What do I need to know before buying an embroidery machine?

By on January 20th, 2021
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10 facts you should know before you buy an embroidery machine
free machine embroidery designs

So you are interested in an embroidery machine? Do you really know what you are getting into? While an embroidery machine can offer a lot of fun and creativity, it can also be a money pit if you don’t put it to good use. So, before you whip out your credit card to buy an embroidery machine, there are a few questions you should have answers to before taking a leap.

sewing machine
An embroidery machine is not a sewing machine. 

Does an embroidery machine also sew?

An embroidery machine is not a sewing machine.  Embroidery machines and sewing machines may look a bit alike, they actually function very differently. An embroidery machine “reads” designs off of a computer or flash drive and stitches them out onto fabric (or other material).  A sewing machine allows you to connect pieces of fabric together. Another way to think about it: a sewing machine allows you to build a garment, but an embroidery machine allows you to add decorative details.

And to confuse you a bit more,  there are actually sewing / embroidery combo machines.  Sounds like the best of both worlds, right? If you want to be able to sew and embroider, but have limited space, a combo machine is the way to go. The downside is that you have to change the set up of the machine when you transition from sewing to embroidery and vice versa. Another downside is that you can’t sew while your embroidery machine is stitching out a design. Plus, the combo machines tend to be a bit more expensive than the stand alone embroidery machines.

Learn more about the differences between a sewing and an embroidery machine

Why should I buy an embroidery machine?

An embroidery machine is a great tool for personalizing clothing and accessories.  Even the most basic embroidery machine will allow you to stitch out a name or a monogram.  With most retailers charging $10-$15 or more for a monogram, an embroidery machine can be a real money saver, especially if you like to monogram everything.

Embroidery machines also allow you to add some flair to your clothing and accessories. I’ve livened up everything from bathing suits to sweaters using my machine.  You can really create some unique clothing by adding a bit of embroidery.

Embroidery machines can also enable you to make small items completely in the embroidery hoop. This type of  item is called an in-the-hoop project. You literally make the entire object in your embroidery hoop as the embroidery machine not only provides decoration, it also stitches the item together.  Learn more about in-the-hoop projects.

Is an embroidery machine the same as a Cricut?

Embroidery machines and Cricuts are kind of similar in away in that they both read and interpret digital files. But while embroidery machines stitch designs based on the file information, Cricuts make cuts (and draw with pens) based on the digital information.

Cricuts and embroidery machines can be used together though. Some people use Cricuts to pre-cut appliqué fabrics. It will save you the pain of having to trim the appliqué fabrics with appliqué scissors during the stitch out process.

Learn more about the differences between an embroidery machine and a Cricut machine.

Brother Embroidery Machines and Accessories

How much does an embroidery machine cost?

You can spend a little or a lot of money on an embroidery machine.  The least expensive embroidery machines start in the hundreds of dollars. But, the commercial grade multi-needle embroidery machines can be $10,000 or more.

If you are just getting started, your first embroidery machine doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Simple single needle machines with a 4″x 4″ hoop start at around $500.  While some people say that you will quickly outgrow an embroidery machine with a 4″ x 4″ hoop, they do offer an opportunity to get your feet wet, and you can upgrade from there.

Embroidery machines with larger hoops will be at least a bit more expensive ($500+), and ones that trim jump stitches will be even more.  Once you start looking at multi-needle machines, the cost will be in the thousands.

There are some clever ways to find an inexpensive embroidery machine.  Many dealers offer floor models at a discounted rate.

You can also check sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to score a good deal on a used one.  In fact, I scored a great deal on a Brother PE535 by shopping on Facebook Marketplace. PE535s are typically $500+, but I was able to get mine for $300 and it had been barely used.  The woman I bought it from got frustrated learning how to use it and just wanted it out of her house.  She had bought it 5 months prior and only tried it out a few times.  SCORE!

nippers for trimming jump stitches
Accessories like these little nippers will make your embroidery so much easier.

What other supplies and accessories will I need?

Yes. You will need a few accessories and supplies.  You can’t do much with an embroidery machine if you don’t have a few accessories and supplies.  Fortunately the most essential accessories are not expensive. Regarding supplies?  I would just suggest investing in the few most essential stabilizers and a small collection of machine embroidery thread, embroidery bobbin thread and machine embroidery needles.

Consider looking on Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Craigslist for these items.  You may be able to find a collection of embroidery thread or some other useful supplies from someone selling off items from an estate.  Also, some people just lose interest and want to get rid of all their embroidery stuff.   Keep an eye open for these types of deals and scoop them up when you have the chance!

How can I justify the cost of an embroidery machine?

I’ve heard a lot of people bemoan the fact that machine embroidery is an expensive hobby. But, it really doesn’t have to be.  In fact, if you use your embroidery machine to make personalized gifts, you can easily justify the cost.  You may even use your embroidery machine to start a home-based embroidery business, and then your embroidery machine can be a real money maker.

 a flash drive is needed to transfer embroidery files from the computer to the embroidery machine

Do I need to be tech savvy to run an embroidery machine?

You will need to be comfortable moving around computer files

There’s no getting around this one.  Unless you want to limit yourself to the built-in fonts and designs that come with your embroidery machine, you will need to learn how to transfer an embroidery design from your computer to your embroidery machine.  Fortunately – this is pretty easy.  But, you will probably want to invest in a few flash drives.

Will I need embroidery software to run my embroidery machine?

You can probably ease into this decision.  However, embroidery software gives you the ability to preview, combine and make slight edits to your files. For beginners, I would suggest SewWhat-Pro embroidery editing software  or Embrilliance Essentials for combining embroidery designs and combining and reordering thread colors and other minor edits.  Learn the difference between Embrilliance Essentials and SewWhat-Pro.

Embrilliance Embroidery Software

Can you make your own embroidery designs?

Yes!  You can make your own embroidery designs.  You will just  need embroidery digitizing software in order to do so. Digitizing software ranges in price and capability quite a bit. But, if you want to start experimenting, I would suggest checking out Inkstitch (which is free) or download SewArt, as these are some of the most beginner-friendly programs.

How difficult is it to use an embroidery machine?

There’s a bit of a learning curve when learning how to use an embroidery machine.  So you will need to spend some time reading the manual and figuring it out.

Getting your embroidery machine out of the box and starting to use it can be daunting. But once you have a bit of success, you will likely have confidence to try other things. The challenge with machine embroidery is knowing when to use what type of stabilizer, thread and whether to hoop or float. It’s a little bit like learning a foreign language. Start by mastering one skill, like embroidering on towels, and then keep trying new projects and eventually you broaden skill set.

Learn more about what makes machine embroidery hard and how to get over the hump.

What is the best embroidery machine to buy for a beginner?

I often get asked what embroidery machine to buy from beginners which is a really hard question to answer.   Some people will only buy machines from a local dealer, so they can visit the shop and ask questions. Others just look at what types of machines can get serviced in their area, and buy the brand accordingly.

But, another important factor to keep in mind is the popularity of the machine. The more common the machine you buy, the more readily you will find answers to your question about it. For example, the Brother PE800 is super pervasive.  And, it’s actually just a new and improved version of the Brother PE770. So if you have questions about either of these machines, you will find loads of help online – from Youtube videos to Facebook groups specifically dedicated to these machines.

Will I outgrow my embroidery machine?

And that’s ok. In fact, a lot of people start on a 4″ x 4″ hoop machine and then want to upgrade. So, just like when purchasing a car, you may want to see how the embroidery machine you want to buy holds its resale value.  Some machines can be sold used for just about what you paid for them.  In fact, if you bought Brother PE800 last year, you could probably sell it used this year for about twice it’s value.  So, do your homework before you invest in an embroidery machine to see what you could sell it for in case you absolutely hate it, or you think you might want to eventually upgrade.

Instead of selling the machine you outgrow, you may decide to keep it as a backup, assuming you have the space for a small fleet of embroidery machines.

So, do I still want to buy an embroidery machine?

If the answer is “yes,” then go for it! It’s a fabulous tool to add a lot of fun and creativity to your life.  If you take the time to figure out how to use it, you will be amazed by all the things you can make.  Plus –  I’ll be right there with you to help and inspire you on your way!

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10 facts you should know before you buy an embroidery machine


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