Sewing to repair blankets

I have several blankets with ripped off straps that close the blankets’ fronts and I’m pondering trying to fix them myself with a machine. Doubt my own normal sewing machine would be up to it and am wondering about heavy duty machines. I saw an inexpensive heavy duty Singer online, but then saw the reviews were poor. If you have any experience sewing blankets, please let me know how it went and with what sort of machine.

And thread… I’ve used heavy carpet thread before, by hand, to make a repair, but don’t know if that is suitable with a machine.

The cost of sending blankets out to be fixed makes me consider doing it myself.

I don’t know how janky your machine is but mine is an ancient Kenmore and it sews surprisingly thick and heavy things with a leather needle and heavy duty thread. :grimacing:

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I use a sail repair kit. Comes with an assortment of needles and very strong line. Not pretty, but it works.

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I have a 1989 dish Pfaff, it has been sewing jeans, coveralls, and heavy winter blankets.
Sometimes I have to help feed the blanket through the machine but it sews, gets the job done.

It didn’t really like sewing the layers of nylon webbing on a hay net…

An older Singer is probably exactly what you need. The newer machines have too much plastic, don’t seem to have as much power.

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I have an old singer. Only sews straight. They have all metal gears so those old machines are pretty hefty. I’ve been doing my own repairs for years. I use upholstery thread. I know that it’s expensive to have someone fix them, but buying a machine, thread and needles (darn things are expensive!) adds up as well.

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I used to repair blankets on my Bernina sewing machine but decided to discontinue after the last breakdown. The people at the sewing center said that my machine can definitely handle the thickness, and I probably needed to use a different needle. This is probably true, but I don’t want to risk it anymore. My machine is old but awesome. I can’t afford to replace it if I break it and they can’t repair it. Plus, I wasn’t using a heavy enough thread, and the straps just ripped off again.

Even though it takes a lot more time, I’ve been using the Speedy Stitcher for my repairs. The thread is thick, and so far all of my repairs have held up very well. The stitching is not pretty, however, and it doesn’t match the blanket. I use it for repairing straps and the binding on the edges of the blankets. I don’t know how well it would work for repairing areas on the body of the blankets.

https://www.amazon.com/Speedy-Stitcher-Sewing-Awl/dp/B07BMN71QF

For repairs on the body of the blankets, I use regular thread to stitch the area closed. Then I apply silicone glue over the top of the stitching for protection and to make it waterproof. This has worked well for me.

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Very happy to see all these good ideas. Thank you, each of you!

I’ll try maybe all of these, starting with a borrowed Speedy Stitcher as an emergency fix, then upgrading to a stronger needle and upholstery thread on my present machine. Will look into the sail repair supplies too. An old Singer sounds great; will keep my eyes open for one.

Much appreciated!

Not machine related, but I’ve also had good success sewing spot repairs in heavy wear spots with dental floss.

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Mr LS used an elderly industrial sewing machine to make some blanket repairs for me several years ago. All the repairs looked neat and have held up beautifully.

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I do not sew. For strap replacement I use aluminum pop rivets with a piece of leather as the inside backer. It is quick, easy, and I already have rivets and rivet tool to use on my horse trailer. Repairing rips and tears is not in my skill set.

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I didn’t think about using rivets! My blankets needed replacement bellybands and I sloppily hand sewed them on. The stitches seem to be holding up okay, but it was time consuming. I was pretty certain my sewing machine couldn’t handle anything that thick.

The needle is really the key factor. I’ve done some repairs with my heavy duty Singer, but it’s an older model and a real work horse but doesn’t have a lot of room under the arm if I need to sew in the middle of the blanket. It works fine for around the edges.

I recently bought a Chinese made leather shoe repair sewing machine so I could replace the zippers in my boots. (It’s really a pain to do and not for the faint of heart). Anyway, it’s a hand crank machine and amazingly enough sews really well and has much more room under the arm for thick fabrics. It was around $300, basically what the shoe guy wanted to redo my boot zippers.

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atlatl, that is highly impressive. I may be too faint of heart to leap that far into the unknown, but good for you!

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Look for an old Viking machine.

We have a shop in New Hampshire that does laundry and repairs. I watched them do a repair one day, and I would go for the pros unless everything is a straight line.

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Dental floss is (or at least used to be) the “go to” for repairing motorcycle roadracing leathers.

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I have a place in my area that repairs boat sails, cushions etc. they have the extra heavy machines and all the right stuff. I take a few blankets over there every year to get straps and such fixed. Maybe you have something like that where you are.

I also have an ancient Singer … Early 1950’s… in a heavy cabinet.
Goes forward and backward. No zig. No zag.
It sews through just about anything!
Maybe you can find one at a garage sale or on kijiji.

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My 1990 $85 Brother did more blanket repairs than it should have. It in general, sewed more than it should have.

I picked up an old, refurbished Singer for heavy work. I hate it. Hate it. Hate it. Did I mention I don’t like it?

I have a Janome HD-3000 that does good work. Mine needs to be cleaned right now. My perfect machine would be a computerized version of this machine, except I wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Another good option is a Reliable Barracuda; it’s a little more than the Janome & probably a little tougher. If you can find either a rebuilt version of either one, pick it up.

Something to consider with elderly machines, is just getting them cleaned and greased. Old grease collected dust, dirt, hardens in time. My repair guy recommends cleaning and greasing about every five years. Of course many machines work pretty well for many years longer. But any kind of machine issues can often be resolved with a good cleaning and new grease.

I have found the Schmetz Blue Jean needles to be pretty good on heavy fabrics, fixing blankets. I have to be careful to NOT hurry, pushing or pulling fabric faster than it can feed thru under needle by itself. Doing that hurrying often bends or breaks needles.

I see older Singers, often in cabinets, at online Auctions. Prices vary. Black ones that manage heavy fabrics are usually below $100, then figure in cleaning cost. I got my Mom’s old black Singer back from my brother, who used it for repairing his heavy work pants and Carhartt bibs. He had no problems sewing on that stuff, just straight stitching, forward and back. I got it cleaned, new cord put on, now ready to use. Repair guy said it was a heavy dressmaker’s model machine. Not sure when it was made, but Gramma sewed a lot of clothes on it before she bought the Phaff for the extra stitch features. That Phaff is mine now. I remember sewing a NICE pair of show chaps (three layers of clothing weight leather plus zipper!) on the Singer, before she passed machine along to brother. Got a lot of compliments on those chaps!

I have the original version of that Chinese machine @atlatl mentioned. Mine is a Singer treadle, 1890s model. The arm is very narrow, tiny bobbin, but it can sew in any direction! Circles even!! It did need repair, was missing bobbin holder and a couple little things we had replaced. Works nicely, though my treadling stitching improves with regular use! Among leather folks this machine is called “patching machine, 29-K” because it could put patches anyplace on shoes and boots, toes even! Common in shoe repair shops. Nice even stitches, both sides, using #10 thread for sewing, another Auction find. There are places to order various sized polyester thread, any color, that professionals use for repairs. I need to order some for my next projects, making chinks.

My regular machines also sew blanket repairs, just not the really thick straps, halters. All older, 1940s Phaff, 1970s Vikings with cogs for stitches and metal gears for slow or normal stitching. Sometimes that slow gear really powers thru heavy fabrics.

And some things I just need to take to my Amish harness repair shop. His machines will go thru 3 layers of heavy nylon halters, thick leather or biothane strapping.

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Former (long ago) blanket maker and repair-er here.

There are a lot of older, simpler, cheap machines that can do the work, but you kind of have to buy one to try it! Actually sometimes you can take stuff you’re trying to sew (say, several layers of woven nylon along with some polypropylene webbing) to a commercial sewing machine place, and ask them what they have that will sew it. You can find these places in the ugly downtowns of big cities, IE, LA, New York, Chicago, etc. Don’t judge a machine by its looks, let it show you what it can do.

If they’ll let you test-drive an old machine you may be able to find something that’ll do the trick for not much money. Look for upholstery-type machines if you can, they have higher clearance for materials under the foot usually. And the simpler ones are usually better- you don’t need to be able to embroider a hemline of baby ducks, you just need it to sew forwards, and a reverse lever is nice too. Make sure it can handle heavy thread too, and one that takes pre-wound bobbins is super-handy. If you can find one with a walking foot is great, that means that both the bottom teeth (called the feed dog, in the base plate of the machine that the needle goes through to catch the bobbin thread) and the top foot (that fingers-looking thing that sits on top of where the needle enters the fabric) move with gears and tiny teeth on the parts that help pull top and bottom layers of heavy fabric through the needle area at the same time. Generally… that’ll be a machine designed for the heavy layers in upholstery, and sometimes for denim work.

Biggest issue with a lot of machines, and any repairs really, is the filth from blankets. You really, really want to wash them before you let them near any machine that has oil in it! Horse hair and dander + oil makes for a horrible mess and gummed-up machine. And you want to oil your machine frequently; old commercial machines sometimes even have an oil bath down by the bobbin that continually lubricates the moving parts of the needle area and adjacent.

Yes, needles are important- ask the sewing machine place, and buy a bunch of them. Be careful sewing through really heavy stuff, too- if the needle breaks off, and you have your li’ll face close to the needle, trying to see what you’re doing with a size 84 blanket crammed through the throat of the sewing machine… shards from a shattered needle can really, really hurt you… especially your eyes. Beware!

Another thing to think about is WHY the blanket failed. A lot of repairs are because blankets are often made from stupid designs, with, for example, front straps that are not well-reinforced on the inside of the blanket. Buying better blankets (and a lot of blankets are way better than they used to be) is often a good value move. And adding inner reinforcements, in the form of something strong that hopefully doesn’t fray like lightweight leather (or burning the edges of nylon) to make patches can help keep the same failures from recurring.

Nylon is lots stronger than polyester, and both are stronger than cotton of the same size diameter. Denier, by the way, is a measurement of the fabric’s thread thickness, not anything else. One denier, legend has it, is the size of a single strand of silk (notoriously strong for its size, but not seen much in horse blankets!) You also need to know what the FIBER is, not just the denier. 600 denier Nylon is a lot stronger than 600 denier polyester. Can you tell my Mom taught textiles?

Anyways, try to mend clean blankets, be creative about improving the design or strength underneath straps that seem to fail repeatedly, and don’t overlook ancient homely sewing machines that might just love a job sewing through layers and layers of horse fabric! My friend who is a legendary chap maker has been making them for 50 years on an ancient straight-stitch Singer that was already 50 years old when she bought it!

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