The art of sewing has recently become more popular and sales of traditional sewing machines almost doubled from 1999 to 2005.

Embroidery is the art of placing ribbons, beads, patches, hoops, etc. on clothing and accessory items in your wardrobe.
Sewing is the actual craft of making the clothes while embroidery allows you to embellish it. When looking for an embroidery machine, you first need to determine your potential needs - will you try creating professional looking clothing or will it be just a periodic craft you undertake with the kids.

If some of your sewing creations need a little more "life" added to them, consider a combination sewing-embroidery machine with pre-programmed embroidery designs. Those of you with a more creative side may want to design your own custom embroideries, so finding embroidery patterns and an embroidering machine that digitizes your art via a scanner is the way to go.

Some of you think "big" and may dream of your own business someday and therefore buying a commercial embroidery machine that is sturdy and durable is the way to go. Commercial embroidery machines like Tajima and Melco work great with heavier materials like upholstery and denim fabrics.

There are really 3 embroidery machine types or styles -
* embroidery only (perhaps you already own a sewing machine),
* combination (sew and then embroider on the same machine),
* commercial (many offer multiple needles and multiple heads for faster reproductions).

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 - for keeping the 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 digitizing embroidery machines come with a huge collection of machine embroidery designs already programmed into the machine. Some computerized machines allow you to create new patterns/designs on your computer and transfer them over.

Machine embroidery software is the accessory that will allow the transfer of patterns from your computer to the computerized embroidery machine and we will discuss that in another article.

Visit Stitches.com, Allbrands.com, and Amazon.com to read up on the newest 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.

Some selected embroidery machines:
The Simplicity SE3 Embroidery System with Embroidery Card is an embroidery only machine (no sewing machine function on this one). The computerized machine comes with an instruction video and embroiders up to 4 by 4 inches. The LCD touch screen can bring up 100's of pre-programmed embroidery designs - letters, numbers (3 styles), 120 design frames, and 60 motifs. It edits for mirror image, 90-degree rotation, and stitch density. Great for embroidering towels, shirts, and clothing.

The Brother PE-150 4x4" Embroidery Only Machine is another excellent buy in this category. The Brother embroidery machine comes with 60 built-in embroidery pattern designs, 120 frame & border design combinations, 3 alphabet font styles (block, serif, outlining), a built-in needle threader, and LCD touch-screen display. The warranty is 25 years on parts, 1 year on electronics.

Owners say the Simplicity is built to be easier to use, but the Brother machines are famous for being workhorses and needing less repairs.

The Brother SE350 Computerized Embroidery & Sewing Machine has 67 built in stitches and 70 built in embroidery designs. You get a 4" x 4" embroidery area to work with and the backlit LCD touch screen is easy to use. Automatic needle threader and quick set drop in bobbin are 2 features that owners say work great. The SE350 has an expandable embroidery design if you purchase the memory card.    

Some embroiderers reckon the Singer Futura CE-250 Sewing and Embroidery Machine is the best combination sewing-embroidery machine you can buy. Some of the older Singer models had issues with bobbin problems and repairs (back in 2005) but the newest Singer models have fixed those issues and now the machine works great. The Singer Futura is an electronic sewing machine with a computer linked embroidery unit built-in. It does require you to use a personal computer and it accepts embroidery designs from CD or the Internet. There are 100 stitch functions, a built-in needle threader, and 6 styles of 1-step buttonholes. The machine connects to your computer via a USB cable connection and the software is first rate and easy to use. The tutorials are a great resource on the software so be sure to use them.

The Janome MC 9500 is a much higher end sewing and embroidery machine combined into one great model. It offers power, precision, and durability that the cheaper machines don't.

Enjoy and have fun shopping for your embroidery machine!