Archive

Sewing

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Piping cord is a classic decorative element on the edges of pillows, cushions & upholstery pieces. Pre-made piping is available in some fabrics and braided piping and lipcord are also options, but a more common trim is piping that matches the fabric you’re using. Making custom piping is a great basic sewing skill to learn.

You can cut straight strips of fabric for your piping, but today we’re going to show you how to cut on the bias. The bias is a 45-degree angle through the warp and weft threads of a fabric. While cutting bias piping might seem more complicated, it’s really pretty simple and is much easier to sew with. Cutting along the bias makes your piping take curves easier and, in general, provides an overall cleaner look than straight cut piping. Also, fabric cut on the bias doesn’t fray.

Using a rotary cutter, cutting mat and acrylic ruler makes the process of cutting your bias strips quick and easy. Both the cutting mat and the acrylic ruler have lines at a 45-degree angle to help you find the bias. Plus, using the ruler as your guide when you cut the fabric helps you get a nice straight line.

For the full tutorial and materials list, visit Sailrite.com and search #200665XHT.

What kinds of projects would you add bias piping to? Share your ideas with us in the comments.

 

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You’re sewing along, working hard on your latest creation. You get to the end of a seam or hem and pull your fabric out of the sewing machine for a test fit, only to discover that your perfectly cut fabric is now a little too short. This is a frustrating experience, but it’s also a common one if you’re sewing large fabric panels. To help be better prepared for fabric shrinking, we’re going to take a look at what causes this phenomenon and what you can do to prevent it (or at least not let it ruin your day).

Uneven Fabric Feeding

There are a couple common culprits that cause fabric shrink. The first, and most common, reason is that the top and bottom layers of the fabric you’re sewing aren’t being evenly fed through the machine. Using a walking foot machine like the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® can help with this because it helps pull the fabric through the machine evenly. However, if you’re not used to sewing on a walking foot machine, you may be pushing or pulling the fabric too much. We see this happen a lot where the bottom layer is being held back while the top layer is being pushed through. A good way to keep your feeding more even is to pin or baste your fabric panels together prior to sewing.

Too Tight Stitching

The second culprit is actually inherent to your fabric itself. If a fabric has a really tight weave and you are sewing it with small, frequent stitches, this can cause the fabric to pucker ever so slightly with each stitch because the fibers don’t have much stretch. This problem is especially frustrating because in a really tightly woven fabric like Sunbrella® Marine Grade the puckering will be so slight, you probably won’t notice until you are done sewing the seam.

So how to fix these annoying little puckers? There are a few different things you can try (or try a combination of several) to prevent puckering. Try reducing the upper tension so it’s as low as possible to still form good stitches and/or using a smaller sized needle or lighter thread. Also, switch your stitch length to the longest available. Longer stitches will pull on the fabric less and mitigate the need for it to pucker.

Another great way to not be caught short by fabric shrinking is to account for it before you even begin sewing by adding extra fabric to your length and width when patterning. This is a good practice for large projects like tarps and boat covers. Remember, you can always cut off or hem in extra fabric. In fact, a great tip for seeing if you need to hem up extra fabric is to hem adjacent sides first, like in the picture below. Then you can decide if you’ll need to sew up or trim off any extra fabric in the length or the width.

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Are you in need of new notions? Sailrite has a great selection of notions including needles, thread, and other helpful tools to make your sewing easier.

Have you found a tried and true method for accommodating fabric shrink? Or have any fabric shrinking horror stories? Share your experiences in the comments!

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In the third and final post of our canvas repair series, we’re going to look at how to re-stitch seams, and how to replace old, failing zippers and Velcro on your boat canvas. Simple repairs like these can keep your cover in good working order for years to come. Be sure to catch up on the first two parts of this series where we discussed patching rips and tears, and replacing snaps and grommets.

Seams

Thread rots faster in the sun than most cover fabrics do, so you can often get several more years out of your canvas by re-stitching the seams when they fail. When thread gets old and rotted, it will start to disintegrate. A good way to test the strength of your stitching, is to gently pick at the thread with your finger. If the thread starts to fall apart at your touch, you should re-stitch.

If your cover is fairly new and you want to really prolong its life, you can use a lifetime thread like Tenara to re-stitch your seams. Tenara can be tricky to sew with, but it will likely outlast your canvas. In most cases, a UV treated V-92 Polyester thread will be a great choice. This thread is the standard for outdoor covers and is treated to be resistant to UV rays.

When you go to re-sew the seams and hems, you don’t need to rip out the old thread, just sew right over it. Since you will have a large bulk of fabric to maneuver around your sewing machine, be careful to not get extra fabric caught under the foot.

Zippers

If your covers and enclosures have zippers that are failing, they can also be replaced to extend the life of the cover. Zippers will rot over time with strong exposure to UV rays. A zipper is at the end of its life when it starts to fall apart or frequently pops open on its own.

If the zipper is easily removable, rip out the seams holding the zipper and sew a new zipper in its place. If the zipper is in an assembly where it is surrounded by binding and other elements that would require a lot of deconstruction, just cut the zipper out as close to the canvas as possible, and then install a new one.

Velcro

Velcro can be a really handy fastener around boats, but if not properly protected from the sun, it can quickly fail. If you have Velcro that is just not sticky anymore it can easily be replaced. Rip out the seams holding the Velcro to the canvas. Then you can sew new hook and loop in its place.

The backside of Velcro should always be protected from the sun. If your Velcro was not backed with canvas, we recommend adding a canvas flap for the hook and loop when you replace it. Just cut a piece of canvas a little bigger than the Velcro, and sew the Velcro to it. Then sew the canvas to the rest of the cover. This will prolong the life of the hook and loop.


This concludes our canvas repair series. Did we cover your questions? If you have questions on your canvas repair job, ask us in the comments and we’ll do our best to help!

You can find replacement thread, zippers and marine hook and loop and so much more for your canvas repairs at www.sailrite.com.

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Sewing without bobbin thread

It’s that dreaded moment. You’ve been sewing along, everything is going great, and then you take a closer look at your sewing and realize that you haven’t actually sewn any stitches in almost a foot of fabric. The bobbin thread ran out! The next time this happens to you, don’t panic. We’ve got you covered.

We often get asked “how do I tell when I’m running low on bobbin thread?” And truthfully, there isn’t a way to know for sure. The more you use your machine, the better idea you will get about how much thread is used and how far on certain projects one bobbin of thread will last.

The best way to reduce the risk of running out of bobbin thread is to start every project with a fresh, full bobbin. This is especially true if you are sewing a project where the look of even seams is very important, like topstitching or sewing leather or pleats. Then, when you are sewing, pay close attention to your stitches so you can catch when the bobbin runs out and you are no longer creating stitches. When this happens, it’s time to change the bobbin.

How to Change a Bobbin Mid-Seam

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Removing the bobbin case

1. When you run out of bobbin thread, stop the sewing machine. Lift the presser foot and remove the fabric.

2. Cut the trailing threads from the fabric.

3. Tilt the machine back. Remove the empty bobbin and insert a new one. If you need to wind a new bobbin, you can do so. Tip: If you need to wind a new bobbin and have an extra cone of thread, you can use that extra thread to wind the bobbin so you don’t have to unthread your machine.

4. Roll the balance wheel by hand to capture the bobbin thread.

5. Put the fabric back under the machine. Line up about 1 inch of already sewn material under the needle and sew on top of it. Be sure to bar tack when you begin sewing. It will add extra thread bulk but will strengthen your seam.

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Back to normal sewing

Although running out of thread in the middle of a large project can be an annoyance, it doesn’t have to derail your project. Now you’re all set to know how to quickly fix it and keep on sewing!

Keep spare bobbins on hand for all your sewing projects. Stock up on extras and find cases for neat bobbin storage at www.sailrite.com.

Do you have any tips or tricks for when this happens to you? Share them in the comments!

The do-it-yourself spirit is alive and well in Sailrite customer Jack Rosen. Jack will try his hand at making just about anything. He’s successfully built airplanes, cars, and even a business! With all of those skills it’s no wonder that Jack would be a do-it-yourselfer for his sailboat too.

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Jack teaching his CANE Seminar

Jack first became smitten with sailing while living in Toronto. He was spending his free time racing cars when a friend convinced him to try racing sailboats instead. So Jack went out on Lake Ontario with his friend on a 35-foot R-boat.

“I became fascinated with it,” Jack said. “I am allergic to grass, and when I was out on the water, away from everything, I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest.”

It wasn’t long before Jack bought his own sailboat and began competing in regattas. On his Lightning 19-foot daysailer, Jack raced against the New England and World Lightning Champions.

“I learned more about sailing from that Lightning,” Jack reminisced. “You could see the changes instantly.”

It was also during this time that Jack was first introduced to sewing for his boat. He met a sailmaker, and together they sewed sails for the Lightning on Jack’s living room floor.

Eventually, Jack moved to New England, where he wasn’t close to the water and so he sold his boat to one of his crewmembers. When another move found him near Cape Cod, he quickly purchased another Lightning and later a Catalina 380.

The Catalina needed a new sailcover and Jack knew that he could do the project himself. He borrowed a Sailrite Yachtsman sewing machine from a friend and created a custom sailcover that comes apart at the Dutchman lines and splits into three pieces.

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Jack’s custom-designed sailcover

After that project Jack and his wife had the hull of the boat repainted, which left their hand-me-down canvas clashing with the boat. Not wanting to borrow a sewing machine for all the projects now on his list, Jack called us up, talked to Eric for advice about which machine to get, and ended up with a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

With his new machine at the ready, Jack set up a sewing station in his garage workshop. He created a cut-out for his machine in his work table, dropped the machine in and created a sewing table.

One of the first projects he tackled with his Ultrafeed was a new bimini. He took the entire bimini frame off his boat and rigged it up in his workshop. Then he built a new bimini patterned directly off his frame.

“I’ll just go around our boat and make things,” Jack said. “It’s just so handy to create something you want.”

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The finished bimini rigged up in the garage

Jack’s Catalina lead him to join a local sailing club, The Catalina Association of New England or CANE. The club provides monthly seminars on various aspects of sailing for its members, and Jack was asked to give a seminar on sewing for your boat. When it was listed, forty people signed up and Jack had to split the class into two sessions to accommodate everyone in his garage workshop.

Sailrite helped sponsor the event, providing catalogs for all attendees and copies of our Make Your Own Cushions DVD and Make Your Own Full Boat Enclosure DVD to raffle off as door prizes.

“The main theme of the seminar was to tell people that doing canvaswork is not a black art. It’s far easier than you think it is. You just need to know a few things, and Sailrite can help teach you those things,” Jack said.

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Jack teaching his seminar

Jack was nervous about how the day would go, but the informal seminar was a big hit among the CANE members.

“I was very concerned,” he said. “I had planned to just show pictures and talk about needles and the machine, but [the conversation] went on and on.”

Jack answered participants’ questions for two and half hours. Beyond sewing, they also talked about needles, thread, fasteners and how to punch holes. “All the little things that scare people,” Jack said.

“I brought the little grill from our boat and we grilled out afterwards. Everyone had a really good time,” he added. “Several of [the attendees] are sewing away right now.”

Jack hopes to offer the seminar again next year if there is enough interest.

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With his Ultrafeed LSZ-1

He enjoys sharing the projects he has worked on in hopes of inspiring others to make things for themselves, too.

“You get a sense of accomplishment. It helps you appreciate your boat a little more,” Jack said about doing his own canvaswork.

His advice to aspiring DIYers is to “just do it.”

“Practice on scrap material and learn as you go along.”

He also recommends watching Sailrite videos to help with projects.

“Watch the videos, first of all,” he said. “If you need to, start with a simple machine and then make the investment for the Ultrafeed and put it in your will—it’s going to outlast you.”

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Jack’s Catalina 380 s/v JaxSan under sail

Jack sails his Catalina frequently in the summers with his wife, 10 year-old grandson and their Russian Wolfhound, Darby, out of New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts.

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Stitches in 4 layers of scrap denim

We get a lot of questions from customers who are new to sewing heavy canvas projects. Helping people get started on doing their own canvaswork is one of our favorite things to do! We hear a lot from people who want to start sewing, but aren’t sure if their sewing machine will be up to the task. If that sounds familiar, this post is for you! We’re going to share with you a quick and easy way to test out your sewing machine’s capabilities.

1. Select a Heavy Thread

You’ll want to thread your machine with a strong thread, preferably one that is recommended for use with Sunbrella®. If you have a home machine, the largest size we suggest using is a V-69 thread, but if you have a heavy-duty machine, try a V-92. You may need to increase the upper tension on your sewing machine to handle the heavier thread.

2.Try Sewing Several Layers of Denim

Take a pair of old jeans and fold them up so you are sewing through about 4-5 layers of the material and see how your machine fairs. If you can easily sew through 4 layers of denim, then you can also sew heavy canvas, like Sunbrella.

If you find that your sewing machine balks at 4 layers of denim, you probably don’t want to try canvaswork on that machine. If you’re ready to take the plunge and upgrade your machine, the Sailrite® Ultrafeed Sewing Machine can sew through 10 layers of heavy canvas.

Want more great tips on starting canvas work? Check out our guide “What Do I Need To Do Canvaswork?” which includes a list of Matt Grant’s top 11 tools for Canvas workers and some helpful materials to keep on hand.

Find all the tools you need to do your own canvaswork including thread, material, sewing machines and much more at Sailrite.com.

Do any of you sew heavy canvas on a home sewing machine? What tips and tricks have you learned along the way? Share your advice and experiences in the comments!

We often have customers ask us where they can take their Ultrafeed® Sewing Machines to be serviced. Our answer might surprise you, we tell them not to take it anywhere. At Sailrite, we are committed to helping you to learn how to service your own sewing machine, right in your own home. You may be wondering if that’s a practical option, and we whole-heartedly believe that it is.

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The Ultrafeed’s all metal, mechanical parts

The DIY spirit is all about self-reliance and knowing that you can do things yourself. We take this same approach to our sewing machine service. It is our goal to make sure we provide you with all the resources you need to effectively and confidently service your own sewing machine.

Our sewing machines are made from mechanical parts instead of electrical boards and circuits, so you don’t need to be a skilled electrician to tune them. In fact, anyone with even a small amount of mechanical skills can service their own Sailrite sewing machine.

Both the Ultrafeed guidebook and the Ultrafeed Setup and Maintenance are great resources for information on both routine maintenance and more advanced troubleshooting. If you run into a problem that you can’t solve through the included materials, give us a call. When you call in, we’ll start a custom support case for you to document any and all issues you may be having with your machine. This also helps us track your case until all issues are resolved. Then, you’ll be promptly contacted by a member of our sewing machine staff, often with a custom support video specific to solving your problem. If you find after the video that you need still further assistance, a staff member will work with you over the phone. No other sewing machine company provides this level of service.

Of course, there are at times reasons to have a machine professionally serviced like if your machine fell overboard or if you simply don’t have the time to service the machine yourself. For these occasions, Sailrite has a full service repairs department.

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To learn more, visit Sailrite.com.

Have you ever had to troubleshoot your own Ultrafeed? How did it go? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

Michelle Minner, the creative force behind the blog Blue Roof Cabin, has always loved DIY. When she discovered the world of DIY blogs online a few years ago, she had no idea how much that discovery was about to change her life.

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“I discovered DIY blogs and it blew my mind,” she said. “I felt like I had found my people.”

After reading blogs for about a year, Michelle decided that she wanted to start a blog of her own so she could join link parties and share her projects with the rest of the DIY community. She named her blog Blue Roof Cabin, inspired by her home.

“My house has a blue roof,” she explained. “It was originally a catalog cabin and has been added on to. It’s been in my family forever.”

At that point, Blue Roof Cabin was primarily a blog about Michelle’s home and projects and upgrades that she did for the house.

“It’s the perfect house for me because it’s already quirky so I don’t have to worry about drilling or making holes in the walls. I’ve been able to pour my heart into it,” she said.

But it wasn’t long before Michelle realized that doing her DIYs part time wasn’t enough.

“I’ve always had a passion for DIY and when I discovered blogs and found all this free advice, it was great!” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do a nine to five that wasn’t creative anymore.”

So Michelle took a big risk. She quit her full-time job at a bank and started her own business refurbishing furniture.

“I thought I was going to build small furniture, but I started doing more painting and fixing up existing furniture.”

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Michelle turned a free garage sale sofa into this beautiful piece.

Now, the majority of Michelle’s business is refurbishing and reupholstering furniture and sharing her projects on her blog. She does both custom pieces for clients and her own pieces that she sells in local stores on consignment. Michelle said that she enjoys making pieces that are all her own style to sell, but also loves working with clients.

“[With clients] usually I get to reinvent a family piece that they love. Something that belonged to the grandparents, or a piece that they found that they just really love,” Michelle explained.

To meet the growing demand for upholstery work, Michelle taught herself how to re-upholster. She started by taking chairs apart, putting them back together and watching online videos to see what she could have done differently. Learning to reupholster also meant that Michelle had to brush up her sewing skills.

“I’ve always sewn, but I didn’t have a lot of patience for it,” she said. “I started sewing more and more for upholstery and cushions.”

If she was going to keep doing upholstery work, Michelle knew she’d need a better sewing machine than the “$3 garage sale machine” she had been using to sew her upholstery weight fabrics. When looking for a heavy-duty sewing machine online she found the Sailrite Ultrafeed and how-to videos.

“Being a DIY person, I just really loved the videos,” she said.

Michelle said that she appreciated all the support she found for the Ultrafeed and the wealth of information about the machine that was available online.

“With another machine, there is no one to tell you how to use it,” she said. “I was really impressed with what there was available online [about the Ultrafeed].”

She ended up with the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1, selecting it for it’s needle-positioning capability and has been thrilled with her choice.

“It’s been great! There was a learning curve, but you just have to use it,” she said. “Thick and thin it walks over it all, I barely have to adjust it.”

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Her pride and joy, a custom faux mantel

As her business grows and evolves, Michelle still says that building is her first love. Although she doesn’t get much business for custom builds, she tries to make time to build for herself and shares her projects with her blog readers. Her favorite DIY project is a piece she designed and built herself—a faux mantle for her living room.

“I love it,” Michelle said. “It really gave a focal point to the living room.”

Her advice for current and aspiring DIYers is to “just try it.”

“Find an inexpensive piece of furniture and just try it. You have to do it to learn how to do it,” she said. “Don’t be afraid, it’s just furniture.”

Michelle still marvels at her unexpected path to success in a creative career.

“It’s funny how you keep going and you find your way with the business,” she said.

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To learn more about Michelle and see more of her beautiful furniture pieces visit her blog, Blue Roof Cabin.

Hand sewing might not be every sailor’s go-to sewing method, but from time to time it makes a lot of sense. For example, if you need to repair heavy or cumbersome items, it might not be worth trying to maneuver them to your sewing machine. Or, for high stress applications, you might need to use a heavy twine rather than a thread, leaving hand sewing as your only option. For these, and all the other times you find yourself sewing by hand, we’re sharing five helpful tips to make hand sewing a little bit easier.

5 Tips to Improve Your Hand Sewing:

1. Use a High Quality Needle

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The best hand needles for sailors are forged from cast steel and feature reduced edges, triangular points, and long eyes for easy threading. A great brand that has all of these qualities is William Smith & Sons. It can be tempting to try and save a some money by using cheaper needles, but inexpensive needles will break as you try to push them through thick fabric assemblies, so buying a high quality needle right off the bat will lead to fewer headaches and improve your hand sewing experience. It also helps to use a sailor’s palm when hand sewing. Not only does this hand thimble make it easier to push the needle through heavy fabrics, but it also helps to prevent needle breakage.

2. Pre-Punch Holes in Thick Applications

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In really thick assemblies, use a standard awl to pre-punch holes in the fabric for your needle to slide through. The sharper point on the awl will puncture the fabric much easier than your needle, and will save you a lot of effort. This will also help you create uniform and evenly spaced stitches.

3. Avoid Tying Knots

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Knots can abrade over time and fall off causing your stitches to unravel. We recommend avoiding knots altogether. To do this, leave an inch of starting twine exposed and lay it where you will be sewing. Then, carefully sew over the tail, trapping it under your stitches.

4. Try Using a Speedy Stitcher

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The Speedy Stitcher is a sewing awl that makes quick and easy work of seaming repairs. This tool can sew both heavy threads and twine in canvas or leather. The Speedy Stitcher can manually create lock stitches just like a sewing machine. Best of all, they are really affordable and the convenience of having one is really worth it.

5. Use Flat, Waxed Twine for Seams

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When you need to sew a seam, use a flat, waxed twine. Twine typically has a round construction, but a flat twine will lay closer to the fabric and therefore be less likely to chafe away. Flat twine is also great for sewing rings, because the twine will sit closer to the ring. This makes it less likely to get cut when an eyelet is installed.

Find hand needles, sewing awls, twine and many more tools and supplies for sewing by hand at Sailrite.com.

What are your best hand sewing tips? Share them with us in the comments!

Have you ever wondered what was inside your sewing machine? If you were to take the casing off, you would find an intricate set up of shafts, gears and mechanics that all work together to make your sewing machine run. Today, we’re going to take an up-close look at the part of the sewing machine where all the magic happens, the needle and bobbin assemblies, to see how stitches are formed.

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View of the needle on the downstroke. Shown without thread or bobbin.

Creating a Lock Stitch

To understand how a stitch is made we’re going to take a look directly under the needle plate. Beneath the sewing machine’s needle is a bobbin, which is a small spool of thread. The bobbin sits in a shuttle that moves with the rhythm of the machine.

When you engage your sewing machine, the needle is pushed down through the fabric. Once the needle reaches its deepest level, it begins its ascent back through the fabric. As the needle begins to pull up, the friction of the needle against the fabric and thread forces the thread out one side of the needle creating a loop. The needle has a groove on one side, which allows the thread to slip without friction. Since the thread can slip on that side of the needle only one loop is created, on the opposite side of the groove. At this exact moment, a hook on the bobbin shuttle catches the loop of thread and interlocks it with the thread feeding off the bobbin. The two threads then interlock around the fabric pieces to create a lock stitch.

Some sewing machines, like the Sailrite® Ultrafeed LSZ-1 and LS-1, have a walking presser foot. This walking foot mechanism helps to ensure that proper stitches are created. The walking foot is timed with the machine to help pull the fabric into position for needle puncture on the downstroke and to hold it in place through the upstroke. By holding the fabric in place as the needle rises the walking foot helps to ensure that a proper loop is created under the fabric.

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Thread loop being hooked by the bobbin shuttle. Shown without bobbin thread.

When Timing Goes Bad

This process requires exact timing within the machine’s movement to successfully create a stitch. When the timing in your sewing machine goes awry, it results in dropped stitches or other problems. If the hook reaches the loop too early or too late a stitch is not created. Similarly, as the needle rises, if the fabric is not secure against the machine it will rise with the needle and a loop won’t be formed.

If you experience dropped stitches with your sewing machine and you suspect timing issues, check your machine’s guidebook for more information. The Sailrite Ultrafeed Guidebook contains detailed troubleshooting solutions including how to reset your machine’s timing.

To learn more about Sailrite Sewing Machines, how they work, and all of their great features, visit Sailrite.com.

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