Choosing An Embroidery Machine: 12 Must-Have Tips

Choosing an embroidery machine is important not only from a technical perspective but also as a considerable investment. Not sure what machine to buy? These tips will help you purchase the right machine the first time.

Bernina Machine Cutaway

Embroidery machine cutaway photo via Bernina

Depending on the model, you could buy a big chunk of a good used car with the money spent on an embroidery machine. Any large expenditure merits some research. After all, how many embroidery machines will you buy in your lifetime?

Here are 12 things to consider when choosing an embroidery machine.

1. What brand is best?

For the most part, the name brands are all good quality. Check the manufacturers’ blogs and forums to get a feel for customer satisfaction. The biggest bonus is the dealer. Find an enthusiastic dealer who excels in customer service and support and chances are good that you will be happy with your purchase.

2. How do you plan to use the machine?

Is it for home use or business use? Business embroidery is best done on commercial machines which are built specifically for mass production and continuous hours of operation.

3. Does it feature minimal requirements of your must-have list?

Certain functions are essential to your individual sewing needs, like automatic thread cutting, bobbin winding from the needle, pressure sensor or needle threader.

Designer Diamond

Designer Diamond photo via Husqvararna Viking

4. What is the throat width?

Some of the newer models have throat widths (the amount of space between the needle and machine body) that rival long-arm machines. It gives you more room to move around, allows use of larger hoops and is ideal for machine quilting of any kind.

Bernina 880

Bernina 880 photo via Bernina

5. Is the embroidery unit separate from the sewing machine?

If it is, you will be able to use the machine for sewing and quilting as well as embroidery. It is also an economical way to buy a sewing machine to which you can add embroidery capabilities later.

Bernina-Jumbo-Hoop

Jumbo hoop photo via Bernina

6. What hoop sizes are available?

Hoop sizes range from 100 x 100 to 360 x 350 and beyond. If your largest hoop size is 100 x 100, it limits the size of in the hoop embroidery designs or projects that can be stitched.

7. What optional accessories are available?

Find out extras you can add on later such as different presser feet, a quilting table or attachments for special techniques. Buy a machine you can grow into!

8. Are the embroidery designs built in or are they separate?

Some embroidery machines only have designs built into the memory. To access as many stitch and design files as possible, machines should also connect directly to a computer or load files from a thumb drive.

Babylock Endurance

Endurance II photo via Baby Lock

9. What kind of portal is used to transfer and access designs?

Early machines used floppy disks to transfer designs from the computer to the embroidery machine. Others use a data card or “magic box.” You will want USB connectivity with embroidery designs accessible from a jump drive or directly through a USB cable to the computer.

10. Can you get digitizing software specifically for your machine?

To run the whole gamut, you may want to digitize, customize and create your own designs. A variety of digitizing programs exist depending upon how detailed you want to get. Some are brand specific and others are compatible with any embroidery format.

11. Do owner’s classes come with the machine?

Most dealers provide at least one owner’s class and offer refresher classes on basic machine functions. Once you are comfortable with how your machine operates, you can benefit from project and technique classes.

12. What warranty and service is included?

Dealers have trained technicians on site or under contract which saves a lot of time and worry when your machine needs cleaned or serviced. Otherwise, you would ship it off to the manufacturer for repair which is timely, costly, and risky.

Nobody wants to buy a machine and then find out you’d rather have a different model. A little bit of research is time well spent when investing in an embroidery system.

Once you select your embroidery machine, get started learning new techniques for FREE! Join the online Craftsy class Machine Embroidered Classics at no cost, and find out how to personalize pillowcases, kitchen towels and even high-pile bath towels—the perfect touches for your home.

What tips do you have for choosing an embroidery machine?

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2 Responses to “Choosing An Embroidery Machine: 12 Must-Have Tips”
  1. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth

    Very good information here, but I have several more thoughts.
    1. You aren’t just buying a machine, you are investing in a relationship with a dealer. Make sure the store is well established, they are people you can communicate with and their store isn’t on the other side of the moon.
    2. Ask a lot of questions and compare models as well as brands. These machines are incredibly expensive. You want it to challenge you and give you the opportunity to grow as a sewist, but you don’t want it to be so overwhelming that you never engage the module. In other words, don’t buy a trophy, buy a workhorse you will use.
    3. Start slow. Watch all the videos you can about your machine. Bookmark the most useful ones. These machines have so many intricacies that you will want to refer to these videos in the future. Look around the internet for sites to join about your machine or your specific sewing interest. I’m in the US, but some of my favorites are from other countries.
    4. You may need to rethink your sewing space. Embroidery machines are big beasts and there are so many accessories. Plan for as much swing space as possible.
    5. Know your learning style. Are you a middle-of-the-night video-watching problem solver? If so, keep your laptop handy. Do you need to have someone on the phone to walk you through each problem? If so, you will need to organize yourself around someone else’s availability.
    6. Embroidery machines require specific thread. It should be stored dust-free, out of the sunlight separately from other thread. Also, older thread often does not work on embroidery machines. Needles are also a specific requirement, just make sure you have the recommended brand/s.
    7. Make sure you have a place to store the boxes your machine came in. If they need service, some companies won’t accept them without the original packaging.
    8. In addition to an expensive machine, you will need to invest in more bobbins, needles, stabilizer, thread, feet, lighting, a surge suppressor, and probably more storage. Good luck!

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