When looking for sewing machines, you will commonly see light and portable machines. These sewing machines are designed for lighter and creativity-intensive projects such as quilting and designing clothes. As a result, they will fail you in the high-volume, heavy-fabric work of upholstery.
Are you planning to take on upholstery? Whether it's for personal or commercial use, you will need to choose an upholstery sewing machine that fits you. And we are here to help.
Getting into the tough upholstery business requires more than your skills and expertise. You will need a high-quality, industrial sewing machine built for upholstery work to use your sewing abilities effectively. When you go hunting for one, look for the below features.
Upholstery work is heavy work. You will be using many fabric layers and handling different fabric types, both thick and thin. Thus, you will need a machine with enough power to pierce through these materials. You will also want to look for a machine that can do extended work without overheating. This feature will come in handy when you do batch work.
Handling thick and heavy materials like leather or vinyl will need a piece of equally heavy equipment. So look for an upholstery sewing machine that's heavy-duty enough to stitch the materials mentioned. You will also need to look for something sturdy, something that will not tip over when a thick fabric is across the needle.
When you're window-shopping for sewing machines, look in the industrial section and try lifting the machine. If you're shopping online, look for the “heavy-duty” feature for a start.
Thick fabrics are hard to sew. Even if your heavy-duty sewing machine can handle the weight of the fabric crossing the feed dog, the quality will still depend on how strong the sewn fabric holds together. So look for a machine that can accommodate a thick and long needle profile. Needles like this can handle thick threads and pierce deep enough.
Try to test the machine doing a stitch pass on a swatch if possible. The stitch must be tight on the surface, and the patterns must be consistent.
Different stitch styles have their characteristics. Each pattern yields varying strength and aesthetic value. Thus, you will want your machine to have a wide array of options to choose from. It is not a strict rule, but it will benefit your creativity. It will give you more room to decide what stitch is right and looks good for the kind of upholstery project you're working on.
Having a heavy-duty sewing machine for upholstery binding and sewing is no use if the fabric can't fit into the presser foot despite the maximum adjustment. It’s true that most materials will be thin enough to be placed under the needle, but when you need to pile fabrics together or work on layers of leather, it's important to get a wider presser.
The presser foot of your machine must be flexible enough to cater to both thin and thick fabrics. It must also have enough range to adjust to the fabric's thickness. That way, you can feed it many types of upholstery fabric and, in turn, have more flexibility in terms of the projects you can accept.
Good stitch speed
Speed is the name for efficiency when it comes to volume upholstery work. So a good sewing machine must have a decent stitch speed to match your skillful and precise hand.
A good stitch speed starts at 5500 stitches a minute; it can go higher depending on your requirement. But we think this speed is adequate for you to have that range and still hit a good maximum speed if you decide to make quick work of your batch.
Another thing that aids stability apart from the machine's weight is the bed's surface. The wider the sewing machine's bed surface, the better it can handle the weight of heavy fabrics. It will have enough weight pushing down the sewing table, thus making it sturdy enough to hold any fabric you run through its needle.
A wide bed surface also adds to the machine's weight, which adds to the sturdiness. You won't have to worry about the body falling as you push the fabric across or having it fall on your hands as you steer the sewing wheel.
If you are working on a lot of fabric in a hurry, you will want everything—especially the one that runs across your sewing machine—to run smoothly. A fabric getting stuck in the feed is a headache and will require some delicate fixing.
In this case, a walking foot becomes an invaluable feature to have. It has both top and bottom feet that feed the fabric material across the needle and prevent it from getting stuck.
If you anticipate volume, your machine will work continuously. And every time you use and push it to its capacity, there's a chance that some of its parts will malfunction. On the other hand, you may come across a magnificent upholstery machine, but it has some defective parts that make it a challenge to use or completely unusable.
After-sale warranties are an intangible feature, but they are valuable when faced with such purchase mishaps. Aim for a machine that has a replacement and service warranty. Do you want to aim higher? Then, get a 25-year warranty; that is a good start. Nonetheless, a short-term warranty is acceptable if the brand is reputed to produce high-quality sewing machines.
Your budget must be the starting criteria as well as the end. After all, the acquisition of a sewing machine is still a money matter. Carefully consider how much you're willing to spend on a machine as well as if you can afford it.
If you're venturing something commercial, also consider the returns and how soon you will get back what you paid for the machine. It's also important to decide what features are important to you; these often dictate the increase in price, so strike a balance between budget and features for a win–win scenario.
There you have it! The criteria we discussed above will be your guide in selecting the upholstery machine that will serve as your companion or business partner. So take them all to heart, and go hunt the sewing machine that will get you starting strong in the tough upholstery game.