When I saw your post: Need Opinions, I felt an over whelming need to
put my 2 cents in on this subject. I've been there, done that and am
doing that and have learned the hard way expensive lessons!
I'll give you some advice that can save you thousands of dollars,
wasted time, struggle, stress and hopefully help you help yourself to
make the best decision for you!
I joined this group Oct 2006 when I purchased my new SWF 1504 DF
machine but have never participated with any replies until now, I've
only monitored messages and wished I would of had access to a group
such as this when I first started out. I have eight years of
embroidery and digitizing experience, went from one home embroidery
machine to five, purchased a used two head commercial machine,
upgraded to a NEW 15 needle single head still had to use home
machines then finally purchased a new four head last October.
My husband and I have a fulltime home based embroidery and upholstery
shop (thank goodness we are diversified - upholstery work
(auto,boat,home & commercial furnishings, boat covers and enclosures,
ATV, RV, Snowmobile & Heavy Equipment Seating, etc.).
Our home based business is our sole means of income and it's tough
making ends meet with the declining embroidery market as it is at
present with all the new competition from the high tech low cost
screen/digital garment embellishers. If I only had it to do
over..........but, I am where I am and must work endless days and
nights to make the lease payments on equipment and keep a roof over
If you are not a hobbyist and are serious about an embroidery
business you need to read on.
First off, do you have a market/demand/orders for embroidery
garments, are you turning away multi dozen orders? Do you plan on
supporting yourself and/or your family?
There is no money to be made in one-off's. You need multiple orders
of same design on same garment, etc. or it's not worth the time to
turn on the machine and pay the electric bill, let alone try and make
the lease payment on a new machine with one-off's. Cost to farm out
or do your own digitizing is not cost effective for one-off's.
In this economy and declining embroidery market you will go broke
with a single head machine trying to compete with screen and digital
printers. Do you presently farm out work orders you can not handle?
Is work you are turning away because of lack of time to do yourself
or lack of ability of your home machine?
I live in a rural area on a lake and only have a small store front
with no drive by, so marketing is a major factor for survival for
us. Advertising costs can eat up profit fast.
Competition from the many new screen and digital garment printer
businesses that have opened in the past few years in my area. They
are willing to work for less than minimum wage, family owned and
operated and practically work for cost just to make a nickel to make
payments on their equipment and pay for their storefronts.
The Michigan job market is declining, it seems at least one major
corporation closes its' doors weekly and leaves Michigan. The
embroidery market as a whole has declined rapidly in the past couple
of years with the struggling economy and garment market being
flooded with diversified low cost screen, digital, heatpress, ect.
The past couple of years I have watched the fashion trends change.
The market has done a complete 180 from embroidery friendly fabrics
to screen print and/or digital lightweight clingy garments.
Screen/digital printers have the ability to print in cool/trendy
areas on garments that embroiders can not without spending thousands
for specialty hoops for their multi head machines.
The apparel industry caters to the market buying trends which is
presently to screen/digital printers who are producing more low cost
garments that follow the fashion trends, tighter fitting spandex,
contoured, lightweight fabrics that are just wonderful to screen
print on but not as user friendly for the embroidery market. Low
cost, comfortable wearing, cool looking apparel is what the customers
want and primarily purchase. Embroiders have to be extremely
creative to make a buck.
Consumers like the fact that there is no abrasive backing
(stabilizers) to rub against their skin (especially for the tank top
market where no bra is worn and with baby/toddler clothing that
touches the skin).
Detailed attractive embroidery designs have a high stitch count and
the fabric around the design tends to pucker and/or wrinkle on the
newer lightweight fabrics no matter how perfectly digitized the
With new low cost Screen/digital technology equipment trendy garments
are produced for a fraction of the cost of same design on same
garment if it were embroidered. I won't even get into the low cost of
garments being embroidered overseas dirt cheap, you will never be
able to compete with, I will assume you are aware of same.
In my area a FULL BACK screen/digital design with unlimited colors is
going for $1.50 each per item, with a one dozen minimum, that's One
Dollar and Fifty Cents! I can't compete with that!
The screen/digital printer can produce a full back garment in just a
few minutes. The same design embroidered would have 60,000 to 125,000
stitches and take one to three hours to sew out a Full Back. The
screen printers can have a case of garment done to your one sew out
of the identical design.
Cost to consumer of Apples to Apples garment with an attractive
screen/digital design is a fraction, less than 1/4 of embroidery (but
only if you have a multiple four head embroidery machine or larger).
Screen cost per garment could be a lot less than a 1/4 of embroidery
cost per garment if you only have a single head machine and you count
for your time to sew out a full back or full front design.
If you only have a single head machine you would be lucky to have six
to eight garments with full front or back designs completed at the
end of the day where a screen/digital printer would have completed a
few cases of the same design on same garment at the end of the day.
So, first decide if you have a market where you can make a profit.
Are your orders for one off's or for dozens of same item, same
design? Are you turning away business, if yes, what are the size of
the orders, why are you turning away business? Do you farm out work?
You will not get rich quick if you think you will by getting a
machine that has a larger sewing field to do jacket backs or full
There are not enough hours in the day to mass produce product to pay
the bills. It would take you an entire day to sew a dozen caps with
an average stitch count of 20,000. Oh, but you read designs have
6,000 stitches, but that is a very basic of basic design. 99% of the
average cap design has a larger stitch count and design is the
company logo. Customers that see a 6,000 stitch design wouldn't like
it as it was too plain or small and would go with the screen print,
heatpress caps that they can get for $3.00 each that look nicer than
paying you $8.00 and up for an embroidered frumpy little no-nothing
impressive 6,000 stitch cap.
Think about it, is cap attachment/frame cost $1,500 & Up worth the
profit you could make? You would make more money by asking if "Would
You Like Fries With That?" and farm out all orders to china or to
other struggling embroiderers would have multi head machines that now
work dirt cheap just to pay the bills. You never touch the product
and have garments dropped shipped and you make more money than if you
tried to do it yourself, especially if you have to farm out the
digitizing on top of it. You can not compete in the embroidery
industry with a single head unless you have a lot of loving friends
and family who will overpay and repeatedly order garments from you
that they can get elsewhere apples to apples cheaper and faster.
Look at the SWF archives, read, study any data on new business owners
in this industry, call successful owners, ask questions!
You WILL NOT find any successful single head embroidery machine owner
that will tell you they can support themselves and/or their family
SOLELY with income generated with their single head machine. If they
say otherwise, they are lying or IT'S A MIRACLE and they have no
There is not enough hours in the day to produce enough product on a
single head machine to pay the bills, let a lone be able to eat, pay
your insurance, business and health, house payment, utilities, phone,
etc. and forget any social life as you and/or somebody would have to
keep the machine going 24 hours a day non stop. Where's the time for
bookkeeping, marketing/advertising and a social life?
Now, if I have your attention and you are not a hobbyist and would
like to know more, of what not to do, let me know and I will be glad
to reply in another post, this one is getting too long.
I will tell you about factual costly mistakes I made. What I would of
done had I known then what I know now and wished I didn't learn the
hard expensive way. All the would of's, could of's, had I only
known then what I know now.
If you do not believe me, look at all the Single Head 15 needle
machines for sale. Yes, most are a year old but that is because the
owners can not contractually/legally get out of their lease during
the first 12 months, (they give up after a few months, get a real job
to make the lease payments until the 12 months are up and then the
lease company will take machine back or assist with the sale of same
or you sell it yourself. Read between the lines on these machines up
for sale. Like new, barely used, used only six months, etc. 99% of
the owners selling a single head 15 needle or otherwise, like new
were just like you...........If only I had a machine I did not have
to change thread colors and would sew large designs, do caps, etc. I
would make it in the embroidery industry.
Before you purchase a commercial machine I recommend you go get a job
at a successful commercial embroidery business (but don't expect to
make more than $8.00 per hour and no benefits). See first hand what
it takes to run a successful embroidery business, exactly what is
involved, ask to see the PL's, all will tell you the market is down
because the economy and imports.
A commercial machine is a whole different animal than home machines.
There is a learning curve, it all takes time, money and experience.
If time and net profit are factors for you, you're not diversified,
have to depend on income from single head machine to support yourself
and/or family try working for an established successful embroidery
business first, gain experience learn their nickel, while you get a
guaranteed paycheck weekly.
You will not get rich quick just by purchasing a single head machine.
And unless you're a hobbyist, you'll probably have your new single
head up for sale within a year too. If by a Miracle, you make a
fortune with your single head, you will have to farm out work or add
additional single heads or multi heads to your business to compete in
the industry and to up the profit margins!
If you're a hobbyist, I highly recommend buying one of the Like New
Machines you see posted in this group, it probably is like new, owner
probably did not make it through the learning curve and gave up,
machine is probably like new!
Rumor has it that the 1501C is the best operating machine. I highly
recommend SWF because of cost and service. There are many other
superior machines out there, but if features and cost are a factor
you can't beet SWF.
If you're a hobbyist, money is no object, look at Baraduan and Inbro
(self threading machine) then Toyota, Happy machines first before
SWF. (You'd be comparing a Cadillac to Chevy). Otherwise, just go
to SWF you won't miss the minimal features you never had and you will
save thousands of dollars on machine cost and get excellent service
which I have experienced since my SWF purchase 6 months ago of a four
head dual function machine.
I owned Melco, Happy, Bernina Artista and Brother Machines before a
SWF. SWF customer service has been superior by far, Josiah Gross in
Sales at SWF East and Sarah in the machine service department.
I wish you the best of luck!
Beth Miller of
Beth's Embroidery and Upholstery
11949 Bradford Lake Drive
Frederic, MI 49733
989-731-5528 9am - 9pm EST