My New Old Sewing Machine

NOTE: I still have one day’s highlights from Martha’s Orlando Market to share, but perhaps I have worn out that topic. Let me know if you would like this last report.

treadle working 2


I’ve been grinning like the Cheshire cat since last night.   That’s when my ever indulgent husband drove with me to the other side of the state to pick up my new old sewing machine.

This 1907 Young and Chaffee treadle machine was touted as a technological marvel of its day, what with its automatic tension and variable stitch length.  WOW!

But why, you might wonder, would I want an antique, foot-powered, straight stitch treadle when this beauty, my incredible Brother Duetta 4500D, lives well and works hard in my sewing room?





It’s a hard thing to explain.  Perhaps it’s because my college minor was history, or because I love all things old, like lace and quilts, or because I just want the whole spectrum of sewing machines from A-Z.  And this treadle is definitely “A” in the sewing machine alphabet.

Both the machine and the cabinet are  beautiful and in almost perfect condition.   I quickly got the hang of pumping the treadle and loved seeing the faultless stitches.  With its graceful lines and carved wood, the cabinet is lovely piece of furniture.


Treadle closed


Each of the curved drawers has a lock.  Why a turn-of-the-century lady would want to keep her sewing notions under lock and key is a mystery to me.  Maybe she kept her diary or risque novels in those drawers.  I’d love to know.


treadle curved drawers


When I opened the drawers, all I found was the old belt, the original instruction manual…….


inst book


and a velvet lined box of accessories.  Yeah!  That’s way better than an old diary.


treadle accessories


My Singer Sewing Library (copyright 1923) of four books includes this one which has instructions for most of the attachments.



Here are instructions for using the tucker.  It looks like I’ll be able to do some heirloom sewing on this old girl!


A ruler is built into the bed of the machine for quick and easy measurement.


treadle measure


I don’t know just how much sewing I will do on my new old Young and Chaffee treadle machine.  Living in hurricane country, I do find some comfort in knowing that at least I could sew when the power is out.  It would be basic sewing, not embroidering, not hemstitching, etc.  But I could piece a quilt and while away those long hours more pleasantly than if I were to wait at the window for a Progress Energy truck.

I love this pretty machine.  I think of it as art that sews.  But until the next hurricane takes out our electricity, I’ll be sewing on my Brother Duetta.


That's me with my new treadle machine!   Ooops, that's what I wish I looked like with my new treadle machine.

That’s me with my new treadle machine! Ooops, that’s what I wish I looked like with my new treadle machine.

18 responses to “My New Old Sewing Machine

  1. What a gorgeous machine! I think the seamstress had locks on the drawers so her children and husband would not be able to “borrow” her sewing scissors!!! I don’t comment often, but I love reading your blog–I would love to see some more of your visit to Orlando. I’m in Ottawa, Canada, so I don’t get to events like that very often.

  2. Locks? One word. Toddlers.

  3. Your treadle is beautiful!! I have one, too- a New Home from about 1886. I just love the idea of making a baby garment from antique pattern, vintage fabric and lace, stitched on my treadle. Perhaps we will host a “treadle along” sometime?? Wonderful find- how did you find it?? I bought mine on ebay and it was local. I love that you have the accessories with it, too. Can’t wait to see what magic you can do with it!!
    Definitely want to hear the rest of your trip story. It sounds so fun- wish I could have been there!

  4. She’s beautiful! ..and needed a good home, perfect. I have my Grandmother’s tredle. She’s not as fancy as yours, but was my Grandmother’s and I love her.

    Yes, we need to hear the rest of the reports from Orlando!

  5. Sophia Patterson

    How beautiful! I learned to sew on a treadle machine. My mother still has her mother’s treadle machine and cabinet. I suppose it will come to me at some point.

  6. What a beautiful machine and cabinet! I have one of the family treadle machines, a Singer No. 66. There are accessories and the instruction book with it also. The cabinet is not a pretty as yours and has been used as a side table, so it has marks and circles on it. The machine itself does not have a single scratch on it. The stories of these old machines are even more intriguing. This machine belonged to Catherine Keller, the new bride of my grandfather’s cousin. She died young at the age of 30, so the machine had very little use. When her husband remarried, the machine was only used for mending by 2 ladies (the new wife and her sister), who had no idea how to sew! The machine was most likely purchased in the mid to late 1930s. The machine started out in Missouri, made it way to Kansas, Tennessee and now is back in Missouri, only 40 miles from Catherine’s final resting place. Wish I had met her.
    We also have my grandmother’s treadle, “which has been electrified” as she used to say. The stitches are perfect.
    I also have my great-grandmother’s treadle cabinet that has a hood that sits down over the machine. I have my BabyLock Embellisher housed in it now.
    Elizabeth Rose has a good idea for a “treadle along”. We need to get new belts and get these machines stitching!

  7. You’ll fall in love with your Treadle! The Hemmer works wonderfully and you’ll never go back to making a tuck with your “new Machines ever again! That’s how I made my tucks for Eloise’s ruler and some of her samples back in the day! If you have a shoe repair person, they can always order you a new belt if you need. Oh Have fun. Now save time in June next year to go to NC and the TOGA party. (Treadle On Gathering Academy) We’ll go together!!!!

  8. That is a beauty! I hope to see posts of what you do with it.

  9. June mellinger

    Thanks again for the compliments Janice. Have fun with your machine. I used to have a treadle too but when we built this new house I decided to sell the machine as it would be against the grain of a new home. Weird thinking I know, but I had to listen to my son and husband on that one. Ironically the same son is a major antiques collector and half the time what doesn’t fit in his condo is put in our house “on loan”. I give up!

  10. What a beautiful treadle machine, Janice! I have an old Singer Treadle with a cabinet but it’s not as pretty as yours. And I like the rounded cabinet doors. thanks for sharing.


  11. I have one just like it it was dark brown I dont even know how old that old sew machine is can you help me how old that old sew machine ?

  12. Lucky you to have one of these antique beauties! The people from whom I bought this machine had researched it and discovered that it was first produced in 1907. So it could be no older than that. Does yours still sew? The previous owner of mine had to replace the belt and oil it, but it stitches perfectly. I hope yours does too.

  13. hi, do you know if this young and chaffee machine was built by the furniture company of that name in grand rapids, mich?
    do you know what company actually made the machine for them?
    thankyou. rebecca

  14. Rebecca, according to the man from whom I bought the machine, it was, indeed, from the furniture company in Grand Rapids. He had a photocopy of what appears to be a 1924 entry in some geneological journal, which names the company’s founders and their children. There is no mention of sewing machines in the article. So that is all I know, but would certainly love to have more details about its history.

    this is an interesting ad for a homer young machine. note the bottom one with the curved drawers. from toledo, ohio tho.

    this one is about the grand rapids young and chaffee company.
    I tried to put the pics on here but couldn’t get it to work. rebecca

  16. Thanks, Rebecca! The second link takes me to the page which the previous owner had printed out and tucked into the cabinet drawer. Very interesting.

  17. Do you have any information on the beautiful cabinet on this machine? I am currently restoring one that is almost identical to yours with the same fleur-de-leis on the front panel but with 4 drawers rather than the 6 yours has. It was painted turquoise and the legs and machine are missing (I only paid $12 for it at Goodwill) and I was pleasently shocked to find tiger-grained oak underneith the paint. If you can tell me anything about the date or manufacturer it would help me greatly.
    Mike Gilbert

  18. Mike, I have very little, but the previous owner had done some research and turned up a little info on Chaffee Bros. I will e-mail the sheet that was included with the machine. Lucky you to have this beautiful cabinet!

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