If you've ever wondered about an embroidery machine - how do you use one? How expensive are they? What would I make? Which is the best embroidery machine for me? Then this video is for you. Together with Caroline from Husqvarna Viking we give you a quick overview to show you how much fun you could be having with an embroidery machine. We also cover all of these points in detail in the written article below.
Before we begin, what qualifies us to offer advice on embroidery machines?
Firstly we have our very own in house expert and co founder of Sew Essential, Angela. Angela has over 25 years experience with embroidery machines and is an accomplished machine embroiderer.
This in turn allows us to be classed as a specialist dealer of these machines stocking all the top brands including Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff, Brother, Elna and Janome. You can find our full range of embroidery machines here.
If you have any queries or need any advice we are always happy to help and offer extensive before and after sales support. But let us start by answering some of the most common questions.
What do you use an Embroidery Machine for?
The most common question we are asked is 'what would I do with an embroidery machine?' An easier question to answer is almost 'what can't you do with an embroidery machine?!'
People often think 'I'm not really into quilting so I don't think I'd use one', but they are useful for so many other projects. For example you can add gorgeous individual detail to an otherwise simple dressmaking project, create your own personal home dec items such as curtains, bed sheets and even towels.
How often is that you can't quite find what you want in the shops? The right colour or the design you had in mind? With an embroidery machine you can customise it and get exactly what you want.
To whet your appetite here are some of our favourite projects created on our embroidery machines.
First up Angela's (co-founder of Sew Essential) masterpiece king size quilt, created over 10 years ago. A true work of art Angela spent months and months creating this quilt and was awarded first prize in the Flair Magazine embroidered quilt competition for her efforts.
It is impossible to do the quilt justice in a photograph with it's 16 embroidered panels each intricately and beautifully detailed so here is a snapshot to give you a glimpse of this wonderful creation.
You can even create your own jewellery on an embroidery machine. Angela created this stunning necklace, which I'm sure you will agree would add a modern twist to any outfit.
This same technique can be used to create gorgeous intricate decorations for your home and Christmas tree such as these pretty snowflakes Angela made.
Brighten up your dining room with a fabulous table runner such as this one made by Angela or create place mats, coasters and even dining room chair covers.
Create a tablecloth worthy of the most special occasions. Angela embroidered the designs in the centre of the tablecloth and also created her own lace designs to edge it with using her embroidery machine.
You can also embroider designs on your dressmaking projects like this chambray dress I made a few years ago.
Update your living room or bedroom with stunning cushions like these created by Angela.
If you look closely at the cushion on the left it has a 3D effect called thread velvet. The machine pulls the thread through to the right side of the fabric. Such an effective technique, it feels and looks beautiful.
As I mentioned these projects are just a tiny glimpse into the possibilities with ideas such as wall art, bags, bed linen, towels, pyjamas, dressing gowns, children's wear, men's and women's wear, curtains, blinds and lampshades to add to the list. In short you can embroider anything!
Sewing and Embroidery Machines
Many embroidery machines allow you to complete all of the standard sewing tasks you would on a normal sewing machine plus embroidery.
This means not only are they great value for money, but they also make certain sewing tasks quicker and easier to do.
Appliqué is a good example of this. Appliqué designs are digitized to stop after each step so that you can position your fabric, cut around the shape and then stitch down the fabric. There are normally so many built in appliqué designs in each machine but you can also buy and download many others.
How Much are Embroidery Machines?
If you're thinking of spending in the region of £900 to £1500 on a sewing machine it may well be worth considering an embroidery machine. Many of them will perform all the tasks a normal sewing machine does plus machine embroidery. Not only that, many of the entry level sewing and embroidery machines have the same sorts of features as the top end sewing machines.
Some examples are things like a large space under the arm of the machine meaning it is much easier to work on bigger or bulkier projects such as coats or quilts. An excellent range of fancy stitches and alphabet options for customising your projects with monogramming for example. Features like an automatic thread cutter - you simply press a button and it cuts your sewing thread for you or our exclusive sensor system that adjusts the foot pressure to suit the fabric you are working with.
These features do vary between make and model of machine so it is important to check our detailed product descriptions for full information. Think about which sewing machine features are most important to you and that you value most.
If you're already a big fan of machine embroidery or you like to go big or go home you can spend as much as £8499* on a top of the range model such as the Pfaff Icon. Of course there are also embroidery machines at varying price points from £900 right up to this hefty sum! you can find our full range here.
Which Embroidery Machine is Best for Me?
So what are the key features you need to consider when buying an embroidery machine? Here's a quick run down:
All modern embroidery machines come with built in embroidery designs. This means you don't have to buy software or additional designs to get started.
The number of designs depends on the machine you are looking at and, generally, the more you spend, the more designs are included with the machine. The entry level models usually come with around 70 - 75 designs. The top end machines include as many as 630 designs and a whopping 1200 stitches!
It is quicker and easier to use the designs included with your embroidery machine, but you can also buy and download new and additional designs once you are comfortable with your machine and as your skills progress. We have a good selection of embroidery designs to buy under sewing machine accessories just select the relevant brand. In fact you could embroider all your life and never come close to seeing them all!
There are also lots of free designs you can download from the Internet. When it comes to free designs just bear in mind they can vary in terms of the digitising quality. It is always a good idea to stitch out part of the design and check the quality before proceeding to your actual project.
If you want to upload additional designs onto your embroidery machine the technology you need to use varies by embroidery machine. A cable or USB stick is used for many machines whereas some of the higher end machines can even transfer the designs via WiFi whilst also giving you the option of a USB if you prefer.
Manipulation of Embroidery Designs
The ability to position, rotate, mirror, scale, resize and merge designs and how easy it is to complete these activities also varies depending on the machine.
The more expensive machines tend to have bigger, more responsive colour screens that allow you to do this on the embroidery machine screen, whereas the more basic models won't have this facility.
For the more basic models you may be able to make some limited changes on the machine, but you will need to make more exaggerated changes on your PC first using specialist software. You then transfer the updated design to your machine.
Even some of the lower end machines come with complimentary software for editing designs on your PC and the premier + ultra software package by Husqvarna & Pfaff can actually be used in conjunction with any brand of machine as can the Brother PE Design software. We have a range of software packages available to suit your needs and are always more than happy to talk you through the options.
The alignment, positioning, joining, resizing and merging of the designs is where the real challenge and skill comes in and it requires patience and practice as does learning how to use the machine and the software effectively.
As with any sewing related skill, the more time you spend practising and experimenting the more you will get out of it.
There are online forums where you can chat with fellow enthusiasts and plenty of YouTube videos to help you learn and explore, which we strongly recommend.
Hoops & Hoop Size
The biggest, most important difference is the maximum hoop size available for the machines.
For the lower end embroidery machines the biggest hoop size available may be as little as 100mm x 100mm whereas some of the higher end Husqvarna and Pfaff machines allow you to work with a hoops measuring up to 360mm x 350mm.
Why is this important? A larger hoop will allow you to work on bigger and more elaborate designs more easily.
If you are using a smaller hoop you will have to stop more frequently to re-hoop the fabric. In other words once you have filled the small area you are working on you have to reposition the fabric to stitch out the next section whereas with a bigger hoop you would be able to continue for much longer and stitch out more in one go.
Also bear in mind that each time you re-hoop you have to make sure the designs are aligned so that they will continue seamlessly.
We stock a wide range of embroidery hoops (available on the sewing machine accessories page of our website, just search by brand) to match our extensive range of embroidery machines.
Husqvarna and Pfaff embroidery machines even have the option for magnetic hoops. Instead of clipping the fabric inside the hoop you simply place the fabric on the flat magnetic hoop and position magnets over the top to secure it. Magnetic hoops are particularly useful for people with dexterity problems and arthritis because it makes hooping your fabric much easier.
The machines that allow you to work with larger hoops are bigger in size in order to accommodate the larger hoops, which in turn gives you more sewing space to the right of the needle. The more basic machines will provide you with around 200mm sewing space whereas the higher end machines will give you up to 310mm making sewing large or bulky projects such as quilts and coats much easier.
The Basic Kit Required for Machine Embroidery
Don't forget we also stock everything you need to get started from stabilisers, which support the fabric to prevent puckering and tunneling to embroidery machine needles, machine embroidery threads and even pre wound bobbins. We can offer advice and support on these items too.
We hope we've opened your eyes to the main considerations and possibilities of machine embroidery. We are always happy to talk your options through with you over the phone, via email or in our showroom in Derbyshire.
*All prices quoted in this article were correct when the article was published. Prices and offers are subject to change, but will always be fully up to date on our retail site.
Have fun sewing!
Lucy and Angela
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