Sew Simple: The “Foot Free” Sewing Solution

Client Coordinators: Angela Escalante
Designers: Benjamin Barocas, Mary Ellen Koran, Mhoire Murphy
Supervising Professor: Kevin Caves and Richard Goldberg

Our client is a creative and intelligent ten-year-old girl with a desire to learn how to sew using a sewing machine. Due to a spinal cord injury, she has no mobility of her lower body and depends on her arms to balance and stabilize her upper body. As a result, she cannot use any standard sewing machines operated by a foot pedal. We developed an entire “sewing station”, complete with a hand-operated machine and modified craft table that will allow our client to sew independently. It has a table that allows for easy wheelchair access, and for sewing at an appropriate height while seated in her wheelchair. It permits her to maintain comfort and balance while using the sewing machine. It is height adjustable so that it can grow with her, and it is easy to store.

Our client’s mother remarked, “I am so pleased with the conscientious design with its focus on growth and safety. I’m looking forward to [her] increased independence in operating the machine and accessing everything she needs for her ‘creations’.” When sitting at the workstation for the first time, our client had only three words for our design team: “This is great!”

The final design is based around the Brother CS6100 sewing machine, which uses hand-controlled technology with buttons for power and speed control, rather than requiring use of a foot pedal. The sewing action is controlled via a push button that is located directly above the needle, and a slider button to the right of the power button controls the speed of the needle over a range from very slow to very fast speeds. The machine is housed in a height adjustable sewing station complete with a hand crank mechanism to allow for multiple positions for the machine. The machine rests on a platform that can be moved up and down independently from the surrounding table. We provided auxiliary clip-on lighting, a detachable power strip, a bungee leg-securing system, Velcro pockets for storage, free-standing sewing boxes for additional storage.

For the height adjustability, the legs of a craft table were modified to decrease the height of the table from 28.5’’ to 26.5’’ by removing a two inch section from each leg. An insert was machined from solid, square aluminum bar that would fit inside the tubes that made the legs of the table. We tapped ¼-20 screw holes into the block that allowed for up to 2.25 inches of height to be added back in ¾ inch increments. This allows our client to fit perfectly under the table, thereby reducing fatigue in her arms, back, and neck. The table top can be raised as she grows.

A custom plexiglass template was fabricated from ¼ inch plexiglas using a laser cutter. When placed around the machine in its lowered position, it provides a continuous workspace between the sewing machine work surface and the surrounding table, and it reduces the risk of dropping fabric or needles to the floor. Slim hexagon screws were inserted periodically around the perimeter of the inset and provide ledges for stabilizing the insert while in use. We also used the laser to etch in our client’s name for aesthetic appeal.

The cost of the device was $325, excluding the cost of the sewing machine.

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