I have a Singer 1120 sewing machine that has a built-in light too weak for the kind of sewing I need done; goths, or at least people with gothic hearts, live in this house, and a 40-watt incandescent candelabra bulb just doesn’t show black stitches on black fabric. Initially, I was thinking of an LED corncob array to use in the existing E12 socket, but the only ones I could find maxed out at 500 lumens, or 60W equivalent — hardly an improvement, considering the cost and effort.
A good friend, who plays with electronics the way I play with words, suggested instead to rewire the socket to power an LED strip along the top of the harp (a.k.a. throat). This plan was later revised to set up an LED array with its own DC power supply, leaving the existing bulb and socket alone and providing a rather terrifying amount of bright white light when needed. As he cheerfully says, “There’s no kill like overkill!”
He did almost all of the planning and assembly on this, but I tried my hand at soldering, so there’s that. I found I benefited greatly from watching someone who is very comfortable with what they do in an area I have zero practical knowledge of, since a bit of that comfort and familiarity transferred over to me and helped me feel less anxious about an area of crafting I’d previously known nothing about.
Tools and materials
- White surface-mount LED panel
- 12-volt DC power supply
- 2.1 mm DC power jack with pigtail
- Alternatively, if you can’t find one with wires long enough to work on your machine, get the power jack and wire separately.
- Hot glue gun and hot glue
- Double-sided tape
- Dremel or other tool for boring a hole in plastic
- Soldering iron and solder
- Remove the plastic housing of the sewing machine by unscrewing the case screws and gently prying the housing apart as appropriate.
- You may find your owner’s manual useful here. I didn’t.
- A trick to remember where the screws go: take a sheet of cardboard, draw a diagram of the machine on it, and, as you remove each screw, punch it into the corresponding place on the diagram.
- If you’re like me and didn’t know the above trick until someone told you after you’d already taken the case off, then do your best not to force or cross-thread any screws when you put them back. You’ll probably find that everything works out fine.
- Find an appropriate place for the power jack in the housing and drill a hole just big enough for the jack to fit snugly in.
- Fit the jack into the new hole, wire side on the inside of the case, and adjust it until it’s flush with the outside of the case.
- Fill any gaps between the jack and the edges of the hole with hot glue, and add more as needed to secure the jack.
- Position the LED panel on the plastic case at the top of the harp, and, when satisfied with the position, mark the housing at the spot where the LED panel’s solder pads would be.
- Drill a hole large enough for the power jack’s leads to pass through at the previously marked spot, then pass the leads through from the inside of the case to the outside.
- Use the soldering iron to desolder the existing leads from the LED panel, then solder the power jack’s leads onto the LED panel’s pads.
- Test functionality by connecting the power jack to the power supply, then to a standard wall outlet.
- Do not look at the LED panel when you do this.
- When satisfied with the functionality, use double-sided tape to secure the LED panel to the top of the harp, as well as to secure
- Reassemble the machine and take it out for a spin!
As a child, I was expected to focus on academic and domestic work, and any curiosity about how mechanical and electrical things, the simple, everyday things around the house, was brushed aside with “study hard so you can just pay someone else to do it for you. That didn’t seem quite right to me at that age, but I dutifully obeyed; now I’m an adult who still doesn’t think that’s quite right, and am making up for lost time. I have not found it conducive to my happiness in life to spend most of my waking hours — and some of what should be my sleeping ones — doing things I find unfulfilling, for people I feel little connection with and who reciprocate the sentiment, to earn money that isn’t enough, to pay other people to do things for me that I would rather do myself. It seems rather obvious when spelled out that way, doesn’t it?