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The Old Treadle Sewing Machine

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
post #2 of 18
I have a treddle that my mom learned to sew on. It does work smoothly--better than my junky electric sewing machine--but now the belt is broken. We got a replacement part (leather), but don't know how to "size" it so it will fit snugly against the turning wheel (I don't know the technical name for it). I regret that we didn't get it fixed while living in Amish country (central PA) because they certainly would have been able to help us with that!
post #3 of 18
I have a 1918 Singer Redeye treadle that belonged to my Great Grandmother. I have made one pair of boxers on it and that was enough for me. I begged my grandmother for years to let me have it but it's really not as easy to use as i thought it would be.

Replacing the belt is easy. they are pretty cheap, 5-10 dollars, leather, just thread it through, figure out how long it needs to be to be SNUG, trim it, punch two holes and put a staple through. hopefully you have the staple from the original. If not you can really just use any old piece of wire. right now my staple is MIA (after moving) so I have a wire thingie from a dangly earring in there and it works fine.

If you want to go the true antique treadle route, pick up a real antique at an antique or junk store or garage sale etc. Do not buy one of the modern Singer treadles being made in China, they are terrible.

Also I would suggest you stay away from a pre-1920 (I think) Redeye machine as they have funky means of attaching the feet, so unless your machine comes with all feet, you will be hard pressed to find accessories, if this matters to you. I have such a treadle and one of these days I will get around to replacing the shaft to take standard side mount feet.

If you want to go fancy, check out www.lehmans.com and they have modern treadles - not the Singers but a real modern machine that does zig zag and everything, made treadle for the Amish. Pretty cool!!!

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
post #5 of 18
Whoa... is that how much it costs??? I forgot about that part.

As for brands... seriously what matters more is does it have a lot of accessories with it... because parts for old machines can be hard to come by regardless of brand. I would suggest a machine which uses modern attachments, which is why I said avoid the old 66s (the Redeye was actually a 66, Redeye refers to the paint job... there were some other paint jobs, too...) If all the essential parts are there, you are pretty good to go since these machines don't tend to break down... just need cleaning and so forth.

I personally have never been in an antique store without seeing at least old treadle and you'd be amazed at what you may find in the drawers. I once debated over and over an old Montgomery Ward machine that had EVERYTHING in the drawers... it was maybe $125 I think? This was back east, however. Here in CA I haven't gone to many antique stores but in PA I used to go all the time. There is one store in Beaver Falls in particular I am in love with, always had a machine or three.
post #6 of 18

Have you checked out the ones on Ebay? Here is one that looked pretty nice:

post #7 of 18

Runner duck

How did you get your replacement belt tight enough to actually pull the wheel? Mine must be too loose. Did you put the staple in BEFORE you put the belt around?
post #8 of 18
I have an 1897 (last patent) Singer treadle that I have been using for 20+ years. The only thing I do to it to make it run well is oil it. I find it is very smooth but it is because I have been using it for years.

I put the staple in on end of the the belt, thread it around, measure, and then cut.

Using a treadle sewing machine is all about practice. It is a similar motion as a spinning wheel for the treadle. I would never go back to an electric machine.

You can find cheaper used treadles on ebay, in thrift stores, some time the free boards, as well as for sale in the local greensheet/penny wise type papers.
post #9 of 18
Try googleing TreadleOn, they have gobs of info about treadles and also hand crank machines, they love People Powered machines. Someday I hope to have enough room for a treadle
post #10 of 18
Originally Posted by leavesarebrown
How did you get your replacement belt tight enough to actually pull the wheel? Mine must be too loose. Did you put the staple in BEFORE you put the belt around?
It's been a while but I think I just threaded it through... pulled it tight... and cut a wee small smidge of the ends touching. Punch holes in either end , put the staple through... and voila.

I didn't have any difficulty.

Ladywolf, did you know you can actually call Singer and if you give them your serial number they will tell you exactly when your machine was made? Mine was made July 18, 1918. I don't know if other companies can do this or not...
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
post #12 of 18
I have to admit that I did not know Singer could tell me exactly when my machine was made. That is so cool!

Steph - They think you are strange for wanting a treadle? You can use when you do not have power. It will sew almost anything as long as you have the right needle. And if you take care of it, it will last forever. My husband and daughter have learned to sew on mine and my daughter wants a treadle, not an electric.

And if we go into appliance, the list of what we do not have in our home makes most people cringe - no tv, microwave, dishwasher, sewing machine, vacuum. I have to admit to a recent purchase of a crockpot and ice cream maker recently to make yummys. People just really think we are strange.
post #13 of 18
I can't say you're weird because, ummm... I used to want to be Amish. Love the old fashioned simple life style. The religion part, well, that never would have sat well with me... though I suppose I could have bluffed it. Actually learning German would have sunk the deal for me. I am no good with other languages...

Anyway what I really like is just that I love antiques... Love to handle an old thing and think about all the lives of all the people who have used that thing before me... I majored in social history so that's like my passion. It's a useless major unfortunately but it did serve to beef up my psychology major, which was also useless, but two useless majors looks better than one... ha ha. So I love old stuff through which we learn about lifestyles of the past... then I love that mine is actually a family heirloom of sorts. We don't have many (any) of those.

Like I've said I hate mine to sew on... but maybe it's just not in great shape, I don't know. I rescued it from my grandmother's basement where it sat for at least 30 years... cleaned it up and all... but maybe time just hasn't been nice to it. Who knows. And all the parts are missing except the standard foot... Hmmm.

Now I feel like opening it up and giving it another try... I'm going to have to add "Use treadle machine again" to my queue of projects I need to get around to.

Can't say I believe at ALL that bit about electric things being dangerous... but will agree things are getting too high techy. High techy and JUNKY... buying a new machine now is risky, quality has gone down for so many companies. My electric machines are from 1949 and 1971 and I can't see myself ever buying a new electric machine (although I did just go waaaaaay overboard on a serger...)
post #14 of 18
I have a 1900 Free brand treadle that I've sewn on for 25 some years.Its beautiful but hell on my hip and back.It has hemmer and a ruffler attachment that i love.It also has the original booklet with it picturing a gibson girl looking lady adjusting the machine.Although it sews well it doesn't sew as evenly or as finely as my singer futura.I enjoy my tredle more though,maybe it's the nostalga factor,or it's just how I am,100 years behind the times!
post #15 of 18
Ohhh my Old Singer treadle is GOOOOOOOOOD!

My dad oiled it up and helped me get a new belt and tighten it, I highly recommend getting a dude who's good with these old machines to come to your house and oil it up, show you what's what and so on. Also try to get the old book with the machine if you can. It's waaay worth it! You may be able to get an old book copied off somewhere though, and old feet, etc.

It'll take some getting used to about using the thing. I pulled out a groin muscle after I sewed for a couple hours straight one night. I thought something was falling out down there, until I remembered I had been using muscles that I didn't even know existed with that back and forth motion you get going with the treadle.

it's soooo cool though, I highly recommend getting one to get off the grid!
post #16 of 18
K, wait a sec. Aren't we all using COMPUTERS here, not typewriters? he he

I'll try fitting the belt again, 'cause my electric machine is a piece of JUNK that ALWAYS gets jammed up and stuff. In some instances, it is more cost effective to sew BY HAND!

How exactly does one find one of those "guys" who can come oil it up, etc?
post #17 of 18
Just have to find the garbage heap, basement, garage it is sitting in.

I got my treadle sewing machine (in working order no less) free while "junkin" in Germany. Keep looking and you may find it.
post #18 of 18

Minnesota machine

I recently inherited the 1920's Minnesota tread. machine that my great-grandmohter used. It was the one that my grandmother, mom, and I all learned to sew on. Although they had electic machines by the time I was learning, they felt that I was safer on this one since I could only make it go so fast, and if I sewed through my finger, I'd naturally stop the machine. If anybody's in the market for a machine, I'd recommend this brand. The people who have cleaned and oiled it before have spoken highly of it, and it has been a reliable machine in my family since the 30's. I love using it, and it can sew anything as long as you only need plain stitches. Right now it needs a cleaning and a tune-up.
On the subject of cleaning and oiling: You can take most machines out of their bases by flipping the thing all the way out (as if you were folding it up for work after it was stored down in the cabinet). There are usually two little screws under it that keep it in place, and you just undo those so it'll lift right up. Then you can take it to the sewing (or often the sewing and vacuum cleaner - the odd combination has always been a mystery to me) repair shop to have it cleaned, tuned-up, oiled, and even add a new leather belt that you'll have to adjust and attach yourself at home. The guys at the shop we went to when I was little loved these old machines. The treadle and wheel themselves seem only to need dusting and oiling periodically.
I hope that you find a good, sturdy, reliable machine that you will be able to pass on to your children, grand children, or even great-grand children (like me) one day. Good luck.
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