13 Jul 2016, 4:51pm

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Felled Seams (for very strong seams)

Kind of revisiting this subject from a diatribe post awhile back.

1. What in the heck is a felled seam?

A felled seam is a seam with a self-covered edge. Instead of using bias tape the edge is folder under and stitched down.

2. How many types of felled seams are there?

Who knows for sure, I know of at least six myself.

3. How many lines of stitching are in there in a felled seam.

Anywhere from one, to a lot. The wider the seam and the more stitches the stronger it is. Sails on Clipper Ships had a lot of lines of stitching. Parachutes, people carrying balloon, fabric covered aircraft, etc. (that is anywhere someones life may depend on it usually have an French or English felled seam with 2, 3, or 4 lines of stitching.

4. Ok, I just used the terms French or English Felled Seam. What do they mean.


A French Felled Seam has on edge folded under the other in an interlocking way with the stitching going through all four layers of fabric. An additional advantage of the French Felled Seam is that if cotton or cotton wrapped thread is used in cotton canvas the seam becomes pretty much water tight, because the fabric shrinks around the needle holes and the thread expands in them when it gets wet.

An English Felled Seam, sometimes called a Folded Felled Seam, has the edges folded under and stitched through to the other panel, they do not overlap like the French Felled Seam, there for the stitching only goes through 3 layers of fabric..

Those were the two types of seams used for sewing together large panels of fabric, like canvas, for sails, tents, balloons, and the like.

An Overlapping Seam is a third possibility. With some types of modern fabric whose edges will not unravel or fray a simple multi-stitched overlapping seam can be used.

It gets confusing because there are many seams with the word French in their name, and many kinds of felled and semi-felled seams, and many people use the words interchangeably.  Many of them are decorative rather than structural seams.


27 Jun 2016, 2:02am

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Industrial Strength Sewing Machine

OK, the term is an oxymoron, you have industrial sewing machines and you have home sewing machines, and never the twain shall meet.

Only? I was checking out my White Fair Lady straight stitch sewing machine (see photo at head of this blog), wondering if I made some modifications, I could use it for some slightly heavier work until I figure out if I really wanted to spend the money on “real sewing machine”. Well, I made a discovery. While I would not go so far as to call it an ‘industrial strength sewing machine”, it is definately a heavy duty home sewing machine.

Instead of a 0.7 amp motor it has a belt driven 1.3 amp motor. I alread knew that every gear and shaft in the machine is steel. I had not realized it was American designed and sold, but manufactured in Japan (according to the plate on the end of the machine).

I have used the machine to sew four layers of 7 oz canvas and a couple of layers of nylon webbing, making some cases in the past. It is just a bit heavier duty than I remembered.

Now I am wondering how heavy thread and needles I can use in it. I recently found out that you can get 15×1 needles up to 22, I had not known that. A 22 needle will handle T90 thread. That does not mean the machine can handle them, but it is something to check out. So, I am now wondering if it will do 10.10 oz Sunforger, 4 layers and one of nylon webbing, which is the minimum need to sew up a real wall tent?

21 Jun 2016, 2:32pm

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Tents On My Mind

The last couple of months I have been thinking about tents. Now, if given my choice, my tent would look like and old (reenactor) wall tent, but have all the modern amenities. That means zippers, bug proofing, floor, etc. It would also be of modern canvas.

However, google drives me crazy. Trying to find real information via google is difficult to say the least. And there does not seem to be the old books about tent making about any longer either.

One of the problems is that everyone who posts on the web uses their own words to mean something different from the correct meaning. Look at seams for tents, tarps, etc. there is a lot of confusion between french seams, french felled seams, and flat felled seams. A french seam is something used in upholstery work, it has a reenforcing piece behind it and is basically a decorative top stitch. A flat felled seam is also mostly decorative, it is the seam you see on the outside of jean legs, its purpose is to not be too bulky. The french felled seam is used on tents, tarps, awnings, sails, etc. Its purpose is to be tremendously strong and water tight (in canvas). It is a double interlocked seam with double threads through 4 layers of material.

Now the problem the DIY tenters have is that the french felled seam is hard to do on a home sewing machine. At a tent or awning shop they use a french fell folder on a double needle walking foot sewing machine that folds and sews the two lines of stitching at the same time. On the other hand, the seam was originally done by hand.

I know of three ways to do it on a single needle machine. 1- fold and pin, then sew twice. 2- sew a basting seam then fold and sew twice more. 3- put the edges together with basting tape then fold and sew twice. All of those require that you roll the excess fabric on the added piece up to fit under through the machine, then turn the project over and do it again to sew the second stitch.

To be water tight (in canvas) the seam needs to be sewn with cotton, or cotton wrapped polyester, thread.

Done properly the seam is actually stronger than the fabric. Very strong across the seam, incredibly strong along the seam. Normally, you want the seams it be vertical, if they need to be horizontal the visible folded edge should be facing down. That insures the maximum water tightness.

Normally, the top and sidewalls of a wall tent would be made with one continuous piece (sewn together with the vertical seams) up and over the top and down the other side, with reinforcing at the ridge, eves, and bottoms. larger tents may have ridge and eve seams allowing smaller panels to be used. Then ends, sewn up separately, are pieced in.

I prefer the eastern woods style pitch (sometimes called military style, as it was used from the Korean War back to antiquity),  with interior posts and ridge pole and side poles, to the western style a-frame or modern elk-hunter style interior steel frame.

Most of the above is as I remember from the Fieldbook I had as a Boy Scout, about a million years ago (circa 1950).

14 Jun 2016, 1:26am

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Two Inch Snarl.

Doing an alteration to a pair of trousers, I changed color of tread, loaded the matching bobbin, and the proper size needle, then proceeded to sew.

Perfect seam except for a 2-inch long snarl in the middle of the run. Everything was fine before I made those three changes, so it had to be something about them. Thinking about it the thread was old, the bobbin had been sitting around forever, and the #14 needles had come with the machine (my old Singer 750) when I bought it well used from the Good Will store several years back.

Rule one: never put a used needle in the box with new ones. But did the previous owner go by that? No way of telling, so off to the store for some new #14’s.

Just how old was that thread? I do not remember buying that color myself. Maybe it came with the machine too. Picked up a spool of that color when I bought the needles.

How long had that bobbin been sitting the the accessory box? No telling, better strip the thread from it and wind some of that new thread on it. While stripping the thread it hung up a few times.

That most likely was causing the snarl, sudden high tension on the bottom thread.

Ran a long test seam, no problems.

The point here is to think the problem through and try the most likely causes first, rather than just trying things willy-nilly.

2 Jun 2016, 9:39pm

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Me Sewing Machine is Working


Long time since I posted anything here. Health problems.

The other day, well maybe last month, I had to sew something and I could not set the tension. Ever try to troubleshoot a sewing machine when you need to be sewing?

I got out one of the other machines to do the sewing, and finally, just today, got around to trying to figure out what was going on with the Singer 750.

Turrned out the tension device had slipped, and I could not get the tension up to where it would make a proper stitch. Since I am one who wrote one of the best articles about how to set your tension, that was making me crazy. Now, however, I am, once again, getting a perfect stitch. Abit with the tension set rather low number-wise (3). Maybe I ought to adjust it more, but it is difficult as you have to do it by guess (I wonder, do the pro’s have some kind of gauge to set it by, I doubt it since I see them set all over the place. In any case I tend to need the higher tensions for most of my projects, so having it set to 3 instead of 5 as a base is probably a good thing.

Before my health went south on me, I was thinking of getting a Singer 20U109 commercial machine, but could not afford one as they were about $1200. Now I see that I can get a new one delivered for $700. Only my interests have gotten more heavy duty and I would like a compound feed (both needle feed and walking feet) upholstery type machine (something like a Consew 206RB). The cheapest machine in that range that I see is a Tacsew T111-155 (around a thousand bucks) which is a Chinese copy of the old Singer 111w155 with reverse added.

That is best left as only a daydream, I guess, as I actually have more money in my scissors than in any of the three sewing machines I have. And, At 72, do I do I really need another hobby? But if a used machine in that class would show up nearby at a bargain price, I think I would jump on it.

15 Sep 2012, 4:08pm

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Where Did the Post Go?

Somehow this Sewing blog has lost all the posts since sometime early in 2008. Now that is not a heck of a lot of posts as this blog is not very active, but I get a lot of comments on it.

The Internet Archives (The Wayback Machine) has 9 of the missing posts up until mid-2010, but nothing more recent. I think the only serious one since then was the one about my wanting to make my own Khakis as it is getting difficult to find them with a fit that I like, the rest were kind of place holder posts just to say the blog had not been abandoned.

So, I just have to figure out how to post them so that the comments and photos reattach to the proper post. Strange that the comments and photos are still there, isn’t it?

So, the answer is, I don’t know what happened to them, but am working on getting back what I can.

10 May 2010, 2:06pm

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Long time since the last post

Wow, eight months…

What has happened is I decided to once make photography my central interest as it was for many many years. So that has been where my money has gone. Then the past couple of months the car gods have been demanding sacrifices. In the mean time the local Walmart has quit carrying fabric and a lot of other sewing supplies. While there are two or three quilting stores in town there now are no general sewing supply stores. That is kind of limiting. The nearest place is now a two hour round trip.

Of course having a sewing machine for mending is still nice.

24 Sep 2009, 3:18pm

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Sewing for Photographers

Interestingly enough, there are a lot of things a semi-pro photographer uses that having a sewing machine and knowing how to use it will save him/her a lot of money. I say semi-pro because a full time photographer will find he makes a lot more money behind the camera than he saves running a sewing machine.

Self-portrait using home sewn backdrop

The other day I sewed rod pockets on a piece of gray fabic I found in the $1.50 section a Walmart. Presto, a 5×8 backdrop for under $5.00 including sales tax. Above you an see how it works in a test shot.

Home sewn backdrop

Home sewn backdrop

In this photo there is a piece of plastic pipe in the bottom pocket to hold it in place. The top pocket is not being used.

11 May 2009, 10:19am

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The Singer 750 Works Fine

I finally got around to sorting out the Singer 750 Golden Touch & Sew that came with the table in the previous post. It turned out to be in pretty good shape. I had to replace the rubber feed dog as the rubber had turned to a blob over the years, otherwise it only needed a CLA (Cleaning, Lubrication, and Adjustment).

Singer 750

Someone, presumably a so-called technician, had adusted the upper tension setting so it sewed properly at about “1? on the dial. Singer spec’s “4? for most of their machines, but this one has a lot of special stitches that have to have very loose tension. The dial shows zig-zag from 1 to 4, and straight stitches from 6-9). I wound up setting it so it sews evenly with my standard needle and thread at about 6, and so far that seems to work well (I do not have a service manual for the machine). There is a web expert out there that says he always sets upper tension at 2; I think that leaves you SOL if you try to use a very heavy thread.

I have read a lot about the nylon gears in these machines and how bad they are. Only problem I do not see those nylon gears in there, although they may have made several versions of the 750 over the years. The drive gears are metal, the sub-gears are either anoized aluminum or something like Deldrin (a very high tech super durable plastic). The cam stack and related parts does seem to be nylon however.

Also the housing on this machine is alloy, not plastic as sometimes reported. It remains to be seen if the reported timing problems show up. I am beginning to suspect that most of the problems reported about these machices is a case of the service tech not being very knowledgable about them, as they are different in many ways than the earlier machines.

This machine that I only got because it came with the table I wanted, has now become my main machine. The Singer 337 is planned to go to a young lady I know who has lots of kids to sew for.


I am not so lucky all the time. I recently bought a Singer 301 at the local Goodwill store for not too much money.

Singer 301

It had a lot of mold on it as it had apparently been stored for decades in a damp basement or some such place. Unfortunately, the mold had eaten into the paint. OK, so I can not clean it up and sell it, but it did come with a complete set of feet that I can use on the 750, they are both Slant Needle machines. Or did it? Nope, unfortunately, those feet are for commercial high shank machines. I cleaned most of the mold off it, and plugged it in. It does run. I guess I can put it up on eBay for parts or something. It would cost more to restore it than you can buy a minty one for.

14 Dec 2008, 2:33pm

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Shirts Still waiting on the motor drive belt. This past couple of weeks has been busy in a negative sort of way. Things that should be simple have taken a lot of time. So nothing has gotten done sewing wise despite having several projects I want to do. I want to make a better quality bag for the tape recorders, a english style saddle bag for the bike, and then try my hand at making a dress shirt. Dress shirts seem to be a place that is worthwhile from a price as well as a fit point of view. A decent man’s dress shirt costs $30-$50 or more . Unless you are an guy who had no problem with off the rack fit, few of us guys are so lucky, you either have to make your own shirts or buy custom shirts if you want proper fit. As best as I can tell with out actually having done it yet, it looks like there is about an hours labor in making a shirt once you know what you are doing. Of course that means there is four or five hours each involved before getting to that point –going by the old 20/80% rule. So once I am skilled at it, I should be able to make a custom fitted $100 shirt for an hour’s labor and about three yards of decent shirting fabric.