The 6 Best Embroidery Machines for Beginners

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If you’re new to embroidery, purchasing the best embroidery machine for beginners is a crucial first step. However, without hands-on experience, knowing what features you need and what will be a good beginner machine is difficult.

I’ve been machine embroidering for years now and have put together this helpful guide of starter embroidery machine suggestions.

Machine embroidery is not an easy hobby to learn, and it’s not for everyone. However, if you commit to the craft and get past the beginner woes, you’ll soon find yourself fearlessly embroidering everything you can get your hands on!

beginner friendly embroidery machines

Before Purchasing Your First Embroidery Machine

Everyone has different crafting backgrounds and expectations, so no one machine will be the best choice for all embroidery beginners. Consider these differences between embroidery machines to make the right choice for yourself.

1. Embroidery-Only vs. Combination Machine

embroidery machine only or combination machine?

While embroidery-only machines cannot sew, a combination machine gives you the power to both sew and embroider.

I have a combination machine because it saves space in my small craft room. Plus, the sewing features like automatic thread trimming, automatic tension, and the monstrous number of stitches were appealing! 

However, if you already have a sewing machine you love, don’t ever need to sew, or don’t want a machine that converts, an embroidery-only machine might be your best bet. 

Decide which type you want, as this will be one of beginner embroidery machines’ most significant differentiating factors. 

2. Personal Use vs. Home Business

Do you want to do only basic tasks like applique onesies for grandbabies? Or, are you planning to start a small business to bring in extra income?

A machine for basic personal use may not need as many bells and whistles as a machine for a home embroidery business that will help pay your mortgage.

When planning to start a home business with your machine, though, know that there’s a sizable learning curve to perfecting your embroidery, so don’t plan to quit your day job immediately. 

3. Embroidery Hoop Size

4"x4" hoop compared to 5"x7" hoop

What size designs do you want to embroider?

Every embroidery machine has a maximum embroidery area and corresponding hoop size. This is the size of the largest design you can stitch at one time. 

While it’s possible to split larger designs with software and then either use a repositional hoop or rehoop your fabric between sections, this takes time and expertise. 

The sad thing about hoop size is prices increase exponentially as the hoop size increases. 

The smallest hoop machines are 4″x4″ hoop machines. You can do many things with a 4″x4″ hoop, but larger machines offer more conveniences and possibilities for designs, like the ability to stitch larger in-the-hoop projects. 

4. Budget

Some embroidery machines cost more than a car! Not to mention, you need to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars for embroidery supplies, designs, and software. 

When considering the best embroidery machine for beginners, decide the maximum amount of money you want to spend and stick to it. 

Don’t feel persuaded to spend more than you have. There is nothing wrong with starting small to ensure you like the hobby before investing thousands in the biggest machine your shop offers!

5. The Cost vs. Convenience Ratio

When considering your budget, every upgrade to your machine will cost more. Here are some convenient features that aren’t necessary but may be important for you to budget in. 

A. Automatic Jump Stitch Trimming

trim any jump stitches

Jump stitches are the thread trails left when a machine skips from one design part to another.

Basic embroidery machines don’t trim jump stitches; they only automatically cut at the end of each thread color. However, more deluxe machines automatically trim jump stitches, so you don’t have to. 

B. Magnetic Hoops

brother magnetic sash hoop

If you love the idea of an embroidery machine for quilting, a machine with a magnetic embroidery hoop option can be especially helpful when quilting a finished top. 

C. Multi-Needle Machines

There are different types of embroidery machines: single-needle, multi-needle, and multi-head.

  • Purchasing a single-needle machine means you change the thread color yourself after the machine stitches each section. 
  • Multi-needle embroidery machines, which start around $5k, change threads automatically for you. This is a big-time saver and a must-have if you plan to scale a small business to make a full-time income. 
  • Multi-head machines, meanwhile, are common for commercial embroiderers in industrial factories.

6. Tech Savviness

Machine embroidery can be a trying hobby if you don’t own a computer and are uncomfortable around electronics.

My 90-year-old grandmother, for instance, has sewn for 75+ years and can sew anything on her mechanical sewing machine. No matter how much I help her, though, the computerized aspect of machine embroidery makes learning this machine too tricky. 

Also, the more expensive machines with so many features on the LCD touchscreen are much more difficult to learn than simple, entry-level embroidery machines without all the added features.

Also, do you plan to design your own designs or purchase them?

splitting designs for 4x4 hoop

Some machines come with basic embroidery software that auto-digitizes and includes masterful onscreen editing features, while others have only essential editing functions. 

One thing to know is that full-fledged embroidery digitizing software is EXPENSIVE and difficult to use for those who are not technically inclined. You might find it easiest to use your machine’s built-in embroidery designs and fonts and purchase the rest. 

7. Product Support and Help for New Users

My experience with local dealers in my metroplex is you pay more for a machine from a brick-and-mortar store than you will online.

However, when you buy from a dealer, they help you learn to use your embroidery machine. If you think you’ll need the extra classes and support, consider purchasing form an authorized dealer. 

The Best Embroidery Machines for Beginners

While there are many more expensive and incredible high-end embroidery machines, this list of best beginner embroidery machines focuses on single-needle machines costing less than $2,000.

What if you want to buy a multi-needle machine or even the newest Brother Luminaire XP3? In that case, I recommend you visit your nearest sewing machine retailer to try it out first.

My local sewing shops do not stock newer, low-cost machines, so I bought every one of my embroidery machines online before I bought my Luminaire XP2, which cost me a small fortune, in-store. 

1. Brother PE800 Embroidery Machine

Brother PE800 Embroidery Machine, 138 Built-in Designs, 5

FeatureSpecs
Embroidery Field5"x7"
Embroidery Designs138 designs
Maximum Embroidery Speed650 stitches per minute
USB ConnectionBuilt-in USB port

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As a Brother sewing and embroidery machine lover, I think Brother (and Baby Lock) make the easiest-to-use embroidery machines. The interface is more intuitive than Janome or Bernina, and Brother is typically less expensive. 

If you know you’ll love embroidery and want a big enough hoop size for many tasks, the Brother PE800 embroidery only machine is a great place to start with its 5″x7″ maximum embroidery area. 

Now, just remember, it doesn’t have any sewing abilities. 

However, there are 138 built-in designs, 11 built-in fonts, 10 frames, and 14 borders. That said, I guarantee you’ll want to collect your fonts and embroidery designs online. (Check out where to find free embroidery fonts and free machine embroidery designs!)

Like most entry-level Brother embroidery machines with the USB port on the side, you can import any designs you create or download to the machine with a USB drive. 

Some drag-and-drop editing is available on the LCD color touchscreen, and you can also preview designs there before stitching.

For a larger 6″x10″ hoop machine, check out the Brother NQ1700E, which also offers automatic jump thread trimming. 

Learn more in my Brother PE800 review!

Note: The updated Brother PE900, which is an upgrade to the PE800, debuted in the Fall of 2022. It’s pricier but is WiFi enabled, automatically cuts jump stitches, and has more designs and fonts.

2. Brother PE535 Embroidery Machine

Brother PE535 Embroidery Machine, 80 Built-in Designs, 4

FeatureSpecs
Embroidery Field4"x4"
Embroidery Designs80 included
USB ConnectionBuilt-in USB port

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The Brother PE535 is usually the smallest, most affordable embroidery machine you can purchase, and it’s well-loved for small projects. 

As one of the best Brother embroidery machine choices for beginners, it’s a great place to start if you only want to tinker with embroidery and don’t want to spend your life savings.

If the embroidery love bug bites you, this machine resells well, so you can easily upgrade to a bigger hoop machine. 

Like the Brother PE800, the Brother PE535 is a dedicated embroidery machine, meaning you need an additional sewing machine if you want to do more than embroidery.

Featuring a 4″x4″ embroidery field and 80 built-in designs, the Brother PE535 also has 9 built-in fonts. Of course, you can import .pes designs with a jump drive. 

What’s great about Brother embroidery machines is threading is very simple. Instructions are printed on the machine for both bobbin threading and upper threading. And, the instruction manual includes a lot of helpful information and quick-start guides. 

As an update, the upgraded Brother PE545 has finally come on the market and offers Wi-Fi design transfer and Artspira app compatibility. 

3. Janome Memory Craft 400E Embroidery Machine

Janome Memory Craft 400E Embroidery Machine

FeatureSpecs
Embroidery Field7.9"x7.9"
Embroidery Designs160 designs and 6 fonts
USB ConnectionBuilt-in USB port

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My local library has a Janome Memory Craft embroidery machine, and it’s withstood the test of hundreds of patrons using it. 

While I’m a bigger fan of Brother due to the ease of use of their interfaces, some embroiderers contend that Janome machines last longer. 

That being said, the Janome Memory Craft 400E embroidery-only machine is one of the best Janome embroidery machines for beginners, thanks to its large 7.9″ x 7.9″ hoop size. 

In addition to the built-in designs, monogramming fonts, and ability to import .jef designs via USB, the Janome MC400E also embroiders faster than the Brother PE800 or PE535 and offers automatic jump thread trimming. 

4. Brother SE1900 Combination Sewing and Embroidery Machine

brother se1900

FeatureSpecs
Embroidery Field5"x7"
Embroidery Designs138 designs, 11 fonts, 10 frames with 14 borders
Stitch Options240 stitches, 10 buttonhole options
Maximum Sewing Speed850 stitches per minute
USB ConnectionBuilt-in USB port

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The Brother SE1900 embroidery combination machine, which I’ve happily had for several years now, has the exact embroidery specifications as the Brother PE800.

What differs between the two, however, is the Brother SE1900 is also a sewing machine. 

As such, it offers 240 built-in stitches (some are very similar to others), 10 buttonhole styles, and 7 presser feet.

It also has the great user-friendly features of Brother sewing machines (easy bobbin winding and quick-set, top-drop bobbin).

Plus, it includes an advanced needle threader (easier to use than the one on my sewing-only machine), automatic tension defaults, automatic thread trimming, and the option for automatic reinforcement or reverse stitches. It also has a knee lifter, which is plain fun to have. 

Even though I’ve also upgraded to a high-end embroidery machine after many years of embroidering, I still have my SE1900 as my backup machine and never plan to get rid of it!

It’s especially great to use while my Luminaire XP2 works on long embroidery projects. And, I prefer to “test my luck” on certain projects using this machine rather than my higher-priced one!

If you want a larger hoop combination machine, check out the Brother NQ3600D, NQ3700D, or NQ3550W, all of which have a 6″x10″ hoop, an array of sewing stitches, and features like automatic jump stitch trimming. The largest hoop size you can get on a Brother machine is 10 5/8″ x 16″, which comes on the Brother Luminaire series. (I also have and love my Brother Luminaire XP2.)

Read more in my Brother SE1900 review.

brother se2000

Update: The upgraded Brother SE2000 also entered the market in 2022; I purchased it shortly after to test it out. It is WiFi-enabled, has added built-in designs, and can automatically trim jump stitches. 

I reviewed my Brother SE2000 recently, and you can grab more information about the differences between it and the Brother SE1900.

5. Brother SE600 Combination Machine

Brother SE600 Sewing and Embroidery Machine, 80 Designs, 103 Built-In Stitches, Computerized, 4

Key FeaturesSpecs
Embroidery Field4"x4"
Embroidery Designs80 included
Stitch Options103 stitches, 10 buttonhole options
Maximum Sewing Speed710 stitches per minute
USB ConnectionBuilt-in USB port

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The Brother SE600 machine is the combination sewing and embroidery version of the Brother PE535.

As such, it also features a 4″x4″ hoop (so not a super large embroidery area) and includes the same 80 designs and 6 different fonts. 

While it’s not as spiffy as the Brother SE1900 when sewing, it has 103 stitches, 10 buttonhole options, and 7 sewing feet. It has an automatic thread cutter and an automatic needle threader as well. 

As a downside, though, the maximum sewing speed is only 710 stitches per minute, which is less than the Brother SE1900’s 850 spm. 

My Brother SE625 embroidery machine

I started with the Brother SE625, Walmart’s twin sister of the Brother SE600, and it served me very well until I decided to upgrade to a bigger hoop. You can learn more about both machines in my Brother SE600 review.

Also, the upgraded Brother SE700 is now available. It’s WiFi-enabled, Artspira compatible, and includes more designs than the SE600. 

6. Janome Memory Craft 9850 Sewing and Embroidery Machine

Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9850 Embroidery and Sewing Machine

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One of the best Janome combination machines is the Memory Craft 9850 computerized embroidery machine. 

In terms of embroidery, the machine includes a 6.7″x7.9″ embroidery hoop, 175 built-in designs, and 2 English fonts. The maximum embroidery speed is 800 spm, and design transfer happens via USB. 

One beneficial aspect of embroidery is the embroidery hoop attaches at the back of the machine, so there’s no carriage in the way when maneuvering to trim threads during embroidery. 

The sewing speed is an impressive 1,000 spm, and there’s a maximum stitch width of 0.9mm, which is better than the Brother SE1900. The machine also features 200 built-in stitches and 9 presser feet. 

This machine is a great option for serious sewists, quilters, and embroiderers!

Used vs. New Embroidery Machine for Beginners

If you’re a true beginner, I recommend not buying a used embroidery machine from a stranger. For instance, avoid individual eBay, Amazon, and even Facebook marketplace sellers who offer no warranties.

One place where it’s okay (and sometimes a good deal) to buy a used beginner machine is an authorized sewing and embroidery machine dealer. These experts know how to service machines and evaluate and fix issues before selling. They will also likely offer a warranty on used machines. 

Purchasing certified refurbished through Amazon, eBay, Sewing Machines Plus, etc., will also give you a warranty, and I’ve generally had good luck here. 

My Unpopular Opinion

The rule of the land seems to be to buy as big of a hoop and as nice of a machine as you can afford.

Please, only do this if you know you can commit to learning how to use an embroidery machine and actually plan to use it! (Not to mention, the fancier the machine, the more difficult it is for a beginner to understand and use all the functions.)

If you only have the budget for an affordable 4″x4″ embroidery machine, there is no shame in that!

I started with the Brother SE625 embroidery machine, which has a 4″x4″ hoop, and I was thrilled with it for years before upgrading to the SE1900 for several years and, ultimately, the Luminaire XP2. 

I would change nothing about my process to get to the largest hoop machine I could find. I made my mistakes, learned my craft, and decided I loved embroidery first on entry-level machines. All without cleaning out my savings!

Whatever you do, though, the best beginner embroidery machine is up to you, so make sure you consider everything you want and need in a machine.

7 Comments

  1. Great article, I do own the janome mc400e and it has been very easy to use. Only problem is they aren’t real clear about importing designs via the USB. The machine only opens the embf folder so all designs must into that folder

  2. Thank you for a great article! I’m considering trying out a Brother PE535. I do all my designs in Adobe Illustrator, and I’ve read that you can create embroidery files in there as well. I assume any files I create in there would work with this entry level machine?

    1. The Brother PE535 reads PES or DST embroidery file formats. Since these aren’t formats that Adobe Illustrator itself can export to, you’ll either need Embroidery i2 for Adobe Illustrator (an Adobe plugin) or separate digitizing software to convert any Illustrator files to PES/DST.

  3. Hi,
    Wonderful article. I’m wondering if there are simple manual type embroidery machines? We are making Bible covers for our youth group and just want to embroider their names on them. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi! You can always use a regular sewing machine, lower the feed dogs, and add a spring-action quilting foot and then do free-motion embroidery by moving the covers themselves under the presser foot to stitch the names.

      You also have the option of buying a sewing machine with a monogramming font or two. (Examples of such machines inlude Brother HC1850 and Singer Quantum 9960.) The fonts don’t allow much customization in size, but this option also keeps you from having to purchase a computerized embroidery machine.

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