Another old Singer sewing machine reborn – Lilly gets a new lease on life

Some time ago I found another old Singer 201K at the Tender Centre…there were spider webs and rust every where and she was fairly filthy. I couldn’t just leave the old girl there (these old machines are as hard to walk away from as puppies at the shelter) so I bid on her. Of course I won the bid, nobody else seemed to see the potential behind all that grime, so home she came. I squirted sewing machine oil into her inner workings and wrapped the machine head in oily rags while I carried on with life, sparing her a glance and a thought now and then as I hurried by.

Now, months after I bought her home, I have finally found the time to restore her, thanks to an enquiry from one of my readers. First I needed a name, it always seems so rude to call these grand old ladies ‘it’; two of the neighbourhood kids who came to visit, and were conned into helping me move her out into the work area, decided to name her Lilly…so Lilly it is.

Lilly was made on the 5th June 1946 in Kilbowie, Clydebank (Scotland).
Her serial number is ED815331
She is a model 201K Singer in a model 46 cabinet.

A blurry picture of Lilly before I started working on her.

After the first oiling and wipe down

The accessory draw was a mess. Sorry for the blurry photo

The treadle assembly was neglected too

A Facebook message from a lovely lady who was interested in giving Lilly a home spurred me into action. I checked her over (the sewing machine, not the lady) and ordered a new drive belt, new beehive tension spring, new stitch control nut and a cleaning brush. Then I gave the filthy cabinet and treadle assembly a good clean with kerosene (for the metal bits) and home made furniture polish (for the wood bits).

Much better after a good scrub.

A good soaking in kerosene for the inner workings of the machine head had Lilly turning freely again and a scrub with a toothbrush over any dirty external bits had her as clean as possible. Lilly has several areas of staining on her and the black japanning (over the head and base) are worn in places, indicating that she has had some adventures in her long life.

The new parts finally arrived and I put her together in a lather of excitement; then it was time to test her. I found a really useful site with tutorials and manuals for Singer treadles.

All ready for a test sew

Trying her out on thicker materials

And on knitted material

The finished project, a lined pencil case with a zipper

A close up of Lilly’s serial number

The inclusions she will come with

She’s a strong and proud old girl.

So now Lilly is ready to go to a good home and make beautiful things. I have enjoyed getting her going again and I’m now on the lookout for my next project.

I have an old Singer 306 machine in the cupboard, these old girls use cams to make fancy stitches and are powerful enough to sew through leather. Maybe my next project will be to make her functional again.

An old Singer sewing machine reborn

A few weeks ago a friend gave me the huge gift of a Singer 201 treadle sewing machine. I am not a sew-er (yet) but I have fallen in love with these old sewing machines. They are such well made machines (how many cars are still going after almost eighty years?) and they have a certain grace and beauty about them. I restored one for myself several years ago, then one for my youngest daughter last year (she likes to sew). Now I have a new project to play with.

First some background…….
Singer sewing machines in general.
The 201-1 specifically
The cabinet (model 46)

Finding her age and place of birth…..
Her serial number is; EC664342. The SingerCo site says she was made on 6th March, 1940 in Clydebank, Scotland, making her 74 years old this year.

How to refurbish the old girl…….
A very useful blog
Another useful blog with detailed pictures
A great source of parts for all sorts of sewing machines

My first move was to oil all the inner workings with 5 in 1 oil (Singer oil is better, but I didn’t have any), this let me feel where the sticky bits are as I turn the wheel and treadle the peddle (so to speak). I also wiped the old girl down with a rag and 5 in 1 oil to start the cleaning process.
She was in fairly good shape; just needing a spray of kerosene in the inner workings to ungum all the moving parts. Basically I squirt kerosene into all the oil holes, remove the face plate and inspection plate then squirt some kerosene in there too and drip some around any moving parts. After sitting like this overnight I wipe her all down with clean rags, take off any bits that still look grotty and scrub them with an old toothbrush (and kerosene of course).

The next step is replacing any worn parts; she only needed a new bobbin winder ring, drive belt and some new needles and bobbins.

Last of all is the fiddly bits; cleaning and calibrating the tension assemblies. The upper tension needed new thread take up and beehive springs (don’t you love the names of these parts). I took it apart very carefully and laid each part out in order so I wouldn’t get confused. I cleaned all the bits and replaced the worn parts with new ones in the line up. Then I put it all back together again, as indicated by the handy tutorial.
Of course it didn’t work… after a few dozen more tries and an hour poring over the tutorial, I finally realised that I had the tension indicator on back to front (the thing with the plus and minus signs on it). After that it was plain sailing.

The lower tension/bobbin case area was easy to take apart and clean. I just followed the tutorial (a different one this time) and cleaned her up, there was a lot of dirt and lint in there.

The upper tension unit removed, look at all that dirt.

The bits that make up the upper tension assembly, hope I can put it back together.

The lower tension assembly with the bobbin case removed

The bobbin case and feed dogs, all in need of a clean

The next step is to try her out, I thought I would make a new peg bag. Then I will set her all up with;
A users manual
a pincushion and pins
spare bobbins
spare needles
a cleaning brush
a bottle of 5 in 1 oil
spare reels of black and white cotton
a tailors measuring tape

And most importantly…a name. I am thinking Daisy (what do you think?)
I plan to sell the old girl on to someone who will love her and use her to make beautiful things.
How much is she worth?