Are you curious about the types of sewing machines? Sewing machines can be broken into domestic machines for home use and industrial machines, which are used for factories and clothing production. There are six types of sewing machines designed for the home and countless specialized machines in the category of industrial machines. This article will give you all the information needed to choose the best machine for your sewing projects.
Different Types of Sewing Machines
Sewing machines or cloth stitching machines are one of the greatest inventions revolutionizing the clothing and upholstery industry.
Deciding on the types of sewing machines that are best for you depends on the functions and the quantity of work you are planning.
If you will be sewing a few times a week, then you will probably be purchasing a domestic sewing machine from a quality manufacturer. For daily and all-day sewing, an industrial machine will be used, with each machine fulfilling a specific function.
Types of Sewing Machines - Domestic
Domestic sewing machines, as the name implies, are designed for home use and are the most popular home sewing machine. While these regular sewing machines certainly vary in quality and longevity, they are generally not designed to last with everyday use. They are generally light enough to be transportable and are designed for multiple stitches and purposes.
1. Electronic Sewing Machine Types
Electronic machines have many more options and the advantage of being electronically operated. There are many brands of electronic machines to choose from, offering different stitches and stitch lengths. These machines have a thread on top and a bobbin thread underneath.
Electronic, mechanical types of sewing machines will have straight stitches, zig-zag stitches, and some decorative stitches. There may even be a buttonhole option. The functions are accessed by a knob rather than an electrical computerized panel.
There are a lot of heavy-duty sewing machines on the market, like the Singer below, that are designed to sew heavier fabrics.
2. Mini and Portable Machines
Electronic machines would include mini portable machines. The mini machine is not sturdy enough for vast quantities of sewing. Although it is portable and easy to carry, it is best suited to small projects and mending. Most of these machines are not strong enough for larger projects and extended sewing.
3. Computerized or Automated Machines
Moving on up the scale of machines, computerized and fully automated machines have many more functions and features.
The machine often has an LCD screen display, automatic needle threading, automatic thread cutters and even embroidery stitches. There are different tension controls and stitch lengths.
Computerized types of sewing machines will make buttonholes and have built-in stitch programs. Although these machines are more expensive, they are sturdy and long-lasting. Reputable companies usually offer lessons and warranties on these higher-ranking machines.
4. Embroidery Machines
An embroidery machine is definitely an investment if you plan on doing lots of embroidery.
The machine will have access to built-in designs and a memory facility to store designs. The USB port on this machine enables the embroiderer to access other designs and import them into the memory of the machine. As you can imagine, embroidery machines are on the higher end of the price range, and some can be many thousands of dollars.
5. Types of Quilting Machines
Quilting types of sewing machines are highly recommended if you plan to make large quilts. This machine has a longer arm allowing greater volumes of fabric to pass through the machine. The quilting machine is able to sew through thicker quantities of fabric. The feed of the machine ensures steady and even sewing as the fabrics are held in place.
Many brands, such as Janome, offer machines that are designed for quilting and general sewing.
6. Overlocking or Serger Machines
The serger (or overlock machine) is a relatively new addition to the sewing machine collection. It is the perfect machine for sewing stretch knits and fleece for active sportswear. The overlocker or serger may come with three or four threads and a thread cutter. It has the ability to sew, trim and oversew the edges of seams. The serger can be used for neatening edges, and it creates a really professional look.
The serger can also be used to create gentle gathers. Sergers can be tricky to thread, so if it is in your budget, try to get one that is self-threading.
Further Reading: How to Use a Serger
Types of Sewing Machines - Industrial
Industrial machines are made to be durable and to tackle multiple types of fabric, such as heavyweight fabrics, upholstery fabrics, leather, rubber, plastic, and canvas. All sorts of projects using tough materials are fair game for the industrial machine. Some industrial machines have found their way into home industries because they are very hardworking and durable machines.
There are different types of industrial machines, most of which sew one specialized function. This is different from a domestic home-use machine which is designed for multiple purposes.
Industrial machines are made with metal bodies and interiors. Because they are mechanical with few or no computerized parts, industrial machines are long-lasting and able to sew for extended periods of time. Many have a flatbed, meaning the sewing area is sunk into a table.
As you can imagine, these specialized industrial types of sewing machines are more expensive than domestic machines. There is a good second-hand trade in industrial machines, as many hold their value reasonably well. Juki and Singer make excellent industrial sewing machines.
When purchasing industrial types of sewing machines, consider that they are like driving a truck vs. driving a car. A bit more skill is needed, but once you master the machine, you will be happy with your purchase. I have owned an industrial straight stitch machine and an industrial leather machine.
The one thing I remember from both of these machines, apart from their amazing performance, is the noise. Industrial machines are louder and go much faster. You will need to learn great control over the foot pedal speed.
Many industrial sewing machines need to be inset or bolted to a table with a connection to the foot pedal. This helps limit the vibrations of the machine as well.
Here are some common types of industrial machines -
7. Cover Stitch Machine
This is a specialized industrial machine able to do hemming, binding, topstitching, and adding decorative effects.
8. Lock Stitch Machine
Lock stitch sewing machine types create a stitch similar to a backstitch. The stitch looks the same on both sides of the fabric. The lock stitch is capable of straight and zigzag stitches.
9. Chain Stitch Machine
Creates a chain stitch useful for stretch fabrics and for binding and decorative effects.
10. Blind Stitch Machine
This machine makes an invisible hemstitch. It is fast and efficient at this process for sewing hems particularly on knit fabric.
11. Button Sewing Machine
There are types of sewing machines programmed to sew buttons.
A button sewing machine has a special holder or clamp to hold the button in place while the machine sews it in place. These machines can sew buttons of different sizes and styles and will have adjustable settings to change the stitch width and button spacing. While industrial sewing machines just perform this one function, you can also sew buttons on your regular home sewing machine.
12. Buttonhole Sewing Machines
Buttonhole industrial sewing machines are specialized machines for sewing buttonholes automatically in garments and various other items such as cushions. They increase speed in the garment industry and sew professional-looking, smooth, and perfectly symmetrical buttonholes.
The adjustable settings allow you to change the buttonhole length, width, and shape, as well as precisely cut the buttonhole afterward.
Did you know you can sew a buttonhole either automatically or manually on your home sewing machine?
13. Back Tack Machines
These different sewing machines specialize in sewing the little stitches you find on the top edge of pockets or on the loops for a belt and other areas that need reinforcing.
14. Leather Machines
Industrial leather sewing machine types have a walking foot to enable them to glide over tough and sticky leather. They have an extra strong motor to handle thick leather and longer stitch lengths than home machines. A longer stitch length is required so the leather does not perforate when sewn. Leather machines use sharp leather needles with a special cutting point.
Leather machines have adjustable presser foot pressure to suit different thicknesses of leather.
15. Zig-Zag Machines
This industrial type of sewing machine does zig-zag and is used predominantly in bra and underwear production to attach elastic. As they are industrial machines, they are heavy-duty and designed for continual use. A zig-zag machine can also be used for decorative embroidery and appliques and joining fabrics edge to edge.
16. Cylinder Bed Sewing Machines
A cylinder bed type of sewing machine is a specialized machine designed for sewing small round items such as cuffs and shoes. The rounded end allows it to sew tubular items more easily and is ideal for hard-to-reach areas in an item.
17. Flat Bed Sewing Machines
Flat bed sewing machines have a flat base that the fabric rests on. These machines are generally industrial but there are domestic versions as well. As the base supports the fabric, it is great for sewing larger items.
18. Safety Stitch Machines
A safety stitch machine is a type of industrial sewing machine that produces a special type of stitch which is a combination of an overlock and straight stitch. This is commonly used in garment production for seams in knit fabrics that are flexible and will not break when pulled.
Vintage Types of Sewing Machines
A vintage or antique sewing machine is classified as such if it is over 100 years old. These are mainly collectors items rather than being used today.
19. Treadle Sewing Machines
Mechanical types of sewing machines are the most basic of all machines and could be treadle or hand-operated. They were designed to be used before electrical power was accessible.
Mechanical sewing machines are either operated with a handle and turning wheel to drive the needle and make the stitches, or they may be treadle machines. The treadle machine is manual and operated by working a treadle plate just above the floor. The movement of the treadle and a rubber belt drives the machine and the stitching needle.
You probably recognize some of these vintage-style machines. They were often attached to their tables, and the machines were made of metal and built to last. Mechanical machines only did a straight stitch.
20. Singer Sewing Machines
Vintage or antique Singer brand sewing machines are still highly in demand, not just for the machines themselves but the attractive treadle tables they came with. I know of 2 local coffee shops in my town that have repurposed the tables without the machine as attractive small tables.
Other Types of Sewing Machines
21. Toy Sewing Machine Types
Toy sewing machines are scaled-down and simplified versions of regular sewing machines. They are designed for children, so they have additional safety features and are considered more of an introductory or educational toy. It will teach them basic sewing skills.
Toy machines will have only a limited range of functions, and most will only straight stitch. Some only sew the fabrics included in the package, while others will sew light cotton fabrics.
Types of Sewing Machines - Which Should You Choose?
When it comes to what type of sewing machine or cloth stitching machine to buy, it depends on the functions you will need, how often you plan to sew, and of course, your budget. For the majority of beginner sewers, you will be looking at either a cheaper computerized or simple electronic machine.
I have a Janome electronic machine with knobs that turn manually and no computerized functions. While it is a fairly basic machine, it is a workhorse that has lasted for years and can sew heavy materials and even leather.
The reality is that most people rarely use the decorative stitches that come with upmarket machines.
Here is a table to help you decide what is the best type of sewing machine for you.
|Straight & decorative sewing
|Simple home sewing with limited features.
|Straight & decorative
|Simple home sewing.
|Great for everyday sewing. Able to sew clothing, home decor, and all kinds of sewing projects.
|Designed to sew embroidery on fabric.
|Mending and small sewing projects. Not for every day sewing.
|Regular sewing & quilting
|Large free arm for larger projects like quilts
|Designed for sewing knits and finishing seams.
|Each type of industrial machine is designed for one specialized purpose.
Types of Sewing Machine FAQS
What is the most common type of sewing machine?
The most common type of sewing machine for home use is the electronic sewing machine. These run on electricity and are versatile, user-friendly, and suitable for a large range of sewing projects, including home decor, clothing, and repairs.
In a professional setting, the most common sewing machine is a straight-stitch industrial machine. These heavy-duty machines are widely used due to their durability and fast sewing machine.
What type of sewing machine is best for beginners?
The best type of sewing machine for beginners is an electronic sewing machine with basic functions such as a variable straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch. With these 2 simple stitches, you can sew the majority of projects, including clothing, home decor and, curtains.
The best machine will depend on your specific needs and budget, of course. Read more about sewing machines for beginners.
Types of Sewing Machines - In Conclusion
It would be safe to say the sewing machine industry has made great progress in both the home and in factories. There are many types of sewing machines suited to your budget and the skills required. When the sewing bug bites you, and you have to have the latest machine, you will probably want to buy into the mantra of...SEWING FOREVER - HOUSEWORK NEVER!