Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Great-Grandmother's Singer Treadle Machine

1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine in Cabinet While I was in my hometown last week, my aunt and uncle passed my great-grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine down to me. It was manufactured in 1915, and I’m told that it was still in good working order the last time anyone used it. I’ve been spending a lot of time researching the correct way to clean the machine and cabinet; I’d hate to inadvertently ruin it while simply trying to maintain it.

Since taking these initial photos, I’ve wiped down the interior and exterior of the cabinet and the exterior of the sewing machine itself. I’m not sure that I’m ready for tinkering with the mechanics of the machine, although I’ve noticed that a rubber piece by the bobbin winder is cracked and the presser foot sticks. I was surprised by the dirtiness of the wood, and equally surprised by the cleanness of the cast iron.

Top View of 1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

Base of 1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

The drawers were still full from the last time the machine was used, and it has been fun to sort through everything. Thankfully, we had the presence of mind not to throw anything away as we emptied the drawers before transporting the machine and cabinet. Now that I’ve spent a little time with the machine, I recognize a couple of replacement parts — including a replacement for that cracked rubber piece I mentioned.

Tools and Parts Used with Singer Treadle Sewing Machine

The original instruction book is still intact, and it makes me wish I kept up on my Polish lessons. Between the diagrams and online translation programs, I should be able to pick up on some basic information.

1915 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine Instruction Book in Polish

I won’t attempt to use the array of threads that I discovered because they’re probably too weak by now, but with their wooden spools they might make a nice display. There was even a loaded tatting shuttle.

Vintage Thread, Sewing Machine Bobbins and Tatting Shuttle

Quite a few of the supplies are still in their original packaging. As a graphic designer by day, it’s a little extra fun for me to note the use of color, typography, and images in the package designs.

Vintage Sewing Machine Supplies in Original Packaging

We didn’t hesitate to throw away the unused Band-Aids and brittle rubber bands, but there were a few household items worth keeping. My mother thinks the two large keys on the right are from my great-grandmother’s house. The coins in the middle appear to be from Japan and Australia. The two red OPA tokens on the left date back to WWII.

Vintage Household Items

And the buttons! This photo shows only a portion of them. Most of them still had little bits of thread in the holes after being removed from old garments. They could use a good soak but, like the thread, I question whether they’ve become brittle with age. They may make a pretty collage of some sort.

A Pile of Colorful Vintage Buttons

According to my research, the next step in cleaning will be waxing the wood with a good furniture wax, then the cast iron and machine exterior with a good car wax. The wax will serve as a protective layer that will also enhance the shine. After that is done, I’ll put more consideration into cleaning the interior of the machine.

My husband may come home one day to find me polishing old straight pins. That's normal, isn't it?

Do you have any tips for cleaning and maintaining an antique sewing machine and cabinet?


  1. You are so fortunate to have inherited this beautiful machine, and with all of those accessories and vintage sewing items! I recently acquired a Singer treadle also, but I've put a great amount of work into polishing and cleaning it. The finish on the machine was so dull and scratched, but is now greatly improved. Maguier's cleaner wax for cars is wonderful but it took a lot of time and elbow grease. The iron base is somewhat rusted and I've been scrubbing it with a metal bristle brush, after which, it will get a good polishing. There are a lot of good You Tube videos online, even for learning how to wind and use a shuttle. Good luck.

    1. Thank you, and good luck to you as well. It sounds like you'll have an amazing transformation when you're done!

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