Saturday, October 21, 2017

It's TOBE Time!

What, you ask, is a TOBE?

Treadle On Block Exchange

Treadle On is an online community of treadle and hand crank sewing machine users.  It was founded to encourage the use of these wonderful machines.  To provide support to folks who buy or inherit one and want to get it sewing again.  It's a wonderful bunch of helpful folks and in the first couple years of my obsession I learned everything from them.  Look for them on yahoo groups. 

1920 Davis New Vertical Feed

So we have all kinds of exchanges:  quilt blocks of a variety of types, mug mats, pincushions, bags.  Lots of stuff.  I only participate in one, and that is a rail fence block.  It comes up regularly in the rotation because it is super easy for a beginning sewing person to do.  Some treadlers only learn to sew because they fell in love with the machine.  We love this!

I've been in this exchange several times and have a big bag of rail fence blocks from all over the US and even as far away as New Zealand.  Eventually I will make a quilt from them.  Really fun to read the names, locations and sewing machines of people I "know" online.

But since I don't have their permissions to show you their full real names and towns, I am only going to show you mine!

I prepared a set last year on the Singer 27 known as River Song (blue and sparkles in the sunlight) in advance of a TOGA that I did not then attend.  Treadle On Gathering and Academy.  Swap meet and sewing fest and general reunion of folks sharing this obsession. 

Up until now I have tended to go with florals, calicoes, stripes, and other things that seemed harmonious with the old machines.  Although I have recently fallen down the rabbit hole of vintage fashion and costume blogs and the fabrics of yore can be quite eye opening.

This time I unleashed the inner me.  The inner me is a brand new box of crayons, hand me all the brightest shades, please.

I almost sold my Davis New Vertical Feed recently but the deal fell through.  I really should keep it because the needle feed action is fascinating and it really does the job of keeping layers from shifting.  It is literally impossible for them to do so.

There is a mill outlet nearby that has all the best stuff which you may recognize.  Sold by the pound.  I went insane the two times I was there and I dream of going again but so far have restrained myself. Serious fabric addiction problem.  I have run out of space to store it and I have a huge studio.

There are a certain number of block in each set, and each participant can send in up to a certain number of sets. Each set uses different fabrics.  I AM BEING DELIBERATELY VAGUE ABOUT THE DETAILS because people sometimes read my posts YEARS after they were written and each TOBE has its own requirements. 

You ship them all off to a hostess and there are more details about how to do this correctly so that your return postage does not expire!  The hostess magically sorts them all out (I always imagined little Disney fairies floating them gracefully through the air) and sends back to you the same number of blocks you sent in, but from all those lovely treadlers sewing on all those lovely machines in all those lovely places.

Apparently, though, the ACTUAL sorting process does NOT involve little Disney fairies, but does involve a lot of hard work and attention to detail.  So a hostess gift is a nice idea.  In the past I have sent a hand-dyed fat quarter, a pincushion I made, stuff like that.  On the off chance the hostess reads this blog I'm not showing you what I am sending this time.  Surprise!

Don't get used to the post-a-week thing, btw.  Two weeks in a row is an anomaly, not a trend.  Actually the distribution schedule is largely random, as faithful readers have undoubtedly guessed by now.


Do you have a favorite online group that feeds your (sewing-related) obsession? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. How do we sign up for the block exchange?

    1. Google to find the Treadle On Yahoo group. I'm not putting in links for the reasons described in this post. Hope you join in the fun!

  2. I need to make my blocks. Easy once I figure out what materials I want to use (and cut the strips).

  3. I need to make my blocks as well. I need to choose fabric and decide which machines I want to play with.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I have been a member of Machine Quilters Resource Forum for 10 years. I get my fix there.
    I did join Treadle On. I am amazed at the knowledge they have. I also have a machine from the 1800's I wanted to ask about.

    Sorry, needed to edit and didn't know how.

    October 22, 2017 at 10:42 PM

  6. Please convince me that I really don't need a Davis Vertical Feed. I just think I will need one when I finally get to retire. I saw a couple for sale in this area (Portland, OR) a couple of years ago, when I was buying up my other four treadles. I just find them to be fascinating machines. I'm hoping another one will come up for sale.


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