Friday, June 13, 2014

1930 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

Guess what I have? Can you? Can you guess?
Yep. You read the title correctly. 
I have been admiring antique sewing machines since I started my own self-guided education into the world of sewing about 4 years ago. Has it been that long? It doesn't feel like it.

On our trip to Savannah we were poking around in different shops and found a couple of older singer sewing machines. I thought it would be nice to have one in my studio. Something old, loved, useful, and a reminder of this art that has been going on for hundreds of years before I decided it would be fun to learn to sew. But, the ones we saw in Savannah cost a bit more than I was willing to pay for something to sit on a shelf and be gawked at.

Left photo: Tybee Island lighthouse family house/museum. Top/bottom right photos: antique shops in Savannah.

Anyway, one weekend my husband wanted to go to visit his family and look through a storage unit that they were renting to house all of his grandparents' things after they passed away several years ago. They had a bunch of stuff and I told him to not bring anything back home. We don't have room for anything else in our house, it is crowded enough. 

He said ok. 

When he returned there was stuff in the back of the truck, and it didn't look like a little bit of stuff. I frowned at him. He said, "I know you told me to not bring anything back home, but I think you will want this." I wasn't so sure. Then, he pulled the tarp/covering back from the bed of the truck to reveal a treadle sewing machine! Of all things! 

And now it is mine. But it comes with some stipulations. It's the same deal that we made with his uncle over another piece of furniture that hub's grandfather made. I keep my fabric in it. 

I can't paint it or get rid of it. I have to keep it. Deal!

Apparently this wasn't the only antique sewing machine that this family owns. There is also another antique sewing machine that was electrified. I am not sure if it is in the storage unit or the uncle's house...?

We set it up in my studio once I cleared out a little place for it. The kids creative area will be a bit smaller, but they will just have to live with it.

My "new" sewing machine needs some cleaning and a little love. I'm sure it could use the touch of a professional to get it into proper working order. It also needs a new belt, the one that was with it is broken, before it can be used for sewing. And then I have to learn how to actually use it.

I did some research online and learned that it was from 1930 based on the serial number on the machine. 

Thank you wonderful husband for not listening to me. :)

Some of the writers of blogs I follow actually have an antique sewing machine that they still use because the new-fangled machines just don't cut it. Mostly I like to think that going back to the simplicity of a treadle machine is cathartic for them and brings back lovely memories from childhood. Sentimentality is a wonderful thing. And you can sew if the power goes out so it is also practical. 

We put it in the corner next to my modern sewing machine that came from the same grandmother. Now they are both mine and I will treasure them. I'm not sure how much use I will get out of the treadle, if I can get it into proper working order, but I do see it being useful in housing projects that need attention. I'll try to not let it collect too many unfinished projects and make sure it gets the respect it deserves.

I like thinking about how a treadle sewing machine changed the lives of early 20th century women. Instead of hand sewing everything, this prized possession came into their home and they could make so much more for their families in a shorter amount of time. The pioneers of home machine sewing. 

I'm sure in 1930 owning a home sewing machine was a big deal, and not a cheap one as well. I think of the show, The Waltons, and Olivia sewing something for her children during The Great Depression, and how appreciative they were of anything that they owned during that time when so many people had little money. A treadle sewing machine must have felt like a luxury.

Today, in my world, owning a quality embroidery machine would by my sewing luxury. Do you have a sewing luxury?


  1. What an amazing find!! And a great husband for bringing it home even though he wasn't supposed to bring anything. :) The wooden "case" that it's in looks beautiful and I look forward to hearing that you got the machine in working order and have stitched a few stitches with it. I am a little envious as I would love to have an antique one just like yours. :)