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...