Industrial Sewing Machines

Let’s talk about industrials for a moment. There seems to be a misconception among home sewers that “industrial” means heavy duty. Not so. There are industrial machines for all different types of work. An industrial dressmaking head will no more sew heavy materials and be able to handle heavy nylon thread than whatever home machine you are working on. Nor will a machine intended to handle heavy materials work well if you are making a dress.

Let’s compare:

This is an industrial zigzag – a Singer 20U-33. She used to be blue but she had a face lift last year. 🙂 I use her mainly for uniform work in my embroidery business (sewing on trims, tackle twill numbers, etc.). She also handles home dec projects very well (dust ruffles, draperies, pillows, etc.) and doesn’t mind lightweight garment leathers. However, she does not like heavy work, nor does she like heavy thread. Believe me, I tried it *very carefully* last year and ended up breaking the hook.

This is an industrial walking foot machine – a Consew 206RB. She LOVES heavy work! She will sew through bulky layers of leather or awning canvas like a hot knife through butter. Heavy thread? No problem! I use her mainly for sewing heavy leathers but she will handle anything and everything from canvas on up. My friend Sandy uses the same machine in her upholstery business and my friend Sharon uses a similar model (the 226) to make tapestry purses and pressing boards.

What really peeves me are unscrupulous Ebay sellers who list plain old domestic machines as “industrial”. Just because it looks like an iron horse doesn’t make it industrial and if it is industrial doesn’t mean it will handle heavy work. Do your homework – I cannot stress this enough! If you don’t know someone who is knowledgeable about the model you are considering, a wealth of information can be found right here on the internet.

Here’s a good one. This machine is being sold as an “industrial walking foot”. Check out the sticker! 😉 It even uses “industrial thread”! You mean, like cone thread? Wow.

And look! The seller has cleverly disguised the “industrial walking foot” as a plain old zigzag foot. Read further and you’ll find that the walking foot is “detachable” – a dead giveaway. Honestly, how do people keep a straight face when they are typing up these listings? Even worse, how do they sleep at night?

The seller says he has sold this machine for nearly $1000 new in the box but you, my dear Ebay buyer, can buy it for just over $100. My local dealer sells this budget-friendly home machine for $99.


Filed under Sewing Machines

37 responses to “Industrial Sewing Machines

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for taking the time to clarify this!

  2. Gigi – love your blog. I have seen those types of auctions on Ebay and just can’t believe what I have seen! Will the Consew 206RB handle a triple velvet?

  3. Esther, the 206 can handle any heavy fabric you can get under the foot. I have sewn garment grade triple velvet quite easily with a walking foot on my Bernina. If you are using an upholstery grade the 206 (or another compound walking foot machine) would be idea. HTH!

  4. Thanks! I am just researching some options for an industrial setting. I am thinking the attachment should work fine on our industrial Berninas.

  5. Thanks for a great tutorial Gigi. It’s amazing what unscrupulous buyers will try to pull on unsuspecting customers. I envy your walking foot machine! I only have a Juki DDL straight stitch machine. I like to joke that I can make wadders in 1/3 the time! The one piece of tried and true advice I give to anyone looking for an industrial (and didn’t I get this from you?) is find a reputable dealer in your area. This is equipment that I wouldn’t want to fool around with.

  6. oops – I meant “sellers”, not “buyers”

  7. Jan

    A recent discussion on the Yahoo group wefixit covered just this topic and frequently discusses current eBay sewing machine offerings.

  8. steve doxsie

    what are the uses for a consew 220? I am thinking of buying one to do marine upholstery and canvas vinyl and sunbrella. Good used average price/worth $$$ with motor and commercial table?

  9. Hi Gigi – Hope you don’t mind, but I have a question about your 20U-33, what is the throat space from needle to arm and the height? I found one for a very, very good deal but don’t want to go look at it if it doesn’t suite my needs. I mainly want to use it for free motion embroidery, thread painting and quilting – so the space is important. Have you tried any specialty threads – ie Poly Embroidery or any metallics? Thanks for any advise you can give me!!

  10. Annelene

    I’ve got a question I hope you can help me with – I’m looking for a sewing machine that will handle really heavy duty industrial felt, but that is not too expensive – do you have any suggestions?

  11. notions01

    Hi Gigi, I would like to convert my 3-thread pegasus R-53 into a rolled hem machine but I am unsure as to how to go about it. I don’t want to mess it up. 🙂 Can you please provide some assistance. This machine was given me. BTW, I love your blog.

  12. Lise

    Someone has approched me to sell a second hand Consew 220. She’s asking me how much I would offer her for the machine. What would be the price range I could offer her? Would it be a good machine for making draperies, sewing jeans and others. Thanks. Lise

  13. Lise, I’ve seen 220s for sale for around $200 complete with stand. It would be a good machine for the work you are trying to do.

  14. Donna

    I have a Consew 220 and a Consew 206RB that were in my father’s upholstery shop when he died. They are both in excellent condition. How can I get a value for them?

  15. Hi Donna, value has a lot to do with condition. I would say a 206RB in excellent used condition is probably worth about $500-600, the 220 maybe $200-300. Of course, it also depends on what someone in your area is willing to pay. You can always ask a higher price and accept the best offer you receive.

  16. richardson dawson

    Hello Sir/Madam, I am Richardson Dawson from Great Britian
    I want to order for embroidering sewing machines.I want you to give me the types or brands and sizes you have instock with their prices.I want to place these order on my credit card for the payment and secondly am ordering these machines for my Orphanage school in Ghana.I am on a conference now to wadata City.I want to know if you do have any of these embroidering sewing machine instock and i will be looking forward to hear from you soon and to do more favourable business with you.Thank you

    Richardson Dawson

  17. I’m sorry, Richardson, I do not sell sewing machines of any type. Good luck with your search.

  18. Barrington Neil

    Great site. I am looking for a machine to sew regular cloth and upholstery fabric. I have seen the Consew 220 being sold on Ebay for $50 by a seller who seems to specialize in industrial machines. First, can such a machine handle regular weight faberics, and secondly, do these machines usually come complete or will I have to buy an external motor or other parts. I learned to sew from my mom back in the dark ages and her machine had a huge motor that hung underneath. I don’t see anything like that in these pictures. Thanks

  19. Mary O

    Hi, I have to tell you that I disagree with you on a few things. I have used my Singer 20U on furs for over 15 years and it does just fine on them. Also it has a removable walking foot–meaning it is detachable–so they are available.

  20. i just won this on ebay, could you tell me if its a reasonable price to pay and if you think i should still go ahead and buy it, i can get out of it if i have to.

    it also states industrial, heavy duty etc, please get back to me asap anyone that reads this that can answer.


  21. ozpunk, there is nothing remotely industrial or “heavy duty” about that machine. This is a domestic machine intended for dressmaking, period.

    • ann b

      hi there,my name is ann. i bought 2 of these machines…..they are a piece of crap. shame on these people. please people–don’t buy this machine.

  22. Mary O, there is a huge difference in sewing furs and sewing heavy leather as fur skins are much thinner and more pliable. And, yes, you can put a walking foot on a commercial machine but it will literally blow up if you exceed 1500 spi. A detachable walking foot is not the same as a compound, needle-feed, walking foot machine.

  23. Daniel

    Hi Gigi.

    I own a large format printing company. We are printing on many materials such as polyester poplin to 13 and 22 on vinyl. I’m tring to get the right sewing machine that would be used mainly to sew 2 to 3 layers of the latter materials together to make solid edges in order to put grommets. Would you be kind enough to tell me what would be the right tool I’d need? I’ve heard about walking foots, but there seem to be different kinds. Would it be better to have a 2 needels model for streghtening banners for outside use?

    • Hi Daniel, sorry I am taking so long to respond. I just haven’t been checking my comments lately. You don’t need a double-needle walking foot machine for banners. You can make them on a single-needle walking-foot. They are really only a necessity if you are doing leather upholstery for furniture or auto seats. I purchased a Consew 206RB because it’s a very good, reliable machine and parts are readily available and inexpensive. If you are looking for used, do look at Juki as well. And, while Pfaff makes very good machines, the parts are horribly expensive and so not stocked by many shops.

  24. gina

    Hi, I just bought a consew 220 to sew some marine upholstery. What is the best thread type and size for sewing marine vinyl? Can this machine handle waxed thread? Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Gina, I generally use a #69 bonded nylon to sew marine vinyl. However, that weight thread is going to be too heavy on the 220 since you are limited by the size needle you can use. I would try a size 46 bonded nylon. I only use good quality bonded thread – others just make too much of a mess inside the machine and cause stitching problems.

  25. I have an old table with 1/3 horsepower clutch motor but now I need a head to
    fill it with. I am considering buying a Singer 20U 33, used, or a Singer 20U 51 or 53, new.

    What do you think, Gigi? I’m quite an expert sewer and would like to make some well-made garments from time to time. My profession is a patternmaker
    in New York’s garment industry. What would one cost me new or used.

  26. Gigi — Your blog is great. The above is an old post, so I’m not sure if you can respond. I’m reading anything you have written that has to do with industrial machines.

    I’m a home sewer, who wants to use professional methods and machines to put out a designer bag, just for gifts and, of course, for myself. Another professional has advised me that a cylinder-type industrial can be very helpful to that end.

    Questions: Did you ever buy a cylinder machine? Do tell, if so. What machine(s) do you typically use to sew your leather handbags? Do you agree that a cylinder-type would/does make the sewing easier?

    The Pro who’s helping me said that a post-type industrial would not be necessary. A flatbed, perhaps like your Consew walking foot, but with a single needle, is of course highly desirable.

    Another question: Do you use Barge glue when making leather bags?

    I appreciate any comments and have read your old posts on

    • No, I never did buy a cylinder-arm machine. I’ve been looking for years but used ones are tough to come by and right now I can’t justify buying a new one. It would definitely make certain aspects of bag construction easier but not enough to justify spending many thousands of dollars. A post machine is more useful for shoe construction than handbags. So, I’m just using my 206RB-5 and doing just fine with that. My favorite glue is Tandy’s leathercraft cement. I use that and plain old contact cement from Home Depot.

  27. Don

    I have a Consew 220. It is missing the thread tensioner. Do you know where I can find one or is there a part from another model that would work on this machine?

    • Any industrial machine shop should be able to supply you with the tension mechanism. If you don’t have a local industrial shop you can try contacting Sharp Sewing on Ebay.

  28. Hi Gigi,

    I am in need of some direction……i purchesed a used 220 to do some light automotive upholstery- thin vinyls and velours,would like to try some thinner boards but not sure if machine should be used this way….also is there a trick to turn the speed down on machine, it either goes full bore and i have a hard time keeping up or very slow. Can you point me in the right direction for purchasing a cording foot and a straight foot it currently has a presser foot and came w/out any accessories(if u will)!

    • Esther, the 220 is a clothing machine so you are using it a bit beyond it’s design. To do auto upholstery easily and well, you really a compound-feed walking-foot machine.

      There are lots of industrial parts dealers on the internet. You can also try Sharp Sewing on Ebay for feet. Industrial machines generally do not come with any accessories beyond the standard foot.

      To slow the machine down you’ll need to put a smaller pulley on the motor (which means you may also need a different size belt). However, I find that with experience it becomes very easy to control the speed of the machine without doing so.

  29. david

    Hi Gigi ! I work in the auto interior field .I have interest in buying a machine. I have a few consews available in my area. my employer has a used 205, needs servicing. also have a flier from local supply shop with 226 for $ 750.00 used. also can purchase juki or consew from ebay. have a budget of $1000.00. can you help guide me thru purchase. sewing and convertible tops are my final hurdle in my field. I’m a lucky guy who has factory take off covers to dissasemble and resew for experience. my company installs leather kits in new and used cars, usually 6 to 8 cars a day. just need some direction and advice. will reply with machines I,m interested in and prices. just need pros and cons. thank you David

    • Hi David,
      Thank you so much for visiting my blog. Unfortunately, I am much too busy with work right now to take on any consulting work. Your best bet would be to find a local technician (or machine consultant) you can trust. Personally, I’d stick with a 206 because of the large bobbin. Small bobbins are a pain when working with heavy threads. Good luck!

  30. david

    thanks anyway. I went with a Juki LU-563 N .