A treadle sewing machine is foot powered - moving a circular rounded leather belt from the foot treadle mechanism up to the hand wheel of the machine and down again. This type of sewing machine remains useful in those areas where electricity may not be a constant or not available at all. It uses a rocking motion of the user’s feet onto a metal platform or treadle base. Early models used one foot, later models two - the heel of one foot in coordination with the toe of the other, to “power” the up and down motion of the threaded sewing machine needle into a bobbin wound with thread. This motion makes a lock stitch on top of the fabric that the needle pierces.
Hand cranked sewing machines (mostly created a chain stitch that could unravel) prefaced the foot powered machines by many decades however, with the advent of the treadle powered design, mechanized sewing took middle-class home sewers leaps and bounds into new found freedom from tedious hand sewing by increasing greatly the speed with which garments could be sewn and mended.
A lovely ornate treadle machine I own was manufactured after 1900, considered not an antique but of vintage interest. Research finds the “value” of this particular machine, of which many tens of thousands were made, is simply based today on its qualities of appearance, utility, history, completeness, model rarity, and sentimental or decorative value. This particular treadle machine, presumed model 127 made by The Singer Manufacturing Company in about 1916, resides in an elaborate seven - drawer treadle cabinet made of pine and varnished veneers, of course showing some wear and tear. Yet the gold and red colored ornate scroll ornamentation (decals designated by Singer as Red Eye or Red Head) remain clear and bright still. The treadle machines of the day were often sumptuously decorated with gold colored decals in the form of flowers, leaves, or Egyptian designs. Based on this particular machines’ serial number, it appears to have been manufactured 100 years ago, in 1916, at an Elizabethport factory plant. Coincidentally, I was born near Elizabethport, located in the City of Elizabeth, NJ. Merely an interesting happenstance no doubt.
Research shows that the average cost to the consumer for a treadle machine of this type, in the early 1900’s, would have been approximately $40.00. A significant sum for the time, but apparently deemed necessary to the home sewer considering the many that were sold to households in that era and survive today.
The lovely treadle sewing machine is an example from the Victorian Era lifestyle, a looking-glass bridge from the past that reminds us how important sewing was to the homemakers of 100 years ago that continues to be significant in our present day.
Sew happy, sew inspired.