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Old 03-15-2006, 06:37 PM
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Sewing Machine tips

Just wanted to know if anyone here has actually sewn their own interiors?
If so, have you used your own machine or borrowed the use of someones elses? Secondly I'm not sure whether I want to go leather or Vinyl or if there are any special technical details I need to adhere to.

If you have done your own, pics?

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Old 03-15-2006, 07:05 PM
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Sewn my own tonneau cover for my truck and seat covers for my golf cart.....Just used an old portable sewing machine. Worked out OK, but probably would have been easier with an industrial unit. There are some pros here that will probably answer.
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Old 03-16-2006, 01:57 PM
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I purchased a used industrial sewing machine almost 15 years ago. I learned what little I know from watching someone else and sewing on scrap material. The machine paid for itself on the first car. I have done several more since then. I do have a lot more respect for a good upholstery person. Good luck!
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Old 03-16-2006, 02:16 PM
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Thanks =), when I was young I had ambitions to be a straight fashion designer so I'm fairly good with a machine.. did you used leather or vinyl?
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Old 03-16-2006, 02:53 PM
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OIL MACHINE ON EVERY START UP or 2 hours of sew. Oil bobbin case and 1 drop in bobbin holder cup when changing (dont over oil bobbin cup or you can have free spins)

Clean feed dog area and bobbin case area with wisk brush when closing up shop (especially if using high nap fabric)

When sewing try to place straightest peice on bottom and curved peice on top. Top layers is contol peice and easier to turn.

When sewing larger peices place heavier peice on bottom because the feed dog (part moving in bed of machine) will pull part through more easily.

When first starting to sew place Key marks (slits cut into both parts short of your sew line) approximately 3" a part. it will give you better reference for alignment as you go until you get a good feel for the machine.

Grip the bottom layer with your right hand and work the top peice with your left.

If you are not lining up with the notches as you sew hold back the piece that is getting into the feet area first until the other piece catches up.

Keep the top piece elevated off the bottom until about a 1/2" infront of the feet on a curved area. Lay the two peices together on straight areas.

Cut vinyl parts with the stretch of the material going across the shortest pattern width to minimize stretching during sew and build.

Back tack (doubling up by either reversing or raising needle to the top and pulling material back to resew on non reverse machines) all starts and stops at least 5 stitches to keep seam closed.

Always spin machine forward (reversing hand wheel causes skiped stitches and jams)

Bobbins spin counter clockwise.

Needles are threaded left to right

slot in needle goes to the left.

There are a ton more but this should be a good start.

Good luck and watch those fingers. I always recommend safety glasses as a precaution. I used to sew production and saw many a finger run though and when needles break they dont always stay in the material!
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Old 03-16-2006, 03:03 PM
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Now, that should go in the Knowledge Base.
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Old 03-16-2006, 07:17 PM
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Hi. I used to be a sewing machine mechanic in a clothing shop. I have done this for about 38 years. Although I still work on machines, it is not in the same setting. I have seen many machines that were used for upholstry under commercial circumstances and none of them were just household machines. If you are just thinking of a repair, you would probably be fine if you just took it slow. But if you wanted to do more than that, I would not entertain the idea of doing it yourself. If you have no experience in sewing, there is more to this than meets the eye. The only type of machine to use is a machine that has, what they call a "walking foot". It is a two piece foot and while sewing, half the foot is on the material at all times and actually helps to pull the material from the top as the feeder underneath, is pulling from the bottom. This type of machine is an animal and will sew anything you could put under the foot. As you sew smaller pieces of material together, it will start to get heavy and bulky and a non comercial machine would never take it. Also there are different types of feet that can be used such as a "cording foot". This is what helps to guide the cording on the material. If not sure, cording is the bead around the edge of some seats, for example. This machine could be purchased for your use and probably sold after for as much as you paid for it. Used of course from a commercial machine dealer. They buy whole shops out then re-sell. Honestly though, like I said, if it is more than repair, an you have no sewing experience, I think you will just be frustrated. I don't want to shoot you down, but I gave you my honest opinion. Hope this helped.
Dennis
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Old 03-17-2006, 05:43 PM
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leather itself?

Are there different grades of leather, ie: thickness or stretchability?
if so: which is most commonly used and for what reasons?
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Old 03-19-2006, 07:48 AM
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As I mentioned, I have worked on sewing machines for a long time in a commercial atmosphere, but don't know alot on specifics of material. I do know that material for the most part does not stretch very much or not at all either straight or sideways but does stretch on a bias (diagonally). As far as grade, I'm sure there different ones but, don't know much about that. Get in touch with an upholstry shop in your area and I'm sure they they can help you with that as well as selling material to you. As far as thickness, again I'm sure there are various thicknesses and there is one best suited for the application you are using it for. Talk to someone in that spicific trade for the correct answer. I can fix many different types of sewing machines, but don't know much about material specifically. One other thing is to ask is about the type of thead to use. It would probably be a nylon type and much thicker and pretty much unbreakable with you hands. Because of the thicker thread, it may not work on just a plain home sewing machine. I hope I have helped you somewhat.
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Old 03-20-2006, 06:13 PM
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sewing machine

i did my first upholstery on a Davis machine foot pedal operated my mother bought in the 1920's for house hold use It has what is called a walking needle, the needle moves to feed the material sometimes if the material will not move freely on your table use thin tisue paper gift wrap under your fabric then you can pull it off when you are finished, I have a thompson short arm $500 machine i use most of the time it works great except is a short arm so it is hard to do large work. I have an old cowboy boot machine that was used to do the fancy patterns but it is worn and skips stitches also a singer that need rebuilt and i forget what the other one is if you plan your work so you are not sewing thru very many layers you can use some house hold machines but it is difficult.
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Old 03-21-2006, 03:38 PM
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Machines that wok as descibed in the last post are called slipper foot machines in which the needle heavily pivots fore and aft and the material slips between the foot hence the name.

Most Industrial machines have a needle that is travels in an relatively straight vertical movement (the travel increases as the stitch length increases) and depend on the relationship of the rear "walking" foot and the feed dog speed to pull the material through the machine bed.

A walking foot machine is prefered for jobs that have large thickness stacks that would prevent material from flowing through the slipper foot area and rely on the rigidity of the needle travel vertically to allow for larger needle diameters to puncture the materials.

There are many different types of manufactures out there and they have variations that manufactures contest make thier machines better than others. One thing is for certain there are 2 work horses that stand out from all others. One is a Singer 111 or 211 model and the other is a Juki 562 or 563.

The mechanics of these machines are the benchmark for may industrial sewing facilites and their availability for parts and cost make them the leaders.

Consews are the next in line just be careful on the bobbin case location. There are models out there with side loading bobbins with cap cases that make them a bit more troublesome to the everyday user.

Setting of stitch lengths, walk heights and timing as well as some other factors in sewing are up to debate on which of these is the best. Consews have a simple stitch length selection adjuster on some models that are tied into the reversing mechanism but you will not typically want to move beyond the 4 to 5 stitches per inch realm that is a standard perforation density for cover durability.

But one thing I have found is that the grade and availability of parts for the Juki and Singers machines tend to be more inexpensive and are easier to get than any other machine.

There are 2 machines that as a Hobbiest I would stay away from and it has nothing to do with quality they are good machines but parts are expensive and foot cost for different types of sewing tends to be a bit inflated.

One machine is a PFAFF, it is a great machine too but feet dont work on any other type of machine as they are designed dramatically different (round rear foot mount vs Slot) and a set of feet are usually 30 bucks more than Singers or Juki. The other is a Brother. Replacement parts are not readily available or as inexpensive for the average joe.

If you are serious about sewing ALOT and I mean more than your own car, I recommend a Large Bobbin with Reverse Singer or Juki and you get a full foot, a welting foot (for the diameter of welt you want to use) and a half foot (a rear foot with the outside toe removed)

As for needles which I havent mentioned there are different types of needles for different types of material. Leather you want a diamond shaped tip for body cloth it is a ball tipped (SUK) to prevent fiber cutting. The average needle size is a 22 for Vinyl/leather an 19 for Bodycloth.

Thead size is a what they call a tex 90 but you can use as little as a tex 70. The tex 90 is heavier and is what the OEM's use. Material should be a NYLON. do not mix Nylon and polyester threads together as the Nylon will cut the Polyester over time.

I will add more as comments or questions specific to the topic arise. Sorry I didnt add to the leather question but it is another topic not common to this thread.
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Old 03-25-2006, 07:58 AM
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Thanks Creative for those awesome tips!!

I bought my Singer 111 about 8 years ago to sew up a seat for a Jeep go-cart I built for my kids, and have no regrets doing so. At first, it took me a while to get the hang of it, ( I was threading the needle from the wrong side)but after a while things started to look better and better.You can see pictures of it at www.geocities.com/dantechfab

I would recommend Holden to go out and buy a used machine, and have fun with it. I disagree with Bassman that the project should be taken to an upholstery shop. The whole reason behind Hot-Rodding, is to do stuff ourselves, and with common sense and a bit of skill the end result will be as good as most professionals. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in my experience over the years, I have found that only about 10% of so-called "professionals" in any given trade are worthy of their craft. The other 90% do an OK job, or are total hackers. I'm a tool maker by trade and I see this everyday. To me a professional lives and breathes his trade on and off the job.

Dan
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Old 04-25-2006, 02:41 PM
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I am an upholstery professional, and I agree with some of the things you said..........there are indeed a lot of "upholsterers" out there that are self-taught hackers, that's why you ask for references and look at work they have done. Just because a guy glued a piece of vinyl to his door panels doesn't make him an upholsterer. If you want to do the upholstery on your car, more power to you, but remember that there is no substitute in any skilled trade for the right tools, knowledge of the "tricks of the trade", and experience. There is also nothing more humbling than screwing up a $400 cow hide. In my experience, the area that gets the least attention in most hot rods is the interior. You'll spend thousands of dollars to put a super paint job on your car and then cobble together a home-made interior. Where's the logic in that? Good luck with all your upholstery endeavors. (By the way, if you can't spell upholsterer without going to the dictionary, you ain't one!)
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Old 04-27-2006, 12:44 AM
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HEMI, great reply. I started interiors by going to wrecking yards and buying seats that would match color and design of the cat I was working on. Then I ordered material that matched the seat from Detriot Auot Body t do the door panels and headliners. Won afew best interiors this way. Finally bought a cheap Tuff Sew machne on ebay. Since bought a Consew Industrial on e bay. The Key was to get Ron Mangus book Custom Auto Upholstery. I self taught and have done several friends cars since last 2 years mainly 356 Porsches. Check out journal ' snkbyt' 36 Ford 3 window. HEMI good writing and advice.
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Old 04-27-2006, 07:32 AM
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Snkbyt: Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the average guy can't learn to do his own interiors, but you have to start someplace, and learn a lot of basic skills. Getting the Mangus book was a great way to begin. You'll have to agree that it's not easy to do a great interior, and that practice makes perfect. I'm sure your first attempt would not have won any awards.
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