Test Driving a bag making sewing machine

Test Driving a bag making sewing machine

Finally!  We’ve acquainted ourselves with the different bag making machines (Part 1), and through your considerations and research have narrowed down some machines that would best suit you best with your bag making goals (Part 2).   It’s now time to go out and test drive them. But it’s not like test driving a new car, you need to go prepared.

Before going, jot down some notes on what is important to you in your new sewing machine and key questions you want to ask. It’s easy when you are there to be overwhelmed and forget some things, but if you can keep coming back to your notes you can make sure everything is answered before you leave. Also take a pen and extra paper to collect the answers to your questions and any other information you might gather on your test driving trip.

Some things you might want take and considering asking are:

1.  Scraps of materials you want to sew with

If you want to be sewing with particular materials and through multiple layers, take along a variety scraps to be sure the machine can handle them. Take along the heaviest to the finest of materials you will work with to know how the machine handles both. Work out if tension changes are required when sewing the different materials, and how to make those changes. Tension issues is one of the biggest variables when sewing bags.

2.  What threads work better.

This is particularly important with industrial machines. Threads for industrial machines, and used for making bags, will come in different weights/sizes.  Whether your buying new or second hand, the person you are buying from should have some thread for the machine for you to test drive with. However, if you use particular thread/s all the time, take yours with you. It will give you a better idea of how the machine sews with the variables you use in your home studio. Again, be sure to learn how to adjust the machine tension should you need to.

It might be obvious, but depending on the brands, some machines are slightly different…..learn how to thread up the machine and how to wind a bobbin.

3.  What sewing machine feet are included and what extra ones are available.

A new machine will come with some basic feet options. If it is a second hand machine, check that all the basic feet are there, and if there are extra feet included, find out what they are and what they are used for.

If you are looking at a table top domestic machine to sew your bags, you might want to include a walking foot in your sale. Additionally, if you want to sew oilcloth or vinyl, a teflon foot might be another one you want to invest in. For an industrial machine that comes with a left hand walking foot, you might want to invest in a right hand walking foot for zipper installations, and perhaps some piping/welt feet. For industrial machines, also learn how to change the feet.

4.  What needles fit the machine and where to get more

For the different thread weights to go through the different thicknesses of materials, you might also need to get a selection of different sized needles to cover off the variety of bags you want to make. Domestic needles and industrial needles are different. Make sure you have the right needles for the machine your using and where you can get more. Even a second hand seller should be able to tell you this.

5.  Regulating the speed of the machine

Most new domestic machines have a speed gauge where you can set the sewing speed you are comfortable with. Older domestic machines, and particularly industrial machines, don’t have this. It can be frightening if your new to using an industrial machine and using it for the first time. The dealer or second-hand sales person can give you some tips on how to to get used to the clutch. Gentle pumping of your foot up and down on the clutch is always a good place to start with an industrial machine to get the feel of fast and slow.

6.  If any maintenance is required and can you do it

Sewing with fabric on domestic machines, lint fibres tend to accumulate. Find out where to clear these out from. And like all machines with moving parts, sewing machines need oiling. With new machines this will have already been done, but with old machines, find out where the oil holes are and how often you should be oiling your machine and the best machine oil to use. Depending on how often your using your machine, it might be more or less frequent.

7.  After sales support  

New machines will come with a warranty, and most distributors will also offer some sort of after sales support. Find out what it is, how long it’s available for, and how you can access it. It could be a simple phone call to ask a question on a particular feature of your machine. The last thing you want is to purchase a heavy industrial machine, get it home and have problems setting it up and sewing for the first time. Use the after sales support to get you through this initial set-up.

For a second hand machine find out the service history of the machine – when and where it has been serviced and what for. Also find out if there is a local service and repair person in your area. If you are buying the machine outside your local area, the person you’re buying it off might not know this, so it’s something you will need to research and find out on your own. However, if you are buying locally, find out who the person is that has serviced it so you can get more history of the machine from them and possibly continue getting services from the same person.

So here we are, you’ve thought about the machine you need for the bags you want to sew, you’ve done your research to narrow down the machine to a few possible options, asked some questions online, and test drove some machines and asked yet more questions. Hopefully you’ve fallen in love with a machine that you know will do everything you will ask of it and you will have a long and happy relationship with it. If that’s the case – congratulations! If you’re not quite there yet, that’s OK. Keep researching and testing those machines until you find the one you’re looking for – it’s out there somewhere!

I hope you have found these three parts to be helpful and if you have gotten all the way through them – well done!!! Please feel free to make comments about your experience with purchasing a sewing machine and what machine you like for your bag making and why. This way we can all help each other.

If you have a topic of handbag making that you would like me to expand on, please message me on the contact page.

And that’s it….where-ever you are and what-ever bag your making, have a great day.

Signing Off

 

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What bag making sewing machine for me?

What bag making sewing machine for me?

Welcome back to Part 2 of Sewing Machines for Bag Making!  This is where we take our basic knowledge of sewing machines, and work out which machine would suit you better with your bag making goals.  I have outlined key considerations to think about and different questions to ask, in order to get you to a point where you can go out and get what you need.

If you have yet to read Part 1 – Sewing Machines for Making Handbag, you can go back here.

WHICH MACHINE/S DO YOU GET?

Whether sewing bags as a hobby or as a business, you don’t need all of the machines mentioned in Part 1 to make great bags. You can make bags, from beginning to end, on any ONE of the machines.

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Pfaff Showroom

However, depending on the types of bags you want to make, will determine which machine (or machines) is BEST for you….and only YOU will know what the answer is. Things you should consider are when looking into a sewing machine purchase include:

  1.  Will you just be making bags or are there other things you like to sew?

If you like to quilt and make clothes, you might need a machine with fancy stitches, and button hole and zipper capabilities. If you like to make soft toys with some embroidery on them, you would probably consider an embroidery machine.

However, if it is just bags you want to make, with nothing overly fancy in the way of stitches, you just need something that sews straight!

  1. What materials you want to use?

For delicate materials like silks and satins for bridal bags, you will need a light to medium machine with a finer needle. With cottons and heavier furnishing fabrics that give you enormous variety in prints, a medium machine with standard needles will do the job. When sewing vinyls and leathers you will need a bigger needle on a more heavy weight machine with enough power behind it to go through the materials.

Keep in mind that with all bag making there are multiple layers when you combine the external materials, add interfacing, interlinings, and the lining…even with the finest of silks. Make sure your machine is powerful enough to go through these layers without being so heavy that it chews up your most delicate fabrics.

Lastly on this point, I’d like to clarify what I mean by a light, medium and heavy weight machine. This refers to the power of the machine and more specifically the motor. The bigger the motor, the more powerful and the heavier it is. For leather bags with multiple layers having a heavy weight machine is imperative to produce beautiful bags. Sure a smaller machine can sew leather, but the stitches will not be as beautiful or as uniform in stitch length, and over time the motor will just burn out.

3. What space do you have available?

If you just have the dining room table available to you and have to pack up your sewing projects when your finished, then straight away you would be looking for a table top machine, or one that can be stored in a sewing cabinet in the corner of the room. However, if you are lucky enough to have a dedicated space where you can leave it set up, then the options available to you open right up and an industrial machine could be a consideration. It could even be possible for you to get more than one machine to suit your sewing needs.

4. How much do you want to spend?

Sewing machines can cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000….depending on what you want.  You can go for a recognised and reputable brand with a long history of making sewing machines, or you could purchase a copy of these sewing machines (generally called a clone). You can buy new or you can buy second-hand.  Depending on your budget, get the best that you can afford and don’t rule out a clone or a second-hand machine, if it gets you what you need to create your masterpieces.

Of all the machines I use, all but two of them are are second-hand, and they have hardly skipped a beat!

With the above considerations carefully thought through, you have already started to narrow down the machine you need. Next do some research. Sewing Machine brands and distributors will have a website, listing their available machines and their capabilities.  By reading through these, you will narrow possible machines down further.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Whether it’s the staff at the distributor, a local sewing shop or bag making group, online forums or Facebook sewing groups…..people WANT to help and to share their personal experiences and knowledge of different machines they have used. As a consumer, you are more likely to buy something that comes with a recommendation behind it, so ask away and be sure the machine you’ve identified in your initial research comes with a good backing from people who have actually used it. I’ve included some links at the bottom of the page of areas where you might seek help.

At this point, you will notice that I haven’t mentioned any brands of sewing machines or model numbers….excluding the machines that I own. They have purposely left these out as there is an entire myriad of sewing machines out there, and without any experience or research on them, I can’t say that one machine is better than another….and it would be looking at it from my perspective on what I want to sew. Depending on your budget and what you want to sew, you will need to do your research to narrow down the best machine for you.  And once you’ve done that….we’re ready for Part 3:  Test Driving a Bag Making Sewing Machine.

And that’s it….where-ever you are and what-ever bag your making, have a great day.

Signing Off

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Some places to research sewing Machines:
YouTube video on Sewing Machines for Leather by Arthur Porter
Domestic Sewing Machines – Sewing Machines
Industrial Sewing Machines – Sewing Machines Australia

Online Forums for bag making sewing machines:
Handbag Horders on Etsy

Facebook Groups for sewing and bag making:
Bagmaking Industrialists
Sewing Tote Bags and Purses

 

Sewing Machines for making Handbags

Sewing Machines for making Handbags

Before I get into my very first ‘serious’ blog post about making handbags, I wanted to take the opportunity to say how grateful and overwhelmed I am for all the support I’ve received on my venture into blogging! You guys are seriously awesome, thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me into the unknown!

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So moving on….my first post. This post is for Vicky, who messaged me last week to ask about sewing machines for bag making. There are many and varied tools you need for bag making but the key one you need is the sewing machine…..

I originally published this post and it was MASSIVE – you seriously needed one, maybe even two cups of coffee, to get through it!  So I’ve now broken it up into three, more manageable parts.

PART 1:  Sewing Machines for Bag Making… is a great starting point.  I talk generally about the different types of machines and what they are called and introduce you to what I use for bag making.  This part continues below.

PART 2:  What Bag Making Sewing Machine for me?…. picks up on your new basic knowledge of different sewing machines used for bag making.  It includes considerations you need to make about which machine is going to suit you, your general sewing goals, space availability and finances….all of which are relevant when deciding on a machine to suit you best.  If you are looking for this, please click here.

PART 3:  Buying a Bag Making Sewing Machine… having considered and identified what machine suits you and your bag making goals, it’s now time to go and test drive.  Part 3 gets you ready to go and test drive, and arms you with things to take with you, what to look for and questions to ask.  If you are ready to purchase a machine and are looking for this post, please click here.

So here we are, at the beginning and what are the different machines in bag making.  Read on…

BAG MAKING SEWING MACHINES:

CYLINDER ARM

For me, the Cylinder Arm is the most ideal sewing machine you can use for leather bag making. It is industrial machines that go by this name and it’s called at Cylinder Arm because of the cylinder shaped arm that extends out horizontally from the main body of the machine. With a Cylinder Arm, you will also find the needle is positioned right at the very end of the arm. At university in the handbag making rooms, all but a few machines were Cylinder Arms. These are ideal, particularly for making large handbags, with the amount of space available underneath the horizontal arm to manipulate the bag around while sewing. Some Cylinder Arms will also come with part of the table cut out allowing you to sew even larger bags.

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My Pfaff 335 Cylinder Arm Machine with Walking Foot, who I call Percy

FLAT BED

As the name suggests, the sewing area of the Flat Bed machine is flat. This machine is typically built into the table so it’s all one flat surface. Larger bags can still be made on this machine but it will need more manipulation, and depending on the type of bag and how they are constructed, some areas you won’t be able to get into with a flatbed. More consideration will need to go into what bags you make and how you make them, in order to do them from beginning to end on a Flat Bed.

Pfaff 135 Flat Bed

Pfaff 135 Flat Bed

POST BED

The last type of sewing machine for bags is a Post Bed. Again this is a name used for industrial machines and it is called this for the single arm that stands upright on the machine like a fence post. Traditionally a Post Bed machine is used in footware manufacture, but they are also very useful in bag making as they can get into some very tight corners that you wouldn’t be able to get into with the Cylinder Arm or Flat Bed. Indeed there are some bag makers that make entire bags with a Post Bed machine and prefer them over other machine types, it’s all a matter of preference.

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My Pfaff 191 Post Bed Machine with Roller Foot, affectionately known as Patsy


COMBINATION MACHINES

All of the above machines can be used exclusively for making bags. However, having a combination machine opens up more options in your bag making. The most common combination machine is a Cylinder Arm and a Flat Bed, and there are three ways they can be achieved.

1) The most common way is with a domestic table-top sewing machine. These machines have a flat area, smaller compared to a dedicated Flat Bed machine, but still big enough to hold most sewing projects flat. Then by removing the storage compartment, a ‘free arm’ will be revealed. This arm will be more square, the needle will be position further in on the free arm and the distance between the bottom of the arm and the table will be smaller than a dedicated Cylinder Arm machine….. but with some manipulation, it will still allow you room to manoeuvre larger bags around the machine. An additional table top attachment can also be purchased and added to make a larger flat service for sewing.

DOMESTIC STANDARDDOMESTIC FREE ARMDOMESTIC TABLE TOP EXTENSION

Brother NS30 Domestic Sewing Machine – Flat Bed to Free Arm to table top Extension

2) The next way is to use a specially designed sewing table or sewing cabinet for a table top domestic machine. These sewing tables and cabinets have a lever system, where the machine can be positioned in two locations, therefore making a Flat Bed or a Cylinder Arm equivalent. Locking the lever, where the top of the machine is level with the top of the table, a Flat Bed machine has been made. An extra extensions can also be purchased to close up any gaps between the table and the sewing machine. The machine can also be completely raised so the base of the machine is at table top level, just as it would be if you didn’t have a cabinet and were sewing on the dining room table. Remove the storage compartment to access the free arm and again you will have two machines in one.
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A Horn Sewing Cabinet ‘Cub Plus’, in a flat bed position (with extension)

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Horn Sewing Cabinet ‘Cub Plus’ in a table top position.

3) Lastly you can convert your industrial Cylinder Arm to a Flat Bed through a table top extension for your Cylinder Arm.  This table top will fit around the arm and lock into place, providing you with a large flat work area. With a little bit of searching, you can find this attachment to purchase for your type of machine, or if you are clever enough you can make it yourself.

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A purchased Cylinder Arm table top extension

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 A home-made Cylinder Arm table top extension

SEWING MACHINES I USE

I sew bags combining different leathers and fabrics, and I am fortunate enough to have a dedicated studio for making my bags. My handbag making studio is made up of:

  • Industrial Cylinder Arm (Pfaff 335), with a walking foot;
  • Industrial Post Bed (Pfaff 191), with a rolling foot;
  • Very basic table top domestic machine, (Brother NS30), with flat-bed attachment;
  • Domestic overlocker (Brother 3034D).

In addition, I have a leather Skiving Machine in the studio and another domestic Brother NS30 sewing machine that I keep at home for odd jobs. The only machines I purchased new were one of the Brother NS30’s and the overlocker….all the rest were second-hand.

I don’t have an industrial Flat Bed machine. Instead, I have crafted my own table top extension to fit around my Cylinder Arm, converting it to a Flat Bed. I’ve done this with a cardboard box, which is a cheap and very effective option. It’s only now, after having the machine for 10 years, that I’ve had to re-do my cardboard box flat bed extension as the sticky tape gave out!

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My cardboard table top Flat Bed extension for my Cylinder Arm Machine

Now in terms of what I use most for bag making, I use my Cylinder Arm (with and without cardboard box extension) 85% of the time, table top domestic 10%, Post Bed 4% and lastly the overlocker 1% of the time. As you can see – a bit fan of the Cylinder Arm!

All my leather work is done on either the Cylinder Arm or Post Bed – depending on the design of the bag and which machine is the best fit. I use my domestic machine to make all the bag linings, as the Cylinder Arm and Post Bed would just make a mess of the cottons I use in the linings. The Overlocker is for the linings as well.

And that’s where I’ll cut Part 1 off, with a basic knowledge of the different types of sewing machines used in Bag Making and which machines I use.  Part 2 continues after this with what considerations you need to make when purchasing a machine for making handbags.

Until then, have a wonderful day and happy sewing.

Signing Off

Home Studios unite!

Home Studios unite!

The idea that started as a tiny seed to share my handbag making knowledge has just taken the slightly scary step of becoming reality.  Right here and right now, I am putting myself and the inner “handbag making” workings of my brain out there.

This is something that has gradually came about through being approached by different people at different times to help them with their own bag making journeys.  In a time where handmade is growing rapidly behind the closed doors of home studios, it can be incredibly hard to connect with other hand makers (I don’t particularly like that word) to gain advice and support from.

Working solo has its own set of challenges, but thankfully through this social media age, I have managed to find a group of creative people that happily provide advice, support and encouragement, from all over the world.  That in itself is amazing!  And it is through social media and the blogging world that I now hope to share, inspire and motivate with the knowledge I have – initially gained at University and have then continued to develop, build-on and perfect through my day-to-day bag making.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an encyclopaedia of bag making!  There is so much I don’t know and there is more than one-way to create stunning handbags. It is, however, my hope that I will provide you more handbag making knowledge, tips and tricks to put in your toolbox, that you can then pull out and refer to as you need!  I also hope that through sharing that I can continue to learn and be inspired by you.  After all creativity is not a competition and wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone could succeed in what they are passionate about!

So thanks so much for popping by.  Stay with me on this journey (click on follow in the bottom right hand corner) as I share my own bag of tricks, musings of the bag world and one day soon, in the not-to-distant future, the very first Annie Zorzo PDF Pattern!!!!  I think that one is even scarier than stepping into the world of blogging!

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