Category Archives: Learn To Treadle

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.