Tag Archives: Improved Seamstress

A treadly weekend

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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.

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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.

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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…

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Concordance/Discordance

That Damn Treadle

Y’know how when forensic specialists are matching finger-prints (or dental records), and they go through the whorls (and fillings) and things looking for points of concordance and discordance between the different images? No? Obviously you should’ve paid more attention in your Forensic Anthropology classes… Well, this ย is what’ I’ve been doing.

I know all y’all are just as obsessed as I am about my new treadle. ๐Ÿ˜‰ No? Well, I imagine I’ll have an actual sewing post up one of these days. I still haven’t actually had the chance to work on the treadle; my Mom unexpectedly got a full-time contract (YAY, MOM!) and then Thanksgiving happened, which involved four turkeys, four days, and absolutely no energy for anything but digesting. In the meantime, I spent some quality time hunting down old Eaton’s catalogues, of which there is a surprising abundance on teh marvelous internets. Thank you, internets. Also, Library and Archives Canadaย and Archive.org. You rock my world. Anyway, I think I have located my machine!

I think I’ll pause here to allow you to imagine the scene as my perplexed family got to witness the peculiar dance of the exultant researcher.

My machine appears to match a model shown in the 1915/16 Winter catalogue through the 1917 spring/summer catalogue (but not in the 1917/18 winter catalogue). Woot! I’m not sure about before 1915 as there’s a gap in the archives before that until 1908, at which point the models are distinctly different.

ZOMG there it is! Also, source.

Yes, that appears to be my machine.

Points of concordance:

  • Cabinet. Oh yes, this took some hunting. I had started off looking in 20s catalogues because I thought the plain, almost masculine style of the woodwork looked newer, although most twenties machines seem to have more art-nouveau kind of decals. But it’s really distinctive both in its plain-ness, the six drawers, and the shape of the bits on either side of the drawers.
  • The machine. Even though the catalogue copy describes this machine as the “Seamstress”, if you click on the illustration to see the full-size image, the machine says “Improved Seamstress”. Every detail of the tension, threading, stitch-length screw, and even decals are pretty much spot on, allowing for a small amount of artistic licence (and a LOT of crud and wear on my machine…)

Compare.

Points of discordance:

Ok, really there’s only the foot pedal, which is distinctly different, and, frankly, doesn’t look like any of the Eaton’s foot-pedals I’ve looked at in the last few days. Which is a lot. It makes me wonder if that part might’ve been replaced, or if it just happened to be a different factory lot from the illustration.

Oh, yeah, along the edge of the board on the illustration, just in front of the sewing machine, you can see a series of regular ticks. It’s actually a measuring-tape decaled onto the surface of the wood. It’s pretty beaten up on my machine, but parts of it are still visible.

Oh, and I finished the Kwik Sew underwear. I’ll tell you all about it next time… ๐Ÿ˜‰

EDIT: A bit more digging turned up a Fall/Winter 1913/14 catalogue, which has a six-drawer model that is different from mine. So that’s an upper age limit. One interesting detail: most of the machines in the 1913/14 catalogue have a foot pedal identical to the one on my machine (but different from the one in the later catalogues). So maybe my machine is an earlier version of its model, fitted with the older pedal style—or maybe it was just some variant from the factory. Anyway, at this point there’s only three catalogues “missing”, Spring/Summer 1914, Fall/Winter 1914/15, and Spring/Summer 1915. And, frankly, a date to within a year or two seems like pretty good accuracy considering a few days ago I wasn’t even positive about decade. So I’m still pretty satisfied, although of course there’s one or two more avenues I could pursue…

EDIT #2: I found the serial number, underneath the slide plate of the shuttle compartment. 2330993. Not sure if there’s anywhere I can look this up to get a date or location of manufacture, but that’s what it is. There’s also a faint letter “A” above it on the left.

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A match made in hell

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Remember those doodads I posted about last week? My research suggested they would fit a machine produced by the National Sewing Machine Company. My mother’s research uncovered two such machines in our immediate area, one in the collection of a local mini-museum my mom’s involved with, and another at a local thrift store.

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The latter came home (or at least to my Mom’s house) as my belated birthday present.

It’s an “Improved Seamstress”, which was the house brand of the old Canadian Department store, Eaton’s, manufactured by National.

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The exterior isn’t in great shape, but it runs, albeit in desperate need of a can or three of oil. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down anything resembling a manual for it, and I haven’t the faintest clue how to wind and insert the shuttle, never mind thread it. Hopefully it’s a sufficiently generic model that I’ll be able to figure it out.

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Perusal of my mother’s reproduction Eaton’s catalogues (what, your mother doesn’t have those?) suggests that it’s maybe younger than the 1901 catalogue but older than the 1921 catalogue, and that the “Improved Seamstress” was a bit less expensive than the actual “Seamstress”.

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It has a set of Greist attachments, similar in style to my mom’s doodads, but not quite so well-built (or perhaps that’s just ridiculously over engineered), but lacking the ruffler, though I think one was there originally. It has the shuttle and four bobbins, and an assortment of distinctly non-standard needles.

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