Last summer, before I had even thought about adopting kittens, I was trying to make up my mind about purchasing an industrial sewing machine. I had spent all summer sewing bags out of waterproof canvas and my Singer 403A was starting to get irritated with me.
It was skipping stitches when I was sewing through the thicker pieces, like handles and shoulder straps. We worked on the hook and needle timing (which did help), but it was still skipping stitches and also catching on the bobbin area. I really enjoy making bags and purses, so I knew I needed to do something.
The problem is that I am cheap. Up to this point in my life the most I’d ever paid for a sewing machine was $25 (for my Singer 301A) and the rest were given to me. I knew that an industrial machine was going to cost me at minimum $1,000. Finally, after a lot of debate, I decided to do it.
I wanted to visit a dealer so that I could try a few machines out before I bought them, but the closest dealer I could find to me was four hours away. My sister has an industrial machine dealer near her house, and that’s where I wanted to go (I could get a visit in at the same time), but for one reason or another I couldn’t get the time off of work. I decided to buy a machine that Lauren Mormino, a sewing YouTuber, uses and loves: Juki DU-1181N. I bought it on Amazon and waited for it to ship.
In the meantime, I had to rearrange my sewing room.
An industrial machine comes with the table that it sits on because they have to sit in pans of oil to keep them running smoothly. So you have to make sure that you have room for the table wherever you are going to put it.
The day it arrived I was so excited! Jay and I started unpacking the boxes, and that’s when I realized the motor was missing. That was a bit deflating. You can’t assemble the machine without it. I contacted the seller, and after waiting for a few days to see if the fourth package would move from the FedEx facility where it was sent, they finally sent me out a new one.
In the meantime, though, Jay was working on a machining project for my brand new sewing machine. Yes, that’s right… it’s a BRAND NEW MACHINE and he has to improve it.
Two days after my motor arrived this is how my machine looked. Not because he couldn’t figure out how to assemble it. Nope. Remember, he’s going to improve it.
When we were unpacking the boxes I came across the belt that runs between the machine and the motor. I handed it to Jay, and as he took it from me, he made a face and asked, “What is this??” He knew it was a belt, but he was astounded that it was a V-belt. I then had to listen to him go on about how inefficient they are, how the motor has to work twice as hard, and it should really use a timing belt. I think he was actually offended that he was expected to use the V-belt.
I don’t know machines. I don’t know motors. Nothing that he was saying really meant a whole lot to me. However, since he felt so strongly about it, I told him that he could modify my machine on two conditions: 1) it had to work and 2) it needed to be put back to the original equipment without any problem. He agreed and eagerly got to work.
He calculated the belt size and pulley sizes he would need. Then while he waited for the belt to arrive he made the new pulleys.
I also had another project for him, while he waited for the belt to arrive.
The needle plate that comes with the machine does not have any measurement markings on it. I think all domestic sewing machines do.
I can’t draw a straight line, let alone sew a straight seam, so I need all the help I can get. One of the machine shops who post How To videos on YouTube specifically said not to buy the aftermarket needle plate on Amazon because it ends up messing with your feed dogs. This shop does sell needle plates with measurements, but I have a machine shop in my basement so why should I buy something like that?
I explained to Jay how the markings should be laid out, and VOILA! He used his CNC router with a regular end mill bit to engrave the markings.
The last thing I needed Jay to add was lighting to my machine. You can buy LED lights on Amazon, or one of the magnetic lights that you crane the neck around to where you need it, but again, Jay has a billion LED strips. So he hooked me up.
Unfortunately, between work and the cats I haven’t had a lot of time to spend playing with it. It’s different from my domestic machines and is taking some time to learn. However, it has already been a life saver with a few projects (which I will post later).
Since I bought a model that is meant to sew medium-to-heavy weight fabrics I still have my domestic machine ready for the thinner stuff. It’s nice to switch between the two, depending on what project I’m sewing. I have quite a few projects lined up that will help me learn the machine, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Now I just have to find a place to stash the box with the parts that were left over after Jay assembled my machine.