Building A Better Sewing Machine


After making a few fabric RFID tags, [Micah] had a sewing machine sitting in her workshop completely unused. This was due at least in part to how crappy this entry-level sewing machine was; it stalled easily, unusable at low speeds, and noises like a robot with bronchitis. The solution, of course, was to replace the motor and add electronic control, turning a terrible sewing machine into one that should cost several hundred dollars more.

After some experimentations with an AC motor, [Micah] came upon a small DC motor. This, combined with an LMD18200 H-bridge, Propeller microcontroller, and a beefy power supply gave [Micah] enough torque to run the sewing machine without mechanical wheezing and grinding.

The new update to the motor allowed [Micah] several control modes for the machine, all controlled by the foot pedal: an open-loop mode is pretty much the same as the stock machine, a closed-loop mode keeps a constant RPM on the motor regardless of resistance. There are a few more interesting modes that moves the needle down when the pedal is released, perfect for detailed work.

A small addition to this project was an LCD attached to the front of the machine, allowing [Micah] to toggle modes without the microcontroller being connected to the computer.

Thanks [Gregg] for sending this one in.

16 thoughts on “Building A Better Sewing Machine

  1. “A Stitch in Time May save nine”

    A timely effort will prevent more work later.

    This is nothing to do with rips in the fabric of the space-time continuum, as some have ingeniously suggested. The meaning of this proverb is often requested at the Phrase Finder Discussion Forum, so I’ll be explicit. The question usually asked is “saves nine what”? The ‘stitch in time’ is simply the sewing up of a small hole or tear in a piece of material, so saving the need for more stitching at a later date when the hole has become larger. Clearly, the first users of this expression were referring to saving nine stitches.

    The proverbial expression was clearly meant as an incentive to the lazy. It’s especially gratifying that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ is an anagram for ‘this is meant as incentive’.

    The Anglo Saxon work ethic is being called on here. Many English proverbs encourage immediate effort as superior to putting things off until later; for example, ‘one year’s seeds, seven year’s weeds’, ‘procrastination is the thief of time’ and ‘the early bird catches the worm’.

    The ‘stitch in time’ notion has been current in English for a very long time and is first recorded in Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British, 1732:

    “A Stitch in Time May save nine.”

    Fuller, who recorded a large number of the early proverbs in the language, wrote an explanatory preamble to this one:

    “Because verses are easier got by heart, and stick faster in the memory than prose; and because ordinary people use to be much taken with the clinking of syllables; many of our proverbs are so formed, and very often put into false rhymes; as, a stitch in time, may save nine; many a little will make a mickle. This little artiface, I imagine, was contrived purposely to make the sense abide the longer in the memory, by reason of its oddness and archness.”

    As far as is known, the first person to state unambiguously that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, rather than Fuller’s less confident ‘may save nine’, was the English astronomer Francis Baily, in his Journal, written in 1797 and published in 1856 by Augustus De Morgan:

    After a little while we acquired a method of keeping her [a boat] in the middle of the stream, by watching the moment she began to vary, and thereby verifying the vulgar proverb, ‘”A stitch in time saves nine.”

    Now back to our regular schedule programming… ♥♥♥♥

    SMILE… ;^)

  2. Should have had her do the commenting, the guy does not have a voice that is all that nice, to put it politely. Which makes it sort of funny that the mod was to get rid of the grinding noise of the AC motor :)

  3. Modern sewing machines have plastic gears. You’d better hope that the gears will handle the increased torque over time. You might end up with a shorter life for the machine. OTOH, they may use the same gears in the cheaper machines as in the high end ones and just skimp on the features.

    1. They usually use the crap gears on the $$$ (non-commerical) ones too nowadays. More bells and whistles are where the money goes. That’s why my wife still uses her 1982 machine. On the other hand, if you’re not looking for the fancy features, and this fixes the annoyance of the low end machines, you could just swap it over to a new low-end machine every few years and quite possibly come out ahead

  4. The final mode which is demonstrated as an embroidery mode definitely grabbed my interest. With the ability to get behavior like that you could change the presser foot to a spring-loaded one for machine embroidery and add an X/Y table and basically make a DIY CNC embroidery machine.

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