The Cost of DIY: An Investment in Successful Sewing
Passing over dollars to pick up pennies. Spend today, save tomorrow. We’ve all heard these expressions in our day-to-day lives. But they also pertain to the DIY lifestyle and how much you invest in well-made tools and supplies. In today’s blog, we’re going to take an in-depth look at how it’s worth it in the long run to invest in high-quality sewing products. Your projects will look more professional and last longer than if made with cheaper materials.
There’s no doubt that DIYing your own boat, home, automobile and outdoor sewing projects saves you money. Yet, within the world of DIY, there’s a spectrum of product quality and price ranges on everything from fabric and notions to sewing machines and other tools. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. And sewing tools and supplies are no exception. You can reupholster your own furniture or sew an awning with cheap materials that won’t last more than a few seasons. Or, you can spend more money on higher quality materials and create an item you can be proud of that will last longer. You'll avoid the added cost, time and annoyance of having to redo your project when the cheaper materials break down quickly.
If you want the best-looking projects that will look great for years, we think it’s worth choosing the more expensive, better-made product. Let’s take a look at some examples of professional-level products we sell here at Sailrite® and their cheaper alternatives to illustrate our point.
Sewing Thread: Lifetime vs Polyester
Polyester thread is a great choice for outdoor sewing projects. Our outdoor polyester thread is UV resistant and non-wicking, with good seam strength and stretch control. It’s great for a variety of outdoor summer sewing projects that you bring indoors or put in storage the rest of the year, such as patio cushions, furniture covers and sun shades. Removing your sewing projects from exposure to sun, weather and temperature extremes will prolong the life of both your fabric and thread.
However, for those sewing projects that will be exposed to high levels of sunlight, pollution, cleaning agents, weather extremes and other demanding conditions, we strongly recommend investing in a lifetime thread. Lifetime thread is guaranteed to outlast your fabric and comes with a lifetime warranty. It’s made from PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) and is completely unaffected by sunlight and nature’s harshest elements. Although it is more expensive than regular outdoor thread, its benefits outweigh the initial cost. Lifetime thread will never rot or lose its strength, even after years of sun exposure. We recommend it for biminis and dodgers, boat covers, awnings, sail covers and outdoor equipment that will spend years in the sun.
Typically, the weakest part of any canvas project is the thread, but that is not the case with our two brands of lifetime thread: Sailrite® (formerly Profilen®) and Tenara®. These threads can be left outside all year round in all weather conditions and they will still outlast the fabric in which they are sewn. Tenara thread is lubricated with a small amount of silicone wax. This makes it a bit trickier to sew with, which is why it can only be sewn with rotary hook sewing machines like the Sailrite® Fabricator®. The wax on the thread lubricates the machine as well and helps to create excellent stitch quality. Sailrite Lifetime Thread, in addition to its UV, chemical and mildew resistance, has self-cleaning properties due to its water repellency. This thread can be sewn with both rotary and oscillating hook sewing machines, such as the Sailrite® Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine. If you're not sure what kind of sewing machine you have, read our blog, "Rotary vs. Oscillating Hook Sewing Machines" (#300118XHT).
A selection of the lifetime sewing threads we offer at Sailrite.
Marine Canvas Fabric: Sunbrella® vs Knockoff
When you buy Sunbrella fabric from Sailrite, you can rest assured that you’re getting the real thing. We are an authorized distributor of Glen Raven Inc., the makers of the most popular marine canvas in the industry. Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric is a top choice for boaters looking for a durable, fade-resistant and long-lasting fabric for biminis, dodgers, sail covers, awnings and more. When shopping for Sunbrella, you might be surprised at the price range on the internet for what appears to be the same fabric. We caution you against selecting the cheapest option! Some retailers sell “fake Sunbrella,” a knockoff canvas that looks like the real thing but is far from it. We frequently hear from customers who get Upholstery Grade Sunbrella when they needed Marine Grade, which is heavier and treated to be more water resistant. It’s important to purchase fabric from a source that can recommend the right Sunbrella product for your DIY.
The advantages of real Sunbrella fabric are numerous. Due to Sunbrella’s revolutionary solution-dyed manufacturing process, the fabric is inherently resistant to fading and UV damage. It is water and mildew resistant and does not noticeably shrink or stretch. If the Sunbrella fabric you purchased shows significant signs of fading after a few years, and you purchased the fabric from an authorized reseller, like Sailrite, you can be certain your claim will be processed quickly. Sunbrella shade and marine fabrics come with a 10-year limited warranty.
Sewing Machines: Home Machine vs Ultrafeed
We get customers emailing and calling in asking, “Can I sew a bimini using a home sewing machine?” And that’s just one example. We get inquiries asking whether they can sew leather, window material, vinyl and more using their home sewing machine. Our response is usually, “Yes, it can be done.” And while that’s true, you might not get the polished, professional results you’re looking for from a home sewing machine. Multiple layers of fabric or specialty materials like vinyl are sometimes too much for a home machine to handle. Most home machines don’t have a walking foot and they sew shorter stitch lengths, which can lead to needle puckering and uneven feeding. Using a home machine can also result in skipped stitches if you are maxing out your machine’s presser foot lift.
That’s why we strongly recommend upgrading to a machine that’s built to handle marine, home, outdoor and automotive projects. The Ultrafeed Sewing Machine delivers the highest quality stitch definition and sewing precision in a heavy duty yet portable machine. You’ll never have to worry about skipped stitches or the machine not being able to handle multiple layers of fabric. The Ultrafeed has an incredibly impressive 3/8-inch presser foot lift that can handle extremely thick assemblies with ease. And the sewing machine’s patented Posi-Pin® Safety Shear is designed to break when you hit metal and a crash occurs, saving your machine from potential internal damage and retiming issues. If you sew marine canvaswork, home upholstery projects, auto or RV projects, awnings and patio DIYs, having the power of the Ultrafeed at your fingertips is crucial to a successful and stress-free sewing experience.
The portable, heavy duty Ultrafeed Sewing Machine will take your sewing to the next level.
Staples: Galvanized vs Stainless Steel
Every upholsterer knows staples are an essential part of re-covering furniture. Galvanized zinc staples are the standard staples used in home upholstery work. However, if you’re branching out into marine upholstery or outdoor work, we can’t emphasize enough the need to invest in stainless steel staples. They provide a higher level of durability and corrosion resistance and will last longer in outdoor and demanding marine environments. They are more expensive than galvanized staples, but they won’t rust and will still look great after years of exposure to rain and saltwater.
Vinyl Window Material: Rolled vs Press-Polished
When choosing a clear vinyl window material for your dodger, flybridge enclosure, bimini enclosure or other marine application, it can be tempting to choose a less expensive option. After all, all 30-gauge window vinyl is the same, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. At Sailrite, we sell two varieties of vinyl window material: rolled and press-polished. Let’s take a look at why press-polished — the more expensive option — is a better choice for marine applications.
There’s a difference in the manufacturing process between rolled goods and sheet goods (aka pressed and polished vinyl). A combination of heat and pressure is applied to weld the sheets of vinyl together, resulting in a sheet of clear window material with a more consistent thickness and greater optical clarity than rolled vinyl. Optical clarity is a crucial factor when you’re on a boat. You want to get years of use out of your window material. That means choosing a brand like Strataglass™ or O’Sea®, which are known for their superior optical clarity and a proprietary coating process that gives them better scratch and chemical resistance. This proprietary coating is crucial for the longevity of your window material.
The windows in this dodger are made from 40-gauge Strataglass window material.
Foam Cutting: Electric Kitchen Knife vs Foam Saw
When it comes to cutting foam for upholstery pieces, there’s a vast difference in the tools available to get the job done. If you are cutting straight, easy lines with minimal shaping — or if you only need to cut a small amount of foam — an electric kitchen knife will do well enough. Your lines might not look the cleanest, but usually, an electric kitchen knife is adequate enough for your purposes.
However, if you own a small upholstery shop or you do a lot of personal upholstery work, or you want the convenience and quality of fast, precise cuts, it’s wise to invest in a foam saw. A well-made foam saw is indispensable in an upholsterer’s workshop. It creates precise, accurate cuts for a great-looking finished product. The Sailrite® Blade Foam Saw features two blades for the smoothest possible cuts, even through high-density foam. One stationary blade grabs the foam while the moving blade expertly saws. This dual-blade system creates less bounce than single blade cutters and cuts through every type of foam on the market. We highly recommend this valuable tool for serious DIYers and small upholstery shops.
The Sailrite Blade Foam Saw cuts through thick, high-density foam with ease.
We hope our examples have helped explain why we feel it’s worth investing a little more money upfront for quality tools and supplies. By choosing professional-grade, high-quality materials, you save yourself time, frustration and additional costs down the road. You won’t have to redo your projects as often if you use products like lifetime thread, coated, scratch-resistant window material and real Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric. You won’t be disappointed by amateur-looking results if you use the best tools for the job, like the Sailrite Blade Foam Saw and the all-inclusive Ultrafeed PREMIUM package with everything you need to sew like a pro.
Let us know if you have any questions about choosing the right tool or supply for your DIY. We’re always happy to help our customers in all their sewing endeavors!