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reg machine vs heavy duty, where’s line?

artsong | Posted in General Discussion on


i’m looking my first (well i experimented on grandmas old one) machine that i can use for clothing construction, fashion design, crafts, home decor and such. i want a good machine that i can grow into and keep for around $400.

i’ve noticed that there are regular sewing machines and heavy duty/industrial ones.
i know that i want to sew all kinds of fabric. from silk blouses to wool coats to canvas tote bags to leather purses.

i wanted to ask the experienced sewers out there……where is the line, what constitutes needing a heavy duty machine? it sounds like some say a regular machine can do 7 layers of material and stuff so perhaps that means it can do wool and canvas and leather
but then what thickness constitutes needing a heavy duty machine?

any help offered would be greatly appreciated!!


  1. sueb | | #1

    Just because a sewing machine can sew through 7 layers of cotton doesn't mean that it will sew through 7 layers of denim or a single piece of leather or suede.  For many years I had a Viking Rose machine that I paid almost 2k for (it had the embroidery features too) and it sewed terrific when it came to clothing construction, home dec stuff and things of that sort.  When I started to design, create and sell a line of handbags and I needed to sew through many layers of fabrics, interfacing and sometimes a leather or suede strap it just wouldn't keep up.  I was sewing with it anywhere from 4-8 hours a day.  I ended up selling it and buy a Juki tl98E machine.  It's a heavy duty mechanical machine (no digital interface, no embroidery stuff and only a straight stitch) and it's at least twice as fast as a regular sewing machine.  It'll sew over anything !  I paid $800 for it but I feel it was money well spent since it gives me a lot of flexibility.  Because it doesn't do zig zag stitch so I can't do buttonholes with it I also bought myself a cheap brother machine from Walmart which I wouldn't recommend as a primary sewing machine but it's great for buttonholes and things like that.

    The best thing to do is go out to a store that sells machines and sit down at them and sew a bit.  Bring several pieces of scraps with you and get a feel for the difference between the lower end models and the high end models with all the bells and whistles.   Once you sew on both you'll see what the differences are.

    Essentially any machine will sew any fabric.  You may have to sew slower over one type of fabric or bulk than another.  Using the appropirate needle for the type of fabric that you are sewing in the machine will help.    Leather can be tough to sew over for any non industrial machine depending on the layers that you are sewing, the quality of the leather and the thickness of it.  Again, the right needle and the speed at which you sew will help the quality of the stitches that you'll get. 

    Hope this is helpful.

  2. mainestitcher | | #2

    After lusting for an industrial zig-zag machine for some time, one fell into my lap last week. A seamstress was retiring, saw my ad in the yellow pages, and called inquiring if I'd like to buy out her inventory. I didn't need her inventory, but I sure wanted that machine...and I was willing to pay the price she asked. She had purchased it, used, some years ago. Industrial machines are straightforward, they don't really go out of date. A used industrial can be purchased in my area from 500 - $1000.

    I have a very expensive home model Bernina, which will not sew vinyl seat cushions (I tried). Oddly, the 60s era Featherweight would.

    When I looked at descriptions of industrial machines, I saw that some were suggested for light-to medium weight materials, and some for medium to heavy weights. I don't really know if a machine which sews all of them would do it *all* very well. It will be easier if you feel comfortable changing needles (a definite must for different kinds of materials) and adjusting thread tension, bobbin tension and presser foot pressure.

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