It's important to buy a used embroidery machine and equipment that will work for you and meet your needs. And stay within your budget! Refurbished sewing machines usually offer good value for a lower price.
Do I need a special machine?
If you want to do free motion embroidery, all you need is one of the regular cheap sewing machines that has a way to drop the feed dogs and plenty of adjustments for doing zigzag and decorative stitches. If you want to do satin stitched pictures and downloadable designs, you will need a specialized machine with an embroidery unit.
Is the embroidery unit built in or detachable?
If you plan on doing a lot of regular machine sewing or want to save space, buy a sewing machine where you can attach and detach the embroidery unit. It's an arm with a special clip to hold the hoop.
If you already have a regular sewing machine and want this new piece of equipment devoted to embroidery, buy a used embroidery machine designed to do machine embroidery only. The arm can be in the way if you want to do regular machine sewing or free motion embroidery.
Is the feed dog drop manual or automatic?
It's a matter of personal preference as to which you'd rather have. If you plan to do any free motion embroidery, remember that you'll need to drop the dogs for that, too.
What else is included?
Make sure the used embroidery machine comes with all of the original instruction booklets. You should also receive at least one machine embroidery foot and at least one hoop of the proper type to fit the machine. Is the seller offering any unwanted stabilizer or threads for the used embroidery machine?
How do design files load?
Some machines come with basic alphabets and designs, but you will want to load in other favorites. Some machines use disks, others use CDs, USB sticks, or a cable you can hook to your computer. Find the solution that works best for you. If you already have a collection of designs, make sure that the file type is compatible. Brother, Babylock, some Bernina, White, and Simplicity machines read .PES files.
Does the machine adjust for stitch density?
When you enlarge or reduce a design, stitching can become too spaced or too dense unless the number of stitches is adjusted. Some machines recalculate a new stitch density, but some do not.
What happens when a design is done stitching?
Some machines have a pop up window that lets you know when all of the stitching is done. Others depend on you to know when the last color has stitched.
I strongly recommend that you try out the used embroidery machine before you buy it, if possible. Have the seller demonstrate it then guide you through doing a set up yourself. If you can't try before you buy, there should be a solid return policy. Carefully examine all policies for hidden shipping charges and restocking fees.
These guidelines are helpful if you are purchasing a new machine, too! With a new machine, be sure to ask about the terms and conditions of the warranty policy. Refurbished sewing machines should also come with a warranty.
For more advice on buying a sewing machine, read the comments and ratings left by other visitors.
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