The Basics of Multi-Needle Machine Embroidery

Find out, in our three-part series, whether a multi-needle embroidery machine might be the next machine for you.

By Kymona Tracey

So, you love machine embroidery and want to explore bigger machine options. Perhaps you want to embroider larger designs or place designs in smaller spaces without unstitching a completely sewn item. Maybe you want to stitch out projects in less time or stitch out designs that require more than four thread colors. Or you’re looking to start a home embroidery business, and you need an embroidery machine that can handle the volume. If any of these describe you, a multi-needle embroidery machine might make sense.

Most people start off using a single-head, single-needle, domestic sewing machine with an embroidery module. Once they get the hang of using it, they find themselves wanting to create more significant projects faster and with no thread changes. Upgrading to a single-head, multi-needle embroidery machine is the ideal move.

A single-head, multi-needle machine can have four to 15 needles. Each needle holds its own thread color, allowing you to embroider without stopping and changing the thread color. Unlike your domestic sewing machine with an embroidery module, the multi-needle machine serves only one purpose: embroidery. That is where the fun begins.

What makes single-head, multi-needle machines so special? Here are some considerations.

Fewer Thread Changes

Thread changes are probably the No. 1 reason to upgrade to a multi-needle embroidery machine. With multiple needles, you can keep your embroidery machine threaded with several different colors all at once, with no need to stop and rethread the colors needed to complete your design. In addition, the number of needles the machine has dictates how many colors you can have on the embroidery machine. Four needles mean four color threads, 10 needles mean 10 color threads, and so on.

Hooping Is Easy

The hooping process is much easier on a multi-needle machine because the “bed” of this machine is open. In addition, the machine offers a free arm that allows you to hoop and embroider items with tight areas such as sleeves, pockets, and onesies.

The ability to use specialty hoops is another reason why hooping on a multi-needle machine is faster and more accessible. You can use clamps, fast frames, cap hoops, or magnetic hoops on a multi-needle machine. If you’re someone who has trouble hooping, these options are for you. Clamps and fast frames are not your typical hoops. However, they allow you to embroider on those hard-to-hoop items with ease. Cap hoops are just as the name suggests: They enable you to embroider on caps with ease. Finally, a magnetic hoop looks like your standard hoop, but it’s not; Instead of pushing the hoop pieces together and hoping that everything lines up, the magnets on the hoop do the work for you.

Larger Hoop Sizes

Most single-needle machines’ largest hoop size is 8″ x 12″. Multi-needle machines hoop sizes include 4″ x 4″, 5″ x 7″, 6″ x 10″, 8″ x 12″, 8″ x 14″, and 14″ x 14″, with some variation. Larger hoop sizes allow you to stitch out bigger designs without taking the fabric out of the hoop to move it.

Faster Speed

Multi-needle machines are built for production runs, allowing them to run at a speed of 1,000 to 1,200 stitches per minute. That is double the speed of a single-needle machine.

Less Machine Watching

With the open bed, fabrics have a decreased chance of getting caught up around the machine, so there is no need to babysit the machine.

Free Up Your Sewing Machine

If you have a sewing machine with an embroidery module, you can’t sew while the device is embroidering. That downtime might seem unproductive; Having a stand-alone embroidery machine solves that problem. You can sew and embroider at the same time.

Other Considerations

With the many compelling reasons for upgrading, there are two additional factors to consider before switching to a multi-needle embroidery machine: cost and portability.

A multi-needle embroidery machine is expensive. As with single-needle, single-head domestic machines, the price varies greatly across machine types and brands. The higher the price, the more features on the machine. Some companies do offer special financing when you purchase a machine.

Also, multi-needle machines are hefty and lack the portability that single-needle machines offer. There is no picking up the machine and traveling with it. This machine will live in a space that you designated for it.

Choosing a Multi-Needle Embroidery Machine

  • Choosing the correct single-head, multi-needle embroidery machine is a personal choice based on your needs. Consider your answers to these questions.
  • How many needles do you want the embroidery machine to have? The number of needles determines how many colors can stitch out without changing the thread.
  • How big of a stitch field are you looking to stitch out? What is the largest design you want to embroider?
  • How many items do you want to embroider each day? Are you making two items, or do you plan on creating a significant volume?
  • Do you want to buy the additional hoops as needed, or do you want the machine to come with everything to get started? Some companies sell machines with essential tools, while others sell machines with different hoops sizes, specialty hoops, threads, and designs.
  • Do you want to embroider hard-to-hoop items, such as a cap or belt? Look for machines with those capabilities.
  • How much money do you want to spend on an embroidery machine? Stick to your budget. Look for sales; they do happen.
  • Do you want the machine to have a display screen with a USB drive versus having to connect your PC or laptop to the device?
  • What is your brand choice? Which brand do you love and have come to know and trust?

After you answer the questions above, it’s time to do the research. First, look at the different brands and compare your choices with the machines on the market. From there, narrow your choices. Visit a dealer that carries the machines that interest you and, if possible, do a test stitch. And remember: Have fun and enjoy the process.


This series premiered in the winter 2021 issue of Creative Machine Embroidery. Watch for parts II and III, coming to the blog soon. And subscribe to CME now so you don’t miss any of our great stuff!

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