Are you thinking about giving some upholstery projects a go? Whether it’s a new set of curtains, freshening up a worn piece of furniture, or restoring something which was destined for landfill, upholstery projects can be a lot of fun. And not only that, they can save you a lot of money too!
But most upholstery projects involve using thicker fabrics than you might normally be used to, and which your regular sewing machine may struggle to handle. Investing in a heavy duty machine could save you a lot of grief in the long run. With the right sewing machine you’ll be able to take on wingback chairs, sofas, curtains, and even leather upholstery like car seats! The sky’s the limit!
I have put together this page to give you some tips of what to look out for when shopping for a sewing machine suitable for upholstery! The machines I recommend are shown in the table below, but keep reading for some tips and more detailed explanations!
|Price|| Check Price|
| Check Price|
| Check Price|
| Check Price|
(H x W x D)
|30.5 x 40 x 16 cm||27.5 x 39 x 17 cm||29 x 42 x 18 cm||41 x 30 x – cm|
|Sewing Speed (spm)||1100||1100||750||-|
|Weight||6.4 kg||6.4 kg||8.5 kg||4.9 kg|
What to Look For in a Sewing Machine for Upholstery
One of the most important features we will want for our upholstery sewing machine is a powerful motor. Whilst more basic sewing machines will probably be able to handle lighter upholstery fabrics when a suitable needle is selected, they are unlikely to be able to get through multiple layers and heavier fabrics, and you risk breaking many a needle. Or worse, damaging your machine!
The additional motor strength that heavy duty machines have will help you get through those layers with much less effort.
Heavy duty sewing machines have the advantage of being less affected by overheating issues, which is handy if you a planning a long and intense sewing session. Your machine will be able to keep up!
Stability and Robustness
It is probably best to avoid any sewing machines described as lightweight and portable. These often have many plastic components and tend to be flimsy. We’re after a stable, robust machine that can take whatever we throw at it!
High Stitch Quality
We want our finished product to look amazing, and any mistakes will be difficult to hide. So high stitch quality and consistency are definitely a must for any upholstery project where your work will be on display at all times! Being able to have fine control over thread tension will help here.
Although the accessories you will need will vary greatly depending on the type of project you will need, two presser feet which are commonly used for upholstery projects are the cording foot and a walking foot.
- Many furniture upholstery projects will involve welting (also known as cording and piping), which is decorative cord covered in fabric, attached for example to the seams of cushions or furniture. To make your own cording you will need a cording foot, or a zipper foot, which will allow you to sew right up against the cording.
- If you find yourself working with many layers, and are having trouble feeding the fabric through the machine, consider investing in a walking foot (if you don’t have one already), which will make the whole process a lot smoother.
A Few Tips for Upholstery Sewing
The Importance of the Needle
Selecting the correct needle is of the utmost importance, and can make or break a project! If you were recently working on a project with satin with using an 11/80 needle, and forget to change the needle before moving on to a thick upholstery fabric, you won’t get very far! If your machine is skipping stitches, take another look to make sure your needle is suitable. Likewise if you’re working with leather or even faux leather it makes sense to use a needle for leather. I’ve written about this extensively in my guide to sewing machines for leather.
You can read more about different needle types in this post from Sew Essential.
Also don’t forget to change your needle when necessary. I am guilty of trying to get too much mileage out of one needle – but it can be a risky game!
If your stitches don’t look right but you are confident your needle is fine, your thread tension may need some fine tuning.
The thread type you are using is also very important. Don’t just reach for your go-to thread if you normally work with lighter materials. You may need upholstery thread, or something even more heavy duty.
Planning ahead is always an important step for all sewing projects, but can be vitally important for upholstery projects where there is less room for error, especially when working with leather, where any mistakes can cost you the piece of leather you are working on, due to the permanent hole left in leather by your needle.
Other things to consider include placing your pins in such a way that they will be easy to remove whilst you are sewing.
And remember, many of the heavy duty sewing machines can sew at blistering paces, typically over 1000 stitches per minute. This may be faster than you are used to, so pay close attention to the pressure you are applying to the foot pedal and take your time to avoid making mistakes.
My Recommended Sewing Machines for Upholstery
The range of heavy duty sewing which pack that extra punch and are available in the UK are fairly limited. I have recommended the 5 options below.
Singer Heavy Duty 4411
Probably my favourite of these machines, the Singer Heavy Duty 4411 is one heck of a machine, and is surprisingly good value. With a 105 W motor, it will definitely provide the power we need. It offers 11 in-built stitches (6 basic, 4 decorative, 1 buttonhole), and can manage up to a whopping 1100 stitches per minute.
A dependable and stocky machine which produces high quality stitching which is ideal for upholstery, it still shouldn’t be too heavy for you to move it to and from the kitchen table whenever you fancy a quick sewing session. For more information, check out my detailed review of the 4411 machine.
Singer Heavy Duty 4423
The Singer Heavy Duty 4423 is similar to the 4411 model, but offers 32 stitches (6 basic, 4 stretch, 12 decorative and 1 buttonhole). As well as the additional stitches, it has a 1 step buttonhole rather than the 4 step buttonhole offered by the 4411, and is equipped with an auto needle threader.
There is a third Singer Heavy Duty model, the 4432. I discuss more about the differences between the machines on this page: Differences Between the Singer Heavy Duty 4411, 4423 and 4432 Models. All three models are available for purchase in the UK. There is also the Singer Heavy Duty Studio 5532, but it is more difficult to get your hands on the in UK.
The Janome HD2200 is a workhorse of a machine. It has a heavy duty aluminium frame, which gives it a solid, sturdy feel, and makes it perfect for demanding projects. It offers a total of 23 stitches, including satin and stretch stitches and a 1-step buttonhole. It maxes out at 750 stitches per minute, so it is not quite as fast as the Singer machines.
Janome machines are well known for their quality, and the HD2200 is no different!
Toyota Super Jeans 34
The Toyota company has a long history in the textile industry, and in fact started life as Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, which produced looms for weaving cloth. As such Toyota’s sewing machine heritage is very strong.
The Toyota Super Jeans 34 is decent machine for upholstery projects. It doesn’t quite have the power of the Singer Heavy Duty machines, with its 65W motor, but it offers 34 stitches and it comes with a special gliding foot, which will allow you to tackle multiple layers with additional ease! It isn’t the most robust machine, but should still be able to handle whatever you throw at it.
Janome Memory Craft 6600P
This is the next level up, but if your budget can stretch that far the Janome Memory Craft 6600P is one hell of a machine. An advanced computerised sewing machine, it has 400 built-in stitches and can manage up to 1000 stitches per minute. This machine is versatile so may be suitable if you want something that you can take on any number of projects with, including more heavy duty ones such as re-upholstery.
It comes with a wide range of presser feet, and has a dual lighting system among countless other features. It is also pretty heavy, weighing in at over 11kg.
If you intend to make some monster projects and have the space, you may want to consider investing in a second hand industrial walking foot machine from Juki, Pfaff or similar.
So there you have it! If upholstery projects tickle your fancy, investing in a heavy duty machine could save you a lot of grief in the long run!