Need Help? Call Us 415-423-3313
Need Help? Call Us 415-423-3313
  • Welcome to The Forum. Please login or sign up.
May 20, 2024, 07:57:14 am


Welcome to our new upholstery forum with an updated theme and improved functionality. We welcome your comments and questions to our forum! Visit our main website,, for our extensive supply of upholstery products, instructional information and videos, and much more.

The old conversation on sewing machines resurfaces.

Started by MinUph, June 10, 2016, 05:37:03 pm

Previous topic - Next topic


  So I am requesting some input on machines. We have all discussed this many many many times I know but I'm looking for some hands on model numbers I might look for. I want to pickup another machine to sew things like Sunbrella, thinner goods, that will sew well and smooth and has reverse and available welt feet and accessories. I have two walkers one is compound and they both are too heavy duty to do a good job on thinner fabrics. I also am thinking about a double needle machine so I torn on which to go with.
  I realize the double will sit allot unused but how well do they work as single needle machines?
  I don't want new, Been there done that, and not thrilled at the outcome for the outlay. I stay at the lowest end of the money chain whenever possible.

  So what do you guys and gals see as a good choice in the area. I see many Juki 5550 something on craigslist. I have no experience with these read some good about them. IDK. Help me will ya!

  Thanks my friends.
Minichillo's Upholstery


I will chime in with good intentions, and so from 4 years ago I have listened to owners with 550, 5550 Juki and they love them. What I see and know they sew is light weight fabric in outdoor kinda stuff I could not say what the names are sorry that's out of my league but assume summer and wind breaker and packs they mention walkers are way to heavy fwiw.
What I do know from experienced professionals is they work best with 46 and really tops with 69, so lighter up to thin denim factory and in tailoring.
As mechanicals they are your straight up factory flier, this is also what it takes to lube them "high speed", though I heard from a pro wrench the lube can be sufficient for its use with normal bobbin winding. So one might prefer to wind as you go so to speak if you sew like myself.

The 5550 is like many with a sump oil lube system and has a pump with pickup in the drip pan area, some issues in the series have been the line area from the pump to the top. I still would like one, but now lately possibly one a touch bigger. I have more than is in use now so better forget that fun part.

I have to say a machine with a needle feed with 69 at its best, so that throws it in the "regular" size with 16-18 needle.
I continue to search for the elusive machine in the same arena, and will surely post any tips I hear.

Good day


June 10, 2016, 09:31:26 pm #2 Last Edit: June 10, 2016, 09:40:02 pm by sofadoc
My second machine right now is a Juki DDL-555. Which is an older version of the 5550.
Of course, this model isn't a WF machine. But you can put a cording foot on it.

69 is at the high end of what the 555 will handle. It's better suited to 46. It is rated to sew up to denim weight fabric.

I really don't like sewing anything corded on it. But it's nice for thin unwelted stuff.

Since most compound feed WF machines are more suited for medium to heavy fabrics, I too have always wanted a second WF machine that is better suited for light to medium. My research tells me that a good model for that purpose would be a Juki DNU-1181. I haven't got around to test driving one, but I think it's  a similar class machine to the old Singer 16-188.

Many refer to it as a WF machine, but it is really just a top/bottom feed. The presser feet don't alternate.
I've been told that it is less likely to eat up thin fabrics the way a regular compound feed machine does. It will sew thread up to size 92.

My 2 cents.
"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban


I should have edited my post there with the 46, 69 thread mention I did mean as you said Dennis that 46 is best in that machine from some home work study.

A needle feed like a 5410 I think will take you on vacation and back home Industrial style, again and again with less slippage so its what I will keep an eye on.

At this time a restored 212G140 I went through stem to stern is smooth as butter, so taking 1 needle out is of no concern. It runs a G bobbin size and the foot is wide so with some looking a skinny single presser foot may be replaced as with others possibly. Its lacking reverse and as I heard Singer was the last to change to a reverse option simply because in factories operators could lift, move and let presser foot back down to lock stitches faster with out removing their hands from material and we know its all about time and motion "savings"
It works great with the small canvas task and 92 thread I ran through and setup for.

have a good day

Runs With Scissors

I have a Juki DDL-8700.  It's my "go-to" machine.  Sews drapery fabric, Sunbrella, some heavier stuff and uses all the usual feet - cording, double welt, zipper, hidden zipper, etc.  I use 46 exclusively with 14 or 16 needle size - depending on the fabric.

Check with Bob at Toledo Industrial Sewing Machine LTD.  I don't have a phone number handy.  He sells used &  new machines.



I cannot help much on the lighter duty machines as I have no experience with them.

In regards to twin needles, we have two. Both we bought brand new and are compound feed machines. They are our bread and butter machines and get heavy production use. Both have been good performers for us with no major break downs. They are both Highleads.

The problem with twin needles is that it is double everything - needles, bobbins, two spools of thread, etc. It costs us $ 450 every time we change out the Solarfix thread spools on a twin needle. :(

June had a twin needle that she converted to a single. It was NOT her go to machine and it sat idle alot. She tried selling it but no one wanted it.



Paul if you have an opportunity and hear of a Singer 211G157 or 158 this is in the G bobbin size and in my book quite the find, Single needle machines these are not a walker but compound feed with-needle and bottom dogs, 211W may be more common as built in USA versus G for Germany.

These 157 and 158 both have reverse the later being in design for more jackets coveralls so a bit slower and I'm sure a bit tougher dogs.  If not interested and see one please inform.

If interested the same 211G  with 457-8 is said to have trimmer installed as factory setup.

I know they must be out there, I know there is buildings and or rooms full of these from factories back when.  Reason 1, I know they haven't been melted down into cars because cars would last longer : )

What I don't yet know is the next newer models as these and using a bigger bobbin.

Good day hunting


Thanks guys and gals for the input. Keep it coming while I my search continues.
Minichillo's Upholstery


  I have ordered a Consew P1541S-CC. Should be in on Friday. Excited as a kid with a new toy. I operated another by a different manufacturer Typical and liked the way is sewed. They are made by a few companies well at leat tagged by them Zuki is another. Anyway I decided on the Consew. Will let you all know how much fun we have with it when I get it running.
Minichillo's Upholstery


I wonder if 20 or 30 years ago upholsters ever had to deal with thin fabrics?

With COM, I do see a lot of really thin fabrics. I tell folks "a tight weave and blue jean material thick" as a guide line for upholstery weight fabrics. And get the 'rub test' number. Often that number is not available. I wonder why?

Mfgs are labeling fabrics that used to be drapery only as upholstery fabrics.

Both my sewing machines are made for heavy weight/leather/vinyl materials. I can sew light fabrics on them if I use a very small stitch length and sew slower. Occasionally I will change to a thinner needle and thinner thread.

Have you noticed that when someone on this forum gets a new sewing machine it's just like having a new baby? Maybe we should put our addresses in a data base and when someone gets a new sewing machine they can send cigars to everyone.

Congratulations on your new baby, Paul.  :)




July 04, 2016, 11:14:51 am #10 Last Edit: July 04, 2016, 11:20:25 am by MinUph
 I've been at this for 47 48 years and from day one had to deal with thin fabrics. Mostly from Designers. Back then they were mostly Decorators. But they seemed to go to thinner stuff mostly thin cotton prints back then. It was a bear sewing them on the Pfaff. We used a home machine once in awhile. That was a kenmore in the plastic carrying case type. It did zigzag too :)
 Still dealing with the thin stuff so it ain't going away.
  I recently quit smoking so in lieu of cigars cash can be to the shop.
Minichillo's Upholstery


Paul the no smoking is the best news - glad you threw them away ! 
I too have a singer in the plastic case with the package of three kinds of needles for light fabrics.  I've even used it to serge the edges of arm covers.  48 years in makes you an attending senior citizen here - thought I'd cheer you up -
Good luck with the new toy !


Quote from: gene on July 04, 2016, 07:42:15 am
I wonder if 20 or 30 years ago upholsters ever had to deal with thin fabrics?

Actually, 30 years ago was our worst era for thin fabrics.

Discount "seconds" stores had just begun popping up. Before that, customers had little choice but to order from upholstery shop sample books. Those books generally only had good weight fabrics.

Then people started buying their own at fabric outlets. And quite often, they bought ultra thin polished cottons and chintzes. Since most of it was seconds, it usually wasn't properly finished before leaving the mills.

Like Paul, we had a Pfaff that chewed thin fabrics up and spit them out.

Compared to the mid-80's, I really can't complain about the average weight of today's fabrics.
"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban


The wrong machine used for whatever weight usually is frustrating and ends up as a problem.

The job goes better with the right tool.  Light fabrics as well as heavy materials are not best handled with an all purpose machine.

For example when I do a furniture job then wrap up the process by making attractive decorator pillows or a drape -- this is best done by using a different feed and and machine designed for each specific purpose.

There is a lot of work in an upholstery shop, so the "machine" for that "work" is normally the best.  My compound feed is a wonderful machine and so is my drop feed, just depends on the work being done.