You may remember that my meandering brain conjured up a Silly Girl’s Project which is becoming more complex as time goes by. Follow the link for Part One – the beginning of the spiral. I’m not sure whether it’s an upward spiral or a downward spiral but I’m enjoying it.
In my last post a couple of weeks ago, I had acquired a vintage Singer 201K sewing machine for the purpose of making my 1950’s-style outfits for our road trip to Monte Carlo. Heather, as she is now known, is up and running and raring to go. I, on the other hand, am procrastinating about the actual SEWING and have been distracted by the cuteness of the traditional Singer sewing machine. Thus, I allowed myself to be seduced by the lovely Isabella, a 3/4 sized hand crank machine from 1901. She’s still an ongoing refurbishment project but she remembers how to sew. Which is more than I can.
Along the way, I have discovered the joys of a Dremel, which is a rotary power tool that does all manner of miraculous DIY things, but I’m only interested in polishing. The buffer pads work a treat with MAAS metal polish which is not as rough as the compound that comes with the Dremel. I have only used it on minimum speed as it can become unwieldy and out of control if you give it too much welly and don’t give it 100% concentration. Like a lot of things. I have nearly shrink-wrapped myself twice with the dust sheet I was using to protect everything from the filthy bits of flying polish and I look like a Victorian chimney sweep after every cleaning session. It works a treat. Shopkeepers recoil at the state of my nails as I hand over money, though.
Did I mention that I am easily distracted and prone to flights of fancy? Last weekend (as soon as Mr Imagespast was on the plane to Greece for a well-deserved break from the madness that is his usual routine) I went to Fife to see a 1962 Rover P4 which had been advertised on Ebay. Just like the one that Douglas and Elsie drove from Fife to Monte Carlo in 1955, but a few years younger.
I spoke to my friend, Colin, and picked him up at 1pm on the Sunday to go and see the car. The seller lived in a tiny (really tiny) village within 5 miles of Pitlessie, where Douglas grew up at the Manse. I took the little album with me to show him if he was interested.
Unfortunately, although the car was in pretty good condition, it was too much of a project for me to take on. Mr IP’s car maintenance abilities extend to phoning the garage and mine are… rusty. In the extreme. Also lacking in a lot of areas. In discussion with Colin, I decided that I would prefer a bigger 6 cylinder engine for motorway comfort and ease of driving – less messing around changing gears. Even with the bigger engine, with the overdrive it would probably work out the same on fuel economy over a long trip. I’ll hold out for another one.
I only drove the car in first and reverse in the yard but the seller took us for a little run. It was a nice car – smaller than I expected and fine for a little squirt to drive at low speed on a very short test. I had been concerned about the weight of the steering but I’ve had a big car with no power steering before and managed to park it daily in Edinburgh. The size of the steering wheel helps. Did it come off a bus?
It was my birthday yesterday and Mr Imagespast was still sunning himself in Greece. We’re not really big on birthdays and presents/cards on significant days which are required to be celebrated at vast expense according to traditional rampant commercialism, so I wasn’t fussed that he wouldn’t be here until my birthday was nearly over.
I joked that I would buy my own birthday present. It’s all a bit of a wind up but I like to keep him on his toes and give him the occasional freak-out. He says he knows that I wouldn’t sell the house and buy a Ferrari without telling him. That’s only because he knows what I think of Ferraris.
I had decided that Isabella deserved an opportunity to experience life not only as a hand crank machine which she has been for her 114 years, but as a treadle. I also relished the idea of bringing something else old, bulky and dirty into my very small house. I found just the thing!
As a 28K is a small sewing machine, appropriate original cabinets are like hens’ teeth to get hold of, so I thought this could keep ticking over in the back of my head until the right one at the right price popped up. No such luck. There was one nearby on Ebay at £silly. Treadle cabinets don’t travel well, especially via couriers who sometimes treat parcels like bastketballs so local is GOOD. Not surprisingly, nearly two weeks later, the cabinet’s still for sale at slightly less £silly. Call me mean, Scottish or a farmer’s daughter, but I can’t pay through the nose for anything. All three are true. I will not jump in. I will bide my time.
I’m continuing to search for Isabella’s hutch, I mean, a suitable 28K cabinet within driving distance. As yesterday was my birthday, when I stumbled upon this item and it was very close to where I live, and wouldn’t break the budget, and it would give Mr Imagespast something else to try not to freak out about, I rushed off down there clutching my used readies.
When I got home, clutching the dinky little thing and sniggering wildly to myself, I took some photos before I started faffing about with it. I couldn’t find any manufacturer’s name or serial number on it anywhere. It was badly discoloured, rusty and seized solid. I uploaded a pic to the Vintage Sewing Machine Facebook Page to see if my new friends could help me with identification while I Googled like mad and the resident spiders sneaked out of it. At first it seemed to be a Victorian toy sewing machine which disappointed me. Although it was bought as a bit of a laugh, with my newly discovered knowledge of how to revive dormant sewing machines, I wanted to get it going and see if it would sew. A toy wasn’t on my shopping list.
However, on close inspection, the idea of a toy didn’t add up. It is small – roughly 10″ by 6″ at the base, but it had a rusty needle and a screw to change the needle. I set it up on a bed of old newspaper, fabric and paper towels and gave it a quick dust with a dry paintbrush. I eventually managed to get the balance wheel to move 1/2″ in either direction (dab WD40 onto any part you can see where metal touches metal, including underneath, but don’t get it on the paintwork) so that showed that the needle and the hand crank WERE actually connected. Eventually it freed off to the point where I could squeakily complete a couple of turns of the crank. I oiled it everywhere I could see (sewing machine oil only – no 3-in-1, never ever) and within a couple of hours, it was limping along, wheezing and puffing but definitely wanting to GO! Hurray! There was orange goo dripping out of it as the movement shifted the internal rust. I was still a bit upset that it was a toy but happy that it was going. There’s a screw which I think should adjust the stitch length, a tension spring to adjust the pressure on the presser foot and feed dogs to grip the material as it goes through but no bobbin or shuttle for thread underneath. Hmm. If it was a toy, it was a seriously good quality one. Pretty as well, as a gentle wipe down with sewing machine oil on cotton buds darkened down the rather grey finish and showed up the colours. Like when you wet a pebble.
I realised that the decoration was not the normal water-slide decals (transfers) but hand-painted. This must really have filled some delighted Victorian’s child’s stockings at Christmas. (Bear in mind that the flower painting above is only about 2 1/2″ square.)
By now, my Facebook chums were in a Vintage Sewing Machine frenzy and someone came up with the idea that a chainstitch machine only has one thread. Looking back, Heather the 1958 201K has a bobbin for her lower thread, Isabella the 1901 28K has a shuttle, which was the precursor to bobbins and before that… Yes, of course, all there was was a chainstitch machine! That’s when it dawned on me that not only was this a REAL sewing machine, but possibly quite a rare one. The world is awash with old sewing machines because they are virtually indestructible (the really knackered looking ones are called “boat anchors”) and almost every home had one to make garments before ready made clothing took off. That’s why they are worth so little now.
But here’s the big surprise.
The little machine is possibly a J G Folsom Globe. They were made in Wisconsin between 1865 and 1871. Only 285 were made in 1871 so it makes me wonder how many were made in total, and how did one land up in Scotland? I’m still investigating further and need to clean the orange goo off the needle plate to see if there is any identification left engraved on it, but it looks like I have, once again, taken things a step too far. From a 57 year old sewing machine, to a 114 year old one and possibly now a 150-ish year old one? Further investigating to be done here 😀
Since having a gentle go at cleaning the orange rusty goo/sewing machine oil off the needle plate, I think I’m right in saying that I DO indeed have a J G Folsom Globe chainstitcher. You won’t be able to read it – I almost can but I think it says the right things.
Sincere thanks go to all at the Facebook Vintage Sewing Machine page who have supported, encouraged, advised and educated me. As well as given me their VSM Acquisition Disorder germs 😀 Come on in, the sewing machine oil’s warm!
The Silly Girl’s Project continues…