Sailrite LSZ-1

Sewing Machine for Your Sailboat?

Sailrite LSZ-1
My Sailrite LSZ-1

I’m hearing from several folks looking to buy heavier sewing machines.  It can be a big investment, yet one that will likely pay for itself*.  A sewing machine is a great tool for the boat.  Like the Porter Cable  multi tool or cordless drill.  I was surprised when my husband  said I’d be sewing for the boat.  Who knew how much canvas was aboard? He was in full agreement with buying a heavier sewing machine.  While a good seamstress or fabricator is a valuable professional to have on speed dial, there are many projects you can do yourself.  So the right tool is worth the investment.

Yes, I have a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 (zigzag). I do like it and use it a lot. It is heavy as it has mainly metal parts (44lbs). It’s bit loud, but not unusually so. If you plan to work with marine canvas, vinyls and sail cloth for more than a few projects, it is worth it. Watch for Sailtrite Boat Show specials (look for maybe 10% off or add-on items.). Sailrite tends to price reasonably and not engage in heavy discounts.  You might find one used if you are lucky.  Get a good light, the new attached thread holder (not the stand), and the add-on stitch length lever. You need the kick stand and #16, and #18 needles for mid weight projects. If you will do zippers and piping, buy both the left and right pressure feet. If you just buy one inevitably you’ll need the other! Have the retaining ring cap spring in spares. A needle strike will require this to be changed out which isn’t hard to do.  It will happen every few months and always in the middle of a project! You’ll know when stitches start skipping.  I have yet to use the monster wheel, although I haven’t done really heavy weight projects and many folks love it. The Sailrite website, DVD about the machine, and forum are helpful and informative.

Retaining ring cap spring
Retaining ring cap spring

All that said, if you are looking to do a few projects with not many layers of canvas or vinyl, a good solid (maybe older metal) home sewing machine could work fine. I use my old Singer for the lighter projects (e.g., wind scoops).  I hear from a lot of folks and from my early Home Ec sewing training that Husqvarna Viking machines are solid machines.

Several sailors have talked about Consew, Necchi, and Phaff as solid heavy duty machines.  I don’t have experience with these.  I’m sure they are good machines also.  The key is the walking feed dogs to help move the thick fabrics through the stitches.  If it has that feature you will have a much easier time with heavier weight projects.

The only way you’ll regret buying a heavier machine is if you don’t use it!

Do you have experience with a sewing machine to share?  Post a comment.

*My Dad bought a Singer home sewing machine in 1959.  Having four daughters, he said it was his best investment!  I started sewing with it in my teens and made many of my own clothes and household items.  I still have it.  After a bit of maintenance, it still works very well. 

pressure foot

Making Piping with right-sided pressure foot

6 thoughts on “Sewing Machine for Your Sailboat?

  1. Gosh what a timely post…. I’ve already made the decision to purchase the Sailrite LSZ-1 but your list of extras is handy. I’ll print it out and take it with me when I go to pick my machine up later this month. The UK distributor is based a few minutes from where our boat is currently based which is very handy! They’ve offered me a demo session to so I can learn how to thread the machine up etc which will be useful.

    Thx again


  2. I enjoy your articles and FB.

    I have wondered about taking my sewing machine with me on the boat. But I can’t figure out were to store it when not in use. Our boat is only 30 ft in length, and 9’6″ in width.

    i would love to have it with me to do our own repairs and maybe make extra income from others repairs.

    I have a old White, that will do regulars boat sewing, and canvas repairs. And another, Reliable Barracuda, that will go thru 5 layers of sail cloth.

    If you or your readers have any suggestions for me I would appreciate it.

    Thank you
    Yvonne McTeer
    s/v Modaki

    1. Yvonne
      I plan to store my machine on an aft bunk under the cockpit. Our boat is admittedly bigger than your. We sleep forward of the mast and have two double aft cabins. Whilst we are cruising one of them is always used for stowage – charts, hobby stuff, a sewing machine, out of season clothing and more all live in there. The cabin has a solid leeboard rather than a leecloth which makes a convenient divider and keeps everything secure.


    2. Hi Yvonne – I have a Husqvarna machine and I put it under the main galley table if its not too shifty out. If we’re passage-making it fits in the bottom of a big locker. I am on a 35 foot and would like to bring an industrial sewing machine aboard as well but I don’t think I have the space. I was also looking at the Reliable Barracuda, it doesn’t come with a case though, did you make one for yours?

  3. I have been sewing for years. When I started sewing for our boats I invested in several “heavy” machines. I purchased an old Montgomery Ward, a new Necchi and a few other old machines in an attempt to not spend the money on the Sailrite. None of those could stand up to a real canvas project or a minor sail repair. I finally bought the LSZ1 when we needed a new main. I had the boat show coupon and saved 10%, I also hear that they will price match the guys on ebay that are selling it cheaper. It was the best investment I’ve made and I should have done it sooner.

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