Three years ago, when CountryBoy and I were walking through the farmhouse with the realtor, the seller had an old Singer treadle machine sitting on one side of the double-sided fireplace. I fell in love with it and its reminder of times past and decided, then and there, that I wanted to decorate our farmhouse with dual-purpose items from the past. Dual-Purpose as in both decorative and functional or decorative and sentimental. I half-jokingly asked her if she was going to leave it! Her reply was “maybe, if I was good”. Apparently, I was not good. Go figure, ha!
Shortly after moving in, we started discovering where the local antique and vendor malls were and we frequented them whenever we were out and about and time permitted. Most times we weren’t really looking for anything in particular yet at every shop I found myself looking for a vintage treadle sewing machine in decent shape. After striking out shop after shop I asked one of the shop clerks if they ever got any in the store. I was told that I just missed out on a couple of them and that a fella would snatch them up as quick as they came in. No wonder I never saw any since we didn’t leave the farm very often!
Not too long after that encounter, we were in another antique and vendor mall and there they were… in a room behind the counter with a sign on it that said something along the lines of it being a workroom. WHAAAAT?! A workroom? But, there are vintage sewing machines in there!
As we were peering into the room and my head was swimming with the knowledge that I have found some vintage machines but they weren’t for sale (at least not in their current state) a fella asked if he could help us. Then it hit me – THIS was probably the fella that was snatching up all the vintage machines right before I entered any of the shop doors. GASP!
Sure enough, he bought old sewing machines in cabinets mainly for the bases and he would repurpose them into other useful things. Sometimes, even the machine itself would be turned into a lamp or some other decorative item.
While I’m all for repurposing items that are beyond their original function the very thought of doing such a thing to a vintage sewing machine left a pit in my stomach. Especially if the machine(s) were in good shape and still worked. Sacrilege!
I quickly recovered and asked him about all the machines in this workroom and were any of them for sale. He said none were for sale and then he explained how he repurposed them. sigh.
I’m not sure whether it was the deflated look on my face or the fact that I teased him about being the one that always snatched up old machines before I could get to them but after a few minutes he had a change of heart and offered me one of the machines saying it wasn’t really the style he was looking for at the moment. I looked at CountryBoy with my hopes up so he asked how much. $60 bucks. SOLD!
Here it is looking how she did when we brought her to the farmhouse…
Isn’t the cabinet gorgeous? We love its curves and the ornamentation on the drawers. I couldn’t believe my luck that this was the one he didn’t want!
And the machine?
It was in decent shape and looked like it would function properly it was just a little dusty and grimy…
See the original wood around the machine? I figured one day I would get around to restoring the rest of it back to the original wood. Three years later I haven’t done a thing with it. sigh.
Well, after sewing my heart out earlier in the month at the annual quilt retreat I attend in Florida my sewing space has been on my mind. It’s been needing some TLC so I figured while I was still in the sewing frame of mind I thought it was time to tackle the treadle. I figured this would up the wow-factor of my sewing space and provide me with some inspiration every time I saw it. Plus, this project has been one of my ‘just get it done this year’ goals!
Another source of motivation for working on it was our last snow storm where we were without power for several days. Since then, my thoughts have been consumed with getting this machine cleaned up, something done with the cabinet and ordering the parts needed to get the machine up and running. You know, just in case we’re ever without power again I could at least do some sewing in the light of the hurricane lamps. (Remember my decision to decorate with dual-purpose items? Hurricane lamps (and lots of them!) and a treadle = able to do something without electricity!)
After mentioning my idea of restoring the cabinet to its original wood CountryBoy reminded me of the work involved in that process and that I would have difficulty getting all the black paint off from around the ornamentation on the drawers and from around the drawer pulls. After closer inspection I knew he was right and it had me wondering if I really DID want to restore it back to the original wood.
At first I didn’t mind it being painted black but after looking at it in the sewing space for three years and not really being able to see it since there is no natural light source in there (making it rather dark) I thought maybe I should do something different. Something that would showcase the beauty of it which got me to thinking (I know, right!)… why don’t I just paint it. WHAAAT? I know, I know. I am the first one to want to restore something to its originality but in this case… it was already painted and as I’ve mentioned before, I could never paint original wood unless it was severely damaged, already painted or cheap wood. So, since someone else already painted over that fine wood I figured I’d add another layer.
The last two days I spent chalk-painting and waxing my vintage treadle sewing machine cabinet and I’m really pleased with how it turned out…
Look at the tiny drawer in the middle! Before it was hard to see its unique shape. I also love the simple black and white palette, how the sewing machine is featured now and the whole thing is noticeable in the space.
I still have the lid to do. It needs a bit of gluing and TLC and the weather has not been suitable for working on it out in the shop.
I ‘distressed’ it a tiny bit to feature the ornamentation on the drawers and tried to give it a ‘used’ look… after all, it is vintage!
I also spent some time on the machine. It had a little ‘spa day’ yesterday…
It’s hard to see the difference but the dirt and grime are gone and the metal shines once again. The clear coat is mostly gone and the decals are showing wear but that’s OK. She’s old and, as they say, just adds character!
This is a Minnesota A model treadle sewing machine and from what I’ve found in my research it was made in the very early 1900’s, probably 1910ish, and sold by Sears via their catalogue. It was made to rival the Singer models and was mentioned as a ‘top of the line’ sewing machine. I’m glad to have found her!
I need to find the correct bobbins and shuttle for this machine, the right needles and it needs a belt then I imagine she will purr like a kitten. That is, if I can figure out how to sew using my feet! It will probably be a test of my coordination or maybe lack thereof, ha!
This is what I now see as I head up the stairs…
A bit of inspiration for hanging out in my sewing/craft space whenever time permits!
The lid that still needs some TLC is leaning against a storage cabinet CountryBoy made that holds my small fabric stash behind the glass doors as well as some crochet thread, scrapbooking stuff, cross stitch patterns and who-knows-what-other-crafty-type-stuff! The wicker basket is home to all the partial skeins of cotton yarn I’ve ever used. Anyone know of a good scrappy project for all that yarn?! For now I see tons of knitted dishcloths in my future, ha!
So, that’s a portion of my sewing space featuring my newly ‘dressed’ vintage treadle sewing machine. I really like how it turned out and can’t wait until she’s got all her parts so I can learn how to use it. You just never know when we’ll be without power again!
Till next time 🙂