Sunday, 15 April 2012

Introducing My Singer Treadle

On Easter Sunday I was gifted a Singer treadle sewing machine.

First I was unsure 

Then I was excited 

Then I thought "Oh Nuts!, what have I let myself in for?"

Now she is my new found love

She was clearly cherished and used for many years before being abandoned in a damp garage.

Despite being worn where miles of thread has rubbed against the end plate she was rusted from neglect, her belt didn't fit and her treadle creaked. The cabinet in which she resides is in a terrible state and I'm not sure what to do about that yet.

There was luckily nothing missing but she was in serious need of some TLC

I spent 3 days hunting the internet for decent advice on how to clean up a treadle and found advice to dip it in kerosene for days... perhaps this is appropriate in some cases but frankly it didn't sound like they knew how to treat a delicate and useful tool that a sewing machine is. 

I also found quite a few blog posts and you-tube videos of
'I have just bought this for $400, 
I'm not sure how it is supposed to work'
I gave up looking for a reliable guide and instead took all advice with a pinch of salt.

I know a little of sewing machines so at least I knew where to start.
(The photos were taken after I had spent a good while cleaning the machine)

The good thing about having a far-from-perfect ancient relic is that you don't worry about accidents while trying to fix it up. (see below)

I started (as recommended on many a website) with WD40 but it took the gold off of some of the decals, then I found out that the black body is in fact 'japanned' and not enamelled... and I now doubt WD40 is the best idea, though certainly not the worst. Turns out sewing machine oil may be the best thing to clean the outside with.

Her leather belt was cracking and slipping but this was fixed by just shortening it 
(which is easy to do, if you are careful) 
You simply prize the staple apart and trim the belt by an inch or so, carefully make a new hole, I used a chunky darning needle as our bradall was too large, then pop it back on the staple and crimp it shut again.

I treated the length of the belt with olive oil, which is a simple and effective leather conditioner, and it now works a treat.

Her insides must have been heavily oiled before she was left in a garage, they were in OK condition and just needed a bit of the muck loosened (WD40 is appropriate this time) but always follow it with a heavy oiling with sewing machine oil.

The treadle needed some WD40 too, to make it rock with ease.

I took panels off to clean and carefully replace, I polished the bits that looked like they were once shiney and scrubbed as much of the tarnish off of the balance wheel as I could.

And then she was ready for use.

And she goes like a dream, and it is so therapeutic to sit and hear her whirr away while your legs rock slowly. She is powerful and sewed through quadruple thickness denim without flinching. 

It is easier to manover the fabric under the needle than on my electric and you have much beter control of speed.

I have sat her infront of a window for light, I'm thinking about an angle-poise lamp for the future but it won't be as good as natural daylight anyway.

She comes with wheels, but they are small and cast iron and will wreck havoc on my lovely floors, so she will live on a rug.

There are locks all over the cabinet so you can lock the drawers and the machine casing, presumable to keep children safe (or stop needle thieves), but a crawling baby could easily loose a limb on the treadle mechanism.

Once I had her cleaned up and ready to sew I looked on google for advice on how to use a treadle to sew and I found very little, I did find a man being an idiot on youtube and an archived magazine article from the 70s but advice seems few and far between.

I found some amazing youtube videos by this lady 
handcrank rather than treadle but she is knowledgable.

She still needs a little polishing, I am looking at it as an on-going task. I'm hoping to eventually put up some tutorials on how to clean, care for and use a treadle but for now I'd be happy to answer any questions with my teeny amount of new-found knowledge.... or perhaps you have some tips to share? let me know in the comments.

Edit to add some linkage: 
If you need help identifying your singer sewing machine be sure to check out my post here
If you would like to see how I spruced up the cabinet click here

The Nitty Gritty
  • 1923 Singer Treadle 15K acquired for free through gumtree you might also try a local freecycle, they come up on eBay all the time too.

  • WD40 for removing grime and goo.

  • Old toothbrush and cotton buds to clean nooks and crannies.

  • Singer Sewing Machine Oil

  • Peek polish to make the nice bits all shiney.

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