If you do a lot of work with denim, or you’re planning to take on a bunch of denim projects in the future, then owning the best sewing machine for denim is a good idea. When sewing with denim it’s likely that you’ll use jeans thread, which is thicker than regular thread, and you have to find a way to get thick thread through thick fabric without something breaking.
Can you use a basic sewing machine with denim? The short answer: Kind of. You can make it work but it’s not easy and not worth the stress. Sure, you might be able to do it once or twice, but if you plan to do a lot of work with denim then you should invest in a more powerful sewing machine.
It’s possible to use heavy duty thread and a heavy duty foot to make it work with a basic sewing machine, but the reality is that basic sewing machines are designed for a variety of things so they don’t have powerful motors that can get through multiple layers of thick fabric like denim. Even with a denim presser foot you might find that your needle breaks easily because your machine just doesn’t have the power it needs to get through two to three layers of denim.
This is where it’s important to consider what kind of projects you’re doing ahead of making a new sewing machine purpose. The reality is that you can use a heavy duty sewing machine for all kinds of projects, even if they’re not considered heavy duty, but it doesn’t work the other way. (Not easily, anyway) If you’re frequently hemming jeans or planning to make your own denim clothing, you should own a heavy duty sewing machine that can give you the extra power to get through the fabric.
When you’re shopping for a sewing machine that works well for denim, you might find heavy duty machines that come complete with the proper presser feet and other notions that will help you to get started right away. Other machines are made for use with denim and other heavy duty fabrics but you have to buy the needles and foot tools yourself. Make sure you pay attention to what is included when you buy your machine.
Best Sewing Machine For Denim: Top 5 Picks
The Singer 4452 is the perfect example of how a heavy duty sewing machine can work for basic projects as well as those projects that require more power. Unlike other machines with similar capabilities, this machine is so user friendly that a new sewer will feel at home with this machine, especially if she is already familiar with the Singer line of sewing machines.
- 60% stronger motor
- Automatic needle threader and stainless steel bedplate with a top drop-in bobbin
- 32 built-in stitches, including 6 basic stitches, 7 stitches for stretchy material, 18 decorative stitches and a buttonhole stitch
- High speed machine with a maximum speed of 1,100 stitches per minute
- Includes bonus accessories: Walking Foot, Non-Stick Foot, 5-pack of needles, Clearance Plate, All-Purpose Foot, Buttonhole Foot, Zipper Foot, Button-Sewing Foot, Seam Ripper, extra bobbins, dust cover and more
- Very versatile machine that combines performance with ease of use
- Bonus accessories add an incredible value and make it easy for a new sewer to get started right away
- Easy to use machine, especially for anyone who already uses Singer machines
- Doesn’t hold large spools of thread
- Machine can power through multiple layers of leather and other fabrics with ease
- Great machine for the price
- Works just as well with delicate fabrics as it does with thicker fabrics
- Clear markings on the machine make it easy for everyone to use
- Pedal is touchy; works great for going fast but requires some practice for precision stitching at a slower pace
The Brother ST371HD sewing machine is a heavy duty machine that works great with heavy duty fabrics, layers of fabric and even standard cottons or other lightweight material. It comes out of the box ready to go.
- Metal needle plate to improve thread pickup speed
- Metal chassis for increased power and durability
- 37 built-in stitches, including a blind hem, zigzag, and stretch stitches along with several decorative stitches and the ability to do free motion sewing
- Comes with three needles: #16 for heavyweight fabrics, #14 for layers of fabric and #11 for everyday sewing and lightweight fabrics. Also comes with 6 feet, 4 bobbins, extra spool pin and two spool caps
- Automatic buttonholer setting, automatic needle threader, free arm for sleeves, drop in bobbin
- 25 year limited warranty and free phone support for the life of the machine
- Comes with everything you need to get started right away
- Extra power helps to get through multiple layers of fabric
- Versatile machine gets through the toughest materials and the most delicate fabrics equally well
- The light is not as bright as other machines, requiring another light source
- Easy to use right out of the box
- Much better control with the pedal than a Singer 4452
- The chassis of the machine is metal, but many of the components are plastic, including the bobbin. The casing is also plastic.
- Each fabric requires a specific needle (which is somewhat standard) but Brother needles work best over generic ones.
Compared to the other heavy duty sewing machines in this article, the Janome HC-3000 is much more expensive. Coming in at almost twice the cost of the others, it doesn’t offer anything that the other machines have, other than the design and color. It does, however, come with a hard cover which is a big value in itself.
- Heavy duty construction, including an aluminum body
- Removable free arm, great for sleeves or hemming pants
- Built-in needle threader, bobbin winder that stops automatically,
- 18 stitches, including a buttonholer and easy to use selection dial
- Accessories included: Two needle packs, 13 custom feet for various projects and types of fabric, extra bobbins and notions. Also comes with a hard plastic carrying case.
- Extra high presser foot lift for getting through multiple layers of fabric easily
- The reference chart under the top cover is a great guide to finding the right stitch for every project
- Outer casing is aluminum rather than plastic
- Comes with a hard cover carrying case that makes transport easy
- Buttonholer is a four-stitch process, unlike the other machines with an automatic buttonholer
- High cost compared to other similarly suited models
- Machine is very heavy and is not ideal if you need to travel with your sewing machine for work
- Easy to use when sewing multiple layers of fabric
- Bobbin winder does not work well compared to other models
- Great storage inside the unit for all of the extra feet and bobbins
- Built to withstand even the toughest projects
The Singer 4411 Sewing Machine is a great machine for heavy duty projects. Compared to the other Singer models, it doesn’t come with as many bells and whistles like programmed stitches and accessories, but the bottom line is that it will get the job done.
- Durable metal frame and stainless steel bedplate, built to last
- 11 built-in stitches including 6 basic and 4 decorative stitches, along with an automatic buttonhole stitch
- Adjustable stitch length, needle position and presser foot to accommodate lightweight and heavy duty fabric with ease and precision
- Top drop-in bobbin
- Comes with four presser feet: All-purpose, buttonhole, zipper, button
- Great machine for the price (Under $125.00)
- Easy to use right out of the box
- Does not come with as many accessories as some of the other machines
- Use a walking foot to get through multiple layers of fabric
- Outstanding machine that powers through projects as well as an industrial sewing machine
- Great speed for a heavy duty machine
The Brother Project Runway sewing machine was made for sewers who want a professional finish for their designs. While it wasn’t made to be a heavy duty machine for sewing denim, it will accommodate denim and almost any other kind of fabric, just like the machines used on Project Runway.
- 50 built-in stitches ranging from decorative to quilting, with everything you might need for just about any project, and a stitch chart to find the stitch you need
- LCD display
- Free arm for cuffs and sleeves
- Comes with 6 specialty feet and an assortment of needles for use with all projects
- Automatic buttonhole feature with five different sizes
- Top drop thread and bobbin
- Ultra lightweight and portable
- Vertical spool pin
- Perfect machine for every kind of sewing project
- Comes loaded with features and accessories
- Works for denim and heavier fabrics but is not optimized for them
- Lots of extra features are helpful but might not be necessary for the kind of work you’re doing
- Works great for multiple layers of fabric when you have the right needle, foot and stitch
- Programmed stitches are a great feature
- Open storage space in the back of the unit so all of the accessories need to be kept in the pouch provided
- Easy to use for sewers of all experience levels
What Makes A Sewing Machine Better For Denim?
Denim and other heavy duty fabrics like leather and upholstery fabrics require more effort from the sewing machine. In general, a heavy duty sewing machine features a more powerful motor along with a more solidly built frame so that it can keep up with high volumes of fabrics as well as thicker fabrics.
A thicker and more reinforced needle is required to get through the fabric, especially if you’re doing a hem or if there are two or more layers of fabric to get through. There are special needles for denim, leather and heavy duty projects. It might seem counterintuitive to use a thicker needle to get through thicker fabric, but a standard thin needle will snap too easily.
It also helps to have a denim needle because you will likely be using denim thread, which is a heavier weight than standard thread so your sewing machine has to work through thick material and thread.
A denim presser foot, also called a jeans foot, is helpful to make tidy, straight stitches in denim. It’s helpful to use a straight stitch plate in conjunction with the denim presser foot to keep the stitching extra tidy.
Given all of the considerations that come with sewing denim, it’s all the more important to have a sewing machine that can more easily accommodate denim.
Of all the sewing machines reviewed, the best sewing machine for denim is the Singer 4452. Given the price, features and accessories that come with this machine, it’s the best value overall.
It’s worth noting that each machine has its benefits and for many people sewing is about brand loyalty as much as it’s about function. The goal is to find a machine that fits your individual needs based on the kinds of projects you’re working on. And what works for you might not work for someone else. Any one of the sewing machines listed in this guide will get the job done so the most important thing is that you choose the one that makes sense for you.