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How To Convert An Electric Sewing Machine To Non-Electric With A Treadle (Foot Pedal) or Hand Crank

>31 August 2010
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Today, I got on this kick of trying to figure out how to convert my basic electric sewing machine into something that I could use off-grid. As I began looking into this subject, I was immediately confronted with my first question… what is a treadle, anyway?

For those like me, who know very little about sewing machines, a treadle (said like tred-dle, not tree-dle), is the foot pedal that was used with old fashioned non-electric sewing machines, as shown in the picture above.

After lots of reading online, I’ve found that it is possible to convert some sewing machines from electric to non-electric with several fairly easy modifications that one could do him or her self. I’m wondering if the one I have could possibly be one that is modifiable. I don’t think I can know unless I get inside my machine and check out all of the mechanisms within.

If you are interested in converting your sewing machine from electric to  non-electric with use of a treadle or hand crank, here are the best articles I could find on the subject. If you know of better instructions, please do tell!

Now, if only I could find a good treadle…

Converting Singer Sewing Machines From Electric to Treadle or Hand Crank

How To Convert A Serger To A Treadle

How To Convert A Modern Sewing Machine To A Treadle


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12 Comments »

  • Organized Prepper said:

    I got a Singer treadle sewing machine for *free* on FreeCycle! I’m thrilled to have one as a backup to my electric machine. Now — to score a free hand-crank wheat grinder ;-)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Wow, that is awesome!! I can’t imagine I’d ever get that lucky ;)

  • Lanna said:

    Yeah, check your local craigslist and freecycle and such. A bunch of gals on a forum I sometimes frequent pick up freebies like that all the time. Then you just need to get used to each machine’s quirks. They usually take up floor real estate though, so probably not the best bet for tiny houses.

  • Mrs. D said:

    Many years ago my Mom had a treddle machine. I still have it. But because of all the moves my parents had to make my Father graciously made this machine into a compact electric machine. The machine is out of its original wood cabnet and in a small plastic carrying case. The machine has been through a lot of moves, a fire and many other events including a time at boarding school and then college with me. It could probably be made back into a treddle machine very easily. Making a electric machine into a treddle could be tricky. The old elecric machines had a spot for the belt on the outside, but the new machines have belts, or gears on the inside. If you can find an older machine it may be an easier project. I have seen several treddle machines for sale at junk shops, but they are seized up. I guess with a little elbow grease and axle grease they may be freed up and useable. I learned to sew on my Mom’s old treddle before my Dad fiddled with it, so I’m not sure I want to go back.

  • Mandie said:

    My mom has my grandmother’s old Singer treddle, and it’s really cool. It has sat as a storage table for years as we try to find the right size belt to fit it. I used to sit and pretend to treddle for hours after we first had it. It’s seen better days, but it’s still 100% original and works!

  • Amy said:

    WOW! I never even thought of converting a modern day machine! Very interesting! I’ve often thought that using a treadle machine would be fun and nostalgic.

  • Susan said:

    Some machines with electric motors are easily converted to treadle or hand-crank, others are not. I have learned a lot by trial-and-error but it has been rather expensive errors and learning curve when components do not fit as expected. I subscribed to the online website called Treadle On to learn as much as possible but there is an associated forum of members who share a great deal of their experience and knowledge, too. Just a thought.

  • Ann said:

    I got a singer treadle from a local person. I really didn’t like the old machine in there, so I sold it. I replaced it with a newer (probably from the 60′s) bought cheap Singer sewing machine. I took the motor off the back and the treadle belt fit right in the handwheel on the right like it was made for it. I wanted the newer machine because now i can do either a straight stitch or a zig zag on the treadle and I have about 50 dollars in it. Worked for me!

  • Niki said:

    The one problem I’ve run into with our old Singer treadle, is replacement parts. Belts and needles are always in need of replacing, but finding things that will fit properly can be a challenge. So my advice is – if you find a good place for parts… stock up! :)

  • Kelly Sangree said:

    I actually DID de-motorize my 1950′s vintage sewing machine and installed it on my treadle table. I had been sewing with the original Singer head that came with the table (which I found at a yard sale for $50), but it only made a straight stitch on one length. Granted, it did it very well once I figured out the tension (always the biggest problem with suck a machine) but I wanted a machine that could handle a zigzag stitch.
    I kept my eyes open until I found an older machine with an external belt drive – the kind where the hand wheel has a visible belt going to a motor on the back. I got one for $35 at a goodwill, and later found one in the trash! Go figure! I removed two screws to take off the motor, screwed the machine into the fittings for the treadle table, and fitted it with the belt that led to the treadle flywheel. Voila! Grid-free sewing! My next ambition is to find another treadle table so I can de-motorize my factory-grade serger!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That is so awesome, Kelly!! Great job :)

  • Kathy said:

    I have been wanting an old fashioned treadle sewing machine like my Grandmother had when I was little. I have found parts for sale on e-bay. It would be great to convert my electric sewing machine to non-electric. Been searching the net and found Lehmans.com sells a traditional treadle sewing machine for 1400.00.

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