Tips on Buying, Restoring, and Using Treadle Sewing Machines

Helene Ellis shares advice on how to buy a treadle sewing machine, treadle machine restoration and other antique sewing machine insights.

| March/April 1975

Helen Ellis shares information on buying a foot-powered Treadle sewing machine, sewing machine restoration, and sewing machine tips for MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers. 

Buying an Antique Treadle Sewing Machine

[1] Singer is first choice, White second, and other brands should be purchased only if complete (check for bobbins, presence of operating manual, and condition of moving parts). Singers are more numerous and, therefore, parts for them are more readily available ...  if not from dealers, then from other old machines.

[2] Singer made various models, and accessories are not equally easy to find in all cases. If the machine you're considering comes with only one or two bobbins, for instance, make sure they're the disc variety rather than the scarcer long type.

[3] Look over the machine carefully. A few small parts may be missing, but such pieces are generally replaceable. Major hardware, however, is more difficult to obtain or repair. Move the treadle to be sure it functions, and check the rods that connect it to the wheel. See if the skirt guard — a handy item — is in place. And, no matter what its condition, if you come on an unusable machine for free or a couple of dollars, take it. It may be a fine source of parts.

[4] If you're at an auction and overhear some woman saying that she wants a treadle operated sewer because the cast iron base makes a nice table or the drawers make pretty flower boxes, outbid her if you can. This sort of thing is being done far too often, and it's a terrible waste of good sewing machines.

Restoring Treadle Sewing Machines

[1] Replace missing parts. Items like the spool post or leather wheel belt can be purchased at a sewing machine parts store.

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