My upholstery machine & “the sofa”

With all of the slipcover and upholstery posts I’ve been sharing lately, I’ve received a lot of questions about the sewing machines I use.  I have two.  One is  $150 Kenmore machine that I’ve been using for about six years.  I have used and abused that poor little machine and it has done an amazing job and is still going.  I have never oiled it, never had it cleaned and have asked it to do way more than it was made to do.  One night, though, I was working on the channel back chair and the machine was choking on the layers of  thick, antique hemp fabric.

I was working with grain sack and hemp more and more, so it was time to upgrade to an upholstery machine that was made for what I was doing.

Enter machine number two – the Sailrite LS-1.  It’s on sale for $654 right now, so it’s not a cheap machine by any means, but it’s not as expensive as some of those upholstery machine beasts that are in the thousands.  I did a lot of research and liked that this was portable, powerful and had good reviews.  I took the plunge and bought one.  (With my own money.  This is not a paid review and I don’t think they even know I exist.)

I haven’t written a review on this machine, because I have still been getting to know it.  The first time I used it, I was trying to sew a linen pillow.  I pulled out the shiny new machine, ready to knock this project out, but the thread kept getting tangled and the fabric wouldn’t feed.  I looked through the instruction books and threaded the machine about 20 times and finally gave up and called the customer service number.  After probably about an hour of troubleshooting on the phone, we figured out the fabric was too thin for the machine.  Hm.  I didn’t expect that problem!  Good thing I didn’t chuck the Kenmore!  Now I’ve used it to make eight slipcovers, so I feel like I can give a more accurate review.

Here are the things I like…

  • Like I said, it’s portable and that’s really nice.  It is still pretty heavy, but it is mobile.
  • It can sew through four layers of grain sack, plus a grain sack ruffled skirt without a problem at all.  Like butter.
  • It’s straight forward.  Not simple, but straight forward.  There aren’t a million buttons and settings and screens and gadgets that I need to figure out.

These are the things I don’t like…

  • I like to take things out of the box and use them right away.  I don’t want to have to actually read a manual or watch a video!  This machine isn’t simple, so I had to watch a video on how to get it set up to sew.  There are more videos on using the machine and I would probably benefit greatly from watching them, but there are so many other things I want to be doing!  That being said, the full-color manual is very helpful and easy to use if you’re a “scanner” or “flipper” instead of a “reader”.  The videos are also super helpful if you’ll pin yourself down for 1-2 hours to watch them.
  • I have to think really hard to thread this machine.  I’m getting better at it, but I can thread my Kenmore with my eyes closed.  It’s really simple and there are arrows to follow when I have my mom or someone else helping me with a sewing project.  The Sailrite machine is complicated to thread.
  • As I mentioned above, it can only be used for heavy duty sewing, so it’s not a one-and-only kind of machine.  (I need the other one for button holes, anyway.)

In fairness, I think most of the things I don’t like about the machine have more to do with “operator error” and “operator impatience” and less to do with the machine.  So, I wouldn’t give this machine a thumbs down, but I wouldn’t give it an enthusiastic thumbs up, either.  I’m hoping I just need to use it more and the more I use it, the more I’ll love it.  That’s the hope and I’ll keep you updated!

MMS_Divider

Now, to the sofa I’m saving up for.  Here she is – the Brooklyn Toffee leather sofa from Pottery Barn.  (Again, this isn’t a paid feature post.  I have partnered with Pottery Barn in the past, but I’m saving my pennies for this purchase.)

Brooklyn Leather Sofa

I’ve had the Ikea Ektorp sofa with a white slipcover for about nine years.  Given that it was about $300, we’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth.  Now that my boys are getting older, I’m over having a white slipcover on our main sofa.  I still love them for chairs, but not for the place we slouch, lounge, wrestle and cuddle every day.  It just gets grungy too quickly and it is not easy to remove all of the slipcovers, wash them and put them back on.  As I’ve been thinking about what I would want, I kept coming back to two things.  In addition to looking nice and being comfortable, it has to be either washable or wipe-able.  Since I’ve lived with a white slipcover for nine years, I know how gross the sofa gets.  I don’t want all of the dirt and grime to just blend in.  I want to be able to clean it!  So, with washable slipcovers not working for me, it was time to go to wipe-able leather.

I’ve had my eye on the Brooklyn sofa for at least five years.  The shape is very similar to the Ektorp, with the rolled arm, but the back cushions aren’t loose AND it has one design element that I love.  Those who know me well know what that is.  Turned legs on castors.  I am a leg girl when it comes to furniture and I love a sofa with some nice legs.  The Brooklyn’s got nice legs.

Here’s a collage I put together, so you can get a feel for how it will work with the room…

family room collage

 I know it will be totally different, but I am really excited about the change.  I also can’t wait to share how I’ve been saving up the money to buy it.  I was playing a little game almost to see what I could sell and how I could find money in unexpected places to be able to buy it without pulling from our regular household income.

My husband, who knows me very well, made a fair observation.  ”You like to change things pretty regularly and this is an expensive sofa.  What happens when you’re tired of brown leather and ready for a change?”

I was prepared for such a question.

“Well, I can always make a slipcover for it!”

 Speaking of my husband, we all had a snow day today, so he took the time to work on the family room trim for me…

missmustardseed-59 (427x640)

We’re changing out the builder-grade trim to match the simple pine board trim in the 1940′s part of the home (the family room is in the addition.)  We’ll also be adding some 3/4 height wainscoting.

Moving right along…


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Comments

  1. So funny! We have the ektorp with the white slipcover too & we have just made the decision to go with the natural fiber slipcover instead. I am getting so sick of our white slipcovers & I want a break for our main sofa. I am so obsessed with that pottery barn sofa & I’ve used it in a few room designs in school. I am saving my pennies for a sofa like that too!! :) I hope you get yours soon!! xx

  2. Thank you the Industrial sewing machine review! I figured it would be coming soon with all the upholstery projects you’ve been doing! I work the same way you do…I want to pull it out of the box and go! Sorry to hear it hasn’t been super easy to work with, but the price is right for such a heavy duty machine. Keep us updated with your thoughts…I’m still on the fence :)!

  3. ElliyL says:

    I love that sofa from pottery barn!! I am having the hardest time deciding between a classic leather sofa, like the one you chose, or a lovely linen sofa in a durable fabric blend, like this one from RH, I LOVE the Ondine Salon Bench Sofa!!!!

    http://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/product/product.jsp?productId=prod2430339&categoryId=cat2390481#

  4. Michelle says:

    Why oh why do sofa manufacturers these days make the back legs different from the front?? Drives me nuts! Looks like they ran out of the proper legs – just crazy. I like your sofa choice but why do they do that?

  5. ‘I have to think really hard to thread this machine. I’m getting better at it, but I can thread my Kenmore with my eyes closed. It’s really simple and there are arrows to follow when I have my mom or someone else helping me with a sewing project. The Sailrite machine is complicated to thread.’

    Marian – I teach beginner sewing classes and ladies bring in all sorts of different machines. Some have the threading arrows, but many do not. I know it is not pretty to write on a brand new sewing machine, but after I teach the ladies to thread their machines, I hand them a fine Sharpie marker and have them make their own arrows on the machine in a way that makes sense to them. If they don’t want to write on their machine, I use FROG tape and have them write on the tape. They thread their machines 6 or 8 times over the course of the day and get really comfortable with it! Hope this little tip helps you or one of your readers!

  6. I love the look of that Pottery Barn sofa, too. However, did you physically sit in it? It’s definitely deeper in the seating area then the Ektorp. I couldn’t purchase any of the sofas or chairs from Pottery Barn the past few years because I felt like Edith Ann sitting in them. If I lean back my feet don’t touch the ground or if my feet touch the ground I can’t lean back. I wound up purchasing a custom order sofa from a local Norwalk Furniture dealer. http://www.norwalkfurniture.com/furniture

  7. Jennifer says:

    I recently found a store in Washington called Leathers home furnishings. They buy couches from the same manufacturer as pottery barn and restoration hardware, but sell it for much less. It was a happy discovery.

  8. We switched from a cream twill Thomasville sofa to a brown leather traditional style Bernhardt sectional about ten years ago, and I’ve never regretted it. We have dogs and the old sofa had to be covered at all times. The three big dogs we have now literally race across the leather sofa and it looks like new, even after twelve years!

  9. Jackie says:

    I recently became the owner of an industrial machine and complicated is right. Have you tried taking a picture of the machine when it is threaded to refer back to. I also wanted to give you the heads up that many heavy duty machine need regular oiling, so you may want to read up the maintenance to keep it in good running order.

  10. Very interesting post – I remember learning to sew on the old hand Singer sewing machines in High School & was then gifted by great aunt’s hand Singer & it really was a work horse; not an industrial machine, but a good strong machine that would ‘walk’ over really thick fabrics….

    Leather is a good choice with a young family as it takes the stress out of normal family life & I love your choice with good legs ….

  11. Shelly says:

    Hi Marian,

    I love the sofa you have picked out. HOWEVER…You may want to check out how sturdy the front wheels are. I had a chair with the same design, solid legs on the back and wheels on the front. A guest sat down really hard on the chair one day and popped one of the wheels off, and it was not a self repair! I am sure your sweet boys would not pound, stand or play fight on it, but boys are rough and tough. If they did jump on the front part only, this could be an issue. Just an FYI. :)

    Blessings

  12. Michelle says:

    Enjoyed your honesty regarding your new Sailrite machine. I have had the very same machine for about a year as well and have also struggled getting used to it. It is fantastic to use for piping, cushion covers, heavy materials and leather, you cannot beat it..

    A couple of tips I’ve found very helpful are to, search online for issues (Sailrite has videos everywhere, they will give you visual relief to problems), thread over the existing thread until I know where I’m going, load the bobbin without unthreading the machine (video on-line), purchase the swing arm guide and add-on lite.

    Lastly if you change the needle make sure it is inserted exactly as in the picture, aligned with the grove on the proper side otherwise you will spend an hour or more trying to figure out what the problem is when your stitching tension and other is off.

    Looking forward to seeing your new projects!

  13. Kristina says:

    I’ve been doing some research for a week on exactly the same brand portable sewing machine! Brilliant :))) review Just on time. Thank you!

  14. I had to chuckle when I read your post about not wanting to have to actually read a manual or watch a video, only because it’s what you do as part of your job, but I can certainly relate!

    Your sofa choice is great. Please keep me in mind if you decide yo sell the channel back ;) – I’ll have to schedule a road trip to get it (preferably in good weather), but I’m there!

    Have a great week ending.
    Rita C. at Panoply

  15. Deb Claytor says:

    I would like to know what is the trim molding like in the original house?
    We built our Habitat home in 2005, and had to have certain things, like the
    builder grade trim, but have done all of the visible doorways just like the ones
    you are doing. BUT, I am not sure what to do with the base boad trim along
    the floor.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    p.s. I have one piece that has a slipcover from dropcloths…and while I love the look, I have to daily wash them, if I want to keep up the apprearances (but with 6 children, I don’t wash them daily). So I am excited to see your leather sofa…..because I would like to have some of my furniture reupholstered (not cheaper then what you are doing, but my furniture has good bones so going to use what I have).
    Deb CLaytor

  16. I can’t wait to see the new couch and how you incorporate it in the style you love. Yay for getting trim work done!

  17. Thanks for the sewing machine review! and I’m excited to see how your sofa is going to look in your home. Have a great and wonderful day!

  18. Jeanine C. says:

    Marian, I am right there with you when it comes to the insturction manual! Do they make the “cliff note” version? ;)

    I had a leather sofa (very similar color) for almost 10 years in my last house. I loved so many things about it…the ease of cleaning, the clean look, and the wearability. You will love those things too! I ended up giving it away to a friend when we moved and the sofa looked just about the same as the day we bought it!

    I now have a slipcovered sofa from Ballard Designs, and while there is more work involved, I have been enjoying the versatility of it. I took off the creamy slipcover that I use in the spring and summer to replace it with the warm sandy color for the fall and winter. It’s like having a whole new sofa.

    Love the conversation with your husband!

    When you want a change, you could make a slipcover for the spring/summer months! How to slipcover leather would make a great tutorial!

    Can’t wait to see it all come together. Anticipation is oh so sweet :)

  19. Donna in KY says:

    I don’t know if this helps with your machine, but on my serger, I tie the new thread onto the existing at the spool with a single knot, loosen the tensions on all threads, pull the thread through. Then all I have to do is thread the needles and reset my tensions.

    Donna S

  20. Audrey says:

    Please! Get your Kenmore serviced! At least oil it at home! Your machines need to be taken care of like you take care of your car and yourself! My first machine was a Kenmore and it lasted me over 25 years because I took care of it. Find a good sewing machine store with a good service department. Those people are worth their weight in gold.

  21. Now THAT made me laugh out loud. Way to go girl with the really quick thinking on your husbands question about getting tired of the sofa! Leather can be so yummy, especially when it softens up. I’m sure it will look amazing, and can’t wait to find out how you saved up for it!

    Cindy

  22. I have been doing research for purchasing an upholstery machine and have found the Morse sewing machine to be very similar to the Sailrite, and a little cheaper. Do any of your readers have experience with this one?

  23. Carla says:

    Ikea has a leather sofa that you could change the legs on. YSTAD Sofa, Grann dark brown $999.00. It is significantly less expensive and could look very nice if you were interested.

    I think a leather will look great with everything else in that room.

  24. Marian, do you give sewing lessons? ;-)
    I got an older sewing machine from my mother-in-law when she decided she wanted to downsize, but I have never used a sewing machine in my life. I am almost done with painting the interior of our house, and the next project will be making curtains for all the windows. I am not sure whether to look forward to it or dread it.

    As for the leather sofa, it looks really good. The only thing I was wondering about is if it came in any other colors. Darker leather maybe? Somehow, it seems that all your other brown pieces and accents in the family room are dark brown.

    • Yes, it comes in a darker leather, but I’m afraid it would disappear into the floor and look really dark against all of the whites. The mid-tone brown looks like it would work better to me.

  25. elaine simmons says:

    I don’t know if any of you are familiar with a Bernina machine but it is really a workhorse. I have had mine for 25 years and if properly maintained, will go through several thicknesses. It is quite expensive, however, but sometimes you can get them on Ebay for a reasonable price. It is Swiss made. I just bought a Brother machine too as I will be taking it to classes and could not possibly lift the Bernina to bring it back and forth.

  26. Stacey says:

    Would you mind telling me what fabric that is in your new design plan, or is it a rug? I love it. I have loved following your blog we have a similar love of comfort/country design with a bit of girly, haha. I thought my house wasn’t girly my husband assured me that it was, but he still loves it. I am however a red girl, not much blue I my house. When I saw the swatch with your new room plan I was in love, Thanks Stacey

  27. jerri says:

    The brown/blue floral fabric is so pretty! Can you give me the details?

  28. I agree with you Marian about a good couch for real lives. We are grandparents but own a farm, have lots of company; and big dogs who like to sleep on a couch. But I am an Interior Designer and want nice for us too. I have the slipcovered Pottery Barn couch in the front room; yet have the leather couch for the family room where everyone goes to be comfortable, to eat, to talk and the dogs go. I have never been sorry about leather on the couch. I just couldn’t justify the cost at PB or Restoration Hardware or anyplace else for the cost leather couch as like you, I change my mind every few years on furniture. Last year I happened to go on-line to JC Penney and saw one I liked. After Christmas they had sales and if you sign up and put it on credit card, I got another 10% off. We ended up paying like $700 for the same $2500 couch at PB, but from Pennys. When it starts looking bad, scratched, etc, I just use a leather cleaner with the color of couch and it looks new again. We have had grandkids draw on it, spill, dogs scratch it and to be honest, I think the leather is looking better the more it is being used. That is my opinion-good choice on leather.

  29. Lee Davison says:

    Truly appreciate your honest opinion about the
    Upholstery sewing machine as it’s the
    little things about a machine that drive
    you nuts. I will look further before I bite
    the bullet
    I want to make fur purses so my need is real
    special
    I would appreciate any!!! Reader feedback
    Thanks ladies
    Lee

  30. MaryS says:

    The only thing I would caution about leather is if it gets cut or punctured it’s toast. For instance an ink pen can make a hole or a pair of scissors too. Other than that your plan sounds like a good one. I have a leather chair that I love but there aren’t any kids around who could damage it.

    I’ve had a Bernina sewing machine for many years and it’s been with me for curtains, pillows and slip covers. There are times that it struggles and breaks it’s needles but for the most part it’s been a very good machine. Don’t give up on the Sailright! It’ll get better the more you use it.

  31. I have to tell you, we saved and saved for a super expensive Italian leather sofa a few years back. In way less than a year there were holes in one seat. They grew and grew. I even tried to get crafty and I glued other leather over the holes in a decorative pattern. The leather was just thin on that seat and it was a disaster. It truly was top quality as well,
    Here is the thing…you can’t slipcover leather, it slips. There no way to hold even the tightest of slips in place.
    Consider micro-velvet. The stuff is magic. Everything wipes off it. My dog has scratched the heck out of it and 24 hours later it has healed itself. Magic!
    Disclaimer- I would still buy a leather Chesterfield, cause a girl has to live. I just would make sure it wasn’t a room heavily used.

  32. Wandalee says:

    You have excellent taste and I am sure you will love the sofa for a good long time…I can’t believe how long we have had ours and I think I said this before but in case you missed it,,,GET AN EXTRA SET OF SEAT CUSHIONS… The buttons on the back pocket of my jeans tore a hole in one of ours ..I patched it , but the patch is an eyesore. Other than the seats, which also now are slouchy, I would purchase the same sofa again…

    I hide it with throws and a put a pillow or book or something down to keep the dogs from sitting there when I am not home.

  33. I love the sofa you chose! I bought a similar leather sofa last year from Bernhardt and I love it. However, mine is dark brown and I wish I has chosen a lighter brown. I have had a Kenmore machine since 1982 and it is a work horse. Love it. At the time, my mom had a Singer Golden Touch and Sew that I loved…when it worked. Also everyone was going to plastic at the time except for Kenmore. All of my female relatives have Vikings, Bernina, Pfaff etc. I have no regrets keeping my Kenmore. Not fancy but never has let me down…you really should oil it though.

  34. I had to laugh a little as I read about the sewing machine only because I too can relate been there , I started on a 100$ sewing machine too and when I upgraded to my new one (and again when I plunged into a serger) I realized the more I asked my machine to do the more I had to do , like threading being a pain. And mostly operator error. One tip is trying different brands of thread I have certain machines that like certain brands better lol. But I also still have my old back up machine too. Each one is made for something different and amazing to see how you can grow in creating. I must also say I am self taught too 9 years ago I started learning to see xoxo

  35. perfect sofa choice! it’s going to look amazing in your space. I’m looking for a leather armchair with similar lines. I’ll have to see what they have at PB.

  36. Julie C. says:

    The brown and multi-colored fabric you chose
    for your family room is lovely. Would you share
    who it’s from?

  37. OH this is a beautiful sofa! We recently purchased a red… yes read sofa from Broyhill. It is incredible as it has the straight lines we love and it will be so easy to make slipcovers for. I love hearing about how you are saving up for the new sofa.

    Your family room is going to be gorgeous and yet so functional with a house full of boys! The perfect combination! Good luck!

  38. Allison says:

    I don’t think your husband needs to worry about you trading out that sofa-you’ve had the Ikea one for 9 years, right? :)

  39. Elizabeth Menard says:

    Hi Marian,

    Love your posts! I have a suggestion about your new machine. When you change thread, instead of removing one colour and completely re-threading, try leaving the first thread all the way through the machine…just cut it off at the spool, then tie your new thread onto the cut end. Unless the thread goes through some very small holes (like the needle) you should be able to gently pull it through the machine, or sew on a scrap, until the new colour is threaded. I do this on my serger and it works great!

    Cheers, Elizabeth

  40. melissa says:

    I have been waiting to hear about the machine. Thats too funny about the fabric being “too thin”. I probably would have made that mistake too!

    I am also a big fan of the Pottery Barn sofa that you are saving for. We shopped and shopped and ended up finding a VERY similar, excellent quality sofa you might want to take a look at!

    Its the Broyhill Harrison 6751 and you can choose the fabric/(leather in your case) as they make them to order. The main difference is the back cushions. They are attached so they don’t move around- by the way. We ordered the sofa, loveseat, and a chair for the same price as the Pottery Barn Brooklyn.

    Love how the room is changing! Good luck!

  41. Candace says:

    Hi…
    I love the square of material… Where is that from?????

  42. Colleen says:

    One tip for you as you use your machine, when you are starting to sew, hold both threads, upper and bobbin, to the back, behind the head as you start out. With heavier duty machines this will help keep “nest issues” in check. Be careful of your hands when using heavier duty machines!

  43. Sandy says:

    Love the leather sofa, but, but, but ,,, your boys are still young, and it sounds like your family really, really uses a sofa. I’ve seen what a leather sofa looks like with younger children – not pretty. I would go for a lesser expensive model for a few more years. Someone above made a really good point about the casters, too.
    I know what it’s like when you really love something … I’m just too practical….

  44. I have a Sailrite and I LOVE it!!! I make slipcovers for a living and use both my regular machine and my Sailrite for them. Have had it for 10 years. Absolutely no regrets!

  45. Kim L. says:

    I can’t wait until you get your leather sofa! Then you can solve all my problems! How on earth do you get throw pillows to “stay put” on a leather sofa? We have had our leather sofa for 10 years and it would still look brand new if it wasn’t for the darn cat : ) She leaves little marks on it when she jumps on and off it.

  46. The sofa you have picked out is beautiful! I think that color is perfect for your living room palette. We have a leather sofa and it just can’t be beat for comfortable lounging, naps, and all that good stuff.

    We’ve had our sofa for 7 years now and I love it more now than I did then. Like Paula, I feel that the older and more worn the leather looks, the prettier it is.

    I have no cautions about owning leather furniture…. I think you’ll love it.

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