Treadle Machine

A Ram's head drawer pull.

Like a lot of folks that are probably my age or older than me, I grew up in a home with a treadle machine.  I don't know the history of it; like how my mother came to own one, or if it was just picked up on a whim or if it was passed to her through a family member.  She used it consistently throughout my childhood.  Never making a fuss with it, but relying on it solely to repair anything or make something we otherwise could not afford.  It simply was a fixture, a tool that prettied up an otherwise unsightly space (our homes were a bit dismal).

Hers was a Singer 27/127 Memphis with the Sphinx decal.  I don't know the year but it is likely it was between 1906-1930.

I had some impatient lessons on it and never could get the damn thing to go in the same direction for any length of time.  The treadle rocks gently back and forth while the wheel (ideally) cranks in one direction (some odd ones roll towards you, most roll away).   Goodnight! My sister and I couldn't keep our mitts off the thing.  We were always screwing with it and got beat hard a couple times for doing who knows what to it.  I'm sure a thousand tangles had to be cut out of the threads and the tension was probably always a bit off because of our playing.  If was the most alluring of all the forbidden things in the house.

So since I've been thinking through a life and could be a world (You don't have to be right or left to see the system is botched) without electricity is completely likely.  Likely, at first by my own design.  So I went on the list making of all the things I would either miss or need should I not have electricity to make my life simpler.

Some resources for the new treadler and other treadle-lovers:

Donna Kohler  Taught by her grandmother the simple act of a close family activity gave birth to a teacher of what is now thankfully once again a growing population of people that don't just collect treadles, but also use them.  She sells a book for maintaining and rehabilitating your treadle through her site.
Dick Wightman - http://www.treadleon.net/ 
Treadleon is a community of treadlers that share with each other experiences of using, acquiring, maintenance, and basic love for the foot powered machines.
On his site is an excellent guide to getting the treadle suited to you.
A LOT, about an easy to acquire sewing machine. The Singer 27/127 
A blogger who uses treadles to make her things.  Huge diversity,  I'm loving the Indian Orange Peel arcs.

There are not many resources available but these few are enough to get you going and on your way to becoming an expert. 

I love the provenance, it has pretty much zero significance for anyone other than the immediate family members who know specifically each person named.

What I have and why I have this particular one.

1906 Minnesota A or a Minnie A.  The cabinet has 7 drawers (6 with flippin' ram's heads for the knobs!) and it came with all the attachments and a million (just shy of...) needles.  Which for this machine is a particular find since the needles can be tricky in getting.  The Minnie A has a longer needle than most machines. Who wants to order and wait for the right needle? boo. The price was a little high for ME.  At 100 bucks.  But I am in the most ridiculously expensive part of the nation and it still was more than a few excellent options.  The average great deal was between 50 dollars to 100 dollars all smoothly operable machines just in need of people that will love and use them.  Antique stores almost always call things rare that aren't and have prices on them that reflect their statements and not often the machine's worth. Silly enough the more expensive I found, the less operable they were.  I have no clue what gives with that.  I suppose folks who are trying to pay the mortgage with outmoded objects?  I didn't need a boat anchor.

I got mine from Craigslist from a more than reasonable person!  Your treadle should not cost you more than 120 bucks.  The market from most reasonable folks' standpoint is plain and simple.  A trumped up ponzi-scheme.  The housing market which made credit and the credit life seem like everything would grow in value forever has imploded.  You can't have infinite growth in a finite space.  So collecting isn't of much use when people are losing their shirts.  Just get a good machine that requires only your sweat and maintenance and you'll at least be able to sew shirts for yourself.  Folks who say it is worth "blah blah blah" are usually blowing smoke for the most part because it shouldn't be a shelf for a big bowl of fobs.  It should be your sewing machine!  And worth to a person who is using rather than collecting has a much different perspective.  Everything is worth precisely to the penny what someone is willing to pay for it.

I CRINGE when I see sewing machine cabinet drawers for sale, or worse just the treadle iron with a slap of wood over the top. This obsession with shabby chic has made everyone into Fred Sandford.  DO NOT BUY A MACHINE WITHOUT A CABINET!!! It simply isn't worth the headache. Often these are folks who've come into the machine head have either obtained it without the cabinet or worse... sold the cabinet as a friggin' table.  Wagon wheels look best ON WAGONS sure they mark a lot of driveways but it would be best that the working wheels weren't tossed on the end of every driveway.  Like there aren't enough tables in the world?  Perhaps that is just me?  The sewing machines that are easier to get cabinets for are mainly Singers.  But it is better to start with a whole machine and go from there otherwise you have to make it fit the table and that is often near impossible.  And second would be to have a singer cabinet and then a singer head.  You can forgo all this mess by getting a handcrank machine!  Handcranks are awesome for teaching children to be people powered!

The handcrank machines are far fewer and the prices are even more wild... anywhere from 50 - 1000 bucks.  phew!  I know less about them other than their ease of use versus learning the finesse of the footwork required on the treadle machines.  I believe you can convert treadles to handcrank and to electric models (misses the point of sewing without power then). 

Make it happen!  Whatever IT is.

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