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Friday, March 16, 2012

New Home Light-Running Treadle: An Introduction

I've long been fascinated by the beauty of treadle sewing machines. Seeing one in a fabric store window has always been a treat. Who wouldn't admire all that ornate detailing? I was in no big hurry to find one of my own . . . until I saw one in action on an episode of Victorian Farm.

So here it is--my very first treadle!

And even thought the cabinet is in rough shape--this antique New Home is a beauty. As you can see, the finish has deteriorated. In fact, I can literally scrape parts of the finish off with a fingernail. It's darkened, crackled, and dirty, and in many places leaves the wood completely exposed and unprotected. I've already re-glued the coffin top, which had a massive crack in it.

These are the only accessories it came with besides the straight stitch foot, which came already attached, and which, for the moment, is stuck. That will get fixed.

There are a couple of extra long shuttle bobbins, and I love the little compartments in this top, center drawer.

And the drawer pulls on the six side drawers are very lovely.

 The machine itself is in decent shape. The decals are worn from use, there's some rust here and there, and the chrome on the hand wheel is almost completely worn away. However, everything moves freely, and after a belt replacement and a few drops of oil, it stitches just like it's supposed to. Here's a back view.

The decals on the back of the pillar are the least worn, and the colors and details can still be seen. I haven't cleaned them at all yet, and won't do so until I do a bit more research on how to clean without damaging or silvering them. I can only imagine how beautiful this machine must have been brand new. Now on to the practical stuff . . .

The "W" shaped contraption you see at the top is the tension spring--tighten the screw for more tension, loosen it for less tension. Simple. Effective. The disadvantage to this kind of tension control, however, is that it is completely independent of the presser foot. When the presser foot is raised, the tension spring is not disengaged, making it difficult to pull the work (and upper thread) out from under the presser foot without bending the needle. For this same reason, threading is a little less convenient on this machine.

Here's a closeup of the presser foot and needle bar. The presser foot screw is stuck, so it will get a dab of WD-40. When it comes to sewing machines, WD-40 is a big no-no because if left on the parts they can become more frozen than they were in the first place. Kroil is typically recommended in the Yahoo! sewing machine groups, but I don't have any on hand. Rest assured, I will get rid of the WD-40 by flushing the parts with oil once they have been loosened and removed.

Notice how the presser foot connects to the presser bar. So far, as far as I can tell, these are not easy feet to come by. They're the earlier style. The presser bar is completely round, the foot slides up onto the presser bar, and is secured with a set screw. Take another look at the picture of the accessories in the drawer above to see what the connecting part of a presser foot looks like when not on the presser bar. There aren't many feet for this machine that actually attach to the presser bar. Most of the accessories (almost all the hemmers and the tucker) actually attach to the bed of the machine with a thumbscrew.

Notice also that the needle bar is flat (interesting). The hole in the top of the needle bar acts like the check spring of a modern machine. The hook lower down on the face plate is the take-up.

Here you can see the bullet-shaped, vibrating shuttle under the front slide plate. It's still in good shape--no skipped stitches so far, except when I removed and reinstalled the needle. Turns out this machine takes longer needles than today's standard. One solution? Instead of pushing the needle up as far is will go (as is the usual practice) lower it a tad, tighten the screw, and give it a try. Repeat until you're no longer getting skipped stitches and/or broken top thread.

Here's a closeup of the bobbin winder--more on that later.

And below that, on the bed of the machine, is the stitch length selector--the higher the number, the smaller the stitch. This machine will do some seriously microscopic stitches. To get the smallest stitches balanced, you'll have to loosen the top tension. Adjust the stitch length by loosening the thumb screw and sliding it left or right as desired. This one was stuck.

 That's why the bar you see at the top of this photo is so nice and silver. I removed it and wiped it clean with sewing machine oil and paper towels. I also cleaned the channel it rests in with oil and Q-tips. The metal tab and screw that holds the bar in place should not be tightened all the way down, nor should it be terribly loose. Find a happy medium that keeps the bar securely in the channel, and yet allows it to slide freely. I also cleaned a lot of lint out of the shuttle area, the evidence of which you can see in the oil drip pan under the machine.

And here is a closeup of the hand wheel and clutch release (again, more on this later).

The serial number is printed on the front slide plate as well as a "Number of Cotton/Size of Needle" chart. According to ISMACS, the serial number dates this machine to 1891. You can see the New Home numbers list here.

Patent dates are printed on the rear slide plate, pictured below.

That's the end of this rather lengthy introduction to the New Home Light-Running treadle sewing machine. Threading and use tutorials will follow soon. If I've left anything else out, or you're having trouble reading any of the words on those ultra-shiny slide plates (which I had a heck of a time photographing without reflection), or if you just have some interesting historical or anecdotal tidbits for me, feel free to comment below!


  1. I just got one of these! I believe mine dates to 1883-1885 based on the serial numbers. The coffin top is in good condition, but the machine has been used a lot I believe. I can't wait to get it all cleaned up and working again!

  2. just got one that dates to 1892. no coffin top and i don't believe it's in the original cabinet. can find nothing that looks like it. but i think a good cleaning and oiling and tightening the belt should have it up and running. can't wait to sew on it.

  3. Hello: I recently acqired an 1892 New Home, and am looking for the shuttle, bobbins and the oil tray. Anyone have a connection to parts? Fully restored, and searching for parts to complete it.

  4. I just aquired an 1893 New home. It's in rough shape, but I am looking forward to completely restoring this beauty. Wish me luck. I am clueless but enthusiastic!

  5. I just aquired an 1893 New home. It's in rough shape, but I am looking forward to completely restoring this beauty. Wish me luck. I am clueless but enthusiastic!