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What I Bought With My Christmas Money

For Christmas, I received an unexpected and rather generous gift of cash. I pondered what to do with it for a bit and then started a search on Craigslist. For a number of years now, I've wanted to replace my old sewing machine. But I didn't want another electric one, I wanted a treadle machine.

In my back-to-the-land days, I used to use a treadle sewing machine. We didn't have electricity although we didn't refer to it as being off-grid. Solar panels as we know them now were still being developed, so when it came to electricity we simply lived without. That's how living off the land was done back then. So I have some treadle sewing experience under my belt, even though I wasn't going to fool myself into thinking I still have the same dexterity as I did back then! But maybe it will be like riding a bike. (One can hope.)

There were a number of treadle sewing machines on Craigslist with prices ranging from $350 to $600. That was more than I had to spend, so I kept scrolling through the listings until I found one for a White Rotary Treadle sewing machine for $100. The listing was a month old so I didn't expect it to still be available. But I shot off an email inquiry anyway and then started researching this particular machine. From browsing sewing forums and the websites of treadle enthusiasts, I concluded that White had made a sewing machine of excellent quality.

I received no reply so I tried again. Finally, the response came back, "already sold." I wasn't surprised;  I just put on my patience hat and kept looking. I checked Craigslist frequently, but also took a look at a modern treadle machine - the Janome 712T. It was also more than my Christmas funds, but it was tempting since it can do zig-zag and buttonholes; stitches that most antique treadle machines can't. The main obstacle, however, was that it doesn't come with a treadle stand. Treadle cabinets to fit the Janome are available elsewhere for somewhere around $1000. I found an old treadle stand on Craigslist for $65 (most of them seem to be turned into tables), but discussion on sewing forums indicated that not all old treadle cabinets will accommodate the Janome. So the Janome was out.

After several weeks of waiting, a new ad appeared on Craiglist. It was the same machine I first liked, a White Family Rotary It was priced at $150. I shot off an email and waited. A reply soon came back that it was available, and yes, I could make an appointment to see it. Here's the happy ending to my tale...


What was interesting was that the seller told me I wasn't the first one to contact them; there were three others first. They chose me because my email was the most polite!




The treadle belt is okay for now, but if I need to replace it these are readily available.

The contents of the drawers came with it.


The first one contained an assortment of thread, buttons, needles (both hand and for the machine), tape measures, thimbles, old wire screwdriver, and a set of steel knitting needles in the long wooden tube.


Bobbins are in the upper right-hand drawer, along with some 3-In-One Oil purchased by the seller. She used it some but said she decided treadle sewing wasn't her style. The case contains all the attachments.


Once I learn how to use them I'll be able to gather, shirr, hem, sew lace, make tucks, quilt, ruffle, bind, underbraid, and chainstitch. That's more than I expected!

One drawer was empty, but the last one contained the original certificate of warranty.


The certificate is dated August 20, 1913. Between that and the patent date (April 18, 1911) I have an idea of when the machine was made. The original manual was in that drawer too.




It's well worn and the paper is frayed and fragile, so I took it apart and placed the pages in plastic page holders. I'll start a notebook and collect all the information I can find on this machine and treadle sewing.

The seller gave it a good dusting and polished the cabinet but admitted she hadn't used it in a while. I decided I should do some research and give it a good going-over to make sure everything is properly cleaned, oiled, and in good repair. With the help of several YouTube videos, I'll be able to do all that and more! I've definitely got my winter weather project cut out for me.

Continued over at Leigh's Fiber Journal.

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