Multi-needle vs single needle – Embroidery designs

Multi-needle vs single needle

Both multi-needle and single needle machines have pros and cons.

Multi-needle machines


  • Threading:                                                                                                                                                                                   As the name suggests, they use several needles, from 4 up, all threaded with different color threads. The number of needles minus one are programmable with a specified color, the one needle which is not programmable will be threaded with one color at a time in case the design has more colors than the number of needles. For example: if the machine has four needles and the design has 8 colors, to 3 of needles can be assigned 3 colors, the fourth needle has to be threaded and re-threaded with the 5 remaining colors. Therefore, the more needles your machine has, the less re-threading you have to do.
  • Bobbin:                                                                                                                                                                                            The multi-needle machines, all of them, have a vertical bobbin case with easily adjustable bobbin tension, you only need a tiny screwdriver and some experimenting to get the right setting. Easy to replace the bobbin, without removing the frame, this way displacement will not occur.
  • Speed:                                                                                                                                                                                                 These machines are either industrial or semi-industrial, the lowest speed is 500 stitches/min, the average max speed is 1 000 stitches/min.
  • Free arm:                                                                                                                                                                                           The free arm allows better access to the area which has to be embroidered, without having to clip the garment’s back to the frame to have it flat. The back of the t-shirt for example, can be left hanging under the arm while the front is hooped. With the small 4″x4″ frame same can be done to a trouser’s leg, no need to undo the side-seam.
  • Cap frame:                                                                                                                                                                                      Multi-needle machines support a versatile cap frame attachment no cap embroidery can go wrong with.
  • Work capacity:                                                                                                                                                                               They can work several hours a day, you can do work with most of them at industrial scale.
  • Hoop size:                                                                                                                                                                                       They can accommodate large hoops as well as small ones, they also can use special hoops with the right hoop attachment.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Cons:                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • Price:                                                                                                                                                                                                 The cheapest new 6 needle machine costs around €8 000, for which the cap frame costs around €1 000.
  • Maintenance:                                                                                                                                                                          These machines need more attention when it comes to maintenance, cleaning and oiling has to be done daily or more often.
  • Servicing:                                                                                                                                                                                           They require regular servicing, done by the brand’s designated specialist. Tis is not cheap either.
  • Learning:                                                                                                                                                                                    The learning curve is steep: threading and assigning colors, using the right color chart, cleaning and oiling, setting the right tension for each of the threads and for bobbin as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Single needle machines:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pros:
  • Threading:                                                                                                                                                                                       They are easy to thread, who did ever use a simple sewing machine will know how to thread it. If you use the same quality/brand of thread, the tension hardly has to be ever changed. Very convenient for beginners.
  • Size of machine:                                                                                                                                                                              They are considerably smaller than the multi-needle machines, which is an advantage if you are working from home.
  • Price:                                                                                                                                                                                                Most of them are considerably cheaper than the multi-needle machines. Exceptions are some brands which can be as expensive as the cheaper multi-needle ones. (I intentionally don’t mention brand names, sorry, but if you want to know more feel free to contact me here)
  • Learning:                                                                                                                                                                                         Because they are less complicated than their big brothers, it’s much easier to learn embroidery. They are more suitable for absolute beginners, you can learn the basics while you only have to watch one thread for tension.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Cons:
  • Thread change:                                                                                                                                                                              The thread has to be changed every time there’s a color change in the design, which is time consuming and requires 100% of your embroidery time dedicated to the process itself. (Of course you need to keep an eye on the machine no matter the number of needles, but with multi-needle machine you can work on several such machines, or hooping the next garment)
  • Bobbin& bobbin case:                                                                                                                                                                  The vast majority of single-needle machines have the drop-in bobbin case where you can’t easily adjust the bobbin tension, the case also does show wear-and-tear very soon. That means more thread getting jammed, as a result the hooped garment has to be removed from under the needle, which can result in displacement when the process is resumed. Same happens when replacing the bobbin during the embroidery process.
  • No free arm:                                                                                                                                                                                    The machines can’t be used for narrow garments like trousers as easy as the free-arm ones, the seam has to be ripped and sewn together again after the embroidery has been done. Other garments like onesies have to be stretched and gathered around the hoop, which takes a lot of experimenting until you get it right but even so it takes a lot of time.
  • Frame size:                                                                                                                                                                                      With the exception of some expensive brands, most of the machines support much smaller frames. Some machines have the multi-frame capability but that’s not the best answer to the large embroidery designs simply because it needs high precision, several hoopings and of course modifying the design to suit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I hope this post will help you choose the right type of machine to suit your needs. For any further advice you can contact me here

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