Are you looking for a solid combination sewing and embroidery machine?
We're going to take a look at one of the more popular models on the market. The Brother SE400. It's solidly built, got tons of features, and even allows you to upload your own designs.
But is it worth the price tag?
By the end of this review you'll know if this machine is the right one for you. We're going to cover:
Given it's price, the SE400 is a highly flexible and capable machine, but is it the right machine for YOU? If you're looking for any of the following capabilities, it might just be a great fit.
Whether you're a beginner or accomplished seamstress there are some features of the SE400 that are just downright awesome. Let's take a look at my favorites.
Anyone who's spent any time sewing knows that some machines can be incredibly difficult to re-thread. With the SE400 you simply pull a lever and it's taken care of for you. This can be incredibly helpful when you're having difficulty getting your tension right and the thread keeps breaking.
In addition to the embroidery functionality you also get the benefit of a computerized sewing machine. This includes 67 built in stitches, 10 of which are 1-step buttonholes.
Now I'll be honest, I don't typically use that many stitches. Most seamstresses have a couple that they primarily use, and the rest are used at most on occasion. But the capability is built-in, so use it if you need it.
Here are a few of the included stitches:
The SE400 offers 67 built-in stitches (including 10 1-step buttonholes), 70 built-in embroidery designs (plus the ability to upload your own via USB), and 5 stitching fonts. With all that functionality an easy way to navigate all of these functions is a must. The LCD screen is great once you get the hang of the navigation.
To select a stitch or pattern you simply scroll through the menu until you get to the one you want. Pressing on the image will select it. Then the screen will display all of the options and settings for that particular stitch or pattern.
Information like the dimensions (L x W), the necessary presser foot, whether or not you can use a twin needle, and button functions you have selected (needle up/down etc) are displayed. You can then save these settings to memory for easy switching later.
There's also a help function that will provide you with instructions for common tasks like loading and winding bobbins, changing the presser feet, threading and more.
My only complaints with the LCD screen are:
Creating your own embroidery designs can be fun, but it can also be EXTREMELY time consuming. Now there's a way to get access to tons of designs professionally made designs.
Have you ever looked at iBroidery.com? It's worth taking a quick peek if you're seriously considering this machine. You'll find literally thousands of pre-made designs that you can download to your computer and then upload to the SE400. You can grab anything from Winnie the Pooh to cool vintage patterns and designs.
Downloading the designs is a snap. Just grab the ones you want and then upload them to the SE400 using the USB cable. Just keep in mind that the memory card is limited, so you might have to delete some old designs first.
I've started keeping all of my embroidery designs on my laptop. This way when the internal memory card on my embroidery machine gets full, I can just delete the designs without having to worry about losing them.
I grew up in the Southeast U.S. People there LOVE monograms. Not to poke fun, but I know some women would've monogrammed their children if they could've found a way. 🙂
All joking aside, this machine makes monogramming an absolute breeze. The only limitation is the 4x4 hoop size. That means that the largest monogram you can do is 4 inches by 4 inches. If you need something larger than that you're going to want a bigger machine.
There are larger hoop sizes available if you need something wider than 4". But anything taller than 4" will require a different machine. Here is a 4" x 6 3/4" hoop that will allow for wider designs.
One thing to be aware of with the SE400. If you create a monogram file that is larger than the hoop size and upload it, it won't show up and you won't get an error message. Make sure your designs are smaller than 4" x 4"!
So far we've mostly just covered the features of this embroidering machine. But anyone can just cram a bunch of stitches into a machines memory banks. Brother takes it a step farther with SE400. They've incorporated technology that makes this a pretty serious home embroidery machine. Let's take a look.
One way to overcome the limitation of the 4"x4" hoop that comes with the SE400 is by going with a re-positional hoop. It basically enables you to create larger patterns by allowing you to move the fabric without readjusting it inside the hoop.
So you would use multiple 4" x 4" patterns to make up one large full pattern. You can use software like Sew What Pro to create the design. Then within the software break up the pattern into multiple pieces that can be loaded as separate files.
It's a clever way to create bigger designs without having to purchase a MUCH more expensive embroidery machine.
The total area that you can embroider with this particular hoop is 6.77" x 3.94".
One of the most important features of this machine is that it will work with a number of sewing software packages. The only thing it comes with out of the box is software allowing your computer to talk to the sewing machine. You can download designs from sites like iBroidery.com, but you can also create your own designs.
If you want to create and edit your own designs you'll need to purchase additional software. There are a couple options.
This software package allows you to copy patterns from you design software to a card that is compatible with the SE400. Once it's on the card you simply install the card in the slot on the sewing machine and select your new design from the menu.
Installation of the software is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately the card itself doesn't hold a lot of information so you'll have to occasionally delete designs to make room for new ones.
This software is extremely powerful. Whether you are a beginner or a professional it has everything you need to create or edit any type of embroidery file. As far as design software goes it pretty user friendly.
It has some powerful features like photo stitch, programmable stitch creator, design database, & font creator. There are other software packages that include these sorts of tools, but none execute these functions as well as Design Next. It's not the kind of software you just pick up by playing around with it. Fortunately there are TONS of Youtube videos out there that can help you with just about ANY task in this software. If you're looking to take your embroidery to a professional looking level this is the next logical step.
Of course this software is considerably more expensive than the SE400 itself, so you're probably better off waiting until your budget allows for a more capable embroidery machine. 🙂
The Brother SE400 combination sewing and embroidery machine is a great value. Not only do you get a sewing machine with advanced functions like a drop feed dog lever, 7-point feed dog system, needle up/down, and a thread cutter, you also get a fully functional embroidery machine that allows you to upload designs from online or those of your own creation.
In other words it's got enough features to satisfy advanced users, and it's an easy machine to grow into for beginners interested in monogramming and embroidering.
Natalie V Mason is an ETSY entrepreneur that started her online sewing business in 2012. She specializes in fabric design, sewing, and dying. You can see her work on her ETSY page and on her website at natalievmason.com. You can also reach her via email. You can also read more about her here.