Posted in Sewing

Rita Makes Stitches!

January 11, 2014 - 2:28 pm

!!!! End product of the morning’s efforts:


Rita and the treadle are together, and look! she makes stitches!


I am so pleased with myself I just can’t stand it.

I woke up this morning REALLY wanting to get the machine and the treadle married up this weekend after my visit with Captain Dick yesterday. Which was awesome, and I will also write up. He knows so much! And makes it all look so easy!

!!!! The exclamation police should come get me.  I’ve already exceeded my monthly quota with this post.

Last night I was looking at the treadle base and lid, and coming up with ways to mate them up and build some sort of surface to support machines and frankly I was getting despondent about it. Here’s why:


I had forgotten while I was with the Captain and when I hatched this plan that there’s not really enough wood to securely fasten the treadle base to the top. And what wood is there was deeply scored for reasons that escape me: 


The flash is lighting up the deep gouges in the wood. I drew in the “X” representing the screw line and the outer edge of the base— the screw would actually be placed smack in the middle of the middle groove. Which is kind of a non-starter, and in other corners the wood is even more damaged.

I was thinking about getting some bar stock and bolting it to the top of the treadle base to extend it long enough to bolt on properly, and contemplating the tools I would need to make that happen, and that was before I even started on designing and making the surface. 

So I woke up and tried to talk myself into shelving the Rita project until “later,” but it just wasn’t budging. I wanted to treadle. Today. I sat down to look at the problem of cleaning the machine, which was back in the $2 Goodwill sewing table, and it dawned on me.

This table has a top. 

There is a lot of clearance between the back of Rita and the end of the opening— enough for a treadle belt. 

I pulled Rita off and flipped the table, and sure enough it was just screwed onto the base. (note I need to do a better job installing the hinges; I want to make a backing plate and through-screw them, sandwiching the particle board. Project for another day, hopefully before Rita drops through the hole.)


I turned 8 screws and had the base clear of the surface:


It passed poodle inspection: 


And then I set it on top of the treadle, and it fit beautifully:


I added Rita and confirmed the clearance was sufficient and alignment would work:


Did a little happy dance, and set about collecting tools. I knew from talking to Captain Dick and from my antique spinning wheel resurrection efforts how important it is to align the path of the drive belt so it won’t hop off. My goal in simple terms was to align the surface to the treadle base such that Rita’s drive wheel is directly aligned with the base’s wheel. That means I needed I needed a plumb bob. 

I don’t have a plumb bob.

A plumb bob is just a weight on a string, at its most basic. I have lots of string, and plenty of things that are weighty enough to vector towards the center of the earth when suspended. I pulled a couple big nails out of a junk box and some thread, and connected them up. 


I pulled off Rita’s bobbin winder:


Thanks to Richard for giving me a tour of the machine yesterday, so I could easily and confidently do this!

Next step was to mark the line on the surface that the drive band needed to pass through to be aligned with Rita.  

A true plumb bob has a point at the bottom of the weight so the tip of the weight can be used for alignment. In this case the weight will hang off center, and so must be ignored. What I’m aligning to is the string, which will point in the right direction. If I tried to align to the nail it would come out wonky:


I needed to drop the weight below the surface so I could use the string for the measurement line. I also confirmed that Rita was square to the base, so I only needed one plumb line and a measurement in from the edge of the surface to draw the correct line:


Which I did with an erasable pencil:



For the next step I needed to square the base to the surface, which meant I needed two plumb lines. I extended the line to the edges of the surface, wrapped strings around the lines so they hung off the edge of the table and extended the line down past the top of the wheel. Forgot to snap a pic, but imagine thread wrapped twice around the edges over the lines and taped down with blue tape, and you’re there. 🙂

I now could sight across the treadle, aligning the strings with the wheel, adjusting the top so they all lined up in a row: 


There really are two strings there; here’s a picture slightly off center:


Once I had the spot I needed to find screws. I chose 1” wood screws, because they appeared to be the perfect length to bite into as much wood as possible without coming through the top:


I pulled out my drill and installed the first screw. One of my favorite drill attachments is the little slidey thing that holds the screw for me. It seriously reduces the amount of swearing from dropping screws:


After the first screw I wanted to install the diagonal opposite corner. I went around behind the treadle and made sure I was still aligned:


Then installed the screw, which was the back left as you’re facing the machine. This locked the two pieces together so I could just install the other two screws.

Er, wait. 


The treadle had a screw through its guard and into the wheel, locking it in a fixed position. The Captain and I removed it. I dropped the screw in the top of the treadle and forgot about it yesterday. The treadle’s been flipped upside down and right side up again half a dozen times or so. Somehow the screw knew that if it stayed in the hole it would have one more chance to cause trouble. Grr. 

I backed out the back left corner screw, rotated the top so the BAD SCREW could be removed.


I then realigned the surface and the treadle which fortunately was still well centered on the back left screw hole, so I could just put the screw back in. I installed the other two screws:


Assembly finished! Rita then got put onto her hinges and tightened down:


She won’t quite drop under the surface; I should be able to file a corner off the support for the front flap and get her in, though:


I DEFINITELY want to improve the way the hinges are installed before I trust them to support her, though.  

I can also tip her back to get to her guts: 


Note that I couldn’t do this before on the Goodwill table because she would tip it over.

Better and better!

Next up: treadle belt.

I don’t have a treadle belt.

The Captain and I discussed using a strong bungee cord as a treadle belt for a universal table. One of the things I have on deck this weekend is (hopefully) picking up a 15-90, so I’m hoping it can also get installed on this treadle base. At any rate, I have a ton of bungee cord and no other option, so I figured I’d try.


I ran the cord over Rita’s wheel and around the treadle wheel and stretched it tight, cut it, melted the ends of the nylon, sewed it up, went to put it on the treadle…

Oh. I know from spinning wheels that the drive band has to be tied in place because of the footman. Not sure why I thought I could sew this one together sitting in my comfy chair and have it all work out swimmingly. heh. 

Cut another one, routed it through the belt path, and this time remembered to take a couple pictures of sewing it up:


The trick to sewing bungee together is to sew through the nylon casing, not through the elastic. Trying to put a needle through elastic is unpleasant and damages the elastic. running it through the casing and tying it down tight works well. I use waxed nylon thread for this job, and find a curved needle to be the best tool.

For this application I debated between lapping the ends (stronger since the two ends are joined more completely) and butting the ends (smoother since there’s no big bump) and chose the former. Here’s a progress pic on the sewing, again I forgot to take the final pic:


I criss-crossed and tied the two ends of the waxed cord several more times so the cord was quite compressed and there aren’t big bumps at either end. I suppose I can take a pic of the knot in situ if anyone wants to see.

The end result is: Rita sews!


The cotton thread broke twice while I was testing. This is the same cotton thread the Rocketeer was displeased with for free motion quilting. It’s now in the garbage. 🙂

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