When you’ve set your eye on a fantastic pattern for a cute denim jacket, or you want to try your hand at whipping up a pair of jeans, you may find out that the sewing machine you have—or the one you’re thinking of buying—just isn’t up to the job.
Sewing over thick denim material is difficult for the average modern sewing machines, which aren’t as heavy-duty as the models built last century. Even with a heavy-duty needle and jeans thread in your machine, you’ll face challenges. Many sewing machines can handle hemming a pair of jeans, but if you’re taking on a project that requires sewing several layers of denim, or if you’ll be doing a lot of projects that use heavy fabrics, you’ll need to move up into a different type of machine.
You need the right machine, the right supplies, as well as a little knowledge to tackle many denim projects. There is no “denim sewing machine” that you can buy. Instead, what you need is a heavy-duty sewing machine, which can handle multiple layers of thick or heavy-duty fabric.
It’s best to look for a sewing machine that is labeled heavy-duty, however, some “regular” machines are made just as well, and can handle those thicker fabrics too. On the other hand, some so-called “heavy-duty” sewing machines are anything but. Sure, they may be able to sew over multiple layers of denim, but a poor quality machine will break down quickly if exposed to this kind of project frequently. This is why you need to know what features and specifications you are looking for.
Qualities of a Sewing Machine That Can Handle Denim
Motor: The motor should be strong enough to easily handle driving the needle through several layers of thick fabrics. The typical low-end machines today are made with plastic gears and too often will have weak motors. Under heavy use, the gears can become stripped and the motors can give out.
Presser Foot Lift: The presser foot should lift extra-high so you can fit several layers of thick or bulky fabric underneath it without trouble.
Leveling Button: There should be a tiny button, often black, on the presser foot that you can press to lift the front end of the presser foot upward. This helps the foot climb over the places where the fabric gets thicker from multiple layers. It’s essential when sewing over the place where the side seam of a jeans leg meets the hem.
If the machine you’re looking at has these features, it most likely can handle heavy-duty fabrics. Likewise, make sure that machines labeled as heavy-duty actually are, by having these features.
When you’re ready to make your final selection for a sewing machine, it’s better to get the highest quality machine you can afford when it comes to heavy duty fabrics like denim. An extra $50 to $100 spent can save you dozens of hours of frustration over the years, and make your denim projects much more enjoyable to create.