Treadle Sewing Machine: A Granddaughter's Treasure | Redo It Yourself Inspirations : Treadle Sewing Machine: A Granddaughter's Treasure

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Treadle Sewing Machine: A Granddaughter's Treasure

When her father passed away, my son's fiancee had the painful task of going through his belongings. When she found this sewing machine that belonged to her grandmother in the attic, she asked me if I could fix it for her. 

We both agreed,  being a family owned piece, it should remain antique looking for memory purposes. 

It was missing the front drawer. (By looking inside of the structure, I could tell it was a single drawer.) It very well may have been a flip open as most were. The space allowed is narrow, because of the way the sewing machine lays when inside the cabinet.

It was also missing the two side drawers and its framework on the right.

The top cover had a lot of veneer damage, right down to the under wood. It was also age stained.

Despite the dust, I could see the beauty of the sewing machine too. Isn't this a lovely treasure????

To begin, I removed the veneer off the top/lid.

I was concerned the cracks in the under wood might be too much to leave natural, so I sanded quite a bit to smooth it the best I could. With the cracks still there, it gave the top a super used and old look, so there it stayed.

Intentionally leaving a tiny bit of the old finish in the crevices, I stopped sanding, with fingers crossed, the antique appearance would be there when I finish off the entire project.

Moving on to repairs:

Luckily, I had some parts from a previous treadle machine upcycle I worked on:

I could utilize the drawer framework and the front from my salvaged project for the missing parts. 

The not so lucky parts:  

I didn't have the extra side drawers. 

I scrounged around everywhere on Ebay and Craigslist for some, thinking I'd buy four to make them all match, or even just two and make them match, but didn't find the right size, nor did I have the time for Ebay bidding, shipping and repairs in time to surprise Emily for Christmas. Thinking she would appreciate having this during her first Christmas without her father, I really wanted to have it done. 

After several crazy drawer ideas swirling in my head, the best one hit me, why not cut into the existing drawer frame to divide the drawers to go on to each side of the cabinet? They would be original, but modified. 

Before moving on to the modifications, I decided to clean and paint the iron while I had access to it.

The blow hose and air compressor removed a lot of the dust build up.

 And a toothbrush with rubbing alcohol removed any stuck on oils and debris.

After cleaning, I sprayed on semi gloss enamel. 

The plan:
Cut into the existing drawer frame and rebuild the opposite side: 

Eeeek! I cut off the bottom drawer frame! I prayed my brain and hands didn't fail me after this brave cut.

I sanded the remaining frame by hand.

The part that was cut off was too short to rebuild on the other side...

but the pieces from my previous upcycle had plenty of length.

Measure twice or three or four times, cut once!

After pulling the nails out of the salvaged side pieces I needed, I measured and cut to size for the framework.

I attached the now new/"old" frame with small nails. Then hand sanded. No failures. (WHEW!)

With both framed sides of the cabinet now secured, the front center could be leveled and finished off. I used more salvaged parts. This swing drawer and two side pieces were perfect to add to the missing front drawer area.

I used the original old screws to attach the parts onto the cabinet top from the underside.

 Then finished hand sanding all areas and drawers.

 Then cleaned and painted the drawer pulls.

I removed the old cloth from under the sewing machine inside the cabinet and replaced it with a new vintage looking fabric. 

I did clean the machine up, but didn't make any mechanical repairs to it. That can be later, if she wants it.

(And I didn't get a photo of it cleaned and sitting up on the cabinet; with three other projects going on, I completely forgot some pictures of each project here and there.)

The wood was very dry, so I conditioned all of it with coconut oil.

 I love this swing drawer.

And the original front.

This was a repair or fixer upper, not a complete restoration. 

So I tried to maintain the "antiqueness" of it; with all of its stains, dings and marks in place. 

That would include the years of wear from the hardware. 

The built on side had the original nail holes exposed. 

It took 3 coconut oil rubbings to get the wood in a healthy looking condition.

When the oil was absorbed, I wiped on a thin rub of polyurethane.

The left drawer: Pull handle on and done.

The right drawer: Pull handle on and done. 

(Meet Max:  My photo bomber. ) 

I really do love that front swing drawer. The insides of all three drawers only got a cleaning. Leaving the color and scratches as they have been for years. 

Back of cabinet. 

 Here you can see the difference in styles of the frames from two different treadle machines. However, the width and the age of the wood worked well for repairs.

Built side. 

Cut off frame side. 

An old ding mark. (Sweet! History left in place.)

Here is a photo of the treasure sitting at its permanent home; delivered on Christmas Eve...

to one very happy Granddaughter. She loved the marks left, as they were her family's and it gave the piece character. 

She took another photo of it here. 

I was very honored to have been able to make a loved heirloom more special. 

After all, it could very well end up going to my future grandchild someday. How cool is that? A unified family and a unified treasure. 



  1. It's so wonderful to see an old treadle sewing machine rescued instead of re purposed as so many of them are. I'm really impressed with how you managed to bring it back to life. I hope she gets it oiled and serviced into working order.

  2. my word this is wonderful it is one gorgeous sewing machine cabinet xx

  3. Thank you, Stella :)
    I think she wants to get the machine working as well. Maybe between me and her hubby to be, we can do that for her.

  4. I enjoyed doing this and was happy with the end results. More so, that Emily loves it.
    Thank you, Ann :)

  5. Thank you, Chris! You are always so sweet! ox

  6. Thank you for making my day, Marie! :)

  7. Stacy @ Anastasia VintageDecember 29, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Unbelievable Robin. Just unbelievable. You are a force to be reckoned with, my friend!

  8. Mostly the old machines just need a good grease and oil up and the rubber bits replaced. I'll be happy to help with any questions, you've given me so much great advice, it would be great to be able to return the favour! My old treadles are both singers so I don't know how different they would be to a Ruby, but by the looks of her she will have fairly simple mechanisms. The first thing I would do is to unbolt her so as not to damage your beautiful restoration work on the base. Remove all dust and smother her in mineral oil and leave it to soak in for a day or two and then see where she is at. How exciting! I want a Ruby now :o)

  9. wow so awesome girl! I love seeing your process, never gets boring and sometimes gets you on the edge of your seat! Hope to see tons more amazing recycles from you in 2015!!

  10. Robin this is amazing!! I would be terrified to cut off the drawer and move it. Such a special gift! I have one of these treadle machines from my grandmother and love the piece of family history.

  11. I am tickled to pieces with such a nice comment coming from you Stacy. A DIYer that I adore.Thank you dear friend.:)

  12. You are one of my solid rocks. I always appreciate your true opinions and this makes me beyond happy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can't promise to be the best but I promise to do my best. Love you!

  13. I won't lie. I was afraid to cut into this heirloom and create a failure. But with careful consideration and extra pieces, it was a good to go choice that gave me confidence. One that I have no regrets. I wasn't kidding with measuring several times to make sure I made the right move. I've never been happier any redo as I have with this one. It was too family related and the outcome had to be perfect even if I had to build the parts myself. It pleases me to no end that you recognize it. Thank you so very much!

  14. Amazing transformation, you did excellent restoration on this, great job!

  15. WOW - what an amazing transformation!! It's absolutely beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing on the CLIMB!!


  16. Wow! What an incredibly beautiful transformation. Every bit done with love. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop. Watch for your feature on Monday xo

  17. Oh, my goodness! You did such an amazing job on this family treasure! I can hardly believe that it's the same machine. Thank goodness that you saved the pieces from the other cabinet. Genius! Just lovely!
    Did she cry? I would have!

  18. Thank you for your kind compliment and for being such a great hostess! :)

  19. Eeek! Thank you so much for the lovely feature and for being a great hostess, Katherine! Hugs :)

  20. You are such a sweetheart! Thank you for liking it so much! I was glad to have the salvaged parts. It was awesome to get two projects out of one beat up treadle that was missing a lot. The base went to a table and some wood parts went into this. I still have some scraps left and who knows... I might be able to do something with them too! Thank you, again! You made my day!

  21. What a lovely story and project! I had tears in my eyes knowing what love went into restoring the sewing machine table. What a wonderful gesture to ensure it was ready in time for Christmas. This post caught my attention because I am an antique freak! lol I have an antique Singer sewing table as a TV stand in my bedroom and a vintage sewing table that was used as my guest book at my recent wedding. Not to mention a few other antiques in my home. Thank you so much for sharing on the Oh My Heartsie Girls Wordless Wednesday!

    Wishing you a beautiful week!

    Much love,
    Lysa xx
    Co-Host OMHGWW

  22. Every time I stop by here to read about one of your restoration projects, by the time I get to the end of your post, I'm blown away! Not only are your finished projects beautiful, the way you come up with solutions to obstacles along the way is so impressive. I love reading about the processes you go through with each project and seeing the restorations come to life.

  23. This is gorgeous! I love family heirlooms, and this is indeed a treasure. You did a beautiful job on the repair and remodel, and I love that you left it scarred with character. Your work is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing at the Oh My Heartsie Girls Wordless Wednesday! <3

    Life With Lorelai

  24. I love it when I hear of the use of the old sewing machines in the home today. It's heartwarming to know you have yours.

    Thank you so much for the feature and for being such a kind hostess! ox

  25. I love this! You did a fabulous job :) Thanks for sharing all of the photos, too!

  26. Marie@The Interior FrugalistaJanuary 9, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Robin I'm featuring your hard work this weekend at the DIY Sunday Showcase Party!

  27. Wow, what a beautiful transformation. Beautiful old sewing machine!

  28. You did a great job. I have my great grandmother's in my basement that I want to tackle soon! I really enjoyed your post!

  29. It's stunning! Thanks for sharing it with us at the Home Matters Linky Party. I hope you will party with us again this Friday. #HomeMattersParty

  30. Robin, this is absolutely amazing and such a thoughtful gift! I am keeping an eye out for antique sewing tables myself….this is one the of the most beautiful I have seen as of yet! Very jealous, yet again :-)

    Thanks for sharing on the Talented Tuesday Link Party! :-)

  31. Larissa Prodigal PiecesJanuary 13, 2015 at 6:55 AM

    GOOSEBUMPS! You know I love this, Robin, and I'm just in awe of your work. I'm featuring you tonight at the "What's YOUR Prodigal Piece?" link party! :o)

  32. It's a lovely machine. I was so glad to bring it back and complete it. Thank you :)

  33. Oh my, your great-grandmother's machine!?!? That is wonderful news, Lucy! I'd love to see it!

  34. Thank you so much, Bonnie! I'd love to! :)

  35. Awww, thank you to pieces, Natalie! oxox

  36. You made my day/week! Thank you so much, Larissa! I can't wait to stop by tonight! :) Hugs!

  37. I'm honored to have done it. :)
    Thank you so much, Leesha!

  38. I agree it is exciting. Yes it was the guest book at my wedding. I purchased metallic silver Sharpie markers for everyone to sign it with. It looks great. I made the decision to use it for that purpose because it was the first gift my husband ever bought me. I am planning to write a blog post about it here in the next week with pictures so stop by to see it.
    Thank you ever so much for the kind words and you are welcome! I have gone live with the WW already so when you get a chance please pop over and link-up with us again this week.

    Happy 2015 to you as well Robin! xooxo

  39. How beautiful this transformation is and I love the story behind it. Thank you so much for sharing with Share It One More Time. Cathy

  40. Wow. You put very skilled work into this piece and the results are beautiful!

  41. I am so thrilled that you took the time and care to redo and love this vintage sewing machine. It is wonderful! Thank you for linking up to On Display Thursday!

  42. Love this sewing machine DIY...Its a feature at Fabulous Friday Party. Thanks Maria

  43. Oh, I look forward to your post! I'll watch for it. So sweet your husband bought it for you!

  44. Thank you for being such a great hostess, Cathy! I really appreciate your visit and kindness. :)

  45. Thank you for your kind visit and the link up, Carmody! I look forward to your party!

  46. I saw your email, and raced over, Maria! Thank you so much! You are so sweet!

  47. Robin, I love this redo! My husband restored a dresser, meaning he fixed a chip and sanded and painted it, and he said it was A LOT of work. I couldn't imagine how much work this was. It looks so great!
    If I ever have anything I want restored, I'm going to ask you for advice.

  48. I truly admire the appreciation for refinishing. I was brought up on the process. My requests are 95% refinishing or restorations even though I love painting too, this is the type of work is what I'm accustomed to. For you to seek my advice leaves me quite humbled. The best compliment ever. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. :)

  49. Jessica Pureromance BuresJanuary 17, 2015 at 12:34 AM

    Holy moly you did a great job on this bad boy! I love finding these in junk piles and cheap at flea markets! They are so much fun to redo! Thanks for sharing it at Totally Terrific Tuesday! I cant wait to see what you linked up this week!

  50. They are such fun! Thanks so much for hosting, Jess! :D

  51. Sherry ThecharmofhomeJanuary 28, 2015 at 8:37 PM

    Wonderful makeover!

  52. Wow! What a labor of love, turned out beautifully!