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Aug 31, 2010

Pre-Dawn Ramblings of a Treadle-Owning Insomniac

Grant me this: I work fast.

Meet the newest member of the family: my 1920 Singer 66 "red eye" treadle sewing machine! 

This little beauty was being sold by a young Parsons grad named Tomoko who lives right around the corner from me in a four-story walk-up -- fortunately on one of the lower floors!  She'd bought the machine at an antiques store and never used it for anything other than as a computer table (no reflection on Parsons, I'm sure...).  She's about to sublet her apartment to a friend and wanted to clear some things out first -- the treadle/glorified Macbook stand included.

After scoping out the machine carefully at Tomoko's apartment and taking a few pictures, I returned home, discussed the matter with Michael, dumped it on you guys, and made my decision.  Then I went back to Tomoko's -- after a quick visit to the ATM of course -- paid for it, unscrewed the machine from the table and carried it home.

In the late afternoon, Michael and I returned to pick up the table which, while not heavy without the machine in it, was a little awkward to move.  Luckily we didn't have far to go: literally around the corner.

This is the machine itself without any cleaning at all.  Not bad, huh?

Tomoko was originally asking $250 (on Craigslist) but was willing to go with $200.  Still high, some might say.  But since I don't own a car, anything more than a block or two's distance would have required a car rental -- with all the cost of time and money involved -- or arranging to have it delivered (ditto).

Did I mention that Tomoko lived around the corner?  What are the odds?  Around the corner.

Factoring all of this in, I decided to go with it, especially because the sewing machine itself was in good shape and had the drop-in bobbin as opposed to the older, more cumbersome shuttle.  The table could use some some minor cosmetic help, but who couldn't?  Mostly things like water rings.  Heloise, some helpful hints, please.

I still need to buy the belt for it; I may be able to find that locally or I can order one online -- they're inexpensive.  But I've oiled both the machine and the treadle and both work smoothly.  So quiet!

Poking around inside I found about what you'd expect from a machine that probably hasn't been used in seventy years:

A Singer bobbin with old, discolored thread:

Lots of fuzz:

Some crud.

Nothing too bad, however.

Most importantly, she sews -- cotton...

...and leather:

There's still some fine tuning to do, but the essentials are all there. 

She's much daintier than I'd imagined: about the size of a child's desk and with the lacy wrought-iron stand, not bulky at all.  I just love the way she looks!

Meanwhile, a rather ugly rumor has been circulating in the sewing blogosphere, to the effect that this whole treadle drama (all 48 hours of it, hello) has been merely a ruse to put off Michael's suit project just a little bit longer: 

First I said I was going to sew it before my August vacation, but suddenly I had to tackle my Burda A-line dress muslin.  Then I was going to do it first thing after vacation, but no, suddenly I had to go searching for a treadle sewing machine and now that needs to be fixed up.  And then I have to sew the Burda dress in the Liberty fabric and have Cathy model it, which means the suit is not going to be ready for Michael's mother's seventieth birthday family portrait in late September.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an imminent thirtieth high school reunion, followed by my brother's wedding in November, etc., etc.

Let me put an end to these rumors, which obviously have been started by one of my bitter rivals and I have many.  Life happens, OK?  You just can't choose how things are gonna play out.  I said I'd make Michael the suit and I will make Michael the suit.  I bought the hair canvas, didn't I?   (The things I have to put up with...)

Guys, I'm starting to fade and I wasn't all that vivid to begin with.

On a serious note, a big shout out and muchos hugs to frequent commenter and all-around funny-girl/sewing genius, Debbie of Stitches and Seams, whose eldest son is shipping out today to U.S. Marine Corps boot camp -- eight months earlier than expected!

Now I don't have any children as you know, but I do have two chihuahuas, and the idea of sending either of them off to boot camp...well, just tell me where to sign.

Kidding aside, while Debbie and I have had our differences, most recently over a bottle of Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch salad dressing (on quesadillas?) I wish her all the best on what's sure to be a tough day for any mother.  I have a mother myself with whom I pathologically over-identify so I can imagine the emotions.  Hang in there, Debbie!

Kids, I think it's time for this little treadle-owner to close the proverbial table top and return to the sleeping chamber -- otherwise known as the chihuahua kennel.  (Whoa, not a pretty sentence.)

Thank you all so much for your many wonderful comments of support yesterday.  You guys crack me up -- in a good way!

So, who wants to try my treadle?  Don't all shout at once!


  1. Peter Darrrhhhling!
    Just catching up after being missing from blogland for a bit. The new machine looks delightful, The holiday looked restful, and you of course look very handsome! Hi to Michael and the dogs.
    my 2 cents worth: Go to the reunion in something you can forget about, it is about meeting old friends not showing off...Well, ok.. maybe just a bit then!!
    Thanks for such a good read, you always make me smile!

  2. Its gorgeous! But I am particularly taken with your thoughtfulness. Fancy buying a whole new machine just so you could sew a suit quietly through the wee small hours of each night.

  3. The new machine is a sweetie to look at! And imagine the shapely ankles you'll achieve working that treadle ;)! Perhaps Cathy could treadle a little whenever she's feeling a little un-toned in the calf department (not that that's all too often an occurence - I'm sure).

    Question: Where DO you find the space for you ever expanding sewing-machine family? Do you secretly own a TARDIS?

    Puzzled from London
    Claire x (aka "Seemane")

  4. Shona, smiles are nice but just once I'd like to make you pee you pants. Maybe next time.

    Great to hear from you!

  5. Claire, I don't know what a TARDIS is, but have you noticed that the ripped up old leather couch we had by window is...GONE!

  6. Pierre, she is more beautiful than your initial photographs depicted!

    For me, it's not just having a perfect stitch though that is certainly a deciding factor, but it's also the aesthetics of the machine in concert with the feel and sound of it. I have experienced a treadle before and the action is much smoother than one imagines as well, I love the "whir" of the wheels going round.

    I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation to see what you're going to create on this beauty.

  7. I love that a New Yorker is surprised that something (hell, make that *anything*!) is "just around the corner." Aren't there, like, 30,000 people living around your corner? What a drama qu--

    Oh, now I get it. :-)

    That machine sure is purdy, though.

  8. A beautiful Redhead Singer (some call them Redeyes but that sounds like a bad condition to me)! I'm excited about it for you! I would have paid that too just for the convenience of walking it home. You mentioned wanting a 15, but if you ever find a treadle 15 machine you like better you can swap them out in the cabinet --they're the same size.

    Who cares about the suit? I promised myself to have three tops made by the end of July --they're still not cut out. Maybe next July.

    I wish I had a TARDIS. Not really for time travelling but for the space.

  9. I'm back...I noticed that machine has a back mounted presser foot. Did it come with any attachments? The back mount ones are harder to find. Of course, you might not want any for it since it has the basic one and you have your 15-91 and others.

    If you still have that machine you picked up off the street and it has side mounting feet, there is a way to switch the needle bars. Debbie Cook knows how I think. Just an option.

  10. YAY! You bought it! What a pretty machine. Thanks for showing us her, inside and out.

    For people who adores mechanical sewing machines, treadles answer a longing in the heart. I'm so glad you found yours.

  11. Oh Peter, it's beautiful! I love the Redeye decals, and yours look like they are in wonderful condition. But just you learn more about them you're going to keep wanting more! I would love to add a Memphis and Coneflower to my collection.

    As for space, they make excellent end and side tables when not in use. :-)

  12. Thanks, all!

    Susan, would you believe I got rid of the one I picked off the street right before I left on vacation? It had been sitting on my living room floor for MONTHS. D'oh!

  13. I'm soooooooo jealous! I've been looking for a treadle for years! Yours is certainly a beauty, well done!

  14. Years?

    Spellflinger, how hard are you looking? ;)

  15. Congratulations! The treadle is gorgeous. Wish that modern machines were so beautifully tattooed...

  16. Congrats on the machine.
    I do see a lot of sleepless nights in your future if you expect to get Micheal's suit finished. Good luck and happy sewing.

  17. Oh, that looks almost exactly like my MIL's. She tried to pawn it off on me a few years ago but I had no room. Now I want it!

  18. Thank the deities you're back. Now I can face the morning.

  19. What a beautiful machine! Congratulations... now you need a Featherweight! :)

    It's great to have you back, my mornings just weren't the same without you.

  20. "I don't know what a TARDIS is"
    You're joking right??? Tell me you're joking, please.

  21. That is a beautiful treadle, congratulations!

    I don't think you should be stressed for not doing everything exactly as you planned, who ever does? I'm living in the middle of a house renovation, some people cant stop nagging about how slowly it moves forward. I don't care any more. We are doing it all by ourselves and that takes time. Somewhere in the process you must have time to live too.

  22. Who needs a couch, anyway? Love the new addition!

    Self-imposed deadlines are the BAIN of my existence, so don't beat yourself up too much about not getting the jacket done "in time". Life DOES happen. I'll just be excited to see progress... whenever you get around to it. :)

  23. Ah, she is a beauty! And it was totally meant to be - I can't believe she was living around the corner from you this whole time!

    The shoutout to Debbie was so sweet. I can only imagine the emotions she is going through today.

  24. I'm soooo happy that you made the executive decision and bought your new treadle - a real beauty to add to your sewing harem. (Tardis or not...)

    No suit...yet? Vintage machine lands in your lap...unexpectedly? Distractions getting in the way of...sewing? As my NY broterh in law would say, "Fuhgeddabowdit!"

    We all know life happens while you're making other plans. You do not have to justify anything to us. Just...ENJOY!

  25. Peter, Probably you've heard this before, but I use a Q-tip dipped in sewing machine oil to get all the dust/lint crud out of the bobbin cover and face plate of my vintage machines. Works wonders. Beautiful machine you've got.

  26. What a gorgeous machine . . . it was karma, pure sewing machine karma that it was around the corner from you. Meant to be. Life happens, boot camp and all, and some day that suit will look great on Michael just as surely Debbie's son will look handsome and proud in his uniform. As a mom and military wife, I send heartfelt good mojo to her. But the real question is . . . did anyone finally explain what a tardis is? I think I may want one.

  27. Oh Peter! She's so pretty! I think it's a nice accent in any room. And in great condition for her age. No wrinkles! I'm in need of a machine that sews leather really well.

  28. Oh I am so jealous, I think I might not like you anymore!
    If you want a featherweight, - today is the last day of my raffle for one

    You know, if you have a featherweight - you can take it and sew on vacations. No really, no joke. I've done it, and it is soooooo crazy kinky. Watch-out! It's a little addiction all to itself!

  29. The treadle is truly beautiful AND practical - a sewing machine by day and an elegant lamp table by night. So glad you got it, and I can't wait to see what you run up on it.

  30. It's very pretty. Will it provide aerobic exercise?

    I know what a TARDIS is. I've tried to get into that show, but it leaves me cold, even with David Tennant as Dr. Who.

  31. Peter, you can get a belt and a bobbin winding belt ANYWHERE (Joann's qualifies; so does ANY Singer store). And they are cheap!

  32. Thanks, everybody. Sue, I found the belt locally at a sewing machine parts place and it seems to be working well. I doubt I'll be winding bobbins on this machine given how many others I have, but you never know.

    Tune in tomorrow!

  33. Oh, she is a beauty, Peter!!! I used to have what looks exactly like the table, sans sewing machine. It also needed a little cosmetic work, as do I. Probably easier to fix up the table! I don't know what a tardis is either, but I do know I'm old--WISH it was just my 30th high school reunion coming up!

  34. She's lovely and I'm glad you bought her.

  35. Congratulations! She's a beauty (can't imagine that she's a boy for some reason). There's some great stuff that will clean up the end silver colored metal face plate. It was recommended in a Featherweight workshop I attended: Greased Lightning (comes in a spray bottle like 409). Test first, naturally. The brown crud literally dripped right off, and is beautiful again. Of course the face plate is OFF the machine when cleaning. They also had suggestions for cleaning the black enamel paint, which worked beautifully on my FW, but it looks like your old "red-eye" has different paint.

  36. *sigh*
    I love your new treadle sewing machine.
    I want to hear all about it. Is it hard to get used to using your feet?

  37. WOW! You move as fast as a New York minute! Congratulations your new machine.

  38. Peter, she's beautiful!! She was obviously meant to live with you since the planets aligned so well in your favor. Her decals are in much better condition than those on mine when I first got my Redeye treadle.

    But most importantly, thanks so much for your thoughtfulness today. I appreciate it so much.

    I have an extra bobbin winder tire and some new 66 bobbins. I think I also have some extra red felt under-spool thingies too. Send me your address and I'll drop them in the mail to you. No trouble at all. I'll be dropping letters in the mail every day now for the next three months. What's one more? ;-) djc at cedesign dot com

  39. You can gently try some toothpaste on the water rings, and sometimes on other crud, as a mild abrasive. Pick an inconspicuous place to test, NOT the middle of the top! She's a beauty and I am envious.

  40. What a pretty machine! And now you can sew leather - think of the possibilities :)

  41. Re water rings, try rubbing them out with mayonnaise or teak oil. Pay attention though because too much rubbing can damage the finish. If the rings are too deep, I'd consider a light sanding or take the table to be refinished.

    I am off the sewing wagon, waiting to get on again. A bit frustrated with one pattern snafu.


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