Old Machines, New Tech, No Kitsch.


When I talk about robots, I mean machines which have programmed software functions that govern the hardware. This can mean anything from an automatic one-step buttonhole or eyelet function, to an embroidery machine, or on the knitting side, an electronic pattern system with a garter carriage or a motorized carriage attachment. Basically, I follow the Roomba definition of a robot. No matter how advanced a Hoover or Riccar upright is, it still requires muscles to make it do more than suck hard on one square foot of carpet. They don’t have software to propel them. A Roomba has programmed behaviors. 

Robots are never purely mechanical. In general, a robot needs to be serviced about once a year at a sewing machine shop. They have very few user serviceable parts. That’s perfectly fine — like a 2015 Honda Accord, an electronic sewing machine almost never leaves you dead on the side of the road if you take basic care with it. The downsides are the software is proprietary. You’re unlikely to ever get the source code or be able to debug it yourself. Think of Robots like an iOS device — it’s unlikely to get hacked, unlikely to get infected with malware, unlikely to brick itself because you did something.

I recommend entry-level Robots for new sewists. They’ve got a lot of features and assistive technology that help a neophyte develop skills. The biggest barrier to crafting and self-sufficiency is not skill, it’s time. We live in an attention-deficit world. We all do better with our crafts when we have regular rewards and successes. 

I strongly suggest the Brother SE-400 combined sewing and embroidery machine for a starter machine. They’re light and compact, but tough enough to handle even four layers of denim. They’ve got 67 onboard stitches, 10 automatic buttonholes, and they interface pretty well with Windows, MacOS, Linux on Raspberry Pi, and USB sticks. They’re also available on Amazon for around $300 (in 2017). I’ve had mine for 6 years and it’s never been a problem. 

This page is the repository for all software assisted sewing posts. 

%d bloggers like this: