I’ve been learning lots about my newish embroidery machine and software. Those of you that have been following along (thank you) often ask about my machine and process. I thought it may be useful to have a more thorough review then just an amazon link.
I have a Brother Designio Series DZ820E Embroidery Only Machine(affiliate amazon link). I understand that she is a sister machine of the Brother PE770 5×7 inch Embroidery-only machine (affiliate amazon link) with a few extra accessories and thread. If I was not being so impulsive and had spent more time shopping, I may have realized how close they were and went with the PE770. I didn’t shop around a ton, here was my requirements list that this machine met:
- Cost less than $750 with prices published and easy to compare with different vendors
- A minimum of 5×7 hoop size
- USB port for transferring files
- Embroidery only (I didn’t want to deal with multiple feet, feed dogs, and other sewing machine features)
- Multiple speeds, on screen stitch adjustments
- Touch screen LCD
- Needle threader, thread cutter, drop in bobbin loading
- Brand name that I’m familiar with and has well received support
- Readily available commercial embroidery files and patterns
I’m getting close to 1,250,000 stitches and so far I’m very happy with the machine. I do keep it running at the lower stitch speed because I find it does a nicer job especially with the tiny letters. I’m using a box of 200 pre-wound bobbins I bought and they work great. I’ve only had a few issues with thread shearing and breaking, but don’t find it excessive. It handles metallics beautifully when a metallic needle is used. I’m using the 4×4 and 5×7 hoops that came with the machine and I have no complaints about them. I’m sure the higher end machines have all sorts of features I’d think I needed, but without knowing they exist, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.
I have had to contact Brother support for what turned out to be a user error. They were excellent. They answered the phone, walked through the issue with me, resolved it quickly, and followed up. I was so impressed that as much as I love my Janome and Elna machines, I may switch my brand loyalty and look at Brother first for any new purchases.
My favorite thing:
I’m so glad I bought an embroidery only machine and have my sewing machine separate. Some of these files can take quite a while to stitch out and it is nice to be able to keep working on other things while I wait. It makes me feel super efficient to have TWO machine whirring away!
My least favorite thing:
It drives me absolutely nuts that it doesn’t show the file name on the LCD screen. When there are four very similar files I have to remember they are in alphabetic order then try to remember what I called them. I’ve started only putting one or two files on at a time to avoid the confusion.
My Software, Embrid
If you’re embroidery naive as I was, you may not realize that to create custom embroidery files you need an embroidery software package. There are lots of them out there and when you’re just stepping into the world of embroidery it is overwhelming and exhausting to search them out. Y’all – some of these software packages are crazy expensive. Like “I don’t care if it washes my floors and mows the yard no freaking way” expensive. I had such a hard time trying to figure out how to pick one that has all of the features I’m interested in and is a price I can live with. I’m not even sure how I landed on Embrid, but after I downloaded it, tried it for 30 days, and started getting comfortable with it I decided to just keep on using it.
It isn’t the most beautiful of slickest software I’ve ever seen, but it works and works well. So far anything I’ve wanted to try has been described in the manual or with support videos. It moves quickly, builds vectors well, and I have yet to hit a limitation. It also converts to just about any machine format you can think of. It has a packaging option that creates more commercial like .zip files with templates, color sheets, and multiple file types.
One of the things that really appealed to me about Embird is the modular purchase approach. I bought Basic Embird first. With basic you can manage your files, view them on the computer, make adjustments and changes to existing patterns, and convert them between types. It also has a sewing simulation that I found really useful. I’m so visual and practical, it helps me to see it stitch on my screen before it actually does on my machine. The basic software fit my needs for a good long while and really helped me understand if it was something I wanted to pursue before making a huge investment. Eventually I found that I wanted to do more design work with vectors and custom line art and added the Digitizing tools of Studio module. The Digitizing tools allow me to create the custom vectors and applique objects. There is a module for automatically converting pictures to stitches, Sfumato Stitch, but I’ve neither tried or purchased it. For the Harry Potter quilt, I’ve added the Font Engine that converts any of my Windows Fonts into a embroidery objects. I do find that the font converter has the biggest learning curve. It is super easy to use, but this is a case of just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Some fonts don’t translate to embroidery well and some need a little help connecting and sizing. It gets much easier with practice for sure. After the Harry Potter quilt, I may add the cross stitch module to try it out. Seems like it would be lots of fun and good way to get some of those patterns I have lying around stitched out!
I have found the Embird folks to be responsive. I have not had to contact them for support, but don’t feel like it would be an issue. Everything I’ve wanted to try is in the manual or on the web. There’s a pretty big user community and I’ve found lots of helpful youtube videos and tutorials to help me think more like an embroidery machine. Craftsy has some nice classes available too.
Update: December 17, 2015
I have had to contact Embrid support and work though an issue. It ended up being my problem, but they did stick with me via email and answer all of my questions until the issue was resolved. I’ve also written an extensive post about my current digitizing process. If you’d like to read more, check it out!
Commercial Embroidery Files
Maybe you love embroidery, but don’t love the design work. I highly recommend the following commercial design sellers
OMG, Urban Threads, how I love thee. These ladies really live right in my wheel house and are constantly creating designs I absolutely love. I’ve purchased a bunch and I’ve been happy with all of them. they stitch out beautifully, their instructions are clear and well written including printable downloads, and they are amazing artists. Seriously, have you seen this? No! Click that previous link! Amazing.
iBrodiery.com is Brother’s embroidery design shop. It isn’t the most intuitive website I’ve ever used, but it is a pretty huge library. I added them as one of my favorites because they do have a lot of exclusive licenses like Disney and Nickelodeon. IMHO, the designs are a bit overpriced, but the occasional purchase of a licensed character for just the right person is worth it. I have three and all three stitched beautifully. These are surely professional designs. Also – support rocks. One thing to bear in mind – these designs do have DRM and will be licensed to you and your machine. They do not travel from one Brother to another.
I love browsing Embroidery Library. I think they are a more traditional sister of Urban Threads. They just have SO MANY designs in just about any subject you can think of. I don’t know that they are so “my style” as I haven’t purchased a ton of them, but I do love to look for inspiration and honing my own ideas.
One day in the not too distant future
I’m still learning a lot about using the digitizing software. I know I have a lot of miles to go to be professional like and capture all of the details, but I’m definitely developing a process. If you guys are interested, just say so and one day soon I’ll write up a post with the general steps I take to go from idea to correctly sized embroidery file. UPDATE DECEMBER 17, 2015: Look at that – I did! Here’s a process post.
So what say you Embroidery People?
Do you have a site you love, a machine you love, or software you love?