Sunday, 25 July 2010

Treadle to Zig-Zag conversion

Quite a while ago I bought an auction lot which included an old style flat bed sewing machine. Unfortunately the old bakelite foot pedal was cracked rendering it rather unsafe to use. Another week I scored an old Gladiola treadle for less than $10. The cabinet wasn't pretty, The foldout lid was warped and was off it's hinges. The tension dial was missing and a bit mangled. I thought about finding parts for the treadle and re-homing it, but no success.

After enjoying using my Singer treadle (with reverse) I wished I could sew knits on it and not just wovens but without a zig zag or stretch stitch it would be impossible. I had a thought about converting an overlocker to a treadle but that seemed like hard work lol, eventually I remembered the old flat bed in the shed. The first electric models had an external motor with a small belt and flywheel. They sat inside a wooden base which enclosed the bottom mechanism, similar to the treadle body.
The concept stayed with me for a long long time, to do "one of these days". Finally, with my Janome refusing to cooperate with me this week, I decided the time had come to give it a go! I put it off for so long thinking it would take forever to do, take special parts or adapters to work. Was I wrong!? Yes indeed!
Modern appliances are disposable with redundancy built in, every model or brand built differently using different parts that are often not available, made using sealed units or using specially shaped tools to deter repairs and replacements.
I could not believe just how generic these old machines are! Different brands and decades apart in manufacture. It was pretty much a case of unscrew, slip things off, then reverse the process with the new machine.
I bet you have seen old machines in cases like this going for a song?
The first thing I did was unbolt the motor which is easily done.
Both machines tilt off their bases with hinged pins inserted into a cast base. The cast holes were identical!
 I held my breath as I swung the machine down into place and it fit perfectly! Down at the belt end, on the Gladiola there was a plate that the belt passed through. Luckily, it was just screwed onto the base but unfortunately there were no matching cast holes for this.

Not to worry, I'll figure something out. I have a bit of cardboard holding it in place. It could be removed easily but that would mean taking the belt staple out which I would rather not do right now.
To remove/fit the belt, on the end of the flywheel there is a silver cap with a little screw.

Disassemble the wheel and pull it out from the cover so the belt can be slipped over it.

Then put it back the way it was, making sure the slotted washer under the silver disk is in place. Set the belt into position on the treadle flywheel and off you go!
(Here's the new video minus the ear piercing scream from a (sibling) tormented child! My ear drums are accustomed to tuning it out, I don't want to be held responsible for rupturing yours lol)
Isn't she a vintage beauty? Sorry for the bumpy pics, it's hard to treadle and keep the camera steady.
This model comes with an assortment of cams for different fancy stitches. I hope to give it a whirl tomorrow and put it through it's paces.


  1. Amazing Helen.
    And I love that scream in the video lol ;)

  2. LOL! I just realised the sound was off on my laptop, I might have to tape that again! Especially when Pearl's brothers aren't home from school to torment her ;)

  3. What a great idea, wow I'm impressed!

  4. You are a clever cookie Helen! Congrats :D

  5. I love treadles, but desparately need the zig-zag function of a newer model. Excellent conversion!!! You should patent this puppy & sell them (for those of us too afraid to do the disassembly for fear of bumping the timing out.)

  6. Great job, Helen.

    and to Anonymous: it's only the modern plastic and computerized machines that are fussy. I've bought over 50 vintage machines (ranging from $10 to $50, most around $25) and have NEVER met one with timing problems.

  7. Helen, have you still got the Gladiola? It's interesting because it has the Lithgow Small Arms factory decal - made in Australia! They're not particularly valuable but it would be good to have some details :)
    best wishes

    1. Hi Bernadette, yes, being the hoarder I am, of course I still have the Gladiola. Lol I thought one day I might want to change it back again. Thanks for the interesting info on the Sal decal.