My Singer Treadle Sewing Machines

My first introduction to sewing was on my aunt's 1880-something treadle Singer back in the 1950s when I was pre-teen.  I wasn't very domestic at the time - at that age I would rather be outside playing! - but I liked that machine - it fascinated me. It was so quiet and ran so smoothly. My mother had an electric sewing machine but I NEVER got along with electric machines! Anything I tried to sew on an electric machine would end up as a big ball of tangled thread so I would pack it off to my aunt's house (2 miles away by bicycle) and sew it on the Singer treadle machine.

When I left home at 24 the top item on my must-have list was a treadle sewing machine! They were already hard to find by 1975 but when I moved to Ottawa (Canada) and called the local Singer rep he told me there was a waiting list for treadle machines but he had seen one recently in a 2nd hand furniture store not far from where I was living so I went to check it out. I didn't know anything about model numbers at the time but what I found was a 1936 15-96 in good working condition but in a poor cabinet - obviously it had been stored in a leaky attic or garage for years - but it was just the way it had come out of someone's sewing room, complete with many accessories in the drawers as well as buttons, thread, and whatnot. I was excited, thrilled, but tried not to show it as I bargained for the best price I could get but with no intention of leaving without it! LOL! I got the machine for $90, delivery included.

The machine sewed like a charm - smooth, quiet, reliable - and I dragged it hither, slither, and yawn over the years as I moved from town to town and province to province. I sewed my own clothes with it for years (back when I had time to tailor my  own clothes) and through the following years it sewed canvas for tents, draperies, and even the fabric covering for an airplane! Always dependable, always doing a great job, and never with a whisper of a complaint!

Three years ago I was preparing to sew a series of canvases for a cabin cruiser (boat). Marine canvas is VERY hard to sew! It is heavy and stiff and the waterproofing makes it VERY sticky for the needle and thread so I thought I would give my Singer every advantage by giving it a thorough cleaning and oiling, which I did, but after the cleaning the machine started dropping stitches at random - not a lot, just 1 here and there or 10 in a row - and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why. I ended up buying a commercial walking-foot machine to do the boat canvases but the Singer continued to sit in the corner of my kitchen waiting for my attention. It had been to the best Singer repairman but to no avail, and there it sat until recently.

I got back to the dropped-stitches issue recently and checked it out again. Everything seemed to be in perfect order and proper adjustment and the only problem I could find is that the hook seemed loose in the race and the race seemed quite worn so I deduced that there was enough play in the hook that it must be moving away from the needle and loop once in awhile and allowing the loop to pull back without being caught. That would make sense WHY the problem started after cleaning - removing the decades of link accumulation gave the hook more room to flop around - so I ordered  brand new hook and a new race assembly.

While I am waiting for the new hook and race I decided it was finally time to do something about the terrible condition of the cabinet so the cabinet is completely disassembled and I will start stripping the old finish today, do whatever repairs are required to the wood, re-stain it (cherry this time instead of mahogany), and re-varnish it. By the time the hook and race come in, the cabinet should be complete and my 1936 Singer treadle will have a new lease on life!
It seems like a lot of work for a machine that isn't worth very much but I LOVE IT and hopefully, after me, it will find somebody who loves it as much as I do, someone who will let it do what it was intended to do!
So ..... That's me and my Singer! :)




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