Like a lot of car repair and maintenance, you’ll find that re-doing your car’s upholstery is a lot cheaper than taking it to a professional and forking over hundreds of dollars. The task may seem daunting, sure – but isn’t all car maintenance work? Some thorough research and a little practice could have you breathing new life into the cracked leather seating or torn fabric of your vehicle with brand new upholstery – and to make sure it lasts, you need the right sewing machine.
While many insist that industrial is the way to go, opting for a heavy-duty factory grade sewing table for their operations, pick the right portable unit and you may find the functionality suits you – and your pocket – just as well. A good machine should be able to plow through the heaviest and densest of fabric like its tissue, compatible with the bonded polyester or nylon threads needed for tough, durable and ruggedly stitched upholstery, and needles between sizes 18 and 22 typically, depending on the thread you pick. Offering speed, robust performance and incredible longevity, here are our picks for the best sewing machine for auto upholstery.
Consew 206RB-5 Walking Foot Industrial Sewing Machine
When you’re working with thick, heavy fabrics, the extra grip of a walking foot machine, which, simply put, involves the working together of more than one feed to drag and pull the fabric under the needle as you sew, is all but a necessity for sewing dense upholstery. So it’s unsurprising that this feature is one of the things we love about our top pick. The height adjustable walking motion of the triple feed walking foot, however, is just part of what makes this a household and industry favorite.
For starters, whether you’re working with vinyl, leather or other material for upholstery, you’re going to be sewing up large stretches of material at a go – meaning you’re going to need something to hold it all. The sewing table component of this whole unit essentially acts as a workstation not just to hold your rugged workhorse of a sewing machine and the motor that powers it, but also the large fragments of material you’re sewing, which makes a marked difference to how accurate and precise your seams and stitches ultimately are since you get to keep everything even and lined up.
A maximum stitch length of 10mm also makes this the ideal machine to work with a variety of thick material, be it leather, denim or canvas, since heavier materials need longer stitches for secure seams which won’t come apart. The high foot lift gives plenty of clearance (14mm to be exact) for layers of thick materials to be sewn, boasting a maximum speed of 3,300 stitches per minute (SPM).
KEN’S BUDGET PICK
Sailrite Heavy-Duty Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 BASIC Sewing Machine
Don’t be deceived by the unit’s portability and relatively less bulky stature compared to many of the industrial-grade units on this list – it’s been proven to sew through 10 layers of heavy canvas without breaking a sweat and can handle heavy materials from denim to leather like a pro. In other words, this walking foot sewing machine is perfect for dealing with the heavier material you’re about to sew up for auto upholstery, holding and dragging thicker stretches of vinyl or leather under the needle with a high presser foot lift leaving a clearance of about 9.5mm.
A maximum stitch length of 6mm has you covered for those longer stitches necessary for securely sewing up canvas and upholstery to make sure it lasts, the brand’s trademark Posi-Pin Clutching System transferring 100% power from the balance wheel to the needle to ensure the clutch doesn’t slip when working with thick, dense materials. The unit features both straight and zigzag stitch patterns, the latter of a width range 0-5mm, capable of accommodating needles of sizes #10 to #22 (and therefore perfectly compatible for the thicker threads needed to sew up heavy auto upholstery). In fact, among the various items available with the unit, including a heavy-duty industrial carrying case and a handy LED light to keep your workstation properly illuminated and your stitch-work accurate, it also comes with four #20 needles and V-92 white polyester thread.
Juki DU-1181 Industrial Top and Bottom Feed Sewing Machine
With a powerful 110V servo motor delivering thorough but quiet performance, this unit boasts speeds of 2,000 stitches per minute. A walking foot machine with top and bottom feed gripping and pulling heavier materials effortlessly under the needle, a maximum stitch length of 9mm makes it ideal for working with thick and medium weight upholstery fabrics, leather or vinyl for secure, strong and durable seams. A single needle machine designed for basic but thorough straight stitching, the unit comes complete with sewing table, motor and other installed accessories, but one feature we’d like to shout out is the sewing light, incredibly helpful when we need to see what we’re doing in stark detail to avoid mistakes.
Tacsew GC6-6 Industrial Upholstery Sewing Machine
A walking foot sewing unit with top and bottom feed to keep material from slipping, this unit pulls off straight lockstitches with a maximum stitch length of 8mm – just right for auto upholstery materials like vinyl or leather. Equipped with reverse speed for secure lockstitches and maximum stitch per minute count of 1,600, the unit also features a very handy auto-lubrication system to keep the machine well-oiled without requiring manual input from you. A ½ inch (12.7mm) clearance thanks to the high presser foot lift accommodates thick fabrics and layers of material you need to sew together with complete ease.
Note that the table and motor for this unit are sold separately.
- Love to Know: http://cars.lovetoknow.com/How_to_Upholster_Car_Seats
- Instructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Sew-a-Basic-Seam-Automotive-Upholstery/
- Consew: http://www.consew.com/
- Juki: http://www.juki.co.jp/