Automatic sewing machine - I provide the design, the machine does the rest!
September 30, 2009 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Do programmable sewing machines exist? I want to be able to provide the sewing machine with a design or logo and have it sew it for me - in this case, a nice little dog to go on the breast pocket of a golf shirt.

Surely something like this exists for a reasonable price? I'm thinking that a sewing machine exists that can take an image/cad file/etc. from a computer and then I just secure the material within the sewing machine's needle range, hit start and off it goes (think CNC machine or laser etching, except with needle/thread).
posted by WhereAmI to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are sewing machines that are used for machine embroidery, and there's software out there for them, but I'm not sure how much the software can do, and "reasonable price" seems unlikely.

There are some articles about machine embroidery here, if those are any help.
posted by dilettante at 7:14 AM on September 30, 2009

Here's one from Singer. This is just an example, there are many others from Brother, etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:24 AM on September 30, 2009

Here's a better site for the Singer Futura. The 250 will take a photo jpg and covert it to an embroidery file for the machine to use.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:26 AM on September 30, 2009

Yes, they exist. You can program your own design. You'll need software and a machine. I guess a reasonable price is subjective, but I would not consider them reasonable.

From the Brother Website:

PE-Design® 8.0 – New! Available Now!

Inspire your creativity with a whole new world of embroidery! With PE-Design PE-Design® 8 software creating unique embroidery projects is easier than ever. PE-Design® 8 lets you turn just about any image into a stitch file, edit your designs for nearly unlimited flexibility, enhance designs with your own unique fill stitches and create embroidery fonts. Create multimedia art with the new Print and Stitch™ function, a unique embellishment tool that combines embroidery with printed backgrounds. The built-in auto digitizing function converts artwork to embroidery. It also has a comprehensive database cataloging system so you can quickly and effortlessly retrieve designs whenever you need them.

posted by Fairchild at 7:29 AM on September 30, 2009

Response by poster: What's a reasonable price? This would be for personal use so I'd like to find something under $200.

I would be using it to embroider images no larger than the size of a stamp (if that helps lower the price of the machines)!

Can I trust buying one used or do they wear out/break easily (and if so, where can I buy one used? These don't seem to be on Craigslist/eBay from my searching).

posted by WhereAmI at 7:40 AM on September 30, 2009

You are looking for an embroidery machine. Under $200 US is not happening. You could buy a used one, but there can be some difficulty getting support (software) for older models. They don't wear out particularly easily - embroidery machines are expensive, and sewing machines at that price point tend to be workhorses.

(My mother saved up for one - it's her 'good machine' - and at age 28, having sewn on a machine since I was 12, I'm still not allowed to use it without supervision.)
posted by cobaltnine at 7:52 AM on September 30, 2009

You won't find this for under $200 US. I would be surprised if you found a decent machine to do this under $1000 US. You will have much more luck hiring someone to do it for you. A local print shop or embroidery shop will be FAR more cost effective.
posted by gdziengel at 8:04 AM on September 30, 2009

CNC is expensive. Unless you plan on going into business for yourself, it's probably more economical to find a business in your local area that already owns a CNC embroidery machine (I know there's at least one in my local mall that does novelty one-offs, and an embroidery/silkscreening place near my workplace that does larger batch jobs) and set up a relationship with them. Since there's no expensive set-up process for embroidery (unlike, say, silkscreen printing) one-offs should be reasonably priced.
posted by Alterscape at 8:05 AM on September 30, 2009

Sewing machines like that exist, both at the consumer and commercial level -- they're usually called embroidery machines. However, whether they're "reasonably priced" depends a lot on your definition of "reasonable". Your definition of "reasonable" isn't going to happen, unless you get very lucky. (You'd be lucky to find a good standard sewing machine, new or used, at that price. Embroidery machines cost more than standard sewing machines because they move the fabric in multiple directions and make a lot more stitches.)

You may be better off finding an embroidery shop to do the embroidery for you. Most shops will do set-up and one or two shirts for far less than it will cost you to purchase even an inexpensive consumer level embroidery machine; and they usually have experience in converting jpg to embroidery (which is sometimes not trivial).

Or, for just one or two shirts, check with the local sewing machine store or the fabric store -- many of them will have a list of people willing to do small jobs like that. (Many don't, but it's worth asking.) The sewing machine store may have used machines.
posted by jlkr at 8:08 AM on September 30, 2009

I have an embroidery sewing machine, that I bought used for $250. I also have software that I can use to design my own embroidery, decide on thread color choices and the like, but I honestly have not used it yet because it's a complicated process. The software cost me, I think, $50 all told, and that's because I was willing to wait for months to get the best price.

My specific embroidery sewing machine only does patterns up to a certain size, which is fine for my needs. Initials and small designs are easy, but the more thread colors you use, naturally, the more complicated it gets. I have had material, like shirts, torn when the embroidery thread gets stuck as well.

Embroidery machines that large-scale businesses use are in the thousands of dollars. With no experience and your budget, I don't think you can do this on your own.
posted by misha at 8:17 AM on September 30, 2009

$200 machine embroidery, eh?

First I would consider getting someone else to do it - there are plenty of places that sew company logos onto shirt pockets and things like that. It sounds like your design could be made on a $1000 machine which is a pretty low barrier to entry, so you'd expect a fairly competitive marketplace.

The other option is to scour ebay and hope a good deal comes up. Certainly I've seen machines at that price mid-auction (example) but I don't know often working machines finish at prices that low.
posted by Mike1024 at 9:29 AM on September 30, 2009

Converting an image to an embroidery pattern is not apparently something that automates well. That is to say, there are programs that do the conversion, but due to differences between media (pixels vs. stitches), you'll get the best results only via manual intervention.

(At least in my experience. Please let me know if you've found software that is good at this.)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2009

If, rather than ownership, you just need access to a programmable embroidery sewing machine, Techshop (three locations - SFBay, Oregon and North Carolina) has them available for use by their members. I believe that one day memberships are available.
posted by dbolll at 10:23 AM on September 30, 2009

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