shape... stretched and badly worn. After getting a quote of $4500 to cover the sette and pilot seats, decided to take on the work myself. Ordered about $250 of material (NaugaSoft), checked out Sailrite and Youtube videos, did some practicing, and voila (French seams to boot)...
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