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BellaOnline's Embroidery Editor

Buying an Embroidery Machine

One of the biggest decisions anybody who does Machine Embroidery will make is to buy a new machine. Like any decision, however, you have to come to some conclusions as to what you need, as opposed to what you want and what you can afford.

Prices for machines that can handle embroidery can start from a couple of hundred dollars, up into the thousands - and usually the price is reflective of the capabilities of the machine.

Firstly - any sewing machine that can do zigzag, and has a variable stitch width and length can do embroidery. In fact, normal sewing machines were the first ones used to do machine embroidery, long before the digital age dawned.

My own sewing machine (a mid-1960's Elna - and I wouldn't part with it for any price!) was touted as a major advance in sewing machines when it came out. It relied on interchangeable cams for specialty stitches (including one that lives permanently in my machine that does what is virtually an overlocking stitch!) and a booklet with designs that you could trace onto fabric to then embrodier. It also came with several different feet, including a "satin stitch" foot. My mother also has one of these (which began my love affair with the particular model) and I remember as a child in the mid 1970's, when embroidered jeans and jackets were all the rage, that she produced a masterpiece of an outfit for me using this machine.

For my money, a simple sewing machine, good imagination and patience brings you to the true artistic value of machine embroidery. You are doing, making the decision to change colours, the stitch length and width and following the design.

Machine Embroidery as an artform has taken off in recent years, and most of the artists use simple sewing machines, so that they are an integral part of the creative process.

Ok - that's my bias aside. I will now admit to being a dedicated hand embroiderer whose only foray into machine embroidery is using my own machine.

However, I am fascinated by gadgets - and really, the modern specialised embroidery machine is the ultimate gadget! I am absolutely astonished at what these machines can do, and it's that I want to look at to help you to make a decision.

You have to look at practicality. Do you already have a machine? What format does the digitised designs take? How easy or hard is it to get them changed to the format of another machine? What special software or connections do you need with your PC or Laptop to make it work? Or, whatspecial hardware do you have to buy to interface?

It's all these things that can make the price add up. You may find an excellent machine for $300 - but if you need to spend another $800 on additonal software, changing formats, or special hardware or connections, then your bargain suddenly becomes a major investment!

Questions to ask when you start to shop around
By making a list to answer these questions, you start to build up an idea of the machine you are looking for.

I would suggest that you draw up a table from your answers - have the answers accross the top, and then leave plenty of lines down the side to put the details of the machines you are looking for, then use a simple system of ticks or crosses to see how they measure up.

Where do I start looking?

Personally - I would start my information gathering on the internet. For your ease, I'll list at the end of this article some of the websites for the major sewing machine makers.

If you know of one that I've missed, please e-mail me and let me know.

The next step would be to find somewhere that you can go and look at the machines and, if possible, play around with them.

You should be warned: most stores have a deal with one or two companies to only stock their machines, so you may have to shop around.

Alternatively,look out for sewing or craft shows in your area. These shows usually have representatives from the major companies there, with hands-on displays and plenty of information available for you.

Another great place to visit is a specialty sewing machine shop. They usually have a nice range of machines on display and often have a technician on hand who can answer questions about servicing, etc. These specialist stores often offer free lessons or tutorial when you buy a new machine from them.

For my money, I would always prefer to buy from these specialist stores, because of the service they offer, as well as the fact that I am supporting a small local business.

Thirdly, ask around. Post on any mail lists, or notice boards/forums you belong to. Ask what other people use, and what they recommend and why. If they can't tell you why they recommend, or don't recommend, a machine, then their advice isn't really worth much. Remember, they may have different needs from their machine than you, so their recommendations will be dependent on their needs and preferences.

And finally...

If you are buying online, always read the description carefully. If you have any questions, ask. Check what the shipping rates cover, and if they include insurance.

Be especially careful in buying from online auction sites, or from newspaper or online classifieds.

These machines are often second hand, and come in what is known as an "as is" condition. Always ask questions to make sure exactly what comes with the machine, and what exactly the condition is. After all, you have no recourse if you buy a machine only to discover that half the accessories you need to use it aren't included, if you didn't ask in the first place.

The golden rule is always "buyer beware". If you can't see the machine yourself, then always ask detailed and in-depth questions. These should include:If you shop carefully, you will find a machine that will meet most (if not all!) of your machine embroidery needs.

Some Helpful Websites

Is there anything that you would particularly like to see an article on? If so, please e-mail me with your suggestions.

Happy Stitching

Happy Stitching from Megan

2006 Megan McConnell

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