What is a Heavy Duty Sewing Machine?

A question that we see often in the sewing community is: “What is a heavy duty sewing machine?” 

Simply put, a heavy- duty sewing machine is a sewing machine designed to sew heavy duty fabrics.  

It is the real workhorse for heavy fabrics. It can work daily without burning out.

If you’re new to sewing or even if you are an advanced sewist, this article will help you better understand what a heavy duty sewing machine is and what they are used for.

More specifically, we will cover: 

  • What a heavy duty sewing machine is
  • The best type of needle and thread to use with heavy duty sewing machines
  • A list of recommended needle sizes for heavy duty sewing machines
  • 10 Types of Sewing projects that Require Heavy Duty Machines

Let's dive right in.

How Does a Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Differ From Lightweight Sewing Machines?

Well for starters, heavy duty sewing machines are used to sew heavy duty fabrics. This includes fabrics such as denims, canvas, leather, mattress, upholstery and polyester.

Oh and here's something else worth noting:

These sewing machines are also equipped with stronger motors that will help you sew garments faster.

Whereas smaller light-duty sewing machines like this Singer 3232 portable machine are a bit slower.

How Do Heavy Duty Sewing Machines Work?

The heavy duty machine is also different in the way that it works. It has some automated functions and features that you may not find in basic sewing machines.

For example, the machine has a self-lubricating function. This is a good thing because bigger sewing machines require lubrication more often than the smaller ones.

Singer 4452 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine

Secondly, heavy duty sewing machines also stitch at high speed. For example, some of these machines like the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine can sew up to 1,100 stitches per minute. 

Talk about a true workhorse!

This is about 4 times faster than a small sewing machine that can do only 750 stitches per minute.

Compared to a home sewing machine, a heavy-duty one is quite versatile. It can be used for special tasks such as quilting, monograms, buttonholes and blind hems. All these are heavy-duty sewing jobs that would be harder to do with smaller machines.

What Type of Needle Should You Use with Heavy Duty Sewing Machines?

A big part of your sewing success with heavy duty sewing machines depends on several things. One of these things, perhaps the most important one of them all is the type of needle that you choose.

With heavy duty sewing machines, you will need to use a heavy duty machine needle.  

Schmetz Sewing Machine Needles

Here’s the thing:

To an untrained eye, a needle is just about how thick and how long it is. However, in the sewing world, a needle has different parts. 

In this section of the post, we will give a brief breakdown of these parts and explain what they mean. 

The Anatomy of a Heavy Duty Sewing Needle

Source: SchmetzNeedles.com

Here is a quick breakdown of the parts of a sewing needle:

  • Shank – This is a flat back and round front of the needle that goes into the machine. The machine holds onto this part and keeps the needle upright.
  • Shaft – This is the part immediately beneath the shank. This is the part that determines the size of the needle.
  • Front groove – This is a small slit located above the eye. Its work is to hold the thread  in the right way for better stitching.
  • Point – This is the sharp part that penetrates the material that you are sewing. It is also the part that is responsible for passing thread to the bobbin hook to make a stitch. Points come in different shapes depending on the material that you are sewing.
  • Eye – This is the small hole where the thread will pass. If you use thick threads, you need a needle with a bigger eye and vice versa. The most important thing is that the eye should allow the thread to pass through easily.  
  • Scarf – This is a small indentation that you will find at the back of the needle. The importance of the scarf part is to ensure there are no skipped stitches. If you have a precisely-timed machine, use a needle with a shorter scarf. If not precisely timed, use a needle with a longer scarf.

Why It’s Important to Use the Correct Needle with Heavy Duty Sewing Machines

If you use the wrong needle, a lot could go wrong. Some of the issues that you can potentially run into include:

  • Damage or even breaking the bobbin hook
  • Making low quality stitches
  • Making the wrong seams
  • Creating unsightly holes in your fabric
  • Tampering with the machine’s timing

Before choosing a needle for your heavy duty sewing machine, there are a few things that you should consider.  

For example, you will need to think about the thickness of the fabric. The heavier the fabric, the thicker the needle you will need.

Your choice of sewing machine needles also depends on the type of stitching that you want to do.

For instance, for hemstitching and topstitching, you will need a different kind of needle from what you would need for non-decorative stitching.

Recommended Needle Sizes for Heavy Duty Sewing Machines

When you start using heavy duty sewing machines for your sewing projects, you will need to familiarize yourself with the needle sizes. 

The most common needle sizes for heavy-duty sewing machines include the following:

Type of Fabric

Needle Size

For medium heavy fabrics like corduroys

90/14 needle size

For heavier fabrics such as Duck Cloth and Denim

100/16 needle size

Fabrics such as tapestry or canvas

110/18 needle size

For the heaviest  fabrics such as boat canvas

120/19 needle size

One of the best places to get affordable and heavy duty sewing machine needles by far is Amazon.  

They have a ton of heavy duty sewing needles that you can use for a wide assortment of sewing projects.

What Is the Best Heavy Duty Thread to Use?

When it comes to choosing heavy duty threads there are a few things to be aware of.   For starters, thread sizes are measured by numbers. The higher numbers indicate heavier threads. Lower numbers equate to lighter thread. 

It's easy to assume that you can use any type of thread that you find in stores with a heavy duty sewing machine. However, this is not the case.

Ideally, the best heavy-duty thread is made of cotton and polyester. You may also use quilting thread, which is wax-coated to enable easy movement in the batting and quilting.

Threads with cotton and polyester will help you sew denim, double knits, drapery fabric, leece, leather and faux leather, quilted fabrics, and upholstery with much ease.

3 Great Heavy Duty Thread Brands to Use with your Sewing Machine

Based on our research, there are three top brands that stand out in the marketplace as the best heavy duty thread to use. 

They are as follows:

#1: Coats and Clark Dual Heavy Weight Thread

Coats and Clark have a highly rated and ranked heavy duty thread that sewing enthusiasts rave about.

Coats and Clark Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Thread

With more than 200+ positive reviews, the general consensus is that this thread is strong, very durable and makes sewing the toughest projects easy. 

This thread is ideal for bold topstitching, cording, and stitching hand-worked buttonholes and works with 14(90), 16(100) or 18(110) needles.

#2:  Selric UV Resistant High Strength Polyester Thread

The Selric UV Polyester thread collection has more than 30 different colors that anyone using a heavy duty sewing machine will appreciate.

This thread is perfect for use with high speed sewing machines, is mildew and rot resistant and has colors that don’t fade easily.

Selric UV Resistant High Strength Polyester Thread

According to Amazon, you can use this thread to sew drapery, beading, purses, wallets, canvas, clothing, vinyl awnings, tents industrial, home textile, leather goods, footwear, luggage, shoes, car mats, upholstery and much more!

#3: Threadart Heavy Duty Bonded Nylon Thread

Threadarts Heavy Duty Nylon thread has a very high approval rating from sewing enthusiasts. 

This thread works well for sewing projects that include upholstery, drapery, denim, hair weaving, luggage, purses, wallets, shoes, leather, and vinyl.  

Another great benefit to using this thread is that it is resistant to chemicals, abrasion, and sunlight.  

Threadart Heavy Duty Bonded Nylon Thread

As an added bonus, there are over 26 color selections available for you to use with various sewing projects.

What is The Best Heavy Duty Sewing Kit to Use?

There are many heavy duty sewing kits that you can buy online that will allow you to fix issues with your sewing projects. 

One of the most popular ones is the SIMPZIA Sewing and Repair Kit. You can use this kit for some serious heavy duty jobs such as carpet repair, leather fixes, canvas, coats, upholstery and many more.  

This sewing kit includes a 20 piece hand stitching set, needles for sewing heavy duty fabric, a measuring tape, a leather sewing piercing tool and more.

SIMPZIA Sewing and Repair Kit

A repair kit is not complete without a heavy-duty needle. You will get one with this one. And that is not all because the kit also contains different hand needles that you can use for finishing the areas that your heavy duty sewing machine cannot reach.

Even with all these goodies, this sewing kit still comes at a very affordable price.

10 Types of Sewing projects that Require Heavy Duty Machines

Alrighty guys, we’ve come to the fun part. We are now going to dive into a list of 10 types of sewing projects that you can sew with heavy duty sewing machines.

Here is the list:

  • Upholstery –When your sofas are going bust, you need a good sewing machine, a heavy-duty one to fix them. This requires a heavy duty sewing kit too, which you can buy separately or with the sewing machine.
  • Sports shoes – These shoes are usually made of cowhide or strong synthetic laser, which cannot be sewn with the home machines. You would need a heavy duty machine for repairing such shoes uppers.
  • Quilting – This is the process by which you sew many layers together to form a thick padded material. For such a heavy job, you would need a heavy duty sewing machine. You can check out our favorite sewing machines for quilting right here.
  • Denim jobs – You cannot use a regular home sewing machine for Denim sewing jobs. Even if you do, you will do a shoddy job of the same. You will need a heavier machine for the job. 
  • Topstitching – This method is very common on jeans. You can topstitch to create the thread lines that we see on jeans pockets. 
  • Sewing canvas – Canvas is thick and is not a job for a faint-hearted sewing machine. It requires a heavy duty machine and probably a few to several changes of needles. 
  • Luggage handles – Because of the heavy weight that the handles support, they do require some heavy-duty stitching. 
  • Boat canvas repair – If you love sailing, you will need to keep your boat in tiptop shape all the time. Boat canvas is tough and only a heavy-duty sewing can handle the job. 
  • Tarpaulin sewing and repair – Tarpaulins are used to cover trucks, boats and even trains. They are heavy fabrics and they require heavy-duty needle, thread and sewing machine. 
  • Leatherworks – Faux or natural leather products need a heavy-duty sewing machine. These sewing machines are used in industrial settings to make leather shoes and bags on a large scale. 
  • Mattress repair – The same curved needle that you use for upholstery repair is also good for mattress repair.  

Our Favorite Heavy Duty Sewing Machines

We couldn't end this post without sharing a list of our favorite heavy duty sewing machines. 

These sewing machines are some of the top-rated sewing machines in the marketplace today that you can use to add to your sewing arsenal.  

Here are our top 3 favorites:

#1:  The Singer 4452 Sewing Machine

With more than 900+ great reviews, this heavy duty sewing machine is one of Amazon's best sellers and we can see why.

Singer 4452 heavy duty sewing machine

The Singer 4452 sewing machine has a ton of features and benefits that any budding or advanced sewists can appreciate.  

Some of the features and benefits of this sewing machine include:

  • An automatic needle threader (to help you thread your sewing machine with ease without straining your eyes)

  • A heavy duty frame that protects your machine 

  • 32 built-in stitches (6 basic stitches,7 stretch, 18 decorative stitches to spice up garments, 1-step buttonhole and 1 fully automatic)

  • Sews up to 1100 stitches per minute (Wow!!)

  • 60% stronger motor than standard and basic sewing machines to sew stitches with ease

  • Adjustable stitch length and width to use the desired stitches 

  • Free arm that allows you to get to those hard to reach places

  • BONUS Accessories that include: 5 pack of size 16 needles, an all-purpose sewing foot, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, button sewing foot, seam ripper / lint brush, quilting guide, needles, bobbins, screwdriver, auxiliary spool pin and a regular spool pin

  • 25 year warranty

Types of Projects You can Sew with this Sewing Machine

Because this sewing machine is jam packed with power and features, there are a ton of sewing projects that you can sew with it.  These include things like: denim, home decor, crafts, leather, and more!


With 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, It's safe to say, the Singer 4452 heavy duty sewing machine will make sewing projects a breeze.

#2: The Brother ST371HD Heavy Duty Sewing Machine

Coming in at number two on our list is of top heavy duty sewing machines is the Brother ST371HD sewing machine.

The Brother ST371HD Heavy Duty Sewing Machine

Like the Singer 4452, this sewing machine has a ton of features and options that any sewist will enjoy. 

Some of the best features and benefits of this sewing machine are:

  • 37 built in stitches to add flair to your sewing projects

  • Sews a whopping 800 stitches per minute

  • An automatic needle threader that makes it easier to thread your machine

  • Easy stitch selector (to apply different stitch patterns to your garments)

  • One-step buttonhole feature

  • Jam resistant bobbin loading 

  • 6 versatile sewing feet (zipper, blind stitch, buttonhole, button sewing, spring action zigzag and nonstick feet)

  • BONUS Sewing accessories: 3-piece needle set, 4 bobbins, 6 feet, extra spool pin, 2 spool caps, screwdriver, instructional DVD

  • Heavy duty metal frame that makes it more durable

Types of Projects you can sew with this Machine

You can pretty much sew all types of heavy duty projects with this sewing machine like denim, polyester, leather and other heavy fabric.


With a strong 4.3 out of 5 rating, the Brother ST371HD is an excellent and affordable heavy duty sewing machine to invest in.

#3: The Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 Computerized Sewing Machine

Rounding out our list for the number 3 spot is the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960!  With over 3700 reviews on Amazon, it's safe to say that this is a sewing machine that tons of people love.

The SINGER Quantum Stylist 9960 Sewing Machine

Some of the best features and benefits that this sewing machine has to offer include:

  • 600 built-in stitches (5 Alphanumeric fonts, 13-built in 1-step buttonholes, and a buttonhole plate with a mirror)

  • An automatic needle threader that makes it easier to thread your machine

  • A high powered motor that sews up to 850 stitches per minute

  • Extension table that gives you a larger working area for your sewing projects

  • 13-built in buttonhole styles

  • One-stitch touch selection (to easily apply different stitches to your projects)

  • Jam resistant bobbin loading 

  • Heavy duty metal frame for durability

  • Includes 8 Presser Feet that include an All-Purpose Foot (on machine), Zipper Foot, Button Sewing Foot, Satin Stitch Foot, Buttonhole Foot and Underplate, Open Toe Foot, Blind Hem Foot, Overcasting Foot, Narrow Hem Foot, Cording Foot, Straight Stitch Foot, Darning & Freehand Embroidery Foot, Even Feed / Walking Foot.

  • BONUS Accessories include Pack of Needles, Bobbins (Class 15), Seam Ripper, Lint Brush, Auxiliary Spool Pin, Spool Pin Felt, Screwdriver (2), Spool Cap (2), Seam Guide, Quilting Bar, Clearance Plate and a Shank for Presser Feet

Types of Projects you can Sew with this Machine

Pretty much anything! This sewing machine is so feature packed that you can use it to sew tons of advanced projects with.


With a strong 4.3 out of 5 rating, the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 is an excellent and feature packed heavy duty sewing machine to use for your sewing projects.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve been on the hunt for a heavy duty sewing machine to use for sewing projects, we hope that this article has been helpful.

As always, please be sure to check out our latest sewing machine reviews and buyers guide to find the perfect sewing machine for your sewing projects.

Happy Sewing!


Shelly is the main editor and author of this website. She is passionate about helping fellow sewing enthusiasts find the right sewing machine for your sewing projects plus design beautiful sewing spaces that inspire your creativity. If you're ready to DIY a stunning sewing room (on a budget), be sure to check out the Sewing Room that Sizzles Workbook bundle (complete with a 50+ page workbook) and two Bonus Guides that will put you on the fast track to setting up, designing and organizing a sewing room that is TOTALLY you (on a shoestring budget).