Sewing Machine Foot Pedal Alternatives - Rheostat


If you love to sew but just can't use the foot pedal anymore, Contessa has an option for you and your quilting friends called the rheostat.

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Sewing Machine Foot Pedal Alternatives - Rheostat

A regular customer enters your shop. She says sadly, "I would love to sew again but I just can't use the foot pedal anymore." It could be an injury, arthritis, overuse, or many other reasons. Are you prepared to help with an overview of other options for using a sewing machine?

Sewing Machine Foot Pedal Alternatives - Rheostat


Many of the newer machines come with an on/off button like this one. These machines usually offer the option of either plugging in the foot pedal or using this button. There are other machines that can adapt to a knee switch as well, but the knee may be the site of the problem.



One creative sewist has suggested placing the foot pedal under the armpit. Other folks have suggested putting the foot pedal on the table and activating it with a hand or elbow. For people with more permanent disabilities, there was a machine called a ByteSwitch which offers the options of hand or mouth controls.



Some of these alternatives involve money and some can be uncomfortable. When this Contessa could not use the foot pedal on her machine due to a knee problem, she searched long and hard on the Internet for another alternative. Search engines can be difficult to use if one does not know the correct term to use in the search. I finally landed on the term that I will now explain by asking a neighbor electrician to help me with my sewing machine. The first word out of his mouth was "rheostat".



A rheostat can be plugged into a machine for control of operation and speed. A rheostat is defined as "a resistor for regulating a current (meaning electricity) by means of variable resistances". This type of resistor can be used, for example, to control speed on a mobility scooter. You might think of a dimmer on a light switch. Technically, a dimmer is not a rheostat, but it is a helpful analogy.


Here is a photo of the one I purchased for my sewing machine. It plugs into the sewing machine in the hole where the foot pedal normally goes. As you can see, it offers on/off, pulse and a speed button. Yes, it takes a while to get used to it. There is a big difference physically between simply lifting your foot to stop the machine and pushing a button.


One thing that I liked about this device was that I could use it on my different sewing machines. As do many active quilters, I have one machine that stays home and one that goes on the road for classes, etc. The speed controller allowed me to use either machine without great expense.


Now, as a shop owner, you can cheerfully recommend a range of solutions and then sell the customer the fabric she has been petting!


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Accessories that are available for sewing machines and are especially made for quilting.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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