Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How To Thread a Top Tension Sewing Machine

I thought I'd put up this little diagram after having so much trouble finding any directions online of how to properly thread my top-tension treadle machine. As there don't appear to be any existing manuals for my machine, I eventually had to piece it together using old diagrams and bits of directions from manuals for different models of machines. That said, it appears that different top tension models were each a bit unique in their set up, but this should help get you started, at least!

With the thread coming off the back of the spool, pass the thread behind the tension screw (1) and through the slot/hole in the tension plate (2). The thread will then pass towards the front of the machine, between two plates. Mine has a small notch that the thread naturally slipped into. Next, slip the thread underneath the eyelet (3), then through the notch at the top of the little post (4).

This next bit was a little tricky to figure out. The easiest way to do it is to bring the thread straight down behing the little guard (5), then reach in from the front and pull a little loop of thread towards you through the guard and loop it over the hook (6). All that's left now is to thread the needle (7) from left to right. The few top-tension machines I've seen online so far have all threaded left to right.

That's it! I hope someone else finds this useful!

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Treadle: Restored

I finally finished restoring the old treadle sewing machine I bought a couple of months ago. After doing some more research, I no longer believe it's a Davis made machine. Instead, it appears to be a US-made machine (possible a Free model) that was purchased by the Canadian based Raymond Sewing Machine Co. who made modifications to the design (such as the very Canadian maple leaf and shamrock decals, and the bobbin winder). There don't appear to be any records kept to date my machine based on the serial number, but extensive researching and the advice of several antique-sewing-machine-savvy individuals I've been fortunate to chat with online leads me to believe it was likely manufactured sometime in the 1890's. It's surely no younger than 1916, when Raymond sold to White Sewing Machine Co, who moved the company to Cleveland, Ohio.

I love that it's a Canadian machine! As many of the vintage sewing machine enthusiasts name their machines, I've decided to name her Marie-Colleen. "Marie-" on account of my Acadian-French-Canadian heritage (the maple leaves), and "Colleen" for my husband's Irish roots (the shamrocks).

Now, onto her restoration. This was a pretty time-consuming process, but it was well worth it for the gorgeous sewing machine I've ended up with. I didn't want to completely refinish the cabinet, since the original finish was in pretty good condition. I started out with a bit of carpenter's wood glue and some clamps to fix some loosened veneer in a few places. Then it was time to clean it up:

I started by clearing out a decade's worth of dust and sunflower shells (presumably left by a previous mousy tenant), then cleaned the entire cabinet with a solution of Murphy's Oil Soap and warm water. That was followed up by a rub down with some Trade Secret Scratch Remover for Dark Wood, which effectively covered up the worst of the scratches and stains and helped blend in some places where the finish had lightened due to sun exposure. There are still some bits that look less than perfect, but I prefer it to look "old and well cared for", rather than brand new. I finished it up with a good polish with Old English Lemon Oil, to give it a nice sheen and to protect the wood.

Also in line with restoring the cabinet were the treadle irons. These were rusty in spots, and had many areas with large portions of the original paint completely flaked off down to the bare iron. So, with Jeff's help, I completely took the irons apart and repainted them with Tremclad Rust Paint. Here they are after getting a primer coat, looking positively ghostly:

The cabinet before having any work done:

And after being restored:
Now, the machine itself was also in pretty decent shape. It had a layer of dusty grime coating most of it, and the metal bits had a fair amount of rust. The rusty bits I scoured with some super fine grit sandpaper and sewing machine oil, then once the rust was gone I shined them up with some metal polish. Then the inside workings got all the accumulated lint brushed out, everything sprayed with some liquid wrench to losen up the caked on old gunky oil, a dozen sheets of paper towel to clean that up and then fresh oiling on all her moving parts.

On her outside, she got a thorough cleaning with mild dish soap and water, which removed the layer of dusty grime. Then she got a coating of TR-3 Resin Glaze. This is a product which was often recommended by vintage machine enthusiasts online, and which I had to have an American friend buy for me and ship up here because it's not sold in Canada:

After that dried and got a good buffing, I gave the whole outside of the machine several rub downs, over several days, with sewing machine oil. And there you have it. Like I said, a lot of work, but totally worth it.

*sigh* Isn't she beautiful? And she sews such a gorgeous stitch, too. I'm hoping to have some treadle-powered sewing projects to share really soon.

I also think I'll post a couple of how-to's sometime in the next couple of days. I had a bugger of a time finding directions anywhere on how to properly thread a top-leaf-tension machine. Now that I've got it figured out, maybe I can help someone else out with my new knowledge.