Q & A, Sewing Machine Recommendations

Paula Asks,

Hi Sophia,

I stumbled across your DIY blog searching for the right kind of sewing machine for someone with no experience in sewing. I have just started teaching myself to reupholster with books and the web as a hobby.

I feel that I am at a crossroads of sorts. Can’t afford an Industrial sewing machine, but if I had to maybe a used or refurbed. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hello Paula,

I am happy to help. You certainly are very ambitious! In the industrial category I would recommend a used Juki 555. You should be able to get one for approx. 3-400 dollars, head and table included (includes motor). A brand new, good domestic machine would be priced about the same, therefore owning a good industrial is far more advantageous. The 555 is not a walking foot, which you will need for certain fabrics such as velvet, vinyl, sunbrella,  etc. The Juki 555 is a dressmaker’s machine, but it will handle many upholstery fabrics, and it is much less expensive than a walking foot.  Because you have never sewn, jumping right onto an industrial machine is a little daunting. They are powerful machines! I suggest picking up a small domestic to practice with. Industrial machines have powerful motors, and I do not suggest that beginners use them as learning tools.

When you are ready to graduate to an industrial machine, consider the points below.

  • Do not be afraid to buy used industrial machines. They are well built tools! They stay in circulation for decades. Be sure to buy from a reputable source, someone who trades and deals with industrial machines. Otherwise, the machine may not have been properly tuned and any part with excessive wear may not have been replaced.
  • When buying any kind of sewing machine do some research on the net.  There are plenty of lower priced, lower quality semi industrial type of sewing machines on the market. Check to see if the company has their own website, or what kind of warranty they offer. A 30 day warranty for example, should be a red flag.
  • Question the language used to describe the product. Some of the newer, smaller import companies may use vague language. Any true industrial machine will not be labeled as portable. I would imagine if it is labeled as portable then it is a smaller, lighter machine – not like any of the industrial machines that power production around the world.
  • Industrial machines consist of two main parts – the head and the table. The machine head drops into the table. The motor is attached to the table. For new machines, prices typically refer to the cost of the head, the table is extra.
  • Remember that you always get what you pay for. I have heard reports that some of the newer imports do leak oil.  I would definitely recommend a used juki, pfaff or brother over any of the brand new imports. Aside from any possible oil issue, the inner parts are made of better quality, will run problem free are higher speeds and will need less tuning.

In conclusion, I do recommend that beginners start off sewing on a small domestic such as an old Kenmore. You should be able to get one for 30-40 dollars. There are alot of things you need to familiarize yourself with: foot pressure, thread tension, choosing the correct needles, etc. And on that note, I have noticed that some of the new domestics are being manufactured without a foot pressure control. Avoid at all costs!

Let me know if you have further questions,


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