I modified my sewing machine by adding a simple hand crank. It ain't pretty, but it works, and I was able to do it with parts I already had, which gives you some idea what my house is like.
It all started because I was making cloth dolls and doll clothes, but I had one of those sewing machines where the pedal is not sensitive enough to stitch slowly, unless you barely press the pedal while also putting your hand on the wheel and helping it along.
I was reading a blog (sadly I lost the link, but if I find it I'll post it) and the author remarked that she had two sewing machines, and one of them had a crank. She used that one to make doll clothes because she could easily go stitch by stitch. This was a revelation to me. I knew that the old machines had foot treadles, but I had never heard of a crank sewing machine So of course I wanted that for myself!
It seemed to me that I could use the hand wheel on my sewing machine to go forward stitch by stitch. It definitely was possible, and gave me a lot more control. I was able to produce a beautiful curve on my doll dress neckline. It was exhausting to my arm, however. I decided that my Brother XL-2600i wasn't such an expensive machine that I didn't dare to experiment on it.
Warning! Modifying your sewing machine is probably dangerous and may result in harm to yourself or others, or violate your warranty. Proceed at your own risk!
Since the hand wheel was already working, all I needed to do was figure out a way to attach a crank type handle. I wanted to remove the hand wheel to make sure there was room underneath it to attach a screw or bolt without interfering with the machinery. A little research revealed that on many sewing machines, the hand wheel can just be pulled off. So I pulled, and, yay, it came off. There was a molded part underneath that attached to a t-shaped bracket, and there was plenty of room for screws or bolts.
I drilled two holes in the hand wheel, made two corresponding holes in a length of 1/2 inch PEX pipe, and attached the pipe to the hand wheel with some toggle bolts I had, which were way longer than they needed to be. I ended up covering the bolt ends with felt sleeves so I wouldn't get scratched by them. Then I added two elbows (really one of them was just for looks). I used one elbow to attach a second length of pipe. I was able to slide a 3/4 inch section of PEX pipe over this horizonal pipe section to make a handle that could spin freely, and added one more elbow to hold it in place (of course a pipe cap would also work, but elbows were what I had).
I tested it and it worked pretty well. I made some adjustments to the pipe lengths and had to add some screws to keep the elbows from coming off, and I took the hand wheel off, flipped it over and put it back on so the needle would be up when the crank was up. Overall I'm pleased with my hack. It sews slow and quietly. I have even tested it with a zigzag stitch and it worked fine.
Putting the crank on doesn't disable the motor, so you could still use the foot pedal and motor if you wanted, but you would have to make sure you have PLENTY of room around it because the crank will spin FAST when you are sewing, and you don't want it to hit anything or anyone! In fact if you don't unplug it, you should leave room just to be safe. I unplugged mine and so far haven't plugged it back in.
This is not really a replacement for a vintage hand crank sewing machine. Most of those had some kind of differential gear so you could sew with greater speed. On this machine, long seams could get pretty tedious. Also, I can't wind a bobbin with it if it's not plugged in - luckily I already had a Sidewinder bobbin winder. That said, I've been using it a lot for my doll work and I'm pretty satisfied with it. At least it's good to know that I can always have a crank sewing machine - if I'm willing to do it myself.
Updated 9 November 2015
Tags: sewing, projects
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Tags: Barbie, projects
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More projects coming soon!