Learn to Treadle

Learn to Treadle.  If you have an old treadle, maybe you have thought about using it.  If you love quilt piecing, this may be for you.

The first treadle I came across was an old Wertheim in a treadle cabinet.  The cabinet top was in such a bad state, that it never occurred to me that the machine could be usable.  So I turned it into a table which is used.  The poor machine had sat on a wet veranda for 40 years so that was that.

Now however, I am a convert.  I think the treadle is a wonderful piece of domestic art which can be used.  They are so heavy and strong and make the most beautiful fine stitches.  The stitch length can be adjusted to very small if desired.  Just ideal for patch workers. Tonight I’m sewing on a 66 Singer from 1923, with the beautiful Lotus pattern.  If you would like to use you treadle, here are some hints on getting started.


Dont be scared.  Open your machine and have a look at it.  If it hasn’t been used for a long time, give it a really good oiling in all the oil holes.  Make sure it has a belt and its correctly attached.

In order to actually use the machine, I recommend getting started without thread.  Use some fabric to feed through so the feed dogs are not damaged.  Begin by turning the balance wheel gently toward you.  Put your right foot on the right lower corner of the treadle plate.   Put your left foot on the left upper corner of the treadle plate.   Keep turning the balance wheel towards you, you will get feedback through your feet from the treadle plate.  The treadle plate will tilt down towards the front.  When you feel a loss of resistance, begin to push forward with your right foot.  Ensure that the balance wheel is still moving in the correct direction.  Then push with the left foot.  This should give good control with both feet in an alternate rocking motion forward and back.


The most important thing to remember is, if it is a Singer, to always have the balance wheel turning towards you.  (However if it’s a White turn the wheel backward. If you attempt to go backwards on a Singer, the stitch will break.  This may also occur if you stop very abruptly.  That’s why I recommend getting the motion of it before threading to avoid some frustration.   It is like riding a bike, once you get the idea, you won’t forget.

If you don’t know how to thread your machine, first look at the thread guides.  Usually it can be worked out from that.  If in doubt,  Google your kind of machine for threading clues.  Learn how to thread and fill the bobbin.

Now you are ready to start.  Don’t forget, you don’t need any power so the machine can be positioned without that worry.  You never have to turn it off.  One other thing with treadles and hand crank machines, because there are no electrics, there is no money to be spent on rewiring and no worries about frayed cords or motor not working because there isn’t any!  No worries in a power outage. Keep on sewing!  If at any point the machine seems a bit stiffer or you detect an increased degree of difficulty in use or the thread begins to break, oil it.  It will make all the difference.  It makes a very nice sound, quite soothing.  I think it’s very enjoyable to use, and an added bonus, use your legs and improve coordination and circulation.


By the way this image shows the incorrect method for threading a 66 Lotus. Thank you Bernadette for letting me know the correct method, pictured below.

15 thoughts on “Learn to Treadle”

  1. Susie,

    I have been enjoying reading about all your sewing machines and I’m on the lookout for a 66 or 99 Singer treadle machine. Most of them here in the deep south of the US have been dreadfully abused! That aside, you encourage me to try and find one I think I can bring back from the brink. I read about your Uncle Bruce’s mixture of linseed oil, turpentine and a bit of vinegar for cleaning and restoring of cabinet wood. Would you be willing to share the proportions with me?

    Thank you so much!
    N. Alabama USA

    1. Dear Lynda, thank you for your lovely comment. I wish you all the best finding a machine. Something is bound to turn up when you least expect it. I use an appropriate 50/50 mix of pale boiled linseed oil and mineral turpentine. Used the boiled linseed oil means that the mixture will dry more readily, use this on clean timber. If the timber is very dirty and soiled then make one third each proportions of pale boiled linseed oil, mineral turpentine and white vinegar.
      All the best,

      1. Hello Susie,

        I didn’t find the 66 or the 99 as it happens. Instead I found a 1911 Phoenix model 15. She is beautiful and needs some TLC, but her working parts are turning smoothly. I have ordered a new belt, the rubber wheel tire, and a new spool pin. Wouldn’t you know; I found the old pin hiding down below in the dust of the cabinet. 😉 The before pictures (from inside the owner’s shed) are up on my site.

        I am excited to set to work!


    2. Hi, Lynda. I’m just North of you in Tennessee.
      I was going to suggest the website, TreadleOn, but you found yours.
      Susie may make enthusiasts of us all! I’m about to drive to Virginia to pick mine up. Yay!
      Lilly Moscato
      Taft, TN, USA

      1. You are so kind, Lilly! We will travel far for a good machine, won’t we? <3 OH! I just noticed you have no blog… I wanted to come by (online) and see your new lady.

  2. Kay, where are you located? I am in NC, and a woman in our area works on older machines and got me about a belt for my 1910 Singer. I had the motor removed and am now using the treadle. It sews great and is good exercise for my brand-new left knee that I got 5 weeks ago.

    1. Bonnie Black, what part of NC are you in? I’m just outside Charlotte, in the Denver & Stanley area, near the Duke Nuclear Power Plant!

  3. I have a treadle machine that I bought from a client who had to downsize to move into a nursing home, he had brought it for his wife just after they married over 60 years ago. Since I have moved a couple of times and the leather belt is broken plus one of the thread holders is missing. Do you know where I might get the belt repaired and spare parts? I appreciate any help you can give me. Regards, Kay

    1. Dear Kay. Check with your local sewing centre. You should be able to buy a new treadle belt from them. Also ask them, if they have any old bobbin pins, sometimes they will have a collection. Also ask them if they have a contact for someone locally who know and repairs old machines. You are sure to find someone

    2. eBay is a great source for getting the belts & parts, I paid something like $3.99 for the leather belt for my Singer 127 treadle, used a pair of wire cutters cut it to length, used a belt hole punch to make the holes for the staple, or wire clip, to hold the ends together, & pliers to close the staple or clip, it was so much easier than I had expected!

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