The BEST embroidery machine, you say? That's a tall order. I'm going to try my best, but, like always, if you have a different favorite, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Sometimes, I go on Pinterest and search for things like “beautiful embroidery,” or “mind-blowing embroidery,” or “life-changing embroidery,” and just spend an evening staring at intricately woven floral patterns. It’s my version of a internet rabbit-hole, but I never feel empty afterwards, or get that “how did I get here?” feeling at 2 AM. In fact, I usually feel pretty awesome.
But you know what else? I feel a little inadequate. Have you seen some of the embroidery work out there? Life-changing hardly does it justice. I always think, “What have I done with my life? I will never embroider anything that beautiful.” And then I remember that there is such a thing called magic, and it looks a lot like an embroidery machine.
First of all, I want to get something straight:
Using an embroidery machine is not cheating.
I stand in awe, nay, bow down to the amazingly talented hand-embroiderers out there. But not everyone was a born embroiderer. That’s why embroidery machines were invented, my friends! To be our partners in the creation of beautiful textile images. Think of the embroidery machine as your partner in art, not crime.
So, how do embroidery machines work?
Embroidery machines embroider for you, just like sewing machines sew for you. They do some of the manual labor, but you’re still the creative genius here. For the most part, after you have picked out a pattern you love, you place your material of choice into a frame, and let the embroidery machine do its thang.
Some embroidery machines are super-smart, and connect to the internet and let you download patterns like a digital boss. Others prefer to be fed through USB ports, and a lot of these babies even have built-in patterns that they’ve memorized, just to help you out.
And let me tell you – a good embroidery machine can bring your sewing, or quilting, to a whole new level of awesomeness. You’re about to become fabric famous.
If I’m going to be famous, I want the best embroidery machine ever (within a reasonable price).
I don’t blame you. I think you deserve it. And let me tell you, the Singer Futura XL-550 is basically a sentient embroidery machine robot that lives up to the Futura part of its name. It’s a little high in price, but not as expensive as the reeeally high end embroidery machines (I'm talking $5,000).
The Singer Futura XL-550 embroidery machine has 125 built-in embroidery designs, 20 of its own fonts, and outline lettering. It has a super large embroidery hope (10x6 inches) so you can create embroidery designs that are up to 12 x 20 inches in size. This embroidery machine hooks up to your computer directly, which is ah-mazing, so you can download literally thousands of other embroidery patterns from the internet with the push of a button. And OH. Did I mention this is also a sewing machine? Talk about multi-tasking.
Now I’m a little overwhelmed. Tell me about an embroidery machine that’s great for beginners.
I’d love to. I think machines that are good for beginners are generally good for everyone! The Brother PE770 fits the bill, and it’s going to simplify things a little bit for you by being just an embroidery machine (and not a sewing machine, too.)
But just because it’s just an embroidery machine, doesn’t mean it’s not a seriously awesome embroidery machine. The Brother PE770 is easy to use, and also has quite a few built-in borders, patterns, floral designs and even scrollwork. This machine is little less expensive, and you do sacrifice a few options, like extensive editing, and the ability to add additional fonts.
Since I'm not a pro at machine embroider (yet), I reached out to my good friend Jenn Rossotti, creator of Ginger Peach Studio. She's modeling the rad Voir Le Bon embroidered shirt above. Jenn not only embroidered this chambray blouse, but also designed the pattern too! (See why I had to feature her in this post?)
I asked Jenn to tell us a little about her process making this design and any tips she might share about machine embroidery in general. From Jenn:
This funky eye design was originally drawn in Illustrator, then digitized with Floriani Total Control U Software.
The machine I use for embroidery is Janome Memory Craft 15000. I have had great results with it and Janome has some amazing digital tools that will have even the novice machine embroiderer stitching and designing like a pro.
My best tip is to KNOW YOUR STABILIZERS. So important. Stabilizers make or break your success with machine embroidery. Even the slightest differences in weight from one fabric to another is enough to make it buckle. Stabilizers are a way to baseline every fabric so that the amount of body it has is always consistent for the machine. Without it you’d spend all your time tinkering with the tension and different kinds of thread…it would be a nightmare.
My favorite combo for stitching medium weight fabric like quilting cotton is Floriani No-Show Nylon Mesh Fusible, with Floriani Stitch N Wash Tearaway “floating” underneath the hoop. If I’m stitching a design that involves appliqué I can’t live without MistyFuse. This super sheer fusible is a game changer for making the edges of appliqué super clean and professional looking with no lifting or fray.
I also use Janome Blue tip Needles and of course, Aurifil because I prefer a more matte look to the more traditional silky looking poly threads.
This is my first embroidery machine. Tell me everything I need to know.
First of all, some of the best embroidery machines can get really fancy, and really expensive… like more than a new car expensive. If you’re using your embroidery machine for personal or hobby use, it’s totally okay to stick with something more basic, and more affordable. Decide whether or not computer connectivity is important to you, and what size of embroidery you want to be able to pull off. That’s a really good place to start.
Second, if you have a relationship with a local sewing/fabric store, employees can be really helpful in helping you pick out a machine that is good for you. I love giving advice, but there’s nothing like the hands-on experience of taking a look and trying one out yourself. A lot of locally-owned stores will let you try out different machines so you can find a good fit.
(So what I’m saying is, there should be a dating app for people and sewing machine stores. That’s a key life relationship right there.)
I can tell you for sure that you’re going to have a ton of fun with an embroidery machine. Nothing makes a quilt… or a pair of jeans… more beautiful than embroidery. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m ready for another two hours of Pinterest browsing! xo