Choosing the Best Straight Stitch Sewing Machine
At Sailrite®, we have a phenomenal lineup of straight stitch only sewing machines that are suitable for a broad range of sewing endeavors. While all of our straight stitch machines can sew a variety of materials, each machine has its specialty.
In this blog, we'll take an in-depth look at our three straight stitch machines to help you decide which one best suits your DIY lifestyle. The machines are the Ultrafeed® LS, the Fabricator® and the Leatherwork®. We’ll cover the size, power, special features and purpose of each of these machines to help you find the right one for you!
Size & Portability
First, let's talk about size and portability. These can be key factors for some DIYers when it comes to choosing a sewing machine.
The Sailrite Ultrafeed LS is our only truly portable straight stitch sewing machine. It comes with the Industrial Carrying Case for safe transportation. The Ultrafeed sits inside the case's base and the lid attaches to the base with strong butterfly latches. Durable foam inside the lid protects the machine during transportation and even allows you to store it on its side. A handle on top of the case makes the machine easy to carry. The Ultrafeed's portability gives you the freedom to sew wherever you want — on your kitchen table, out on the patio or on any sturdy surface (even the floor)!
Another benefit of the Ultrafeed is that it’s compatible with the Monster® II Balance Wheel. This oversized balance wheel is made of nickel-plated steel. At 7 pounds, its weight creates enough momentum that you can easily hand crank the machine to sew without electricity. If you plan to take your sewing machine outside, on the road, to a farmers market or to a convention, having the ability to sew without electricity is a huge plus.
If portability is not a concern for you, consider either the Fabricator or the Leatherwork.
The Sailrite Fabricator is our full-size industrial machine. It’s designed to be a permanent, stationary workstation. The machine sits in a large tabletop that offers plenty of space for large sewing assemblies. It's perfect for job shops and intrepid DIYers who have the space and need the power of an industrial machine.
The Sailrite Leatherwork comes with a compact table for a stationary sewing setup. This tabletop is much smaller than the Fabricator's, which means it takes up less room in your home or workshop. It's perfect for DIYers who want a powerful machine in a compact size. You can almost think of the Leatherwork as semi-portable. The machine head is the same size as the Ultrafeed, and the tabletop is light enough that one or two people can pick it up and move it around.
Power & Speed Control
Next, let's talk about how much power and slow-speed control you need in your sewing machine. Both the Fabricator and the Leatherwork come equipped with the Sailrite® Workhorse® Servo Motor. This 3/4-horsepower motor is a Sailrite exclusive. It's designed for continuous use on industrial sewing machines.
The Workhorse features fully adjustable speed settings. This means you can set your top stitching speed and maintain variable speed control. Paired with a cogged timing belt and oversized balance wheel, the motor delivers incredible power while maintaining slow-speed control.
While the Fabricator and Leatherwork both have the Workhorse motor, the machines themselves have different top- and bottom-line sewing speeds. We ran speed tests by sewing a 10-layer assembly of marine canvas to determine the per-second stitch speed at each machine’s slowest and fastest operation level. For the fastest setting, we converted the number to reflect stitches per minute.
The Fabricator's ability to sew 3/4 stitch per second to 1,108 stitches per minute is one of the reasons it’s better suited for production sewing for a job shop or entrepreneurial DIYer. But by swapping out the pulley on the Workhorse, it’s possible to reduce the Fabricator’s speed range for slower stitching.
The optional Leather Craft Package for Fabricator comes with a 12-tooth cogged motor pulley. This pulley is smaller than the 21-tooth pulley that comes on the Workhorse. By reducing the size of the pulley, you reduce how fast the Fabricator’s balance wheel can spin.
When you add this speed reduction pulley to the Fabricator and set the Workhorse to its highest speed setting, it will sew from 1/2 stitch per second up to 640 stitches per minute. Turn the Workhorse down to its slowest speed setting, and you won’t be able to sew faster than 70 stitches per minute. Now that’s slow-speed control!
The Leatherwork is optimized for slower sewing without changing motor pulleys. Because stitch holes in leather are permanent, mistakes can be costly; so, a sewing machine with excellent speed control is a must for leather crafting. The Leatherwork sews 1/2 stitch per second up to 412 stitches per minute. It’s ideal for dedicated leather hobbyists as well as DIYers who are new to the craft.
And just because the Ultrafeed is portable doesn't mean it lacks power. In 2021, we introduced the Sailrite® WorkerB® Power Pack upgrade for Ultrafeed machines. This 1/4-horsepower motor features an adjustable speed dial that gives it sophisticated speed control. We ran the same 10-layer marine canvas sewing test on the Ultrafeed to determine its top- and bottom-line sewing speeds with the WorkerB system.
This revolutionary motor is compatible with the WorkerB® Balance Wheel and the Monster II Balance Wheel. Our speed test revealed that the Ultrafeed can sew 1 stitch per second up to 550 stitches per minute with the WorkerB wheel. With the heavier Monster II wheel, the machine sews 1/2 stitch per second up to 260 stitches per minute.
At 2.5 times the power of other portable motors, the WorkerB is the most powerful portable sewing machine motor in the world — a true Sailrite exclusive. Thanks to the WorkerB, the Ultrafeed has the power and durability to penetrate heavy fabric assemblies consistently for beautiful, perfect stitches.
Now let’s talk about each machine’s special features. The industrial Fabricator has a few features and capabilities that set it apart from the heavy-duty Ultrafeed LS and Leatherwork. One example is the type of walking foot that the machines have.
The Ultrafeed and Leatherwork have a standard walking foot, while the Fabricator has a compound walking foot. Both styles have their advantages. A compound walking foot is better suited for sewing through consistent material thicknesses, whereas a standard walking foot excels at climbing up and down varying thicknesses. Both designs eliminate uneven feeding and reduce fabric puckering.
Additionally, the Fabricator is packed with other features that set it up for industrial use. These include an extra-high foot lift of 9/16 inch, a large-capacity bobbin, a max stitch length of 8mm, and the ability to sew with up to size #24 needles and V-138 thread. But don't let these industrial specifications fool you — the heavy-duty Leatherwork and Ultrafeed have plenty of special features that make them powerhouses too.
For starters, their 3/8-inch foot lift can accommodate thick, multilayer assemblies. These machines are also equipped with the EZ Set™ Stitch Length Plate, which makes setting stitch length simple and ensures consistent stitches in forward and reverse. Finally, these machines can handle thinner thread than the Fabricator can, allowing you to sew lightweight home décor or clothing fabrics as well as heavier materials such as canvas and leather.
However, the three machines do share some important features. For example, they all come equipped with the Posi-Pin® Safety Shear. This patented innovation is found only on Sailrite sewing machines. The Posi-Pin is a sacrificial part that's designed to protect your machine's internal components if you sew over something you shouldn’t. If you hit a metal snap or zipper while sewing, the Posi-Pin will break at its shear point and the machine will stop operating to prevent potential damage and timing issues.
When it comes to these machines' capabilities, there’s a lot more to see where these examples came from! Download and use this chart to compare the machines’ specifications and features side by side to help determine which one is right for you:
Finally, let's discuss the purpose for your sewing. In other words, what kind of sewer are you and what materials do you sew?
Are you a job shop looking for a production machine that can run full time? If so, then the Fabricator is the machine for you. With its incredibly powerful Workhorse Servo Motor, finely machined parts and high-quality internal components, the Fabricator is engineered for constant, daily operation. It's perfect for small upholstery and canvas shops, but also beautifully handles leatherwork with the addition of specialty leather feet.
But that doesn't mean DIYers can't enjoy this machine. If you are a prolific sewer and you want the power and slow stitch capabilities of a full-size industrial machine, then the Fabricator is right for you too.
Are you primarily interested in sewing leather? Then consider the Leatherwork. This one-of-a-kind machine fills a gap in the leather sewing machine market. Its compact size and reasonable price point appeal to DIYers who want to get into leatherworking or who don't have the space for an industrial machine.
The Leatherwork’s slow-speed control and ability to sew 1/2 stitch per second are major benefits to leather crafters. Remember, stitch holes in leather are permanent, and a mistake costs in both time and materials. Leather crafters demand precision and accuracy in a sewing machine, and the Leatherwork delivers.
Another great thing about the Leatherwork is that it’s compatible with all the presser feet and feed dogs that are available for the Ultrafeed LS. That means you can change out the feet and feed dog to sew canvas, upholstery, denim and more. You're not limited to sewing leather, but you will sacrifice sewing speed.
If you want a machine with the freedom of portability and the strength and dependability of a heavy-duty sewing machine, there's nothing like the Ultrafeed LS. This sewing machine is truly in a class of its own. It boasts power in a portable package and can sew a wide variety of materials. You can move it around your house or take it on the road, to a farmers market or a sewing workshop, and more.
Plus, adding the Monster II Balance Wheel and hand crank gives you the option to sew without electricity. This feature is only available on the Ultrafeed. If you think you'll ever need the mobility of a portable unit, we strongly recommend the Ultrafeed LS.
Machine Characteristics at a Glance:
- Fully portable and easy to carry.
- Sewing speed ranges:
- From 1 stitch/second up to 550 stitches/minute with the WorkerB Balance Wheel.
- From 1/2 stitch/second up to 260 stitches/minute with the Monster II Balance Wheel.
- 6mm maximum stitch length.
- 3/8" presser foot lift.
- No table (unless purchased separately).
- Walking foot with aggressive feeder tracks.
- Oscillating hook.
- Compatible with Monster II Balance Wheel for hand cranking and sewing without electricity.
- Accommodates up to V-92 thread and size #22 needles.
- Intended for canvas, upholstery, awnings, vinyl, etc. Can do leather with appropriate presser feet and feed dog.
- Optional upgrade packages for Leather Craft, Bag Making, Upholstery & Home Décor, Speed Reduction, and Canvas & Sail for ultimate project versatility.
Shop the Ultrafeed LS Sewing Machine.
- Portable-size machine head in a compact table.
- Sewing speed ranges from 1/2 stitch/second up to 412 stitches/minute.
- 6mm maximum stitch length.
- 3/8" presser foot lift.
- Walking foot with soft knurled feeder tracks.
- Oscillating hook.
- Accommodates up to V-92 thread and size #22 needles.
- Intended for leatherwork. Can do canvas and upholstery with appropriate presser feet and feed dog.
Shop the Leatherwork Sewing Machine.
- Full-size industrial machine in a larger table.
- Standard sewing speed ranges from 3/4 stitch/second up to 1,108 stitches/minute.
- With the speed reduction system from the Leather Craft Package:
- Sews up to 70 stitches/minute at the Workhorse’s lowest speed setting.
- Sews from 1/2 stitch/second up to 640 stitches/minute at the Workhorse’s highest speed setting.
- 8mm maximum stitch length.
- 9/16" presser foot lift.
- Compound walking foot.
- Accommodates up to V-138 thread and size #24 needles.
- Large-capacity bobbin.
- Self oiling.
- Available in Standard or Deluxe Package.
- Intended for large-scale awnings, canvas, upholstery, etc.
- Can do leather with appropriate presser feet and feed dog in Leather Craft Package.
Shop the Fabricator Sewing Machine.
To learn even more about our three straight stitch sewing machines and all they have to offer, check out our other blogs:
"Why Choose the Fabricator Industrial Sewing Machine?"
"Why Choose the Leatherwork Sewing Machine?"
We hope this blog has helped you learn the biggest differences between our straight stitch sewing machines. Now that you're equipped with the characteristics and qualities of each machine, you're ready to choose the one that best suits your sewing needs. Let us know if you have any additional questions regarding our selection of straight stitch sewing machines. You can contact Sailrite via phone, email and the chat function on our website.
This blog was updated in February 2023 to reflect changes to Ultrafeed naming conventions and accessories included with purchase, and to update machine sewing speed ranges.