So I grew up with a mom who could sew. I mean lots of mom's can sew, but my mom can really sew. I mean she has made clothing and stuff, but she has also made wedding dresses, hand made quilts and re-upholstered 18th century furniture.
To say I had a good teacher would be an understatement.
When we got into sailing, it became readily apparent that we would need to learn how to re-make lots of canvas stuff as well as cushions and covers and sails. After burning up three new machines in three months and royally pissing off the local Sears store, we broke down and went to Sailrite and bought an industrial sail sewing machine.
We've had our Sailrite LSZ-1 machine for 8 years and 30,000 miles. I've probably sewn more than 2 million stitches in upwards of 500 hours of use and other than some surface rust on the outside of the machine we have had absolutely no problems what so ever.
Our machine originally cost $600, which is not cheap to be sure, but I really think this is one of those occasions where having the right tool for the job is what separates amateurs from professionals.
I've regularly sewn through 8 layers of Sunbrella without having any sort of binding or needle breakage problems. Maintenance is minimal and mostly kept to regular oiling and needle replacement.
Despite the cost, if you ever tackle a serious sewing job, like say a sail or all the interior cushions, you'll pay for the machine in savings from using the local canvas shop. Just as an example, we got four quotes for a new ASM spinnaker for Dream Catcher and the cheapest one was $3500. We got a laser-cut, custom colored kit from Sailrite for $750 and with 50 hours of our own time, we were up and running.
If your going to be doing any sewing at all, look into getting an industrial grade machine.