February 10, 2012

Sewing with a treadle sewing machine

Why bother?

Vintage machines are generally cheap, reliable, oftentimes repairable and serviceable by the user, and can stand up well to years of heavy use. The ones still around in good shape have proven themselves worthy in a Darwinian sense. I would be surprised if a $1500 machine bought new today and packed with plastic and electronics is still around and useable 100 years from now.

A treadled machine specifically will be quiet to use, doesn't need a cord to the wall, and will work even if the power goes out. I also get more of a sense of control over the stitching with the treadle machine. My WW9 has a large, heavy balance wheel that makes stitching with hand power in tricky spots convenient and enjoyable.

The treadle machine can't go quite as fast as my electronic one could at full bore. Also it takes a little extra time to start and stop and to pay attention to the state of the takeup arm, etc. But I don't think the time penalty is so great and may lead to more careful execution of the work. I did rely heavily on the zigzag, needle offsets, and buttonhole attachments on the Kenmore. My Necchi BU Nova should cover all these angles, but for now I don't have a table to put it in. 

The small amount of stitching I've done with my Wheeler & Wilson No. 9 indicates that it will indeed require more skill than my Kenmore electronic machine. If it gets run backwards or without cloth in the throat, there will be a tangle in the bobbin area. Stopping and starting requires some manipulation of the wheel by the right hand, and paying attention to the position of the needle and take up arm.

Tacking at beginning and end of a seam is also more tricky. I got this advice from Phyllis Rosenwinkel of Iowa, after a post of mine to the Treadle On list:

W&W did design and use reverse on some of their industrial machines, but not on the domestic ones.  There are several workarounds for machines lacking reverse.
1- Turn the fabric around and begin to sew back over the seam.
2- Shorten the stitch length for the last half inch. 
3- Shorten the stitch length by preventing the fabric to move easily though the dogs and foot
4- Sew to the end, Stop.  Pull the fabric back 1/4 - 1/2' and restitch the seam.
The how to do this is determined by the fabric an the perceived need.  I've sewed for nearly  60 years and rarely need to reinforce seams in this manner.  

An excellent resource is the website Treadle On and its associated email list.


mantisfly said...

Hi, great blog, enjoyed reading it.
The industrial needles by Organ Dbx1 work perfectly if you insert the needle exactly at the 1/2 way point of letter G in the word ORGAN ,embossed on the side on the needle. Use pliers to hold the needle and insert. This is the case for all sizes of the needle dbx1 apart from size 90 where they put the embossed word higher up on the needles , still works just let me know if you need more Info or want to know how to insert size 90. I discovered this by chance ande needle works a few m/m either side of the letter G but this is the sweet spot. I hope this helps you. The DBX1 needles are widely available on EBay and they cheap. The Japanse ORGAN needles are great quality, but even the cheaper Chinese Violin needles work. I have a hand crank version and treadle head. It not the treadle sadly. You can't convert the threadle version to electric as no place to fit it. The hand crank is cool.

Take care

Richard In England.

mantisfly said...

The little clip above the foot is your trusty thread cutter :)