What I wouldn’t do for a (free) singer 201!

I love sewing, but it was not until i started reading people’s blogs did I start craving for sewing machines, very vintage sewing machines. I was amazed to find that very very old sewing machines may still work like a wonder despite their ripen old age! Even though I already have a working sewing machine that works amazingly well for its price and does almost everything i needed besides serging and embroidering, I really loved the idea of owning a piece of a black beauty:

I want it not only because I am greedy, but also because my dad used to sew me and my mom clothing on one of those black sleek looking piece of fashion machine and I’d like to get my hands on one of those. (yes, my dad used to sew!) But! I am not THAT greedy, I really just wanted one to decorate my awesome sewing room- she doesnt have to be functional, she doesnt have to have any accessories, she doesnt even have to be clean! So imagine my thrill when I saw on my local craigslist that there’s a “old sewing machine” for only 5 bucks! The post was not detailed, but I called and asked if the machine is black(why dont we make black sewing machines anymore?), and the answer was yes! I was so happy! I decided to go buy it that day even though my muscle guy was busy working late.

I researched and stalked the seller through his email and phone for a few minutes (you can be surprised on how much you can find out about a person over the internet) to make sure he isnt a kidnapper who put up a criaglist post of cheap old sewing machine with no pictures just to lure girls like me into his house for kidnapping. (Ok, that made me sound more creepy than him, but a guy selling sewing machine with no picture made me feel a little, suspicious…)

Anyway, I drove to his place thinking, hey! its a really expensive area so, how bad can it be? Well, I was wrong! The  area had a mix of multi-million houses and more shabby homes, and was pretty dark all around. Once I figured out which house it was, I walked towards the front door. A guy in his fifties was sitting alone in his living room watching TV. EEKS! Calm down, i told myself, my muscle guy has all the address, name, phone number, and email information he needed to hunt down a potential kidnapper, and I have my cell phone in my pocket with speed dial enabled. I knocked on the door, greeted the guy. I was hoping that he would bring out the machine, but he said, its in the garage. hmm, ok, what is this? a long hall way towards a door? And the door opens to a small and dark garage? gah! I had to keep remembering that I had vetted this guy pretty well and he seems nice according to google and in person, and I really wanted an old sewing machine… luckily, he was nice enough to open the garage door to give me some air and a route to yell and escape if anything shall happen.

Once my eyes adjusted to the dim lights, I saw the wasted beauty standing proud amongst all the chaos around it. It had a dark, sleek, curvy body with gold deco, and it sits on top of a equally curvy sewing table. I was delighted! Wait, no, I was in love! I poked the seller for any information he can think of about this machine, but all he has was that this machine is probably older than him! I tried to pay him but he said, “well, you are going to take care of it, right?”  *nods* “Well then, I am giving it to you!”

What a nice guy!! Anyone who gives me a free sewing machine just because I am going to take care of it is a nice guy in my book! So I got to take this pair of beauties home:

As you can see, they are both really really pretty.  In the picture above, I have already stripped away a few layers of thin wood, but I can still see water damage (and they smell pretty awful). So I decided to sand it down and re-paint it to a shabby chic:

Its not too hard — you just need to 1) go buy an orbit sander for $30 and sand the original paint off, and make sure to 2) clean it REALLY well with a damp cloth before 3) applying layers of paint on it and 4) wait until it dries (not just kind of dry, but really really dry– wait 48 hours at least!) to play with it. I neglected step #2 and #4 despite my muscle guy’s earnest warnings. As a result, I have a few yellow area where  dust from the sanded off wood is mixed in with the paint, and a few area where paint have peeled because I couldnt wait to close and open the extender or to put stuff on it. I am sure there are better ways to do this, does anyone else have some good tips on restoring a old old piece of furniture quickly and cheaply?  For now, this project is considered done despite various “damaged” spots where paint have peeled and the foot being unpainted, because I am calling it shabby chic, and shabby chic is suppose to be shabby, right?

(look at that picture again, aren’t her creamy white legs just dreamy?)

Now that the table is restored, I will have to work on my black beauty next. She is missing her power cord, and anything that can fall out near the bobbin area: bobbin, bobbin holder, and the sliding plate. Her needle still moves up and down smoothly, so I think the best thing is to find a bobbin holder and a bobbin to see if she can stitch a row when hand cranked, then decide whether I want to explore her electrical parts to see if that is functional. Any opinions, readers? It seems that for all four parts that I need, I would have to spend over 60 dollars on ebay to get them, does anyone know a cheaper source for singer parts?

Oh, and did you know? Every singer sewing machine used to come with a unique serial number on its body. From that, you can figure out what model the sewing machine and when it comes from. According to mine, she is a singer 201 from back in the 40s!  I am soooo in love!

19 thoughts on “What I wouldn’t do for a (free) singer 201!

  1. LOVE your description of the spooky old man with the long hallway to the garage. Hilarious! I’ve been in situations like that too, but I always remind myself “If necessary, attack the soft areas: eyes, throat, groin.”

    “explore her electrical parts to see if that is functional”: sounds so shady. You could have used “its” instead of “her”.

    You did a great job with the sewing table! But I haven’t seen it in real life yet, so I reserve the right to change my opinion of it. 🙂

    @counterpoke: perhaps you could find the Mossberg 500 for $5 on craigslist? Just make sure you be careful walking down that long hallway when you go buy it.

  2. I had so much fun reading this post. Your descriptions were so vivid. You totally transformed that table, Jue! It looks so chic now, yellow spots or not =)

  3. Looks great! I have my grandmothers singer sewing machine that is in a table just like that! I may have to paint it after seeing yours. Before she gave it to me, she had the machine serviced and it works like a dream!

  4. You know I have a singer similar to yours. I use it all the time. I thought that it was a singer 31-20, but by the serial number it’s a singer 96 something or other. Thanks for the links. I’ve been using this machine for about 30 years. It’s my go to machine. I love it. Acording to the serial # it was made in 1919. Wow! I don’t think you’ll find it hard or expense to find parts.

  5. An old sewing machine that has been neglected, stored in a garage, etc., is probably rusty and dirty. If you want to be able to use it without damaging it, get it clean, clean, clean and BEFORE USING IT, it must, must, MUST! be oiled!!! Do NOT attempt to use it without oiling it–you could ruin it. Have a sewing machine repairman show you how to oil it.

    1. hmmmmm, i will go to a sewing machine shop and see if i should buy a tube of oil or get them cleaned there. taking the sewing machine apart to clean each parts sounds kinda fun though!

  6. You can probably get the cord and stuff pretty cheaply from Sew-Classic.com. I just ordered parts for my singer 301 from there (the foot control/power cord assembly for $30 + shipping). You might give that a try. HTH!

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