Arduino Controlled Sewing Machine Increases Stitch Options

[Andrew] is bringing his old mechanical sewing machine into the 21st century by adding an Arduino control module. Originally, his Alfa sewing machine could only do a straight stitch or a zig-zag of varying widths. Since this was an old sewing machine, all of the controls were knobs and levers. RC car servos were installed in the sewing machine and now are solely responsible for controlling, in real time, the horizontal movement of the needle and the amount of stroke of the feed dogs (the metal components responsible for advancing the fabric through the sewing machine). There is also a switch on the needle bar that feeds back to the Arduino when the needle is in the full-up position.

With full control of the stitch width and fabric advance, it is possible to come up with some awesome stitch patterns that were not possible on this machine before. Each of the stitch patterns are pre-programmed in the Arduino. Right now it is possible to control the sewing machine over the Arduino’s serial USB connection but the workflow for such an operation is in its infancy. [Andrew] plans on making this sewing machine fully automatic so that he can embroider letters and numbers.

Although the project is still a work in progress, [Andrew] has made his preliminary Arduino code available for folks who want to further his accomplishments. To continue reading about hacked sewing machines, check out this one converted to an embroidering machine.

23 thoughts on “Arduino Controlled Sewing Machine Increases Stitch Options

    1. There are videos floating around of CGI cutaways that make it pretty clear how they work, and it’s one of those things that’s so simple yet so unintuitive to just come up with. They’re really quite impressive machines.

    1. hint: thrift store (goodwill, acs, salvation army, habitat, etc…). cheap. very cheap. usually with their issues, but that’s a whole other learning experience for you, so two for the price of practically nothing!

  1. More and more newer machines (read: “Likely to be found on CL”) are electronic/programmable – is there any work being done to hack these since the motion control etc. would be in place and durable?

  2. I work in the commercial Cut & Sew industry. In a production setting we never use this type of machine, we use straight stitch machines, Or Overcasting/Overedging/Surging machines which are completely different (Chain Stitch Machines). If you want a programmable machine we use a Mitsubishi PLK’s or one of the equivalents or knock offs, If you want to do decorative stitching, you use an embroidery machine. If you really need to do a zig zag there are machines that just do that.

    On most commercial machines they use an optical encoder connected to the wheel, to detect needle position, Coupled with a HUGE stepper motor, but they are not really stepper motors. The industry calls them “Electronic Motors”, more like a electronically controlled conventional motor. They can control the position of the motor in a rotation, but unlike steppers, how many times they have gone around is not controlled. However, just to make things interesting, some manufactures are using stepper motors now. We use both of these for operations like Automatic Back Stitch, and Automatic Thread Cutting.

    I could see some use in hacking one of the electronic motors. You can control a lot of functions with those, the biggest being RPM, and position. But there are several other functions such as ramp, and automatic reverse (for back tacks). And they are “Cheap” about $200 on the used market.

  3. Thanks for the information about sewing! I have wanted to learn how to sew for a long time now, and I am finally going to give it a shot. Thanks for the tip about getting plenty of sewing pins and a pin cushion. That will be the first thing I invest in!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.