New Orleans House Project

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Treadling Toward Retirement?

Several years ago my DH decided we could never afford to retire, so he wished to begin enjoying his retirement now, "one weekend at a time".  We searched for almost two years to find just the right place to escape the stresses of work and urban life, preferably on or very near the water.  We finally found just the right place and have been enjoying One Weekend At A Time whenever the opportunity presents itself.
My Dear Husband created this sign to announce his retirement policy.
Although I enjoy all the outdoor activities our weekend home has to offer, I can't escape from the stresses of work without some quilting, too!  To that end, I duly installed one of my favorite sewing machines at the camp:
This beauty is a Singer Model 15 treadle.  Collectors call the decals on this machine "Sphinx" or "Memphis".  I can't say exactly how old this machine is, but I don't think she was heavily used, as her decals are in beautiful condition.  Yes, I know it is possible to assign a date to Singer machines based on their serial number.  However, those numbers are only a guide to the general timeframe a machine was manufactured, and should only be used as a guide.  Besides, the machine is at the camp and I'm at home - I don't have the serial number written down anywhere.

The Singer Model 15 is a terrific workhorse sewing machine.  It sews a fantastic straight stitch and has a huge bobbin capacity.  These old machines were made to last and since they don't have plastic parts and electronics, they are simple to maintain.  My particular model only has a knob for stitch length adjustment, but later models have a stitch length adjustment lever and can also sew in reverse.  
The most distinctive characteristic of the Model 15 is the placement of the tension adjustment knob on the back of the machine.  If you find a machine with this type of tension adjustment, chances are it is a Model 15 or a Japanese copy of a Model 15.  Between Singer's manufacture and all the Japanese clones that appeared after WWII, the Model 15 was in production for a long time.  If you are looking for a reliable straight-stitch machine without investing an arm and a leg, you won't go wrong with a Model 15 or a clone.
Using a treadle sewing machine is pretty simple.  It might take a little practice to get the hang of it, but the treadle motion quickly becomes second nature.  The added exercise is a nice plus, too.  Living on the Gulf Coast - where power failures can happen with even a mild thunderstorm - it's also very convenient to have an electricity-free sewing machine! 

The Age of the Interwebs has made it easy to find antique and vintage sewing machine resources.  If you are interested in using a people-powered sewing machine, I recommend the Treadle On website as a great starting point.  It's a down-to-earth website loaded with practical information presented in a straightforward, but fond and often humorous way.  Treadle On!