Author Topic: Off-grid Sewing  (Read 165 times)

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Offline ralay

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Off-grid Sewing
« on: June 11, 2017, 05:25:39 PM »
I do a lot of sewing on and for our boat and wanted to share some thoughts and projects.

For several years, I was doing all my sewing with a $30 Craigslist Singer sewing machine.  These old all-metal sewing machines are way better than many sold today and I've bought three for $20-30 at garage sales/pawn shop/CL.  They will sew 2-4 layers of Sunbrella, but have difficulty on many layered corners.  I used ours to sew our headsail bags from a Sailrite kit. 

I was lucky enough to be given an old Sailrite Sailmaker when Woody's Dad sold his boat and even luckier to find a used Sailrite LSZ-1 for $500 on Craigslist.  It still seems a little nuts to be the owner of a $500 sewing machine, but it's definitely allowed me to save a lot of money making things for our boat and occasionally earn money making things for others.

The LSZ-1 is worth the money IMHO, because it will sew through anything that will fit under the presser foot, it has a walking foot to help feed thick stacks of fabric evenly and it has a direct drive pin rather than relying on a friction clutch.  Switching between bobbin winding and sewing can be done by inserting a quick pin rather than trying to wrestle with channel locks on a clutch knob. 

We have a 12V only boat.  No shore power hookup.  No generator.  No inverter.  All our power when anchored/docked comes from 175W of solar.  Last month, I broke down and ordered a "Monster" balance wheel - a heavy flywheel with a handle for sewing without power.  I was skeptical, but it is REALLY easy to sew with.  My first project was making new harness tethers and I could penetrate folded webbing with ease. 

Without a 110V hot knife, I use a metal putty knife with a wooden handle heated in a propane torch.  I use the back of my aluminum yard stick to cut against.  The knife heats up in about 3 seconds.  As even the $130 hot knives can't be used continuously, I like this approach which only requires things we already carry. 

I always have an eye out at the consignment stores for fabric.  Many large canvas items are priced below the cost of their fabric and notions and can be cut up and repurposed.  For those who aren't fussy, picking blue canvas will make it MUCH easier to find used items for your boat.  Our beige Sunbrella is much less popular so our boat is a mix and match of beige-ish fabric. 

Certainly the KISS approach is to probably to sew small jobs by hand and take large jobs to a shop.  But for folks with boats big enough to store a sewing machine, it sure is nice.
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2017, 05:57:24 PM »
We'll, I was gonna post a bunch of project pics, but I get an http 500 error.  Guess it'll have to wait for another day.
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline Norman

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2017, 07:34:55 PM »
 :) I agree with your description of the valuable features of your sewing machines.  Shirley has a Singer she bought in 1960, and it is still going strong.  We have severe stress on the subject of any use by me, as she says that I missuse it.  On the other hand, she is comfortable with me taking it apart to clean and oil it, which I do fairly regularly.  Also, if it stops stitching right, she expects me to fix it, and I always oblige her.  She does get annoyed if I tell her that the tension is all that is wrong, but all is OK when I adjust the two tensions and stitches are good.

She has sewn a spinnaker seam on a used sail I bought very cheap.  She hated that thin, slippery nylon, and the fabric did not want to advance.  I had to pin the seam with thin paper on one side for the machine to get a grip on, then tore the paper off the complete seam.

Resewing the seams of a mainsail was too much for it in the heavily reinforced portions, though, and I hand sewed those parts.  Same for two jibs.

I did not clean and oil her Singer on a schedule, just looked in the bobbin recess, and checked the amount of fuzz.  If there was a lot there, there was enough elsewhere to warrant a tear down and service everything.

The only part we have replaced is the rubber tire on the bobbin drive.  She and her twin sister sewed their wedding dresses, and some of their attendants dresses.  Since our marriage, unending dresses, blouses for her, wool shirts for me, and all kinds of clothes and Halloween costumes for the boys.

If I had a walking foot machine, I would put reef points in my roller furling main, for slab reefing.  And restitch my Genoa, just for insurance.


Offline Frank

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2017, 07:51:21 PM »
I was only ever on a West sail once.....yep.....you've got room to store items for sure!! Geepers they're a huge hull!
I can see the benefits of a sewing machine on so many levels. Even extra $$ when away...
God made small boats for younger boys and older men

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2017, 08:31:15 PM »
And yet, somehow, it's packed to the gills.  James and I don't have anymore personal items than we did on our 25' boat, we just have way more boat gear.  (Well, that and two folding bikes)

I think I've blathered on here before about my conflicting impulses toward both the KISS strategy and the strategy of self-sufficiency.  They often are at odds with one another.

The most elegant, KISS solution is often to go minimalistic and outsource everything you can't carry the tools/materials for.  Or you can be like us and drag around a whole shop/hardware store so you can be prepared to do any job without needing to spend much. 
 
Need an angle grinder?  Have one aboard.  Need a starter?  Alternator?  200' of extension cords?  Skillsaw?  Router?  Plywood?  Scrap metal?  Next year's bottom paint?  5 gallon bucket of Cabosil?     No problem.  At least we took the spare transmission off.   ;D 

Both strategies have their merits and drawbacks.   
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2017, 12:42:35 PM »
I made some storage pillows for the boat.  One is made from scrap fabric and a recycled zipper.  The other is made from a $2 thrift store pillow I deconstructed.  They each have a divider (made of thrift store sheet) down the center.  One side of the divider has about 1/3 the fluff of a regular pillow.  The other side of the divider is accessible via zipper and can store soft goods.  One has all our winter gear (hats, scarves, mittens, etc.)  The other has a fleece throw blanket and spare sheets.  I could have made them totally hollow for more storage, but I find that they're pretty lumpy and uncomfortable as pillows without the extra layer of poly fluff.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 12:45:53 PM by ralay »
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2017, 12:54:17 PM »
So, I got the first two pictures posted no problem.  When I tried to post the next project, the website just sticks at a blank page.  I tried posting just a single 2MB picture to see if the problem is my connection here (relatively fast library wifi), but still no go.  I'm not sure what the deal is.

*Edit*  CapnK, When I try to post a photo, I often get stuck on a blank page with this URL:
http://sailfar.net/forum/index.php?action=post2;start=0;board=2
Maybe you can tell me if it's a problem on my end or something else.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 01:53:04 PM by ralay »
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline Frank

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2017, 01:11:06 PM »
Great dual purpose idea for storage.
Grog to ya
God made small boats for younger boys and older men

Offline CharlieJ

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2017, 01:47:26 PM »
Excellent idea. Here's one of the originals we had- that's a Mola from the San Blas on it. I have retired them, and gone to just upholstery material. A new Mola is not simple to get
Charlie J
Sailing on S/V Tehani
Meridian 25

On Matagorda Bay
On the Redneck Riviera

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2017, 01:50:04 PM »
Those are much nicer looking, CJ.  The only problem with always using what you have/find is that it sometimes lacks much personality.
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2017, 01:54:21 PM »
I sewed jib and staysail bags for our hank on headsails from sailrite kits.  I found the kit's plan for attaching a webbing loop (for halyard) wasn't really strong enough, so I went back and put a much more robust loop on as well as big naugahyde chafe patches where the bags touch the windlass and bowsprit. 

I stopped lifting the bags with the halyards, because our hanks were wearing out.  Our boat spends a lot of time at anchor and the sails would swing back and forth in the wind and waves, leaving bronze dust all over the place.  We also chafed a hole through the jib luff this way.  I caught it before it damaged the rope and repaired it with more sailcloth and a naugahyde chafe patch.  Now I tie the bags off to the pulpit.  The ties also give me a way to tie the bags off to keep them from blowing away while I raise sail.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 02:05:03 PM by ralay »
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2017, 02:00:00 PM »
Making tool rolls is another good use of small scraps.  These are made of sunbrella that was going to get thrown out.  I made one for our standard and one for our metric wrenches.  They close with velcro on two webbing straps.  I'd love to have one for our small files, drill bills, etc.  They'd probably be better with a little sailcloth or something heavy lining the bottom of the pockets.  Sunbrella is not very abrasion resistant.  Thankfully, wrenches are pretty smooth.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 02:02:38 PM by ralay »
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2017, 02:07:34 PM »
We bought a used mainsail cover for a much larger boat for $50 back in 2014.  It was enormous and we had to tame it with Swedish furling. 

I eventually cut it apart and used the fabric and notions to make a Mona-sized mainsail cover.  I had a good deal of fabric left for matching projects.  Unfortunately, the fit is not as perfect now that we have a new mainsail, but it does its job.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 02:10:40 PM by ralay »
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2017, 02:13:05 PM »
I had enough left over mainsail cover scraps to make sheet bags for the main sheet and staysail sheets as well as a little organizing pouch for corralling our garlic cloves in the galley.  The sheet bags have bottoms made of Phifertex mesh to drain.  The Phifertex came from the basket of scraps in the back of the marine supply in Oriental.  The common sense fasteners are used from Craigslist.  I did break down and buy the SS snaps, naugahyde, and a forged snap pounder from Sailrite.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 02:15:28 PM by ralay »
S/V Mona - Westsail 32

Offline ralay

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Re: Off-grid Sewing
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2017, 02:18:27 PM »
The safety tethers that came with our boat left something to be desired.  Neither had any elastic.  Both had faded webbing.  One had no way to release the wearer's harness under load.  We hated wearing them as our feet were always getting tangled up.

One of the harnesses had two legs and had modern hardware in good repair.  I cut the snap shackle and two hooks off of it.  I ordered another snap shackle, 2" tubular webbing, and elastic from Sailrite.  (The same parts they sell in their tether kits).  I followed their video and stitched us up two new, elasticized, single leg tethers.  I think the cost was something like $30.  It is MUCH nicer to have the elastic to keep the tether out from under our feet.  Woody tied a nice pull on the snap shackle.

It would probably be better to have bought 3 more hooks and made two double leg tethers.  In practice, the second leg was always getting in the way and we never used them.  I don't think we've ever been in conditions where I didn't feel safe sitting down and holding on while clipping onto a new anchor point.   

Saving some money here left us money to get a second auto-inflating harness and a rearming kit for the other long-expired auto-inflating PFD.  Now nobody has any excuses not to wear their nice safety gear.

« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 02:30:27 PM by ralay »
S/V Mona - Westsail 32