Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

What skills to learn, what tools to get
Mrs Riggerjack
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2019 4:48 pm

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Mrs Riggerjack »

Now this is my kind of thread! I thought I was sewing some thick stuff, but it is only pleather. Riggerjack spotted a sewing related auction and bought me 20 end of the rolls of mixed fabric and fake leather as well as 5 upholstery sample books, a coffee table and a Wheeler and Wilson treadle sewing machine all for $50. I've been making bags since I finally got it organized to where I could use it.

But this is no leather and milk cartons! Impressed!
I like the lead on the heavy duty sewing machines with integrated walking foot. The Wheeler and Wilson should do leather without flinching, but a walking foot! I wants...

I got some invisible thread that I thought would be just the thing for all the various colors of pleather, but it is kind of too thick so now I have fishing line, I guess. It is the only thread I have tried on the W&W yet, and that went okay-ish, so now I think I need to load up some regular thread and see what it can really do. (Also, I can't treadle, that's going to take some practice.)

George the original one
Posts: 5364
Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:28 am
Location: Wettest corner of Orygun

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by George the original one »

Mrs Riggerjack wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 3:36 pm
I got some invisible thread that I thought would be just the thing for all the various colors of pleather, but it is kind of too thick so now I have fishing line, I guess.
Monofilament or braided fishing line?

Mrs Riggerjack
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2019 4:48 pm

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Mrs Riggerjack »

George the original one wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 6:12 pm
Monofilament or braided fishing line?
Monofilament. I'll probably string beads with it if I can find a way to tie it off tidily. It is quite wiry for "thread". Looked it back up, .2mm is a little too beefy.

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

Try melting the ends into a ball.

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 12975
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by jacob »

Abusing a soldering iron(*) makes for a controlled way of melting compared to a lighter/match.
The iron is also useful to keep nylon straps from unraveling while leaving a nice finish.

(*) Alternatively, heat a piece of metal and use that instead.

Mrs Riggerjack
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2019 4:48 pm

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Mrs Riggerjack »

That's smart. I had some flower petal bead caps I was going to wrap the knot with, but melting it into a tidier and tinier shape sounds even better!

sky
Posts: 1185
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by sky »

Here is what I spent my fun money on this month:

Hand sewn backpacking quilt

https://youtu.be/u1r8bttgd8o

The finished product might be comparable to this, except mine has draft stoppers:

https://enlightenedequipment.com/revela ... -40-stock/

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

I made some bags to organize my socket wrenches. I got tired of replacing the thick ziplock bags I currently use.

Problem, I use these 3 mil ziplocks to store my deep sockets. They get cracked and torn and I regularly replace them. I decided I wanted something a little more permanent.

Image

Go to my hoard of trash and I have some heavy clear vinyl from a discarded pool floating chair. I knew it would be useful for something like a passport holder or luggage tag so I kept it. And, a rice bag. The pandemic has emptied the whole bag. How long has it been anyway? Really tough material. Woven plastic fiber covered in some mylar material. I am blown away by how tough this stuff is. Makes great shopping bags.

Image

Make patterns. Use junkmail coated cardstock. This is a great material for mixing paint or glue too. Just save all the crap the real estate people leave at the door.

Image

Sew. The inside of the rice bag is silver. The clear vinyl allows me to see what is inside the bag of tools.

Image

Done. Back of the bags.

Image
Done, front of the bags. You can really see what is in the bags. I think I need some snaps.

Image

I have these snap kits from ebay. They used to cost $1 each. Including a stamping tool and some punches to press the snaps into the fabric. Worth keeping a couple of kits around just for things like this. I really like snaps. They're a clever way to hold things together and the spring mechanism wears a long time.

Image

Ahhh, snaps much better.

Image

Now that looks a lot better. I think I'll make a little box out of a one gallon milk jug to store them. Trash to treasure.

Image

Cute design. A great way to use up an hour of my life in lockdown.

Image

horsewoman
Posts: 542
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by horsewoman »

this is really cool!!

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

Thanks!

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

Three years ago I made new panel for my car seat cover. I posted it up in this thread. Jul 2017. Unfortunately I read over the post and I was congratulating myself over finding really cheap vinyl upholstery. It was too cheap. It lasted three years. Got a hole in exactly the same place. Right on the bolster. I decided to repair it again. This time I bought material that was $30 a yard rather than $6 a yard. Hopefully it'll last longer. I decided to do a little more photo documentation of the job.

This is work. It is doable but it is a little tough. But, the seat covers on a Mercedes are terribly expensive. I can get prefab ones but they cost a fortune. The originals were made out of MBtex fabric. This is a German textile that has amazing durability. Mine has lasted 40 years and now needs attention. I think the last time I checked I could get it by the yard at $60. I decided that I'd just use marine grade vinyl. I think this is still a money saver and worth doing. Upholstery repair costs a lot when done properly - which is basically deconstructing the seat, removing the damaged panel and sewing in new panels. This took about four hours. A new seat cover costs $500, installation is about $400.

The tear. It's a small hole but it is going to grow. The top layer has actually delaminated from the fabric backing. The slight deviation of the stitch was a mistake I made three years ago. I was off a few mm on the seam and it messed up the curve of the bolster. Funny thing is I copied the panel for this project and I copied the mistake again. I probably shouldn't have used and exact tracing of the first pattern knowing it was flawed.
Image

The seat needs to be stripped down to get access to the hog rings, j clips and hardware that holds it snug to the seat cushion. All this stuff needs to be removed and the seat cover gets peeled off the seat.
Image

You just take it off like taking off a sweater after all the brackets are removed.
Image

Now to deconstruct the cover. I use a razor blade to split the stitches without damaging the panels. Here is the offending panel. It has a weak felt backing on it unlike the original German textile.
Image

Mark up the panels so you know how the entire puzzle fits together. This is important because the curves of neighboring pieces create the contours of the seat. Points along one periphery must match points on the other periphery.
Image

Here's my new fabric. Wow I bought 1 yd and it is too much. I needed just a little off the end of the little roll. It is 1yd wide and maybe 5' long.
Image

Trace the old panel and cut it out. Rotary cutter is fast and accurate.
Image

Now match up all your markings and reassemble the puzzle using a sewing machine. I'm using The Beast here. Like usual I had to fiddle with the needle type and diameter to get proper top tension with the particular thread and textile combo. Leather and thick vinyl are very unforgiving materials. Too small a needle and too thick a thread will create too much tension and mess up the stitch. It is a fiddle factor. I play with multiple sizes of needles till I get the stitch quality I like. Once the machine is set up, the stitching is actually pretty fast and easy. It's like most of my sewing projects, the cutting seems to be the most time consuming. The machine just buzzes through the stitching. I use a cording foot on the walking foot sewing machine since there is a piping on the seam. I'm sewing four layers of vinyl and 3mm of J-hook. The machine has a huge flywheel so there is a lot of leverage for slow methodical stitching.
Image

Thick upholstery is fiddly. It may seem like a simple jump from fabric but it is different enough to cause a lot of frustration. Holes cannot be unpoked. Mistakes are permanent. Thread friction can wreak havoc on stitch consistency while you punch through multiple layers say 2 to 4 on a single stitch during a transition. Needle points - chisel or ball create different effects. Thread twist, bonding and polymer type changes friction. Since the loop formation is kind of dynamic process this variability can really cause a lot of inconsistency. Oil content in the leather is also a factor because it can make the needle stick or slip depending on how waxy it is. Vinyl refurb is tricky because old vinyl is hard and brittle while new panels are blended in that are compliant. Best to experiment a lot and stick with known combos of thread, needle and material. I ended up using a #21 round point needle.

And here is the finished product. Just one panel replaced. I'm lazy. The rest of the seat is still good. No sense in replacing the material at this point.
Image

Installing is like stretching a leather jacket over a fat person. It takes a lot of pulling and squeezing to get the cover stretched over the seat cushion. Then the brackets, hog rings and hardware has to go back in. Fiddly. My fingers ache now. I massaged it awhile to work the wrinkles out. I may hit it with my steamer to soften some of the tension points. Parking in the sun and just driving around in the car a few weeks really helps to smooth out the wrinkles. It's amazing seeing my first panel when I removed it take a convex form after being on the seat three years. It was hard to flatten out during the copying step.

Okay, that's it. Not perfect. My stitch wandered around a bit. I didn't use a really good table to support the piece but I think it'll be good enough to use.

Image

horsewoman
Posts: 542
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by horsewoman »

Wow, that's one hell of a project! Well done, I'm slightly awed...
I'm more and more intrigued by this machine. My Juki is a workhorse, but this would be too much her, I suppose. Which elna model is yours?

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

@horsewoman if you saw it up close with all the stitching flaws you may not be so impressed. If I did it a second time it would be better. Wait, this is my second time so I think if I did it a third time it would be better. It has some crooked stitching and wrinkles in the wrong places. It’s amazing how professionals can fit automotive seat covers so well. It is like sewing a form fitting garment with material that doesn’t stretch much. What I know I learned watching YouTube videos on the Sailrite channel.

This machine isn’t an Elna. Those are fine Swiss watches compared to this beast. Like I’ve said before using an Elna is like driving a sports car while using this upholstery machine is like driving a big tractor.

The machine is an inexpensive Chinese copy of Sailrite LS1 called a Camper’s Tent Maker.
https://www.sailrite.com/Sewing-Machine ... 3400025487

I got it for $200 including then added $100 of upgraded parts from Sailrite. It’s such a close copy you can replace the critical precision components with pricey Sailrite parts to improve its performance. These clone machines sell under the names Rex, Tuff Sew, Sew Line, Camper’s Tent Maker, Reliable Barracuda et al. They are all copies of a machine made by Thompson, a bankrupt American firm bought out by Sailrite.

Mine was a “Camper’s Tent Maker.” Really a cheap version. It worked but it was really noisy and hard to control. After taking it apart, polishing rough machining work, lubricating and timing I got it to sew very well. It was a big project and I probably put in enough hours to buy a Sailrite LS1 had I been working for minimum wage. But it was fun and I learned how the machine worked.

It felt like fixing up an old Mercedes for personal use. Actually it felt like buying a Lada Riva and installing some Mercedes parts to make it reliable to use the car analogy. It basically paid for itself in one big repair job.

It’s very good for leather and thick vinyl. If I can get the material under the foot it’ll sew it. It’s also good for nylon webbing used in automotive seat belts. It will do what a hand sewing awl does just faster and with a consistent stitch length.

A good tool to have around. I sewed awnings, wallets, shoes, camera bags, seat covers, purses and a bunch of other things I show in this thread.

horsewoman
Posts: 542
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by horsewoman »

@sclass - since I can easily imagine how difficult this was, I'm awed - never mind some wonky stitches!

Oh, I thought I've read in some thread that your machine was an elna.
I've been hitting ebay and there are some vintage (Swiss made) elnas to be had, from German and British sellers - close proximity to Switzerland probably helps in this case. I'll observe the market for a while to see what's a good going price. Especially for repairing horse gear I'm often hesitant to use (and possibly damage) my Juki.

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

@horsewoman, yes I have two Elnas that I talk about a lot here. They’re really nice machines for alterations and making masks. These are light duty machines for home use. Very durable, quiet, and easy to restore. My favorites are the 62c and it’s related models. I don’t use these for heavy materials. The best place to find them is from dead grandmas. They were popular from 1968 - 75. Over here the best prices are found at either second hand stores or from families selling a dead grandma’s stuff. The dealers and collectors want too much money.

Not sure if you actually need one given your other machines. But...collecting old machines is fun and addictive.

The advantage of the portable walking foot is the walking foot. The motor isn’t that big but it does have a big handwheel to generate torque. I had to add this on because the original was so small it had two speeds - super fast and stopped. The giant wheel added more torque and slower speed.

My guess is your Juki can sew heavy material. First I would get some big leather point needles capable of handling upholstery thread. These “cut” a hole rather than just poke it and make it easier on the machine. The other thing to try is sewing without motor power. Turn the handwheel by hand and see how much stress you are putting on the machine. That way you’ll be able to control how much load you’re putting on the gears. If it can handle hand power you can add some motor power slowly. The Juki is a tough machine. The fact your machine has “needle feeding” makes it likely to work well. I’d start with single layers of thin leather then work up to thicker loads.

I suspect the challenge won’t be machine damage or power. It will be reliable hook and loop formation and consistent feeding when the material gets thick. You can easily test this by hand cranking and gradually increasing thickness. You’ll probably find you need to play around with foot pressure and top tension to get it to work.

Some saddle work maybe too thick for any machine. I think some of the seams on horse bridles and saddles are hand punched and “saddle stitched” with hand tools. I like these tools for repairing really heavy leather cases. They’re good if you don’t have many stitches.

For punching,
Image

For sewing,
Image

Good luck. I’d love to hear if it works.

horsewoman
Posts: 542
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by horsewoman »

Actually I seldom have to repair leather stuff, these items are pretty well-made. If something breaks, I do repair it by hand. My youngster recently tore of the side strip of his leather halter, I'm going to punch small holes in the strip and tie it to the other side with a thin leather ribbon.
The awkward repair jobs are those when things made of synthetic break. The material is a pretty stiff and bulky polyester webbing, and often two or more layers. If I manage to get the stuff under the foot, the needle will invariably block or break, the JUKI beeping like crazy.
Seams by hand are a PITA and often don't hold, because of the forces a moving horse releases... (Fun fact - my husband fell off a horse exactly once in the last 17 years... because a repair job of mine failed, and he went off right along with the saddle. How embarrassing, I'll never live it down!).

I'll try using the hand wheel the next time something breaks!

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

On my quest to sew thick materials I’ve encountered the problem of accessing tight corners in bags. Sometimes I just cannot get into a tight spot with a flat bed machine. Even a free arm doesn’t sew close enough to an edge to sew a sole on a shoe. I ran into this issue with my camera bag design. I can visualize the design and make a pattern, but because of the machine geometry I cannot sew it the way I want it especially when I finish up the design and the bottom of the bag has corners I just cannot navigate with my machine. Hand sewing is an option but it takes a lot of time.

I compromised by using my machine to perforate the stitch holes first then I’d assemble the pieces using hand sewing. But I recently got a repair on an old suitcase where the edging needs to be stitched around the panels of leather and the flat bed machine just cannot do it due to the inflexible nature of the leather. Changing direction is almost impossible to because the workpiece crashes into the machine in ways I cannot deal with. I started examining purses and luggage and wondered how did they actually machine sew those seams?

I do car interior and most of those seams are designed to be done easily on a flatbed. They are basically tailored for the machine.

But for example say you had to put a patch on a backpack? Even a free arm is difficult because at some point in sewing the patch you have to turn your work 90 degrees to access the entire perimeter of the patch. If the backpack doesn’t flex and fit under the arm it can be hard. So the arm must not only fit into the backpack, you need to be able to twist the backpack 90degrees before reversing to sew a uniform stitch around a round patch. The car interior fitters solution is to put the patch on the panel before assembling the seat cover...but what if you don’t have that option?

I started searching machines for handbags and shoes. There are some very interesting arm designs with the needle and hook placed very far on the end of the arm. These cylindrical machines costs thousands of $ and are found in purse shops.

Then I found this. I have no experience with one but I’m intrigued. The price ($99) is amazing and I thought it would fit well here since we are into low cost solutions.

Image

https://youtu.be/WC0lX-rsPiI

Kind of a poor man’s version of this:

Image

The foot can apparently rotate 360degrees allowing you to sew in any direction in the x-y plane. It isn’t fast but it is a lot faster than hand stitching. Relatively compact. And cheap. There’s one on Amazon for $99 including shipping. They look really primitive and crude but the YouTube video reviews show it making clean stitching through really thick materials.

Something I might buy just to try out. I just fixed some shoes and had a heck of a time sewing the upper down to the sole because the toe was so stiff. It came out awful and I realized the shoe makers have a better tool.

Online under “Chinese leather patcher”

https://simpleshoemaking.com/an-even-mo ... g-machine/

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

Another camera strap. I made another camera strap using a gift card, neck lanyard from the trash and some thread. This time was a little different. Instead of using a machine to sew I decided to do it old school with a curved needle and thread. I used a heated T-pin to melt holes in the card and webbing material before sewing. Came out good, fast and cheap.

Image

Image

Simple tools. Heat pin with lighter, push it through the card and strap.
Image

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2098
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by Sclass »

Just wanted to follow up with my seat repair above. After sitting in the seat a few months and letting the sun shine on it the wrinkles have loosened up. It has also conformed to the curve of the seat a little better. This is how it looks tonight. Not bad.

Image

horsewoman
Posts: 542
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Inexpensive way to sew thick stuff

Post by horsewoman »

Looks great! That's why I love working with fabric/textiles, you can literally iron out the wrinkles (or let the sun do it in this case).

Post Reply