Saturday, September 22, 2012

Determined to Treadle!

I was having a facebook conversation with Becky over the use of the hand-crank machine last night --- the passing posts going something like “You should use your treadle, it will work your leg muscles!” And my explaining that I’m not sure what needs to be done to this treadle to get it working.

That got me to thinking – how am I going to know unless I move it away from the wall, unload the bins of scraps that are on top of it and get in there and TRY!?

First things first…get rid of dust and cobwebs.

Second…go scrounging around in DH’s workshop to find some boards to put it on. Treadles need clearance from the carpet – I ‘m not sure what these boards were for---they came WITH the house---, but their beveled edges and cut corners don’t look too bad underneath the machine ---I’ve now got plenty of treadle clearance and the pedal moves easily --- next thing going….BELT anyone? These two belts are too dry rotted and too short. The pedal is too hard to move when the belt is on. It should have more slack in it.

Oh shoot! I know that Diane had gifted me a clear tubing belt, and it is somewhere here in the basement --- but where?!

Another thought ---go upstairs and grab the belt off the 1970s Sphinx anniversary edition. At least that poor reproduction is good for SOMETHING!

The belt is now on, and parts move really well – The machine head you see here is Tiffany:

She’s a very pretty girl, her decals aren’t perfect ---- but I like the fact that they are worn basically only where the fabric went through the machine in front of the needle. Someone sewed hard on her! She has a serial number that places her date at 1913.

I’m ready to start sewing --- only one problem left to solve. She has no bobbin case. *HUGE SIGH* I tried all the other bobbin cases for old singers that LOOKED they they would work, but nothing fit.

I wasn’t sure what else to do, so I loosened her check screws and removed her from the cabinet and off to the Sew & Vac I went. They oooh’d and ahhh’d but just as I thought ---they aren’t going to have a bobbin case in stock for this pretty girl. I believe she is a class 15 machine, but the other 15’s bobbin cases I have here do NOT fit her bobbin mechanism so until I can find what she needs…she can only sew WITHOUT THREAD!

On my way back from the Sew & Vac ---a thought hit me.

I have the perfect machine that can be reverted from Electric to Treadle in a heart beat!

Those who have been reading me a while may remember this post from my visit to Kingston, NY this past may!

One of my readers who couldn’t be there left this gift for me in the office of the church we were meeting at! I of course quickly named her Gae, and she has sat in my basement waiting her turn to go be rewired ---I already have another machine just like her, she is a Singer 66 with a drop bobbin. The other one was my great grandmother's machine ---which works ----so I wasn’t in a hurry to get the rewiring done.


I came home, got out the screwdriver – removed the motor with one turn of the screw --- cut off the wiring on the broken light….and held my breath.

I set her into the treadle base I’d vacated with the removal of Tiffany. Would it work??


I’ve cleaned her up, oiled her down inside and out. Her decals are lovely! I checked on her serial number ---G0805495. She was made in 1924. Just 11 years after Tiffany. I carefully threaded her ---ooohhh, I get so nervous on machines that don’t have numbers on their dials. How am I going to know to get the tension right? I’m repeating to myself ‘---“Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey” and I start. First with my hand to get her going in the right direction – and then my feet.

OOH GOODNESS! She sews!!

The thread tension is a bit loose, the bobbin thread is just laying there. I turn the nob a bit to the right --- tighter, tighter…sew some more. PERFECT!

Stitch is kind of big though….looks like the last thing done on this machine was BASTING!….oh dear. This doesn’t have a lever – just a turn screw with no numbers.

Which goes smaller? I’m thinking tighter would be looser…….bigger stitches…..okay, so turn it the OTHER way, stupid!! Slowly as I play with it and do test runs, I achieve a perfect balanced just-the-right-size stitch length!

I’m gonna do it! I’m going to treadle!

I think I’ll start with something simple like string piecing first ---just cover foundations and get used to the feel of the wheel in my hand to start and make sure that I’m going in the right direction. Get used to the feel of my legs making Gae do her beautiful work with needle and thread.

In the mean time, I’m looking for a bobbin case for Tiffany. If anyone can help, please let me know.

And Di – if you are reading this. You are to blame. Totally. And I love you for it! ((And be proud, be very proud --- I didn’t break the thread when sewing WITH thread in the machine!!))


  1. So cool. Way to stick with it Bonnie! Next quilt cam, lets do a treadle off. String piecing is the perfect idea of course for practicing. Since my treadle got up and running in June, I've stitched a bit on it for each project I've worked on . . . just because. Have fun!

  2. Beatrice3:07 PM EDT

    lovely story! Mind you don't hurt your back though with all this pedaling!

  3. Anonymous3:10 PM EDT

    That's so much fun!! I loved watching the hand crank in action, and can't wait to see the treadle.

    Shanon - Zanesville, Ohio

  4. Anonymous3:10 PM EDT

    Bonnie, my White is a 1911 treadle. She has a shuttle bobbin case along with the original 6 (count them) SIX bobbins to go with her. I only need to shorten the belt about 1/4 inch and she is good to go. Think I could do that in a year's time??? Now you fave given me the "want to", so I will get that done this weekend and see what comes of it. I learned to sew on my mother's treadle. Unfortunately, I do not have that machine. But I will think of her each time I use the one I have. Have fun.
    Faye in Maine.

  5. Some of these machines had a shuttle bobbin..

  6. Good grief!~ YOu are the most tenacious woman I've ever known!~~ You go girl!~
    Can't wait to see you sew on it. Last night was fun and I got so much done. I did a trip around the world baby quilt! I really cruise when sewing with you and didn't even stop to comment.

  7. Treadlies are such a peaceful way to sew! Is akin to hand sewing, you will be able to watch telly AND sew at the same time. Enjoy your treadllings!!
    Hugs, Jasmine in Oz

  8. Anonymous3:34 PM EDT

    Ummmm, Bonnie. The Singer you have pictured doesn't require a separate bobbin case. Slide the plate to the left and drop the bobbin in. Pull the thread clockwise to lock under the guide and you are ready to go.
    Betty WV - another treadle lover

    1. Yes it does. The Tiffany needs a CASE. The 66 doesn't...this post shows two different machines, and the first one definitely NEEDS a case. It's not a drop in....

  9. Well Bonnie, I knew you could do it..now I need to try mine, but it probably won't be today...treadling on the cam tonight? Machine(s) look beautiful! And I really want to get mine out..should I?

  10. Thanks for this inspirational post Bonnie. I've also got an old treadle machine at our holiday home in JBay.
    You have just inspired me to dust it off and see what I can do with it in November when we go down there (maybe try your next mystery on it ;-) ).
    Will go and shop around for belts and bobbins so long :-)

  11. Be sure to visit Treadle On - devoted to actually sewing with antique and vintage sewing machines.

    For parts: http://www.treadleon.net/fleamarket/ongoing.htm
    I recommend Guy Baker and Cindy Peters. One or both of them should be able to help you find a bobbin case for your Model 15 machine.

  12. I always had a hard time treadling until I realized I needed a straight legged chair. In the wheeled office chair I was using, I just kept pushing myself away. DOH! Switching chairs and I love using my treadle.

  13. So jealous! Have always wanted a treadle. Loved seeing the process of making this work!

  14. Wonderful! Perserverance does pay off. Good for you. I hope we see you treadling on quilt cam. Good luck finding your bobbin case - if I hear of any I'll let you know asap.

  15. Cindy, The Purple Quilter4:21 PM EDT

    I have never used a treadle machine! I don't have a treadle machine! Now I must go shopping at antique stores to acquire one!! :) Thanks, Bonnie, don't tell DH!!! LOL!!


  16. I want the tutorial of how to transform the electric to treadle....Please....I was gifted with a singer sewing machine that was converted to electric and sits in a sewing cabinet complete with treadle very similar if not the very type in your photo. the original owner's husband used to work for singer and converted the machine to electric according to her family. I would love to know how to restore her back to treadle if at all possible...but do not know where to start. Thanks for any information.
    Beulah in NC

    sowingstitches [at] yahoo [dot] com

  17. Anonymous4:27 PM EDT

    My dad has a Singer treadle in his home. I looked at it one day and discovered my mom dug up some info on it, such as it was made August 18, 1909. One day, it 'll be mine. I used to love it as a child, and remember my grandmother using a treadle machine when I was a child. I'm only 31, so this was the late 1980's. My focus now is fixing my mom's 1971 Singer Fashion mate. I found the problem (vertical gear shaft), now just need to find an affordable person to fix it in SW FL.

  18. I love using my treadle machines, I have 4. The Pfaff 60 treadle is one of my favorite machines
    Sharon W. in Texas

  19. Anonymous4:37 PM EDT

    I am green with envy! My grandmother had a treadle, it went to my cousin, who doesn't sew ( or didn't). OHHHH, what I would give for that machine. Keep on treadle-ing!
    Lynda from Chicago, grannylynm@gmail.com

  20. Anonymous4:58 PM EDT

    Aren't they wonderful --- as someone just said, PEACEFUL. And it works to your own rhymn ;)
    You are a walking talking marvel of a Lady Bonnie! Yours is an intuitive inventive mind --- and you then DO IT!!!!
    Have fun

  21. Bonnie, you never cease to amaze me! I learned to sew on my Grandma's treadle (about 55 yrs ago); my Mom wouldn't let me use her electric Singer until I was 10, so Grandma gave me a head start on her treadle! I have the cabinet, but don't know what happened to the machine itself...really wish I had it. Have fun treadling; just don't overdo it with your back/leg issues! Nancy in NC

  22. Again, I am so jealous! I would cry if I could just get my hands on my grandmother's treadle. Someone in my family has to have it and I have put out an A.P.B. for it. I would be the only grandchild interested so .... I may find it yet.

  23. Bonnie, do you think the Old Sewing Machine Guy might be able to help you with that bobbin case? I saw him today at the Jacksonville show and he had a beautiful metallic purple featherweight machine there. And he had a few of your books for sale!!!

  24. I think you just presented the perfect justification for collecting those lovely old machines. Do you know Ed Lamoreaux? He's an old sewing machine guy that blogs at Vintage Sewing Machines. He may be able to help you find the right bobbin case for Tiffany. In the meantime, it looks like you have a great stand-in treadle machine.

  25. I have a Sphinx hand crank buried somewhere in one of my spare bedrooms. (okay, I know right where it is but it is really buried)
    We lose our power here so often I really ought to dig her out.
    XOXOXO Subee

  26. Oh, I love your treadle. Tiffany is so beautiful, I hope you are able to get her up and running soon. I so want one of these treadles, and when I move into my bigger apt. in a few months, it is going on my wish list of things to buy.

  27. Fun post! My husband and I had fun getting my recently acquired treadle going - finding some leather cord, etc. We had a jolly good workout trying to move the treadle and sew but then thought we should oil it - wow, a different machine. I've yet to sew actual fabric on it but I am dying to make a small quilt with it!

  28. Anonymous7:06 PM EDT

    You have inspired me to get my treadle going. She is a 1913 too!! I just need to oil her really well and get a new belt. I think my granddaughters would love to sew on her too.
    Karen G.

  29. For several years I've done almost all my piecing, quilting, and other sewing on treadles.
    I'm thinking one of the people likely to have a bobbin case for Tiffany would be Cindy Peters at stitches in time [at] earthlink.net (remove spaces please).

    It is very peaceful. I used my FW a few weeks ago and found it to be noisy (despite adequate oiling). I'm just used to the near-silence of my treadle. (And, I've learned that if my treadle irons are noisy, I haven't lubricated them in the right places.)

  30. I could use you around here! I have an old treadle whose tension knob fell part when I transported her here in my car, and I've never figured out how to fix it. Even my hubby who is so good at things mechanical is stumped. I tried to use my featherweight manual, but still was unable to put it back together. Oh, well, one day...

  31. My goodness, when you set your mind to something, you get it done! Good for you!!! Just be careful on your leg/back with all that pedaling. If it starts to get worse, give it up until you are healed. We need Bonnie to be functional, ya know! You want Tiffany functional, we want Bonnie functional :-)

  32. This is interesting to me because I just came into possession of a Singer treadle machine. It has attachments, the booklet and owner's information with it. I haven't tried to fix it up yet. My husband wonders what is wrong with me since I have a Viking Topaz 30, a Singer 7470, and as of this month a Viking Platinum 3000 quilting machine! Hey, if the power ever goes out I'll still be able to sew!

  33. Kelly in PA9:51 PM EDT

    Singer 15's come in different models - some have the bobbin case finger at 11 o'clock and some at 1 o'clock. And sewing machine parts dealer should be able to find you the right one. Email me at kndpakes at epix dot net if you need contact info for a suitable dealer.

  34. this site has leather treadle belts for a reasonable price.

    I hope this will be useful to you.

  35. blog.sew-classic.com/

    i'm sorry the addy didn't seem to post

  36. I have always been facinated by the treadle machines, even before I started to quilt. Now I think I will have to go on a hunt for one.

  37. I learnt to machine sew on a treadle machine. Must look out for one, would do me good to get that exercise too

  38. Anonymous6:15 AM EDT

    I bet your machine takes an 11 o'clock finger bobbin case.Most class 15 machines have a 1 o'clock finger to set them in the bobbin race but there are a few that have their finger pointing in the opposite direction- 11 o'clock. If you look this is probably the difference. Or somebody put the bobbin race back together wrong after cleaning- ask me how I know that one. Treadling is sew much fun! scrapsz at yahoo dot com

  39. My mom sewed on a treadle until I was 12, and it is the machine I learned to sew on. Just an FYI, if you have a leather belt on your machine, humidity will affect how your machine well your machine works. Some days the belt on my moms would slip a little and other days it would grip the wheel better.

  40. Bonnie, you are such a good story teller! Many years ago when my girls were babies I sewed on my great-grandmother's treadle machine. I have no idea about the brand or model but it sewed perfectly. No reverse, though! Gave it away when I bought my Kenmore in 1962 which I'm still using.
    I really enjoy your blog!

  41. Yeah!! I love to treadle! It's addictive tho. You'll need something to pull you away. Lane

  42. Hi, Bonnie! I too have a passion for the old machines. They have their own personality don't they? I have a collection of my own. Most of them need to be serviced, but that will come. What money I spend on them now is in acquiring them. I want to save them all, but of course I can't do that. We are almost ready to retire and then I'll be able to get them serviced. Recently my DH bought a treadle and also a hand crank, both with coffin covers. I had never seen a treadle with a coffin cover before. I already have a treadle that folds down into the cabinet. It's sitting in the basement waiting to be put into service. You have me itching to do that. I've had that one for over 20 yrs. Raising 5 kids has taken all my time and energy, but soon my vintage babies, one by one will be put into service. I am enjoying reading about your vintage machines.This post is way too long, so I'd better end here before I write a book! : )

  43. Are you familiar with the CLASSIC"B" QUILTING MACHINE? I inherited my grandmother's and would love to put it back in use..hiwever I have no manual and there is no manufacturer on it or serial number. I have a picture and found another one on a sewing post and she was also searching for the manufacturer. She had a serial number 2240192. Thank you for any information you may have! I love your site!


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