We have talked about saving money here and there, and ways that you can search out some awesome deals for great embroidery accessories. This week, let’s talk about your machine, or if you have more than one, your machines. In my house and workshop, we have lots of machines: Commerical level machines, multi-needle machines, fun older machines (not used for our daily production) and hobby single needle machines that are nice and quiet in my office.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU NEED. GET IT. Here is where it already gets tough – what do you need in a machine? What are you planning on doing for your business? You need to have some sort of a plan going on if you are intending to start a business – and NO you do not have to have a multi-needle machine to start a business, but you do need to have a plan. Are you going to be doing mostly baby clothes? Monogramming? Embellishing purses? Once you figure out your plan of action, then you can start narrowing down your machine by what you NEED. There is a difference between NEED and WANT when picking out a machine and being economical about it – you may only be able to get what you need and save the wants for later when your business grows. There is nothing wrong with that – after all, you do have to start somewhere, right?
BELLS AND WHISTLES ARE EXPENSIVE AND LURE YOU INTO AN EXPENSIVE MACHINE. True Story. I have all sorts of cool bells and whistles and extra things on my 10 Needle Brother (named Ragnar) and while some of them are cool and are very useful, some of them really are not. I got a great deal on Ragnar, so I am not worried about the things I don’t use – the machine has paid for itself already. I was not charmed by the extra thingies that the machine had, but I was aware of them so there was no sales pitch that was going to work on me – the sales guy was not going to wow me with anything at all or move me from my $$ goals because I came prepared – I already knew what the machine had to offer, and I knew it was exactly the same as the level up machine that would cost me $6,000 more – and I did not need to spend that. When you are machine shopping, make sure you know your stuff, so you won’t be wowed by some cool features that you won’t use. It’s hard, but try your best and stick to your price point. Go back to the first point, and figure out what you need and get that embroidery machine. Do not spend money on stuff that you don’t understand and won’t use, as tempting as it may be!
REMEMBER YOU CAN DO THE SAME THING ON A SINGLE NEEDLE MACHINE. People always forget that part of the machines. A multi-needle machine does the same up and down motion as the single needle machine – it forms the same stitches and follows the same patterns. There is no difference in the mechanics. You can do the same things on each. Now there are benefits to a multi-needle machine – the obvious one being that you can load up 6-10 threads and have them cut and trim and keep going without changing threads and re-threading. But is that inconvenience worth spending the extra money? Maybe, but it depends on what you are doing of course, and you can get single needle machines that cut and trim. Another big difference between the two types of machines is the shape of the machines and how easy it is to hoop and stitch things. For example, I think it is way easier to hoop and stitch a t-shirt on a multi-needle machine than a single needle machine – the sewing bed area makes it impossible for the t-shirt to simply hang while stitching – so you must keep the shirt out of the way. BUT, that is only a big deal if you do a lot of shirts or garments, right? If you are not planning on stitching on clothing, then that benefit will not apply to you! So do you see what I am getting at here? Another example…Hats. If you stitch out a ton of hats, hooping and set up time is so much faster on a multi-needle machine – you have an awesome hat hoop and the hats will turn out perfectly. You can do hats on a single needle machine, but you won’t have a hat hoop – you will have to flatten the hat out and secure it before you stitch it. Each hat will turn out perfectly, but it is easier to hoop and stitch one on a multi-needle machine – if you are doing 100’s of hats a day, that will be very important to you. If you only do a few, that is not one of the main features that you are looking for, so a single needle machine may have other features that you do need.
USED MACHINES VS. NEW MACHINES: Once you figure out what you need (and want) and can afford, start doing your research on finding machines that will suit your needs. There can be nothing wrong with used machines (we have purchased quite a few), but you need to be careful when purchasing used machines. Personally, I think the best place to buy used machines is from a dealer – they can offer you some kind of guarantee when you purchase. Just make sure you know your stuff when you go in to see the dealer, or you might be wowed by that brand new (expensive machine) that can do many more things than your “old used” one.
You can purchase great used machines from ads in newspapers and Facebook groups, but one word of caution: make sure you can see and test the machine before you hand over your hard-earned cash! I think you need to see the machine running, see all of the accessories, make sure everything that you need is included and then of course test the machine to make sure it works. Don’t forget to check the paperwork for regular maintenance, too. All of these things you need to do in person. We have actually rented a van and driven a few hours away to check out a machine before we purchased it – the van was so that we could immediately pay and take the machine home with us. Don knows his machines, so he is able to make a decision with confidence after testing the machine.
THE BIG QUESTION: WHAT IS THE BEST BEGINNER MACHINE? I see this all the time in various groups, and there is actually no way to answer it for the person. Most questions like this get answered with the names of the machines that people are using or have used, and sometimes each machine out there gets named, so there are not any helpful answers to that question.
ALL THE MACHINES WORK THE SAME AND YOU NEED TO DO THE SAME LEARNING ON ANY MACHINE. You have to read the manual. You have to understand all of the buttons on the machine. You have to hoop things properly and you have to learn the rules of embroidery and how to do each technique properly. ONCE YOU HAVE DONE ALL OF THIS LEARNING, YOU CAN USE ANY MACHINE. It depends on your budget, your needs and wants and how many bells and whistles that you want and how many you can afford. Basically, you want an embroidery machine – the more basic the embroidery machine, the less the price. That’s pretty much it. Seriously, I can’t offer any more advice on picking a machine (and no one else can either, btw) other than what I have written here – you have to do the work and decide what will work for you – your business, your hobby, and of course your budget. No one else can do this for you. The best beginner machine for you will be different than for someone else. Personally, I started on a 6 needle machine, and Don started on 2 6 needle machines, a commercial 15 needle machine, and a commercial 12 needle machine. So what Don thinks is a “beginner machine” (a 6 needle) is very different from what other people think is a beginner machine, right? Do your own research and homework and get the right machine for YOU.
One last point. It is not a competition. Really it is not. There is always going to be a bigger, better and more expensive machine out there, or coming soon. Just because someone has a more expensive machine, doesn’t mean they are better than you. You may be a better embroiderer than they are, and are able to produce stunning designs regardless of what machine you are using – it’ s the skills and the learning that matter in the end.
Until next time,
The Economical Embroiderer,