Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

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Sclass
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Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Sat May 02, 2015 11:12 pm

Hi All,

I posted up this tool here for sewing up thick stuff. It's good for repairing shoes, handbags, leather stuff, luggage, tents, car seat covers, etc. Generally good for repairing expensive stuff that has stitching that comes undone.

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=4582&p=65111&hilit= ... ool#p65111

Well, tonight my SO got my attention and said her sandal stitching had come undone at some point. These are pretty pricey sandals and the soles have a lot of miles left. The material was too thick for her to handle - leather + nylon strap + sandal liner. So I quickly stitched it up with my sewing awl shown in the thread above. Here is the result.

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I then realized that this was something you folks would like. What always breaks? Stuff we use and abuse. Expensive stuff. Why toss when a stitch comes out? Why use a crap repair like glue? Let me show you how to stitch it cheap with a "double needle stitch" but using a tool. And instead of using my expensive ($20) tool, lets do it cheap with a homemade tool. You don't need a fancy sewing awl, you just need some tough upholstery thread, a sewing machine needle with a groove from Walmart, some super glue, a hardwood stick and some patience.

I wanted to make this really cheap so rather than using a milled piece of hardwood dowel I went out to the yard and cut a dry branch off my almond tree. That was hard wood. I drilled a little hole in it with a hand drill (technically a pin vise). So here is what I have so far:

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Now we need to fit the needle into the wood handle. I use super glue to secure it. A little baking soda works as a poor man's catalyst to instantly cure the superglue. Just sprinkle some on and bam, your glue is dry. Nice trick huh?

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Okay, so you have your sewing awl. Now you need to thread it. Just thread the needle like you would a sewing machine. Go in the side of the needle with the groove in it. This is important because the groove will allow the thread to slip on one side of the needle while it catches on the other ungrooved side while you're sewing. You'll be able to form a loop by slightly retracting the needle from your material. To show you how it's done, I'll use a strip of cardboard.

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Ready to sew.

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Poke the needle through the material.

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Withdraw the needle a few mm's and you'll form a loop on the ungrooved side of the needle. That is the importance of the groove.

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You want to pull this loop all the way through to the top so the end of the thread looks like this on the top surface. Pull through enough tail to complete your anticipated stitch. So if you want a 10mm stitch, you want to pull through more than 10mm and have it dangling on the top side. You'll want some extra length for a knot too.

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Now withdraw your needle all the way out and leave the tail end of the thread poking through the sheet. Move to the left a bit and start your stitch by poking another hole.

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Again, slightly withdraw the needle a few mm's. Your thread will form a loop as it drags on the ungrooved side of the needle and material. Pull back just enough to make a loop but don't fully withdraw the needle.

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Now thread your dangling thread on the top side through the loop as shown below:

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Withdraw your needle and presto, you have formed your first overlock stitch. You're basically doing what a sewing machine does. This is a double needle stitch that cobblers use. But you are doing it with one needle and this clever tool.

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Move the needle a little over to the left and poke it through again.

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Pull it back slightly to form your loop.

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Thread the dangling thread on top through your loop.

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Withdraw your needle and presto, another beautiful stitch.

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Repeat.

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And repeat.

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And repeat.

Hope that was clear enough. You don't really need the fancy sewing awl. All you need is a Singer type sewing needle with a groove. This is just dandy for fixing all that expensive stuff that you use and abuse and pull the stitching out of. I've saved so much money with this trick. Now you can too! My gut feel is that dental floss will work as a great repair thread. Waxed will be nice and sticky and easy to handle. You can get really fancy with the tool and put a nail through it to hold a spool of thread like the commercial sewing awls. Don't forget to tie a nice knot at the end with the loose ends or you'll be doing it again soon.

Please be careful and don't poke yourself. Perform at your own risk.

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theanimal
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by theanimal » Sun May 03, 2015 2:48 am

I learned how to sew with this tool. They really do work well.

The DIY awl is neat. Thanks for the instructions. I think I might have to make one myself.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by tommytebco » Sun May 03, 2015 5:56 am

Nice guide!!. I camp a lot and have seen this tool and wondered how it actually works. Now I know!! And I don't even need to buy one.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by DSKla » Sun May 03, 2015 11:55 am

Awesome post! What would you recommend for larger projects with thick stuff by hand?

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by jennypenny » Sun May 03, 2015 6:59 pm

Love the baking soda trick.

May I add this to the wiki?

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Sclass
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Sun May 03, 2015 10:35 pm

jennypenny wrote:Love the baking soda trick.

May I add this to the wiki?
Sure.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Sun May 03, 2015 10:49 pm

DSKla wrote:Awesome post! What would you recommend for larger projects with thick stuff by hand?
A walking foot sewing machine. I never was serious enough to buy one. Car interior or sail makers use these.

I have used a 1942 cast iron Singer straight stitch machine to do larger projects. The motor is under powered. So I just slowly turn the hand wheel using my hand. This can work for two layers of auto upholstery leather or two layers of vinyl. A chisel point needle helps.

To speed things up with the hand sewing awl there is a leather punch tool that looks like a little pitchfork. You pound it with a hammer and it makes four holes in a line with equal spacing. This can speed up the process of punching the needle through the material.

Like this:

https://www.leathercrafttools.com/tools ... h/list.jsp

I've never used one of these either.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Mon Apr 18, 2016 8:09 pm

I just made a new discovery for this thread.

I found leather sewing needles on eBay made by the Organ Needle company. They are sewing machine needles with a special grind on their tip just like those that come with the commercial sewing awl.

Not sure how describe it, but they look like a dagger at the end rather than a cone. I chose these sizes. You can buy single needles for $0.99 including shipping. These two sizes cover fine to heavy.

22/140

24/180

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Another great discovery is heavy Nylon and Polyester upholstery thread. Joanne's carries small 100yd spools for $3-$5. I bought a lifetime supply (3000yds) from a vendor on eBay for $6. This stuff is STRONG. I used some to sew a belt to my new motorcycle jacket (Bought new jacket made for guys with poor shoulder to waist ratio as 7wannabe would say ;) ). Good for outdoor product repairs. I tried to break some in my fingers and darn near cut em off.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Sun Mar 26, 2017 8:39 pm

argh, double post, sorry!
Last edited by Sclass on Sun Mar 26, 2017 8:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Sclass
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Sun Mar 26, 2017 8:39 pm

DSKla wrote:
Sun May 03, 2015 11:55 am
Awesome post! What would you recommend for larger projects with thick stuff by hand?
Okay, I finally bought one. I got a walking foot sewing machine for $230 including shipping. Sounds like a lot when you can get a cheap plastic sewing machine at Walmart for $40. But this machine will sew thick stuff. This beast will sew 1/4" leather. It sounds like a jackhammer as it goes through. Clones of the original Thompson Walking Foot Industrial machine, these go by the names Sailrite, Omega, Family Sew, Barracuda, Consew and mine, Camper's Tentmaker which is the bottom of the bucket. It needed a lot of adjusting and oiling when I got it but it is ticking like a fine Chinese watch now. And boy does it sew leather among other very thick materials. It'll do car upholstery and awning fabric all day long. A big improvement over hand stitching where precision stitch placement is less important than laying down lotsa stitches fast.

The machine.

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The walking foot. It is like having feed dogs on the top and bottom of the fabric. This prevents thick loads from slipping relative to one another while feeding.

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Sews thick stuff. Like this. Easy.

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So my neighbor was dumpstering her leather party clothes from the 90s. They are old fashioned and she didn't want to be seen in them. So I fished out the leather stuff. Ohhh man, what are those ribbon loops for on the inside of the waistband of red mini skirt? :?

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My old EDC change purse was looking pretty tired after a decade of EDC. I needed to make a new one. I made the old one from a deer skin bought at a garage sale for $1. Walmart zipper for pennies. Well, it is well worn and in need of replacement. It was always a struggle making these on my home sewing machine.

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Time to rip apart the sexy disco clothes! So today I sewed this up from the cuff of the leather pants. I couldn't see myself wearing leather pants and better yet, they didn't fit. So I took the rotary cutter to them. (new discovery, cheap rotary cutter from China ebay is excellent for cutting leather sheets for only $1.50, basically a razor sharp pizza cutter with a 1" wheel.)

Here is the finished coin purse. I use it to carry change, my pocket knife and loupe.

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Excellent quality leather and excellent stitch quality from the Chinese machine.

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Looking forward to making more stuff. It was odd getting the leather garments. There is so much good material thrown out because it just isn't cool anymore. They were happy to see them go though they seemed slightly bothered when I said I was going to make things out of the leather. What if I said I was going to wear the miniskirt!?! :|

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vexed87
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by vexed87 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:27 am

That's a nice project, was fitting the zipper a simple affair?

I can't be the only one here who wants to see Sclass in a miniskirt, really, no, really?

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 5:28 am

@vexed87: Cosign. Here are some design suggestions:

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@SClass: Seriously, that is a super-cool machine and project. It reminds me of the rule that all you really need to start a new business is a new tool.

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Sclass
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:26 am

I'd put on the mini skirt if I could look like that. I actually considered wearing the leather pants. The butt seems roomy enough but the waist is too small.

The zipper is easy. The hard part is the ends and how you terminate them. On this pouch I tried something new. I used a lighter to fuse the nylon together rather than sewing on a zipper stop. We will see how it lasts.

I've started a couple of businesses. it's a great way to kill my love for something. I'll do some awnings for my friend's place for free. But yeah, a good tool does open up the possibility of business.

Edit - this reminded me of a great story. We had a family friend who fled Poland at VE Day in a truck. She said her mom only brought her dad's candle making knives. Today they own one of the biggest candle companies in Germany.

Just knocked out another coin purse. My first one seemed small. I was thinking I'd like to carry less rather than more but I decided I could try a bigger one to handle a bigger pocket knife and a larger loupe.

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:D

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by C40 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:05 pm

Ok, you've inspired me to try repairing some leather gloves...

I have two pairs of really really nice, super high end leather gloves for bicycling. For how awesome they are, they were suprisingly cheap when on sale ($100), which is why I bought an extra pair. I've had them for 8-10 years. They're the kind of gloves that you buy a little tight and then they stretch a bit to fit your hands perfectly. Now, the company that made them stopped and only makes traditional cloth gloves or ones that don't look durable.. and I suspect nothing comparable is available from other bicycle related companies. Both pairs have suffered damage from crashes back when I was racing, and at least one glove has parts where the seams have given out. I've been thinking I need to find someone who can sew leather for me, but now I think I may just try myself. I'll probably only be able to fix the parts where the seams failed, for now at least, and if that goes really well, maybe I'll try to figure out how to fix the crashed damaged parts (may need some more leather for ~patches)

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Sclass
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:26 pm

Gloves are complicated. The good ones are made of lotsa little panels.

My approach would be to take apart the seams with a seam ripper or exacto knife on the sections with the damaged panels then trace out new patterns. Get some good leather - preferably from somebody's out of date jacket at the thrift shop :D . If the seams are ripped, the holes in the leather may be torn.

THen hand sew the panel in. The trick to precise hand sewing is getting the holes pricked in first. Don't try to force a needle through without poking the holes out in advance. There are a ton of YouTube videos showing the process on things like wallets and watch bands. It's slow but you can lay down really precise stitching which is what you'll need for high end gloves. You can even perforate the panels with a small diameter metal tube from an old pen cartridge or something like that. Sounds like a challenging project but given the cost of the gloves well worth the time.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 7:16 am

SClass said: I've started a couple of businesses. it's a great way to kill my love for something. I'll do some awnings for my friend's place for free. But yeah, a good tool does open up the possibility of business.
Passion obliterated on the grid of a spreadsheet, like a steel masher coming down hard on a hot sweet potato. Yeah, BTDT, but it's not terminal, and to some extent avoidable (methinks.) For instance, the new tool that is my garden is probably going to produce more than I can use (barring extreme preservation/canning for future me) this summer, so rather than jumping right into the market, I will maybe start with some kind of friends-and-family CSA barter arrangement. IOW, avoid rigid plan towards maximizing financial profits, focus more on organic growth.

A while back I read an article written by some wildly successful entrepreneur (can't recall name) and he said he got his start as a kid selling firecrackers to his playmates. It has to be about really liking something yourself and wanting to help others get some too. Thus, my theoretically soon (or never) to be published title "The GILF's Guide to Sex with the Over 50 Man." If you would like to reach the same customer base with a line of custom-made leather and stretch lace corsets, we could maybe share data. :lol:

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:49 pm

Watchband!

Hey I made a watchband out of some material from an old leather chair (outside band) and a purse (soft liner). This thing looks pretty good. Two layers glued together then stitched with black nylon upholstery thread. I used a leather punch tool to make a single hole since it is my custom band and I know exactly how long it needs to be.

Overall. I have a very skinny wrist so I hate bands that hang over too long where I have to be on the last hole. This one is perfect for me of course.

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I lined it with some softer calfskin from a discarded purse. Same disco neighbor.

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Some detail of the stitching:

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The best part! A custom fit! Only one hole in the band.
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Fri May 05, 2017 10:41 pm

Some new stuff made with discarded textiles.

Neighbor dumped a leather sectional couch. It was a whopper. I got this big haul of leather in ten minutes with my swiss army knife.

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I made a gun case for one of my pump up air rifles. I used to just tape up pieces of cardboard to make envelopes to keep them from banging on each other in storage. Now I can have a leather case. This one was a lot of work. Since the panels were cushion sized scraps I needed to panelize the design. I did top stitching to make the seams look nice. This was pretty hard because I had to sew through three layers of leather. The shuttle hook skipped the top thread on a few stitches. Seems to be figity about tension. Next time around (I have four of these toy rifles) I'll laminate in some padding and liner. I think some leftover shipping foam will make a nice padded sandwich since the couch leather is only 1.5mm thick.

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Like everything I've been making, there are mistakes. But it is fun.

Next I needed a sheath for a sushi knife that was looking very dangerous in my knife drawer. SO actually chipped the brittle blade on another kitchen tool. So I wondered if I could sew milk carton plastic. Here is the result.

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Needs a little hair dryer to flatten it out.

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Machine seems to be able to handle the material.

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Finished Sheath.

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Full of mistakes and design flaws, but it keeps the blade off my hands when I dig around in my kitchen drawer.

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My SO upgraded her purse and I found this in the trash. She swore it was leather and that it was expensive. :o

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They all look the same to me. I cut it up and to her great shock it was fake leather. :cry: :roll: Well that doesn't stop me from recycling the fake fabric. It was pretty tough plastic. I needed a little holster to hold my tiny garage remote control to my sun visor in my car. And here it is.

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These projects are fun but they are a lot of work. Free material doesn't mean totally free I guess. It is fun to salvage free leather off the curb. I've learned about the different grades of couches out there. Most of the ones I find are mid range split leather. Not exactly high end handbag material.

Next will probably be a tool roll or two to organize the jumble of wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers I carry on my motorcycle and car. This is where a custom design will pay off because I'll be able to make exactly what I require.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by jennypenny » Sat May 06, 2017 4:39 pm

I like the idea of sewing the milk carton material. Glueing it for garden projects is difficult. Sewing it would reinforce it enough for the glue to hold steady.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by George the original one » Sat May 06, 2017 8:42 pm

Ooo, I like the salvaged couch leather! Not to mention sewing the milk container plastic... that's pretty dang cool.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Sat May 06, 2017 10:43 pm

Yeah, I really like the toughness of the milk jugs. I've wanted to stitch them into designs for awhile but I don't have too many ideas. I need to sit down and think. A few years ago I thought of stitching it into the bottom of a leather tool bag on my Harley. After years of riding, the screwdrivers drilled through the bottom of the leather bag. I solved it without sewing by making a bucket out of a half gallon milk jug and putting it in the bag.

Recently I've been wondering if I could incorporate little plates of milk jug into my clothes as scale armor. I'm not sure why :lol: it's just a solution looking for a problem. I could survive a volley of soft air BBs :lol: .

It's one of those things I toss out but I just dream of finding a use for the material. Maybe a jailhouse plastic knife? I do the mini bucket thing and the funnel trick but I haven't quite jumped over to sewing plates of jug into my elbows or knees on my clothing. I don't roll around on the ground enough.

Another idea is making a vacuum forming machine to use small chits of milk carton to form useful objects like jello molds. My knife sheath is coming apart. I put a rib of leather into the scabbard to keep the blade off the stitching but my SO figured out how to move the very sharp edge around the leather guard. The stitch got nicked and now it's coming apart.

It seems like such a great way to armor a textile...I just don't know what right now.

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Sclass
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Sun May 07, 2017 8:16 pm

Between breakfast and lunch I knocked this together. I needed to organize my tools on my dirt bike. They were wrapped in a rag then stuffed in a capsule under the frame. This is a much nicer way to keep things in place. Couch leather again. I used the cuttings left over from the rifle cases.

Layout was pretty easy. I just put my tools out on the table and started tracing where they should fit in a roll. Then I stitched the compartments.

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Great duct tape trick JP. Thanks for the tip. :D

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by George the original one » Sun May 07, 2017 9:12 pm

Sclass wrote:
Sat May 06, 2017 10:43 pm
My knife sheath is coming apart. I put a rib of leather into the scabbard to keep the blade off the stitching but my SO figured out how to move the very sharp edge around the leather guard. The stitch got nicked and now it's coming apart.
I could see that coming. I figured you'd just reverse the knife so it wouldn't be against the stitches, let the plastic take the punishment. Maybe there's a way to encircle the knife so the inside has no exposed stitching?

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Sclass
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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass » Mon May 08, 2017 7:37 am

George the original one wrote:
Sun May 07, 2017 9:12 pm
Sclass wrote:
Sat May 06, 2017 10:43 pm
My knife sheath is coming apart. I put a rib of leather into the scabbard to keep the blade off the stitching but my SO figured out how to move the very sharp edge around the leather guard. The stitch got nicked and now it's coming apart.
I could see that coming. I figured you'd just reverse the knife so it wouldn't be against the stitches, let the plastic take the punishment. Maybe there's a way to encircle the knife so the inside has no exposed stitching?
Yeah. I tied to put that extra layer of leather along the blade's edge like you see in leather sheaths. The problem is the milk carton is ever so slightly warped and the blade sneaks past the centerline of the leather and pokes the stitching. The knife is very pointed and it is razor sharp. I would put it in backwards but my SO needs a more idiot proof system.

I like the idea of another milk carton liner perhaps folded the other way. I can probably secure it with a small pop rivet. I was thinking of just using pop rivets but I don't want them running against the blade's edge.

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Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by jennypenny » Mon May 08, 2017 7:49 am

Can you melt some wax along the threads? I've also used nail polish to strengthen threads. Not sure if either would bother the blade.

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