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Understanding Embroidery Machine Components for Beginners

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When looking for an embroidery machine you’ll likely be overwhelmed by long lists of machine parts listed as features. That’s a standard marketing gimmick that most businesses employ – mentioning all the basic components of a product as if they are something special in order to fool people into buying it. And if you’re not familiar with the subject, you can understandably be confused by it.
So, to help you out, here’s a quick list of the main components you can expect to see in a standard, good embroidery machine. Having these components is pretty much a must for a good item so it’s best to get to know them and what they do. 

The main embroidery machine components

Embroidery machines have several key parts that you’ll always need to look for:

Needle bar

The needle bar is where the needles of an embroidery machine are contained. The needle bar is also what’s moving them up and down to create the stitching. 

Embroidery arm and head

The arm and the head of an embroidery machine are the two components that work in tandem to create the stitches. The arm moves the hooped fabric around while the head is where the needles, the needle bar, and the thread are contained. 

Cap frame

This is simply a stabilizing frame that’s used specifically for caps and hats. 

Frame sash

The frame sash is also called a “pantograph”. It’s what holds the frame connected to the embroidery arm and that’s actually doing all the movements. The frame sash, the embroidery arm, and the hoop, all move together, as a single unit as the embroidery machine works. 

Embroidery hoop and frame

All embroidery machines have either a hoop or a frame. This is what keeps the fabric in place during the stitching. The hoop or the frame is mounted on top of the embroidery arm and they move under the needle during the stitching. 

Standard sewing machine parts

As most embroidery machines double as standard sewing machines as well, it’s a good idea to be aware of the basic sewing machine components as well. We won’t go into detail for them here but these are the basic parts of any decent sewing machines you should expect to see. Don’t fall for it if you see them being listed as a “special feature” but also make sure to note it if they are missing or they’re offered as paid add-ons. 

•    Spool pin
•    Bobbin binder spindle
•    Bobbin winder stopper
•    Stitch width dial
•    Pattern selector dial
•    Hand wheel
•    Stitch length dial
•    Reverse stitch lever
•    Power stitch
•    Bobbin winder thread guide
•    Thread tension dial
•    Thread take-up lever
•    Needle clamp screw
•    Presser foot
•    Bobbin cover
•    Bobbin cover release button
•    Feed dog
•    Needle
•    Needle plate

Embroidery machine settings and electronic controls

Lastly, let’s talk about the basic settings and control features you can expect to see in a modern electronic embroidery machine. A lot of people still value the act of hand embroidery but there’s no denying that electronic embroidery machines are currently the most effective and efficient tool for embroidery out there.

LCD and stitch selection displays

Most modern embroidery machine models have large and easy-to-use LCD displays. Usually, with touchscreens, these displays act to both showcase the features of the embroidery machine, as well as to help you control them. Things such as pattern information, stitch selection, previews of the chosen embroidery pattern, the ability to edit the pattern as you’re working, and so on, are all vital control tools that any good LCD display should enable. 

Thread break detector and indicator
For a smooth and efficient embroidery process, avoiding thread breaks, as well as noticing them and addressing them as quickly as possible, is a must. The thread break detector helps with that by always looking for thread breaks and halting the process as soon as one is detected. The thread break indicator works together with it by altering the user immediately on the LCD display – the thread break indicator should show where exactly the thread break has occurred so that you can repair it quickly and easily. 

Reader/writer box
The reader/writer box is a vital accessory for anyone who wants to work with stitch designs or patterns on their computer. This feature works by recording the digital data from the computer on a memory card. From there, you can easily transfer the information onto the embroidery machine and use it on your future embroidery works. 

Memory card

The memory card should go without explanation as most people nowadays should know what it is. It’s important to note that you look for embroidery machines that do have a memory card functionality, however, as there are still models that don’t have it. Being able to use a memory card on your embroidery machine is crucial as it will allow you to transfer additional embroidery patterns from your computer and using them with your embroidery machine. Without a memory card, you’ll be stuck with just the several dozen or several hundred basic embroidery patterns that have been encoded into your machine’s software. 

Final thoughts

When you get to know them, embroidery machines are fairly simple devices, especially if you were already aware of how a standard sewing machine works or if you knew how to embroider by hand. Nevertheless, especially if you’re still new to embroidering, getting to know the basic components and features of a good, modern embroidery machine is best done before purchasing an actual embroidery machine. Doing so will guarantee that you know what you’re buying and you’re getting the best item for your needs and preferences.

Once you have familiarized yourself with these components and we recommend following a guide and read as many reviews as possible.  

A great starting point is Hunting Handmade and their guide to finding the best embroidery machine, alternatively there are excellent resources right here on this forum! 

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