Purchasing a digital embroidery machine for the first time is a daunting experience if you don't know a great deal about them. We've put together a list of our top 10 favourite machines, and give you all the must-know details. We've included pros and cons for each machine. We've listed their top features so you can easily compare them to one another and come to a decision. Take a look at our round-up of the best embroidery machines that will work well for the home crafter. We are only looking at the best-computerised embroidery machines with a single needle. We are not looking at the multi-thread machines that are more suited to a business environment. We'll flag up if they are embroidery machines or embroidery sewing machines that have a dual function. Which is the best digital embroidery machine for you?

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What is free motion embroidery?

You don't need a specialised embroidery sewing machine to do machine embroidery. You can use almost any sewing machine for machine embroidery. You can use your sewing machine for free motion machine embroidery - where the machine does the stitching but you guide the fabric. All you'll need is a sewing machine that lets you keep the feed dogs down so you can manipulate the fabric direction yourself. Depending on the sewing machine, you may also need to change the foot to a darning or a free motion foot, too. To keep the fabric flat and taut, you typically mount it in an embroidery hoop. With this you can easily fit and manoeuvre in your machine. You mount the fabric so it is the other way up to how you would typically use an embroidery hoop. So the frame sits above the right side of the fabric. If you only want to work with free motion embroidery, the best embroidery machine for you will be a sewing machine with the option to lower the feed dogs.

Take a look at our free motion embroidery with machine embroidery projects to try out this technique for yourself!

How does a digital embroidery machine work?

Bespoke embroidery machines are a little different. They come with a built-in hoop or frame to hold your fabric taut. These are digitally controlled, so it is the machine that moves the fabric as well as makes the stitches. Once the user has chosen the design and mounted the fabric into the built-in hoop, their involvement only usually extends to changing the thread colour their machine is using. The user may also need to snip off thread ends in lower-spec models without this as an automatic function.

Do I need a single needle or multi needle digital embroidery machine?

Personally, we think that multi needle machine embroidery machines are more suitable to a business use, offering monogrammed and personalised items to purchase. We think that a single needle machine embroidery machine will meet the needs of most home crafters. Some of the best single-needle digital embroidery machines will hold multiple thread bobbins and can change colour automatically. So user role is just loading top and starting in designs with just a few colours in the best-computerised embroidery machines.

Do I need an embroidery machine or a sewing and embroidery machine?

Dedicated embroidery machines automate adding embroidery detail to fabrics. Choose a sewing and embroidery machine if making clothes is your passion and you want to embellish them with embroidery, but don't have the time and inclination to add it by hand. The best embroidery machine can add custom detail very quickly. You can buy embroidery sewing machines that have both functions, so they serve as embroidery machines and sewing machines. They are also useful for monogramming or adding custom details to clothing and accessories – no more school name tags!

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What features to look for when buying an embroidery machine

The feature you want in your digital embroidery machine depend on how you are going to use the machine. The key feature we recommend considering is the size of design you are want to add. Large designs need bigger hopes and bigger working area. This tends to make the machine much larger and more expensive. But if you want to create large designs, you can't add a larger working space on later. So being honest and spending more upfront will save you money in the longer term.

Number of in-built designs play a part too. Especially when it comes to fonts and lettering which are popular machine embroidery designs. But these can often be added later. If you are going to want a wide range, choose a machine that comes with more. Or make sure your machine has the ability to add new designs via USB or design software.

If you want to create your own designs rather than just using an in-built library, you will need a machine that has access to accompanying design software.

You might also like our other sewing machine round-ups – the best sewing machines for beginners, and our favourite best sewing machines for quilting, or best long arm quilting machines roundup.9

9 of the best embroidery machines for 2022

1. Brother Innov-is M280D Sewing/Embroidery machine

best embroidery machines brother m280d

This slick sewing and embroidery machine from Brother has 125 built-in patterns, including 45 designs of Disney characters! It features a large LCD screen where you are able to combine designs and fonts of your choice for a unique finish. This would be ideal for children's clothes and gifts. In user reviews, it has been praised for its ease of use, even though it contains a vast amount of patterns and functions. This would make a brilliant addition to anyone who wants to try machine embroidery.

Best for: licensed Disney Character designs

Pros

  • 10 built-in fonts
  • My Custom Stitch feature - create your own 7mm wide decorative stitches
  • Combine patterns and edit on the LCD screen
  • It has a USB port so you are able to import your other designs
  • 181 sewing stitches, including 10, 1-step buttonholes
  • 10x10cm embroidery area
  • Combined embroidery and a regular sewing machine so takes up less space than owning two machines
  • It is self-threading and will tell you when the bobbin thread is almost empty

Cons

  • Reviews about the materials used have to be quite specific otherwise the needle will break
  • There is only 1 thread colour in the machine at a time, so user input will be required to embroider designs with more than 1 colour.

2. Bernina Bernette B79 Sewing & Embroidery Machine

embroidery machine

The little sister of the Bernina sewing machines. The Bernette will not only happily complete your embroidery tasks, but you'll also be able to sew with it. You can also take on free motion embroidery if you'd like – talk about multitasking! This versatile machine has a multitude of functions, yet is simple to operate for the newbie thanks to its use of the same interface as high-end Bernina models.

Best for: Ease of use and user interface

Pros

  • Embroider up to 180 x 260 mm in size
  • 3 hoop sizes are included
  • Sew Cutwork designs and any one of the 208 built-in designs.
  • Create a custom design.
  • Read/sew other embroidery file formats. eg (Pfaff vip and vp3), (Husqvarna hus), (Janome jef), (Brother pes) as well as exp, pec, dst file formats.
  • Dual feed

Cons

  • Switching from sewing mode to embroidery mode can be tricky, as you cannot sew with the embroidery arm on
  • There is only 1 thread colour in the machine at a time, so user input will be required to embroider designs with more than 1 colour

3. Silver Wifi embroidery machine CH03

digital embroidery machine silver

This powerhouse of an embroidery sewing machine is designed to be flexible to give you hundreds of options for all your sewing and embroidery machine needs, with 130 built-in stitch patterns, 70 built-in embroidery designs plus 100 extra on the included CD and the ability to wirelessly connect to your smart device, so you can add designs and control the machine via their downloadable app.

Pros

  • You get two different sizes of embroidery sets – the hoops that hold your fabric in place – so you can choose the right size for your design for the best tension.
  • The embroidery sewing machine can handle embroidery motifs of up to 18 x 12cm
  • The Stitch Pro software app makes it easy to combine motifs for custom design, and you can add more motifs using the included CD, or upload your own
  • Operates at 800 stitches per minute as a sewing machine, or 650 stitches per minute for embroidery
  • The horizontal top loading drop-in bobbin system makes it quick and easy to change the lower thread bobbin.
  • Also functions as a sewing machine with 130 stitches

Cons

  • There is only 1 thread colour in the machine at a time, so user input will be required to embroider designs with more than 1 colour.
  • There are only two built-in alphabet fonts included in the machine, so you'll find more monogramming options elsewhere, or you'll need to add these in
  • If you are not going to use the sewing machine functions, or already have a sewing machine, it adds cost to make this a combined embroidery sewing machine.
  • There is no in-built display screen, so you'll need to have a smart device to operate this machine

4. Janome Memory Craft 500E Embroidery machine

digital embroidery machine Janome

Here's a dedicated embroidery machine that many users say is the best embroidery machine for experienced machine embroiderers to try. This is because of its versatility with difficult fabrics. This is not an embroidery sewing machine, it is a dedicated embroidery machine, aiming to be the best digital embroidery machine to help you personalise pillowcases, clothing and accessories.

Best for: Experienced machine embroidery machine users

Pros

  • The digital embroidery machine works with all fabrics, including tricky fabrics like lycra stretch, activewear and denim.
  • Includes six different alphabet fonts, including ones for large scale letters so great options for monogramming.
  • The computerised embroidery machine has an in-built library of 180 embroidery designs, plus add more via the USB port or with the design tracing feature.
  • Convert multicoloured designs into a single colour with one click, so you can avoid rethreading the machine for speed.
  • Four hoops are included in the basic model so you can choose the right one for your project, up to a whopping 20 x 36cm.
  • The remaining stitch time is calculated and displayed.
  • 2 year manufacturers guarantee.
  • Larger display screen so less time spent scrolling through designs as more can be displayed at any time.

Cons

  • There is only 1 thread colour in the embroidery machine at a time, so user input will be required to embroider designs with more than 1 colour.
  • Its amazing array of features may be overwhelming for a beginner, so this may not be the best embroidery machine if it is your first one.
  • Large computerised embroidery machine that needs a large clear working area, especially when using the largest hoop, so perhaps not the best embroidery machine if you have a small craft space.

5. Brother NV870 embroidery machine

best digital embroidery machine brother NV870SE

This machine has one of the best built-in libraries we have seen at this price. It has 138 embroidery motifs and 13 different alphabets you can use to personalise your projects, and more available for you to add via the Brother website. As you'd expect from these machines, the Brother NV870 comes with a touch screen display. This machine boasts a colour touch screen, and lets you see a realistic preview of your finished design. There are some great features that make this the best digital embroidery machine in this price bracket!

Best for: cost value of in-built embroidery library designs

Pros

  • Large embroidery area of up to 16 x 26 cm embroidery area, with three hoops, included so you can choose the right one for your project.
  • 3 years manufacturer warranty
  • ability to load your own designs onto the machine via USB
  • 850 stitches per minute make this a fast machine
  • Auto needle threader and programmable jump stitch cutting function make starting and finishing stitching less time consuming
  • Quilting function with 7 built-in quilt designs. The included 150 x 150mm hoop is perfect for embroidering quilt blocks.
  • Preview your designs in full colour with a zoom view to see every detail of the design.
  • Automatic frame size detector automatically adjust the size of your embroidery area depending on the hoop you have fitted
  • Thread sensor warns you when the bobbin thread is low
  • Colour screen

Cons

  • A large machine with a 48x25cm footprint
  • There is only 1 thread colour in the machine at a time, so user input will be required to embroider designs with more than 1 colour.
  • Small display screen
  • You might not ever use the in-built quilting function if you are not a quilter

6. Brother Innovis V3 embroidery machine

best digital embroidery machine Brother V3

The Innovis v3 machine could be the best-computerised embroidery machine for you if you want to create larger designs but are not quite ready to commit to a multi-needle embroidery machine. It has a large 30 x 18cm embroidery area – and a lovely large colour display screen, too! It has the features of the NV870 but is a bit faster, slightly larger design area and bigger display screen, and with a larger design library. If you are committed to using an embroidery machine, we recommended this higher spec model over the other Brother models here. Its speed, larger size and easy-to-use screen are worth the extra financial investment.

Best for: Wide range of features

Pros

  • Easy threading, auto tension and thread sensors alert you to any problems
  • Fast 1050 stitches per minute embroidery speed
  • Big colour screen simple user interface and touch screen, for on the spot editing.
  • Automatic thread cutting for a tidy and professional finish
  • Over 200 built-in embroidery designs
  • Independent bobbin winder lets you spool up your next thread colour while the machine is stitching the previous one.
  • The horizontal top loading drop-in bobbin system makes it quick and easy to change the lower thread bobbin.
  • 3 year manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • Just a single needle machine means user input is required to create designs with more than 1 colour.
  • The extra-long arm gives you a large workspace (111/4”, 285 mm) which could benefit from a wider range of hoop sizes included in the pack – only 2 are included

7. Janome Memory Craft 550E

best digital embroidery machine Janome 55oE

The Janome 550 E brings you a larger working area of 20 x 36cm – larger than the Innovis v3 and the machine has a lower retail price too – as well as 4 different embroidery hoops! But it also has fewer features than the Innovis v3, and a smaller inbuilt library of embroidery motifs. But if you favour a larger embroidery area over the choice of motifs, this could be the best embroidery machine for you.

Best for: Large working area

Pros

  • Adjustable embroidery speed 400-860SPM – change to suit the thread you are using
  • Four hoops are included with the machine: RE36b Hoop 200 x 360mm (7.9 x 14.2”) RE20b Hoop 140 x 200mm (5.5 x 7.9”)SQ20b Hoop 200 x 200mm (7.9 x 7.9”) SQ14b Hoop 140 x 140mm (5.5 x 5.5”)
  • Design time and stitch counter indicator
  • Maximum embroidery area 200 x 360mm (7.9 x 14.2inches)
  • Design software is available which can convert artwork into stitches to make and load your own designs
  • large full-colour display screen
  • Built-in 180 embroidery designs, plus 6 embroidery fonts
  • Auto return post thread break so the machine can continue after a break

Cons

  • Louder machine than the Innovis V3
  • There is only 1 thread colour in the machine at a time, so user input will be required to embroider designs with more than 1 colour.

8. Brother PE535 Embroidery Machine

Best digital embroidery machine PCS535

Buy from Joanns

Here's a dedicated embroidery machine deal that will make you smile if you are based in America. But it will make you unhappy if you are in the UK - we are sorry! But when Joanns started selling the Brother PCE535 digital embroidery machine at 33% off at the beginning of 2021, we just had to add it to our roundup. This is an older model now but has some brilliant features at a very affordable price. If you are looking for a low-price, entry-level machine to help you learn the ropes of a computerised embroidery machine, this could well be the best embroidery machine for you.

Best for: American starter machine embroiders

Pros

  • Full-colour large display screen makes it easy to see what your finished design will look like
  • Touch screen function on display screen for user-friendly interface
  • Low entry-level price point
  • 25 year limited warranty
  • 80 built-in designs, 10 frame patterns, and nine font styles
  • You can add more design via the USB port

Cons

  • Small 4x4in embroidery area. You can purchase larger hoops to expand this
  • 3 of the font styles are in Japanese, which is not useful if you won't use Japanese fonts

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

embroidery sewing machine FS100

This embroidery sewing machine is geared up to excel at free-motion embroidery too. This is something you can do with most sewing machines, but this machine comes with a dedicated free motion embroidery foot. This makes it especially useful for quilters who want a combined embroidery sewing machine for a real wealth of sewing machine functions. However, although this is an embroidery sewing machine, with an alphabet set for monogramming included in the machine, that is the limit of its embroidery machine functions. There is no hoop included, and no option to purchase and add one – monogramming uses a dedicated monogram, in foot. So this is more of a specialised quilting sewing machine, with some limited embroidery options.

Best for: Quilters dabling in machine embroidery

Pros

The basic pack includes an extension table, giving you a larger working surface for sewing, great to help you control quilts when sewing or free motion embroidering

  • Brilliant machine for quilters and free motion embroiderers
  • 100 stitches including loads of options for decorative stitching
  • 8 buttonholes for sewing
  • 3 year warranty included

Cons

  • A single alphabet set with upper case letters only comprise the only embroidery options
  • No embroidery hoop function, only a monogramming foot
  • No option to use for any digital embroidery designs beyond the included upper case alphabet set

Best embroidery machine thread

We hope you have found our best embroidery machine reviews helpful. If you are not sure which is the best embroidery machine thread to use in your machine, we recommend check out what the manufacturer advices for your particular machine. It is best to avoid the very cheapest non-branded embroidery machine thread, as these are typically very think and break easily. A poor quality thread that breaks and produces lots of fluff can clog up your machine in the long term. In the short term, a break is very frustrating and will slow you down!

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More machine embroidery on Gathered

We hope you found the embroidery machine you were looking for in our round up! If you'd like to upload some fancy new designs to your embroidery machine, check out these beautiful Free machine embroidery designs, from the Love Embroidery team. You'll find a a playful mushroom and even lovely lace earrings. Try our free motion embroidery projects, too.

Authors

Hannah BellisKnitting Editor, Gathered

Hannah has worked on Gathered for 3 years, since our launch in 2019. At school Hannah learned to knit collaborating on dorcas blankets – now she edits our knitting section. She inherited her love of stitching and embroidery from her talented grandmother, and her passion for thread led her to be Editor of The World of Cross Stitching for six years. Card making is a more recent passion, developing from her position as editor of Cross Stitch Card Shop. She loves using kinetic techniques to make cards that move – she was editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine for over four years, creating loads of card making video tutorials at www.youtube.com/PapercraftTV.

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