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Sure, you can get away with the occasional, small, slowly-stitch, heavy duty, upholstery project on your heavy duty sewing machine or maybe even an extremely efficient regular machine, but if you’re aiming to sew more than that, you may want to consider investing in something different than your used upholstery sewing machine!
Trying to stitch upholstery isn’t just your everyday sewing; upholstery is what goes on your couch, sofa, and other pieces of furniture and typically involves the use of super-thick materials like leather and vinyl. The heavy demands that these heavy fabrics place on the best sewing machines warrant a specialized heavy duty sewing machine to meet them! Additionally, if you need to sew a project that’s oversized or even bigger than your regular projects, heavy duty upholstery sewing machines are a must!
Even the top regular sewing machines have an extremely tough time to stitch thick fabric regularly; more often than not, the needles end up breaking or jamming and you’ll be spending more time setting this right than on trying to sew your actual project! To sew well, power is necessary, which can be found in the best upholstery sewing machines, with their industry-grade needles and the tons of other features that result in the best professional-looking sewing results.
If you’ve been looking for the best upholstery sewing machine that can make quick work of sewing heavy fabrics like upholstery and execute sewing techniques like it’s the Bruce Lee of sewing, you’re in the right place. The sheer number of options for the best upholstery sewing machines available on the market can be overwhelming, from deciding which top brand to go with, which features to look for, the price, and how well they sew. To make things a little easier, here’s a list of the best sewing machines for upholstery on the market! Whether you’re just learning to sew or are experienced in sewing, the best sewing machines are sure to occupy a place of pride on your workstation, with their efficiency, power and performance sewing upholstery. Read on to discover the best heavy duty sewing machines, and our top picks!
Which is the best sewing machine for upholstery?
1. Consew CP206RL Portable Walking Foot Machine
The Consew CP206RL is an efficient single-needle machine, equipped with a range of features such as a reverse straight stitch, a long arm, a built-in 110v AC powerful motor and a foot pedal included. An improvement on the top-selling Consew 146R zigzag machine, this heavy-duty sewing machine comes equipped with a ton of features that make quick work of all fabrics, especially upholstery that you might want to sew!
Extended Work Surface
The feature that strikes you at first glance is the Consew’s extended work surface. This surface is designed to fold up easily; this ensures that it is out of the way when you don’t need it or when you need to put the machine into the plastic carrying case that the machine comes with.
The machine comes with a large, heavy-duty needle (135 x 17) which is among the strongest needles on the market, perfect for handling thick, heavy-duty material like upholstery. The needle also has a large eye that makes it easier to do applique work; one of the reasons why it’s apparently popular among craftsmen in the Caribbean, because that’s what they like to sew frequently!
The Consew CP206RL comes with an efficient walking foot, along with a molded ruler etched on the machine’s front (18 inches) and differential feed. The walking foot ensures that fabrics are fed evenly through the machine, no matter which fabric you use. Even upholstery is a breeze to sew.
2. Reliable Barracuda 200ZW Zig-Zag Sewing Machine
Built for heavy-duty work and one of the best when you need to sew upholstery projects, the Reliable Barracuda is as its name promises — reliable! Versatile, user friendly and capable of churning out industrial-grade straight stitches and power despite not being an industrial sewing machine, the Barracuda comes with a range of stunning features that let you sew easily through basic home projects, boat usage and upholstery stitch tasks with the same ease.
Built-In Sewing Speed Reducer
The machine’s built-in sewing speed reducer allows extra torque. The speed reducer ensures that you can get through the toughest jobs and thickest upholstery fabrics with ease thanks to the additional power and efficiency.
8 Layers of Sunbrella-Plus
The machine has a 0.47-inch clearance under its foot, allowing it to stitch up to 10 or more layers of extremely thick upholstery fabric. It even stitches through 8 layers of Sunbrella-Plus, the go-to choice for the lining material on boats.
The Barracuda 200ZW has an adjustable straight stitch width of 5mm and a stitch length of 6mm. It is capable of maxing out 800 stitches per minute, with 4 stitches per inch. Additionally, there’s a lever for switching to reverse stitch mode, so switching from normal to reverse mode is super easy while you sew.
3. Juki DNU-1541 Industrial Walking Foot Sewing Machine
The Juki DNU-1541 is a single-needle straight-stitch workhorse, sewing light to heavy-weight materials, upholstery, and even laminated products with ease and efficiency. You’d expect nothing less from the Japanese Juki, a world leader in sewing machines. The DNU-1541’s needle-bar stroke, novel double-tension mechanism, rectangular feed, walking foot technology and higher presser foot lift enable excellent responsiveness and sewing capabilities with thick and thin materials and upholstery alike. If you like to sew without worries, this one’s for you!
High Sewing Speed
One of the biggest selling points of the Juki DNU-1541 is its extremely fast sewing speed. Where the average machine gives you a speed of around 800 stitches per minute when you sew, the Juki DNU-1541 gives you over 3 times that sewing speed — you get a mindblowing speed of 3,000 stitches per minute, a feature that many professional sewers will find helpful.
Reverse Feed System
The DNU-1541 has a super-professional automatic reverse feed system, an essential in any professional sewing machine. This ensures that you can go back over your upholstery seams and reinforce them. Additionally, the suspended attached ruler lets you shift the button upward for uninterrupted sewing.
Adjustable Feet Lift
A non-adjustable feet lift is uncomfortable, resulting in less-than-perfect results and less-than-happy sewists! The DNU-1541 comes with an adjustable feet lift; the height of the lift is also much higher than most other machines. This lets you easily control the machine even while you sew uneven upholstery materials.
4. Juki DNU-1541S Industrial Walking Foot Sewing Machine with Safety Clutch
One of the fastest machines out there, like its aforementioned brother, the Juki DNU-1541S is faster, more efficient, durable and easy to use; features that set it apart from the competition. Consistently sturdy even in the face of stubborn upholstery fabrics, the machine has a servo motor that gives it strength and power while you sew.
As mentioned, the machine is one of the fastest on the market, its single needle maxing out at least 2,500 stitches per minute. Additionally, the stitch length is adjustable up to 9mm and has a lockstitch feature with a double capacity hook. The safety clutch built into the machine greatly simplifies the upholstery sewing process.
The machine is equipped with a servo motor, which means 90% less power usage than clutch motors, one-third the weight and just a flick of the switch to reverse the rotation of the motor while you sew. Additionally, the parts don’t wear out or adjust regardless of the pressure you apply on the foot pedal, the configured sewing speed won’t change.
This makes the machine easier to control while you sew and consequently, to use, whether a beginner or expert in the field.
Automatic Safety Mechanism
The DNU-1541S comes with an automated safety mechanism, like the DNU 1541. In case of thread jams or the thread being caught in the hook, the mechanism springs into place to prevent any damage to the machine.
5. Consew 206RB-5 Walking Foot Industrial Sewing Machine with Table and Servo Motor
The Consew 206RB-5 is a great option for those who want to sew everything from shoes to luggage to handbags to upholstery; the machine is capable of making short work of all types and weights of fabrics, such as vinyl, suede, leather and even sailcloth. It’s equipped with a range of stunning features that give you professional-looking end results when you sew.
The Consew 260RB-5 gives you some pretty great built-in stitches; additionally, it’s capable of producing built-in stitches that are 2.5 inches (10mm) in length, letting you quickly sew even large-scale upholstery products (the adjustable reverse stitching can also be the same length as the forward stitch). It’s also crazy fast, capable of 3000 stitches per minute, so you can easily and quickly stitch through multiple layers of fabric.
The Consew 260RB-5 features an extra-large bobbin; this lets you sew projects quickly and sew for longer periods of time without changing the bobbin. Additionally, when you need to change the bobbin, you can do so without removing the object being sewn.
Centralized Arm Lubrication
The machine features centralized arm lubrication; it features a micrometric control valve with a reservoir-oiled hook that makes it easy to lubricate while you sew.
6. Juki DNU-1541-7 Single-Needle Lockstitch Machine with Table and Clutch Motor
The Juki DNU-1541-7 comes with a fully assembled table and clutch motor and is a beast when it comes to sewing heavy upholstery materials. Equipped with a reliable feed system, the machine gives you consistent, high-quality built-in stitches. Some of its impressive features include a large needle-bar stroke, high presser foot lift and double-tension mechanism.
Reverse Feed System
One of the best parts of the DNU-1541-7 is its reverse feed system; not only is it automatic and extremely efficient but it is also a one-touch system that makes it super simple to use. Additionally, the reverse feed button is in plain view, thanks to the tension release being situated at the rear of the machine, instead of in front, as is the case with other upholstery machines. Going back and reinforcing your seams has never been easier.
The suspended attached ruler, when used (or while sewing 3D projects) lets you shift the button so that you can stitch uninterrupted.
High Presser Foot Lift
The DNU-1541-7 has an adjustable, high presser foot, higher than most other upholstery sewing machines. This makes the machine easy to control and use when working with uneven upholstery materials. Additionally, the walking foot and presser foot have alternating vertical movements as large as 6.5 mm that remain unchanged even when the thickness of the upholstery material changes, making sewing on this machine extremely comfortable.
The rectangular feed system prevents the needle from fraying or getting damaged. Combined with the high presser foot lift, the rectangular feed system makes sewing multi-layered upholstery materials a piece of cake; the presser foot prevents stitch gathering while maintaining a consistent stitching pitch.
7. REX Portable Walking-Foot Sewing Machine
One of the oldest yet not-so-popular brands on the market when it comes to making and selling blind stitch sewing machines, REX has more than 40 years’ worth of experience in the industry; a fact that reflects in their products! The portable sewing machine in question comes with a full-body metal frame that is industrial-grade; this makes it sturdy and prevents any vibrating while sewing upholstery. Its portability adds to its appeal for home sewists.
The REX portable sewing machine is a single-stitch-pattern machine that sews in a straight line; it doesn’t come with any frills or fancy stitching options and is a no-nonsense machine that efficiently completes any upholstery sewing job it is meant for.
Full Metal Body
The machine’s body is constructed with 100% metal (full-cast iron), adding to its sturdiness and durability. This construction, which does away with any vibrations or disturbances or shaking, is the machine’s main selling point; it’s one of the best. The build ensures that upholstery sewing can go on uninterrupted despite the power and energy the machine expends.
Pre-Sewn Leather Patch
All the machines from the company reach customers only after various rounds of testing and a leather patch that is pre-sewn by the company itself ensuring the quality and efficiency of the machine.
8. BONUS: Juki DDL-8100 Economy Straight Stitch Industrial Sewing Machine
This machine’s standout feature is its speed; it could give The Flash a literal run for his money! Bad puns aside, the 8100 not only offers speed, but is also powerful and efficient, equipped with a servo motor that’s all of 550 watts and a ton of stitching capabilities. It’s an improvement on the earlier DDL-MS and DDL-888 models, equipped with a higher speed and single-needle lockstitch maximum foot.
The machine has a maximum stitch length of 5 mm with a maximum of 6 stitches per inch. The stitch length is easily adjustable via a dial on the machine. As mentioned, it can max out 5,500 stitches per minute. Though it has only a straight-stitch function, it performs the function extremely well; it also features a reverse-stitch feature.
The accessories that the 8100 comes with deserve a mention, as generally upholstery sewing machines don’t come with a lot of accessories! Though there is no need for a full complement of the different presser foot, you get accessories such as bobbins, needles, oil dispensers, screws drivers and a manual for assembly.
Compatible with a Range of Fabrics
The 8100 is more compatible with a wider variety of fabrics than most other machines; it sews efficiently natural fibers, knits, fine fabrics, synthetic fabrics, upholstery, leather, suede, plastic and rubber; it makes quick work of multiple layers of fabric too.
Evaluation Criteria for automotive upholstery sewing machines
Working with upholstery can be quite the task if you don’t have the best sewing machine. You need a machine that’s powerful enough to work well with every kind of upholstery fabric without any movement or stalling. These machines can stitch through leather and denim as though they’re made of butter!
We didn’t just blindly review every sewing machine out there; we had our reasons for picking the best sewing machine options! Here are the criteria that we used to evaluate the upholstery sewing machines on our list (and what you should keep in mind too when getting yourself a heavy duty upholstery sewing machine.
Car upholstery sewing machines – Stitching Speed and Capabilities
Of course, the most important thing to look for in the best sewing machine is how well it sews and the speed it can provide! Some machines come with a long stitch length that lets you quickly finish up projects. Others perform at a high speed, capable of churning out 3,000 stitches per minute, while some others offer high-speed stitches per minute and are equipped with long built-in stitches to choose from!
Almost all upholstery sewing machines are single-needle straight-stitch machines, so exploring your creativity may not really be the No. 1 thing you can do on these machines. Decide what you want to prioritize — how many stitches per minute or stitch length or both — and then buy a machine.
The machines on our list are a mix of all 3 factors.
Heavy duty upholstery sewing machine – Power
The power is another important factor to consider, even more so than the stitching capabilities. Why? Well, without power, how will your machine get through multiple layers of thick upholstery fabric? The machine should be able to stitch through such fabrics and for that, it requires a powerful motor.
Motors can be of various types, the most common being a separate clutch motor that’s attached to the machine’s body (connected via a pulley). There’s also the servo motor. The former should allow you to easily change direction and movement while sewing upholstery, which is easier with smaller wheels; though larger wheels are fast, they tend to lose power.
However, the servo motor is an innovation in the field of upholstery sewing machine motors — it’s more effective and lighter than the traditional powerful motor. If raw power is what you’re after, a servo motor is a great option, though it does have its own disadvantages, (such as requiring frequent tuning and becoming unpredictable when machine parts break).
Commercial upholstery sewing machine – The Walking Foot
If you want a sewing experience that is as fun as it is efficient, a walking foot is a must! A walking foot is a special tool that allows the upholstery fabric to move seamlessly (yes, we get the irony!) through the stitching, regardless of how durable or thick it is. The lack of a walking foot on standard sewing machines is the reason behind their failure to accommodate thick upholstery fabrics.
On pairing the walking foot with an industrial device, the machine grabs the upholstery fabric and continues the sewing, using even pressure and thereby preventing the fabric from bunching. Though regular sewing machines have a serrated attachment, they aren’t efficient or powerful enough to deal with heavy fabrics.
As a rule, choose a heavy duty upholstery sewing machine with a walking foot, as we have!
Sewing machines for upholstery – The Bed
The sewing bed is the section under the foot and the needle, comprising an extension table and a free arm. Non-heavy duty sewing machines have smaller sewing bed areas; the projects generally completed on these don’t require a very large sewing bed area, either. However, with an upholstery sewing machine heavy duty projects are typically large. At this point, you’ll have to consider whether you require a large sewing bed area for more working space or if you want more space to move your needle around. If you do, heavy duty machines with large sewing beds are a good option. Some heavy duty machines also come with extra-large sewing beds, such as certain Seiko and Juki models.
Pro tip! You’ll find that a large sewing bed isn’t always a necessity with large projects such as curtains and upholstery; a smaller area provides more mobility and freedom of movement.
Sewing machine for auto upholstery – Construction
A well-constructed body is a good thing to have on your heavy duty sewing machine. After all, you don’t want it to fall apart after the first 2 projects! You’ll need a heavy-metal body that can last you for ages. That being said, though, the best industrial sewing machine is going to be heavy, cumbersome and large in a home studio or small spaces. Therefore, models that are portable or come with carrying cases are great options to go with.
However, if a heavy duty machine is advertised as being “easy to transport” or “lightweight” or “portable”, ensure that you check what the body is constructed of, as well as for any guarantee/warranty deals; these are indicators of the product’s quality as well as the company’s faith in its own product. Chances are these lightweight machines aren’t going to last you in the long run unless the quality is exceptional. Lightweight is great but not at the cost of durability and heavy duty performance!
If your house or studio can accommodate a heavy duty sewing machine, though, go for it, by all means! There’s nothing quite like a portable industrial sewing machine, with nearly unparalleled efficiency and durability. These machines are great long-term investments, even if they’re not portable or are heavy (a small price to pay for the durability offered, though!).
Additionally, a good heavy duty sewing machine should have versatility, capable of working through a range of projects and fabrics. Working with your heavy duty sewing machine should be enjoyable in addition to being efficient.
Best upholstery sewing machine – Frequently Asked Questions
My Sewing Machine Makes a Lot of Noise While Sewing. Why?
There are several reasons why even the best sewing machine could be making loud noises, the primary being the need for maintenance or cleaning. Turn the sewing machine off immediately on hearing suspicious noises and inspect the machine. You could also try replacing the needle or removing any lint build-up from under the bobbin and needle plate areas.
Additionally, check that the thread isn’t wrapped around any lever and lastly, check that there are no loose screws; however, ensure you know which screws need to be tightened — if you don’t or if you’re in doubt, visit the nearest sewing machine service station!
Why Is the Sewing Machine Running Slower Than Usual?
There could be a number of reasons for your sewing machine running slowly; with industrial sewing machines, it’s generally the incapability to handle too many layers of thick cloth or just thick cloth in general. However, it could also be due to an issue with the foot control, speed control, the bobbin winder being engaged, or any lint/dust under the needle plate. So it’s best to check for these possible issues.
Why Are There No Stitches Being Formed?
Some of the reasons why stitches may not be forming are the needle coming unthreaded, the sewing machine is threaded wrongly, or the wrong insertion of the needle. It’s best to ensure that you keep the presser foot up when you release the tension and make sure you’ve inserted a straight needle (blunt and bent needles also don’t form proper stitches) as per the instruction manual, pushing the needle all the way up to the clamp.
Other reasons could include the bobbin running out or not being inserted correctly, the spool cap being the wrong size for the thread spool, and the thread not being fully pulled into the thread sensor guide.
My Heavily Used Sewing Machine Stopped Working Suddenly!
If you’ve been running your sewing machine continuously at a low speed, it may have stopped to prevent the overheating of the powerful motor or due to overheating itself. In such cases, it’s best to turn off the power and wait for a while (at least 20 minutes) before you turn it on and use the sewing machine again.
What To Do When Sewing Machine Threads Don’t Quit Bunching?
Bunching of thread, also known as “bird nesting”, can happen due to a number of reasons, such as the misalignment of bobbin thread in bobbin tension, incorrect thread tension, the feed dog not being down, and not bringing the upper and lower thread to the under-presser foot.
It could also happen due to threading the sewing machine with the pressure foot raised, and incorrect threading. Loose tension on the bobbin will result in “bird nesting” on the upper side while high tension results in the opposite (as does loose tension on the upper part of the machine).
Why Are There Loops in between the Stitches?
The most common reason behind loops in between the stitches is the improper winding of the bobbin. The fabric isn’t taut enough for stitches to form properly because of less pressure; it’s best to adjust the stitch tension. Loops could also form due to improper threading of the machine.
Why Does the Needle Break or Get Blunt when using leather?
The needle could get blunt in an industrial sewing machine (though it shouldn’t easily) due to the heavy demand the place of the fabric on it. Other reasons could be pulling on the fabric while sewing, loose/improperly inserted needle, using the wrong type of needle for a particular project, improperly inserted bobbin thread, knotted thread, incorrect presser foot (check that it’s properly attached), loose needle clamp screw and sewing over or very close to the zipper teeth, sequins and the like.
While sewing heavy or thick fabrics, it’s best to support the fabric that’s hanging down so that it doesn’t pull on the needle and bend it. You may also want to take special precautions when sewing fabric such as leather — you can soften it with soap or use talcum powder so that it slides easily under the foot.
What Do I Look for in an Upholstery Sewing Machine?
Keep the best features in mind when looking for an upholstery sewing machine such as the power, the construction of the machine, and most importantly, the walking foot. Also, consider other best factors such as the stitch length, accessories provided and the speed (stitches per minute).
Why Is Fabric Not Feeding?
Fabric not feeding may arise due to reasons such as the usage of the incorrect foot, the presser foot not being down, the feed teeth being down or accidentally lowered, knotting of thread under the fabric, worn teeth, the stitch length being too short or dust under the needle plate.
Ensure that the feed dog is raised while sewing; also, it’s best to check the teeth on the feed dog, as worn teeth lead to fabric slipping. This is a common issue with an old feed dog. Adjust the presser foot; if it’s set too low, the fabric won’t feed. Additionally, if the fabric is too heavy, the presser may have a hard time feeding it and won’t give you the best sewing results. Lastly, for top performance, ensure that the needle plate is seated firmly; the needle plate hole being too big for upholstery sewing could also result in the fabric not feeding.
Why Is the Light on but the Sewing Machine Not Sewing?
Check if your sewing machine is on bobbin-winding mode; if the bobbin is winding (generally pressed to the right), the machine won’t sew. Also, it’s best to check and see if the machine’s foot control is properly plugged in, depressed entirely and any obstructions removed.
Also, ensure that the needle is properly and correctly inserted; your sewing machine may have a safety feature on it, as some of the above-mentioned machines do, which prevents it from working and getting damaged when things are not in order.
Why Is the Bobbin Thread Not Getting Picked Up?
This could happen due to many reasons, the primary being the bobbin not being in the proper position. This means that it should be pushed back and ready for sewing, failing which the needle will not go down and pick up the bobbin thread. Another reason could be the improper insertion of the needle and bobbin, as well as the improper threading of the upper tension discs on the latter. Keep the presser foot up when threading the tension discs for the best results.
How Often Do I Oil the Machine?
Generally, the instruction manual will tell you how to best oil your machine and how frequently you should do it. Most sewing machines come pre-lubricated from the factory and it’ll be a while before these need any extra lubrication. However, putting 2-3 small drops of oil into your machine, especially in the bobbin case area and the needle bar, when you feel the need, won’t harm your machine and will ensure the best sewing results, and keep it in top condition. You can also do the same at the point where the handwheel meets the machine’s side.
If your machine does require frequent oiling or you use your machine frequently, it’s best to lubricate it once a week. If you use your machine once a week, then once a month is a good frequency and if you use it once a month, oiling once in 3 months is a good frequency.
If you haven’t used your upholstery sewing machine in a long time — say, several years — tune it up! Just oiling it will probably not get it back to functioning in top condition. The lack of usage would have caused the existing lubricant to dry out; using the upholstery sewing machine when it’s dry can lead to breakage of parts and will not produce the best sewing results or top performance.
Best sewing machine for auto upholstery – The Takeaway
We hope you’re taking away more than just our words; we hope you’ll also be taking away one of the best upholstery sewing machines on our list! These machines are some of the best on the market and not only do they make great long-term investments but the best upholstery sewing machines are super-efficient, powerful and fast, and loaded with useful features. Whether you’re after the top speed, a powerful motor, durability or versatility, the best sewing machines included in the list will cater to your needs.
However, do put in the time to research what your needs are before shopping for a heavy-duty sewing machine; knowing what features you want generally help you find it quicker and get the best sewing results! Before selecting one of the best upholstery sewing machines, be sure to evaluate the cons against the pros to see which of the upholstery sewing machines offers the best features for you. That way, you’ll end up with the top choice for your needs.
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