A Guide to the Best Embroidery Machines

A Guide to the Best Embroidery Machines

by Alexandra F | popular guides

Embroidery can be a great way to give your projects an additional creative touch. Whether it’s adding a bit of flair to your favourite jacket, or customising anything from pillows to hand towels, the options for expressing your creativity are endless!

Unfortunately figuring out which machine to buy online can be a minefield, due to the different options which are available, and the complexity of some of these machines. Here is a quick summary of embroidery machines I recommend, and the reasons why.

ModelWhy I Recommend ItBuy It
Brother Innov-Is F440EBrother Innov-Is F440EThis machine has a smaller embroidery area than most others, but it is very affordable, so great for those with smaller budgets.Buy it
Brother Innov-Is 800EBrother Innov-Is 800EAlso quite affordable, but a step up from the F440E, great for those who want a larger embroidery area and a bit more speed.Buy it
Janome Memory Craft 500EJanome Memory Craft 500EIt’s difficult to beat the 500E when it comes to hoop size which at 8″x11″ is extremely large! This machine also has a large touchscreen for easy on-screen editing.Buy it
Brother Innov-Is V3Brother Innov-Is V3The V3 is a pricey machine, but it more than makes up for it with a large embroidery area, large touch screen, and excellent speed.Buy it
Janome Atelier 9Janome Atelier 9A combined embroidery and sewing machine, for those who want a machine that can do both. Has Wi-fi for easy connectivity.Buy it

What is an Embroidery Machine?

There are really two different kinds of sewing machine embroidery:

  • Free hand embroidery, which many modern household sewing machines are capable of. This involves lowering the feed dogs, or covering them with a darning plate, setting the stitch width and length to zero, and guiding the fabric through the machine by hand to create embroidery designs. This can even be done on beginner machines such as the Singer Promise 1409. All you need is the correct presser foot and a darning plate!
  • Embroidery machines, which automatically embroider pre-programmed designs selected by the user, the fabric being held taut using embroidery hoops. Some machines are capable of both embroidery and sewing, and others are embroidery only.

This page is all about the latter, embroidery machines!

Things to Consider When Choosing an Embroidery Machine


Machine embroidery is definitely not cheap. Many of these machines are technical marvels. It is worth considering what your budget is, and thinking about the features you would like for your machine. Not only that, but think about the features you can live without, too! If you are not prepared to sacrifice some of the more advanced features, you will need to make sure your budget is up to it!

Hoop Size

The first thing to think about when choosing an embroidery machine is the hoop size you would like. Hoop sizes typically range from 4″ x 4″ (10cm x 10cm) to 9.5″ x 14″ (24cm x 36cm). I would recommend getting a machine with at least a hoop size of 5″ x 7″.

Machines with larger embroidery areas are more expensive, but mean that you will be able to embroider large designs in a single go. You will still be able to embroider large designs with a smaller hoop, but you will have to change the area of fabric in the hoop several times during the design. This can be frustrating and will slow things down a lot.

A larger hoop size will also probably be more future proof, and ensure you don’t outgrow your machine. Several knowledgeable people I have spoken to have suggested going with the largest hoop size you can get for your budget, although of course each person will have their own factors to consider.

If you’re new to machine embroidery, the Bernina We All Sew website has a good introduction to the hooping process.

Embroidery Designs

Different machines come with different pre-loaded designs. Most machines allow additional designs to be loaded on, generally either via USB or by connecting directly to the Internet for the more advanced machines. This means the choice of built-in designs which come with the machine is not necessarily a priority when choosing a machine. You can always add more later on!

It is also possible for users to create their own designs (this is known as “digitising”).  This is generally quite complicated and requires specialist software, which can be expensive. I would normally recommend only trying this once you have acquired a certain amount of skill at embroidery, and once you have a good understanding of how your machine works. Although different sewing machine manufacturers provide their own software, there are other software packages such as Embird, Embrilliance and Hatch by Wilcom which are highly rated.

Stitch Speed

Stitch speed is also an important thing to consider. Some of the more complex embroidery designs can have over 100,000 stitches, and you will be able to get things done faster with a machine which can handle more stitches per minute.

LCD Screen

Pretty much all embroidery machines have a screen of some description. Machines with high resolution colour screens are obviously more expensive, but can make the embroidery experience much more enjoyable and fluid, and open up the possibility of on-screen design editing.

Number of Needles

Single needle machines will stop for you to change thread colours at the correct time. With multiple needles threaded with different colours, the user won’t need to intervene to change colours, or at least not as often. Although obviously that extra convenience will come at a price!

Machine Size

It is worth considering that embroidery machines are generally quite large, so you will need space for one! Getting a sewing and embroidery machine can help save space as you won’t need two machines. It is best to have a dedicated space for your machine as most models are quite heavy. You may struggle to to move them to, say, the dining room table, whenever you want to do some have a little tinker.

Other Features

There is an endless list of other features which you may want to consider. Everyone has their own preference, be it an automatic jump thread cutter, a knee lift etc…

I haven’t mentioned other aspects which are independent of the machine you are using, such the use of stabilisers. If you wanted to learn more about the different type of stabilisers though, I recommend this page from Threads Magazine.

My Recommendations for Embroidery Machines

There are quite a few different embroidery machine models available for purchase in the UK. I have selected five which I think represent the best the market has to offer. Four of these are embroidery machines only. However I have also included one combined embroidery and sewing machine, the Janome Atelier 9.

Brother Innov-Is F440E

Brother Innovis F440E
The Brother Innov-Is F440E is the most affordable of the embroidery machines on this list.

It has a 5″ x 7″ embroidery area, which is quite small compared to most higher end machines, but which is reflected in its price.

As Leslie from The Seasoned Homemaker mentions in her useful guide to hoop sizes, the 5″ x 7″ hoop size is a very common size, which means that will be able to find a lot of designs for it.

It comes with a total of 138 embroidery designs and 11 fonts, and has all of the basics covered, including a colour touch screen and a USB port for transferring designs. It has a maximum speed of 650 stitches per minute.

Brother Innov-Is 800E

Brother Innovis 800EThe Brother Innov-Is 800E is also quite an affordable machine, but has more functionality than the F440E.

It has 138 in-built patterns and 11 in-built fonts. The embroidery area is 6″ x 10″ (160mm x 260mm), which is smaller than the Janome Memory Craft 500E, but still reasonably large (and quite a bit larger than the F440E).

It has a colour LCD touch screen which is comparable to the screen on the F440E, but substantially smaller than the screens on the more expensive machines mentioned in my list. This means it may be a little more fiddly selecting designs.

It has a maximum speed of 850 spm, which is comparable to the Janome MC 500E.

Janome Memory Craft 500E

Janome Memory Craft 500EThe Janome Memory Craft 500E is one of Janome’s most popular embroidery machines. It includes 6 monogramming fonts and 160 in-built designs, and more can be added using the USB port. It is capable of up to 860 spm, which is pretty fast. Not as fast as the more expensive Brother Innov-is V3 or the Janome Atelier 9 machines, but still good.

The maximum embroidery size with this machine is very large, at 8″ x 11″ (280mm x 203mm). I would say this is one of its main selling points.

The 500E also has a large touchscreen LCD screen with on-screen editing. The larger screen makes it relatively easy to re-size, rotate and flip designs.

Brother Innov-Is V3

Brother Innovis V3The Brother Innov-is V3 is basically the Innov-is 800E’s big brother. It is pricier, but for the extra cash you get 224 designs, 17 fonts and an increased speed of up to 1050 spm. This is the fastest of the four machines I am recommending.

The V3 also has a large embroidery size, with an area of 11.8″ x 7.1″ (300mm x 180mm). It comes with a hoop at that size, and a second smaller hoop of 100mm x 100mm.

And other nice details include an automatic thread wiper for cutting jump stitches, and on screen editing via the large colour LCD touchscreen.

Janome Atelier 9

Janome Atelier 9The Janome Atelier 9 (also known as the Skyline S9 in the USA) is the only combined embroidery and sewing machine on my list.

The embroidery area is modestly sized compared to the machines I mentioned earlier, at 6.7″ x 7.9″ (170mm x 200mm). So this may not be the option for you if you feel like you need a large area.

If you already have a good separate sewing machine , you may want to consider the machines I mentioned above instead.

That being said this is a very fast machine, capable of up to 1000 spm. And with 250 designs and 300 stitches, there is pretty much no task you won’t be able to take on with this machine.

It also includes some nifty features such an electronic knee lift for raising and lowering the presser foot hands free. It also has three separate LED lighting areas. These are all little details which can make your sewing and embroidery experience more enjoyable.

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