Hello! My name is Katie and I am apparently preparing for the zombie apocalypse.
It all began when I decided to start crocheting things for myself, which led to knitting, which led to sewing, which has tangentially led to baking and which may, in further tangential moves, lead to keeping some hens and possibly pigs (the latter of which are at the insistence of the Chef). Basically, if you can do it without power or removing it from a plastic wrapper, then I want to be part of it.
Part hipster, part self-reliant hermit.
The only flaw in my plan (the organic onion in the home-brewed ointment, as it were) is this whole sewing business. There’s no getting around the fact that sewing requires a machine and the only alternative to hand literally is that: my hand. And while I love an excuse to work some hand-sewing into a garment, I’m not sure I’d be interested in constructing an entire garment thusly. Actually, that’s not quite true: I’d be quite interested in doing it at least once. But on a regular basis? No, I think I’d rather not. There are limits to my insanity. Plus, I have a whole bunch of knitting I need to do.
Then I realised there actually was an alternative: a hand-cranked sewing machine. Anyone who has obsessively watched Call the Midwife would know that. And if you’re me, you start thinking that maybe you’d like one of your own. And if you’re still me, you’ll find yourself on Gumtree in search of a hand-cranked sewing machine, or wandering through op shops and vintage markets, looking for same. After hours lost marvelling at gorgeous old machines online, I decided I couldn’t really justify acquiring another sewing machine, no matter how useful it might be when zombies were roaming the streets and I was in need of a new skirt hem.
Even though I’d dismissed the idea, albeit temporarily, it seemed that fate had other plans and they came to fruition on a Wednesday night when I checked my phone between band rehearsals. I opened up a message from the Chef’s cousin, little suspecting that it was going to contain these words:
Hi Katie. Mum is wanting to rid of this old Singer sewing machine and we thought you might be interested. If you are let us know. No payment required only catch – you have to pick it up.
Well. I may have squeed. People may have looked at me oddly – I wouldn’t know, because I was too busy admiring the tantalising images that had been sent with the message. It was a treadle machine but it didn’t look like the ones I was familiar with and it was very much lacking in the way of fancy scrollwork or elaborate decorations. Instead, it was contained within a simple wooden cabinet and it looked all business.
As I typed out my reply (a somewhat more coherent version of the OMGSQUEE SO MUCH AWESOMESAUCE YESYESYES THANKYOU that went through my mind at first), I secretly hoped that it wasn’t in perfect condition. I wanted a little bit of wear. Perhaps something that needed fixing before it would work. As much as I wanted to see it all right then and there, I wasn’t to be united with it for a week or more, when we roped in the assistance of the Chef’s dad and his larger car.
It was exactly what I dreamed: a compact, elegant cabinet which was in perfectly good condition but probably wouldn’t mind if I sanded it back and re-stained it. Even better, the drive belt was broken. It sounds ridiculous to be excited about that, but I was. Here was a chance to put my stamp on the machine and do my bit to bring it back to working order!
Have a look at the photos below. I’ll meet you at the bottom of the gallery and pick up the story.
Yesterday, the Chef moved some stuff around in our front entry area and placed the Singer in a spot where I could actually open it up and investigate. Armed with my phone and the internet, I tracked down the all important details such as what it was and when it was made. It turns out I’ve been gifted with one of the most popular Singer sewing machines of the twentieth century: the superlative 201K. This one was made in Scotland and came to life in 1950, according to the database of serial numbers (and in defiance of the 1851-1951 centenary badge on its side).
It. Is. HEAVY. It’s made of cast iron and almost requires two hands to lift it up from its hinged hidey-hole. This is probably why the 201Ks have lasted for so long: they’re pretty much indestructable, short of shoving them in a furnace. Or a nuclear explosion.
The more I learn about the 201K, the luckier I feel to have been given this machine. I have a manual, all the fancy feet, some odd-looking tools, many bobbins, a crochet hook with the tiniest hook end I’ve ever seen (for some reason) and a crochet hook with the hook removed (for likewise inexplicable reasons). Later in the year, when my new old machine has a proper space of its own, I’ll be shining it up and acquiring the bits it needs and you’d better believe I’ll be sewing something on it as soon as possible. I can’t wait!