Treadle Sewing Machine Advice

You love to sew.
Or perhaps you are looking for a sensible off grid sewing machine and think you’d like to buy a treadle sewing machine but don’t know where to start or what to look for?

Sewing Corner

A Sewing Corner With A Treadle Sewing Machine

Maybe you are worried that all treadle sewing machines are expensive antiques and you can’t afford one?
Or you’re concerned that you’ll have to do without a zigzag stitch or machine made button holes if you use one? Or maybe you don’t know how to sew but would like to learn?
Well grab a spool of thread and get ready to sew – because I’m about to give you some practical and very basic advice on one of my favorite off-grid topics – treadle sewing machines!

A treadle sewing machine is simply a sewing machine that is powered by what you ate for breakfast instead of electricity.

 With No Electricity

Working By Natural Light & With No Electricity

All Sewing Machines Have  Main Elements In Common
Sewing machines – electric or treadle – consist of a “head” and some type of mechanism that drives the head.
The machine head is the part of the sewing machine that actually does the sewing. A sewing machine head consists of precisely machined and tooled fitted rods, screws, wheels, springs, disks, gears and other parts. Some of those parts are hidden and encased within the head and some parts are visible on the outside of the sewing head.
Keep this information about sewing machine heads in mind because you’ll need it later.

The mechanism which drives a sewing machine head can either be electric or non-electric as in a treadle or hand cranked sewing machine.
An electric sewing machine usually has a machine head with an attached light and the sewing machine may or may not be computerized, and is driven by an electric motor.
Treadle sewing machines also have two main elements to them; the sewing machine head and the treadle base. The treadle base is the table or cabinet that the sewing machine sits in.

Machine Head Out Of Its Cabinet

Singer Model 66 Out Of Cabinet

Treadle sewing machines are powered by a drive belt that is most often made of leather and connected to a treadle assembly.

Singer Treadle

A Singer Treadle Assembly

The belt sits in a groove on the hand/balance wheel of the sewing machine head and is fitted down through the top of the table or cabinet base of the sewing machine in a continuous loop.

Drive Band Goes To Treadle

Drive Band Goes From The Balance Wheel To The Treadle Assembly

The leather drive band loop usually encircles a large metal grooved wheel under the base of the sewing machine that is attached by way of a pitman rod to a foot treadle.

Pitman Rod

The Pitman Rod On Minnesota Model “A”

When the foot treadle is worked, the attached pitman rod turns the large grooved assembly wheel which begins to move the leather drive belt caught in the sewing machine’s hand wheel and the parts of the sewing machine head begin to move.
The result is that if the sewing machine head has a needle and the head is properly threaded, when fabric is placed under the foot of the machine – sewing commences.
A hand cranked sewing machine is also a “people powered” sewing machine. Instead of being belt driven it has a handle attached to the balance wheel. As you turn the handle on the balance/hand wheel the machine sews. Hand cranked sewing machines are a good choice for people who don’t sew often. They can be quite a bit slower to sew on as opposed to a regular treadle sewing machine. Hand cranked sewing machines are usually about ¾ the size of a standard sewing machine.

In spite of the modern electric and digital age, there are millions of treadle sewing machines still in use around the world.
Thousands of brand new and not so new treadle sewing machines are used every day in private homes and in 3rd world garment and textile factories.
The odds are pretty good that if you are over the age of 35 at some time in your life you have worn a factory ready-made garment that was sewn in part on a treadle sewing machine.

A treadle sewing machine in good working order is a joy to use. The physical act of treadling can be soothing and relaxing. Many people who love to sew or quilt prefer to use only a treadle sewing machine. Many who sew professionally will keep a treadle sewing machine as a backup to their electric sewing machine in the event of a power outage or a looming fitting deadline. Believe me the drama of a two day power blackout during a final wedding dress fitting with a nervous bride and her mother will take 10 years off your life.

The needle speed on a treadle sewing machine is usually slower than that of an electric machine. The slower machine speed can be a real advantage for the novice sewer because it is easier to watch their fingers and maintain control of the fabric and seam width. I think a treadle or hand cranked sewing machine is the very best way to teach a child or a beginner to sew.

Learning To Sew

A 10 Year Old Learning To Sew

Treadle sewing machines are built to last almost forever and are actually very simple devices and lend themselves to easy home repair, service and  maintenance.

New Treadle Sewing Machines
Modern treadle sewing machines are available new but they can be very expensive. Janome makes a fair to good modern treadle sewing machine that is supposedly popular with the Amish and other people who live without electricity. The Janome 712T treadle sewing machine uses a top-loading bobbin and has 10 utility stitches and a built-in buttonhole stitch.

The last I knew the Janome 712T is made in Taiwan and has a limited 25 year warranty. The advantage of a modern treadle sewing machine is that service repair, bobbins, needles and parts are readily available. The disadvantages of purchasing a modern treadle sewing machine are lack of quality and price when compared to an older machine. ***See below for extensive sewing machine rant***

Necessity (and frugality) is most often the Mother of Invention.
If you want a modern sewing machine complete with decorative stitches, many vintage sewing machines (and some modern) can be easily converted into a treadle or hand cranked sewing machine.
If you are handy with a screw driver, drill, hammer, wire cutters and a jig saw; and have a dose of creative vision and aren’t a stranger at the local hardware store, then converting the right electric sewing machine may be a low-cost way for you to get a treadle sewing machine or hand cranked sewing machine.
Thousands of older treadle sewing machines were converted from treadle to electric. To reverse the process is not complicated.

Electric Motor Attached To A Sewing Machine

An Electric Motor Attached To A Minnesota “A”

Many good sewing machines made during the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and early 1960’s have heavy grooved balance wheels that are exterior belt driven. All that is necessary to do the conversion is to simply remove the electric motor and set the sewing machine into a treadle table or base.
A sturdy treadle table can be fashioned from an old treadle base and with a new top.
Craig’s List, eBay, yard sales, auctions, thrift stores, Free Cycle and plain old-fashioned asking around, are all good ways to find low-cost or no cost sewing machines and treadle bases.

Sewing Machine At Auction

A Singer Model 66 At Auction

Very often a simple classified ad in the local newspaper (old people still read newspapers) will turn up a gem of a sewing machine. Many people have old treadle sewing machines sitting in their garages and basements and would like to have them gone.

Sewing Machines At Auction

Three Treadle Sewing Machines At Auction

Often the sewing machine belonged to a beloved family member that has passed away and the family would be happy for the machine to go to someone who would appreciate it.
Depending upon the condition, such sewing machines can usually be had for $0 – $90.
A word of warning: A treadle sewing machine with a base or a cabinet is heavier than a dead preacher so be sure you bring help to load it if you plan on taking it home.

If you don’t have enough room for a full size treadle sewing machine a hand cranked sewing machine may be a really good low-cost non-electric solution for your sewing needs.
The Pfaff sewing machine below is a good example of a high quality sewing machine from the 1950’s that can be easily converted into a hand cranked or possibly a treadle driven sewing machine.

Pfaff Sewing Machine

A Pfaff Sewing Machine For Bought At A Thrift Shop for $3.99

The sewing machine is precision Swiss made, has a solid steel head and is built like a tank. That sewing machine was made when I still had my baby teeth and will outlast me.
I paid $3.99 for it last year at my local Salvation Army Thrift store. For about $6-$12 I can convert it to hand cranked or treadle operation if I find a balance wheel to fit it.
*** See extensive sewing machine rant below***

If your heart is set on an older or antique treadle sewing machine but you don’t know where to find one or you’re afraid that you can’t possibly afford one – relax – be happy and don’t fret.
If you really want an older or antique treadle sewing machine you can probably find or assemble one to call your own. It is much easier and more affordable than you may imagine.
If you know how to read and follow directions; and can work in an orderly, methodical fashion; and if you aren’t in too a big hurry and don’t mind some really grubby, dirty work – a beautiful old Iron Lady can be yours.
It is impossible to do antique treadle sewing machines the justice they deserve in a blog post – even a long post like this one.

Among collectors and aficionados of antique treadle sewing machines there are lots of  different opinions. So don’t take what I’m about to tell you next as the only gospel. I would encourage you to follow the hyper links located in this post and visit The Treadle Lady and other websites for more information.

In general, there are 3 considerations when buying an older or antique treadle sewing machine. You must keep all of them in mind.

The 3 considerations are:

The Sewing Machine Head which includes:

  • Bobbin Type
  • Needle Type
  • Feet

Base or Cabinet & Treadle

Availability of Parts

The Sewing Machine Head

When looking at or considering the purchase an older or antique treadle sewing machine, the head of the sewing machine is the most important part and requires the most consideration.
You will need to determine the condition of the machine head and check to see if all parts of the head are present with a visual inventory.
If all parts aren’t present – what parts are missing?
When examining a sewing machine head carefully and slowly examine the head moving from the right to left and from top to bottom.
Does the balance/hand wheel turn or is it frozen?Does the needle move?
What is the condition of the bobbin winder?

Bobbin Winder

A Bobbin Winder on a “Household” Brand Sewing Machine

What is the shape of the base? Are the feed plate/or plates present?
What type of bobbin is used? What type of feet? What type of needle is used?Who is the manufacturer? Is there a model or serial number?

Serial Number

Singer Model 66 Treadle Sewing Machine – Born October 31,1922

Are the thread pins intact and tension disks, springs or plates present?
What is the condition of the steel, chrome, the decals and how much dirt, grime or rust is present?

Household Sewing Machine

A “Household” Brand Sewing Machine Head

Sadly nothing can really take the place of  life experience when it comes to buying antique treadle sewing machines.
But luckily, eBay is a great way to see lots of treadle sewing machine heads, cabinets and treadle assembly bases.
The “zoom” feature on eBay auction listings can give a treadle sewing machine newbie the opportunity to look up close at many different types of antique treadle sewing machine heads.
Just be forewarned about eBay – often the description from the seller is wacky and inaccurate. Complete and intact treadle sewing machine prices tend to be wonky and are often outrageously high.
That said, the eBay prices for sewing machine parts are good and antique sewing machine manuals are plentiful.
Very often there are real deals to be had on sewing machine heads – especially Singer, White, New Home and Domestic.  eBay is my favorite place to buy antique sewing machine parts.
A word of advice:  antique sewing machines are just like coins, guns and rare books. Condition is everything.
Just because something is old doesn’t make it particularly valuable. People who don’t understand or know anything about treadle sewing machines will tend to over price them.

Singer 15-88

A 1953 Singer 15-88

At present (2013) here in western Pennsylvania, the going auction price for a complete antique treadle sewing machine in good condition is about $45 – $120 depending upon cabinet condition and who’s at the auction.

Lastly, keep  bobbin type and parts availability in mind when looking for an older sewing machine. In general, bobbins are divided into 2 types – a shuttle with a bobbin and a modern round bobbin. Shuttles and the bobbins that fit into them come in different sizes and are not interchangeable.

Shuttle & Bobbin

A Shuttle & Bobbin With Thread

This is an important consideration when purchasing an old sewing machine. Round bobbins are a more modern system and they are much easier to find and not as expensive.

Round Bobbin

A Modern Round Bobbin

When buying an old treadle sewing machine it is wisest to look for a sewing machine that was mid-priced and popular for its time.

Singer sewing machines were made by the millions and are still relatively easy to find and affordable.
The Singer model 15-88 and Singer model 66 are both good choices when looking for treadle sewing machines.

The Singer 15-88 was the last sewing machine that Singer made for treadle use. Most were made in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. The model 15-88 uses a modern needle, low shank feet and has a reverse.

Singer 15-88

A Singer 15-88 With Attachments

The feed dogs can be lowered and it’s a good machine for darning or free form stipple quilting. There is a buttonhole attachment, a zig zag attachment and a walking foot attachment for the Singer model 15-88, along with the standard hemming foot, ruffler and other specially feet. As of today, I would expect to pay between $75 -$170 for a head in very good condition.

The Singer model 66 was made from 1902 to about 1960. It is uses a round bobbin and a standard needle. Singer model 66’s made before the early 1920’s have feet and attachments that are non-standard. They have a back clamp instead of a side clamp and don’t have a reverse. The Singer model 66 often has attractive and distinctive decals and is nicknamed a “Red Eye.

Singer Red Eye

A Singer Model 66 Or Sometimes Called A “Red Eye”

As of today, I would expect to pay $40 -$90 for a Red Eye head in very good condition. In fact Craig’s List and eBay are positively polluted with them.

Often times it is easier and more affordable to assemble an antique sewing machine from parts.
Old sewing machine heads tend to outlast their cabinets and bases and it’s very common to find a sewing machine head in good working order with a cabinet that is beyond repair.
If you plan to assemble an antique treadle sewing machine from parts it’s a good idea to find the base or cabinet that you want first, then buy the sewing machine head.

Mid-price Singer Cabinet

Standard Mid-Priced Singer Treadle Cabinet From 1920’s

Singer is my first choice for this kind of “parts & pieces” assembly. Singer heads will almost always fit in Singer treadle cabinets (never seen one yet that didn’t -but measure first to be safe); but don’t assume that other sewing machine brands are sewing head to cabinet interchangeable.
That said, sometimes cabinets and machine heads will fool you – but it is still safest to stay with the same sewing machine brand. That means a Minnesota model “A” should be moved to a Minnesota treadle or cabinet- don’t take a chance with a White or Domestic cabinet. When you go shopping for a cabinet take the machine head with you so you can fit it on the spot.
A good quality cabinet is scarcer than a good sewing machine head.

And just so you know it is possible to construct a new top for an old treadle assembly. Read more about it here.
When you buy your treadle sewing machine don’t forget to hunt down an owner’s manual for the one you are buying. Many old manuals are free online and many are available for purchase as reprints or on CD’s for under $10.

Tools You’ll Need to Clean the Sewing Head
A camera
Lots of clean rags
Sewing machine or household oil
Flathead screw drivers – large & small
Needle nose pliers
Air in a can
Liquid Wrench
Extra fine steel wool
Tooth brush
Small paint brush
Tin can
Small plastic bags
Paper towels
Car wax

NEVER EVER! use any type of household cleaning product on a sewing machine head. It is risky and you may destroy the decals. Household oil is the only product ever used to clean the exterior of an antique sewing machine head. Household oil will remove rust, layers of grime and dirt.

Grime On A Sewing Machine Head

Typical Grime On A Sewing Head In Good To Fair Condition

When I bring home a “new” treadle sewing machine the first thing I do is to set up a neat and orderly work space.
Before I start to disassemble the sewing machine and while it is still in the cabinet I begin by taking pictures from all angles. I photograph everything about the machine – the hand/balance wheel, the bobbin winder, the needle position, the shuttle, the tension disks; every screw, loop or spring.
I next take pictures of the cabinet from every angle too – the under carriage, the skirt guard, the treadle, the pitman rod, all hinges, springs, the drawers and top.
By keeping an extensive picture diary I have a record of what the machine looked like before I started cleaning it, but more importantly a I have a reference for how the machine is supposed to look like when I’ve finished. More than a couple of times I’ve been left with an extra washer, spring or screw from a sewing machine restoration that I couldn’t figure out or remember where it was supposed to go.
A photographic record will save you lots of reassemble headaches.

Cleaning A Sewing Machine Head

Carefully Cleaning A Singer Model 66 Sewing Machine Head

To clean a treadle sewing machine head it must be removed from the cabinet or base.
As I remove the head I set the screws or bolts on a paper or cloth towel and sometimes letter or number the towel to keep track of  the disassemble order. I take a picture of the towel for reference.
After the head is removed from the base I will usually remove the front plate, bobbin cover (covers) and any other chrome or steel pieces or fittings from the head that have screws in them. Those pieces are put on to a different towel which is also numbered along with the screws and I photographed them too.

Sewing Machine Parts

Some Of The Parts From A “Household” Brand Sewing Machine

Next the tension disks are removed and placed on another numbered towel in the order which they came off – and you know what comes next-…I take another picture.
I continue in this manner around the entire head.

Household Machine Oil Is Your Best Friend – You Can’t Use Too Much
When the head is complexly stripped of all removable parts I begin cleaning the head in earnest. I rub machine oil over the entire surface in a circular motion with my fingers and wait awhile for the oil to break through the dirt and grime. After about 10 minutes the surface is wiped with a clean rag. I continue “massaging” oil into the surface and wiping until there is no grime – just oil on the cloth.

Removing Dirt With Oil

Apply Sewing Machine Oil To The Surface Of A Sewing Machine To Remove The Dirt

It is important to proceed gently as too much surface abrasion will remove the decals.

I clean all the fittings the same way – with household oil and rags, Q-Tips or a toothbrush. Sometimes if I’m feeling brave I will clean the brass or metal fittings with Formula 409 and a toothbrush.
When the exterior of the sewing head is as clean as I can get it I then proceed to clean and oil the entire interior.

Anything that moves (or is supposed to move) will get a coat of kerosene with a small brush.
I let the kerosene soak into the grime and then wipe with a clean rag. Sometimes I will blow out the dirt or dust with a judicious blast of canned air – but not too much.
For a really filthy sewing machine head I will put it into a covered plastic tote tub outdoors and pour 5 gallons of kerosene over it and let it soak for a few days.

Machine Head Ready To Be Cleaned

The Underside Of An Old Household Head Ready For Cleaning

The grime will sometimes just dissolve in the tub.
Often a couple of squirts of Liquid Wrench or any other brand of penetrating oil product will be needed if the sewing machine head action or balance wheel is stiff or frozen.
I clean the forked bars under the machine head with a brush and kerosene first, followed by oil, clean soft rags and fine steel wool.

Cleaning Grime

Cleaning Grime From Under The Head With Fine Steel Wool

After the last bit of grime or dirt is removed from the sewing machine head I will dry the head with a clean rag and apply 2 or 3 coats of a high quality car wax and buff it.

Using Car Wax On A Red Eye

A Singer Red Eye Is Protected With A Coat Of Car Wax

The sewing machine head is ready to reassemble after it has been completely cleaned, oiled and waxed. This is where the pictures and separate numbered towels come in handy. The parts are carefully reassembled in the order in which they came off. Once the head is reassembled I usually will oil it with a good grade synthetic oil.

If the treadle base is in very good condition often all that will be needed is a thorough cleaning with mineral spirits and a coat of paste wax.
But more often than not, the wood finish will be bleached, dark, dry, cracked, stained or peeling or a part of the cabinet will be in need of repair.

Repairing And Restoring A Tp

Cabinet Restoration

If the finish on the cabinet just looks dirty and not in need of complete removal, I will usually try to clean it with Murphy’s Oil Soap and water and lots of soft rags. I apply the soapy water with a soft cloth and then dry the wood with a clean rag. I repeat the process until the wood is clean.
When the wood is clean and dry I like to apply 2 coats of Milsek Oil or Old English Scratch Remover over the entire cabinet and allow the product to soak in. I remove the excess with a dry, lint free cloth.The metal treadle assembly can be cleaned with a bucket of hot water and diluted white vinegar. Be sure to dry the metal parts after they are cleaned.
If the cabinet finish is completely hopeless and beyond the powers of ordinary soap and rags, I usually will remove it. I have had good luck with fine steel wool and an acetone based furniture refinishing product like Formby’s. But I will use standard paint remover like Zip-Strip in a pinch.

Cabinet Is Refinished

Refinishing A Sewing Machine Cabinet

I refinish bases and cabinets by removing all hardware and working in small 6” X 6”sections using a pad of fine steel wool that has been soaked in Formby’s or paint remover.

After the old finish has been removed, I will go over the wood surface with rags and a small amount of mineral spirits before I finish and seal the wood. Sometimes I will apply 3 coats of Johnson’s paste wax, buffing between coats. Other times I mix paint thinner with polyurethane. I have also used Danish Oil with excellent results. The type of finish that is chosen depends upon personal taste and preference.

When the base is clean and presentable, the sewing machine head is finally ready to be reinstalled.
Hopefully by the time you are done cleaning the machine head and treadle base you took my advice and found an owner’s manual. The manual will give the proper threading sequence, bobbin winding procedure, needle placement and other important information.
All you’ll need to do next is to prepare yourself for a lifetime of sewing joy.
Good Luck!
Strong opinion below-read at your own risk

What the hell is wrong with people living in a country who will pay more for a Big Mac and fries than the used Swiss made sewing machine in the above post?

Not a month goes by that I don’t come upon a vintage used Swiss or German manufactured sewing machine for sale for under $30. That’s less than a six pack of beer, an order of cheese sticks & a large 5 topping pizza.

Swiss, German and some American Singer sewing machines made prior to 1960 or so, were for their time and still are, some of the finest household sewing machines ever manufactured in the world.

Less than 60 years ago it was not uncommon for a regular blue collar American family to spend 3 – 5 months of the family’s entire income on a household sewing machine. And that money was very well spent.
That’s because at one time in this country Americans actually produced some of their own clothing and household needs instead of sitting on their fat asses and watching television or screwing with their phones and tablets.

Let’s face it, the vast majority of Americans are happy to wear cheap underwear and ill-fitting clothing made by essentially slave labor in 3rd world sweat shops instead of sewing it themselves.

What really gets me cranked, is that so called “public education” (funded by a coercive shake down of property owners), believe they are doing children and society a favor by “teaching” correct & hygienic condom use or SAT test preparation to teenagers instead of basic sewing or cooking.
Yeah that’s right…like I’m so sure every young person in this country can’t wait to get laid or plans on wasting $35,000 for a useless college education.

The fact of the matter is that with sound and basic sewing skills, the $3.99 Pfaff pictured above, along with a pair of scissors, chalk, thread, a yardstick, tape measure, an iron & ironing board and some old-fashioned common sense, is the start of a lucrative home based business.
Think I’m kidding?

How many of you reading this have wanted new custom fitting slipcovers for your ratty looking furniture but couldn’t afford them or couldn’t find someone to make them?
Well guess what?
Slipcovers are easier to construct than a dress or a pair of pants and you’ll find a leprechaun faster than you’ll find someone to make a custom slipcover or lined drapes.
How many of you are a specialty size or have a clothing need that ready-to-wear cannot address? Lots of other people have the same needs too and would love to find someone to help them with their apparel requirements and concerns. That’s a business opportunity just waiting for you or your child.
Enola Gay’s Naturally Cozy is a perfect example of a successful home based sewing business meeting a need.
So the next time you order a Big Mac and fries or kick back with a pizza and a 6 pack, consider that you could have started your own business with a Swiss sewing machine or saved your son or daughter from the heartache of being “college educated” and unemployed.

Don’t Buy A New Sewing Machine

I have never bought a new sewing machine – electric or treadle and don’t recommend that you buy one either.
I know that new treadle sewing machines are being manufactured at present but don’t waste your money if you can help it.
Buy a good Singer model 15-88 or Singer model 66 if you want a treadle sewing machine.

If you are determined to buy a new treadle machine because you don’t want to deal with a restoration project please buy it from the Amazon link below and help me pay for this website.

Here’s a blanket statement that you can put in your pipe and smoke: Modern household sewing machines electric or non-electric are not as well made as older sewing machines made before 1965 or so.
This is especially true of current Singer and Janome sewing machines on the market.
Don’t ever pay more than $200 for a household sewing machine. Always buy a good used sewing machine.
The Singer model 201-K or a Singer 401-A are both excellent electric sewing machines and I recommend them.

Singer Model 401-A

Singer Model 401-A

Pfaff, Elna and Bernina have always made good sewing machines.
The older vintage Pfaffs, Elnas and Bernina machines from the 1950’s & 1960’s are superior in every way to the newer computerize bells and whistles sewing machines that cost an arm and a leg. Sure the old machines may not look as snazzy as the brand new computerized sewing machines. But believe me, a brand new sewing machine will not make you any more skilled and you’ll never be sorry that you didn’t spend an extra $2000.
End of story.

  23 comments for “Treadle Sewing Machine Advice

  1. Klaudia Jo Klaudi
    January 25, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I have not used my singer treadle machine in about 25 to 30 years. I have installed a new belt and oiled all the joints I could find and cannot get the treadle to work continuously. When I press down with the ball of my foot and help it by turning the wheel it locks up when it has gone as far as it will go and I cannot move it with the heel of my foot. The manual that I sent away for by using the id number on the machine says it is a model 66. Does it need more oil? I used it liberally and it has had plenty of time to penetrate, a month or more. The man that was going to come and look at it keeps having family emergencies. Shouldn’t I be able to fix it myself? Thank you!

  2. Cathy
    January 26, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    Hi! I have a Singer 66 treadle machine. I’ve cleaned everything inside and out and managed to get the needle moving. The problem is the hook doesn’t move on its own. The needle goes down and comes back up without picking up the bobbin thread. I managed to get the hook mechanism loose and moving if I move it myself, but it won’t move when the needle is going up and down. It’s almost as if it’s not connected to something that I can’t find. I have another machine exactly like it that works fine and comparing the two I don’t see what works on that one to fix this one. Help?

    • KMG
      January 27, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Sorry Cathy no help here.Your best bet is to take the head to a sewing machine repair person. Good luck 🙂

      • Cthy
        January 27, 2016 at 9:36 am

        Thanks for replying Maria. Love your website. So much useful information!


  3. Ann
    February 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Please tell me what I can clean & condition the cast iron parts on my model 66? Just called singer and found out she was born April 11, 1911. Should I just leave the iron base alone ir condition it with something?

    • KMG
      February 2, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Carefully re-read the article 🙂

  4. Maria Goetz
    February 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    It all depends on the condition of the cast iron base. Tell us more. Is there rust, is it flaking, is the pitman wood or metal???

    I happen to disagree with Granny, “The metal treadle assembly can be cleaned with a bucket of hot water and diluted white vinegar. Be sure to dry the metal parts after they are cleaned.” in that I would never use water even if dried thoroughly.

    Usually I just brush it to get off dirt and cob webs. If it is flaking I brush off the flakes with wire brush- Outdoors. Clean it with non pumice Gojo or the like. Can use a toothbrush or other small brush . Wipe with old cloths.

    I use stove polish, buff and wipe well, in all the nooks and crannies.

    If you want to actually service the treadle base, there are oiling points at all joints. If you want to service the pitman, go to

    If it needs repainting, that is a different story. To date I have not repainted any, but it can be done.

    So, hope this helps some… tell us more and I will try to answer your questions.

  5. Maria Goetz
    February 4, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I would like to clarify that I would not use water on a treadle base unless I was planning to disassemble it. I would especially be concerned with water getting in the cone bearings of the pitman and rod of the treadle pedal.

  6. Mary
    February 10, 2016 at 6:52 am

    Hi I was just wonder if and were I could order any additional feet for my treadle machine? It looks just like the first machine on this website!! I was give this machine after my mother-in law passed and I love it and use it regularly. But for some reason it only has the one standard foot and nothing else. Is there a gathering foot or any other type of feet that would work on my machine? I’ve tried old singer shops here in town but no luck in finding anything other than the standard foot that I already have! I do a lot of sewing and pretty much have to do manual pulling of treads when I want to make a gathered skirt … dress… Etc. can you help me?

    • KMG
      February 10, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Ebay is where I get parts 🙂

  7. Joanne Kornoelje
    February 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Hello all– I have a 1920 Singer No 66, which was my grandmother’s and has been sitting in the closet for 25+ years. I finally get off my butt to get it working, and now it looks beautiful after all my scrubbing and rubbing, but….

    when I use the “stop motion” to release the balance wheel in order to wind the bobbin or practice treadling, it works just as it should. However, when I tighten up the “stop motion” in order to sew, the belt starts slipping and no power is transferred to the needle. I can turn the balance wheel by hand, and the needle responds. I had thought the belt was too loose (I had to replace it to begin with), so tightened it as much as I could easily. It is snug, not TIGHT. This had no discernible affect. I tend to think this is still the problem… but wonder if anyone has any other ideas? I have a manual which I have consulted, but can’t find what to do. Any help or insights would be appreciated. Thanks

  8. Lynn
    March 22, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I have just been given a Singer 31-15 tailors machine that I am in the process of cleaning up. I am trying to order the parts that I need before I am ready for them but I am having a problem with the belt because I have no clue as to which one to use for this machine. It is a class 31 -15 converted treadle with a Diehl motor. are all of the belts the same size in diameter I know that I have to measure the length and cut to fit, I am just not sure what to purchase any help will be greatly appreciated. and thank you for this article:) very helpful.

    • KMG
      March 22, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Belts are not all the same diameter. I’m not sure what size your machine takes. Sorry. Maybe do some more Google or one of the treadle machine forums 🙂

    March 30, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    How do I find out what the model is on an old Singer treadle. Based on the serial number it was made in 1894 and has the Sphinx decals. I would also like to know the worth of the machine. It has always been in my family. Originally belonged to my great grandmother, passed to my grandmother and then to me. I’ve never attempted to sew with it but she seems to be complete and everything moves with ease. The leather belt is broke but there was a new one in one of the drawers. The cabinet appears to be of solid oak and is what I think they call a coffin style, with the top that lifts off as opposed to flipping out as an extension. I would love any information you can provide. I have no plans to ever get ride of her or any of my other machines. I have my mothers Singer 501a, which I learned to sew on as a child. I also have a Singer Touch & Sew Deluxe, a New Home 671 and a White Rotary ( which I know very little about). I have repaired many machines for friends some of them were not wanted so after I got them working, I gave them to someone that has a desire to sew and could not afford a machine. I love your rant and share your feelings 100%. Sewing has become a dying art that I have a great deal of passion for. I am eager to teach anyone willing to learn. In advance, thank you for your time and advise.

  10. April 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I have a fancy Brother embroidery machine that needs to go to the shop because I sewed over (okay, INTO) one too many pins and got it out of alignment. (I learned on an old machine that never had a problem sewing over pins.) It has a lot of conveniences like auto backstitch when you start and stop, push-button thread cutting, and a needle threader. It makes sewing faster.

    But it’s true that it’s not as durable as an older machine; its body is all plastic and I wouldn’t dare sew anything really heavy with it. When I need to sew canvas, denim, or similar, I put on my back brace and haul out my husband’s old yellow, cast-iron Singer (probably 60’s or maybe 70’s model). I call it my “workhorse” because it’s slow and not easy to thread and it doesn’t have a lot of fancy stitches, but I made my husband an Elizabethan costume out of leather and brocade with it. In some places, it was sewing through two layers of leather, one layer of brocade, and a layer of flannel lining. There’s no way my fancy new machine could have ever done it.

    I have some canvas tent walls that need some modification and repair, and I told my husband that I would just set up the machine on the side porch, where I have plenty of room to work with these huge pieces of fabric, and sew them up. I know the machine’s up to it (and it’s never been to the repair shop!).

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