Spinning Attachment for a Treadle Sewing Cabinet




Introduction: Spinning Attachment for a Treadle Sewing Cabinet

Anyone who knits knows that good yarn ain't cheap. You can spin your own yarn, but buying a spinning wheel will cost you more than all the yarn in the world!  On the other hand, Goodwill stores are full of high-quality sweaters for a very reasonable price, the only hitch is that the yarn from those sweaters is finer than hand knitting yarn. I made this gadget to help me turn ugly sweaters made of fancy fibers into beautiful yarn that I can knit up the way I like.

This instructable will show you how I built a flyer-driven, scotch-tension mechanism to fit on the base of my treadle sewing machine. It should be noted that in terms of ergonomics, this thing would be very awkward to try to spin raw fiber into yarn. However, it does a bang-up job of plying multiple strands of fine yarn unraveled from secondhand sweaters.

Step 1: Assemble Your Tools and Materials


-A functioning treadle machine cabinet! I sew a lot, so I have a couple of those.
-One super cheap ikea curtain rod, about 2 feet long. In the picture, the inner part is laid out next to the outer part, so it looks like 2 rods, but really, it is only one thing.
-4 super cheap plastic shelf brackets, also incidentally from ikea.
-a couple packs of bitty cup hooks

Not shown:

A board about as big as the top of the machine cabinet
A tube of contact cement
Glue sticks
2 sheets of sturdy chipboard- I cut open the covers of a used 3 ring binder
some string
the spring out of a ball point pen
an empty spool from some sewing thread
assorted screws & maybe nails


a ruler or tape measure
a teensy saw- I used a coping saw
a less teensy saw, in this case, a hacksaw
a drill or dremel tool with assorted drill bits up to 1/4". I had a drill and man I wish I'd had a dremel.
pencils & pens
hot glue gun
a packet of emery boards or some sandpaper

Things that are useful but not necessary: Clamps for holding stuff you're sawing, calipers, for measuring round things.

Step 2: Cut Some Circles

From the chip board, cut four, 3" circles, and two, 2 1/2" circles.

Set aside a pair of the 3" circles for later.

Glue the 2 1/2" circles together between the other pair of 3" circles to form a wheel with a groove in it.  Tip: use contact cement for this part. It applies in a thinner, neater coat than hot glue, and has a longer working time.

Weight or clamp the wheel and wait until it's set.

This is where I wish I had a 1/2" hole cutting bit. But I don't, so instead, I used a regular 1/4" bit, drilled a hole through the center of the wheel, threaded in the blade from the coping saw, and cut out a hole the same diameter as the skinny part of the curtain rod.

This completes the drive wheel.

Step 3: Shape the Flyer Arms

Cut an 11" section of the skinnier piece of the curtain rod, using the hacksaw. This will be the flyer spindle.

Use sandpaper or an emery board to sand off all the burrs both outside the tube and inside. ( The emery boards were useful for sanding the insides of that little tube.)

Take one of the brackets and draw a circle the same size as the diameter of the flyer spindle around one of the screw holes nearest to the corner of the bracket. (I just traced around the tube.)

Repeat for the other bracket. Make sure the placement of the circles relative to the screw holes is the same.

Cut the brackets off exactly through the center of each marked circle.

Use the coping saw to cut out the remaining half circles on the brackets. Sand everything clean.

Step 4: Assembling the Flyer Head

Lay the 2 brackets together as shown, and glue a scrap of chip board across them to hold them in place. This is another good place to use contact cement.

When the brackets are set, insert the flyer spindle through the hole in the brackets, then through the hole in the drive wheel. Glue everything together. Leave about 1" of the spindle sticking out past the drive wheel. This end is the orifice end.

Screw cup hooks in along one arm of the flyer about every 1/2". Drilling tiny holes first really helps.

Drill a 1/4" hole in the flyer spindle right next to the place where brackets are attached. Sand off any burrs or sharp edges , or your string will get cut as you are using your machine.

Take some fine string and tightly wrap the flyer spindle. Glue the string in place. This is to reduce noise as the bobbin rattles around.

Step 5: Assemble the Flyer Holder

If there is a sewing machine in your cabinet, take it out.

Place the board on the cabinet, and mark the places where the drive belt comes up through the cabinet. (I had to stick my head under the cabinet and scrooble around with a sharpie marker.)

Drill out the holes in the board. If you make elongated holes, you'll have extra room for error in your final assemblage.

Use the coping saw to cut a U shape out of one end of each of the remaining brackets. Sand smooth, but try not to remove too much material. The flyer spindle should fit into the U as closely as possible while still being able to turn freely.

Mount the brackets halfway between the 2 belt holes on the board, so that when the flyer is placed on the brackets, the drive belt runs over the drive wheel of the flyer.

Step 6: Make the Bobbin

Cut a  6 1/2 inch section of the fatter part of the curtain rod. Sand off all rough edges. This is the bobbin core.

Cut holes for the core in the centers of the remaining two 3" circles of chipboard. Glue the circles to either end of the core. One circle should be glued as close to the end as practical, the other circle should be about 3/4" from the end of the core.

Step 7: Add the Tension

Step 8: Celebrate!


Things to consider:

Beyond the fact that this thing would be really awkward to use for actual spinning rather than simply plying yarns together, it is tremendously noisy.

I mentioned that wrapping the flyer spindle will help reduce noise, but also glopping a bunch of hot glue into the bases of the holding brackets will help dampen vibrations. Finally, if you make the sockets for the flyer too big, this thing will sound like a herd of bison running across a tin roof. The solution is to glue some felt inside the U shaped sockets. Just don't use hot glue for this. I tried it and I found out that the friction of the flyer spinning will creat enough heat to re-melt the glue. Use contact cement, or better yet, cut your holes as exactly as possible.

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    10 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 5

    I'd slide the board over till it is flush on the right, so the bracket doesn't hang over the edge, then mark the belt holes. You could also elongate those holes until they meet, making a slot for the belt.

    Would felt between the board and the table help cut the noise? Or maybe a sheet of that puffy mesh stuff that keeps dishes from sliding around?

    I' love to see an adaptation with a secondary drive band, so that the flyer assembly is turned 90°. That way you could sit frontwise. I love that there are no permanent modifications to the table itself. Easily converts back to a sewing machine!


    6 years ago

    So Smart!
    You are a genius!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks guys! I was thinking about doing a video, but I only have very low resolution video capability. To give credit where it is due, I got most of my inspiration from the folks who make the electric eel wheel (which is so simple in mechanical design that it gave me my first aha!) and from this video on youtube showing how to thread up the tension.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the video links! I'm smarter now (well, a bit anyways . . .)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    AAAA-MAZING!! Very, very clever. I love your flyer assembly too- so smart!

    Osark The Goat
    Osark The Goat

    6 years ago

    what are you using for the belt to connect it to the flywheel on the treadle machene? it dosn't look like a normal belt


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    No, it's not. I used some cotton twine and made a long section of chain crochet. I was trying to come up with something that would be light weight enough that it wouldn't wreck my cardboard drive wheel, but that meant it had to have enough texture to give it enough grip to compensate for the lighter tension. Side benefit is that when the belt stretches out, it's easy to unravel a few inches of chain and re-size the belt.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This IS an awesome idea! And I agree with Make_This, a video showing each component once its assembled, then an overall detailed shot of how it's threaded, would really help me as I don't have much of a mechanical mind. And if you could show it with actual yarns in it, working, that would be *wonderful*. However, I know such a video would be a LOT of work, so if it's not possible, that's okay. I might try doing this anyhow, and learn by mistakes (my modus operandi in any case). Thanks for sharing this!


    6 years ago

    A video of you working it would be helpful for those of us (that would be me) who are not familiar with the process. Looks quite interesting and so practical for reuse. Thanks for sharing.