Looking to take the leap into machine embroidery? You’ll need to get the lowdown on the different types of machines, and what types of embroidery they can be used for.


If you are thinking about buying an embroidery machine then you’ll need to decide on what purpose it will have. Dedicated embroidery machines can be expensive, so it’s worth weighing up your options when it comes to buying an embroidery machine.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about buying your first embroidery machine. We’ll cover all types of machines, including machines that do a combination of sewing and embroidery, free motion embroidery and dedicated digital embroidery machines.

We won’t be covering industrial embroidery machines in this article as they are more suited to a business environment and can cost tens of thousands of pounds.

Digital embroidery vs free motion embroidery

At a very basic level, digital embroidery uses a computerised machine to automatically stitch your design onto the fabric. Whereas free motion embroidery is created by using the machine's needle like a pen, so you move the fabric to ‘draw’ your pattern.

When deciding between the two, you’ll need to think about whether you want to design your work externally and have the machine do the embroidery or whether you want to control the embroidery stitches by hand.

You can also read our guide to the best sewing machines for everything you need to know before your next purchase.

Embroidery machines for beginners

1. Brother Innovis M280D

Brother Innovis M280D

Can be used for: Digital embroidery and sewing

At the lower end of the cost scale for an embroidery machine, the Brother Innovis is anything but basic. This machine is ideal for those who want to upgrade their sewing machine while having the option for digital embroidery.

With 25 built-in embroidery patterns including 45 Disney character designs and 181 sewing stitches, you won’t be short of design inspiration. Brother has an exclusive deal with Disney, so you’ll only be able to get these designs with a Brother machine.

More like this

Key features:

  • High-quality performance with compact size
  • 3.7” colour LCD touch screen
  • USB port for USB flash drive
  • Self-threading needle
  • Custom stitch design
  • Disney designs included

Weight: 12.8kg

Size:19.7 x 41.9 x 30.7 cm

2. Brother Embroidery Machine, PE535

Brother Embroidery Machine, PE535

Can be used for: Digital embroidery

The PE535 is another reasonably priced machine from the Brother series. It’s a neat little machine with big capabilities. This machine is embroidery only, so you can’t use it as a sewing machine.

The machine has 80 built-in designs for you to choose from, but also has a USB port, so you can upload external designs (they need to be in PES format so the machine can read them).

For your first embroidery machine, it’s a perfect choice because it is easy to use, cuts the thread automatically and threads the needle for you.

Key features:

  • 80 built-in designs
  • Large LCD colour touchscreen
  • 9 font styles
  • Built-in tutorials
  • Built-in memory for importing embroidery designs from USB

Weight: 6.79kg

Size: H7.756" x W16.5"

3. Brother FS100WT Free Motion Embroidery/Sewing and Quilting Machine

Brother FS100WT Free Motion Embroidery/Sewing and Quilting Machine

Can be used for: Free motion embroidery and sewing

If you are looking for a machine that can do free motion embroidery, the Brother FS100WT is a great option. It’s very reasonably priced but packed full of features.

Bear in mind that this machine cannot do digital embroidery, so the machine can’t apply digital embroidery patterns automatically.

However, the machine does have a free motion embroidery foot plus 100 stitches built in, so perfect for your free motion embroidery projects.

Key features:

  • 100 stitches
  • 3 needle positions
  • Auto needle threader
  • Automatic bobbin winding
  • LCD screen
  • Lettering for monogramming

Weight: 7.7kg

Size: H40.4, W49.5, D32.3cm

Machine embroidery vs hand embroidery

If you are looking to dive into machine embroidery, it's also worth knowing the basics of hand embroidery (if you don't already). Be sure to check out our how to embroider for beginners for all the key information.

4. Singer Quantum Stylist EM200 Embroidery Machine

Singer Quantum Stylist EM200 Embroidery Machine

Can be used for: Digital embroidery

If your budget is tight, a great way to save a bit of money is to consider an ex-display model like this one from the Singer outlet. It’s not brand new, but you can save a significant amount of money buying it this way.

Make sure the machine you are purchasing does have some kind of warranty with it though, in case of any issues. There is a two-year guarantee included with most machines on the Singer Outlet.

This machine is one of the top digital machines on this list, yet comes with a smaller price tag. It is worth bearing in mind that it is an embroidery-only machine, so you can’t sew with it.

It has 200 built-in designs and a large embroidery area, so if you’re serious about digital embroidery, this machine is a fabulous choice.

Key features:

  • 200 in-built embroidery designs
  • Extra-large embroidery area
  • Automatic needle threader
  • Automatic thread tension
  • Lettering for monogramming
  • USB input

Weight: 30kg

Size: H29 x W42

5. Janome Memory Craft 500E

Janome Memory Craft 500E

Can be used for: Digital embroidery

This Janome Memory Craft 500E is a dedicated embroidery machine, so doesn’t have sewing capabilities. It’s the perfect machine if you are solely interested in professional-looking embroidery.

Your designs are easily imported through a USB and edited through the machine's advanced on-screen editing functions.

Key features:

  • 160 in-built embroidery designs
  • LCD touchscreen + on screen editing
  • Large embroidery area
  • Two-year guarantee

Weight: 11.1kg

Size: H33 x W55 x D60cm

6. Brother LB5000M – Marvel Edition

Brother LB5000M – Marvel Edition

Buy now, Brother USA

Can be used for: Digital embroidery, sewing

This machine is an absolute steal! Sadly, this machine is only for our readers located in the US. For you lucky folk across the pond, this machine comes in at the cheapest price on our list and almost half the price of its competition.

The most fun aspect of this machine is that it’s Marvel themed! It comes with a variety of Marvel designs to embroider plus the machine itself has interchangeable character faceplates. It’s an epic choice if you want to update clothing and gear with cool Marvel designs.

The machine isn’t limited to Marvel though, there are 80 built-in designs to choose from plus a USB slot to upload your own designs.

Not only does this machine pack a punch when it comes to digital embroidery but it can seamlessly transform into a sewing machine.

Key features:

  • 80 built-in embroidery designs, 103 sewing stitches and 9 fonts
  • 4" x 4" maximum embroidery area
  • 4 Interchangeable character faceplates
  • USB port
  • Includes 7 versatile sewing feet and 1 embroidery foot

Weight: 6.49kg

Size: 7.7" x 16.5" x 12"

7. Singer Legacy SE300 Embroidery Machine

Singer Legacy SE300 Embroidery Machine

Buy now, Amazon

Buy now, Singer Outlet

Can be used for: Sewing, digital embroidery

A sewing machine by Singer that’s also an embroidery machine! You can seamlessly switch between the two to create your designs.

Coming in at just under £1k, it’s a reasonably priced machine given its robust features. If you are already a sewer, it is a great machine to upgrade to if you want to try machine embroidery.

If you’ve been swayed by this machine, another bonus is that Singer has a tonne of helpful tutorial videos and a great support community if you need help getting started.

Key features:

  • 250 built-in stitches
  • 200 built-in embroidery designs
  • 2 snap-on embroidery hoops Included
  • Automatic thread tension
  • Automatic needle threader
  • USB port

Weight: 8.43kg

Size: D8" x W20.25" x H12.25"

Free motion embroidery patterns

Once you’ve decided on your machine, the next step is to start creating!

For those free motion embroiderers, we have these lovely free motion embroidery patterns for you to try.

free motion machine embroidery appliqué square

8. Uten Computerised Digital Sewing Machine Embroidery

Uten Computerised Digital Sewing Machine Embroidery

Can be used for: Sewing, free motion embroidery

We’re going to end our round-up on a real bargain of a machine! This one is for those of you looking to test the waters with free motion embroidery.

Free motion embroidery means you are able to move the fabric as you stitch, and essentially ‘draw’ on the fabric. You can use any sewing machine that specifies it is suitable for embroidery.

This machine by Uten is a very low-cost machine, which would be ideal for beginners looking to try out free motion. It’s also an ideal and easy-to-use first sewing machine.

Key features:

  • 60 built-in stitches
  • LED light
  • LCD screen
  • Automatic thread tension
  • Automatic needle threader

Weight: 7.08kg

Size: D12 x W28 x H27 cm

Choosing the right embroidery machine for you

The main thing to decide when looking to purchase an embroidery machine is whether you want it to be digital – which will create designs which are uploaded to the machine or free motion – you basically use the machine to ‘draw’ your pattern.

It’s also worth considering whether you would like sewing capabilities with your machine, or if you are interested solely in embroidery.


Taking your embroidery machine to the next level

If you already own a beginner embroidery machine and are looking to upgrade, take a look at our round-up of the best embroidery machines available.


Katie Dolan
Katie DolanDigital Assistant, Gathered

Katie Dolan edits our needlework sections, focusing on our embroidery and cross stitch articles, as well as making videos for our arts and crafts projects. Katie runs her jewellery business, Ophelia Jewellery Art, on Etsy, where she sells beautiful resin-pressed flower earrings. She has a wide range of craft interests including embroidery – she particularly loves all things pop culture and a less traditional approach – The Simpsons and Rick & Morty are among her favourites to embroider. She has recently completed a silversmith workshop and hopes to expand her jewellery business with these new skills. When she’s not crafting, she’s usually fuelling her Harry Potter addiction with a Sunday film marathon and a couple of butter beers!

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