Sunday, November 4, 2018

PSA: Check Your Tapes!

PSA = public service announcement

Focus on the number 31 above.  The camera was directly above 31, so because of camera angle and perspective that is the only accurate place to look.

Recently I heard or read something about unreliable tape measures.  Honestly, I can't remember where.  Hey, it happened more than 2 seconds ago!  It was either on Facebook or a podcast because that's where I learn all the important things PLUS (on Facebook) there are those cute cat vids.  Friend of mine rescued a 3 week old abandoned kitten 4 weeks ago and she has been a faithful chronicler of its antics.  Have I drifted off topic?  Who knows,  I started writing this more than 2 seconds ago.

Oh yes. Tape measures and important information.  I'm a fan of Zede and Mallory Donahue, who have BOTH Facebook and podcasty presence.  Check out Sewing Out Loud and the Self Sewn Wardrobe.  It was probably here that I was alerted to the possibility that my tapes were wrong.  But it could have been anywhere.  See 2 second comments above.

So I lined a bunch of them up on my largest cutting mat, all starting at the zero point and held in place securely by a cast iron shoe last.   I also laid a steel yardstick down.  Fortunately the mat and the yardstick agreed, so I'm going to believe they are accurate.  But just look at the tapes!

Frankly  I am horrified by this.  Devices that are designed to measure should measure ACCURATELY.  Am I right?  or am I right?  Right?

I have never used cloth measuring tapes because I was told years ago that they would stretch over time, but I assumed I was fairly safe with the plastic ones.  But notice that both of them (top 2) are too short.

And the flexible curve ruler that I bought just last week is a full 3/8" too long by the time you get out to 31 inches.


This public service announcement has been brought to you by DragonPoodle Studio, a completely not-for-profit private enterprise.  The term "not-for-profit" is a description only and has no legal meaning or validity under the tax codes and laws.  Not only is there no profit, it is pretty much a black hole into which a percentage of my disposable income regularly disappears. Happily, by the way.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

How to get a decent cup of coffee at a cheap motel

The answer is stupefyingly simple:  make it yourself the same way you do at home.  If you make drip.  Although my method would work with french press too, but I haven't tried that for myself.

But wait---there is more to the story.

For decades I wondered why using the coffee makers in cheap motel rooms produced lousy coffee, even when I brought my own coffee from home.  I only speak of cheap motels (not fleabags, but the lower priced chains) because I rarely stay at any other kind.  And when you go upscale there's probably a fantastic coffee bar right there.

My working hypothesis is that motel coffee makers just don't get hot enough to brew the coffee.  Maybe they are less likely to burn the place down, who knows?

So when I saw this adorable electric water-boiler at the thrift store for a couple of bucks, problem solved.  What would you call this?  Not a tea kettle because it does not sing.  Not a teapot because I wouldn't put tea in there with that heating element, even unplugged.  Water-boiler.  Boiler of water.

Coffee filter holder sitting on top of mug.  Nice hot boiling water poured over the grounds.  Delicious coffee just like I make at home every morning of my life.

Of course you have to be willing to drag all of this stuff around.  I'd be willing to do a lot more than this to have my coffee in the morning.

Hey, I like Dunkin Decaf.  I prefer a darker roast, but this is ALWAYS available at the grocery store and dark roast decaf rarely is.


Hope you enjoyed this public service announcement.  I am currently enthralled by a non-vintage machine.  Babylock Evolution, serger and coverstitch combined, biggest splurge of my life.  I had an unexpected windfall and blew much of it on this.  Let me know in the comments if you want to hear about it.  My experience to date is that you are reading my blog for the vintage machines and that's cool with me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Spartan disguised as LaVencedora

Hello there dear readers.  I've been on a favorite path, boldly going where no other sewing machine restorers have gone before.  Or at least if they have, they haven't been writing about it online.

The Singer Spartan, Model 192, is my favorite model to convert to hand crank for children.  It's the budget version of the Singer 99, a 3/4 size machine.  The smaller size means that a child does not have to reach as far to turn the hand crank.

And Anna, one of my favorite child friends, loves sewing and sewing machines.  She just turned 7 and I had promised her a sewing machine of her own for her birthday.  She liked the antique machines with beautiful decals on display in the DragonPoodle Museum, aka the living room.

So:  Spartan, good.  Beautiful decals, good.  Problem:  Spartans are the plainest machines ever.  There are NO decorations on them aside from the name "Spartan".  Kind of Spartan, lol.

There are colorful decals available for a 3/4 size machine, but they are all for the antique shuttle machines, which have a different bed configuration.  I've been wanting to try them out on a 99 or a 192, so this was the perfect opportunity.

I've had a couple of 99s with worn decals and chipped and worn paint sitting around, but on a fairly recent thrift store visit I spotted a Spartan sitting on the floor in a cardboard box.  I snapped it up.  It had a pound and a half of lint in it (perhaps a slight exaggeration) but the exterior was clean and glossy.  After cleaning and oiling all it needed were some nice decals.

I ordered LaVencedora decals from Keeler Sales on eBay.  I have bought decals from them before and have had good results.  The others were just gold though, not colors.  If you examine their photos online you can tell that they are not as detailed as the originals.  The colors lack shading, which is also true of their all gold decals.  They are pretty, but they do not exactly duplicate the originals.  Google images for the model you are interested in and compare them with the images of the Keeler sales decals.  Know what you are buying so you won't be disappointed.

I scanned the decals and printed out two copies.  I cut the motifs out of one of the copies, figured out where they were going to go on the machine and then made notes on the other copy.  I deliberately did NOT look at pictures of these decals on the Singer 28 for which they were designed because that was irrelevant and trying to get them in the "right" place would just have muddled me.

The picture above is an actual Singer 28 with LaVencedora decals, the picture I deliberately ignored during the placement process.  Sadly I don't have a picture that shows the sliding shuttle cover plates.

I began the practice decal placement with the big obvious motifs and taped them to the machine, working my way down to the smaller ones.  This worked out much more easily than I expected, given the fact that the bed configuration is completely different in the bobbin area.

Once I figured out where everything was going to go, I applied the decals.  I have written in detail about the process of applying decals before (see the links to "Paint and Decal Sewing Machines" at the top of this page). 

Longtime readers will know that my usual policy is to describe every tiny problem that arises in excruciating detail, and to do the same with any tiny flaws that result.  Because one of the major missions of this blog is to try things out and let you know how well they work and what the pitfalls are.

When the machine is a gift however I don't do this.  No point in spoiling the pleasure of the recipient who might be reading this.  Or her mother who might be reading it.  So I'm not telling you, nyah, nyah, nyah.

I also added a label on the back, gold lettering showing through a black decals (again, see links at top of page for directions.)

I finished it NOT with a clear coat spray as I have done before, but with three coats of brush on acrylic lacquer.  I really, really liked this.  I like the fact that you don't have to tape anything off, as long as you use a small-ish brush and take care around the needle plate and oil holes.  I like that fact that it is WAY thicker than the spray coat.  It's lovely and glossy.  My technique could be improved but it turned out really well and I will definitely make this my go-to technique in the future.

The results;  SPECTACULAR.  If I do say so myself.  Anna has only seen photos so far, and she texted me a whole paragraph of hearts and kisses emojis.  It looks ever better in person than it does in the photos and I'm really looking forward to her next visit when she gets to see it for real.

Even the hand crank got a little decal (after painting out the one it came with.)

I prefer the Spartan to the 99 because it requires NO modification for the bobbin winder to work.  Having said that, winding a bobbin on a hand crank is a tedious and boring task.  Most people seem to wind their bobbins on an electric machine or use a Side Winder (small bobbin winding machine).

I did find prewound class 66 bobbins at Joann's recently, both black and white and colors.  Last time I searched for these I could only find class 15.  I don't know if these are new or if I just never saw them before.

My notes tell me* that a 99 has to be in a base to work (otherwise the working bits slam into the table and it doesn't function that way).  The 192 that I just worked on didn't need the base,  and worked just fine sitting naked on the table top.  The 192 plastic bases are fragile by now and often missing or seriously broken, although this machine did still have an intact one. 

*Let me know if you can confirm this about the 99.  It's been a while since I worked on one.

Would you try adapting decals from one model on to a different model?  Or perhaps you have already tried it.  Let me know in the comments below.

There are other pretty decals for the 28 and the full size 128.  I'm glad to have done this, happy with the results for Anna, who had specifically requested decals with gold and pretty colors.  I doubt if I will do it again however.  I would rather try something else next time.  I do like the gold though.  The technique I INVENTED (ahem, modest bow.  OK, totally self-congratulatory bow) for the black label with gold lettering showing through works well for lettering but I doubt if I could get satisfactory results for anything more complicated.  But there are a couple more ideas germinating about that.  Watch this space!

There's a reason for the long delay since my last post.  I've been well.  Not what you expected, right?  I have chronic fatigue syndrome, which waxes and wanes.  I've been very well for a couple of months, which means less time sitting in my recliner blogging and more time out running around living the wild life.  Which for my demographic means lots of trips to lots of thrift stores.  So when you don't hear from me for a while, it's probably a good thing!

Friday, June 15, 2018

TOGA Friday.....and zea mays

One of my favorite things (seriously) about going to the NC TOGA is driving by fields of corn.  I grew up in Ohio, in the Corn Belt.  NC is mostly unfriendly to corn but there are a few spots where the soil is good for corn.  I don't see it in Orange County where I live (no oranges there either) and I love seeing it here.  So each year's blog post about TOGA starts with a photo of corn.  No reason to change this year.

The Latin name for this crop is zea mays, called corn by Americans and maize by much of the rest of the world.  But you are not reading this blog for discussions of the Latin names of crops. 

Friday's activities are all at the church.  The church hall is set up for sewing, and Edna usually teaches a class demonstrating a simple sewing project.  Hand crank sewing machines are the usual choice, but no one gets thrown out for bringing a "tailed" machine.  (The tail is the electrical cord dangling down from the motor).

Outdoors people sell stuff from tables set up near their cars, and on the porch.  I sold 3 sewing machines to Joan and Bill, for use in teaching sewing to youngsters.  Sold one wooden ironing board and have two more.  Sold several vintage sewing boxes, and have several more.  Melissa took several Reader's Digest Guides to Sewing, which she gives away with each machine she sells (I do that too, but I have a serious surplus). 

 I didn't buy much, just a clear vintage thread box that matches several others that I already have and will stack on top ot them.  I'm always on the lookout for this one particular type and was thrilled to buy it from D'Nise.

And I accidentally acquired a Singer 237 from a woman who asked my advice on pricing a LaVencedora.  She decided to keep that one but tried to GIVE me a 237.  I told her it was potentially a great machine with value and she should sell it.  Treadleable Singer zigzaggers are rare-ish.  An hour later she needed $2 to buy some parts from another vendor and didn't have any small bills.  So she came to me and offered me the 237.  I had three dollar bills in my wallet so I gave them to her and laughed at myself.  The point of this trip is GETTING RID OF MACHINES NOT BRINGING MORE HOME!

Oh well, 3 out and 1 in is still a win.

I left around 3:00 pm for my obligatory afternoon nap.  Dinner with the gang this evening.

Tomorrow is the last day and the raffle.  I'll be back to tell you about that later.

TOGA Thursday---or not

TOGA:  TreadleOn Gathering and Academy, an antique sewing machine swap meet and general rumpus.

I arrived in Monroe NC last night and checked in to the motel.  No problems on the trip.  Barbara came over from her motel across the street and picked me up.  We went to the Fork and Spoon which I must say is the only restaurant in Monroe that I have actually enjoyed (plenty of fast food and chain restaurants if that's your thing).

Got back to my motel only to find that one of my tires was flat, and I mean TOTALLY flat.

This picture was taken after the air pump had already been running for several minutes.  It was MUCH flatter than this to begin with.

Fortunately the night before I had charged up my car jumper/inflator/power thingy.  I brought it not for its car superpowers, but because I can plug a sewing machine into it, so I can demonstrate machines outdoors without lugging them into the church.

I've used it and its predecessors (the batteries last several years but not forever) many times to jump cars but only rarely to inflate tires.  This one was SO low that the battery pack ran til it ran out of juice and didn't even get the tire up to 20 psi (35 is what it should have).  But it was enough to get to the Walmart on the other side of the highway.  Where I sat for an hour until they told me they didn't have the right tire.

But they blew it up to 35 and I made it all the way to the other side of the strip mall to a tire store,  where I waited a couple more hours, but left with a new tire.

Had lunch (actually it was breakfast and it was 2:30 by then), went back to the motel and took a long nap.

So that was my first day of TOGA.  What was everyone else doing?

  • Mary Jo's fabric store, reputed to be the best fabric store between Atlanta and DC
  • A thread wholesaler.  This is my spiritual home and it was devastating to miss.  Even though I'm pretty sure I have the world's largest private collection of thread already!
  • A trip to see Harry Berzak's private collection of antique sewing machines.  Harry is one of the world's major collectors and his museum, which is not open to the public, houses THOUSANDS of antique machines.  OK, I really don't know how many but it has to be thousands.  I was there several years ago.
  • Dinner.  Breakfast at 2:30 pm of a Cookout cheeseburger (with bacon and grilled onion) did NOT leave me hungry at dinner time for some strange reason.

I did catch up with Linda, Caroline, and Linda's adorable little girls after dinner.  So the day wasn't a total washout.

stay tuned for Friday's thrilling developments......

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Machines and stuff available at 2018 NC TOGA.

I'm pretty lazy and the following message does not change from year to year.  So I just cut and pasted it from a post from bygone years.

"You have been warned.  I will NOT repeat NOT ship sewing machines.  Ever.  These will ONLY be available at the NC TOGA.

"So what, you ask, is the NC TOGA?  First part, easy:  North Carolina.  Second part:  Treadle On Gathering and Academy.  Basically a treadle and hand crank geek fest.  Held in Monroe, NC, every June.  

Email me (or post to the NC TOGA Facebook group) if you are SERIOUSLY interested.  I don't want to drag a lot of 40 pound machines around for people who are not seriously interested.  But you do NOT have to make a commitment, and I don't take any money until you have seen them in person and made an informed decision."

Back to the present time:
These are the machines I will bring IF anyone is seriously interested.  Prices will only be listed at the NC TOGA Facebook group page. 


  • Just Want To Get Rid Of Them At Rock Bottom Prices
    • something is missing or wrong and/or I just got bored and don't want to bother.  Full disclosure on whatever I discovered.  
    • I bought, I looked, I'm done and I don't want to bother.  Unchecked and untested.
  • Decent Machines At Wholesale Prices
    • Cleaned, oiled, tested and ready to sew
  • You Need A Pot Of Money To Pry This From My Hands
    • top of the line vintage machines in perfect working order, probably with an amazing assortment of accessories.  it is the sale of machines like this that fund the hobby and keep it going.  Don't bother asking "would you take less?".  
and a new category in 2018
  • Vintage Sewing Goodies and Accessories

Just Want To Get Rid Of Them At Rock Bottom Prices

Kenmore 158.321
Photo shows it in a cabinet but it is now in a funky case

It's one of the legendary 158s.  It's got the bells and whistles shown in the photo.  It is has been cleaned, oiled and lubed and is working perfectly except for one little, probably fixable thing.  And it is LAVENDER!!!  What more could you want?

Well, you could want a stitch length selector that works properly.  This one doesn't.  If you only sew with stitches ranging from small to miniscule, it's fine.  The fact that you get the full range of stitch lengths in reverse suggests that all of the linkages are good (not frozen by old oil).  I can show you what I think needs to be fixed, but you will have to figure out how to get the faceplate off.

Taiwanese 15 clone

It's not as smooth as the usual Japanese 15 clone.  But tt works.  Treadle-able.  It's black.  It looks just like a 15 clone.  I don't have a picture of it.

New Home 671

Another one I don't have a picture of.  It's a pretty teal-multistitch cam machine.  Worked fine last time I checked which was several years ago.  But there's a reason it is in the "just want to get rid of it" list.

It is missing the zigzag cam.  And it won't zz without it.  I have had an ebay search set up for YEARS.  And I did find and buy a cam set. Which, of course, did NOT include the zz cam.

Singer 177.  Brazilian zigzagger, treadle-able

This was a budget model and is seriously underpowered.  Think chipmunks running in a hamster wheel.  None of that will matter if you take the motor off and drop it in a treadle. 

I sold one of these to Di a couple of years ago and she was underwhelmed.  But there is a serious shortage of treadle-able zigzaggers out there. 

Singer 206

No photo.  I believe this was the first zigzagger Singer produced for the domestic market.  I bought it because I LOVE LOVE LOVE my 306 (similar model but with cams) and wanted to explore and play with the earlier model.  But I never got around to it.

TOTALLY UNTESTED AND SOLD AS IS.  Could be great, could be not so much.  Because I don't know it is in the "rock bottom price" category.

Decent Machines At Wholesale Prices

Singer 185 in a 285 case

Now in a case
A 3/4 sized Singer.  Good candidate for hand crank with slight modification (I can show you).

Necchi serger

No photo.  This is not the usual fare for a TOGA but I mentioned it online several weeks ago and Molly says she is interested.

You Need A Pot Of Money To Pry This From My Hands

Necchi Nora, pink, with cams

It is now in a case
It's a legendary Necchi.  I bought cams for it but have no idea whether it is a full set or not.  Tested within the past 6 months and working beautifully.

BTW, the photo is a bit misleading.  It is not a bright clear pink.  But it is definitely pink, just a beige-y pink.

Singer 301 in a non-301 case

Case not shown

Mocha shortbed.  Straight stitch machine, but this one does include the zigzag and other stitch accessory.

Singer 319, "typewriter keys" model

Here's the famous Singer 319, an eminently treadle-able multistitch machine with cams for even more stitches.  Takes Singer flat cams.

Please note that someone has re-timed this machine so that it takes ordinary needles instead of the special class 206 needles.  I have tested it and it sews fine.

Want to start a flame war on a vintage Singer online group?  Bring up the topic of adapting this machine to take regular needles.

I have always had in mind re-timing it back to its original specifications but I just haven't gotten around to it and have lost interest.

Tell me what Singer flat cams you already have (by number) and I will include half a dozen extra ones for you.  If you don't have any I will include an assortment that I think will be useful and/or fun.

Vintage Sewing Accessories

I don't have time to take pictures. but I have lots of stuff.  Let me know via email or Facebook of the type of things you might be interested in.  If NO ONE expresses any interest, that type of thing will probably be left at home.

  • wooden ironing boards.  I have three.  They make nice display pieces.  Plant stands (keep those ferns off your treadles, ladies!).  You can even use them as ironing boards--I do! One of them has an underpad and ironing board cover on it right now. If you want one of the others for an ironing board let me know and I can even bring you a piece of old wool blanket, which makes the perfect underpad for your ironing board.  Please note that this is old wood  and has some splits.  Still works though.
  • sewing baskets.  I have the cute fabric upholstered kind and the vintage plastic ones.
  • thread boxes.  clear plastic, some with spaces for bobbins.  
  • buttonholers.  I have a zillion.  Pink and green Jetsons.  Older Singer ones.  Non-Singer ones.  All of those are for straight stitch machines.  I also have some more modern Singer ones for zigzag machines.  Let me know what you are looking for.  I have several differnent types of top clampers but have NO IDEA of how to determine which machines they will fit.  
  • Sewing books.  Singer, Better Homes and Gardens, Reader's Digest.  These are encyclopedias of sewing techniques.  If you sew, you need one.  Trust me on this.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Interviewed by Leah Day!

Andy Warhol said that everyone gets 15 minutes of fame.  This is my moment, and it lasted longer than 15 minutes.  Take that, Andy Warhol!

Imagine my thrill when I got an email from Leah Day a couple of months ago.  I have followed her almost from the beginning of her online career.  Yes, I confess, I am a fan girl.  She is an awesome machine quilting guru, among other things.  Check out her site at the link above.

And check out the video podcast with my interview too.

I ALSO have to confess that one of my posts was written as a reaction to a post of hers back in 2013 in which she was contemplating buying a new and expensive sewing machine.  This led me to write  FMQ The Cheapo Way.

She emailed me to ask about which vintage or antique sewing machines would be good for free motion quilting.  I figured she had found me through my blog.  But no, Bonnie Hunter from Quiltville recommended me to her.  Be still my beating heart.  I don't know if I can handle the thinner air up here in the stratosphere of quiltyness.

Before my head explodes from my inflated ego, let me tell you the stone truth.  Only a handful, maybe a couple of handfuls by now, of us blog about the restoration of old machines.  So people can find us easily online, even quilting world superstars like Leah Day and Bonnie Hunter.  Doesn't make me special in any way other than rarity, lol.

Y'all know how much I LOVE to talk about old sewing machines.  Several emails followed.  And then Leah asked me if she could interview me for her podcast, Hello My Quilting Friends.  Oh, yes!  Then I found out it was a video podcast.  Oh, no!  I do NOT consider myself photogenic.  But on the other hand I have come to terms with being an old fat lady.  So I said yes.


So, you want a treadle powered vintage sewing machine for piecing and free motion quilting (FMQ)?  Good idea.

First, lets talk about power.  Real power.  Sewing machine power.  There are three possibilities:

  • Treadle, in which the machine sits in a cabinet and a foot pedal drives the action
  • Hand crank, in which the machine sits in a case (usually) and the user turns a crank on the right hand side to drive the machine.
  • Electric motor, the machine can be either in a case or cabinet.  Electricity provides the power, which the user controls by a foot pedal or knee lever.  And those are totally interchangeable.

Singer 99 with an added hand crank

The hand crank option is ideal for any sewing where you need total control and precision.  Think of it as machine-assisted hand sewing.  It's great for teaching sewing, whether to children or adults, because it starts and stops on a dime.  Well, really, not a dime, more like a fraction of a grain of rice.  It is great for sewing tiny seams on doll clothing.  It is perfect for paper piecing.  Any of the machines discussed below are good candidates for hand crank conversion and you can read more about it here.

Comparing sewing with a treadle versus sewing with a motor:  You might be surprised.  THERE IS NO PERCEPTIBLE DIFFERENCE.  It's a sewing machine.  It goes.  It stops.  Once you get the physical rhythm of the treadle you never even think about the power source while you are using it.  At least I don't.  YMMV.

So why have a treadle?  Because it is really, really, cool?  Because you can keep on sewing even if the power fails?  Because it puts you in touch with previous generations?  with history?  Choose your own reasons.  All of those are my reasons.  You may have more, please leave them in the comments below.

Here's what you do:  Buy a Singer treadle.  There are millions of them.  There are LOTS of great vintage sewing machines NOT made by Singer which will fit in a Singer treadle.  The footprint of sewing machines was pretty standard.

The bed opening should measure 14.5 inches x 7 inches.  There MAY be a metal piece to the left (shown above) designed to hold the cord so that it does not get pinched when it folds down into the machine.  That MAY or MAY NOT be missing.  This adds another 2 inches to the width of the opening.

Why specifically a Singer treadle?  There are lots of antique treadles out there, but Singers are the only ones where I can PRETTY MUCH guarantee that the non-Singer postwar Japanese machines discussed below will fit.  There are always exceptions, so make sure you have a working tape measure while hunting.

Where should you look?  I have written detailed advice about searching for a good vintage sewing machine, and much of it also applies to treadles.

What should you pay?  Whatever you are comfortable with.  The more you are willing to pay, the more treadles will be available to you, and/or the faster you will find one.  Here in the Piedmont of NC I have paid as little as $25 and sold one for as much as $150 .  My friend Linda sells them for $250, fully serviced and with a fully serviced working sewing machine in it.

What should you look for?  Check carefully for any cracks or breaks in the cast iron, which are costly and difficult to repair.  Push the foot pedal.  Does the big flywheel on the right hand side turn?  If so, this is a working treadle.  Cleaning and oiling are all it needs and you can read about that here.  The leather drive belt connecting the big flywheel with the machine will probably be dry-rotted or gone, but it  can easily be replaced.

I advise against buying a treadle that is not already in good working order (most of them are) but if you have inherited a family treadle with problems, there are complete instructions on how to break it down and rebuild it on the TreadleOn site.

There were two versions of the Singer treadle (and many different cabinets),  The most common one is black cast iron with logos that were originally gold, but may now be obscured by dirt.  Please note that by "treadle" here we mean specifically the cast iron beneath the machine and the cabinet.

Cast iron:  Singer logo in gold over foot pedal

Cast iron:  Singer logo in gold on sides of treadle
A less common type is made of aluminum and known as the "straight leg treadle".  I have one and it works just as well as the heavier one.  They are painted brown rather than black.

But we're not talking about ALL sewing machines, we want something specifically good for FMQ.  And what you need there is a machine with a class 15 bobbin system.  That's the kind where you insert the bobbin into a case and then insert that into the machine.

There were MANY different bobbins and therefore bobbin systems and cases and this is not the place to go into all that.  Google is your friend.

One thing I will tell you is that class 15 bobbins are still in wide use and plastic ones are available.  Modern metal ones have problems and one of my suppliers now refuses to sell them.  The vintage metal ones may or may not have holes in them as shown above.

And this is where you insert the bobbin case into the machine.  On this machine the access cover flips up.  Some of them slide open to the side.

Singer's most popular class 15 machine was the 15-91, which CANNOT be treadled.

Singer 15-91
The 15-91, and the later 15-125 in green, have a "potted" motor and direct gear drive.  The fact that the motor is permanently connected to the machine with gears is what prevents it from being treadled.

Singer 15-125

The potted motor is easy to spot on the back of the machine.  15-91s potted motor looks just like this but in black (which is harder to photograph).

Singer 15-125

Singer 15-125 potted motor
So if you see the potted motor, that is not what you want for treadling because you just can't do it.  You need a machine with a removable motor.

Singer also made class 15 machines with an external motor, such as the 15-88, but these are much harder to find, at least around here.  As a result, I have no photos of them!

But I have lots of photos of the post WWII Japanese machines which were line-for-line copies of the Singer 15.  These are often referred to as "15 clones".  Serious vintage sewing machine people are invited NOT to yell at me for using this term.  It's a good term if you limit it to the machines that are line-for-line copies.  Although the Japanese made them in a rainbow of pretty colors,

The identifying characteristics of the 15 clones are the fact that the tensioner is on the left hand nose of the machine rather than facing you on the front.  And that distinctive round stitch length lever.

Tensioner sticking out, view from the back

Tensioner, head on view

round stitch length lever

And all of the clones have external motors, which are easily removed for treadling.

not the same machine, but you can see where the motor was removed

Underneath the hand wheel you can see the motor mount, where the motor was attached with a large bolt.  It is a matter of a minute to remove the motor.

And here's another pretty one.  Note on this one and the pink ones that the Japanese added a feed dog drop feature, pretty handy for free motion quilting.  (although on the Singers it is an easy matter with a screwdriver to drop the dogs or remove them entirely).

The Japanese produced machines in enormous numbers and eventually came up with new designs (and produced some wonderful zigzag machines too).

Modernage, class 15 but not a clone
This machine uses the class 15 bobbin system but is stylistically different.  So I don't call this one a clone.  But you can if it makes you happy.  Just prepare to be chastised by the purists.

Back to the pretty clones.

This one is labelled "Gibraltar" but the names are meaningless.  Japanese companies naturally did not want to sell machines with the names of Japanese companies on them to American consumers in the years after WWII.  So they came up with random appealing names.

Clones came in black too.  I fitted this one with a hand crank.

And boring beige.  Whatever its name was, the nameplate is gone now.

Now for a word about presser feet.

There are many, many ways for presser feet to attach to a machine, especially if you go back into the 1800's machines.  But in this post we are really only talking about postwar machines.  And by that time the three most popular kinds were:
  • low shank.  this is still the most common style.  when you see presser feet at your local big box retailer, they are low shank.  
  • high shank
  • slant shank, made by Singer
These are NOT interchangeable.  (And, btw, some companies have feet specific to their own machines.  I'm looking at you, Bernina).

All of the line-for-line 15 clones I have seen have been low shank.  I have seen many high shank postwar zigzag machines, and low shank ones also.  That is all I, or anyone, can tell you.  There may be high shank clones that I am unaware of.  There is no international database of all the machines ever produced.

So how do you know what you are seeing?  Print out a copy of this shank guide provided by  

If you have a low shank machine, almost all low shank presser feet and attachments will work on it.  Take note of that if you own a Featherweight, a low shank machine.  You really don't need presser feet advertised as being specifically for Featherweight (and at an inflated price).

And one more presser foot note:  if you want a walking foot for a straight-stitch only machine YOU MUST BUY A STRAIGHT STITCH WALKING FOOT.  Your usual walking foot is designed for zigzag machines, and the spacing of the feed dogs is different.  You will need a walking foot designed specifically to fit on the feed dogs of a straight stitch machine.

So I had better tell you where to find one, or anything else vintage-machine-related, presser feet, attachments, parts, and supplies such as treadle belts.  I am not related to this company and receive no financial or any other kind of benefit for recommending it.  But they have been providing me with good no problem service for years.

But hey, Jenny, if you read this and WANT to pay me for recommending you, just let me know.  I'll take payment in parts, thank you very much.


So, now you have your treadle and your machine.  How do they fall in love and marry?  It's easier than you think.  Slightly tricksy, but easy.

What you do NOT do is take the hinges out of either the treadle or the case or cabinet that your machine is in.  No, no, no, do not do this.  And I see it all the time.  My own, admittedly limited and amateurish, experience with wood is that every time you take a screw out and put it back in, you are degrading the strength of the object.  So don't do it.  Clear?

What you do is first discover the way in which the machine is actually attached to the machine.  It's not the hinges.  The moveable part of each hinge has a post on it.  The sewing machine has two holes into which the posts fit.  There is a set screw that tightens things down.

Describing the step by step removal and installation technique using words and still photos would be a silly waste of my time when we have YouTube. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million.

Dave at Super Mom -No Cape! has a good video titled How To Remove and Reinstall A Vintage Singer Machine From Its Cabinet.   I like his removal technique but unless you have a helper (and a helper willing to get their fingers pinched as a 40 pound machine descends onto those hinge pins) I would not follow his re-installation technique.  It is hilarious to see that pair of extra hands coming up into the machine opening from below however.

For a better re-installation technique, StagecoachRoad Sewing has a great video that shows how to install a machine into a cabinet.  Same process for a treadle (or a portable case for that matter).



  • Buy a Singer treadle
  • Buy a class 15 straight stitch machine
  • Put them together
  • Piece* or free motion quilt to your heart's content
It really is that simple.  Have fun and let me know your own experiences in the comments below.

*And, oh, yeah, piecing.  Haven't talked about it here because this is all about FMQ.  But if you have never used a vintage straight stitch only machine for piecing, you just have not LIVED.   Do you know any quilters who rave about the quality of the stitch their oh-so-trendy vintage Featherweight makes?  They are not lying.  But what they don't know is that ANY all metal vintage straight stitch only machine will do the same.  They only do the one thing but they do it supremely well.

And welcome to all of Leah Day's followers who wander over here and find this blog.  I'm glad you're here!  Hope I was useful or maybe just interesting to some of you.