Buying your own Embroidery Business

How to purchase an embroidery machine cont...

Purchasing an embroidery machine takes time, research and patience. This is going to be your future business, and with any luck, a good income. Treat this like looking for a new job. Take the time to find the right company with the right machine and the right training, support and warranty.

Take a look at the information and tips below to be better informed. Then call one of our knowledgeable salespeople, or our technicians if you have any further questions.

Information about commercial embroidery as a start-up business.

Sewing Head
Embroidery machines are sold by the number of sewing heads, and sewing needles. The number of sewing heads indicate how many items or garments can be embroidered simultaneously. A machine can have 1,2,3,4,6,8,12,15,16,20,24, or 30 heads. It is a single piece of equipment with multiple heads on it.

How many sewing heads do I need?
1-head machines are usually purchased for start-up businesses that will embroider less than 20 garments per day. A 1-head machine can embroider about 40 garments per 8-hour day. This is based on a 4,000-6,000 stitch design. Calculate roughly 10 minutes of machine time to sew a 5,000 stitch design. There are approximately 1,000 stitches in 1 square inch. An average size logo on a shirt or hat is 2"x3" or 6 square inches or 6,000 stitches.

Sewing needles
Each sewing head has 1-16 needles. If a machine's model number is 1202, this usually means that it is a 2-head machine with 12 needles. A 1501 model would mean 1-head, and 15 needles, and a 906 would mean 9-needles, and 6-heads. Not all manufacturers use this method to label their machines but most do.

How many needles do I need?
Less than 10 years ago most machines only had 9-needles at most. Most of the designs that you embroider will have less than 6 colors, and most machines can handle more than 100 color changes. So if you embroider a design with more colors than you have needles, you will just change out the thread as the machine is sewing and the machine never stops. However it is very convenient to have more needles for a couple of reasons. If you have a regular client that uses the same colors all the time you can leave those needles loaded with those colors, and not have to change them. Also on some heavy materials like leather, and treated canvas it is recommended that you use sharp point needles, so you could leave the sharp point needles on the machine all the time for those items.
Trimmers - Devices found on most machines manufactured after 1990. They trim the threads between color changes, jump stitches, between block lettering, and at the end of the design.
 
Cap System (Cap Frames, Cap Driver, Cap Gauge)
Devices found on most machines to do embroidery on a finished cap. This is an attachment that will rotate around the sewing arm and hold a hat for sewing. This is the best way to accurately sew a large design on a hat. Older machines would press the hat down flat and sew it. This method could only sew a small design (less than 2"x 2") and would appear skewed because the design was not following the curvature of the hat.
Cap Frame
Cap frames are the attachment that holds or hoops the hat for sewing. Cap frames come in 3 sizes; Standard, semi-wide, and wide-angle. Standard sews an area of about 2.5" x 5", semi-wide sews an area of about 3" x 7", and wide-angle sews an area of about 3" x 14". Most manufacturers now only offer the wide and semi-wide cap frames. However, after market suppliers still manufacture standard cap frames for all machine brands.
Wide-angle would seem to be the best choice because of the larger sewing area, but savvy machine operators will tell you that standard cap frames are much faster to hoop. So you will find that high production facilities will always have standard cap frames. You can always put the hat into a regular tubular hoop to sew the side of the hat. The only thing you could not sew with a standard or semi-wide cap frame is one continuous design that is longer than 5" or 7" respectively.
Cap Driver
The cap driver is the item that attaches directly to the machine and rotates around the sewing arm. You attach the cap frame with hat to this driver while on the machine.
Cap Gauge
This is attached to a table close to your machine, and is used for hooping hats. You attach the cap frame to the cap gauge, open the cap frame, load the cap or hat into the cap frame, then move the cap frame with hat loaded over to the cap driver on the machine.
 
Tubular Frames - Frames or hoops that are especially designed to sew on garments that are manufactured in a tubular fashion i.e.: tee-shirts, sweat shirts, golf shirts. It also works well with jackets. The opposite side of the garment hangs below a cylinder arm and is out of the way of the garments on the other heads. In the case of a jacket the front and arms would be out of the way.
 
Software - Embroidery software is specifically designed for the embroidery industry. It is designed to generate stitches and output the information in a language that will communicate with the embroidery machine. Software such as Corel Draw, Arts & Letters, etc. are great for generating graphics but do not generate stitches and will not write to a file that an embroidery machine understands. There are several types of software sold to people with embroidery machines. They generally break down into 3 basic categories. Each manufacturer offers different features within these categories however.
 
Lettering - This software is intended to give you the ability to type in the lettering you want to sew and output it to a disk or directly to the machine for the machine to sew it. It usually has the ability to distort the lettering and is usually inclusive of several font and symbol styles. It also will allow you to add lettering to an embroidery design.
 
Editing and lettering - This has the same features as the lettering software, but in addition allows you to edit an embroidery design. Sometimes when you are using a stock design, you may need to change the color sequence or add/remove a stitch or two. You may also take parts of two different designs and combine them to make one design and so on. Often when you have a design digitized it becomes necessary to make some minor changes to make it sew better.
 
Digitizing - Usually incorporates all of the above features but also includes the digitizing features. This allows one to input a design via a scanner or a digitizing tablet and create stitches.Note: Most people who sell equipment agree that it is not advisable for people without experience with embroidery equipment attempt their own digitizing prior to having some experience with the equipment. The digitizing process is the most critical part of the whole process and generally speaking it is best to use experienced digitizers until you have gained the experience with the equipment. Generally speaking the companies that offer this software can be upgraded from one level to another.
 
What do I need to be in business? Back to top
Most of the companies that sell equipment will usually package everything you need together but it may be helpful to look at the individual parts of the package.
 
Embroidery machine
Usually the sale of machines include all of the standard hoops/frames that you will need to get started. Generally the manufacturer will offer additional hoops that you can buy as you need them. Usually there are cap frames and 2-3 sizes of hoops sold with machines and these are sometimes enough but may not always be. Generally when hoops are included, there are 2 of each size for each head.This will allow you to hoop a garment while one is sewing and then you can re-hoop the machine more quickly.
 
Machine Accessories
There are many accessories available for your machine, and business. While not necessary, they will make your job a lot easier. Below is a list of common accessories.
 
Hooping board
Hooping boards are great for placing the embroidery in the exact same place on multiple shirts. It speeds up the process dramatically. Click here to see the hooping board.
 
Jacket sewing kit
If you plan on sewing a lot of heavy jackets, or blankets, or canvas bags, you need a sturdy double height hoop to hold the garment, and a table on the machine to support the garment. Click here to see a jacket sewing kit
 
Clamping system
The clamping system can actually eliminate hoops altogether. But this system really shines when you need to sew on the back of a hat, or on a purse, or in a pocket on a computer bag. Because the clamp reaches into an opening like a pocket, you can move beyond the seam or zipper to clamp the product.
Click here to see the clamping system
 
Software - generally this is one of the three categories mentioned above. We generally recommend that unless you have embroidery experience you would be better off purchasing the automatic digitizing packages. Most of this software comes in Windows XP versions. Some companies that sell this software will want to include the computer in the sale, but there are others that do not.
 
Computer - Most of the software will work on a Windows 98, 2000, & XP computer and most of the time, if you have a computer you would like to use, it will usually work. There have been times when the software we sell will not work correctly on all PCs. Some companies such as Packard Bell make their computers in such a fashion that they are not compatible with Embroidery industry software.
 
Supplies - This would be an assortment of thread, backing, topping material, scissors, sewing snips, machine oil, bobbins, needles, etc. Also it is a good idea to have some sort of hooping device. This is a work aid that makes hooping garments easier.
 
Stock Designs - While stock designs are not required, they may prove to be most helpful. There are several companies who offer collections of designs. Some of the larger companies furnish nice color catalogs with detailed pictures, sizes and stitch counts of these designs. They become excellent sales tools and options for your customers who may find a stock design that would work and you could offer this design to you customer as a quick solution and it would be less expensive than a custom digitized design. We also find that by having one of these collections it helps you develop marketing and sales opportunities.
 
Ok, I know what machine and supplies to buy, what's next?
Machine Insurance
Insurance for your machine and software is mandatory if you are leasing your equipment. So if you plan on leasing, start shopping for insurance because not all insurance companies will cover commercial machines that are in your home.
 
Business License
A business license is issued buy the city your business is in. It can be purchased from your local City Clerk office, or even purchased online.
 
Fictitious Business Name Statement
A fictitious business name statement is an article placed in a specific local newspaper. When you purchase your Business license, they will tell you which local paper to place your ad in. The ad will simply read that you will be starting a business at a certain address, under a certain DBA
 
Business checking account
Within 24 hours after you place the ad with the local newspaper, you will be allowed to open a business checking account
 
Resale certificate
This sales tax license is purchased from your local State Board Of Equalization. It allows you to purchase items from suppliers without paying tax. Some suppliers of garments will not give you the best discount unless you have a resale number.
 
Catalogs
Contact all of the garment suppliers to receive catalogs from them. Most suppliers will have catalogs that will have no pricing in it so your customers can view the catalogs.
 
Samples
The first thing you will do after the training is over, is create some samples of your work to display. Sew out samples of text available for names, a few corporate logos like McDonalds, Century 21, and sew out a few large designs of the local school mascot, or sports team.
Many of the garment suppliers also offer a starter kit or display kit of garments at a discount for your garment display.
 
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