Newbie from Ohio
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    Default Newbie from Ohio

    I am a newbie to the world of sewing but my wife is an experienced quilter. I am looking to purchase a sewing machine to sew on patches on leather vests and hem chaps, repair chaps... I want to get my own sewing machine so I do not mess up her Jukie! I know she would be happy to help but I want to surprise her in this venture.

    I am looking at a Toyota J34 on Amazon. Anyone with any experience and or guidance.

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    good luck on the sewing. My Ds is in the army and he picked it up fast.He did a cammo suit,rifle case and a bag for ammo rather quickly. Pretty sure he just got one from Target. Patches on leather is not the easiest. The nice sewing ladies at places like Joanne fabics will help you. Welcome to the site.

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    Registered User ilovechocolate's Avatar
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    Welcome to FV!

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    I've sewed since I was a young child and have done most anything that can be sewed on a residential-style sewing machine. I've owned multiple machines over the years and have experience buying and using different types. After making some expensive mistakes, I settled on only owning Viking/Husqvarna residential machines, which, btw, are supposedly made to sew leather. That's mostly fiction, in my experience. I wouldn't buy a sewing machine as cheap as the Toyota for the type of work you described. It's not made for it, in spite of what the item description claims. I have also sewn professionally for a bootmaker, where my tasks included sewing multiple layers of moosehide leather making winter boots and mittens as well as working with heavy canvas. I also owned my own small canvas shop doing custom designs for customers, making things like pontoon toppers, custom tool cases, and sled bags for mushers headed up to the Arctic with their dog teams, among many other things. I also sewed canvas shopping bags which I sold directly to the public and also wholesaled to various local businesses.

    Based on my experience, I wouldn't recommend the machine you mentioned for the purposes you described. One of the reviews states it's only for lighter leathers and I would guess that's probably a stretch. Forget doing multiple layers such as hems. I'm envisioning you wanting to work on motorcycle leathers, from what you posted. I don't think a machine like that would handle it, nor would it stand up for very long even if it did. If you're planning to do this as a business, I can almost guarantee you will not be happy with any type of residential machine. You will need an industrial sewing machine with leather needles, possibly more than one because you would need a flatbed for the patches and maybe a free arm for hemming and doing certain repairs.

    Another consideration is thread. A residential machine can't use the heavy thread required to sew leather. I use #69 thread for almost everything I make on my industrials. There's no way my residential machines could use that.

    I see the machine you're looking at weighs twelve pounds. That means it contains many plastic parts. For comparison, the head alone on my industrial machine weighs over fifty. I don't know that there's a plastic part anywhere on that machine. The motor that powers it probably weighs about the same, plus the whole shebang is held up by a table with a heavy steel frame to support all that weight and keep the machine stable when working with heavy projects. If you're looking for a machine that will actually do the job and will last you for many, many years, I don't think the Toyota would make you very happy. It's simply not made to take the beating those machines have to take day in and day out, sewing leather and heavy fabrics.

    Here's one of my industrial machines. You can see it does not have a lot of bells and whistles. The only two options it has are a walking foot and reverse. I also own an industrial serger, which I don't use for leather. When I was doing contract sewing, I leased an open arm machine for making casings and attaching feet and uppers because it would have been impossible to do a decent job on my flatbed.


    Here's the motor for my industrial sewing machine, complete with dust. I should either look under that machine more often or never at all. My industrial serger has a similar one. These machines need a good power source with enough torque to drive a needle the size of a small finishing nail through, in my job, sometimes five layers of moosehide.


    Good luck with your decision. Sorry to be so negative, but having tried to do some of the things you're talking about on a residential machine, I know that type of machine won't really do the job.
    Last edited by Spirit Deer; 02-22-2017 at 10:11 PM.

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    Super Moderator Spirit Deer's Avatar
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    Forgot to mention there's a big learning curve with industrial machines. They're not like working with residential machines. Also, if you're a beginner at sewing and intend to start a business (which you didn't say but which I inferred, maybe incorrectly) keep in mind you will need to practice until you can produce professional-quality work. My advice is to practice with your wife's machine until you are proficient. I don't mean practice with heavy fabrics, but start out with quilting-weight fabrics and easy stuff like that. Make some quilt squares to get your skills up. Once you're able to sew well on light fabrics, then move on to working with an industrial machine, which will be a whole new world. Some of the skills transfer, such as the eye you develop for recognizing your own mistakes so you can correct them and do better. Smooth leather is NOT forgiving. Once you make a mistake and the leather is full of holes, there's nothing much you can do to correct it. If you're going to be sewing for others, you don't want to be ruining pieces of clothing worth hundreds of dollars by not having good skills.

    If you have any questions about sewing with industrial machines, I'll try to answer them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spirit Deer View Post
    Forgot to mention there's a big learning curve with industrial machines. They're not like working with residential machines. Also, if you're a beginner at sewing and intend to start a business (which you didn't say but which I inferred, maybe incorrectly) keep in mind you will need to practice until you can produce professional-quality work. My advice is to practice with your wife's machine until you are proficient. I don't mean practice with heavy fabrics, but start out with quilting-weight fabrics and easy stuff like that. Make some quilt squares to get your skills up. Once you're able to sew well on light fabrics, then move on to working with an industrial machine, which will be a whole new world. Some of the skills transfer, such as the eye you develop for recognizing your own mistakes so you can correct them and do better. Smooth leather is NOT forgiving. Once you make a mistake and the leather is full of holes, there's nothing much you can do to correct it. If you're going to be sewing for others, you don't want to be ruining pieces of clothing worth hundreds of dollars by not having good skills.

    If you have any questions about sewing with industrial machines, I'll try to answer them.
    Thanks for you advice. I do want to start a part part time business sewing patches for our Harley Owners Group (HOG). Our motto is "Born to be mild" We are group of older farts who just love to ride. I would hate to ruin one of my friends vests so I will heed your advice and practice.

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    Try drawing circles around a drinking glass or a can of food, onto light fabric. Then try sewing around the lines you drew. Squares are relatively simple to sew, but practice those, too. You'll have to learn to start and stop neatly when sewing squares and rectangles. Practice sewing hems, and take old shirts and see if you can neatly stitch over the seams and figure out the construction steps of sleeves. An underarm tear is probably a pretty common repair, and you may need to know how to do that. It's more complex with a lined jacket, of course, but you have to start somewhere.

    The way I was trained, for starters, was that my boss drew random squiggles on a piece of leather and I had to stitch over the lines. That was basically my test to see if I would even be hired. (I was an employee through training, till I was proficient and then I switched to piece work which paid five times as much and allowed me to work at home as an independent contractor.) My first actual job for that company was sewing little squares on canvas or leather. As I got better, I was moved to more difficult jobs until I finally worked my way up to the job I was hired to do. It took a few weeks, and I already had good sewing skills using residential machines. Quality control was incredibly particular at that factory, and they wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing before they released me back into the wild. At the beginning I also did really simple stuff like making canvas seat covers for my boss's yacht, just to become more familiar with using industrial machines.

    If you've made up your mind to start this business, then check around for a good used industrial machine. Lots of places use them such as tent repair places, upholsterers, places that repair and replace auto seat covers, boat repair places, etc. Call around and see if any of them might have one for sale. Check around bigger cities to see if there are businesses that sell them, and see if they have any used ones for sale. I got my serger used for only $250 at a rummage sale years ago. You never know where one might turn up, so watch ads or place an ad asking to buy one. Study up a little bit first though, so you get the right machine with the options you want. Industrial machines are generally task-specific, so for example, if the task a business buys a machine for will never require the machine to backstitch, a used machine from such a business may not have a backstitch option. You can't assume a machine will do something, so make a list of exactly what yours would need to do. I highly recommend getting one with backstitch though, and a walking foot. I learned to sew on an old treadle sewing machine and even after all these years I can recall how annoying it was not to be able to backstitch. There are also machines built to deal with different weights of materials, and you will need to pair the right machine to the task it will need to do. The machine I used to sew on the little squares mentioned above was much less powerful than the ones I used to sew five layers of moosehide. It only needed to stitch through, at most, two layers of moosehide, so didn't need the power of the bigger machines. Visiting a place that sells industrial machines would be a good place to get started on a real-world education about these machines, what type you might need, the costs, etc. If you can bring some scraps of leather the weight you'd like to work with, then do that and ask for a demo. Bring enough to make several layers to see how the machine does.

    I don't know if you work with power tools at all, but you can think of an industrial machines as a power tool because it is. The motors on my machines are bigger than the motor on my radial arm saw. My sewing machine will run at a maximum of 2,500 stitches per minute, although I can't imagine trying to run it at that rate. But it's very quick. It also starts quickly and stops quickly, which can be intimidating when you're first learning, because you have your fingers right there, waiting to be run over which isn't fun. It's also really easy to lose control and overrun the edges if you're trying to do something like put on a patch, and then of course you have holes in leather where you don't want them. There's also a clutch on the foot control. It's not hard to use and of course it becomes habitual after a while, but it's a part of that learning curve I mentioned.

    If you do things like carpentry, you may pick up sewing fairly quickly. There are similar skill sets involved in the two activities. Don't get discouraged. One of my sons actually did better as a beginner using my industrial machine than he did with my household machine. I never did figure that one out.

    We don't ride but do try to get to Spearfish, SD, at least once a year and usually get to Sturgis while we're there. We like that area. I thought we had eliminated Spearfish as a retirement city but lately Husby has been making noises about it again. It's a beautiful area. I don't know if you heard about the big fire that burned the Full Throttle Saloon to the ground. We visited the site last year and it was sad but also amazing. I bought this necklace there:

    It was made by one of the bartenders there. She's been salvaging bits and pieces of things from the fire and making things from them as souvenirs. This particular bit used to be a vodka bottle that was behind the bar. The fire was so hot it melted the liquor bottles, metal, all kinds of things inside the bar. The bar is being rebuilt in a different location and we're planning to go there for lunch the next time we're out that way. Here's what's left of the original bar.


    Here's the famous ball they used to run motorcycles in.


    Here's the guy that sits along the road. He looked like that before the fire, and I'm pretty sure they plan to move him to the new bar, or maybe they already did since we were there in May. I never have figured out what the chainsaw is all about.


    All that has nothing to do with sewing machines but if you're part of a club I'm sure you're aware of Sturgis and were maybe even there once or twice and maybe watched the Full Throttle show, so I thought I'd share.

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