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Starting A Business1

“Starting a Monogramming Business?”

(Part One - Equipment and Software) (Read Part Two)(Read Part Three)
download .pdf of Part One

Have you ever thought about starting your own monogramming business, and wondered how to begin? This is the first in a series of articles that we hope will be of assistance to anyone who is thinking about monogramming for fun - and profit.


Home Machine


Commercial Machine


Unless you are planning to create monograms done entirely by hand, and have the patience and skills to carry out this plan, you’ll need a computerized embroidery machine.

Embroidery machines typically fall into two categories: home and commercial. Until a few years ago it was easy to tell the difference.

Home machines were small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive. They were essentially sewing machines that had an embroidery module or attachment. They had a small sewing field - typically no larger than 4” x 4” and a slow sewing speed.

Commercial machines were large, heavy, and quite expensive. They had the ability to sew smaller designs and also large jacket-back designs up to 12” x 14”. Most were multi-needle, with the ability to preload up to 18 thread spools, and a mechanism to automatically trim thread at the end of one color and move on to the next color in the design without intervention from the operator.

Recently, machines in both categories have undergone a design and marketing revolution. Home machines have added more features with larger embroidery fields and higher prices.

Commercial machines have gotten smaller, lighter, and less expensive. Purchase prices have converged at a midpoint - price alone is no longer the determining factor in a machine purchase.

The type of embroidery business you want to start may help determine the type of equipment you need. For example, if you want to embroider on pre-constructed baseball caps you will definitely need a machine that comes with a rotating cap frame attachment. If you want your business to specialize in large multi-colored designs on the backs of sports jackets then a machine with a very large sewing field and automatic thread trimmers is probably a must.

These two examples describe the embroidery business that you may have seen in a mall or a small shopping center or storefront in your area.  If this isn’t the type of business that you imagine then you should consider equipment from a different perspective.

If you’re interested in a monogramming business - as opposed to a sports logo and golf shirt business, consider machines from a variety of perspectives:

* Although you may be lucky enough to get an account providing monogrammed linen for very wealthy and large families, most monogramming orders will be small quantity - a few towels, or a set of linens for a bride.

* Despite a growing revival of interest in very large monograms for chair backs or shower curtains, the typical monogramming order will require fairly small designs and a fairly small hoop size.

* There is a huge tradition for single color, white-on-white or tone-on-tone monograms. Home machines don’t have multiple automatic thread changers, but designs of this type don’t require them.

* Monograms on towels or linens are double-sided - they have a front side, but the back side is regularly seen, unlike a baseball cap. If you do tone-on-tone monogramming it will be extremely useful to use a bobbin thread that is the same color as the top thread. This is easy on a home machine, where winding your own bobbin is a typical part of the process. Commercial machines don’t have built-in bobbin winders, since the majority of  commercial embroidery machines use pre-wound bobbins (white or black thread).

* A commercial embroidery machine can sew at up to 1500 stitches a minute, and this feature is quite impressive when seen at trade shows. However, in practice the faster the machine goes the more vibration and noise it creates, and thread breaks increase. 600 stitches per minute is a more practical maximum speed, and for fine work you may want to slow down even more. A home machine can match this speed.

* Most embroiderers who have had experience with both home and commercial machines will admit that it is significantly faster and easier to rethread a home machine.

* Unless you plan to purchase several embroidery machines, you are embroidering your jobs one item at a time whether you are using a home or commercial machine.

* Commercial embroidery machines cannot be easily used to sew a hem or make a buttonhole - they are embroidery-only. If your monogramming business also involves making items to sell - not just purchasing pre-constructed blanks - you will still need a  good sewing machine.

* Durability may be an issue with a home machine, since they are not intended to be used in a factory environment. Many newer machines have stitch counters - like an odometer in a car - that allow a technician to see how heavily a machine has been used within a period of time.

* If you intend to open a storefront business, or even one in your home that potential customers can visit,  a commercial machine is more impressive and industrial looking than a small home machine.

Where to find equipment

It’s useful to do research online when considering embroidery machines. Our Links section has a link to the websites of both Commercial and Home machine manufacturers.


However, there is really no substitute for seeing a machine in action, and talking to a sales representative about different models, their features, and their costs.

The commercial embroidery industry presents trade shows for these machines as well as software options.

There are other shows that may be more useful to someone contemplating a monogramming business than mainstream commercial embroidery shows. Traditionally thought of as “home” or “hobby” trade shows, most shows of this description now include exhibitors showing commercial embroidery machines along with those that feature “home” machines. If you are fortunate enough to live near a well-organized show, make plans to attend. However, if there isn’t one in your area, or if you have to wait a year to attend something close by, consider traveling to one - if you are shopping for equipment you will be making a significant investment - it’s worth some effort to be confident in your choices.

If you have already purchased a home embroidery machine for a sewing hobby and are considering starting a monogramming business, do you need to go out and buy a different machine?

We are asked this question regularly, and feel that the most honest answer we can offer is .. in most cases, no. Starting a small business that will be successful has a lot to do with creating a workable business plan. If your new business starts out with significant debt it will be at more risk for failure.

If your business becomes successful and you have more work than your home machine can produce then you will have a good reason to consider a commercial machine at that point. This is the natural evolution of many successful small embroidery businesses. Most monogrammers whose business grows this way opt to keep their home machines - for sewing samples or creating special displays, etc.


Embroidery software programs are an essential part of starting a monogramming business. As with embroidery machines, there are too many options.

We feel strongly that most startup monogramming businesses can easily get along without purchasing digitizing software. Aside from the expense, don’t underestimate the learning curve that is associated with mastering any software program. Beyond the technicalities of the program itself, successful digitizing depends on some background in embroidery with professionally digitized designs - the more monogramming experience you have, the more likely it will be that you can create good designs yourself.

Even if you already have an embroidery background from a monogramming hobby, you may still want to hold off before purchasing digitizing software. Why? Have you ever heard the expression “ there are only so many hours in the day ”? Unless you have help in your small monogramming business you will be hard-pressed to find the time to digitize designs, write orders, sew samples, order supplies, answer the telephone, be relaxed with customers and answer their questions, produce top quality monogrammed items, eat dinner, sleep, and have some time left over once in awhile to just stare off into the distance.. or whatever else you’d like to do for recreation.

Looked at from the opposite perspective, can you get along with just the machine (home or commercial) and no software at all?

No. There are a few things that will be essential.

There are software programs on the market that allow you to manipulate embroidery fonts into a variety of shapes, add borders, etc. These programs are fairly basic in the styles they offer, and must rely on a minimum of underlay in the letters themselves since they have to be squished and stretched into so many different shapes and configurations. These programs (e.g. Monogram Wizard, Magnificent Monograms, etc.) may be quite useful to you for simple and relatively small monograms.

Many of our customers own one of these programs and still purchase designs from us because of the variety, digitizing quality, and historical accuracy of what we offer.

We provide an individual design for each letter of the alphabet. There are two common tasks that you will need embroidery software to accomplish:

1. Merging or combining designs together. This process makes it easy to create two and three-letter monograms, with complete control over the spacing and placement of each letter.

2. Resizing. A program that allows you to change the size of the design - and the density and the number of stitches in the design - is invaluable. Whether you are resizing individual letters or a complete monogram, a resizing program is essential in a monogramming business. One good example among many - it’s common practice for a monogram done on a hand towel to be a bit smaller than the same monogram done on a matching bath towel. With a resizing program you can create the bath towel version, then resize the monogram slightly smaller for the hand towel.

There are at least a dozen stand-along merge and resizing programs on the market, for example - Embird, Smartsizer, Dakota Sizer, Melco Sizer, BuzzSize, etc.

Some embroidery machines allow merging of designs and a limited range of resizing capability on the machine itself. Despite these features, our customers tell us that they prefer to accomplish these tasks with a program on their computer because they have more confidence in the results if they can see them on a larger conventional computer screen.

If you are intent on purchasing digitizing and editing software for your monogramming business, be sure that the software includes merging and resizing capability - almost all do.

One last thought about equipment and embroidery software - you may be able to get a package deal if you get everything from the same vendor, but there is no technical requirement that everything come from the same source. So long as you can save designs in a format that your machine can read, the various parts can come from different manufacturers.

download .pdf of Part One

Feedback or Questions about "Starting A Business1" (8)


EmbroideryArts Support answers:

This is the subject of Starting a Business 2

--Posted by: GLENFORD at November 10, 2006 12:06 AM

I have a Brother PE 100 Embroidery machine.
I am starting my own Monograming business.Which software is the best for my machine?I have Pes format I have a lot to learn about Software.
I do want to be able to re size my letters and designs.
I am so glad I found yoour website it is very informative.
thank You

EmbroideryArts Support answers:

In order to be able to resize designs, and to merge individual letter designs, you will need at least a stand-alone resizing program. We recommend one called Embird. You can download a free trial version from their website:


If you are also interested in editing and perhaps digitizing capability there are many other programs, among them PE Design, which includes resizing and merge capability along with other features.

--Posted by: Trudy at August 9, 2006 02:42 PM

I'm interested in getting started doing monogrammed gifts for my business. I've been looking into buying a machine, but I don't want to invest a ton of money just yet. Can you recommend a machine that would be a good starter machine? Thanks! Courtenay

EmbroideryArts Support answers:

There are too many brands to recommend a particular machine. Your decision should consider price and local technical support. For a small walk-in gift shop you should also consider the sound level that the machine produces when it is running.

Trade shows with multiple machine vendors are the most efficient way to compare different machine options. Commercial embroidery industry publications like Stitches Magazine maintain a list of these shows:


--Posted by: Courtenay Lambert at June 30, 2006 10:29 AM

I want to do a very small embroidered text. Similiar to like doing name tags in clothing. How small can I go? Could I do something that is 1/4 inch high and 8 inches wide? What is the best machine for this? I see you sell a small font like this, but how do I use that font? Do I need a special machine? Thanks.

EmbroideryArts Support answers:

We have two smaller scaled styles, Petite 1 and Petite 2. Each includes two styles, and two sizes. The smaller of the two is 1/4" tall.

In order to use these designs, you need a computerized embroidery machine and specialized embroidery software. There are many options and manufacturers, but you should count on spending at least $500 on a basic model, with a 4" hoop area. Prices range from that point up to $5000.

Unless you are intent on getting involved with machine embroidery, you might be better off finding a company that can print clothing labels for you.

--Posted by: Dave at December 14, 2005 10:21 PM

Can you help me? I have a singer xl-150. love the machine. have a question about embroidering items such as purses, diaper bags, small clothing, etc. Is it possible to do this on a home machine? does it require a special hoop? on my machine i can't seem to do these items because there is no way to hoop it to get the second layer of material (such as the back of a purse) out of the way so it is not fused together. thanks for any info.

EmbroideryArts Support answers:

The standard rule-of-thumb for hooping is to use the smallest possible hoop for the job - if your machine doesn't come with a variety of hoop sizes you might contact your local dealer to see what is available.

Hooping small pre-constructed items can be a challenge, but that challenge is often the same for home and commercial machines. Try experimenting with being a bit more agressive with stretching or folding the back side out of the way.

--Posted by: Tbird at September 15, 2005 10:30 AM

wondering if i could start a small business-
Here is my dream--- i have a bernina embroidery machine.
I would like to learn to make stand alone lace and baskets, sell
later or a.s.a.p. get a bussiness size machine.
can you help me in my dream--- thanks

EmbroideryArts Support answers:

Our three-part series -"starting a Monogramming Business" - is a great place to start your research.

As a company that is specifically involved with monogram designs, we have two Lace styles (Lace 1, Lace 2) that can be used as stand-alone creations by sewing the designs on water-soluble stabilizer and then washing it away after the embroidery is completed.

There are instructions for this in our Tree Ornament project in the "Project Corner" section.

While this project is for individual letters, it could also be expanded to a garland project by overlapping several letters on their corners.

--Posted by: nancy at August 9, 2005 12:21 PM

where were you three years ago- we learned by trial and error and everything in your article rings true. We started with 2 domestic embroidery machines grew slowly=long hours=your pricing comments should taken very seriously by anyone starting up. We use a lot of your designs and combine them with others for some very sophisicated monogrammes. Check your site periodically & just happened upon your article.

--Posted by: Carrol Levin at May 16, 2005 01:50 PM

I've just purchased my business license, Bernina 200E and a package deal including all the machine more than basics and a quilting cabnet I'll be using for the business...it's white and big and impressive with the white machine/E module etc..I have signed up for the monogram club and I'm taking lessons to put my dreams together with my new skills to start a monogramming business and hopefully with time and patience Red Hat Chapter logos for bibs...you know Red Hat ladies need pretty bibs to protect the fancy clothing worn out to eat and play in. There is a endless opportunity with the Red Hats and monograms...this is my direction. I'm a Queen of my own chapter and I do have a real idea of what we girls in red and pink hats need. Wish me luck and I will be following directions carefully from this site. I love the clearity of your information and all the details that usually kept behind business doors. Thank You. Yvonne from Yvonne's Umbrella

EmbroideryArts Support answers:

Good Luck with your new business venture!

--Posted by: Yvonne Lindquist at May 10, 2005 01:43 AM

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