Embroidery Machine vs. Sewing Machine? (Basic Differences)

Looking at an embroidery machine and a sewing machine, you might not be able to tell which is which.

You also might not be aware of the difference between the two machines.

When you are shopping for one of these machines, it is important that you know the difference so that you know what you are looking for.

How Do Embroidery Machines Differ From Regular Sewing Machines?

Embroidery and sewing machines, at first glance, might look the same, but they are used for very different purposes.

If you are new to sewing or embroidery, you will probably not be able to tell at first sight the difference between a sewing machine and an embroidery machine.

Even though they look the same, they are used for extremely different purposes.

Embroidery Versus Sewing:

Not only are embroidery and sewing machines differ from each other, but embroidery and sewing are completely different stitching techniques.


Embroidery is not a technique that is used for a functional purpose. Embroidery is an artistic stitch that is normally laid on top of the fabric in a decorative way.

Embroidery is not a stitch that is used to adhere two different fabrics together or for any other functional purpose. Embroidery stitching is used to create images and other decorative art on your fabric.

This is a common technique that is used in branding, uniform decoration, designs on objects like quilts, pillows, and other craft projects.


Sewing, on the other hand, is mainly used for functionality and construction purposes.

Sewing is not known for being decorative, and its main purpose is to construct things by fastening fabric together.

There are other construction techniques that you can use sewing for as well.

Functional stitching includes bustles, darts, adding notions such as buttons and zippers, and anything else that you need to do to craft clothing or other things out of fabric.

Embroidery Machines Versus Sewing Machines:

Because sewing and embroidery are such different techniques, their machines are also different from each other so that they can best achieve their particular stitching.

Sewing machines are very limited in their stitch types, while embroidery machines have many more options. Depending on what machine you are looking for, there are a lot of varieties of machines that you can look into.

Depending on your price point, you can look into a variety of machine options. Most machines come in either manual or computerized, and you can choose what options you want when you purchase them.

Some machines only do embroidery or sewing, but not both. However, there are machines that can do both things.

Can Sewing Machines Do Embroidery?

Whether or not you can use a sewing machine for embroidery depends almost completely on your skill level when it comes to sewing.

Most sewing machines have very limited stitch styles and are made to sew in a straight line, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use them for simple embroidery patterns.

If your sewing machine allows you to lower your feed dogs, then you can try embroidery on your sewing machine.

Tips for trying to embroider on a sewing machine includes:

  • Lower your feed dogs.
    • Your feed dogs’ main purpose is to drive your fabric forward in a straight line. If you intend to embroider, you will want to be able to freehand your stitching direction. With some practice, this can help you with your embroidery on a regular sewing machine.
  • Make sure to use embroidery thread.
    • You can embroider with any thread, but embroidery thread, especially rayon, will look great on the finished project and can even add strength to the piece and the design.
  • Make sure your bobbin is full, and your thread matches.
    • This is not only a good idea when embroidering, but is a great tip when using your sewing machine in general. The bobbin thread and the top thread will need to match in thickness as well as tension so that you do not have bunching or knotting when you sew.
  • Use an embroidery hoop.
    • An embroidery hoop is a necessity when you are trying to embroider on your machine. This allows you to keep your fabric taught when you are sewing on your fabric. Otherwise, you will be moving your fabric from side-to-side, and it could look messier and will not have as clean of an effect.
  • Use a zigzag stitch.
    • A sewing machine does not have many choices for stitch type. This means that you will need to use the zigzag stitch if you intend to embroider. The other stitch options that you have will not give you the desired effect.

Embroidering on a sewing machine is not impossible, and you can do embroidery projects with your regular sewing machine.

But if you intend to do a lot of embroidering and are looking for a new machine, you would be better off purchasing one that is made to do both sewing and embroidery.

Not only will you have more versatility on a machine that will do both, but you will have a lot more options when it comes to embroidery.

A machine that is made to embroider will also allow you to have a cleaner look when it comes to your embroidery projects.

Can You Use Embroidery Thread in a Sewing Machine?

You can use embroidery thread on a regular sewing machine. This is a good idea when you plan to use your regular sewing machine to embroider something.

Embroidery thread is usually thicker and will make your design stand out more.

Embroidery thread comes in a variety of materials, including rayon, cotton, polyester, and silk. Rayon is a great choice for a finished project and can be one of the strongest of the blends.

If you intend to use a rayon embroidery thread in place of standard thread for sewing instead of embroidery, then you will want to keep in mind that it is weaker than standard thread when it gets wet. This means that if you are working on anything that might get wet, you will want to use a different blend or standard thread.

We have a good article here with tips for avoid problems with sewing rayon (and viscose).

Tips for using embroidery thread on a regular sewing machine are similar to the tips listed above for embroidering on a sewing machine.

Do Embroidery Machines Also Sew?

If you have decided that you are interested in doing more embroidery and getting an embroidery machine, you are probably also wondering if your embroidery machine will also be able to sew.

Buying two machines can be expensive, space-consuming, and inconvenient to have to switch back and forth between machines to complete projects.

But if you want a machine that can do it all, you are in luck!

While there are some machines out there that can only do embroidery and will not sew, there are also combo machines available for you to purchase.

These machines might be a bit more expensive than an embroidery only machine, but you will save yourself the expense in the long run that you would have if you chose to buy two separate machines.

Are Embroidery Machines as Durable as Sewing Machines?

Despite their differences, sewing machines and embroidery machines are built very similarly.

This means that there is not a big difference when it comes to durability. There are a few factors that matter when you are looking at durability that do not include the type of machine.

Some of these reasons include:


If you are looking into durability, then you would have a better chance of comparing brands instead of sewing machine versus embroidery machines.

There are many brands that manufacture both sewing machines and embroidery machines that have been around for a long time and have proven that they stand up over time.

Some examples of these brands include:

  • Brother
  • Singer
  • Janome

Any of these brands make a great machine.

When it comes to narrowing down what brand you should buy, the final decision is normally made due to personal preference.


In addition to brands, you will also want to look at price when determining durability.

Like anything else that you buy, the most durable machine will not be the cheapest machine. Not that you cannot get a lot of use out of a more inexpensive machine, but there is a reason that it is cheaper than the other options.

A more expensive machine will come with more expensive parts that will be more durable than the parts you find in the cheapest option.

This does not mean that you need to buy the most expensive machine out there. The best way to decide what to buy is to look at reviews of people who have purchased the machines.

This is one of the best ways to determine the quality of the machine and if it will work for you.


No matter what machine you buy, taking care of it is the best way to extend its life.

To take care of your machine, you will want to clean it regularly. This will not only extend the life of your machine, but it also means that you will have fewer issues with thread bunching, knotting, and other issues that a build-up of dirt or lint can create.

In addition to cleaning your machine, you will want to keep your machine properly oiled to reduce wear on your machine’s components. This will help to extend the life of your machine and its parts.

Another thing that you can do to extend the life and increase the durability of your machine is to get it serviced by a professional once per year.

A professional will be able to open up your machine, perform all cleaning and oiling necessary, and will be able to spot potential problems before they happen, which can save you money and problems in the long run.