Flatbed sewing machines
A flatbed sewing machine is a traditional sewing machine design where the sewing surface is flat, resembling a table.
This sewing machine is ideal for sewing flat pieces of fabric or materials together, making it a popular choice for general apparel construction. The flat surface provides support for the material being sewn, allowing for straightforward stitching without the need for maneuvering around curves or corners. Flatbed machines are versatile and can be found in both industrial and domestic settings.
There is another type of sewing machine, called a postbed machine, that is required to construct some footwear styles, such as boots. However, I teach such shoemaking technique in all of my shoemaking classes that enables students to use a flatbed sewing machine to create all 23 types of footwear, including boots.
Here are most common flatbed sewing machines for making shoes.
Differnt types of Pfaff flatbed sewing machines
This is a high-quality walking foot machine suitable for medium to heavy leatherwork. Being an older model, its durability and robust build make it a favorite among many leather craftsmen
Known for its durability, it's a heavy-duty industrial machine often used for leatherwork. This model has a compound feed, which can handle various materials and layers, making it particularly suitable for leather.
Similar to the 1245 in its capabilities, the 545 is another heavy-duty model well-regarded in the leather community.
Pfaff 260 Automatic
This is an older domestic model, but it's known for its robust build. With the correct needle and settings, it can handle light to medium leather tasks.
Pfaff Tiptronic 6270
A domestic machine, but it's been noted for its ability to handle thicker materials when equipped with the right needle.
Pfaff Passport 2.0
While more of a portable machine, with a leather needle, it can manage light leather tasks.
Note: If you're considering using a domestic Pfaff machine for leatherwork, always remember:
- Use a leather or wedge needle.
-Employ a longer stitch length. Make sure the tension settings are appropriate for the thicker material.
-Consider using a walking foot or Teflon foot for smoother feeding.
Always test on scrap leather before working on the main project. For those looking into heavy-duty leather tasks, investing in an industrial Pfaff machine would be a wise choice.
Differnt types of Singer flatbed sewing machines
This is an industrial, heavy-duty machine, often used for sewing leather and upholstery. It's a compound feed (walking foot) machine, which is great for managing layers of leather.
Similar to the 111W, the 211 is another heavy-duty, compound feed machine. It's widely used in industries requiring leatherwork.
Although primarily a domestic machine, the 201 is known for its robust build and can handle leather, especially lighter-weight leather, with the right needle.
Another domestic machine, but it's been known to handle leather tasks, especially with the correct adjustments, needle, and thread.
Singer 206, 306, 319
These are zigzag and decorative stitch machines that, with proper setup, can manage light to medium leather sewing tasks.
This is an industrial zigzag machine. With the correct setup and needle, it can sew through leather. Its advantage is the ability to do straight and zigzag stitches.
Singer Heavy Duty 4423
While it's more of a domestic machine, the Singer Heavy Duty series has the capacity for light leatherwork tasks. It's especially suitable for beginners or hobbyists who don't want to invest in an industrial machine right away.
Necchi flatbed sewing machines
A durable, heavy-duty machine that's designed for various materials, including light to medium leatherwork.
A classic, well-regarded for its strength and ability to sew through thicker materials. It's suitable for leather tasks when outfitted with the appropriate needle and thread.
Juki flatbed sewing machines
This industrial machine is particularly suited for leatherwork. The walking foot helps ensure the leather feeds smoothly.
This single needle, lockstitch machine is great for leather projects. Though not an industrial machine, it's reliable and has a good following among those working with leather.
COBRA flatbed sewing machines
COBRA Class 4-P
A heavy-duty flat-bed walking foot sewing machine designed especially for leatherworkers. It's ideal for saddles, holsters, and thick leather products. With its powerful walking foot, it can handle several layers of leather with ease.
COBRA Class 20
A medium to light-duty machine that offers a walking foot and is designed for leather crafts, belts, wallets, bags, and more. While it might not handle the extreme thickness that a Class 4 can, it's perfect for many general leather projects.
COBRA Class 3
Another heavy-duty machine, the Class 3 is a versatile machine that can handle thick materials like the Class 4-P. It's perfect for belts, saddles, and other heavy-duty leather projects.
Other brands of flatbed sewing machines
Part of the Strong & Tough series, this domestic machine is designed for tougher tasks, making it appropriate for light leatherwork
This model is designed for light to medium leather tasks. It's a flatbed machine that's often used for detailed work and smaller leather goods
Husqvarna Viking H|Class 100Q
Husqvarna Viking primarily produces domestic machines. However, models like the H|Class 100Q, when equipped with a suitable leather needle, can handle light leather tasks.
Note: When working with leather, especially on domestic machines, it's crucial to use the right type of needle (typically a leather or wedge needle) and a suitable thread. Additionally, regularly checking and maintaining the machine will ensure its longevity and performance, especially when working with tougher materials like leather.
Advice for Shoemaking Newcomers
Drawing from my journey in shoemaking, I'd advise newcomers to consider acquiring vintage, pre-owned sewing machines. Not only are they more affordable than their brand-new counterparts, but they often offer stellar performance. Trusted brands like Pfaff and Singer have consistently manufactured machines that are not only durable but also ideally suited for specialized tasks such as shoemaking. The list I've compiled includes these time-tested machines, ensuring you get exceptional value without straining your budget. When exploring older models from Singer, Pfaff, or any other established brand, it's vital to assess the machine's condition.
Vintage machines that have received consistent care or have been expertly refurbished can serve as indispensable tools. Before finalizing your purchase, ensure you test the machine using the leather you intend to employ, guaranteeing it aligns with your expectations. Additionally, before beginning to invest your money, I advise you to understand more about the shoemaking process to determine what else you need to take into account. Additionally, I advise reading this article where I outline common errors newcomers make so that you can avoid them on your shoemaking journey.
Before finalizing your decision on which sewing machine to acquire, you might also want to explore another type: the postbed sewing machine.