I'm looking at buying an embroidery machine (or more specifically my partner is). We only have one real hard requirement:

The machine must be capable to accepting a pattern from our computer that we can make out of a photograph/image.

I'm sure we'll need some software to convert the images, but otherwise how should we pick a machine. What are good figures of merit for a sewing and embroidery machine (And why do the prices vary so vastly from around £300 to £10,000)?

For example when choosing a processor for a computer a good figure of merit for scientific computing is the number of threads multiplied by the clock speed. It doesn't have to be any fancy combination of specification, but I can't really tell the difference between the low end and the high end so I'm missing something!

  • 1
    One difference could be the size of the emroider-able area (how big the hoop is). I don't know enough about embroidery machines to know if that's the difference, though!
    – user812786
    Apr 19, 2017 at 19:18
  • @whrrgarbl I'm guessing that some machines may also manage more than one color of thread at a time, some may be faster than others, have a wider array of stitch types, a broader pre-installed collection of techniques/fonts/patterns, amount of memory, size of the screen... etc.
    – Catija
    Apr 19, 2017 at 20:01

2 Answers 2


It isn't the machine selection that matters so much as the software available for a particular machine and the ability of that software to digitize a photographic image into the the correct form.

My sister has a couple machines with which I've assisted in the software on multiple instances. One in particular was the conversion of a photograph of a fluffy dog to an embroidery file.

The software supplied with the machine varied depending on the price paid. She purchased a more-deluxe version and it had the image digitizing feature.

Be advised that photographs are quite complex and can result in thousands of stitches of various colors. For a single needle machine it will also result in that many changes of colors of threads. Obviously, the number of thread changes will be reduced by a factor directly associated by the needle count.

Resolution is going to impact your job size as well. The lower resolution image will "print" faster, with fewer color changes.

The aforementioned fluffy dog was reduced to black and white and became somewhat blocky, but was still recognizable as the dog of the person receiving the gift.

The price differences for one machine to the next will have to do with the capacity of the computer controlled hoop, the overall speed, the additional features (wifi, display size, etc) and the number of needles.

Our area (USA) has many sales representatives within retail shops who are frequently happy to sell machines and talk them up a good bit. You will also find it valuable to frequent the forums specific to a machine you are considering and view the problems, questions and solutions others have posted.


To build on rfred_dot_u's answer/comments about the complexity of transferring a photograph into an embroidery image: it might be useful to think of this problem as taking your photograph and turning it into a paint-by-numbers image.

Colored threads do not blend into each other, they are discrete colors (hue, shade, intensity). From a distance they will appear more “photographic,” but up close, say looking at an embroidered shirt someone is wearing, the image will look more like paint-by-numbers. And that analogy assumes that these machines have far more thread color capacity than they actually do.

Check out the Brother link below. Brother has some of the best home embroidery machines available, although there are other good ones. At least this site will familiarize you with types of embroidery machines on the market. For example, Brother’s top tier machine, Entrepreneur® Pro PR1000e, can use up to ten thread colors (compared to most good machines that can only use 6), and can embroider from 400-1,000 stitches per minute.

An optional upgrade kit (PRPUGK1), includes Scanning, Color Shuffling™, Auto Density Adjustment and more. This option kit is available as an additional purchase. Much more detail and specs are available online.


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