Industrial sewing machines pt 2

Hi, I’m Gigi Louis and since I am a home sewer who uses industrial sewing machines, Kathleen asked me to write a little about upgrading to industrials. I use a combination of industrial and domestic machines to sew clothing and home decor items for myself. Why an industrial? Industrial machines do one job and do it incredibly well. Industrials are less expensive, faster, more durable, more reliable, have a longer life span and retain their value. Attachments are durable, reasonably priced and widely available -so what’s not to love? I think the first thing that attracted me to industrials is what initially attracted me to Berninas; lots of great feet and attachments. Of course, I can buy several industrial feet for the price of one Bernina foot.


I think the greatest misconception among home sewers is that all industrials handle heavy materials. In fact, there are industrial machines specifically designed to handle various types of materials. If you make clothing you’ll want a dressmaking head, if you’re doing upholstery work or making purses, you’ll want a walking foot machine, etc. It’s important to do your research before you buy, especially if you are buying used, to ensure that you don’t end up with a machine that doesn’t suit your needs. It’s usually easiest to buy from a local industrial dealer but not everyone has that luxury. Luckily, it’s quite easy to research machines on the internet. If you are a garment sewer you’ll still want a domestic machine to make your buttonholes – unless you want to invest in a dedicated buttonhole machine. I suppose you could make them manually on a zigzag machine but I, personally, don’t have that kind of patience.

I know speed is a concern for many people. I think you would be surprised at how quickly you can learn to control the speed. I became comfortable with it after using an industrial for only a few hours. As Kathleen already mentioned you can also reduce the speed by changing the height of the motor if it makes you more comfortable.

I hope I don’t step on any toes here but one thing that really bugs me is the words “Commercial” and “Professional” running around on the fronts of domestic machines. Home sewers buy them thinking they are getting a semi-industrial machine. Granted, quality varies widely among home machines (industrials too) but it’s still a home machine. By the way, my friend Greg – who sells industrials – says there is no such thing as semi-industrial. It’s either industrial or it isn’t.

My first industrial was a zig-zag machine (Singer 20U-33) because occasionally I need to sew braid trim and tackle twill on athletic uniforms in my business. Otherwise, I would have chosen a straight-stitch machine with reverse like the Consew 7360-1. Some of you may not know that not all machines have reverse sewing capabilities – mostly I’ve seen this on older machines but I don’t take it for granted. Ask the question when you’re buying. Also, as Ed Lamoureux pointed out in his comments it’s imperative that you find out how expensive parts are for any machine you are considering. A bargain machine is no longer a bargain if the parts cost a small fortune and/or aren’t easily obtained.

If you don’t think you’re quite ready for a straight-stitch or zig-zag, an industrial serger is a natural first purchase, in my opinion. I like Juki but there are lots of other great brands available. I sew with a lot of knits and do my fair share of home decor sewing. I love the serger’s speed, consistently perfect stitch quality and fabric handling capabilities. After using an industrial serger, a domestic serger will feel like a toy. I find most domestic sergers quite fussy and problematic compared to industrials. When I want to serge, I turn my machine on, press the pedal and go. I don’t have to fiddle with tensions, I don’t have thread breaks, my thread doesn’t pop out of the guides (because most guides on industrials are closed vs. the “easy-to-thread” slotted guides on domestics) – the machine sews perfectly, every time. In return, all it asks for is a regular cleaning and oiling. All of this can be had for about the same price (sometimes less) as a top-of-the-line domestic serger. True, you’ll get no bells and whistles but I’d take a reliable, consistent basic machine over so-called “features” any day. If you frequently use the rolled hem on your domestic serger realize that an industrial serger will not have that feature, nor will it convert to cover stitch as those are separate machines. Again, industrial machines only do one job but they do it so well.

Gigi Louis
Stick Man Productions

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34 comments

  1. christy fisher says:

    This is a very informative article.. Thanks, Gigi. Do you have a link for Greg? Does he ship? It would be nice to know of a trustworthy industrial machine salesperson.

    Just a note to Greg:
    I have found that there are other types of textile machinery that are considered semi-industrial (Passap E-6000 and E-8000 knitting machines, some AVL looms, etc.)..but in sewing equipment it is an either/or situation.

  2. Gigi says:

    Sorry, Christy, Greg’s not on the web (yeah, I can’t believe it either). He doesn’t ship either. I suppose he has all the work he can handle right here in south Florida. :-)

  3. Peggy Wilson says:

    Dear Gigi,
    I found your article very interesting. I am shopping for a serger.I have a friend who told me
    to be sure and buy a machine that was self oiling.
    I know nothing about sergers but I am learning.
    What is your opinion about the oiling?
    Peggy Wilson

  4. Candice says:

    I just bought a Kansai coverstitch machine. I have never used an industrial machine before and I have no idea how to lift the presser foot (the machine came with it threaded and with fabric under the foot). I am sure it is something obvious, but I have been looking at it forever and have not found any sort of lever like on a home machine. Does anyone know how I might lift the foot? Thanks!

  5. Kathleen says:

    Hi Candice.
    Most of the industrials have knee lifts off to the right side. It will probably need adjustments to fit you but looking around under there, it’s usually pretty obvious how you’d do that. Knee lifts are yet another difference btwn home and industrials and I keep forgetting about things like that. Knee lifts are great since they keep your hands free to position work and what not.

  6. Candice says:

    Thanks Kathleen. Turns out it is actually a pedal, I just couldn’t figure it out because the chain was too loose. I tightened the chain so now it is working. Now I am just having a threading problem. The directions said to memorize the threading before you start; but because of the shipping, the bottom thread had snapped. I have it right the whole way until the end; I just can’t figure out how to get the bottom thread up from underneath. It doesn’t seem to pull through when you move the handwheel like a home machine and I am at a loss to find a way to thread it up through that area manually. If you have any ideas, I would appreciate it!

    Thanks!

  7. Gigi says:

    Candice, leave about a 2″ tail after threading the eye of the lower looper. It will automatically be brought up when you start sewing. Which model did you buy?

  8. Candice says:

    Thanks Gigi. That worked and finally I was able to test the machine and it works! The machine is a used Kansai special 2 needle 3 thred KS-129708. Aside from it being oily, I think I am going to like it a lot. Speaking of, the brief instructions say to oil regularly–what does that mean really? After how long, or how much use?

    Now that it is running, my next project is to get a binder foot on it.

  9. Gigi says:

    Candice, that sounds like your serial number – they begin with KS. The model number is usually directly above the serial number on the metal plate.

    My model (W8103-F) has a pump system. On the front of the machine there is a very large black screw that you remove in order to drain the oil. Directly above the screw is a clear window that shows the oil level. I make sure to keep the correct amount of oil in there at all times. It is filled through a large hole (the one with a clear screw-on cap) on the top of the machine. Other than that, I lubricate the needle bar periodically. The machine also has an oil filter that needs replacing every few hundred hours. Of course, none of this may mean anything to you because your model may be completely different from mine! If your model is V7100, W8100, W8042, V7002 or W8103 I’d be happy to photocopy the manual for you.

  10. Candice says:

    I am really at a loss to find the model number, as the only number on the metal plate is the KS number. I have left a message with the guy who sold me the machine, but we will see if he gets back to me. If he does, I will let you know. Thanks!

  11. Candice says:

    There is the large black screw on the front of my machine that you are talking about though. Does that give a clue to what my model number might be? If your offer still stands for photocopying the manual, I would be extremely grateful.

    And by the way, I just saw that the reason I can’t find the model number is because it is scratched out!

  12. Elizabeth Blalack says:

    Hi- I have been thinking about getting a coverstitch machine, but I can’t seem to find any that do both the top and bottom coverstitch. Maybe I’m crazy, and one machine can’t do both of those. The only bit of info I found said that the Kansai W8003 and W8042 did both of those. If I am not mistaken, it is the 3 needle top coverstitch that I see used decoratively? (and probably practically) on seams and hems of many RTW knits, and I would love to be able to do that stitch, in addition to the regular coverstitch on the hems of most knits. I just can’t seem to find much info about doing that, and I was wondering if you could tell me about that? Thanks so much for any help you can give me on this!
    Elizabeth

  13. Paul says:

    Hi all,
    My wife recently purchased a used coverstitch(Kansai Special RX-9803A/UTC) and I am trying to locate a copy of the instruction manual for it. Is there a website where it can be downloaded?
    Paul

  14. gabriele says:

    Hi – I found your article very interesting – can you help me – someone has given me an industrial overlocker but I have no idea how to use it / thread it or maintain it.
    I have used a domestic one for years but this one is beyond me – any advice would be appreciated cheers Gaby

  15. Anik says:

    Hi there.. I just bought a brand new Yamata coverstitch machine and i got the narrow and wide stitch to work beautifully, but i can;t figure out how to use the top and bottom coverstitch.. I don’t understand what to do with the last thread. He’s, he suppose to get picked up by the top looper? Can you put me in the right direction regarding my problem..? THe machine didn’t come with an instruction manual.. I guess when you get industrial your suppose to know how to work those things… Thanks in advance!

  16. Karrine says:

    Hi Gigi,

    Thanks for your article. Its quite informative. I am currently contemplating buying an industrial machine since I am learning soft furnishing and drapery making. Can you recommend the more suitable machine since I am thinking of getting either a Singer 20u or the industrial straight stitch?

    Thanks alot.

  17. Sophia says:

    Dear Gigi:

    I truly needed to read this article. I own a Consew straight stitch and absolutely love it!! However, recently I decided to buy a little Bernina and it’s been nothing but trouble. I swear I will never buy anything else other than industrial machines from now on. When space is not as much of an issue, they are cheaper by far in the long run. Thanks for your fabulous article!

  18. pthreads10 says:

    I’m looking at an Elna Industrial Machine for Garment manufacturing at Home, presently. Never used an Industrial Machine, but my mother supervised a cut and sew operation. The machine looks “rough”, but with oiling and cleaning up, I think I make it work for me until Profits start coming in. This is going to be a clothing line for Bariatric patients. Anyway, can anyone advise me on this. I can get the machine and table w/motor for $200. Thank you.

  19. J C Sprowls says:

    I don’t think Elna is in the industrial end of sewing machine manufacturing. I would recommend you contact an industrial sewing machine supply shop to get advice. It may be prudent to hire a mechanic to come out with you to inspect the machine and offer an assessment/recommendation.

  20. nevin says:

    Hi there im trying figure out how to thread the bottom looper on my Union special (zuki) industrial serger( curved needle overedge.. ive threaded it according to a hand drawn diagram i found but i don’t have the original diagrams because i inhearited it,and i also unthreaded it through moving it in,
    i think i have i have threaded correctly but the threads are not catching each other to form stiches, i was wondering if anyone has diagrams for this machine or any advice. thks!

  21. Iraida Kounina says:

    This is true. I bought the bells and whistles home sewing machine and regret it since i went to fit during the weekend we were only allowed to use the industrial machines although the speed scarred us a bit they lowered the speed a little bit and as soon as i get home i find myself fussing at the useless home sewing machine i bought all it does is tangle thread and destroy fabric now i’m looking for an industrial Juki but the article is true bells and whistle are fun at first but reliability is the best you can get

  22. Katerina says:

    Dear Gigi,

    I love this site and your writing style! All down to earth and very informative. I’ve been sewing garments for kids with a top of the line home serger (Huskylock/Husquarna), which frustrates me when it comes to cover stitch – no matter how I adjust the tensions, the stitch is very vulnerable and although it looks mostly O.K., it runs/falls apart easily. To solve this, I’m looking at the used industrial coverstitch machines. It seems that the best out there is either Juki MF-7700 or Kansai Special WX-8803F. Which one would you choose and why? Which one is easier to use? I sew with cotton/lycra knits and would like to be able to coverstitch the hems, attach bias tape, and also cover overlock stitches. Does any of these (or other) industrials provide for all that?

    Thanks a million in advance.

  23. Tristan says:

    I recently bought a 20U TacSew, and I have to admit I absolutely hate this machine. The thing jams all the time. Right out of the box the thing jammed, and the timing had to be adjusted. The head weighs sixty pounds, so I had to drag the thing into a shop where the repair guy charged me $100 bucks. I get it home, threaded it, and bam, it jammed again. Ugh. It won’t even budge. I have had the thing almost a month now, and I haven’t sewed a stitch. The manual is almost all in Japanese, and the English portions were apparently translated by a Japanese person because they don’t make sense and are impossible to understand.

    I know that a lot of home industrial machine owners say that they love their industrial machine, but there are just as many who say that they are heavy, smell like oil, are expensive to fix, break, or jam often if you don’t thread them just right. I have two domestic machines, and they never jam, and if they do, I simply take out the balled up thread and carry on. They never smell or stop working, they just keep going and going, and they have a lot more features than most industrial machines. Plus, because of the warranty, if they break, I can gather up the pieces and take it back to the store, or worst case scenario, ship it back to the company.

    Of course I know not all industrial machines are as bad as the one I have, and I also admit that I didn’t really do my homework before I bought one. I didn’t stop to think that industrial machines might need more care and maintenance than a domestic machine, that they were heavier, and noisier, and that they might smell of oil.

    So for all of you out there thinking about getting an industrial machine, do your research.

    Now, how to get rid of this this 165 pound nightmare.

  24. Juan José says:

    Hi, I really need to know how to use my “w8103” machine, if anyone has a manual I really apreciate that could borrow me, thanks a lot, and waiting for your help.

  25. Dolores says:

    Hi, I have just found your web sit and thing its great, can you please tell me where I can get A kansai Manual the model number is W-8103 F, I bought it 2nd hand so it never came with one.

    Thanking you Dolores

  26. jody says:

    Q- I have a small dance costume business, and use my babylock imagine serger, and my janome cover-pro equally as much, however I want to use a wider tapebinder than the janome comes with. Also they are incredibly finicky/frustrating to use! So, whiat industrial machine would be the most usefull. serger and coverstich with top stich capability as welll as binding.
    Also, since I’m now used to my babylock air threading, just how complicated are they to thread?

  27. Saumaria says:

    Hi Gigi,
    Great blog, I was wondering if you could help me, I just purchased a kansai special wx-8803f and my bottom thread broke and I have no idea how to get it re threaded……I have a manual but it doesn’t cover it. Any information would be helpful. Thank You So Much!

  28. rizwana rehman says:

    Hi Gigi
    Very nice blog :) My friend gave me a Kansai Special w-8103-F, I love sewing but i’ve never used an ‘industrial’ sewing machine before. i have no idea how to use it. Can anybody help me learn how to use the machine?

    thank you!

  29. carlos says:

    Just found this site and articles are great. I really need to know how to use and handle better my “w8103d″ machine, when it skip a stitch it drives me crazy… if anyone has a manual could make me a copy or if anyone has any info where to acquire one I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  30. Michelle says:

    Hi, I came across this as about the only google search result for instruction manuals for a Kansai Special W8103f! I recently bought one second hand and it came with no manual. I have never used a coverstitch or industrial machine before and was hoping to be able to locate a manual online. Can anyone help?

  31. SC says:

    I used to make leather jackets in San Francisco until the 1989 earthquake knocked over my house, and in the aftermath, 4 of the stores who were carrying my jackets decided they didn’t need to pay me anymore or return my stuff.

    I had a Juki walking foot and a needle transport machine back then, so I’m familiar sewing with industrial machines, but things have advanced since and I’m not planning on heavy material this time around, so I’m wondering if I should get a Juki DDL-9000 BSS or a Durkopp-Adler 281-140342-03.

    I understand Kathleen prefers the mechanics / movement of her Adler machine over Juki, but I’m wondering about service availability also.

    I can also get a new 281 cheaper than a new DLL-9000 by about $600,

    The $600 don’t bother me so much, I’d just like the smoothest running machine as long as that doesn’t mean service is either hard to find or extremely expensive.

    Any comments would be much appreciated :)

  32. John Yingling says:

    This response comes a few years late, but the information is still relevant. How to thread your coverstitch, especially the bottom looper? Contact your nearest industrial sewing machine shop, they should have threading diagrams on file. Coverstitch lower loopers are a little tricky to thread, but once you do it a few times, you won’t forget (if you can thread your serger, you can thread a coverstitch machine). How to do a coverstitch on both right and wrong side? This is called a 5 thread coverstitch and you need to use three needles and a spreader attachment. There are three needle threads, one looper thread, and a thread for the spreader which will interlock it’s thread between the three needles. I think all cover stitchers can be diverted to do 5 thread coverstitch, but you will have to buy a spreader and probably pay a mechanic to set it up. As you can imagine, the timing is tricky.

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