DIY Embroidery Machine Sews Your Name In Your Undies

DIY Embroidery Machine

If you were in the market for a sewing machine with embroidery capabilities, you’d either be spending a bunch of money or settling for a lower-cost machine that can only do a handful of pre-programmed designs. A DIYer by the name of [SausagePaws] came up with a 3rd option, he would build one himself. He was also highly motivated, [Mrs SausagePaws] wanted one!

An off the shelf embroidery machine is similar to a standard sewing machine except the movement of the fabric is done automatically rather than by hand. Not only does the work move, but it has to move in time with the needle traveling up and down. [SausagePaws] took a no-nonsense approach and decided the simplest way to go about the task was to mount an embroidery hoop to the end of an XY drive system.

DIY Embroidery Machine

The X and Y axes consist of NEMA 17 stepper motors, timing belts and v-wheels that ride on aluminum extrusion. There isn’t a lot of information available on how the needle position detection was accomplished. There is, however, mention of spring steel being used… maybe when the needle travels up it contacts the spring steel, closing a circuit and effectively becoming a switch.

A custom written app communicates with a PIC Microcontroller which provides the stepper motor control based on the design file and needle position. Unfortunately, no information is provided regarding the PIC code or controller app. Even so, this is a neat project and shows that it can be done.


32 thoughts on “DIY Embroidery Machine Sews Your Name In Your Undies

  1. It looks as if your assumptions are correct. From the photos it appears he mounted a standoff on the foot bracket and it looks like a wire is connected to the screw on the standoff and another of the shaft of the arm. My guess is a thin piece of spring steel that the needle pushes against.

    I was just looking at the one I picked up recently and can see that I have access to the shaft from the cover used for lamp replacement. It would be fairly trivial to install a microswitch in there that gets bumped on the up-stroke. Might be best to catch it right at the moment that it clears the material in order to give time for the table to reposition.

    Might want to capture two positions. One at fully up (to know it is safe to jam the look in there) and one just clearing the material (during sewing.) I imagine a magentic switch on the flywheel would probably be the best solution.

    Also, I don’t see anything about having control over the speed of the sewing machine. Mine is an old one with an air activated foot pedal. I haven’t looked inside to see what is involved in the switch part (though I may have to since it gets stuck sometimes.)

    1. Quite right about the needle detection – I did consider fitting an internal device but the missus wasn’t too keen!

      The speed of the machine is controlled using a home made fully isolated mains speed controller. The PIC chip controls the power by providing a delay before firing the mains switch (triac) after each zero crossing. This is critical to correct operation as a number of speeds need to be controlled during the embroidery process. The machine foot pedal is mechanically clamped fully on (100% power) whilst in use.

    1. Yes, it would be difficult to get rid of them. A lockstitch sewing machine (which this is) has two threads. The “top thread” (the thread you see on top of the fabric) interlocks with a “bobbin thread” (the thread you see below the fabric, normally hidden under the fabric in embroidery). When sewing, both threads move together with respect to the fabric. To eliminate the top thread you see in those jumps, you have to physically cut it, jump to the next location, then start sewing again. Some higher end home sewing machines have an automatic cut tool located under the plate near the bobbin, which is activated on command and it can cut the top thread as it passes around the bobbin.

      This is not as simple as it sounds, because the sewing machine still has a lot of excess thread in the path hanging off the needle (called a “tag”), and it has to go somewhere. If it was not dealt with, the tag would flop around on top of the design, and get tangled with future stitches. This would spoil the design, and would be extremely hard to remove. To solve this, these sewing machines cut the thread, jump to the new location, lower the needle and then run a full cycle of thread to wrap the tag around the bobbin. This pulls the tag down through the fabric, where it floats freely under the design, unseen.

      Even that’s not perfect, as the tag can still get tangled with future stitches, leading to a messy condition called “bird’s nest”, which requires a sharp seam ripper and a lot of patience to remove.

      I don’t think commercial embroidery machines have a cut function because those nests are a waste of time to deal with. I often don’t put cut instructions in my designs, because they are frequently more trouble than they’re worth. As SavannahLion says, they’re easy enough to get rid of with a pair of embroidery scissors.

  2. Mrs. SausagePaws? You think she would have kept her maiden name. Anyway how large an item can you sew? I mean can you put a T-Shirt in it so you can have your own home made “Hack a Day” Wrenchy embroidered T?

        1. The height of the design you can embroider is limited to the distance from the needle to the inside edge of the machine. This is a physical limitation based on the machine design. The width however, would only be limited by the size of the hoop used and/or the size of the aluminum beams he used.

          Yes, you could put a T-Shirt in this and embroidery a Jolly Wrencher with it. It’s not clear why Brian thinks embroidered T’s are horrible but my guess is that the thread or stabilizer irritates his skin.

          Brian mentioned using a patch. You could use a patch but this would likely not be any better than embroidering the garment itself because you would still need to embroider the patch separately first. Instead of using a patch, you could achieve a much larger design by using a technique called Applique which would work well with the 1 color Jolly Wrencher.

          It would be possible to embroider a hat with this but the results would depend on how well it is hooped and skill. This type of machine was not intended for hats but it could be done.

      1. They make a very soft stabilizer for use when embroidering on T-shirts or on the inside of clothing. It’s about twice as expensive as the coarse cutaway stabilizer that you would use on a hat, but it’s comfortable to the touch.

        Of course, the knotted threads can be stiff and scratchy, and they’re also exposed to your skin. If your design has a border of some kind, you can wait to the end of the embroidery, add a piece of soft stabilizer or other lining fabric, and fasten it to the garment with another pass around the border. Cheap commercial T-shirt embroidery places don’t normally do this because it’s expensive and not all designs have a border that would support it, but if you’re doing something for yourself, it’s totally worth the effort.

    1. The size of the fabric is immaterial (no pun intended.) Simply roll up the parts you’re not stitching on. The size of the design is limited by the hoop size. The hoop size is limited by the travel of the arm, and of the sewing machine geometry.

      With suitable embroidery software, you can chop a large design into separate hoop-sized pieces, and embroider them by hooping the fabric several times, aligning each with the previous work. This can actually produce higher quality work, because smaller hoops are usually much more stiff and precise than a large hoop. All that extra mass and momentum can make a large hoop flop around like a spring. On my machine I’ve found that Y travel on a large hoop is much less precise than the X travel, but with a small hoop they are equally stiff.

    1. Really? Because it looks like it can do most of what a very good home embroidery machine can do. The major differences I see are: no auto-detection of hoop geometry, no variable speed stitching, no thread cutting, and no safety shield to keep the fabric from getting tangled up in the arm mechanism. These are minor differences at most.

    1. Ooh, I must protest. I fully intend to give more build details – its just a matter of time and some further development / documentation. My initial entry was just to show something different being built using mechanical inspiration from the excellent OpenBuilds site!

        1. Me either, I’m gathering information about DIY embroidery machines, yours looks amazing :D

          My doubt is how to detect needle movement and apply this information to Gcode.

          Could you please give some update in you project

  3. Hello Enthusiastic,

    I have been pondering my brains to put my dream of embroidery machine. Some question if anyone can help would be a bonus.

    (A) Eclipse programming language has been used for creating Java based control screen used on Android tablet. What is the link between this control screen and the type of embroidery designs? Is there another software that is linked for selecting style and type of embroidery designs?

    (B) The PIC chip also monitors the:

    (a) mains zero crossing and
    (b) controls the trigger delay for the TRIAC – used to control power to the sewing machine motor. Both these circuits are opto-isolated to ensure separation from the main supply.

    Can (a) and (b) done in the foot paddle switch where it controls motor speed and power to the sewing machine?

    (C) There is a mention about using Pulse Width Modulation to control the maximum drive current of the motor. Is this done by Arduino Uno or similar?

    (D) Hence, both circuits are opto-isolated to ensure separation from the main supply. Help required with designing these two circuits.

    (E) No mention of Arduino Uno or similar. Cannot be seen in Youtube video either.

    (F) Not sure where Needle position sensor wire is connected to the circuit

    I am sure someone will out there knows the answers. So please, lets share the knowledge!

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