One of the questions often asked when people are interested in buying Creative DRAWings, is which embroidery machine to purchase.

Someone used to say: "Never ask a life insurance salesman if you need more life insurance".

We mention this because your first visit to an embroidery machine dealer could be an expensive mistake! Here's some information you will want before you start visiting dealers.

There are three questions you need to know the answers of before you decide on which machine to buy:
1. Is this for hobby or business use?
2. What size embroidery do you want to sew?
3. How much are you willing (or able) to spend?

BUSINESS OR A HOBBY?
If it is for hobby use, there are lots of options,  starting rock bottom and going up... way up!  For a business, you will need a machine that can sew a lot of stitches pretty quickly.  A home machine does not need to be as fast or heavy-duty as a business machine.

FIELD SIZE?
The more expensive machines (mainly for business use) will sew designs larger than 4"x4" without needing to re-hoop your design to continue. While re-hooping is an option, it is another step and another opportunity for error. Almost all the designs we make, fit in a 4"x4" hoop, but there are plenty of designs available that won't .  Home machines can manage an area of up to 10"x16". Commercial machines can do the back of a jacket with one hooping. If you are happy with a 4"x4" hoop, you can save quite a bit of money on the cost of the machine.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU WILLING/ABLE TO SPEND?
Consider purchasing second-hand, but beware! First visit a couple of dealers to get a good idea  and thorough information of the first-hand prices and different models, before looking for  a used machine. Compare your options by browsing through the different embroidery machine companies' websites:

               

       

          

We are embroidery machine suppliers of Bernina, Elna and Brother and are welcome to check with us for prices! If you are looking for a second-hand/used embroidery machine, visit Bid or Buy for great deals! One client of ours purchased a brand-new Bernina embroidery machine through Gumtree for only R9 000 and it was only used once! So if you care to look, there are bargains out there.

Embroidery memory card
Along with the machine, you will need a way to get designs from your computer onto the embroidery machine.You can buy pre-programmed memory cards at your dealer. These cards usually have 10 or 20 designs on each. You just buy the card, insert it into a slot on your machine and then pick the design you want to sew.

Next, the number one accessory you should budget for, is a card-writer. It's a small box that plugs into your PC and allows you to write designs from your computer to a blank memory card. After you've sewn that design, it can be erased and another design can be written onto the card. It's re-usable. The most popular card-writers are the "Magic Box" and the "Ultimate Box". Either is well worth the investment. A card-writer box will soon pay for itself by saving you money on pre-programmed cards.

WHICH EMBROIDERY MACHINE BRAND SHOULD I BUY?
In essence there are three styles of embroidery machines:
- purely embroidery (should you already own a sewing machine)
- combination (sew and embroider on the same machine)
- commercial (offering multiple needles and multiple heads for faster productions)

No matter which embroidery machine you choose, you'll need to think about all the features you will need. Some features to look for are:
- bobbins that are easily changeable
- automatic needle threaders
- embroidery hoops (keeps fabric steady)
- mirror-image capability (provides balance and symmetry when doing patterns)
- scanner - great for turning your designs into stitches you can embroider
- presser foot - holds the fabric steady while you are embroidering or sewing
- walking presser foot - much like the presser foot, but moves with the embroidery machine so that satin and silk (fine fabrics) stay in place
- computerized embroidery machines - these come with a huge collection of embroidery designs already programmed into the machine. Some computerized machines allow you to create new patterns/designs on your computer and transfer them. Embroidery software is the accessory that will allow the transfer of patterns from your computer to the computerized embroidery machine. Beginners should look into buying an embroidery book on the basics. Visit Stitches.com, Allbrands.com, and Amazon.com to read up on the latest embroidery machines and look at customer reviews to find the best machines. Top brands include Bernina, Brother, Janome, Marie Osmand, Melco, Renaissance, Simplicity, Singer, and White. We recommend visiting Amazon.com to see the best deals on embroidery machines .

Tip: The most popular design format for home machines is .PES. Just like a word processor document from Microsoft Word has a file extension of .doc  and a spreadsheet from Excel has a .xls,  the software for your sewing machine has its own file extension.
- Over 50% of home machines use PES designs.
- Second most popular (20%) is .hus (Husqvarna).
- .dst is used in commercial machines made by Tajima. The other popular formats are PCS, SEW and JEF.

Creative DRAWings will allow you to easily convert designs made for a Brother to a Husqvarna machine. The exception is Bernina machines which use .ART format. The only way to convert to .ART format is with a "Magic Box" or with Bernina proprietary software. While some Berninas makes great machines, the .ART format is proprietary to Bernina and they do not allow other companies to make software convertable to the .ART format. If you want to access other design formats, you must use their software.

The other popular brands of home embroidery machines include Bernina, Husqvarna, Janome, Pfaff and Viking. Each brand and each machine has features that makes them different. Some people may want to use their machines for embroidery only, because they don't like sewing garments or they already have a sewing machine and just want to add an embroidery feature. Other people want a machine for doing button holes and quilting. That's where you get down to the nitty-gritty of which model is perfect for you.

WHAT IF I WANT TO START AN EMBROIDERY BUSINESS?
The choices of machines and software (and prices) change significantly for commercial use. If your business is sewing embroidery designs onto various articles for people, then you will be looking for ease-of-use, production speed, reliability and quality of service instead of only features. Your business won't make money while your machine is down.

ArtisticThreadWorks, an embroidery company said the following: "In the beginning, we were thinking about converting people's pet photos into a design and sewing it onto a wall hanging or clothing for the pet owner. We bought a top-end home machine and a lot of accessories and came home with about $8,000 worth of stuff. Even though it was a top-end home machine, it wasn't right for that kind of business. If we started that business plan over again, we would go into a commercial machine instead."

I compare this to travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town. You could do it in a Volkswagen Beetle or in a Boeing 747. Both would do the job, but which would be less tiring? If you really just wanted to get to Cape Town, why not pay an airline company to take you there instead? It's the same with embroidery machines. If you are doing the sewing for the fun of it, then a home machine will be a good choice, but for production and high-volume sewing ,you need a commercial machine.

Finally, a machine worth mentioning is a cross between home machines and commercial machines. Brother makes a model and it also sells under the name of Baby Lock with some minor changes. This machine has six threads on  it. If you are starting in the embroidery business, this might work well for you and is worth considering.



This post was compiled by Creative Notions (Pty) LtdBeing an authorized Pfaff dealer as well as a Brother dealer and working with selected sewing and embroidery machine dealers of almost all brands, Creative Notions have thorough knowledge to be able to evaluate and suggest which machine would suit YOU best!