Marilyn knows how to present the dullest topic in an interesting and easy-to-read way. When she’s not teaching English Literature at a local school or writing for our site, Marylin loves to knit and bake for her two grandchildren.
Julie owns a shop specializing in sewing equipment and accessories. No wonder she knows everything when it comes to technical specifications of practically anything we review. In her free time, Julie loves quilting and scrapbooking.
Last updated: January 27, 2021
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On the surface, buying a heavy-duty sewing machine seems easy enough. You see a model that you like, pick it, set it up nicely, and sit down to sew your first item. Only it isn’t going as fast as you hoped. What could be wrong? Well, you unknowingly chose a machine with an underperforming motor. To avoid such an eventuality, select the best heavy-duty sewing machine from our top-rated models.
What makes these sewing machines outstanding, you ask? Part of it has to do with the motor and speed. These machines use high powered motors with the ability to operate at speeds that are as high as 3,000 stitches per minute or more. They also have adjustable stitch length and width, making it possible to customize the stitch size for different fabric thicknesses. They vary in weight and size to suit different applications, and they are supported by a comprehensive manufacturer’s warranty. Sound like the machine you want? Let’s find you your perfect match.
If your sewing projects largely comprises of heavy materials and quilting, get the Juki TL-2000Qi. Easily the best heavy duty sewing machine for home use, it has a sturdy aluminum die cast frame that withstands heavy use quite well. Durability is not the only thing this aluminum material gives you; it also eliminates vibration, so the machine does not bounce as you work. The machine runs at a maximum of 1500 stitches per minute and has a maximum stitch length of 6 mm, ensuring you can work on those large fabrics fast. The space between the throat and the arm is big enough to accommodate your quilts with ease. This, combined with the extension table, provides a large working area for added convenience. Operating the machine is easy, thanks to the one pedal mechanism and knee lifter lever, which allow you to run all the basic functions and control the presser foot smoothly. An automatic stitch trimmer trims the bobbin and needle thread, saving you time and keeping the process flawless. There is also an automatic needle threader that feeds thread through the needle for you so you don’t have to do it manually, again, saving you time. LED lighting illuminates the working area adequately, so you always have a clear visual of what you’re working on at all times.
What we liked: There’s a lot to like in this machine. The wide working surface, for one, ensures you work in comfort. The one pedal and knee lifter operation and the automatic threading and thread trimming mechanisms all make operating the machine easy.
What could be better: The only thing we didn’t like is how the thread comes out the back of the needle after it’s automatically trimmed.
Do your projects usually involve use of long stitches? Then the Consew 206RB-5 will be a game changer for you. With extra long stitches measuring 10 mm, this is the best sewing machine for thick fabric, perfect for all kinds of heavy-duty products, such as camping gear, umbrellas, tarpaulins, awnings, boat and auto covers, traveling and outdoor wear, and the best heavy duty sewing machine for leather. It has a stitch locking mechanism that keeps the stitch length even and unaffected by machine vibration. The resulting stitches are neat and give your finished product a clean, well-made look. The sewing machine relies on a walking foot and compound feed mechanism to feed the material evenly. With this taken care of, you do not struggle to control the feed, and your sewing is guaranteed to be precise. You can change the needle plate, feed dog, and foot as needed for different projects, and this makes this machine versatile enough to use for all kinds of projects. It uses a large size bobbin, which you can change without first removing the fabric you’re working on. Adjusting the sewing machine slightly allows you to raise and lower the central foot, which makes it possible to slip fabrics of varying thickness through. Plus, it has a thread release finger for use with heavy fabrics. Other noteworthy features you get are a reverse stitch mechanism and a safety clutch.
What we liked: Lots to like about this sewing machine, including the stitch locking mechanism, which ensures that all your stitches are of a similar length. The reverse stitching function can be adjusted to produce the same length of stitches as the forward stitch, meaning you can match all your stitches regardless of the sewing direction to get uniform and precise results.
What could be better: The warranty covers only 90 days and is limited to labor only. The machine is also quite heavy and can only be used in a fixed location.
If you’re looking for a sewing machine that gives you greater control and adjustability, this Brother sewing machine is a good choice. It has at least 5 feed dog settings that include feed pressure and height settings, and a pin feed mechanism that allows you to replace the feed dogs with a single pin feed. This pin feed extends below the sewing machine and enables precise feeding of fabric. Through this, you can move all the different layers of the fabric you’re working on at the same time, and you can feed delicate fabrics without leaving any feed dog marks on the material. This feature alone makes this the best heavy duty sewing machine for denim. A fabric separator makes it easy for you to sew linings to fabrics and prevents fabric puckering, so you’re assured of getting the desired results each time you use it. Threading is easy with the automatic threader that does the job for you. If your eyesight is less than perfect, this is an option you’ll be glad to have. Lifting the presser foot automatically drops the lower feed to allow for fabric insertion. You can also raise the presser foot using the knee lifter, an option that leaves your hands free to work on other aspects. The sewing machine comes with a large extension table, which provides a wide working area.
What we liked: The wide working area makes sewing large projects enjoyable. The feed dog controls give you plenty of feeding options and adjustability.
What could be better: More needle positions would increase the machines versatility.
Singer 4411 is built to last. Buy this if you’re looking for the best Singer heavy-duty sewing machine, one that you can reliably use over the years. It has a stainless steel bedplate and a metal interior frame. Both of these are sturdy and durable and will withstand regular, heavy use. It uses a top drop-in bobbin, whose convenient location makes it easy for you to insert, monitor, and remove the bobbin thread. Because the sewing machine has a snap-on presser foot, you can swap feet as needed for different stitches. You can adjust the presser foot pressure to match the project you’re working on. The drop feed allows you to enjoy motion free sewing. Choose from 11 built-in stitches, all of which have adjustable length and width. This variety of stitches makes it possible for you to customize your project as you like. Factor in the automatic reverse stitching function and you have a machine that allows you to combine your stitches as you wish. It comes with a free arm that allows for easy sewing of hard-to-reach parts such as cuffs. The free arm also gives you complementary storage for your accessories, with the removable sewing table providing additional on-board storage. Includes a wide range of accessories.
What we liked: The heavy-duty metal frame and interior that is hardy enough to withstand everyday heavy use. The adjustable presser foot makes it possible to work on a wide range of materials. And the 11 built-in stitch patterns mean you can enjoy versatility and customize your projects as you desire.
What could be better: The maximum stitch length could have been longer to support even more diverse fabrics and projects.
Need a serging machine that delivers smooth results? Check out Brother ST4031HDH. It is designed for use with 3 or 4 threads, depending on fabric quality. The best sewing machine heavy duty, it uses 4 threads on heavy fabrics like knits and 3 when working with lighter fabrics. It is color coded, so you always know where to place each thread. It’s a high speed overlocking machine, sewing up to 1,300 stitches per minute. You can reduce the speed by easing the pressure off the presser foot. Its metal frame is hardy and well made to ensure the machine remains usable for years. It has a carbon steel blade that is steady and sharp enough to cut through layers of fabrics, including heavy ones. You need this if you hope to create clean edges on your projects. Wondering if your products can be neat if using a heavy fabric on this machine? You have nothing to worry about because the wide extension table is there to help keep the fabric on the same level as the needle so it doesn’t excessively pull on the thread and needle. And because the thread stays on the metal stand, it feeds through the spool correctly without creating unwanted loops and twists. This ensures that the sewing is neat all around.
What we liked: The sturdy construction makes this the perfect serger for both light and heavy materials. The easy to control presser foot makes it easy for you to adjust the speed. The wide extension table provides ample working space and an easy way to control the fabric.
What could be better: The only thing we don’t like is the lack of an automatic threader. Though certainly not a deal breaker, it would have made a difference.
Simplify your sewing process with Singer 4452. It comes with 32 stitches, so all you have to do is pick your preferred stitch for each project and let the machine bring it to life. It works equally great when you want to use different stitches for different parts of your project, since you can just switch the stitches as needed. Among these is a one-step buttonhole stitch, which allows you to sew buttonholes in one simple step. To use, place the button for which you wish to sew a buttonhole on the buttonhole foot, engage the machine, and it will make a buttonhole in that precise size. In addition, you get 3 needle positions to choose from. This means you can adjust the position of the needle to suit the sewing technique you’re using. The machine uses snap-on presser feet, and these are easy to attach or remove depending on the project you’re working on. The presser foot has a high foot lifter, making it possible to work with extra thick fabrics. The presser foot pressure is also adjustable to make it possible for you to sew fabrics of varying thickness. The sewing machine’s metal frame ensures durability, and you can expect to use the machine for years. The bedplate is made from stainless steel and provides a smooth surface for your fabrics to glide on. It also means it will remain rust free throughout its lifespan.
What we liked: The sturdy metal frame and stainless bedplate which guarantees years of problem-free use. The large number of built-in stitch patterns and the conveniently located selector dial. The drop feed feature means you can enjoy free-motion sewing or lower the teeth for safe button sewing.
What could be better: Longer stitches would increase its use cases, especially with very heavy fabrics.
Necchi EX30 – Best Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine for Beginner
Dimensions: 15.9 x 6.5 x 11.7 in
Speed: not specified
Stitch length: 5 mm
Weight: 15 lbs
Guarantee: 25-year limited
More features: 30 stitches, 3 one-step buttonholes, 7-piece feed dog, 7 mm stitch width, extension table, free arm, auto declutch bobbin winder, optic magnifier
For a sewing machine that does it all, pick the Necchi EX30. It comes with 30 built-in stitches that are suitable for all kinds of sewing, quilting, and home decor projects. Included are 3 one-step buttonhole stitches to make sewing buttonholes a breeze. Adjust the machine appropriately, choose your preferred stitch using the direct stitch selection keys, and guide your fabric as the sewing machine does its magic. You can adjust your stitches to a maximum length and width of 7 mm and 5 mm respectively. Once you’ve settled on a stitch and adjusted your settings for size as needed, you can activate the lock stitch mechanism to ensure that all your stitches are uniform for a neat outcome. You can also adjust the stitch tension control to ensure that your stitches are neither too tight nor too loose, but you’ll have to do this manually. The tension control is not automated. Pretty much every other setting in this sewing machine is automated. You have an automatic threader, automatic thread cutter, memorized up/down needle position, with down being the default, and a start/stop button. Twin wide angle LED lights sufficiently illuminate your working area, and you can view your work at close range using the optic magnifier.
What we liked: The range of built-in stitches and easy selection process make sewing that much simpler. The automated features simplify things and save time. The LED lights are a welcome addition that ensures maximum visibility around your working area, and of course, the magnifier that gives you a close-up view of your work.
What could be better: The manual stitch tension control.
The Brother ST371HD comes with 6 specialty feet, specifically a buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, zigzag foot, zipper foot, blind stitch foot, and a non-stick foot. It’s a combination that allows you to carry out any sewing project on this machine. Choose from 37 built-in stitches, among them 1 one-step buttonhole stitch, which you select using shift keys. Additionally, you get 6 feed dog points, a variety that makes it possible to work with all kinds of fabrics, whether singly or in layers, and undertake projects of different sizes. The drop feed option adds flexibility by allowing you to enjoy free-motion sewing. Quick-Set top drop-in bobbin system makes it easy for you to add and monitor the movement of your thread. The automatic bobbin winder winds your thread and the needle threader automatically feeds the thread into the needle, saving you time and energy. There is LED lighting to illuminate your working area so you can clearly see your progress. The free arm provides a way for you to efficiently work on hard-to-reach or oddly-shaped parts such as collars, pants hems, and cuffs.
What we liked: The wide range of built-in stitches and the specialty feet that allow you to successfully carry out a varied range of sewing projects. The automatic features that allow easy thread management. We also like the built-in handle that transforms into storage when the machine is not in use.
What could be better: It would have been great to have additional features like automatic thread cutting and tension control, and an extension table to expand the working surface area.
The best sewing machine for heavy fabrics, Necchi Q132A is built for everyday use. Its sturdy metal frame is meant to endure the rigors of frequent use, and you can count on using the sewing machine for years without running into any mechanical problems. The bedplate, too, is metallic and provides a smooth surface for effective material feeding. You can adjust the presser foot pressure to suit the fabric you’re working on. An extra high presser foot lifter makes it possible for you to work with thick fabrics. Likewise, you can use the foot controller to adjust the speed accordingly. At maximum speed, the machine makes 1,000 stitches per minute. For large projects, such a high speed ensures you can finish the task much quicker than if you were using a slower machine. Choose from 32 built-in stitches that include both utility and decorative stitches. There is 1 one-step buttonhole stitch to help make sewing buttonholes easy. This sewing machine has an automatic needle threader, with adjustable needle positions that suit different sewing techniques. To help you see your working area clearly is LED lighting which illuminates the table. An extension table expands the working surface so you have enough room for your material if tackling a large project.
What we liked: The choice of built-in stitches because the combination of basic and decorative stitches means you can carry out just about any sewing project on this machine. The free arm makes it possible for you to sew non-standard shapes.
What could be better: An automatic thread cutter for easier threading. A top drop-in bobbin would have been preferable to the horizontal drop-in bobbin system used because it’s easier to access.
Things to Consider
Working toward your sewing goals begins with owning the right sewing machine. The best heavy-duty sewing machine allows you to take on all sorts of sewing projects, even ones that involve using heavy fabrics and complicated stitches. In this next section, we’ll see why these types of sewing machines are superior and discuss how to choose the best one, focusing on the features you should pay attention to.
What makes heavy duty sewing machine awesome?
Heavy duty sewing machines have powerful motors that sustain high sewing speeds. Many heavy-duty sewing machines can sew 6,000 stitches per minute. With such high speeds, you get to finish large sewing projects within a considerably short time. This is why these are the sewing machines of choice in industrial settings where high volumes of large items are produced. Individuals who regularly tackle large projects also prefer them because they get the job done quickly and perfectly.
They are also easy to use. You only have to adjust a few settings for the type of fabric and sewing technique you’re using, set the tension and speed and you’re ready to start sewing. With heavy-duty sewing machines, you can sew for long stretches of time without the motor overheating, which, again, makes them ideal for large projects and high volume productions.
Tips and tricks on working with thick fabrics
Working with thick fabrics and layers can be challenging. If you are a sewing beginner, you may think your sewing machine is the problem, when in reality, the difficulty you are facing has everything to do with the thickness of your fabric. But you can work around that and see even, if perfect, stitches on that heavy fabric. Here are some tips you can use:
The first thing is to ensure that you are using the right needle and presser foot. The regular needle may not work, but you’ll have better results if you use a needle specifically designed for heavy fabrics, like a jeans needle, for example. Instead of the regular presser foot, use something like a walking foot to sew layered fabric. The latter is specially designed for layers and will, without fail, yield excellent results when used to sew heavy materials.
Ensure that you use quality thread. Avoid very thin thread, and if possible, use thread that is specifically meant for stitching things like jeans or leather. If you can’t find these, then any thick thread is better than fine thread.
Loosen the presser foot tension before working on the thick section of the fabric. This will help the fabric slide across the needle plate more smoothly.
Likewise, you should loosen the needle tension to give your needle the flexibility it needs to go over the fabric. Remember to restore both the needle tension and the presser foot tension to what it was when you’re done sewing the heavy fabric.
Trim any excess fabric so you are not burdening the needle with unnecessary layers of fabric.
Invest in a hump jumper tool. Most sewing machines come with one, but if yours doesn’t come with it, you can order this particular one. It works by pressing down on the presser foot and keeping it horizontal to help feed the fabric layers evenly, in this way preventing the needle from skipping stitches. To use the tool, place it behind the needle and guide it with one hand as you sew and guide the machine with the other so that it sort of paves the way for the needle. One of the advantages of using this tool is that it has 2 widths, meaning you can use it with different fabric thicknesses.
If you are sewing from a section with thick layers to a thin one, you’ll need to place the hump jumper in front of the needle rather than behind it and proceed as advised. It helps if you can complete the seam just before moving to the thin fabric layer, and then you can begin sewing again from the other side of the fabric.
Watch this video to learn how to use the hump jumper tool:
Types of sewing machines for heavy fabrics
Sewing machines come in different types. Below, we list and briefly describe the most common ones.
Domestic model – These are lightweight sewing machines that are built for light sewing duties, the kind of things you’d do at home. They are not powerful enough to run for hours at a time, day after day, and if you run them for long the motor may overheat. Most are designed for straight stitching, but some models may have zigzag stitching, buttonhole stitching, and decorative stitches.
Industrial models – Also known as heavy-duty sewing machines, this type is designed for more demanding sewing. They work great with both light and heavy fabrics and handle single layer and layered fabrics equally well. They can run for hours at a go without the motor overheating, and they produce perfect, neat stitches.
Mini sewing machines – These ones are small and portable. They are designed for simple sewing tasks such as repairs or alterations and usually sew in a straight line, although some have zigzag stitching enabled.
Treadle sewing machines – These have a base stand which you have to treadle to turn the wheel. They produce neat stitches, the only downside being that they require manual energy to operate. However, you can fit them with an electric motor to automate their operation and improve their speed.
Mechanical sewing machines – These use electricity to run but have plenty of mechanical parts. You have to turn knobs manually to control the machine, so even though the machine relies on electricity to turn the gears, you have to manually control it.
Electronic sewing machines – These rely on electricity to power on and have lots of adjustment options. They offer more stitch options and control switches, with touchscreen operation a lot more and computerized systems.
Computerized sewing machines – These are electric and more advanced than electronic sewing machines. They offer plenty of one-step buttonhole stitching options and embroidery options. They also support customized programming and allow you to set up your own programs.
Sergers – Also called sergers, serging machines, or overlock machines, these are multipurpose machines that can stitch seams, hems, and finish edges. Most of them come with cutters to cut the edges, so they cut and overlock as they go.
When it comes to heavy-duty sewing machines, prices vary greatly. You can pay as little as $190-200 or as high as $1,600. It all depends on what you are looking for in the sewing machine. Usually, the price is indicative of the machine’s capabilities. A heavy-duty machine with embroidery options, an overlocking function, and multiple one-step buttonhole stitches, for example, costs more than one with basic stitches only.
How to pick the best heavy-duty sewing machine
You will identify the best heavy-duty sewing machine by the following features.
Motor power and speeds
Heavy-duty sewing motors mostly come with a servo motor, although some may also use a clutch motor. The motor has to be powerful enough to keep the machine running constantly at the desired speed. Servo motors are preferred for this very reason, coupled with the fact that they are more energy efficient. Smaller machines may run at speeds of 1500 stitches per minute, while larger motors support speeds of 3300-6000 stitches per minute or more. The machine is equipped with a mechanism to control the speed since different fabrics and stitching techniques may call for you to vary the speed. To reduce the speed, some may require you to ease the pressure off the presser foot, while others have a speed control slider, knob, or button that you have to turn or push.
To ensure durability, the best heavy-duty sewing machines have a metal frame. The bed plate as well is made from metal. To safeguard against rust and corrosion, stainless steel is used to make the bed plate in most cases. Some of the models with a stainless steel bed plate are Singer 4411 and Singer 4452. Where plastic components are used, only top grade plastic that can last up to a decade or more is used. Extra care is taken during assembly to ensure that all the pieces are well secured and won’t come apart during use.
Most of these sewing machines come with built-in stitches so that all you need to do is select the stitch you wish to use from the list of supported stitches and the machine will sew it. Depending on the selection mechanism used on the machine, you may use a selector dial, button, or shift key to choose your stitch. If you wish to change to use a different stitch, simply make the switch from the stitch selector menu. The best machines have 30+ stitch patterns, a large variety that makes it possible to take on any sewing project. Usually, these stitches are a combination of basic, decorative, and buttonhole stitches. In some cases (in high-end models) they may also include embroidery stitches.
Most high end models are accessorized with things like specialty feet and extra needles, bobbins, quilting kits, rufflers, spool cages, seam pullers, screwdrivers, lint brushes, and more. Fortunately for you, manufacturers usually bundle their sewing machines with plenty of these, and because you’ll need to use them regularly, you can never have too many of them. And so, the more extras you can get the better. If you foresee yourself using different feet over time, for example, choose a model like Brother ST371HD, which comes with 6 specialty feet. With such a sewing machine, you can sew zigzag stitches, buttons, buttonholes, blind stitches, and more. The more feet the machine has, the more you can do with it. Another example is Necchi EX30, which comes with a premium hard cover to keep your sewing machine dust free when not in use.
Choose a type of thread and needle that is appropriate for the fabric you are sewing. If working with a heavy fabric, choose a bigger needle and heavy thread that matches the weight of the fabric. If working with a light fabric, a small needle and thin, equally light thread works best. Otherwise, if you choose very heavy thread and needle, it may leave visible holes on your fabric.
Many machines come with an automatic needle threader that feeds the thread into the needle automatically, saving you time and effort. If you have poor eyesight or other trouble with your eyes, this feature can make a big difference in your experience using the sewing machine.
Dimensions and weight
Do you want a sewing machine that you can move from place to place, or will you be using it in a fixed place? Your answer to this question should guide you in choosing an appropriately sized machine for how you intend to use it. If you don’t have much space, choose a compact model that will take up little space. If space isn’t a challenge, choose one of the larger models. Similarly, if you hope to transport the machine regularly, go for a lightweight model that will be easy to carry.
All heavy-duty sewing machines come with a warranty. The average guarantee on materials and workmanship is 25 years, with manufacturers limiting the guarantee on electric components to 2-5 years. That said, if your sewing machine develops an electrical fault after the warranty period for electric components has lapsed, you can have it repaired by a certified technician, and it should work just as well as it did before the glitch. Most sewing machine manufacturers and sellers have care centers where you can have the machine diagnosed and repaired.
Some sewing machines may have extra features that enhance your sewing experience or preserve your machine’s lifespan. If there is a specific feature you wish to have in your sewing machine but it’s not in any of the listed models, enquire from the seller. They’ll tell you if and which models have it.
The ideal sewing machine to use with denim and leather should be sturdy enough to support the heavy weight of these fabrics. If the machine is very light, it may not be stable enough for some of the larger denim or leather projects. It should also have adjustable presser foot tension to allow you to loosen the tension when working with either of the two fabrics. Setting the tension too tight makes sewing through denim and leather difficult, and loosening it a little eases things. The presser foot lifter should be set high to allow thicker denim or leather to fit under the needle. Further, it should have a motor that is powerful enough to drive the needle through the tough material.
One that is easy to set up and adjust. The attachments should be easy to insert and remove, and you should be able to turn any knobs present with ease. The same applies to things like the knee lifter lever (if present), the presser foot lifter, speed control levers, and stitch selectors. In addition, the manual should be clear and easy to follow. Look for a metal bed plate, too, because it will make feeding the fabric easy. Fabrics slide through metal bed plates more smoothly than on any other surface.
To keep your heavy-duty sewing machine in good working order, clean it regularly to remove lint. Accumulation of lint can cause the needle to skip stitches and the thread to break; whenever your machine stops working as it should, consider cleaning it. To do so, cut the thread and remove it, taking care to pull it out through the needle and not up by the spool because the latter will transfer lint through the machine as you pull the thread up. Next, remove the needle, foot, and bobbin. Use a screwdriver to loosen the screws holding the plate and remove it. Use your lint brush to remove all the lint that has accumulated beneath the plate. Remove the bobbin case and clean the area below. Add a couple of sewing machine oil drops into the small hole at the center. Then return each component back into position. Do this after every 2-5 bobbins. Occasionally, take the sewing machine down to the service center for servicing. Here, they will open it up and clean it thoroughly.
Our top choice is JUKI TL-2000Qi, which stands out for its tough aluminum die-cast frame and vibration-free operation. We like the knee lifter and how it leaves your hands free to concentrate on another aspect of the sewing process. The automatic trader and thread trimmer, LED light, and large extension table are other nice touches.
Our second choice is Consew 206RB-5, which stands out for its capacity to sew 10 mm stitches. We like its walking foot for how it makes feeding layered fabrics easy. Among its other top features are the thread release finger for heavy fabrics, the reverse stitching function, stitch locking mechanism, and safety clutch.
Our third choice of best heavy-duty sewing machine is Brother PQ1500SL, which stands out for its extensive feed dog settings and pin feed mechanism, which allows for precise feeding of layers of material. Other features we like are the fabric separator, automatic threader, knee lifter, and wide extension table.