I had some webbing I wanted to sew together for my Pilates reformer. Specifically foot straps and some foot straps for my pole system.
Extra heavy duty webbing is 3/32 thick, two pieces stacked is 3/16 and a triple stack used on my straps is around 5/16″ thick. So this means you are not sewing this on your girlfriends or wife’s Janome!!! This requires an industrial sewing machine. What is an industrial machine? How about we start at what it is not? The old singer in the table you see on eBay or at a flee market is not an industrial machine. If it has a tiny motor you can fit in your hand it is NOT an industrial machine. Yes there are old industrial singers, they have larger gears, and large motors to drive them and they can work fantastic, but make sure you educate yourself before you buy. I recommend the sewing machine forum on leatherworker.net. Most of the contributors on leatherworker.net have several machines and can help. You can try your luck at Craigslist if you know what you are looking for. Make sure it can sew a sample of what you need before you buy. If it can’t sew, skips stitches, etc don’t buy it as it can be expensive to fix. I recommend buying from a dealer if you can. Ralph’s Power Sew in Denver has been great as has Nicko Sew who I have personally worked with as well. Both of these dealers have great service departments and back up their sales! Go cheap at your own risk, having a good dealer to support you when you machine breaks is priceless.
I picked up a clone of the Consew 206RB by KingMax GA206. They clone all the big machines, you’ll see them marketed by many places as they copy everything overseas. Consew, Juki, Brother, PFAFF, etc are the main companies. You’ll see the clones a lot cheaper. But a lot of the clones are made in the same factories and are pretty much identical inside. Talk to a dealer that will back up your machine for what will work for you! This is a big deal as there are lots of parts and they can be difficult and expense to work on if you don’t know what you are doing. I picked up a used needle feed walking foot machine. I can run up to 208 thread on the top though I usually only run up to 92 and 69 regularly.
The needle feed walking foot allows for thick layers of fabric, webbing, vinyl, etc to be fed through the machine as one unit. The needle is in the fabric/leather/etc while the foot moves the entire set forward for the next stitch. A walking foot is needed at a minimum for thick webbing and leather, needle feed in addition is very handy. Check out the many videos on youtube that show the differences between feed dogs, walking feet, and needle feed walking foot before you purchase!
NOTE:Industrial machines are generally single purpose tools! You may need more than one as they don’t multitask like home machines do. I have a post-bed (for shoes and lots of other stuff) machine in addition to the needle feed walking foot. A straight stitch machine can be useful as well, it depends on what you are doing.
You’ll notice below the industrial machine come with a table, you can’t see the motor below. I had Ralph’s swap out the clutch motor with a servo motor where I can better control the speed. There are also speed reducers available to really slow things down. They can be found on eBay and at dealers for around a 100 bucks.
With this setup I can sew pretty much any upholstery, webbing, leather etc that can be done on a flatbed machine. Now if you do a lot of bags etc then a cylinder machine might be a better route as you can slide the bag over the base.
The Kingmax sewed through the extra heavy duty cotton webbing straps like a hot knife through butter. The needle feed walking foot is the right tool for this job! 92 thread and this machine on a short stitch makes these pretty much bombproof. The fabric would fail before the thread most likely. Thread strength varies by size. A good table to that shows this can be found here. 92 thread is about 15 lbs per stitch. A few extra passes and this piece of webbing is solid.
So you say wow that is too expensive for me to buy! Well this maybe true but you have other options! Contract sewers in your area will sew up stuff for cheap. Look for them on craigslist or at your local industrial sewing supply house or upholstery supply. Another option is a design incubator. Denver Design Incubator has packages that allow you to use their machines for a small fee. Don’t skip the project because you don’t have the equipment, someone out there does and can do it usually for a fair price. Or you can break into upholstery 🙂 and pay of your machine that way which I what I did for Pilates gear but that is another post.