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Thread: What is the 'best' sewing machine

  1. #1
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    Default What is the 'best' sewing machine

    I've been doing a bit of research as we're wanting to buy a sewing machine - we figure the cost will be fairly quickly absorbed by doing our own repairs to sails/ cockpit covers/clears etc. So far the hands down winner has been the zig zag Sail rite machine.
    HOWEVER, I was checking out a local sewing supplier who is keen to sell me an Emery sewing machine manufactured in Taiwan. He reckons they both come from the same factory and is happy to better the cost of shipping the Sail rite to our home port in Northern Australia (although at this point I'm waiting for him to get back to me with the quote.)

    QUESTION; has anyone had experience with the Emery machine?

    I would also really appreciate any other comments with regards what is out there. Shipping costs from US to Australia are around the $300 mark, so we don't want the you beaut, top of the range as it will be beyond our budget. Just an honest, hard working machine that will cope with basic on board repairs and perhaps the odd attempt at our own shade solutions (yep, I want it all!!!!)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Sail Rite concentrates their marketing on the cruising crowd and somehow hsa convinced many people that their machine is the only one to do the job on a cruising boat. ANY decent machine will suffice. We use an old household Singer. All you need is the right assortment of needles and a machine that will do the pattern stitches you might need. That said, Sail Rite's machines seem to have a good reputation.

    2 Hulls Dave

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    We found that the sailrite was a good machine but not as handy with the lighter materials so we settled for a walking foot machine that coped batter with the lighter materials and could still sew bimini covers etc.

    I think when it comes to just the heavier stuff the Sailrite is fine but make sure you get the walking foot.
    Safe Sailing
    Paul
    Blog: www.suliere.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Thanks Paul and Dave for your responses. I must admit I hadn't even considered a domestic machine (been brainwashed I guess - b o a t and all that!)
    Should I be making room for TWO machines????? I accept a walking foot is a given, but is the sail rite a poor performer with the light stuff (ie no good)?
    And, will a good domestic machine work on heavier sails?

    Why is it that nothing ever turns out to be simple!

    Janie

  5. #5
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Yes a machine suitable for the heavy stuff does not handle the lighter stuff too well. We went for a middle machine that handles the middle and lighter stuff and so a mainsail is a no no but a spinnaker and all the normal stuff is OK.

    Lesley researched it well at the time.
    Safe Sailing
    Paul
    Blog: www.suliere.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Quote Originally Posted by winch wench View Post
    Should I be making room for TWO machines????? I accept a walking foot is a given, but is the sail rite a poor performer with the light stuff (ie no good)?
    And, will a good domestic machine work on heavier sails?
    I've used my Sailrite machine on light materials - it will do the job okay, but because it is chunky and heavy, I prefer to use a very lightweight portable domestic machine for the flimsier fabrics. Crazy to have two sewing machines aboard, I know, but there are other cruisers I know who do the same. My domestic machine is about 28 years old, still going strong and weighs next to nothing - and a big plus - takes up very little room.

    Btw - Sailrite's after sales service is just fabulous. Even got their own forum for answering problems and getting advice. And emails are answered very pronto.

    Agree with Paul and Dave, there are other very good alternatives, but Sailrite, I can testify, deserves its reputation.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    We have not had the need - yet - to attempt sail repairs, so I cannot comment on our Singer's ability in that regard. However, we have done a couple projects with Sunbrella and the thick material used in cockpit seat covers and our old Singer worked just fine. So I suspect sails would not be a problem.

    Ditto Karen - I did not mean to denigrate Sail Rite in my first response. I think they do a terrific job filling a void in a less-glamorous aspect of cruiser's needs. We were saddened recently to learn the Annapolis store closed. Coincidently I went there on their last day of business. The word from the very personable store owner we have come to know is that Sail Rite is transitioning to an on-line presence only.

    I recommend anyone attending the major boat shows to visit the Sail Rite booth. At Annapolis they usually have several of their machines set up for folks to play with.

    2 Hulls Dave

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Quote Originally Posted by winch wench View Post
    Thanks Paul and Dave for your responses. I must admit I hadn't even considered a domestic machine (been brainwashed I guess - b o a t and all that!)
    Should I be making room for TWO machines????? I accept a walking foot is a given, but is the sail rite a poor performer with the light stuff (ie no good)?
    And, will a good domestic machine work on heavier sails?

    Why is it that nothing ever turns out to be simple!

    Janie
    G'day Janie & co. Love your moniker winch wench) great sense of humour, 'sheila' I'm just north of you in Cairns. I'll 'pm' you shortly. Now for everyone; I have a hand-operated 'Singer'. I sat in the park in
    Cooktown - many yrs back - set up the park tables & much surrounding grass area - spent 4 days sewing a large heavy main, jib & genoa without to much bother. Also fixed 7 other yachts sails for them. The 'Singer' I have must be 20 yrs old now & is a bit on the light side for the thick areas of medium to large sails. I keep bending & breaking needles & sometimes knock the timing - out of sink, but it does the job - when required, in a pinch. Not 'tack', 'clew' & 'head' areas of sails for 40' + yachts though - that's just asking to much for medium sized machines & that's when you need the machine the most IMHO My 'Singer' has sewn through 6 layers of 14oz main-sail material but that's the very upper limit. Only broke 4 needles but it got me sailing again for almost nothing instead of the large cost of shipping back to a sailmaker - getting it fixed & then shipping it back to me (400 ks - round trip) not to mention the 2 weeks all that would have taken.

    Over the yrs I've talked to several sail-makers & if you do lots of home work - by talking to professional sailmakers (ooops - I'll get in bother again - eh Paul ??) you will get the inside running on what works best for the dollar spent. There's a least 1 sailmaker in Twnsvle - go talk to them - you can't be less informed & it wont cost anything to ask. That would be the road I'd choose to go down because the 'right' machine for you is very important - no sailmakers in mid-ocean & one always needs the machine when you're 2000 ks from relaiblle service. Price is secondary, IMHO Ciao, james

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    I have a sailrite LSZ1 and so far have not had need to use it forits intended purchase, but have repaired a seam on my trousers / worked fine for that task. Use the right needle and thread, adjust the tension and away you go.

    Worked for me.
    Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results

  10. #10
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Hi Winch Wench,
    Interesting thread, thanks.
    As a suggestion, how about a domestic machine with a walking foot (if such a beast exists) for lightweight work and a "stitch-it-awl" for the really thick bits near clews, etc. or for small jobs that don't justify setting up a machine?
    http://www.stitchitawl.com/index.php...tpage&Itemid=1

    The total cost and weight would be far less than a "proper" machine, they would be more versatile and the "stitchitawl" is Aussie made (Queensland even!)

  11. #11
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    We bought a used Consew industrial walking foot zig-zag machine from sailmaker who was closing up shop. It has a much longer arm that the SailRites or domestic machines and can punch through about anything you feed it. It is very smooth and quiet, but is a monster, as the motor alone weighs as much as many domestic machines. I may replace the motor will a lighter weight DC motor so it doesn't have to run off an inverter, and the DC motor also gives finer speed control. I'm going to build a cabinet for it which will serve as a bench seat so it doesn't take up too much room when the machine is not in use. Like any heavy duty machine, its not meant for lightweight fabrics, so we may also get a small cheap light second machine for those tasks.

  12. #12

    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    FWIW we bought a cheap Euro49 machine in 2003 and it has been on board ever since. It is very light, so much so we have to clamp (plastic lightweight clamp) it to the cockpit table. It is rated at only 90watts but has been used to sew everything from cushions to Sunbreller sailcovers and bimini canvas. The trick is to use sharp needles that are just thick enough for the thread and replace them as soon as they loose their edge.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Having had a Sailrite LS1 (zig-zag) walking foot machine on board for some years now, a few thoughts to add:

    a) While Sailrite's after-sales service is absolutely top dollar, the machine, in my view, is overpriced for what it is. For example, although the Sailrite is marketed at cruisers and the sailing community to a large extent, it is prone to rust breaking out on some of the fitments. And compared, say, to my domestic machine, which cost a song by comparison, it is very, very basic.

    b). As has been said above, if you want to sew finer fabrics on the Sailrite, you'll need smaller needles and appropriate thread, and will need to adjust the tension accordingly. I've also been told you can cover the dogs (teeth) with tape so they don't 'chew' into the frailer fabrics as you sew. Haven't tried this myself, as I have a light domestic machine on board for those purposes.

    c) The Sailrite's motor is, in my view, its second big plus (the first being their after-care service). Its motor has enough oomph to power the needle through multiple tough layers of material (general rule of thumb is, if you can fit the material under the foot, the Sailrite will punch through pretty effortlessly. But the height of the foot limits the range of sewing you can do - the gap between the plate and the foot is not that great).

    d) Domestic portable machines have no such 'grunt' - you'll need to help the machine, by turning the exterior wheel by hand to assist the motor if the material is a little too challenging. And for much thicker materials or layers - forget it. The lighter domestic machines - at least all the ones I've tried - simply can't cope.

    e) Btw - the Sailrite can also be powered by hand - an accessory called a 'monster wheel' is available - thus saving on electrical juice, and having to turn on the inverter.

    f) Given my time over again, I think I'd choose not the Sailrite, but a second hand industrial sewing machine providing the weight didn't exceed that of the Sailrite. Industrial machines tend to come with a longer arm, allowing more space for grappling with bigger projects as you sew, while affording you power to punch through layers of heavier fabrics. But I'd also make sure I could obtain spare parts for the machine fairly easily, since both machines on board are in use on a very frequent basis.

    g) Winch-Wench's original post mentions that she hopes the machine will pay for itself - providing you get a machine that will cope with the heavier stuff, and that you use it, it will, many times over, I promise you!

    Karen
    Last edited by Karen; 26th December 2014 at 10:18 PM.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Ebay is loaded with industrial machines at half the cost of a new Sailrite. Most of the sewing we do is in Sunbrella, which is no problem for most heavy-duty machines. I don't see myself sewing up sails as, in 36 years of living aboard and cruising, I have never torn anything heavier than ripstop nylon, plus I just don't see myself feeding my 70M2 mainsail through the throat of any on-board machine. That said, I did once sew a UV cover onto a jib that I had modified for roller furling and the old Singer did fine with that.

  15. #15

    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Disclaimer: I used to work in a canvas house.

    Consew may make a clone (I've never seen that one), but their industrial machines are of better quality than the Sailrite-like machines, I really wouldn't put them in the same basket.

    Tuffsew, Barracuda, Reliable, Rex, (there are others), are effectively the same machines as the Sailrite, and despite what claims Sailrite may make, I don't think there's much in it. I used to have an LSZ (bought before I apprenticed in the canvas shop) and when I learned how to sew in the canvas shop, I got rid of the LSZ in short order, replacing it with a Pfaff 138. There is absolutely no comparison between these Taiwanese machines and a good old Pfaff, I promise you that.

    Consew, Juki, Adler, Pfaff, those are industrial and can be had for good prices on the used market.

    Despite what some insist, a walking foot is not necessary to sew canvas (or sails). A Google search will get you instructions on how to pull the cloth along, how you can change out the feed dogs to aggressive-toothed ones, and how you can add springs to the pressor foot. Another good addition is a DC servo motor which has a nice smooth action and is much lighter weight than the usual 1/2-hp clutch motors.

    The Pfaff 130 was introduced to me as a sailmaking machine in the shop for which I used to work. She also had a Pfaff 138 and a Consew, I think it was a 206. Schurr Sails in Pensacola has several Pfaff 138 machines.

  16. #16

    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    I think the machine, in my view, is overpriced for what it is. For example, although the Sailrite is marketed at cruisers and the sailing community to a large extent, it is prone to rust breaking out on some of the fitments. And compared, say, to my domestic machine, which cost a song by comparison, it is very, very basic.

  17. #17

    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Quote Originally Posted by lisawdegregorio View Post
    I think the machine, in my view, is overpriced for what it is. For example, although the Sailrite is marketed at cruisers and the sailing community to a large extent, it is prone to rust breaking out on some of the fitments. And compared, say, to my domestic machine, which cost a song by comparison, it is very, very basic.
    Here is my website, Synthetic evaluation from users, you can refer here

    NOTE FROM MOD: This link above was reported. The link goes to Sewing Machine Judge dot Com - it all appears legitimate - but as always, you click on links at your own risk.

  18. #18

    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    first post, with a link? Not I, says me. Don't click on strange links

    Forum Admin - I have deleted some posts with links out of concern for those links.


  19. #19

    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    I wouldn't cruise with this beast, but the best machine for me for a few projects a year is one that seldom jams. I hate when I gotta take everything off and cut open a bobbin jam. Don't have time for that nonsense. That means something simple is in order. Plus I don't want it smoking like my wife's Brother machine when I put a few layers of Sunbrella through it. So, powerful and simple.

    I got this 60 year old cast iron Japanese beastie and it has been great. No it does not do zig zag. Doesn't matter for me. Handles many layers of heavy fabric and properly tensions Goretex thread. Here was my most recent project using heavy TopGun and the machine didn't miss a beat.

    Yeah, it looks a little baggy. My boats don't win beauty contests. But they sail and they catch big fish! For those of us who do a few simple, highly functional projects a year, I'd suggest GO SIMPLE.

    Next up? A new sail cover.....




  20. #20

    Default Re: What is the 'best' sewing machine

    Quote Originally Posted by winch wench View Post
    I've been doing a bit of research as we're wanting to buy a sewing machine - we figure the cost will be fairly quickly absorbed by doing our own repairs to sails/ cockpit covers/clears etc. So far the hands down winner has been the zig zag Sail rite machine.
    HOWEVER, I was checking out a local sewing supplier who is keen to sell me an Emery sewing machine manufactured in Taiwan. He reckons they both come from the same factory and is happy to better the cost of shipping the Sail rite to our home port in Northern Australia (although at this point I'm waiting for him to get back to me with the quote.)

    QUESTION; has anyone had experience with the Emery machine?

    I would also really appreciate any other comments with regards what is out there. Shipping costs from US to Australia are around the $300 mark, so we don't want the you beaut, top of the range as it will be beyond our budget. Just an honest, hard working machine that will cope with basic on board repairs and perhaps the odd attempt at our own shade solutions (yep, I want it all!!!!)
    what's the best sewing machine for beginners

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