View Full Version : Upolstery sewing machine advice?

Kevin 89MC
01-19-2007, 11:27 AM
I'm thinking of re-upolstering my observer's seat cushion this winter, but don't have access to a sewing machine. It's ripped pretty bad, and the foam is squished down to nothing. I want to recover it now so I can get a few more years out of it before I re-do all the skins. If it turns out good, I may tackle the rest of the boat myself. If not, I'm only out the cost of a remnant piece of vinyl and some foam.

I do however need to get my hands on a sewing machine. Anyone have any advice for what to look for, or what to avoid? I may visit a local sewing machine store, but I doubt I'd buy a new one. I've seen some at garage sales & estate sales, but it's hard to tell if those would be up for sewing thick marine vinyl. There are a ton on e-bay too. I intend to stay away from cording, mainly because I like the look of it without.
Any advice?

01-19-2007, 11:42 AM
While I have only helped with upolstery, (I've had cars done and my boat) my friend, Monte, is an expert. His grandfather started their buisness, his dad took over, and he has worked there all of his life. It is not Monte's full time job, but he does enough for it to be a full time job. They have the right equipment for the job. When you start putting 3 pieces of material together to make a corner and using a tough thread to hold it together, you need the right equipment. They use Consew sewing machines. I believe the sewing machines were originally designed to sew the upper to the sole of a shoe. I know we used everything that machine had to put my interior together so a little singer designed to make cloths for kids would not have cut it.
my $.02

01-19-2007, 11:44 AM
Industrial machines are definitely not the same as consumer ones. There are some heavy duty consumer models but they do all kinds of crap that you'll never want. If you go to an upholstery shop, you'll see the old black lacquered Singer, newer grey ones, Pfaff and other brands. They aren't cheap but you may have a place near you that sells and repairs these- look in the phone book for them.

The seam you like isn't the strongest but it's very clean looking. A French seam is about the strongest but it's hard to do it so it looks good because you need to apply a special tape to the back of the seam after folding the small edges back and ironing it on, then sew next to the seam on each side. This seam is basically the seam at the place where the material goes from the top to the side and it has a row of stitching on both sides of the seam. Looks great but is hard to do correctly.

If you do this yourself, get a bunch of scrap vinyl and practice a lot. Straight seams aren't easy. Also, the pitch (how close the needle holes are to each other) makes a big difference in how strong the seam will be. Too far apart and it'll pucker and pull apart, too close together and the vinyl will rip because it's weak from all of the holes. To do cording, you need a special foot for the machine, too.

01-19-2007, 11:46 AM
rcnjson- Big Cedar in Wisconsin? His grandfather's last name isn't Stehling, is it?

Workin' 4 Toys
01-19-2007, 11:51 AM

I recovered all the seats in one of my boats. A couple of the covers needed some work. I made all new frames for all of them. Then I went to an expert. She set me up with the material I needed, and showed me what to do.
Piece of cake and I would do it again.
I used a borrowed Husqvarna to do my stitches at the time. I can't say I'd sew some shoe soles together with it, but it did go through a piece of plastic and 4 layers of vinyl by accident:o . The plastic was only about 1/8" thick, but it went through like nothing. I had never sewn before...:D
It was a fun project. And I would highly suggest for a good all around machine to look up husqvarna.. Made in Sweden if you cared ..

Workin' 4 Toys
01-19-2007, 11:55 AM
To do cording, you need a special foot for the machine, too.That's the thing I went right through...or similar..If I recall it was a device so I could go over a cord without going through or smashing it...
It's been a few years now...but if I got the stuff out again, I'd get the hang of it again...

01-19-2007, 01:12 PM
rcnjson- Big Cedar in Wisconsin? His grandfather's last name isn't Stehling, is it?
You guessed it, did you know Monte's Grandpa? I think his name was Lorry. He started Edlo's in Milwaukee. Monte's dad's name is Jerry, the shop is now called Ace Auto Trim in West Bend. I live right around the corner on Big Cedar. Monte's dad did sell the buisness last fall, although he still works for the new owner.
OK back on topic

01-19-2007, 02:48 PM
My dad had an upholstery shop until '69 and he knew Lorry and Ed. I worked for Ed after my dad sold his shop and Edlo was in my neighborhood, too. Lorry had the only upholstery shop that I heard was successful in that area.