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Kites! Kites! Kites! => Kite Building and Repair => Topic started by: GEB on October 31, 2009, 08:12 PM

Title: Sewing machine
Post by: GEB on October 31, 2009, 08:12 PM
I am looking for advice on buying an inexpensive sewing machine. Here are a couple of things to narrow it down.

1. Looking for a machine that is simple to use. Don't need 1,000 stitches/options.
2. It will be for occasional use.
3. Only for kite building/repairing.
3. I have heard one should just pick up old used one - opinions
4. Would like to spend $200 or less.
5. My wife has a couple of machines from Sears. She loves them but I hate their bobbin assembly system.
6. I have used a sewing machine but would definitely consider myself a novice at best.
7. I am leaning towards (new) though like many mechanical things (old) may be more reliable and rugged.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: kiten00b on October 31, 2009, 08:59 PM
I went through a similar search and ended up with a Pfaff 1221 ( after going through a thrift store Viking, a used Bernina and a new Sears Singer machine.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: MtnFlyer on October 31, 2009, 09:16 PM
If you can afford it somehow, a Pfaff with IDT (integral walking foot), needle down, and sew slow, zz, 3-step zz, adjustable stitch length and width.

With the slipperiness of ripstop nylon and polyester, IDT is invaluable.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: Jim Foster on October 31, 2009, 09:54 PM
We have a Pfaff 1473 and a 1475.  1471 is virtually the same as the 1473 and 1475.  They all have a built in walking foot.  They do the stitches used in kite making and all have "needle down".

Working with 3/4 oz rip stop is very different from working with cloth.  there may be other machines out there that will do a good job, but the Pfaff is a sure thing.

Why do we have two Pfaffs you ask?  We both sew and when we get into the kite sewing mode, we sometimes want to both sew at the same time.  Also, if one machine should go down for some reason, we can still do what needs to be done.  However, we have never had a Pfaff go down.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: Allen Carter on October 31, 2009, 10:49 PM
Here's one link with a bunch of good info. (

There was an article in Kitelife about 10 years ago. I'll go see.

Yup, issue #1 (

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: MtnFlyer on November 01, 2009, 08:17 AM
As Jim mentioned, the Pfaff 147x series is a good one. Mine are the 1471 and 1475 with (IIRC) the main difference being a DC motor in the 1475/73 for more torque.

I know a lot of kitemakers that use the 122x series with lots of success, too. From memory, model variations there include electronic controls in the "E" version of the 1222.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: rxburner on November 01, 2009, 08:43 AM
I got an old Kenmore for $25 at the thrift store and it works just fine for small projects and repairs.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: ko on November 01, 2009, 08:53 AM
 geb after having nothing but trouble with an old low milage top of the line kenmore circa 1950 i went looking with a similar  list the only thing i did not get was the needle threader . all metal gears- simple- bobbins and needles same as the kenmore -sews thru 8 layers of denim 3 layers of seatbelt with no effort and smooth thru a bobbin of thread on ripp stop so far. i dont know anything about sewingmachines but for 150 on sale from a local shop that does there own warranty work i have to try  the name--- sewing with nancy model #swn30 i know i am going to get it for the name so go ahead give it your best shot!! hope this helps KO

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: UPNET on November 01, 2009, 09:22 AM
I don't think they make the 1400 series, anymore...but they have an 1100 series Hobby line.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: mikenchico on November 01, 2009, 07:39 PM
On inexpensive machines make sure you get one with a foot control rather then a switch on the machine body. You'll have both your hands full of fabric sewing kites. Doing repairs you may even be working with some of the rods still inserted. You need your hands. Those "Go & Stop" buttons are fine for sewing together quilt squares etc. where you only need one hand to guide your work, not so good for sewing kite sails.

Looking at that Sewing with Nancy SWM30's specs if it's got the power that ko says it has I would definitely put it on the "Consider" list, everything you really need is there but the Walking Foot and IMO you don't really need that (I know I'll catch it for that remark but see below). Plus at $129 with free shipping the price can't be beat.

Most seams you'll do will be bonded together in some form, either taped, glue stick or hot tacked. In those circumstances there is little possibility for slippage between the layers. The only time we don't use some bonding method is on rolled seams or when applying binding to a trailing edge or unfinished edge and we've never ran into a problem doing those where a walking foot might have solved them over simply better operator skills. No doubt a Pfaff IDT is nice but many people are finding that slippage problems are largely a function of worn feed dogs and presser feet then a lack of a walking foot. Make sure your foot is clean and smooth and the teeth on the feed dogs are sharp and you're 90% of the way there at a huge $ savings.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: AhMayzon on November 02, 2009, 09:14 PM
I have two machines:  a Pfaff 1222, which is a great machine for making kites, and an ancient New Home machine (rescued from an estate sale, complete with cabinet, for $27).  The New Home machine is great for running very long seams VERY quickly (like when making banners).

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: GEB on November 02, 2009, 09:32 PM
Thanks to everyone for your inputs and links. A lot of good info there. My plan now is to visit a few sewing machine repair shops to learn more about sewing machines in general. Pfaff appears to be the favorite with most of the people I have talked with at this point. Perhaps I can find one or a rugged dependable well built used machine while doing my research.

We just received confirmation from the Fort Worden kite maker's conference folks that we will be building a couple of kites in Robert Brasington's class. I better get busy. 

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: nckiter on November 03, 2009, 10:20 AM
I have two that are strickly for kites. A Pfaff 1222 and a Pfaff 1171. The 1171 is my go to machine for its needle down, low bobbin indicator and the electronic speed control with sew slow. Both have the stitches you are looking for and both work great with rsn. Both were bought at Pfaff repair shops after being traded in. Around here the 12xx mechanicals can be found for $200 - 250. An 1171 around $350 and the 14xx series run around $450 - 650 depending on model and accessories.

If you can stand the cost you will not regret the Pfaffs for this use. I'm currently keeping my eyes open for a 1475.

Title: Re: Sewing machine
Post by: kiten00b on November 03, 2009, 04:21 PM
I bought 3 machines that weren't up to the task before I got my Pfaff.
Same as kites, it's cheaper to buy the good ones first, instead of working your way up to it.