Today I am happy to share with you Part 2 of Guide to Embroidery Machines and today we will be discussing hybrid embroidery & sewing machines. Plus, I will test and review new Elna eXpressive 850 while making my first pair of pants in 12 years! (Spoilers: they turned out amazing! Stay tuned till the end to see them ;)). If you missed Part 1, where we talked about embroidery only machines, make sure to check it out here.
Without any further ado, let's talk embroidery & sewing machines!
GUIDE TO EMBROIDERY MACHINES (Part 2):
Hybrid Embroidery & Sewing Machines
Here is a video version of this Part 2, and scroll down to read full version + photos!
So, what is a hybrid embroidery & sewing machine? Compared to regular sewing machine, main difference is that hybrid machine has a removable embroidery unit, which allows you to switch between sewing and embroidery tasks.
While embroidery only machines (the ones we covered in Part 1) are targeted to users who are planning on doing a lot of embroidery, hybrid embroidery & sewing machines are ideal for creators who are planning on doing occasional embroidery, such as gifts or adding personalized details to their clothing, but also want the sewing function. Plus, hybrid machine is a great solution for those who are looking to save space - you will have functionality of two machines in one package. It's sort of best of both worlds kind of a deal!
When selecting your sewing machine, I advise you to look at what accessories come in a standard set; when choosing an embroidery only machine - to pay attention to hoops that are available in standard set and what you can buy additionally; with hybrid embroidery & sewing machines you have to look at all those things: both accessories for the sewing part, and hoops for embroidery unit.
Today on my table I have Elna eXpressive 850 model, which comes with a big set of accessories for both sewing and embroidery tasks: 11 different feet both for sewing and embroidery modes; a needle set; 5 spare bobbins; scissors; 2 embroidery hoops (sized 17x20cm and 14x14cm; additionally you can get a hoop for smaller projects, sized 10x4cm) and 2 semi-hard fabric covers, to use for embroidery unit and machine itself. Plus, you can choose from a wide selection of additional Elna accessories for this machine, such as an extra wide table, cording foot, beading foot, large foot controller and so much more (here you can find list of all accessories compatible with eXpressive 850 model). So many tools to enhance your sewing/embroidery experience!
Talking about accessories, I must mention these 2 super useful Elna eXpressive 850 design features for storage. First one is a closed-up case in the front of the machine, to neatly organize sewing feet:
And second one is this drawer in the free-arm, to store spare bobbins and more feet. Little design features like this makes it so extra special!
One more design feature I loved is the closed-up lid, where you can hide the thread, even while the machine is running. As a pet owner, I am very cautious to never leave thread in the machine, as our cat might play with it and get hurt - having a closed lid solves this issue and protects your pet (safety always comes first). To use the lid space, Elna added a chart with all available machine stitches, thus adding one more practical and well-thought design feature:
Now that we looked at what comes in the box and main machine design features, it's time to put it to our first test - embroidery mode testing.
To start the embroidery, you must first insert the embroidery unit - the process is easy and literally takes seconds once you get the grip of it. Second step is to choose your embroidery design - either to use a pre-installed one in the machines memory, or upload a new one via USB outlet. Once the design is chosen, the big touch LCD screen with show key information about the embroidery: which hoop to use; embroidery area size; time it will take to finish the design; stitches per minute speed; how many colors will be used in the design; which foot to use; the design itself; number of total stitches in the design and color thread sequence. You will be also able to track remaining time and stitches number once the embroidery is started.
Last task you need to do is just insert the hoop and push "Start" button - and the machine does the rest! You will only need to change either color or bobbin thread from time to time, but the machine will notify you about it with beeping sound.
While machine is doing embroidery, you a free to do other things. However, I often choose to just stare at the embroidery being made, as the entire process is just soooo captivating!
Just as in embroidery only machines, the machine first does the contour of the design, then fills it with rough stitches to add volume and structure to the embroidery, and then it adds final embroidery stitches:
For best results, I always recommend using special embroidery threads while using embroidery mode - they are shinier and has better filling qualities, than compared to regular sewing threads, thus your design will look more beautiful with specialty threads!
Once finished, the embroidery looks like this - truly beautiful design and flawless execution!
Now that we tested the machine embroidery mode, it's time to switch and test the sewing mode!
The most important stitch to test for sewing machine is the straight stitch: generally, about 90% of stitches you will make will be straight stitch, so the quality of it will determine the quality of the machine.
To test the Elna eXpressive 850 machine in sewing mode, I decided to make a pair of pants - they require lots of straight stitching (thus it will show the quality of the machine) and plus, it's been almost 12 years since I made pants, so I really wanted to finally create it!
Even though a straight stitch is relatively standard stitch, eXpressive 850 model has a few different options to offer: regular straight stitch (seam 1 in screen below); stitch with secured beginning and end of the seam (seam 2); stitch with invisibly secured beginning and end of the seam (seam 3); sided straight stitch (seam 4) and elastic straight stitch (seam 5). For this project I mainly used Seam 2, as I like that machine does security stitches in the beginning and the end of the seam automatically.
When doing the straight stitch, the machine is very stable and barely vibrates, thus making sewing process extremely pleasant. Straight stitch quality was top notch and machine managed to easily handle even when I was sewing through multiple layers.
If you tried the machine in straight stitch mode and liked the quality of it, you can also take a look at other available stitches. I couldn't resist the temptation to test a few of decorative stitches, available on eXpressive 850 model - there are just so many of them! Here are a few of my favourite ones:
As I wanted to test eX 850 model in depth, I decided to make pants using solely this machine. This means no overlock, no hand stitching - just machine stitches.
Luckily, eX 850 had an overlock stitch and there was a specialty foot for it in standard set. The results? Clean and neatly looking seam finish:
I also tried the blind hem stitch to hem the bottom of the pants - though I admit I always do my blind hem stitch by hand and need to practice more to perfect it on the machine, I was still quite pleased with the results.
Once we covered stitch part, I also want to draw your attention to a few more details. One of them is graded metal plate - a small, but helpful design feature, that becomes particularly handy if you are doing precision sewing where every millimetre counts (for example, quilting):
Lastly, what I found particularly useful is the thread sensor, that will notify you if the bobbin thread is running low or if the main thread broke. How great is that?!
Now that I covered the essentials about the hybrid embroidery and sewing machines, I think it's time to debut my new pants! So here they are:
Combined with blouse from Part 1, the result is just sooo dreamy!
Oh, and I added a little extra special detail to the inside of the waistband - let's not forget this machine can do embroidery, too!
And - of course - special thanks to Elna eXpressive 850 for making these pants happen!
So now it's time for my final thoughts on the hybrid embroidery & sewing machines: if you are planning on doing occasional embroidery and will mainly focus on sewing, a hybrid machine is a very good space-saving solution. Machine is easy to navigate and use, and switching between sewing and embroidery modes takes just a few seconds. With plenty embroidery designs to choose from, you will be able to create many different projects, even if hoop selection is not as wide as in embroidery-only machines. Word "hybrid" doesn't mean that there should be any compromises to the performance of the machine, so I highly recommend always check both embroidery and sewing functions before you choose your machine.
In case of the machine we tested today - Elna eXpressive 850 - I can give it my sincere compliments: I loved the embroidery results and the sewing quality was even better than I expected (I do have high requirements, believe me!). I really liked how machine performed and combined with all great features that it comes along (selection of straight stitches, many decorative stitches, graded metal plate, thread sensors, etc.), this machine is truly a winner! I highly recommend checking it out if you are looking for embroidery-sewing machine.
So this concludes the Part 2 of my Embroider machine guide. Make sure to tune in for next Part 3, where we will discuss embroidery software!
In the meantime, I am wishing you a creative week ahead!