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Frequently Asked Questions

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No Embroidery Machine?

Our designs are digitized for embroidery. They are software files for computerized home and commercial embroidery machines. While most embroidery software programs will allow you to print an image of the design, this image is generally useful as a visual reference for embroiderers, and probably isn't suitable for use on stationery or as a stencil for home decoration without considerable "tweaking" in a full-featured graphics program. Our design aren't available as patterns, stencils, True Type fonts, or in any other form.

Are you considering the purchase of an embroidery machine? Embroidery is a thriving hobby, and can also be a creatively satisfying and profitable business.

We are often asked for advice on which embroidery machine to purchase. We are convinced that if the same high-quality, professionally digitized design is sewn on a variety of properly maintained machines (home and commercial) using the same hoop size, the same thread, fabric, stabilizer, etc. there will be no visual difference between all the results.

If there is no obvious quality difference from one machine to the next, what factors go into deciding which one to buy? Here are a few things to consider:

1. Sewing field/hoop size

While commercial embroidery machines have always had larger sewing fields, older home machines had 4" x 4" hoop restrictions. Newer home machines have gradually increased the size of the sewing fields, and with the option of add-on products like the Giant Hoop-It-All it is now possible to sew large designs on flat fabric on home machines.

Consider what you want to use your machine for. Although there is currently a revived fashion for larger monogram designs on pillows, etc. the traditional monogram is relatively small, and a 4" x 4" hoop may be just fine for your needs. Many of our customers, including quite a few who have monogramming businesses function quite well with a small hoop.

A reasonable way to approach this question might be "buy a machine with the largest sewing field that you can afford."

2. Combining Designs

Many newer home and commercial machines allow you to combine or “merge” individual designs together on the machine. Combining designs is particularly important for our products. We provide an individual embroidery design for each letter of the alphabet - you put together the combination of letters that you need. You have complete control over spacing and placement.

If a machine doesn’t support merging designs on the machine, there are many inexpensive software programs available for creating these combinations on your computer, then saving the result under a new filename before transferring the new design to the machine.

Many of our customers tell us that even though they can do this on their machine, they prefer to create multiple-letter monograms on their computers because the screen is so much bigger and they can more easily see what they are doing.

3. Design Transfer

How do you get designs into the machine in order to sew them out ? Some home machines will only accept small memory cards, similar to those used in digital cameras. If you have this type of machine you will need additional software to transfer designs to a blank memory card.

Many home and commercial machines either have diskette drives built-in, attachable CD drives or can be networked to a computer with a cable. Some commercial machines have disk drives that only read 720k diskettes (the conventional 3.5” floppy diskette is 1.44mb)

If you understand how designs are loaded into the machine you are considering purchasing you won’t be surprised after purchase by the need for additional products.

4. Price

How much do you have to spend? There are newer embroidery-only home machines, and used machines available for less than $ 900. On the other end of the scale, a full-featured top-of-the-line home machine, combining sewing and embroidery capability can cost more than $ 6000, and top-tier commercial machines can cost $ 15,000 or more.

In the past few years there has been an interesting trend - the most expensive home machines have been getting more expensive, while the least expensive commercial machines have been coming down in price. In 2003 these two price points converged at about $ 7000, so someone considering what to buy to set up a small business has a more complicated choice to make.

Don't discount well-maintained used or refurbished equipment - these machine can often save you money. There are Internet sources for used equipment, and many local companies that sell home or commercial embroidery machine also take trade-ins and resell these machines.

5. Home Vs Commercial Embroidery Machines

Whether for a hobby (yes, we have customers who own commercial embroidery machines and just use them for hobby purposes) or for a small business, you are the only one who can define what your needs are. You do not need a commercial machine to start a small home-based embroidery and monogramming business, although if your business is successful you may wish you had one.

Commercial machines:

* They are heavy-duty industrial construction, and with proper maintenance can be run 18 hours a day, seven days a week. If you don't plan to set up an embroidery factory this may not be a factor.

* They have larger sewing fields. If you plan to take on jobs for NFL-style jacket back designs this is an important consideration. If you only intend to sew smaller designs this may not be a factor.

* They have built-in thread trimmers. This can cut down significantly on the time involved in finishing a job.

* They have automatic color-change features, and can automatically switch to a different spool of thread - from 6-18 colors can be set up at once, depending on the machine type. This can be very useful for business purposes if you are doing 10 sets of towels with the same multiple-color design on each. With a single-color home machine you would need to manually change thread spools for each color, then back to the first for the next piece, etc.

* Commercial machines need less "watching" - once you are comfortable with the machine you can do something else while the design sews. Threads still break occasionally . Commercial machines are a bit more difficult to rethread than home machines.

* If you are intent on doing embroidered caps, using pre-constructed commercially produced hats, you need a commercial machine - there is no cap frame available that is any good that allows you to squash a hat into a flat frame and embroider it on a home machine.

Our advice: Carefully consider the applications you have in mind, and buy what you need and can afford now - you can always adapt later. It is very common for an embroiderer to start a small business with a home machine, or to adapt their "hobby" into a business with this equipment. It is also common to "move up" to a commercial machine once your needs are clearer, and to keep your home machine to sew samples. Also, no matter how hard you try, a commercial embroidery machine will not do a good job sewing hems or making dresses.

6. Research

If you are just starting out with the thought of buying an embroidery machine, it's important to research the options available. In our Links section we have links to home and commercial machine manufacturers website, which will provide an overview of machines and their features.

This is a good place to start, but is no substitute for a face-to-face physical demonstration. Check the local Yellow Pages under "Embroidery Machines" or "Sewing Machines." You might also want to consider attending an embroidery trade show in your area, or traveling to one if necessary. There are shows that are specifically "Commercial" in nature, and there are also "home" shows that often have representatives from commercial machine companies as vendors. Our Show Schedule lists the shows that we participate in. We don't go to every show that exists, so search for other "Embroidery Trade Shows", or check sewing magazines for advertising.

7. Support

Like anything else, there is a learning curve to embroidery - it's not the same as graphic design, or sewing. A background in these areas, and a basic knowledge of computers is certainly helpful, but not essential.

A dedicated and detail-oriented person can master the learning curve, but don't underestimate it. A little help from someone with more experience can be invaluable. For this reason, carefully consider whether you want to buy a machine online from a far-away company strictly for the price, or whether you want to buy from a local vendor because they offer classes or clubs for support. Technical support for machine problems is also important, but machines don't break down that often if they are used properly.

Feedback or Questions about "No Embroidery Machine?" (1)

I am in the process of opening a gift shop and want to purchase a monogramming machine that will be able to monogram purses w/pockets, thick blankets and towels, duffle bags, diaper bags, etc. I want to invest in a good machine that will grow with my business. What do you suggest? How much money do you think I should need to spend?

EmbroideryArts Support answers:

Although good quality embroidery machines from both the home and commercial industries will accomplish what you want, if you are planning on doing monogramming on thicker/heavier materials, a commercial embroidery machine will probably suit you best. These machines are embroidery only - they don't allow you to do any regular machine sewing.

There are many options, and you might want to start in our Links section

Look through the links to Commercial machine manufacturers.

You might also be interested in reading our three-part article called "Starting a Monogramming Business"

As for cost, there are various options from approximately $5500 - $20,000.

We also recommend that you attend an embroidery trade show to see machines first hand.

--Posted by: Cinde Walker at July 6, 2005 10:38 PM

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