Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Treadling Away

Many years ago, my mom became the caretaker for my grandmother's treadle sewing machine. She invested in refinishing the cabinet, and as a piece of furniture, it makes a beautiful show piece. Somewhere along the way, my mom decided that it would become mine and it could go ahead and move to my house.

Recently, I became more interested in this machine. We had always said that it would work great if it just had a belt installed. I wanted to know if a belt really was all that it needed. We had a new belt, and Duane installed it fairly easily. Then it sat for a little while longer, because it was going to take some effort to figure out how to wind a bobbin and thread the machine.

A few YouTube videos later, the bobbin was wound, and the machine was successfully threaded. It was time to sew. One of the things I was worried about is how I would look using this machine. My hand-eye coordination isn't the greatest, so I had this fear of my head bobbing like a chicken while my feet went up and down on the treadle. No, I did not record myself sewing on it, and I'm fairly certain that it wasn't an overly embarrassing experience.

The really exciting thing is that it sews a fairly good stitch. For a machine that hasn't been sewn on in probably thirty or more years, it works great. I've got to figure out a good way to mark a 1/4" seam allowance. This machine is going to get used.

I love the contrast of the old machine with the modern thread. This machine deserves all the tender loving care it can get, and Aurifil thread will help keep it going long and strong.

With the excitement of being able to sew on this machine, I decided to see if I could find out more about its history. A quick search for the serial number shows that this machine was manufactured in 1911. Wow, 102 years old and still sewing strong. They just don't make them like they used to.

My grandmother was born in 1915. She and her husband raised a family of three daughters in McDonough, Georgia. They were a farming family, which meant it was often a challenge just to meet basic day to day needs. This machine was purchased as a used machine from a newly married couple in the community that had fallen on hard times and needed money more than they needed this sewing machine. My grandmother told me that she remembers how sad the new bride was when they picked up the machine from her home.

My mom told me that she used this machine often growing up and that she could make it go a hundred miles an hour. I can't wait to see her give it a try next time she visits.

Check out the decal detail. A winged sphinx on a Singer sewing machine. An interesting combination. I'm going to do some research to see how to clean this machine up. It has a good bit of rust that I want to try to clean off, but certainly don't want to cause any further damage. I'm also going to figure out a project to make exclusively on this machine. It will be something small that can sit in a basket next to it so that I can work on it a little along. It's fun to think that I am sewing on the same machine as my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, and maybe even my great grandmother.


  1. Wow! Beautiful! I have a treadle machine that I inherited from my Mom, and it is amazing!

  2. Hi! I'm in England and I have an old machine a bit like this,too. I believe my Great Grandmother made my Gran's and her sister's baby clothes on it, along with many other things I'm sure. My Gran was born in 1910 and only died in 2010. It was passed on to me via my Mum. I think its in our loft, but having read this you've inspired me to get it out and look after it better! I have sewed on it in the past, so will do so again. Jen.

  3. Deb,
    This is fabulous. I remember seeing a shopful of seamstresses in Bangkok a few years ago working away on a bunch of these old treadle machines. They are definitely real workhorses for doing the basics - stitching straight lines. It would be interesting to hear how it fairs for the actual quilting phase. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I hadn't thought past the piecing stage. Quilting will indeed be interesting. By the way, you have a fabulous blog. My first reaction was WOW, she posts EVERY day. That takes dedication. I am impressed.

  4. I have several vintage machines in various states of needing repair. All of them belonged to my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Thank you for sharing this. Makes me want to work on mine.

  5. Great post. I would love to have my grandma's treadle machine; not sure which cousin might have it. Fun story though, I really enjoy history and family history is the best!

  6. What a wonderful possession to have been handed down. And to actually use as originally intended is even better.

  7. What a beautiful sewing machine!!! When I first learned to sew in Home Ec a hundred years ago, they still had one treadle machine, and I loved using it!!

  8. Great pics! I just bought a White treadle last week and am just over the moon at how nice it stitches and that I'm actually getting my feet going the right direction lol. I'm using Aurafil too. Cheers! Amie :0)

  9. An interesting post! I've just dstarted treadling on my old machine too - same year as yours but with different decals. Nice that this is a family machine and you know the history of yours :-)


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