Arduino Bobbin Winding Machine Is Freaky Fast

One of the worst things about sewing is finding out that your bobbin — that’s the smaller spool that works together with the needle and the larger spool to make a complete stitch — ran out of thread several stitches ago. If you’re lucky, the machine has a viewing window on the bobbin so you can easily tell when it’s getting dangerously close to running out, but many machines (ours included) must be taken halfway apart and the bobbin removed before it can be checked.

Having spare bobbins ready to go is definitely the answer. We would venture to guess that most (if not all) machines have a built-in bobbin winder, but using them involves de-threading the machine and setting it up to wind bobbins instead of sew. If you have a whole lot of sewing to do and can afford it, an automatic bobbin winder is a godsend. If you’re [Mr. Innovative], you build one yourself out of acrylic, aluminium, and Arduinos.

Here’s how it works: load up the clever little acrylic slide with up to twelve empty bobbins, then dial in the speed percentage and press the start button. The bobbins load one at a time onto a drill chuck that’s on the output shaft of a beefy 775 DC motor. The motor spins ridiculously fast, loading up the bobbin in a few seconds. Then the bobbin falls down a ramp and into a rack, and the thread is severed by a piece of nichrome wire.

An important part of winding bobbins is making sure the thread stays in place at the start of the wind. We love the way [Mr. Innovative] handled this part of the problem — a little foam doughnut around a bearing holds the thread in place just long enough to get the winding started. The schematic, BOM, and CAD files are available if you’d like to make one of these amazing machines for yourself. In the meantime, check out the demo/build video after the break.

Still not convinced that sewing is cool enough to learn? Our own [Jenny List] may be able to convert you. If that doesn’t get you, you might like to know that some sewing machines are hackable — this old girl has a second life as a computerized embroidery machine. If those don’t do it, consider that sewing machines can give you a second life, too.

Thanks for the tip, [Baldpower]!

16 thoughts on “Arduino Bobbin Winding Machine Is Freaky Fast

  1. Time for a kickstarter, I think.
    A number of home quilters/embroidery people might want to have one.

    But, I wonder if the “tail” of the thread, the part that is usually threaded through a hole in the bottom to hold it in place, on bobbins wound in this manner would cause snags or other problems in the sewing machine.

    1. Its basically the same method Mum and Nan’s sewing machines use to wind – supposed to feed the thread through one of those side holes to get it started not just clamp it, but it works out the same. As long as you trim the excess away neatly you will be fine.

    2. I wondered the same thing about the tail. It’s pretty long. Though, cutting it off wouldn’t require monumental effort. I don’t know how closely, if at all, the tail is trimmed with a conventionally wound bobbin.

      I also wonder, without the thread passed through the hole in the bobbin, how many wraps will hold on around the core of the bobbin before it gets all loose and sloppy while nearing the end of the bobbin. If it slips on the core, that would seriously mess with the tension of the bobbin thread and make poor stitches, if not snarls and snags (“birds nest” I believe is the sewing lingo).

      My indirect experience also tells me that it’s important to have the proper tension on the thread while winding it to make the bobbin wind evenly. It seems like the more expensive the machine is, the more finicky it can be about thread construction, top thread tension, bobbin tension, etc. (There are some pricey tension gauges out there.) It does look like it might be going through a tension disk, but it’s cut off at the very top of the video and it’s blurry in the other picture where it’s not cut off.

      I also wonder if that hot wire cuts cotton thread as easily as whatever type is shown (which may be cotton).

      Maybe he addresses these things in detail somewhere that I haven’t read.

      Having said/wondered all of that, I will end with this — my most/only significant comment: Cool!

      1. On my sewing machine, the tension on the bobbin thread is controlled by the thread going through a spring clip after it comes from the bobbin. The bobbin just sits in a hole with nothing engaging its hub.

    3. Unless it sells for just a little bit more than a cheap bobbin winder(about $30), most non-industrial quilting/embroidery people aren’t going to bother. The reason is that we already have winders that stop at a set point and if you’ve worked out your workflow, you do something like:

      1) pull off finished job
      2) start your current job
      3) check finished job
      4) hoop your next job
      5) setup and start winder
      6) go do something else while you wait for your current job to finish.

      And step 5 really won’t be a problem for you for a while as I go through 5 or more jobs before I have to change bobbins on my commercial machine. On my home machines I change every 3-4 jobs at most. It’s not really a concern for most of us. And when you get to the level that some of my friends with industrial machines are at, they just buy pre-wound “bobbins”.

      1. I agree. If you’re a small scale sewer, you’re going to use the bobbin winder built into your machine. If you’re large scale, you’re going to buy them in bulk pre-wound. There’s not really much middle ground. Bobbins are cheap for machines so it’s easy to have 2 or 3 dozen of them laying around for home use. This just seems like a solution in search of a problem.

        1. If you’re not buying them from an industrial supply, but relying on local sources, you can easily spend over a dollar each buying retail and you have less choices over the thread. If you pay $12.99 for a ten pack, that you have to go out and buy, it’s quickly more cost effective to wind your own even if it is just beer money savings.

  2. Not being a native english speaker this article 30 years later finally clued me in where the first name of the protagonist in Lucasfilm`s game “Loom” (Bobbin Threadbare) comes from… his last name I could explain. Ah the memories…
    Apart from that: nicely done. Alas I don´t see me having a need for the apparatus as I only occasionally sew and am happy to use the built in spooling mechanism of my Grandmother`s Victoria Detmold. For me it is just part of the process. Still I can see how people doing loads of sewing might lust after that machine!

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