Old Machines, New Tech, No Kitsch.


A mechanical sewing machine is the opposite of a robot. There’s no software at all. They may not even be electric. All treadle machines are mechanical. All stitches are regulated through a series of cams, gears and rods. These are the oldest type of sewing machine. 

Mechanicals are extremely reliable, but they’re higher maintenance. What kills mechanicals is almost always a lack of maintenance. 

I’m agnostic on which is better – mechanicals or robots. I think they both have a place at the sewist’s table. Mechanicals are best for people who like to tinker, like to problem-solve, and who want the maximum of control over every stitch. A robot is better for those who just want production and are willing to give up a little control. 

Mechanicals are often considered stronger machines for heavy duty work like leather, upholstery, and sailmaking. That’s debatable, but in general, the amount of control a mechanical offers makes heavy duty work simpler. 

Most mechanicals are now over 40 years old, so expect to buy them used and to do some restoration work before you sit down. If you just want to get started, go over to Robots and start there. 

This is a repository for all Mechanical posts.

  • Singer 99 and Singer 99K
  • Viking 33-10
  • New Home Treadle base hack
  • Machine maintenance 
  • Threading
  • Tension
  • Handcranks
  • Picking a Sewing Machine
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