Tag Archives: treadle sewing machine

buttonholes

Awesome! A buttonholer on a Singer treadle sewing machine, making perfect buttonholes.

This is amazing technology IMO, from the 40’s.

On a treadle sewing machine the needle is fixed. It can’t move side to side like modern electrics so it can’t do a zigzag stitch.

How to get around that? Let’s grab the fabric and move it side to side while the needle goes up and down- voila, zigzags and buttonholes!

Unlike how a computer works, I can look at this and understand how it works, and I think it’s exceedingly ingenious, harnessing the mechanical drive of the sewing machine and controlling the whole circuit of the buttonhole, instead of the three stage variable length method I learned on electric machines.

Treadle sewing machines can still outperform electric machines, mostly by being stolid and consistent, while electrics can be buggy and finicky.

Manual sewing

It was a beautiful sunny day when I decided to finally sew the curtains.  Pretty soon, we’re gonna need them to help keep the house cool inside when it’s sunny out.

I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so much of a total body workout.    I’ve never associated sewing with ab and quad fatigue before.

The century-old treadle sewing machine sews like it plans to sew for another hundred years.  Even, serene, but determined stitches, marching in a resolute line.

Most electric sewing machines I’ve used have a delicacy about them.  If you look at them wrong, they might start pinching the fabric, the  stitches might get cramped and tight, or the thread on the underside might generate big loopy snarls while you confidently sew away!- because the top thread looks perfect.  You have to coddle them; create ideal conditions around the tension, bobbin, threading, lubrication, etc, etc.

This machine scoffs at your mysterious bobbin issues.   It’s not very delicate to stomp vigorously and repeatedly, and maintain the rhythm of a train, for the presser foot to lap the miles.

I didn’t plan to break a sweat sewing.  But curtains happen to be long straightaways of stitching, requiring maintained speed.  Also focused concentration, to fold and feed the fabric to the munching presser.

Who knew?  Off-grid sewing = exercise.

While I sew, I can’t help imagining Laura Ingalls and her mother, exercising their (fantastic new labour-saving) treadle machine, wearing floor length dresses and corsets!