How To – Treadle Sewing Part 2

Okay, you’ve practiced sewing on the paper and are consistently able to get the machine going forward. Now you are ready to sew something. The first thing to do is get the machine threaded so the type of machine you have will dictate how you thread it. There are as many possibilities as there are American sewing machine manufacturers, but don’t let this worry you.

There are two major types of top thread tension – leaf and disc. The simplest, most primitive is the leaf tension. You can see that in the picture of the New Home. You just run the thread between the metal “leaves” through the guide and adjust the screw to loosen or tighten the tension.

With the disc type tension there are different types within that style. The most straightforward style, that most people are familiar with, is what you see in the picture of the Singer, disc tension on the left side of the machine. That also is loosened or tightened by turning the screw.

1880’s Singer disc tension1880’s White top disc tension

The other disc style that I can show you is in the picture of the White. It sits on top of the machine and uses a screw as well; however, you have to run the thread around the tension twice (my son helped me figure that out). Some machines are a bit tricky like that, but there are plenty of folks who have used the very machine you have before, and the information is out there if you cannot lay hold of a manual. You can also email me and I can point you in the right direction.

What I stated above also applies to

1880’s White top disc tension

the threading of the machine. Some are pretty easy, but once in awhile you can come across a machine that is a bit different. I would not let this deter you as far as sewing. Once you figure out how to thread it (which can be fun if you enjoy puzzles), you will always know. Actually, if you have more than one machine or do not use it all the time, you can leave it threaded so you don’t forget how. I know this by experience. 🙂

I should mention something about needles here. If you are fortunate enough to have needles come with your machine – be thankful. If you get a Singer that is not the tiny Model 12, you have it easy because these needles are the same as are used today and can be readily purchased. If, however, you have a different brand machine with no needles there are a couple different things you can do. First thing would be to have a modern needle and try it. I have been able to do this a couple of times. Sometimes you have to “cheat” the needle down in the needle clamp a bit (as you are inserting it, do not push it up all the way and then screw it down tightly). Try these first. If that doesn’t work you can search the internet. There are many needle charts available to look at online to find out what needle your machine takes. There are then ways to find a needle through online resources. If this is your situation you can contact me and I can point you in the right direction if you are unable to locate one yourself.

Shuttles with bobbins and bobbin case with bobbin

Once you have your machine threaded down to the needle, you will need to thread and put in your bobbin. There are basically two styles, round bobbin (rotary) or shuttle and bobbin (vibrating or transverse). These are some of the ones I have (see picture). Again, if you have a manual you can easily (most of the time) follow it and get it done. Otherwise, search the internet for a manual or copy of one to help out. There are also some folks who have posted pictures on how to do this.

Now, with thread and fabric in place, give it a try. The next thing is to tweak the stitch tension, if it needs it. Always adjust the top tension first, if needed. Adjust the screw only small amounts until you get nice even stitches on the top and bottom and you cannot see the top thread through the bottom or the bottom thread through the top. Sometimes, you may need to adjust the bobbin tension, but most likely the top tension adjustment will do it. If needed, however, adjust the bobbin tension by turning the screw on the bobbin case or shuttle, again, only small amounts like a quarter of a turn.

Happy Sewing!


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