Hats are one of the hardest things to embroider, and many people who are new to the embroidery hobby quickly find that their machine is just not up to the task. So, before we proceed, what KIND of hats do you want to embroider?
Structured vs Unstructured Hats
Pretty much ANY home embroidery machine can embroider on unstructured hats. That’s because these hats can be smash down flat and placed in the hoop. This definition applies to things like baseball caps, dad hats, etc.
A structured hat needs to be embroidered without it being flattened, otherwise you just won’t be able to make it turn out right. This includes flex fit hats, and other high-profile hats that require reinforcement inside of them for them 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 made for heavy production and are always more expensive than flat bed machines.
On one of these machines, the free arm will allow you to have complete control of the embroidery. You’ll be able to embroider all the way across the front of the hat, creating a professional result.
OKAY, now that we’ve got that out of the way. Here are our top picks for both kinds of machines!
Brother PE800 – $849.99
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!
It’s also very affordable for everything that it offers, has great stitch quality, an 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brother SE625 – $319 (Refurbished)
Okay, but what if you need a REALLY cheap embroidery machine for hats. Well, the Brother SE625 is probably the cheapest embroidery machine you’re going to find. BUT, it also only works on unstructured hats, AND you will be limited to 4″ x 4″ designs only.
While it may take some patience, if you find a refurbished machine, you can get one of these for as little as $320 or so. That’s a steal if you can live with the limitations that the machine has.
BUT, the quality of the machine is great, especially for the price. It’s also a sewing AND embroidery machine, so if you’re keen to learn how to do some sewing alterations – this machine has you covered!
Tanya is a stay at home mom who blogs online to earn a bit of extra income from her hobbies. She also loves working on projects which she can involve her two kids in and teach them the valuable life-skill of sewing.