Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The (Treadle) Project

I'm the proud owner of a 1926 Singer 66 Treadle sewing machine. Last month I was scanning Kijiji and came across a treadle sewing machine for sale near by. While I didn't end up purchasing that one (the cabinet needed more veneer work than I'm capable of), it led me to keep searching and I purchased this one, also through Kijiji. As I was pondering the purchase, Joel said it would definitely be a "Project". And he's right. But I'm having fun.
First, there was the research. Through the serial number you can actually find online at which factory your sewing machine was made and in what year. I've learned that the Singer 66 was top of the line, in it's time. Certainly my grandmother couldn't have afforded this model. The one I always admired but was told NOT to touch was an older, more complicated shuttle bobbin model. (This machine was made in New Jersey although the treadle seems to have been made in Canada).
Secondly, I'm enjoying the process of renewing this machine and know it will happen in stages. I'm starting with the cabinet. I detached the cabinet from the treadle system and then took the pieces apart to strip the paint. While there is some veneer damage on some corners, it will be possible to glue this down. The old paint seemed to be happy to be let go. There is something about refinishing furniture that is an outer exercise in saying goodbye to the past and letting new possibilities happen. Next, I'll need to sand it and then put a new finish on it.Working on the machine will come later; with the internet I found the old manual and a place to buy the leather strap that attaches the treadle to the machine. I do hope to be able to use the machine from time to time. Treadle sewing machines are good for heavy-duty sewing. So I'm hoping to get this back into working order. The woman I purchased it from hadn't used it but had saved it from the garbage when her mother had placed it outside. She didn't think her mother had used it nor had she for the some twenty years she had it. It was simply used as a table to display some dried flowers. When I took the cabinet apart from the treadle, I discovered that the cast-iron treadle was broken in two places. I worried I'd bought myself more trouble. However, The Project has actually faciliated some wonderful conversations with neighbours including that a new neighbour works in a machine shop and he's fixing the treadle for me. I was able to pass my 1980s singer on to his wife who is sewing curtains for their home. I also discovered that a woman, probably the original owner, had signed her name on the bottom of the centre drawer that folds out. I looked up on the internet and from cemetery/election records she and her husband probably lived in Saskatchewan or Manitoba. What struck me though, was the pride of the woman in her sewing machine that she would pencil her name upon it. Now, the next thought of mine is not original, it comes from an owner of an antique car that Joel was speaking to a few weeks ago. I do feel like this treadle sewing machine is a treasure that I get to take care of for a while and enjoy as someone did before me and then pass on.


Crazy Lady with purple fingers said...

Shelley, am so excited for you!! I learned to sew on my grandmothers treadle sewing machine, many...many...years ago and was so sad when I found she had sold it to someone else although it was a girl that was living without electricity, but I still would have loved it, often think of looking for one...but how many sewing machines does one person need, just bought a new leather machine on for a steal, have not used it yet. Also thank-you for posting the e-address of fabricmart, have ordered some fabric and am so pleased, have to keep smacking myself so I do not order more until I do something with what I have!! Can not wait to see your treadle machine all fixed up!!

Shelley said...

So glad to hear from you. Hopefully might see you tomorrow at the Fair. I'm glad you had success with Fabric Mart. I've never been dissappointed with the fabric quality -- just the shipping costs! Thank you for telling me about your Grandmother's. I used to stare at my Grandmother's wanting to touch it but wasn't allowed!