How to Care for a Treadle Sewing Machine

Kent Rayman provides a detailed guide on sewing operating problems and how to maintain an antique Treadle sewing machine.


| March/April 1975



032-029-01

Treadle sewing machines work as well as electric models, if not better ... without electricity. They're also inexpensive.


ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Treadle sewing machines work as well as electric models, if not better .... without electricity. They're also inexpensive, $10.00 to $40.00 (I bought mine for $25.00, in good shape). With proper care they'll last almost forever. If you're lucky enough to get hold of one of these fine sewing devices, some of the hints in this article may help you get Old Faithful to sew again and keep her sewing right.

First of all, treat your newly acquired machine to a thorough oiling. Use a good sewing machine lubricant such as the Singer brand ... not an all-purpose household product which will become gummy. Every point where moving parts rub together should be treated. Look for oil holes on the head, and don't forget the lower parts and the treadle mechanism. If the device runs hard or is really dirty, flush about a pint of kerosene through the oil ports with the help of an oilcan. Operate the machine for a few minutes, wipe it off completely and oil it later when the metal has dried. It's very important to lubricate regularly from this time on (once a day if you're doing a lot of sewing).

Sewing Tension

If you have either of these problems, check your needle. It should be sharp, straight, and of the proper size for the thread you're using ... generally as small as will allow the strand to pass through the eye freely. If that's not the trouble, try regulating the appropriate controls. The upper tension adjustment is usually a thumbscrew on the head, and the lower adjustment is a screw on the shuttle (see Figures. 1 and 21). Turning the regulator clockwise increases the pull on the thread.

If your machine won't stitch at all, you'll probably have to reset the tensions from scratch. Thread the device as if you were preparing to sew (see Figure 1) ... and be sure to lower the presser foot, because on some models the tension is released when this part is raised. Then pull the thread through the needle, adjusting the upper tension control until the resistance is firm but not tight. Thread the shuttle and insert it in the machine. Draw out the lower thread and tighten or loosen the screw until the tension feels the same as that of the top thread. After this operation the machine should sew well enough to allow fine adjustments to be made if necessary.

Other Sewing Problems

Drive Belt: Keep it moderately tight. If it's too loose, cut out a section of leather (not too much!), punch a new hole and replace the clip.

Breaking Upper Thread: The following are possible causes:





Crowd at Seven Springs MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Sept. 15-17, 2017
Seven Springs, PA.

With more than 150 workshops, there is no shortage of informative demonstrations and lectures to educate and entertain you over the weekend.

LEARN MORE