Non-electric Sewing Machines that Actually Work!

Ready to make the switch to a non electric sewing machine? Electrical, computerized machines are all very well and good, but there’s something about having a machine that works whether or not you plug it in the wall or not: something that can be churning out quilts or teddy bears or dresses even during the big snowstorm of the year or when tornados are blowing gustily about the house.

The Best in Non-Electric Sewing Machines

non electric sewing machine

You don’t have as many good options as you might expect when it comes to non electric sewing machines, but if you’ve got a sewing cabinet with an old fashioned treadle ready to go—or are willing to buy one—the Janome 712T might be pretty much perfect for you. This is a workhorse machine: a sturdy, sensible treadle sewing machine that’ll let you sew ten different utility stitches, including a buttonhole. The bobbin is top-loading, and users report that the machine is easy to thread.

Although it looks like the outer casing is plastic, the majority of the machine is metal, and it’s built to last. It handles thick fabrics well, and tends to run smoother than other similar sewing machines. It’s a machine which has found a lot of love among off-the-grid sewers, and though you may find it stiff at first, it’ll warm up as you use it.

You do need to be aware this is not a stand alone machine that just sits on your cheap sewing table.  No, it’s meant to fit into a vintage treadle cabinet!

Other Options

hand powered sewing machine

Janome also sells a hand-crank machine, the Janome 131: It’s cheaper, it is much more ornate, and it doesn’t work half as well. At it’s best, it does only one straight stitch; if it did that straight stitch well, it might be a decent machine, but buyers report it to be scarcely functional. Buy it if you want something pretty to put on top of your antique sewing table, maybe, but not if you want an actual functioning sewing machine that you can do things with.

Your other option is to buy a vintage machine from the days before electricity powered sewing machines became popular: either a treadle machine or one that works with a hand crank. Singer is one of the best—as well as biggest—names in old-fashioned sewing machines, and a Singer machine may be a good bet—but do test your potential machine thoroughly before you finalize a deal; there’s been plenty of time for even the long-lasting parts on these machines to deteriorate and break.

You should also be aware that old-fashioned machines tend to be simpler, and may not have the capability to do many stitches. You won’t find the functionality of the Janome 712T, for instance, when browsing through antique sewing machines. All that goodness just hadn’t been invented yet back in the day.

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool DIY-er you’ve got one more option for when you move off the grid: open up your existing electric machine and convert it to a machine that works with a treadle. This doesn’t work with all machines and takes some doing, but when it works it really works, and the result is a modern sewing machine that sings along without electricity.

Got it? There’s no reason to be hunched up under blankets in a cold, dark house when the electricity goes off. Light some candles and get sewing—life goes on!