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Choosing Your First Embroidery Machine

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We get asked this question a lot -- which embroidery machine should I buy?These tips will help you purchase the right machine the first time.

No doubt you will have seen some of the amazing embroidery sewing machines that are available now. Thanks to modern technology, scanning, programming and creating designs can now be a part of everyday home sewing and home embroidery.

A good sewing machine dealer will be happy to let you try different machines and will show you how they work. You should sit down and play with them until you have a good feel for the machine.

There are three starting questions you need to know the answers to before you decide on which machine to buy....

1) Is this for hobby or business use?

2) What size embroidery field do you want to sew?

3) How much are you willing (or able) to spend?

The first question is "business or hobby?" If it is for hobby use, there are lots of options, starting around $500 and going up - way up!  For a business, you will need a machine that can sew a lot of stitches pretty quickly.  A home machine does not need to be as fast or heavy-duty as a business machine.

The second question is about "field size." The more expensive machines will sew designs larger than 4" x 4" without needing to re-hoop your design to continue. While rehooping is an option, it is another step and another opportunity for error. Almost all the designs we make fit in a 4"x4" hoop, but there are plenty of designs that won't on the market. Home machines can go up to 10" x16" sewing area. Commercial machines can do the back of a jacket with one hooping. If you will be happy with a 4"x4" hoop, you can save quite a bit of money on the machine cost.

The third question is "how much are you willing or able to spend?"

I will start with this cost question first, since it is usually for most in people's minds. There are several home machines around $500 and the top end home machines sell for about $7,000 list price. Commercial machines start around $7,000 and go up to $20,000 for a "single-head" machine. A single head machine embroiders one garment at a time. A two-head machine will be more like $30,000 to $40,000, and so on.  A commercial machine is necesary for mass production sewing. So... for home use, budget from $1,000 to $7,000.  For a business, budget $7,000 to $20,000 or more.

Get an idea about what you'll get for your money in various price ranges.

0-$200 USD: "Disposable" machines with plastic cams (parts) that are hard to find/replace. Common brands in this price range are "Brother", Some very low end "Singer" and "Kenmore" brands and some less well known brand names such as Riccar thrown in for good measure. If you're purchasing the machine at a department store such as Kmart or Walmart, this is likely what you are getting.

$200-$600: Average machines which will do well for the occasional seamstress, but will not hold up well long term if you are doing a lot of sewing. (i.e. more than once a week) Good name brands in this price range are Singer, Bernina, White, Janome etc. These machines can occasionally be found in higher end department stores such as Sears or JCPenney.

$700 to $2000: Machines in this price range tend to last longer because they are made from better materials and are engineered better. They also have much better availability of replacement parts for repair. Most good brands will have machines in this price range as well as in the average price range. Mid-range to higher-end Baby Locks, Bernina, Viking Husqvarna, Janome, Juki, Pfaff and a few higher end Singers can be found in this range. Machines in this range are generally not available in department stores and must be purchased either from a sewing shop or online.

A long-arm quilting machine. $2000 and up: Machines used by tailors, seamstresses, upholsterers and others who use their machines on an almost daily basis. Machines over $2000 USD tend to be specialty machines such long arm quilting machines, upholstery machines, and embroidery machines. Many sewing shops will rent you time on these machines for a very reasonable fee, saving you the time and expense of purchasing your own (and the space to store them).

A serger or overlock machine. The serger, or overlock, machine is another type of specialty sewing machine. It sews with multiple needles and multiple threads to create stitches better suited to stretchy fabrics, such as those used for t-shirts and swimsuits. It is probably not what you want for general purpose sewing. If a serger is the kind of machine you want, they also range from about $200 on up into the low thousands of dollars


Try before you buy.

You should visit your local embroidery machine dealers and try a variety of different machines to see what you like. Bring your own thread and your own fabric (of types similar to that with which you plan to do your regular sewing) to try the machines with. Note that some dealers will offer to provide these items for you. You should try your own anyway, as they may provide thread and fabric which the machine handles well, but that you wouldn't actually want to use.

Be familiar with the hardware requirements. 

If you want to connect your sewing machine to a computer for doing machine embroidery make sure that it can be connected to your type of computer. For example, some sewing machines do not connect to Macintosh computers, or your laptop may not have the correct port.


Most importantly, take into consideration the price of software needed.

Dealers will always want to sell you the latest software to go with your machine.  While some brands require brand specific software and hardware, others can use just as well generic programs like Embird and the Ultimate Box.  Do your research before you purchase your machine and it could save you money in the future.

After you have your machine try some Machine Embroidery Tips for Beginners. Happy Stitching!


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