Have you digested everything in Part 1 of our DIY webbing tutorial? Then you're ready for Part 2, where we cover the tools you'll need to get started. Watch the video below, then hit the jump for more details.Used Sewing Machine Buying Tips
1. Never buy a machine sight unseen or via photos only--always check it out in person.
2. Ensure it's in good working order so you can get right to making, not fixing. (Fixing a sewing machine can be fun, but it requires time, learning, and an investment in specialized tools.)
3. Ensure there's no rust anywhere on the machine, including the underpinnings (look at the bottom of the machine). If there's rust, move on.
4. When I say "domestic" in the video, I mean as opposed to "industrial." Avoid industrials for now--a properly-running one will be expensive, negating the purpose of this money-saving tutorial. Industrial sewing machines are also often designed for highly-specific purposes that may not suit our application. Domestics are a bit more versatile.
5. Some (older) plastic machines are okay, but find an all-metal machine if you can. They're generally more robust and reliable. Most pre-1960 Singers will be great, as will most Japanese sewing machines made in the 1950s and '60s. Google "Japanese model 15 clones" to see what they look like, they're great--and plentiful, secondhand--machines.
6. Craigslist and the Goodwill.org website are good places to look for machines, but you should always pick them up in person. Sewing machines, even those packaged by so-called professional packing services, are easily damaged in shipping.
7. You'll find people asking absurd amounts for used machines, in the hundreds and thousands. Don't waste your time with them. Take it from me, a guy who owns over 40 used sewing machines--bide your time and you'll find plenty of bargains for $10 to $50.
8. You don't need a zigzag machine, we're only going to be doing straight-stitch.
9. Ignore any seller who claims their sewing machine is "rare." Believe you me, 99.99% of machines you'll find for sale are not rare, but people love to think they are.
10. Other sewing machine seller buzzwords that mean you should avoid them: "Heavy Duty," "Semi-Industrial," "Industrial-Strength." These terms are the parlance of swindlers and the ignorant and are almost always inaccurately applied.
11. In the 1960s, Singer made a subset of "slant-needle" machines where the needle goes into the fabric at an angle. These are no good for a webbing application; using one of these would be like trying to drill into dense wood at an angle, you're going to get bit deflection and bad results. So avoid these machines. They're easy to distinguish by looking at the machine from the nose end and observing if the needlebar is slanted.
System: Figure out whatever needle system your machine uses (i.e. "15x1," "206x13") and don't deviate.
Size: For our purposes, buy size 18 (size 110 outside of America).
Point: If there's a "BP" printed on the package after the size number, that means "ballpoint" tip, and that's not what we want. Go for a needle marked "Jeans," "Denim," "Sharp" or "Microtex." If there's no needle tip indication on the package, that means it's a "Universal" tip. These aren't as good, but are do-able.
Buy size 69, or "V69" thread, which corresponds with a size 18/110 needle. You can get it in nylon or polyester for our application (your domestic machine won't be able to handle kevlar). Polyester is the preferred choice if your webbing project is going to live outdoors under the sun, as polyester has better UV resistance than nylon.
Thread goes a long way, so a 4-ounce cone of thread will be plenty to get you started.
When getting started, you really need to inspect your stitches closely to uncover errors, so get a color that contrasts with your webbing.
Most sewing machines will have a spool pin atop the machine, but that won't work with the kind of heavy thread we're using. Because of the way the individual thread strands are twisted together, it absolutely needs to feed upwards off of the spool before it gets into your machine's works. Otherwise you're in for a lot of frustration.
If you've chosen polypropylene webbing, a lighter is the quickest way to seal the ends, which we'll deal with down the line. If you're going to be working exclusively with cotton, you can skip the lighter.
This is a must for undoing the inevitable mistakes you'll make along the way. If you're like me, at first you'll be like "Ah, I don't need that thing, I can do it with an X-acto knife." But the stitch ripper is not only safer, it's a lot faster and more accurate.
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» DIY Webbing Tutorial on a Budget, Part 1: Materials & Hardware
» DIY Webbing Tutorial on a Budget, Part 2: Tools You'll Need
» DIY Webbing Tutorial on a Budget, Part 3: How to Set Up Your Sewing Machine for Webbing
» DIY Webbing Tutorial on a Budget, Part 4: Learning the Crucial "Box X" Stitch
» DIY Webbing Tutorial on a Budget, Part 5: Putting It All Together