Picking your first embroidery machine can be scary. First, you don’t even know the questions to ask because, duh, you have never used one. Second, most people don’t want to spend a ton of money “just in case they don’t use it.” We hear this one a lot. Or they think an embroidery machine is only used for putting designs on T-Shirts for the grandkids and they don’t have any grandkids.
In the 30+ years of home embroidery machines, we have found ways to do just about everything in an embroidery hoop! From embroidering zippered bags in the hoop to quilting a queen size quilt, embroidery machines are continually being pushed to new limits every year.
Take some time researching your local options before making a buying decision. If you are lucky enough to have one or two amazing sewing machine stores in your area that specialize in embroidery, we guarantee that your purchase will be worth what you spend because they will be there every step of the way.
Better yet, if they offer classes that let your try out an embroidery machine before you purchase you will definitely be making a better choice instead of wishing you had spent the extra money on a fancier embroidery machine a few months later.
Hands-on national embroidery events are a great way to see, learn, test-out, and talk to other embroiderers about what they have learned after buying their first embroidery machine. Many embroiderers will tell you how many embroidery machines they have owned along their own embroidery journey.
Check out what online tutorials and videos are available for the embroidery brand and model you are considering. This website, SewingMastery.com, offers over 4,000+ sewing machine and embroidery videos to help you master your embroidery machine.
Here are a few suggestions of items to look for and questions to ask when buying your FIRST embroidery machine.
PRO TIP: Print off this list of questions and take it with you when comparing different brands of embroidery machines.
1. What is the largest embroidery design size the embroidery machine can embroider?
This is probably the #1 question people need to ask when purchasing a new embroidery machine. When admiring store samples, ask what size of embroidery machine hoop was used to embroider the design. Though an embroidery hoop looks to be one size, keep in mind that embroidery designs are not stitched to the very edge of the hoop.
Look at the physical inner size of the embroidery machine. The distance between the needle and the body of the machine is the largest embroidery width. The longer the embroidery machine and the wider the embroidery designs.
2. How many hoops come with the embroidery machine?
Get a list of included embroidery hoops and accessories that are included with the embroidery machine purchase. We often have numerous hoop sizes out and about for projects we are working on at any given time. Do not assume all hoops are included with the embroidery machine.
3. What additional hoops are available and what are the prices?
Embroidery machines offer additional hoop sizes. See what sizes are available and get an idea of the range of prices so you are not surprised later.
4. Does it have a black and white or color touch screen?
Machines with a color touch screen offer more options. From touching and dragging designs around the screen to selecting different functions, each brand of machine is set up differently. Sit in front of the machine and see if it is easy to navigate around the machine.
5. Can it combine more than one embroidery design on the screen?
This sounds like a simple request, but not all models can do this. If you want to combine an embroidery design with a name on the screen to stitch out all in one pass, you will need a machine that can combine designs. If the machine you choose does not have this option, look to purchase embroidery software for your Windows or Mac computer to do this.
6. How does one transfer embroidery designs to the embroidery machine?
These days the most common way is with a USB stick. A USB stick can easily move embroidery files from a CD or that were downloaded to a computer to the machine. Computers and embroidery machines do not need to reside in the same room for this simple transfer. Newer embroidery machines have WiFi for transferring designs and some machines will need a cable to connect together for this transfer. Be sure the option you choose will work with the technology you are used to.
7. Does the embroidery machine sew too?
Most embroidery machines are both a sewing machines and an embroidery machines. Even if you already have a sewing machine you plan to keep and sew on while the embroidery machine is running, owning an embroidery machine that sews is not a bad thing. These combination machines often offer more features than machines that are embroidery only. It is nice when your main sewing machine is in for its annual service you still have a sewing machine close by.
8. How many built-in alphabets does it have? Can and how do you add more alphabets?
Most embroidery machines include just a couple of built-in alphabets. But what if you want more? How do you add more alphabet styles to the embroidery machine? Purchasing additional embroidery software programs that install on a Windows or Mac computer is the easiest way to increase the alphabet options, but some companies offer free lettering software that you just need to download from the company’s website.
9. Does it need to connect directly to a computer to embroider?
We are seeing fewer and fewer of these types of embroidery machines, but some embroidery machines must be connected to a computer to embroider. Over the years, these users often feel tethered to their embroidery machines and often get discouraged from using them in the long run.
10. Does the store you are buying it from offer classes? Are they one-on-one classes or group classes?
Buying your first embroidery machine from a local, reputable sewing machine dealer is the best way to safeguard your purchase. Most stores are more than willing to offer classes, help troubleshoot problems, and service your precious new family member. Ask what classes are offered. There are stores that you can instantly know that they would bend over backward for you and those that won’t. Find where you fit in the best. These people will become your friends over the next couple of months.
OK, we had to add a few more tips more than 10…
11. Does the store you are buying the embroidery machine from have onsite, year-round service technicians?
Amazing sewing machine stores have trained and certified, full-time service technicians on staff. Having on-site or full-time technicians mean getting machines returned in a timely manner. Of course, the good sewing machine service centers will be a bit busier because they are that good. The word always travels when people find good service people that know their stuff. Give them the time they need to do their best work for a smooth service visit.
Side note about buying used embroidery machines:
If considering purchasing a used embroidery machine, be sure it has a USB port. Embroidery machines that use embroidery cards or floppy disks are very outdated embroidery technology and do not interface with current Windows or Mac computers. There are no embroidery machine manufacturers that support these older embroidery machines.
These suggestions should help you select the right embroidery machine for the type of embroidering you are wanting to do. Keep in mind, once you own an embroidery machine and start using it, you might get hooked. That is OK! If you grow out of the first embroidery machine, find the next one that will give you some additional growth in the room.
Fast forward to after your embroidery machine purchase…
Congratulations! Here is a short checklist of things to do in the first three months after purchasing your first embroidery machine:
- Schedule your embroidery machine classes. If you didn’t get embroidery classes with your purchase, seek out a store that has embroidery classes you can attend.
- If classes are not available in your area, check out the Embroidery Essentials Online Course.
- Open the embroidery machine and embroider a few built-in embroidery designs prior to your first class (your teacher will thank you!)
- Attend your in-store embroidery classes
- Read your embroidery machine’s manual AFTER your hands-on class – it will make more sense after the class!
- Sign up for any and all embroidery events your local store is hosting – always sign up early, embroidery events are fun, entertaining, and educational so they fill up quickly!
- Watch some online tutorial videos
Take This Online Course Immediately After Purchasing Your NEW Embroidery Machine!
Welcome to a unique embroidery journey to help you master your embroidery machine while learning 15 different embroidery design techniques. The Embroidery Essentials online course, hosted by Sara Snuggerud of SewingMastery.com, is over 3 1/2 hours of in-depth embroidery knowledge with step-by-step instructions PLUS 90 minutes of BONUS content for every embroidery technique. By completing each embroidery technique we guarantee that you will have worked through more areas of your embroidery machine than most embroidery machine owners. The repetition of these specific techniques throughout this online course will solidify the knowledge you learn for ease of your own future embroidery projects.