I get asked about the sewing machines I use quite often. If I had more space, I would probably have about a dozen different machines all set up for different tasks. In general, I like simple machines. You can spend a lot of money on a domestic (made for home use) sewing machine with tons of features, different types of stitches, and touch screens. I doubt most people utilize all of these features, and I feel that the more complicated the machine is, the more things that can potentially go wrong with it. All of my machines are mechanical without a computerized interface.
This is the workhorse of our (I share with my wife) sewing studio/office. It is a basic single needle, straight lockstitch industrial sewing machine made by Brother. It goes forwards and backwards and that’s about it. Whereas domestic machines are made to accomplish a variety of things such as straight, zig zag, and stretch stitches, industrial machines are uni-taskers. They do one thing and they do it really well. After all, industrial machines are made for the factory floor where they are expected to do repetitive tasks and run at high speeds all day long.
This machine is built into a table with an oil pan and large motor mounted underneath. It has a 3/4 horsepower motor, is very powerful, and when set at its highest speed, can sew up to 5,500 stitches per minute. I never sew even close to this speed, but it’s nice to know the speed is there if I ever want it. The really nice thing about a big powerful motor is that the industrial machine still has a lot of “punching” power even at low speeds. This machine can sew through five or six layers of heavy denim without flinching while sewing very slowly.
One of my favorite features is a lever that sits right below the surface of the table that I can access with my knee to lift the presser foot. This allows me to keep both hands on whatever I am working on while raising and lowering the foot. Right now we have this machine set up for medium to heavy weight materials with a heavy set of feed dogs.
After sewing on an industrial machine, domestic machines sort of feel like kid toys. The industrial machine is made out of steel, which contributes to it being so solid and running so smoothly. The sewing head by itself without the motor and table weighs between 70 and 100 pounds.
The Juki serger below is still fairly new to me. I bought it in January and am still learning about all of the different things it can do. Like many sergers, this model has two knives that cleanly trim off the edge of the fabric and then overlock the freshly cut edge with any combination of 2, 3, or 4 threads. These overlock stitches prevent the edge of the fabric from fraying. This model has differential feed and can be used with a single needle or double needles depending on which type of stitch I want to create.
Our oldest machine is a domestic Pfaff. It was one of the first sewing machines my wife bought about six or seven years ago, long before I was even remotely interested in making clothing. It has held up really well over the years,
and I still use it just about every week. Since our industrial machine is set up for heavy materials, I use this machine for shirtings and other lighter weight fabrics (update: I actually don’t use this machine very much anymore and use our industrial for just about everything). This type of machine is what I would recommend to anyone looking for their first general purpose sewing machine. I don’t think Pfaff makes this particular model any more, but there are other options and brands that are comparable.