Upcoming events for Victorian and Steampunk: May 18th and 19th 2024 Blacktown Medieval Festival, July 2024 Winterfest, October 2024 Goulburn Steampunk Festival, November 2024 Victorian Medieval Festival

Standing Industrial Plain Sewer experiment

For some years I have thought about the concept of making an industrial plain sewer into a standing machine.

But I never quite got around to it due to my concerns about raising the machine high enough with the very heavy motor underneath and possibly wrecking my sewing machine.  Just to fill in the blanks,  I am used to sewing on industrial plain sewers that are about 20 - 30 years old. These have a motor attached underneath to the tabletop that probably weighs about 30 kilos. 

For a few years now I have been suffering with arthritis in the hips and after talking with my physiotherapist came to the sudden realisation that the position that one sits in at the sewing machine, sometimes for hours on end, is actually exacerbating if not causing the pain in my hips.

So a bit of an A-ha moment was had and I decided to crack on with my standing sewing machine concept.

After a fortuitous chat with a sewing machine mechanic who mentioned that the modern industrial sewing machines don't have an external motor weighing down the table, I decided to set about an experiment to make a standing industrial sewing machine.

I purchased my very first brand new industrial plain sewer from my local Sewing Machine Centre (Know-How sewing in Mittagong, NSW, Australia).  A Jack brand machine which was very reasonably priced and that I am very happy with.

I then set about my DIY project to raise it to the height needed for standing while sewing.

Step one. I removed the Sewing Machine head (after unplugging it), undid the treadle rod and then removed the tabletop from its legs, this involved simply unscrewing some screws that attach the table top to the legs.

I then added 30 cm or thereabouts of height to each table leg using large wooden blocks of wood that I happened to have lying around in my shed. I attached these to the table legs using long screws 

Then I reattached the sewing table top by drilling into the table top and then inserting screws through it and down into the wooden blocks underneath. The drilling through the table top did cause the laminate to get a little roughened around the edges of the screw holes so I put a piece of gaffer tape across that to give me back a smooth surface. 

It felt a bit wobbly so I added some cross bars at the back and front to give the whole structure more stability.

So now I had an industrial sewing machine table ready to have the sewing machine head put back on.

With some help from my teenage children we lifted the head back on to the table and located it correctly. 

My next hurdle to overcome was how to connect the two ends of the treadle Rod with enough length for the standing machine. 

I asked my very helpful sewing machine mechanic if he had any spare parts for treadle rods lying around and lo and behold he did, giving me both the rod and the joiner. Very handy.  These parts allowed me to extend the treadle rod the 30 cm or so that it needed to lengthen.

So at this point I now had a functional standing sewing machine though it still required some tweaks.

My goal was to be able to use the sewing presser foot with either foot. So that I wasn't doing all my standing on just one leg. To that end I relocated the presser foot to a more left hand location which allows me to sew with either foot. This is just a personal preference.

My next hurdle was how to use the knee press that lifts the machine foot up.  Hmm, I thought I'll just use the hand foot lifter instead but this proved to be a bit inefficient and not being what I was used to, was slowing me down quite a bit.

So I decided to extend the knee press rod in my own special way :-).  This has involved some very long heavy nails some hose clamps and of course some gaffer tape.  

This is the latest of my sewing machine tweaks and I have yet to experiment with it over the long-term.  Will it stay in place?  Will it be easy to use? Will it lift the machine foot high enough to move the work around underneath? 

We'll see about that one.

I've now used the knee press adaptation a bit and it's great. 

Actually after doing a bit more sewing with the knee lift adaptation, I realise that due to the weight of my rather 'junkyard' extending of the knee lift pole that this extra weight is causing the sewing machine foot to lift slightly.  This reduces the foot pressure leading to a poorer stitch quality.  So I will be looking for a lighterweight solution to the extending needed for the knee press. Perhaps I can find an aluminium pole of approximately the right diameter to use instead.  


See this photo for my rather more elegant solution to the knee lift problem. Very lightweight 10mm aluminium Pole from Bunnings hardware. About $2.50 so excellent value for money.  

I still find that I move the knee press lever with my hand more than using my knee.  The positioning is a bit awkward when standing.  But I now have three options for lifting the machine foot.  Use knee, use hand on knee press lever or use hand lift (at the top of the machine like on a domestic).  It all works:)


Another tweak that I like to have on my sewing machines is an extension of the table on my left to stop work falling off the table as much. Particularly useful when one is sewing larger or longer garments that tend to try and drag themselves off the sewing machine surface.  

You can see in this picture my rather rough-and-ready table top extension that can be folded up onto the table out-of-the-way.  This was a handy wooden board that I had lying around in my shed and I did go out and buy some strap hinges to attach it to the table.



So that's it.  My DIY standing industrial sewing machine project. 

At the time of writing this blog post, I've been using the machine for a few days and have made a few things.  Still ironing out minor kinks and getting used to a different set up but well worth doing.

Here's to less hip pain and a better functioning body.

Some further thoughts:

This is not a straight out of the box type of solution.  It takes time to get used to this different way of sewing and I am keeping my original Consew regular plain sewer for the days when I have a high sewing load and need to change positions between the machines to rest my body. 

I imagine that I will also find there are some types of work (probably very fiddly stuff) that will just be better done on the sitting machine. 

OPTIONAL: Sewing machine dancing. Put on some tunes, grab your headphones and boogie while at your standing machine, or any sewing machine for that matter:)