I’ve had my embroidery machine for about six months now so I thought I’d share some general information for anyone interested in getting into embroidery. Much like quilting this particular hobby has its own set of learning curves.
Embroidery Machine – this is going to most likely be the most expensive part of your purchase. There are lots of things to consider in an embroidery machine. If you aren’t sure about how much you’re going to like embroidery I recommend looking for a used machine to begin with and one that is only dedicated to embroidery.
If you know you are going to get into embroidery I recommend getting a machine that allows for USB stick capability so you don’t have to hook it up to your computer. Most of those will do larger hoop sizes too. Get the machine with the largest embroidery area you can afford. I have a Pfaff Creative 2.0 (previously owned a Topaz 20 but had issues with it). It is a combo embroidery/sewing machine. Bernina, Pfaff, Janome and Babylock also make combo machines.
What is the embroidery area? – This is how big of an area your machine can stitch out on. My machine has a maximum embroidery area of 260mm x 200mm or about 8″ x 10″. There are machines that will go larger. A bigger embroidery area means you can stitch out larger designs and if you’re using it to quilt it means less hoopings overall since you can quilt a larger area to begin with.
Thread – There are lots of embroidery threads out there and not all of them are created equal, trust me. A bad thread will give you lots of headaches because it will shred and break constantly. Beware the cheap thread deals on Ebay. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on thread though to get good quality. I love the threads I’ve purchased from Metro Embroidery Threads. They have a beautiful sheen and my machine loves them.
Every machine has a preference as to what type of thread runs best in it and you’ll figure out what your machine prefers. Other embroiderers prefer Isacord, Floriani, Mettler and Robison-Anton.
Hoops – Even though your machine is likely going to come with one or two hoops you may find you’ll need other hoops as well. You can purchase off brand hoops if your machine will take them. Having an extra hoop the same size can sometimes also save you time in hooping because you don’t have to wait for one design to be finished to rehoop for the next stitch out. Hoops generally start a $100 and go up from there depending on the size.
Stabilizer – This is the stuff that you stick underneath your fabric (or sometimes on top of) to make sure your stitches hold well and come out looking nice. Different projects require different stabilizers. Sometimes you’ll need cut-away, tear-away, water soluable or a combination of all three. I use tear-away stabilizer most often and get 100 yards of it at a time from Amazon for $20.
Software – This can cost as much as your machine if not more. If you plan on digitizing your own designs you can plan on spending at least $1,000 on software for embroidery. I pay someone else to digitize for me since I don’t have the time to do it. Beginning machine embroidery doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. You can start with some basic programs for less than $100 and get pretty far.
Sew What Pro – This is a $65 program that you can download onto your computer. It lets you see the designs, print them out. change their orientation in the hoop, merge multiple designs together, convert to a new embroidery file format and see a virtual stitchout of your design. I don’t recommend using this program for text as it doesn’t convert truetype font very well at all. For other basic functions it works great.
Stitch Era Universal – For $15 you can get a copy of this software program and it is pretty extensive. There are lots of options in here and once you learn how to use it you can even do digitizing. There are limitations on this program since it is technically the “free” version of their $1,000 embroidery suite but I love it for the fonts. It comes with a variety of pre-digitized fonts but also will take any TrueType font and digitize it quite well in the program.
Wilcom TrueSizer – This is a free program that will let you scale designs and also convert them if necessary. Many people swear by this.
Embird – This is an embroidery suite that you can purchase individual packages for depending on what you want to do. Lots of people prefer this over the fancy software packages that the dealers try to sell you. The main program costs $144 and different modules you add on vary in price.
Notions – You’ll also need things like curved embroidery scissors for trimming, 505 adhesive spray, needles, marking tools for squaring up in the hoop, and of course fabric or blanks to do embroidery on.
I have my embroidery machine what do I do now?
Read lots of tutorials! Different fabric types require different hooping techniques. Embroidery Library has an extensive tutorial list of how to hoop and embroider different types of fabric.
Then just start stitching. Add designs to various things you have in your closet. Find towels, linens and clothing to practice on from thrift stores. Dollar stores also sell cheap items you can use as “blanks” to stitch out on.
Where do I get designs?
The internet is full of places to download free and cheap designs. Here a couple of my favorite spots:
- Embroidery Library – lots of $1 designs here! I also like their selection of quilting designs.
- Big Dreams Embroidery – great applique designs and several cute in-the-hoop projects. I’ve posted several photos of the designs I’ve stitched out from Kate’s shop.
- 8 Paws and a Claw – great font selection
- Jolsons Fonts – they also have a great selection of fonts
- Digistitches Designs – fun in the hoop projects
- Five Star Fonts – really cool in the hoop projects and other applique designs.
- Etsy – just search for machine embroidery design and you will find all sorts of amazing stuff.
When purchasing designs make sure you request and download the right file format otherwise your machine won’t recognize it when you stick your USB stick in there.
Are there support groups?
Yes! Facebook is full of helpful embroidery support groups that I love and use a lot. You can even get some good tips on free designs too.
- Applique This and That – great support group for all things applique and even things that aren’t!
- Embroidery Room Rehab – good source for how to organize your embroidery stuff
Feel free to ask questions or suggest tips that I should add to this post!