Saturday, October 16, 2010

Temporarily Distracted From Knitting by Treadle Sewing Machines (Again)

I am hardly a seamstress, but have a strong respect for all fiber work, and I have a fondness for sewing machines.  I have a Janome sewing machine that lives on top of my Singer Treadle cabinet.  I recently took it in to be serviced for the first time in about ten years.  (Advice:  don't wait that long.)

My plan with the healthy Janome is to make something functional from this too heavy but very precious sweater that I completed 18 years ago

When I went to pick it up, it occurred to me to ask the gentleman who repaired my Janome about my Singer Treadle machine, which I went on about in this post, and about which I am about to go on some more...

I was surprised to learn a few things:  these lovely machines are mostly of sentimental value, and many are still around.  They are cast iron, and heavy. Many people keep them for the same reason I did:  they are of sentimental value as they belonged to a grandmother or great grandmother. He said that "you can often see one in every 5th or 6th home."  Sadly, some people have ditched the machines and kept the cabinets as comment.  Crime against humanity and its ingenuity.  As a young occupational therapy student, years ago, I saw a treadle sewing machine converted in to a wood lathe.   You can find citations online for this, I won't include any as I'm opposed to this as well.  Although in general, I'm in favor of wood lathes.  Especially to make spinning wheels.

Interestingly, this gentleman sold drive bands and I purchased one which my son installed;  it is leather and has a hook so that excess can be cut off and the length adjusted correctly to the machine.

I asked how to date my machine, and he said to check the front plate: on the right side (you can see the drive band that my son put on):

The number reads: 14027234.  I went  here and found a date:  1858.  Is this possible?  This treadle machine predates the Civil War???!!!  My Grandmother was not the original owner!  Singer was founded in 1851.

I then (duh) looked inside the drawer and found this:

So, it's a Model 27.  This link has some more information on Models 27 and 127.

I talked to Mom, who remembered more than Dad did about this. This treadle machine was my Dad's Mother's, Helen.   Mom's Mother Peggie had a treadle machine in its own cabinet as well,  and Mom remembers Peggie  using it.   I was  surprised that she  used it despite electricity in the house, this would have  been in the 40's, in New Jersey. Mom reminded me that electricity was not common in the south,  until the TVA provided power in the 40's and later, thus there was an ongoing need for these machines. And, at least in the case of my family, why buy a new electric machine when you had a perfectly good and highly reliable treadle?  

Peggie's machine was a Wilcox and Gibbes, no longer in the family.  Mom says she liked it because of the chain stitch, and not needing a bobbin.  Peggie also had a very small Singer machine with a hand crank that I used as a child.  It had a small clamp that attached it to the table. I didn't like the chain stitch as it could unravel easily, but I loved sewing with it.  I'm sure I made doll clothes.

In Scotland last year (2009), I visited Na Gearrannan, the blackhouse village on the Isle of Lewis.
Inside one of the blackhouses, I photographed this:

This site has lots of useful information about treadles and hand crank machines.  Apparently, Singers were and still are made all over the world, including Clydebank, Scotland.  Likely, this is where the  blackhouse machine was made.

Singer still makes treadle machines in China.

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend who married a woman from Cuba last year. She wanted to learn how to use an electric sewing machine. I showed her how to thread it. My friend also have a machine similar to yours and I was surprised that the threading technique was exactly the same.