Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Identify A Treadle Sewing Machine Iron Stand

A 19th Century homemaker sews with her new iron treadle sewing machine.

Antique sewing machines had bases and treadles cast from iron. Barring the inevitable rust when not cared for periodically, they are very durable. Cast iron pieces blend well as a design element with other antiques. It is because of these qualities that old cast iron pieces have become valuable to collectors. Because they are unique in design, identification of cast iron treadle sewing machine stands should be simple. Complications arise when newly manufactured cast iron stands mimic vintage ones.


1. Look for a maker's name on the piece. Vintage Singer treadle sewing machines sit on a wooden cabinet that has cast iron legs and treadle pedal(s). In some cases, the word "Singer" is incorporated into the treadle design, making this type of base very recognizable. Unfortunately, there are companies that specialize in replica products and re-manufacture parts for vintage Singer treadle sewing machine, so there's no guarantee that the Singer treadle you find is truly vintage.

Check out the International Sewing Machine Collector's Society (ISMACS) website. During the late 19th and early 20th century period, sewing machine makers were asked by many companies to place that company's name on their product. The ISMACS has records of nearly 5000 "exclusive" names produced by half a dozen makers. The situation is further confused in that retailers might switch makers at the end of a contract period and the same name would then appear on a completely different machine by another manufacturer. It can help to have a list of these names that could appear on the sewing machine and its stand.

2. Use a parts list to help identify a vintage iron treadle stand. The truly vintage piece will have a pedal (or two) or single treadle, one or more stabilizing bars that joined the legs together and sometimes a large iron wheel that helped turn the mechanism. Iron, cast or wrought, is very heavy. These iron stands were sometimes ornately designed. However, plain, simple parts are just as common.

3. Note the iron's finish. The style of the Peugeot Balancieres, a treadle machine, is rustic and it was roughly painted black in the Peugeot factory.

White manufacturing company offered some treadle machines housed in a cherry library table cabinet which may still be attached to the stand. A bronze-gold coloration to the cast iron is seen on earlier models.

4. Try out the machine, if there is still one attached to the iron stand. Everything about the White is the reverse of the Singer - the handwheel rotates away from you instead of toward you. New owners of vintage White sewing machines often can't get their machine to stitch because they are trying to make it turn the same direction as a Singer, so this is a good indication of a truly vintage machine.

Tags: cast iron, iron treadle, sewing machine, sewing machines, Singer treadle, treadle sewing