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Second Chance Garage

For the Classic Car Restoration Enthusiast

Second Chance Garage


Second Chance Garage

For the Classic Car Restoration Enthusiast

Second Chance Garage

Second Chance Garage

For the Classic Car Restoration Enthusiast

Second Chance Garage

HOW-TO

Classic Car Auto Upholstery Series Part 1: Auto Upholstery for Beginners - Page 7

Stitch and Stitch length A Stitch is the pressing of a thread through a hole made by the needle into layers of material (leather, wool, vinyl, or other fabrics) and the thread is looped onto the thread in the bobbin and pulled up to make the next stitch. The Stitch Length is the distance (usually in millimeters) from one stitch to the next. The Stitch Length is usually fixed for a given sewing task. Shorter stitch lengths are used to join material together and a longer length is preferred for top stitching when it is likely to be seen.

Attachments Many attachments are available to help make your job easier. Several different presser foot options are available for certain tasks. They include folders and special feet such as a welt foot or sometimes called a piping foot. A welt foot is one that has rounded edges on the bottom to make piping or welt assemblies. They come in a variety of sizes depending on the diameter of the desired piping. Welt Foot attachments usually come with their own Needle Foot as they are manufactured with close tolerance to each other. When changing a Presser Foot to a Welt Foot, change over all the components. They are manufactured as matched sets and should always be kept together. Other Presser Foot attachments include one for zippers, seams, and others.

Be sure to check out specialty catalogs to become familiar with the many attachments that are available for your machine.

Sewing machine types

Regular presser foot This is the most common sewing machine where the presser foot stays down all the time and the needle operates straight up and down and the Feed Dog drops below the shuttle cover and rises to pull the material backward the distance of one stitch length. The regular presser foot machine can tackle light weight fabrics. When the fabrics begin to get to heavy, the Feed Dog doesn't pull the material all the way and the stitch length is compromised, often causing the thread to bunch up.

Walking needle This is not as common as the other type sewing machines. The presser foot stays down and the needle operates up and down and in a front to back oval motion. It is timed with the Feed Dog to pull the material backward the distance of one stitch length. The walking needle machine uses the needle's lateral force to help pull the material through the stitch length. This is an improvement over the regular presser foot machine, but again can bunch up the thread if the material doesn't move all the way of the stitch length.

Walking Foot (sometimes called a Compound Walking Foot). This is more common in the commercial upholstery trade as its capabilities can handle the thick materials frequently found when sewing multiple layers. The walking foot machine moves 1) the Feed Dog and 2) the Presser Foot up and down, 3) the Needle Foot and 4) the needle itself in a front to back oval motion in time with the motion of the Feed Dog. The intent of the walking foot is to raise the Presser Foot to relieve pressure of the material against the Shuttle cover plate and allow the Needle Foot to come down and grab the material from above and from below via the Feed Dog and make a single stitch all in time. Using all four components (Presser Foot, Needle Foot, Feed Dog and Needle), the walking foot machine can sew stitches in the thickest of materials, like four to six layers of leather, heavy canvas (like sail boat sails), and in some cases even sew through cardboard.

Notes

  1. Practice, practice, practice. This can't be emphasized enough. Making seams on your machine should be as easy and as comfortable as you grabbing a socket and ratchet and tightening a bolt. Practice with cloth or material similar to your project. Purchase close outs at your local fabric supplier. Do you care if the thick poly wool material has an image of "Darth Vader" on it?
  2. Plan your project and try to complete as many stitching (seams) tasks as possible. Winding bobbins, changing the Presser Foot, changing color or size of thread all take time. Try to combine as many tasks with a single set up. Some shops have dedicated machines set up to perform certain tasks like welting. Wind multiple bobbins with the thread you're using so that changing a bobbin is easy. Purchase a few dozen bobbins in your first sewing parts & accessories order and be sure to have wound bobbins on hand.
  3. When in doubt about your machine for things like needle size and thread routing, rely on the manual for your specific machine. Many machines are similar, but certain differences can effect the machine's performance.
  4. Quality of stitches and seams. Pay attention to the straightness of the stitches and the location of the stitch on the material. It's one thing to have a nice stitch that has proper tension on both sides and have an attractive stitch length, but if it wanders down the seam, it will look horrible. This is especially true for the French Seam which must have uniform dimensions on the straight and curved sections of the seam.
  5. Think about the task to be performed and what you need. If you are sewing the binding onto the edge of a pick up truck Tonneau cover that is about 25 linear feet around, make sure you start with a full bobbin. Running out of thread in the middle of stitching is an elementary mistake.
  6. Perform simple projects that force you to use the skills: practice, practice, practice.

In Part 2 of our Upholstery Series, we cover basic stitches and techniques.

Sources and References:

The Hog Ring and the Hog Ring Discussion Forum, a generic resource specifically for auto upholstery
Toledo Industrial Sewing Machine, sales and service of machines including valuable references
Superior Threads offers a wide variety of different types of upholstery threads and needle supplies including valuable references and an education section
American Trim and Upholstery Supply
Gilbreath Upholstery Supply
McMaster-Carr Industrial Supplier (For pulleys and belts)
Grainger Industrial Supply (For pulleys and belts)