I am 14 years old and a quilter. I do all of my sewing on either a treadle or a hand crank and currently have 15 ; 6 of them treadles. I’ve been quilting since I was 12, when I was given some fabric and my dad told me to use it or lose it. I chose to use it and have thoroughly enjoyed it since.
I had been given a newer Singer, made around 2000, and had a lot of difficulties with it. This started me on a lot of research on sewing machines, as I wanted to get a better one. After being given my aunt’s 1986 Singer, I decided old was good. Granted, that was not an old machine, but I had to start somewhere. A few months after my aunt had gifted me the machine we had a power outage for 5 days. Unable to sew, I resorted to turning the wheel of the machine by hand. I didn’t get much done - it was very tedious - and at the end of that power outage, I decided I wanted a treadle. About a week later, the Riccar class 15 clone arrived. That machine (which I still have) started me on the path to old .
teenager's room to be proud of:
quilter Emily's budding collection
Spring 2009, I got a 1927 Singer treadle. That was hard to learn. I am left-handed and have never been very good at coordination! I decided the best way to learn was to jump in and do it. So I quilted a baby quilt on it. I did stippling (with feed dogs up) - I sewed on it for about 4 hours straight. I knew how to use it when I was done, though (I didn’t have it threaded right - but that’s another story).
Very soon after getting my first treadle, I saw another one at a thrift store. They wanted 50 dollars for it. My dad told me I did not need it and was firmly against me getting it. But I thought it was really neat as it seemed to be really easy to use. Next time I went, it was still there. I was was really eyeing it now and finally got my dad to call them and bargain. I got it for 30 dollars. Dads can be so useful.
And it was a lovely machine in the sense that it worked really well. It’s a 1922 White Rotary. Not a showpiece, though. I do have a nice Franklin which I bought at a quilt store that is, but it doesn’t work well.
I quilted more than I collected for several months, then I went to the October 2009 Portland Treadle On Gathering - coming home with five machines and two treadle bases. My dad said nothing, which surprised me. He had been talking about me cutting down a bit.
My favorite new machine is a Davis Vertical Feed which was given to me; I bought the base at the gathering. It’s used for quilting and piecing quite a bit, though not as much as my straight leg treadle with the class 15 clone I mentioned. Treadling is very relaxing and I really enjoy it. I also got my oldest machine at the gathering. It is a 1895 Singer handcrank which I really enjoy using. I love most of my machines, though I do have favorites: “Fred” (a Singer 66), “Tribulation” (Singer 99), “Callalilly” (White FR), just to name a few. Tribulation is kind of a joke - the machine works really well! The only time I use an electric machine is when I go to my weekly quilt group; it is usually a 1940s knee-lift Singer.
People often seem surprised that I have fifteen machines and that I do not, aside from a serger, own an electric . I’m convinced some think I am joking and they’ve had the funniest expressions. My ambition is to become very good at quilting and perhaps write a few books about it.
There is something very neat about sewing on a machine that, in my case at least, is older than me. I enjoy keeping the machines in good repair and fixing them up, too, and hope to take a repair class sometime as I still have a lot to learn. Mostly, I hope to collect many, many sewing machines. I’m always on the lookout for a new one and it’s really fun to look. Fun to use them, too, and I’m learning all the time.
The interesting thing about my hobby is that my mom doesn’t sew at all (she has me do the sewing) and neither of my grandmothers owned a treadle. However, my mom still talks about that old Singer electric that caused all the problems!
~ Emily Pearson, in Oregon