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Apr 7, 2013

PETER ON VIDEO: Don't Convert Your Treadle into a Plant Stand!



Friends, yesterday we talked about how some people convert old sewing machine and sewing tables into everything from lamps to tractors (no joke).  Some of you were big supporters of this kind of repurposing, while others were against the idea. 

Today, I wanted to show you what a working treadle can do.  Mine, a Singer 66, dates from the mid-1920's and still sews beautifully nearly ninety years later.  How many sewing machines made today will still be working a century from now?  And, let's face it, most contemporary machines are so generic looking, it's unlikely any of them will be converted into lamps!

Here's a brief video of me at my treadle.  Enjoy!



Any treadle fans out there?

What do you love most about your treadle?

Have a great day, everybody!

43 comments:

  1. I so love that machine! I learned to sew on a Singer 66 with the same decals! It had been converted to an electric machine by the time I got it. Still, I love the comforting sound those old machines make. And of course, no machine that does a zig-zag stitch can straight stitch like the oldies.....
    I have a treadle that I want to make into a side table (no top, and no machine attached!). I think I'm still gonna do it in spite of you! But I would never take a functioning treadle machine and make it into anything else.

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  2. I used to play on my grandmother's treadle machine--one of my favorite memories of entertaining myself while the grownups played cards on Saturday night. My son bought me a Singer treadle last year--a 1920 model--with perfect decals. I love it! When I make my first 1920s pattern, I plan to treadle it.

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  3. I have a 1920 66K and it still works perfectly also. It's got the Egyptian Lotus decal design on it and it's as beautiful as it is functional. It was especially handy when our power was out for a week a few years ago. I could still work on my sewing projects! I generally flip flop between using that machine and my 1934 Featherweight. Nothing stands the test of time like those old Singers!

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  4. Okay, now that is just the coolest thing! I'll have to keep my eye out for old machines now. It really bothers me that my all electric, all computerized machine (though I love it) doesn't have picture perfect tension or straightness of stitch. They clearly don't make things like they used to! Thanks for sharing this.

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  5. I have two treadles and a hand crank machine - Singer models 27, 66, and 115. Two of the machines are a little over 90 years old, and the other is 112 years old. They all work perfectly. I love the feeling of history they have, and I find treadling very soothing. Something about the repetitive movement along with the soft, mechanical noise it makes it just so calming. I love them.

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  6. I'm in need of a belt for my treadle.

    That 66 is impressive!

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  7. I must say you are tempting me sorely. My mother had one that she used to stitch leather handbags together - it could probably sew concrete slabs together like they were sheets of filo. Powerful and delicate at the same time, like the perfect ma, yo? :)

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  8. I love the sound of the treadle and enjoy thinking about all the history my treadle has lived through. The treadle base dates from 1904 and I put a 1941 Singer-66 head in it because it can reverse stitch. This treadle has been going since the NY subway opened!

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  9. Hello Peter
    Another treadle fan here. I have a Singer 201K in a No.51 cabinet. I love the modernist styling of this cabinet and the quality of the veneer. The quiet running 201K and the gentle rhythm of the treadle are a joy. I appreciate being able to build up a good turn of speed but also like the personal challenge of trying to sew as slowly as I can without stalling the treadle.

    I am really not keen on the idea of separating a working machine from it's treadle. Strange, but true, here in the UK a repurposed treadle can be offered for sale for more than one that still contains a machine in good working order!

    Hugs
    G
    x

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  10. I love your video Peter! Thank you for taking the time to show people how worth is to preserve such sewing machines!

    I did not inherit my treadle, but after the aquisition of a hand crank I started to participate in a forum and there all people have treadles. It became tempting after reading all the posts and looking their pictures... So last year I bought a German Junker & Ruh, from the begining of the 30's, that has even a reverse! I bought it from the granddaughter of the first owner. She had the tablein the living room as decoration, so it was very well cared and had all attachments and even replacement parts! I sew my first men's shirt with it. It is fun and great feeling of being independent from electricity. There is also a bonus of sewing looking at such beautiful piece.

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  11. oh my heart skipped a beat when I read that.
    I would not say I'm fully against it, a perfectly good non repairable machine being used for these Ideas is fantastic.
    A working machine, oh no.
    I love my treadle and I use it for all my sewing. From my sons pj, to my clothing, repairs, sewing course projects, historical costumes and all of my normal sewing I'm even going to be teaching him to sew on it.
    Its a fantastic 1907 singer, that was passed down through the same family until there was no one, they never had any children. I may of bought it off ebay but I got the story that came with it.
    Thank you Peter for the video its always great to see other people using them.

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  12. I loved hearing that treadle too - it brought back many happy memories of my Nonna sewing and me messing around on her machine. Her treadle was snaffled by my cousin after my Nonna died. She doesn't even sew!!

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  13. My first machine was a treadle from my grandmothers house , loved it! I moved to an electric machine and unfortunately a family member converted the base into a table. I was given it back for my own home, but the machine part is lost (thrown away). It makes me a little sad as it would be great to still be able to use it .

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  14. Agh! My mom made ours into a plant stand. So sad. BUT my dad gave me another sewing machine that had been hanging around my grammy's house and I was hoping you might be able to help me with it. I think I'm just missing a cord/pedal but I can't tell what model it is...I took pictures of the whole thing and I keep forgetting to send them to you.

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  15. You've inspired me to give the old treadle machine from my grandmother a try. Any tips or tricks for cleaning up an old machine and using it for the first time?

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    1. An excellent resource is the web community Treadleon.net

      Many old Singer model manuals can be found free online by googling the model. The manual will show where the machine should be oiled.

      You can find treadle belts on eBay. They're inexpensive.

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  16. Love treadles and enjoyed the posts about them. I have a 127 treadle that I recently has serviced and have mastered. I wish it had been a 66 like yours as I sew sometimes on a 66 electric and prefer that bobbin system just because I am used to that model. The shuttle bobbin model works too well now to justify moving on. One thing that I did not do that helped a lot with the treadle was to service the stand itself(there are directions on the net. I had the machine in great restored condition but never thought about oiling/lubing the stand and that was making me work harder to treadle. I guess the old girl needed some age replenishing oil after years of doing nothing.Anybody else who is adopting a treadle,don't forget about the stand. As for the repurposing, I hate all of it. My 66 was destined for the dump as a decorator was wanting to slap paint on it for a bedside table for her antique tall bed. I stuffed it right then and there into my suv. I didn't know it would start the potato chip vintage machine syndrome. For some reason people snub the 66 as being lowly and common but my electric model after its spa day sews like a dream. I like the common singers as all their parts are so easy to get if they are ever needed. Thanks for showing people how great these old machines are. It is so empowering to know one can continue to sew if the power should ever stay off for extended periods. I like the sound and performance of them even with the power on.

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    1. For some reason the 66 is a bit of a "Singer stepchild." It's a great machine and the 66 drop-in bobbin is a cinch to load.

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  17. I love the beautiful wrought iron stand, I love the rhythm of the treadle, I love the gentle chink chink noise it makes as I sew, I love the box full of attachments that allow it to do things I can't do with my $2000 modern machine. But what I love most about my treadle is that it is a direct link to my beloved great-aunt, who bought it new in 1915.

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  18. My maternal grandmother had one too. I only saw pictures but it's lovely to see one in action. In terms of the treadles I went to college in Lancaster Cty PA which has a large and well known Amish presence; many of them still don't have electricity so a few people were employed in redoing the newest machines to work with treadles something which no doubt is still going on.

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    1. Of course! Whenever we visit my parents in Lanco I always find treadles at the second hand stores(sadly, I'm not sure I could find space for one right now) and never put together why there were so many.

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  19. Oh. This makes me want a treadle of my own. I saw one rusting in a yard in my parent's neighborhood just yesterday. Sigh. Such a shame.

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  20. Yes! I have had my grandmother's Singer treadle sewing machine since I was 18. It is the only machine I own and I have little desire to have a modern electric machine. It's wonderful to sew on, never stalls on heavy fabric and is trouble free. The things it can't do, like buttonholes, I have learned to do by hand and actually enjoy.

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  21. Thank you, Peter! I have been mulling over getting treadle. I am sold.
    Cindi

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  22. I have never thought of owning a treadle until now. :D If I only find one here where I live...

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  23. I love that mine cost one tenth of my electric Singer but does a far superior straight stitch and a better job on difficult and fine fabrics. Mine's a 15K from 1911 - it has the Sphinx decals and someone has scratched 'What Ho!' very lightly into the small gold sphinx. Even the graffiti is lovable! It's such a pleasure to use on almost all jobs. I find it quite difficult to insert sleeves or stitch cuffs but I'd never repurpose the stand - it's a working machine that'll outlast me as well as all the electrical items I own. I also have a 66 hand crank which I keep set up for sewing heavy fabrics. They really are amazing machines. Just wouldn't like to drop one on my foot...!

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  24. I have to admit I have a problem. I collect treadle machines for no good reason other than I love them and all textile-related antiques. Right now I have...7? Not all of them have tables, but I am very excited to buy a house and set the table-less ones on display in my future sewing room! I love the history and the beauty of the old machines, but my family has cut me off from buying any more :(

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    1. If I had the money and an extra room I would collect treadle machines just to save them from repurposers.

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  25. Hello Peter,

    It's not likely that I'll ever own a treadle, but I sure love watching videos about them as I find them fascinating.
    I'm the proud owner of 2 hand crank machines, a Singer 127K and a Singer 15. I use both of them, and I love them dearly.
    What I love about the hand crank machines, is that you can use them anywhere. I have this image in my head of using one in my garden this summer when I plan to start a log cabin quilt for my bed.

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  26. My parents have a 1922 Singer 66-1 that is currently serving as a bookshelf/junk collector. The cabinet and table are beat up, but the machine itself is in beautiful condition and functions; it just needs a good tuneup and a belt. I am always threatening to stea --- I mean, rescue it when they're not looking. Hmmm, maybe next time they're out of town......

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  27. Treadles ROCK.

    I have been mighty impressed with my Wheeler & Wilson D-9 treadle, and the Singer 99 handcrank I got for my kids. They are so quiet, do an excellent stitch once tuned up, and I find it easier to get precision control. No cord to plug in, and servicing them is straightforward. I was missing the buttonhole feature my electric machine had (which my mom now has), but I got a mechanical buttonholer for the 99 and it works incredibly well.

    If anyone is interested in cutting the cord, I can virtually guarantee that with a few weeks of watching you can find an affordable treadle in decent shape in your area via craigslist or ebay. People also report seeing them frequently at yard sales or second hand shops. You'll have to do a little work to get them humming since chances are they won't have been used or serviced in decades, but there are great internet resources to help.

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  28. Ooh, Peter, thank you SO much for posting this! There is a treadle machine in my MIL's house in New Jersey that belonged to my husband's grandparents -- they were immigrant German tailors, and his grandfather survived a Russian prison camp because his sewing skills were in high demand and earned him extra food. So this sewing machine is really special to my husband and he'd like to have it for sentimental value, but I hadn't thought of it as a real working sewing machine. You raved about the quality of the straight stitch on this machine -- could I use a treadle for patchwork, do you think? Now I'm dying to get to New Jersey to check out this machine. You have saved another treadle today, Peter! :-)

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    1. Many professional Quilt makers use just treadles! I am sure you will enjoy doing patchwork on it! You get lots of information about "man-powered sewing machines" in the forum Treadle On.

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  29. My mother has a Singer treadle machine in her living room from who knows when and she and I have discussed getting it in working condition/looking into what has to be done to get it into working condition/maybe it IS in working condition - who knows. This video inspired me to finally make some moves!

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    1. Start with a good cleaning (with a lint brush) and oiling and maybe a new belt, then try it out. It will probably work. If not just tinker with it, adjusting things on it. Those old machines are as near indestructible as anything can be.

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  30. Peter, you've inspired me to try and save the White treadle machine that was my great-grandmother's. My mom's had it in storage all these years, and I don't think it was ever converted into anything else!

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  31. I love treadling and do almost all of my sewing that way. You can't beat the perfect stitch and absolute control of a treadle. Plus they are just so cool. That being said, I actually have more treadles than useable room for them. I change them out every once and awhile so everybody gets used, but my favorites are probably the Singer 15-88 and the Free.

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  32. I watched an episode of Flea Market Flip on PBS the other night, and two silly fools turned a treadle into a desk. It was so sad. I don't use, or even have a treadle, but I don't see the point in destroying them.

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  33. Thanks Peter! I've got two old treadles that date to the early 1920's. My favorite is a Redeye 66, that was being used as a doorstop! Loveliest straight stitch ever.

    I'd also like to say how much I enjoyed hearing you speak - you have a lovely, soothing speaking voice. Hope you post more videos in future, so we can hear you speak more often.

    Beth

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  34. When I was growing up in Australia (I live in the US now) there were treadles everywhere, and yes people used them as planters, which I like or architectural features. I have no problem with repurposing things if it is something someone wants to do. My grandmother's treadle is really ancient, she was born in 1895 (deceased now) and used it to make many wedding dresses. I think my mother still has it. I get why people don't like to see them being used for anything else but what they were intended for though.

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  35. Peter, thanks for showing your treadle machine. I have one I bought for 6 dollars at an auction (the first I ever went to). No one wanted it and it was on a treadle stand that was really beat up and painted white. So I got it home and looked into getting it to work. It was frozen and couldn't even move the hand crank at all. Read in the manual or online that you could use kerosene dropped with a dropper into the oil areas and it would ease it all up, which it did. Then I oiled it well and got a new leather band some needles and was sewing away. It's the type with the shuttle with the cylinder like bobbin. I love this machine. I took it to a local sewing center and the guy there tried to look up the number on it but he wasn't able to identify the type of singer that it is but it does say singer on it. What is amazing to me is that for one it still works and that I have been able to sew everything on it from sheer fabrics, to paper to plastic/vinyl, felt and even dog food bags. Its just amazing to me. The only thing I regret is having gotten rid of its treadle base since I moved sooo many times and lugging it around got to be too much but I still have the head. Now I use it as a hand crank machine. I sawed off a 5 to 6 inch or so piece of wooden closet rod (you know for hanging clothes in your closet on) and then I stick that in between the spokes of the handcrank and sew away. Now that I've been in one place for awhile I miss the tredle stand and will probably look for one since ya can't beat treadlin on one of those its GREAT FUN!

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  36. Old singers give me goosebumps ,yeah i guess that makes me a sewing geek.I wish they came with a documented history.What special occasions were measured on the machine,who lovingly bought it home the first time etc etc.

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