Have you ever felt like you’ve exasperated your sewing machine? Maybe you’ve wondered if there is specialized machinery to help you work with different fabrics?
Whilst a domestic sewing machine is an incredible tool that is used to make clothes and garments, I felt like there must be other sewing instruments for me to utilize.
Did you know there is more than one type of sewing machine? In fact there are multiple types of sewing machine from hand held, all the way to industrial sewing machines!
But what are the different types of sewing machines?
Are there many types of sewing machines?
Yes, there are loads! I think I’ve only scratched the surface here. Most of us will sew at home happily on one little domestic machine that can cover most things. But there are a lot of different sewing machines that perform various functions.
Some specialized machines will only perform one function, such as the chain stitch machine or a heavy-duty sewing machine. I choose to use our little sewing machine, which takes up less space than industrial machines, as it can do almost everything I need it to.
How many different types of sewing machines are there?
There are more than 20 different sewing machines that are used for different purposes – from industrial machines, to mechanical sewing machines and all that’s in between.
Why so many? I hear you ask, well if a sewing machine has been built for one purpose it will excel at that, and during high manufacturing of fabric goods, there is no room for mistakes!
Types of Sewing Machines
We’re going to look in depth at 17 of the most common sewing machines you would find in commercial clothing and garment production.
Domestic Sewing Machines
Domestic sewing machines are the sewing machines typically used at home, and are usually electronic sewing machines today. They are essentially smaller and slower versions of an industrial machine and take up a lot less space in your sewing room.
Manual Sewing Machines
A manual sewing machine is most likely the sewing machine our grandmothers or great grandmothers would have used.
These manual machines, referred to as a treadle machine, are powered by a pedal being moved back and forth by foot to power the needle up and down.
Manual sewing machines were durable machines and didn’t need electronic power, many of them can be found today and are sold as vintage sewing machines.
NOTETypically these types of machines can only perform straight and zigzag stitches.
Mechanical Machine or Electronic Sewing Machines
Nowadays most modern sewing machines are powered with a foot pedal which runs the motor. The machine is powered with a foot pedal, which runs the motor for the needle and makes a stitch on an electronic sewing machine.
A mechanical sewing machine has many features, such as stitch length and width selection and decorative stitching. A mechanical machine is known as easy and efficient to us, although tension and speed have to be controlled by yourself.
Computerized Sewing Machines
Computerized machines are the modern machines of today. They are often engineered without any dials or manual features and usually have an LCD touch screen to select the desired feature.
A computerized sewing machine will usually come with a USB port which enables the user to download a sewing pattern.
Computerized sewing machines will often come built with a library of around 40 decorative stitches and embroideries to choose from for beautiful hems.
These advanced machines can also automatically save tension and stitch preferences when the computerized sewing machine has been turned off, ready for next time, another feature is an automatic needle threading making these a time saving choice for home electronic machines.
Here’s my guide about mechanical vs computerized sewing machine if you’d like to read more about them.
Quilting Sewing Machine
Quilting machines can be very similar to a normal domestic sewing machine, but have specific features and functions specifically tailored to the needles of quilters and patch workers, such as an attachable table or special quilt stitches built in.
The head of the electronic machine can be on the right of the table like a standard sewing machine, or sometimes in the middle of the table.
Some quilting machines have handles that allow for easier free motion quilting. A quilting machine may come with designs built in for quilting patterns.
Industrial Sewing Machines
Industrial machines have been created for industrial sewing. The main difference between domestic machines and industrial machines is they are able to work for a longer time at a faster speed.
An industrial sewing machine can often sew at industrial sewing speeds of 2,200 stitches per minute.
These are useful for knit fabrics and following industrial sewing patterns because of the sheer power they offer over regular sewing machines. Industrial machines sew through much thicker fabrics more quickly than standard domestic sewing machines.
These types of electronic machines often come built into large tables or work surfaces!
NOTEIt’s worth mentioning that other sewing machines have specific uses, wYou can find small heavy duty sewing machines that are ideal for use in the home.hich are optional and can be seen in commercial garment production.
Serger or Overlocker
An overlock sewing machine, serger or safety stitch machine is most commonly seen in a professional setting.
The heavy duty machine is not meant to be used to sew clothes from the beginning, but instead create professional looking seams and hems. They will sew a hem together, whilst trimming away the edge and locking it in with a looped stitch.
NOTEOverlockers in my experience take some time to get used to as they have multiple thread spools and are threaded with different coloured threads to create a three thread overlock stitch.
Hand Held or Mini Sewing Machine
These mini sewing machines can be held in one hand with the other hand to help guide fabric. I’ve not had much experience with a hand operated machine, to me they look almost like toys, but I know sewists who swear by them.
These types of sewing machines are really useful for those who travel a lot, to end ripped clothes or add detail in a matter of minutes. This portable electric sewing machine runs on batteries, and is useful for backstage fashion shows for last minute repairs.
Different Shaped Beds
There are industrial machines that have a flat bed which is good for connecting flat pieces of fabric together, or a cylinder bed which has a cylindrical shape for making cuffs and sleeves. They would be used with a flat seam machine.
A post bed machine had a 3D attachment where items can be put over, which is used for sewing gloves, hats, and belt loops etc, which gives the seamstress more space to create these items without faffing around with fabric.
Off the free arm is another but less common bed type. Machines with off-the-arm have a cylindrical bed out from the machine perpendicular to the direction taken by the bed of the cylinder bed machine. This allows for long runs of tubular goods such as sewing inseams of trousers.
Heavy Duty Sewing Machines
A heavy duty sewing machine can penetrate the thickest materials with their needles and has been built for high powered heavy sewing work. Whilst some can do different stitching, most heavy duty machines have been built with one the straight running stitch.
NOTEYou can find small heavy duty sewing machines that are ideal for use in the home.
The most common mechanical sewing machine is the lockstitch sewing machine. Most machines are built with a lock stitch, but there are machines that are specifically designed for making these stitches.
A lock stitch machine can be used with one or two needles. The lockstitch works by locking two threads together before they go through the fabric, essentially adding durability into clothing.
Bar Tack Sewing Machine
A bar tack sewing machine is a specified lockstitch machine. A bar tacking machine tends to produce a high density lockstitch which is short in length to increase the strength of that particular area.
Cover Stitch Machine
A cover stitch machine is used often in commercial clothing production. This is responsible for the classic double stitched hem that is seen on t-shirts.
Although you can use a double needle on other sewing machines, a cover stitch machine will speed up the sewing process, and give a beautiful professional looking hem without trimming away excess fabric like an overlocker.
Chain Stitch Machine
These types of sewing machines require precision when in use, but there is effort put in to lock the stitch and cut it away precisely.
Blind Stitch Machine
A blind stitch machine or blind hem sewing machine creates a hem where the stitching is not available to the eye which is tricky to do with a regular sewing machine. A dial will turn from either left or right to grab more or less fabric. The more fabric the needle grabs, the more the stitch will show.
An embroidery machine has been engineered for embroidery. Embroidery machines will use a pre-programmed design to sew a pattern or design into fabric.
An embroidery machine can be used manually, where an embroidery pattern is followed, or computerized whereby a touch screen allows the user to import designs to their machine from their computer which are embroidered onto fabric with an embroidery hoop.
Buttonhole sewing machines
Buttonholes can be sewn on a dedicated buttonhole machine, or have been created with a buttonholing add on feature.
In any case, a button hole sewing machine comes with a double chain stitch zigzag or a zig zag lockstitch. The buttonhole machine will grip the fabric taught, and sew a buttonhole with a special buttonhole foot.
Button attachment machine
As the name suggests this machine will sew buttons to clothing, which is pretty useful for high production of clothes in the fashion industry. However, if clothes are being made at home, a simple chain stitch or lock stitch can be used.
What kind of sewing machine should I buy?
Now we’ve looked at the different types of commercial and home sewing machines for use in the home and for professional manufacturing, but which sewing machine should you buy? Depending on the machine you choose, they can be a big investment!
The first decision that needs to be made is the purpose of the sewing machine. You would need to consider what you will use the machine for now and the types of sewing you hope to do in the future to determine if you want an industrial machine, or one of the many domestic machines.
The first thing you need to consider is if you will have power for an electric machine, as if you are using it away from a power source you could be limited to looking for a manual machine also known as treadle sewing machines.
We can use most domestic mechanical machines for almost all homemade clothes which are lightweight and for some materials that are slightly thicker.
However, if you want to work with knitwear or leather you may need an industrial sewing machine with more power to punch through the fabric without causing the motor to burn out.
You can make beautiful and professional looking clothes on a home sewing machine, but there are different types of sewing machines to take your projects a step further.
An overlocker sewing machine will guarantee a professional hem or edge every time, with less fuss than a domestic sewing machine.
If you want to create decorative stitches or patterns on your garms, you’ll need to consider that on a domestic sewing machine only free motion embroidery will be possible – where the feed dogs are lowered and the fabric is moved freely underneath the needle by the user.
A sewing and embroidery machine would allow the user to complete regular sewing, and with an attachment of an embroidery arm and hoop embroidery can happen easily.
Mechanical machines aren’t a cheap investment unless you’re buying second hand. It’s important to consider your budget and what you want from a sewing machine first. What is it exactly you’re looking for in a sewing machine?
In the sewing world most sewists have their brand preference on small hobbyist sewing machines.
You’ve probably heard of mechanical machines by Singer, Janome and even Brother sewing machines, but what about Bernina, Juki? There are so many different brands that all create a specialized sewing machine at a price point for you to choose from.
This video can help you pick the ideal sewing machine for you.
The fashion industry uses a range of sewing machines for different purposes, whereas you can easily make something at home with most domestic sewing machines.
If you are thinking of buying a sewing machine, consider what you are looking for and make sure you study each model carefully and even learn how does a sewing machine work. You could go into a sewing machine shop or find a local dealer to help you.
Which type of sewing machine do you like best? Which one would you like to try? Let me know in the comments below and why not give this a share with someone out there who needs a push to determine the sewing machine they need.