Even the simplest machine that controls embroidering in a hoop is more expensive than a basic sewing machine. They’re more complex, and the success of an embroidery design depends on the accuracy it’s sewn out with, which comes at a price.
But you don’t need a high-end machine. You can do most embroidery stitching techniques on a machine costing much less than $1000.
Spending more money on a sewing machine gets you more stitches plus some useful tools like needle up-down. Not so true for an embroidery machine. Spending more on an embroidery machine does get you some more built-in designs, but the number is still small compared to the huge numbers of designs anyone can download from the internet. You can do all embroidery techniques on a basic machine with a 4×4 hoop. Paying more for an embroidery machine gets you a bigger hoop – so you can embroider a larger area. At mid-price you can also do some editing/designing on the machine.
It can be exciting looking at machines which do amazing things, but there’s no point buying a machine which stays in the box. So step away from the thrills and find out how to use the machine you’re thinking about. Start with a machine that gives you an ‘I could do this’ feeling. Beginners may find it easier to start with a basic machine – if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be confusing to find your way to the essentials among all the options on a more expensive machine.
Hoop size is a consideration. The biggest hoops can be quite difficult to hoop smoothly. I suggest you don’t go bigger until you’re sure machine embroidery is something you enjoy, and you know what you like making. So the main choice is between 4″x4″(100x100mm) as the biggest hoop, or about 7″x5″(180x130mm). (Those are the sizes of the biggest embroidery area you can sew in that hoop, the hoops themselves are quite a bit larger.) Cut out pieces of paper these sizes, to look at and hold against what you might embroider on. What are you dreaming of stitching ?
Are you the sort of person who is happy to use designs made by other people, or do you think you will quite soon want to make small changes to designs, such as changing the size or adding names and messages ?
Cheaper option, if you’re comfortable using a computer – use a basic embroidery machine plus your computer with basic embroidery software, often free.
More expensive – a machine on which you can do simple editing direct :
– On lower-mid-price machines you can edit single designs (re-size, rotate, flip), and produce simple text. On these machines, you stitch design and text in separate steps.
– Mid-price machines also have simple options for combining – so you can stitch design and text in a single hooping.
– Upper-price machines have a bigger screen so you can see more detail about your changes.
Other thoughts :
– do you want a machine with Disney copyright designs ?
– do you need a machine which does both sewing and embroidery, or an embroidery-only machine ?
– which brand has the most helpful local dealer ?
If you can’t get to a machine dealer :
– can you find internet videos on how to use this or a similar machine ? depends a bit on how good the presenter is, but do you think you would be comfortable with using it ?
– you can probably find a manual to download, but they’re not always easy to understand. (I read manuals, but whoever wrote the manual for my machine does not think the way I do, happily there are better videos.)
Machines to move on to perhaps
Machines for professional embroiders have several needles each threaded with a different colour. So they can automatically change thread colour, which greatly speeds the stitch out.
Single-needle embroidery machines :
Basic machines – all embroidery stitching techniques are possible.
Lower mid-price machines – bigger hoop, edit single designs or text on the machine.
Mid-price machines – also combine designs.
Upper price machines – big screen.
Top-of-line – jumbo hoop, wi-fi, auto-digitising. . . no ’embroidery only’ machines at this price level.
When you’re familiar with embroidering, and find you enjoy doing your own editing on the machine, you may want to get a big screen machine so you can see clearly what you are doing.
These machines are generally more expensive, but you don’t have to go all the way to a top-of-line machine to get a big screen.
Though if you’re excited by new technology there are some hugely expensive combo sewing+embroidery machines which provide many special tools.
Do you need one of these to do beautiful or fun embroidery ? – not at all. Will you ever need one ? – quite unlikely. The embellishment and designing they do can easily be done away from a machine.
‘Top of the line’ machines can use ‘jumbo’ hoops, and each year the new models can do yet more amazing things. Currently (mid 2018) :
– cut out fabric shapes for appliqué, paint, add crystals (Bernina with optional tools)
– auto-digitise on the machine (BabyLock, Brother)
– develop a design and transfer to the machine using apps on a tablet or phone and wi-fi (Husqvarna Viking, Janome , Pfaff)
These machines are for experienced sewists who love exploring new and complex technology in their sewing. Are you this type of person ? These machines are not necessary for the rest of us, we may not even enjoy using one. I suspect most beginners would find it difficult to know where to start.
I was thinking of getting a TOL machine, then I watched some videos and realised I would be unhappy if I had to use one. These machines are big. Some people love that, me – I prefer something smaller. And I’m more a hands-on person, I’m not a target customer for a machine where everything is done on a screen or using wi-fi. For sewing, I love my basic workhorse ‘real buttons’ machine. For embroidery, I choose a mid-price embroidery-only machine for the hoop size, and I know enough to enjoy playing with designs on it. I wouldn’t enjoy going through the sequence of changes needed to change a ‘combo’ machine between sewing and embroidery. I’ve found I prefer to add other types of embellishment away from my machine, and to do my design editing using embroidery software on a big-screen computer.
So I use a sewing machine, an embroidery machine, and a computer with embroidery software. Some people love to have all three functions on the same machine.
It is fun to know about these super-powers machines, and they do look marvellous 😀
Do you love personalising or embellishing what you make ? Happily you can do many beautiful and fun things with a very basic embroidery machine. There’s such a wealth of embroidery designs available, having an embroidery machine can be a rich source of pleasure 😀
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