Embroidery Machine or Cricut?

By on February 20th, 2020
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Embroidery machine or Cricut: which one should you buy?

If you have considered starting a craft business or just adding a new creative outlet to your life, maybe you have thought about buying either an embroidery machine or Cricut.  Both can be used to personalize clothing and accessories, but do so in different ways. So, which one should you buy?  As an owner of both of these toys, here’s what you should know when deciding whether to purchase a Cricut or an embroidery machine.  Or, whether you should just buy both. 

What is a Cricut?

A Cricut is actually not a generic name, it’s a brand name for a popular home die-cutting machine. But, because Cricut is the most common brand of die-cutters, it’s a morphed into a generic name for all die-cutting machines. Another popular brand of home-die cutters is the Silhouette which is what I own. But, to be honest with you, I can’t remember why I chose the Silhouette over the Cricut.  

Both brands of die-cutters cut a variety of materials: paper, vinyl, fabric, etc which makes them a great tool for creating stencils and invitations. It can also cut specialty adhesive vinyls which allows you to make decals and personalize clothing and accessories.  For this reason, the Cricut is similar to an embroidery machine in that it allows you to personalize items.

The Cricut cuts based on the design you set up on the screen. These designs can be of your own creation in the software that comes with the Cricut, or you can purchase pre-made designs. The computer running the software needs to be connected to the Cricut machine so that the die-cutter knows what to cut.

How does a Cricut work? 

The Cricut cuts on a sticky mat that feeds into the machine. Therefore, to cut the material, you need to first stick it onto the mat. The machine pulls it in and starts moving it back and forth to cut it. By pushing the mat in and out of the machine and moving the cutting blade back and forth, the Cricut is able to cut in any direction. 

Depending on the material you are trying to cut, you will need to adjust the blade accordingly. A thicker, flocked iron on material will require a longer blade than a thin piece of paper. 

What can you do with a Cricut?  

Probably the most common task I do on my Cricut is to cut out adhesive vinyl decals.  I set up the name or monogram in my software, plug my laptop into the machine and cut out the monogram sticker. I then apply it to a vase or water bottle, mug, etc… And, once the vinyl is applied, it’s super strong and can’t easily be removed.

I also cut out a lot of iron on designs, names and monograms to spice up a blank item of clothing. I love the silver and gold sparkly iron on material for adding bling to my little nieces’ gifts. 

princess sweatshirts I made with my Cricut
Princess sweatshirts I made with my Cricut

What does a Cricut cost?

There are different levels of Circuit machines with the most basic starting around $225 and going up to almost $400. If you spend more you get better blades that will cut thicker fabrics and more designs.  The more expensive Circuts also cut faster.

All Circuits cut on a 12″ x 12″ cutting mat. Therefore, spending more money does not buy you a larger cutting area.

If you buy a Cricut, you will likely eventually need to invest in new cutting mats (which are pretty inexpensive – about $10 each), new blades and of course the material you want to cut.  Adhesive vinyl is about $27 per 70 12″ x 12″ sheets and the fancy, sparkly iron on material is about $10 for a 12″ x 19″ roll.

How difficult is a Cricut to master? 

Not long.  I learned how to cut out a monogram sticker by watching a few YouTube videos.  I took my Cricut out of the box on the same day that I made a monogrammed vase as a hostess gift.  I brought it to the party that night.

my first cricut project
My first Cricut project – created on the same day I first opened the box.

Can you create your own files to cut on a Cricut? 

Yes you can.  The software can cut along the lines of an image that you design yourself.  Vector-based images (in SVG format) that are made in Adobe Illustrator or even Google Draw typically import well into the software and can be converted into cut lines.

Can you sell items made with the Cricut? 

Yes, yes, yes!  Just spend some time browsing Etsy and you will get a sense for all of the items that are made and sold using a Cricut machine.  You can also visit boutiques around your town that sell personalized items to get some ideas.

My suggestion, however, is to come up with your own niche.  Because Cricuts are relatively inexpensive, the market is somewhat flooded.  Create your own unique niche to help yourself stand out from the crowd.

Note: if you are interested in starting your own craft business, you should check out my previous post on starting an embroidery business.  Many of these tips apply to both types of businesses: items made with the Cricut or an embroidery machine. 

What is an embroidery machine?

I’ve heard an embroidery machine described as a machine that “draws” with stitches, and I like that explanation.  An embroidery machine stitches out designs comprised of thread on a garment or other type of material.

Home embroidery machine look a lot like a regular sewing machine.  In fact, some embroidery machines do both. However, in order to use the embroidery functions of the machine, you need to add an embroidery attachment so that you can attach the embroidery hoop with the item you want to embroider.

How does an embroidery machine work?

An embroidery machine stitches out a design based on the information supplied in an embroidery file.  While most embroidery machines come with a set of sample designs loaded on the machine, most of the time you will load designs on the machine via a cable connected to a computer or from a USB stick that is inserted into the machine.

Embroidery machines use a hoop to hold the fabric or garment in place while stitching out the design. You can either hoop the fabric or garment or “float” it by sticking it to some hooped stabilizer.

Once you start stitching out the design, the machine will stop between each color stop indicating that it’s time to change thread colors. On a single needle home embroidery machine, each color change requires you to rethread the machine with a different colored thread.

An embroidery machine stitching out a snowman design

What can you do with an embroidery machine?

The task I do most often on my embroidery machine is to stitch out a name or a monogram on an article of clothing or an accessory. The embroidery machine provides a quick way to create a personalized gift for just about anyone, e.g. men, babies, teen girls, etc…

However, you can do a lot more with an embroidery machine than stitch out a name or a monogram.  You can embellish any garment with fun designs to create a truly unique item of clothing.

There are also specialized items you can make on an embroidery machine, specifically free standing lace items as well as in-the-hoop projects.   If you don’t know about these, get ready for your mind to be blown.

What does an embroidery machine cost?

There is a HUGE range when it comes to cost. You can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to 10,000+ on an embroidery machine. However, a great starter machine like the Brother PE800 is around $550.  if you want something less expensive, the Brother PE535 is less than $400 and has many of the same features as the Brother PE800, albeit a much smaller embroidery hoop.

These are just two examples of inexpensive embroidery machines that you can order via Amazon Prime.  There are many other options and methods you can use to go about obtaining an inexpensive embroidery machine.

How difficult is an embroidery machine to master?

Well, it’s not rocket science, but it takes a little more practice to learn how to use an embroidery machine than it does to use a Cricut.  I first learned by taking lessons through my embroidery machine dealer.  However, there are many courses available online through Udemy and Teachable as well as several YouTube videos.  Be patient and plan on making a few mistakes before you feel comfortable monogramming a gift for someone.

So what should you buy? An Embroidery machine or a Cricut?

Of course the answer depends on where you passion lies. If you are crazy about paper crafts, decals and iron ons, then go for the Cricut. However, if you already sew or love fabric and thread, then go for the embroidery machine.

Some people actually use their Cricuts to pre-cut fabric for appliqué projects they execute on their embroidery machine.  I don’t actually pre cut my appliqué fabrics on my Cricut, but I know people who swear by this method.

I personally love owning both. As my kids have gotten older, I’ve made a lot of monogrammed water bottles as birthday gifts using my Cricut. But I still do a lot of personalization and other crazy projects using my embroidery machine.

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Embroidery Machine vs. Cricut

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