Tuesday, 15 October 2013

My Vintage Sewing Machine - A Singer 201K-3

When I was in the throes of quilting my very large Swoon quilt and researching quilting designs, I happened upon this post by fellow Aussie Swooner Melanie Ham that would change the way I felt about sewing machines forever.

She had struggled to quilt her Swoon on her domestic machine and had come up with the idea of using a vintage machine to make the job a little easier.  On her blog was a picture showing the difference in harp sizes between her modern machine and her vintage Singer 201.  The actual difference is a mere 1 3/4 inches, but when you are trying to shove a king sized quilt under there, that difference is huge. The Singer has a lot more room between the harp and the bed of the machine as well.  I was sold and within a day or two I was obsessed with finding a shiny black 201k of my own and stalking ebay like a crazy woman. 

I missed out on a few as I was afraid to invest too much money in a machine that might not even work and was outbid, but eventually I snagged one that looked to be in good condition (and fully working) for $90.  My heart sank when I went to collect it though - the woman I bought it from greeted me at the door and told me that she'd just set it up to show me and discovered that it had a serious electrical fault and understood if I no longer wanted it.  The machine ran all by itself as soon as it was switched on - spooky, and probably dangerous.  I was so disappointed as the machine was in even better condition than I had hoped, all shiny and black and the decals were just like new.  Her husband told me gloomily that it was unfixable.  I had a feeling that I'd be able to get it running though, even if I had to spend a bit to have it serviced.  She offered it to me for a mere $30 and I accepted.  They were moving and just wanted to get rid of it she said.  She was the second owner and had bought it from the lady who originally purchased it when she moved into a nursing home.  It had been sitting in her sewing room unused for over 10 years.

I took it home and looked up the serial number - my machine was one of a batch of 4000 made on September 10, 1952 in faraway Clydebank, Scotland.  I love that you can find that information so easily!

A lot of research, a lot of cleaning, oiling, tinkering and some new cords and my machine was up and running.  My Janome has since broken down, and I have just been using the Singer. It runs much quieter than the Janome, sews through thick fabric and multiple layers like butter and has a far superior stitch.  It really is a joy to use - and so pretty!

My machine is currently out of her wooden case in preparation for being put into a sewing table so that the bed is at the same level as my worktop.  Please excuse her naked legs :)

 For anyone on the fence about buying an older machine, I say go for it.  They are easy to find, and you can pick them up for a bargain.  Even if you have to take it in to get looked over/serviced before you can use it the machine is far better than anything you could hope to buy for under $500 - and as I mentioned, I feel it is superior to my $800 machine and better still, it is possible to repair mechanical issues yourself.

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