“Oh wow, your hat’s so unique. Where’d you get it?”
No one will expect you to say that you made it yourself. As soon as they find out, you’ll be showered with exclamations of “Really?” and “That’s so cool!” and “Can you decorate a hat for me?”
Custom-embroidered hats and material in general have recently been making a comeback, as we fight off streamlined commercialism and seek to express our individuality. If you have an embroider, and particularly one that works easily with hats, you’ll quickly find yourself very popular.
But if you’re just getting into the whole hat-embroidery thing, where do you begin to start? While if you’re a seasoned embroiderer and plan on starting up a business, if you’re an amateur sewer/decorator, you’ll probably want a machine more geared toward beginners.
While professional and high-end hat embroidery machines typically work quicker and are able of doing multiple projects at a time, a simple machine is still capable of providing you with customized and fun designs on your hats.
Below, we’ll be getting into just what you should be looking for when searching for a beginner’s hat embroidery machine and list some of the best options currently available on the market. It is our goal to provide you with as accurate and unbiased information as possible so that you can find the perfect product for you.
What are Hat Embroidery Machines and How Do They Work?
Hat embroidery machines, simply put, are embroidery machines that offer the capabilities of embroidering a hat. While it is possible to embroider a hat on any embroidery machine, this typically requires a longer and slightly more DIY process. For beginners looking to jump straight into hat embroidery, then, an easy to use machine built for hats is ideal.
But how exactly do you take a round and multidimensional surface such as a hat and compress it down into an embroidery machine? Through this little device called the hat hoop.
This “hoop” frames a square/rectangle section of the front of the hat, isolating the area that is meant to be embroidered. Most commercial embroidery machines will offer an embroidery area of 4 in x 4 in, so some hat hoops may stretch to accommodate this, though the area may also be smaller.
The framed section of the hat is compressed and held flat so that it is an ideal surface to be embroidered. It is also capable of tilting the hat surface depending on where it needs to be for the design.
So you have the hat ready to go, but how does this embroidery machine actually know what design to start stitching? Most machines have built-in designs and stencils already loaded, so you can get straight down to business and start monogramming everything.
But you didn’t buy your own hat embroidery machine just to use their pre-loaded designs. That’s why the computing abilities of embroidery machines are so important. Some machines can connect to the internet all on their own, while others can connect to a laptop or other device via USB port.
Once your machine is connected, it can start downloading different designs and even fonts. If you upload it in the proper format, you can even create your own designs for the machine to download.
While most embroidery machines come already loaded with at least five fonts, you can also download different fonts from embroidery websites as well.
How Does it Stitch the Design?
Once the hat is in position and your design is chosen, it’s time to get down to business. Commercial embroidery machines typically use up to four needles to stitch out their designs. This allows for a much faster embroidering process and also allows for multiple colors to be in use at once.
If your embroidery machine only has one needle, though, never fear: it’ll just take longer and you’ll have to keep a closer eye out for when it’s time to change each color.
Professional vs. Commercial Hat Embroidery Machines
We know what hat embroidery machines are and how they work, but what exactly is the difference between professional and commercial machines?
For starters, professional machines are much larger. These machines are meant for businesses, small and large, and so they need to be speedy and capable of working multiple projects at a time. While your typical commercial machine will use up to four needles simultaneously, a professional machine often uses 15 needles.
These professional hat embroidery machines can have quite the hefty price tag, often weighing in somewhere in the thousands of dollars. So, don’t invest in one of these machines if you just plan on being an at-home hobbyist.
Key Features to Look for in a Beginner’s Machine
Listed below are some of the major considerations you should think about when selecting a hat embroidery machine as a beginner.
We can’t over-emphasize the importance that your machine is user-friendly. As a beginner to the world of hat embroidery, and perhaps to embroidery itself, it is imperative that you get a machine equal to your skill level so that you are able to get the most out of it.
So, don’t look for a machine with all the bells and whistles, but instead something that will get the job done while at the same time doing the job right.
As mentioned above, many machines come with pre-loaded designs and stencils. While you will likely want to use your own custom designs when embroidering your hats, these are still good to have on hand—if nothing more than to practice with.
The inclusion of multiple fonts is also an attractive feature when it comes to an embroidery machine, eliminating the need to purchase additional fonts.
Ease of Import
You have the design you want selected and ready to go, all that’s left is to upload it to the embroidery machine. Alas, as we all know, technology can sometimes be difficult to work with. Luckily, beginner’s machines should make the uploading process as simple as possible.
Check out product descriptions and reviews to make sure that you get a machine that won’t hinder your creativity by making this a more difficult process than it needs to be.
Number of Needles
The last important factor you should consider when making your selection is the number of needles the machine sports. While a one-needle machine will do the job, it will also take longer, requires more supervision, and necessitates that you continually switch out thread colors.
Investing in a four-needle commercial hat embroidery machine, therefore, is a good idea for quicker and easier embroidery.
Top Hat Embroidery Machines for Beginners
Below, we’ll provide a quick overview of some of the best hat embroidery machines currently on the market. We’ve selected a machine from each of the big brands when it comes to sewing and embroidery machines: Brother, Janome, and Singer.
This machine is excessively user-friendly and perfect for beginners. It provides a wide embroidery space of 5 in x 7 in, though you probably won’t need this whole space for hat embroidery. Part of what makes it so easy to use are the pre-loaded patterns: it comes with 136 designs, ten frame shapes, six fonts, and 12 border styles.
As for uploading your own images, you can do this easily through the USB port. Simply insert a USB drive that already has your designs uploaded into it. It also offers great design editing effects, like rotation, mirror-image, and size-editing.
It uses only one needle.
This hat embroidery machine is fairly similar to the Brother PE770 in that it offers pre-loaded designs while it can also upload outside designs through a USB drive. It offers 73 designs as well as a few fonts.
One of the neat features of this Janome product is that it is equipped with a needle thread breakage sensor—so, if the thread happens to break, the machine will stop to let you know. This can save a great deal of time and confusion.
This machine is not as highly rated as the Brother machine, but it gets the job done and is good for beginners just starting out.
This machine is a combination embroidering and sewing machine, so it’s great if you don’t already have a standard sewing machine.
In terms of designs, it offers over 200 pre-loaded designs and six different alphabet styles. It can, of course, have designs uploaded to it through use of a USB drive.
Unfortunately, you are only able to embroider the collection of designs that the machine already offers—unless you purchase and install some very expensive software.
Must-Have Sewing Tools
A Variety of Sewing Machine Needles
The basic and might we say slightly bad quality needles your machine came with initially will not last forever. They are also not the best you can get value wise, and these needles may not be suitable for whatever project you are working on, depending on what type of stitching you're doing. At the very least, you'll need extras for your machine. The original ones will become dull over time. Not only is sharp important, but you will also want to switch out your needles for various fabric weights since we're sure you're not just using one type of fabric.
Quality Fabric Shears
You can't use ordinary scissors to cut fabric. This is a big misconception that we don't advise you to test out! You will need to buy good quality fabric shears explicitly made for cutting through fabric. At the beginning of your sewing profession or your sewing hobby, buy good ones that you take care of so they last a long time. Taking care of them means never cutting anything except fabric with them. You may need to lock them up to keep your spouse or kids from using them, because the other people in your household may not understand that all scissors are not created equal. Do what you have to do!
If you want to keep them fresh and sharp, a proper maintenance thing to do is have them sharpened every so often. Having sharpening tools on hand is the key to having excellent fabric shears for a long time to come. These are expensive, so don't be afraid to overdo it with the upkeep and protection, even if this means locking them away and oiling them regularly! Pro Tip: If you are left-handed, it is worth investing in left-hand fabric shears. Remember, your cutting needs to be precise!
This one is super basic, nothing fancy, but you can't do your job without it! What professional or crafty sewist could get by without a handy tape measure? Though this is basic, there are so many ways to go, but I personally favor the simple type. Yellow 60-Inch Tape Measure is the way to go! I find that the small ones they are selling nowadays can stretch out and eventually break, but the good old traditional ones last forever and stay accurate because it isn't stretchy material. 60″ is typically long enough for measuring any piece of clothing. In my experience, I have never needed anything longer.
A Thread Organizer
A thread organizer isn't usually a costly expense. They are typically wooden and pretty cheap. You can find them at craft stores or online, and they all come in various sizes. Once you start building up a variety of different thread colors, you will need a secure place to store them as well as keep them organized. There are tons of caddies and cases out there, but buying a basic wooden open stand is what I use because it allows me to keep my thread organized but also in plain sight, ready for me to pick out whatever color I need and use it immediately.
Reasons Embroidery Is Wonderful
Fun New Skills Are Confidence Builders
Picking up a new skill niche automatically gives you a more profound sense of confidence. The only way to become confident is by deciding to try something new and lots of practice, then learning all you can, and getting better with time. No one can give you confidence in yourself; it is something that comes with the territory of being good at something you cherish. Instilling confidence in yourself is critical if you are to ever create beautiful things and experience satisfaction in work and life.
In the process of learning a new skill, you will also learn things about yourself. With embroidery, you will discover that you are more than capable of producing something worthwhile and lovely. Building this satisfaction will give you feelings of success and the confidence to try other skills. Having this fun and beautiful ability under your belt can be the car that drives you to new heights and new capabilities.
I have seen the confidence build countless times with friends who have no confidence in their ability. I have even seen it in myself. But once you learn how to create, especially with embroidery, something extraordinary takes place. I have seen others look at the beautiful work they have made with their own hands and even those who swore they were not gifted or thought they would hate embroidery ended up feeling satisfied with the finished result. If for nothing else, try your hand at embroidery to grow.
To Have an Outlet from Stress
Have you ever experienced the focus and calm that comes over you when you are keeping your hands busy and engaged? I have found that in moments of heightened stress, terrible anxiety, sadness, or frustration of any relational conflict, putting my energy, my very hand to something changes everything.
Embroidery not only keeps your thoughts focused on beauty and enjoyment, but it also gives you satisfaction in the work you are accomplishing with your own hands. When you are focusing your attention on something productive, all problems are left behind, temporarily paused, and subconsciously worked through.
Things that seemed to be the biggest deal in the world fall into line and become right sized. Peace and calm, a sense of self-worth and satisfaction come instead. Having something we love to do that is also productive can get us through stressful and hard times in life.
Maybe you have done what many others do when they are stressed or weighted down. Clean the house, dust, or exercise. While these are all good things, embroidery may be a good thing to add to your list when anxiety comes on. Not only has this craft gotten me through some pretty tough times, but it is also recommended by some of the Hospice establishments and experts as a form of therapy for patients going through a time of grief.
All in all, any crafty thing like this replaces something sad with something enjoyable, and it also creates a sense of productivity and satisfaction in those who would otherwise be stewing in pain.
Final Thoughts on Hat Embroidery Machines
Investing in a hat embroidery machine is a great idea if you’re creative and love wearing unique headwear. Perhaps the best machine to get as a beginner is the Brother PE770, which offers all the features and user-friendliness you’ll need. While the Janome and Singer products offer some good features, in terms of price and value, the PE770 and other Brother embroidery machines are the way to go.
So, start getting creative and have fun with it! Soon, you’ll be rocking your own unique hats and you’ll have hordes of admirers begging you to customize a hat for them, too.