Best & Cheapest Embroidery Machine For Hats

Hats are one of the hardest things to embroider, and that can make the machines with the required features to do it properly expensive! But, there are options out there, and the cheapest embroidery machine for hats depends a lot on what KIND of hats you want to embroider on.

Structured vs Unstructured Hats

Pretty much ANY home embroidery machine can embroider on unstructured hats. That’s because these hats can be smashed down flat and placed in the hoop. This definition applies to things like baseball caps, dad hats, beanies, bucket hats, etc.

flat bed machines can be used to make hat embroidery more affordable
Flatbed machines can ONLY embroider hats that can be flattened.

A structured hat needs to be embroidered on without it being flatten, otherwise embroidery quality suffers and the hat won’t retain its shape afterwards. This includes flex fit hats, and other high-profile hats that require reinforcement inside of them for the hat to be shaped correctly.

How Do You Embroider On Structured Hats?

If you want to embroider on structured hats, then you will need a machine which has a free arm setup rather than a flatbed one.

Unfortunately, these machines are not ever cheap. You’ll be paying thousands of dollars to get this kind of functionality. So, if you’re looking to embroider hats on a budget… stick to dad caps, bucket hats, beanies and similar models.

a free arm allows full range of motion when embroidering on hats

However, if you’re starting a business and you’re willing to invest… a free arm machine is fantastic to have. They allow you to have complete control of the embroidery process, which you can see above. You’ll be able to embroider all the way across the front of the hat, creating a high-end embroidery that flat bed machines just can’t compete with.

OKAY, now that we’ve got that out of the way. Here are our top picks for both kinds of machines!

5 Cheapest Embroidery Machine For Hats

Flatbed Machines (Most Budget Friendly)

Brother PE550D – $439.99

Looking for the cheapest embroidery machine you can get your hands on? The Brother PE550D is it. This cute little machine will cost you just $439 brand new, making it one of the most affordable machines on the market!

the cheapest embroidery machine for hats
The Brother PE550D is the most affordable entry to embroidery you’ll find

This is a Disney branded machine, and it includes 125 built-in embroidery designs (including 45 free Disney embroidery designs). However, even if you’re not a Disney fan – this machine is an exceptional deal and it’s a great starter machine.

This machine also features 9 built-in fonts, including 3 Japanese fonts for personalizing your creations! You’ll also get an automatic needle threader, needle up/down, and a 3.2 inch color touch screen – which is honestly a lot of great features for the price point of this machine.

The included USB port makes it easy to upload custom designs and start embroidering your creations. In the above video, you can see how the process works. Fortunately, this machine is very user-friendly.

So, what’s not to love about the Brother 550D? Well, you’ll be limited to a 4″ x 4″ embroidery area. For hat and t shirt embroidery, this is fine, but if you plan to make items with larger designs later, like hoodies or sweatshirts… you may want to upgrade to a machine with at least a 5″ x 7″ embroidery area instead.

TOP 5 Features
  • 4″ x 4″ Embroidery Area
  • Can Upload Custom Designs
  • Great For Hats That Can Be Flattened (like Dad hats)
  • 45 Free Disney Designs Included
  • Automatic Needle Threader

Click here to get the best price on the Brother 550D

Brother PE800 – $899.99

The Brother PE800 is a great little machine, but ONLY if you want to embroider on unstructured hats! It offers a generous 5″ x7″ embroidery area, it’s very easy to use, and there are tons and tons of tutorials for it on Youtube, because it’s one of the most popular models around!

brother pe800 is an affordable machine for hat embroidery
The Brother PE800 is an affordable embroidery machine for hats – as long as they are unstructured.

If you think you’d like to expand beyond hats in the future… I’d recommend this model over the PE550D. Having a 5″ x 7″ embroidery field will offer you a lot more options, and it’s better to spend the extra money if you think you’ll want to make larger designs eventually.

brother PE800 cheap hat embroidery
A hat with metallic thread being embroidered on the PE800

As far as embroidery machines go, it’s actually very affordable for everything it offers, has great stitch quality, and the on-screen editor is very easy to use for swapping thread colors, rotating designs, etc.

It also includes excellent premium features: like an automatic needle threader, USB port for uploading custom designs, 138 built-in designs, 7 embroidery fonts, and a jam-resistant bobbin.

On the negative side, it doesn’t come with digitization software (for making designs), and it’s a tad slower than pricier machines at 650 stitches per minute, but should be fine for most people.

TOP 5 Features
  • 5″ x 7″ Embroidery Area
  • Can Upload Custom Designs
  • Great For Hats That Can Be Flattened (like Dad hats)
  • Good Stitch Quality
  • Automatic Needle Threader

Click here to get the best price on the Brother PE800.

Brother NS1150 – $899.99

This is a newer machine that is very similar to the PE800. However, when comparing the NS1150e vs pe800, the Ns1150E has more fonts (including Japanese fonts).

However, it does lose automatic tension and built-in memory, though neither of those features is very important since you have to set the tension for each project type anyway, and you are already using a USB to transfer your designs.

The NS1150 is a great pick if you need more than a 4″ x 4″ embroidery area.

You won’t find quite as many tutorials for it on Youtube compared to the PE800, but it operates in a similar manner and availability for this machine seems to be a lot better.

In the above video, you can see a tutorial of how to embroider on a hat using this machine.

TOP 5 Features
  • 5″ x 7″ Embroidery Area
  • Can Upload Custom Designs
  • Speed control
  • Includes Japanese fonts
  • Automatic Needle Threader

Click here to get the best price on the Brother NS1150

Baby Lock Alliance – $4,999

While the Baby Lock Alliance doesn’t look affordable at first glance, it really is for a machine in its class. This is one of the only home machine you’ll find that truly allows you to embroider on hats the way a professional machine would for a fraction of the price.

home embroidery machine for structured hats
Baby Lock alliance is a great home embroidery machine for hats and shirts

A professional machine for free arm hat embroidery would run you $10,000 or more, but the Baby Lock Alliance is a single-needle machine aimed at consumers, or people who want to run a small Etsy-style embroidery business out of their home.

Even the cheapest multi needle embroidery machines, like the Elna940 and Janome MB4se, are still at least $500 more than the Baby Lock Alliance.

home hat embroidery machines

The free arm you saw in the first part of the article is from this machine! As you can see, it rotates freely across the entire front of the hat – giving you coverage options a flatbed machine simply can’t.

The Alliance Has An 8” x 8” Embroidery Area.

This machine also not only allows for hats, but it also embroiders on pretty much anything else you can imagine like bulky bags, jackets, etc. Because you’re not limited by the hoop like flatbeds are.

The Baby Lock Alliance also stitches at 1,100 stitches per minute, and it automatically cuts all of your jump cuts – so there’s no clean up work for you to do like with most flatbed machines.

In short, if you’re looking to start a home-business, the Alliance is a fantastic machine, that’s actually a good deal for everything it does. However, if you’re looking for a personal use machine, it’s probably out of the price range you’re looking for.

TOP 5 Features
  • Can Embroider STRUCTURED HATS!
  • 1,100 Stitches Per Minute
  • Exceptional Stitch Quality
  • Commercial Features For Consumer Pricing
  • Cuts All Jump Stitches (Zero Clean Up)

Click here to get the best price on the Babylock Alliance.

Brother SE625 – $369 (Refurbished)

Okay, but what if you need a REALLY inexpensive embroidery machine for hats. Well, that’s probably the Brother SE625. It can be had for as little as $369 refurbished.

So, what’s the catch? Well, this is an older model and availability for the machine is kind of spotty. You will likely need to find a used model and they are not always available. If you don’t want to wait or if you want a new machine, then I’d recommend the newer 550D instead.

cheap embroidery machine for hats
The SE625 is a Brother sewing machine that also embroiders.

However, if you need a cheap embroidery machine that also sews and you can afford to wait… this machine is an exceptional deal.

Patches made on the Brother SE625.

You’ll also have to deal with being limited to a 4″ x 4″ embroidery area, but the quality of the machine is great, especially for the price.

This is plenty big enough to do flat hat designs, pocket tees, etc. but if you’re looking to do bigger hoodie and sweatshirt designs – you’re going to cap out creatively here pretty quickly.

If you think this would be the case for you, then I’d spend a bit more on the Brother 1150 for the larger 5″ x 7″ embroidery area.

TOP 5 Features
  • Cheapest Embroidery Machine For Hats You’ll Find
  • Works On UNSTRUCTURED Hats
  • Good Stitch Quality
  • 4″ x 4″ Designs
  • Sews & Embroiders

Click here to check for used Brother SE625 Machines.