Comprehensive Guide to Types of Sewing Machines

Comprehensive Guide to Types of Sewing Machines

With at-home industrial vs domestic sewing machines being a matter of question for many avid and beginner sewers out there, it really comes down to aims, goals and confidence with fast-moving sharp things. 

If you’ve already read our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Sewing, you may have some further questions about the mechanics and types of sewing machine you may come across in your stitching travels. 

Well, luckily for you, the team here at The Hobby Kraze have got just the comprehensive guide to types of sewing machines that you’ll need to press the foot pedal on and get your garments moving. In fact, here’s a list of what we’ll be covering in this guide, from parts, to tools, to machines and where you can find them.

  1. Knowing Why You Might Need a Sewing Machine
  2. Understanding the Difference Between the Industrial VS Domestic Sewing Machines
  3. Tools of the Trade that Will be Useful to Have in Preparation
  4. The Beginner’s First Sewing Machine
  5. Mechanical Sewing Machines
  6. Treadle Machine
  7. Computerised Sewing Machines
  8. Mini-Me Sewing Machines
  9. Overlocking Stitch Machines
  10. Cylinder Bed Sewing Machine
  11. Post Bed Industrial Sewing Machines
  12. Free Arm Sewing Machine
  13. Which Machine Should You Choose?

Every sewing machine is a personal choice and decision made by you. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro at stitching fabrics, there’s never any harm in brushing-up your knowledge on the types of sewing equipment you could use day-to-day. From overlocking to embroidery, all types of sewing machines offer their own clear advantage. 

So, without further ado, let’s get started:

Knowing Why You Might Need a Sewing Machine

Knowing Why You Might Need a Sewing Machine​

There are ‘sew’ many individuals in the sewing ring who like to use sewing machines instead of hand-sew. Similarly, there are those who like to stick to hand sewing. And, really, it’s time we began to understand why. 

Having a sewing machine in your arsenal can be a large benefit to more intricate garments and thicker fabrics. This is because the mechanics of a sewing machine can be more stable and fast than using hand-sewing techniques. And, they provide the means to swiftly change the seam stitch to finish. 

We wanted to bring to light all the benefits that using a sewing machine can offer, so here’s a little list of positives that a sewing machine can offer regardless of it being industrial vs domestic sewing machines:

  • You can sew quicker
  • You can sew thicker fabrics
  • There are multiple uses 
  • You can incorporate fancy stiches with the twist of a switch
  • The stitching is very neat
  • You can stitch accurately which is useful for thin hems
  • You’re able to increase your output
  • It will save you money from avoiding a tailor
  • You can begin a clothing or fabric business
  • There’s no need to worry about buying certain fabrics
  • The stitches to include zips are more secure

However, to remain impartial, there’s also benefits to hand-sewing that a machine can’t live up to. So, in order to give you a true comprehensive guide to types of sewing machines and the types of sewing equipment, here’s a small list of the benefits to hand-sewing:

  • It can improve hand dexterity as you age
  • You are in complete control
  • You don’t have to worry about the machine’s feet dragging through fabric
  • The tools for hand-sewing are highly portable
  • It is far more inexpensive
  • It is quiet as types of sewing machine always have internal mechanics
  • Hand-sewing can be a tool for relaxation

With this in mind, here at The Hobby Kraze, we want to let you know that you don’t necessarily have to make the choice. If you have a read of our Ultimate Guide to Sewing, we walk you through how to begin your hobby of hand-sewing and how it can then lead into having and using different types of sewing machine in the garment industry. We suggest always testing the water with hand-sewing before moving onto understaning the difference between industrial vs domestic sewing machines and more.

Understanding the Difference Between the Industrial VS Domestic Sewing Machines

Understanding the Difference Between the Industrial VS Domestic Sewing Machines

Now you know having a sewing machine is the right thing for you and you’re comfortable with hand and needle, we have to let you in one on thing. There are two types of sewing machine in the garment industry. The first is industrial and the second is domestic. Then, each of these definitions will branch off into more types of sewing machine such as the overlocker and mini. But, we’ll go into more detail about each of these later.

As someone looking to go into the realm of the types of sewing machine, it’s important to know the difference of the industrial machine, which is commonly seen throughout high-scale and swift manufacturing, and the domestic sewing machines which are commonly used in the home. 

Whether you buy into industrial vs domestic sewing machines is up to you, but we wanted to help you out:

The Advantages to an Industrial Sewing Machine

Industrial sewing machines are built with wearability and durability in mind. To do this, they have finetuned each sewing machine to perform specific tasks and remain in one place for repetition. Having an industrial sewing machine instead of a domestic machine can have its benefits:

  • Built for Sheer Durability
  • Machines are Often Customisable
  • Use High-Speed Sewing
  • Built-in for Sewing Stability
  • They Feature Automatic Mechanics
  • They House Strong Motors 
  • Often Have Longer Arms for Larger Projects
  • Different Fabric Usage is not an Issue

The Disadvantages of the Industrial Sewing Machine

However, if it were all benefits, there wouldn’t be a market for domestic sewing machines. So, we’ve also included a list of the disadvantages to having industrial types of sewing equipment:

  • Each Machine Has Fewer Features
  • They Cannot be Moved
  • Often Very Heavy
  • Emit Higher Amounts of Mechanical Noise
  • Threading Can Often Be Harder
  • They Can Be Very Expensive to Buy
  • There are No Built-In Safety Nets

The Advantages to a Domestic Sewing Machine

Moving onto the most common types of sewing machine that you’ll find in your local craft store, there’s the domestic machine. While not necessarily built with durability as their top priority, they can still be worth-while machines and will generally have larger numbers of functions. Meaning, you’ll only need to find one type of domestic sewing machine to suit your needs. Have a look at some of the benefits to owning a domestic swing machine:

  • Easier to Thread 
  • You Can’t Incorrectly Insert the Needle
  • Domestic Machines have Multiple Stitches
  • Higher-End Machines can be Durable for Decades
  • It Is Slower for Beginners
  • You’ll Find it Easier to Sew
  • It’s Not Built into a Table

The Disadvantages of the Domestic Sewing Machine

But, again, without the disadvantages to a domestic sewing machine, there would never be any need for any other types of sewing machine in the garment industry. While domestic machines offer the most varied abilities, their jack-of-all-trades and cheaper starting price can often lead to a few downsides. Check out the list:

  • It Can be Slower than an Industrial Machine
  • You Can’t Sew and Wind a Bobbin at the Same Time
  • There’s Often a Lot of Lint Residue Needing to be Cleaned
  • Plastic Domestic Machines Offer Less Stability

Tools of the Trade that Will be Useful to Have in Preparation

Tools of the Trade that Will be Useful to Have in Preparation

Before we jump right into the different types of sewing machine, you should probably be aware of the tools you’ll come across. These types of sewing equipment will often need to be bought in preparation for your journey into faster and more efficient sewing. 

Of course, some of these you may already have if you’ve come from hand-sewing origins, but there are still some different tools that would be useful to familiarise yourself with before hitting the pedal to go. 

  • Retractable Tape Measure
  • Metal Sewing Gauge
  • Pincushion and Pins
  • Hand Sewing Needles
  • Extra Bobbins
  • Sewing Needle Threader
  • Seam Ripper
  • Embroidery Scissors 
  • Pinking Shears (Zig-Zag Scissors)
  • Iron and Ironing Board
  • Elastic Bodkin
  • Fabric Rotary Cutter
  • Rotary Cutting Mat
  • Pattern Fabric
  • Throw-Away Fabric
  • Notions to Embellish Fabric
  • Fabric
  • Pattern
  • Tailor’s Chalk
  • Thread
  • Ruler
  • Thimble
  • Extra Presser-Feet
  • Sewing Machine Oil 
  • Extra Sewing Machine Needles

The Beginner’s First Sewing Machine

The Beginner’s First Sewing Machine

If you’re a beginner who has just read our Ultimate Guide to Sewing for Beginner’s, then you’ll need to find out which sewing machine is for you. From the well-known brands such as Singer to the one-off affordable machines that can be easily bought from your local hobby store. 

The beginner types of sewing machine in the garment industry will often be medium-sized and made of plastic. They will also often incorporate fewer mechanics, and stitch types. This is to allow the machine to be lighter, more compact and cheaper. Here at The Hobby Kraze, the last thing we want is for you to not enjoy your hobby.

However, this is always a possibility that can’t ignored. The only thing that would make it worse would be to invest hundreds in sturdy types of sewing equipment and types of sewing machine, only to not need it when you stop your hobby.

So, we advise looking for the smaller options that can be used, practiced-on and passed-on to a family member or friend who might also be looking to get into sewing with a sewing machine. 

You can find these sewing machines in traditional hobby stores such as Hobby Craft, John Lewis, Argos, Amazon, Very, Rito Hobby and more. They will often range from £50 to £200 and have a function for all your basic stitch needs. For example: straight stitch, zig-zag stitch, backstitch and various decorative smocking stitches. 

Types of Sewing Machines

Types of Sewing Machines

1. Vintage Mechanical Sewing Machines

Mechanical sewing machines are also commonly known as manual sewing machines and hand-operated sewing machine. These are the types of sewing machine in the garment industry that is considered ‘vintage’ as they mainly invoke imagery of the classic Singer sewing machines from over 150 years ago. The cast-iron sewing machine has a hand-operated wheel which causes the sewing mechanism to move. 

Instead of using electricity, a foot pedal or on switch, the manual mechanical sewing machine has a rotary wheel that, when cranked by a lever to the right, causes the needle to move up and down and sew the fabric. 

The benefits of opting for a manual machine would be that you don’t need to be plugged into an outlet. Therefore, meaning you’ll have higher portability and cheaper running costs than when using an automatic or computerised machine. However, as they are made of hardwood, iron and steel, they are far less portable than the general hand-held types of sewing machine.

2. Treadle Machine

Much like the manual and mechanical types of sewing machine, the treadle machine is operated by a manual foot pedal named a treadle. Again, not needing the use of cables and electricity, the treadle operated sewing machine is commonly seen with older and vintage models of machine. 

However, choosing a treadle machine from your comprehensive guide to types of sewing machines would suddenly give you two hands to work the fabric through the machine. Whereas the hand-operated machine requires a hand to be cranking the wheel. Thus, meaning the treadle sewing machine provides a higher level of accuracy and care even though it can tire you out and reduce your output. 

A benefit to choosing a treadle machine would be that you automatically get the work desk to come with it. As there is a hefty foot-pedal to operate with manual leg-pressure, the sewing machine needs to be built within its own desk to house the entire machine. However, they can be very expensive, hard to maintain and are very limited in their stitching abilities. 

There are many enthusiasts who swear by manual and mechanical types of sewing machine such as these simply for their heavy-duty, reliability and beautiful operations. So, you’ll either find a goldmine by stumbling across an old Singer in a charity shop (which, you may need to self-restore) or you could spend top-dollar on an already restored version.

3. Computerised Sewing Machines

Still within the domestic sewing machines, we have a slightly more up-scale and modern design. These sewing machines have an in-built computer which can connect to the internet and other devices.

Having this feature will allow you to find patterns and stitches online and tell the computer to stitch it. While you still need to be at the helm operating the machine and ensuring the fabric doesn’t get eaten by the bobbin-hole, the stitching patterns will be done entirely by robotic movement. 

These machines are also commonly referred to as embroidery types of sewing machine in the garment industry simply due to their varied skills in pattern making. And, they have been used by embroiderers to increase their output for using specific types of sewing equipment to create embroidered garments. 

Here at The Hobby Kraze, we suggest heading into your hobby at a small speed so that you can get used to the mechanical components, movements and speed of the industrial vs domestic sewing machines out there. So, while embroidery machines sound very intriguing now, it’s best to pick this up as a secondary machine.

The benefits to having computerised types of sewing machine include; their automation, their modern design , their ability to save patterns and stitches, and their skills within embroidery.

The downsides to going for the computerised types of sewing machine include; the higher prices, the complicated features, the lack of simplicity for a straight stitch, and their limited lifespan due to being computerised.

4. Mini-Me Sewing Machines

Much like the beginner sewing machine, the mini-me can be found in their lightweight and plastic form from your general hobby store. 

However, unlike the beginner’s sewing machine, the mini-me sewing machine is much smaller and will often complete one to three stitches. Mini-me sewing machines are sometimes referred to as handheld sewing machines. This is because of their increased portability and pocket-sized body.

The benefits to using a mini-me sewing machine include; easy set-up, light, portability, cheap, less automation, slower speed for beginners, fewer bells and whistles, and can be useful for very small projects and fixes.

The downsides to having the mini-me types of sewing machine would be; their lack of durability, more quality issues, fewer opportunities for complex stitches and these types of machine can only handle light fabrics. Meaning you’ll need to forget about sewing up that hole in your jeans, for now.

5. Overlocking Stitch Machines

Having an overlocking machine (A.K.A. a serger) can often be seen as a vital part of your sewing hobby or business. They are very commonly featured within the classroom alongside an army of mechanical standard sewing machines and various types of sewing machines for beginners. 

The difference between the overlocking machine and a sewing machine is the way the fabric is sewn and handled. For example; the normal sewing machine will draw the fabric under the pressure foot and over the feed dogs, as the fabric is passed through, the needle pierces the fabric and inserts the thread to make a straight stitch. 

An overlocker on the other hand, is used to finish an edge of a piece of fabric. This is done to prevent fabric fraying for a long period and can often serve as a finished edge to be folded into a sewn hem. So, as the fabric is fed through the machine, a sharp edge slices off some fabric while four separate threads are used to sew a specific pattern along either side of the new edge.

The benefits to having an overlocking machine alongside your other types of sewing machine is that it can speed up your garment making abilities while keeping your ¼ inch seam allowance. They also create clean and professional results with secure and durable stitches. However the downsides include their thread consumption, complex running and expense.

6. Cylinder Bed Sewing Machine

Now we’re moving onto the industrial types of sewing machine in the garment industry along with the industrial types of sewing equipment. These types of sewing machine will vary in their stitch type and body build. 

The cylinder bed sewing machine, for example, is named as such due to the shape of the base of the machine. Most types of sewing machine, no matter whether it’s the industrial vs the domestic sewing machines, will have a flat base under the needle and foot peddle. This is used to house the bobbin and feed the fabric under the needle on an even surface.

However, as the garment industry features many curved edges, cuffs and small holes, having a flat surface will not be very efficient. So, industrial types of sewing machine have evolved and the cylinder bed sewing machine was born. Instead of its flat base, there is a cylinder onto which sleeves, cuffs, shoes, saddle bags, head holes and other tubular garments can be placed and easily stitched. The cylinders on these machines can vary from 5cm diameter to 16cm.

7. Post Bed Industrial Sewing Machines

As the name might suggest, this sewing machine involves having a raised platform above the original flat bed of the sewing machine. The needle is also positioned at a higher point to compensate for this difference. The use of the post-bed sewing machine is to allow large, structured and 3D objects to be sewn as normal without needing to mis-shape or tear the fabric. 

For example, industrial manufacturers may need to operate with the post bed types of sewing machine to swiftly and efficiently sew the hem on hats, shoes, boots, emblems, gloves and more.

This raised platform is in the shape of a cylinder to allow for easy rotation of the product and will come in various sizes depending on the usage. Just like any of these industrial types of sewing machine, the post bed machine provides the tailor with a fast alternative to flat bed sewing. 

However, due to the nature of these types of sewing machine in the garment industry, their stitching capabilities are limited. Often, these machines will operate a simple straight stitch and nothing else.  

8. Free Arm Sewing Machine

The final type in this comprehensive guide to types of sewing machines is the free arm. This type of machine is much like the cylinder bed sewing machine. However, unlike the cylinder bed, the free arm is slightly bigger and has an interchangeable base.

Not only this, but the free arm option is available for both the industrial vs domestic sewing machines, from mechanic to manual to computerised. Meaning, your option to have free arm types of sewing machine does not have to depend on the type of sewing machine you buy. 

As you first see your sewing machine, you may see a flat bed. However, there are front and back accessory trays which can be removed to reveal a ‘free arm’. This arm is not attached to the base of the sewing machine and allows for the stitching of tubular items such as socks, cuffs, sleeves, trouser legs, hats, gloves and more. 

Which Machine Should You Choose?

Which Machine Should You Choose

Here at The Hobby Kraze, we believe it’s our role to provide you with the tools and information you need to make informed decisions about your new hobby kraze. That being said, having the suggestion on where to start can always be a fond welcome. 

So, if you are a beginner having just come from our Ultimate Guide to Sewing for Beginners, then you’ll want to start testing the sewing waters with a mid-range sewing machine such as the medium-sized mechanic offering a few basic stitches at a reasonable price. Then, when you’re feeling comfortable, contact a few friends or family members that might have a more durable and fast sewing machine. Ask to try it and see how you get on. 

If you’re already a seasoned pro and you’re looking for the next step, we certainly suggest trying your stitching out with free-arm types of sewing machine, serger or computerised sewing machines. You’ll be able to largely improve your masterpiece garments while adding extra embellishments within its design. 

On the other hand, finding, restoring and selling vintage Singer sewing machines is a hobby in itself. So, getting your thimbles on the old types of machine in the garment industry can lead you into upcycling, machine master craft and video tutorials. 


And, there you have it: your ultimate and comprehensive guide to types of sewing machines. Let us know what you think and whether you could be investing in your next big sewing endeavour. As well as this, we’d love to see your progress. Here at The Hobby Kraze, we endeavour to bring new hobbies, jobs and personal goals to people across the world and it’s always uplifting to see people striving in a field they would have never considered.

For more information, tips, tricks and ultimate guides, check out the rest of our blog. From paddle boarding to geocaching and from knitting to rock tumbling, there’s always a new hobby out there for you to try. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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