Treadle or Hand Crank – What’s the Difference?

Talking antique sewing machines…what’s the difference between a treadle sewing machine and a hand crank sewing machine?

The sewing machine companies made these two types of antique machines simultaneously. You can find hand crank machines exactly the same, but for the way you make them go.

A treadle sewing machine is powered by the motion of rocking the treadle peddle back and forth with your feet; it is driven by a belt that is usually made of leather or rubber. It has a large cabinet, most often with drawers and a way to protect the machine itself; like it folding down into the cabinet or a wooden box that matches the cabinet and fits over the machine.

The hand crank sewing machine is powered by turning a crank at the right side of the sewing machine. The crank is geared and gives you three stitches to every single revolution of it. These are essentially portable machines that take up very little space.

Many hand cranks are smaller versions of their treadle counterpart. For instance in the Singer brand, you can have a model 99 hand crank which is virtually the same as the model 66 treadle, but is 3/4 the size of the treadle machine. The manufacturers made them during the same years, so one is not necessarily older than the other.

In using these wonderful pieces of history for sewing, there are a few things to keep in mind. With a hand crank machine you will always use one hand to turn the crank, which leaves the other hand for guiding the material. It isn’t difficult to use for piecing blocks or machine appliqué, but you would have a bit of difficulty trying to sew large things together like binding on a bed-sized quilt or for machine quilting because these things require two hands for guiding and/or holding the material.

A treadle sewing machine can be used for just about any type of sewing or quilting, but you will need an adequate space for your treadle machine because it is the size of a small table.

With that said, the question is why a hand crank at all? Well, if you do not have limited space, they only take up only about as much as an old-fashioned bread box. Also, they are quite beautiful to collect and fun to use. The added feature is that they have a bit more precision because you have more control and can go slower for intricate piecing or appliqué designs.

To conclude my rambling, I’d like to say I have both and encourage anyone who can to acquire both as well, if you have the opportunity to do so. Each is a different experience and very rewarding. 😀

The Stitcher’s Companion – Inside this book you’ll learn essential stitching skills and techniques for both experienced and beginners alike.

How To Quilt – Learn how to make a beautiful family heirloom in 9 easy steps.


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