Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Old Friend, New Friend

I inherited my maternal grandmother's treadle sewing machine when I was 18. I had done a little sewing but this is what really kick-started my sewing life. It never occurred to me to keep it just as an antique sitting in a corner, something to set plants on, or turn it into a desk or something. (sacrilege!) It's a sewing machine! Besides that, I always liked the idea of being different, of doing something almost no one else does.

It's not pretty. It was already old and beat-up-looking when I was a small child but it sews like a dream. I have sewn everything on it from the most delicate fabrics to some really heavyweight stuff and the things it can't do, like buttonholes, I learned to do by hand. I am, frankly, quite proud of it and what it can do. I have never felt limited by it at all.

In all these years I have never had any desire to have a modern electric machine. Until recently. A couple of things caused me to change my mind. Last fall I was doing a blanket stitch to finish the seams on a pair of jeans. It's a fun stitch; I always enjoy it, but, for the first time, I started thinking, "I could get this done faster if I had a modern sewing machine."

Another thing that happened is that I got older. (Wait! Really?) When you're in your 20s and you use a treadle sewing machine, exclusively, you might be cool and a bit of a rebel, but when you're 50+ (No! That can't be right! I demand a re-count!) and you use a treadle machine, exclusively, you're just an old woman who can't handle modern technology. So I hinted that I might like a new sewing machine for Christmas and I got this one:

I like it. It has lots of nice specialty stitches, most of which I will probably never use, and it's almost as easy to use as the treadle machine. My original intention was to just use it for things like finishing seams and buttonholes but I have made one "outfit" (a set of knit pajamas) on it and I think I might always make knit garments entirely on this machine. The old machine sews knits just fine but it's nice to be able to finish the seams neatly. I tried using it once to make buttonholes. I think I will probably continue to make buttonholes by hand.

I will continue to use the old machine most of the time. I'm in the middle of making a shirt on it now. But it's nice to have the new one for certain things.


  1. Wow, Lynn!!! I'm blown away by the fact that you've sewn EXCLUSIVELY on a treadle machine! I can hardly fathom it and completely admire it at the same time.

    Can you explain what it's like? It's seems like you'd have better control over the stitch speed and would have more accuracy (less unpicking) as a result. Is that true? Or are you appreciating the automation with your modern Singer?

  2. Oh, I don't know... It's hard to say what it's like because I'm so used to it. To me it's just normal. There are a lot of videos on Youtube that make it sound more difficult than it really is. The only difference between a treadle and an electric machine (besides the lack of specialty stitches) is that with the treadle I am the motor. Once I get it started the treadle almost keeps going by itself. It takes very little effort. I guess some people have trouble getting it started in the right direction though. I guess maybe I should make a video sometime.

  3. I just had the best time browsing back through your posts. Your fabric and pattern choices had me smiling, and that is a very good thing! I smile at my sewing a lot, I smile at my ready mades too, but not as big. :o)

    I use my Grandmother's treadle as my computer desk. Not that I don't want to sew with it, it simply doesn't have a belt. I haven't looked into seeing what it would take to get her up and running, but I have always wanted to and intend to.

    I sew on a Singer 500a. I adore it and all its metal gears, no belt or plastic thingies to break/fall apart. The first time I sewed on it, Hubby whistled and said it sounded like a jet engine. :o) I was grinning ear to ear and sewing a mile a minute! Three cheers for Good Old Machines!!!


  4. Leather belt for treadle machine

    It's actually pretty easy to find parts for treadle machines, especially if it happens to be a Singer. If it hasn't been used for a while it might take some tinkering (and lots of WD-40) but they can all be returned to operational condition.

  5. That is one nice new machine (and a pretty special old one). We had my grandmother's treadle machine - it was encased in it's own cabinet. We put it out on junk day one year many years ago. I so regret that now.

  6. I love the newness and cleanness of the new one but the old one is comfortable and familiar and has great sentimental value.