Types of Sewing Machines and Their Uses

Types of Sewing Machines and Their Uses

Whether you are a novice sewer looking for their first machine, or an expert shopping around, it is important to know there are many different kinds of sewing machines, with different purposes. This article explores the types of sewing machines and their uses. 

The first two categories of sewing machines are domestic and industrial. As their names imply, a domestic sewing machine is typically used by the seamstress or quilter at home for their various projects while the industrial machine is typically used for industry manufactured clothing and blankets. Each has several types of machines within their category, so let’s get to it.

Domestic Sewing Machines

The beginner, the average, and the advanced sewer will all be needing a domestic machine to work on their projects. There is a wide range of brands from Viking to Babylock to Brother to Singer, with a wide range of price points and technology. The domestic machine combines many of the stitch functions of industrial machines into one device, making them highly versatile. It varies by machine, but a domestic sewing machine can typically run for about five straight hours before needing a break to cool down. 

Mechanical or Electric Machines

Types of sewing machines and their uses: mechanical or electric sewing machine

The mechanical or electric sewing machine is probably the one that pops into your head when you first think of a sewing machine. It will have knobs and dials to adjust the settings and the type of stitch. Along with the basic stitch, there will likely be a zigzag stitch and a few decorative stitches to choose from. There may even be a button-hole option depending on the machine. 

Machines in this category can range in price. Sometimes the mechanical machine is referred to as the most basic machine, but it is also a staple and the most commonly used type of machine. It is also the machine most of us first learned to sew on these days.

Mini Machines

mini sewing machine

There is a subcategory to the mechanical machine that has gained popularity recently. The Mini Machine is a very small mechanical machine ideal for travel or those with limited space. It can only handle small projects and can’t get through the thicker fabrics very easily (if at all), but it certainly has its uses. 

Computerized Machines

computerized sewing machine

The computerized machine has a few more bells and whistles for those who are interested. It is operated by buttons and a computer interface that comes preloaded with stitches and patterns. You can also load more onto it yourself. There is a LED or LCD screen on the front of the machine for you to work with. 

The computerized machine is also able to do some of the more basic tasks for you, like adjusting the tension or threading the bobbin. As you might imagine, computerized machines can get quite pricey, especially compared to mechanical or electric machines. 

Quilting Machines

Quilting machine

Quilting machines are machines geared towards the larger and thicker fabrics that are common in quilting. They come with a longer arm so more fabric can be supported and pass through the machine with less trouble. They can also handle thicker projects, whether that be one material or a layered project. 

Make no mistake, a quilting machine can also handle other projects a sewer might need it for, quilting is just its specialty. You will likely be able to find a quilting machine in both mechanical and computerized models, with different abilities and price points. 

Embroidery Machines

Embroidery machine

Another more specialized machine, an embroidery machine is used to stitch decorative designs. It doesn’t do anything else, but it does do its one job well. Some may choose to embroider by hand, but this type of machine can do it for you, often faster and with more complicated designs. 

An embroidery machine is often computerized so it comes with preloaded designs or you can upload and save your own. It is not a need for every sewer, but those who choose to invest in this machine can likely get plenty of use out of it. 

Manual or Treadle Machines

Manual or treadle sewing machine

The manual or treadle machine is run by a wheel that you spin yourself while sewing. It is the first sewing machine and not all that precise or easy to use. These days they are mostly collector items. There may be a few new ones produced, but not many and not frequently. 

Still, it is always nice to pay homage and acknowledgment to what was such a groundbreaking device in its time. 

Industrial Machines

The industrial machine typically isn’t found in the home, though there are heavy-duty sewers out there who take the plunge. Industrial machines are used in work settings and are highly specialized, meaning they have a tendency to do one thing and one thing only. This list may not tell you the best industrial sewing machines, but it will help you know the difference between them. 

Serger or Overlocking Machines

Serger or overlocking sewing machine

Serger or overlocking machines specialize in edges. It uses multiple threads and sometimes multiple needles to hem, edge, and even trim. A serger machine is able to work on some of the trickier, flimsy fabrics like knits to give them clean edges. There are domestic versions of this machine for sewers who want very clean, professional-looking end results and are willing to make an investment. 

Because of the multiple threads and needles, it can be quite difficult to thread this machine. Luckily, there are a few self-threading models out there. 

Heavy-Duty Sewing Machines

heavy duty industrial sewing machine

This one resembles the average domestic machine most closely. It is made for mass production and goes all day without getting over-heated, unlike the domestic machine. These machines are often built into the table to keep them steady while still allowing them to be supremely powerful. They are high-speed, can stitch through very thick material, and are very precise. 

Still, general industrial machines aren’t very commonly used. For the most part, the industry chooses to use more specialized machines for their specific stitch or purpose, simply because they do it so well.

Blind Stitch Machines

When a project requires a seam that can’t be seen, a blind stitch machine is used. It is quick and finishes fabric neatly and precisely. 

Chain Stitch Machines

A chain stitch is a specialty stitch that is durable and decorative at the same time. As a result, a chain stitch machine may only perform one stitch, but it performs that stitch stretchy fabric, to hem, to bind, or for a decorative, embroidered effect. 

Lock Stitch Machines

A lock stitch is a durable and versatile stitch that can be straight, zigzag, decorative, or binding. A lock stitch is actually the typical stitch of domestic machines because of this. It is clean and looks the same from both sides while still being a strong stitch. 

Cover Stitch Machines

A cover stitch is another durable stitch used for hems, but also to attach lace and elastic to garments. The cover stitch is able to stretch as an item wears and still hold together nicely. 

Bar Tacking Machines

The bar tack stitch is most often used to reinforce weaker points in a project. It is a strong stitch that is often found around belts, pockets, and even buttonholes. 

Button Holers

Creating a buttonhole needs to be a precise job, so it is often done with a machine specifically designed to do so. Though there may be attachments for other machines or a lock stitch machine that is capable of doing so all on its own. 


There is a vast variety of machines out there, but a vast variety of projects and sewers to match it. Everyone may not have a use for every machine, but there is a machine for every use. Between the domestic and industrial machines, a sewer should be able to find a machine (or two or three) to meet their needs. We hope you this was helpful in getting to know the types of sewing machines and their uses. Happy sewing!

Written by Grace Sura

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