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Updated: 21st March 2024.
Author: Darius Navai
Embroidery Machine Buyers Guide

Which Embroidery Machine to Buy?

If you have ever considered 'What embroidery machine should I buy?' - you've come to the right place. This embroidery machine guide should answer all your questions you have, and inform you of those you hadn't considered too! Hopefully, you'll know exactly which embroidery machine to buy after reading through all of the topics discussed below.

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Types of Embroidery Machines

Embroidery machines come in three different styles: domestic embroidery machine, combination domestic embroidery and sewing machine, and professional embroidery machines. What you plan to do and create with the machine as well as where you plan to put it will help you determine which machine is right for you. You’ll also want to consider the cost.

Home Embroidery Machine

Anything smaller than something ‘medium-sized' we find are too small and only cause frustration, even if they’re only being used for travel machines. Medium size machines are best suited to occasional sewers wanting a general purpose machine that’s not too big to be easily portable. Those who like to take classes or attend sewing retreats will prefer something smaller and easier to lift. They are also great for those who need to store their machines when not in use because of space constraints.

Combination Sewing & Embroidery Machine

A combination machine is a great choice for someone who might have limited space or only wants to embroider occasionally. These machines function as both fully computerised sewing machines as well as domestic embroidery machines.

Bernina Embroidery Unit

Certain Bernina brand sewing machines come with the capability to turn into a combination machine. Some of their higher-end models can connect to an embroidery unit that is sold separately. They already have designs built into the machine and are accessible once the embroidery unit is in place.

Professional Embroidery Machine

A professional machine looks quite different than the other two styles of embroidery machines. They allow for multiple needles, therefore multiple colours of thread, to be threaded at one time. These machines are fast, functional, and are built to last project after project! They have the capability to embroider oddly shaped projects, too, like baseball caps! These machines will come with many hoops and will need a specialised and permanent space.

Embroidery Machines Cost vs Value

Embroidery machines come in all levels of cost and quality. There are some that are on the budget side that may have the bare minimum when it comes to features and pre programmed designs. There are also machines on the opposite end of the spectrum and are considered luxury or professional-grade machines that are built with high amounts of use in mind and come with many different features and designs already programmed in. And there are plenty of embroidery machines that land somewhere in the middle.

Best Embroidery Machine Brands


Brother Embroidery Machines

Brother also has a licensing agreement with Disney. Selected Brother embroidery machines come with Disney themed designs featuring your favourite princesses, Pixar characters, and more! If you’re a big Disney fan, or know you’ll be creating a lot of projects that are Disney themed, you’ll want to consider one of these Brother machines!

Popular models:

Janome Embroidery Machines

Janome embroidery machines are just as well-built as their sewing machines. They’re built with metal interiors and plastic exteriors so that they’re durable but lightweight. They have a good array of built-in designs and typically come with at least three hoops, depending on the model.

Popular models:

Bernina Embroidery Machines

Bernina embroidery machines are just as high-quality as the rest of their machines, too. They have a couple of embroidery-only models, but most of their machines that have embroidery capabilities are combination machines that you need to purchase an embroidery unit separately.

Popular models:

Husqvarna Embroidery Machines

Husqvarna carries a wide array of embroidery machines that fit any budget! They carry both low-end embroidery machines that are great for beginners who just want to try out embroidery but also higher-end machines that have large screens and even a few combination machines!

Popular models:

Pfaff Embroidery Machines

Pfaff embroidery machines sit in the middle-of-the-road as far as budget and calibre. They have the same quality of their sewing machines, so you know they’re well-built!

Popular models:

Popular Built-In Features in Embroidery Machines

  1. Auto Cutter: Having an automatic cutter on an embroidery machine is more out of necessity than luxury. It’s a great asset when you want to be able to cut jump stitches and trim threads before pulling the hoop away from the machine, making removal of the finished design as well as thread colour changes much easier. View models with this feature
  2. Auto Tension: Automatic tension is great on embroidery machines because there might be designs that use different types of stitches. Automatic tension sets the tension to optimal settings so that the designs turn out perfect every time. It’s also great for when you want to change back and forth between different types of projects, such as from basic embroidery to monogramming towels to creating free-standing lace and back to basic embroidery. View models with this feature
  3. Built-in Embroidery Fonts: Having embroidery fonts is great for anyone who wants to create quilt labels or monogram projects and more. The more expensive a machine, the more fonts you’ll have access to built into the machine at time of purchase. View models with this feature
  4. Needle Threader: Everyone loves having a needle threader on any type of sewing machine, and embroidery machines are no different! Especially when you’re wanting to change threads multiple times each project, a needle threader will make the job a lot easier and faster! View models with this feature
  5. Needle Up/Down: Just like on a typical domestic sewing machine, having an auto needle up/down button can make your sewing experience a lot easier. There might be times that you’ll need to change out the bobbin or the thread colour, but when you stop the machine, it will stop in the needle down position and being able to hit a button to change the needle position can be extremely helpful. It’s also great for positioning designs. View models with this feature
  6. On-screen Editing: Being able to edit a design on the screen will make your embroidery experience much easier and more fun! With on-screen editing, you’ll be able to flip, rotate, move, and shrink a design as you need to. View models with this feature
  7. Thread Sensors: Thread sensors are a great asset on an embroidery machine. They’ll alert you to a low bobbin so that you don’t end up stitching an entire design only to find out your bobbin had run out halfway through. The sensor will let you know that it’s low and stop stitching so that you can replace the bobbin before it runs out and ruins the design. View models with this feature
  8. Touch Screen: Having a touch screen makes on-screen editing much easier to control! You’ll be able to move designs minutely instead of having to rely on a button with pre-set sizes. You can also place the designs exactly where you want by dragging and dropping. View models with this feature
  9. USB Port: You definitely want to make sure that your embroidery machine comes with a USB port so that you can import new designs into your machine whenever you want. A USB Port is also needed for connecting directly to your computer. View models with this feature
  10. Built-in WIFI: This feature isn’t available on every machine, only the higher-end and professional-grade. Built in WiFi allows you to connect your tablet, phone, and computer to the embroidery machine without the use of any cables. This is great if you want to be able to use any apps associated with the embroidery machine in order to edit and create new designs. View models with this feature
  11. LED Needle Drop Pointer: This feature is great for anyone wanting to make sure their designs are placed perfectly. A laser will show you where the needle is going to pierce the fabric or stabiliser before you start the machine.

Embroidery Machines with built-in User Guides & Video Tutorials

Not every embroidery machine will come with built-in tutorials. It’s a great feature to have but is usually only found on higher-end machines with large screens that allow users to really be able to see what the tutorial is trying to teach them.

Display Size & Quality

It’s important to make sure that the embroidery machine you’re purchasing has a display screen that you can see and use easily. Higher-end machines will typically have larger screens that are touch screen and very easy to use. Lower-end machines won’t have as large of screens, but they’ll still allow you to see and track your design as it stitches.

Embroidery Area & Hoop Size

Common question, what’s the largest embroidery design size the embroidery machine can embroider? The size of your embroidery field will affect what types of projects you can work on. Hoops can come in all sorts of sizes, from itty bitty hoops that allow you to embroider tiny logos onto polo shirts to large hoops that can cover the back of a jean jacket with an epic design.
  1. Small Hoops: Small hoops are great for monogramming and doing intricate detail work because the help to hold the fabric taught where the pattern is going to be sewn.
  2. Medium Hoops: Medium-sized hoops work for almost every type of project. They give you enough space to create free-standing lace and monogram towels with large-enough fonts.
  3. Large Hoops: Large hoops are great for quilting and creating large designs. They’re great for in-the-hoop projects that require some extra space, too.
  4. Specialised Hoops: Specialised hoops such as those meant for baseball caps are only available for certain models.

Consider Your Level of Experience in Embroidery...

Most embroidery machines are very easy to use once you learn the basics. These machines are great for any level because they’re very easy to learn and there are many different things to learn.

Design Library, Built in & Downloadable

Pretty much every embroidery machine will come with some designs already programmed into the machine so that you can take off using the machine right away! You’ll have access to alphabets for monogramming and creating quilt labels as well as florals, faunas, seasonal, and holiday designs that are great for any kind of project. But, no matter how many designs come with your machine, you’ll more than likely find yourself looking to expand upon your library and want to download new designs from the internet. 

Of course, not every machine will have every design you’ll want to use in its lifetime. That’s why they have the ability to download new designs as you need it to! Plenty of online retailers sell original designs and digitisers that allow you to create your own!

Basic On-Screen Editing

Knowing how you’ll be able to edit a design without the use of extra software is important when you’re purchasing a machine on a budget. It’s also great to know what you can do if you’re a beginner. On-screen editing can include resizing, rotating, flipping, and moving the design around within the hoop. This is a great feature for making sure a design fits on your project or if you’re working on multiple projects at once and want to make sure they all fit within the same hoop.

Digitising Software for Embroidery Machines

Completely optional, digitising software can really make your embroidery projects much more personalised and fun! Digitising software allows you to create your own embroidery designs as well as highly edit already existing designs so that they fit your projects and work with your machine. Software can be expensive, but there are some lower-budget options that are great introductions to digitising software.

Device Connectivity

How you connect your machine to either your computer or the internet is important when you want to add to your design library or edit a design without using the built-in display. There are four different options to connect your embroidery machine to an outside source: USB, PC, Wifi, an App.
  1. USB: A USB port allows you to connect just a jump drive or USB stick to you machine and download small designs quickly and efficiently.
  2. PC: Connecting to your PC using a cord will do the same. This doesn’t require an internet connection- except to purchase and download the designs in the first place, but not to move it to the machine itself.
  3. WIFI: WiFi is necessary to use any apps you have downloaded onto a tablet or your phone.
  4. App: Apps allow you to edit designs right on the device and then move any designs easily to the machine with the press of a button.

Important Questions to Consider Before Buying an Embroidery Machine

  1. How many hoops come with the embroidery machine? It depends on the brand of the machine as well as the model. The lower-end models might only include one or two hoops, which is still great for you to start out with. The more expensive of a machine, the more hoops your machine will come with. Domestic machines might come with 3 or 4 hoops, whereas Professional Machines will come with many different hoops that a professional might use. Most machines will have hoops that you can purchase separately as well, so if you’re wanting to expand your hoop collection, you easily can!
  2. What additional hoops are available and what are the prices? Being able to purchase additional hoops is great in case a hoop wears out of you want to expand upon the hoops you already have. Costs vary depending on the brand, but typically cost less than 100 pounds. Specialised hoops might cost more.
  3. Does it have a black & white or colour touch screen? Colour screens are best as they help you to see colour changes in thread and help you to edit your designs better if the machine comes with on-screen editing. Black and white screens can be difficult to see, but still allow you to see some of the finer details of your work before it’s stitched.
  4. Can it combine more than one embroidery design on the screen? This is only possible with on-screen editing capable embroidery machines.
  5. How do I transfer embroidery designs to the embroidery machine? It’s very easy to transfer an embroidery design you’ve created or downloaded from the internet via the use of a USB port and drive, even on the least expensive machine! Higher-end machines might come with WiFi capabilities that will allow you to transfer quickly without having to plug in a drive.
  6. Does the embroidery machine sew too? It depends on which embroidery machine you purchase. If you purchase a combination machine of both embroidery and sewing machine, the simple answer is yes. You’ll be able to go back and forth between a traditional computerised sewing machine and a domestic embroidery machine. Otherwise, you won’t have access to normal sewing machine features if you purchase a domestic or professional sewing machine. You will, however, be able to create some projects that are traditionally sewn (called In-the-Hoop projects) or quilt with an embroidery machine within the embroidery hoop.
  7. How many built-in alphabets does it have? Can i / how do you add more alphabets? Most embroidery machines will come with a couple of varieties of alphabets for you to monogram with. The better quality of machine or higher cost of the machine, the more alphabets you’ll have access to that are already built-in to the machine. You can add more alphabets by either designing them using embroidery software or by purchasing them online and simply transferring them to your machine via either USB or WiFi.
  8. Does it need to connect directly to a computer to embroider? No! While you do need a computer in order to download any designs that aren’t already built into the machine, you don’t need a computer to use the embroidery machine. Absolutely no embroidery machine requires a computer to stitch.
  9. Do embroidery machines come with digitising software? Not usually, however there are some exceptions that do come with a very basic solution. Many machines come with basic editing tools built in and easily used via a touch screen. They allow you to shrink and enlarge the design you want to use as well as flip it in any direction and move it around the hoop so that you can embroider more than one design at a time. There are certain times that a digitising software will be included as a bundled sale option with an embroidery machine- and this can be a great deal as it has the potential to save you a good amount of money.
  10. What thread should i use? We recommend Madeira Rayon Embroidery threads. You should make sure that you’re only using machine embroidery thread! They will be clearly marked as such. You want to make sure that you use the correct embroidery bobbin thread for your machine, too. Brother bobbin thread #60 or #90 will usually be perfect for most machines. Cotton threads are not recommended because they break down much faster than polyester or rayon, so your designs are more likely to fray or break much quicker by using cotton thread than man-made materials.

Embroidery Machines for Different Project Types

How you connect your machine to either your computer or the internet is important when you want to add to your design library or edit a design without using the built-in display. There are four different options to connect your embroidery machine to an outside source: USB, PC, Wifi, an App.
  1. Monogramming: If you’re looking for a way to add a small personal touch that also labels with someone’s name or initials, then you’ll love being able to monogram on projects of all kinds! Monograms are great on towels, pillowcases, aprons, and so much more! They’re also great for seasonal projects such as Christmas stockings, too!
  2. Applique: You want to know what one of our favourite reasons to purchase an embroidery machine as quilters is? Being able to perfectly applique every time! An embroidery machine will allow you to perfectly place, baste, cut out, and finish off with the perfect stitch your applique project.
  3. Embroidery: The main reason to purchase an embroidery machine is for the embroidery capabilities, yes? You’ll be able to add thread-centric embellishments to any of your projects, monogram gifts, add logos to products, and create works of art for your walls using basic embroidery designs. There’s really no end to where you can use embroidery in your work!
  4. In-the-hoop Projects: In-the-hoop projects are exactly how they sound. You complete every stage of the project within the hoops. These projects come in all sorts of styles- from little zipper pouches to cute stuffed animals of small to moderate sizes. You’ll also be able to make quick projects like bookmarks and a free-standing lace Christmas Village if you want!
  5. Quilting: If you’ve never quilted on an embroidery machine, you’re really missing out! You’ll be able to create awesome designs like you would find on a long arm machines but without spending the money on a long arm. And it makes it easier to quilt pieces of fabric that are going to be turned into smaller projects such as handbags and potholders.
  6. Free-Standing Lace: Free-standing lace can look intimidating to create at first, especially if you’re a beginner with machine embroidery. Free-standing lace is exactly as it sounds- it’s a pattern that’s been stitched only on water-soluble stabiliser, creating a lace-like pattern that is starched as you dissolve the stabiliser in water. Once the pattern is dried, it can either act as a hanging ornament or can be assembled with other free-standing lace pieces that create a 3-dimensional, free-standing project of lace! Some patterns even allow you to create FSL projects with moving parts!

What stabiliser should i use for my machine embroidery?

The type of stabiliser you use with your embroidery machine will depend on the project you’re working on as well as your own personal preference. There are a few different types of stabilisers and knowing what to use can be overwhelming. We’ve broken it down by the three main types of stabiliser for you...
  1. Tear Away Stabiliser: Tear away stabiliser is easy to remove simply by- you guessed it- tearing it away from the project when it’s finished. This stabiliser it usually of a light to medium weight, so that it’s easy to tear away, and shouldn’t be used on delicately stitched projects due to the force it can take to remove the stabiliser, but it’s not great for dense designs, either, as the constant needle piercings can weaken the stabiliser as it sews. It’s great to use on medium to heavy-weight woven fabrics such as clothing or towels.
  2. Cut Away Stabiliser: Cut away stabiliser is great for densely stitched designs because it won’t tear when stitched. It’s also great for designs that you want to keep the design flat and stable as it won’t be removed easily. This type of stabiliser is great for knits and other stretchy fabrics as they help maintain the integrity of the design as the fabric stretches.
  3. Water Soluble Stabiliser: There are two different types of water-soluble stabiliser. First, there is woven stabiliser. This is great for projects such as free-standing lace where you need the stability of a woven stabiliser but need the stabiliser to completely come away from the project once it’s finished. And then there is the clear plastic style of water-soluble stabiliser. This is used as a top layer for fabrics that have a high pile such as terry cloth or minky/cuddle fabrics. It allows the thread to stitch over the pile evenly so that fibres aren’t poking through between the stitches, especially when it comes to a satin stitch.