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 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