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Embroidery machines are specially designed sewing machines used to automatically create a design from a pre-made pattern that is inserted into the machine. Most embroidery machines today are driven by computers that read digitized embroidery files created by special software. Please note: see our section on “Embroidery Digitizing” for more information on this process.

The term “machine embroidery” can actually mean two different actions. First, a regular sewing machine is used to manually create (either freehand or with built-in stitches) a design on a piece of fabric or other foundation. The second definition is to use a specially designed embroidery machine driven by a computer, as described in the above paragraph. With the advancement of computerized embroidery machines, the main use of manual machine embroidery is in fiber art, quilting or to embellish garments. The ease and decreasing cost of computerized embroidery machines has made using them much more popular in recent years. Some machines are for embroidery only, while other machines are a combination of embroidery and sewing. Embroidery machines can range in price from $200 all the way to more than $125,000 for a large-scale commercial model. Most average home embroidery machines can be purchased for $500 to $8000. Advanced features on embroidery machines that are becoming more widely available include a large color touch screen, a USB interface, design editing software on the machine, embroidery advisor software, and design file storage systems. Commercial embroidery machines can be purchased as 1, 2, 4, 6, 12, 15, and 18 head machines. Industrial embroidery machines are now available from 12 to 56 head models. These machines are quite expensive. Some embroidery machine manufacturers include Tajima from Japan, Cedars Company and Melco Embroidery Systems, which is the only manufacturer of commercial embroidery machines in the United States.

These are the steps for using a computerized embroidery machine:

Purchase or create a digitized embroidery design file.
Edit the design and/or combine with other designs (if you wish - this is optional.)
Load the final design file into the computerized embroidery machine.
Stabilize the fabric and place it into the machine.
Start the embroidery machine and carefully monitor your artwork.

Stabilizing fabric is the name of the process used to prevent wrinkles and other problems with fabric. The method of stabilizing used depends largely on the type of machine used, the fabric type and design density. Most often one or more additional pieces of material called "stabilizers" or "interfacing" are added beneath and/or on top of the fabric. Many types of stabilizers exist, including cut-away, tear-away, vinyl, nylon, water-soluble, heat-n-gone, adhesive, open mesh, or a combination of these. For smaller items to be embroidered, the item is hooped, and the hoop is attached to the machine. There is a mechanism on the machine (usually called an arm) that then moves the hoop under the needle.


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