People Powered Sewing and Quilting

Hi everyone, it's Paul and today were are going to talk about treadle and hand crank sewing machines.  This is my first blog post and you all the lucky bunch who will be reading the ramblings of an introverted personality.  I'm going to open by discussing PP machines, people powered, folks.  I know I snickered too when I read it.  As many of you know from following along here I enjoy treadle and hand crank sewing machines when I sew.  I can and do sometimes use tailed machines, electric, but sewing in general and quilting specifically is a hobby for me to relax and unwind.  The peaceful quiet of the hand hand machines and the ability to be pinpoint accurate by cranking one stitch an hour if I need to be perfect suits me just fine.

people powered sewing


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There are currently 11 treadle machines ranging in age from 1882 to roughly 1958-60, each one has its own sound, melody and rhythm. With such a wide and diverse collection of vintage and antique machines set up to treadle I really don't miss the electric machines.  In my own opinion there are very few machines capable of matching the stitch quality of a vibrating shuttle machine.  I don't currently have a VS machine that will do a zig zag stitch with out a special attachment.  I can only compare straight stitches.

Rotary and oscillating hook machines rely on the top thread twisting around the bobbin thread forming a loop before being pulled up right while advancing and making a stitch.  That twist will often cause a slight staggering of the row stitches.  Whereas a VS machine simply pushes the entire bobbin, riding in a shuttle, through a loop created in the top thread as the needle starts its up stroke catching the bobbin thread, pull tight as the needle clears the advancing cloth.   No drama, no twisting just relaxed left to right, straight up and down movement resulting in a perfect straight stitch.


The advantage of rotary and oscillating hook machines is two fold.  They spin or rotate on an axis instead of a lateral movement which reverses direction at each end of its swing.  This means they can form stitches faster and with less vibration.  None of which is in any way intended as an argument for either one only pointing out the differences between machines.

I like using all my machines, I currently have four machines that either have backtack or full reverse stitching capabilities.  Three have zig zag and full left right needle position and two of those are capable of using decorative stitch cams and embroidery patterns.  I simply enjoy the relaxing rhythm of the treadle.

I welcome interaction so if you also use a PP machine or if this sparks a curiosity I will happily share what I have learned first hand.  Mel may also pop in with her knowledge of PP machines.  We both welcome the opportunity to learn from your experiences as well.

people powered treadle and hand crank sewing machines

My first experience was this king size denim quilt.  I was told to start small and simple for my first quilt.  Since I had nothing to compare the project to I didn't understand a 15 pound finished project was not what they had in mind.  


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About Melissa Shields

Mel is a 30 something year old quilter, attempting to balance her old school roots with today's trends. When not sewing or shopping for a new sewing machine Mel enjoys reading, reality TV, and Nascar.

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