Sewing has once again become a very popular hobby. With improved technology and lower pricing, so is machine embroidery. Embroidery machines, once way too expensive for the average home crafter, are now available at very reasonable prices.
With all the features, price points and accessories, if you're not experienced with embroidery machine basics, choosing a machine that's right for you can be confusing.
To help de-mystify what an embroidery machine can and can't do, we've put together a guide to help point you in the right direction!
This guide is pretty long so you can skip to the specific model you want to research by using the table right here.
Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing and 4x4 Embroidery Machine
- Inexpensive price for new sewers who want to try embroidery without a big investment
- PC connectivity to download updates as well as USB flash drive design upload
- Automatic needle threader
- Lightweight and portable at only 11 pounds
- 4″x4″ hoop size limits design choices
- 400 stitches per minute
- Small memory capacity limits the number of designs that can be stored on machine
The Brother SE400 is a lightweight machine has the basic features you need to start embroidering small appliqués and designs. This is an entry level, sewing and embroidery machine that's perfect for someone who wants to try out the technology without a huge monetary commitment.
It comes with a 4" x 4" embroidery hoop and features 67 different decorative stitches, 5 built-in fonts, 70 embroidery designs, an automatic needle threader, and bobbin winder.
Brother LB6800PRW Project Runway Computerized Embroidery And Sewing Machine
- Includes a rolling travel case
- PC and USB flash drive connectivity
- Automatic needle threader
- 4″x4″ hoop size limits design choices
- 400 stitches per minute
- Small memory capacity limits design storage
This machine is very similar to the Brother SE400 machine. The package, however, includes the rolling carrying case, so it’s a perfect machine for the sewist-on-the-go! Whether you’re a fashion design student, sewing snowbird, embroidery seminar attendee or simply want easy portability, this machine and carrying case duo might be worth a look.
The Project Runway machine features a rolling carrying case, 67 decorative and utility stitches, five different fonts built in, 70 embroidery designs, and a 4″ x 4″ embroidery hoop.
Nice additions include the automatic needle threader and bobbin winder.This model comes with a USB connector so that you can import new designs.
Brother PE 770 Embroidery-Only Machine
- Automatic threader
- Easy threading system
- Maximum 650 spm
- Bobbin winder
- Easy snap-on hoop attachment
- Built-in memory to store favorite designs
- On-screen tutorials and reminders
- Fairly large footprint – 16.77″ x 21.26″ x 17.28″
- Comes with only the 5″x7″ hoop, but you can purchase smaller hoops
Please realize that this machine only does embroidery, using the attached hooping system, so you can’t use it for sewing. With that little disclaimer out of the way, this machine may be a perfect machine for the embroidery hobbyist, if you already own a standard sewing machine.
It has many of the features of a more costly machine. With the ability to do larger designs, you may never outgrow it. It’s not the inexpensive, but it’s a good value for the money.
Features of the PE770 include a 5″x7″ embroidery hoop, 136 built-in embroidery designs, six fonts, ten frame shapes, 12 different border styles, on-screen editing features, on-screen tutorials / how-to screens, and USB and card slot connectivity for importing designs.
Singer Futura XL-400
- Large design area
- Two hoops
- Variable speed
- Must be connected to a computer to run the embroidery function of the machine
With 30 sewing stitches and 125 embroidery designs, you're able to do both straight sewing and embroidery. This machine has a large 6"x10" hoop, so you can easily do large projects.
The package includes a basic embroidery design software that's upgradable, so you can create your own designs and import them into the machine.
For the person who does more sewing, but wants the versatility of an embroidery machine, this is a sound choice at a reasonable price.
Features of the Singer Futura XL-400 include 125 embroidery designs, 30 frames, five fonts, 30 sewing stitches, two automatic buttonhole stitches, SwiftSmart threading system, a USB port for uploading designs, embroidery design software, 10" x 6" and 4" x 4" hoops.
Brother PE525 Embroidery Machine
- Inexpensive investment for someone who wants to try out the technology
- Small and lightweight for easy portability
- A user may quickly grow out of the 4″x4″ size
The Brother PE525 is a petite, lightweight machine that's perfect for travel or situations where there's little room for equipment.
This is an embroidery only machine, and while it's limited to a 4"x4" hoop, there are loads of smaller projects that are perfectly suited for this tiny workhorse. It features five built-in fonts and 70 embroidery designs to choose from.
It also comes with a 4"x4" embroidery hoop and has an automatic needle threader. The PE525 comes with a USB port for using with embroidery software on your computer.
Singer SE300 Legacy Sewing And Embroidery Machine
- Large 10″x6″ design area
- Sew at up to 800 spm
- Free online class
- Screens are not very intuitive
- High learning curve that may be confusing to a new sewer
With loads of utility and decorative stitching, as well as an LCD screen to control your stitches and embroidery designs, this machine will have you sewing and embellishing creations with the help of an online class you can access anytime.
Although the Singer Legacy is a bit pricey, it's a solid investment for someone who's serious about sewing and embroidery. A free online owner's class will help get you up and running with confidence.
The SE300 Legacy comes with six built-in fonts, 250 stitches, and 200 embroidery designs, to start. It also comes with 10 snap-on presser feet can handle up to 800 stitches per minute (SPM) and a USB port and downloadable software for embroidery tasks.
One nice touch is the 10" x 6" embroidery hoop, which is larger than some similar machines in its price range (a 4"x4" hoop is included, as well).
Brother Designio DZ820E Embroidery Machine
- On-screen editing features
- On-screen tutorials and help pages
- Comes with several hoops
- 650 spm maximum speed
- Bright work surface
- Small LCD screen
- Large footprint when work space is small
The Brother Designio DZ820E is another embroidery-only machine, so it's a good choice for sewists who already have a standard sewing machine and wish to try out machine embroidery.
More costly than some models, this machine does come with several hoops and a bonus CD with 200 additional designs. It has a hard shell that covers the top of the machine when not in use and has a bobbin winding feature that's easy to use.
The DZ820E comes with three embroidery hoops - 5"x7", 4"x4", and 2.5"x1". It has 136 built-in embroidery designs, but comes with another 200 designs on CD.
It can handle 650 stitches per minute and has an automatic threader and thread cutter. It offers the usual USB connectivity, card slot, and a memory function to store your favorite designs.
Singer Futura Quartet
- Separate bobbin winding motor
- Large 8-1/4″ throat for large projects
- Drop-down feed dogs
- Does not have a touch screen, so embroidery functions are available when you connect your computer to the machine
- More suited to sewing and decorative sewing rather than machine embroidery
The Singer Futura Quartet has an easy-to-use stitch selection panel on the front of the machine that's simple to use and also incorporates the stitch length and width features.
The tension adjustment knob is also on the front of the machine, and you can easily fine-tune your tension by small increments. A speed adjustment lever regulates the maximum speed your machine will stitch.
The Singer Futura Quartet's strength is in its many decorative stitches and ease of use for standard sewing, so for someone who wants a full-featured sewing machine that can do some embroidery as a secondary element, this machine may be a good choice.
Features include 125 embroidery designs, five fonts, and 30 utility stitches. The SwiftSmart threading system makes threading a breeze so you can get right to your projects.
Basic on-screen design editing is helpful, and computer design software is included. It also has an electronic twin-needle function, programmable up/down needle position, and drop feed dogs.
Brother SE1800 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
- It has many of the features of much higher priced machines
- Kneelifter for hands-free control when sewing
- Create your own stitch feature
- Too expensive for a lot of sewers
- With so many features, it’s more complicated than some beginners may be comfortable with
The Brother SE1800 is a higher priced machine, but it's still far less costly than many. It's not a machine most beginners will choose, but it's one you won't outgrow quickly.
This machine has enough features to keep you happily stitching for a long time to come.
The Grand Slam Embroidery Package includes loads of extras that make this a super deal and gets you started decorating your sewing projects the minute you take your new machine out of the box!
The bonus pack includes 64 spools of Polystar thread in a thread box, pre-wound bobbins, stabilizer, a cap hoop and a sock hoop, a CD with 15,000 embroidery designs, a stork embroidery scissors and Thread Converter Pro III software.
The SE1800 comes with 136 built-in embroidery designs, six fonts, and 184 utility and decorative stitches. It also comes with 5"x7" and 5"x12" hoops and 11 sewing feet, but some of the cooler things about this machine are Brothers' sideways sewing, and create your own stitch features.
This machine also has an automatic needle threader, and seemingly too many features to list. Don't let it seem to complicated though - many happy reviewers are pleased with the simple on-screen help and step by step instructions.
Janome Memory Craft Embroidery Machine
- 650 spm
- Small footprint takes up little space
- Easy hoop connector retracts when not in use
- Built-in folder system holds 100 designs
- Manual thread tension control
- Single purpose machine
- Cannot directly hook up to your PC
- Weighs 27 pounds
Janome's Memory Craft embroidery machine is a dedicated embroidery machine. The LCD screen is easy to navigate. Since you're only doing embroidery, there's less confusion in finding the proper screens to load, design or edit your embroideries.
The price point is higher than other machines, but if you love embroidery and want to add a dedicated machine to your sewing collection, the Memory Craft could be a great fit for your sewing room.
Included are 100 embroidery designs, three fonts, and on-screen editing functions. It can handle 650 stitches per minute and comes with two hoops: 5.5"x7.9" and 5"x4.3".
Nice touches on the Memory Craft include an automatic thread cutter and a built-in needle threader. You'll find the standard USB port, as well as an ATA drive slot for extra storage.
How to Choose an Embroidery Machine
So, you think you want to buy an embroidery machine. There are a few things to decide before you even begin looking. With prices ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars, determining your long-term goal is important for how much you spend on your new endeavor.
What are your plans for the machine? If you plan to make cute appliqués and embroidered designs on your grandchild's bibs and shirts, you don't need a machine that can do 8"x12" emblems.
Conversely, if you plan to start a custom embroidery business, you need a machine that can do small and large sizes, as well as be sturdy, reliable and work with speedy efficiency.
Some models are dedicated embroidery machines, while others can do regular sewing, quilting and have loads of built-in decorative stitches for embellishing projects.
Once you've decided upon your sewing plans, it's time to start comparing machines!
Getting Started With Your Machine
Once you've done all the research and decided on your machine, you should be aware that you need some specialized products to start doing machine embroidery.
You'll need to buy thread that's suitable for machine embroidery. You'll need bobbin thread, which, at 60 weight, is thinner than normal sewing thread. You'll also need embroidery thread, which is 40 weight and gives better coverage than standard sewing threads. Most embroidery threads have a sheen that gives the embroidered surface a nice shine.
You'll also need stabilizers of varying weights and characteristics. Stabilizers support the fabric you're embroidering, and you need different types for knits, thin and thick fabrics. If you're going to embroider towels or fluffy fabrics, you'll also need a topper to allow the embroidery to have crisp, clear edges.
Spray adhesive keeps the fabric from shifting on the stabilizer when it's being stitched. While it's not necessary, it is a useful item to keep on hand.
Small, thin bladed scissors or snips are essential for trimming threads and cutting appliqués. Micro serrated blades or curved blades are best, but these can be costly.
These are just a few of the many things you'll find on your 'to buy' list. Many other items are 'nice to have,' but not essential. Start with this short list, and add to it as time and finances allow.
Deciding which embroidery machine is right for you isn't going to be a quick task. Just this one time, don't be impetuous and make a hasty decision. It's sort of like a new sweetheart. You may want to jump right in and go with your heart, but you know you should take it slow and make a thoughtful, well-reasoned decision.
Take your time, think about your goals and read lots of reviews and guides. You, and your wallet, will thank you for taking the time to choose wisely.