Table of Contents
- #1 Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing and 4×4 Embroidery Machine
- #2 Brother PE770 5×7 inch Embroidery Machine
- #3 Brother LB6800PRW Project Runway Computerized Embroidery and Sewing Machine
- #4 Singer Futura XL-400 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
- #5 Janome Memory Craft 200E Embroidery Machine
- #6 Brother PE540D 4×4 Embroidery Machine
- A Buyer’s Guide for Embroidery Machines
- Frequent Asked Questions
- Final Words
When I was in my mid-twenties I decided to leave my stressful job teaching high school English in Brooklyn, and move to a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico to teach English to university students.
It was a profound change of pace for me, moving from a city where everything is possible and anything can be found at any time of day, to a town so small the locals all shared a telephone line based out of a small, centralized grocery store. There was one small movie theater, a coffee shop, a handful of delicious taquerias, rivers to swim in – but nothing I was accustomed to in the way of entertainment.
That is all to say, it was marvelous! For someone who grew up with a needle and thread in hand, Southern Mexico is a clothes maker’s paradise. In Oaxaca, the indigenous groups continue to practice traditional textile methods, from cultivating special plants to produce threads and textiles, up to the most intricate handmade embroidery blouses and dresses.
Oaxacan women embroider designs on their clothing to symbolize different things — the flora and fauna of their communities, important moments in their lives like marriage or birth, dreams, stories, etc. I spent many a Saturday night sitting at my neighbors’ kitchen tables, learning the skills to handmake and embroider their style of garments.
Learning this skill was fun, communal, and almost spiritual. Not wanting to lose the feelings I had developed, sitting with a group of women, hoop in hand, I took the skills I learned back with me when I ultimately moved back to the States four years later.
I bought my first embroidering machine soon after. Once I had gotten good at it, I wanted to channel my skills toward making Christmas, baby shower, and birthday party gifts my family would likely attend as the years progressed.
Time has passed since that first machine, but I can attest that I have saved hundreds of dollars making my own unique designs, even if the price and start-up costs of owning an embroidery machine may seem overwhelming at first.
Embroidery is not cheap! You will need to invest not only in a machine, setting you back a couple hundred dollars minimum, but there is also the special thread, stabilizers, needles, additional designs, and embroidery machine software to consider.
Also, you are not going to be an expert right away. I had to toss out mountains of dollar store t-shirts with badly embroidered Sponge Bob’s on them before I could even scratch the surface of covering the cost of my embroidery machine. It took a lot of YouTube and social media tutorials and time spent underlining the merchant’s manual. Luckily, if you have even a rudimentary understanding of sewing, you will pick maneuvering your machine much faster.
Depending on what you are looking for, this guide will go over the basics of what is on offer for today’s embroidering enthusiasts. I will review the top six embroidery machines available — some I have owned, others I have worked off at friends’ homes, and others were given to me on loan from companies specifically looking for an unbiased review of their produce (I know, how lucky is that!).
I will share with you my experiences using each machine, and then deliberate best makes, and how they may meet the needs of individual users.
#1 Brother SE400 Combination Computerized Sewing and 4×4 Embroidery Machine
The Brother SE400 allows you to enjoy several comprehensive functions, like an automatic thread cutter, while you sew, quilt, and embroider. It includes a back lit LCD touch screen where you can choose up to 70 different sewing stitches and embroidery designs with five embroidery machine lettering fonts.
If you start to get bored of these options, the SE400 can connect to your computer, letting you import infinite amounts of embroidery designs from sites like iBroidery.com, Etsy, and many others.
First off, I must admit, I am a bit of a tech junkie, and I love experimenting with new computerized machines. What I like most about the SE400 is that it is easy enough for anyone to learn on, use, and eventually master. Since it comes with pretty much everything you need to start your adventures in embroidery, I was able to get her up and running within an hour after opening the box and reading the manual.
Keep in mind, the first time I tried embroidering on this machine, the Boston Red Sox onesie I tried making for my 2-year-old nephew turned out an awful, colorful mess – but I did not give up! I googled some instructional videos and got back on track in no time.
Turns out I had my bobbin threaded incorrectly. I readjusted and gave it another go, this time attempting to put a little squirrel pattern I found on Embird on my son’s bib. HUGE IMPROVEMENT! My squirrel has an unusual yellow outline, instead of dark brown, but otherwise it is adorable.
Since then I have found this machine to be a lot of fun. I have made many different types of patterns quick and easily. I have put Professor Inkling the Octopus on my friend Marissa’s daughter’s pajamas, Rick and Morty on my husband’s baseball cap, and am working on embellishments on patchwork skirt for myself.
Have fun and play around with the SE400! You may not understand all the features right away, but this machine makes everything simple enough that it will not be hard to learn from your mistakes.
Though this machine comes with a few preprogrammed designs, you may lose interest fast. Opt instead to check out sites like Embird, Emblibrary, Bunnycup, or Stitch Era Universal for sales, discounts, and free offers.
This is a petite machine, which is great for travel, but limits its capacity for professional grade products.
Another thing that bothers me about this machine, I must admit, is that the build quality is lower than I would like. It is made of many small, plastic pieces that twist easily, so they are prone to bending or even breaking. I had some trouble with my thread wrapping around the spool which resulted in a few busted needles.
- A Tech-Junkie’s Dream
- A Good Machine to Grow On
- Easy Set-up
- Boring Pre-installed Designs
- Not for Professional Projects
- Cheap Build
#2 Brother PE770 5×7 inch Embroidery Machine
This machine offers a 5×7 inch field to embroider on, for large designs and lettering. This means less rehooping and more creating! Select from 136 designs including scrollwork, florals, quilt patterns, various frame shapes and border styles. The machine’s built-in USB port and memory card lets you store your edited designs or those you purchase online. Using the PE770’s LCD screen, you can rotate, mirror-image, or increase and decrease the size of your embroidery designs before you even begin to stitch.
I love the easy to use 5×7 inch hoop included with this machine. The first time I used it, all I wanted to do was embroider everything in sight – my son’s clothes, my nephew’s jackets, my husband’s hats, towels for my mother-in-law. It is a fun, addictive, well-built little machine!
Here is the kicker: this machine comes with a special Brother embroidery card slot that gives you access to thousands of distinct Brother embroidery designs! If you are a little wary of the technical features, you need not fear. With the amount of styles to choose from already built in, you may never need to install specialty software for download from the internet.
That said, I love having a USB option for easily uploading designs to my machine, and the PE770 makes resizing and positioning on the digital screen incredibly straight forward. This model’s options let you feel you are getting your money’s worth.
I used the PE770 to monogram our babysitter’s cheerleading jacket with her graduation year. The machine jammed between 3 and 4. I tried rehooping and had some luck, but I can still see imperfections in the final product.
- Bigger than Average Hoop
- Includes 1000s of Patterns
- Great Editing Options
- Machine can Jam
- Not for Professional Projects
- Hard to Follow User’s Manual
#3 Brother LB6800PRW Project Runway Computerized Embroidery and Sewing Machine
The Brother LB6800PRW includes 70 built-in embroidery designs, an automatic thread cutter, 120 frame combinations, and five embroidery machine lettering fonts. It comes with a design field that offers 4X4-inches of embroidering space.
Like other computerized machines, this one too offers you the option of hooking your embroidery machine up to a computer to download additional designs and fonts.
What is great about this machine is the accessories: the LB6800PRW includes seven specialty sewing feet, a designer Project Runway rolling bag and soft cover, all the USB cables you will need, and extra embroidery bobbin thread.
Most of the midrange to high-end machines that perform both sewing and embroidery are expensive, and are more suited for commercial use. The LB6800PRW offers both options in one machine, and it may not brank your budget too badly.
While this machine offers both sewing and embroidery options, I use this primarily for embroidery. You are going to love the drop-in bobbin feature. The speed adjustment switch is great when my niece and her friends stop by to sew on patches for their backpacks. Also convenient is the digital screen informing you which foot to use and when. The monogramming and stitch options offer more than enough designs to keep them busy.
This is also a fast, quiet machine, so if you tend to be a late-night embroiderer, this is a great tool! Additionally, the LEDs are bright, allowing you to work with ease in moderately low light conditions.
The 4×4 inch hoop is a bit smaller than I like to use, so I had to buy larger hoops to use for larger projects and designs. Embroidery machine hoops and thread for these machines add to your start-up costs. Plan on spending at the very least another $60.00 on hoops and upwards of $5.00 per thread unit for a full-size spool.
Also, though cute, if you are looking to save money by opting out of the Project Runway name and go for a less franchised product.
- Great Value
- Offers Sewing & Embroidery
- Informative LCD Screen
- Small Embroidery Field
- Small Hoop Included
- Expensive Start-up Costs
#4 Singer Futura XL-400 Sewing and Embroidery Machine
Singer’s Futura XL-400 offers multihooping capabilities with easy to use, extra-large embroidery hoops that are 10×6 inches! It offers the choice of 125 unique, built-in embroidery designs with five fonts and outline lettering. Features include a drop & sew bobbin system for easy set-up, as well as 30 built-in sewing stitches with two fully automatic one-step buttonholes.
As many of you who embroider know, most machines for home use will come with your standard 4×4 inch hoop or, if you are lucky, a larger 5×7 inch one. The extra-large, 10×6 inch hoop included with this machine is a welcomed anomaly!
In addition to a bigger than average hoop, you will also receive several pressure feet and design patterns, both small and big, to get you started adding gorgeous stitches and embellishments to your projects.
The editing software that comes with the XL-400 is simple to install and use to make resizing, changing colors, and changing hoops a snap. Just turn on your machine and open your software using your computer. From there you no longer need to rely on the machine’s tiny LCD screen, but can work right off your laptop or PC screen. This increases your work space tremendously, giving you a better look at your design and edits.
This machine does not boast XL in its name for nothing. It is a big machine great for quilting and sewing big projects. You will need a lot of space to store it, and once you attach the embroidery arm you will not want to be lugging this thing around town with you. Be sure if you buy this machine you have a dedicated space to keep it in.
My mother, who came to my home to work off my XL-400 one afternoon, insisted I mention the following: that this embroidery machine does require a computer to embroider. You cannot even open a design file or make edits to it unless you connect to your computer. This is something to consider for those of you looking for a machine with a little less hands-on tech.
This is a machine for those who are a bit tech savvy. You will need to accept that there is a learning curve and do your research, read the manuals, and look for tutorials on YouTube or other social media sites.
I have had colleagues who use this machine on the regular, and one of the many complaints I have heard has to do with the spool stand, which is very meticulous about threading. It tends to tangle up your threads and thus break a few needles.
What I have found particularly problematic though is that there is not an automatic thread cutter. For the cost of this model, it is criminal not to include this feature.
The hoops included with the XL-400 also feel cheap and brittle.
- Beautiful, Large Embroidery Field
- Impressive Pressure Feet
- Easy to use Software
- Must Own Computer
- For the Technically Shrewd
- Cheap Hoops
#5 Janome Memory Craft 200E Embroidery Machine
Janome has a stellar reputation in the sewing world. Known for building sturdy machines, you can rest assured that your machine will last you years.
The Janome 200E provides 5×5 inches of sewing field on a sturdy frame. It comes with a bed-mounted carriage arm that gives greater stability to your machine, because you are not dealing with any extra embroidery attachments that may come loose.
A USB port allows quick and easy transfer of designs from your computer to your memory stick to your machine. View your designs on a backlit LCD touch screen.
This machine will exceed your expectations, as far as home use machines go. I tend to adore Janome products, because they give a profession-grade feel for a reasonable price. This model does just that. It is effective, requiring little involvement from the user. In fact, I would argue the 200E is the perfect transitional machine for those of you who have been embroidery for some years, and would like to transition between at home hobby use to commercial endeavors.
At almost $500, this is an expensive machine. It is also very big and loud! Because it is a bit unstable, it bangs around like a bull in a Chine cabinet, causing things to wobble. My husband complains when the noise traverses his Game of Thrones watching time. At 26 pounds and almost two square feet in length, this embroidery machine necessitates a large work area to operate it effectually.
- Stellar Brand Name
- Moderately Hands-Off
- Louder than Average
- Not Easy to Transport
#6 Brother PE540D 4×4 Embroidery Machine
I came across this cute machine one afternoon, while shopping at our local home electronics store. It caught my fancy because of its unique casing; it has Mickey and Minnie Mouse all over the front column!
This unique machine that I was looking at is the Brother PE54OD. It includes Disney’s Mickey Mouse & Friendsembroidery designs, along with 70 other decorative patterns, five lettering fonts, and 120 frame options. Its LCD display screen offers you the option to not only view your designs, but to also learn the ins and outs of the machine through built-in tutorials.
Accessories include a 4×4 embroidery hoop, needle set, bobbins, bobbin thread, and USB cable.
I grew up in a Singer household, so when I encouraged my sister-in-law to buy this for Hadley, the fact that it is a Brother caught me some shade from my grandmother. I insisted on my recommendation, because the price is right and it comes with some excellent features.
First of which, I love the Disney designs included with this machine. They have allowed Hadley to create so many professional looking gifts for her friends and family.
I started off as a hand-embroider, so I admit I was skeptical about her getting a machine that would do all the work for her. The hefty price tag on many models also deterred me from recommending such an extravagant purchase for a kid. The Brother PE54OD changed my mind on both fronts – it is fun to use, puts Hadley in the driver’s seat of her own creation, and the price is just about right.
My niece is now making her first quilt on this machine, and she is having no problems at all working her way around the embroidery unity. She has even considered creating her own designs from software that allows her to transform found images into embroidery patterns.
I do not recommend this machine for professional seamers, but rather for a home unit. It is not fast enough or reliable enough to be your sole business machine.
The manual is terrible for this machine! It is intimidating, translations are not accurate, instructions over complicate simple issues, diagrams and photos are not high-quality renderings. Hadley and I found it easier to use YouTube videos and trial and error than trying to understand the ins and outs based on the manual.
I also advise you to only use more high-end embroidery machine thread on this machine, otherwise you risk fraying, which could cause you to bust your needle.
- Great Price
- Impressive Features
- Disney Pre-installed Designs
- Poorly Written Manual
- High Start-up Costs
- Needles Break with Cheap Thread
A Buyer’s Guide for Embroidery Machines
Because they can be a considerable investment, it is important to deliberate on all the technical and practical features when shopping for a new embroidery machine. Wondering what machine to buy? Read over the guide below to help purchase the right machine for you.
1) Is The Brand Important?
Yes, for the most part, big names in sewing are your best bet. These include many featured on the list like Brother, Singer, Janome, along with a few others. Sites like Amazon, as well as manufacturers’ forums, may help you get a sense of customer satisfaction with name brand products. Generally, if their products all get rave reviews, you are probably safe to purchase one of their models.
2) If Your Machine For Home Or Business Use?
If you are planning on mass producing and selling your embroidery work, bank on a commercial machine built for continuous hours of operation. You will need a machine that stitches fast and steady.
For home use, you still have many great options starting with costs in the low hundreds and working their way up. Home machines do not need to be as fast or heavy duty as those for commercial use, so you have some room here to concentrate on other features you may enjoy without stressing the speed factor.
Professional embroidery machine prices are significantly higher than those meant for home use.
3) What Features Are You Looking For?
Some features are necessary for me, and perhaps you too – automatic threading and cutting, bobbin winding from the needle, and a pressure sensor are some of my favorites. Consider what you will need for the type of embroidery you want to produce – commercial, ornamental, small, large, modest, complex? This is something you need to ask yourself repeatedly, because it will affect which features you will want in a machine.
4) Do You Want to Also Be Able To Sew?
If yes, you will want an embroidery arm that attaches and detaches from your machine. If you do not already own a sewing machine, this is a more economic choice that allows you to fine tune your crafting skills simultaneously in both areas.
5) What Size Range Are You Looking To Embroider?
Your embroidery field, or the space you have to embroider on, is determined by hoop size. Hoops can measure anywhere from 2×2 inches to 360×350 inches and beyond. For the most part, cheaper home models will only offer a small embroidery field of about 4×4 inches without needing to re-hoop your design to continue. Re-hooping involves taking apart your hoop, moving your fabric around, and replacing it. This, of course, increases your chances of misalignment and other user errors.
While most home machines offer a minimal field, commercial machines can embroider the entire back of a jacket with one hoop. If you do not mind rehooping, or working solely on a 4×4 inch field, you can save money on the machine by taking a smaller size range.
6) What Kinds Of Accessories Are You Interested In?
Are you interested in additional presser feet to hold your fabric flat as you work? Do you want a quilting table? Attachments for special techniques like sequinning or cording?
You may be thinking, “no way, I’m just getting started!” But you should consider a machine that can grow with you as you learn and progress. Many machine extensions are available for different makes and models. Keep in mind things like special hoops, cap-frames, number of needles, and various decoration techniques for when your skill level moves beyond rudimentary lettering and images.
7) What Designs Will You Have Access To?
Some embroidery machines have stitches and designs built into their memory, usually between 60-150, of varying quality. Many also have the option of accessing files by connecting your embroidery machine directly to a computer, or you can upload saved patterns from a pendrive.
You may want the ability to digitize, modify, and make your own designs, so be sure your machine is compatible with some of the digitizing software that is available.
8) What Are Your Options Should Something Break Or You Are Unsatisfied?
Shipping machines off for reparations can be timely, pricey, and risky. Since these are small investments, consider what kind of support is available.
It may be convenient to purchase a machine with dealers or embroidery machine technicians close by your home, who may offer assistance should something go wrong with your machine.
Some companies have a reputation for difficult to contact or unhelpful customer service. Check out websites to see if you will be able to contact a representative if an issue arises (phone number, email, live-chat, etc.)
Finally, check out what kind of warranty is available with your machine.
Frequent Asked Questions
What Is An Embroidery Sewing Machine?
An embroidery sewing machine is a computerized sewing machine that can stitch patterns, lettering, or images into fabric using specialized, colored embroidery thread. The fabric is secured in place by an embroidery hoop that comes in a variety of sizes, standard being 4×4 inches.
Patterns and images are stitched onto fabric by a mechanically controlled embroidery arm that moves the hooped fabric to demarcated settings on the design file preload or uploaded into the machine. Embroidery machines for home use normally have only one needle, so the user must change thread colors throughout the embroidery process.
What Does The Embroidering Process Involve?
Machine embroidery can be a lot of fun, but there is a specific process to follow that may require some trial and error. These are the basic steps you will want to follow when creating embroidery with a computerized embroidery machine:
- Decide on your pattern. Select from preloaded patterns or purchase your own digitized embroidery design file that works with your specific machine.
- Edit the design using embroidering software like AutoPunch, Embird, Embrillance, or many others.
Load your final design file into the embroidery machine. Be sure it is the right format and that it will fit in your hoop.
- Stabilize and/or hoop your fabric and place it in the machine.
- Start your machine up and follow the instructions on your LCD or PC. It should tell you when to change thread colors, rethread your machine, or any errors that come up during the process. Be sure you have plenty of needles, bobbins, compressed air, a small brush, and scissors on hand.
- Botched projects are bound to happen for any number of reasons – misplaced hoop, machine malfunction, wrong thread, poor design quality, etc. Repeat these steps until you are satisfied with your results.
What Is An Embroidery Hoop?
Embroidery hoops are tools used to keep fabric taut while embroidering. They consist of two entwined concentric circles, a smaller ring resting inside a slightly larger ring. The larger ring has a tightening device, usually a metal screw, to frame and hold your fabric in place. The embroiderer positions their fabric and stabilizer between these two hoops and situates this onto the machine’s embroidery field. Hoops were originally made of wood, bone, or ivory, but today’s are generally wood or plastic.
What Is A Stabilizer?
Stabilizers are firm sheets positioned over or under your designs. Cloth materials can easily shift and gather due to lack of stiffness. Placing a stabilizer under your fabric can prevent wrinkling, stretching, jagged lines, and twisted or mismatched stitching, because it gives you a steadier canvas to work on.
What Is The Best Way To Maintain An Embroidery Machine For Long Term Use?
Regular maintenance checkups and cleaning is important to the life of your embroidery machine. Read your manual to get a better sense of your specific model’s needs, but basically: keep it clean and covered when not in use, change your needles on the regular and be sure you are using the appropriate size according to the fabric and project you are planning. Ensure your hoops are in top shape, and that they have not warped. Bobbins should be free of lint and replaced should they crack. From time to time, check out each of the parts of the machine like the needle plate, to ensure you do not have a bent needle. Replace old threads if they dry out or break. If you decide to remove a part for any reason, take note of how you removed it to make replacing it a bit easier.
What Fabrics Can You Stitch With The Embroidery Machine?
Commonly, any soft material that will fit under the needle of the machine. Shirts, hats, and jackets are the most commonly embroidered items, while thick blankets, bags, and curtains may entail different accessories to embroider them.
When Using A Computerized Machine, Do You Simply Press The Start Button And The Machine Does The Rest?
No. An embroidery machine does not work like a printer. It is still a hands-on process that involves threading, fine-tuning thread tensions, operating the machine’s control panel, hooping, placement techniques, and more.
So, you have read my reviews, heard my stories, and learned of my experiences with these machines. You may be wondering which model I would recommend for the best embroidery machine 2018?
If budgeting were not an option, I would personally choose Singer Futura XL-400 Sewing and Embroidery Machine. It is multifunctional, comes with a great bonus pack of accessories, and is user friendly.
Now I realize that this is an expensive machine, and not everyone has upwards of $600 to spend on one. If I were choosing a model for everyday use, one that is affordable and adaptable to a multitude of skill levels, I would go with the Brother SE400. This machine offers the choice of both sewing and embroidery, so it is a great value that offers a multitude of project possibilities.
There are a lot more machine choices offered on the market today than when I started out! Depending on the make and brand, embroidery machines can run you as much as a cheap used car. Because of the high price tag, some research and thought will be time well spent when investing in one of these machines.