Tuesday 24 June 2014

Why I Love My Treadle Sewing Machine!

When my Singer Treadle Sewing Machine was new to me I was really nervous about using such an old piece of equipment. I was concerned; Would I break her, or damage her in some way? Would she do what I wanted a sewing machine to do? Would I be stuck with this large piece of furniture that was never used?
It might be prudent to mention here that I am on a permanent de-cluttering mission, have been for years, and we still have way too much stuff, so everything needs to earn it's keep.

A couple of years on, I use my singer all the time.

I even used it to make curtains while I was in labour - true story - it kept me calm and focussed my concentration between contractions, it worked too well and I just made it to the hospital in time... oops!

So for those of you who are new to the world of people-powered vintage sewing machines (particularly treadles) here's a run down of the top ten reasons I can't get enough of my wonderful vintage sewing machine.

1 - Beauty
A hundred year old sewing machine is a thing of beauty, an iconic classic piece of industrial design. I personally favour the Singer Models but there are so many other manufacturers that made gorgeous pieces of machinery too.

2 - Set up time

She is ready to whirr into action in about 60 seconds - I've got it down to a fine art - open the leaf, pull up the machine, hook on the belt, thread her up and she's ready to sew! A hand-crank would be even quicker.

My Electric machine always seems like such a palaver to get it out, she is pretty heavy to lug about the house, I have to set up by a socket (which usually means the kitchen table)  the wire is always tangled. It takes about 10 minutes to get it up and running, and she has to go away again before dinner time.... which leads on to my reason number 3...

3 - Dedicated Hideaway Table

I love that when I'm not using my sewing machine it folds down into an attractive little table, so she isn't always gathering dust - and sewing machines do gather a LOT of dust.

My hideaway table has lots of handy drawers for all my knick-knacks, snips, spools, bobbins, sewing machine oil, and pins.
If you can find one, the 'parlour table' models are exceptionally nice.

Top tip - I use one of the drawers as a little dustbin to collect all my trimmed pieces of thread, ribbon and fabric, keeps the place nice and tidy.

4 -Simplicity
My treadle sews in a straight line, you can change the length of the stitch but she still just sews in a straight line.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

She does this one job, but she does it perfectly, every time.

There are no zigzags or button holes, she can't even do a backward stitch. I'm easily confused and I love that my Singer has no dials, switches or display screen

5 - Control

A treadle doesn't run away with you like an electric machine can, well not like my electric machine does. If you want to go really slowly you can use the balance wheel, to stitch - one - stitch - at - a - time - really - slowly. This makes sewing round corners or intricate stitching really easy. Then you can gradually pick up the pace with the treadle and clickity, clik, clickity, click, before you know where you are you have come to the end of the seam.

6 - Rythmn

She makes the most beautiful therapeutic whirrity clickity clickity, whirrity. The sound of which sends me off into a light hypnotic state.
I'd be quite happy to sit and just treadle up and down, without doing any sewing at all.

7 - History

I'm intrigued by the impact of domestic sewing machines in history- for some families a sewing machine meant they could be more thrifty, saving money by altering or making clothes, for others it meant a career and an income (Fiddler On The Roof shows the impact of a sewing machine on a community) I always wonder about my sewing machine's  previous owners, and what a sewing machine meant to them.

8 - Cannot be killed by conventional methods 

Well, pretty much - you can't burn out the motor, blow a fuse, it is very unlikely any part of her will suddenly snap, buckle or explode.

Occasionally you will loose a needle when it snaps, but changing the needle regularly usually stops that happening.

My vintage sewing machine was stored in a damp garage for many years but she cleaned up beautifully, OK, so she's not pristine, but she works and she'll keep working happily for a long time yet.

So there we have it, I think anyone who sews should have a people-powered machine of some kind (treadle or hand-crank) they are just so lovely when you get them working.

Let me know what you love most about your vintage sewing machine?

1 comment :

  1. Hi!
    I just discovered your blog while looking for info on how to clean old treadle machines. I like what I read here so far.
    We've got two treadles (one in the attic and one in the basement) - one belonged to my partner's grandmother and one to his father's partner's mother. None of them is in working condition. They are boths Singers, a 1920 class 66 and 1911 15K respectively. And I want to get at least one of them working. We'll see how this works out with little space and a baby-boy who's keeping me busy.
    Thanks for reading this. I just had to share with someone who might be interested. Greetings from Austria!


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