I didn't want to derail the other thread about do it yourself reupholstering without a kit but I am wondering what size sewing machine do you fellas use? Is it just a regular homeowner standard size? A commercial size? Computerized? Old treadle machine? Hand stitched?
I have used kits in the past but I'm not afraid to attempt it myself but I only have access to an old homeowner size machine. circa 1950-60
if you want a good job use a walking foot machine. charley
I agree with Charley, and I like one with a back stitch too. Since I don't care for foreign products, I use a Singer 211 which was probably made in the '50s. I bought mine at a local commercial sewing machine company, and have had good luck with it. So far I've done the upholstery on my 1925 roadster pickup with side curtains too. I've also done the top for my '13 runabout. It's a lot of fun, and it's always nice to try something new for something old. Merry Christmas everyone.
I use an old Singer 30-15 updated with a 3/4 hp. servo motor. The servo motor produces full power at any speed but I currently have it set to 500rpm max. It will sew any material you present to it as well as leather up to about 8-10oz. I've even used it to pre-punch 13oz leather for later hand sewing. (For a holster.) It doesn't have back stich but that's easy to get around in a few seconds--Just use the knee lift and back up a stich or two to lock.
I have a walking foot attachment for it but only use it for very thick or foam-padded/backed upholstery for pleats, tucks or diamonds. It's not needed for general use and in fact fixed walking foot machines limit your foot and guide choices for more general use. You'll end up owning two machines if your first is a walking foot.
By the way, my Singer 30-15's serial number dates it at 1919. So it's Model T compatible.
Thirty five years ago I purchased an old (then) Singer 111W industrial walking foot sewing machine to use for old car upholstery projects. It has served its purpose well.
I miss-spoke. My Singer is a model 31-15. I tried to update the post but Tim jumped in too quickly. It is considered an industrial machine to all but the snooty collectors. It was used to sew everything from tents to chiffon in many factories of the time.
I have had a couple Singer over the years that have served me well. My latest is one I had looked for for several years, finally found one in mint condition and replaced my older one with it. It is a Singer 401 slant needle. It is a home machine but is very well built and will sew virtually any upholstery material. Some of the things I like about it is the variable with stitch for tacking and that it is a double needle machine, which is great for doing a flat felled seam and keeping the stitch lines parallel. It also does embroidery.
Here are the seats I did for Savanna's CJ2A.
The material is Cordura, which is fairly heavy but easy to work with. There are 4 thicknesses in places.
If you search for Government autions sites like GovDeals or PublicSurplus, you will find that community colleges, or high schools or prisons that used to do this type of work are selling off their old equiptment.
You might find a good commercial machine in your area at a good deal. Even if it needs some service.
The sewing machine and vacuum cleaner repairs shop in the Atlanta area are dropping like flies. Most people just throw them away and get a new, foreign, plastic one to last another 5 years.
Here you can see how great the seats look with white accents.
The nice thing about Cordura is that it is tough and pretty weather hardy. Comes in every color you can think of and is cheap and easy to work with.
By the way, the driver's seat cushion is just folded and tacked on, didn't have time to finish it before the parade she had signed us up for.
On my '27 project I used my wife's Pfaff 1222E (it is a walking foot really "robust " machine). Over the years we have picked up 3 more of these. She sews a LOT and finds it nice on projects to be able to keep the machines set up for different stitches. I've picked up the service manual and do the tune ups!!
For certain jobs I also have a Singer treadle as well as a fur special machine. We admit to being tool junkies!!
Here is a Singer 503 Slant needle. These were $500++ machines in the 50's and if maintained will outlast any of us. My new to me one is a 401, the motor in this one seemed like it was getting a little weak and I found the 401 at an auction for $25 so I put that machine in this cabinet. Should be good for anything I ever want or need.
Personally, I find that a machine like this is more suited to what I want to sew than an industrial upholstery machine. I also have an old Singer that has a 1/2 horse motor but it doesn't have all the features these do, especially the double needle feature. I'm sure there are newer ones that are great and do all sorts of things, these suit my purpose.
This is a close up of what we were doing, adjusting it to get the little arrows she wanted for decoration. We did mountains and arrows.
Commercial sewing machines/upholstery sewing machines show up all the time on Craigslist - at least up here in Minneapolis.
Also - if you want to avoid using a kit you can still have a local upholstery shop do the sewing for you instead of purchasing a machine.
My dad has a 1920s commercial Singer that is really for tailoring clothing but it does work on canvas and naugahyde. When he has needed leather sewn, he takes the pieces to an upholstery shop.
I'll second Stephen's motion with the Singer 31-15. I sewed all of the TT upholstery and side curtains with it. I also put on a servo motor for better control.
That is exactly what my old one is like. I haven't used it for years but I think it would sew about anything. Parts and needles, etc, still available???
I believe my dad's machine is a Singer 31-15 but it does not have a walking foot. I'll take a look at it later today.
I use an old cast iron Domestic. It sews through anything including leather. I did have to find a roll attachment for trim work.
I think that you can buy most anything for the 31-15. They were a very popular work horse and still are.
Parts and accessories are readily available for the Singer 31-15. And they are easy to tune and adjust. If you do get one check to see if the feed dog has been replaced with a double-row. If it hasn't, change it to double row. As I mentioned, it will sew anything you feed it with a little setup. A Singer walking foot attachment may be hard to find now but they come up on Ebay. They are a bit pricey over the copies but the Singer model doesn't need any mods to work.
@Justin - Yours looks much nicer than mine.
I have a Singer 211G that I bought from a sewing machine company in Sacramento during their moving sale, and had to send it back 3 times to get it running right--the third time the head of the repair department did the job. That was decades ago and it's still doing fine. The only problem with it is that it was set up for sewing curtains and runs too fast, the company I bought it from tried to slow it down some, but some years later a friend bought a storage locker contents, and among the stuff was a commercial sewing machine table, which he passed onto me. It has a slower motor and solved my problem!
I was hitting yard sales one day and in the grass was this electric motor with a lever on it--a commercial sewing machine motor with the clutch, the guy had no idea what it was, and for $5 it became mine. I've also picked up another commercial head, but need to go through it completely, it was not stored well.
So, they are out there, nowadays probably more prolific than ever. Lots of good buys under $300.
The problem with most "home" machines is they can't handle the #16 thread used for commercial upholstery.
I forgot to add that I have three feet for my machine, the standard flat one, one for welting and a single-sided one for getting close to an edge, like when you're sewing a panel to some welting. That one is most commonly in the machine.
I'm smarter than I was earlier today. I'm had no idea so many other people sewed. Some of the other things I like about the Singer 400-500 series: They are slant needle, so you can see the needle better; they handle either one or two #18 needles for sewing heavy material and heavy thread as well as very tiny needles; the needle can move to either side of the presser foot for sewing close to a cord for making welting; a zipper, etc., they generally come with a whole world of accessory feet and specialty attachments since they were designed for making clothing.
One of the handiest attachments is for making felled seams. It inserts and folds the material, then double seam stitches it.
They will do all sorts of wider stitches for locking material in two spots to keep it from pulling apart.
The will stitch from about 150 stitches per inch to 15 per inch in both forward and reverse.
Off to the shop. A carburetor awaits.
i bought a new singer walking foot about 30 years ago got it home did not work took it back to kc they gave up so they had a reconded jukie it has worked fine ever since. charley
I took an upholstery class: bought springs from MAC auto parts, made the wood base, made my own pattern, and used a regular sewing machine.
Great job, Art!
I too have a Singer 31-15 like Stephen and Justin. I used it to make the seats and side curtains on my huckster. It will sew anything you ask it to. Mine has a large electric motor that runs all the time and a clutch to engage the needle making it difficult for a beginner (me) because the machine only has one speed... FAST!
Stephen and Justin, where did you guys get your servo motors? What all did you have to change to install?
The Singer 15-91 and the 201 are gear driven machines and will do a good job.
Singers. My wife's worked fine for the lighter Coupe material. I bought one of the reconditioned walking foots that were advertised in Hemmings in the late 70's or early 80's. It is buried under stuff in the wood shop portion of the basement. I have used it on vinyl for a dozen seats and half a dozen tops.
@Nathan - I use the Consew CSM1000 servo. If you have an industrial clutch motor now, the Consew servo is a direct replacement. You may have to buy a different belt but the bolt pattern is the same. Everything comes in the kit except the belt.
This is an example only. I have no connection with the seller.
Thanks everyone for the input This has become a great thread about thread.
"...about thread" Funny. It had me in stitches. I don't want to needle you but some of the threads are just sew sew. Well, I'm running out of material so Enjoy your Christmas.
I have a Pfaff 260 but use my old Consew 225 for the heavy stuff. KGB
Rich, that was great way to fabric-cate another yarn...I bolt-ed out laughing
Darn it, my head is bobbin after that one. It seams these threads take a pattern when we gather certain terms together. Or maybe I am just bias.
It seams as though we're stringing this thread way beyond its tension limit. I thought it dyed yesterday but it keeps bobbin to the top.
I thought sure some wag would ask why you wanted to upholster a sewing machine . . .
Ops! Didn't mean to repeat. I was trying to type while watching a movie and got hooked.
Stephen, we're sewing, not crocheting!
Richard, you are worst than me!Darn it!