Best Embroidery Machine for T-Shirts and HatsMany once-loyal Singer sewing machine fans have soured on the manufacturer lately. Likely due to a noted decrease in the quality of their products. And this diminishment of value has reached unprecedented levels in recent years.

This is one reason why you’ll find only quality manufacturers listed below, such as the Japanese brands’ Brother or Janome. These brands are widely used, and finding an embroidery service repair place or replacement parts will be much easier.

 

Tools your embroidery machine for shirts and hats will need

Embroidery beginners might be surprised with all the extra accessories they will need for a good setup of their own. (Of course, the first requirement is to have one of the best embroidery machines for shirts on the market, which you will find listed below.) Besides a quality embroidery machine, the following items can be seen as essential for future embroiderers as well.

  1. All the different thread colors you want to use
  2. A good stabilizer to prevent the fabric from stretching or bunching during the embroidery process
  3. Embroidery machine needles
  4. Hoops the right size for your designs, double-check any potential new embroidery machines for what size hoops they are compatible with
  5. The right type of embroidery design file for your specific machine

Tips on Choosing the Best Embroidery Machine for Shirts and Hats

Finding (and buying) the right embroidery machine for shirts and hats will depend on many personal factors such as one’s budget or desired feature set.

1. Research online any prospective models you are interested in, sewing enthusiast YouTube channels can be a great place to start for unvarnished opinions. If you prefer, your local sewing shop should be able to provide advice, and maybe even some lessons on using your new machine. 

2. Always go for the largest embroidery area that you can afford. And don’t forget, there is a difference between a machine’s maximum embroidery area and its accepted hoop sizes. You will easily outgrow a machine that has a smaller hoop size capability. In short, the larger a machine’s maximum embroidery area is, the better.

3. The less expensive machines found in this article are perfect for beginners and amateurs of all ages, however, they may be missing features that more experienced or industrious users are looking for. So, if you are looking to start your own embroidery small business, you may want to consider higher-end models with more features, such as multi-needle machines.

5 Tips before using your embroidery machine for shirts and hats

1. We recommend laundering any items that you plan on embroidering, especially hats or t-shirts. This is as simple as putting the items through the washer and dryer to ensure that they don’t shrink or inadvertently dye your embroidered clothing.

2. Make sure you know the difference between different stabilizers and their purposes before buying one. Not all of them can be used for every situation and having the right stabilizer can make all difference.

3. Always test new designs on an old t-shirt or cap first, to ensure that the stitching is how you want it for your final item. For example, complicated designs with overlapping stitching can easily become puckered if you don’t know what you’re doing. For this reason, we recommend starting with simpler designs until you are more practiced in embroidery. After all, practice makes perfect!

4. Remember to always use the smallest needle possible, as larger needles may ruin your designs. Double-check with your machine’s manual if you need help figuring out which needle to use.

5. Using the proper hoop size is vitally important: improperly sized hoops may result in fabric stretching out or puckering.

What Machines You Should Avoid Buying to Embroider on Shirts and T-Shirts

Do you want to know my number one tip for anyone looking to buy a new machine to embroider on t-shirts and hats?

The usable embroidery area of your new machine should always be at least 5” x 7”.

Unless you know you’ll only use your embroidery machine for small motifs or logos, buying a machine with an area less than the above (5” x 7”) isn’t worth whatever savings it may provide versus a machine with a larger embroidery area.

After all, any machine with a larger usable area should be able to easily accommodate smaller hoops and designs, and as the opposite can’t be true, why would you want to limit yourself?

When Does Buying an Embroidery Machine With a 4″ x 4″ Maximum Makes Sense?

Personally, I can only recommend buying a machine with a 4” x 4” embroidery area if you know you only want to embroider very small designs on shirts. Otherwise, you’ll have to put up with a lot of re-hooping in order to make larger designs a reality, this can make projects take more effort and time to complete overall.

Thus, a machine with a smaller area can be a good option for those that just want to embroider small logos as well as for those that plan on embroidering exclusively on items such as hats and caps.

Top 5 Best Embroidery Machines for T-Shirts and Hats

5. Brother PE800 Embroidery Machine

Ideal for: All levels. #1 Bestseller Embroidery Only Machine.

  • Budget: $$
  • Our rating:  icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star
  • Included Feet: Embroidery.
EMBROIDERY
  • Built-in Designs: 138
  • Speed per minute: 850
  • On-Screen Editing: Yes
  • Area: 5″ x 7″
NO SEWING
  • Free Arm: No
Brother PE800 Embroidery Only

The Brother PE800 is the latest embroidery-only model from Brother as well as an upgraded version of the brand’s bestselling PE770 machine.

The LCD Touch Screen received a nice upgrade from grayscale to full color. The screen also allows you to edit your t-shirt and hat designs, simple changes such as rotating, mirroring, and sizing your designs can now all be done on the machine itself. This saves users from wasting time and hassling with computers when last-minute changes are required.

You will also benefit from more than a hundred built-in embroidery designs and a high speed of stitches per minute for a fair price.

This is the #1 bestselling embroidery machine thanks in part to its depth of useful features and the amazing price to quality ratio it provides. And whether you are embroidering your company’s logo on a hat or t-shirt, or making a special onesie for your niece, this unit has you covered with its range of small, medium, and large hoops.

  PE770 owners looking to upgrade will be glad to find that any hoop they have bought for their previous machine should be compatible with the Brother PE880 and will easily snap into place.

What you’ll like:
  • Good price for its quality
  • User-friendly machine
  • Great learning curve for beginners
  • #1 Bestseller for Embroidery Machines
Some things to consider:
  • This machine is for embroidery only
Interested but want to know more about it? Read a full review on the Brother PE800 embroidery machine.

4. Janome MB-4S Four-Needle Embroidery Machine

Ideal for: Home Business Owners. High budget.

  • Budget: $$$$$$$
  • Our rating:  icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star
  • Included Feet: Embroidery.
EMBROIDERY
  • Built-in Designs: 50
  • Speed per minute: 10
  • On-Screen Editing: Yes
  • Area: 9.46″ x 7.9″
NO SEWING
  • Free Arm: Yes
Janome MB-4S Four Neddle Embroidery Machine

If you’re an amateur or a professional with a big budget, this might be your perfect choice. However, beginners may find this machine a tad pricey.

The MB-4S model from Janome is the perfect four-needle embroidery machine for anyone wanting to embroider hats and t-shirts. It even has a single head accessory for better working on caps and several hoops to choose from for your different pieces of clothing shirts and t-shirts. This unit is ideal for sewers or seamstresses who need a dedicated machine specifically for embroidery.

With this multi-needle machine, you won’t need to flatten any more caps or hats before embroidering on them, saving users a ton of time in the process.

It also comes with advanced on-screen editing functions to make it easier for you to edit last minute,

a stitch counter so the machine knows when to cut the thread, embroidery area tracing, an extra-large bobbin (so you won’t need to change it every other minute), and adjustable hoop positioning for better-looking designs. In addition to the above, other features this machine boasts are sensors for the upper thread and presser foot as well as a stitch-out of time indicator.

When it comes to compatible hoops for this machine, it accepts four different Janome hoop sizes as well as six industry-grade Tajima hoops. These various hoop sizes allow for expanded creative freedom for all of your embroidery designs.

If you run your own home-based embroidery business and need an upgrade, this should probably be your next machine. The step after this machine is to go completely professional and externalize your production. While this machine requires a hefty investment, the benefits that it can provide your business are many.

  This machine can utilize professional design formats such as .jef+, .jef, and .dst.

What you’ll like:
  • Single head for hats
  • Time saver thanks to the four needles
  • Jump thread trimming
  • Thread new bobbins while the machine is still running
  • Post-thread break auto-return
  • Very easy to learn and use
Some things to consider:
  • An expensive machine for beginners
  • No foot pressure adjustment
  • This is an embroidery only machine
Feel free to read more about some other embroidery machines for home business.

3. Janome 9850 Sewing and Embroidery Machine

Ideal for: A high-quality option for all levels from beginners to advanced sewers.

  • Budget: $$$$$
  • Our rating:  icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star
  • Included Feet: 1/4 Inch Seam, Blind Hem, Button Sewing, Darning, Overedge, Rolled Hem, Satin Stitch, Zig-Zag, Zipper.
EMBROIDERY
  • Built-in Designs: 175
  • Speed per minute: 800
  • On-Screen Editing: Yes
  • Area: 6.7″ x 7.9″
SEWING
  • Free Arm: Yes
  • Decorative Stitches: 200
  • Speed per minute: 1000
Janome 9850 Sewing Embroidery Machine

If you’re looking for a high-quality—yet inexpensive—sewing machine that also has excellent embroidery and quilting capabilities, this model is well worth a look.

The Janome 9850 is a versatile and reliable machine that has attachments which make it capable for a variety of purposes, including advanced craft projects such as quilts, curtains, clothes, or anything else you may wish to embroider (besides caps and t-shirts).

And for beginners, this machine will make almost all sewing tasks nearly foolproof. Of course, as with any machine, there will be a learning process, but its ease-of-use is jaw-dropping. And with proper supervision, even a child could safely operate this machine thanks to its start/stop button.

In addition to the standard sewing and embroidery features noted above, this machine’s smart features include templates that allow users to deploy advanced techniques, such as applique embroidery, guiding you step-by-step along the way.

In summary—if you can afford it—and if you’ll be sewing and embroidering non-stop, the Janome 9850 is your best option and well worth the money. It’s my personal favorite machine and I wish people would stop focusing on its price and start focusing on its five-star quality and superior feature set.

What you’ll like:
  • Free motion quilting
  • Stitches are highly accurate
  • Maximum stitch width of 9mm compared to regular 7mm
  • Up to 3MB of memory storage
Some things to consider:
  • High price
If the quality of this machine sounds appealing, you can read more about some other Janome embroidery machines.

2. Brother SE1900 Sewing and Embroidery Machine

Ideal for: Perfect for beginners thanks to its simple learning curve. The #1 bestselling sewing and embroidery machine.

  • Budget: $$$
  • Our rating:  icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star
  • Included Feet: Buttonhole, Overcasting, Monogramming, Zipper, Zigzag, Stitch Guide, Adjustable Zipper/Piping, Non-Stick, Open Toe, Embroidery, Blindstich.
EMBROIDERY
  • Built-in Designs: 138
  • Speed per minute: 650
  • On-Screen Editing: No
  • Area: 5″ x 7″
SEWING
  • Free Arm: Yes
  • Speed per minute: 800
  • Decorative Stitches: 240

The Brother SE1900 is a nearly perfect multipurpose machine. It’s a more than capable sewing and embroidery machine that can efficiently and easily embroider hats and t-shirts at an economical price. It is especially suitable for beginners who are just starting to design and embroider their first projects.

The Brother SE1900‘s maximum embroidery area is 5” x 7”, though it is compatible with larger multi-positional hoops (12” x 5”) for larger designs, unfortunately, it won’t work with an endless hoop.

Maybe one of the reasons why this model has been a #1 Amazon’s bestseller for so long is the quality of the embroidery that it offers along with its low price

And it’s a great tool for beginner sewists who want to try their fun designs on caps or hats. Just be sure to use the right needle, size 14, and your first project is sure to turn out perfect.

  What is the difference between the SE1900 and the PE800? Embroidery-wise, they are pretty much the same. On the sewing side, the PE800 is an embroidery-only machine while the SE1900 can also sew and has auto tension and My Custom Stitch.

What you’ll like:
  • Best all-in-one machine for beginners
  • Free motion quilting
  • Perfect for home use
  • Cheapest in its range
  • Portable and lightweight
Some things to consider:
  • The maximum embroidery area is 5” x 7”
  • No free arm for sleeves and cuffs
You may want to read more about the best Brother embroidery machine.

1. Janome 500E Embroidery Machine

Ideal for: The highest-quality machine for all levels of sewers. Perfect for hats and t-shirts thanks to its large embroidery area.

  • Budget: $$$
  • Our rating:  icon-staricon-staricon-staricon-staricon-star
  • Included Feet: Embroidery.
EMBROIDERY
  • Built-in Designs: 160
  • Speed per minute: 860
  • On-Screen Editing: Yes
  • Area: 7.9″ x 11″
NO SEWING
  • Free Arm: No
Janome 500E Embroidery Only Machine

One of the first things you will love about this model is that you can digitize your designs straight on the machine itself, saving you tons of time in the process—something any busy person can appreciate.

The Janome 500E is both fast and quiet. It is so quiet and fast that you could easily use it while your children are down for a nap and be finished with your project before they wake up. And the quality of the stitching is truly jaw-dropping.

This Japanese brand prides itself on providing a quality product at a fair price. Best of all, this model has a maximum embroidery area of 7.9″ x 11″ which means you can embroider much larger designs on t-shirts or the backs of jackets.

A drawback for Janome machines is that accessories can be a bit expensive. However, they are long-lasting products that help compensate for your initial investment with their considerable durability. And in terms of working from the get-go, no other machine functions as well straight out of the box.

This machine will last you a lifetime and its quality can only be beaten by industrial embroidery machines. In addition, it will offer you more valuable features than any other machine in its price range. Janome machines are workhorses. And if you consider the fact that this model has one of the largest embroidery areas on the market, its value as the perfect tool for your t-shirt and hat embroideries becomes clear.

What you’ll like:
  • Large embroidery area capable of fitting the largest designs
  • Auto-return post-thread-break
  • Excellent quality stitches
Some things to consider:
  • Embroidery only machine.
  • Is more expensive than the bestselling Brother PE800.
Read more about the best embroidery machines to buy this year.

Comparison Chart – Best Embroidery Machines For Shirts and Hats

ModelsEmbroidery
Features
OtherDimensionsPrice

Brother PE800
Read Review
- 850 spm*
- 138 Designs
- 11 Fonts
- 5" x 7" Area**

No Sewing
- Color Touch LCD
- On-Screen
Editing
- 13.74 lbs
- 21.8" x19"
x19.1"
- 210mm/ 8.3"
Arm Length

Janome MB-4S
Read Review
- 800 spm*
- 50 Designs
- 10 Fonts
- 9.46" x 7.9" Area**

No Sewing
- Color Remote Screen
- On-Screen Editing
- Bobbin Winding Motor
- Jump Thread Trimming
- Automatic Thread Cutter
- 45.2 lbs
- 17.7" x 25.6" x 26.8"

Janome 9850
Read Review
- 800 spm*
- 175 Designs
- 2 Fonts
- 6.7" x 7.9" Area**

SEWING
- 1000 spm*
- 200 Stitches
- 6 Buttonholes
- 9 mm Stitch Width
- Large Color Touch LCD
- On-Screen Editing
- Automatic Needle Threader
- Automatic Thread Cutter
- Jump Thread Trimming
- 3MB Built-In
Memory
- 22.09 lbs
- 18.7" x8.8" x12.4"
- Needle to Arm: 200mm/ 8"

Brother SE1900
Read Review
- 650 spm*
- 138 Designs
- 11 Fonts
- 5" x 7" Area**

SEWING
- 850 spm*
- 240 Stitches
- 10 Buttonholes
- 7 mm Stitch Width
- Color Touch LCD
- Automatic Needle Threader
- Automatic Thread Cutter
- 22.05 lbs
- 17.6" x9.5"
x11.8"
- Needle to Arm:
163mm/ 6.4"

Janome 500E
Read Review
- 860 spm*
- 160 Designs
- 6 Fonts
- 7.9" x 11" Area**

No Sewing
- Large Full Color Touch LCD
- Jump Thread Trimming
- Automatic Thread Cutter
- Auto Return Post Thread Break
- 20 lbs
- 26.5" x 22" x 21.3"

*Speed Per Minute: referring to the number of stitches a machine can perform in a minute.
**Area: referring to the maximum embroidery area that an embroidery machine can reach.

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FAQs

What is the best embroidery machine for T-shirts and hats?

It depends on your budget and the main purpose of the machine. For home use machines and to achieve an excellent quality of stitches, choose any Janome embroidery machine. If your budget is a bit tighter, a very good option could be a Brother embroidery machine.

What is the best embroidery machine to start a small business?

Any Janome model that can embroider will serve you perfectly fine. Brother is also a good brand if you choose wisely.
For hat embroidery small businesses, the ideal machine could help your new business run smoothly from the very beginning.

What is the cheapest embroidery machine?

The cheapest machines that you will find on the market today and that have very reasonable quality for the price are Brother PE535, Brother PE550D Disney, and Brother SE600. Read reviews.