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My First Embroidery Machine, and I Am In Love
on October 23, 2013
I've been doing basic machine sewing and hand-embroidery for years, but this is my first time trying an embroidery machine. So, this review is from a beginner's perspective, without any previous machines for comparison.
The good news is, for beginners, this may look intimidating when you pull it out of the box but is relatively easy to set up! If you've never used a horizontally-set upper thread spool, that may be a small learning curve; it's awkward at first but not complicated. Because the awesome little bonus-pack included some pre-wound bobbins, I skipped over the bobbin winding instructions for now. I did not know that machine embroidery requires a different type of bobbin thread! It includes a larger spool of white bobbin thread to get you started, even without the pre-wound ones. Threading the bobbin is a piece of cake, just like my regular Brother it's a quick drop-in - just make sure the thread is going the right direction (there are diagrams on the machine, don't worry!). The Quick Reference Guide for Upper Threading is pretty confusing though, because it begins step 1 with connecting the carriage, turning it on, opening the cover, etc. So, by the time you get to actually threading the machine, the book is #10 while the corresponding numbers on the machine start with #1. Not insurmountable, but a little confusing. It has a few more steps than threading a regular sewing machine, but it's not very different.
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EDITED FROM ORIGINAL REVIEW: It took me quite a while to figure out the automatic threader, I broke a lot of threads and a couple of nails trying to get it to work. After about 30 little projects (with multiple colors of thread in each), I think I've got it! You have to make sure the thread has securely gone through the little "snap" next to the needle to hold it in place, thread it around the side (there's a diagram) and hold it LOOSELY as you pull the lever. I don't have good luck with the little thread cutter on the side, that seems to hold it too tightly for effective threading. It needs enough slack to push the thread through the needle eye, then you can manually pull it the rest of the way through. For some reason it seems to work better for me with the presser foot in the UP position - don't know why because this doesn't affect needle position, but it works for me. Now back to your regularly scheduled review!
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Assembling the stabilizer & fabric into a hoop is easy and the instructions are clear. Please note that the bonus set includes extra hoops, but has stabilizer sheets for the 1x2.5 and 4x4 hoop ONLY, it does not include stabilizer for the 5x7 hoop, so you'll want to pick some up (cut sheets or a roll) before testing that hoop out. The hoops fasten securely to the carriage, though they require a little maneuvering to get them under the presser foot. Once you've got your fabric & hoop set up, your needle & bobbin threaded, the little LED screen takes over! It's very easy to navigate, pretty much walks you through the process - I had no idea you could customize the design position and size so much! It has an option to check on what colors are needed before you start, and shows you which parts of the design are used for each color. Maybe this is normal for embroidery machines but I liked it! I'm a little rebel when it comes to color charts, so I like to know which parts I can swap for a different shade. The pixelated designs are nearly impossible to see on the tiny screen, so you'll want to use the included book for reference. Choose a design and hit go! Watch the design magically appear!
Trouble-shooting: the screen actually tells you what is wrong, for the most part, which is REALLY nice. I often don't realize that my presser foot is in the wrong position but it tells me what to do before moving the carriage. I had one project where I broke a needle (my fault - totally inappropriate fabric choice) and it stopped immediately and beeped for help. I was able to change the needle and rethread it, hit the button and it was off and running again, mid-design. I also had some thread jam up and break (same fabric, haha) and same thing: it stopped work and let me fix it before continuing. It wound up missing a few stitches on the final design, but it actually didn't look bad and I was very impressed! One thing it did NOT tell me was when I had the machine too close to the wall, rookie mistake! It continued working away, just overlapping the stitch area where it had wanted to move the hoop around but bumped into the wall instead. So, learn from me and scoot that guy away from the wall! I also screwed up and layered my fabric under the hoop once; thankfully just a scrap for testing. It chowed right through it like a champ. Bad news for that fabric, but good news for thicker projects!
It comes with over 100 pre-installed small embroidery motifs, including several alphabet styles. Most of them are pretty basic, granny-looking stuff - lottttts of flowers. The *bonus* pack with this machine includes a CD-ROM of even more designs, but mostly the same kind of thing: cute, but I don't want to make anything with them. I wanted to try anyway to see how transferring designs via the USB port would work, and after a little confusion, it worked great! I don't know if it's because I'm on a Mac, but I can't see any of the designs or even the PDF on my computer screen. Fortunately, the PDF printed fine and included thumbnails of every design on the CD, with a corresponding number so they're easy to look up. Click and drag the ones you want onto your USB stick, move it over to the embroidery machine, follow the instructions (super easy, mostly on-screen), and off you go! I also tried downloading a few designs off the internet to see if that would work. It can read either .DFT or .PES files, though .PES files give you a little pixel-preview on the LED screen and .DFT just shows you a file name. I still can't see a preview of any designs on my laptop after downloading, but the click-and-drag method works with the USB regardless! Works so well, in fact, that I downloaded many many new designs on my first night and have already used several! Renaming the files doesn't affect their functionality, so I renamed them all to file them by description.
The bonus pack also includes 6 spools of basic colors: black, white, red, green, black, and yellow. You'll need a lot more for most designs but this will get you started! Other than the threader issue, the included thread worked perfectly and smoothly. I also had a few other brands of embroidery thread on hand from a recent shopping spree (I had no embroidery machine at the time but they were pretty! don't judge!) and they worked perfectly too! The only breakage was due to a weird fabric I decided to play with (extremely tight weave); the thread was not at fault and neither was the machine. The machine itself comes with one hoop, one spool of bobbin thread, and all the other little necessities that every machine includes for operation (1 bobbin, little brush, mini screwdriver, etc). The bonus pack includes 2 more hoops, 2 sizes of stabilizer, the 6-pack of thread, a package of pre-wound bobbins AND a bag of empty bobbins, a pack of needles, the CD-ROM of extra designs, and a little curved snipper that REALLY helps you get up close to the design to snip off any stray threads! LOVE those snippers! Oh, and more good news: it uses regular standard needles and the same basic bobbins that all my other Brother machines have used, so no extra expense on that front!
Maybe I'm simply dazzled because I've never had an embroidery machine before, but the things this toy can do are absolutely amazing to me! I'm very impressed at how easy it was for a beginner to get started - I went from opening the box to making little red & green cherries on cotton in less than 45 minutes. It has done everything I asked it to do, from downloading designs to integrating metallic thread. I made a few silly rookie mistakes but they were easy to fix and the machine helped me along. I have the sense that I've barely scratched the surface of the incredible things this machine will do, and the fact that getting started was so easy makes me excited to learn more. I almost deducted 1 star for the automatic-threader problem, but I'm very glad I didn't because that turned out to be user error too! I LOVE IT. It is my new boyfriend and we are going to live happily ever after together!