It was a good number of years after I took up sewing before i plucked up the courage to tackle my first upholstery project. Since then i have adorned many pieces of old furniture with lavish fabrics as well as making many pairs of curtains from scratch. The first thing to know about taking up an upholstery project is that you have to have the right tools to do the job properly. This means investing in a heavy duty sewing machine and if you are to get the best results, a good one at that.
With one of the best heavy duty sewing sewing machines upholstery projects become a lot less intimidating. In addition owning one opens up new sewing doors allowing for many new sewing adventures. Curtains, chairs, sofas and footstools are just a few projects of the projects you can tackle with a good sewing machine for upholstery.
In this article i will be guiding you through the process of choosing a heavy-duty sewing machine. Along the way i will also be explaining what it is you should be looking for and helping you avoid any pitfalls associated with buying.
Finally, i will be giving you my top 5 recommendations and reviews of the best models available.
Best Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Buyers Guide
Does It Have A Powerful Motor?
The first and most important feature to have in a sewing machine for upholstery is a powerful motor. You will probably have noticed that a standard sewing machine struggles to get through multiple layers of heavier fabrics. Even if you have a very good sewing machine, i would not recommend taking up a upholstery project with it. If you do you are at risk of causing permanent damage. This will only cost you money in repairs or even worse you may have to buy a new sewing machine altogether.
The powerful motor that comes with a heavy duty model is designed to handle the workload that comes with working with heavier and thicker upholstery fabrics. In addition they also have the benefit of been far less prone to overheating, which is again thanks to the increased motor power.
The importance of a powerful motor can’t be stressed enough! It will make your project easier and more enjoyable. Try using a standard sewing machine for upholstery and see how much fun you have when you have broke a needle for the umpteenth time, not much at all.
Is It Sturdy & Robust?
When working with heavier fabrics having a sewing machine with a solid design and a good bit of weight to it helps a lot. With the added weight that comes with heavy duty machines it makes it much easier to feed the fabric through the machine without worrying that the increased weight of the fabric will shift your sewing machine about. This is a common problem associated with usina an ordinary sewing machine for upholstery.
Generally speaking a sewing machine will weigh around 5Kg. A good heavy duty sewing machine for upholstery will weigh anything between 6Kg and 8Kg. Remember to check the weight when buying! A lightweight plastic sewing machine should be avoided for upholstery sewing.
What Is The Stitch Quality Like?
Due to the cost of the fabrics used in upholstery projects undertaking one can be quite expensive. With that been said, it makes sense to ensure that your finished project looks as good as it possibly can. This means buying a machine that can provide consistent top quality stitching.
Another very useful feature in a upholstery sewing machine is an adjustable stitch length and width. Over the years from working with all different types of fabrics with varied thickness has taught me that different fabrics require different stitch lengths for achieving the best and most durable results. Consequently an adjustable stitch length and width is desireable.
Extra High Lift Presser Foot
Another essential feature of a sewing machine for upholstery is a presser foot with an extra high lift. This basically means you can adjust the height of the presser foot which allows thicker materials to be fed through. Due to upholstery fabrics been typically a lot thicker than most other fabrics, you will more than likely struggle if you buy a machine that lacks this feature.
Upholstery Projects Tips
What Accessories Will You Need?
Upholstery projects can vary in terms of the accessories needed to complete them and by accessories I mean presser feet. There are two presser feet that are used for most upholstery projects these are the cording foot and the walking foot.
Cording Foot – a large proportion of upholstery projects involve the process called welting. If you are not familiar with welting it is the process of making decorative cord that is commonly found on sofas, chairs or cushions. You may know welting by one of its other names, which are cording and piping, either way they are one in the same.
Walking Foot – another common occurence of working with upholstery fabrics is that at times you will be stitching multiple layers. This can lead to the machine struggling to feed the fabric through. The answer to this problem is a walking foot which is designed to make the process of working with many layers muc easier.
Take Your Time!
One of the most important things to remember when taking on a upholstery project is to take your time and always plan ahead. As already mentioned upholstery fabrics can get very expensive and mistakes can be very costly. We all get excited when starting a new sewing project and most of us just can’t wait to crack on, however, rushing is not the way to go.
It is worth mentioning that heavy-duty sewing machines can sew at an incredibly fast pace with many reaching speeds of 1000+ stitches a minute. When sewing machines are sewing that fast it only takes a little pressure on the foot pedal to increase speed dramatically, which in turn can be very costly if you are not careful.
Top 5 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Recommendations
Now that you are prepared with all the information you need to know for when choosing a heavy duty sewing machine for upholstery it is time to take a look at my top 5 recommendations.
Singer 4411 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine
The Singer 4411 is one of the most popular heavy duty models in the UK. It represents excellent value for money comes with very good customer feedback and has just been given a big discount on Amazon.
It comes with a powerful 105W motor, which is more than capable of tackling almost anything you can chuck at it. In addition it can manage a very impressive 1100 stitches per minute.
In terms of stitches there are 11 in total these are 6 basic, 4 decorative and one buttonhole.
It features adjustable stitch length and width as well as extra high lift for when working with multiple layers.
A solid and very robust machine ideal for home decor upholstery projects and much more! For a more detailed analysis check out my singer 4411 review.
Toyota Special Edition SUPER JEANS SUPERJ15PE
The Toyota brand have been making textile related machines long before they started making cars. Their sewing machines have a good reputation for quality and are known to be built to last.
In terms of power the Toyota Super Jeans SuperJ15PE only has a 65W motor, however, this is Toyota we are talking about and im guessing they know a thing or two about motors. With that been said this model can easily stitch through a whopping 12 layers of denim.
It comes with 15 stitches which includes a wide variety, not just variations of the straight stitch.
Aside from its already very good upholstery properties, another very positive feature of this model is the extension table. This is ideal for when working with larger fabrics, which can often be the case with upholstery sewing. It makes working with large fabrics much easier and in turn leads to less mistakes been made.
Singer 4423 Heavy Duty Model Sewing Machine
The Singer 4423 is a very well designed and versatile sewing machine. In many ways it is very similar to its sister model the Singer 4411, only the 4423 is even better!
Where as the 4411 only has 11 stitches this model comes with 23 stitches. These include 6 basic, 12 decorative, 4 stretch and 1 buttonhole. In addition the buttonhole is a 1 step buttonhole compared to the 4 step buttonhole of the 4411 model.
Another positive feature is the addition of an auto needle threader for convenience.
With excellent customer feedback and reviews the Singer 4423 is definitely worth considering.
For more information on this model check out my full review of the Singer 4423 sewing machine.
Janome HD2200 Sewing Machine
Bernina 1008S Sewing Machine