Antique treadle sewing machines revolutionized sewing. These machines were the first sewing machines powered by a foot pedal.
There’s a complicated history to the treadle machine. There were legal debates over who invented the first machine and who deserved credit for innovations leading to the first treadle machine.
The treadle sewing machine is not obsolete; many people not only collect them as antiques, but also still use old and new models today. The quality of these early models is obvious because so many have survived over time.
Treadle machines usually mount into a cabinet with a movable platform or “treadle” foot pedal near the floor. The operator powers the machine by her foot which provides the necessary rocking motion.
The treadle enables hands-free sewing, tight straight stitches and full control over the speed of the machine.
The invention of the treadle sewing machine marked the first time the sewing needle moved vertically rather than horizontally through the fabric.
There’s still controversy over who invented the first sewing machine. There's no doubt, however, that Isaac M. Singer was the man who knew how to market it. He used women in his product demonstrations to debunk any theory that a woman would not be able to work a machine. He then made the machine affordable for most women and their families.
Finally, he would let a prospective buyer keep the machine for a few days after providing a down payment. If the buyer was still interested after testing it, Singer would contract a monthly payment plan, making the machine affordable for even more customers.
Singer invented the up-and-down mechanism of the machine that replaced the limiting side-to-side motion of early machines. This lead to replacing the hand crank with the treadle in the 1850s. It was Elias Howe, however, who eventually won the patent war against Singer and the others.
Although history awarded Howe for his accomplishment, Singer’s ability to popularize and market the sewing machine led many to assume he was also the sole inventor.
You can find antique treadle sewing machines at flea markets, estate sales, antique shops and shows, thrift and second-hand stores, on-line and live auctions. Companies like Singer still make a few treadle sewing machines available to buy new.
Singer built a durable machine – there are many antique treadle sewing machines still in existence. Singer built their models from metal, distinguishing them as all black with gold lettering and decorations. Singer models are also easy to restore and maintain.
You can find parts through the Singer Company, antique websites or
auction websites, such as E-bay. Singer offers instruction booklets for
all its products. This includes free pamphlets and booklets for its
historic machines. These are available for download from the
Singer website . Maintain old Singer models with frequent oiling, changing the needle and making sure the machine is well-kept.