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.
Types of Sewing Machines
Sewing machines are one of the greatest inventions revolutionizing the clothing and upholstery industry.
Deciding on the types of sewing machines 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. For daily and all day sewing, an industrial machine will be used with each machine fulfilling a specific function.
Types of Sewing Machines - Domestic
The six basic types of domestic (for home use) machines are -
- Mechanical types of sewing machines
- Electronic sewing machines
- Computerized or automated machines
- Embroidery machines
- Quilting machines
- Overlocking or serger machines.
Mechanical Treadle Sewing Machines
Mechanical 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.
The mechanical machine is either operated with a handle and turning wheel to drive the needle and make the stitches, or it may be a treadle machine. 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.
Electronic Mechanical Sewing Machines
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.
Electronic mechanical types of sewing machines will straight stitch, zigzag and have some decorative stitches. There may even be a buttonhole option. The functions are accessed by a knob rather than an electrical computerized panel.
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.
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, and even embroidery stitches. There 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.
An embroidery machine is definitely an investment if you plan on doing lots of embroideries.
The machine will have access to built-in designs and a memory facility to store designs. The USB port on this machine enables the embroider 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.
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.
Overlocking or Serger Machines
The serger 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. 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.
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 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 -
- Cover stitch machine – A specialized industrial machine able to do hemming, binding, topstitching and add decorative effects.
- Lock stitch machine and heavy-duty lock stitch machine – Creates 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.
- Chain stitch machine – Creates a chain stitch useful for stretch fabrics and for binding and decorative effects.
- Blind stitch machine – This machine makes an invisible hemstitch. It is fast and efficient at this process.
- Buttons and buttonholes – There are types of sewing machines programmed to sew buttons using a lock stitch and an industrial buttonhole machine is geared for several types of buttonholes.
- Back tack machines – They 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.
- Leather machines - These have a walking foot to enable them to glide over tough and sticky leather.
- Zig-Zag machine - This industrial type of sewing machine does zig-zag and is used predominantly in bra and underwear production to attach elastic.
Types of Sewing Machines - Which Should you Choose?
When it comes to what kind of sewing 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 decide what is the best types of sewing machine for you.
|Mechanical||Straight sewing||These are vintage so may be too old for everyday sewing. Mainly decorative or a collector's item.||$-$$$|
|Electronic||Straight & decorative||Great for everyday sewing. Able to sew clothing, home decor and all kinds of sewing projects.||$-$$|
|Computerized||Multiple functions||Great for everyday sewing. Able to sew clothing, home decor and all kinds of sewing projects.||$$-$$$|
|Embroidery||Embroidery||Designed to sew embroidery on fabric||$$$|
|Portable/Mini||Straight sewing||Mending and small sewing projects. Not for every day sewing.||$|
|Quilting||Regular sewing & quilting||Large free arm for larger projects like quilts||$$-$$$|
|Serger||Serged seams||Designed for sewing knits and finishing seams||$$|
|Industrial||Multiple purposes||Each type of industrial machine is designed for one specialized purpose||$$$-$$$$|
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!