In Part 1 we covered basic webbing materials for the design student on a budget.
In Part 2 we covered the tools you'll need to work the webbing.
Here in Part 3, we show you how to set your sewing machine up for webbing, and how to perform test stitching to get the stitches correctly balanced.
If you've never used a sewing machine before, you'll need to familiarize yourself with one first. There are already tons of blogs and videos on this topic, and rather than duplicate those efforts, we're relying on you to do a little homework. Here's one example of such a site, this one run by Tilly Walnes (whom our British readers will recognize from The Great British Sewing Bee). Once you've got the basics in your head, watch our video below, then hit the jump for the review points.
Be sure you know how to:
Wind a bobbin, the little disc-like thing that feeds thread from underneath the material. Every domestic machine should have some mechanism to get thread wound around a bobbin. Practice this until you get it correct—the thread must be neatly and evenly machine-wound around a bobbin. In other words, winding it by hand is not adequate, as it would create inconsistencies and slack that would give you problems during the sewing process.
Correctly insert your needle. Domestic sewing machine needles will have a flat surface on one side of the needle shaft, and this must be oriented in the proper direction.
Thread your machine. This is where amateurs most often encounter problems. Check and re-check that your machine is threaded properly—if you miss a single spot where the thread needs to go, it screws up the whole works.
Adjust your upper tension. Usually accomplished by means of a dial. This is often a prominent design feature on a sewing machine and should be easy to spot.
Adjust your lower tension. Unlike the upper tension, this is usually a more hidden design feature and is accomplished by means of adjusting a tiny screw. This is a micro-adjustment; when messing with mine I'll only turn the screw 45 degrees for each adjustment.
Adjust your stitch length. I forgot to mention this one in the video, but it's usually a prominent, obvious design feature, either a lever or dial demarcated with numbers or even a graphic that shows stitches getting longer or shorter.
- Please note that the material I'm working with here is lightweight polypropylene. If you attempt to follow these steps on your average domestic sewing machine while using a denser webbing like ultra abrasion resistant nylon, you'll see the machine will probably not be able to form stitches properly.
- Never turn your handwheel in the wrong direction! This creates what is known as a "thread nest" inside the machine and is a serious PITA to clear.
- Never advance the material manually, i.e., never push it through the machine. Let the machine do it. You just guide the material to prevent it from going crooked.
- Before removing material, turn the handwheel until the needle is in the up position, and the takeup lever has just exceeded the topmost part of its travel. This will allow you to remove your material without the threads becoming tangled inside the machine.
- After your first run of test stitches, on a domestic machine, chances are high you'll observe little dots or even loops between the stitches on the underside of the material. When that happens on the underside, that corresponds with the upper tension. Go back and forth between incrementally tightening the upper tension and doing more test stitching until the dots go away. The stitch must look the same on the top of your material as it does on the bottom, or you will have unbalanced stitches that will easily separate under stress.