A sewing machine that embroiders clip art from your computer is a pretty cool way to jazz up pillows, children’s clothing and T-shirts for the holidays.

We used a Singer sewing machine model CE 150, since we figured this is an Embroidery Machineestablished brand found worldwide. The unit costs around $600 from discounters online, and that includes the special attachment for doing embroidery and a set of tools.

It sounds like a way to make money, selling things such as specialty clothing, towels, napkins, etc. Because of the costs involved, we don’t think this is feasible, but it’s an entertaining hobby.

The Singer machine came with a CD of basic designs, but you have to buy extra AutoPunch software to convert your own images — such as those you get off the Web — to embroidery. The conversion software costs $299, which is an absurd price. How they can charge this is beyond us since the software is so old it calls for saving things to a floppy disk. Most people haven’t seen a floppy disk in years.

To get a clean image, it helps to convert your images to WMF format. We used an older version of Ulead Photo Impact that we bought on the Web for $5, and it handled the conversion.

Machine set-up was difficult, and making sure everything was locked down before embroidering also proved to be a problem. Unlike hand embroidering, which can be tied off for each section and then begun again, the computer-controlled machine keeps right on sewing, and you’re left with a lot of cross-over threads to cut out and clean up.

Next problem: You can use only one color at a time. Each new color requires a new spool of thread and winding a new bobbin. This turned out to be more trouble than we would have believed before we started.

Bottom line: If you’re really interested in an embroidery machine, buy one that’s dedicated to that purpose. These run from $400 up to $3,000 for units that can handle 20 spools of thread, changing colors automatically without stopping. Bob says he would pay any price rather than go through this again.

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