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#1 Annie B

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:17 AM

Hi everyone,

I know that when it comes to sewing machines, a lot of it is just marketing. However, I've been looking at industrial machines lately and I have some questions.

1. Where exactly do woolens/wool fabrics fall on the "heavy duty" scale? Just medium-weight/heavy-weight/possibly wool upholstery-type fabrics. (Obviously I will sew for others, but if I am sewing for myself, I get quite cold and like a heavyweight wool!) Everything advertises sailcloth, Sunbrella, leather, canvas, etc, but that doesn't really give me any indication of how well it sews, say, overcoating. I'd like to be able to sew everything from silk organza/gauze to heavy overcoating (you know, if I can find any).
2. Used or new?
3. How much does country of origin matter? Lots of people seem to criticize other machines for being made in China; however, if a lot of industrial garment sewing is done in China, then wouldn't it be self-defeating to make a low-quality machine?
4. How much does brand name matter?

I'm looking at what would probably be classified as semi-industrial with zig-zag/buttonholing capability such as the Singer 20u or Bernina 950, but as I want to be able to sew my own coats I'm not sure if those are good models. Also, I have three different sources for Singer 31-15s which don't have zig-zag but are much less expensive, beautiful, and apparently capable of sewing just about everything. I'm willing to have more than one machine on hand, obviously.

Thanks so much!
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#2 Schneidergott

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:53 AM

Older JUKIs are good for everything. I have a JUKI DLN-415 which is built like a tank, easy to operate and sews every material from organza to heavy twill or canvas, given the motor is powerful and the needle sturdy enough. You can go for an old PFAFF of the 400 series from the 60s or 70s, too, I've been told by a mechanic that the JUKI is a copy of the PFAFF. Comparing the shapes of the machine body it's probably true.
Another option is the PFAFF 2X0 (the X is substituting the various numbers this model had, from 230 to 260), which has zig-zag and sometimes even more stitches built in. It has a large bobbin and a rotary hook.

How much does country of origin matter?


You can buy any (old) machine built in Japan (JUKI, Brother), Germany (Pfaff, Dürkopp, Adler and a couple of GDR brands) and some other European countries. Many new machines built in China do not come close.

How much does brand name matter?


Some well known brands have their cheaper models made in China, so going by brand name isn't save any more.Also, some machines are offered with various "brand" names, but are actually the same.

For more info see here: http://www.cutterand...p?showtopic=223
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#3 Claire Shaeffer

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:57 AM

Since you are already sewing, consider a machine that will compliment, not replace, the one you have. A good home sewing machine would take care of your needs for zigzagging; can you use the machine you have for zigzagging? You could learn to make thread buttonholes.

The 31-15 is an old model, but an excellent machine. Since this machine is not as fast as many of today's commercial machines, it's a good first industrial machine. I would look at the Juki industrial machine before buying the singer 20U or the Bernina 950.
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#4 Martin Stall

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:53 AM

If you want to work heavy cloth, I'd always recommend an industrial straightstitch. Partially because of the motor, and partially for the ease of a flatbed.

So I'd say get one of those Singers, and a zigzag on the side.
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#5 Annie B

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 11:00 AM

This is all wonderful advice everyone, thank you so much!

I'm currently looking at used models and I must say I have a bit of nostalgia (okay, a lot of nostalgia) for the way things used to be manufactured domestically.

How lovely.

#6 Nishijin

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:49 PM

Annie, I presume you are in the US. There are many things still sewn locally, you know. Not everything has been sent to Asia. Small companies are more susceptible of local production. And many bigger ones are trying to move production back to local (but are surprised (!) to discover that they can't hire experienced people anymore...).

Same goes in Europe, though we send fewer things in Asia, and more and more in closer low-wages country such as Turkey, Tunisia and Morrocco, or some Eastern Europe countries. This proximity means that the movement to bring production back in our countries is much slower.
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#7 Felix

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 09:55 AM

Hi, sorry for the length of the post, but I think, there is much to consider.

First, thank you everyone for this interesting and informative blog. I am still on the journey to making a well fitting pair of jeans from a self constructed pattern using the UNICUT-System, the selection of sewing machines accordingly.

Your questions:
1. I don't know.
2. and 3. in my oppinion, better a used german or japanese machines than a new cheap chinese one. Good new machines from China or Taiwan seem to cost about the same as similar japanese models.
4. You should like the machine, the look and feel. At least for me, the look/design of the machine must be to my liking, otherwise I wouldn't feel connected to the machineand the sewing. Brands for example: German: Duerkopp-Adler, Pfaff. Japan: Juki, Brother, Mitsubishi. Taiwan: Siruba.

There are two straight stich only sewing machines from Janome and Brother, which were mentionend in the link obove. Flatbed portable machines, doing ~1500 spm. I think, they might be only a bit sturdier than home sewing machines, only a guess from their looks.
Maybe you find some of my experiences usefull.

After buying two household sewing machines, a Pfaff 230 (similar to the 260) with automatic for € 25 and a Bernina record 730 for € 140, both (very) highly regarded, even legendary, I was fed up. Sewing couldn't be so awfull. I didn't manage to sew straight lines, even after sewing many, many, many meters straight lines only. I had the impression, that the fabric was swimmimg under the presserfoot, even when put to its highest pressure. Later came a third machine, an Anker RZ (for free), which, in contrast, I like very much for finer fabrics.

A revelation was an artisan or semi-industrial sewing machine, a Pfaff 138 (€ 50). Much higher presserfoot pressure. Straight seams at last. It is a zig-zag machine with quite a beautiful stitch, came with an interchangeble throatplate for straight stitch only (helpfull!) and handles fabric from fine shirting to thick jeans. Needle sizes Nm (60)70-110, max. speed 1600 spm. Mine is a treadle.
Similar machines: Adler 99, 199, 299, 399; Bernina 217/Adler 1217 (more towards industrial, some say, that it is one of the best zig-zag machines ever built) and Bernina 950. Anker MMZ, Phoenix Universa 249, Pfaff 38. I never used a Singer 20U, but didn't hear or read very good things about it (awkward mechanics).

If you consider straight-stich only machines, go for an industrial. New or old. This does not mean, you can only sew very fast. On the contrary, with the right motor you can sew very slowly and very controlled, but also very fast, around 5000 spm. It's quite a step up from the fore mentioned machines. Incredibly smooth and powerful. And with a servo motor absolutely quiet to a certain speed. Compared to an industrial, all houshold sewing machines are only toys and sound like a kitchen machine. All of them. At least to my ears. My industrial is a Duerkopp 243 for € 230, a needle transport machine for heavier fabrics like jeans. It was intended for topstitching and can handle threads up to Nm 20/2, needle sizes Nm (80, 90)100-160, max. speed 5000 spm. It came with an electronic stop motor, the motor runs constantly (noisy) and the clutch is regulated electronicaly. Allready a big step up from a normal clutch motor. You recognise the electronic stop motor by a small box attached to the handwheel with a cable running under the table to the controlbox.

An other machine I tried out was a Pfaff 487 with servo motor. I still regret, not having bought this machine instead of the above. It has bottom and differential topfeed and would have been more versatile, probably even for jersey and knits. At slow speeds you only heard a very fine ticking.

Other machines I have considered: Duerkopp 211, 212, 219, Duerkopp Adler 271, 272, Pfaff 483, 481, 487, industrial zig-zag Pfaff 438, 437. Juki, Brother, Mitsubishi.
Old industrials: Adler 37 (similar to Singer 31), Duerkopp 207, Pfaff 34. Treadle is somewhat meditative. I like it. I feel more connected to the sewing process.

Look at the various manufacturers homepages, usually you can search machines by application.

Also recommended, fashion-incubator.com, go to select category: machines&equipment and additionaly http://fashion-incub..._machines_pt_2/

Also consider, that old machines have to be oiled regularly, newer ones have a reservoir and automatic oiling.

You can get a good overview of used machines, if you search for miami and sewing, and videos of sewing machines on Youtube. Beware, Youtube-sound on sewing machine videos is bad. I live in germany, bought all my machines from private people and have no connection whatsoever to the mentioned company.

Greetings, Felix
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#8 tailleuse

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 09:30 PM

Do you live anywhere near a place that does buttonholes?

I'm not sure I'd want to do buttonholes on expensive overcoating fabric without specialized equipment and a lot of experience. One of the few times I've ever done buttonholes myself, on a Reece machine, the teacher, a tailor of about 65, told us that if we messed them up we could pick out the thread because we were working on a shirt. He said that the process was different for a coat (I assume the slit is cut first) and that the entire garment could be ruined if we made a mistake.

Just a thought.

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#9 tailleuse

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 09:43 PM

Compared to an industrial, all houshold sewing machines are only toys and sound like a kitchen machine. All of them. At least to my ears.


Thanks for the detailed discussion. About four years ago, I bought a cheap Brother machine at the suggestion of a sewing tutor (I think she didn't like me because it was a terrible recommendation. Posted Image ). On Amazon.com I said it was a toy, but what could one expect, given the price. (It was $114 then, I think it's about $80 now). You would not believe the names people have called me there. They don't seem to understand what the word "review" means.

I need to get a new machine. I want a Juki, although I don't have room for it. But 90% of people I respect recommend industrials over Berninas.

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#10 Terri

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 10:25 PM

Do you live anywhere near a place that does buttonholes?

I'm not sure I'd want to do buttonholes on expensive overcoating fabric without specialized equipment and a lot of experience. One of the few times I've ever done buttonholes myself, on a Reece machine, the teacher, a tailor of about 65, told us that if we messed them up we could pick out the thread because we were working on a shirt. He said that the process was different for a coat (I assume the slit is cut first) and that the entire garment could be ruined if we made a mistake.




There are places around with industrial buttonhole machines, who will put thebuttonholes in for a fee.
The blade on the Reece keyhole buttonhole machines can be dis-engaged or removed so that the hole must be cut manually afterwards. Most places leave the blade in, so you must be sure of the markings you make for the holes.
Yes you can easily remove the buttonhole stitches, if you know which stitch to unpick and pull because they are a chainstitch.
As for finding those services, you have to ask around.
In Toronto, it was at a tailoring and alteration place. Now I have a colleague who has one as part of his business in my town and I go to him.

But 90% of people I respect recommend industrials over Berninas.

We have a couple of Bernina 950 (semi?) industrials at work and most people like them. They have a variety of stitches on them, but have industrial motors and are in the same table with thread stand as our regular industrials.

Edited by Terri, 07 July 2012 - 10:26 PM.

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#11 Der Zuschneider

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:35 AM

I have a Juki DDL 8700.
You can get them in eBay for a good price brand new send home. Its Chinese made, no problems so far, looks good.
If you use Mara 120/150 the machine works excellent. For thicker thread I got problems with the tension.
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#12 Philip_AMS

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 07:27 AM

I must admit I have use old brother machines, new Pfaff, old pfaff, juki and really old singer machines. I ended up buying a full automatic pfaff 1183, they are super smooth, easy to control and the stitch quality on the smallest setting is really great for doing hand made button holes. I guess a lot of machine choice is down to preference. I think the pfaff I bought although second hand was probably made in china. Although the old black singers I used to use I remember being real nice to use.

I think I would always buy second hand sewing machines, I don't see much point in buying a new one. I have heard some good things about GLOBAL they are a chinese sewing machine company there are reasonably priced. The best thing you can do is just sit at them and try to machine with them.<div><br></div><div>And once you use an industrial straight stitch you will never want to go back to a home sewing machine, its like driving a ferrari and then swapping it for a scooter, the difference is worlds apart.</div>

Edited by Philip_AMS, 08 July 2012 - 07:37 AM.

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#13 Martin Stall

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 07:03 PM

Very true. If tailoring is your business, you have to have an industrial straight stitch, at least. Or a zigzag, in which case PFAFF would always be my first choice.

Global is a label, not much more. The machines under that label come from all kinds of countries and factories. However, they apparently tend to be quite good. From what I've heard, and from my experience, but that's not an informed opinion.

The point about industrial machines is that for people like us, they will never break or wear out (if taken care of properly)

That kind of machine is built to run 16 hours a day at full speed for ten years straight. For the use a tailor will give it, you won't even be able to break in the machine. That's why I don't think buying new is necessary, nor do I think that a tailor will ever notice the difference between a Chinese made or other. Just find one that you like, that runs well, and that hasn't been used for years in a busy factory. And you should be fine :)
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Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#14 Felix

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 07:28 PM

I ended up buying a full automatic pfaff 1183, they are super smooth, easy to control and the stitch quality on the smallest setting is really great for doing hand made button holes.


Interesting. How do you do buttonholes with this industrial straight stitch machine?

For plain buttonholes I like the Bernina 730. With its semi-automatic it's easier, you don't have to turn the fabric. I think, the Bernina 950 has a similar semi-automatic buttonhole.

Attached File  IMG_5230.jpg   41.44KB   11 downloads

Inspired by the manual of my Pfaff 138, I tried to make hand-guided keyhole buttonholes with the Pfaff 230.

Attached File  IMG_5227.jpg   45.94KB   15 downloads

With the Pfaff 230 you can use a gimp thread, here Kupfer Avino E Nm 20/3.

Attached File  IMG_5234.jpg   42.35KB   10 downloads
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#15 Philip_AMS

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 08:12 PM

Well that is the big difference between the machines, industrials are one purpose machines, a straight stitch only does straight stitching, reeves machine for button holes, a blind stitch machine for hems etc. of course the home sewing market knows that someone is not going to buy or source all these different machines so the home sewing machine needs to service lots of markets and is a machine that should be able to complete a garment, from a zig zag to simulate an overlock, straight stitch for seams and the buttonholes. Home or domestic sewing machines have lots of different setting and embroidery stitches but if you ever sit at an industrial you will never miss the stitches that the domestic machine offers.
I would think about a good second industrial and if you really need button holes then a super cheap second hand domestic machine for button holes and zigzag stitch. If you are to make a bespoke trouser you don't need button holes as you use hook and bars and for a waistcoat and coats you would do keyhole button holes buy hand or find someone with a reeves machine.
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#16 Martin Stall

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 08:23 PM

Exactly.
Sure, I believe your work rocks, but... have you considered, how are you going to sell that stuff?

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#17 Nishijin

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 12:19 AM

Some industrial machines, aimed at small workshops, do include several kinds of stitches (not as many as homesewing ones, though). For example, the famous Singer 20-U.


For trousers, you need buttonholes for back pockets, and of course waistband (if you don't want hook and bar), and fly if you don't like zip flies. But you can make them by hand, or ask someone who has the machine.

Buttonholes made on zig-zag machines are useless for tailoring. They may be used on shirts, though it's not the same as the ones made by specialised machine. And of course, you can also make them by hand.
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#18 tailleuse

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 01:43 AM

We have a couple of Bernina 950 (semi?) industrials at work and most people like them.



The people I was talking about were discussing Bernina home models, not semi-industrials. People I know who are unimpressed by Berninas say the company is superior at marketing. I can't get over how much more expensive Bernina home sewing machine feet are compared with those for industrials.



I live in New York and have access to a shop that makes buttonholes for a reasonable price. Sample makers for places like Marc Jacobs take their stuff there. Unless I have an emergency, I'm going to continue having my buttonholes done there. I have neither the space nor the money for a professional buttonholer. I also trust the judgment of the operators. They do nothing else all day but create buttonholes.

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