Have you ever seen a beautiful or intricate piece of embroidery and wished you could replicate it yourself without spending hours hand-embroidering? With machine embroidery, you can. 

And if you’ve heard of machine embroidery before and thought it must involve expensive machinery and complicated techniques, you’ll be happy to learn that’s not the case. With a beginner-level machine, some basic sewing supplies and a few handy tutorials, machine embroidery is easy enough for anyone to learn. 

Getting Started with Machine Embroidery 

You’re only a few key supplies away from creating your own machine embroidery masterpieces. 

Choose a Sewing or Embroidery Machine

Your first order of business is to find and choose the right machine. Believe it or not, it doesn’t even need to be a dedicated embroidery machine: With a little resourcefulness, you can create eye-catching embroidered pieces using a normal sewing machine. 

Using a technique called free motion, your sewing machine can “draw” unique embroidery designs on almost any fabric you’d like. 

A woman’s hands holding a square of cream fabric on the bed of a sewing machine. The fabric is embroidered with the words ‘how to draw with a sewing machine.’
In the Skillshare class “How to Draw With a Sewing Machine – Free Motion 101,” teacher Jordan Gomez shows how a standard sewing machine can be used to draw on fabric. 

So if you already have a sewing machine, you’re good to go. If you don’t, you can expect to spend about $150–200 for a beginner-level machine. 

But what if you want to create more complex, precise or symmetrical designs than a normal sewing machine is capable of producing? That’s where dedicated embroidery machines come into play. 

With an embroidery machine and some fabric, you can quickly create an almost endless array of designs, whether you’re decorating an entire quilt or creating a simple felt coaster. 

A woman’s hand holding a cream-colored felt coaster over a pink background. The coaster has been embroidered with a simple design of a blue and black flower. 
In the Skillshare class “Intro to Machine Embroidery,” teacher Luci Ayyat showcases a felt coaster she’s created with an embroidery machine. 

Embroidery machines are more specialized than standard sewing machines—they’re also more expensive. Consulting an embroidery machine buyer’s guide can help you determine the functionalities you’ll use. Depending on which machine you buy, you can expect to spend anywhere from $350 for a basic model to $15,000 for a highly-advanced one. 

Fortunately, the best embroidery machines for beginners usually fall on the less expensive end of that spectrum. So while you’ll probably need to spend at least a few hundred dollars, you won’t need to shell out a few thousand. And if you’re really trying to get the most bang for your buck, try checking platforms like eBay, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace for deals on secondhand machines. 

Other Supplies You’ll Need

Besides your embroidery machine, you’ll also need: 

  • Fabric 
  • Embroidery stabilizer
  • Machine embroidery thread
  • Bobbin
  • Embroidery needle 
  • Scissors (both large fabric scissors and small embroidery ones)
  • Machine embroidery patterns (or an original design)

If you’re using a normal sewing machine instead of a dedicated embroidery machine, you might also benefit from using: 

  • An embroidery hoop to help hold your fabric taut
  • A darning foot to more easily move your fabric around while embroidering

And no matter which type of machine you’re using, you’ll find it helpful (but not necessary) to have items such as: 

  • Straight pins to hold multiple pieces of fabric together
  • Water-soluble or heat erasable pen for making temporary markings on fabric
  • Seam ripper for quickly undoing mistakes 
  • Clothes iron for getting rid of pesky wrinkles

The good news is that while sewing and embroidery machines can both be pricey, the materials you need to start machine embroidering don’t need to be. 

Basic sewing tools like scissors and thread can be purchased for cheap from your local craft store or an online retailer, and you can always use repurposed, recycled or thrifted fabric rather than buying it brand new. 

What Can You Make with Machine Embroidery? 

If you’re interested in machine embroidery, you probably already have some potential projects in mind. But what else can you use it for? 

Custom Clothing

Personalized tote bag? No problem. One-of-a-kind t-shirt logo? Done. Historically accurate reproduction of embroidered stockings from the 18th century? Yep, you can do that too. 

Talented embroiderer and historical costumer Sewstine even used machine embroidery to create her own version of a Dior tote bag, featuring personalized touches and lots of cute raccoons. 

A woman in a yellow dress standing with a black and white tote bag slung over her shoulder. The tote bag is embroidered with detailed images of raccoons, as well as the name ‘Christine.’
In a YouTube video titled “Making the Dior Book Tote but with Raccoon Embroidery,” sewist and costumer Sewstine models her machine embroidered version of a Dior tote bag. 

Suffice it to say that when it comes to making custom clothing and accessories with machine embroidery, the sky’s the limit. 

Quilts

The world of quilting is bursting with creative techniques for sewing breathtaking quilts, and machine embroidery is one of them. 

With a sewing or embroidery machine at your disposal, you can create more detailed and uniquely decorated quilts than ever before. 

And with thousands of machine embroidery quilting designs available via the internet (including plenty of free ones), you’ll never run out of motifs to try. 

Home Decor

From throw pillow covers to wall hangings to table runners, you can use machine embroidery to beautify almost any cloth-based type of home decor. 

In fact, you can even frame your machine embroidered pieces and let them be works of art in their own right. 

A framed embroidery project hanging on the wall next to curtains and another piece of framed art. It consists of a bundle of wildflowers embroidered in black thread on beige fabric. 
In the Skillshare class “Expand Your Creativity With Wild Flowers Free Motion Machine Embroidery,” teacher Lilach Tzudkevich shows a project she created using free motion machine embroidery framed and hung on the wall. 

However you like to customize your home decor, machine embroidery can help you do it. 

Types of Machine Embroidery Stitches

Although machine embroidery can seem intimidating, there are usually only a few basic types of stitches in play. 

  • Straight stitch: A line of single stitches, perfect for creating outlines. 
  • Satin stitch: Stitches worked back and forth over a narrow area to create a smooth, solid effect. Ideal for embroidering text and thick lines. 
  • Fill stitch: Multiple lines of straight stitches used to fill in a large area. 

With just those three stitches (and more advanced variations of them), you can create an unlimited number of machine embroidery designs ranging from minimalist and simple to complex and ornate. 

Give Your Hands a Rest and Learn Machine Embroidery

We’ll be the first to say that hand embroidery is an incredible art form, but machine embroidery is just as fantastic. It offers a completely new and different way to approach the age-old craft of embroidery, and the fact that you can embroider an entire quilt in hours rather than days doesn’t hurt either. 

So whether you’re an experienced hand embroidery artist or sewist looking to spice up your craft, or you’re new to the fiber arts altogether, give machine embroidery a try—it’s easier (and more fun) than you think.