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What Is An Oscillating Hook Sewing Machine? Learn More Here!

Our Guide To Oscillating Hook Sewing Machines

If you are looking into buying a new sewing machine you might have come across both an oscillating hook sewing machine and a rotary hook machine and wondered what the difference is? 

An oscillating hook sewing machine has a hook which oscillates back and forth, picking up the thread from the top of the needle and bringing it down to the top of the bobbin, releasing it just as the loop is created.

In our guide below, we will take you through in more detail what an oscillating sewing machine and rotary hook machine are and their pros and cons to help you decide which machine to pick.

What Is An Oscillating Hook Sewing Machine? 

Before we get into the pros and cons of an oscillating hook machine, let’s start with some detailed basics on how this sewing machine works. 

To begin, the sewing machine hook picks up the upper thread just like a rotary hook and then carries it down to the bobbin, the difference is that this hook stops just past centre of the bobbin, forcing the tension of the thread to pull the loop up. 

The take-up lever in these machines just like rotary hook systems helps to remove slack in the loop of the thread, when the needle reaches the top of the machine it goes down while the hook is in reverse till it is opposite to the needle. 

When the needle moves back up again and the loop starts to form the hook changes direction so as the point is facing the needle, picking the heavier thread at the top up again and bringing it down to form a stitch.


  • Cheaper. 
  • Less maintenance. 


  • More vibration and noise. 
  • Slower.

What Is A Rotary Hook Sewing Machine?

A rotary hook sewing machine starts just like an oscillating hook machine, picking up the top thread and carrying it down the machine to the bobbin, however, instead of stopping here it then wraps the thread around the bobbin. 

It then releases the loop on the other side of the bobbin in order to form a stitch, when the needle comes down on this machine the take-up lever gets ready to take the thread to the top and tighten the stitch to get rid of any slack. 


  • Speedier. 
  • Quieter. 
  • Better design.


  • Harder to maintain. 
  • Expensive.

Which Type Of Hook Sewing Machine Should I Choose?

Overall, both types of hooks on domestic machines both produce a lock stitch in your work without too much difference in quality, but if factors like speed are important to you in a sewing machine we would then suggest going with a rotary hook, these are high-speed machines producing 1200 stitches per minute and above for fast sewing.

These make horizontal rotary hook machines the better choice as precision machines and perfect as industrial machines. 

For people on a budget who aren’t too concerned about speed and want less hassle when it comes to maintenance then we would suggest oscillating lock stitch machines could be a better alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions About Oscillating Sewing Machines 

What hook system do vintage sewing machines use?

Vintage sewing machines typically use both an oscillating and rotary hook in their machine, you can find some vertical hook machines by Bernina.

Is an oscillating hook system slow?

Oscillating hook sewing machines are not slower, but they do vibrate more during use, making the process slower since the hook has to do a complete turn.

How many stitches per minute can an oscillating sewing machine do?

Although argued to be slower than a rotary sewing machine, you can find some types which do up to 1,600 stitches a minute the higher the quality you buy since this means a more powerful type of motor.

Which hook do industrial sewing machines use?

You will see that most industrial lockstitch sewing machines use a rotary system since they are slightly quicker for production and forming stitches.

How much do oscillating hook lockstitch machines cost?

This depends on the brand and quality, it could be anything between £800 and £3000 for large sewing machines.

Final Words

To conclude, an oscillating hook sewing machine produces lockstitches just like a rotary machine expects to release the thread rather than wrapping it around the bobbin cage, this mechanism needs much less maintenance and is often cheaper, however, rotary hook systems are a little faster and quieter, but because of this, they are more expensive.

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter is a freelance content writer who specialises in writing about travel, technology and health. When she's not traveling between her home of Tanzania and England, she writes for her blog Rightminded Travelling and features on a variety of different travel and technology sites.View Author posts

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