Making a Belt for a Treadle Sewing Machine

vintage sewing machine in treadle table

I found this blue vintage sewing machine at a thrift store, and I went home without it. Then I decided that I loved it and went back to pick it up. It’s a White brand, model #658-10491. I knew it was old, I knew it had issues (check out how chewed up the cord was) and I knew it didn’t even zigzag. BUT IT WAS ONLY 10 DOLLARS, and I loved it.

I cleaned it up, replaced the cord, oiled it, plugged it in, and started sewing. And then sparks came shooting out of the motor, which caused me to quickly unplug it and hope it hadn’t caught on fire. Clearly the sewing machine didn’t love me back. In fact, I think it may have been trying to kill me.

Okay, so maybe I had a $10 paper weight. No big deal. But wait! There was an antique treadle table in a local auction. Maybe, just maybe…

Antique treadle table

I bid on the treadle table and won it for just under 40 dollars. I was ecstatic to find out that my beloved sewing machine fit into the table PERFECTLY. Now I could run the machine without worrying about its evil plot to kill me!

I cleaned up the table and oiled the moving parts, and I was glad to see that it ran smoothly. But I couldn’t get rid of the smell of mold on the wooden parts of the table. (If anyone has any advice, please drop it in the comments section!)

But I also have a screened-in porch, and so that is where the treadle table went. I figured the moldy smell wouldn’t bother anything out there.

removing motor from sewing machine

Before I hooked up a belt to the machine, I took the time to remove the deadly motor. The motor will probably be taken apart and used in future art projects… I can see some cool-looking fins inside it. (Now I’m getting distracted by things I can make out of the motor! Back to the treadle table…)

I also cleaned off the crystallized masking tape residue that was left behind by the previous owner. I used one of my favorite tricks here: a paper towel with butter on it. Rub some butter into the tape residue, and let it sit for about 20 minutes before you scrape the tape off.

Now I just needed a belt to connect the machine to the table’s mechanism. I went shopping online and found some old-timey leather treadle belts, but I decided to try to make my own instead.

stretching a sewing machine belt

I used a 1/2″ strip of PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabric because it’s strong, grippy, doesn’t fray, and I had some on hand already. It’s waterproof, so it’s great for bag linings and other projects that you want to be wipe-clean or rainproof. And a lot of moms use it to make cloth diapers or as the backing for a changing pad.

I always find little things to make with it, and I stocked up a while ago when the blue color was being discontinued. The yardage I had was 60″ wide, and because it stretches, that was more than enough length to go all the way through the treadle table’s belt path. (I could have cut a lengthwise strip, and it wouldn’t have been stretchy. But I wanted to try the crosswise direction first, and play around with the fit.)

I threaded the strip of fabric through the table, following the path that the belt would take when it was running the machine. I took note of how much length I’d need, then I slipped the fabric off of the large wheel underneath the table so that I’d have enough slack to sew the belt into a circle. The belt stayed looped around the axle of the wheel, but not around the outside of the wheel, so I had enough slack to sew it together.

Then I sewed the two ends together by stretching it over the sewing machine and sewing a line parallel with the strip. I passed the joined belt back over the sewing machine, stretched it around the large wheel, and tried it out.

It worked! The polyurethane laminate fabric is grippy and almost a little bit rubbery, so it seemed like the perfect thing to use. But the belt continued to stretch as it was under constant tension, and as it stretched, it started slipping. So I shortened it gradually by about 8 inches, and I considered switching to a lengthwise (and therefore not stretchy) strip of the PUL fabric. But after the belt had sat on the machine for about a day, it stopped stretching. Since it was working fine after a day, I decided to leave the crosswise strip on there.

The machine runs super smooth and quiet, and it took some getting used to, but I like the treadle action. I’m going to try free-motion quilting with it, because I love a challenge. Here’s a video of my treadle machine running: I’m using it to demonstrate how to sew perfect circles. It’s a really fun hack that uses a thumbtack and doesn’t require any marking or tracing. If you’re interested, you can check out the full tutorial!

blue vintage sewing machine in treadle table with text overlay: making a belt for a treadle sewing machine

I hope you enjoyed seeing my “new” machine in all its glory!

About SnazzyBot

I am an artist and fashion designer with a passion for helping people bring their own creative dreams to life. I love sharing my projects with fellow crafters, and I hope you find ideas and inspiration on my blog! As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use my affiliate links to make a purchase.

16 Responses

  1. That is so cool how you made the treadle belt! I never even considered that possibility. Next time I need one, I’m trying it. Your machine-treadle combination is lovely.

  2. Tena O'connor

    That is Soo cool 😎. I have a tredle machine I rescued from the side of the road and I’m putting it back together. The base is in ruff shape but it’s all there except the belt. I’m going to try this idea. Thank you 😊

    1. Awesome! Good luck with the restoration. I really love the way mine runs, and it’s so neat to think that we are rescuing something from a bygone era and making it as beautiful and useful as ever!

  3. Nanny

    Try one teaspoon of eucalyptus oil mixed with one cup coconut oil. Rub on wood as you would any wood oil. They will smell great and the eucalyptus oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. So it should keep your mold at bay. Be sure and let it sit a few days (or wipe excess off) before sewing. You don’t want to get oil on fabric.

    1. Wow, that sounds like a great idea! Thank you so much, I think I’m going to pick up some eucalyptus oil (I have coconut oil on hand already) and give it a try!

  4. Nicole Blades

    Regarding the mold smell, you can try ozone treatment. I know that some sports stores have an ozone chamber to remove body odor smells from athletic equipment. I don’t know what it would cost but it could work to remove your smell.

    1. What an interesting idea! I didn’t know about that. I’m wondering if it would penetrate into the wood or actually kill mold? It sounds like something to look into!

  5. Roxie

    I have a Roby de luxe . I got from my Grandma. Unfortunately I don’t know how to sew and it’s sad. I want to sell it to a rightful owner who would take care of this vintage pieces. Can someone help me out on how much it’s worth. Doesn’t even cut up on Google. Is it rare? Made in japan

    1. Hi Roxy, is your sewing machine perhaps a Ruby? That was a model made by a company called New Home. You might be able to find additional identifying information under the needle plate (the plate right under the needle) which will be removable with screws or clips of some kind.

  6. John

    You can purchase the original leather drive belts from eBay as well as many other parts. I found this out when I restored my grandmother’s 27-4 machine. For the mold smell, I used Gilly’s Orange Oil for timber and cane, I love these old machines.
    Kind Regards

    1. Hi John, the leather belts would certainly look more authentic and charming! I have not yet been able to kill the mold smell, so the machine is still out on my porch, and I’m worried that leather belts would just mold if they were left out in the humidity.

      I haven’t heard of Gilly’s before, thank you so much for the tip! I’m determined to preserve my little piece of sewing history.

  7. Ruth

    I have gotten bad odors out of old suitcases with wads of newspaper and open dish of vinegar. It took several weeks and changing thr paper and vinegar. You would have to enclose the cabinet in plastic or anything that would keep the air out.

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