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Would anyone like to comment on the relative merits of an industrial sewing machine versus a domestic one? I just bought a reconditioned industrial machine for my business and although it works great and there’s lots of things I like about it, it is also noisy and vibraty… No doubt I could have spent more on a quieter model, but I’m a start-up and don’t have lots of cash to throw around.

Here are what I see as advantages – the machine is embedded in a flat table, so fabric comes into and out of the machine on a flat surface. (However, domestic machines can be reconfigured and mounted within a table in a similar way.) The machine is serviced regularly by the seller who comes round to do the work (as a business, this is a plus, but could probably also be arranged for a domestic machine). The knee lever and large, broad foot pedal are much better arrangements than on the domestic machines. Many of the professional seamstresses with which we work are trained on these machines and are very familiar with them, hence it is straightforward to take on a new person and get them “up to snuff” rapidly on the machine (however, domestic machines aren’t that hard to use either!). The bobbin rethreading system while you sew is cool.

Down sides : Very noisy and a lot of vibration. On the machine I bought, the machine has to be run even after shut off in order to “wind the motor down”. A bit clunky looking. And price about three times what the equivalent domestic machine cost. Only does straight stitching.

Overall, the main advantage seems to be the knee level system for raising the sewing foot and the foot panel itself, which, combined, represent a fairly significant time saving while sewing.

I’m also contemplating buying an industrial type iron with its separate water reservoir – again, these cost from several hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars. Benefits versus disadvantages?


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  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Jun 25, 2011, 07.46 AMby katexxxxxx

    What you need to remember about most factory type industrials is that they are configured for one thing only. You get a particular machine for a particular job: straight stitching on medium weight wool, for example… If you want more versatility in a small workroom, you maybe need to consider a commercial rather than industrial machine, something like the Bernina 950, which has a set of basic stitches, rather like a domestic machine, can cope with different fabrics without having to be reset by the service engineer, and is still tough enough to cope with considerable volume. Like an industrial, it comes in a flatbed table and has a separate motor, so needs a solid concrete floor. This, and placing the machine on a thick rubber mat will reduce the vibration and the noise.

    The reason I don’t have one is that I don’t have the correct type of space as I live in a terraced house and have suspended wooden floors throughout.

    Here’s a demo from someone selling a lightly used one. They are still much the same: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmRgCsBuHNo

  • Missing

    Oct 19, 2011, 04.09 PMby kathleenfasanella

    Re: downsides you mention, specifically noise and vibration because I would hate for anyone to get the idea that industrials are terrible. This is equivalent to only having owned a horse and then upgrading to a 70’s era station wagon because that’s all you want to pay for. The newer machines (within the last 20 years!) have servo motors. There is no noise and no vibration (related to the clutch motor and whatever flooring the machines sits on). They have awesome advantages (altho limited to one kind of stitching) like automatic backtacking, automatic thread trimming etc.

    About cost: I bought a brand new needle feed Juki ($1,600) that came with a table, motor, controller etc. I put my Bernina loving MIL on my three newest machines (all with backtacking and automatic thread trimming). She was amazed, beside herself and couldn’t believe that three of my industrials together cost less than half what she paid for her home Bernina. She said, “why would anyone buy a home machine?”. Unless one doesn’t have the space, that is exactly my point.

    As far as new pressing equipment, if you economize and buy an older set up, you’ll probably be disappointed on similar grounds. You have to determine your priorities. Do you want awesome amenities or do you need to get by with whatever your budget permits in the short term? This is the unfortunate trade off. Fwiw, I reviewed the boiler iron I bought here: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/review-boiler-iron-vacuum-ironing-board/

  • Missing

    Oct 20, 2011, 02.19 PMby mickeygirl

    Domestic sewing machines are not meant for heavy duty use – such as sewing continuously for more than 20 minutes. Otherwise the motor heats up, can break or parts inside can distort. Doing quilting on your domestic machine — beware. Do not run your machine fast and hard for long.

    If you need to sew as a business you might need an industrial machine so it is worth the cost.

    3 Replies
    • 121bcd6a71a_avatar_large

      Oct 20, 2011, 11.57 PMby harrietbazley

      This might be the case for modern plastic machines (though twenty minutes seems an incredibly short period to me) but I can’t believe it ever applied to your classic built-like-a-tank black Singer/Jones type machines, with their metal gears and straightforward moving parts. And I frankly can’t conceive of anyone overheating, say, a treadle machine by quilting with it for twenty minutes!

      (Possibly this is why people sell them as ‘semi-industrial’ machines when as I understand it, they’re not….)

    • 4343a36d4466c6f353525bdc97ba571be3128723_large

      Oct 21, 2011, 01.32 AMby thecuriouskiwi

      I don’t know about the 20 minute rule, maybe for the super cheap machines (but NZD$300) but my little domestic Elna regularly gets used for 2 or 3 hours at a time and no problems…

    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Oct 21, 2011, 02.08 PMby katexxxxxx

      There are modern domestic machines built for quilters. They tend to be some of the better quaility machines… Think £800-£3000 price range. They will run for hours and do a very fine job of quilting.

      Some of the better quality non- quilting domestic sewing machines will go for hours as well. For those of us with limited space and the need for versatility, a number of good quality domestic machines will do better than a commercial machine for sewing for customers. You wouldn’t want to do production runs on them, but for bespoke dress, costume and corsetting, my range of domestics serves me very well.

      Geoff is looking for relatively small scale production runs, so if he has the space, a modern industrial or two might be the way to go.

  • Burda_avatar_large

    Oct 22, 2011, 01.14 AMby sewingqueen-1

    I have a Bernina that was made for classroom use – it’s not an Industrial machine, but I definitely use it more that 20 minutes at a time – I would say closer to 5-6 hours at a time. It never heats up, never gives me problems. Having said that, I I were doing production runs, I would probably want an industrial machine.

  • Missing

    Nov 3, 2011, 01.52 PMby mickeygirl

    when you are sewing a garment at home for 5-6 hours you are not running the motor continuously as someone would if they were doing production sewing on an industrial machine. You stop to pin, press, fit, trims etc.

    You have to be careful machine quilting doing free motion and running the machine hard for long. It does heat up. If you have a special quilting domestic model ask the dealer about it. Don’t ruin your sewing machine.

  • Missing

    Jan 2, 2012, 05.25 PMby sunnyelle

    I have both an industrial and a home machine and i love them both. My industrial (a Juki DDL-5550) is a single needle straight stitcher. I like it because I can put ANY type of thread in it and it will sew with it. My home machine cost 5X more than my industrial and it chokes on heavier threads. There are also excellent attachments that I can get for my industrial…hemmers, binders, feet…that give you professional results and they are inexpensive. Attachments and feet for my Husqvarna home machine are way more expensive than my industrial attachments and feet. My industrial also sews through denim and other thicker fabrics very easily and I don’t get any skipped stitches. My home machine doesn’t always sew neatly over the thick seams that result when hemming jeans. If your industrial is vibrating and you need to wind down the motor, then I’d check that your machine is seated in the table properly and that you have rubber pads under it at the corners (to cut down on vibration). My industrial doesn’t vibrate at all and because I have a servo motor, it’s also very quiet.

    All this being said, I still also love my home machine. It has a lot of decorative stitches that are very pretty embellishments and it handles fabrics, including knits, beautifully. It is also an embroidery machine (that’s why I bought it) so it has automatic thread trimming and lots of neat bells and whistles that you don’t get on industrials. I’ve also sewn on my home machine for ALOT longer than twenty minutes at a time and it has never heated up or broken because of it. When i embroider large designs, my machine runs for hours at a time and it doesn’t heat up. I used to have an inexpensive Kenmore sewing machine and that never heated up either. Free motion quilting has also never been a problem on my domestic. It’s actually very good for doing free motion quilting. A long arm on a frame would be best, of course, but those require a lot more space.

  • The_mermaid_large

    Jan 8, 2012, 02.02 PMby blueartisan

    There is actually such a thing as a semi-industrial, I used these in theater training and they have the durability and speed of an industrial but more functions and a speed control if you are doing delicate stitching. Industrial machines are better suited for piece working, where you have a line of people or even many of the same things to be completed. For example, one person puts in all the sleeves, one person puts in the pockets etc etc. The main reason for an industrial is speed (as in you need simple things to be completed quickly). That said, I have a domestic machine and I have a knee lift attachment with it and a large table to slot in when I need a flat area, it does free style quilting with a stitch regulator and even has a needle felting attachment just to name a few. Even though I trained on industrial and semi industrial, I would never bother with one, even when I had my own wedding gown business. I guess it would depend on what area you live in, but if I need something for my machine I can go to my local sewing store and get it, if I had an industrial, I would need to go to a special seller and they are open limited times, and given I live in one of the most isolated cities on the planet, I could wait weeks for a part. I have a Bernina (domestic) and have never once had an issue in the 6 years so far that I have had it, it’s made wedding gowns, quilts, wearable art, costumes, clothing, done numerous alterations and can regularly get 10 hours use a day. I’ve sold many sewing machines in the past, (at work) especially to start up businesses, and I always tell people to think of how long they need that machine before they think they will be able to upgrade, then decide on what you think this machine will have to do in that time and buy accordingly. Anything under $1000 AU (Don’t know what the equiv in the US is as you tend to pay less for everything) can be more expense than it’s worth as they are cheap and all made in China (and that’s all brands by the way) so it’s worth spending at bit more. Also look at your warranty, mine is 10 years while cheaper machines range from 1 to 5 years. But all this is dependent on what you are sewing, I needed functionality to deal with the finest silks, lace and chiffon (which a cheap industrial would chew) I needed speed control more than just using my foot, and I needed this machine to indulge my highly creative side when it wasn’t being used for work. However if you are just straight sewing heavy duty materials, then go industrial all the way!!

  • The_mermaid_large

    Jan 8, 2012, 02.07 PMby blueartisan

    Oh I should add that I have a steam station too (I do ironing and alterations after work for extra money) and I LOVE IT!!!! I only have a mid range Tefal (have nothing but praises for Tefal) one but it allows me to have much more control over heat and steam than a regular iron. For example my last customer had a hemp shirt, denim and silk chiffon tops in her pile and I didn’t have to change any boiler settings as it doesn’t steam unless I push a button. However that said, I do want to upgrade to a Laurastar system one day but am waiting for $2500 to fall out of the sky first….

  • Dscf6507_large

    Jan 11, 2012, 07.03 AMby urbandon

    Industrial- speed and perfect stitches. Domestic- different stitches and buttonholes. Neither have ‘downsides’- they are just built for different jobs.

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