I just couldn’t help myself. Last week I saw an ad on Kijiji for a Singer 127 treadle (which had been removed from it’s table, sadly! The table is probably in a land fill somewhere or worse, turned into “art” and ruined) with nearly perfect Sphinx/Memphis decals. It was listed as “not working” and was being sold as a decoration only. For $15.
I emailed the seller immediately, asked if the table was still kicking around (no), and he also told me that it was definitely non-functional, and he dropped the price to $10, with delivery. So I bought her, intending to maybe use her for parts, but all the while, I had the sneaking suspicion that I could get her to work, even though the owner said it wasn’t possible.
Last night she (meaning the sewing machine) arrived. Right away, I did a quick clean and oiled her – the hand wheel was almost frozen, but there was hope! After dinner, I took the shuttle from my 128-13, removed the old, rusted needle and replaced it with a new one, got it threaded and by manually turning the hand wheel, got her running. The oiling I had done before did the trick! The hand wheel moves freely and smoothly now! But the stitches were all wonky, with the bobbin thread just lying straight and flat on the bottom. So I took out the manual for my 128-13 and used it to diagnose the problem – the upper thread tension was way too loose! I adjusted the tension, and now the stitches are damned near perfect! Needless to say, I played with her for quite awhile last night.
The serial number is G4397372, and she appears to be from 1915. I think she must have been kept in a kitchen, because there was/is quite a bit of orange/bronze/brown grease staining parts of her that I’ll have to try and remove – at least from the metal parts and screws. I think that the coating of grease must be what kept the decals in such lovely (though stained) condition, so I’m not 100% sure about removing it from those areas. Would it ruin them? The faceplate was badly stained and very greasy and sticky – yuck! – but I was able to remove it and clean it up pretty nicely with some warm, soapy water. For an 102 year old lady, she’s looking pretty damned good!
Fans of Marilyn Monroe will recognize the name I gave this new-old machine – Zelda Zonk – as the name Marilyn traveled under when she escaped all the Hollywood studio bullshit and sexism by (essentially) running away to New York, and forming her own production company with Milton Greene. Marilyn’s time of freedom in New York is said to be one of the happiest periods in her life. This machine just feels like a Zelda Zonk to me, I think the name suits her.
I’m thinking of converting her to a hand crank at some point. Even though I technically got her as a parts machine, I’m really getting a kick out of using her! But manually turning the hand wheel is hard on my old bird boned wrists, I think a hand crank would help.
Now, finally, the photos! Sorry for the bad lighting in these, it’s absolutely pouring rain out this morning and very dark, so even with the curtains open and lights on, this was the best I could do. Also, enjoy laughing at the video I tried to make, one handed, to show you that she works. She may be missing her treadle table, but she can run all right!
(I will post better photos later, promise!)
And here are some photos of the scrap fabric so you can see the stitches better.
Second photo – my cat was meowing at me, so I stitched a kitty shape, because that’s how I roll.
So, if anyone ever lists a vintage sewing machine as “not working” and has it for sale dirt cheap, take it from me: with some cleaning, a little oil, some time, and a lot of love, you can probably make her run, even just by turning the hand wheel, like I am doing. It’s a good test at the very least, to see if it would be possible to get her up and going in a more conventional manner (hand crank, treadle, foot pedal, or knee lever). And it is so rewarding to get them running after they’ve sat for so many years unused. The previous owner just had it for decoration, and who knows where it was before then? I think it’s probably been decades (at least!) since anyone tried using this machine, but she can definitely work!