Something New

Today I went to the local antique mall with the intention of finding an old sewing machine cabinet or table for one of my machines.   I like different machines for different things so I wanted to be able to have them easily accessible  without rearranging to make space.

I didn’t find anything that really would work for that, but I did find this.


Not at all what I was looking for but it was too cool to pass up.    wait until you see it open up! (click the pictures to enlarge)




I really didn’t “need” a treadle machine but it called my name and said take me home.

The belt needs to be replaced but other than that it is in great shape…I love the paint.




Here is the shuttle


which holds the bobbin


I found a pdf of the manual on-line so I’ll have to read that to be sure I have it all figured out.

I didn’t know much about the Free Sewing Machine Company so I looked them up, here is what I found.
The St. John Sewing Machine Company, which was the predecessor of the Free S.M.Co., was founded in 1870. In 1883, it was renamed the Royal Sewing Machine Company. After the company relocated to Rockford, Illinois, it was renamed once again in 1897 as The Free Sewing Machine Company after company president William C. Free.
Most machines made by the Free company were for sale by mail-order companies and department stores. For instance, machines that are marked “Illinois Sewing Machine Co.” were made by Free.
In the mid-1920s, Free became associated with Westinghouse which became the sole supplier of motors and electric equipment for Free brand sewing machines. As such, the earlier electrically driven Free sewing machines are labeled Free-Westinghouse.
The Free sewing machine company merged with the New Home Sewing Machine Company in 1927. In the early 1930s New Home models were phased out of production and ‘New Home’ basically became a brand of The Free.
The post World War II period saw the large scale importation of cheap Japanese-made sewing machines into the United States. Trade barriers favorable to American companies had protected the country’s sewing machine industry from lower cost (and quality) foreign made goods. However, the Marshall Plan coupled with the new ideas of free trade slowly eliminated them.
In an effort to stay solvent, Free/New Home merged with National in the early 1950s. However, the resulting corporation was not able to compete against cheap overseas labor, and the company was bought out by the Japanese in 1954.
The historical and technical contribution of The Free to sewing machine development was negligible. Like many of the other small manufacturers, they basically made machines based more or less on designs from the larger manufacturers. –From The Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines, 3rd Edition

It weighs 18000 pounds so I am not sure I want to carry it up the stairs to the studio……so It might become a Parlor Machine.

When I get a belt for it I will let you know how it works.

Happy Quilting


105 thoughts on “Something New

  1. brandie says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! What a lucky find for the both of you.

  2. Mrs. Plum says:

    What a great find, Tim! Just think! In a power outage, you can still sew. I learned to sew on my grandmother’s treadle machine, and have very fond memories of it.

  3. Barbara Rasch says:

    How lucky can you be. It’s beautiful..

  4. You are so lucky! You’ve got to snatch up those kinds of machines when opportunity arises.

  5. judysew4th says:

    This beautiful machine has found a new home. The history of the Free Company is interesting as well.

  6. Tina Williams says:

    Some serious envy going on here. That machine is gorgeous!

  7. Mary Jo says:

    What a great find! I’ve been looking for one like that off and on for a while with no luck. Can’t wait to see how you like once you have it working.

  8. Carolyn says:

    It is a beautiful machine, and just look at all that harp space! I envy the height and breadth of space there, and wish my modern machine had so much!

  9. Sharon in Galesburg says:

    Are you kidding me……..that’s fabulous! Right place, right time…..never happens to me😩

  10. Melanie Greenway says:

    How much does it really weigh? I am curious, sure it isn’t 18000 lbs! Might just feel like it though. Have a treadle machine in my guest bedroom. You might have just inspired me to recondition it!

  11. Margie McFarland says:

    What a great looking machine. Hope you enjoy using this one as much I do mine. I have three only two are in working condition. The third was free and needs much work(when I retire). Enjoy!!!

  12. Jan says:

    What a delightful find Tim….brings back many memories mother had a Werthiem not sure if that spelling is correct…and the shuttle was exactly the same…I also learn to sew on that machine … My brother and I were the best treadlers many a competition we had between us who could treadle the longest without going backwards…mum used to take the needle and shuttle out and put them in safe keeping… I eventually traded it in for my first machine..a Singer…….thanks for sharing Kiwi Jan NZ

  13. Fabulous, Tim… but where the heck is all that weight? It doesn’t look that weighty! It does look gorgeous though… I loved the cabinet before the door opened!

  14. Ann Thomas says:

    I had a Free exactly like this a few years ago. I sold it to my neighbor. I had to downsize my collection of treadles because I was running out of room in my little 2 bedroom apartment. It’s a good machine and makes a beautiful stitch. Enjoy.

  15. Kitty Longo says:

    Tim, Now you need to join the Yahoo group, Treadle On. It’s for those of us who collect and use people-powered machines. Lots o good info from this group. One piece f advice. Those decals are gorgeous. Only use sewing machine to gently the surface of the machine. Some cleaning solutions will cause the decals to silver. Enjoy this beauty,
    Kitty Longo

  16. Sharron K. Evans says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! I had a friend who used her treadle when a hurricane took out the electricity!

  17. Sandra B says:

    It was meant to be!! What a great find!!
    I have a treadle machine that belonged to my husband’s great aunt, but I have never gotten around to doing any research on it …..I need to do that!!
    I actually did some sewing on a treadle machine in Home Ec class in high school (yes, I am old !!) in the mid 1960’s…I remember it was a lot of fun! We all fought over who would get to use the treadle machine!
    Good luck in getting your machine up and running!
    Tell Teddy hello….

  18. glendajean says:

    Tim you deserve it if any one does, they are wonderful for sewing those straight seams and sew like a dream when up and running perfectly. Having the wheels it can be pulled out from the wall and you are up and running. Just think no more waiting for the power to come on if you have a power cut LOL. Not only do you have a extra machine but what a beautiful cabinet to go with the rest of your lovely pieces you have collected. Enjoy it and please let us know when you use it the first time . Cheers Glenda Australia.

  19. Jaye says:

    The cabinet looks similar to what early Minnesota machines came in – sold by Sears I believe. I have my grandmother’s treadle machine, but we haven’t gotten it to work. Congratulations on your find! We may all be treadling of the grid soon.

  20. gonerustic says:

    I have one of these also – but yours has more gold decorations. Great find!

  21. Susan Steele says:

    On my my my…as a longtime fellow addictee I can see you care becoming a machine actually started with your vintage brown Singer and is only now taking hold of your nervous system! Vintage machines have a beauty and sophistication of engineering that is hard to avoid, whether treadle or electric! I have had the disease for about 25 years and it continues to develop with periodic remissions! Mine was implanted early in my life as my Grandmother taught me how to sew as a wee child on her Singer Redeye 66 (1919) and I later inherited it. There is something very soothing and organic about the rhythmic peddling of a treadle machine. You can role them out onto the porch or patio without a qualm of plugs or cords. Sitting outside, quilting on a beautiful sunny day with the vista of your garden is simply hard to describe! I also have a couple of handcranks for taking out on a table or camping or even for when staying at motels for trade shows..they are fab for piecing. If you’d like to see a really out of date view of just some (maybe 50%) of my machines (hasn;t been updated for ten years!) check out my Picturetrail account
    If that doesn’t work go to, username SDSteele
    PS The Free wasa very prestigious and well-made machine….you picked well! TreadleOn is good , and Facebook has some fabulous forums, like Vintage Sewing Machines and Treadle Quilters etc.

  22. Susan Steele says:

    I looked up your model for you in the Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines and found it to be The Free Model No. 5 (1910 until mid-1920’s), a “vibrating shuttle” (swings front to back). It was basically a copy of the Singer 27 (a mighty beast that was being copied universally by everyone!) but Free incorporated a few improvements, such as a take-up arm that travelled in an arc instead of a straight line like the Singer. Your decals were called “L’Art Nouveau” and were used in the early 20’s. Your cabinet was very popular because, unlike other “drawing room cabinets” of that period, the cabinet was built around an actual treadle stand (while others put the wheel and elements attached to a cabinet). This made for a much more sound and solid stand while sewing. As you have already found out, they formed a partnership with Westinghouse to provide motors for the electric models, and by 1927 merged with New Home. After WWII our government essentially gave away our sewing machine manufacturing to the Japanese and they flooded our market with cheap “clones” and wiped out our sewing machine industry. Free/New Home tried to stay afloat by merging with another old and once-strong company, National, but they could not compete with the cheap overseas labor and finally sold out to the Japanese in 1954. The Free went back as far as 1870 when it was originally The St. John Sewing Machine Co. , then in 1883 it was renamed The Royal Sewng Machine Co. It was renamed again in 1897 for the president of the company, William C. Free.. They specialized in machines for mail-order catalogs and departments stores (called “badged” machines..they were stencilled with the name of the store, thus there are “Macy” machines, etc) I think you found a marvelous piece of history to begin your treadle journey with! There is a wonderful Youtube showing how to get your rhythm..just remember to start the wheel with your right hand when you take off! Happy treadling!

  23. Sandra Henderson says:

    It’s beautiful! I’ve never seen one like this. I was given my first treadle for an early Christmas present by my boyfriend this year. I love love love treadling in front if fire snd now Christmas tree. Feel so at home and comforting when piecing.

    I’d love it if you would consider doing a webcam thing like Bonnie hunter does, where we could all sew with you…and visit. Through your blog, which I’ve followed for a few years now, I feel as though I know you. It would be fun to get to know you better and learn from you. Just an idea.

    Merry Christmas.

  24. She’s a beaut!! Can’t wait for you to join the Treadle-Nation!! 🙂

  25. Susan Steele says:

    Don’t you love the Art Deco decals? They usually incorporate a beautiful is my Singer Art Decor 66 “Lotus” (remember that Tutankhamen and all things Egyptian were very popular at that time!)

  26. A few years ago I visited some Amish families looking for a traditional Amish quilt and saw that they had many treadle machines and used them for piecing. Good luck with your machine and I will look forward to more posts on it.

  27. Sara says:

    What a wonderful treadle machine! Congrats on the find!
    I, too, am getting one for Christmas as my daughter found one and sent me a picture of it wanting to know if it was something I might want!
    Ha! She knew I did, but she took it home after buying it and I have to wait 2 more weeks!! It says Minnesota on it and I know it’s all connected to Rockford IL and those manufacturing places. Each company was bought out over and over by the next.With the power outages we get here in “the sticks” I will keep on sewing!

  28. What a beautiful find! My hubby had my treadle restored a couple of summers ago, but I have still not sewn on it because it intimidates me.

  29. Nerida Duncan says:

    What a find and it suits your house perfectly. I love the art nouveau decoration.

    I learnt on a treadle and loved it but after I left home my mother threw it out. A sewing machine repair man offered her $40 to take it to the rubbish dump. I dont believe it made its way to the dump do you? I couldnt believe my mother was quite so gullible.

    You need some burley helpers to get it up the stairs but then I guess you would want to check the floor joists first. Its a beauty, well done you.

  30. Carolyn Sands says:

    Lovely machine. It looks like a very compact cabinet too.

  31. Kristen says:

    Yes, that’s what we need — Timcam! 24/7 of Tim quilting to prove you aren’t actually running a sweatshop of sweating elves!

    This is just lovely, what a shivery good find. It gets a solid, satisfied fist pump from me.

    And, looking at the photo with the quilts in the background, Andrew said, Ooh, what’s that one (on the couch)? Oh, the applique? I said. Yes, he’s been working on it — it’s nice, isn’t it. Yesssssss. Another fist pump.

    • timquilts says:

      I am excited to try it out…it fits with my vintage vibe. Not sure about 24 7 cam……I might have to actually keep my hair combed and put on clean clothes LOL…….maybe just once a week. That applique gets at least a few stitches every day……slowly coming along

      • Kristen says:

        Yes, I’ve seen enough on blogs and corresponded with some sellers of treadled quilts on eBay to know that treadle-heads are a committed bunch — and it does suit your vibe. Lovely machine.

        As for the appliquie, speed is of no concern. The important thing is that he picked up on it himself and commented. Phew.

      • timquilts says:

        🙂 Treadle head…….Might need to look for a t shirt for that

  32. Susan Steele says:

    We formed a group twenty years ago called Treadle On..and called ourselves Onions LOL The group is diminished now as the man who formed it has semi-retired and no longer runs the forum 9It is still on Yahoo forums) but at one times it was huge and was a veritable treasure of info..our old site I think is still up at…check it out….lots of info of every kind. Now the Fb groups are stronger and the format is easier to use.

  33. Neame says:

    Tim ! So glad you rescued this “free” beauty. The stencils are just lovely. Hope you have lots of fun sewing with it. Also, thanks for more snowflakes. I really appreciate that you have some traditions that come round every year — and that you share them with us. It helps in this scattershot world that some things never change and it keeps us grounded. You’ve paper-cut some beauties this year.

  34. terryknott says:

    Beautiful machine and cabinet! I enjoyed reading all the comments! What an interesting history of the company! You scored! Looking forward to reading how it sews!

  35. JanineMarie says:

    I’m green with envy–especially since I live in your area and have never seen one so beautiful even though I fairly regularly make the rounds of the antique stores in the area. Congrats on a great find!

  36. Dr. Sitara says:

    Its really fantastic.

  37. bleuet says:

    jolie trouvaille ! maintenant y a plus qu’a …..

  38. jean says:

    what a wonderful find, but 18000 pounds? must have gotten stuck on the 0. Love the description and all the stuff you shared. Hope to find something wonderful similar to that myself one day soon. ENJOY!

  39. JoZart says:

    Such a wonderful find and quite a treasure. You have a piece of history there, it’s a dream, and I wonder what quilts and clothes were made on it in the past.
    It is so therapeutic to sit and pedal a treadle machine, it’s so very relaxing. I look forward to hearing your views when you get a drive belt and it is up and running. I remember the treadle belts used to be made of leather.
    Jo in Liverpool, England

  40. Pam G. says:

    Amazing! I have one almost exactly like it, but your cabinet is in better condition. I got it in Peoria, IL in the early ’90s for $60. Mine weighs almost 18000 lbs as well – he! he!

  41. averyclaire says:

    Wow what a find. Just beautiful. How fun!

  42. susie Q says:

    The decals are beautiful. The history is complete and sort of discouraging from a USA view point. In the mean time you have a beautiful machine. I you want it upstairs, I encourage you to find some young folks to take it up for you… then you will use it more as needed. I am sure it will fill a certain nitch for sewing.

  43. Pat Long says:

    What a wonderful find! It is simply beautiful.

  44. Rose in Vt says:

    Tim this is a wonderful find! I’ve got my grandmothers treadle, and I’ve got a new belt to put on it, but have always been afraid to cut it in case I cut it too short. So I’ve never sewn on it. You’ll have a LOT of us learning together!

  45. Sue Pittman says:

    You fortunate man! Your new machine is gorgeous. A thing of beauty for utilitarian purposes. Which reminds me of my favorite quote from the book, “The Quilters:” “We made quilts as fast as we could to keep our families warm, and as beautiful as we could, to keep our hearts from breaking.”

  46. Allison Boucher says:

    Beautiful cabinet! It is somewhat similar to mine that my grandpa made. It was probably a replacement, but we don’t know. However, the front door on mine opens to the left and supports the extended top. What supports the extended top on your cabinet?

  47. KerryCan says:

    The machine is lovely but the cabinet is amazing–design perfection, the way it all works together!

  48. Lorij says:

    It is absolutely beautiful. I learned to sew on a treadle machine in 1956.
    I don’t know what became of Mothers machine. I wish I had it.
    Congratulations on a wonderful find.

  49. Connie Combs says:

    Enjoy! Had one like this too. Loved the size of the cabinet and always wanted to use it as a bedside table. Sold it when I had to downsize a couple of yrs ago. Sold it for $75 to a lady looking for a nice one to use and love. Hope you enjoy yours as much as I did mine. Still miss mine.

  50. Tari Allendorf says:

    Wow…. i have the very same cabinet…with the sewing machine inside that I bought for 30 dollars about 30 years ago in Pennsylvania! However, I have not opened it in twenty four years…. have my TV sitting on it. I am now anxious to take a look inside… I really think it has a 1904 White Sewing machine inside….will find out soon!

  51. cklawson08 says:

    Glad I found your post. I have this exact cabinet and machine. My mom said it came from my Great Grandma (1894 – 1989). I would like to get it refinished….. would you recommend leaving it as is or refinishing?

    • timquilts says:

      I would give it a good cleaning , I use murphy’s oil soap for that, and then a good wipe down with a good furniture oil and see how it looks, refinishing these old cabinets is tough because the veneer tends to come loose and causes more problems


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