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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Sewing Machines: 1925

Sewing Machines: 1925

New York, June 1925. "Girls' sewing class." The making of America's home- makers. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

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Spit Curls

At least I think that's what they were called. Second row back, the two young women from the right.

The "Bullet" Bobbin

Some of the treadle machines had a bobbin that was about one and a half inches long, that fit into a bobbin that pretty much looked like a bullet. It went back and forth, rather than making a full cycle, completely different from today's machines. as a textiles mechanic, many of these machines are still in use, and surprisingly enough, parts are readily available. Sew on and sew forth!

Treadle power

At least in Thailand and Vietnam. I have seen many set up on the side of a street for quick repairs and tailoring.

Just last year in Khon Kaen, Thailand my wife needed to have the school name and our sons name embroidered onto our sons school shirts. We walked across the street from the store where we bought the shirts and there were a dozen treadle machines set up just for that purpose.

She had the school logo, name and our sons name on paper gave it to the young woman sitting at one of the machines and we left. About 2 hours later we returned and all 12 shirts were done.

On a treadle machine guided by hand!

I was totally blown away by the skill and speed the woman was able to achieve.

Learning curves

My dad was very vocal in his opinion that young men in school should be taught sewing and cooking. After all, he reasoned, the vast majority of the girls already knew how to cook and sew -- Mom taught them!

Of course he always had a gigantic mischievous grin on his face when he was saying this -- naturally he wanted to be wherever the girls were! Still and all, he did have a point.


You know, substitute the women for kids and fabric for shoes and you've got a modern day Nike factory.

Blast from the past

I love this. My paternal grandfather owned a sewing machine agency in Lakeland, Florida, for almost 50 years. They were the authorized New Home dealer. My brother and I spent countless hours in the back of his store, taking apart models exactly like these. When my grandfather died in the late 70s, we must have hauled 100 wrought-iron stands, with the accompanying cabinets and drawers, out of the store. I think every member of the family has at least two of these, most with the pedal mechanism in perfect working order. Somehow my brother and I never lost any fingers "revving" the pedals as fast as we could make them go.

In Neutral

We had one of those machines. The sewing machine folded down into the table for storage. The belt was looped around the handwheel each time the machine was raised. Without the belt looped on their machines, most of these girls are posing without really sewing. It's a bit like pretending to drive a car with the motor turned off.

Re: Drive Belts

The typical session in the machine portion of sewing class consisted of setting up your machine. The procedure was not that much different than a pre-flight check; Open the top lid, lift the machine to operating position, check for lint and loose thread, etc., oil all the little oil holes, install belt, insert needle, choose thread, thread the bobbin, insert the bobbin, thread machine and wait for the instructor's inspection. The process is reversed at the end of the class.
There were usually several brands of machines and the students moved to a different machine each class. The same method of familiarization was used for secretarial training because of the variety of typewriters in use at that time

New Home Revisited

I have one of these machines at my house. Serial # puts it at about the same time period. I notice that most of the machines have no belts attached, making them inoperable at the time the picture was taken.

Drive Belts

Anonymous Tipster is right, only two of these machines are fitted with drive belts at all, and only one has the belt seated in the right pulley. None of the other machines could sew a stitch until they were fitted with belts to connect them to their foot treadles.


Note the relatively unusual design of the transom over the door - it pivots on a central vertical axis as opposed to the more conventional horizontally hinged orientation. Delicious!


Those bobs look very modern and most of these girls could walk among us unnoticed today--even the clothes, at least the bits we can see.

Handwork still had a big place

It is interesting to see this. Some of the girls look as bored as teens today. Others look very keen.

Drive belts

I only see one girl with her belt properly in place (if I understand these machines).

New Home

My great-grandmother had one of these New Home treadle-operated machines. After she died it spent years down in our basement.


"Now, ladies, that you have done such a nice job of making chairback covers, we'll learn how to make smocks." Lordy, I hated that class!

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