How to Choose an Embroidery Machine for Home Use

Sewing & Embroidery

Which embroidery machine should I buy?

The question of which embroidery machine to buy comes up again and again. However, this question is neither simple, nor to answer in a general way, but depends on many factors. THE perfect embroidery machine for everyone does not exist. Therefore, you should simply ask yourself a few questions before you begin your search:

What do I want to do with the embroidery machine?

Don’t just answer “embroider”. But think of a concrete project. Where should the embroidery go, how big should it be, what kind of motif? On what fabric?

Am I prepared to deal intensively with the subject?

You won’t be able to get around things like software, formats, stabilizers, types of thread, and fabric texture. Embroidery has a lot to do with experience. Are you prepared to accept failure and produce a piece for the garbage can?

Embroidery is like being able to work magic

Embroidery is a great hobby, whether you use it to supplement your sewing projects or just to embroider. It also offers lots of possibilities for expansion. Many embroidery machines have accessories available for purchase that can be used to perform very specific techniques. With software, you can develop your own personal projects. But, as can also be seen with the sorcerer’s apprentice: All this does not happen overnight, and you are a magician.

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The desire is there – which embroidery machine should it be?

To help you find the right embroidery machine, we’ve covered a few different topics here that you should keep in mind during your search. This does not mean that you will have a specific model in mind at the end of our article.

The topics at a glance:

  • Frame size.
  • Frame shape and construction.
  • Single or combination model.
  • Needle count.
  • Software.
  • Display size.
  • Accessories.
  • Free arm.
  • Bobbins.
  • Embroidery design format.
  • Positioning.
  • Utilization

The frame size

The maximum embroidery area is indicated on every embroidery machine. In our store, you will find this under the “Datasheet” tab in the “Embroidery” section. Please note the point “Maximum embroidery area when embroidering without offset”. Below this, you will find the embroidery area for an offset frame (if available). However, this is not included in the scope of delivery and to divide an embroidery for this frame, the software is usually required, or a motif specially made for this purpose.

Embroidery sizes start at 4 x 4″. Other sizes vary depending on the manufacturer, for example, one manufacturer offers 10 x 6″, another 11 x 6″. So the ratio between length and width can vary. The largest embroidery area on single-needle machines at the moment is 16 x 11″.

Think about what you want to embroider. If it’s only going to be occasional monograms or small motifs on children’s clothing, 4 x 4″ will suffice. If you want to embroider large motifs or are already interested in ITH files, such as those used for stuffed animals or small bags, this area will not be enough for you.

You can also just browse the net for motifs you’d like to buy. How big are they?

Keep in mind that you can’t change the maximum embroidery area of your machine, even by purchasing a larger hoop. And embroidery designs can’t simply be scaled down to fit the hoop.

Frame shape and design

Generally, embroidery surfaces are rectangular. Extremely rare are oval embroidery surfaces. This should be considered when purchasing an embroidery design. Sometimes a rectangular embroidery design may not fit in the hoop due to the edges hitting the rounded area. The XL 10 x 6″ hoop from BROTHER has a guaranteed embroidery area of 6.452 square inches.

There are also differences in frame design, especially in terms of closure.

Even the attachment to the machine is different. With JANOME, the embroidery arm is located at the back or on the right, which saves space. The different frame holders make it easier to slide on a manufacturer, but not every embroidery machine recognizes the attached frame by itself.

However, these are usually factors that you only find annoying or advantageous over time, depending on your experience.

Do you prefer a pure embroidery machine or a combination model?

Opinions often differ on this subject. In the end, it always depends on your personal situation. Do you have space for two separate machines? Keep in mind that an embroidery machine also needs space to move the hoop. With an embroidery area of 16 x 10″, it already becomes tight on a work surface with a depth of 23″ if there is a wall at the back. Then the machine is at the very front of the edge to take full advantage of the embroidery area of the hoop.

Consider whether you are satisfied with your sewing machine. Because often combination models also offer a bit more in terms of functions in sewing mode.

An embroidery-only machine to a sewing-only machine has the advantage that you can give one of them for maintenance and then at least still have the other machine. Also, if you like to embroider large and intricate designs, two separate machines are worthwhile. If both are from the same manufacturer, you can swap accessories like bobbins or thread spool holders.

How many needles should an embroidery machine have?

If you embroider a lot and the decision to buy a pure embroidery machine is obvious, you might also consider purchasing a multi-needle machine. There are embroidery machines up to 16 needles, they are suitable from the hobbyist enthusiast to the professional.

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Do I need special software to embroider?

No. You can embroider with any current embroidery machine without software. All machines offer at least a transfer via USB, cable. You can download embroidery files in the appropriate format to your PC, copy them there to the stick and then insert it into the machine. Completely without special software. However, without embroidery software, you cannot view the files on the PC. However, there are some free programs with which this is possible.

Important for the choice of embroidery machine: the software does not have to be from the same manufacturer. You have the free choice.

LCD or touchscreen in tablet size?

If you look at the different models, there are also huge differences in the display.

These range from the small graphics display to the 10.1-inch capacitive touchscreen. The more you want to work without a PC, the bigger the display should be. There are machines it is not only possible to view and position, but the embroidery designs can also be edited there in various ways.

lcd display of embroidery machine

Does the embroidery machine have a free arm?

When it comes to free-arm, there are two variants. Some models are designed completely with a free arm, others offer a separate frame for free-arm embroidery.

Many embroidery machines have a free arm, so the fabric can hang down and be closed to the tube on any frame.

Of course, it depends on the size, the tube must still be able to move freely around the free arm along with the hoop.

For some Janome models, there is a small free-arm embroidery hoop that can be used to embroider in sleeves or pant legs. And multi-needle Brother models also have a free-arm around which the fabric can be draped.

However, if the embroidery machine doesn’t have a free arm, that doesn’t mean you can’t embroider in finished garments. With a little skill and practice, you can clamp the garment and put the fabric aside so that embroidery is still possible up to a certain size.

Where should the motif be placed?

Some people may not think about how to get the embroidery motif to the place where it will be perfectly displayed. Yet, this is very important, especially when embroidering finished or already cut garments. With embroidery hoops, almost all machines give you positioning templates to help with hooping. Once the fabric is in the hoop, you can also move and rotate the file directly on the embroidery machine. But there are big differences here. On simple models, you can use cursor keys to slide the design, with the needle indicating the center of the design. Other models can select any point of the file and then place it. Or even project an image of the embroidery on the fabric.

Which embroidery design format does my embroidery machine need?

The most popular embroidery design formats are:

  • PES.
  • EXP.
  • JEF.
  • VIP.
  • VP3.
  • DST.
  • XXX.

In addition, there are many other formats. With purchase samples, you can usually choose your format or get different formats together. Many freebies are in the format PES (Brother), because it was used very much from the beginning.

Depending on the manufacturer or model, there are machines that can process only one format or several, this is then called “multi-format capable”. If an embroidery machine cannot read the existing format, it must be converted into software beforehand. This is also possible with many free programs.

embroidery tools

Can I embroider leather with this embroidery machine?

The question also often arises in connection with the search for an embroidery machine. Basically, you can embroider on leather with any embroidery machine, if you assume, for example, leather for things like crawling slippers. The important thing is to have the right needle, a suitable stabilizer and the file should be designed for leather as the base fabric.

BUT: The question is not whether it will make it, but how long.

Since leather is usually very strong, the needle bar is stressed more by it than by normal materials. So it may well be that a simple embroidery machine will produce progressively worse results on leather over time, in which case it will definitely need service to get all the parts back in perfect alignment. Embroidery machines with more power will achieve a beautiful stitch pattern longer.

Essential embroidery accessories

  • Appliqué Scissors.
  • Nippers.
  • Stitch Eraser.
  • Makeup Brush.
  • Thread Stand.
  • Disappearing Ink Pen.
  • Ruler.
  • Quilting pins.

5 Things to know before you buy an Embroidery Machine – Video

Additional Questions

How much should I spend on an embroidery machine?

While high-end commercial grade multi-needle embroidery machines can go as high as $10,000, the investment for your first foray into embroidery doesn’t have to break the bank. The market offers some simpler, single needle machines with a convenient 4″x 4″ hoop that start just around $500. It’s all about balancing your budget and stitching needs. As an embroiderer myself, I believe that beginning with an affordable, user-friendly model is both a cost-effective and smart way to dive into the beautiful art of embroidery while you build your skills and confidence.

What embroidery machine can you use your own designs on?

Modern embroidery machines usually have the ability to let you input custom designs. However, to be on the safe side, make sure to look for a machine that has USB capability or any other form of design transfer method. Based on my personal experience with many embroidery systems, these machines will specify in their descriptions and manual if they have this custom design feature.

Do you need a computer for an embroidery machine?

Given the digital nature of today’s embroidery designs—they’re majorly sold online or via USB memory sticks—you will indeed need a computer. The role of the computer, along with dedicated software, is to download and store your selected designs and subsequently transfer them to your embroidery machine. Based on my lifelong passion for embroidery, staying updated with technology greatly expands the potential of your designs and patterns, making a computer a worthwhile companion in your embroidery journey.

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