Singer 31-15 SOS

The Story Continues

I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I posted “As The Treadle Turns”.  And, it almost has a happy ending.

This beautiful 31-15 treadle machine has been a monkey on my back.  My friend says she loves vintage sewing machines because there’s no drama; no electronics to go wrong; and straightforward sewing.

Well, in my case; I was the drama.

There was lots of test sewing, but I admit I didn’t put in the hours to practice treadling.  I watched Tim Latimer do free motion quilting on leather; how hard could it be?

On my first attempt at just straight stitching, I assumed I could use a regular sewing thread on this industrial machine.  Lots of broken thread later convinced me that this was not the right choice.  Maybe if I had practiced more and could keep the machine going forward instead of lurching backward, it could have worked.

I had some bonded nylon leftover from when I attached glass eyes while making teddy bears.  I used it to quilt a double-sueded leather to make a computer bag.  There were several dropped stitches but it sort of worked.  Where it failed was sewing the bag together.  During my testing before I bought the machine, I was able to put five layers of thin leather together and it sewed fine.  What was I doing wrong?  More drama.

So, I stopped for a while.  Sent a few frantic emails to the person I bought it from hoping for some guidance.  She had no problem sewing leather. She’d done it with this very machine.  I was wondering what kind of leather she used.

Next, I tried Coats and Clark® thread.  Bonus, there are more colors to choose from.  It frayed; it broke; and skipped stitches.  Fail.

So, I stopped for a while.  Maybe the seller could come out and give me some lessons?

Her suggestion was Mara® 100 Tex 30 All Purpose Thread.  It says its high quality, 100% Polyester thread, with high breaking strength.  And it may be all that, but other than samples, I couldn’t get it to sew a nice even stitch.

So I stopped for a while and worked on my Pfaff 7570.  A machine I’m comfortable with and have been sewing on for over ten years.

I thought about selling the treadle.  Who would buy it?  It’s beautiful, but so heavy.  I didn’t know any sewers who didn’t already have several machines to their name.  Maybe I could get a machine that was made jut to sew leather.  Their prices were steep and did I want something else that would frustrate me?

So I stopped for a while.

The other day I decided I was going to conquer this machine and practice a little.  Being a glutton for punishment, I got out the nylon thread again.  If I was just practicing, what did it matter?

Thread does matter.  So I pulled out the Mara thread.  Still not working.

My last hope was Gutermann Tera® 40 Tex 75 upholstery thread which has the strength of bonded nylon but is 100% polyester.  And, good for me it has high breaking strength and good abrasion resistance.  Yes, this is a mini commercial for the thread.  But, I also checked the bobbin case and noticed that the set screw was set way too loose.  A few turns with a screw driver corrected that.  I tweaked the top tension as well.

I cautiously started to sew a piece waxed canvas to test the thread out.  My mouth dropped as I saw the perfect little stitches.  But, could I replicate them and actually make a bag?


I’m happy to say that “As The Treadle Turns” has a happy ending.  I finished a bag yesterday and I’m ready to start on a new one soon.

Tera® does have a limited color selection so maybe after I’ve done a few more bags I’ll find that I could use Mara® with a lot more choices.

Either way, I can look at my vintage 31-15 Singer and smile.

Several days later . . . I stop for a while.

My glee was short lived.  I cut out my next bag and was anxious to use my treadle again.  All I did was change the thread color.  It was the same brand.  I don’t think I did anything else different, but I couldn’t get it to sew a stitch.

I emailed for some help and got a few suggestions, which I tried to no avail.  I’m 99% positive that it’s user error; I just can’t figure out what this user is doing wrong.

So if there’s anyone out there who has a treadle and knows the magic formula.  Let me know- P L E A S E!