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Steel, Oil and Antique Treadle Restoration

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Steel, oil and antique treadle restoration…

I most certainly am not a car person.  Yet I feel a kindred spirit now with vintage car junkies.  You know, the ones who will spend hours every weekend rebuilding their dream car from 19-something — whatever that nostalgic year was for them?  Maybe someday the vehicle will actually run.

I involved my husband this week in finding a small can of machine oil and helping his great, great grandmother’s treadle sewing machine get moving again.  The gold leaf embellishments are so meticulous, the machine so well-built, the shiny metal of the wheel feels so smooth under my hand, this thing is meant to sew again! *Treadle expert Donna Kohler says to only use clear sewing machine oil or light mineral oil, because some oils can damage the decals.

Things seemed encouraging at first.  The mechanics almost instantly started moving like that on a restored machine.  Then we let the sewing machine sit for a day.

I tried to wipe the machine a bit to make sure there was no lingering oil before I started threading it.  The top thread was easy. Then I started with the bobbin, having a little trouble, but finally getting the loop of bobbin thread to be taken up.  Part of the bobbin threading must have been incorrect.

I had cut a little cotton square for practicing.  I remembered to start by turning the hand wheel toward myself before trying to pump the treadle with both feet.  After a few false starts involving the top thread pulling out of the needle, I finally started making what I thought was a line of stitching.  Then something seemed to jerk to a stop with the needle stuck in its lowest position.  It was as if I had a knot in the bobbin thread, but I’m not sure that was it after all.

I had to loosen the belt to look under the machine, and I still couldn’t determine anything.  I did get my hand greasy from some of the previous day’s oiling effort.  Then I set the machine upright again and resorted to removing the presser foot, needle and bobbin to get all of the thread unstuck.  What really seems stuck is something involving the hand wheel and thread uptake lever.  How disappointing to not be able to sew just an inaugural item. Because the machine appeared to be in such good condition, I thought maybe we could avoid having to dismantle it for restoration.

It’s fascinating to see nearly all of the parts in open view, to admire them for their simplicity of purpose, and to appreciate how they are built to last.  It may take a few weekends in the garage and  lot more oil, but I’m still hopeful we’ll get our old Singer running again.

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