How To Use A Treadle Sewing Machine For Beginners

Last Updated on 1 year by Susan Mayrich

If you want to learn how to use a treadle sewing machine, we simplified it into two steps. We’ll even share techniques on getting the rhythm of the treadle, so even beginners can get used to this traditional machine. Expect to know more about the usage of this traditional machine by the end of this article. 

how to use a treadle sewing machine

But first, do you even know what is a treadle sewing machine? Please familiarize yourself with this sewing machine to understand its mechanism and use it much more easily. 


How To Use A Treadle Sewing Machine Easily


Step 1. Position ourself

Find a good position with the treadle sewing machine to avoid sitting fatigue. Unlike motorized sewing machines, you need coordination when sewing with a treadle, so the proper and comfortable sitting posture is a must. For example, you want the ball of your left foot to land on the upper left corner of the treadle and the heel of your right foot on the lower right corner to pump the treadle smoothly. 


Step 2. Set up the bobbin and practice

Place a piece of scrap fabric under the needle for practicing, then lower the presser foot. To ensure the correct tension, use the same thread for the head and bobbin. Both strands should come from the same spool a well. 

Start practicing by having both feet flat on the treadle, and turn the handwheel to move the sewing machine. Rock the treadle back and forth with your feet until you find a rhythm that keeps the wheel turning. But since treadle sewing machines don’t have a reverse, you’ll turn the fabric yourself. 


Are Treadle Sewing Machines Easy To Use?

Treadle sewing machines take practice to use until you find the correct rhythm. From there, you’ll discover that it’s straightforward to use. Remember not to treat the treadle like a gas pedal; timing is crucial to keep the wheel from reversing. 

Another trick is to turn the handwheel to start each seam. Then, use your feet to “brake” the treadle if you need to stop the needle in a particular position. From there, move the needle via the handwheel and remember to keep practicing with the machine to get more comfortable with it. 

For more tips with traditional models, read this article on how to use an old sewing machine


How Do You Thread A Treadle Sewing Machine?

  1. Install the bobbin to the shuttle
  2. Check if the thread can feed through the designated slots at the bottom
  3. Guide the thread through the lower and upper slots before going over the bobbin and out the hole to reach the end of the shuttle
  4. Have the thread through the tension assembly
  5. Refer to the manual of the specific old sewing machine you have for more in-depth instructions 

What Can You Sew With A Treadle Sewing Machine?

You can make your clothes with a treadle sewing machine, similar to owning a motorized machine. However, most treadle models are straight stitch-only, so you might feel limited when working on some projects. You can also check if the device still has its attachments or if you can use feet with it if you want to make ruffles or hems easily. 

You can even sew challenging materials like denim and leather with a treadle machine since no gears can slip inside. However, remember that you won’t get automatic stitching with a treadle, and most old models can only sew forward. Furthermore, you can’t finish the seams quickly since treadles have no zigzag stitches, so you’ll have to be creative. 


What Is A Treadle Machine Operated With?

A treadle machine is operated by feet. You’ll use your feet to press on the treadle, and the rhythm will keep it sewing. Your feet will also dictate how precise or fast you can work since the motion moves the flywheel connected to the handwheel that will then turn since a belt connects them. 

Since the belt is crucial for the functioning of the treadle, you should keep it from getting worn down quickly. Consider slipping it off the flywheel, especially when you won’t use the treadle for a long time. It would be best if you also replaced the belt each time it gets stretched and worn out. 

If you want to understand sewing machines better, learn how a sewing machine works


Are Old Sewing Machines Valuable?

If you can’t use the treadle sewing machine and consider selling it instead, you might get it sold reasonably. Some old treadle sewing machines might be valuable for collectors or vintage and antique enthusiasts who’ll buy them for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. First, however, you need to check if your machine is unique or what features it has that will make it valuable. 

Start from finding out what year it was manufactured and visit forums regarding the model you have. 



And that’s it! We just learned how to use a treadle sewing machine, which turned out to be surprisingly simple. You only need to get in the proper sitting position, set it up, then get used to the rhythm of pressing the treadle with your feet. 

Do not be intimidated by this machine type as you might even surprise yourself that you’re enjoying its simpleness. 

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