If you try to sew leather on a standard consumer-grade machine, more often than not you’ll quickly learn its limits. Most machines are built for speed, and trying to get them to punch through heavy material at the low motor speeds often needed for leather work is a lesson in frustration.
How frustrating? Enough so that [Joseph Eoff] expended considerable effort to create this sewing machine speed controller for his nearly century-old Adler sewing machine. The machine was once powered by a foot treadle, which is probably why the project is dubbed “Bigfoot,” but now uses a 230 V universal motor. Such motors don’t deliver much torque when run at low speeds with the standard foot-pedal rheostat control, so [Joseph] worked up an Arduino-based controller with a tachometer for feedback and a high-power PWM driver for the motor.
There are a ton of details in [Joseph]’s post and even more in the original blog article, which is well worth a read, but a couple really stand out. The first is with the tachometer, which uses an off-the-shelf photointerrupter and slotted disc. [Joseph] was displeased with the sensor’s asymmetrical and unreliable output, so he made some modifications to the onboard comparator to square up the signal. Also interesting is the PID loop auto-tuning function he programmed into Bigfoot; press a button and the controller automatically ramps the motor speed up and down and stores the coefficients in memory. Nice!
The short video below shows Bigfoot in action with varying thicknesses of faux leather; there are also some clips in the original article that show the machine dealing with a triple thickness of leather at slow speed and not even breaking a sweat. Hats off to [Joseph] on a solid build that keeps a classic machine in the game. And if you want to get into the textile arts but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.
Fabric must be cut before it can be turned into something else, and [fiercekittenz] shows how a laser cutter can hit all the right bases to save a lot of time on the process. She demonstrates processing three layers of fabric at once on a CO2 laser cutter, cutting three bags’ worth of material in a scant 1 minute and 29 seconds.
The three layers are a PU (polyurethane) waterproof canvas, a woven liner, and a patterned cotton canvas. The laser does a fantastic job of slicing out perfectly formed pieces in no time, and its precision means minimal waste. The only gotcha is to ensure materials are safe to laser cut. For example, PU-based canvas is acceptable, but PVC-based materials are not. If you want to skip the materials discussion and watch the job, laying the fabric in the machine starts around [3:16] in the video.
[fiercekittenz] acknowledges that her large 100-watt CO2 laser cutter is great but points out that smaller or diode-based laser machines can perfectly cut fabric under the right circumstances. One may have to work in smaller batches, but it doesn’t take 100 watts to do the job. Her large machine, for example, is running at only a fraction of its full power to cut the three layers at once.
One interesting thing is that the heat of the laser somewhat seals the cut edge of the PU waterproof canvas. In the past, we’ve seen defocused lasers used to weld and seal non-woven plastics like those in face masks, a task usually performed by ultrasonic welding. The ability for a laser beam to act as both “scissors” and “glue” in these cases is pretty interesting. You can learn all about using a laser cutter instead of fabric scissors in the video embedded below.
If you’re a cyclist that lives in an area with poorly-maintained infrastructure, you’ll likely have plenty of punctured inner tubes begging for reuse. Consider crafting them into a rugged, hard-wearing pencil case with this design from [Yorkshire Lass].
[Yorkshire Lass] does a great job of not only explaining the basic design of the pencil case, but also the unique techniques required to work with inner tubes in this manner. For best results, the tube must first be straightened by stretching it for some time along a flat board. Strips of the rubber must then be cut to suit, and then assembled into the pattern to make the pencil case. Sewing up the case also requires some special techniques outside those used in regular sewing. That’s largely down to the fact that rubber can’t be pinned in place without leaving a permanent hole in the material. Thankfully, the write-up explains all the traps for those new to sewing inner tubes, which we’d have to suspect is most of us.
Assembled properly, you’ll end up with a pencil case made of far tougher material than most. Plus, it makes a great fashion accessory to flaunt to other bicycle or recycling evangelists at your school, college, or workplace. Even better, there’s scope to run a group craft session with your local bike group given everyone surely has a few dud mountain bike tubes laying around.
[Louise Katzovitz] has created a light-up jacket in the style of the jacket worn by Michael Jackson in the 1983 music video for “Thriller”. [Louise Katzovitz]’s Thriller jacket is the perfect example of combining sewing hacks and electronic hacks to make an awesome, wearable jacket.
A bomber jacket was used as the base form to layer on the sequins and LED strips. Instead of bands of metal studs, [Louise] used WS2812B 60 pixels/m LED strips. 3D-printed transparent PLA “gems” were placed on top of the LEDs to mimic the form of the metal studs in the original jacket and provide diffusion for the underlying LEDs.
Each LED strip was laid out on a piece of vinyl strip. Then, a top layer of vinyl was cut to allow each of the LEDs to poke through, with the 3D printed gems super-glued on top. The assembled LED bands are attached to the jacket by Velcro with the wiring fed behind the lining material, which can be removed easily via small hooks. The whole thing is driven by an Arduino Nano and a 5 V power bank.
With the details and process worked out, [Louise] even made a tiny version of the jacket for her dog. We’ve featured LED wearables and fashion before and [Louise]’s jacket is a great addition. These projects are perfect for anyone who wants to wow their friends this upcoming Halloween season. Video after the break!
The sewing machine is a tool that many of us will have somewhere around our workshop. Concealed within it lies an intricate and fascinating mechanism. Some of us may have peered inside, but very few indeed of us will have gone to the effort of building our own. In case you had ever wondered whether it was possible, [Fraens] has done just that, with what he claims may be the only entirely homemade sewing machine on the Internet.
If you’ve ever studied the history of sewing machines you’ll notice that it bears a striking resemblance to some of the earliest commercial machines, with a relatively short reach and an entirely open construction. The main chassis appears to be laser-cut acrylic while all the fittings are 3D-printed, with machined brass bushes and aluminum rods for the other metal parts. The design utilizes a hand crank, but is also pictured with a DC motor. It makes for a fascinating illustration of how sewing machines work. Sadly we can’t see any design file links (Update: He’s contacted us to tell us they’re now on Thingiverse.), so you might have to be inventive if that’s the way you want to build your own. Take a look at it in the video below the break.
I’ve been sewing off and on since I was a kid, and I really started to get into it about ten years ago. Even though I technically outgrew my little 3/4 size domestic machine pretty quickly, I kept using it because it always did whatever I asked it to. I even made my first backpack on it before deciding it was time for something bigger. Don’t ask me how I managed to not kill that machine, because I have no idea.
Last year, I got a so-called heavy duty Singer that claims to have 50% more power than a standard domestic machine. This bad boy will make purses and backpacks with ease, I thought. And it does. Well, most of the time.
I found its limits when I tried to make a bag out of thick upholstery material. And honestly, when it comes down to finishing most bags — sewing the thickest and most difficult seams — the machine often lifts up from the table on the end opposite the needle.
What I really need is an industrial sewing machine. Not to replace the Singer at all, but to complement it. I can totally justify this purchase. Let me tell you why.
This problem hit much closer to home. [Marc’s] daughter wanted to sew a Halloween costume. The machine would boot up fine, but when attempting to sew, it would make a bit of noise, then beep and display “The safety device has been activated”. Not very helpful.
The sewing machine in question is called “Baby Lock Decorator’s Choice” and is manufactured by Brother for Juken. [Marc] of course dug in, and quickly found himself stymied by a clamshell case that just didn’t want to come apart. This is the point where many of us would apply just a little too much force when prying and be rewarded with a broken case.
[CuriuosMarc] is thankfully the more patient sort. Rather than become [FuriousMarc], he carefully persevered to find a hidden screw holding things together. The screw could only be accessed by inserting a screwdriver through a tiny access hole on the front chassis of the machine.
With the screw out, a couple of molded clips were all that held the case sides together. After popping them, [Marc] was finally able to fix the real problem: A toothed belt that had slipped off its cog. That’s it — just a loose belt. The cryptic error code most likely was due to the machine realizing it the motor was on, but the machine wasn’t moving – which would generally indicate something stuck or tangled in the thread path.
This type of repair would be much easier if service manuals were readily available. We did a quick search for this model but didn’t find anything freely available.
Have you gotten stuck by a simple repair? Tell us about it down in the comments.