Author Topic: Machine for sewing upholstery?  (Read 12691 times)

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Offline Houdini

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Machine for sewing upholstery?
« on: March 15, 2012, 03:41:08 PM »
     I'm new here and this is my first time posting a question.  My husband and I are building a car.  The seats are completely without upholstery.  In fact, there's nothing there with which to make a pattern.  I think we can probably figure out what to do by studying books about auto upholstery, but I know that my little, very basic, Phaff will not handle the job.  I would like some opinions on what industrial model sewing machine would be right for this job.  We're thinking that maybe we could save money by doing it ourselves even though, I'm sure, the cost of a sewing machine will be dear.

     I've upholstered a couch before, but I fought with the machine the whole time because it really wasn't strong enough for that heavy job.  I want the right tools this time.


Offline dscheidt

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2012, 04:29:31 PM »
The auto upholstery places I'm familiar with mostly use single needle walking foot machines.  there are a bunch of suitable models around.  Don't forget that if you don't pay too much, the machine will be worth what you paid for it after you're done with it. 

Offline Merl

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2012, 04:45:41 PM »
You could get a Sailrite walking foot machine that would do the job for less than $1000. new and resell it when done with it or keep it, as it is more like a home machine on steroids and portable.
I don't have any connection with the company but, I've heard good things from those that own them.
As dscheidt points out, you could get a used industrial walking foot to do the job and resell it for what you paid for it when you are done with it but, I'll bet once you try an industrial sewing machine, you won't go back. :)

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2012, 07:21:54 PM »
     Thank you both for your responses.  I went to the Sailrite website and was very impressed with the videos I watched.  It's good to be reminded also that I could sell it when I'm done with it.  Before I buy a machine, I need to research auto upholstery.  We have a book on the subject, but it assumes that a person would buy a kit made for the car, not sew the seat covers.  The car we're building is a 1960 Pontiac Catalina and there are no kits for this car.  I hope we can do this.  My husband does body work, paint, putting together components, just about everything.  I would love to contribute something important to the project since I'll be driving it, too, and even racing it.

Offline peter

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2012, 09:12:20 PM »
youtube is a great resource for researching.  I happened upon this set of videos with some auto upholstery tutorials.  It might be a good place to start.

http://www.youtube.com/user/younggunsfab

Good luck with your project.  Sounds like fun.
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Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2012, 05:10:53 AM »
     Thanks, Peter.  The YouTube videos are very helpful.

Offline suzqdsign

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2012, 06:05:33 PM »
Houdini

No need to get a professional upholstery machine for your job.  I would suggest checking out your local Goodwill, Craig's List,or sewing machine shop for used (really used) Singer.  Model 15, 15-91 & 201 Singers built in the mid- 20th century.  They are the old fashioned black machines.  I would look for one that is gear driven (no belt) and cost should be under $100.  I purchased one, in cabinet, for $45 at Goodwill two years ago.  These are home machines that were built to last and using size 16 or 18 needles and heavier thread (use quilter's thread) will accommodate the heavy fabric or vinyl and the heavier thread will last better with the stress of tight upholstery. 

These machines are tough little straight stitch workhorses.  Gear driven means no belt to turn the flywheel; they use real solid metal gears (not nylon gears seen in many machines of today.  They are also readily repaired if something goes wrong and what usually goes bad is the motor or wiring from motor to wall socket or motor to foot control or foot control itself.  I've had several over the years (I keep giving to family members who need a good first, reliable machine for basic sewing).  If these machines are left to rust they can also, usually, be brought back into working condition with liberal use of penetrating oils and lots of work to dislodge the rust.  (I did this by gently turning the handwheel back and forth, over and over, until it was able to move smoothly.

Having said how tough these are may I also mention I made all my high school clothing, prom dresses and wedding dress on one and spent a large part of the early 1960s sewing fancy Barbie fashions on one for all the little girls in the neighborhood.

Offline theresa in tucson

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2012, 12:21:58 AM »
I'm going to disagree a bit on the advice to get an old 15-91 Singer.  Yes, it can do the job.  My dear mother recovered two couches and several chairs and my sister and I sewed horse blankets on one, but it was not easy.  The foot pressure on an industrial designed to sew heavy fabrics is great enough to hold the layers in place without risking bending/breaking the needle; you have enough torque to sew through many layers; they are not expensive machines and retain their value so if you're done with it you can always resell.  The downside to an industrial is unless you get a servo motor, a clutch motor is noisy.  It also takes up a lot of room and it's really fast which does take getting used to.

Offline dscheidt

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2012, 03:25:49 AM »
I'm going to disagree a bit on the advice to get an old 15-91 Singer.  Yes, it can do the job.

I doubt it will.  It might sew the fabric together.  It won't do a job that someone would be proud of. 

Were plain machines capable of doing the job, upholstery shops wouldn't be full of walking foot machines.  I rather expect the original poster is sinking a whole lot of money and time in the project.  Spending $400 or even 800 on suitable machine (I see suitable machines go for 400 or 500 all the time; the shop I deal with had a singer walking foot for 800 in a new power stand.) is probably worth it, particularly since you can get nearly all that money back by selling the machine. 

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2012, 03:19:54 PM »
     Thanks, suzqdsign for your considered response.  I learned to sew on a Singer treadle machine and I know that they're strong, but I also know, from experience that you really have to fight to get a regular machine to go through nalgahyde.  I agree with theresa and dscheidt that an industrial machine is necessary in this situation.  Yes, I will be spending a lot of money on the material and I want the finished seats to look professionally done.  My husband does a fantastic job on the cars he's built over the years and I wouldn't want to do a less than great job on the upholstery.  I'm still questioning whether or not I'm up to the task, but I do have lots of experience sewing and I am able to learn. :Alot_of_work:

     I can't get over how good the YouTube tutorials by YoungGuns is.  That will really help me.  I'm leaning towards getting a Sailrite sewing machine.  I wonder if their tech department will support me if I buy the machine used.  I have a feeling that I would really love that machine.  I wonder if I could use it for machine quilting.  I've always quilted by hand, but would love to learn to do it by machine since my hands aren't as strong and agile as they once were.

    Thanks again, all of you, for all the thoughtful help!

Offline peter

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2012, 05:32:26 PM »
Houdini,

Please share more details about this project. 
What is your project car?  Model, year, etc. 
Can you post a before picture?
Just curious.
I like my cars. ;)
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Offline Merl

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2012, 04:50:24 AM »
           I'm leaning towards getting a Sailrite sewing machine.  I wonder if their tech department will support me if I buy the machine used.  I have a feeling that I would really love that machine.  I wonder if I could use it for machine quilting.  I've always quilted by hand, but would love to learn to do it by machine since my hands aren't as strong and agile as they once were.

    Thanks again, all of you, for all the thoughtful help!

YES! Do get the Sailrite machine(the ZZ, walking foot if you don't mind ;D).
I have been waiting for someone around here to get a Sailrite and give us an honest opinion of "good or bad".
Of course service after the sale is most important and I wouldn't be surprised if they do give you service on a "second purchaser" machine.
I wish they made a ZZ cylinder bed model. I would have one right now if they did!

Offline Pina

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2012, 08:57:17 AM »
YES! Do get the Sailrite machine(the ZZ, walking foot if you don't mind ;D).
I have been waiting for someone around here to get a Sailrite and give us an honest opinion of "good or bad".
Of course service after the sale is most important and I wouldn't be surprised if they do give you service on a "second purchaser" machine.
I wish they made a ZZ cylinder bed model. I would have one right now if they did!

Yes,I would like to hear an honest opinion of "good or bad" too ! Especially from someone who
Quote
learned to sew on a Singer treadle machine
Quote
;)

All the bad reviews I ever read were from people who never learned to master a treadle.  ;)


Offline Back2Sew

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2012, 05:48:26 PM »
Have fun with your project! My husband also works with collector cars. Fortunately, we have been able to get seat covers premade. However, while researching for him on the subject, I came across a forum which may be helpful to you. Try the link below to go directly to the discussion about sewing machines for interiors: 

http://www.hotrodders.com/forum/beginner-sewing-machine-recommendation-187199.html

Frankly, I would not recommend buying a new machine. An old industrial machine (Like a Singer 241) should do the trick. I often see them on Craigs list in my area for about $300. You could probably resell it for the same price after you use it. I don't think you would get the same return on a new machine.

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2012, 03:17:18 AM »
Back2Sew,  I visited the Hot Rod website that you linked me to and it has so much good information!  I just got two books in the mail today on auto interior design and repair and was pretty disappointed in the info they provided, but I can sure learn lots from the internet.  Thanks for the tip. :)

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2012, 01:51:22 AM »
     Well, I just bought a Sailrite machine for sewing the upholstery for our 1960 Pontiac Catalina Custom.
I can hardly wait to get it!  Now I have so much to learn!  Thanks to all of you for the great help and suggestions you've given me.  It'll be some time before I actually do the work.  I need to get used to the machine first and also, we don't have the back seat yet, but when I do, I'll share my frustration and some pictures with all of you.

Offline Merl

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2012, 02:45:59 PM »
     Well, I just bought a Sailrite machine for sewing the upholstery.......
WOW! that is great!
You're the first one around here (that I'm aware of, anyway) to have a Sailrite.
What model did you get?
Now, if the machine is all the good things you hoped it would be then I'm more than happy to take some of the credit for pushing you to get it.
However, if it's not, I disavow any and all knowledge of the subject.... ;D
Keep us up to date!
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 10:36:56 PM by Merl »

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2012, 11:59:24 PM »
     I bought the Ultrafeed LSZ-1  model.  I was just watching the videos on-line about how it works.  I think I'll like it very much.  I plan to make some things with it before I tackle the car project.  Don't worry, I won't blame any of you if I don't like it.

Offline ejvc

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2012, 08:26:29 AM »
Houdini, keep us up to date and thanks for returning.
My blog is at http://ejvc.wordpress.com

Sewing and machine knitting in Karlstad, Sweden!

Offline Merl

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2012, 05:23:26 AM »
I just checked out the Sailrite web page tonight.
I had not been there in a couple of years and BOY have they added the stuff!
Again I have absolutely nothing to gain from them and am in no way affiliated with them but, they are working dam hard to make friends in the practical sewing world !
I am seriously impressed.
I didn't think I was really in the market for a new machine but those bad boys are looking mighty tempting!
I'm thinking of the LSZ-1 in a power stand or even the "Big and Tall" model would be fantastic!
I need to talk them into making a cylinder bed, ZZ, walking foot machine and I would be set...
I think I'm going to order a cloth sample book from them.

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2012, 01:40:38 AM »
Well, my LSZ-1 Sailrite machine came today and I got it all put together and set up.  It's very powerful and will take some getting used to.  I bought a book that came yesterday called Automotive Upholstery Handbook by Don Taylor.  I'll be practicing with heavy fabric and vinyl for awhile to get used to the feel of the machine.  The book is really good and takes you through a sewing project.  I'm very excited to learn how to use this machine.  I'm hoping I can learn to machine quilt small projects with it, too.  Again, thanks for your help, Merl and others who have helped me to decide.

Ellen

Offline Merl

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2012, 02:51:14 AM »
Well, my LSZ-1 Sailrite machine came today and I got it all put together and set up. 

Yay, Houdini !! (Ellen)
I do hope you enjoy it and it works for everything you need it to do! :applause2:
A picture would be great too ;)

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2012, 09:45:43 PM »
Here are pictures of the '60 Pontiac Catalina that I'm planning to upholster.  As you can see, we have a bare front seat...no back seat yet.  Also, we need to get a headliner and we need to build new door and quarter window panels.  Yikes!  again, I've appreciated all the help you guys have given me to find information.


Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #23 on: April 17, 2012, 09:48:02 PM »
Another picture...

Ellen

Offline Merl

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #24 on: April 18, 2012, 02:40:15 AM »
Hey, Houdini.
You do have your work cut out for you on the seat.
I have a 51 Chevy pick up that I have been working on here and there for the last three years.
My seat looked about like that except it did have a swatch of the hard old Naugahyde and some of the coconut hair batting left on it.
I thought about redoing the seat for about as long as it took to discover that the slide rails where rusted right together.
I have a nice middle seat from a Pontiac minivan that will fit nicely in the old ones place.
The car looks great! Even in its "underwear" :laugh:
Look forward to more good pics as you get along.

Offline vtmartha

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #25 on: April 18, 2012, 11:30:57 AM »
Ellen, your photos remind me:

A few years ago, I needed to get some dining room chairs reupholstered.  It wasn't a really complicated job but I didn't really have time to fool around with it myself.  Someone suggested I check out a little upholstery shop in my small town.  I had lived here for over 30 years but knew nothing of the work done there.  The owner told me he was pretty busy working on auto upholstery but, since my request were fairly simple and I was willing to purchase nice leather, he agreed to do the job.  What sort of auto upholstery does one do in a small Vermont town?  I was impressed!  Here's a link where you can read about Mike's work.

I wasn't as lucky with another project.  I have a small folding writing desk with a leather interior which needs restoring.  It sat there a few years and I finally went by to pick it up, untouched.

And I will be very interested in hearing about your Sailrite.  I bought one several years ago with the intent of mending horse blankets.  I'm still mending them on my light duty garment machine.  :-\

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #26 on: April 18, 2012, 02:56:16 PM »
Hi, vtmartha.  I haven't checked out the link to your upholstery guy yet, but definitely will.  I wanted to tell you that working with the Sailrite is certainly interesting and I'm using it just about every day to get used to it.  I feel like I'm getting some control of the speed now.  Yesterday I put a number 10 needle in to sew with clothing weight thread.  It was pretty hard to just get the needle in right because, as you know, the top of the needle where it's held into the machine is round, so it's hard to know when it's in there correctly.  I had to mess with it for a while to get it right.  I knew it wasn't right because it was skipping stitches.  Now it's working well.  I had to loosen the tension a great dealand decrease pressure on the presserr foot,  but didn't have to mess with the bobbin tension.  I'm finishing a table runner now, then I'm going to go back to practicing working with vinyl and heavy thread.

It's a challenge! :D  Thanks for your comments and interest.
Ellen



Offline Back2Sew

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #27 on: April 18, 2012, 08:25:28 PM »
Great news that you are moving along with the project and getting the car ready for summer cruizin'.

My husband also does collector cars. He has re-done several sets of seats. Fortunately, we were able to buy the seat covers pre-made. Our questions came into play with the padding. We were able to buy coconut padding but it said to use batting and canvas between the padding and upholstery. The canvas was easy, but all I could find at the time was the regular quilt batting. Needless to say, it did not work well. You can feel the steel structure underneath your knees.

The second time around we tried Nu-Foam. It is soft like batting, but is still stiff enough to truly cushion your tushy. It was a little expensive, but Joanns carries it and we got with a 50% off coupon.

Please post pictures of the finished product and any other construction steps! Most of all have fun!


Offline Merl

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #28 on: April 19, 2012, 03:43:32 AM »
Hey, Houdini (Ellen).
It's good to see you have jumped right in with the Sailrite.
I know from the sound of an earlier post that you thought it was pretty powerful and I was hoping that you wouldn't be scared off.
Last year I missed getting an LSZ-1 like yours, from Craig's List but, I was able to ask the woman that sold it why she sold it.
She said she was "terrified" of the way that walking foot feed would inhale material and not let it go! 
I suppose not everybody can handle the sight of open, working machinery like that but,.... ::)
I wonder, are you having trouble controlling the speed of the machine?
If it's the foot pedal you don't like you might try putting a bit of foam rubber batting under the top movable half to give it a little more of a definite feel to the pedal.
An idea I heard around here somewhere but, I think it was related to the typical foot plate used on an industrial power stand.
Something else you might look into would be the "Monster Wheel" available for your machine from Sailrite.
Look it up on their website. I would think it would help smooth out any problem with "jack rabbit starts" you might be having.
Other than that, how do you like it so far?

Offline Machinetech

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #29 on: April 19, 2012, 04:26:46 AM »
My uncle had a car like that back when, black with a red interior. That car was great, I'd like to have one now! Your pics brought back some nice memories.
I restore old tractors, and really love seeing people restore and maintain old machines. Keep up the good work!

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #30 on: April 19, 2012, 04:06:56 PM »
vtmartha,  I enjoyed reading of Mike's fabulous work.  I wish there were someone in my area that I could just talk to about materials and techniques, but there's lots to learn from Youtube.  I have a pretty good book by Don Taylor on auto upholstery, too.

Back2Sew,  I appreciated your comments on getting enough padding in.  I'm going to be very careful about that.  My husband and I just put the rebuilt engine in about a month ago and he'll be doing the wiring this summer.  Then he has to paint it, too.  There's so much to do!  We hope to have it done by November.  I want to race it (drag-racing) next Spring and Summer.  I'm afraid we won't be doing any cruising this summer yet. :-\  We have to find a back seat, too...

Merl,  I'm really getting to like the feel of the Sailrite.  The power and speed don't bother me much.
I sewed the binding onto a 15 foot table runner to put on top of a bookcase.  That went very well.  I'm so happy that I was able to get it to sew well with light thread.  I might try the foam idea, but it seems like I'm doing ok without.  I'm beginning to see under what circumstance I'll be able to use the Sailrite. 

MachineTech,  we love the old cars.  We've had the upholstery changed in a couple of GTOs in the past, but always with kit's like you did.  Unfortunately, there is no kit for the "60 Catalina, so we have to make a pattern, but we can choose whatever we want.  It'll be a tuck 'n roll.

Enough for now.  Ellen


Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #31 on: May 18, 2012, 03:58:52 AM »
I finally took a picture of my Sailrite machine!  Also, I took a picture of my first attempt at sewing with vinyl.  My husband and I are in the process of choosing the material for the upholstery work.  I have some samples coming from Sailrite soon.  We ordered a headliner for the car and will put that in as soon as it comes.  My husband is working on the wiring now...We hope to have it done sometime this fall.

By the way, I bought fabric for a sweater set and Loes Hinse 5201 and sewed the shell on my Sailrite today.  It turned out very nice except that I always have trouble sewing on knit fabric...it seems like I always get a little pucker in the seams...doesn't matter what machine I'm using.  We'll see how it goes when I make the sweater.  I think I'll do that on my Pfaff.

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #32 on: May 18, 2012, 04:00:38 AM »
Here's the Sailrite!

Offline Back2Sew

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #33 on: May 18, 2012, 04:22:12 PM »
Is that a storm at sea quilt I see in the background? Very nice!

Offline Houdini

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Re: Machine for sewing upholstery?
« Reply #34 on: May 18, 2012, 11:39:24 PM »
Yes, it is.  It's a king size "Storm at Sea" quilt and I hand quilted it.  Thanks for the compliment, Back2Sew.  I really like it, but wouldn't make another.  There was so much cutting with templates!  I was rather proud of the cushion I made.  I know it's ugly...I don't like the color at all.  I don't know why I chose that color.  Maybe I shouldn't be allowed to buy fabric online.  I sent for samples of the vinyl I'll use to upholster the car, then I can make an informed choice for that project.

I'm just getting my feet wet with the Sailrite machine and I'm enjoying using it.  By the way, Sailrite is a great company to order from.  They're very helpful with tutorials and efficient in getting orders out right away.

Ellen

 

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