We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

How Do I Choose the Best Upholstery Sewing Machine?

By Drue Tibbits
Updated: May 17, 2024

Some home sewing machines may be able to handle thin fabrics used in upholstery, but they will not handle the heavier ones. The best upholstery sewing machine is one that has enough power to sew through heavy fabrics, utilizes a specific type of pressure foot, and is capable of sewing in reverse. Industrial sewing machines meet all three requirements. These types of sewing machines come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, including those that are limited to performing a specific task, so not every industrial machine works for sewing these types of fabric. The single-needle style is best suited for handling the demands of sewing upholstery.

The motor of an industrial sewing machine is separate from the machine itself, or the head. A circular belt connects the motor to the pulley at the side of the head. The smaller the pulley, the more power the sewing machine has to push a needle through the fabric. Larger pulleys deliver a faster sewing speed but lose power in the process. Look for an upholstery sewing machine with a pulley 4 inches (10.2 cm) or less in diameter.

A walking foot sewing machine is essential when working with thick fabrics. These types of machines use a special mechanism to aid in moving the fabric during sewing. Regular sewing machines use a serrated attachment below the pressure plate to move the fabric. Upholstery fabric is heavier than standard fabric, and the serrated attachment is not usually enough to move it. An upholstery sewing machine with a walking foot uses a special pressure foot in combination with a moving pressure bar to grasp the fabric and pull it along.

An upholstery sewing machine requires an assortment of pressure feet. A flat foot sews regular seams, a zipper foot allows the needle to get close to the zipper teeth, and a cording foot sews the decorative cording frequently seen on upholstery. Make sure the sewing machine has the correct feet as not all pressure feet are interchangeable among machines and not all pressure feet work with a walking foot machine.

Not all sewing machines sew in reverse, but this is a helpful feature when sewing upholstery as it eliminates the extra step required to lock the beginning and ending of seams when sewing with nonreverse machines. Several different designations imply that other machines can perform the same work as industrial machines. They cannot. Semiindustrial, industrial-strength, and heavy-duty sewing machines are inferior to industrial sewing machines for upholstery jobs.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By indigomoth — On Nov 04, 2011

I have seen some fantastic home made upholstery on sites like Etsy. Often I think people look for second hand furniture which still has a nice structure, but needs to be re-upholstered, and they use beautiful material doing it.

Unfortunately, they are almost always really expensive.

I guess if they need to use an industrial machine, and probably a lot of expertise to do it, it's worth it, but it almost seems worth it to get the machine myself and take lessons, rather than pay that much.

By pastanaga — On Nov 04, 2011

@pleonasm - Another option is to try and find a machine that is being sold second hand. If you have a look on a large auction site like eBay, you might be able to find one. Or, if you are lucky you might find a business auction site, or live auction which has some going for cheap.

Just make sure you get a guarantee on your machine, or you might end up out of pocket. You should also make sure you'll still be able to find replacement parts for it if necessary. This is one of the reasons Singer machines are good, because their parts are easy to find.

By pleonasm — On Nov 03, 2011

One thing I would suggest if you are looking to go into sewing upholstery as a hobby is to take a few lessons first.

If you can find a group who meet regularly and offer introductory lessons as well, that's perfect.

This is not so much to get you started, although that is also good, but so that you can enquire as to whether they have a group machine that you can use.

Often an established group will have a machine they share and each pay a small amount when they use it. Considering the cost of industrial upholstery sewing machines, it can be a huge savings, even if you use it regularly.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.