As you may have read here, my mother taught me to sew when I was 6 years old.
My grandmother taught me to embroider when I was 10.
Then I discovered “machine embroidery”! Huh? Oh my!
How does this work? Well, here’s how I see it. An Embroidery Machine is just a “printer”. You generally write a letter or design a flyer on your computer and then send it to the printer to be printed on paper with ink. With Machine Embroidery, you send (or transfer) an embroidery “picture” (design) from your computer to the embroidery machine. The embroidery machine then “prints” the design on fabric with a needle and thread.
A printer creates an image with ink, lots of ink, a little ink, mixtures of colors, shading, shadowing – simple or detailed – countless colors and combinations of colors. On the embroidery machine, the image is formed by how far apart the stitches are. The direction or angle of the stitches. Thread colors, referred to as a “color change”. Layering of stitches and colors also help to bring the image to life on the fabric. Very, very cool.
Cool, yes, cool and time consuming!
With a Single-Needle machine that is. You put the first color on the machine and get the fabric or garment “hooped” and attached to the machine and press “Go”. The machine then starts “printing” (stitching) your design. You walk away. You have things to do. Customers to take care of. Dinner to cook. Life goes on right? Wrong! Just as you start to walk away, the machine stops and beeps. What’s wrong?! Nothing. Color change time! Color 1 is finished. Time for Color 2. What do you do now? Well, you sit down and take Color 1 off the machine and re-thread the machine with the next Color in the design. Color 2. Press “Go” and walk away. Remember, life goes on.
3 hours later you come back to admire your design. Wait. It’s not done! It’s just sitting there, waiting, waiting for you! Waiting for Color 3!
Color 3?! There are 12 color changes in this design, this could take all day!
Yes, it could. And often does! With a Single-Needle Machine, you must stay with it to re-thread the machine each and every time there is a color change in the design. Or, waste a lot of time while the machine sits and does nothing, absolutely not one stinking thing while it waits for you to come back and change the thread. Time-consuming. Tedious. Slow. Frustrating! But fabulous all the same. 🙂
About this time, you think to yourself (or your husband says to you – daredevil that he is) “That’s kinda’ dumb. There’s gotta be a better way.”
“Grrrrr” . . . Smart man, he left the sewing room. 😦
Well, he wasn’t so wrong after all, there is a better way. It’s called a Multi-Needle Embroidery Machine.
When I first heard about Multi-Needle Embroidery Machines, I pictured all those needles pounding away at the same time, stitching out the design. I could see how that would be fast but it just sounded so scary – all those needles going at the same time. Somebody (me!) is bound to get hurt with something like that! Then I started to look into how it actually works and learned that the needles don’t all work at the same time. 🙂
Just like my Single-Needle Machines, Multi-Needle Machines use one needle at a time. They just take turns. The thread still sits on top of the machine – one spool of thread for each needle.
Also like my Single Needle Sewing/Embroidery machine, the thread must pass through tension disks and along a thread path. That’s what all those dials on the front of the machine are – the tension disks – one for each thread/needle. Simple as that.
As each color change occurs in the design, the machine “head” moves to the left or right to activate or use the needle threaded with the correct color thread, passing through it’s very own set of tension discs along its very own path.
If you were to sit on the side of the machine, you would see the needle panel moving toward you or away from you as each needle takes its turn. If you stand in front of the machine, the needle panel will be moving from side to side – right, left, right again as each needle takes it’s turn, called into action.
You bring the design to the screen on the machine by connecting and sending it directly from the computer or saving it to a memory device like a USB stick
The difference – the magic – comes at this point. You tell the machine which needle to use for each color change in the design, press “Start” and walk away. As each color change occurs in the design, the machine stops – moves the needle panel left or right to the appropriate needle and then starts right back up!
Starts without you. When you come back 3 hours later the design is done! DONE!!! Without you.
5 Color changes, 12 Color Changes, it is done. The machine has just moved through the color changes you instructed it to make while you waited on customers or did the laundry or played with your children . . . life goes on. With a Multi-Needle Embroidery Machine it goes on much more quickly!
As my Mother used to say, “Pretty slick, huh?!” Well that ain’t all babe!
Just like the Single-Needle Embroidery Machine, you hoop the item to be embroidered and attach the hoop to the Multi-Needle Machine. What’s the problem? Well, a Single-Needle Embroidery Machine has an Embroidery Unit that attaches to the Sewing Machine and converts it into an Embroidery Machine. That whole system sits on your sewing table. That embroidery unit and table tend to get in the way when you get ready to embroider – it’s always there – underneath the hoop – all the time – in the way!.
Not so with a Multi-Needle Embroidery Machine! There is no embroidery unit to attach. And the “Free Arm”? There it is, right there in the middle, a Sewing Cylinder. Hanging in air, truly Free! When you attach the hoop to the arms on either side of the sewing cylinder, the cylinder just slips up inside whatever you’re embroidering. Like the photo on the left below, inside the Baby Onesie or the photo on the right, inside the High Top Sneaker!
In this photo, the hoop is slipped inside the front pocket of a sweatshirt. The “arms” of the hoop are attached to the “arms” that extend from the front of the machine on either side of the truly “free” sewing cylinder!
It just doesn’t get any better than this when it comes to embroidery.
Now that is very, very, very cool! Come on, join me in Multi-Needle World.