A bobbin a bobbin…

Ahhh, the sewing machine, the sewing machine A girl’s best friend

If I didn’t having my sewing machine I’d a come to no good end

But a bobbin a bobbin and peddle a peddle

And wheel the wheel by day

So by night I feel so weary that I never get out to play

The first line of ‘The Sewing Machine Song as sung by Betty Hutton in the 40s movie ‘The Perils of Pauline’.

I have recently acquired a 1930s Singer treadle machine courtesy of eBay. It was quite a state when I got it, but after a thorough swabbing with WD40 and machine oil (sewing machine oil that is!) it’s looking pretty smart.

The Clean Machine

The leather drive belt was completely perished when I got it but all the spares are still available so a few more eBay sales and it’s all up and running!

But sewing in straight lines gets a little dull and, as a lover of free embroidery, I thought I’d give it a go.

If you’re a treadle machine owner – and I know from the number of YouTube videos that there’s a lot of you out there – below is a short run-through of how to set your machine up for embroidery.

Some people are even converting their electric Singers back to treadle. Why is another issue outside the scope of this post…

Free Embroidery on the Singer 201K Treadle Machine

First of all, you need to remove the straight stitch foot from the shank.

Straight Stitch Foot Removed

Then you need to release the drive belt from the wheel using the belt thrower.

Using the belt Thrower

Next you need to swing the machine body backwards exposing the underside – you will only be able to do this if the belt is completely free of the wheel.

Belt Released from Wheel

Locate the Feed Dog Adjuster. You may need your instruction manual for this.

Feed Dogs in the Up Position

Loosen the knurled nut, pull it out as far as it will go, and press down on the little brass tab.

Feed Dogs in the Down Position

Now relocate the knurled nut in the new hole and tighten!

Lower the machine body back into the table and replace the belt on the wheel.

Now the instruction manual says that you can darn/embroider without a presser foot fitted but I (wimp that I am) have never been too keen on sewing with a bare needle even if it is only being driven by my own muscle power. As luck would have it, I had a standard fit embroidery foot for my Husqvarna machines and it fitted perfectly.

You can buy these feet online for about a tenner.

Standard Embroidery Foot Fitted

Thread up the machine as per the manual and bring the bobbin thread to the top.

Machine Threaded

Prepare some fabric by ironing it onto a piece of cotton batting and, if you’re feeling adventurous, fuse a shape onto it using fusible web.

Place it under the needle and bring the bobbin thread through to the top of the fabric.

Bobbin thread on Top of Fabric

It is very important, with treadle machines, to have your feet in the right position on the treadle.

Getting your Feet Right

If you have your feet positioned correctly, sewing is like using one of those step machines at the gym. If you have your feet in the wrong position i.e. side by side on the treadle, it is like being on a step machine while wearing deep sea divers boots…

Now you’re ready for the off.

Put your left hand on the left edge of the fabric – as far from the needle as possible – put the presser foot down and swing the balance wheel towards you – then pedal like mad. Make sure that the balance wheel is always turning towards you.

These old machines are annoying similar to their whizzy modern counterparts in that, if you forget to put the presser foot down, before starting to embroider, this is what you will get…

Birds Nest

Once you have untangled everything, try again…

Using a treadle machine is not as easy as the modern plug-in-and-zoom machines but it is strangely satisfying – when you get the hang of it!


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