If you’re looking to embroider on t-shirts, a machine with a decent-sized hoop is a must. While you can technically embroider on any machine, even smaller 4×4 models… quickly outgrow pocket designs. BUT, these machines can also be quite expensive, so knowing exactly what you need is key to making a purchase you won’t later regret. Think about the following before you make a decision.
- How big of a hoop do you need?
- Do you want to make custom designs?
- Single or multi-needle?
The bigger the hoop the better, but that quickly drives up the price. 5×7 tends to be the most affordable size, but 6×10 is a better shirt size if you can afford the upgrade.
Do you want to use pre-made designs with lettering or create custom designs? If you want to make custom designs, you’ll need a machine with a USB port or wireless transfer, AND you’ll need embroidery software. Be aware that most machines don’t come with digitization software. So, you may need to purchase it separately or find a free embroidery software option instead to make your own designs.
Most home machines are also single needle. This means that while you can stitch as many colors as you want, you’ll need to re-thread each color when prompted by the machine. For home use, this is fine, but if you plan to start an Etsy business, going multi-needle makes stitching out designs MUCH faster.
Best For: The Etsy Entrepreneur
Brother Innov-Is NQ1700e
If you’re looking to make and sell things on Etsy – this affordable machine will be a great starting point for you. We’ve mentioned this machine before in other articles, because not only is it a great machine, but it’s also one of the few machines that comes with free embroidery software! This is a great value, because if you have to buy it separately, software like this can run you hundreds of dollars by itself, making it a great home embroidery machine for custom designs.
Embroidery machines with USB ports, like this one, allow you to easily upload the designs you make with the software for your own projects, or to create custom orders for your Etsy customers. This machine also offers a generous embroidery area of 6″x10″, giving you a sizeable work space to make different shirt designs for your projects or clients.
This machine is fairly speedy for the price too, allowing you to embroider at 850 stitches per minute. You’ll also enjoy features like on-screen editing, automatic needle threading, and an automatic thread trimmer, which saves you time. You also get 98 built-in embroidery designs and 11 fonts to help you get started on your projects and make quick customization for personalized items!
It’s a fantastic and affordable pick if you’re looking to make one-off items to sell to customers or for yourself. Though it could likely also handle smaller bulk orders of a few shirts for another small business as well. BUT, if you need something for BIG orders, keep reading – our next pick is likely for you! Otherwise, click here to see availability and read consumer reviews for the NQ1600e.
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Best For: Growing Small Business
Melco Amaya Bravo
Looking for an embroidery machine for shirts that’s a little more serious? While home machines may struggle to keep up with frequent orders, this machine will help you fulfill demand quickly at 1,100 stitches per minute. This model is a 16 needle professional embroidery machine, which while very capable on its own, can also be networked with up to 4 other machines as your business grows and you need to expand your production capabilities.
A multi-needle machine, like this one, also allows you to stitch complex, large designs without having to change out the thread colors manually like you would on a home-use embroidery machine. This allows you to work on bulk orders MUCH faster, and even allows the machine to complete work on its own, without you having to babysit it.
It also allows you to stitch huge designs up to 17.25 x 11.25 in size! This size is perfect for designs on the backs of shirts, and it allows you to offer pricey products that a person with an average home machine can’t. You could easily sell shirts like this to hobbyist clubs, event organizers, local sports teams, and small businesses who need shirts, but don’t need hundreds of them that a factory order requires.
The Amaya Bravo also comes with some excellent PRO embroidery software. This software auto-digitizes any image, allowing you to take your customer’s business logo, team mascot, or other images and turn them into professional embroidery designs in just a few clicks. While it is an investment, it’s certainly a worthwhile one if you’re serious about getting a high-quality t shirt embroidery machine for your small business. Click here to see everything the machine can do and to read consumer reviews.
PS. If you’re interested in a machine like this for your business but can’t afford to buy it outright, Sewing Machines Plus, DOES have some financing options available to help you out. You’ll see a link to the financing information on the product page.
Best For: No budget & Personal Projects
If you’re looking for an extremely affordable custom embroidery machine for personal projects, or a small side-hustle – look no further than the Brother SE625. While you will be capped at a 4×4 design area, it’s one of the cheapest embroidery machines around, and you can pick up a refurbished one for as little as $320! It also stitches beautifully, allowing you to make patches or shirt designs that look great for the price. Though, even if used machines are unavailable at the moment, a new one is also quite affordable.
Unfortunately, the machine is a bit slow at 710 stitches per minute. For personal projects, that’s fine, but it could get a bit tiresome if you plan to use your machine to complete a lot of orders. You should also keep in mind that machines like these are not multi-needle, meaning you will need to manually change the thread for each color you use in the design, unlike the Amaya Bravo, which can do that work itself.
You should also know that this machine does NOT come with free embroidery software like the Brother NQ1600e. However, you can pick up the Brother Stitch Express software for around $140, which is pretty affordable.
However, this machine does have a USB port, allowing you to upload custom designs, or designs you’ve purchased online, and it’s a great multi-purpose machine for casual embroidery which can also be used for sewing projects if you don’t need a dedicated embroidery machine. It also comes with some great add-ons like variable speed controls, needle up/down, free motion sewing, and plenty of other features. Click here to check availability and consumer reviews for this machine.
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In closing, these are some of my favorite t shirt embroidery machines, but if you feel none of these are for you, make sure to check out some of our other articles! Where we’ve written on embroidery machines for shirts, jackets, custom designs, and more. Until next time, happy crafting ya’ll!
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.