Embroidery Machines 101: How to Use Them and What to Make

There are four essential things you need to know.


I only recently got into machine embroidery. My introduction to them started when I was sent a Brother sewing machine that had an embroidery attachment and, once I completed my first embroidered project, I fell in love! I will admit that I was a little nervous at first since I had never used this kind of functionality on a sewing machine before, but once I read through the manual and got comfortable with the frame and settings, it was easy.

Adjust and Secure Parts

If you are using a combination sewing and embroidery machine, there are some adjustments that need to be made when switching functions. Before you begin, ensure that the machine is turned off and unplugged from the circuit. First, switch out the presser foot to a darning or freehand embroidery foot. You can also just attach this foot, lower the feed dogs, and use your hands to embroider freehand. To use computerized embroidery, you will need an embroidery frame, they come in various sizes. The larger your embroidery design, the larger the frame you will need. You may also need to switch out the arm. To do this, simply pull out and click in the embroidery arm, which is attached to the frame.

Insert an Embroidery Needle

For any embroidery project, it's essential to use an embroidery-specific machine needle. This needle helps prevent thread breakage while embroidering. For the thread, you can use regular thread, but embroidery thread has a lovely sheen to it and makes your embroidery design really pop and look professional. For the embroidery design, you can use a pre-programmed design on your machine, or if you machine has a USB port you can download embroidery designs online and import them to your machine.

Raymond Hom

Setup Fabric and Embroidery Thread

Before inserting an embroidery frame into the machine, you must first set up your fabric in the frame. If your fabric is thin, you may also have to use a stabilizer. Lay your fabric over the bottom frame - it can be a piece of fabric that will turn into a pocket or patch, an already cutout pattern piece, or a finished garment. Place the top frame over the fabric and push to click or lock into the frame. Then, turn the dial or knob to tighten the frame and make sure it is secure. You may need to use a screw driver to get it nice and tight. Additionally, pull up on the sides of the fabric to make sure it is not loose in the frame.

Flip up the latch, slide the frame into the embroidery arm, and click back down to secure and lock into place. Double check that no other fabric is caught under the frame, and that your bobbin is fully loaded. Match the bobbin thread to the main or feature embroidery thread color or the fabric. Select your embroidery design whether it is pre-loaded or from a USB drive. Most embroidery machines will allow you to experiment adjusting the size of the design and positioning within the frame. You can also select the colors according to the threads you have to preview what your design will look like.

Embroider Your Fabric

When everything is set, look to see which thread color is first in the line up and thread it through the needle and press start. There will be an embroidery sequence on the screen and the machine will stop once each thread color is complete. Simply lift the presser foot, change the thread color, and hit start again until all the colors are complete! Once the embroidery is complete, lift the latch and slide out the embroidery frame. Use a small pair of scarp scissors or embroidery scissors and clip all the loose threads. Clip them as close as you can to the embroidery. Finally give your embroidery a press, the frame can significantly crease the fabric surrounding the embroidery.

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Here is an example of machine embroidery used on a bomber jacket. For this one, I cut the sleeve pattern out of the fabric and then inserted into the embroidery frame. It was easiest to work with the flat sleeve pattern before sewing it. For this jacket, I actually embroidered on a black twill and cut out the embroidery that I then hand stitched to the jacket. This works well when you have a tricky fabric like velvet to work with. Most fabrics with a high pile are difficult to embroider smoothly.

With these easy-to-follow instructions, you'll be using your embroidery machine in no time. Watch how Martha uses her machine:

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