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Upgrade a sewing machine into an automatic embroidery rig

Arduino TeamNovember 26th, 2018

A needle and thread is extremely useful if you need to fasten a few pieces of fabric or sew on a button, and a sewing machine takes things up several notches in speed an accuracy. This venerable machine, however, can now be enhanced with a trio of stepper motors under Arduino Uno GRBL control to take things to an entirely new level.

The “Self-Made Embroidery Machine” employs a setup very similar to a 3D printer or CNC router. Two steppers move the fabric around, while a third actuates the needle. This allows the user to program in decorative shapes and patterns as shown in the video below, and the build process is well documented if you’d like to create your own!

Sewing machine part is any old or new sewing machine. Only change for original is stepper motor with synchronised pulley system (chain/belt drive) and more embroidery friendly presser foot. It is recommended to use older sewing machine, way more convenient to mount stepper motor to cast iron and prices are relatively cheap.

XY movement consists mainly 3D printed parts, 12 pcs and similar parts known from self build 3D printers. Both axes use GT2 belts, NEMA 17 steppers and both directions are fully scalable.

Synchronous movement comes from Arduino powered GRBL G-code interpreter, it is mouthful, but basically machine moves using G-code send to Arduino. It is not that complicated and it is only carrier like any other one when going from system to another one.

Now we have movement and code, but how to make nice shapes and export to G-code. It is nothing to do with medieval sorcery, it is a matter of downloading Inkscape and extension called Inkstitch.

Help and examples how to use Inkstitch extension can be found address above. End result should be really close to hobby level embroidery machines, just slower speed. After all, embroidery machine is nothing more than overgrown sewing machine.


5 Responses to “Upgrade a sewing machine into an automatic embroidery rig”

  1. attiny85nightmare Says:

    great project! I am very interested and would like to build one for myself, I have worked with GRBL before on CNC? and lasers, and I have already the old sewing machine and some boards, but there is something I do not understand, how do you manage to move the fabric only when the needle is in the top position? Do you have the Z limit- switch attached to the needle mechanism? so the gcode would be like: go to Z0,move some XY, go down a bit then go Z0 again?

    Thanks a lot in advance!

  2. attiny85nightmare Says:

    I watched your video again and realized that my first assumption was not right,singe the stepper motor for the needle is always moving in the same direction, so now I am even more intrigued! my guess is that the G-code for Z is always increasing like Z10, stop, Z20, stop, Z30, so how do know when to stop to avoid making a mess with the fabric?

  3. dayyan1122 Says:

    You have wrote nicely about upgrading of a sewing machine. I want to change my embroidery machine so i was reading about good thing present in embroidery machine. I also find some helping material at

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  5. sewingmachinemaster Says:

    I m Sewing machine mechanic
    Your question is very important
    How is possible fabric rotation
    At that time when needle on the top position
    May be in this system we can use one sensor when needle bar rotating up side that time frame(fabric holder) is working means stepper motor working that time maybe you understand brother .

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