Harvest Break: The Old Treadle Sewing Machine

Treadle Sewing Machine with Oak Cabinet

Treadle Sewing Machine with Oak Cabinet

How about a quick break from the harvest? As much as we love it and the results of it, it’s hard work. A few minutes to think about the coming winter and the long evenings should encourage us to return to putting up the harvest with renewed energy and determination.

But first, the break. In the basement, where it’s cooler. It’s a little dark down there, so let’s turn on the light. Look: Mom’s old treadle sewing machine!

I used to be fascinated by this sewing machine. It used to be set up in her bedroom, alongside a tall cabinet filled with material scraps, sheets, mending and various other pieces meant to be used for this or that. There were some old sweaters from which she would cut mittens or warm slippers for us kids, shirts from which she would cut the backs to make aprons and dishtowels and lots of jeans to be mended. When you have eight children, there’s a lot of sewing to do!

The quiet click and whir were comforting to a a child and as I grew older, Mom showed me how to use it. A straight line? Not very. But I did learn to make potholders and sew patches on jeans with it. It never strained or slowed down when it came to the thick parts, either.

When Mom died, my oldest daughter inherited the treadle sewing machine. Since they live out of state, it came to live in my basement, waiting for her to haul or ship it home. That’s been a few years ago and it’s still downstairs. I can’t help but visit it now and then. The right lower cabinet drawer is filled with buttons and the upper one has some bobbins and needles, among other things I don’t recognize. On the left is a drawer filled with attachments which amaze and puzzle me and on the lower left is “stuff.” A scrap of paper, a piece of a pattern, a piece of chalk… stuff.

Recently I saw where you could order belt material to get it going again. As far as I know, that’s the only thing missing, so of course, I’m thinking about it. Not right away, but soon… unless she decides to come and get it. If she doesn’t want it yet, I might move it upstairs and relearn to use it. It will be fun, cleaning and fixing it up and hearing the gentle sound again. I don’t know how well I will remember to move the treadle, but it will come back to me.

That old machine brings back lots of memories. It taught me many things and not just about sewing. Mom was never a seamstress and neither am I, but a sewing machine can save a lot of money, more so since it doesn’t cost anything to operate. That can be a problem with this “modern” life. Everything needs to be plugged in. That’s one lesson of the treadle sewing machine: You don’t need to plug it in. Simple, efficient, inexpensive. Why improve on that?

Well. Back to work. I wonder if there’s enough time to do another canner load of beets today?

About Pat Veretto

Pat is a frugal living expert with many published articles. She lives in Colorado and maintains her own Frugal Living Blog (which we love!).

16 thoughts on “Harvest Break: The Old Treadle Sewing Machine

  1. I prefer mine to the electric one — it works great! My mom thinks it belonged to my grandmother and I prefer to believe that!

  2. that is a modern machine on a treadle base. yes, it can be used as a treadle, but it’s very hard on the connections to the (probably internal) electric motor.

  3. Yes, Barbara, that’s a modern machine on a treadle base. I don’t think it has an electric motor, but you can check on it by clicking on the picture. Lehman’s carries it. My sewing machine is an old singer, which looks a little different from the ones you can buy now!

  4. Tanya, I know Lehman’s sell belts and cabinets with treadles as well as the newer machines that will operate with a treadle and that’s all I know about. Hopefully, someone who knows more will chime in. If not, you can go to the home page (Lehmans.com) and ask customer service about it.

  5. I have an old treadle sewing machine. It was working when I bought it in 1980 but it’s been stuck in a stoarge building ever since and I don’t think it would work now. Probably rusted to pieces. There’s so much junk in front of it that I can’t even see it back in there. LOL!

  6. I have my grandma’s old Singer treadle machine and it still works! Built in 1924! I don’t use it as often as I should!

  7. This brings back so many good memories of mom making my school clothes on her old treadle machine. Now I have a computerized Viking machine, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for those old sewing machines. http://www.oldsewingmachine.org is a really neat site to check out more old sewing machines.