Tag Archives: treadle

Spelunking for treadles

Box

Pardon me while I continue my informal catalogue of All The Things. Where “The Things” are elderly and antique sewing machines belonging to, well, everyone I know. Over Christmas we had the opportunity to visit my grandma, who is nearly ninety, on the old family farm. I fear I pestered her more or less continuously about sewing-related subjects… But she seemed fairly happy to tell me about sewing her own wedding dress and her mother making patterns from scratch. And then, of course, there are the machines.

The Machine

Exhibit A is the “new” machine. Meaning, the new electric machine my Grandma got for herself, probably in the very early sixties. It’s a lovely teal (!) straight-stitch Domestic, manufactured by White. Doesn’t it look like a rocket ship? It reminds me very much of the Piedmont, although it is a bit more futuristic, and probably (?) a year or five newer. The functionality is identical.

Buttonholers, attachments, and odds ‘n ends, oh my!

It took some digging around, but we eventually located the pedal and the attachments, including a nice set of hemmers and a Greist buttonholer (no eyelet template. /sigh). I gave it a bit of oil and changed the needle.

The needle that was in the machine.

Have you ever seen a needle that dull? I stitched a sample hem (to show my Grandma how the hemmer feet, which she never used, work) and a buttonhole just because. I would’ve liked to give it more of a workout, but the only “mending” lying around was some old coveralls that really, if I were to start patching, would end up more patch than original cloth. So I didn’t.

To infinity and beyond!

Cute machine, though. I would totally take it into space with me.

Stocking-mending kit. Not, actually, a matchbook.

My fave bit of paraphernalia was what I initially took to be a matchbook, tucked in the old sewing case (which belonged to my great, or possibly great great, grandma). Turns out it was for mending stockings—the stuff on the “matchheads” is some kind of water-soluble glue to stop runs, and then there is silk thread for darning the runs after, or something.

Then there is the treadle situation. There was, I was assured, a treadle on the farm. Granny (this would be my Grandma’s mother-in-law) had one, which Grandma used before she got the electric above. After Granny and her husband died, my Grandma and family moved into the “Big House” and the treadle was relegated to storage in the little house.

The Little House

The little house was built by my grandfather when he married my grandmother, and as far as I can tell was only occupied during the fifties. When my great-grandmother (Granny) and great grandfather died, in the early sixties, the younger generations moved into the big house, and the little house has been mostly abandoned ever since, although I do recall some half-hearted renovations now and then during my own childhood.

So, it took some considerable effort to get to view this mysterious treadle. First of all, it’s the middle of winter. There’s a foot and a half of snow on the ground. Just getting to the little house required some serious snow-slogging and a modest amount of shoveling. Then came the real spelunking, clambering through and around the array of… objects… which have come to occupy the little house, by the light of the flashlight plus the dim sunlight filtering through the ragged curtains.

Boxes and tins were moved, a mattress was dodged, and at last, just barely, we beheld the treadle.

Look familiar?

A Singer.

Actually, a Singer more or less identical to this one belonging to my Stylish sister-in-law.

Actually, a Singer completely┬áidentical to my SIL’s. Right down to the JA serial number that marks it as being manufactured in 1924.

1924 Sphinx-decal Singer

I’m not sure whether to laugh or headdesk. I didn’t get to dig around to see if it had manuals or attachments or anything—we’ll give that a shot in the summer. It does still move, and will probably be just fine with a bit of oil, but again, not something I’m going to attempt at this time of year.

But at least it’s a known quantity.

Now I’m just wondering what happened to Grandma’s mother’s machine. It was an Eaton’s machine, Grandma assures me. Maybe her surviving sister has it…

You may now return to your regularly-schedules sewing blogs. Where, y’know, actual sewing is happening. I have so many plans and so little time… >_<

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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. ­čÖé

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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