The Sewing Place

Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....

Gavin e

Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« on: October 20, 2020, 23:31:34 PM »
Hello again.

I introduced myself on the forum a couple of weeks ago - before I owned any sewing kit at all - and following the advice given by the lovely folk on here I can now officially confirm that I’m now the proud owner of a 1957 singer 201k, so I can start getting the other bits together that I need for my little project...

For those that missed my intro I should explain that I have zero sewing experience at all, except for the odd missing button.  Other than that, nothing.

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So here’s my new purchase that I need to get to grips with so that I can set to work on the following projects....

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The plan is to reupholster the sofa and also to replace all of the outside canopy - yes, I know this will be challenging.

I won’t be starting too soon, as I have yet to work out what I need and then purchase everything I will require for the job, but I thought I may as well start a topic on here so that I can learn from any nuggets of advice that you may be able to provide.  I’m learning, I’m happy to listen.

Even when I start I fully expect progress to be slow - but the existing canvas is still in reasonable condition so I will get at least one more year out of it, probably two or three, so I have plenty of time to take it slow, learn how to best use the machine, and hopefully end up with a high quality end product.

My wife is still choosing the material for the sofa - this is way above my pay grade and is not a decision I wish to be burdened with.

I hope to start with the canvas surround for the top of the boat (the dodgers) since they are fairly simple panels with very little technical requirements.  That should, I hope, allow me to get used to the machine before I get to grips with the harder stuff.

So here I go.

I will post updates on here as I go, although as I have said it may well be a while before I am ready and equipped for the battle.

Any advice will be appreciated, and even if you don’t have anything to add I hope you can sit back and enjoy laughing and smiling at the weird exploits of a total novice as they attempt to work out how to stick two pieces of material together with some really thin string.....


« Last Edit: October 20, 2020, 23:39:10 PM by Gavin e »

Gavin e

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2020, 23:33:13 PM »
Ok.... so now I’ve got to work out how to add attachments....

Odd - I managed the first time!

Renegade Sewist

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2020, 23:41:39 PM »
@Gavin e  you need to have more posts before it's allowed. To prevent spammers of course. I believe it's 15 but don't quote me. Might be 12. It's surely less than 20.  :laughing:

Renegade Sewist

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2020, 23:43:45 PM »
Just as I posted you got it to work.

Maybe it's links we can't add. I need a nap..... :dance:

Renegade Sewist

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2020, 23:50:32 PM »
@Gavin e are the dodgers zipped together? Or snaps? Learning curve for each. The longer the zipper the more can go wrong.

I'm back to suggesting some sturdy canvas tote bags to either stow gear on the boat or to haul things back and forth for outings. Be sure to do one or two with snaps and some with zips. Good chance to do flat felled seams too. Useful even if not total perfection.

Gavin e

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2020, 23:50:52 PM »
Forgot to push ‘done’....

The first of many minor errors I suspect....

Gavin e

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2020, 23:59:28 PM »
The dodgers are all individual and not zipped to anything - all held in place with eyelets. 

I think I can use them to learn really basic patterning, cutting, turning the edge to sew and neaten, adding extra layers to add strength and get experience of sewing multiple layers of material - hopefully with straight lines of stitching, and then adding the eyelets...

Eventually I want to design and make additional covers for the top to protect the boat a little more from the elements and save a least a bit of cleaning.  Your bag idea is one I am certainly going to take up, as I need a couple anyway.


Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2020, 09:03:59 AM »
For attachment you need to be a subscriber (tick, VG  ;) ), for links it's having been a member for 2 weeks and made 25 posts - but unfortunately the forum doesn't police that itself, we mods and admins have to do it.  (It's not all champagne and roses you know...  >< )   Using the img tags is fine (as long as it's not a dodgy image, or advertising, which is never OK.)
I might look as though I'm talking to you, but inside my head I'm sewing.


Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2020, 09:14:29 AM »
Bl**dy he**, that's gong to be a job and a half!  Good luck!  I only made a cover for my embroidery machine from vinyl-type stuff and that was bad enough.
I'm looking forward to seeing your progress, with, of course, lots of pics.


Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2020, 10:15:41 AM »
Ok.... so now I’ve got to work out how to add attachments....Odd - I managed the first time!

I read this and thought you were having problems changing the feet on the machine  :|

The machine seems to have lots with it, but if the manual is missing, this model of the 201 is included in this free PDF manual from the Singer website.

If you need fabric for practice, try looking in charity shops for cheap bedding and curtains. Heavier, canvas-type curtains would make strong bags and be similar to the upholstery fabric you might end up using for the sofa.

Gavin e

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2020, 09:38:14 AM »
Well we spent the weekend at the boat, which was basically my excuse to take our new machine with us and see exactly what I have purchased, so on Sunday I took over the dining table and started unpacking everything.  I have of course added to my original purchase of the machine....

My wife is finding it slightly surreal that I’m the one dragging her to the shops so that I can buy thread and scissors for my sewing machine, but she can never resist looking for new cushions so was quite happy to come along and browse, while I stood in front of hundreds of little plastic containers containing all sorts of weird stuff and tried to fathom out what I might need.

I settled for a few packets of various needles, some scissors, pins, and some heavy duty thread.  I’m assuming I’ll have to go back a few times, but my wife does have her own sewing box (for her never used machine) and she told me to have a rummage and take what I want.

My machine did come complete with the original instruction book, so I had a read through and tried to set things up.  As is often the case with these things, the instruction book was easy to understand once i worked out what it wanted me to do, but since I had no idea what that was I was initially a tad perplexed.  So I switched to You Tube and found a really helpful video by a chap named Graham Wilson that I just followed until the machine was ready to go.

Within half an hour I had my bobbin wound, the machine threaded, and a bit of leatherette in my hands that was about to get mauled.

Things started ok.  The needle went up and down and the leatherette was gently tugged away from me, with a neat little row of stitches forming behind the needle.  Looked great to me. 

I folded the material and decided to have a go with double thickness of the leatherette, and all was happy until everything stopped and jammed solid.  I suddenly seemed to have about seven threads coming from inside the machine, and after a few minutes of gentle tugging it was obvious that they weren’t coming back out any time soon.

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So I decided it was time to take the machine to bits.  Under the metal plate beneath the needle there was a lot of gunk.  Probably decades worth of dust and fluff that had been gently marinating in sewing machine oil.

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I cleaned it out as best I could, put the machine back together and had another go at sewing.  I realise I need to give the machine a more detailed clean and would welcome suggestions for a good tutorial on this and what type of oil I need to get hold of.

Since I’m planning some heavy duty sewing I thought it best to check that the machine has the required grunt for the job at hand, so had bought with me a roll of car seat belt strap that my dad had given me, working on the basis that if I can sew through that I should be ok with a couple of bits of marine canvas.
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As you can see, it did the job nicely.


I noticed that the spacing of stitches varied depending upon the direction I was going on the material, and that the leatherette was fed through automatically in one direction but required help in the other.  Is that normal?  I tried fiddling with a lever that I think adjusts stitch length, but as far as I could tell that made no difference at all to anything - I was getting the same original stitch length in any direction regardless of whether the lever was set to 7 or 30, and nothing seemed to change that.

My other question is ‘how do I start?’

Do I have to go forwards and then back a bit to somehow tie the thread, or is it ok to just set off sewing?  My brain keeps telling me that if I just set off then there is nothing to stop those first threads unraveling, but I’m not sure either way?

So that’s it.  The machine works and seems to do exactly what I was told it would do.

My wife took one look at it in action and told me to sell her machine because she’ll never use it again, and then added that her sewing box was now my sewing box and any future thread based issues were now mine.  In case you haven’t worked it out, sewing is not something she seems to enjoy.

I had fun.  I’ve ordered some canvas to start practicing on, which should arrive this week, and she has ordered the material for the sofa (which won’t be here for around six weeks)

Decent marine canvas isn’t cheap - it seems to be around £25pm - which seems a tad pricey for a first attempt, so I’ve ordered some cheaper stuff from eBay for my first go and added another job to the sewing list for practice.  That’s going to be a new canvas windscreen cover.  Making one will let me have a go at all the techniques I’ll use for the rear canopy (I’m going to make it in three sections so I get to play with zips and velcro even though I don’t really need to) and i can afford to make a few mistakes on it as it’s something we will only use when we aren’t using the boat.

All being well I will start working on it next weekend.....


Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2020, 10:29:58 AM »
That looks like a lot of gunge that you have poked out. Check online to see that you have got into all the little places that hold muck!
Is your thread heavy enough for the job? (Any experts here?).
Make do and mender

Gavin e

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2020, 11:00:23 AM »
There was a lot of rubbish in there - and I do want to take the machine back home to give it a good going over once I have the oil I need.

The thread is the most heavy duty one they had, but I have ordered a large spool of proper marine thread for the actual work.

Gavin e

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2020, 17:59:21 PM »
So... We have a problem....

It was all going so well and I thought I had everything I needed.  Last week I took a few measurements at the boat and had a more detailed look at how the existing screen shade is fitted to the hull.

To be honest, now that I look at it the current shade is actually incorrectly fitted, and rather than be attached to the vertical surfaces of the boat it’s been folded and bent to make use of a few poppers that are seated on what is something like a windowsill.  It’s not great, but nobody has ever noticed during the two years we’ve owned the boat - including me.  I could make the new shades properly and add new poppers to fit it to - but that means drilling more holes into the boat which I’d rather avoid, so I’ve decided to make smaller panels and then velcro them to the existing sunscreen.

So I took the shade home, used it as a template and got set up to start.

I decided to try things on a few scraps of off cut before launching into the job, and instantly got a huge birds nest and the machine jammed.  The stitches looked fine from above, but beneath they were just a series of hoops and snags.

The problem is the bobbin holder.  The super dooper marine thread is just too thick for it to cope with and the thread isn’t running freely enough.  I swapped for heavy duty thread and it sews  fine, so I am sure I have diagnosed the issue correctly.

So I’ve had to put everything away again, and now I’ve got to find some thinner thread that is still suitable for use on outside projects...  either that, or upgrade to an even more industrial machine, which I am considering. 

Either way I’m keeping the singer.  It’s such a pleasure to use.  I’ve been practising French seams and semi flat felled seams, and it’s all rather fun.....

Goth Gardiner

Re: Now that i’ve bought my first needle.....
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2020, 19:09:42 PM »
Hi Gavin,

I just read your posts and realised you'd asked a few questions that haven't been answered. 

So, sewing machines use, err, sewing machine oil.  You will find that among all the packages of stuff that you didn't think you needed in the haberdashery department.  Or possibly in your wife's sewing box; it is pretty generic stuff that comes in a flat plastic bottle.  It's not used by modern machines (don't ask me why!) but is still readily available.

I've found a similar backwards and forwards inconsistency with sewing textured leatherettes.  It seems to be whether the texture stops the "fabric" feeding evenly.  There are a few solutions for this:

- sprinkling the fabric with talcum powder.  I've never tried this as it just didn't seem a good idea
- use of a plastic foot designed for leather - solves the problem if the problem is with the foot
- placing tissue paper above and underneath the stitching line, and ripping it off after stitching.

I suspect you've diagnosed the thread problem correctly, but you might try losening the tension on the bobbin holder.

Stash busting: 3.75m in; 4.25m sewn  | UFOs finished: 1 | Items repaired: 1

There's no workman, whatsoever he be, That may both work well and hastily