Industrial Sewing Machine 101

One thing I struggle with as a sewing content creator is documenting my progress on sewing projects. I finish my outfits so fast I barely ever get a chance to snap photos of the work I’m doing! A large reason for that fast work is because I don’t have a regular sewing machine, I have an industrial sewing machine.

Have you ever wondered about industrial sewing machines and how they work? Have you ever been interested in buying one or just intrigued by how they’re used? Well look no further because I’m here to give you all the dirt and in betweens on my industrial sewing machine.

What is an industrial sewing machine?

An industrial sewing machine is a sewing machine used in commercial design for high speed output of garments and other sewn products. You might be familiar with an industrial sewing machine if you’ve ever seen the designers sew on Project Runway.

While every industrial sewing machine is different, most of them are modeled the same and have been for years. My industrial sewing machine was given to me by my husband’s grandmother who bought it brand new in the 70s and used it to make gowns and dresses. The branding on it shows as a Real, but with some help from an industrial machine shop owner we found the manual for it and it’s information listed as a Mitsubishi.

My Industrial Machine

My machine is all metal, has an oil pan for the gears and has a large motor at the bottom. The foot pedal is metal as well and very large. The system works almost like a car, the pedal causes the motor to run the machine and you have stitches.

The machine also has a knee lift for the presser foot so I can lift it without touching it. It also has its own bobbin winder.

Industrial VS Domestic Sewing Machines

To best explain the difference between industrial and domestic machines, I’ve listed features of each machine below. Feel free to comment so I can add more if you like! Please note that sewing machine speeds and durabilities vary and the features below do not apply to every kind of machine.

Most Industrial Sewing Machines

  • Great for high output
  • Fast passed
  • High presser foot for thicker fabrics
  • Heavy duty needles and body
  • Metal based and require oil to run
  • Smaller stitches
  • Long lasting and durable
  • Mostly straight stitch though there are zig zag and digital industrial machines

Domestic machines

  • Great for beginners to intermediate
  • Mostly plastic
  • Multiple stitch designs
  • Work great with knits
  • Portable and easy to carry
  • Lightweight
  • Great for quilting

Note: my sewing machine is a straight stitch single needle machine, meaning it cannot do zig zags or buttonholes. I use my domestic machine for buttonholes

So Why Did I Choose an Industrial Sewing Machine?

I didn’t really choose this machine, it chose me. While making some jeans I became very frustrated with my domestic machine’s inability to handle the thickness of the fabric while topstitching. I didn’t have money to spend on a new domestic machine and I was wary of so many brands and options and afraid of choosing the wrong one only for it to not be reliable in the long run. I wanted long lasting, manual, and metal.

So I began looking for an industrial machine but had some difficulty finding a good brand in quality condition. Sometimes, used ones found on the internet are not well taken care of and there’s little information about specific brands because all of the models are so alike. Conveniently at that time, my father in law mentioned his mother had multiple industrial machines from her time working as a seamstress and gown maker in the 70s and onward and that she might sell it to me if I asked really nicely .

Having something not only with history, but also owned by the original owner meant a lot to me and reassured me of the quality of the machine. After a visit to Houston, her old baby was gifted and loaded onto a truck coming home with me. Everything happened incredibly fast and I didn’t fully know if I was ready for such a heavy duty piece of machinery but I definitely was ready to try.

My husband cleaned the machine and we found a local supplier for industrial machines and bought some new needles and oil for it as well. After a tune up, we were ready to turn it on. A steady hum filled the living room that made me very apprehensive at first… It was the whole motor turning on. It wasn’t loud but very new to me.

Practicing on the machine (which I highly recommend if you get one of these) was an interesting endeavor. The foot pedal is less sensitive but requires patience and an easing onto. I had to practice on long strips of denim to get the rhythm and flow right of the machines speeds. After some practice, I was ready for sewing and I’ve been riding the wave ever since.

Should You Get an industrial machine?

Ask yourself the following questions :

  • Can I afford an industrial machine?
  • Do I have a need for high output or do I own a sewing business to justify said need?
  • Do I have the space for it where I live? (Industrial machines are often attached to their corresponding heavy tables)
  • Do I have the space for both an industrial and domestic sewing machine if my industrial machine is not digital? (for buttonholes and knits)
  • Do I have the patience to deal with an industrial sewing machine? (you cannot – I repeat – you CANNOT disrespect an industrial sewing machine with impatience. If you get frustrated or easily flustered you could easily hurt yourself as this is heavy machinery)

All of the above are things to consider, but that being said, the choice is up to you. I have never regretted my decision to start looking for an industrial machine. It has changed my life and completely advanced my way of sewing. I respect the clothing I’m making more as I am a lot more patient with the process of creating.

I hope this post has enlightened you on industrial sewing machines and how beneficial they are. Mine has changed my life. More questions? Please feel free to leave a comment! Part two of this post will be a question and answer post which will be posted on Friday!

Other resources:

Thanks for reading!