Traditionally, embroidery has been regarded and practiced mainly as a hobby. For ages, diligent people have used their skills to make fabulous decorations on fabric, just for the beauty of it. During the past few decades, however, the situation has become different. More and more people are into embroidery as a means of making some side bucks, or even as a full-fledged business that puts bread on the table and runs kids through college.
If you are in love with embroidery, you might also try to capitalize on it. One of the numerous ways is hat embroidery. It’s far from being the simplest thing to do, but it can be worth your while. For that, however, you will need a decent machine – and not just any embroidery machine. There is a whole set of features that it needs to have. And let me admit upfront – you will have to shell out a decent sum of money. But you may also rest assured that it will pay itself off, sooner rather than later. Truck hats, ball caps, dad hats, snapbacks, or beanies will always be popular. You can get tons of gigs from a local baseball team, junior football team, or simply sell personalized hats at retail price.
So, let’s see what kind of embroidery machine you would need, as well as what features it must have. Finally, we will take a look at a few of the very best models you can get on a budget.
What to Look for in a Hat Embroidery Machine?
There are lots of variables when it comes to choosing a good machine for anything. When it comes to hat embroidery machines, it’s a tricky job that requires special treatment. First of all, hats are curved, so you will need a machine that can easily and quickly accommodate a hat hoop.
But that’s far from enough. Here are some other must-haves for a perfect hat embroidery machine.
- Specially devised, multi-needle embroidery machines are by far the best. Brands such as Barudan, Ricoma, and Tajima are the definite leaders in the industry. Unfortunately, these are not affordable for most people who only do embroidery for fun or as a side hassle. They are robust and bulky industrial contraptions. If you want to establish a full-blown business, you might consider getting these as soon as your budget allows for it. If not, you will need to make do with the sewing machine brands such as Brother or Singer.
- It needs to be user-friendly. That doesn’t just mean beginner-friendly. It means that your machine should be easy to set up and handle down the road. If you need half an hour to change the thread on a multicolored design, it’s definitely a time (and fun) killer.
- It should be computerized. And I am not just saying this for the sake of bells and whistles. Apart from looking awesome and being user-friendly, computerized machines have one more feature that you won’t be able to live with: unlimited designs. They either have internet connectivity or a USB port that allows you to import countless designs readily available on the internet.
- How many needles? If you’re on a budget, you won’t be able to buy a machine with more than one needle. That means you’ll have to babysit your machine as it stitches, switching the thread colors very often. However, those of you who are able to splurge on an advanced solution should look for specialized embroidery machines with as many as 15 needles. It significantly reduces the amount of work on your part, allowing you to set everything up and walk away. Or work on many projects at once.
- Does it include a hat hoop? Most affordable embroidery machines for home use won’t include a hat hoop, unfortunately. That means you will have to buy it separately. Of course, there are hacks that could help you flatten out the hat with pins, but they take time. So, buying a special hoop will save you much time and effort.
- How large is the embroidery area? This one largely depends on your purpose. If you are only into hat embroidery, you won’t be needing tons of space. However, if you plan on working with other items too, such as shirts, jeans or even jackets, you should consider getting a machine with a bigger embroidery hoop. 4×4 is kind of standard size of the embroidery hoop, but I would recommend not to go under 5×7 if you want a relatively comfortable experience.
5 Best (and Most Affordable) Embroidery Machines for Hats
Before I begin, I feel I need to once again emphasize an important fact about hat embroidery machines. I will mostly talk about home-use embroidery machines. Professional, commercial-grade ones cost thousands of dollars, and it’s not very likely that an embroidery enthusiast will be looking for something like that.
Janome MB-4S Four-Needle Embroidery Machine
This really is a very advanced solution – at least judging by the features and price. It has a powerful remote computer screen that lets you set up and edit your designs with over 65 thousand colors. You can hook it up with multiple machines, saving a lot of cash if you have a business. The machine features an automatic thread cutter and a dedicated bobbin winding motor, both of which will save you a lot of time. What I really like is that they include a hat hoop in the package, as well as lettering hoops and lettering hoop holder unit. The four needles reduce the time you have to spend supervising and supporting the machine. Keep in mind that it’s not an industrial machine, so don’t expect it to work miracles in terms of speed.
What I don’t like is that the user reviews are mostly negative. However, I would take it with a grain of salt, since there are very few reviews, far from enough to paint a big and credible picture.
Brother SE1900 Computerized Sewing and Embroidery Machine
This multipurpose embroidery and sewing machine will be your go-to solution for multiple types of craft. It features 138 built-in embroidery designs, with seven embroidery fonts, and a USB port for importing designs that you can download from the internet. You will always get a full view of your design on the large, 3.2-inch LCD touchscreen in color, and can even edit them before starting the project. The hoop dimensions are 5×7 inches, which should accommodate even some larger projects.
Customers seem to be generally pleased with the machine. They say they’ve had no trouble setting it up and getting started, and the quality of the work is excellent. Switching between sewing and embroidery functions is very easy. Most importantly, it has no issues when embroidering on thicker materials, such as leather. So, it should do an excellent job on canvas.
Singer Futura XL580 Embroidery and Sewing Machine
Another all-around model, this Singer offers 250 built-in embroidery designs including 50 endless designs, plus five fonts and outline lettering. You can combine and customize your embroidery designs on the LCD screen and software that comes included. Other features include endless hoop, which is great for larger projects, knee-lifter for hands-free presser foot lifting, automatic thread trimmer, and independent bobbin winding. The hoop is really large, 6×10 in dimensions, but there is also a smaller one, 4×4. Those who are new in embroidery will have a somewhat steeper learning curve, but once they get the hang of everything, possibilities are virtually endless. So, I would definitely recommend this hat embroidery machine to the craftspeople who are leaning toward intermediate level.
If you are also a sewist, you will appreciate the 215 built-in sewing stitches and extra large space for quilting. Embroiderers on a tighter budget might consider getting the cheaper Singer Futura XL400.
Brother PE800 Embroidery Machine
Those of you who are only doing embroidery and hence don’t need any sewing features, here’s a bit more modest and affordable Brother machine than its SE1900 cousin. It also has 138 built-in designs, but that’s far from everything you can use. The USB stick removes any limitations – just download designs and feed them to the machine. Just like SE1900, it has 5×7 hoop and large LCD color touchscreen.
You can edit the designs by rotating, mirror imaging, increasing or decreasing the size. There is a total of 11 embroidery fonts, including script, outline, serif and sans serif typeface. This is hands down the best model for embroidery beginners, since it offers the best ratio of price and functionality.
Brother PE770 Embroidery Machine
A tad less advanced than its successor PE800, this Brother still offers sufficient functionality for embroidery beginners. It has 136 built-in embroidery designs include 10 frame shapes, six lettering fonts, and 12 border styles. The embroidery area is 5×7 in dimensions – just enough for small to average size projects. It also has a USB port, so you can download and transfer ready-made designs. Unlike in PE800, the touchscreen LCD screen isn’t in color, but you can still edit your hat embroidery machine designs comfortably.
The automatic thread trimmer cuts both upper and lower threads at a touch of a button. Just like most other embroidery machines at this price point, it doesn’t come with a stabilizer. So, you will need to buy it separately. Check out my full review of this model here.