Personal sewing machines come in three basic types: mechanical, which are controlled by wheels and knobs; electronic,which are controlled by buttons and may have additional features; and computerized, which are controlled by customizable software that can offer more than 100 stitch options. Serger machines, quilting machines and embroidery machines are all specialty types of sewing machines.
There are four main types of industrial sewing machines, which differ in the design of the needle post and arm. The flatbed is the most common type, and it closely represents the personal sewing machine. It is used to sew flat pieces of fabric together.
The cylinder-bed features a narrow, horizontal column instead of a flat base. The diameter varies from 5 to 16 centimeters. This type of machine is commonly used to sew cuffs on a shirt, and it can also be used to sew saddles and shoes.
The post-bed has a flat base and a vertical column of bobbins, feed dogs and loopers that rises 4 to 18 inches above the base. This gives the user access to hard-to-reach areas and makes the machine useful for sewing emblems or making boots and gloves.
The off-the-arm type is the least common, and it requires the user to feed material along a horizontal column. This type is used for sewing sleeves and shoulder seams, as the length of the seam is limited by the length of the column.