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Old 17-09-2008, 12:36   #1
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Sewing machine

I'm looking for recommendations on a sewing machine that can do heavy canvas work, is compact for storage on a sailboat, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Am I asking for too much. I would appreciate any ideas.

Also the main reason I need this is to make slip covers for my salon cushions. I hated the upholstery when we bought the boat but it was brand new. I've lived with it for 11 years and it has to go. Is there any reason I can't make the slip covers out of a heavy cotton. The current upholstery is Sunbrella and it has held up well but is uncomfortable to sit on. Since I'll be able to take the covers off and wash them I was going to go with regular fabric. I'd like to reupholster but it is to expensive in the Bahamas.
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Old 17-09-2008, 12:58   #2
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Quote:
Is there any reason I can't make the slip covers out of a heavy cotton.
In a marine environment natural fibers don't last. Look at the fabric content and anything that has any component of a natural fiber is a poor choice. Mold and mildew eventually leave them far less than they used to be. If you look at "inside the house" upholstery fabric you don't find cotton in the list of long wearing materials.

If it is an issue of cost you can find cheaper materials that will hold up well. Olefin is 100% not natural and does quite well. It is used in many upholstery fabrics and can be woven into very attractive patterns as well.

If you are going with "regular fabric" covers then you don't need a heavy machine. I guess I don't understand what "regular fabric is"? The heavy machines cost more. The Sailrite machine is designed as a portable machine and can handle heavy fabric. They are often found used since many people think they can do this work and in the end they can't.

One of the tricks to upholstery is the cutting and sewing. The fabrics are more expensive than other fabrics and you have to eat your mistakes. Good upholstery people cut tighter, work with the bias and don't mess up. It translates into a $30 / yard savings if you consider how much fabric you'll waste.

Any decent upholstery shop would add zippers for the covers so they can be removed and washed if required. They have to be installed in any event. If you can remove the cushions from the boat then you can take them to a shop. That's the cheapest way. Negotiate the labor first then shop for materials. You can find a lot of left over lots of VERY nice looking fabrics. If you hated what you have now for 11 years maybe it would be nice to like what you get this time. I would think you have a good reason to get something nice.

If you shop for the nice outdoor furniture fabrics you can find many very expensive looking woven patterns made of solution dyed non natural and mold resistant fabrics. You can get them for under $30/yard. Glen Raven Mills (they make Sumbrella) make some very very nice looking fabrics.that wear like iron and probably better than what you had originally.
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Old 17-09-2008, 13:24   #3
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You can make replacement covers and install zips with most of the better everyday machines. I have done it with a Toyota, and with a singer. Get the correct needle, and change it frequently. Use polyester thread. Dont allow the material to get too many layers. Being a bit inexperienced at putting in zips, I tacked it in place initially by hand. Purchase the zips from the upholstery shop by the yard/metre, and that way you can install each side seperately, then any mistakes in alignment dont matter, as you can align the sides correctly.
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Old 17-09-2008, 17:01   #4
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Well, we are the owners of a Sailrite Ultrafeed Zig Zag machine. We have LOTS of friends who have tried other machines, and Mamma is a pretty decent seamstress.

She is absolutely in love with the machine, and with Sailrite. She refuses to by material from anyone else, because they've been so helpful. She did major repairs on our mainsail - this is NOT a small sail - and it worked like a champ. She's made a bimini that looks better than ones from the pros, and replaced the sunbrella on our staysail. It's small enough to fit on a boat, yet versitile enough to do most anything. It will sew thru 8 layers of sunbrella without a problem.

Friends who have owned other machines have tried ours, and then gone out and immediately bought one.
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Old 17-09-2008, 17:02   #5
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Oh yeah, and don't forget about the many "how to" videos Sailrite has.
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Old 17-09-2008, 21:41   #6
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I have not tried them but Sunbrella has many new types of upholstery.
Printed styles, breathable, some with holes in them for more breathability. I would think it would not be as uncomfortable to sit on. Sailrite has lots of info. I took a short class with the son of sail rite cant remember his name but did he have the info. I had no idea how many different types sunbrella had. I would not use cotton or natural fiber. IMOHO
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Old 17-09-2008, 22:28   #7
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I have used the Sailrite Sailmaker sewing machine, and it is totally awesome. The machine is easy to use, and they sell attachments that help you do specialized canvas work.

You can easily sew through eight layers of fabric, and if you use their instructional videos, you achieve excellent results.

I made all my boat, instrument, wheel, cockpit table, and sailboard covers using the Sailrite.

Check out the link to see what Sailrite did for me.

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Old 18-09-2008, 08:24   #8
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Thanks for the replies.
I should have known about the cotton fabric since we leave our boat in the Bahamas and it's always interesting when we get back on board to see what knew things my clothes have grown. But I really wanted something inexpensive that I could throw in the washer and when I got tired of it throw it away. I wonder if I can get the captain to splash out for a sailrite, they're not cheap. Maybe if I remind him that all the zippers in our canvas need resewn (sp?). Dave I really like the large cover on your boat. We've had to let our varnish go since we leave the boat in the tropics for 6 months without us on it. I hate the way it looks and would like to redo her brightwork. I wonder if there is any way I could make a cover like yours that would fit over the cap rail. I guess I could use snaps.I'll let you know how it goes.

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Old 18-09-2008, 09:25   #9
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I have a Sailrite and love it, having made everything from a headsail to upholstery. If you're going to restrict yourself to upholstery with 'average' weight fabric a 'home' machine will probably work. However, if you are going to be sewing through multiple layers of heavier fabric, such as Sunbrella or even leather, then you'll need a Sailrite or equivalent. If the price is too much, then look for a good used commercial machine, available for a few hundred dollars. Emphasis on the 'commerial' as they will be stought enough to drive the needle through thick layers. I know several people who have bypassed the expensive Sailrite for a commercial machine and have been quite happy. However, they won't have Sailrite's walking foot (a BIG plus in my experience).

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Old 19-09-2008, 08:43   #10
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Thanks again everyone,
I have posted a wanted ad in the classifieds for a sailrite and I've actually had one response from someone with one for sale, I just don't have the details yet. Any suggestions about different models?
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Old 19-09-2008, 09:14   #11
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The Sailrite will pay for itself on just a few repair jobs. Our first attempt at canvas was a cover for the wheel and pedestal. Turned out pretty good for having no experience and nearly paid for the machine when compared with getting one made by canvas people.
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Old 19-09-2008, 10:10   #12
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If you happened to have a spare Ultrafeed LSZ-1 European Power Sewing Machine that you no longer wanted, in Norway, I would be happy to relieve you of the problem
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Old 19-09-2008, 13:47   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agur's Wish View Post
The current upholstery is Sunbrella and it has held up well but is uncomfortable to sit on. Since I'll be able to take the covers off and wash them I was going to go with regular fabric. I'd like to reupholster but it is to expensive in the Bahamas.
Thanks,
First Mate Mary
My wife has fallen in love with the new Upholstery grade Sunbrella. It is much softer than regular Sunbrella. She is making cockpit cushions on our cat now that are currently made of Textilene, talk about something that is uncomfortable to sit on, that is plastic. I am sure it was very expensive but is is very durable.

Checkout the upholstery Sunbrella, there are even prints.
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Old 19-09-2008, 15:04   #14
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I have checked out the sunbrella and there are a lot more choices than there used to be. Also I've just about sold the capn on a Sailrite but just out of curiousity has any one tried a Tuffsew machine or know someone that has? They have a walking foot and claim to be very portable.
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Old 19-09-2008, 17:16   #15
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The Tuffsew looks to be the same as the Sailrite LS-1 (non ziz-zag) with a different paint job and a few hundred dollars cheaper.

I've heard that the Reliable is the same as the Sailrite LSZ-1 (zig zag model) and the parts are interchangeable, again for a few hundred dollars cheaper. Has the same specs (including motor).

Have to be a bit careful comparing prices as the Sailrite prices includes a case, a better foot peddle, and a bunch of consumables. The peddle is worth it - the cheap ones (originally came with the Sailrites) are scarey to me - mine poped and sparked all the time til I got an electronic one! Sailrite told me that was normal with those...
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