How To – Treadle Sewing Part 1

So you’ve gotten a treadle or decided to finally use the one you had in the house for years, but you’re not sure how to go about it.

The first thing I suggest starting with is getting the knack of actually treadling the machine. Unless you have done this before you will need a bit of practice to keep it going forward consistently. Whether you are a beginner sewer and/or quilter or have many years of experience sewing on an electric machine, this is something you will need to master. You WILL be successful no matter what your experience level.

Without any thread in the machine and with the bobbin taken out (and safely tucked in one of the drawers), you will start by sewing on a piece of printer paper first. This will give you the practice you need getting the machine sewing consistently in the right direction.

hand wheel direction

Paper under presser foot

Now be aware that different antique sewing machines go forward differently. You will have to either have the manual (or a copy of it) or simply pay attention while turning the hand wheel on the right of the machine. Pull the wheel forward (towards you) and see if the feed dogs (small teeth under the needle) are going front to back or back to front. You can try this with your piece of paper in if it is easier to determine. You want your paper to move away from you. Some machines go forward by turning the hand wheel towards you and some by pushing the hand wheel away from you (I have both). Once you determine the direction your particular machine sews in, you will need to ALWAYS go that direction with the hand wheel. You end up with a snarl of thread if you go backwards once you start sewing (not the end of the world, but you’ll have to stop sewing and set it right).

The paper moves away from you

With the paper under the presser foot (above the feed dogs), practice treadling using your hand to help get the hand wheel going the correct direction. Put your feet in a comfortable position on the treadle pedal. Some folks use one foot, some both. Some use two feet parallel to each other and some use one foot at the front of the pedal and the other at the back of the pedal. There is no “correct” way, just whatever is the most comfortable for you.

Practice going forward consistently and speed control. Once you’ve gotten this down you’ll be ready to add the fabric and thread and start sewing. Next…


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