Beginner sewing machines are great for most dressmaking or home sewing projects, but if you want to go pro, tackle tougher fabrics or sew items in larger volumes – an industrial sewing machine could be the answer. With their extra speed, power and durability, you might think of them as the super heroes of the sewing world.
Perhaps you’re looking to turn your home sewing into a small business, from dressmaking and alterations in your living room to making home furnishings to sell. An industrial sewing machine may sound daunting at first, but it’s basically a machine that has been built to support long term, professional sewing projects – this means it’s been made with better durability so won’t break as easily, and it will be speedier and sturdier than most regular domestic sewing machines.
Industrial sewing machines are used by many who sew professionally – from making or altering clothes to offering home sewing and upholstery services, for example making curtains regularly for others. They can make light work of upholstery fabric and handle a range of tougher fabrics with ease (say hello to sewing leather!) but all this also means it comes with a bigger price tag. Many sewists find it tricky to decide which machine is worth the investment, so we’ve done the research for you in this guide to the Best Industrial Sewing Machines. We’ll talk you through How to choose an industrial sewing machine, run through their main features and benefits and suggest some of our picks of the best industrial sewing machines to get you started.
Before you go shopping, if you’re new to sewing and you just want to to make a few clothes or home sewing items for yourself or friends, then you might be better off to begin with our sister post, best sewing machines for beginners We also have guides to finding the best sewing machines for kids or the best overlockers that could suit your sewing needs!
In this article, we’ll cover
What is an industrial sewing machine?
An industrial sewing machine is a professional-grade sewing machine which has been designed to handle larger-scale and tougher sewing projects than your regular sewing machine. While most domestic machines are designed to be multi-taskers which an be used to make clothes or smaller home projects for maybe a few hours at a time, industrial sewing machines have been specially built to handle heavy-duty projects and larger scale sewing. You can use them for longer, and with tougher fabrics, than domestic sewing machines, and they’ve been built to last so they’re less likely to break in the process.
They are worth considering if you’re looking to start dressmaking for a living or if you want to start making curtains or other chunkier items to sell. They’re also handy if you find you are often sewing thick or tougher materials that your machine struggles to handle – from denim to upholstery fabric – for example if you’re making a lot of costumes from specialist fabrics that your current sewing machine struggles with.
What is the difference between an industrial sewing machine and a normal one?
They can be used for longer: you can run an industrial machine for hours on end with less chance of needles snapping or parts breaking. They will go and go so they’re the machine of choice if you’re after stamina or you’re spending many hours every day sewing.
They can handle tougher fabrics: while this varies per machine and you can get different industrial sewing machines that specialise in different fabrics, as a rule of thumb, industrial sewing machines will be able to sew through more layers of fabric, and tougher fabrics, with ease.
The last longer: because they’ve been designed to be hard-wearing, industrial sewing machines should be more reliable under pressure, and be able to sew in much higher volumes without breaking or needing regular servicing.
They’re faster: To say industrial machines are nippy is an understatement. They can sew at hugely impressive speeds. You’ll whip through jobs in a fraction of the time they’d take on a domestic machine.
They offer higher quality stitching: As they’ve been created for pros, industrial machines offer near perfect stitch quality which would be hard to beat with a regular domestic machine.
They’re less portable: While home sewing machines can be pretty easily picked up and transported to friends houses, workshops or moved from room to room of your home, industrial machines are heavier and bulkier and come with a separate motor. So you’ll need to pick a space to sew in and commit to it.
They need more space: As industrial sewing machines usually larger and heavier than domestic machines, they need more space and a table to house their motor. Before you commit to buy, do you have space for the machine to live? Check the spec before you commit.
They’re more powerful: Industrial machines have been built with added oomph. The foot pedal of an industrial machine will press with little effort and is hugely powerful. Many sewists find this a bit daunting at first but you’ll adjust with practice.
They specialise! If you want a varied multi-tasker, opt for a domestic machine. Industrial machines are often designed to do specific tasks at high volume/speed, really really well – but they may not be as adaptable. For example they may focus on doing straight stitch, buttonholes or serger stitch, or on handling a specific type of fabric, for example leather or lighter fabrics. As they’ve been built for this purpose, they’re less likely to enjoy being offered a different task. This depends on the machine of course.
What is a walking foot industrial sewing machine?
A walking foot industrial sewing machine has a special foot built into the stitching area that grips the top of your fabric. Using a walking foot machine ensures your fabric moves smoothly as you sew – as the feed dogs move the bottom layer at the same rate as the top layer. This reduces the chance of your fabric puckering or shifting as you sew. Walking foot industrial sewing machines are often chosen by quilting businesses, and to topstitch hems or necklines. They’re also the machine of choice if you’re sewing knit fabrics as they’re designed to stop the chance of your fabric stretching as you stitch.
How to choose an industrial sewing machine
We’re here to help you find the best industrial sewing machine for your needs – from durability to speed, and price point! Here are our top tips:
Do you need one? We’re not trying to talk you out of it but if you’re only reading this article because your current machine is breaking a lot or you’re not getting on with it, the solution may be to find another domestic sewing machine or learn more about the feet and accessories available on your current machine. However if you’re looking to sew professionally (or you sew ALL the time) then an industrial machine could be worth the investment. Keep reading if you own a small shop that offers alterations or tailoring, if you offer these services from your own home, you’re a designer looking to sew professional garments regularly or perhaps a home sewist who wants to launch your own sewing business.
How much space do you have? As mentioned above, Industrial Sewing Machines need a special table to house their power-house tech. Make sure you take note of the spec of a potential machine and compare it to your sewing space before you buy.
How much does it cost?: it won’t come as a surprise that Industrial machines are more expensive than domestic machines – after all they are professional standard equipment. But there’s still variation, depending what brand you pick or what you want the machine to do. We’ve got some different options below to help you with your budget.
What do you want to use it for? Industrial sewing machines are ruthlessly trained sewing machines – they are designed to handle specific tasks in high volume, from straight line sewing to buttonholes or handling heavyweight fabrics. This means it may potentially be harder for you to use them for different tasks, so it’s important to have a strong idea of how you want to use it now (and in the future) to help you choose the right machine.
How loud is it? Due to their immense power, industrial machines are known to make a bit more noise than domestic models. The type of motor your machine has can make a difference – there are two main types (clutch motors and servo motors). Traditional clutch motors can be loud (how old they are can affect their volume, for example if these motors are wearing out they get louder) but strong and often a favourite for people who want to grapple with tougher materials. Whereas Servo motors are usually quieter and more suitable to use at home – they also have adjustable speeds and often work better with light or medium fabrics. Check this detail before you buy.
What brand is it? There are some big players in the sewing machine market so you shouldn’t have to look far to find a well-established, trusted brand to buy from. If you’re going to invest in a machine, make sure you’re happy with the makers and consider if the machine comes with a warranty (and how long for) to protect you if anything goes wrong.
What is the best industrial sewing machine brand?
This depends on what you’re using them for, but look for a brand name that’s known and established for making quality sewing machines. As a rule of thumb though, the following brands come recommended by fellow sewists.
Best industrial sewing machines to buy in 2020
Juki DDL-8700 Straight stitch
With its energy saving Servo motor, the Juki DDL-8700 is a nifty piece of kit that won’t sound like it’s taking off if you’re looking to invest in your first industrial sewing machine.
• Buy it now: Amazon (£589)
- High speed stitching – up to 5,500 rpm
- Lift the presser foot by hand or knee (to free up your hands!)
- Self oiling
- Straight Stitch and reverse
- Stitch length: up to 5mm
- Silent Servo motor – low vibration, low noise
- Energy saving, speed-adjustable
Best for speed
Juki LU-2810-7 Walking Foot Industrial Machine
- Heavy duty walking foot industrial sewing machine
- Automatic foot lift and thread cutter
- Electric servo motor – energy efficient
- Maximum sewing speed: 3,000 stitches per minute
- Maximum stitch length: 9mm
- Suitable for: denim, leather, vinyl
- Buy it now: Ebay (£3995)
Best for tough fabrics
SINGER Heavy Duty 4423
- We’ve included this one even though it’s not technically an industrial machine but is still a good option if you’re looking for a leather sewing machine but on a stricter budget.
- Maximum speed of 1,100 stitches per minute
- Heavy duty metal frame and power to sew through heavy weight fabrics
- Comes with 25 Year Limited Warranty
- Buy it now: Amazon (£324.99)
Best for budget
Yamata FY5318 Walking Foot Lockstitch Sewing Machine
If you’re looking for a heavyweight machine to handle upholstery fabric, leather or vinyl, check out this beauty. You’ll need some space and budget and be confident assembling the parts yourself, but you’ll be rewarded with a sturdy machine which handles everything from car and boat seats to general upholstery, leather, belts, canvas, plus denim, tents and vinyl.
- Sewing speed 1,350 stitches per minute
- Stitch length – 1 to 8mm (5-16 stitches per inch)
- Servo motor
- Assembly required, includes table
- 6 month factory warranty
- Automatic lubrication
Best for durability
Janome 1600P-QC Professional Industrial Grade Heavy Duty Sewing Machine
• Buy it now: Amazon (£871.61)
If straight stitches are your bag, say hello to your new best friend! The Janome 1600P-QC is loved by it’s ability to sew through (almost) anything and speed. It’s functions come at a price – it’s not hugely light-weight or the world’s best multi-tasker but it’s especially popular with quilters – so if you’ve always dreamed of selling your quilts in your own Etsy shop, this could the the answer.
- Sews at high speed – vary to suit your needs from 800 to 1,600 stitches per minute
- Knee lift
- Adjust the pressure easily
- Built-in needle threader and automatic thread cutter
- Extra large work area – ideal for quilts
- Up to 11 lbs. of presser foot pressure
- Variable stitch length – up to 6mm
- Quiet operation with no external motor
Best for: quilters
Brother RH-9820 Electronic Button Holer
If you’re really serious about making garments professionally, consider a machine which makes light work of sewing precision, neat button holes quickly and efficiently…
- Maximum sewing speed 2,500 rpm
- Easy to change the needle
- Specialises in fine finishing of button holes.
- Large arm pocket to allow smooth fabric handling.
- Easy-to-use operate
Best for: If you’re making garments on a large scale
What is the best industrial sewing machine for leather?
Leather is one of the toughest materials to grapple with in a sewing machine – it’s tough and durable but pretty resistant to sewing with a standard needle. Try these machines from the list above for making light (er) work of sewing leather on a larger scale…