Can you help me with tensioning an old Singer foot treadle sewing machine? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Please help me! Many years ago my friend Winifred sold me her foottreadle she got at an auction for $50. She is a professional seamstress, and is so busy with that and gardening she never had time to just sew on it and figure out how it worked.

I dinked around and pretty well figured it out. It has been my only machine for years. The tension has always been a little funky. Last year after a HUGE sewing project the tension was all messed up. Have never been able to get it working right until, somehow, today it is MOSTLY okay again (and, once again, I am not quite sure what i did).

Okay, here's the specific problem with it: Always it has had this problem but only less. When you have the tension wheel above the foot of the machine adjusted all the way in, it works the best. If I put one color to feed off the top, and a different in the bobbin to check the tension, when you look at the string on the "right side" of the fabric, it looks fine. When you turn it over, it ISN"T FINE.

What is going on down there is the bobbin string looks almost like it is sitting on the fabric. The threads from above that go below and catch the bobbin thread are hanging out JUST A LITTLE like tiny loops. When it was really screwed up they were HUGE HUGE MESSY loops barely holding the bobbin thread on. Any idea how or where to adjust the tension to make this nice and even, so the thread from the top doesn't hang in tiny loops off the bottom, and the bobbin thread is drawn up into the fabric evenly? I have postponed sewing for a year because I haven't been able to figure it out, but I really want to get it working right because I desperately need to make a cover for my chair, and I really want to sew some dresses for the summer for my daughter and me....and some pants for my boy....of course, in ALL the spare time I have between everything less I do!!!!

-- marcee (, February 07, 2002

Answers is amazing. Go to it and search of singer treadle manual. If you know your model number, you can probably find manual information there.

Also go to and search on singer treadle. At least one seller (auction #1071841826) says they have repaired sewing machines for over 20-years and may be able to help you. If your bobbin is worn out, there are several eBay auctions for them. Really surprising how cheaply intact machines are selling for there.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, February 07, 2002.

To let folks know: I am pretty rotten with understanding manuals (and not to good with finding my way around the internet either). someone convinced me a scanner would solve my brochure publishing problems, but can't figure the manual out. haven't been able to use it for the two years I've had it.

so, if someone just KNOWS what screw to try tightening, and could just tell me I would appreciate it. Thanks!

-- marcee (, February 07, 2002.

Marcee, have you tried cleaning and oiling the machine real good. Also very carefully unscrew the tension above the foot that you said you had to tighten all the way, it could have some lent stuck in the disk where the thread passes through. Just when you unscrew make sure you notice how they look now and make sure you put them back the same way. Also change the needle it may have a burr on it that you can't always feel with your finger. Check to make sure it is threaded right also make sure there is no lint in the bobbin area and oiled real well. The life of a sewing machine is oil. There is not much that can go wrong with a treadal machine unless it has jumped time and that don't sound like what happened. I would guess there is lint stuck somewhere. Good luck Ruby

-- ruby (, February 07, 2002.

I think when you have loose threads on the bottom, it indicates a problem in the tension or the threading above. Another answer you received could be the clue - lint in the tension. Try cleaning throughout really well. When that's happened to me, I eventually realize I've threaded it wrong or the needle is in backward. Have you ever tried canned air. It can help get all sorts of stuff that's packed in over time. I bet you need to check your threading though.

-- Joyce (, February 07, 2002.

I believe on the old Singer treadle machines there is a screw that is used to adjust this tension. However all the old Singer manuals are online, you need to know the date. Look on the bottom of the cabinet, or on the bottom of the machine itself for the date.

-- Sandie in Maine (, February 07, 2002.

Marcee, if I understand them correctly old type Singer machines (and I am only talking about the spool type bobbin, not the REALLY old shuttle bobbin machines) have a set bobbin tension and an adjustable needle thread tension.

Basically the bobbin thread tension is set to some value and most users never change this, they just adjust the need thread tension in relation to the fixed bobbin tension.

You appear to have too little needle thread tension in fact your description of big loops indicates you have almost no tension at all.

The thread tension device is that thing that looks like a couple of bright metal washers with a finger nut on them. There should be a little springy wire loop too. The thread comes down from the thread spool through the little fixed hook thing. The thread is passed anti- clockwise between the two metal disks, over the spingy thing then down through another loop, after that it goes up through the eye of the moving lever thing then down through a loop or two on the fancy end plate and finally through the needle.

I recommend (as someone has already suggested) cleaning that tension thing with the two metal disks, maybe even take it apart and see that nothing is broken.

I am almost certain that the problem is at the top of the machine, not in the bobbin.

Your problem may be (but I doubt this) that the needle is not making a hole in the fabric adequete for the thread to slip through, so try a fatter needle, or the special needle if you are trying to sew leather etc.

I hope this helps.

-- john hill (, February 07, 2002.

Hi Marcee, I strongly suggest you go to and see the maintenance and repair section. Very informative. This group is a bunch of people-powered sewing machine collectors who Strongly advocate not just the collection of these machines, but the preservation, and USE of them.

So they are exactly the people to ask how to do this.

As far as your tension problem goes, there is a tension trouble-shooter online on one of the antique sewing machine collector's pages. I am now looking for it.

I LOVE sewing on a treadle machine. It is a zen activity for me.

-- Lynn (, February 08, 2002.

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