Whats the Difference Between an Industrial and Home Sewing Machine?

In the workrooms where I take my patternmaking classes, there are lines of industrial machines, and provided that I bring along my bobbin and sewing machine foot, they are mine for the using.


Life in the fast lane: I just can't get 
comfortable with industrial machines. 

This might seem like a very cool thing to some of you, because industrial machines can ring in at several thousand dollars, and not many of us sewists are lucky enough to own one.

But for me, not so much. I was weaned on the queen of home sewing machines: I cut my seamstress teeth on a Singer Featherweight, and I love the control that a well-made home sewing machine can offer. When I sit down at the industrial and hit the gas, it's like I'm in the Indy 500. That thing takes off and I can barely hold on to the wheel. My fear of sewing my own hands is very real.

I have been in these workrooms for years, and I have never managed to develop more than a nodding acquaintance with these wondrous, fabulously fast machines. Yet I watch year after year of fresh-faced undergrad design students take to them as naturally as a fish to water.

I don't know if I will ever make the leap to the industrial wonders, but to my relief, I know a very accomplished professor who wheels in his Bernina for every class he teaches, without even a glance at the industry machinery. That does my home sewing heart good.

For lots of seriously great tips on sewing machines, check out Sewing Machine Secrets by Nicole Vassbinder.

Do you prefer to sew on an industrial or home sewing machine? I would love to know! 

Happy stitching!

 

 

 

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Amber

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

41 thoughts on “Whats the Difference Between an Industrial and Home Sewing Machine?

  1. I used an industrial machine for 25 years. My all time favorite machine is the Phaff 545, she ran like there was no tomorrow. In all that time I never once sewed my fingers or and of my clothing to my work.
    I have a sit down long arm quilting machine that runs just as fast. I couldn’t choose which type of machine I prefer. Both are my favorites, my home sewing machines are a Janome 11543 and a Brother SQ9000.

  2. Wow, I have a Janome 1600P that stitches 1600 stitches a minute—it’s really fast and I love it. However, I tried a “real” industrial once and it was like driving a race car! 1600 stitches a minute is fast enough for me right now! My other machine is a Juki F600 and she sews pretty fast. I hate a slow sewing machine—drives me nuts!

  3. Hi Amber,
    I’ve grew up using a home sewing machine. I eventually invested in a semi-industrial Bernina. “Semi” simply meant it was capable of sewing a fairly wide range of stitches as well as button holes. It had the engine below the table, just as the image in your post. When I brought it home, I was convinced I did the wrong thing. It was SO fast and So scary at first. But i learned rather quickly to appreciate the speed. It was an awesome machine. In time, I decided to invest in a new Home machine, only because the Bernina was quite noisy when the motor was running and I didn’t need the speed any longer.
    I sold it (ok – pretty well gave it away) to a fashion student who I knew would make much better use of it.
    I love my new Janome.
    One piece of advice I would give anyone investing in a new machine is to ensure they are not buying a “plastic” machine. This falls under the category of “you get what you pay for”. Invest in as good a machine as you can, and take good care of it (oil as per instructions, wipe out lint/dust, etc) and your machine will last a long time!
    Laura

  4. I have had a Bernina for about 30 years. Not computerized like the new ones. I have a friend that keeps trying to buy it from me and that is a no go! I have NEVER had an issue with this machine. I also have the Bernette serger.

  5. I have had my Singer industrial for 23 years and it has never let me down!! I have gone through 4 home machines and two crappy sergers in that same time. I really, really prefer my industrial. Bambi

  6. I have had my Singer industrial for 23 years and it has never let me down!! I have gone through 4 home machines and two crappy sergers in that same time. I really, really prefer my industrial. Bambi

  7. I absolutely LOVE my Bernina 580E, and also my VIKING Sapphire 960Q.. between the two of them, that’s enough speed and power for me. From time to time when trying to sew leather or other heavy fabrics I have WISHED for an industrial machine, due to their power, but I think they draw more power than our old house can offer. Love to try one sometime just for fun, though!

  8. Took a dressmaking/tailoring course many years ago. The instructor has ‘tamed’ industrial machines – the engine speed was ramped down so that all of her students who were used to home machines could sew on them.

  9. I have both an industrial machine and a home machine. I love my industrial. Its a DDDL 5550-6.. It works great and I havent had any trouble with it.. And for the amount of sewing that I do it’s the only machine thats held up.. I only ever once sewing my finger.. that hurt.. lol Now my home machine I use only to do zigzags, button holes and gathering stitches. My home machine just doenst work so great as I have problems with tension.. (it loves to change randomly) so straight stitching doesnt work well. And this is the 3rd home machine.. Ive already killed two.. LOL

  10. Which is ‘better’ really depends on what you are working on as they both have their merits. It you are on an industrial and struggling with the speed, MOST machines (not all) have a regulator on the side of the motor that will slow it down. All you need is a tiny turn to make a big difference. That said, if you are sewing heavy weight materials, it is important to note that this also affects the torque. So, if you are sewing jeans or a heavy winter coat or raincoat, you may have a harder time getting thru the thicker seams.

  11. I just upgraded to a Viking Sapphire 930 & I’m in heaven! I have never used an industrial sewing machine but I think I would react like you have, lol. I am still getting used to the Sapphire & barely set it at it’s fourth highest speed! I’m not even used to it’s speeds, lol.

  12. Hi Amber,

    Yes, i loved an industrial machine but my home sewing machine is oke because of al the embroidery stiching that i can use with my sewing project it’s a brother se 400

    Esther

  13. Hi Amber,

    Yes, i loved an industrial machine but my home sewing machine is oke because of al the embroidery stiching that i can use with my sewing project it’s a brother se 400

    Esther

  14. I read one lady to say “I would never use a machine that stitches 1500+ stitches per minute……” I thought, your car speedometer goes to 120 miles per hour and do you drive that fast just because it can?
    I use both my Industrial and home machines interchangeably depending on what and when I am sewing. I actually have two industrials, one home machine and a Featherweight. One industrial is set-up for fine fabrics and the other for thicker sewing. The home machine is conveniently located for short sewing jobs and zigzags, while the Featherweight is for classes.
    Once you get comfortable with an industrial you can never go back. Just remember it’s like a car…..if you floor the gas pedal it’s hard to control.

  15. The machines at FIT don’t have a slow speed–the foot pedals are difficult to control for slow. They only go fast! Vroom! But you can tell the motors are excellent and there are a couple of old time repair guys constantly roaming around doing maintenance to keep them in tip top shape.

  16. I am an “industrial stitcher” kind of gal. I am hard on the featherweight machines. I will wear out the motors from the amount of sewing I tackle. And I like working with very thick fabrics and leathers as well as the super thin silks and nettings. For myself, if I can’t sew leather seats for a truck on it then I don’t want it. 🙂 Mind you, I’ve never sewn leather truck seats….although I HAVE worked with that sort of leather 🙂 Recently I have purchased two new and newer supposedly heavy duty machines that have still failed my work within two months of purchase 🙁 AND I get so frustrated with all the new computerized machines. Those are nice but for my sewing….give me the industrial! I’m still looking for one that will actually get the job done AND last me for ten years!

  17. I chuckled about your learning on a Singer Featherweight. I have one now that I purchased used from Simger Rentals in 1957. I still use it for heavy duty sewing that I am afraid to do on my Janome Memory Craft 4000. My sons (now middleaged) call her “Old Faithful”. I still haul her out everytime I need to sew Buttonholes. No machine I have ever used makes them as good as ‘old faithful’. She flies after I get her started. But the best thing about her is never breaking down or breaking a needle. If I use a heavy combination on the Janome it will pop a needle. Denim and batting together for example. Old Faithful will purr along like a kitten after a string, but not my Janome. I love the Janome for beautiful variety of stitches it makes, don’t get me wrong. But Old Faithful is my workhorse.

  18. I used a 1970 Kenmore metal body sewing machine since, well, 1970. It is a plain Jane workhorse, but I am not the “embroidery queen”, so the two stitches it had were just fine. My husband surprized me with a Viking at Christmas two years ago, and while it is not technically the embroidery machine, it is fun to use. I also could take it to sewing groups, where I could not have lifted the Kenmore so easily.
    However….I found that neither one of these would do a huge job I had taken on, that of replacing most pieces of a yacht enclosure, and for that I bought a Sailrite Ultrafeed. This hums through layers of 30 gauge window vinyl and marine grade canvas and Stamoid like magic. It easily runs through 8 layers of Naugahide, so leather would be no problem.
    The top feed dog and the extra power of the flywheel are amazing. I guess I live in both sewing machine worlds, and enjoy the challenge of both.

  19. I think it is all what you get used to. I bought a used industrial Singer Sewing Machine right after I went to FIT in NYC, and still have it. It is very old, but will sew on Chiffon as well as very thick leather. It is a 1942 model and the motor was put on in the 1950’s. In the years that I have had this machine, I had to replace one belt. I never sewed fingers, but sewed a cat’s paw once. 🙂 The darn cat decided to bat the needle while I was sewing very fast. I now have a Janome MC6600P and it took some time to get used to since it is computerized, but love this machine also. I don’t think I would know how to use a lighter weight machine, it just wouldn’t feel right.

  20. I started on a Singer 1950’s Treadle Sewing machine,. It was 1978 and my Mom said you want to learn you can learn like Grandma taught me. I still have it. Next I bought a Elna 500, which is still being used and is great. I used an industrial machine while designing and making Wheelchair seats for a wheelchair Company. I really didn’t notice any speed difference. It was able to sew through thicker thicknesses. which was great. I have bought a new Viking Platinum 775, 3 years ago. It seams to run great but I have had issues with it. The problem is that it will change stitches while sewing straight stitch. If anyone is having issues like this. It could be the power. Low electricity, or power serge could cause it. I bought a power bar with a battery. No issue in the last 4 months I am so glad.

  21. When my hubby and I were first married, about 50+ years ago, we had a second hand rocking chair. We couldn’t afford to buy a new one so I took a class on Furniture Upholstery. I was hooked almost immediately on the Big Old Consew machine. No reverse but who cared. I love to sew fast. It does go faster and faster as you said. Since then I have done as much on my Consew as I can. Wish it could mend Bra Straps but stuff like that is just to lightweight.
    I have #2 Embroidery machines that work fine but I still love my Big Industrial. I did Furniture Upholstery for about 35 years. Goodness, where does the time go?

  22. I have been sewing for 60 years, on both types of machine. Each one has its place. If you are doing heavy work the large motor of an industrial is perfect. But a wedding gown? No. I still use (and love) both.

  23. Oh how I love my industrial machine and it is a machine one should have regardless of what you heard for those machine you can sew without even worrying about breaking your needle. I have home machine for embroidery, but to do seriously sewing that’s my industrial machine comes in .
    Nancy and 35 yrs seamstress

  24. I love my industrial machines , I have and singer , juki, and blindstitch and serger, there is no way I would trade these for a home machine is good only for buttonholes and embroidery , I first learn to sew was on and industrial machine at the age of 17 and been 41 yrs seamstress.

  25. I love my industrial machines , I have and singer , juki, and blindstitch and serger, there is no way I would trade these for a home machine is good only for buttonholes and embroidery , I first learn to sew was on and industrial machine at the age of 17 and been 41 yrs seamstress.

  26. I love my old home machine, a white. I can not get a new cord for it and will have to get a new machine. I would love to have help in picking out a new machine. Do you have any help?

  27. I’ve never had the luxury of sewing on an industrial machine but the ones I do have sew fast enough for me. I have my Babylock Ellisimo and my Bernina’s..a 580 and a 440. If I want to be really fancy..I use my babylock..sketchpad for my own designs,,etc..If I’m sewing something really thick..there is nothing that sews like a Bernina..I just love my machines. I look for the quality of the stitches and both companies produce machines that do an excellent job.

  28. I’ve never had the luxury of sewing on an industrial machine but the ones I do have sew fast enough for me. I have my Babylock Ellisimo and my Bernina’s..a 580 and a 440. If I want to be really fancy..I use my babylock..sketchpad for my own designs,,etc..If I’m sewing something really thick..there is nothing that sews like a Bernina..I just love my machines. I look for the quality of the stitches and both companies produce machines that do an excellent job.

  29. I’ve never had the luxury of sewing on an industrial machine but the ones I do have sew fast enough for me. I have my Babylock Ellisimo and my Bernina’s..a 580 and a 440. If I want to be really fancy..I use my babylock..sketchpad for my own designs,,etc..If I’m sewing something really thick..there is nothing that sews like a Bernina..I just love my machines. I look for the quality of the stitches and both companies produce machines that do an excellent job.

  30. I like my sanely safe machine. Those who start with faster machines seem more comfortable with them. My first machine was a Singer Treadle that I bought at a yard sale back in the early ’69’s. I couldn’t afford much then and it was in perfect condition for a great price, I think around $10-15. I learned on my moms treadle, so I was used to it. I finally go an electric in the mid ’70s. My mom never liked the electric.

  31. I worked in a children’s wear factory for a while between high school & university and used only ultra fast industrials. 4000+ stitches per minute! I think domestics are only about 1200. I DID sew over my finger, as everyone did when they were learning! It was almost inevitable. As soon as I could afford one I bought myself a semi industrial Bernina 950 which sews at about 2800 stitches per minute. It’s fantastic and I have sewn on it for 25 years. I’ve done everything from custom tailoring to wedding dresses and quilting. It never misses a beat. I bought an industrial over locker as well and love that too. My machine, and all true industrials have a brake on the pedal which prevents you from getting out of control. Once you get used to using the brake you have a degree of control you don’t even get with a domestic machine.

  32. I used first a Singer, then acquired a late 1960s ElnaStar, which I still have and use. Two years ago moved to an industrial with needle feed, and have never looked back. The tension is always consistent. The lines are always straight–though that is from having the huge variety of guiding feet available. Want to work on a heavy wool winter coat, followed by sheers, no problem.

    I don’t think I would feel that way except for the newer servo motors that allow really accurate speed control–full speed at 4000+ or just creeping–all the time with the full torque of the motor available, and the full speed just a flick of the foot away. Its a totally different experience from a clutch motor machine. It is like having the control of a home machine with all the speed of an industrial for those straight runs.

    Servo motor upgrades are only a few hundred dollars, are single-phase 120V, and can easily be retrofitted to any clutch industrial.

  33. I learned to sew on a Singer treadle machine, at age 8, and sewed through a finger on the first day, because I was treadling so fast. Ouch.
    At age 12, my paternal grandmother gave me a “White” machine and sewing lessons at Joske’s department store ( we lived in San Antonio TX).
    At 22, I purchased a Sears Kenmore which I sewed millions of miles for 20 years. It died while I was sewing a wedding dress. Then, I upgraded to a Viking machine, and finished the wedding dress on time.
    Now, I am totally a Viking machine sewer.
    Currently, I “”drive” a Viking Diamond, and this baby can go.

  34. I too have had experiences with industrial sewing machine. In my case it was an industrial serger, and that thing was a monster! It took two people to figure out how to thread the thing when it needed rethreading (no such thing as tying a knot together to transition from one thread color to another or to change a near empty cone – you actually had to completely rethread the machine from each cone!). I had a fear for the longest time on using a serger because of that. Then my mother won a serger in a contest, and GAVE it to me! And it sat in the box for 6 months because of my fear of threading the thing. I eventually took it out of the box, and 4 hours later, had it threaded (no kidding!) and love it! It’s been 13 years since she gave me the serger and I am still using it. It runs like a clock! I do prefer the home serger to the industrial one. Much easier to use and thread. I also love my home sewing machines and there is no industrial sewing machine that can take their places.

  35. I have a home sewing business. The warranty on most home machines is voided if the machine is used in a business, so I have 5 industrial machines: A Singer 20U33 which is considered a light duty tailoring machine, a Singer 251-11 lockstitch machine, and a Rimaldi serger B 29.0, a Melco 6-needle single head embroidery machine and a Tajima 15-needle single head embroidery machine. Love them all. They just sit there and do their thing tirelessly.

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