Just in case you missed the first installment of this post:
My Sewing Machines – Part 2: The Embroidery Machines
(Updated: June 13th, 2105)
My first embroidery machine:
I watched the evolution of the electronic embroidery machine with close attention for several years before I finally bought one. I was always stopping by my local sewing machine stores to see what all the different manufacturers of embroidery machines were up to, and what great new features they had been adding. And of course asking for demos of these wonderful new machines to see what they could do first hand. Embroidery machine technology has moved forward at a very rapid pace since the 1990’s. They haven’t advanced quite as fast as computers have advanced since that time but it’s close, since the computer control of the machines motors, steppers, cutters, and the robotic embroidery arm were the most important parts of the embroidery machines.
My first embroidery machine was a Brother PE-200 Snoopy Design machine.
Brand new it was $1500, but I got it used for about $800 with shipping and I just loved it. I could have gotten the PE-150 or PE-180 models for less money but it wouldn’t have had the Snoopy designs in it and at the time, that was important to me. It had about 24 Snoopy and Peanuts designs and about 24 other designs built into the machine.
All of the designs were 4″x4″ (4 inches square) or under in size.
At the time that was the largest design that any embroidery machine could create in one field without using special hoops and tricks. It is comparable in 2009 to the Brother PE-750D Disney machine. Because it was an embroidery only machine, you had to have a separate sewing machine if you wanted to sew something once you had done your embroidery with it.
The problem with this machine and other smaller less expensive embroidery machines that you might purchase is the small number of built in designs they have and the high cost of purchasing more designs.
To stitch designs other than those that are built into the machine, you needed to purchase designs on design or memory cards that could be read by the machine directly for somewhere between $50-$150 each for 10-15 designs per card, or if you wanted to download designs from the internet or take some off a cd or design your own, you had to have a card reader/writer and a blank writable memory card to get the designs from the computer or cd onto the card and then to the machine. To get the box you had to purchase the very expensive software that went with it for another $500, which you needed anyway to digitize or resize your own designs. Luckily for us home embroiderers, things have gotten better, easier and less expensive. Besides putting out all the money for the equipment, you still have to figure out how use it all. Thank heavens for my husband and his skills on the computer because he did all of this hard part for me. He tried on more than one occasion to show me how to create and transfer the designs myself to those fiddly memory cards, but I just could not get it. So when I needed something new he was kind enough to put it on a card for me and all I had to do was stitch it out.
It did not take very long before I had outgrown this machines abilities.
It became apparent to me early on that as long as your design had only 3 to 5 colors like Snoopy or Mickey Mouse you would be ok with the 5″x1.5″ inch monochrome screen, but after purchasing a teddy bear card where each design had 15 to 20 colors per design, it became very difficult to figure out just what color I needed and which part of the design was going to be stitching next. So, with all the knowledge I now had about embroidery machines and knowing a little more about what I wanted in a machine, my search for a new machine began.
My second embroidery machine:
After much research and debate, especially on my husband’s part, I became the proud owner of a Brother Ultimate 2001 on Christmas Day 2002. Wow! This was such an upgrade from what I had that I was overwhelmed with everything it could do! This machine is a combo machine, and could do both embroidery and sewing just by removing the embroidery arm, so that was the end of my original little Brother sewing machine. It was moved to the attic for storage just in case.
From an embroiders point of view, it exceeded the little Snoopy machine at every turn.
It had a large color touchscreen display making it easy to decipher a design with 15 to 20 colors or more. Designs were easy to load from a computer to the machine by using a normal 3.5″ floppy disk which I even finally learned to do myself. You could also still use your older design cards from the older Brother machines if you wanted. Designs could even be edited and resized directly on the machine using the touchscreen, something the Snoopy machine could not do, and don’t forget the much larger hoop size it offered. The larger hoop now allowed for designs up to 6×10 inches in size to be stitched all at once in one hoop.
From a sewing point of view, the machine was wonderful to use as well.
It had a top loading bobbin and a sensor to tell you when the bobbin was getting low. It had many built in stitches and a ton of other features that my little Brother did not have.
I was in heaven and it changed my sewing quality and quantity dramatically.
Previous to owning this machine, my sewing always involved a fight between me and the machine. With this new machine, the fights were less and when they did happen they were less severe. This is when I truly began to enjoy sewing. Life was good but then the Brother Innovis 4000D came out and replaced the Ultimate 2001/2002 model.
My third (and still currently in use) embroidery machine:
Although I loved and still do love my Ult-2001 machine, the Innovis 4000D offered many new embroidery features that I wanted. When I purchased the 4000D in 2004 I paid just under $5000 for it. This was quite a deal at the time as they were selling in the shops for somewhere between $7500-$9000 depending on what accessories that you got with it.
Since the 4000D is also a combo embroidery and sewing machine, it was meant to replace the Ult-2001. But that didn’t happen, and I’ll tell you why a little later in the story.
From an embroidery stand point the 4000D did surpass the Ult-2001 with great new time saving features like auto threading of the needle, auto cutting and knotting of jump stitches, and a faster stitching speed. It also had better precision in the stitched designs and a better bobbin sensor with a larger bobbin. A larger mega hoop was also included which let me now stitch designs as large as 7×12 inches in size and it had a larger/brighter touchscreen which was nice on my aging eyes. Loading a design into the 4000D machine is now done using a USB memory stick thumb drive or a normal SD memory card, which are very inexpensive and available everywhere unlike the older brother memory cards which required a special reader/writer and were very expensive to purchase.
Although it will still take the older 3.5″ floppy or brother memory design cards if you wish to use them.
You can also load designs directly from a CD-ROM drive plugged into the machine. My 16 gigabyte USB memory stick will hold thousands of designs and you can file them into folders to find them easier, plus it is fairly easy to load the designs on to the stick from a computer. The new PE-Design digitizing software for the 4000D had improved in several places as well so I decided to pick it up too. The cost to upgrade the design software from my old version which I got with my Ult-2001 machine to the new version was $500. If you were not eligible to upgrade it was $2500 to purchase it new.
From a sewing stand point, the Innovis 4000D slipped a little in my opinion.
The biggest issue I had with it as a sewing machine was the manual threading of the machine when you wanted to use a double needle. This is due to the new auto threader. A feature that added to the embroidery part really took away from the sewing part. Without having the cover stitch feature on my serger, sewing with a double needle is important to me in the construction of my husband’s shirts and other knit projects that I make. I just do not prefer to sew on the Innovis. Lucky for me, the Ult-2001’s were not selling well used since everyone was trying to get rid of theirs to purchase the new 4000D machine, so my husband decided that I could just keep both machines, one to do embroidery with and one to sew with. And this worked out way better than I ever thought it would!
Life is good once again. Really good in fact!
I now have a serger that I have loved for years and is still going strong, a sewing machine with fabulous features that does exactly what I want, and a very fancy embroidery machine that does everything I want it to do as well. And if I ever needed or wanted to I could use either machine to sew and/or embroider with at the same time! It hasn’t happened yet, but in case one of them needed to go to the shop for repairs, I always have a backup machine. Over the last couple of years, Brother has introduced a few new embroidery machines but their features have not enticed me to purchase one over what I already have. I must admit though that the built in camera above the needle so you see a zoomed in view of what you are stitching on the touchscreen is a cool feature in the new 6000D, but not worth me coughing up another $7500+ for it. I also had a demo of the new Viking Designer machine that has a 15×14 inch hoop. That’s BIG! Now keep in mind it does this by using a special hoop and tricks like making you sew half the project and then flip it around and then sew the second half. In my mind I can do that on my machine too by using my current 12″ hoop without having to go through the hoops and using the tricks. So in conclusion: As you can see, I really like the Brother embroidery machines. I have tried and read and researched the pros and cons of all the other brands through the years and I like the Brother’s as they seem to have the features that I want and need.
Keep in mind here that I am not a quilter, and if I was I might have chosen a different brand of machine like the Viking #1 which was a beautiful sewing and quilting machine, but I never felt like it had the embroidery capabilities of the Brother’s. Today looking at the quilting features of the new Brother Innovis 6000D Quattro I think I would still choose the Brother even if I was a quilter, but I probably wouldn’t have 10 or 15 years ago as several other brands of embroidery machines back then had better quilting features than the Brother’s of their day did. Now as you are deciding to purchase an embroidery machine for yourself, you need to decide what you’re going to do with it.
Here are some great questions to get started in your journey:
Would you be limited by the features of the smaller less expensive machines? Will you be quilting more than sewing? Do you just want to try this as it might be a passing thing for you and a little machine will work just fine as a starter machine? Or, are you in this for the long haul and a larger fancier machine would be money better spent? One note I would like to make here is that if you don’t require the support of a dealer for help and classes you can do some digging on the internet and ebay and get a new or nearly new embroidery machine for thousands of dollars off of the retail (dealer) price.
They will still have the remainder of the factory warranty on them too which any dealer will usually honor.
I personally have never lived close enough to any dealer for support so I have always searched out a deal to purchase my machines rather than purchasing them from a local dealer with support included.
Coming up next week: Part 3 and the Art of Embroidery.