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.