Ida contributed this article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.Josh The Daily Prepper News
Getting Started with a Treadle Sewing Machine
As part of my prepping plan, I wanted to learn to sew on a treadle sewing machine i.e. off grid. I grew up sewing mostly with Singer sewing machines but had never used a treadle. This article is about my adventure, my mistakes, and my eventual success. I hope you find it useful. It is intended for the novice trying to bring a Singer treadle back to life.
Features I wanted
First I had to decide what kind of machine I wanted. First and foremost I wanted a machine I could make functional. I was not interested in a collector’s item to sit around and collect dust. I started with lots of research on the internet. There are thousands of sites with manuals, technical information, and other details. I wanted a Singer. I decided on a flat, round bobbin rather than a “flying” shuttle. Flat bobbins are easier to use and are still used today. My bobbins work in my treadles and my five year old electricity machine. I want at least some attachments that I could learn to use later.
There are lots of places to buy inexpensive old treadles. Try garage sales, yard sales, auctions, Craigslist, and thrift stores. My 1906 Singer cost $40 with a six drawer cabinet, base, two attachments, and two pressure feet. The base is not a Singer but a Domestic brand. The cabinet has a few chips in the wood and the decals are not perfect. This machine has seen many yards of fabric go across its face. It was purchased on Craigslist.
My second treadle, a 1911 Singer Red Eye, came from an auction. It has a three drawer cabinet plus a lap drawer and a Singer base. There was one pressure foot but no attachments. My son paid $60 for it.
The most important aspect is that everything still moves. Most likely the belt will be gone. Try the treadle. So either sit at the machine or reach down and move the foot treadle. Turn the hand wheel. Does the wheel turn? Does the needle arm go up and down? Does the feed dog (under the needle) move up and down? As long as there are no broken parts or it is not completely frozen up, you should be able to make it functional. If parts are rusted together, I would not buy it. Someone with more skills than I have might bring it back to life but I was not into that challenge.
When buying a treadle, buy it for the machine head. The cabinets and bases are interchangeable. My first treadle does not have a Singer base. Once I finally had it completely cleaned and oiled, it flies along. It truly does not matter what brand the base is.
I also wanted flat round bobbins. They are easier to use and hold more thread. Both of my treadles and my current electric machine all use the same bobbins. They are easy to find and cheap.
Making it functional
Once you buy a treadle the next step is getting it from “barn fresh” to functional. Go to Singer’s website, http://www.singerco.com/support/machine-serial-numbers. Enter your serial number, you will learn the date it was manufactured and the model number. Next, search for “Singer manual and the model number”. This will be a huge help. I printed it off and put it in a notebook with other articles I found.
Cleaning and oiling
You have to disassemble at least parts of the machine to clean it. Get a small container to put all parts in so you do not lose anything. I took areas apart and then put it back together and moved on. I do not know that the sequence matters. I started with the bobbin case and the pressure plate under the needle. Use a small medium stiff brush to clean out all debris. I used canned air next. After using the canned air, I allowed time for any condensation to dry out. Using the manual for guidance, I oiled all the open holes. I used 3-in-1 oil but you can also use sewing machine oil. I reassembled that area.
Next I removed the silver plate on the left side. Remove the thumbscrew. Lift up on the plate and it will slide off the upper screw. I brushed it out, sprayed with can air, dried, oiled. At this point, turn the hand wheel to be sure everything moves easily. Reassemble.
On the back side of the head is a round disc with a thumb screw. Remove the screw and the plate will come off. Again, brush, spray, dry, oil, and reassemble. I followed this process around the hand wheel. Finally, I laid the head back and cleaned under the machine. I cleaned the entire stand.
I did wipe down the entire cabinet with Dr. Woodwell’s Wood Elixir. I am sure there are other products that would refurbish the cabinet finish but I chose this one.
Replacing the belt
My treadles use a round leather belt. Do not buy a belt for your specific model. I did that and paid three times the price. You can purchase leather by the foot at many sites including Amazon. It is much cheaper. The two ends of the belt are held together with a C-hook. I bought them at the same time I purchased the belting.
One item I found useful was a pair of treadle pliers. There are places to cut the leather, to punch the hole in the cut end of the leather, typical plier function to hook the two ends together, and crimp the C-hook. The first place I looked they were $40. I finally found a pair for $30. I think they work really well. Ladies, I can now replace a belt independently.
Follow the diagram in your manual to install the belt. Cut the leather so the ends just meet. Punch the hole. Hook the C-hook in both holes. Crimp the C-hook.
One final, myth – I thought I needed to build up the muscles in my legs to run a treadle. If you have thoroughly cleaned and oiled the machine, it is not hard to run.
I purchased three unused curtain panels at a thrift shop for $9. I hung two panels to the window in my home office. The third panel I made into to standard pillowcases. They turned out great but I may wear them out showing everyone my treadle and pillowcases. Have fun with your treadie!!!
I read many, many articles on the web. Any information you need is out there. Here are three sites to get you started.
I have no association with any of these sites other than I found them to be useful.