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Sewing awl thread

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 11:58 am
by Adam Byrd
So does anyone still use a sewing awl? I bought one recently, and I've about got my technique down now. The nylon thread I have came from a local fabric shop. It's fine for practicing, but I wouldn't really want to use it for any load bearing application. For those who still use the awl, what size thread do you use, and what is its minimum breaking strength? Where do you buy yours?

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 12:21 pm
by Scott McCrea
I've only used the thread made specially for sewing awls. The white, wax coated, pretty thick nylon stuff. I would recommend sticking to that. It's strong and works well with the awls. I've seen it for sale at the local outdoor shop.

Here's a previous thread that talked about sewing with awls:

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 1:50 pm
by Phil Winkler
You might want to look at the thread made of Goretex. Very strong and lasts forever almost.

Check shops that do awnings, boat tops, automobile interiors, etc.

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 2:24 pm
by bperkins
I use an awl that I bought from IMO. Not sure what the thread is. I only use for coverall repairs, boots, etc. Non-load bearing applications. Not sure how I lived without one for so long.

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 2:33 pm
by Rick Brinkman
I use it once in a while. Mainly to repair kneepads. I did make my own custom chest harness this year.

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 2:58 pm
by Scott McCrea
The Speedy Stitcher website recommends buying thread and other accessories online at The Trade Post.

Gore's (maker of Gore-Tex)Tenara thread is resistant to just about anything--UV, heat, chemicals, etc. But I couldn't any find any abrasion resistance info, which is the main concern for cavers. My gut says it is not very abrasion resistant. It's tensile strength is lower than the nylon thread that 99 percent of vertical gear is made out of. Which just means you would need more stitches to equal the same strength joint. And the Tenara is about 20 times more expensive than nylon. 1 lb of nylon is about $15. 1/2 lb of Tenara is $140. :shock:

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 3:10 pm
by Phil Winkler

You are correct about its cost. The main strength I use it for is its UV resistance. Not much of a problem with caving, but a big one for boating or awnings, etc. It's curious there is no data on its abrasion resistance, tho. I'll have to ask about that.

Gore is pretty savvy when it comes to pricing for the market, too.

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 3:18 pm
by BrianC
I have used an awl to stitch some gun holsters and other leather stuff. The Tandy Leather factory carries different thread for different needs! The factories are all over the USA. I have heard some people use dental floss as well for stitching!

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 3:32 pm
by Scott McCrea
I looked around a little more. I still couldn't find any real data but all the marketing stuff says the Tenara is very abrasion resistant. Which actually makes sense, since it is chemically similar Teflon.

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 4:07 pm
by icave
I just bought another spool of awe thread from Nina at IMO. My experience is that my repairs on my coveralls and belts that I have sewn hold up way better than the original stitching.

PostPosted: Apr 11, 2007 4:16 pm
by Bob Thrun
I always use thread of the same material as the webbing I am sewing. It has the same stretch, chemical resistance, UV resistance, and abrasion resistance as the webbing. The equal stretch is important for distributing the load over a large area of the joint, rather than just at one row at the end. If you like a particular material for its chemical or UV resistance, then why aren't you using the same material for the webbing?

There are two systems for expressing thread size. The mil-spec system uses letters for the smaller sizes and then switches to numbers. The commercial system uses numbers related to the number of fibers in the thread. The Para-Gear catalog lists

E 69 8.5 lbs
FF 138 16 lbs
3 207 24 lbs
5 346 40 lbs
6 415 50 lbs

The 69 thread is the smallest that anyone uses for harnesses and is about the largest that can be used in a home machine.

Sailrite lists polyester webbing and thread. They also list Tenara thread and Spectra webbing.

Be careful about the needles that come with most sewing awls. Most of the awls come with needles for leather. These needles have a pyramidal tip. The corners of the pyramid cut a hole thru the leather.

PostPosted: Apr 13, 2007 8:17 am
by caverd
A sewing awl was one of the first things I purchased after learning vertical caving techniques about 16 or so years ago (my initial climbing system was all tied on). I followed the instructions in On Rope and sewed a seat harness, chest harness, and foot loops for a rope walker system. I then made several harnesses for my friends. Some of these are still in use today. It's a royal pain in the rear to do all that sewing by hand! If done properly, however, is very strong and reliable.

I've used the standard, waxy sewing awl thread and I have a spool or two of nylon thread I picked up at Anchor Industries (they have a factory about 3 miles from me with an outlet store....they build industiral sized tents and many other sewn items). I don't remember the cost/spool, but I don't think it was that much. They don't always have it in the store either.

PostPosted: Apr 18, 2007 1:14 am
by werewolf
I never figured out how to use sewing awls in the official way, but if I'm sewing something very heavy, like leather, I'll just punch the holes with the awl and then run the stiches through with a blunt-nosed needle with heavy nylon thread that i wax myself with bees wax. If I'm sewing something not that heavy, I'll just use a strong needle with nylon thread, and if I can't push the needle through with my thumb I'll push it through with a little piece of thick leather, and/or pull it out the other end with a small pliers.