Best embroidery machines for beginners

By on February 27th, 2021
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Best embroidery machines for beginners
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So you are thinking about learning how to machine embroider, but are not even sure where to begin? Well, the first thing you will need is an embroidery machine. But with so many different models on the market, which ones are are the best embroidery machines for beginners?

What does a beginner need in an embroidery machine?

Before we can answer the question, what is the best embroidery machine for beginners, we first need to define what exactly beginners need.

Easy to use

For a beginner, I think that the most important quality of embroidery machine is one that is easy to use.  When you are learning a new skill, it helps to start with the simplest scenario.  Once you understand the basics, then take the leap into using more complicated machines.

Reliable

I also think it’s important that the machine is reliable.  A janky embroidery machine will frustrate a beginner.  Some models are known to be quite temperamental.  Frequent thread breakages and bird nesting can frustrate a beginner and might cause them to shelf the machine.

Popular

A popular machine is also a terrific asset for a beginner. If a lot of other people own the machine, you are more likely to find resources online who can answer questions about the machine. In addition, if the machine is very popular, it holds it’s resale value.  If the beginner HATES machine embroidery, it’s easier to sell a more popular machine than one that’s more obscure. For example, I’ve seen listing for used PE770s (the predecessor to the popular Brother PE800) that are almost as expensive as a new PE800.  This is because the machine has a great reputation, the PE800s have jumped in price quite a bit recently and even new machines are frequently backordered.

Price

Price is always a factor to consider when purchasing an embroidery machine. And, for your first embroidery machine, you probably don’t want to break the bank. You can get a descent embroidery machine for under $1,000, but which beginner embroidery machine is the best value?

Hoop size

I’ve see this advice again and again: buy a machine with the largest hoop size you can afford.  Embroidery machines that only have a 4″ x 4″ hoop can be limiting because you can only stitch out designs that are slightly smaller than the embroidery hoop. You can get a repositional embroidery hoop that will allow you to stitch out larger designs, but you will need to split the design using embroidery software like SewWhat-Pro.  With that said, they are not a bad choice for a beginner, especially if you have an upgrade plan: either reselling the smaller machine or upgrading through a dealer.

Serviceability should always be a consideration.  Before you invest in a machine, make sure you have a dealer or access to a technician who can service and repair your embroidery machine.

Common beginner questions about buying an embroidery machine

Can I just convert my current sewing machine to an embroidery machine?

No. Sorry.  Unless your sewing machine is actually a sewing/embroidery combination machine (like the Brother SE600), you can not convert a sewing machine into an embroidery machine.  Learn about the differences between sewing and embroidery machines.

Should I buy a single needle or a multi-needle embroidery machine?

If you are just getting your feet wet, I would suggest starting with a single needle embroidery machine.  A multi-needle embroidery machine will be at least a few thousand dollars.  If you are planning on running an embroidery business, then a multi-needle probably makes sense. However, if you are a beginner, I would stick to a single needle.

Is learning to use an embroidery machine hard?

No.  It just takes a bit of practice.  Learn more about what makes embroidery difficult and how to best learn the craft.

Should you buy your embroidery machine online or through a dealer?

While you can buy embroidery machines online, you may check with local dealers before taking the plunge. Some will throw in extras like like needles, stabilizer, bobbin thread if you buy it from them as opposed to getting it online. Plus, they may even match the price. Some dealers also offer free lessons, free maintenance for a year, and will allow you to trade it in for a newer model.   

Best embroidery machines for beginners

The machines mentioned below are primarily embroidery only machines (not sewing/embroidery combination machines – with a few exceptions) and each of them retail for between $500 – $2000.

Brother

Brother is probably the most obvious brand of embroidery machine for a beginner to consider.  They are incredibly popular, fairly inexpensive and easy to use. They also have a reputation for producing high quality stitches.

The least expensive Brother embroidery machine you can buy is the Brother PE535.  It has a 4″ x 4″ hoop and comes with a few built in fonts and embroidery designs.  There are a few different branded versions of the PE535: for example, the Disney version and the StarWars version. If you are really interested in acquiring all those themed designs, then they may be the perfect beginner embroidery machine for you.

The Brother PE800 is a bit more expensive than the PE535 and differs primarily in hoop size. The PE800 has a 5″ x 7″ maximum hoop size, otherwise it’s nearly identical to the PE535See the differences between the Brother PE535 and the Brother PE800. So what’s the downside of the PE800? Availability.  They have gotten so popular, it’s hard to find one to buy.

If you want the PE800, but can’t find one in stock, consider buying a used Brother PE770.  It’s very similar to the PE800 except the screen is not in color.  Learn more about buying used embroidery machines.

Another alternative to the Brother PE800 is the Brother SE1900.  It has the same maximum hoop size of 5″ x 7″, however it sews and embroiders.  You may not need the sewing functionality, but as of right now, it’s actually cheaper than the Brother PE800!

Brother Embroidery Machines and Accessories

Babylock

Brother and Baby Lock are sister companies. Apparently, they area all made at the same location.  But the lower end, beginner-friendly Brother’s were made specifically to be sold through big box retailers…. like HSN, QVC, Walmart, Target, etc.  The only problem is that when you need classes, support or service, you may not be able to someone to service your machine.

Baby Lock machines are sold only through dealers.  You will pay a higher price for them, but you will likely get more support through your dealer.  Some users refer to them as the “Rolls Royce of embroidery machines.”  

The least expensive line of single needle Baby Lock machines you can buy is probably the Baby Lock Flourish 2.  For about $1500, you will get an excellent machine that has an embroidery area of 6.25″ x 10.25″.  Considering how expensive the PE800s have gotten and only have an embroidery area of 5″ x 7″  – this may be a better choice.

Janome

Janome makes a line of embroidery only machines called “Memory Craft”. Their most affordable models are in the MC200 series which are comparable in price to the Brother PE535. However, the benefit of the lowest tier Janome embroidery  machines is that the hoop size is slightly larger than the Brother counterpart: 5.5″ x 5.5″.

If you spend a bit more money (at least $2000), you can get a much larger hoop area on your Janome embroidery machine.  The Janome MC500E has a max hoop area of 8.5″ x 11″.  But, clearly it’s considerable more expensive.

For the most part, the Janome Memory Craft machines are known for being easy to use.

Viking / Husqvarna

The first embroidery machine my friend, Ellie purchased was the Viking Husqvarna straight off the shelf at Joann Fabrics.  They are fairly popular and quite reasonably priced. Plus, Joanns will service them.  The current Viking / Husqvarna embroidery and sewing machine that they have on the shelf is only $1200 and it has an embroidery area of 9.5″ x 6″.

Husqvarna Viking Designer Jade 35
You can buy a good embroidery machine for a beginner at your local Joanns.

Brands of embroidery machines not recommended for beginners

Bernina

I love my Bernina sewing/embroidery machine.  It works great.  But my Bernina was given to me as a gift. Bernina machines are expensive and dealers are scarce. Also, the accessories are quite pricey as well. Therefore, it’s probably not the best choice for someone who is new to machine embroidery.

Singer

While Singer is one of the most commonly known brands for sewing machines, their embroidery machines do not get a lot of accolades. At about $1500, the Singer Futura XL400 is a great deal for a sewing/embroidery combination machine. But, they are known not to stitch as well as other brands. And, don’t expect for it to last long, and good luck finding someone to fix it.

Pfaff

People who own their Pfaff embroidery machines seem to love them.  However, they are not the most common so you may have trouble finding help online.  Also, there are not many online retailers who sell Pfaff machines. So, if you buy one, you will probably go through a dealer. And if you don’t have a Pfaff dealer nearby, this is probably not the right brand of embroidery machine for you.

Well, then, I hope this helps you decide which embroidery machine to buy!  I even learned something myself while digging into this topic. Good luck, my beginner embroidery friends and happy stitching!

xo

Julie

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