It’s been a loooooong time since I posted something for Vintage Sunday, and I’m not sure how often I’ll do them now, to be honest (I’m not sure why, but I feel like I have a more organic, less organized approach to my blog now – mentally, at least), but I had to show you how I’m finally, finally getting back to refinishing my 1950s sewing box!
It was almost a year and a half ago that I (technically) started this project, but like so many things over the last year, it just took such a low priority, I nearly forgot about it completely. With my brain at a bit of a loose end now, I’m finally picking some of these things back up. You might remember that this is where I started:
I’ve been sanding away for the last couple of weeks, bit by bit, and I’m almost there!
Of course it’s mostly the hardest parts left – corners and details – but I’ll be done soon (hopefully!) and then I’m planning on oiling and waxing. I bought a pair gorgeous 1950s brass knobs to replace the irreparably damaged originals, and I’ll replace the rusted hinges and screws as well. I can’t wait to have this all finished and ready to fill up with sewing toys!
My most recent vintage obsession is Film Noir – I don’t know about you, but I like to stitch with old movies for company – and I’ve really fallen hard this time! I’ve been reading the above Taschen book on the subject as well as “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler – and watching any Film Noir movie I can get my hands on. I watched Double Indemnity a few months ago and loved it so much I could hardly express it – it’s the ultimate Noir, with all the associated stereotypes: the hard-boiled voiceover, the dames in amazing dresses, the angsty love affair that will destroy them both. Check out the original trailer for Double Indemnity:
Sigh! I can’t explain what it is, but it just makes me so happy, my heart hurts! (Like when I watch Footloose.) And of course, there’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Sunset Boulevard and Gilda and they’re all wonderful. But I’ve also been watching some of the lesser known Noir films – Scarlett Street, Pickup on South Street, The Dark Corner (with a non-silly Lucille Ball as the female lead!). These movies are so insane, sometimes they don’t even seem to make any sense at all, which only adds to their incredible charm. I just can’t get enough of them – I’m already worried about when the time comes that I’ve run out of films to watch!
Do you like old movies? Tell me about them – I love recommendations!
If you follow me on Instagram (and you should! If only to see 20 photos of my gorgeous Oscar-cat every day.) or Flickr, you probably already know about my big vintage news: this gorgeous white Singer Featherweight came home to live with me this week!
This lovely thing is a Singer Featherweight 221K – actually, to be exact, I think she’s a 221K-7. The white models seem less common and their model number is slightly different. I spied her in a charity shop and knew right away she was special, but thought it would be a silly purchase. But then I couldn’t stop thinking about her. And I started doing research about the 221s against my own will. Because a very kind friend was able to help me, stopping by the shop to investigate further and reserve the machine for me, of course I went back to get her a few days later.
I’m so in love! She’s so tiny. And in great condition! Before I went back to buy it, I did look into what owning this machine would really mean, effort-wise. I mean, I didn’t want to jump in just ’cause she was pretty and not know what I was getting into. I own two other vintage Singers (I’ll have to post about those someday too), but I don’t take them out much right now – they’re beautiful but not terribly practical. But this one: if I was going to have a small, portable machine like a Featherweight, I wanted to be able to really use it and be able to take it to sewing days or workshops.
I checked to make sure she actually ran before I bought it, but I couldn’t know for sure how much work or repair would be needed to get her at her best. My research told me that parts would be fairly easy to come by – I may have to do some searching, but I’d probably be able to find anything I needed eventually. These Featherweights are not uncommon; you can find plenty of them on eBay or online vintage shops. I got a lucky deal on price – at least a quarter what people pay on eBay! – because mine came from a charity shop, but I knew I could end up making up the cost difference with maintenance anyway. But as long as I wasn’t going to get a machine home and find out it was useless without some obscure part I’d never find, I was happy to make a project of it.
So, since she’s come to live with me, I’ve been cleaning, oiling – and mostly learning. There’s a lot of information about Featherweights out there, people are so devoted to them! But owning a vintage machine like this isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart – they need much more hands-on care than a modern machine (oiling at least once a week, for example, when it’s running well) and I will possibly still send her off to a professional for a servicing anyway, because the motor isn’t as quiet as I know it should be. I am also trying to find replacement rubber feet for the bottom, because one is missing, which is proving to be tricky to find.
But the pay-off for the extra attention these machines need is that you will know it so much better than a modern one. After less than a week of cleaning and fixing, I already understand how a sewing machine works better than I ever have before. I understand that not everyone would love this part – most of us would like to just get sewing already! – but I do. I love putting so much into getting this beauty running at her best, and getting to know her like this. I love that it may take me months to find the exact-sized rubber feet and when I do, it will be absurdly exciting. I see her like some people much see vintage cars – searching for information and parts is half the fun.
And in the meantime: now that she’s clean and oiled and adjusted, she sews like a dream. Perfect, lovely stitches. I may still tinker with bits here and there for as long as I have her, but she seems like she’ll sew beautifully from here on. I love her so much!
I’m sure there will be more on this lovely gal next Vintage Sunday, as I continue to learn about her and try to find out what year she was made – and hopefully give her a name!
I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with these, but I rescued this little pile of vintage embroideries (tablecloths, a tea towels, etc.) from the charity shop I volunteer for – because they’re all stained or worn, they were going to go into the trash. How sad! I couldn’t let that happen, right?!
How amazing are these awful Christmas kittens panels?!?! There’s three of them but I do love this kittens-in-a-basket one the best. I mean, what’s more traditionally tacky than kittens in a basket!?
I snapped up these panels from the charity shop a few months ago for the back of my Christmas quilt:
– if you haven’t already caught it on Flickr or Instagram. It’s one single gigantic (60″ square) Swoon block, all made from stash and scraps and just a few purchases to get enough of the right colors.
The top is all sewn now and I’m putting the back together from these ridiculous kittens, some of my low-volume scraps from the front, and that floral vintage sheet above – yes, it really is that bright! I love vintage sheets or fabric so much – and even better if there’s tacky cats involved!