What is Monogramming?
A monogram is, put simply, a collection of initials, usually three, although two- and four-initial monograms have been used. In fact, the three-initial monogram did not become popular until the eighteenth century. Prior to this, the two-initial monogram was more common.
The initials, in the case of fabric items, are embroidered onto the fabric, so that they stand out against the weave.
Traditionally, monograms were only used by royal households and the nobility, but the rise of the Industrial Revolution made the technology of embroidering fabrics accessible to the emergent middle class, who were keen to emulate the trappings of the aristocracy.
The monogram was first used by ancient Greek and Roman rulers, and was hammered into their metal coinage. Later, these rulers would come to use the same practice for marking their valuables. In time, Greek and Roman noblemen and warriors would use their monogram on their weapons, which were often the most valuable items a man owned.
As monograms moved away being used on metal items, and transferred to fabrics and furnishings, so their designs became more decorative and complex. The intricate Chi-Rho monogram is perhaps the oldest stylized monogram. It appears in the Book of Kells, first recorded as being used in AD 1451.
There are certain traditions around the layout of initials in monogramming, although, as with many things, these are gradually being replaced by individual interpretations. Perhaps the most famous example of this shift in approach came with the marriage of the British Royal, Prince William, to his wife Catherine.
Traditionally, in a monogram for a married couple, the groom’s initial would precede the bride’s. However, in Britain, “WC” – the traditional form of the monogram for William and Catherine – also stands for “Water Closet” – in other words, a restroom! Therefore, Prince William is the first British Royal to see his initial situated below that of his wife in their official monogram.
Monogramming By Machine – Why Can’t I Just Use My Sewing Machine?
Sewing machines are intended to produce a run of the same kind of fairly plain stitching, one after the other.
Moving fabric around in the ways required to create an effective monogram usually isn’t possible in the working area (“throat”) of a standard sewing machine.
This means that you are looking for a machine that is set up for embroidery, specifically the small, highly detailed embroidery that goes into a good monogram.
Of course, another option, if you don’t want to invest in another machine, is to hand-embroider your monograms. But this can be time-consuming, and, because of the close detail work involved, can cause cramp in your sewing hand. It is also definitely not practical if you are doing a high volume of personalized or monogrammed work, as this would be far too labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Why Would I Want To Monogram, Anyway?
Monogramming is no longer a luxury of the upper classes and royalty. Thanks to technology’s inevitable advance, it has become an option for everyone.
A monogram is a simple, stylish way to personalize luggage, accessories, and clothing, or to commemorate a significant event, such as a marriage, on souvenir gift items.
Monogrammed items are always popular with parents of young children. Children like seeing their initials on things, and parents like seeing their children happy. If you create items for sale at craft and gift fayres, a machine that can monogram is definitely a worthwhile investment. Read our handy reviews to find the best machine for you.
Best Sewing Machine for Monogramming Reviews 2017
The Brother SE400 Combination offers comprehensive sewing functions, alongside monogramming ability. As Brother themselves say of this machine – “If you can imagine it, you can create it.”
Offering 67 unique stitches, and 70 pre-set embroidery designs, including five lettering fonts, the SE400 Combination is a versatile machine, ideal for the experienced hobbyist and semi-professional sewist.
There is a backlit LCD display, which makes it easy to see your designs as you’re working on them. Computer connectivity means you can create your own designs, and easily transfer them to the machine. This means you can create products that are truly unique, and makes this machine ideal for those with creative flair and fertile imaginations.
The SE400 is well-designed, with a high end finish that goes right down to the pedals.
It comes with a range of accessories, although sadly not the larger embroidery hoop that would be useful for those doing a lot of monogram work.
The SE400 can be difficult to understand at first, especially if you have limited experience with machine sewing. However, there are several good sewing websites where experienced machinists offer advice, as well as YouTube videos showing how it should be done. In today’s ever-connected world, you are never truly alone!
Brother Project Runway
Also from Brother, the Brother LB6800PRW Project Runway has all the functionality of the SE400 Combination, but includes a rolling carry bag.
This machine is not compatible with Mac computers (few computerized machines are, at present). It also struggles to handle heavier fabrics. In addition, some users have noted that the machine doesn’t seem to recognize imported designs, such as those created on a computer.
The Janome Horizon Memory Craft 12000 has the largest work area of any Janome machine, at an impressive 15” x 11”, making it the smart choice if you do a lot of monogramming, or intend to monogram large items such as quilts.
The Horizon Memory Craft includes a range of accessories, as well as the ability to design your own unique decorative stitch. It is also very easy to create and transfer entire designs.
All of this exciting functionality and possibility does, however, come at a price. The Horizon Memory Craft is a very expensive, yet very versatile, machine. As such, it should definitely be considered a professionals’ investment, rather than a hobbyists’ impulse buy.
The Brother PE770 5X7 is an embroidery only machine. If you already have a sewing machine you get along with, this is the perfect addition as you move into embroidery and monogramming.
The PE770 has a larger than average working area, with a backlit display. This is great for people working on large projects, doing a high volume of work, or who just like the feel of having plenty of space in a machine. The display isn’t the brightest, but it doesn’t present any problems in terms of being able to see your working, even when using darker fabrics.
With 136 built-in designs, six fonts, and USB compatibility, the possibilities with the PE770 are virtually endless. Whether you’ve created your own unique design in a program like MS Paint, or have found an image on the internet that you love, you can easily transfer your own designs between your computer and this machine. There are even USB drives designed to resemble sewing machines, such as the Vintage Sewing Machine USB for PC and Mac from Sew Pro. Cute and unusual, you’ll never forget which flash drive has your embroidery files on it again!
The PE770 has a built-in memory for easy access to your favorite designs. It also features additional editing options, which are exclusive to this model.
The one downside is that it cannot handle full fabric embroidery, but this is an option that would require a genuinely professional machine.
Finally, the Singer Futura XL-400 offers the largest work surface among domestic embroidery and monogramming machines, with a 10” x 6” embroidery hoop included, and multihooping capability. This allows you to complete much larger designs than most standard machines.
The Futura XL-400 features 125 built in designs and five fonts, with USB cabling for easy file transfer. However, it is important to note that this machine is NOT compatible with Mac computers, or with Windows 10.
In a departure from most embroidery machines, there is no screen on the Futura XL-400. This means you are not easily able to view your designs as you are working on them. Because of this, the Futura XL-400 is definitely not recommended for beginners. It may, however, suit experienced, confident sewists.
Sew You Want to Be in a Monogrammous Relationship
Computer technology has definitely opened up the options for even novice sewists, and is transforming domestic sewing from a necessary chore to something approaching an art form.
As with all arts, however, it is important to be honest about your ability. You need to be sure you’re getting tools you can use, and that will help you create the results you want.
Read these reviews, maybe chat to other sewists, and really think about what you’re capable of, and what you need and want your tools to do for you.
And, most importantly – have fun!