Which Type of Embroidery Machine is Best for You?

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Embroidery | Comments

Today’s embroidery enthusiasts have so many options when it comes to machine embroidery! In years past, only commercial embroiderers had multi-needle machines, but that is no longer the case in our technologically advanced industry. Lets take a look at the single needle embroidery machines. If you are reading this article, chances are you own this type of machine.

Single head, single needle machine


Photos via Janome and Bernina


This type of machine looks like a traditional sewing machine with a flat bed bottom including a removable embroidery unit. Smart, user-friendly machines can be used for general sewing, creating decorative and utility stitches, or they can produce computerized machine embroidery.

There is only one head which is comprised of the needle, bobbin, thread and other metal parts. When a single needle machine is embroidering, the needle stays stationary and the embroidery arm moves according to the digitized design.

A single needle embroidery machine has only one point of hoop attachment and often has smaller hoop capabilities than a multi needle or multi head machine. Most common hoop sizes are 4” x 4”, 5” x 7”, 6” x 10” and 8” x 12” with embroidery speeds of 300 -1000 stitches per minute.


Most are fairly easy to use for the computer savvy enthusiast. Notice I said computer, because it is extremely helpful to have an embroidery software program to customize, arrange and merge designs.

This type of machine is very widely available for purchase in local sewing machine stores.


This type of machine is not efficient when embroidering several of the same samples. What I mean by this is, lets say you decided to start embroidering for money, to help support your family’s income. Time is money, so sitting by your machine to change threads at each color stop is necessary, however, it is a time waster.

Another limitation is hooping ready made garments, accessories or bags. It is very difficult to embroider on a pocket of a ready made tote bag. Due to hoop limitations and the flat bed on the machine, you would most likely have to remove the pocket from the tote, embroider it, and then reattach it. I know, you are thinking ugh! It would probably be easier just to make the tote from scratch than to rip off a pocket and try to reattach (this is one of the main reasons I purchased my first multi-needle machine).


Single head, multi-needle machine


Photo via Babylock

embroider machine

Photos via Babylock and Janome


Going from a single-needle to a multi-needle machine raises the bar for embroidery for hobbyists, crafters and home-based entrepreneurs. This home embroidery machine is the logical next step for anyone who loves to embroider and wants to have more fun, along with more embroidering capabilities.

This type of machine usually has 4 -10 needles. Each needle can hold its own thread color giving you four to ten color choices during embroidery without having to stop and change the thread colors as on a single-needle machine. Lets say you are embroidering a “plop and drop” (meaning no appliqué, trimming or special techniques involved) that has 12 color stops but it only has 10 different colors of threads used in the design (this means two of the colors are used two different times in the color sequence.) If you owned a 10 needle machine you could select your needle thread colors, hoop your fabric, push start and the machine will finish the embroidery without you having to change to a different thread color.

A multi-needle embroidery machine has two points of hoop attachment and often has larger hoop capabilities than a single-needle machine. Most common hoop sizes are 4” x 4”, 5” x 7”, 6” x 10”, 8” x 12”, 8” x 14” and 14” x 14” with embroidery speeds of 400 -1000 stitches per minute.


These machines finish most multicolor designs faster, easier, and with greater precision than most single-needle machines.

Embroider free-arm! With the purchase of additional hooping systems, you can embroider in a pocket of a man’s shirt, back jean pocket, up the leg of a pair of jeans or up a sleeve, without having to rip off the pocket or ripping up the seam of a pair of jeans. This is one of my favorite features of owning a multi-needle machine. With the optional cap frame, you can easily embroider on the front and back of your favorite baseball cap.


These are more expensive, but worth every penny. It is necessary to program color stops into the embroidery sequence so the machine will stop if you need to trim fabric when appliquéing (it’s easy; you just click a button).


Photos via DZGNS and FastFrames

Are you wondering which type of machine I own? Like you, I’m the I-want-it-all-kinda-girl! I have several different single-needle embroidery machines, and a 6 needle and a 10 needle machine. I love and use them all. When the 10 needle machine came out a few years ago, I was going to trade-in my 6 needle but decided to keep it at home and move the 10 needle to my office.

If you are thinking of starting your own small hobby embroidery home business, then you will want to check out the multi-needle machines. Go into your local sewing machine store and ask for them to demonstrate how to free arm embroider using their favorite optional hoops.


Photo via Hope Yoder

Ready to put your single-needle flat bed embroidery machine to use? Enjoy a great tutorial for creating a ready-made duffle bag. Click here to print a copy.


Photo via Hope Yoder


  1. Dona says:

    I love my 10 needle Babylock machine!!

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      I love mine too! It was $ well spent. Do you have the special frames I referred to for free arm embroidery?

  2. Missy says:

    And there is still another option for embroidery machines: Commercial multi-needle embroidery machines, which come in single head or multi-head models. The single-head machines are very similar to the machines in the blog above that have multiple needles and change colors for you. The difference? about twice as much sewing field, both deep and wide, and also more needles-mine have 15. Multi-head machines are simply several embroidery machines hooked together. You can do multiple items all at once without resetting your design again. Some single heads can be linked together to act like a multi-head embroidery machine.

    If you are really getting into embroidery and do a lot of large designs, or just want to go faster and more efficiently, don’t be afraid to investigate a commercial machine. They sound very scary..but that is where I started and taught my kids as teenagers to run them. You can too!

    negatives? Some older machines don’t have color screens, they will hit the hoop if you misjudge what will fit and don’t check (trace the design in the hoop with the machine). They are a little louder, heavier, less portable. Another positive? multi needle machines, both home and commercial models can embroider hats! And that is a huge addition to an embroidery business.

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      Yes there are even more options out there. Today’s modern technology is so awesome, I just love it.

  3. Great article on comparing these machines! Really helpful for those tyring to make a decision on which machine is best for them!

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      Thanks for the comment. I do love my multi-needle machines and all my flat beds too.

  4. Lynn says:

    I have owned single thread machines and completely wore them out, went into overload and stayed there. I invested in an Amya XT 16 thread Commercial Embroidery Machine, yes way beyond the realm of “home sewing”, the machine retails over $25,000, I love it and would never go back…..you know go big or go home, I took a leap about 6 years ago an have never had one regret if you are a serious sewer this is the ONLY American made machine and worth every penny of investment, wouldn’t trade it for 10 of any other brand I checked out, Happy, Janome, Bernina, Pfaff etc….none of them even came close. If you are considering going from single thread to multi, for you first purchase check out refurbished and used machines these are a great starting point without all the money and have a warranty….good luck fellow embroiders

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      Good to know about American Made. Thanks for your comments. Too bad there aren’t stores where you could walk in and see the multi-head machines like you can the single head multi-needle machines.

  5. Kimberlee says:

    This was a very informative article. I own a 6 needle machine that runs just about every day. There isn’t anything better for embroidering on hats. It is extremely difficult to embroider them on a flat bed machine. If you do get it embroidered your design will arc and not flow along the front of the hat.
    I have a flat bed single needle machine as well, and would agree that the best machine is the one that you are able to get local support for. Editing software is a must. It should be sold with each machine, it really isn’t an option. Have fun embroidering.

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      I agree. I have done hats, but not very often. Do you have the hat frame? How many jigs do you own? Just curious what you use your 6 needle for mostly?

  6. Denise says:

    Great article. I am going to have to take a second look at those machines when I go into my dealer. Haven’t paid much attention to them, but will now.

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      When you go in, just ask one of the employees to give you a demo. Don’t let all the knobs scare you, just think of them as a way to wrap your thread around.

  7. Joyce Barker says:

    I love my Brother 1000e. It is the best investment I have made in a long time as far as embroidery goes. Easy to learn to use. I bought it to do store samples with so far not a broken needle or thread breakage and uses pre-wound bobbins.

  8. I really like these things on this site.

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      Awesome machine backed by a great company.

  9. Virginia says:

    I have the Janome 12,000 and I agree a multi needle machine might be good if you have a large business, but the Janome quality of embroidery is outstanding and I do have a small business and am able to embroider everything. There is a hoop for every project including a hat and a large quilt. The hoops are awesome and have magnetic snaps. What you failed to mention in comparing the 2 machines is that when you purchase a Janome you get everything with it, with the Bernina everything is seperate.

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      So glad you are happy with your machine. There are so many great machines on the market and just not enough space to mention them all. I have @ 11 and wouldn’t part with any of them. Definitely place for flat bed machines and multi-needle/head machines. Most of us are the “I need it all kind of girls” so it’s awesome that we have so many choices.

  10. Marlene says:

    I have a Brother Disney Embroidery machine,i have the instruction book but I am having trouble understanding it,is their anyone put there who can help me please.

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      Hi Marlene,
      That is a great machine. Your best bet is to go back into the store from where you purchased your machine and ask for lessons or demos. Most stores have 1 or 2 FREE classes to help you learn how to use the machine that was purchased from their stores. If not it’s probably worth the $ to pay for lessons if they don’t offer this service.

  11. Darla Klatt says:

    I am going to purchase a machine as a beginner probably for less 1000.00. If anybody has any suggestions I would appreciate it.

    1. Hope Yoder says:

      My number one suggestion would be don’t buy a machine from a mass market store like a Mart or warehouse store. Buy your machine from a NICE sewing machine stand alone store that offers good customer support. Will they give you a few free lessons to learn to use your machine??? If the answer is yes and they are nice and friendly, that’s where you start!

  12. Lynne Fischer says:

    Would love a recommendation. I owned 3 single needle Brother embroidery machines. After a flood all three are sadly ruined. I want to upgrade to a multi-needle machine changing thread colors Ugh so done with that!!!! Would like a more sturdy/industrial model that will be user friendly and also providing help with trouble shooting and education on it’s use. I’m overwhelmed with the many machines out there. I do all sorts of projects including baby clothes, caps, bed linens, men’s cuffs and pockets, canvas tote bags and more. HELP!

  13. Jamie says:

    The best little secret in Texas. The Butterfly B-1501 B/T It has 15 needles on 1 head.
    Dollar for dollar this machine can manage just about anything I throw its way. I do leather jackets, baseball caps, seat covers, jerseys, etc. I think my wife has her name on everything she owns. :) Lucky I live relatively close to a distributor, because i could not find 1 review other than the one on its own site. There are so many big names on whats pretty much the same machine. I wanted something different. It is fairly new, I believe its been on the market less than a year. I had a blast with the embroidery warehouse staff. If your tired of the same old problems and poor support check out the Butterfly. They had some used brothers and melco too, but for the price I’ll take new! They’re a small enough business to care about heir customers.

  14. Kathy says:

    I do have a question. I have been searching and can’t seem to find an answer. Are you able to download designs from sites such as Etsy to use with a six needle or larger machine?

    1. Rene Rosales says:

      Kathy – There are several sites that sell designs that work well with multi-needle machines. Having digitized for 15 years, I can honestly say that even designs made for home (1-neeedle) embroidery machines can work on large commercial embroidery machines if they are properly digitized for the fabric/ garment type they were intended to sew on, and are in a compatible format (such as .dst, .exp, etc). That being said, I generally the overall quality of designs from established sites like Great Notions, OESD, and Dakota Collectibles seem to work well on my commercial embroidery machines. There are other design companies, but these are the big ones that come to mind that I have had good personal success with. Hope that helps!

  15. Anni says:

    I have a Bernina Aurora 450 sewing/embroidery machine. Love it for sewing, but find it cumbersome to use for embroidering. Must have laptop connected to machine, lots of cords, etc. I’m sure if I used it more I’d come more proficient, but just want it for home projects and gifts.
    Anyone have any recommendations for an easier embroidery machine? I’m not looking for an investment piece. Much thanks.

  16. Beverly says:

    My mother has just started her own Sewing/Alterations Shop at a military base. She has a large military customer base and has a need to make her own name tapes for the uniforms. She doesn’t need anything huge or fancy. What machine or kind of machine would you reccomend? She also can not yet afford to pay $5000 for a quality machine. Is it possible to get a good, reliable machine for about $2000 or less? Please help. I have been looking around but I really don’t know where to start. I would appreciate any help that you have to offer. Thanks!

  17. Shelly Clontz says:

    I am planning on purchasing a new machine. I have narrowed it down to the Husqvarna Topaz 30 or the Bernina 580B. I have read reviews regarding the Topaz 30 relating to tension issue but nothing about the Bernina 580. Has anyone had any experience with the Bernina 580? Looking for input. Thanks!

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this information.I use Brother 1000 embroidery Machine. Its not costly, worth buying and works awesome. I am thinking to buy another machine for my mom and your article will be helpful for me.

  19. Vicky says:

    I want to buy my first embroidery machine. I’d like to earn a little cash by doing things for teacher friends- totes, shirts, towels, jeans, etc. Also hope to stsrt badic quilting soon. Suggestions? Thank you!

  20. Roxanna says:

    I am thinking of buying a Brother Innov-IS 1500 D. I wanted a machine that embroidery up to at least a 6×8. I have never embroidered before. I only have an old singer sewing machine from 1972 and I love it but want to learn more now. What is your opinion on the brother 1500 D or what would you suggest? Thanks,

  21. Marie says:

    I bought a Singer CE200 several years ago and have had nothing but trouble. It is not reliable. I have changed out bobbin cases, etc, and nothing helps. You can embroider a name and in the middle of the letter it will decide to drop stitches so you have a huge gap or will move somehow and be misaligned. This is without changing thread or anything that would cause a problem. It doesn’t even sew very well. Constant tension issues.

  22. GutStix says:

    Hey All,

    Im a fishing rod builder that sales shirts and hats too. I would like to do my own embroidery for the hats. Can you guys please suggest a machine for me? Quailty is important and i would like muit color.

    John G

  23. Karan sharma says:

    Hello Hope Yoder,

    I have 15 commercial multi head embroidery machines in my shawl manufacturing unit. 6 machines specification is 19/250/1000/1800mm , 6 are 27/180/840/1800mm and 3 are 19/270/1000/1800mm. If anybody is interested to work with me then please contact me.

    With regards,
    Karan sharma

  24. Deborah Hand says:

    I am wanting to purchase a single head, multi needle embroidery machine but don’t know what to get. I would like to start out with a refurbished machine but not sure where to look. Any suggestions?

  25. Kayla says:

    I have never owned any embroidery machines, just a small sewing machine, but I am looking into purchasing one and don’t have a clue Where to start. Your article is great, I’m leaning more towards the bigger machine, but is that a good place to start? Thanks so much!:) I’m glad I ran across your page when I was googling the machines! :)

  26. Does anyone know if any of the lower end machines allow you to add your own logo? I own a small business and would purchase a machine simply to logo my own shirts and hats and etc. But, I need to have the logo that approved by corporate so it needs to be in a specific font. Thank you.