Sunday, September 23, 2012

Treadle Heaven!

There is nothing like the quiet sound of a treadle in motion.

That is when it is running smoothly and I’m not sewing backwards and snapping the thread!

I do fairly well on long strips for strip piecing or even when string piecing blocks.  I didn’t know how hard it would be to work the foot pedal and keep a good seam allowance, so string piecing seemed to be a good way to start. 

Voila! Two blocks!  And it only took me about twice as long to do them than it would have by electric, but I’m still trying to find the smooth rhythm of my feet on the pedal.  The hard part for me?  Short seams with a lot of stopping and starting.  But I think it will come!

Gae is sewing like a dream!  As I’m sewing on her, I’m thinking of the fashions of the day from 1924 when she was made:


Could dresses like this have been made on this machine?

Of course she “USED” to be an electric machine until yesterday when I de-motorized her.  Cruel maybe, but she doesn’t seem to be complaining too much!

The next step…how would it work if I pieced the next block from Randy’s Sow-Along for my Jubilee quilt ---by treadle?!

I found this video yesterday that helped tremendously ---and I subscribed to her channel!  Muva has a fascinating blog, and emailed me right back to say thanks for subscribing – she’d been reading ME for years!  I love when that happens.   I just love her voice!  It kept me calm when I was wanting to give up.

I thought you might like to see Muva’s video on “How to Treadle.”  Notice that she is using a Serata machine.  I have one just like this that is a hand crank.  It uses the long bobbins, but those are not hard to fill as long as your bobbin winder is behaving.  They hold quite a bit of thread.  The hard part is finding bobbins that fit your winder and your machine because the after-market ones are not always good.

Okay.  I was paper piecing the block, so this gave me lines to sew by.  Small pieces yes, but I thought I could do it.  It’s the stopping and starting that is the hard part and I think I had to re-thread the machine about 6 times in the process of this one 6” block.  But each step is a learning thing.

I learned that Gae’s take up lever takes up a LOT of thread when it goes to make the first stitch, and I found I did better if I started with the needle down where I wanted to start.  Get the hand-wheel moving toward me in the right direction, and then continue with my feet once I feel which way it is moving the pedal.

jubilee 088

Gentleman’s Fancy, sewn by treadle!

jubilee 089

Close up!  I really love this block.  There are some points that are not “Exact” but matching points with moving feet is a new skill set for me!  Next project?  I think I’ll start sewing strip sets for more 9-patches that are needed…now that I have my 1/4” marked and am ready to go with that.

In other exciting Treadle-News --- my Tiffany from 1913 is NOT a 15 machine. She is a 115-1 with a full rotary bobbin!  Thanks to a reader who sent me THIS POST I was able to identify my problem.  I was trying a class 15 bobbin case with an 11 o’clock finger, and another class 15 bobbin case with a 1 o’clock finger --- but the 115-1 machine bobbin case has NO FINGER AT ALL – completely round.

vintagemachines 006

115-1 full rotary bobbin case.

See how different it looks?  I need to get it cleaned up, hopefully the tension is still good on the tension spring.  It also takes a different kind of bobbin than the Class 15 or 66 so I’ve got some of those on the way, and I’ll be able to get Tiffany up and running!

Lots of machine excitement here in the basement.

I’m planning on Quilt Cam at 2pm eastern time so those of you in England and the rest of Europe can come see what all the non-fuss is all about!  Not sure where/what I’ll be sewing on yet….but I hope you’ll grab something and come sew with me!


  1. Thanks for the amazing history lesson. I had never seen a treadle machine in action, so that was definitely a new experience for me. You have way more patience that I do - I could never take the time to sew on a maching like that! I'm too much of a high speed girl!

    1. I'm hoping it will give me great thighs...LOL

  2. Thanks for sharing the treadle video. Now that my treadle is up and running I can't wait to learn to sew on her. I hope to have fun with her today.
    I hope that you caught up on some much needed sleep.
    Look forward to watching you on quilt-cam today!

  3. Anonymous9:57 AM EDT

    Thank you for sharing this Bonnie. Now I see what I was doing wrong. I think the foot placement was a dah moment. My ankles would hurt after a lot of use and had no speed control with both feet flat on the treadle. Makes sense, gas and break. Now to learn how to got a well filled bobbin. Mine has the long spools and that always tends to be a challenge.

  4. Thanks, Bonnie, that helped. I have trouble sometimes with it going backwards. I taught my 13 yr. old grandson to use my treadle. He had made a pillow using my 15 thread serger, so I told him next one was on the treadle. We went right to work, I helped him get the machine started in the right direction, them he took off and finished his pillow. The contrast of old and new machines was kind of neat. Ramona from Maine

  5. Wow, great video. Isn't the internet wonderful? The old and the new meet.

  6. Thanks for tooting the horn for treadle sewing machines! I hope more quilters will start using them!

  7. I am so excited for you! I have a new-to-me Pfaff 30 treadle and I know what you mean about the bobbin case. It came with a generic class 15 which wouldn't stay put. Found a genuine Pfaff case and she is much happier! DH says I am a speed demon. I wonder if our ankles will get skinny? LOL Love Muva's videos!

  8. Isn't it exciting when you get the treadle going? My DH said my feet look like Fred Flintstone in his car, so now he asks if if I am going to "Flintstone" it today. The tension on my treadle was terrible at first, you could barely pull the thread through the tension disc. I can remember my mother telling me not to touch the tension on her machine so really didn't want to mess with it but it wasn't going to work the way it was. I took it completely apart and found the disc were rusted so cleaned away the rust, oiled them, put it back together and had a great stitch. You are far braver than I am, trying short lines of stitching. I am still string piecing but loving it.


  9. Anonymous12:24 PM EDT

    Whoo Hoo, Bonnie! Rock that treadle! It doesn't take long to get the feel of it - you'll soon forget about your feet and be completely in tune with the motion. I long ago forgot to think about my feet, and I can tell if I've ended a seam "foot up" or "foot down" almost every time. And with this lovely fall weather, I can take a treadle out on the porch and work away enjoying the day. Keep leading the way with your "green" sewing! Oh, and congrats on the Model 115 - a fine, fine machine!

  10. Hello Bonnie,
    It's great to see you have the vintage machines out again, and I'm absolutely thrilled to see my beautiful treadle and scraggy ankles on your blog!
    I remember you buying your Serata hand machine last year at about the same time I bought this treadle. You bought your machine in Sweetwater, and I collected my Serata from a little place called Loudwater... an almost parallel experience!
    Treadles are great fun, especially when you do a long run with strips.
    If you are worried about the seam allowance, why not put on a seam guide?

  11. Anonymous12:36 PM EDT

    So proud of ya! I'm so used to treadling, I sometimes only use one foot. DI IN TN

  12. OK Bonnie,

    Yyou've got me here. What is that on your machine to help with your seam allowance?

  13. Thanks for the treadle video, lots of good hints. I'm going to have to try to do the see saw technique with my feet. I've been keeping them flat on the treadle. You are right about trying to find the correct bobbins. The first replacement belt and bobbins I ordered online were complete junk. The belt was spliced in two places and came apart almost immediately. I'm still trying to find a good source for bobbins. Mine is a Singer 127-3, Serial # K554858. It was made in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1902. It has an Egyptian motif in the decals including the Sphinx. I bought it from a newspaper ad in Liberty Lake, Washington for $35. The person who had it did not have much information on it, but there was a scrap of muslin in one drawer (along with the original broken belt) and it says: "This machine was brought to Ponderay (Pend Orielle) Idaho by Lillian c Murtrey in the early 1920s from Breckinridge, Mo. " The note is dated April 13, 1988 "by her Grandson Bud Bennett." So her name is of course "Lily".

    1. The information was on a note wrapped in the muslin scrap, not on it . . .

    2. that is very intersting to me, I'm from near St Louis, in Illinois, and my Maiden name was McMurtrey.According to Mapquest it maybe 100+ mi away. I can't say if she was a relative but it is interesting!

  14. Bonnie, without our grandmothers around to show us how, what would we do without the internet? I went looking yesterday and found the same video. Yes, her voice and manner is very calming. Have fun with Gae. I decided a while back that one of the first things I would treat myself to when I finally become fully employed again is a treadle machine. Someday...

  15. Bonnie thank you for putting on Muva's video... I would never have imagined that treadling would be sooo complicated! Now I'm inspired to get mine out and give it a go!!! My is a Janome that I bought in Japan or traded actually... so it cost me all of around $30. There is a machine repair guy who lives in the next town where I bought a new belt for it. Guess I have some learning to do....hmmm, wonder if I can find a place to put it in my sewing room... wish me luck! Now I need to find out how old it is, and come up with a name!s See what you've started! Lol.... pretty soon sewing machine manufacture's will be saying....."darn that Bonnie Hunter... she's gotten seamstress's to use "old" machine and they don't want to buy new any more"! Watch out!

  16. Loved watching the treadle video. I found Muva, the night I bought my little 99- and was looking for info on cleaning her up and the treadle video brought back memories of sitting at my grandmother's treadle in the back room of her house and having a gay old time making it go (without thread). I don't ever remember my grandmother using it but according to my mom, she made all her clothes, curtains and slipcovers. and now thanks to your blog and the internet, I even know that my grandmother's machine was a Singer red-eye with the same type of shuttle bobbin.

    Thanks for helping to make make these lovely old vintage machines valued again and not turned into boat anchors or scrap metal.

  17. You've inspired me to check out great grammas treadle she has shuttle bobbin....Thanks for video....

  18. Anonymous2:46 PM EDT

    since you are so frugal in the use of your fabric do you plan to make a quilt using selvage edges

  19. Anonymous2:55 PM EDT

    The link to your "Tips and Techniques" page seems to be broken. Thought you'd like to know.

  20. I have a treadle machine that belonged to my grandmother. She sews beautifully. I have pieced three quilt tops on her and, while I still use my Bernina for most of my sewing, I like to bring her out now and then and reconnect with my past.

  21. I found I had fewer issues with the hand wheel spinning the wrong way after it occurred to me to lubricate the one spot on the irons that I hadn't lubricated. That spot was where the pittman rod connects with the foot plate (right rear corner). I still don't have any idea why that was playing such a big role, but she seldom spins "backwards" now. The other thing that can help is placing about three small pieces of something like blue painter's tap on the rim of the handwheel. Then the sewer can easily see out of the corner of an eye if the handwheel is rotating in the wrong direction.
    I'm so glad you found the correct bobbin case.
    I think maybe one may slow more slowly when learning to treadle, but after a couple of years of treadling I can say my treadle machines are as fast as any electric I've ever used.
    (No my ankles aren't smaller, but my thighs certainly are!)
    Have fun!

  22. Anonymous10:00 PM EDT

    Good Heavens, I learned to sew on a treadle machine, I had no idea it was supposed to be so difficult, or I would have never even tried it. I still have my Grandmother's treadle and use it on occasion. It is to go to my Granddaughter when I no longer need it.

  23. You need to get your feet right by not sewing anything so that you only focus on your feet. Once you have that right you will not even think about your feet and you can focus on your hands.
    Have fun and enjoy

  24. Leonore Neumann7:21 AM EDT

    Just a tip on starting your seam: make sure that the thread take-up lever is at the top of its path when you begin to stitch. Then your needle will not come un-threaded. It can also help to hold both threads in your right hand when the seam is started. Using leaders and enders also helps, and saves thread. For parts, including bobbins, for almost any treadle or hand-crank machine, contact Cindy Peters stitchesintime@earthlink.net. And join TreadleOn for the best bunch of treadle fanatics you could ever hope to encounter! Thanks Bonnie, for adding treadles to your sewing passion!

    Leonore Neumann busylinty@yahoo.com

  25. Bonnie,
    To help prevent the hand wheel from going backwards, keep your feet firmly on the pedal so it stays put. My current favorite treadle is a Pfaff 60, its mostly original; recently I put a Singer spoke hand wheel on it. This sure makes treadling easier with the bigger hand wheel.
    Sharon Weaver

  26. Bonnie,
    Thank you for such a wonderful and informative blog. I have been reading about your awesome machines and finally bought my first treadle this weekend. My husband and I went antique shopping this weekend and ran across a 1917 Singer in great almost mint condition. Thank you for the inspiration, now once the old gal is cleaned up she will be the daily driver.
    Thanks again,

  27. Bonnie,
    You'll love sewing with your 115 treadle. I have one, its so quiet and has a beautiful stitch. I named her Opal Violet, she has some serious rust spots; she needed a pretty name. Serial # G3702481, made in about 1914.
    We're currently making scrappy log cabin blocks.

  28. Hey everyone, I'm new here. I am due to get a lovely present for Christmas. It's a second-hand Pfaff 60 sewing machine! I've been searching the internet and found this blog. Can anyone tell me (or copy a link to here) where I can buy a belt and needles for this machine. Thanking you in advance.


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