Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Say You?

So, as I sew more for my children, I contemplate the need for an embroidery machine. Really, it's Angie that has put the bug on me (as my son would say, "Grenade on her!"). She has done so many cute embroidery things. Look here, here, here, and here. Then I see all these cute things in BWOF. What do you guys think? I feel like I'll use it quite a bit for the kids. But, will I use it when they are a bit older? Here are a few examples that I really like. At the bottom of this post are some pros, cons, and some questions for you since I don't really know much about it.


Another BWOF

This is a bad picture I took of one of their shirts. Can a home embroidery machine do this sort of stitching? The little letters are embroidered on felt or other fabric. Could this be done with a little practice or is this something that only industrial machines do?

Here's a photo from their jammies. The green heart and the blue 'e' are fabric with embroidered edges.

I love all the little flowers on these pants. Too cute!

Yes, I need one:
  1. What sewer don't want a new shiny piece of equipment?
  2. I will use it on the kids' clothes regularly, I think.
  3. If I can figure out my serger, I think I can figure out an embroidery machine.
  4. I love the little gifts and cute things that Angie makes. She makes these totally cute bookmarks and cute pillows.
  5. My business will pay for it and it's got the money right now.
  6. I love sewing details. How awesome would it be to embroider my jeans pockets before I added them to my jeans?

No, I should pass:

  1. I already have two machines in this room. Do I need a third one? Do I have space for a third one?
  2. How expensive is it going to be?? I see Debbie Cook digitizing logos and things. Do I want to be able to do that? Will I wish I had it after a while? Is that capability really expensive?
  3. Will I be talented enough (with color and design) to avoid the Becky-Homecky embroidery? You know, the tacky Christmas things you get from your grandparents? I have one grandma who, I swear, sends me whatever things she is about to donate to goodwill. It usually includes some fuuuuuugly embroidery pillow/tablerunner/napkins/you get the idea.
  4. More needles, more thread, more space, more, more, more!

Questions for you:

  1. What kind of machine do you suggest? Are there combo machines that do regular sewing and embroidery?
  2. Is digitizing cool and do I need it? If I understand it, it means that you can take any image and make it into an embroidery design. True? So, could I take some of these fonts and change them into an embroidery design? My son is obsessed with aliens.
  3. If you have one, what is it, and do you recommend it? I'm really curious about the digitizing. If you don't have it, do you want it? Why didn't you get it?
  4. Do I need one?
  5. Is there just the basic software and later you can buy digitizing software if you want it?


judy said...

I have a brother innovis 1500d which is a sewing/embroidery combo. I have another sewing machine, but I do use it for both embroidery and sewing. I got it a couple of years ago and I love it. I like the disney aspect of the brother which is why I chose that brand over others. Mine cost $2500. I had to buy more thread (lots more because I wanted to have most colors on hand) and stabilizers. I go through phases when sometimes I embroider a lot and other times I don't so much. I have a digitizing program that I have played with but haven't used extensively yet (it is that time thing....). You can find lots of free designs on the web and of course there are millions to choose from you can purchase online. I actually finished a couple of sweatshirts for each of my girls a couple of weeks ago that I embroidered. Check them out on my blog! Hope that helps!

Alexandra said...

#1. Yes, there are combo machines. Combos are generally more expensive than stand-alones and you have to set them up for whatever you're doing. Stand-alones are ready to go whenever you are, but their stitching fields are usually smaller. (No big deal, you can always multi-hoop.)

#2. Digitizing is a whole another ball of wax and you don't need it to embroider. There are plenty of ready-made embroidery designs available from your dealer and online. That said, if you your very own, digitizing is the way to go. Fonts are easy to change, often even inside your machine, without use of extra software. Basic editing is fairly easy with software for your machine or Embird.

#3. I have one, Bernina Artista 180E. It used to be the top of the line but now has several sisters that apparently can do far more, far bigger, and far faster, and have a color screen. I still love mine. I don't digitize although I could (my software can do it) if I set my mind to it - unlikely at this point.

#4. Only you know the answer to that one, but I'd venture to say that unless you have an embroidery business, you don't need an embroidery machine. But this is a hobby and wanting something for your favorite hobby is usually reason enough to buy it.

Jenny said...

I like how you laid out the pros, cons, and questions. I almost bought a combo in the fall and then didn't, mostly because of the money and I really want another Bernina. I do, however, NEED a new machine, and am going back and forth about whether to get a combo or hold off on the embroidery. I'm afraid I won't use the embroidery much. It sounds like you are definitely sure you'd embroider a lot, though. I say, since the money isn't an issue, go for it! If you get a new combo machine, maybe you could get rid of one of the machines that you have - then space wouldn't be as much of a problem (still need all those embroidery accessories, though).

Anonymous said...

I started with a stand alone embroidery machine and then traded up to a combo. I was sorry I did. I really liked the ability to be able to sew some thing while the other machine was embroidering. I have Bernina machines and the Bernina software. The software is very expensive if you plan on getting the kind that allows you to digitize too. I do digitizing but not enough to justify the cost of the software. there really are cute cost effective designs on the web for kids. Unless you are really going to make the software pay it is just not worth the investment in my opinion. It also takes an investment in time to learn digitizing. Although my kids really like it when I can turn their sketch into a design for a jacket or sweatshirt.
As you do alot of sewing I would go with a stand alone machine. You can be hemming pants or putting a sleeve in while the embroidery machine is doing its thing.
Check out they have really cute designs, reasonable prices and they keep your order history so if your computer crashes you can download the designs you bought again.

Anonymous said...

I mostly agree with Judy's comment, I have two combo machines, Babylock ESG3 and the Brother Innovis 500D, I use the 500D daily! it's a step up from the Disney machine at Wally, but it's by far the better of the 2 i have, it's a true workhorse for the price and size of it. I only brought the ESG for bigger hoop size.
I do a lot of digitizing and I believe anyone can learn it, especially after you have done a bunch of other designs you start to understand the composition of them from just watching them sew out.
I really enjoy mine, and i am sure you will as well. you will come up with creative ways to use it, that maybe you haven't thought of just yet.
But I do agree with Marie, that you wouldn't want to have to wait until the embroidery is done to get back to sewing, i normally am working on something else while the embroidery is going.
on the Babylock subject, I know there are others out there that love their's but i don't recommend it. I have be looking to trade mine in for a larger innovis.

Anonymous said...

Hooooo Boy! This is a doozy! I love the long responses so far, and that just about sums it up...this will be a decision that will have many variables for you to consider. Me? I have an old Bernina Deco that my mom GAVE me (she got herself a new combo machine). However, it sits idle most of the time, since my kids are to old for the oh-so-cute garments that you posted (even embroidered jeans, are enough to provoke such eye-rolling and attitude!). If you're going to sew kids clothes, go for it, whichever machine you can afford/want. Additionally, you're getting into software purchase, individual design purchase, and the expense of time needed to learn how to digitize (this was my personal challenge, LOL). The other personal challenge is, as you said, keeping my items from looking "Becky Home-ecky"; I just never got good at it. Also,keep the expectation that the $ you drop on a machine isn't the end of it. Designs, stabilizers (there are as many stabilizers out there as there are types of fabric!), software, etc. Machine embroidery opens up a whole new world in the sewing "sphere". I'm sure you'll make gorgeous things! Good luck w/your decision, keep us posted :)

Kat said...

I bought my Janome 300E embroidery machine for the same reason--so many PR members had one and really liked it AND I was interested in doing it.

Mine is a standalone so I can embroider and sew at the same time. Considering that many of the designs I like have around 30,000-50,000 stitches, this is a good thing. Lots of thread changes can put a design at around 2 hours to stitch out. That's if you have time to stop what you're doing and change threads immediately.

Will you use it when the kids get older? I bet! Instead of buying my daughter her Varsity tennis jacket (not the heavyweight one--that's her winter jacket), we chose an Adidas blank jacket on line (same one that was purchased for the team) and added embroidery on the back. The tennis girls who purchased for the team only got their name and a tiny double racquet design on the front. DD#1 got that and a huge design on the back.

For Christmas presents for their friends, I made fleece scarves and embroidered the school name, mascot, girl's name, and sport on the scarves. They were a HUGE hit. Two nights ago DD#1 went to the Varsity Boys' basketball game and she was (again!) swamped with compliments on her scarf and "Where'd you get it?" questions. At least 10 people said that to her.

Currently, I don't do digitizing, but I am mulling it over. I made a huge fleece quilt with embroidered areas for my daughter's travel softball team's Chinese Auction. That was a huge hit as well. You should have seen all the people fawning over it. Mary (of SewFastEmbroidery blog) digitized the softball logo for me from a pic I sent her and it worked out great. So at some point in time I'd like to get into digitizing but I'm doing okay without it at this point.

There's only so many things I can do in a day. At this point digitizing will have to wait, but it IS very interesting and something I'd like to do.

So...will you use it as your kids get older? I'm betting you will! I can do things that really impress them, the things the small-town embroidery businesses will not do.

If you like me to send you some pics of the "bigger" kid things I've done, I'd be happy to email them. Just won't post them online because of privacy reasons.

Rachel said...

I say definitely get an embroidery machine. I have an old Esante Babylock that is about 11 years old. Alot of times you can get an model for a great price that is going out when a new model is coming in. I highly recommend Babylock or Brother. I am sure that are other great ones out there, but these are the only ones I am familiar with.
Embroidery machines are great for quick presents. I love to embroider initials on pillowcases, towels, handtowels, etc. Also you can embroider Christmas motifs on these same items.

Maryissewfast said...

Hi Dawn,
I have to weigh in here because I bought my first embroidery machine, a combo Brother ULT 2003D about 6 years ago and what started as a hobby blossomed into a business. A few years later I bought a 6 needle Babylock EMP6 and it has paid for itself. You will gain more business than you want when people find out you have an embroidery machine. I lucked out when I got my BL because they were coming out with a new model, so I called around to see if they had any of the current models hanging around and I paid less for it than I did my original Brother!!! My friend just bought a used Viking from a dealer that had minimal hours on it and I was really impressed with how well it sewed. I had alot of trouble with my Brother in the beginning, but I think it was more due to the dealer than the machine (another long, painful story!) There are lots of designs available, so digitizing is not something that you have to do right away, but I could easily see you picking that up later on. Go check out Embroidery Library (and start collecting freebie designs there...they offer a few every month) and Artistic Threadworks does alot of children type designs and have great info on ME and ME business...Holly and Larry are super people. Machine Embroidery is not just for kids clothing. There are lots of applications, home decorating, quilting, in the hoop projects. It opens up a whole new layer of sewing. If you can swing it...go for it!!! Mary (the embroidery cheerleader)

Meg said...

I weigh this issue too from time to time, Dawn. I think an embroidery machine is something I'd love to have for the same reasons as you. But I feel like I'd have to put a lot of time into it and maybe then I'd just be churning out Becky-Homecky stuff. ("Oh no, not another embroidered pillow from Aunt Lindsay!") So for now I go to the embroidery kiosk in the local mall and let them handle my embroidery needs.

angie.a said...

I'm not even reading everyone else's responses yet, so forgive the repeats if you get them!

Yes, you can do those cute letters & things. TONS of designs do that, more every single day.

And yup, you can digitize fairly inexpensively. Embird is one program that will get you started and retails for like $140 for the digitizing package I think. I've considered getting it several times. They also have FontEngine (another $99+) that will turn any TrueType font into an embroidery design, so you could digitize whatever dingbat or font you want into a design.

I love mine and totally think its worthwhile. I don't use it as much as I'd like, but I am really glad I forked over the cash to get one. :)

I have a combo, but really probably would have been great with a standalone. They're less expensive and do the same job (and I have a little bit of guilt for the sewing part of the combo that I don't really use. Go figure.)

angie.a said...

And wow, I hope I'm not "churning out Becky-Homecky" stuff. Sheesh.

Little Hunting Creek said...

I love my Pfaff 2144. There are lots of designs to choose from if you don't want to do your own Something for every taste, from sentimental and goofy and silly to sophisticated. Plus you can edit designs. I love mine but a combination isn't for everyone. Can you go to a dealer and try one out?

Uta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uta said...

Embroidering children's clothes and accessories is very popular in Germany. There's lots of sewing blogs out there that have colorful and pretty stuff. Smila's world ( is a good starting point, she has more links. I don't have an embroidery machine and am not sure I'd have the patience for it. I prefer store-bought or contrast fabric appliques. But you're so dedicated, go for it! It's certainly pretty.

Anonymous said...

i have to say that i never use the embroidery functions on either of the two machines i have that have it. i hate that hooping, all that extra infrastructure. also, i don't exactly get the idea of setting the machine up, threading all 7 colors, hitting a switch and walking away for awhile. it doesn't seem like sewing. since no one else weighed in on this side, i thought i would. i have to admit that i do flirt with using these functions or getting a newer machine that embroiders well. but i can usually talk myself out of it. also, my sewing time is limited...i'm sort of with lindsay on this....if i need embroidery, i can procure it. i would rather make a garment in three d than a flat picture. of course, most of my garments look sorta becky home ecky, so you gotta take this for what it's worth!

patsijean said...

I digitize fonts for a bit of "pin money" ( ) and purchase or download from free sites when I need somethig else. Most of my alphabets at the DesignzMall were also used in my small dinner napkin business I had on eBay. I can usually digitize a requested font and upload to that site now that my hand has healed. If you purchase a machine, do not limit yourself to a 4x4 inch field. You may not need the 7x12 so get something in between. Also, if you get a machine with licenced designs, remember that a big part of the price goes to those designs and other features may be sacrificed. I like the sewing/embroidery machines, period.

Digitizing software is expensive (I have three programs) and digitizing has a long learning curve. Sure there are programs that will digitize for you MAYBE. Sometimes what you get is distorted or a mess, then you must do everything by hand or edit for hours. I found that even though my program will do some basic digitizing I have to do a lot of editing to make it perfect. Editing takes longer to do. It is eyeball searing, intense and time consuming. Many of the free designs can benifit by editing too. That is why I buy from Embroidery Library as most of their designs are excellent.

I looked at the dingbats you mentioned and most are not the greatest for digitizing. If you do purchase a machine in the future ( Babylock has some great machines and they will service those machines forever--my machine is a Viking #1+ with a 4x4 field ) and want Alien designs, I have some "classic Alien" designs and a little flying saucer that I digitized for a gift for some friends so I can just e-mail them to you (or anyone else reading this) whenever you like (yes, free). Just e-mail me.

-E said...

I really wanted a combo machine, but I was unsure about how much I'd use the embroidery, so I started used. I got a Viking Designer 1 from the PR classifieds. I miraculously got it for $750- granted it's an older model, but they retail over $4000 new. I love it, but not the price of the software (1200!!!). I still use the 4 sampler disks it came with.

Since I'm a newbie I am focusing more on sewing now, but I do use the alphabet on the embroidery unit quite often- I've started a side business doing names on the jackets at our Karate school.

You could definitely use it for your baby slings- people love having their stuff personalized.

-E said...

a further note: the PR classifieds are great- way better than ebay. You can kind of "research" who you are buying from, see how long they've been sewing, what they've posted on the boards ("help I spilled coffee on my machine!"). I posted a wanted ad for my embroidery disks and someone gave them to me for free :)

PR is so great.

Marsha said...

1. I have a combo machine...a Bernina 200E. I love it! It sews beautifully, and embroiders beautifully with what I consider professional-looking results. It came with the digitizing software. The downside? $$$$
2. Digitizing is way cool, but you probably need some patience to learn the software and make it work to your advantage. Most of what I've embroidered has been all custom stuff that I've digitized. I can send you some photos of stuff I've done, if you're interested. But yes, anything you have shown in your pictures can be done.
3. I love what I have, but if I had to do it over again, I would get a standalone embroidery maybe the Brother PR600 series---not sure, haven't researched it too much. I asked at a store once, and these type of machines make it easier to embroider on things like t-shirts (which I like to do)...they have multiple needles and trim all the jump stitches. I don't know much about it's digitizing software though, and I'm not sure if my Bernina software would be compatible.
4. Do I need one? Do any of us really NEED anything? If you want it and can afford it, then get it. Life's too short!
5. Is there just the basic software and later you can buy digitizing software if you want it? I think this probably depends on the machine and software you go with.

Bottom line, IMO, if you already have a sewing machine you're happy with, then go for a dedicated embroidery machine. I was in the market for a new machine and wanted embroidery as well. Good luck with your decision!

Anonymous said...

I have the brother Ult2002 combo machine. I love it. It's wonderful, but if I had it to do over I would buy two seperate machines. It's a pain to go back in forth if you use the embroidery unit alot. I just bought another sewing only machine. I love the embroidery files available now. I bought the embird program for my daughter and she never could figure it out. Gave it to her sister and she was making them in one night. She's very computer savvy. Embird is easy if you're comfortable with a computer. Good Luck making a desision. Enjoy your blog.

Elle said...

Hello, after reading up a bit on Stitcher's Guild, I took the plunge on a Janome 350E. It is a stand-alone embroidery machine, and I'm glad I did it that way. Cheaper to buy that and the Janome 6600P than a combo machine that does it all -- and I can use them both at the same time! If I am embroidering something, I usually am in a sewing mood, and it can take quite a long time for even a single color design to stitch out. I'd be quite frustrated, and who wants that?

I'll bet you would have a blast doing stuff for your kids. I've also seem some very sophisticated, subtle embroidery on fine wool jackets. That's where I'm heading. Until my daughter has little ones.

I second (or third?) the recommendation to look at the designs. The masks are very interesting, fun for parties.