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 20, 2021
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Hardly each and every sewing machine is suitable for heavy-duty tasks (sewing upholstery included). Since the market is overflowing with lots of deceitful advertising tricks, choosing the ideal product can be difficult. Luckily, that is where we come in with a list of the best upholstery sewing machines out there.
As usual, we aimed to separate the sheep from the goats, which is why we considered several crucial features. Upholstery projects often involve sewing thick materials, so be assured that each of our picks is capable of that. We have also chosen machines that are made of sturdy materials in order not to cower under heavy usage. Our Editor’s Choice, the model from Brother, is not only built to last, but it also features a whopping 37 inbuilt stitch styles and comes heavyweight needles and 6 different feet for any kind of upholstery. To know more about this and other noteworthy options, read on.
It’s no secret that Brother Industry Limited is popularly regarded as the leading company when it comes to sewing machines and accessories. Then, that makes it unsurprising that one of their products – the Brother ST371HD Sewing Machine has taken the number one spot on our list. It is one of the most resilient and sturdiest machines you can get your hands on, designed to effortlessly punch through thick textiles, which is in no small thanks to its three heavyweight needles. Of course, each of the three needles is meant for a specialized purpose. The three needles included are the #16 needle, the #14 needle, and the #11 needle. The first one is meant for heavy materials such as denim and canvas, while the second one is for multiple fabric layers.
However, the third needle is designed for less strenuous tasks, such as regular sewing of lightweight materials such as silk. There is also a durable metal needle plate that ensures clothes smoothly feed and aren’t creased up. The plate also guarantees proper alignment in the hand measurement guide. It’s almost impossible not to use your foot when sewing, so the machine’s built-in spring action and metal thread hook allow you to effortlessly slide your foot in zigzag movement over multiple layers and thick seams. Also, the Brother ST371HD comes with a non-stick foot, designed to stitch difficult non-woven materials like suede.
With an automated one-step buttonhole and a mind-blowing 37 built-in stitches, this machine offers sufficient stitch options regardless of the kind of project you have. However, this machine cannot be regarded as the fastest one, providing about 800 stitches per minute. Its speed performance may not be impressive, but it’s nothing disastrous since thick materials don’t require the machine to be fast. The unit is easy to bobbin wind and generally allows for easy transitioning between multiple threads. By a long margin, this unit from Brother Industry Ltd is the best choice for upholstery projects.
If you are an environmental-conscious person, the Juki DDL-8700H Industrial Sewing Machine might be an attractive option for you. The machine is completely eco-friendly, complying with “Juki Eco-Products”. This product is an industrial machine that provides a stern competition to other established brands. The biggest and most impressive attribute of the unit is its super-fast operation, delivering 5,500 stitches per minute. if you have an enormous project that requires a lot of speed and power, then you can bank on this incredible sewing machine.
Impressively, this model offers an adjustable stitch size, which is one of its most useful attributes. The arm space also measures 11 inches, which is sufficiently large to design heavy and big quilts. That is further evidence that the unit is meant for large projects. The machine also adopts a completely lubricating setup, which keeps the function free-flowing and smooth. Combined, the three boxes include useful accessories such as v-belt, servo motor, tabletop/legs/drawer, bobbin winder, two-spool thread stand, one bobbin, knee lifter, machine oil, screwdriver, and more.
Furthermore, the unit is equipped with a special feature called the Single Needle Lockstitch mechanism, which allows you to produce high-quality garments. However, you are advised to only buy this model if you can do the assembly yourself or get someone to do it for you as it comes with no manual for assembly. Assembling components are packed in different boxes, so it’s difficult to assemble for someone who is not familiar with the technology.
Everybody wants to get more value than the money they are paying, and the SINGER Heavy Duty 4432 Sewing Machine gives you exactly that. Despite being offered at an affordable price, this machine is an epitome of a heavy-duty machine – functional and highly durable. While it may not pass as an attractive machine for most people, it compensates for what it lacks in good appearance in speed, attitude, and sheer power. It has a very solid metal frame that makes it an ideal choice for your heavy-duty upholstery projects. What more are you looking for? You are likely to find it in this amazing unit.
Impressively, the machine offers a ridiculous level of speed, providing the user with a full 1,100 stitches every minute, regardless of how harsh the conditions are. Of course, this is made possible by its powerful motor, which drives the needle through whatever is put in front of it. Surprisingly, the machine also comes with a wide range of important accessories, which include a zipper foot, an all-purpose foot, a sewing foot, needles, bobbins, an auxiliary spool pin, a buttonhole foot, a seam ripper/lint brush, and more. Each of them is conveniently kept in the included accessory tray.
The machine also comes with an amazing feature known as a reverse switch. Every sewing machine should have this feature, as it enables you to sew reverse and reinforced stitches. However, it is important to note that apart from its speed and power, this machine is capable of precise sewing and fine detail as well, making it an all-round excellent unit. On the downsides, the machine struggles with multiple layers of thick materials, which is the only flaw we could find.
Light weight and portability are two attributes you probably wouldn’t expect to find in a machine that is designed for heavy-duty sewing projects, right? Well, the Juki TL-2010Q Portable Sewing Machine is out to alter your expectations regarding that. Even though it is a portable and lightweight unit, the machine is a sewing beast that offers you a lot of power and an incredible level of speed. It is ideal for a host of things, including straight stitching and quilting. It offers every feature you would need from a straight stitch machine – power, speed, and durability.
Additionally, it comes with a couple of helpful features that you’ll greatly appreciate, which include a pre-tensioned feature, an extension table, a knew lifter, and an excellent LED lighting. Besides the amazing thread-cutting feature that is incorporated into the machine’s foot pedal. With this, you can effortlessly cut the threads without taking your hands off what you’re doing. While the machine is very fast, it has a speed control. Thanks to its powerful motor, the machine is capable of sewing through multiple layers of thick materials, which makes it an excellent option.
The unit does not falter, even if you combine layers of canvas. It’s also easy to learn, thanks to the included manual instructions. However, it doesn’t have computerized components, which some people might see as a bummer. On the upsides though, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on replacement parts and general maintenance with this machine.
Singer sewing machines are typically characterized by speed and the Singer CG590 Commercial Grade Sewing Machine is not different. With its incredibly high stitching speed of 1100 stiches per minute, it is a perfect choice for any advanced fashion designer that often takes lots of orders. Whether you are keen on speed or quality, we assure you that this machine will provide you with both. Generally, it comes with a lot of basic and advanced features that allow it to edge its rivals in the market. For instance, it comes with a drop feed capacity that allows you to effortlessly do anything.
It does not matter if it is modern motion quilting or old-school fashion designing, this machine literally allows you to do whatever you want to do. Since the machine is a commercial-grade unit that is engineered to withstand the needs and abuse of a professional user, it also comes with a stainless-steel bedplate, which can take all kinds of wear and tear. The special bedplate also guarantees smooth feeding of the fabric for consistent and even sewing. Being unique machine, you can expect it not to come with regular features often found in regular machines.
It is equipped with a unique electronic foot control, which allows you to effortlessly control the machine’s speed. That simply means you don’t need to endure the frustrations of jump-starts. Apart from the 18 built-in stitches, the unit also comes with some convenience features, which include a top drop-in bobbin, an automatic needle threader, and a four-step buttonhole, all working in perfect synergy to make heavy-duty sewing look effortless. The plastic parts may be unideal for a machine that is supposed to be a commercial model though. Besides, the needle-threading instructions could use some improvements.
If a machine that doesn’t produce much noise or vibration is what you’re looking for, the Reliable Barracuda 200ZW Sewing Machine may interest you. As its name implied, this unit is one of the most reliable products you can call upon if you’re working on a lot of upholstery projects. When other machines skimp, this one just never disappoints. The reduced noise design of the machine guarantees minimal disturbance and outstanding quality, assuring you of high-quality performance. With its ability to sew ten or more canvas layers and as many as eight Sunbrella-Plus, there is no doubt that the model is designed specifically to be used for large sewing projects.
In terms of speed, this machine delivers about 800 stitches per minute, which is nothing out of the ordinary. However, what it lacks in speed, it makes up for it in a large capacity, which subsequently allows it to deliver fantastic results in a short time. No matter how thick the materials you are sewing are, this machine will sew through them effortlessly, which is in no small thanks to the powerful feeding system. Additionally, the machine comes with an adjustable stitch length, which allows for more versatility. Another thing that makes sense about this model is its ease of use, which means you won’t go through much hassle to figure it out.
In truth, the machine is packed with neat, advanced features. One of those features is the zipper feet sets, which allow for a lot of flexibility. The unit also features a walking foot, which equally feeds fabric layers through the unit while quilting. It’s also noteworthy that the machine allows for both straight and zig-zag stitches. And if you’re dealing with an extra-tough project, the built-in speed reducer provides extra torque to make things easier. For more convenience, the unit also comes with a heavy-duty carrying handle, allowing you to easily transport it. It’s, however, disappointing that this model doesn’t come with an auto needle threader, like most modern machines.
Janome HD3000 Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine is one of the most expensive sewing machines out there, but you will be hard-pressed to find anyone arguing against its incredible performance. In truth, this machine may not be as speedy as some other models on this list with its 860 stitches per minute capability, but it would be unfair to regard it as a slow machine. It is quite versatile, being outfitted with 18 stiches, which includes a one-step buttonhole. The strength and power of this machine is one of its core attributes. It comes with a powerful 1.0-amp motor that guarantees an efficient sewing, even when you are working with tough materials.
If you are intending to work on tough materials like leather or denim, this machine can be a suitable option for you, allowing for smooth and even sewing with multiple fabric layers. There are other exciting, sewing-facilitating features, of course. For example, it is also equipped with an inbuilt needle threader, which eases the regular frustrations that typically comes with the threading of a needle eye. Another neat feature you will appreciate on this unit is an inbuilt thread cutter, which helps to make your work neater as you would not need to cut with scissors.
Furthermore, the machine has a durable construction, thanks to its heavy-duty frame. It is a free-arm machine also, allowing you to make sleeves, cuffs, and meet other exclusive sewing needs. In general, the Janome HD3000 is an excellent machine that is perfect for both beginners and veterans. Like most Janome models though, this one also does not reliably wind bobbins, which might be a bummer to some prospective buyers.
What we liked:
Automatic thread cutter
Smooth and even sewing
Built-in thread cutter
What could be better:
Its operation is not speedy
Doesn’t reliably wind bobbins
Things to Consider
What makes a good upholstery sewing machine? One thing we know for sure is that you need to consider a whole lot of vital features when trying to pick out the best. You do not know those features, but we do, and we have compiled them in this section for you.
What Is an Upholstery Sewing Machine?
The covers of our couches, chairs, and other pieces of furniture are usually made up of thick materials, such as vinyl or leather. Most times, they even consist of springs and a lot of padding. Consequently, you require something a little more powerful and robust than a normal sewing machine. It’s important to own one of the best upholstery sewing machines, even if you are a sewing expert.
They usually come with the industrial power and exclusive needles needed to handle the thickness and heaviness of upholstery fabrics. If you sew thick and heavy fabrics with a regular sewing machine, the machine’s needles could be easily broken off, which could subsequently damage the apparatus before you can do anything. In addition, if you really need to sew upholstery with your own hands, a good upholstery sewing machine is a necessity.
Features to consider when choosing an upholstery sewing machine
There are lots of various factors and features you need to consider when investing in a heavy-duty sewing machine that can be used for upholstery works. The speed of your intending machine, the number of inbuilt stitches that come with it, the weight and size of the machine, and its general features are some of the factors we are talking about. We will discuss everything in full detail in the paragraphs below.
When it comes to speed, heavy-duty machines are typically slow in comparison to regular machines, which is because of the heavy and thick materials that they are used on. However, even though these units are not the fastest you can find on the market, there are still units that provide decent speeds of 1000 or more stitches per minute, such as the Singer CG590 Commercial Grade Sewing Machine and the Juki TL-2010Q Portable Sewing Machine. The precise figure is not as vital as ensuring the unit is sufficiently fast to finish your sewing on time.
Number of inbuilt stitches
While some machines come with only a couple of stitch types, others feature dozens of various stitches. The more the built-in stitch types on your machine, the more the options available to you when handling different upholstery projects. While this factor may not be too important for some people, it’s important for people who like trying their hands on various styles and being extremely decorative. Equipped with as many as 37 built-in stitches, the Brother ST371HD Sewing Machine has the highest number on this list.
Heavy-duty materials used for construction
Since everyone knows that upholstery works are done on tough and heavy fabrics, it’s only logical to choose a machine with a solid metal design, as there will likely be a lot of turbulence and heavy vibrations.
We advise you to avoid any lightweight or plastic material as it may not be able to handle heavy operations. Alternatively, you could choose a lightweight, compact upholstery machine if you are limited in terms of space or you like carrying the machine along on your travels.
The motor is another factor that plays an important role and that you need to take into consideration. The motor is responsible for giving a machine all the stability and power it needs. If your machine has a powerful motor, its operation will be smooth and swift. Otherwise, you will be having to exert a lot of power to finish every stitch. Choose an industrial machine if you will be working on upholstery designs as they usually have powerful motors that can handle heavy fabrics.
A good sewing machine should offer maximum versatility and efficiency, which is why you might need a model that comes with a walking foot. For starters, it is a special instrument that enables the fabric to effortlessly move when doing upholstery works, no matter how thick or tough it is. A sewing machine that doesn’t come with a walking foot is likely incapable of handling thick and tough upholstery fabrics. As a rule, you are advised to opt for a machine that comes with a walking foot if you are likely to be dealing with a lot of heavy fabrics.
Needle and thread
The same way a sewing machine is built to perform certain functions, a needle is designed for a specific fabric as well. While a delicate needle works for lightweight and soft fabric, it will quickly snap if you use it for leather. For heavy fabrics like we are used to in upholstery, you need heavy-duty threads and needles, as only they can reliably stitch your fabric. Unlike delicate needles, a thick needle can pierce through a thick fabric seamlessly.
Stitch length and width adjustability
Apart from offering various types of stitches, some upholstery machines will enable you to adjust your stitch length and width as well. Of course, not every machine has this feature, which is not ideal at all as it does not afford you the flexibility you need when working on this kind of project. Your ability to make adjustments on your width and length simply provides you with an additional option when taking on new projects. Sometimes, leaving a thinner, longer, or shorter stitch can be all you need to perfect your sewing, which is why it can be greatly beneficial to choose a machine that provides this feature, such as the Juki DDL-8700H.
Most traditional heavy-duty machines produce a lot of noise, particularly when you run them with a motor that has a clutch. This may not be a problem when you are utilizing the machine in a large garment factor, but if you are using it at home, we advise you to reconsider. Fortunately, some companies advertise their products as low-noise machines. If you love tranquility in your working environment, we advise you to find those products by all means.
Presser foot control
Most upholster sewing machines feature presser foot control. When you are sewing, the presser foot is responsible for keeping the fabric in position, which makes things convenient for you. Without a presser foot control, the fabric will shift endlessly from its position, giving you an inconsistent and messy design. This is even more crucial when you are stitching upholstery as it needs a heavier thread and stronger needles. Apparently, the heavier thread and stronger needs cause the fabric to move often while you are stitching. If you are keen on finding the best upholstery sewing machine, then you need to prioritize this feature.
Dimensions and weight
Upholstery sewing machines are always heavy and big, which means it is never easy to move them around. Considering this, it’s important to consider the weight and size of your machine when choosing. Of course, you don’t need a model that is excessively heavy if you need to always put your machine away as getting it out again and moving it around could dangerously strain your body. A small unit such as the Brother ST371HD Sewing Machine can be an excellent option in those situations. Also, you need to make sure that the unit is sufficiently compact to fit in a small space.
Some upholstering machines always come with extras, such as a carrying handle to ease your movement with the machine, or different mounting options to help aid the installation. You could also consider a machine with a LED light to light up the machine’s sewing area. While these small extras are not likely to drastically affect your sewing projects, they can help put a machine ahead of others. The carrying handle and LED light are especially crucial, especially if you need to be moving around frequently.
How to Maintain a Sewing Machine
With only six maintenance tips to consistently follow, you can enjoy your upholstery sewing machine for over 25 years, based on what the warranty suggests. If you want your machine to last for a long time, then you must religiously follow our maintenance tips below.
Always cover your machine – While it may look unnecessary, small crevices with dust and particles cannot be a great idea for a full day with tough leathers.
Clean daily – Every nook and cranny of your machine needs to be cleaned regularly. You need to disassemble the machine from time to time and clean it thoroughly. For this purpose, purchase a small lint-free brush to remove gunk and old thread.
Oil Your Machine – Everything becomes better when it’s well-lubricated, and your sewing machine is not an exception. Whenever you have a feeling that your presser foot and bobbin areas are heavy, that’s always the sign. You only require a drop of oil from. Pour the oil under the machine’s shuttle hook and turn its handwheel afterword for the effective spread of the oil.
Stay Sharp – You also always need to keep your machine sharp, both literally and figuratively. One way to ensure it is sharp literally is changing your needles at a constant interval, but you first have to figure out which needles are ideal for the fabrics you’re working on. As a rule of thumb, you need to replace the needles after every big project.
Ensure the screws are always tight – The screws used to put your machine together may begin to loosen over time, which is normal. However, we advise you to constantly watch out for loosening screws and tighten them to make sure your machine is being tightly held always.
Never blow your machine – You may clean your machine with the compressed air, but don’t you ever blow it with your breath. Your breath contains a lot of moistness, which can lead to leaks and rusts. If possible, get a professional cleaner that will help blow away the lusts, lint, and the machine’s interior region such as the bobbin case.
Upholstery involves the stitching of thick materials, so it is advisable to find a machine with high speed. Preferably, we advise you not to go below 800 stitches per minute when it comes to speed. Do not ignore this advice or you may end up regretting it.
You want to engage in car upholstery? Then you need a free arm machine like our Editor’s Choice, the Brother ST371HD. Apart from being a free arm machine, it also comes with 37 built-in stitches and delivers 800 stitches per minute. You need a versatile machine if you perform auto upholstery and you will be hard-pressed to find a more versatile machine than this model.
If you need a strong, heavy-duty sewing machine for upholstery, the Brother ST371HD Sewing Machine perfectly fits that description. You can totally bank on this machine for your upholstery projects, thanks to its powerful motor, heavy-duty operation, and durable construction. While it is not the fastest model you can find, it is still the best upholstery sewing machine you can find on the market.
After that comes the Juki DDL-8700H Industrial Sewing Machine, which with its 5,500 stitches per minute performance, is the fastest upholstery sewing machine on this list by a country mile. Apart from being speedy, the machine also offers other incredibly useful features like a large sewing table and a LED light. So, you would see it is not all about only speed and nothing else. On a different day, this model could easily take the top spot.
Our third pick is the SINGER Heavy Duty 4432, which with all the advanced features it offers, is easily the best-value sewing machine on our list. Besides sporting foot pressure control, the model also allows you to adjust the stitch size, which makes it incredibly flexible. It also includes a lot of accessories which include a zipper foot, an all-purpose foot, a sewing foot, needles, and so much more.