A treadly weekend


Ehm. I got a bit excited. The girls and I went to visit my mom again this past weekend, and I spent most of the afternoon upstairs playing with my treadle. Not the Singer (which belongs to Stylish), but the one my wonderful enabler mother bought me for my birthday.*

I gotta say, I can see how this treadle-collecting thing can become a problem. My mom’s boyfriend was mentioning one he saw in a pawnshop recently that had a cupboard-type cabinet, and I had to stomp very, very hard on the WANT. Bad want. Go to your room and think about what you’ve done. The electric machines were bad enough…

Anyway, I spent most of the afternoon ignoring my family and messing around with kerosene and oil and rags and an old toothbrush, and at the end of it all, when I should have been taking my kids home in time to have baths before bed, I threaded it all up and tried actually sewing with it.


I didn’t have the almost-the-right-manual or any of the threading diagrams I’d managed to collect, so I was actually pretty astonished when I was 1) able to thread the bobbin into the shuttle, 2) put the shuttle in place, and 3) able to (half-assedly) thread the machine. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so triumphant about a sewing machine as when I spun the wheel the first time and was able to bring up the bobbin thread. Except possibly a few minutes later when I put the presser foot down and actually (by dint of careful handwheeling) sewed the first few stitches.

All is not perfectly well. I still haven’t gotten the faceplate off to clean in behind it. The tension is balanced but high (It’s also allegedly self-adjusting. I’m scared). The top thread tends to break, probably because there’s some sharpish bits in the threading (cheap, elderly thread doesn’t help). The needle is really, really big. They don’t use standard needles. There are about half a dozen in the attachments box that came with the machine, ranging from sturdy to harpoonlike. According to the NSMCO Yahoo group, you can usually use regular needles and just not push them all the way up… we’ll see. I made another “staple” to mend the broken belt, out of wire. It’s not quite as sturdy as the original staple, but it doesn’t seem to give the machine any problems. I used one of the already-wound bobbins, so I haven’t tried to wind my own yet. I am really, really lucky that this machine had bobbins and shuttle and needles with it, because I think I’d have a really, really hard time finding replacements. Note to self: always check if a machine runs, has bobbins, bobbin case, and needles. Well, if it’s not some weird old treadle you can probably skip the needles part.


I am still not very good at treadling. I’m terrified I’m not going to get it “all the way over” (if you’ve ever treadled you know what I mean, and if you haven’t, well, if you ever try you will) and make the machine go backwards and then the Elder Treadling Gods will smite me.

So the other week I tried to get my Crafty sister-in-law’s old 70s kenmore zig-zagger running and couldn’t seem to get the needle position/threading right or something. It was pulling the kind of “I don’t want to make stitches” crap my Featherweight did when I had the needle in wrong way around, except that I tried every combination of needle direction and threading that I could think of. So anyway, the fact that I could get this old thing actually threaded and stitching kind of made my weekend. Yay me. 🙂

Now if only I could get the gunk cleaned off the outside.

In enabling news, Stylish bought herself seven patterns at the Simplicity $1.99 sale today. And I really will sew for myself one of these days…



Filed under Sewing

17 responses to “A treadly weekend

  1. Its really difficult to sew something for yourself when you have no dedicated space. I am, however, amazed at your machine repairing skills. Its awesome. I’m sending some good sewing for yourself vibes. Oh, and tutorial coming soon in DIY labels.

  2. Not to enable or anything, but there are replacement tension springs, bobbin cases, bobbin winder o rings and shuttle bobbins at sew classic. I just bought all these myself (blush) as my husband brought home a beaten up 66K he thought I might like.

    • Yeah, I have done some ogling around there 😀 (ordered some parts for the Singer treadle, too.) The only shuttle bobbins she had were for the Singer, though, and I don’t think they’re the same size as the Singer ones. This model doesn’t seem to need a bobbin winter tire… the wheel is made of metal and fits up against the treadle belt directly. A little different…

  3. So glad to see you treadling. What a lovely old machine!

  4. *big wistful sigh* Keep posting about your lovely treadles! I’ll own one again one day, I hope. It was my favourite sewing machine ever.

    • Oh, I’m so sad you no longer have it. I’m feeling rather an abundance of them around here… there’s at least one (and maybe two) more out at my Grandma’s farm that I’ll get to one of these days…

  5. Karen

    Good morning. I had several old Singers with gunk. The gunk clean off with a mild car rubbing compound.

  6. Reading about your old sewing machine rehab is so fascinating! I mean, I knew they were really different from modern machines, but I guess I didn’t realize just how different. Thanks for sharing with us!

    • It’s funny, because the rotary type (which is what most “modern” mechanicals are some variation of) was actually first made well before 1900… yet they still made this vibrating shuttle kind into the 1950s, even with electric models. Seems so strange, now. I don’t know why the changeover was so slow, if the rotary was in fact better…

      And I’m glad you’re interested. I kind of wonder with all these old-sewing-machine posts. 😉

  7. I really could have used a treadle this past week! It’s fun to see you get it up and running.

  8. Please remember, all sewing machines need a good maintenance check up. The more computerized the more specialized the repair person. I had been having an issue with my 25 year old machine and finally treated it massively. I had been doing my proper oil, cleaning, etc and blowing it clean with the air compressor from garage. So I decided to buy a new one. Pfaff with utility sewing – not fancy. And when I brought my new one in the house, my old one worked perfectly after that. Karma?Took my old machine to the shop of my new one and for $50 they went through it, tightened up, adjusted this and that, and now I have 2 machines to love. Since they don’t make machines like they did back when the Kenmore was new, I appreciate keeping it running. I paid $700 back then for the machine. Bells and whistles but nothing electronic. So I expect another 25 years with proper care. Don’t abuse it. Don’t mess with the tension unless you know what you are doing. I keep notes besides the machine if making adjustments. Don’t use cheap thread, match up thread with fabrics, and my rule of thumb I don’t let anyone use it unless I can verify they know what they are doing. And it does not leave my house. My husband has his sets in the basement for repairs of jeans, tarps, etc. On clean up day- where you can set things out to trash – one week a year – his seamstress got a new fancy one and set 2 good old machines out, stickers from there ‘rehab in the shop’ on them. I picked them both up. So we had 4 machines in the basement. Had another elderly friend who kept borrowing the simple one so her sister with dementia could use it – sew quilt squares. The last time she borrowed it I told her it was not to come back. It was hers.

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