The Best Hat Embroidery Machines List, Comparison, And Guide
If you’re looking for the best hat embroidery machine for personalizing ball caps, you’ve come to the right place.
As exciting as hat embroidery is, it's also pretty darn expensive.
Many companies produce these machines, but they're not created equal. Some are imperfect machines that just don't cut it.
You need to avoid those useless machines and invest your money wisely so that you can enjoy the pure pleasure of embroidery. More on this later!
You'll want a hat embroidering machine that:
- is easy to learn
- doesn't cost too much
- has a display screen so you can see your designs
- is easy to switch between flat hoops and hat hoops
But, no matter what machine you get, you are bound to face challenges. After all, it's never going to be as simple as embroidering on flats.
There's a lot of stuff going on - correct hopping and adjusting the design to fit on the brim of the cap. But, with a little practice, you can enjoy the experience and make a profit along the way.
In this post, you'll find recommendations for some of the best embroidery machines for hats. Two machines to avoid.
You'll also learn what to look for while shopping for the hat machines and get answers to common questions about hat embroidery.
Rather than keep you in suspense, I'll tell you upfront that my Number One Pick is the Brother SE1900. Click here to check it out right now at Amazon.
I know you can't wait to embroider your caps. So without further ado, let's jump right into it.
Comparison Table: Best Hat Embroidery Machines
Juki Tajima Sai 8 Needles
MB-4S and 4N
Number of Needles
Need to buy separately
Need to buy separately
Included with SE600 only
Need to buy separately
5" x 7"
5” x 7”
4" x 4"
4" x 4"
12” x 8”
Standard M1 Hoop: 9.46" x 7.88"
5” x 7”
Speed (stitches per min.)
Easy to use
Built-in embroidery stitches
70 in SE400 and 80 in SE600
More than 200 designs
Ability to sew as well
#1 for beginners and it has a color display
SE600 is the best for absolute beginners with low budget
PE550D is very basic and for Disney fans.
Very expensive, suitable for professionals with deep pockets.
Not Recommended, Expensive and both have negative reviews
It was 2nd best for beginners after PE800, but not available now.
Here's a quick rundown of all of the machines. Further down the page, you'll find more in-depth information about each model.
If you are a beginner and want to get your feet wet without investing too much money in a hat embroidery machine, then go for a Brother PE800.
Check the current price of the Brother PE800 at sewingmachinesplus.com Or Check it's current price at Amazon- my #1 recommendation for beginners.
The main difference between the PE770 and PE800 is the display. The PE800's color touch display is huge and makes up for a higher price tag.
If you want to save that money and are planning to use embroidery software for editing, you'll still like the Brother PE770.
Brother is no longer producing PE770. You can now get the PE800 at almost the same price as PE770.
In fact, PE770 was my number two recommendation for beginners after the PE800. Not anymore, PE800 claims this position too.
Click here to check the availability of the Brother PE770 at Amazon - It was my #2 recommendation for beginners.
If you don't have a sewing machine and are looking for a combo machine, the Brother SE1900 is the best option.
You can do embellishments on caps with this. It's a great home hat embroidery machine.
Click here to check out the price of the Brother SE1900 at Amazon. It's the best pick overall!
If you want to add logos and personalize your caps with designs, but you don't want to spend thousands of dollars, then get the Brother SE600.
It's the newer and improved model of Brother SE400.
Click here to check the current price of the Brother SE600 at Amazon. It's the best for absolute beginners with limited budgets.
Whether you're a professional or a beginner, don't invest in the Janome MB-4S and Janome MB-4N. Don't listen to the people who are saying you could take your hat embroidery to the next level with these machines.
These are expensive, and both these machines have mixed reviews.
I don't want you to take the risk of investing in the machines that have so many negative reviews.
Although I don't really recommend them, you might want to check out the reviews and the current price.
If you have the budget and want to take your embroidery game to the next level, then Juki Taima Sai 8 is your best bet. (via sewingmachinesplus.com)
Features to Look for in a Top Hat Embroidery Machine: Guide
1. Reputable Company
It’s important to find a company that has been in the business for a while. And that specializes in embroidery machines designed to sew on hats.
The industry leaders are Barudan and Tajima. Singer, Brother, and Janome are good too.
If you are a lucky professional who can spend thousands of dollars, and you have lots of space, then your best bets are either Barudan or Tajima.
Both Barudan and Tajima machines are not readily available on the internet. You should not buy these online. You are better off attending trade shows and trying them first hand before investing such a significant amount of money.
2. Easy to Set Up
You want a machine that you can set up by yourself. Also, you want to be able to switch out threads easily.
And, finally, look for one that makes it easy to put the hat into the hoop. That will probably take some practice.
3. Ability to Import Designs Easily
If you’re going to be personalizing hats, you'll want to be able to create your own designs.
Some machines can be hooked up directly to your computer, and others allow importing of designs via a USB port.
4. Number of Needles
Professional hat embroidery machines have over ten needles. Fifteen is not uncommon these days. Manufacturers want to be able to set up the cap with the design and walk away to set up the next machine.
The home sewist only needs one. However, that will mean that you need to stick around and change colors while the embroidery machine is stitching.
Down below, I’ll recommend a four-needle machine that will save you time if you’re going to do a lot of hat embroidery.
5. Good Documentation and Training
Hardly anything is more disappointing than having difficulties setting up and using your new toy. Oh, sorry. I meant your new cap embroidery machine.
It helps if there are videos to demonstrate how to use the machine and ways to contact the company and ask questions.
But one big key is to give yourself time to play and learn how to balance thread, tension, and the hat material. And you’ll want to get comfortable hooping up the hat. Then you’ll want to learn how to plan for the center of the design.
Good machines can show you the edge corners of the design before it starts. This allows you to see if you need to adjust where the cap is in the hoop or shrink the edges on the user interface.
6. Ability to change from hat hoop to flat hoop.
If you like embroidering on flats as well hats, then it's a big time-saver to have a machine that gives you the ability to change from flat hoop to hat hoop quickly.
Best Machines for Hat Embroidery
My research has found that these machines are going to be the best for you because they provide the best quality at a good price point. They’re also all easy to learn and use.
And all of them have a cap hoop included, or it’s easy to buy one.
Without further ado, here's the list of top hat embroidery machines for you.
1. Brother PE800: Best for Beginners
The Brother PE800 is an updated version of the model PE770. It comes with a color display screen instead of black and white, and it has two more built-in embroidery designs than PE770.
When it comes to lettering fonts, the PE800 has eleven: one Cyrillic, seven English, and three Japanese. The PE770 has only six fonts.
It's a bit more pricey than PE770, but it's worth it. You'll be getting the latest technology with the color screen, and there are significant improvements over the previous model.
I can't stress enough how valuable the color screen is.
The 3.2" sew smart touch screen allows you to view and change the color of individual threads right on the screen.
So you'll know how the embroidery will turn out before even stitching. Yay!
If you don't buy the PE800 grand-slam package from Amazon (which I would highly recommend), you'll need to buy the cap/hat hoop to use it for hat embroidery.
2. Brother SE600: Best Budget Cap Embroidery Machine
You get ten more built-in embroidery stitches, and 36 additional sewing stitches, and six extra lettering fonts as compared to SE400.
With 80 embroidery designs and 103 sewing stitches in total, you can do so much more. You can import your own .pes file designs as well.
Work on a 4x4 inch embroidery field with the included 4x4 embroidery hoop. You don't even have to purchase the cap hoop with SE600.
Features specific to embroidery are automatic feed thread cutting, speed adjustment, and curved text on-screen editing. Besides all this, there are dozens of sewing-specific features in the SE600 too.
You’ll never run out of things you can do, whether embroidering hats or doing traditional sewing projects.
If you are working with many colors, you will have to rethread it every time to change the thread color. You'll have this problem with all the single needle machines.
You can read the full review of SE600 at this link.
3. Brother SE1900: Best Overall
The Brother SE1900 is an upgrade from the SE1800.
It's an embroidery machine for hats and shirts and gives you the best of both worlds.
The SE1900 allows you to sew as well as embroider. You'll be able to see and adjust your stitches on the big color touch LCD.
There are 240 built-in sewing stitches with ten buttonhole styles to allow you to construct and create what you see in your dreams.
You get 138 built-in embroidery designs with 11 lettering fonts.
Not enough for you? You can also import additional designs through a USB port.
You can use a sideways sewing feature for applique. (Applique is stitching or embroidering around the edges of a piece of fabric that you place on top of your project.)
You can even design your own decorative sewing stitches with the "My Custom Stitch" feature!
So, you may be wondering, What’s the difference between decorative sewing and embroidery on a hat?
Embroidery is more dense with stitches and tends to be a full design. Decorative stitching can be embroidered, and that’s where some confusion comes in.
Usually, you use a sewing machine for decorative stitching.
An embroidery machine is best for creating one design in a smaller area, the main part of the hat, or on the brim.
Sometimes you’ll want a few designs embroidered on the hat. You’ll have to do some extra work on all the embroidery machines. You may want to print out the designs and test the placement on the cap.
Then you can make some markings at the center of the design on the hat and stitch your first design. When it’s done, you move the cap’s placement to the next design on the hat.
If you want to design a border around the brim of the hat, you'll need to reposition the hoop a few times.
What I like is that Brother sells the SE1900 bundled with some great items.
They call it the "Grand Slam Package," and it includes the following:
- 15,000 Designs
- Cap hoop
- 64 embroidery threads
- Sock hoop.
- Prewound bobbins
You’re getting a way better value since the total cost of buying these items individually is a lot more than the bundle price. The only caveat is that sometimes it's not available.
Another big plus is that you’ll be able to get creating as soon as you unpack your machine. You won’t have to run to the store to buy anything except for fabric and stabilizer.
4. Brother PE550D Embroidery Machine - For the Disney Lover
This is in addition to the 80 other more standard designs that are included like decorative alphabets and borders, floral patterns, designs, especially for children and for holidays.
Use them all in a 4-inch by 4-inch embroidery field that is enough for basic embroidery. You get a 4x4 hoop in the package.
You can further embellish your work with the nine fonts (three are Japanese) when doing monogramming and other personalization. Adjust the fonts as needed by selecting capital letters, lower case, numbers, and common symbols.
You get each font in three sizes-small, medium, and large. You can align text at an angle or in curves, create multiple lines of text, change the spacing between letters, and more.
Another massive benefit of the PE550D is the “Sew Smart” LCD color touch screen. It measures 3.2 inches across and 1.8 inches vertically. You can preview your designs in the original colors or change them to alternate colors before doing the actual stitching.
With built-in memory and a USB port, you have virtually unlimited space for adding more designs.
At iBroidery.com, you can get thousands of designs that include more Disney patterns as well as Marvel Comics designs that are exclusively for Brother customers. (Note that a USB, if you need one, is not included.)
And I haven’t even mentioned your own designs yet! Anything you create and save as a .pes file, you can upload it to this machine.
Use the grid sheet and alignment tools to set your design and needle in just the right position, so you get your creation in the perfect place on your fabric.
Save time and trouble with the automatic needle threader! This is particularly useful for embroidery designs that use multiple thread colors. Related to this, you can stop the needle in both up and down positions.
If you need help using the PE550D, you can access the built-in tutorials. (I haven’t had the opportunity to watch these, so I can’t comment on them further here.)
The machine itself weighs just under 15 pounds and measures 16.5 by 12.08 by 7.76 inches. That’s small and light enough for just about anyone to carry around easily.
Finally, you also get a dust cover for the machine and a manual printed in both English and Spanish.
The PE550D is backed by a 25-year limited warranty along that includes free customer phone service and online technical support for the life of the machine.
5. Juki Tajima Sai Machine- Best for professionals with deep pockets
If you really want to ramp up your embroidery production into a full-time business, you might consider an industrial-strength machine like the Juki Sai.
Since this machine has eight needles, you can create multi-color designs with just a few thread changes, depending on the complexity of the pattern, of course.
When it comes to speed, the Juki Sai by Tajima is certainly no slouch. It runs at 800 stitches per minute and can maintain this rate through various stitch lengths.
You can speed up production by using the double set of frames that are included. While the machine is working, you can prepare another set for future use.
If you have a Windows computer, you can use the Tajima Writer Plus software for creating designs from a selection of templates. Owners of this machine can download this software, and it's tutorials from the exclusive users only site.
You can transmit data between your computer and machine with the help of a LAN port on the SAI.
On the Juki Sai, you work in a brightly-lit (LED bulbs) 12-inch by 8-inch space. That’s big and bright enough to handle any home project you’d care to tackle.
Important machine features include
- A laser positioning system for getting started in the right place and making tracing simple,
- Auto thread trimming when making jumps and changing thread colors,
- A thread detection system that tells you if threads break by simply stopping the needles, and more.
You’ll appreciate the slim cylinder free arm. This feature is also useful for small objects like socks, gloves, and pockets.
The Juki Sai is no lightweight. It weighs 82 pounds and measures 22 by 26 by 23 inches. I wouldn’t expect that you’d carry this to a friend’s house for a day of collaborative embroidering.
6. Don't Buy the Janome MB-4S: Not Recommended
Because it's compatible with six industry standard hoop sizes, you get a lot of flexibility with the design size. The hat hoop size is standard.
But if you’re embroidering multiple designs on the cap, you will still need to plan out the center points and reposition the hat in the hoop.
There are 50 fonts. The good news is you can connect it directly to your computer using the USB port.
And you can create designs with the Janome software. It has a special interface that’s a full-color remote computer screen.
It stitches at a fast 800 stitches per minute. There are ten monogramming designs with both two and three letters.
Some would say it's a professional cap embroidery machine and gets you professional quality results. It allows you to store up to 1.5 million stitches in the memory (or 100 designs).
This baseball cap embroidery machine is sturdy and can embroider at a faster speed than the Brother embroidery machines when you have a complicated design.
Although this embroidery only machine is packed with features and uses four needles instead of one, remember it has many negative reviews as well. If I were you, I would not be willing to invest in it.
If you need a multi-needle machine and you can get your hands on Barudan or Tajima, go with those machines. Since they are hard to get and expensive, I would suggest sticking with the Brother SE1900.
7. Brother PE770: Discontinued
You get 136 built-in embroidery stitches with six fonts.
The largest size this machine can embroider is 5” x 7”. Integrated designs include scrollwork, florals, and quilt patterns.
You can also stitch ten frames if you want to applique on a special picture. There is fabric out there that can go through your inkjet printer.
So if you were going to a family reunion, you could print out a picture multiple times and then embroider it onto a ball cap for everyone.
It’s a single needle embroidery machine, so you can only do one color at a time. It stitches up to 650 stitches per minute.
If you don't buy a grand slam package, you will need to purchase a separate special hoop for this hat and shirt embroidery machine. There are third party hat hoops available for this.
If you don't want to spend a little bit extra for the new model PE800, then the PE770 is probably good enough. But, you will have to live with the black and white display. It's a little trade-off for your money.
Another item you will need to purchase, besides the hat, is the correct weight of stabilizer.
The stabilizer keeps the fabric crisp, so the embroidered stitches stand out. The wrong stabilizer could make your design sink into the fabric.
Then you just need to center up the design and start the machine doing what it does best. If it’s a complicated design, the PE770 allows you to slow down the stitching to ensure it’s even and accurate.
One other great feature that I like on the Brother PE770 is the ability to edit the design using the backlit LCD screen (not color). You can make adjustments like rotating, changing the size of the design, and more.
8. Brother SE400: Discontinued
In fact, you can download any compatible design from the internet and import those digitized designs from your computer to the SE400.
The SE400 is useful for beginners. It's also good if you aren't sure if you will stick with your hobby of cap embroidery for a long time. You always have the option to resell it when you have outgrown your machine.
But before you buy this budget machine, you should know about its limitations.
This is only a 4x4 embroidery machine. That means you'll have to look for smaller designs that fit in the space. Or you may have to split the designs using the software and rehoop it. But that is not an easy thing to do.
I would strongly recommend purchasing a cap hoop for it.
Although you can do embroidery on hats without it, spending a few dollars would save you from the hassle of sticking the hat on the stabilizer and holding on to it firmly while embroidering on it.
Hat Embroidery Machine FAQs
1. Do you need to use special needles for hat machine embroidery?
Yes, you should use special needles for machine embroidery.
They were designed for use with polyester and rayon embroidery threads on a variety of fabrics.
The 75/11 needle is used most often. The 75 is the European needle size, and the 11 is the American needle size.
For hat machine embroidery, you may want to use a larger needle since hats are usually made from thicker material. Also, you might like using a thicker wool thread to make your design pop out.
So, look for a sharp needle in the range of 75/11 to 90/14.
2. Do you need to use a special thread for hat machine embroidery?
You probably want a thicker thread since you’ll probably be making a dense design on heavier fabric for your hat.
When I say heavier fabric, I don’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be a heavy canvas or denim. The hat could be made from medium cotton. But I doubt it’s going to be made from a lightweight satin or linen.
You’ll want to run a test. It’s a balance with the material of the hat, the thread, and the design.
3. What’s the most common machine embroidery thread for hats?
Rayon thread is the most popular choice because it looks good on the majority of hats. And it can hold up well without breaking or fraying during the stitching.
It generally comes in two weights: 40 and 30.
You will need to use special bobbin thread in the weight to match the machine thread weight and thickness of the material.
If you have made this far, here is the quick tip for you. Tuck this away for when you get your embroidery unit. Unlike sewing, you want the tension to be unbalanced.
You should have the bobbin tension a bit tighter than the needle thread. That ensures that the bobbin thread stays on the bottom and doesn’t pull up to the surface.
Too tight tension can cause “bird nesting” where there’s a pile of looped threads forming under the fabric.
If that happens, ensure the thread hasn’t slipped out of the take-up lever guide, clean the tension disks of any lint, and ensure the bobbin area has been cleaned up. Then you can start again.
Verdict: Which Top Hat Embroidery Machine to Choose?
So, if you’re just starting out, I'd suggest the Brother PE800 (via sewingmachinesplus.com.) It’s easy to start practicing embroidery right away. Then you can add in caps once you’re comfortable with the tension and speed.
It's also the best embroidery machines for hats if you’re not interested in sewing, or you already own a sewing machine.
If you're on a budget and a basic cap embroidery machine is all you want, then Brother SE600 is a good choice to make. You can also sew with the SE600 since it's a combo machine.
If you are interested in sewing and adding designs, then get the Brother SE1900. You can create a design on your hat that matches your outfit. And yes, that goes for guys as well!
If you're committed to doing a lot of hat embroidery, then you will want to invest in the Barudan or Tajima.
Get the Juki Taima Sai 8 (via sewingmachinesplus.com). It's only for the professional that doesn't mind spending thousands of dollars on getting the top of the line device.
Are you still looking for more embroidery machines? Here is our Brother DZ820E review. You can also read our comparison between Brother PE770 and Brother DZ820E embroidery machine.