When it comes to picking out an embroidery machine for your shop, you’re pretty much spoiled for choice. There are plenty of reputable machine manufacturers to choose from, like Brother, Bernina, and Tajima. But with many factors to consider in a machine, which one is right for you and your business needs?
Types of Embroidery Machines
Most machines are divided into three main categories: single-needle, multi-needle, and industrial machines. Each type has its purposes as well as its share of advantages and disadvantages.
Single-needle machines are usually found as combination machines that allow for sewing and embroidery. This is because many users tend to have experience in sewing or crafts and want to also get into embroidery. They’re usually affordable, have a small footprint, and are relatively easy to use – perfect for beginners. You can find these machines sold in retail and craft stores, as well as from licensed embroidery machine resellers.
The most common single-needle machine is the flatbed. Flatbeds are primarily used for hobby embroiderers or those who want to learn how to embroider. It might be fine to use these for making embroidery to sell on a very small scale. They may also incorporate some pre-digitized designs that you can use for your embroidery, removing the need to digitize designs independently. However, knowing how to digitize designs can be a plus point in the long run.
SIngle-needle machines are best used for simple designs and monograms. While limited, they’re still good platforms for learning the ropes of embroidery or selling custom embroidery in small quantities for individual customers. Anything more than that would be beyond the machine’s capabilities.
Truth be told, single-needle machines are not built to create and sell embroidered goods. There are a lot of limitations that a flatbed machine faces. For one, depending on the size of the design, flatbeds don’t have the appropriate amount of space to create these designs. Moreover, because the embroidery runs on a flat surface, you won’t be able to embroider properly on various surfaces, like caps.
Flatbeds also only run one color thread at a time, making it unnecessarily difficult to embroider multi-colored designs. You’ll constantly have to stop the machine so you can switch threads, which only serves to delay your embroidery work.
As the name suggests, these embroidery machines can have between four and sixteen needles. Unlike single-needle machines, multi-needle machines are built specifically for people who wish to sell embroidery on a small-to-medium scale: nowhere as small as a hobbyist working in their free time, but nowhere as large as a commercial embroiderer.
As such, these machines are built with more functions than single-needle machines. Multi-needle machines can support multiple threads of varying colors, embroider on various surfaces, and do their job at much faster speeds. These machines also have a bigger footprint than single-needle machines and, thus, have a larger area for embroidery. This ensures you can create designs of various shapes and sizes.
Crucially important is that you won’t need to babysit your multi-needle machines while they’re running. Once you’ve provided the machine with the embroidery instructions, it’ll be able to create the design without needing your constant supervision. You only need to check the final product and ensure it’s up to quality standards.
At the same time, these machines are larger and more expensive to purchase. Even low-end machines can go for at least $6,000. However, that includes other aspects besides the machine’s functionality; some machines may be sold in starter or professional sets that come bundled with various accessories such as extra hoops, bundled threads, and more. You may also be entitled to receive training to use the machine from the vendor and access (limited) live support if you have issues troubleshooting your machine.
Note that affordable models may be missing some key features that may be handy for your embroidery, while more expensive ones will have them. Still, the cost factor alone will hinder you from acquiring one for your business – thankfully, financing is available for many machines. Moreover, while you can start with a multi-needle machine, it’ll be a significant learning curve to figure out everything to get it running to your liking. You can get a good deal of support from the vendor/reseller to help you out with this hurdle.
Commonly referred to as multi-head machines, sometimes confused with multi-needle machines, these commercial machines are larger than regular multi-needle machines. They usually have multiple heads (hence their name) to embroider multiple items at once, along with a larger embroidery area and faster stitching speeds. They are ideal for commercial embroidery businesses to fulfill high-volume mass production orders quickly.
Multi-head machines come in all shapes and sizes. For example, twin-head models are available for those who want to maximize productivity without spending a huge sum on a larger model. Also, dual-function machines allow you to simultaneously embroider the same design on two different materials (such as a shirt and a cap).
Purchasing a multi-head machine hinges on various factors in how you run your embroidery. Do you embroider multiple items with the same design at once? Do you have bulk orders regularly? Can you afford a multi-head machine, as they can be pretty expensive? Do you even have the space to fit one in your shop?
Most shop owners usually prefer multiple multi-needle machines for their flexibility and lower cost of entry without sacrificing quality. You can still get the same results from two multi-needle machines as you would from a single multi-head machine, and you won’t even have to break the bank, either.
What You Should Look For
How do you know if any of these machines will work in your favor? The answer lies in narrowing down your expectations from your embroidery business: who are you catering to? What kind of items will they need to be embroidered? What features in a machine are more important?
Carefully consider the following factors to be better informed about the right machine for your shop. It also helps if you do your own research as well; these are only suggestions to help nudge you towards the right decision suited for your shop. Every shop owner runs things differently, so keep your business needs in mind and tailor these factors accordingly.
How much of a budget do you have for purchasing embroidery machines? Home embroiderers and embroidery shops will need to weigh their options carefully since they don’t have a lot of money to spend; in the latter’s case, they need to be realistic with their purchases and ensure that an ROI is possible.
While it may be tempting to purchase cost-effective alternatives, remember that you’ll get what you paid for. Most budget embroidery machines may only have the bare necessities in terms of functionality, which might end up limiting what you can do with them. Some machines might present a variety of mechanical issues down the line. Suppose there aren’t any official support channels for troubleshooting these problems. In that case, you’ll waste a lot of valuable time, money, and effort trying to fix it – and you won’t be making anything in the process.
Generally, single-needle machines are the more affordable option, but that “affordability” can go anywhere between $3,000 to $7,000 or more. Multi-needle machines are in a higher price bracket, sometimes going from $10,000 to upwards of $20,000 or more. As for commercial multi-head machines, the price can be much higher than $50,000, reflecting their immense size and capabilities.
On the other hand, expensive machines may offer plenty of bells and whistles, but which ones are more useful? Will there be features you’re not going to use at all? If you invest in such a costly machine but are barely making full use of its capabilities, was it really a worthwhile investment?
You’d also need to be mindful of the amount of space you have at home or in your shop. Single-needle machines have the smallest footprint and are ideal for home embroidery since they can fit almost anywhere. Some compact multi-needle machines also exist that make it viable for even home embroiderers to have at home.
Embroidery shops usually have a dedicated space where the embroidery machines can work uninterrupted, but it still depends on the overall area the shop occupies. Smaller shops will undoubtedly need to make good use of every bit of space they have available, so they’ll need to look at compact multi-needle machines. The more machines you can support, the better your overall productivity. Just make sure there’ll be enough space for your staff to move around and check the quality of each machine you have.
Some machines also have wheels mounted to enable you to move them around your shop, whether moving them so you can clean the embroidery room or for other reasons. The bigger industrial machines don’t have this because of their larger size and footprint, so you should also consider it.
You’ll need to ensure a machine has sufficient space for working on different substrates. The bigger the area, the larger materials the machine can work with. Single-needle machines are a good choice for home or hobby embroiderers who don’t create complicated, multi-colored pieces, as they usually have an embroidery area of up to 8” x 8”.
In contrast, multi-needle machines have larger throat widths and are best for shops that cater to various embroidery designs on bigger materials. You can find machines with areas as much as 16” x 10” or higher. Bigger machines naturally have bigger areas to work with, so it would be ideal if you make embroidery on curtains, quilts, and blankets.
While most machines share similar capabilities, each manufacturer will find ways to diversify their machines and set them apart from competitors. Some machines may feature quality-of-life additions to make hoop garments or fabrics easier or ease/automate the threading process. Some might make it easy to maintain or allow you to interface directly with your digitizing software. Be sure to review the product description to know what the machine can do for you.
Note also the machine speeds that the machine can use. Not all embroidery designs will work at high speeds, so having the option to toggle between different speeds would be very helpful. Machines with external LCD displays are also beneficial, as you can quickly adjust various settings on the machine with a few button presses. These are just a few examples of functions that can add value to your machine and make it much easier to get embroidering.
Some machines may be sold in attractive packages that include various goodies, including software. Included software may be digitizing software so you can digitize designs of your own or those from your customers or digital design software for creating designs from scratch. In some cases, you might get a combination of both.
Oftentimes, this bundled software only works with that particular manufacturer’s embroidery machines. It could be problematic if you have machines from other brands in your shop, so try to stick with one brand for the sake of convenience.
Having excellent customer support available can greatly improve one’s confidence in using a particular embroidery machine. Thus, it’s a good idea to find out if a machine you’re buying will come with support channels to help you maintain the machine and keep it running smoothly for a long time. Will it be the vendor or the reseller who provides support? What kind of support will you be entitled to? Is it part of the warranty coverage, or is it limited to several calls or visits? Be sure to get a clear answer to these questions, and think of others you could ask as well.
You’re bound to stumble on plenty of different brands of machines being sold online and in physical stores. Technology and innovation have allowed many companies to manufacture their own embroidery machines with varying degrees of success. If you’re looking for a trusted brand, you can’t go wrong with the following manufacturers.
Brother has a strong lineup of embroidery machines suitable for home embroiderers and small-to-medium-size embroidery shops that need flexible machines for their orders. For those who need a small machine that’s capable of simple designs with a few colors, the PRS100 is a good starting point. It has 405 built-in embroidery designs and 20 fonts, and an 8” x 8” embroidery area that’s perfect for small designs. Its tubular free arm also allows you to embroider on hard-to-reach areas, while the 7” LCD screen allows you to view and edit designs easily.
The PRS100 also has several quality-of-life features that make it easier to start embroidering, such as side bobbin winding for easy bobbin replacements and an easy threading system. With plenty of starting accessories bundled, you’ll be able to start embroidering once the machine is set up. The major downside is that the machine costs at least $5,000, which might be out of the budget range for many home embroiderers. It’s also a single-needle machine, so its utility may be limited for embroidery shops that tackle more complex designs with many colors.
Embroidery shops can opt for either the Entrepreneur W PR680W or the Entrepreneur Pro X PR1055X instead. The PR680W is a single-head six-needle machine with an 8” x 12” embroidery area and a high-definition 10.1” LCD display. It has a Crosshair Embroidery Droplight Laser system, allowing you to position the needle precisely where it needs to go. The machine also has built-in LED lighting for viewing your embroidery, plenty of built-in designs to choose from, and many other convenient features, the PR680W is a good pick for many shops, though it still has a hefty price tag of at least $10,000.
The PR1055X, on the other hand, has a single head with ten needles, a 14″ x 8″ maximum embroidery area, and high-speed background scanning for easy design previewing, among its many other features. You can even get a “real-time camera view” of your design “superimposed on your fabric,” greatly helping you in positioning your designs where they need to be stitched. Other features include “enhanced embroidery editing,” easy color management, and more positioning tools.
With a long reputation for quality sewing machines, Janome (pronounced Ja-NO-me, as it’s Japanese for “eye of the snake”) has a lineup that’s ideal for home embroiderers looking to expand their craft. The first of which is the single-head four-needle MB-4S, which costs around $5,500. For that price point, you’ll be getting a decent amount of standard accessories, as well as 50 built-in designs, an available 5.7” remote computer screen to program your machine for embroidering, and a 9.4″ x 7.9″ embroidery area.
The MB-4S also has various editing functions such as enlarge/reduce, rotate, and drag and drop. Many other functions make the embroidery process that much easier, from “programmable jump thread trimming” to an extra large bobbin four times the size of a regular one. It’s a moderately powerful machine to utilize, but for its price, you can potentially find better alternatives.
You could opt for the MB-7 instead, which promises professional-looking results with little fuss. The MB-7 is a single-head seven-needle machine that shares all of the features that the MB-4S has, such as the maximum embroidery area and most of its embroidery capabilities. Its only a little more expensive than the MB-4S at around $6,800 or so, but again, you might find better options if you need more utility or functions in your embroidery machine. As a starter, it’s only hindered by its high asking price.
Much like Janome, Bernina’s embroidery machines cater mainly to hobbyists and home embroiderers that operate on a small scale. However, they now have their own multi-needle machine, the Bernina E 16 Plus, for embroidery shops of any scale. With 16 needles in a single head and speeds of up to 1,400 spm (stitches per minute), the E 16 Plus promises professional-grade embroidery with less re-threading. With a large embroidery area of 15.7” x 13.8”, an automatic tension system that helps with threading and tension adjustments, and a small cylindrical lower arm that supports all kinds of items, the E 16 Plus looks to provide a solid foundation for quality embroidery products.
As Bernina also creates its own embroidery software, you can use the E 16 Plus in tandem with this software for the best embroidery results. Moreover, you also get five-year warranty coverage when purchasing the machine and guided support from the company. The downside is that it costs at least $13,000 for one, bells and whistles and all.
A well-established brand known for its wide range of industrial embroidery machines, the Japan-based Tajima is your go-to if you operate on a large commercial scale. They do sell a variety of single-head machines as well for embroidery shops that don’t operate on such a huge scale. You can find machines with an embroidery area of up to 21.6” x 23.6” or more, machines equipped with automatic thread tension adjustment systems, and machines that combine embroidery and other sewing capabilities – Tajima has it all. Each of their machines brings plenty of utility to your embroidery shop but can be demanding where budgets are concerned. The TWMX-C series, with its large embroidery area, can go for at least $16,500 or more.
Hailing from Germany, ZSK is a competitor to Tajima with their own single-head and multi-head machines available for sale. ZSK is well known for its SPRINT series of single-head, multi-needle machines. ZSK prides itself on building high-quality machines that are highly flexible, being able to incorporate various options to enhance their capabilities without needing to change or remove any electrical components. The SPRINT is available in various forms: the SPRINT 6 has 12 needles, while the SPRINT 7 has 18 needles. There are also L and XL versions that feature much larger embroidery areas. Like Tajima, these machines also cost a pretty penny to purchase for your shop.
It’ll take time to pick out the right machine for your embroidery needs. Knowing your niche and your needs will help inform you of the kind of machine you’ll need, but you’ll still need to weigh your options carefully with what’s available. In some cases, you might have to prioritize specific criteria in favor of others; home embroidery, for example, doesn’t need the latest features in a machine, as these may require a higher budget. However, if you’re planning to expand your home embroidery or open a shop and scale up, you might have to prioritize these features and put some cash aside for the eventual purchase.
It also helps to check out customer reviews on machines you’re eyeing. You’ll get various useful insights on how people have used their machines, what problems they’ve encountered, how they resolved these problems, or if they persisted and caused the customer to leave a bad review. If you can see a machine for yourself and maybe give it a try, seize it. Any bit of hands-on experience can make it easier for you to decide which machine is right for you.