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Embroidery Machine Help!

msewing1 | Posted in Machine Embroidery on

Hi. I want to start learning machine embroidery but don’t know where to start. I see embroidery machines on Ebay like the Brother PE-150 and other brands on the internet. I can’t spend a lot of money on a machine. Any advice on where to start and what to look for? I live 30+ miles from the closest sewing store. Thanks.


  1. Pattiann42 | | #1

    Go to the nearest dealer (mine is almost an hour away).  If it is a good dealer, it will be worth your time.

    The PE 150 is no longer in production, but is a very good, basic embroidery machine.  I have had one for 6 years, but have not used it much during the past year as I bought a more advanced machine.

    You did not specify what your budget is or if you are in the US.....resources do differ, country to country.

    A dealer will be able to assist you in the learning process, but most likely there will be one free lesson and then a fee for additional lessons or classes.


    1. msewing1 | | #4

      Thanks. I do live in the US. I am trying to find something for under $500. Am I being realistic?? Is it better to get a used basic embroidery or should I look for something I could "grow into"?

      1. Pattiann42 | | #8

        Do you use a sewing machine?  This experience is helpful when using an embroidery machine - you will be familiar with most terms.

        I bought my first EM from Wal-Mart (PE 150) and a book - Embroidery Machine Essentials - How to Stabilize, Hoop and Stitch Decorative Designs (check Amazon, if you are interested in the book).  I had no trouble learning and I think it was because the machine had only the basics and I had experience using a sewing machine.

        I am not saying you have to have experience using a sewing machine to use an embroidery machine, it is just a little more helpful if you do.

        Used machines have no warranty.  Warranties are limited to the first owner.  A machine shop may give you a 30 day guarantee.   You may never need to have the machine repaired, and then again you may.

        Singer 100 and 150 are combo sewing and embroidery machines.  They connect to the computer so you can download designs, which is what Kay was explaining when she wrote about the amazing box and floppy disks.  With the Singer, you do not need these items.  You will want to be able to download designs from the Internet  - there are many free and the ones that are for sale range from a few pennies to really big bucks.

        The Singer is reasonably priced.  Some owners love their Singer EM machine and some do not.

        Not to take away from this site, but there are more EM users at: http://www:sewform.com.

        Here is a site that has loads of information about using the embroidery machine and they have designs that range from free - to $$.  It is a very popular site: http://www.emblibrary.com/EL/elprojects/holder.aspx?page=techniques

        If you do go to PatternReview, at the top of the first page, click on sewing machines. On the second screen, click on search wizard. The next lists features.  Check the indicator for embroidery.  When reading the reviews, note how long the owner has had the machine and judge for yourself if the review is worthwhile.

        Edited 1/22/2008 12:12 pm ET by spicegirl1

        1. msewing1 | | #10

          Thanks Spicegirl for the input.  You have given me some food for thought.  I have been sewing for quite a while and am quite familiar with most terminology.  I own a Kenmore Elite computerized sewing machine (165 stitch option).  Because money is such an issue, being able to download designs cheaply from the web is a major factor in my decision.  I have always wanted to join Martha Pullen's Internet Embroidery Club for the designs. There is SOOOO much I want to embroider!! :) 

          1. Pattiann42 | | #13

            Now that we have a little more insight as to what you would like to do in the way of embroidery.  I would like to start over:

            Most of the machines that sell for less than $1,000 will have limited stitch areas of 4 x 4.  There is no way to stitch out a larger design without editing software ($$$$) to split the design into more than one stitch out.

            Start with a machine that has at least a 5" x 7" stitching area.  Most designs will be  5" x 7" or smaller and the machine should have at least three hoops.  5" x 7", 4" x 4" and 2"x 2" - these numbers will vary a bit depending on the brand of machine.

            USB connectivity.  The more expensive machines will have USB ports for a flash drive/stick, and/or cable connection to the computer.

            The Babylock Emore is one brand that fits into the above category: around $1,000, 5" x 7" stitch area and cable to computer connection.

            Other brands most likely will have a comparable model.

            Dealers prices can vary.  One might price a certain model at $1,000 and another dealer will price the same model at $895.

            Visit as many dealers as you can and test the machines - tell them you have a price limit.  Buy the machine you like best from the dealer you like best.

            In addition to the cost of the embroidery machines, expect to pay about $100 for start-up supplies (always when on sale); embroidery thread and stabilizer are the basics.

            The machine should come with a manual, extra bobbins, embroidery scissors and maybe bobbin thread.

          2. msewing1 | | #14

            Thanks!  You have taught me something already.  I didn't know about different hoop sizes as well as other associated costs.  This has allowed me to budget better.  Babylock had been one of the machines I had liked from off the web but I hadn't looked at the Emore for some reason.  I had in my mind all big name brands were in the 3,000-5,000 range so I just didn't think it was possible.  I suppose all the more reason to actually go visit my dealer, huh?  That is why I stayed away from the dealers because I didn't think there was going to be anything I could afford.  Sounds like I could be wrong.

            Thanks again for the support!  :)

          3. MaryinColorado | | #15

            The dealers' stock may change frequently, they may have more than one store location, as mine does, which means the variety available is more than what may "meet the eye".  The Husq/Viking Saphire line may be of interest to you too.  Check the prices of upgraded software for future reference and so you can compare the prices from one store to another as thier "packages" may include differences in software, accessories such as presser feet, machine soft vs. hard cases, machine trolleys, thread cases, etc.  I know this is confusing, that's why it is a good idea to do the research.  All the extras can be distracting, but may save alot of money in start up costs.  Mary

            Edited 1/22/2008 7:13 pm by MaryinColorado

          4. msewing1 | | #16

            Mary,  You are right!  That does seem confusing.  I never realized just how much goes into machine embroidery.  But that doesn't scare me (too much :)).  I think what I need to do is make some sort of check list in a small binder with all the main features, pricing, store offerings (ie classes), software packages, other accessories, etc. Then perhaps I can be more savvy in my purchase.  So true what you said about saving money by doing your research.  I feel as if I am entering the "graduate school of sewing" with machine embroidery!   Thanks for the tips!

          5. Pattiann42 | | #17

            In the words of Det. Columbo - just one more thing!

            The current issue of Designs In Machine Embroidery Magazine (Jan - Feb '08) has their Annual Machine Guide, "20+ Machines For Every Budget".  It includes prices and should help you become a "Savvy Embroidery Machine Shopper". 

            Your though about doing a spreadsheet of sorts reminded me of the article.

            You just may end up knowing more than the sales associates.





            Edited 1/22/2008 8:59 pm ET by spicegirl1

          6. msewing1 | | #19

            That magazine sounds wonderful!  I have never seen it before.  Where could I find it?  I know the Books a Million in town doesn't have it (I always go through all the sewing and craft magazines when I get there).  Can it be purchased online anywhere?

            Had to laugh about "knowing more than the salespeople".  :) I love to learn and maybe someday all the things I have learned about embroidery machine purchasing  I can pass on to someone someday.


            Thanks again for all the help.  Will let you know , as Paul Harvey says, "And now, the rest of the story!"

          7. Pattiann42 | | #20

            JoAnn Fabric should have the magazine.  I think that may be the where I found my first issue.  I now subscribe.  Hobby Lobby has a magazine rack, but I do not remember if the magazine was there.  My grocery store also has several craft magazines. 

            I subscribe to the ones I favor.

            If all else fails, you can order free trial at http://www.dzgns.com 

            Since the current issue is Jan-Feb, hopefully it will be the trial issue.

            Edited 1/23/2008 10:10 am ET by spicegirl1

          8. msewing1 | | #21

            Thanks for the quick reply.  There is a town not too far away from me that has both a Jo-Ann and a Hobby Lobby.

            I did look at the Babylock Emore on the internet.  I like what I see so far.  It seems just my speed but with room for growth.  I located a dealer about an hour from me.  No I just need to get my "spreadsheet" in order and go there.  This particular dealer is an authorized dealer for Babylock, Brother, Viking and Pfaff.  I think I should be able to get a good start on my "research project" there. I liked the looks of the Emore as well as the features.  It sounded like I could do what I wanted to do.  Plus this dealer has quite a few classes to offer.

            Thanks so much for everything!

          9. Pattiann42 | | #22

            That is a great selection.  Do ask about the bobbin thread for the Emore.  It uses 90 weight bobbin thread and most machines use 60 weight. 

            The owner/users that I converse with at PatternReview have no issue with this, and have found their dealers stock 90 weight bobbin thread. 

            If I really loved this brand/model, I would ask the dealer if the bobbin tension could be adjusted so the more available weight of bobbin thread could be used.

            The reason I am bringing this up, it that a lot of EM users like to use prewound bobbins, which do not come in 90 weight, or at lease I have not found any.

          10. msewing1 | | #23

            Thanks for the tip on the bobbin thread.  I had no idea that embroidery machines needed a bobbin thread of a certain weight. 

            Your help had been great!  Thanks

          11. MaryinColorado | | #25

            I've never seen 90 wt. thread, even for heirloom sewing!  It must be almost invisible, ha ha.  I'm going to try to find it locally as it seems a great idea to use on sheer fabrics.  My Vikings tensions (though preset) can be adjusted manually but I haven't ever had a reason to test this out.  Thanks for the tip, don't you just love all the inovations they come up with?  I love experimenting....

          12. MaryinColorado | | #24

            Wow, that dealer has alot of choices for you to see!   At one time the big companies wouldn't allow a dealer to be authorized in thier product if they carried the competitors brand.  Too cool!

          13. MaryinColorado | | #18

            "A little knowledge goes a long way" my mother used to say.  Soon you will be loading designs, hooping your fabric and stabilizer, push the "go" button and embroidering everything in sight. 

            My mother always did beautiful hand embroidery and made us many gifts through the years.  She was thrilled when I made her an embroidered quilt last year.  It felt so wonderful to be able to make something so beautiful that I never would have been able to do by hand. 

             It's as much fun to personally chose designs that fit people's lifestyles and personalities as it is to embroider and give to them. 

            I hope you will get as much satisfaction from machine embroidering as many of us here do.  Mary

          14. msewing1 | | #27


            You have just described why I want to get into machine embroidery. Thanks for sharing! I'll let you know what happens!

  2. Crazy K | | #2

    O.K........not trying to burst your bubble but I will share an experience that I had that ended up being very costly.......................

    I wanted to embroider so I dragged DH and we searched out every sewing machine dealer within 50 miles......looked, talked, priced, etc. ,etc.  I finally purchased what was a 'good deal' from a dealer not too far away.  All I needed was the machine and I could come see her and buy designs whenever I wanted.........she had lots to choose from.  The machine took a little card.  No lessons, no nothing.  Brought the machine home and found it to be a delightful sewing machine.  I did a little fun embroider samples and all was good...................EXCEPT that I wanted to get designs off the internet.........how was I to do that?????  Well, I finally figured out that I would need and Amazing Box.......got that........got an extra memory card and fussed and fumed.  Still not happy because it took me so long to fool with the amazing box and get things to work that by the time I finished, I not longer had time (or desire) to embroider!!!!!  One day DH and I stopped by a local machine dealer closer and talked to a saleslady about a machine that would take a floppy disk.......would I like it?  Was it user-friendly?  Could I get designs off the internet without a major headache?  Well.........she was very helpful and told me that I would love it (she was right!) and we walked out with a Viking Designer 1 and the software for the computer so I could do what I wanted to do.  Then.......she insisted that I take the classes for both the machine and the software (they are free).  I did and haven't looked back.........I have since traded up the machine to the Designer SE but the software still is the same.

    The moral of this story is..........get a machine (brand doesn't matter) from a dealer where you have customer support.  If you're new to the game, you don't want to buy used or where you have no help or recourse.  They have new embroidery-only machines out now that are much less expensive than what I got..........but still, go with a dealer that offers support.  I was fortunate to have the resources to 'fix' my mistake but not everyone can do that.  I still have the 'nice' machine that sews well but is a pain in the posterior for embroidery.........I guess it wasn't such a bargain after all!!

    Good luck in your adventure.........and I hope you get input from others here.  Lots of experience out there...........some good, some not so good but it will help you decide what is best for you..............


    1. msewing1 | | #5

      Thank you Kay for sharing your experience. It was a lot of help!

  3. MaryinColorado | | #3

    I started out with the Husqvarna/Viking Rose, it is still a wonderful machine and does beautiful embroidery.  It has a reader/writer box that allows me to load designs into it to put in the machine.  (The readable card was extra, so I wouldn't have to only buy cards with designs already on them).  I could have traded up within a year and gotten an almost full price for my machine.  Several years later, I decided I needed a larger than 5x7" embroidery hoop and more features.  I kept the Rose to hand down to my granddaughter. 

    I bought the Designer I and am still thrilled with it.  The classes for the machine and the software were free.  The customer service excellent, I called with simple questions and went in when I needed more complex help at no charge.  They are authorized by Viking to work on my machines locally which is important to me.  If there is a problem, I can talk to the repairperson to explain.  I do pay to have my machine cleaned and checked out once a year, have only had a few repairs needed.  They also upgrade the machine at the same time (more decorative stitches, new available hoops, more buttonholes, etc.), I also get free software updates online from Viking.  I think Pfaff is the same.  Some places make you ship your machine to another state, which would drive me crazy!  My dealer has even given me a free loaner machine a few times.  They have a newsletter that lets me know of sales on everything from bobbins to designs to presserfeet, etc.  Most of the presserfeet work on either machine and will work on the newest top of the line in case I ever decide to upgrade.  

    This year I bought the Pfaff software, which is the same as the Viking software except for the packaging.  This has the capabilities of using designs from any companies formats and converting them for my machines. 

    I agree with the other posters here, many companies have good machines, but dealer support is very important.  Just like buying a car, shop around and test drive and get them to really show you the capabilities.  The prices may be higher, but they may have reconditioned machines with a warranty.  Many of us trade up so there are many excellent machines with nothing wrong with them, someone just wanted more features. 

    I suggest that you go to the websites for Husqvarna/Viking USA, Bernina USA, Babylock, PfaffUSA, etc. and read everything about the machines to get a handle on what they are.  Then go to thier education area and read that.  Then go to the dealers and get them to show you.  Then go to http://www.patternreview.com and read the embroidery machine reviews written by owners.  http://www.sewforum.com also has some.  There are also Yahoo groups for many of the machines that you can join. 

    I'm not suggesting that you buy an expensive machine, just to know what you are getting, buyers remorse is the same wether it's a few hundred or thousands.  Also you may want to ask where the machines are made.  The lowest priced models are not made in the same country as the major models but are made to thier specifications.   Hope this helps, I didn't mean to write a book.....Mary


    1. msewing1 | | #6


      Thanks for your quick reply.  Phew!  I think I know what I will be doing the next couple of days - web research!  That was a good idea to check the websites. It sounds like embroidery machines are a lot like printers/computers.  You can get a cheap one but end up paying $$$ for the ink and other things.  The cost does overwhelm me, me I want to have a good experience.  You and other shave the same suggestions for similar reasons - go to a dealer.

      I will be going to a sewing expo soon.  Would I find good deals there or should I just stick with local dealer idea for the support?


      Thanks again!


      1. Crazy K | | #7

        Try to buy locally......if you have trouble or questions you will be glad.  A good dealer will bend over backwards to help........if you have purchased from them.   Don't expect that same enthusiasm if you come in with your machine...........which you have purchased from a different dealer!! 

        Just a few words of wisdom..............


        1. msewing1 | | #12


          I wondered about the "not buying"  from your local dealer but "needing help" protocol.  That was a useful tip, too.  So much to think about!!! Thanks again.

      2. MaryinColorado | | #9

        The local dealers may be at the sewing expo if it is in your area.  They do often have special prices during holidays, sewing expos, and after new models come out.  It's a good idea to have an idea what your price range is and stick close to it.  If you leave your number with them, they sometimes call you back and make a better offer.  If the shows use machines for classes and demos, those machines often end up on sale afterwards as the box was opened and they can't sell as "new" but they still have the great warranties.

        1. msewing1 | | #11

          Thanks again. The Expo is about 3 hours away from me.  They did advertise some used machines for sale at the end.  Hmmm......

  4. sewtimely | | #26

    I'm going to repeat what I have said before, and what everyone with any experience says....find a good dealer.  I wouldn't attempt to buy any machine without the support of a good (hopefully) dealer.  You need someone to help you with the machine.  They will show you how, should for free, and mine, which might be specific to a great dealer gives 5 years of maintenance free. 

    Someone suggested when I bought a serger a couple years ago that I go to Sams, but no way was I going to do that.  I thought I can see myself walking in Sams and saying I need help with the machine or something needs adjusted, what do I do.  With the trouble I had getting along with the serger (now I'm much more comfortable) although still not as comfortable as my sewing machine, but we're trying to bond.  Only because I could go to my dealer about a dozen times with questions can I even use it now.  I remember I had to make a hem on a knit and took my machine, said "I'm not leaving until I have this whole serger thing figured out."  They patiently (2nd time) showed me and helped me use it. 

    I hope you find what you need and have the help and support you will need to become great friends with you machine.


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