SOFTGOODS: sewing machine info

I started working at a medium-sized firm that does luggage and bags almost exclusively. We don’t have a sewing machine around the office, something that I thought was crazy at first, but have gotten used to. On a recent project, I found myself wishing that we had a way to try construction methods, both for internal purposes and to demonstrate ideas to factories.

I’m trying to make a case for purchasing a machine and would like to know:
A. How often do other softgoods designers use your machines?
B. What is a good machine for the job?

Thanks for helping out!

I worked in softgoods doing luggage for about 5 years and we (designers) never touched a sewing machine. Granted we had a very skilled sample shop, we designed based on our knowledge of what can reasonably be done.
If you don’t have a resource like a skilled sample shop it might be worth having one but the whole pattern-making and sewing processes are another skill set all together. Maybe you guys could hire someone specifically for that position, you wouldn’t want to spend lots of time grappling with your specific sewing abilities instead of designing.

As for machines, from what I understand you will need an industrial machine (much stronger than your regular machine for sewing clothes) since under some situations you’ll be going through 8 layers of fabric.

Thanks for the reply, Skinny. Very valid points all. One question: Did you have a sample shop on site? That would be fantastic!

This is an interesting question. You should definitely talk to local/ regional Industrial Sewing company- drop me a PM if you need one.

It’s my experience that finding a machine that can do a lot of different types of stitches is going to be very difficult. Even with a cervo motor, the functions of each machine are not usually combined. Let alone if you need a wheel feed machine or a needle feed machine.

In short, the decision is going to be based on what you’re output needs are.

I have a Patch machine next to my desk, which is great for one off footwear- but there are limits too. The functionality of the rotating foot is huge for modifying existing footwear/ softgoods. I’ve modified a decent amount of luggage, and it works well.

Now we are talking my language.
#1 are you a skilled sewer/stitcher?

I am a HUGE fan of working out ideas on your own prior to going to the sample shop because of the time needs as in:

  • Send sketch-tech pack wait for days if not weeks get the wrong interpretation back resend new info, this can take three to four rounds to get correct. As you probably know.

There is your justification in a nut shell, everything else is fluff.

There are two different machines that you should consider.

A.) First choice is called a “walking foot” industrial machine. This is what is typically used in upholstery, leather and canvas product work.

B.) Roller foot attachment industrial machine, this is not as heavy duty as the walking foot but is good enough for general canvas and light weight leather work.

Remember to get as many different feet and attachments for the machine as you can such as zipper foot, piping foot, binding foot & attachment etc.

I could go on and on but I will stop here. If you have any questions related to sewing please feel free to ask I am very experienced with all phases including pattern making and such.

As stated above. If you are not skilled in this area I would not attempt to become introduced while on the clock for an employer and when it comes to hiring stitcher’s remember to get someone that works specifically with the materials and construction techniques you will be needing.

Take Care,

below is a typical industrial walking foot machine, make sure you get the table (stand) and motor. These machines are usually sold by the item unless you state otherwise.

here is a link to the site I grabbed this pick, I can not vouche for anything other than reference from this company.


I forgot:
Stay away from multi function machines. You will find that industrial machines are specific.

The only machine I would consider that was multi function is a straight/zig zag stitch industrial machine but this is geared more to the apparel business.

Zig zag stitch is not usually used in the luggage industry unless it’s decorative.
Sail makers use industrial zig zag machines but that is the only stitch it does.


I can see why you might think that having a sewing machine in house would be good for quick mockups, but i think Skinny really touched on it -

not only are the machines very specific, and the skills required to use one as well, but you dont want to limit your design based on what you can stitch.

i’m a big fan of getting to know the manufacturing processes involved in design to make you a better designer, but i have also seen many times designers limit their design because of a some limit in knowledge. designing only what you can 3d model…designing only what you can make in the shop… etc.

this is a dangerous habit to form.

better yet, i’d suggest that you try to take some trips out to the manufacturer (or local sample shop if thats not possible). find out how they do things, ask a lot of questions, and when they say they can’t do something, ask “why?”. this is to get in more in touch with how the things you design are made.

once you learn how/why they work (or don’t- it may not always be a limitation in technology, but sometimes cost, time, etc.), you will be in a better position to explain what you want in terms they can understand.

guaranteed, that once you know how to communicate (drawings, text, etc.) in a language they can understand, you can do so quicker than trying to stitch up your own wonky sample. in the end, you will find that also leaving something for your supplier to work out can be advantageous, as no matter how much you learn, they will have more experience. you’ll learn to explain the minimum in design intent, and suggest a process, expecting their experience to add even more.


I did some work for the place Skinny used to work for. They had the sample shop right next to the design studio, literally in the next room. It was a great set up…

I appreciate all the input on this. Unfortunately, I think my (any the other designers) lack of hands-on sewing knowledge, lack of money, and time needed to learn are going to prohibit me from trying to make any of this a reality. Looks like I’m going to have to just work on clearer communication and bone up of my technical knowledge.

I’m really glad I checked with all of you before trying to make a case for this to the higher-ups.

And if I need any construction/sewing questions asked, I’m coming right back here!

thanks for the advise, it was very helpful to me good luck and continue making good posts like this one bye :slight_smile: