Wednesday, May 12, 2010

1922 Singer "Red Eye" Treadle

Some time ago my mother-in-law gave me her mother's 1922 Singer "Red Eye" treadle sewing machine.  I did some basic cleaning, then replaced the belt.  For a couple of months I puttered around with cleaning it up a little bit at a time, then discovered the site, which has a wealth of information about all things treadle-y, including very specific and useful info about what to do (and even more importantly what NOT to do) when cleaning them up.  Thanks to all the onions who have contributed to the site!

I kept quiet about this project, wanting to surprise Helen when it was finished.  About a month before Mother's Day my friend Jan asked me if I was planning to have it done for Mother's Day, and a useful deadline was born! I moved this project to the front burner, but miraculously still managed to hold on to the no-stress-I'm-just-puttering frame of mind.

Here's what I did:
  • Replaced the belt and the bobbin winder tire
  • Opened up the access ports and bobbin housing and cleaned 88 years of lint from the interior
  • Oiled it thoroughly several times, each oiling probably removing more of the accumulated crud inside the moving parts
  • Cleaned the irons (the cast iron bottom part), revealing the gold paint that I thought was gone!
  • Cleaned the head (the sewing machine part).  This took the longest time as I removed one molecular layer at a time with Turtle Wax Bug and Tar Remover.  It had to be done slowly so that there would be no additional damage to the beautiful decals.
  • Cleaned the chrome parts with metal polish
  • Waxed the head with auto wax
  • Reglued the loose veneer
  • Restored the finish of the oak cabinet.  This isn't as dramatic a process as stripping the old finish, it just removes a bit of the old finish and removes the water rings.  I had to chip off some paint also.  This all worked much better than I expected.  You can still see the age of the finish and where some of the old problem areas were, but it is now a uniform color and looks great, but retains the look of age.  I didn't want to strip it to make it look new.
  • Waxed the cabinet.

Before and after on the top of the cabinet

Once it was finished I used it to make a tote bag for Helen for Mother's Day.  She loves my "Lush Life" luggage and has been borrowing it when she and her friends travel together.  I had enough of the tapestry fabric left to make a tote bag.  Except for the embroidered monogram I made the whole thing on the treadle.  I would NOT recommend a tote bag with multiple layers of upholstery, quilted lining, and trims as a learning exercise for a new machine ;)   But I managed to keep the un-sewing to a minimum.

I did get everything finished for Mother's Day.  Helen was happy to see the restoration of the sewing machine, happy that it still works, and happy with the tote bag.  She told stories about her mother and the machine, and about learning to sew on it.


  1. What a lovely story! Karen (a new Onion)

  2. You've done a brilliant job on the Red Eye and cabinet! Thanks for posting with the info! I have this same machine and cabinet and want to 'clean up' also!

  3. Oh wow, you did an amazing job! How beautiful she is...and she is lucky to come to the right person to take care of her. You did a nice job on the tote, also!

  4. Congratulations!
    What a good job you did with your Treadle. I too have restored the finish on a couple of treadle cabinets and find it amazing how well they look without having to do a total refinish. I don't like the 'fresh' look of a total refinish nearly as much as a restored look.
    Nice job on the decals too!
    Nancy (another Treadlonion)

  5. Wanna come to my house and work on mine? I can offer you a free Florida vacation! ROFL!

  6. What a wonderful restoration you've done! And the tote bag was fabulous! I'm sure your mother-in-law enjoyed it! Cant wait to read more from you.

  7. Greetings! Dragon Poodle..
    Interesting name.. Anyway, I like your blog a lot and would like to encourage you in it. I belong to the vintageSingers yahoo group and find it very much fun.. I only recently found out about how cool these old Singers are. Although my Mom had a treadle version when we were kids. I think the first time it hit me was when I was on YOUTUBE and watched some demos of SINGER 15-91, 99K, and the 201.. I just missed buying a 201K by a hair.. it was going for $39 and came in a cool cabinet.. Still kicking myself for that. But right after that I found a very nice shapely 99K in the same store, which I grabbed and ran to the check out as fast as I could carry it..It cost me $50 but was happy to pay it.
    One thing I wanted to say was that you do not have to make excuses for how ever many Singers you bring home. I would just call myself a 'COLLECTOR' and the only justification you need for having so many is that you enjoy them. PERIOD!!
    Hope that encourages you.. That is my two cents for now... OVER and out of here... chow..

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  9. Cheryl, this machine looks great! I recently bought a La Vencedora (128) which has Bright colors and somewhat similar styling of the decals. But I'm surprised at the basic surface, the black part of this machine. Did you find the surface dramatically different from other Black singers?? And how did you treat it, if so. Thanks!


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