The Best Embroidery Machines 2017

pink baby shoes made with embroidery

Embroidery can be brutal. If the long hours don’t get you then the occasional heavy fabric definitely will. Luckily, in the feud of hand vs machine embroidery, most people side with the machines. And yes, hand embroidery can be crazy beautiful but for some of us with kids or multiple jobs, the necessary time becomes a much rarer resource. Machine embroidery is a great alternative to save you precious hours or to just seem more talented than you really are.

In this article you’ll find 10 tips for buying a embroidery machine and a few machines that we trust to work well.

How to Buy an Embroidery Machine

  1. Do some initial research and talk with your local dealer if you have one

  2. Again, your dealer is your new best friend. Shop according to your dealer’s knowledge but also make sure that the dealer's looking out for your best interest too. Some are a bit shady. Ignore what random comments suggest or whatever the crazy cat lady on the internet tells you to buy

  3. Write down the features you know you NEED and buy according to that. Don’t waste money on features you won’t really use 99% of the time. A shady dealer will try to up-sell you features that you don't actually need if you go in unprepared.

  4. Heavier machines are made of better materials but they probably also cost more. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a new machine buy a quality used one.

  5. ​Old quality machines might be better and cheaper but harder to find replacement parts for. 

  6. Dealers should let you test drive a machine before buying it. Bring your own fabric.
    Make sure there is a good manual and Youtube videos about your embroiderer. They are the 2 most important things outside having a dealer

  7. A bigger price tag doesn’t always mean a much better machine. Sometimes it’s just a silly cosmetic upgrade with some designs to increase price.

  8. Each machine has it’s own learning curve and personality. There will be an adjustment period. Your local dealership might offer classes or there might be some online.

  9. Unless you specifically know that you don’t need more than a 4×4 hoop size, get the biggest hoop size you can afford/need because most people find 4″ x 4″ to be too small.

  10. Trust statistics – When looking at reviews look for devices with the highest satisfaction and the biggest amount of reviews

Please note:

There are more than 27 different companies that make embroidery machines. And as said before hundreds of machines themselves. I would advise against reading individual comments about the reliability of a brand. Most will either have a good or a bad experience with a machine and that experience will often be extended to the entire brand. Unless a person has experiences with 100s of machines (like a dealer) you should take with a grain of salt everything they say. Of course there are predatory companies that take advantage of consumers so:

Brands that aren’t perfect but are generally trustworthy:
Brother, Babylock, Janome, Bernina, Pfaff, Husqvarna, Amaya, Tajima, Viking

Our recommendations

1. Brother SE400

brother 400

Under 500 there aren’t many good options. Unless you go bargain hunting for a used model on Ebay or Craigslist, the Brother SE400 is the machine for you. It’s a combination machine capable of both sewing and embroidery. It’s not the most expensive machine out there and that’s fine, but due to cost cuts it also has a limited hoop size of 4×4 inches and could cause you a few headaches down the line. You could get a larger hoop for a bit of extra to remedy some of that. It also features an one touch thread cutter that makes your work that much faster. On top of the default designs and fonts you get with the machine you can also connect it with your computer to download additional customization. Brother in general has a very good reputation regardless of being a Chinese company.

Bear in mind that if you’re looking to embroider extensively then this is not the best machine to do it. This is not a workhorse. For workhorse quality machines under 500$ I recommend you go bargain hunting on Ebay.

Fun fact in 2017, Brother manufactured it’s 60 millionth home sewing machine.

2. Brother PE770

brother 700

Under 1000 Choices
brother PE770For those who have a bit more money to spend I recommend the Brother PE770 with 5″x7″ hoops .
A spacious 5×7 inch hoop that will speed up your embroidery and a LCD screen that won’t have you squinting your eyes in the darker hours of the day. The display is neat for reviewing or editing your design options. Whether you’re into quilting or just want to letter a monogram into your design, the machine is spacious and accommodates all. It has all the basic bells and whistles we expect nowadays like an automatic thread cutter or a needle threader. You might want to consider buying extra equipment if you don’t have some of your own.

The only real downside with the machine is that since the display is not very large and colorful you’d probably prefer to your design editing on your computer and then transfering the file to your PE770. Overall a truly great beginner machine for a person who wants quality for embroidering for a long time. As always before buying consult Youtube videos if you can find them. The manual is decent but having a human being show you the ropes is very helpful too.
Accessories: I do recommend you only use 90wt Brother bobbin thread in it as this machine.
Features: Computerized, Needle Threader, Needle Up/Down Setting, Embroidery Stitches, Drop-In bobbin, Embroidery Machine, Auto Threading

brother designio

Those with keen eyes among you will notice that the DZ720E looks a lot like the PE770. Functionally, I believe they are pretty much the same system but the difference comes in with the extra customization, patterns and designs they offer with it. So the smart money is on the PE770 unless you really need the extras that come with the “stylish” model.

Although most people have positive experiences with the archtype of this hardware, there are common problems with thread tension that more experienced sewers seem to be able to solve. I recommend you check Youtube videos before buying the device. It features also all the regular computerized stuff we expect nowadays like USB port for transfering designs and a bunch of default embroidery designs and lettering fonts. You’ll also get a bunch of accessories like bobbins and the like. But again, I’d recommend you get the cheaper PE770 and buy whatever else you need on it’s own. No real complaints about the manual.

janome memory

For a newbie it’s simple to use. There are online demos that are perfectly adequate or you could watch the DVD, should you need the guidance. Capable of working with softer materials like a baby quilt and a monogram for pajamas. Easy to thread, so that won’t be a headache. The stitching is beautiful. The tension was no problem at all. Auto cutting enabled if you want it. You can also resize and position the design as you require. Editing on the screen is pretty straight forward. If the thread breaks the stitch counter will go forwards or backwards in 10 stitch increments. The computer will guide you through the designs telling you how long it’s approximately going to take and what colors to use. The bobbing can be winded without removing the thread from the machine. The machine allows programming for 4 different brands of thread when adjusting for colors. As usual with modern devices you can transfer designs using a flash drive. There are a hundred designs and 3 different fonts on default.

You need to be careful when threading otherwise the thread might needlessly break but should work perfectly normally. You might have more luck with polyester threads. The embroidery is neat and beautiful. It doesn’t make much noise and it’s pretty heavy. This machine has hoops for sewing 4×4 and 5×7 designs, though the actual stitch area is a little larger than that. The machine is easy to clean with the provided tools and in general a very pleasant machine to work with. Compatible with Mac too.
Features: Computerized,Needle Threader, Needle Up/Down Setting, Embroidery Stitches, Drop-In bobbin, Free Arm, Adjustable Stitch Length and Width, Adjustable Presser Foot Pressure, Adjustable Needle Position, Embroidery Machine, Auto Threading

Alternatively you could check out the Bernina 830 on Ebay or the 1080. The prices and the quality varies from very high to very low since you’re most likely dealing with individuals not real dealers.

janome memory 400

janome e400The capacitive touch screen is large and clear. The graphics make sense and are intuitive enough to follow. The hooping and the stabiliser are a bit tricky but that’s made up by the professional looking stitch outs. Easy to use and plenty of built in designs to choose from, that you can modify according to your own imagination.
The manual is of decent help but what’s really useful is the Janome’s free app with built in lessons.

However a negative aspect is that you cannot rotate grouped objects. I also wish it warned of a low bobbin thread sooner, not just seconds before it runs out. The hoop size is 8″x 8″ so you might want to buy a smaller hoop if you’re looking to do such work. A quick tip is that you format the USB before you start transferring designs with it, just to make sure that everything works smoothly. It’s a quality machine that you can use every day for years with proper maintenance. The default editing software is truly powerful and even better then some paid options. Overall it’s simple to use, powerful with a lot of functionality and lots of free designs. It’s not a perfect machine but with a bit of research you will soon master it and make it perfect for you.

dreamweaver

For the professional who wants to get serious with embroidery once you graduate from the younger Brother PE770, this is the Holy Grail of embroidery. Many people wish for such a machine, not many can afford it. Unfortunately you have to hunt it down yourself.

I upgraded from a PE 700II to the DreamMaker XE 2200. I wanted an embroidery only machine that could do larger designs. The DreamMaker has up to 7″ x 12″ hoop. I love having the flexibilty to do large designs and don’t feel limited anymore like when I had my 700II. The DreamMaker has a really nice large color screen. It tells you which step of the design you are on and approximately how long it will take to stitch out each step. There are some in-machine editing you can do that you couldn’t do with the 700II, such as merging a design with lettering. I love that it automatically cuts jump stitches. The automatic needle threader is neat. Besides the larger hoop, I really like the fact that I can see what I’m stitching on the large color screen than the black blobs on the screen of the PE700II. The PE700I (and PE770) are great starter machines to get your feet wet in machine embroidery. When you are ready to move up to the next level of embroidery only machine, the DreamMaker XE VE2200 is a great choice.

Other expensive models to consider would include the Janome 500E or the Babylock Spirit which also have big hoop sizes but more features ( which frankly you might not use and not really want at that price point). The NQ1400E and Babylock Flourish are beasts on their own but with smaller max hoop sizes and even fewer accessories. If I were unbiased I’d say the Janome 500E is your best multiple thousand bet. It is the most cost efficent but with more experience on a Dreammaker I prefer that.

The Pros and Cons of Embroidery Machines

PROS:
You can’t beat a machine for coverage. You can cover several square inches in machine-style satin stitch in minutes and the tightness will be unrivaled with a back side that’s perfectly neat.
Machine embroidery is also great for tiny motifs on things like baby clothes, hats or to customize your accessories and show more personality. These things are done automatically by the machine with limited input by you.

CONS:
The troublesome part is finding a good machine. A lot of information is hidden. Some information you have to buy just so you could get a clearer view of your choices. There are easily 100s of different embroidery machines. The sick joke in this industry is that a few extra default designs or something equally insignificant will alter the machine’s name. All in the name of profit. But even after forking over thousands of dollars for a machine to perform perfectly, we still encounter some models with peculiar issues like the thread sensor bugging out with some dust on it. So how do we avoid getting screwed?

Wrapping it up

If you're serious about the craft save up money for a decent money like the PE770 or go hunting for a bargain on Ebay. 

About the author

Janet

Avid reader and writer. Professional seamstress. Mother and fashion lover.

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