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I've been looking at embroidery machines.

I've come to one conclusion. I'm not buying an embroidery machine any time soon. First of all, they cost more than I've spent on a car (yeah, I'm cheap when it comes to vehicles). I would really need to sit down and fiddle with the software, create a few designs and run them before I'd be satisfied that I'm getting my money's worth.

There's one shop that might let me do this with a Viking Designer SE. I'd probably have a hard time talking someone to let me do the same with a Bernina Artista 730E, a Brother Innov-is 4000D or a BabyLock Ellegante (all of which come off the same production line).

Husqvarna and Brother (BabyLock/Bernina) are the market leaders, and I know a little bit about them. I don't know enough about the Pfaff creative 2170 or the Elna Xquisit (which is kind of a shame, since I like older machines of both brands) to even know whether they're worth considering. The Janome MemoryCraft 11000 (which definitely suffers from model number inflation) boasts a huge screen, but again I don't know much about it. Juki (a perennial favorite of mine) doesn't even offer an embroidery machine. I'm not even bothering with the lower-tier brands.

But I'm not buying one anyway.

So the question is: Anybody have any good resources on "thread painting" or other sorts of free-motion embroidery that they can suggest? I've got the right features and feet on both my ancient Pfaff and my ancient Elna to do free-motion work. If the techniques aren't too hard or mind-numbing, it's worth it to save the $5-6k...


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2006 08:52 am (UTC)
To not answer you question:

dianec42 and I had a chat about embroidery machines and she ended up with a Singer Futura. It seams to be a cross between a sewing machine and a USB plotter for your PC. I have only been saved from getting one by not having an Intel Mac - yet! Course when I do have buy the intel mac I will be saved by the fact I am now broke.

and a few following posts but providing a link to just eh public ones is defeating me.

Have not heard much how she got on though... but she has read the manual!
Aug. 16th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)
I owned the last good machine Singer ever made, a 1970's Futura II 920. I sold it to a friend when I bought an older Pfaff. I still own what is likely the last good serger Singer ever made, a "made in Japan" Singer 14u13 from the early 80s.

I've got no interest in new Singer machines. Many hours swearing at newer Singer machines and sergers convinced me of that.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 05:06 am (UTC)
Futura II 920 reputation

Could I ask a question about the Futura II 920?

A neighbor just gave me a Futura II 920 (made in 1974) with all the accoutrements that used to be his grandmother's.

Getting it tuned up and possibly a top gear replaced could run from $70 to $129.

My sewing machine mechanic says the 920 is top of the line. I like its features. However, seeing old Pfaffs that would meet my needs also going on ebay for around the upper end of what I might need to put into this one (minus shipping) . . any advice?

I primarily sew lightweight backpacking gear for personal use. The heaviest stuff I need to get through is flexible nylon webbing.


Nov. 2nd, 2006 05:51 am (UTC)
Re: Futura II 920 reputation
I occasionally have moments when I regret getting rid of my Futura 920. I mostly got rid of it because I didn't have the space for it and a friend of mine needed a better machine.

The Futura II 920 is an excellent machine. If you trust your shop, get it fixed. It's got some really cool features. The in-place bobbin winding actually works. The chain-stitch dealie (which goes in instead of the bobbin) really works (although the chain side is on the bottom side of the fabric, not the top).

I haven't seen Pfaff 332, 360, 362, 1212 or 1222 machines going for anywhere near $130 on eBay (the complete ones often go for over $175 plus shipping). Feature-wise, I would rank it above the Elna Star and Air Electronic Supermatics. Both the Elna and Pfaffs mentioned are sturdier, but the Futura II 920 is plenty reliable.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Futura II 920 reputation
Thanks a ton Andrew. That's very helpful. Also, am I right to figure four layers of denim as the max for this machine?
Aug. 15th, 2006 10:02 am (UTC)
If it's not in the hard-up-for-cash-very-immediate-future, would you be interested in co-owning an embroidery machine? We see you guys often enough and we don't live horrendously far apart... :p
Aug. 16th, 2006 01:09 am (UTC)
No, it's more of a "I don't see the point of spending that much money when I'm not doing that much sewing."
Aug. 15th, 2006 02:52 pm (UTC)
I own a Pfaff creative 2124, which is the cheapest Pfaff embroidery machine (the 2170 is the most expensive), and a copy of Autodigitizing software (since gone out of business).

I'm happy with the 2124 so far, and have used it successfully for some quite large/complex designs (getting up toward 20k stitches). I also used the same machine to sew a houseful of curtains (including heavy blackout backings), and the IDT direct feed gives excellent results. I don't own a serger, but the 2124 (and hence all the models up from that) has a quasi-overlock stitch which finishes pre-cut edges nicely.

However. I've seriously been considering upgrading to the 2170, for a couple of reasons: the 2124 inputs designs via a smart card, whereas the models up from that use USB and their firmware is upgradeable via the web. (I hear, but have no way of verifying, that you can download the firmware upgrade for the 2170 into the 2140 or 2144 and thus end up with a cheap 2170.) Also, the models up from the 2124 can use Pfaff's endless hoop, which I want so very much. A major project I have in mind requires custom embroidery running all along (quite lengthy) hems.
Aug. 15th, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC)
Bah. I ALSO meant to add (but didn't because the morning Bucket O'Java hasn't kicked in yet), that if you had any designs you wanted to modify I could see what I could do with them in Autodigitizing. Also if there was anything you wanted to stitch out, if you didn't mind the drive to Redwood Shores, mi machina es su machina.
Aug. 15th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
A couple of years ago I decided to get a starter embroidery machine before I invested in a higher-end one. I figured if I found I didn't use the thing much, I wouldn't be out too much money and would stop hankering for a big fancy one.

I got a reconditioned Brother PE-170D from a very reputable dealer on eBay. When the first machine had a problem a month after I got it, they sent me a new one before I'd returned the defective one! That one has worked like a charm, no problems.

And I invested a very small sum of money in software: Thred http://www.thredworks.com/ allows me to digitize designs. It can be labor-intensive, but I consider it a good learning experience so I know what goes into making a good embroidery design. It was very cheap when I got it, now I see it's freeware. And Embird http://www.embird.biz/sw/embird/index.htm lets me alter and combine designs. Optionally it has more advanced digitizing modules but I haven't felt the need to spend the money on many of them so far. Thred and Embird are from different companies but are designed to work together.

And lastly I got an 'Ultimate Box' which is a device that allows you to take designs off your computer and put them on your machine's memory card.

All of that cost me only about $2,000. And yes, I have used it, a lot. I'm very happy with it. My only regret is that the embroidery size is limited to 4" x 4" with this machine, but with Embird I can split designs and re-hoop the fabric to do larger designs. Once again, more labor intensive, but so far I haven't felt that getting a bigger or fancier machine would be cost-effective for me, unless I win the lottery.

If you come to the masquerade next Friday(!), take a look at the pink dress Lynn Kingsley will be wearing. I spent over a month digitizing the designs and doing the embroidery on it. And probably no one will notice, which was the idea.
Aug. 16th, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
My husband has reminded me that the total cost was actually closer to $1,000.
Aug. 15th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
I'd definately consider what size hoop you can use with each machine a really important consideration. A general rule of thumb is that the lower end models have smaller hoop capabilities, the higher up you go, the bigger hoop you can use.

The only machine I have any direct experience with is AJ's Babylock Ellageo. Her model you can use 6x10 workable area (the hoop itself is a lot bigger, but the program doesn't allow you to get a certain distance from the hoop.) The newer model of the Ellageo allows a 7x11 I think?

The embroidery pictures I'm posting in hcc_cosplay are all done in a 6x10 workable area. The skirt panels, are obviously quite a bit bigger than that, so you have to rehoop it, upload the new section, and try your hardest to line it up. I've gotten pretty good at it, but it's a LONG learning process.

I don't know much about the software (AJ takes my photoshop files and converts them, then uploads them to the machine), but apparently Huskyvarna's software is more sophisticated.
Aug. 15th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
I'm very fond of my Husqvarna/Viking Designer II, for what that's worth. And I'll have it with me at WorldCon with the software if you want to take a look at how it works. :) (Err... as long as it's after Masquerade.) It's got up to I think a 6x14 hoop (and then the Endless Hoop, which is tons of fun!).

Alas, I know nothing about free-motion embroidery yet, so I will unfortunately have to abstain on answering your real question...
Aug. 15th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
I've actually wanted to fool around with free-hand machine embroidery. I know that I will have to get a special foot and feed dogs and a hoop. I'm guessing it's like sketching, but with a machine. I'm sure it will yield some interesting results.
Aug. 16th, 2006 01:08 am (UTC)
It's possible (from what I've seen) to do free-motion embroidery using a darning-foot setup (which I've got for both machines) or with no foot at all. If you're using a foot, the machine needs to be able to drop or cover the feed dogs or set them to a true "0" setting.

Any ordinary (wood or plastic) embroidery hoop, 6-8" should work for free-motion embroidery. I put up a ton of del.icio.us bookmarks for resources.
Aug. 16th, 2006 07:59 am (UTC)
Wwow, cool links!

I'm sewing on a Juki, so there's all these fancy feet available, plus I can remove/change the feed dogs so that will make it all the more possible.

I'll have to wait until after I return from Burning Man before I can play with this. But I'm looking forward to some silly designs. :+)
Aug. 16th, 2006 08:07 am (UTC)
If you are not using a foot I found that the fabric had to be looped very tight and not have much stretch in it. Otherwise it tended to pull up with the needle when you were near the middle of the hoop and not form the stitch right. My main problem is I can draw on computer - just not in real life - so the results were best described as a bit 'abstract'.
Aug. 28th, 2006 02:58 am (UTC)
I have a Pfaff 7570 and a new Pfaff 2170 that I got for Christmas. I love my 2170! I also love my 7570 but the difference between them is amazing. The technology of the new machiens are amazing. I will warn you to ask alot of questions. Some of the machiens don't have a very good track record for the amount of times they need repairs. That is fne while they are under the first part of the warranty but when you start having to pay for service yourself that can start costing alot of $$! I've owned my 7570 since 1998 and she has never needed any repairs. She does go once a year for an internal cleaning/tune up but that should eb done for any computerized sewing machine. If you have any questions about the 2170 I'll try to answer them.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )