When I moved back to California after living in Italy for thirteen years, I couldn’t bring my ancient, but beloved, Elna sewing machine with me. My first thought was to replace the Elna — that is until I saw the prices! So I started looking around for a machine I could afford.
I wanted to try the new stitches and features offered by modern, computerized sewing machines. And I remembered how much I had enjoyed embroidering as a child, so I wanted a machine that would do embroidery too. I started my extensive research with the Brother SE400 Computerized Sewing and Embroidery Machine because it’s the number-one best-selling embroidery machine on amazon.com.
The Brother SE-400 has 70 built-in embroidery designs, 5 monogramming fonts, 120 frame pattern combinations, 4×4 inch maximum embroidery area, USB port and cable that connects to your computer for importing additional designs, 67 built-in sewing stitches including 10 styles of one-step automatic buttonholes, and much more that I’ll tell you about below.
Combination Sewing and Embroidery Machine
The Brother SE400 is both an intermediate level sewing machine and a beginner embroidery machine in one compact machine. As a sewing machine, it does all the normal sewing functions including mending and alterations, garment construction, craft and heirloom sewing, and quilting and has special stitches to support each function. As an embroidery machine, it embroiders designs, monograms, fonts, borders, and appliques.
It’s simple to change from sewing to embroidery and back again. You just slide the embroidery arm off or on, change the presser foot, needle, thread, and you’re ready to go.
A combination machine is perfect for you if, like me, you don’t have room to store or set up two machines. Or if you need a new sewing machine or want to upgrade and also want to get into machine embroidery.
Easy-to-Use Touch Screen Controls
You control all of the sewing and embroidery functions and settings with the LCD touch-screen. You can either touch the icons with your finger or use the included stylus. One reason I chose Brother was because I don’t have to hook the machine up to my computer to embroider. It’s all controlled right here with the front panel and built-in software.
The keys on the right side of the panel are used for main navigation, settings, saving embroidery designs to memory, and online-help.
The keys in the left column, top to bottom are:
- Back Key – Return to the previous screen.
- Previous Page Key – Go to the previous page to view items that won’t fit on the display.
- Next Page Key – Go to the next page to view items that won’t fit on the display.
- Memory Key – Save the selected design to memory.
The keys in the right column, top to bottom are:
- Sewing Stitch Key – Go to the sewing home screen – select and setup the sewing stitches.
- Embroidery Key – Go to the embroidery home screen – Select and edit designs.
- Settings Key – Control and view various settings for the machine.
- Help Key – Online-help with basic operations on using the machine.
The main control panel for sewing appears when you turn on the machine and the embroidery unit is not attached.
You can select from 67 utility stitches and adjust the stitch length, width, etc. For each stitch, the panel shows you the width and length, presser foot, whether a twin needle can be used, and other settings.
The main control panel for embroidery appears when you turn on the machine and the embroidery unit is attached.
Touch an icon to embroider a built-in design, words and letters using the fonts, or a frame pattern. You can also select a design from an embroidery card, the machine’s memory, or one copied from your computer using the USB port. The last key moves the embroidery unit back to its “home” position.
Beyond this main embroidery menu are a series of screens that allow you to choose various functions and settings to set up your embroidery.
I’m assuming you want to get into embroidery because if you only want a sewing machine, you don’t need the Brother SE400. There are many other sewing machines to choose from, and you’ll get more value for your money if you buy a dedicated sewing machine. So I’ll cover the embroidery features first and get to the sewing side of the machine in a minute.
4 Inch x 4 Inch Maximum Embroidery Area
The Brother SE400 has a 4 inch by 4 inch embroidery frame. This means that the maximum design size that you can stitch at one time is about 3.875 x 3.875 inches because there has to be room inside the hoop for the embroidery foot to travel. If you want to stitch a larger design you either have to split it with software and stitch the pieces separately, or you can build up the design from smaller elements by moving the hoop or re-hooping the fabric. The optional large multi-position hoop makes this easier.
I love my Brother SE400, but I do wish it had a bigger hoop size. However, moving up to a larger hoop size is a lot more expensive and out of my budget. So I’m OK with the limitation for now.
Most designs are available for the 4×4 inch hoop, but some are only for 5×7 or larger. Whether the 4×4 hoop is OK for you depends on the type of projects you want to embellish.
USB Port For Downloading Designs
No matter how many built-in embroidery patterns your machine has, sooner or later you’re going to want something different. Or you’ll have something particular in mind for a special project. So one of the most important features to consider when you’re looking at embroidery machines is how do you get additional designs into the machine.
The Brother SE400 Sewing and Embroidery Machine comes equipped with a USB port so you can transfer your designs quickly and easily from your computer to the machine. Just connect the SE400 to your computer with the included USB cable. You can transfer designs found on CD’s, the Internet and more with a simple copy and paste, or drag and drop. You don’t need any additional software. It works with both Windows and Macintosh using the computer’s software.
The Brother SE400 can save up to 12 embroidery designs or 512 KB of embroidery data in its memory pods. The built-in memory allows you to keep frequently used designs such as your child’s name in the machine for faster and easier stitching. It’s also useful for downloading several designs to stitch out later without being connected to the computer.
The SE400 only reads designs in .pes or .dst (with some limitations) embroidery data file formats. The .pes format is a very common, standard format. You can find free or reasonably priced designs on many websites.
For detailed, step-by-step instructions on downloading embroidery patterns using the USB port and cable, see my article, How To Download Embroidery Designs Into A Brother SE400.
Embroidery Card Slot
The Brother SE400 also has a card slot for reading embroidery designs from Brother embroidery cards. This lets you use thousands of additional Brother embroidery designs including the Nickelodeon Collection and special licensed Disney characters.
You can write your own designs on cards if you prefer to manage your collection on embroidery cards rather than on your computer. But you will need an optional card writer and software.
70 Built-In Embroidery Designs
The Brother SE400 has 70 built-in embroidery designs including flowers, scrolls, capital script letters, animals, and holiday motifs. You just select one of these designs using the LCD touch screen and the machine will guide you step-by-step through the stitching. When it’s time to change colors, the it will stop and tell you to load the next color. Practicing with these designs is the best and fastest way to get started because you always have them at your finger tips without trying to learn about downloading at the same time.
These are just basic designs to get you started and may not be to your taste. Bur remember you can easily download other designs.
Ten shapes such as circles, squares, diamond, shields, even a heart can be combined with 12 stitch patterns such as straight, scalloped or other decorative stitch, to create 120 different frame styles you can use to stitch a border around the embroidery design.
Five Built-In Embroidery Fonts
The Brother SE400 has five built-in fonts that include the upper and lower case letters, number, symbols, and accented characters for non-English language. Just select the font from the LCD screen, type in the name or word and press go. You can use the fonts to personalize clothes, pillows, towels, etc right out of the box.
You can select one of three sizes for the lettering. The exact size and spacing of the letters is slightly different depending on the font, but the small size is approximately 3/8 x 3/8 inch, the medium size is 5/8 x 5/8 inches and the large size is 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches.
Watch a Demo by the Enthusiasts at HSN
This video from HSN demonstrates the Brother HE-240 Sewing and Embroidery machine with USB port. It’s an exclusive model Brother made for HSN. The HE-240 is the same machine as the SE-400 with some extra accessories and a bonus.
In the video, she demonstrates the features and emphasizes how easy the machine is to use because of the LCD touchscreen and online instructions. She also shows some embroidery projects and talks about the advantages of the USB cable.
HSN sells the HE-240 for more than $500 after adding shipping and handling. You can get the SE-400 for more than $150 less at Amazon.com. The advantage of HSN is the extra accessories and bonus and the monthly payment plan. Be sure to check the prices of the ones you want. You may still get a better deal by buying them separately. Check out the HE240 at HSN.com. And check today’s price of the SE-400 on Amazon.com.
So Many Possibilities And Yet So Easy To Use
The Brother SE400 is interactive and intuitive with the large, backlit, touch-screen control. It’s so easy to operate and understand. You just look at that LCD screen and see the patterns and scroll through all the different ones. You pick one and up it comes. It shows you all the different colors so you can line your colors up in advance. It’s all push button and there they are. How easy is that?
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