Sewing Machines Meet Wi-Fi

Plus: Best Buys in Computerized, Noncomputerized, Quilting & Embroidery Models

Sewing-machine manufacturers incorporated wireless technology into their high-end sewing and embroidery machines. Meanwhile, LED lighting and quick-set bobbins, which were reserved for pricier machines a few years ago, are widely available on models in all price ranges.

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Husqvarna Viking

It’s common to find consumers in a coffee shop engrossed in notebook computers, smartphones or tablet computers. Now, it’s possible that a few of them are glued to their screens—not to tweet or check the latest sports scores, but to create their latest embroidery design.

Two manufacturers, Husqvarna Viking and Janome, introduced sewing machines that use wireless connections, which allow you to create and edit embroidery designs remotely and then send them to your machine. That means that you no longer have to transfer the design through a USB flash drive or by linking your computer and embroidery machine through a cable. Wireless capability also allows you to back up your designs online and keep up to date with all of the latest software upgrades more quickly than ever before. However, wireless models aren’t for the faint of wallet; they start at about $12,000.

More-affordable options to create embroidery are available, however, including a wider array of embroidery-only machines. The starting price of these models is $500, which is unchanged from 2013. Furthermore, you’ll find that brighter lighting and quick-loading bobbins have become the norm on even entry-level machines of all types—embroidery, quilting and sewing.

We noticed that the type of sewing machines that make up the noncomputerized category is changing. Mechanical models that use dials and levers to control stitch selection and thread tension still are widely available, but the number of electronic models, which replace those dials and levers with electronic buttons that improve precision and control, has dwindled. We found 32 electronic models on the market at press time, compared with 49 just 3 years ago. Some major manufacturers—Brother, Husqvarna Viking, Juki and Pfaff among them—don’t sell electronic noncomputerized sewing machines.

At the same time, the number of computerized sewing machines, which provide more stitch options and user control than do noncomputerized models, jumped to 183 from 120.

WI-FI WORLD. Janome unveiled in August 2013 its Horizon 15000 embroidery sewing machine. This model ($11,999) uses an included plug-in wireless adapter to connect to the Internet. You then can edit designs through the machine or on a device that uses the Apple iOS operating system. When a design is ready to stitch, you transfer it wirelessly to the machine.

Janome’s AcuMonitor mobile app allows you to monitor the stitching process remotely. Because of app alerts, you don’t have to stay close to your machine while it stitches out an embroidery design. The app’s monitoring system shows the stitching in progress and tells you when the bobbin thread is out or a thread breaks. That’s a potentially huge time-saver, because complicated embroidery designs can take hours to stitch. If you walk away from the machine, you might not notice, say, a thread break that stops the process. The app alerts you to that trouble.

Unlike nonwireless embroidery sewing machines, which require you to stay by the machine to monitor your project for issues, you can let your wireless machine run on its own while you do chores. The monitor app sends alerts to your smartphone or tablet to let you know when to change the thread color or how much stitch time is left. Janome says it’s considering expanding the app to Google Android devices, but it doesn’t know when that might happen.

In October 2015, Husqvarna Viking released its Designer Epic embroidery sewing machine ($14,999), which has Wi-Fi capability that can interact with any notebook computer, smartphone or tablet. (The Designer Epic works on iOS and Android software.) This model differs from the Horizon 15000 in that it also incorporates a 10-inch color touch screen that allows you to use your fingertips to manipulate patterns.  

If you have, for example, a curtain that has a pattern that you want to duplicate on a decorative pillow, you can snap an image with your phone, upload it to the design software that’s on your computer or smartphone and revise the pattern. You simply save it to the cloud through an app, and when you turn on your sewing machine, the design is waiting for you to stitch. Like the Horizon 15000, the app also allows you to keep track of the embroidery-stitching process remotely through your smartphone or tablet.

Finally, wireless alerts also inform consumers when software updates are available. They can be installed speedily without a USB flash drive or the need to connect your embroidery sewing machine to your computer through a cable, according to Kim Novak of Husqvarna Viking. The same connectivity allows you to download designs that are purchased online seamlessly.

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