Which Sewing Machine Is Right for Me?

Item # X-HT-300132

If you need a heavy-duty or industrial sewing machine, you’ve come to the right place! Sailrite has four top-quality machines to choose from. But we know that looking at the various options can feel overwhelming at times. Don’t worry — we’re here to help you pick out the best machine for you!

All Sailrite sewing machine models
Top to bottom: The Ultrafeed LS, Ultrafeed LSZ, Leatherwork and Fabricator.

Choosing a new sewing machine is a big decision, and we know you don’t take that lightly. To make your decision easier, we’re going to walk you through the thought process we’ve used for over 50 years to help customers narrow down the options. Before we get into that, though, let’s take a minute to introduce the machines.

The Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LS and LSZ are our two portable machines. These travel-ready powerhouses can sew a multitude of materials — from heavy canvas and sailcloth to upholstery fabric, soft leather and more — with help from the highly capable WorkerB® Power Pack Motor System. The LS is straight stitch only, while the LSZ can sew straight and zigzag stitches. The Ultrafeed is a great all-around option for DIYers who need a portable machine that packs a punch.

Next, there’s the Sailrite® Leatherwork®. Like the name suggests, this machine is meant for leather hobbyists, as well as DIYers just getting into leather crafting. The machine head is the same size as the Ultrafeed, but the Leatherwork comes in a stationary, compact table for small spaces. The included Workhorse® Servo Motor and speed reducer give it the power and slow speed control to punch through even the densest leathers.

Finally, we have the Sailrite® Fabricator®. This industrial, full-size sewing machine is our most capable sewing setup. It can sew all the same materials as the Ultrafeed and Leatherwork. The Workhorse gives it the power to sew extremely thick or tough materials with ease. The machine head offers extra underarm space, a higher foot lift and a larger sewing table to give you all the room you need for bigger projects and thicker materials. It’s designed with serious DIYers and job shops in mind, but casual sewers and new DIYers can benefit from it too.

Now that you’ve gotten to know each of the machines a little bit, are you ready to learn how to choose a sewing machine from Sailrite's lineup? This blog will ask you to consider three important things: zigzag stitch, portability and leather sewing. Your answers to those questions will help you determine which machine you should add to your workroom. Let’s jump in!

Do I Need Zigzag Stitch?

Zigzag versus straight stitches

The first thing to decide is whether you need to sew zigzag stitches. To do that, think about the type of sewing you want to do with your new machine. Will you sew upholstery or sails? Do you own a sailboat? What you plan to sew will dictate if you need a zigzag stitch option or if a straight stitch only machine will work for you.

Since most sewing projects are done with straight stitches, that’s all many sewers will ever use — especially those whose main projects include upholstery, leather or canvaswork. If this is true for you, we suggest looking at our straight stitch options: the Ultrafeed LS, the Leatherwork and the Fabricator.

The zigzag stitch is more of a specialty stitch, but it has its place. Zigzag stitch is a must for sail construction and repair. In fact, we recommend the Ultrafeed LSZ if you have a sailboat in general — even if you’ll mostly sew canvaswork — so you have the zigzag stitch if you ever need or want to work on your own sails.

The zigzag stitch offers more flexibility and stretch. It helps distribute stress at the seams, which is why it’s used on sails. This also makes it good when sewing stretchy fabrics like neoprene. Additionally, crafters often like to use zigzag stitch as a decorative element or for bar tacking. If you see yourself in any of these examples, look at the LSZ, which sews both zigzag and straight stitch.

Do I Need a Portable Machine?

The Industrial Carrying Case makes the Ultrafeed one of the best portable sewing machine options available.

Second, think about where you sew. A portable sewing machine is compact and can be transported around your home or to different locations. These machines are still sturdy, but their smaller size allows them to be packed up, moved around and easily stored. A nonportable machine is set up in a table, takes two or more people to move around a room, and is not easily disassembled. So which is right for you?

To decide if you need a portable or stationary sewing machine, think about your sewing space. If you live in a small home, you might want the more compact setup of a portable machine. And, of course, if you like to take your machine from place to place — like to the marina or to conventions — you will want a portable machine.

If that’s the case, an Ultrafeed is the best option for you. These machines come with a durable, reinforced case for safe transportation and storage. The case features sturdy foam pads inside the lid, strong butterfly latches and an industrial-grade handle to make moving the Ultrafeed from one place to another safe and easy.

The inside of the Ultrafeed Industrial Carrying Case

On the other hand, if you have a permanent space for a machine, you want the extra space that a table offers or you don’t need a portable machine, then consider a stationary setup. Your options there are the Fabricator and the Leatherwork. The Leatherwork features a compact table that is small enough for one or two people to move around. The Fabricator has a much larger table to accommodate big projects. Two or more people can move it if needed, but it is intended to be largely stationary.

If you want an Ultrafeed and a table, don’t worry — you can have both! Sailrite offers optional compact, full-size and collapsible tables that fit the Ultrafeed. You can get one of these if you wish and switch the machine between the table and carrying case as needed.

Will I Be Sewing Leather?

The Leatherwork is great for sewing leather.

The final consideration is whether you plan to sew leather. Leather crafting requires a sewing machine with excellent power and slow speed control. The Ultrafeed, the Fabricator and the Leatherwork can all sew leather.

The Ultrafeed is a solid choice for those who want to occasionally sew leather but who aren’t trying to build a business or a serious hobby of leather crafting. This machine is best for sewing light to medium-weight leathers.

The Leatherwork is engineered to sew up to 16-ounce leather. It can handle a huge range of leather types, including vegetable tanned, suede, saddle leather and more. It comes with a knurled presser foot that won’t damage leather. The Workhorse motor, coupled with a speed reducer, gives it unparalleled slow speed control for the most precise stitching. It’s a great introductory machine for DIYers wanting to get into leatherwork, but its power and versatility make it suitable for experienced hobbyists as well.

The Fabricator is great for anyone sewing up to 20-ounce leather. This machine also features the Workhorse for ultimate precision and control. Plus, you can get an add-on Leather Craft Package that comes with the most useful tools, machine attachments and notions for sewing leather. Those in need of a full-size, industrial machine that can run all day — such as job shops and serious leather DIYers — should consider this machine. But if you’re a novice, don’t let the Fabricator’s power scare you away. This user-friendly machine is an excellent option for new leather crafters too.

Recommendations

Now it’s time to put all this information together and bring home the right machine for you! If you've decided that you need a portable, straight stitch only sewing machine, check out the Ultrafeed LS. Got to have that zigzag stitch? The Ultrafeed LSZ is the machine for you. And with its optional table stands, your Ultrafeed can be both stationary and portable. Take an even more in-depth look at these machines by reading our blog, "Why Choose an Ultrafeed?" (#300330XHT).

Shop the Ultrafeed LSZ Sewing Machine

Shop the Ultrafeed LS Sewing Machine

Shop Ultrafeed Tables

If you think you’d rather have a straight stitch only, full-size machine that can handle a wide variety of materials and offers plenty of space to work, the Fabricator is the way to go. Visit our blog, "Why Choose the Fabricator Industrial Sewing Machine?" (#300358XHT), for more details.

Shop the Fabricator Sewing Machine

If you’re primarily interested in sewing a wide range of leather types and you want an economical, entry-level hobbyist machine in a space-saving table, check out the Leatherwork. To learn more, read our blog, "Why Choose the Leatherwork Sewing Machine?" (#300470XHT).

Shop the Leatherwork Sewing Machine

Still have questions? Feel free to contact us! Sailrite customer support is available over the phone, via email and through the chat function on our website. We'll help you find the Sailrite machine that's just right for you.

Footnote:

This blog was updated in January 2023 to reflect changes in Ultrafeed naming conventions and add information about Ultrafeed-compatible tables.