Brother LB6800PRW Embroidery Machine

The Brother LB6800PRW was the embroidery machine that I started with about 4 years ago. This is exactly the same machine as the Brother  SE-400, except the LB6800PRW comes with a carry-cart for portability, and has some 'project runway' branding stickers. Both have a 100mm by 100mm embroidery field (4 inches by 4 inches). The LB6800PRW was only a few dollars more than the SE-400 when I purchased it, and the bag that comes with the LB6800PRW keeps the dust off it when not being used. The LB6800PRW has 512k (half a megabyte) of memory that can be accessed though USB, so you can make and load embroidery patterns from a computer.  The machine has a touch screen for choosing stitches and built in patterns, much better than Singer machines and the selection process.

Built in Designs and Lettering Embroidery
I did some quick designs on scrap with the built in font. the result looked fine when I took it out of the machine, but as I started to trim the jumps between letters, the thread started unraveling. I did the design again, and paid more attention to what the machine was doing. Sure enough, the machine was not locking the thread at the beginning and end of each letter (backing up and going over the thread again to keep it from unraveling). That's a pretty big oversight in the programming. I was able to get around it by manually going over the end of each letter after embroidery but that is an annoyance, and the results didn't look as good as I would have liked. Some letters are worse than others, with the lowercase 'A' being the worst. In some instances, the 'A' would start unraveling while the next letter was being sewn.

Regular Sewing
I don't like that the default stitch is one that I will never use (left stitch instead of centered in the foot), but I got used to always changing it pretty quickly. The auto-threader is awesome as well, threading the needle was usually a pain, especially with thicker thread. No issues on this one after a few months of use. The auto-thread-cut is a great feature as well (push a button and the machine cuts the top and bobbin thread). The machine sews pretty straight compared to some other machines I have used, meaning the feet feed well.  A walking foot isn't needed often unless sewing though very thick layers of fabric such as 4 layers of fleece.

The machine comes with a bunch of different feet for lots of different stitches.  They are interchangeable with my other Brother sewing & embroidery machines, which is a big selling point.

Embroidery
Moving designs from a computer to the machine is easy as cake. A regular USB cable is used, and the sewing machine shows up as a drive on the computer. All that is needed is to copy/paste over a design. I tried Windows 7, XP, and a flavor of Linux and they do not have an issue accessing the machine.  The machine has 512k of built in memory, so it is really only space for a few designs.

I timed a few different designs, and it looks like the average speed is around 300 stitches per minute; the machine maximum is 350 stitches per minute. I wish there was a way to slow down the machine manually sometimes; some designs and fabric would benefit from a slower embroidery machine.

I can't figure out how to check the stitch count without bringing the machine to a dealer, but back of the envelope math on how much stabilizer & thread I have used says I am somewhere between 20 and 30 million stitches, with only a few minor problems along the way. I do swap out needles often, since they are only about a dime when you get a hundred at a time. I have used several hundred over the years. There is no reason not to swap them out often, besides that it is somewhat of a pain to do it if you have larger fingers. I have managed to break a few needles, most of the time it is due to the thread wrapping around the spool pin when unwinding. It happens maybe once a month, so it isn't too bad. I used to wind my own bobbins for embroidery, but that takes until forever, so I switched to prewound ones. I really like the ones from World Weidner on Amazon, they have constant tension, and unspool well. Several other brands I have tried have winding knots in them, and will jam the machine. I have never had that problem with World Weidner's, and I went though roughly 10 gross so far on the machine.

Problems Encountered
One of the problems that I had was that the needle threader stopped working. When I pressed it, it would stick at the bottom, and not try to 'wrap' the needle. I took the needle threader apart, and used a drop of sewing machine lubricant on it, and gently worked it a few times. The needle threader then worked again. I have had to do this twice in the last year.

The embroidery foot itself actually wore out as well. The foot moves up and down with each stitch, and the guide pin actually elongated the hole of the presser foot. This made the foot move enough so that it would block the needle threader, and too much more wear would have allowed the needle to hit the presser foot. I looked all over for a replacement, and couldn't find one for a while. I finally ordered one direct from Brother for about $15; part number XD0474151, and fits both the SE400, and the LB6800PRW. The first lasted for around 20 million stitches and is more than fair.

Besides those things, the machine has been flawless. I need to clean the lint out of it and wipe it down, but those are both normal maintenance things. It runs like champ both when doing embroidery and regular sewing. All in all, I highly recommend this machine. I even bought another (though the SE400 instead because I didn't need a case) to give as a Christmas present. It is very quiet, and can sew circles around any machine I have used in the past.

Things to Improve
The only things I think could be better is that the cord for the foot pedal comes out of the side of the pedal instead of the back, and the pedal has almost no weight to it. The combination of these 2 things make it so the pedal moves around on the floor when you don't want it to.

Instructions Erata
The instructions said a stabilizer was 'recommended', but it is actually required.  That isn't just for this machine, that's all embroidery machines. I also broke a needle by following the instructions when starting a design. The instructions state to gently hold the tread for the first few stitches, so the top thread doesn't pull out of the needle. Well, 'gentle' is actually 'not at all' as the needle can only take a very small amount of force before bending enough to hit the foot and break on the down stroke. So I swapped out the needle, and made my first accessory purchase for the machine, a pack of 100 needles. Now, I just leave about 6 inches of thread tail, and trim it after the design sews a few stitches.