The 9 Best Embroidery Machines
Three Types Of Embroidery Machines And Their Benefits
There are three types of embroidery machines, and each is best for a specific application. Free-motion uses a standard sewing machine that operates in tiny zigzag movements. This kind of device can be wonderful or annoying depending on why you need to embroider. If you run a business that requires you to create totally unique patterns every day, such as a custom luggage store where you put terms like people’s names or birthdates on backpacks, you can benefit from a free-motion embroidery machine because you don’t necessarily need perfection so much as freedom. Manufacturers of printed clothing and luggage love embroidery because it lasts longer than screen printing. A free-motion model can be limiting however, because it usually has just one needle, meaning each time you want a new color, you have to rethread it.
In the commercial world, machines with link stitch technology or digitizing capabilities are very popular because they allow for free motion, but they also have a memory that can save patterns and automatically create them. Embroidery machines with digitizing capabilities are quite versatile because, if you need to apply both unique and repeated designs to a product each day (for example, somebody’s last name plus the image of a sunflower) you can use the manual feature to write the name, and the automatic feature to pump out the perfectly uniform sunflower.
The most modern embroidery machines are computerized. They can connect to your computer or laptop, allowing you to access virtually limitless designs and patterns. A computerized embroidery machine is capable of the most complex designs and can produce patterns with multiple heads and threads. Your favorite clothing brand with complex patterns on the jean pockets probably uses one of these because they have multiple needles. This allows them to run several colors at once and work very quickly.
The History Of The Embroidery Machine
A typical embroidery machine today might be about the size of a few desktop speakers or a small fish tank and it can definitely fit on your kitchen table. But the first embroidery machine invented took up about as much space as a big city apartment today.
The creator of this behemoth of a device was Josue Heilmann, and his invention could do the hand work of about four people. The unit consisted of a frame that held the fabric taut, a needle assembly and a handle to maneuver the needle. In order to operate it, an embroiderer would need to use both hands to manage the scribe and needle, and his foot to control the clamps that held the needle. If it sounds like an image from a great Greek legend like The Odyssey, that’s because it looks just like the one Penelope used. Surprisingly, people didn't welcome Heilmann’s invention with open arms. Companies worried that his machine would put too many hand embroiderers out of a job and he only managed to sell two products.
After the industrial revolution took hold, people no longer feared mechanisms that could do work for humans – or at least they feared them less — and several inventors came up with newer, smaller and faster versions of embroidery machines. The year 1911 saw the first multi-head model from the Singer Sewing Company, however, wartime put a halt to the use of embroidery machines for any purpose that wasn’t helping the national cause, so their sales slowed. By the 1950s there was a boom in at-home machines, and the 1980s saw the first computerized version.
Contemporary Embroidery Artists
In an age when everything old is new again, when there seem to be a burgeoning interest in vintage and resale clothing and furniture, it should come as no surprise that a few modern artists have made a name for themselves with the “old” craft of embroidery.
Inge Jacobsen has become widely appreciated because she takes famous consumer images, such as a Vogue cover or a clothing brand ad, and recreates them through embroidery, often altering the original piece slightly to evoke meaning and highlight underlying sentiments. American Express commissioned the artist to do just that with three of their classic cards.
Another fascinating artist is Kirsty Whitlock, who combines recycled materials and traditional, hand embroidery to communicate ideas of social responsibility. Through her art, she brings to light and lightly criticizes the throw away culture in which we live. One famous piece depicts a stock market professional reading an embroidered Financial Times, made from old wire and other materials, disintegrating in his lap.
Izziyana Suhaimi focuses on our current culture of instant gratification, and what better medium to use than the slow and tedious craft of embroidery. She often combines images of contemporary and traditional cultures to show their connections and usually stacks impressively immaculate stitch work over evocative drawings.