If you have just started sewing and embroidering, chances are you are doing so by hand or with manual machines. You can make things easier for yourself and even start a business by investing in the right machinery.
Contrary to popular belief, sewing and embroidery is usually done on separate machines- unless you can get your hands on a unit that does both.
However, before you can understand what makes those machines distinct, you have to understand what makes embroidery different from sewing.
How Embroidery Works...
While sewing is based on construction, embroidery is used purely to add decorations to a piece of fabric.
You need to use thicker thread since it is strong enough to be used to create specific patterns, logos, lettering, etc. This can be done on almost any type of fabric and can also be used to create elaborate stitch-work, depending on the machine you have.
Embroidery thread or floss comes in spools, rather than hanks, and is either made from rayon or polyester but it can also be made from nylon. These are usually made of 6 strands that are twisted together to remain durable and can also be separated for use.
Compared to sewing thread, which can be duller since it is made from cotton/polyester, embroidery thread has a brighter sheen. This is understandable since it is used purely to make the fabric stand out with unique designs.
Plus, it is also designed to function at high speeds if it is used in machines and comes in a wide variety of colors.
In other words, sewing focuses on substance while embroidery focuses on style and design.
The former allows you to create clothes and other garments, but the latter is the one that makes them sellable or stand out.
Think about it. Would you like to buy a plain cushion cover or one that has beautiful flowers embroidered on it? Even a simple design on a collar can make a shirt worth more!
If you have an electronic machine, you can use the software it came with to download patterns right into it. You just need to hook it up to your PC and the internet. When a file is ready it is translated into an embroidery card or the number of stitches it contains.
This is a program that is made automatically via the software and it is basically a digital blueprint that shows where the stitches have to be.
Types of Embroidery Machines
Computerized Embroidery Machines – These machines can be used to complete complex stitches for more intricate designs without the need of intervention.
All you need to do is pick the settings you need and watch the machine do the rest. One such example is the Brother PE525 Embroidery Machine.
Single Head/Multi Head, Multi Needle Machine – While single head and needle machines are perfect for simple projects such as simple stitching, you need single head, multi needle machines for complex embroidery designs such as the CAMFive CFHS- CT1502 10H.
These machines usually have 4 to 10 needles and each has its own thread color which allows users to make multi-color designs without you lifting a finger. In other words, you won’t have to change the thread to a different color each time like you would have to with a single head/needle machine.
Free Motion Embroidery Machine – This machine is purely commercial and uses a zigzag pattern to create uniform designs on multiple pieces of fabric at a time.
However, operators have to stop and reload thread multiple times as it runs out.
How Sewing Works...
When you sew, you use thread to attach two pieces of fabric to make a functional garment. This technique focuses on functionality and structure to follow a pattern in order to create a design.
When you stitch by hand, you can get a lot more detail, but a sewing machine is perfect if you want uniform stitching a bulk order or when you are sewing drapes.
The needles used in sewing vary in size depending on the weight of the fabric it is used on and the stitching techniques applied.
The thread can either be silk, which is used in custom or couture sewing, but most beginners use common ones such as cotton, a polyester, cotton/polyester combo, or nylon.
Most garments are sewn using the cotton/polyester combo while nylon is used on outdoor garments due to its durability.
The more weight a piece of garment has, the smaller the thread will be. Most sewing is done with 40 to 50 wt, especially by quilters.
Types of Sewing Machines
Mechanical or Domestic Sewing Machines – Also known as threading and tailoring machines, these sewing machines (such as the Brother Sewing and Quilting Machine) are best for beginners who want to learn how to sew properly. The settings on these have to be tweaked manually.
For example, you need to use the Switch Width dial at the position where the needle is in the center of the stitch plate which covers the stitching area of the machine.
Electronic Sewing Machines – As the name implies, these sewing machines are a combination of mechanical and computerized sewing machines.
Naturally, they come with a ton of features such as in-built stitch capabilities, a built-in needle threader, etc, which you may not have to adjust manually. One of these includes the aptly named Brother Project Runway Sewing Machine.
Computerized Sewing Machines – These sewing machines are computerized which can be connected to a PC and the internet. Ones like the Juki HZL-F600 are ideal for commercial purposes since they have an inbuilt stitch capacity of 50 to 200.
Unlike their mechanical counterparts which can only perform basic stitches, these have a range of stitching styles that are recorded in their in-built memory cards.
Plus, a computerized sewing machine can also save the patterns you make so you can use them as reference later.
Embroidery Machine vs Sewing Machine
As a beginner, you should try and dabble in both sewing and embroidery to get holistic training. As a business owner, you should invest in machinery that can help you create elegant masterpieces fast.
You can sew and embroider on separate machines but you can get the best of both worlds with a combo machine.
A sewing machine is designed specifically for tailoring garments of different complexities. Depending on the model you get you can get different seams ranging from the simplest to the decorative.
When designing extra detailed décor or to create artistic designs on fabric, you should consider getting an embroidery machine.
While you cannot use these to sew, an embroidery machine can be used to create intricate designs using a number of techniques such as smooth (stitching that does not have puckered seams) and cross stitches (x-shaped stitches).
If you have a computerized embroidery unit, you can employ the different presets and connect it to a PC to download more schemes.
You can use a sewing machine to tailor clothes, redesign fabric to create different outfits, and even add additional elements such as fur, lace, ribbons etc to make it stand out.
An embroidery machine can be used to add the cherry on top so to speak. Breathe new life into old clothes or fabric with simple embroidery and you can end up saving money on clothes as well.
Depending on the machine you have, you can make the finished product really shine with elaborate or simple design work. Plus, you can reduce chances of errors by getting a fully automated machine which you do not have to be tech savvy to use effectively.
Like manual sewing machines, you will also be using a hoop while working with an embroidery unit. This stretches the fabric as you design to reduce errors.
The hoop moves along a path that is pre-installed by software. All you need to do is upload the picture you want to recreate with the machine on your PC, choose the required hoop size, choose and fill in the thread needed and you are off.
There are a number of useful features in embroidery machines that you can use to make your job easier. The upper thread can be threaded and trimmed automatically and the thread can break off when it needs to by itself as well.
This can save you a lot of time and effort without compromising on the design quality since it can prevent the thread from contracting.
Dual Purpose Machines
You can get dedicated embroidery machines that only focus on design but believe it or not, you can also get units that can also sew.
These usually have a removable embroidery unit to ensure the machine can fulfill any sewing requirement.
Some embroidery machines also come with sewing attachments but that does not mean you should get one if you don’t plan on using both.
Ask yourself whether you just want to sew or do you just want to embroider premade garments. The answer will be important since you may end up spending more on a machine that you do not need at all.
On the other hand, if you do not have space to accommodate 2 machines, you should consider investing in a combo.
Wrapping It Up...
Sewing and embroidery can be an enjoyable pastime but the machines you use to do either will have an impact on how creative you can be.
While a simple machine can help you make minor repairs or create basic designs, an elaborate setup can be used to make stunning outfits and products that can result in a business empire.
Why not get the best of both worlds then and opt for a combination machine? It just costs a tad bit more than a single good embroidery or sewing machine and since it is computerized, you can do both in half the time it usually takes.
This will also save you money and effort down the line which you can re-direct into expanding your business.