Monday, February 6, 2012

Need Your Sewing Machine Opinion...

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For those of us who sew, you know your sewing machine is like a member of the family and an expensive one at that. Some of us have a hand me down machine from our moms or grandmothers and some of us have invested in a new one. No matter where our machines come from, we all have our favorite brand, favorite model, favorite feature or accessories...and with that, this is where you come into the picture.

Rebecca, from the blog Trial, Error and Triumph, emailed me asking what type of embroidery machine I had. She is looking to invest in a new machine, has done all the research online, but (like all of us) is overwhelmed by all the info.

What better way to get true, honest opinions about sewing and embroidery machines...than to go right to the blogging world.

She would like to do monogramming and appliques to make gifts for family, friends. She also wants to make beautiful things for her Etsy Shop.

I would love it if you could share your opinion about the machine you have. Keep in mind Rebecca's goal is embroidery...monogramming and applique.
  • what brand
  • what model
  • approximate cost (if you're willing to share)
  • features you like
  • accessories it has that you love
  • ease of use
I think this may help so many other people out there too. There's nothing better than a "blogging friend" telling you things she loves. So let's hear from all of you out there!!

Thanks in advance for all your help,

Don't forget to visit Rebecca and follow her new blog too..cute, cute. Click here to pop over there


  1. Hello Karen, I have a Singer Inspiration. It doesn't do embroidery, only zig zag, buttonholes etc. so I can't advise on that. However, if anyone is looking for a good machine, this is it. I particularly like the needle threading device near the foot. It makes it easier to thread the needle. I'm not a fan of machine embroidery, to be honest. It feels like cheating to me.

  2. I used to envy my mother her machine: a Husqvarna Viking Designer I. She bought software and tweaked designs on the computer, then put a disk in the machine, and it merrily sewed away, beeping when it was time to change thread color. But Mom died two years ago and I've inherited her machines, and I have no desire to distract myself from my quilting to try to learn her machine, even though it came with just about every accessory imaginable. Now I have to figure out how to sell this thing so that it can end up with someone who really will use it.

    1. Kristen - If you haven't sold your Viking yet, I'd like to discuss it with you.

  3. Thank you for this post! I look forward to investing in a embroidery machine one day.

    ~Mrs. Delightful

  4. I have a Husqvarna Viking Designer SE LE. It's terrific, but a little complicated to learn how to use. It cost a few thousand dollars years ago; I've never had any trouble with it and the embroidery is fabulous.

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  6. I have a Viking sewing machine and have been looking like crazy to upgrade to the Viking Diamond, because I want the ability to embroider. I researched both the Viking and Bernina and decided on the Viking for a number of reasons. 1st - I'm familiar with Viking. 2nd - I can keep all my presser feet. 3rd. The Viking presser feet are much less expensive than the Bernina. 4th - The Viking has a lot more built-in embroidery designs than the comparable Bernina. It also has more built-in stitches and needle positions. 5th - I've had my Viking for 20+ years, and it still sews like a dream. My vote is for Viking.

  7. I have a Brother. A lady in the guild talked about it and it sounded perfect, went and checked it out, and bought it. It is very easy to use. Takes the special embroidery cards, and 3.5 floppies to get designs from the computer to the machine easily. It has a very HUGE hoop as others have made comments that the hoop they have is only half that size. There are 5 others in the guild that also have the machine I have, in fact one lady has 2 different ones. It only cost about $800 years ago when I bought it. It is a ULT2001. Listening to others in the guild complain about their machines when we get together for embroidery days, I would never get another embroidery machine that wasn't a Brother. It snips threads, threads the needle, color display and push button this and that. Plus if you want to sew, it also has TONS of fancy stitches too.

  8. I messed up my last comment!!! I had a Singer back in the day....the day when all their parts were metal. Now they are plastic and terrible. But I have been a Bernina user for the last 30 years and like their slogan says "Nothing sews like a Bernina. Nothing." The embroidery coupled with their software will enable you to do just about anything. The applique features do the most beautiful applique effortlessly. You can't go wrong and you don't need top of the line for those capabilities either. Berninas are not cheap but worth every penny. And aren't you and your work worth the best? Good luck in your decision.


  9. I have a Janome 11000. Her name is Henrietta and I love her. I bought her over a year ago. I traded in a Janome 6260 which is an awesome machine btw and a Janome 350 Embroidery Machine.

  10. I have a Baby Lock Esante. Not cheap, but if you can find a store that has a trade up program you can sometimes find a slightly used one a lot cheaper. That's what we did! It is a wonderful sewing machine, and it embroiders really well. It has a USB connection, so no cards. Just connect to your computer, and sew! I also have design gallery (software) that makes a huge difference! Good luck!

    1. What version of windows works with your design gallery? I'm having no luck with my esante and appliquing.

  11. I have worked at many dealerships and taken week long classes with the best of the best. I worked at a Viking Dealership and was one of the first to ever get to use the Viking Diamond. I personally own a Brother, my dream machine is a Babylock Ellisimo, which I have also used at a week-long school. I worked at a Brother and Bernina Dealership. All are good machines. However, Brother/Babylock machines are cousins like Chrysler/Plymouth they are basically the same machines with different names. Babylock and Brother are the most user friendly machines out there. Their add ons (feet, software, etc) are also less expensive than Viking and Bernina. You will need much less training with Babylock and Brother machines. Be sure and buy from a dealer as close to you as possible so you will have ongoing support and training. Hope this helps.

  12. I have had two different combination sewing/embroidery machines. Both were Husqvarna Viking. I have always been very satisfied with the embroidery each machine did. What I have found disturbing is the frequency with which they change or introduce features. You can sometimes have the upgrades added to your machine, but you need to stay on top of the new introductions. I tend to buy sewing machines and keep them for a long time, and not trade them in or upgrade each time a new model is introduced. However, computers do not seem to last as long. I have had some problems coordinating new computers with my particular Viking. I think that may not be as big a problem with the current Vikings. Many of the larger Joann's in my area have a leased Viking department. They seem to really push purchasing all-new, and are not always able to help when encountering any problems with older models. For that, I have to travel outside my local area to a Viking dealer with more knowledge and helpful employees. My strongest advice is make sure you have a dealer that will be able to offer the help and support you need. I have a Designer I, which was TOL several years ago.

    Many of my friends are currently purchasing Brother machines for embroidery and applique purposes. They seem to be a little more reasonably priced, than others. If I were to purchase a new machine at this time, I would seriously look into Brother or Janome machines.

    My other advice is to make sure the embroidery field is greater than 4x4. I believe many of the lower range embroidery machines may offer only smaller fields of embroidery. For most of popular designs seen on Etsy and other boutique clothing and items, you need at least a 5x7 or larger embroidery field.

    If she is truly going into business, she may find that a stand alone embroidery machine is well worth the money. I am not as familiar with them. However, many of my friends with businesses have switched over to the embroidery only machines, leaving their sewing machine free for construction of the garments or items, while the embroidery machine works its own kind of magic. Sometimes, setting up the combination sewing/embroidery machines does take time. Some of the larger and more complex designs can take quite a bit of time to stitch out. If she is constructing garments or items, that will also be embroidered or appliqued for sale, time is money.

  13. I have an Esante BLN - great machine, very reliable. It has multiple hoop sizes and automatic threader. The price was reasonable for the quality - several thousand dollars. I mainly use it for applique and embroidery. (I use a Bernina Sport for most sewing - just because I am so familiar with it). I highly recommend Embird for managing your designs and fonts.

  14. Well, since you asked :-)...I have a BabyLock that has (MINIMAL) built in embroidery functions. Love it, never had a problem with it. My daughter (19) has a mid/lower end Brother that is a combo machine that she loves. I/we made our choice based on our needs. The second deciding factor (only by a tiny bit) was ease of service. I learned this the very hard way. I own a Juki. Love it, but it needed service. The closest place to me to have it done is 2 hours away, in good traffic, or ship it off (my expense, that baby is HEAVY) So, I would say how easily can you have it serviced near where you live is a huge factor. Along with that, I have found that often local places offer free classes on your new machine, or added benefits at their I would narrow it down by what is locally available first and research from there ;-)

  15. I'm a Brother girl all the way. I currently have a Brother PE700 that is embroidery only. I would recommend that machine to anyone...they have a newer model now. The only thing not in my favor is that it only will embroider up to a 5x7 design. I did purchase a multiposition hoop for it, but still you can not embroider bigger than 5x7. You can combine designs tho. This one cost me about 750 like 3 years ago.

    I also have the Brother PRW420 (not sure if that is right), and use that thing every day for hours at a time.

    I wouldn't suggest a combined machine because there are times you would like to sew and embroider at the same time :)

  16. I don't have an embroidery machine but just purchased a new 'regular' machine. It doesn't matter what others think - she needs to go test drive anything she's considering. I'd have bought a Bernina if all I did was listen but I had one, I personally wasn't that crazy about it, and wanted something better. Yes, better and I got it!

    I used to sell Pfaff's. The most important thing I learned is when shopping, take the fabric you'd actually use for your test. The stiff pieces that are provided will produce nice stitches with just about any machine. She also needs to take her time when she's in the shop and not let anyone hurry her. Also, ask about repair times in case it needs it. That matters.

  17. I currently have a Brother SE400 it has both sewing & embroidery functions. The only drawback on this one is the size is only a 4x4 and it uses a memory card & software for the designs that aren't built in. It was a floor model so I only paid $400 and I bought it for a particular project.

    Since then, I have another Brother PE780 ($900.00) on layaway, that is strictly an embroidery machine (since the other one I can use to sew). The size for it is 5x7 and uses a USB for design downloads.

    I would have your friend check her local sewing store, mine has plenty of used machines that have been traded in for upgrades and they will usually warranty them also. That might help her decide which brand until she is ready to pay higher $$.

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  19. Although I love, love, love my Berninas, and would highly recommend them, I have had other machines. My Brother was a good machine and I still own it, my Viking SE not so much --- it doesn't live here anymore. I would strongly recommend you check out the Dealer, they are part of what you are buying. If your dealer support is not there then it makes your machine more difficult to learn and use fully. Help from a bad dealer can be almost impossible to get and fixing problems difficult. If you are buying a used machine from an individual, ask for the machine to be serviced as part of the purchase deal and see the service invoice. Then if there is anything wrong with the machine it and repaired before you take it home.

  20. I have the little Brother, the Disney one. I can't remember the number on it. I would not say to get one of these but it was all I could afford at the time. :( It is so small you almost have to C clamp it onto the table since it's sooooo light in weight. It's little hoop is only 4" and I am SO limited with it.
    Good luck in your search!

  21. My regular machine has lots of stitches...not a regular embroidery machine but it is a New Home that I bought in 1985...a real workhorse. My serger is a Pfaff...and I have my eye on a Pfaff for embroidery. I love the dealer, Boyd Walker, which is the oldest continuous Pfaff dealer in the world. Service, classes and lots of attention so you can get the most out of your sewing experience. That is a important to me as the machine itself.

  22. I absolutely love my machine. It's a Bernina Artista 640. I bought it because it has an attachment for machine embroidery. It has a ton of stitches and is an all around work horse. The only con is that it is on the pricey side. The good news is that Bernina often has specials.

  23. I agree make sure you have "GOOD" dealer support near!! #1 rule.
    Now I have the Brother 2800D (D stands for Disney designs), love it!! I was having problems with it 6 months ago and I hated it, but my dealer loaned me the floor model while mine got fixed, so I was able to continue with my projects. Mine takes, usb cord or stick, or embroidery card, I like to have it hooked up to my laptop. I have the BES lettering program, would love a digitizing program but way too much money. We spent around $3,000 on the machine. This is our third embroidery machine, the old ones did max of 4x4, as the first machine was when they first came out, that machine weighed 50 pounds. I think it was the Elna 8006 or 9006, ugh!!
    So #1 Dealer availability
    #2 budget
    #3 ease of use

  24. I think she needs to look at what brand of sewing machine (or serger, or felter) she already has and if she loves it or hates it. It seems that with these machines some brands work really great for some and are horrors to others. I had a top of the line Brother embroidery machine and that thing was fussier than a baby with colic, I even told DH that brand will never come in this house again and I have found that the brands that work well for us tend to make crossover machines that also work well.

  25. I have a Brother 770 PE that just does embroidery. It is one of the cheapest entry level machines out there, and I love that it has the 5x7 embroidery field and ESPECIALLY the USB connection. It makes it so easy to download designs off the internet and stitch them right up! I have used it for gifts and for things for my Etsy shop when I used to sell finished clothing. For me it's a great mix of lower price and basic function.

  26. I agree with a lot that Susan posted above. I've owned Babylocks and a Janome 11000. I liked the Janome, but I wanted the longer hoop that the Babylock has.
    Babylocks and Brothers are very similar.
    My advice would be to go with one that she can get good dealer support. I love my dealer, and one reason I switched back to the BL. I have the Ellegeo Plus. It is very user friendly, and I got it on sale for around $3500. Actually, my DH bought it for our anniversary present in July.
    The main thing is to try and get one with the larger hoops because if you start out with just the 4x4, you will soon find that you want to do bigger designs.
    There is a forum associated with Allbrands called I read a wealth of information on there before I ever bought my first machine.
    She will also need some kind of software program to store and edit designs. I've used Embird for years, and it does everything I need. Unless the dealer offers free software, it is much cheaper to go with something downloadable on the internet. Embird gives you a password that you can keep and redownload if something happens.

  27. Husqvarna Designer Diamond - there should be good deals on them now because they recently came out with Diamond Deluxe and people are trading in the Diamond for the new TOL. #1 reason for my choice - I can understand how to navigate the system. Changing from embroidery to sewing; selecting stitches and modifying them; deleting or erasing a mistake - I figured out on my own how to use it. Cost of a new Diamond Deluxe is around $9,999.00 but may have perks (like extra feet, case, different hoops, a shopping spree). So a traded-in Diamond may run $5-7,000. I'm not trading my Diamond in for the Deluxe because I don't really see that it's improved so much. Bernina was about $13,000. Figure out what you need/want (hoop sizes, stitches, WEIGHT of machine, etc). I had a Husqvarna Topaz and I hated it - same with the Designer SE/LE. A machine will speak to you and if you communicate well - it's worth the price & financing. I have embroidered on knits, woven, towels, blankets, quilted quilts, crafter's foam, balsa wood, caps and made loads of free-standing lace, borders on curtains, baby clothing, appliques, cutwork and yarn couching...that's just the embroidery. I've used it to sew drapes, clothing of all types, made rope baskets, awnings for our porch from heavy duty canvas, slipcovers and reupholstered our couch.

    You also have to remember if you get a current embroidery machine, you will need software to put on your computer and for transferring designs from computer to machine. That can cost $300 to $2,500 & maybe more. That does not include a computer in your sewing room OR a laptop -- so if you don't have this - it's additional cost.

    You need to understand there are 2 different dealers - some are company stores and other are private businesses. Company store dealers don't have to worry about the profit end as long as they make monthly budget - so they don't necessarily know the product or sew very well or be allowed to hold classes - it's not their store. A private dealer whose business is their livelihood works at keeping customers happy with classes, maintenance & support (but I have met a few with attitude :( And while either may be nice about selling you a machine the friendliness can end there.

    Most women I know who have been bitten by the embroidery bug have 2 (or more) machines - one for sewing and one for embroidery and if the sewing one embroiders too, that's even better!!

    Baby Lock Elegante is an excellent machine and they have a gold standard maintenance program. Lovely sewing. Pfaff I found hard to navigate. Singer doesn't really have embroidery anymore (unless something new has come out) but I wouldn't even consider one of their machines - they aren't what they used to be - real shame because they were good. Not impressed with Janome or Brother but... Bernina has a high learning curve but sews extremely well.

    Someone commented that machine embroidery feels like cheating - when you have arthritis and your fingers just don't do the walking anymore, it's not cheating - it's survival and allows you to still enjoy the creativity.

  28. I bought the Husqvarna Quilt Designer II, with the embroidery attachment in 2004. I have not had any trouble and it is still going strong. I love it - the tension adjusts automatically, push button thread cutter, etc. I've had other machines, but this one has not failed me yet and I can do so much with it.

  29. I have a Janome 12000 embroidery machine. I have had a 11000 updated machine also. I like them very much and have had nothing but success with them. I believe that the most important part of buying a new machine is to buy one with a reputable dealer within easy access to your home if there are any problems. The make is second in importance.
    I do love my Janome.

  30. I have a Janome MB-4, an entry level commercial grade embroidery machine. Cost around $7K and it only does monogramming, applique, etc. It is not a sewing machine (I have the Bernina Artista 640E for sewing). I've had this machine for 1 1/2 years and love it -- does monogramming great and is easy to use and maintain. I decided on this one because it's portable and I can take it to vendor shows where I do on-site monogramming of items that I sell. Good luck to you -- it's lots of fun!

  31. One thing to keep in mind if you plan to sell your work,many embroidery designs are protected--you can not sell items you have embroidered. Some have a limited use--means you can sell up to a certain number in a local venue. I had a Bernina 180--crabby bugger--got rid of it.

  32. I recently purchased a 16 needle Melco Amaya XTS.

    I am excited to get started using it in earnest. I have to get training soon. It is a HUGE HUGE investment. I went with a commercial model after talking to several people who said GO BIG OR GO HOME if you are wanting to start even a small business.

    My route is not the usual one. It will be 5 years before it is paid off. It was like buying a used car - about $16,000.00. After praying about it for months and doing loads of research - it was the choice we made.

    You are smart to do homework. I went BIG because my machine is...
    1. American made
    2. They are super durable
    3. Service can view my machine settings via the Internet and tweak them if needed.
    4. I am not limited by what I can create. It will embroider everything from ultra thin wedding veil material to rubber backed/carpeted floor mats for your car.
    5. I can do hats, shoes and other odd, strange or hard to reach areas.
    6. Great warranty.
    7. No down payment/lease to own opportunity.
    8. 2 day in house training in my home/office on MY machine as part of the purchase!!!!
    9. High resale value.
    10. If my business really grows, I can add another identical machine to work off of the same computer, same software and increase my productivity and save the cost of the software (knocking off several thousand dollars).
    11. Came with all the hoops, including hat, starter pack thread (full size 5000 yd cones) backing, tool kit, software, digitizing software, 1000's of designs & fonts.

    Decide what you EXPECT the machine to do. Research what any machine will do.

    I have 2 Kenmore sewing machines and an old Husky Lock serger to go along with the Melco Embroidery machine as well. I sold the Kenmores for years and the models I have were made by Janome.

    Last but certainly not least - with any machine use the highest quality needles and thread. Also make sure you know how to match up your needle to the type of fabric you use, thread for that job and in the case of a sewing machine, match the stitch to the type of fabric.

    Keep your machine cleaned and oiled lightly. Put it on a GREAT surge protector.

    Jump in and enjoy with the rest of us who love embroidery!

  33. I bought my Brother SE400 a few months ago. It sews & embroiders. With an extra attachment, it also becomes a serger. It was $400. Likes: it's super easy to use, has a cool LCD touch screen & has tons of cool feet you can purchase to do other cool stuff. Dislike: You can only use a 4X4 hoop. See this for more info:

  34. I use to only sew on a kenmore machine, which I loved. But when my last one died in November I searched and searched. I found the Viking Emerald 203 and I LOVE it. It is a great machine and I paid $749 for it which was affordable. it came with all the feet I need and a table attachment. So far it has really been a good machine

  35. I have a Bernina Aurora 440 QE. An optional embroidery system was available for this machine. I had no intention of ever doing embroidery, but my husband convinced me to get the embroidery system as well. Am I glad he did. I probably use that more than the regular sewing machine. I've had the machine about 5 years now and have logged in many, many hours of use and have not had any problems with it. I like having the option of using the machine for sewing, quilting, or embroidery rather than a separate machine dedicated to just one use.

  36. Hi Karen, I started with my moms Singer, then was given a Singer Featherweight when I was in high school, purchased a Brother sewing/embroidery machine about 4 years ago but it only had a 4" hoop, in 2010 I purchased a Babylock Ellageo and I love it, it is wonderful, it embroiders, has an needle threader, thread cutter, and lots of other features. It cost me about $3000 but it was a floor model so that made it a little cheaper than if it was brand new. Hope this helps. Jodi

  37. Hi Karen, I have a Babylock Sofia 2 embroidery and sewing machine.

    What I love about it is the way I can download embroidery designs off the internet onto a USB flash drive and pop that into the Sofia and embroider right from the flash drive! I also like the commpact size--with the embroidery unit the machine ways only 14 lbs. and w/out the embroidery unit it's a perfect size to take to quilt retreats and sew-alongs.
    The cost isn't prohibitive either at approximately $600, it's loaded with the same features as the big machines--thread cutter, needle-threader--all the bells and whistles along with 73 built in embroidery designs, and six monongram fonts.

    The only negative is that you are limited in hoop size. The Sofia 2 can only handle a 4" hoop but for the embroidery I do, it's fine and I love the machine.

  38. I have a Bernina 200 with embroidery module but was unhappy that I had to sit and keep changing the thread colors. So I treated myself to a Babylock 6 needle about a year ago. My embroidery went through the roof. The stitchout is so much more professional and I can still sew on my Bernina while my Babylock does the embroidery. I got it for $6500 but it was well worth the money. I love it, love it, love it!!!!!

  39. Thank you all so much for your input and words of advice. I was a little overwhelmed with all the choices out there. I've read quite a bit of information on the internet and felt that it would be best to get first hand knowledge from those that actually use the machines. I've been to a couple of stores and gotten a few demonstrations. Because of all of your help, I was able to ask the right questions. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And Thank You Karen for doing the post. :-)

  40. Hey. I have a Babylock Sofia. It does begining level embroidery. I love the ease of use. I also machine quilt on it. I would reccomend finding the local store that deal in machines-not Joanns. Find a couple of models you want and then try and buy a used one. I bought mineless then half the price bc the owner returned it unused to buy a bigger machine.

  41. Wow! It looks like after some trial and error you got great results. I want an embroidery machine. I'll have to refer back to this when I get one, so I'll know the best stabilizer to use. :)

  42. Great tutorial ! It is nice to see all the work that goes into just one step of completing one of your cute blankets. By the way, your sewing space looks pretty organized to me!

  43. Does the embird program allow you to transfer the appliques to the program so that you can manuever the names? I am new to this and the only program I have to the monogram wizard plus.


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