Which Embroidery Machine Should I Buy?

Since I’ve started my YouTube channel I’ve been asked this same question many, many, times so I thought I’d create a blog post and point viewers to it to save some repetitive typing. 🙂 I’m very honored that you value my opinion. That said, this is just my opinion. I’m not a dealer or on anyone’s payroll, but I love to play with machines and run them through their paces. If you have another machine you’d like to tout, please chime in in the comments below so others can see what I probably don’t know about. Please be positive and respectful. This post only covers single-needle machines. If you want a multi-needle (and are not a professional in the market for a commercial machine), I recommend the Brother 10-needle. The Brother screen interface is the best on the market. I have a Janome 7 needle and I’m not a fan. I wish we’d of spent more and gotten the Brother instead. I believe the Brother 6 needle is too color-limiting, especially if you want to make money with it. That’s all I’ve got on multi-needles.

Buying an embroidery machine is a whole ‘nother world from buying a sewing machine. There are many machines that do both and then there are some that only do embroidery. If you’ve watched my channel at all, you know I’m partial to Brother machines for both sewing, serging, and embroidery. I prefer the Brother brand for several reasons: feet are easy to find, they use a standard bobbin, technicians are almost everywhere, they run forever, and you get the most bang for your buck from a Brother machine. I can count my trips to the “sewing doctor” on one hand for all of my Brother machines and I’ve been sewing on them for almost 25 years as of the writing of this post in December 2019.

Jenny Doan from Missouri Star Quilt Company says, “Buy the most machine you can afford where there is a technician nearby.” Bingo. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. But what features are out there and which one is right for you? If price is not an option and you only want a single needle machine, go for the big dog, the Brother Luminaire. There. You can quit reading now. But I go more in depth on the machine below. 🙂

I started with the Brother PE770 (above) which they no longer make but its latest upgrade is the Brother PE800. It is an embroidery-only machine and it has a 5″x7″ hoop and a color screen. If you’re just starting out in the world of embroidery and looking for a great machine at a reasonable price (less than $800), then I highly recommend that one. And if you’re so inclined to buy one from Amazon, I’d appreciate it if you’d use this link so I make a few bucks for my recommendation at no cost to you. 🙂 As of this posting, it’s on a pretty good sale (less than $600!) Other affiliate links are below to my favorite embroidery tools and accessories. Brother PE 800 Image below – https://amzn.to/2OVD7yu

Brother PE 800

Brother or Baby Lock? They are different companies that make their machines in the same manufacturing plant. They produce different machines but the guts are the same. They can be identical right down to the sounds of the chimes and the pin stripes on the machines but have significantly different price points between brands. Kind of like Ford / Lincoln and Chevy / GMC. Brother has a contract with Disney so if you have littles and need to whip out a Minnie, Mickey, Winnie the Pooh, or Tinkerbell, that might be a selling point.

What hoop size? Well, I advise never, Never, NEVER get a machine that only goes as large as a 4″x4″ hoop. You’ll outgrow it in a day and be sorely disappointed you wasted your money. If that’s all you can afford, then save your pennies a little longer until you can at least swing a 5″x7″ hoop. A 4″x4″ is so limiting and as you get better, and kids grow, you’ll want to make bigger designs. Be careful of pictures on boxes in the store too as I’ve seen pictures of 5″x7″ hoops on machine boxes that only contain hoops as large as 100x100mm = 4″x4″. Be sure to read the fine print on the box to determine the maximum size. If you have a bunch of cute 5″x7″ or larger designs, and your 4″x4″ machine can’t “see” them, you’ll be wasting money in more ways than one. After my PE770, I bought a used Baby Lock Ellegante 2 in 2013 and a used Brother Quattro 6000D in 2016 on Craig’s List and they both go as large as 9.5″ x 14″ which really is a great size.

Bells and Whistles: The Camera or Scanner. Embroidery machines coming out lately have cameras and scanners in them which can help you to precisely place a design even if you didn’t hoop your project straight. This feature bumps your price point to anywhere from $5,000 – $12,000 on used machines. However, once you use one of these types of machines, you’ll never go back. My Baby Lock Ellegante 2 doesn’t have this feature so I rarely use this machine for embroidery any longer. It’s been relegated to sewing only. My Brother Quattro has Upgrade Kits 1 & 2 in it which basically turned it into its big brother, the Dream Machine, and I absolutely love the scanning feature. Designs can be moved around to be perfectly placed just by looking at the scanned image on the screen. Here’s what it looks like.

The Brother Stellaire.

The Brother Stellaire (above). I’ll be honest, I’ve not used this machine at all. It is an embroidery-only machine so you cannot sew garments with it. It also comes with an iPod to wirelessly move images to the machine which can then be converted into embroidery designs. The iPod will notify you when it’s finished sewing or if there’s an issue while a stitch out occurs when you’re away from the machine swapping out the laundry. I’m sure it’s an exceptional machine, but I personally am not excited about keeping up with another device (the iPod) to make sure it’s charged constantly and figuring out all the apps and changes that come along with it. I’m a Microsoft/Android girl myself so to me, the iPod was not a selling point. If you are a fan of Apple products, be sure to go see one at a dealer and see if it’s something that’s up your alley.

The Brother Luminaire XP1 and Baby Lock Solaris. Top. Of. The. Line. These machines are identical in every way except for the color of the casing and the Luminaire XP1 has the Disney package in it where the Solaris does not. The upgrades on these machines compared to all other single-needle machines is incredible. They are dual sewing and embroidery, however you do not have to change out the bed of the machine from sewing to embroidery and back again. You only need to change out the sewing feet. That said, it has a large footprint (it takes up a lot of space) and you’ll need at least a 4 foot long sturdy sewing table. It’s very heavy and it’s very big. The technology in these machines is top-notch. First of all, you can (but don’t have to) connect it to your home router so it becomes wireless. Embrilliance embroidery software has a menu driven ability to send designs to the machine wirelessly, e.g. no more saving to a USB stick and taking the design by hand to the machine to import it (heaven forbid!) Other embroidery software may also do this but I’ve successfully done it several times on the Luminaire. These machines will not only scan your garment in the hoop like my Quattro or the Dream Machine, but you can also resize the design on-the-fly if you want to make it larger or smaller before you stitch it out. The tablet-size screen is gorgeous and makes editing designs in My Design Center very easy. It will magnify to 800%+ so if you need a little help in the eyesight department, you’ve got it. The editing tool features in My Design Center (that’s what it’s called on the Luminaire – not sure what’s it’s called on the Solaris) are a lot like Adobe Photoshop. It includes familiar tools like copy/paste, the wand, the hand, the eyedropper, the bucket, and the lasso. And there’s a full pallet of colors and styles to choose from for easy editing. If you are doing an applique quilt, these machines will scan in a paper pattern with an included scanning hoop and create an applique design: placement, tack down, and final stitch right there on the screen. Want to move the tack down in just a tad? No problem. Go back to that stitch sequence and edit it on the screen. Easy peasy. The sewing mode has the ability to project a 1/4″ laser guide on the bed of the machine so your quilting seams are true and straight. You can change the color of the laser from red to green to white – of course. You can change the width of the laser, you can change the length of the laser, and I bet it will run you to the doctor for your next appointment if you find the right button. The abilities of these machines is incredible and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’ve only played with the Luminaire for a couple of days and so far, I’m mighty impressed. Too bad it’s only on loan from Allbrands.com for a quilt-along I’m currently doing on my channel. I bet they lent to me as a trap! LOL Oh, if you want one of these machines, hold on to your pocketbook. You can buy a small car for less. But hey, life’s short and you deserve it, right? I’ll be adding edits to this post as I play with the machine more. I’ve not yet tried the fancy pen that will edit stitches on the bed of the machine via a projection down onto your fabric. If you know of other very cool things these machines can do, please leave a comment and let us all know! I also watch YouTube videos by Terry Maffit and she is a great instructor on this machine and I’m also a member of her FB group. Great stuff there folks.

There are other brands of embroidery machines out there but I can’t give an honest review of them because I’ve never used them. If you know of good info to share on other machines, please leave a comment. My dear friend Joy Bernhart has a Bernina but she only sews clothes on it and uses her Baby Lock Solaris for embroidery. Although the Bernina will embroider, she prefers the Bernina for garment sewing. And she has a LOT of machines like me so I trust her judgement. Also, call around your area and see which certified technician types there are. If there is only a Pfaff technician, then that may be your answer. According to Sarah Gunn from the blog Goodbye Valentino, she loves her Pfaff embroidery machine and uses it to make gorgeous necklines and cuffs on her tunics.

Basically, you need to decide what you can afford and then get the most machine – just as Jenny said. It’s really all in the bells and whistles. Do your homework, test drive some machines, and see what works for you. But if you’re just starting out on a budget and want a great first machine, again I highly recommend that Brother PE 800 from Amazon. For great how to’s on that machine, search the Brother PE 770 on YouTube and watch Vince Arcuri for beginner videos. I’m always happy to answer any questions as well.

Affiliate links – (I make a commission from Amazon on the products below at no cost to you). I’ve purchased all the items below so I can personally highly recommend these to you. I’ve even done repeat purchases on these products. These accessories are what is in my sewing room.

Brother PE 800 Embroidery Machine – https://amzn.to/2OVD7yu
Pre-wound Bobbins – https://amzn.to/2s7sdwo
DIME Perfect Alignment Laser – https://amzn.to/34YD4HP
Tear Away Stabilizer – https://amzn.to/2LvRU0S
No Show Mesh Stabilizer – https://amzn.to/2Yud3xt
Solvy Wash Away Stabilizer – https://amzn.to/34W13aE
Gingher Curved Embroidery Scissors – https://amzn.to/2DQIOr4

Thread – This link is for Brother Embroidery thread. I’ve used it for years and it works very well for me. I’ve had no problems. I’ve NOT used the brand on Amazon call Brothread. Don’t be fooled by the name similarities, the cheap price, and the hundreds of 5 star reviews. The link below is for inexpensive thread I’ve used for years that I bought when I was just starting out. Embrilliance even includes it in one of the brand types it supports. Again, this is NOT Brothread. This is Brother Embroidery thread. You get 63 spools for $40 and it’s worked well for me in my Brother PE 770 and the BabyLock Ellegante 2. If you are just starting out in machine embroidery, I think you’ll be fine to learn on this vs. dropping over $300+ on other high-end thread brands. https://amzn.to/2qyUo7m

Thread Tree – You wouldn’t think you’d need one of these but it is probably my most valued accessory. It is so great to set my threads up in order, hold all the tails in the spring at the top, and keep everything nice and neat. It speeds up your process so much and keeps you straight when you’ve got a lot of colors. This is money well spent. https://amzn.to/38cG5pS

December 2 : The Christmas Gift

Hi everyone! My name is Becky Thompson from the YouTube channel “Power Tools With Thread” and a blog by the same name.  I am so honored to be part of Moda’s Countdown to Christmas 2020 quilt! This is a great quilt block if you are a beginner quilter or if you are teaching the next generation of quilters.  It is a very simple block that is cut down to size at the end so everything fits just right. It’s layer cake friendly so you can make an entire quilt using this cute Christmas gift block.  The finished block measures 12.5″ x 12.5″.

Ingredients:

1 – 10″ x 10″ square for the “wrapping paper” (Fabric A)
1 – 10″ x 10″ square for the “ribbon and bow” (Fabric B)
1 – 10″ x 10″ square for the background (Fabric C)

Choose which block will be your “wrapping paper” (Fabric A) and cut it in half so you have two 5″ x 10″ rectangles.  Set aside.

From Fabric B cut one 3 1/2″ x 10″ rectangle and one 4″ x 4″ square.

From Fabric C (background), cut one 4″x4″ square and two 3 5/8″ squares.

Let’ make the “package”. Sew the 3.5″x10″ Fabric B rectangle between the two pieces of Fabric A to create a ribbon that goes down the middle of your package. It should measure 12.5″ wide.

Now for the bow. Draw a diagonal line on one of the 4″x4″ B or C squares.

Place the two 4″ x 4″ squares from fabrics B and C right sides together (RST) and sew them together stitching 1/4″ away on both sides of your drawn diagonal line.

Cut the block you just sewed in half on the drawn line to create two half square triangles (HSTs).  Press the seams in different directions:  one to the dark side and one to the light. This will help them nest together when sewn.

Align your “bow” pieces so they will align on top of your package properly and sew them together in the middle making sure you have a 1/4″ seam where they meet at the bottom of the bow.

Sew a Fabric C background square to each end of the bow. The finished unit will be a bit longer than your package but that’s OK because we’ll trim it down in a bit. Sorry, I missed the image of this unit before it was sewn but you can see it ready to sew below.

On your “package” piece, fold the sides together matching the ribbon seams and create a finger press crease to mark the center.  You can also do this with a ruler if you like.

Now lay the bow section face down on the package matching the center seam of your HSTs to your newly marked crease. I like to pin going in one side of the seam and coming out on the other. I also like to give myself a guideline using a Frixion pen so I hit the point exactly. Stitch together making sure to stitch directly on the bottom of the “V” where the HTSs meet.

Open and iron flat.  Now trim the sides of the background to match the edges of the package.

Using the top of your package as a starting point, trim off the bottom edge of the package so it measures 12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″.

All done!  It’s ready to go under the tree!

These blocks are so easy and so fun you can make several of them into a cute table runner or maybe even an entire quilt!

Moda’s Countdown to Christmas 2020 Quilt

Hi everyone! My name is Becky Thompson from the YouTube channel “Power Tools With Thread” and a blog by the same name.  I am so honored to be part of Moda’s Countdown to Christmas 2020 quilt! This is a great quilt block if you are a beginner quilter or if you are teaching the next generation of quilters.  It is a very simple block that is cut down to size at the end so everything fits just right. It’s layer cake friendly so you can make an entire quilt using this cute Christmas gift block.  The finished block measures 12″ x 12″.

Ingredients:

Choose which block will be your “wrapping paper” (Fabric A) and cut it in half so you have two 5″ x 10″ rectangles.  Set aside.

From Fabric B cut one 3″ x 10″ rectangle and one 4″ x 4″ square.

From Fabric C (background), cut one 4″x4″ square and two 3.5″ squares.

Let’ make the “package”. Sew the 3″x10″ Fabric B rectangle between the two pieces of Fabric A to create a ribbon that goes down the middle of your package.

Now for the bow. Draw a diagonal line on one of the 4″x4″ B or C squares.

Place the two 4″ x 4″ squares from fabrics B and C right sides together (RST) and sew them together stitching 1/4″ away on both sides of your drawn diagonal line.

Cut the block you just sewed in half on the drawn line to create two half square triangles (HTSs).  Press the seams in different directions:  one to the dark side and one to the light. This will help them nest together when sewn.

Align your “bow” pieces so they will align on top of your package properly and sew them together in the middle making sure you have a 1/4″ seam where they meet at the bottom of the bow.

Sew a Fabric C background square to each end of the bow. The finished unit will be a bit longer than your package but that’s OK because we’ll trim it down in a bit.

On your “package” piece, fold the sides together matching the ribbon seams and create a finger press crease to mark the center.  You can also do this with a ruler if you like.

Now lay the bow section face down on the package matching the center seam of your HSTs to your newly marked crease.

Stitch together making sure to stitch directly on the bottom of the “V” where the HTSs meet. I like to pin going in one side of the seam and coming out on the other.

Open and iron flat.  Now trim the sides of the background to match the edges of the package.

Using the top of your package as a starting point, trim off the bottom edge of the package so it measures 12″ x 12″.

All done!  It’s ready to go under the tree!  🙂

These blocks are so easy and so fun you can make several of them into a cute table runner or maybe even an entire quilt!

This entry was posted on December 2, 2019, in Sewing.

Creating a Pieced Backing with Unused Top Pieces

Last spring I had the opportunity to attend an event featuring Doug Leko of Antler Quilt Designs that was put on by the Cedar Chest Quilt Shop. I loved all of his quilts, but what I found most intriguing was his use of pieced backings. I’ve always wanted to give this a try. Here he is showing the front of the quilt. The photo doesn’t do it justice – it is simply stunning!

And here is the back.

Last summer I made the Merriment Quilt by Gingiber.

It’s a darling little wall hanging quilt with super cute little woodland animals in a panel. The pattern called for the 4 larger animal prints to be used in the quilt top, but there were also other little smaller animal prints in the panel and I didn’t want them to go to waste. I thought they’d be perfect to piece into the backing. I also had two additional little pieced blocks left over.

Math not being my strong point, I decided to do it the visual way and used my Fons & Porter design wall (https://amzn.to/32PXbpG). I love this thing. It has lines marked at two inch intervals and makes everything so easy to visualize. I guess that’s the point right? The top is 36″ by 40″ and I wanted and extra 5″ all around to put it on the longarm. So I needed a finished top that’s 46″ inches wide. The height doesn’t really matter so long as I have enough to get it into the Red Snappers on the top edge (and bottom if I choose).

I used painter’s tape on the design wall to show where the finished edges of the backing needed to be and just eyeballed it from there.

I’m pretty happy with how the backing turned out. I added the top and bottom 6″ pieces to it after I took this photo. Now all I need is my new longarm frame to get here and I can get this baby quilted!

Final Issue of #DIME Magazine

One of my YouTube viewers sent me an email that contained an image of a page out of Designs In Machine Embroidery (DIME) magazine stating that this would be the last issue of the magazine. I get the digital version and hadn’t seen it yet.

My emotions went from “This is a scam!” to “Nooo!” to “Aww dang, I love that magazine,” and then finally to embarrassment. Why embarrassment? Because just this past summer, I held an Embroider-Along on my YouTube channel for a table runner that was a project showcased in the magazine. When I requested permission from the magazine to do this, the editor of DIME, Eileen Roche, gave her permission and also offered my viewers a 2-years-for-the-price-of-1 subscription. So throughout the month of July 2019, I urged viewers to subscribe. And now this.

My husband told me not to take it personally. He said, “It’s out of your control, it’s not your fault, so don’t worry about it.” Yes, that’s true but… Anyone who watches me on a regular basis knows that I frequently recommend products to my viewers. Some of these products are provided to me by companies for my honest review and some are not. If I don’t think the product is worth it, it goes unmentioned. However, if I recommend a product, it’s something that I own/use/adore/can’t do without, etc. DIME Magazine was part of this group as I have been a subscriber of the magazine since circa 2010. It may be due to vanity, but I believe that my viewers trust what I recommend to them and they wouldn’t have parted with their hard-earned cash unless I told them it was worth it. Money doesn’t grow on trees. As I struggled with it, he said, “It’s not about you.” That’s difficult for me when I’ve built a relationship with my viewers.

So what’s a girl to do? Why, validate the news of course. I promptly wrote to DIME to confirm the information. My email was forwarded to Eileen Roche and she personally sent a reply to me. Here it is.

Hello Becky,
Kayla sent me your email expressing your concern about the magazine.

I spoke in length about this on FaceBook Live today, you can watch it there.  Although the magazine appeared very healthy up to its last print issue, it is not financially feasible to continue to print.  We are making sound business decisions and will continue to grow. Our competitor, CME, filed bankruptcy last spring. Their readers received NOTHING for their remaining issues.  Family Circle ceased printing after 87 years.  Newsweek vanished several years ago.  A visit to any Joann’s store tells the story – the magazine newsstand is no longer anywhere to be found.  The publishing industry is in vast decline, this is not something we caused. 
I appreciate your concern regarding your viewers.  They will not lose faith in you as this is totally out of your control and being handled professionally. As the founding editor of DIME, I can tell you I did not make this decision lightly – I have spent all of my 20+ year career making machine embroidery easier and more enjoyable for the embroidery enthusiast and I plan on continuing to do just that.

Eileen Roche
Designs in Machine Embroidery

I read the email to my husband and he said, “See? I told you this was out of your control.” It’s funny (‘odd’ funny, not ‘ha-ha’ funny) that both he and Eileen used the same language. Still that did nothing to remove the odd pit in my stomach about some of my viewers possibly feeling misled by me. However, I do have to give kudos to Eileen to offer a gift certificate to the DIME shop for the remainder of readers’ subscriptions. Most magazines aren’t so charitable.

For those who may feel misled, know that I too am in the same boat with my viewers who subscribed. I paid for my subscription as well and was not provided the magazine for free to promote it. (Heavy sigh) Emotionally, I’m back to, “Dang, I loved that magazine.” The world is a-changing. One of my favorite pastimes was hunkering down with an issue of DIME and a hot cup of decaf-tea to end my day. DIME was one of those magazines that quieted the noise of the daily world. Sadly, that will now be a thing of the past. It was good while it lasted. I guess I can liken this to sports fans whose favorite player has been traded and now they have all these team number jerseys and hats in their closet that are no longer applicable. Do those fans blame the player? Ultimately, no. While they too become emotionally attached to the team as a whole, they know down deep that sports are a business and players are traded all the time due to business decisions that are out of the player’s control. In my case, the loss of the magazine doesn’t diminish my passion for the embroidery game. I hope it doesn’t yours either.

If you are affected, here is the link to claim your gift certificate for the balance of your remaining issues.

https://www.shop.dzgns.com/page/claim-your-gift-certificate

Sewing 101: Cleaning Your Machine

My sewing machine wasn’t exhibiting any performance issues, but I did notice a tiny bit of lint peeking up through the feed dog plate. Usually, where there’s smoke, there’s fire!

There’s more to cleaning then just brushing out the bobbin case so I normally remove the feed dog plate with a handy-dandy piece of US currency. Even the squattiest screwdrivers sometimes can’t do the trick. 🙂

One of my favorite cleaning tools is an old makeup brush that came as a freebie in a Loreal makeup kit. A little wiping with the brush found some dust bunnies right off the bat.

Look at ALL that dust and loose threads that were hiding in there! WOW!

A great way to clean the feed dogs is to use an old fashioned pipe cleaner.

I have a happy, happy clean bobbin case housing!

To put the bobbin case back in, be sure to align the little arrow on the bobbin case with a dot or other marker on the housing. I circled the dot on the bobbin case to match with the marker on the housing. If you do this and you’re not sure, take a photo with your phone before pulling anything out.

When was the last time you cleaned your machine? Hmmm? There’s no time better than the present!