Embroidery Machine Features To Look For
Pre-programmed Design Catalog
Embroidery machines are expected to come with a collection of designs programmed into them for ease of use. The level of complexity in terms of features can be classed into entry level, experienced, and professional. With each level, machines that fall into that category should have a certain range of designs. For entry level machines, you should expect around 35 to 50 designs, experienced should have between 50 and 100, while professional grade machines should come with 100+ designs. It is important to distinguish between a sewing machine that has some embroidery stitches (maybe 10-15), and an embroidery machine that doesn’t just stitch fancily, it creates an entire image. Consider carefully how listings are worded, and look for the distinction that sewing machines are based on creating items, while embroidery machines are designed to embellish.
Similar to the tiers for the number of programmed in designs, the selection of fonts (alphabets) is generally staggered. Entry level machines will only have a few, maybe five, while experienced level machines will have twice as many (ten), and professional will typically have 10-15+. Another similarity is that it is not uncommon these days for any level of machine to have the option of adding to their repertoire, usually via USB or some form of internet connection. The most value comes from selecting a machine that begins with a useful design selection, or one that can be upgraded. If you are just getting into machine embroidering, look for entry level models that have the option to upgrade components as your experience advances.
From entry to commercial (mass producing, multiple thousands of dollars units) level machines, the display used to interact with and operate it needs to be more advanced than switches and buttons. Some machines work in tandem with tablet devices, which dock with them to program and create designs. Other machines simply have a clear LED or digital display panel, but all levels of quality embroidery machines should have an advanced display. Look for models that present a large enough screen so that it can be easily read and understood.
Design Dimension Capabilities
A large distinguishing feature between the tiers of machines is a very basic one; the size of an area they can embroider at a time. Entry level machines generally start with a 5” x 5” area and increases up to 7” x 12” field for professional grade machines. Industrial machines design dimensions start in increments of feet and go up. In addition to considering the size of the area it can work with at a time, be sure to look for machines that allow you to control the needle’s start point within that work area. (This is particularly useful for monograms and designs that are being placed above pockets, or other features on pre-made items.) When considering a particular model, look for something that will be able to handle the size and style of the projects you may need it for.
Best Embroidery Machine Brands
A name that has long come to represent excellence in crafting, Brother machines are well known for their versatility and durability. Certain models, like the SE400 Combination Computerized machine, are highly rated and popular among beginners and professionals alike. They design machines that will not only last for many years, but that are user friendly and adaptable as well. It may be hard to choose a single model out of their many embroidery (or combination) machines as a best pick, mainly because another hallmark for Brother is their adaptability. One could easily start with an entry level machine and gradually modify it to suit
One of the longest standing names in personal and professional sewing, Singer’s large selection of machines includes a series of embroidering machines that maintain the company’s strong reputation. Their Futura series features computerized embroidery machines that have basic displays and simple controls, while their Studio series goes a step further to include a fully integrated computer system to give the highest level of design control and versatility. If you are unsure of which brand to try, Singer is one name consumers can often rely on, especially for beginners.
Small, but building, Bernina is a company that prides itself on their commitment to quality and innovation. Their series of machines is like a story of how far they have come. The most advances, Series 8, are computer integrated embroidery machines that are suited to all manner of beginner and advanced work. While not as evenly priced as some brands, their never ending quest to improve upon design and incorporate new technology can often more than account for the difference. For those really serious about embroidering, look for Bernina Series 8 (such as the Bernina 880).
Not typically a name that often brings up images of fancy embroideries, Husqvarna Viking is an offshoot of the Husqvarna company (known for large machines such as lawnmowers and motorcycles). However, this branch truly demonstrates not only their versatility as a company, but how they can apply their ability to create premium products that garner a reputation for being well built and long lasting. They offer a wide range of embroidering machines, charmingly nicknamed after precious gems, that are designed to meet the needs of the users experience level. Their Designer Topaz 40 has been rated highly among several groups, including Consumers Digest.
Slowly gaining momentum among consumers, Janome offer a descent selection of sewing, embroidery and combination machines. Among their selection is the Memory Craft series, which has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years. The pricing and versatility of the Memory Craft machines has become a major selling point for the company, which is something they’ve begun to try and emulate in other series.
Features of Professional & Commercial Embroidery Machines
Stitching Manipulation Options
Outside of having a sizable catalog of designs, or being able to add more, an important element to embroidery machines is the ability to manipulate the designs available. This means being able to do things like rotate, re-size, mirror, or skip sections (“stitch advancing” as its often called). While entry level machines may not be quite so equipped with these features, experienced level and up should be. Look for simple things like these to set apart professional quality from standard machines.
While some standard embroider machines come with the option to dock a tablet to act as its controller, a fully computerized machine will have the controls built in. A good example would be the Husqvarna machines, which feature sizable touch screen displays and full computerized controls. If you want the easiest to use and most versatile, look for fully computerized machines.
In addition to professional level machines being computerized, many newer models are also including a means of wireless connectivity. The connection to the internet allows machines to quickly update software, retrieve helpful information for the user, and greatly expand the available patterns and fonts at the owner’s disposal. Major brands such as Brother, Husqvarna, and Bernina for example have begun integrating their embroidery machines with modern technology. If you like being able to connect and get the most of today’s resources, look for models that feature connectivity.
Hoops are an essential part of embroidering, they are used to keep the fabric steady and help ensure that the design is placed properly without the material being bunched up or torn. While the standard machine will come with the ability to accommodate hoops according to its workspace limitation (think design size limit), professional class machines will have more options than a standard, or single hoop configuration. In addition to having more flexibility when it comes to how many, or what sized hoops the machine can work with, professional class machines will have a baste option. (Baste features create a stitched box around a work area, holding it inside the hoop.)
Automatic Threading And Cutting
A set of features that is common to professional quality sewing machines is the automatic threading and cutting features. Automatic threading means you don’t have to try and run the thread through the sewing needle itself, you merely run it into the system. (One of the most nerve wracking and eyestrain inducing activities in sewing is threading the needle.) In addition to threading itself, automatically snipping at the end of a design segment helps keep the work flowing and productivity rolling. As minor as they may seem to novice embroiderers, they are invaluable features to have in a professional grade machine.
Single Head, Multiple Needles
In a standard embroidery machine there is a single head and needle. The limitations for such include the necessity to stop and reset thread color for each one used in a design. Single needle machines also tend to be much more limited in regards to the size of the designs they can do. In professional class models, the use of multiple needles on a single head can greatly change the machine’s performance. Being able to utilize more than one color thread at a time is only half the advantage. Multiple needle machines also tend to be designed to handle larger design areas than single needle setups. If you plan to work with complex or large designs, consider a professional machine with multiple needles.
Get Familiar With Your Machine
One reason that it is highly recommended anyone new to embroidery starts with an entry or beginner level machine, is that they can be quite confusing and intimidating. Modern computerized machines can take a bit of time to get used to. It is important to not only select one that comes with ample resources for learning how to use it, but that can also be learned about on forums. Before using an embroidering machine, take time to learn about its features and how to use them. To get the best value, and most use, it is important to take time to get familiar with a machine before using it. When shopping for a new embroidery machine, look for models that are comparative to your experience level and have easy to follow instructions.
Keep In Mind The Machine’s Limitations
Embroidering hoops come in all shapes and sizes, but unless your machine is open ended, then you are limited to the machine’s programming. This breaks down to a simple rule: If your machine only works in a 4” x 4” pattern, then trying to work with a design that is larger will not turn out as desired. One common mistake that beginner embroiderers make is thinking that if a larger hoops fits through that the machine can handle the larger design. Typically entry level machines, which have a single needle, will be limited to smaller work spaces. If you want to be able to do very large scale embroidering, consider looking for more professional models with multiple needles.
A similar misconception exists in regard to stitch counts. Not all embroidery machines can handle any design. Each machine has a unique stitch count that sets the limits of complexity for designs it can create. As an example, common stitch counts for machine embroidered designs ranges between 30,000 to 64,000+. When looking for a good embroidery machine, research the stitch counts for designs you are interested in doing and make sure the model you pick out can handle it.
Tear Away Versus Cut Away Stabilizer
Tear away stabilizer is a popular type of stabilizer that is commonly used when garments are embroidered. However, the price of it being convenient is that you sacrifice a good bit of durability. As garments with tear away stabilizer behind an embroidery are washed and dried, it will become weaker and bow, making the embroidery become misshapen. Solid fill, or high stitch count patterns should always be done with cut away stabilizer, which is stronger than tear away. Keep in mind, when it comes to choosing stabilizer, there are several options, and while cut away is nearly a golden rule for good embroidery, some materials may work better with other stabilizers. Always research your materials and find out which stabilizer will work best for it.