Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Embroidery Machines

Well this past weekend ended up being busier than we thought! We were driving up to see our parents but they all ended up coming to see us this weekend. I'll post soon with a general update, but since I've gotten quite a few emails and comments about my embroidery/sewing machines, I'd thought I'd tell y'all about them! :)

I never really had any passion to sew and embroider until: 1) I joined the blogging world and saw all of the ADORABLE stuff y'all were making and 2) I became a Mommy. Let me just start by saying that I knew NOTHING about either when I first started. I'd call myself a pretty crafty person, but I was completely naive in that whole realm. When I bought my first machine, the sales lady asked if I wanted to purchase some pre-wound bobbins and I said, "Oh, is that small thread for small projects?" (Stupid yet legit moment -- She laughed for 5 minutes.) Embroidery and sewing is very intimidating, but all you really need is the will to learn (and a little patience).

My first machine:

Brother LB 6800-PRW (Project Runway Edition)

I knew I wanted something "beginner" starting out and this is the perfect machine. I did a lot of research before purchasing it and I absolutely LOVE it. The great thing about this machine is that it's a sewing and embroidery combo. I originally intended to purchase the Brother SE-400, but they were sold out and the sales lady offered me this machine for the same price (same machine, just has a "Project Runway Edition" sticker.) This machine embroiders beautifully, but the only downside is that you're limited to a 4"x4" space -- but it is PERFECT for baby-size things and that was my reason for buying it.

I played around with this machine for about a year. I learned the ropes and started outgrowing it. Don't get me wrong, I don't need anything bigger yet for LK's clothes, but I wanted to do larger things other than baby clothes. I used my sister-in-law's machine to monogram LK's Easter basket and I was sold into getting a larger machine. So my second machine:

Brother PE-770

This machine is embroidery only. The hoop size on this machine is a 5"x7". A few inches doesn't sound justifiable for an upgrade, but trust me, it's a HUGE difference. I am able to do larger things with this machine like towels and adult-size clothing. You can buy extra hoops for this machine (4x4, 5x12, and 2x2) and I plan to soon!

Here's some more FAQ's:

What embroidery software do you use?
I use Sew What Pro. It's about $60-70 and can be purchased online. It's great for laying out your embroidery files and is super user-friendly.

Does your larger machine embroider better than your small one?
No! The first time I used my larger machine it "ate" a bib (nom nom) but I've never had any problem like that with my smaller machine. (You do have to "break" them in a bit a first. It work fine now.)

What else do I need to get started?
For embroidery, you will need the obvious things like thread (I use polyester), needles (different sizes are needed for different type fabrics), and fabric. It is a little pricey to get your "stockpile" started, but once you buy a certain colored thread, it will last forever. I like the pre-wound bobbins -- I got like 20 for hardly nothing and I think I've used about half of them. You will need stabilizer for embroidery. It's a lot to get into on this post but there are lots of different kinds -- cut away, tear away, water soluble -- just to name a few. I watch for sales and get a lot of my fabric at deep discounts. It's good to get some fabric spray-adhesive for applique'ing and a water-soluble marker for marking placement for your hoop. I also use a cover-stitch (a mesh lining that is ironed on the back to prevent an itchy backing) when I make things for babies.

How much are these machines?
I won't say an exact price, because they will be cheaper by tomorrow. I know they now have a PE-500 (Just embroidery. Think S.E. - Sewing/Embroidery... P.E. - Purely Embroidery.) that is claimed to be their cheapest embroidery machine. The SE-350 is an outdated combo machine -- It still does the same thing as the newer ones, but I think you use some kind of memory card to transfer your data from your computer to the machine instead of a USB. However you can probably get it a lot cheaper than the SE-400! (And I'm sure there's an SE-450 or 500 out by now but haven't seen it.)

What do you recommend?
Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have gotten the PE-770 starting out, along with a $100 sewing machine. However at the time, I didn't know how much I'd actually get into the embroidery part and we didn't have the budget to purchase the larger machine. Both are great machines and it really depends on how much you think you'll make a hobby out of it and how much your budget allows.

HOW do I get started?
Simply put, you just take your machine out of the box and start playing with it! Most come with an instructional DVD and a pretty large booklet. Buy a yard of felt and just practice sewing and embroidering. (With felt, it's sturdy enough that you don't need stabilizer.) Practice changing your needles, playing with your tension, trying out different stitches. If there's something you don't understand, google it! In the beginning, I spent weeks reading tutorials, watching YouTube videos and researching about different needles and stabilizers. You won't learn unless you make mistakes, so plan to make a lot! :) And when (it'll happen) something doesn't turn out right, google ways to fix it. There's a lot of helpful sites and forums out there with very experienced sewers!

Where do you get your fonts and appliques?
There's TONS of places to get cute font and appliques. Sign up for their emails -- they're always running sales! Some of my favorites are:

Planet Applique
8 Claws and a Paw (fonts)
Jolson's Designs (fonts)
AKDesigns Boutique
Embroidery Boutique
Lynnie Pinnie
Applique Cafe
Applique Momma
 and Etsy!

I hope this helps some of you! I have friends that have use Babylock, Janome, Singer, and other brands and they seem to love them, but I'm partial to my Brother machines, of course. If you plan to get a beginner machine and upgrade later, I'd recommend sticking with the same brand. Font and applique files types vary with the machine, so you can't use the same files for a Brother machine as a Singer.

If you have any other questions, please comment on this post or email me and I'll update it with the answer for everyone! :)


  1. i have the brother SE-400 but now i totally wish i would of gotten a regular sewing machine and an embroidery machine . especially since the hoop is so small :(

  2. Is the stitch quality better on the PE770? I have the brother lb6800 and I'm thinking about getting the pe770, but I know know if it's worth it.

  3. Hi Kim,

    I wouldn't say that it is "better" at all. It's faster but the quality is the same, IMO. I've read that some people think it's better, but maybe I just have a really good smaller machine! :)

    With the PE770, I have found that on more intricate projects, the stitch quality is better if I slow the speed down to the lower setting. Just some advice if you do purchase. You are mainly buying more hoop space with this machine. I just bought a 5x11 hoop and it's totally worth it!


  4. Thanks so much for your advice! Unfortunately, amazon just raised the price, so I won't be getting the pe770 right now...have to wait until it comes back down. Gives me more time to think it over.

  5. Hi Ashley. After lots of research, I was pretty much going to get the SE400. By biggest concern was the small workspace to the right of the needle...and it doesn't appear to have same vine type decorative stitches that some other sewing/embroidery machines have. But, you mentioned something about the hoop size and how you needed the PE770 if you wanted to do towels. You can't monogram towels on the SE400 in a 4x4 area?
    Thanks for your input,

  6. Robin,

    You can absolutely embroider towels in a 4x4 area. I actually have towels (that were given to me as a wedding gift and are hanging in my guest bath) that look as if they were done on a 4x4 hoop. I wanted to do names and things, and sometimes long names can get lost in the towel on a 4x4 space. I still use my 4x4 for monogramming kitchen and hand towels though. ;)

  7. Hi Robin,

    I am in the middle of entering a name into sew what pro right now to use my pe 770, it is a downloaded font, and for some reason I can get my machine to recognize the file after I save it. Is there a special hoop size i need to use in sew what pro? Maybe I will have to call the company, I got a name to work once and for my machine to recognize it and stitch it out but ever since I just can't get it to work again:(


  8. Love your blog! I have recently gotten a PE770 and LOVE it. I have played with it and appliqued several things. However, now I am trying to learn how to add names and initials to applique projects. Its my understanding that in order to do an entire name (not using machine fonts & doing it letter by letter) I have to have some sort of software. With the Sew What Pro can you do this? Can you import your design and arrange the name around it? Also, what types of fonts do you have to get/buy to work with it? I fond another program but you have to purchase their fonts at $30 per font!! I just want one that does it all and I do not want to spend an arm and a leg on one! lol Thanks...I look forward to your opinion and thoughts.

  9. Thank you all so much for your input and words of advice. I was a little overwhelmed with all the choices out there. I've read quite a bit of information on the internet and felt that it would be best to get first hand knowledge from those that actually use the machines. I've been to a couple of stores and gotten a few demonstrations. Because of all of your help, I was able to ask the right questions. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And Thank You Karen for doing the post. :-)