Tuesday, October 4

I'm back! with a black Singer 201

Hello again!

We moved in to our new house a few weeks ago, after spending the best part of two months getting rid of stuff we didn't need. Downsizing is hard work, but, as many people said to me, very liberating - getting rid of stuff you don't need. We gave it away to charity shops, sold lots on Gumtree, and had a permanent sale in our garage. On the day we moved, for some reason the three tier cake tin (very 1960s retro, had been my mum's) was one thing that I hadn't packed. Being fed up with packing, I looked at with a sigh and thought - "Do we really need cake tins?" Answer - only if you eat cake! So then the question was, of course, "Do we need cake?". Well no, not really, or if one does WANT cake then one can just buy it occasionally, and one hardly needs cake storage tins just for the occasional cake. I know there's nothing like home made cake and I like it as much as the next person, but it's an interesting question isn't it - do we need cake? And guess what, if you don't bake cakes then you can get rid of all your baking tins too!!! Or maybe just keep baking sheets for scones and muffins and fairy cakes. Imagine how much space that would free up in your kitchen! My imagination started to run away with me about all the things we don't really need. Tell me your thoughts on this!

So here we are, back in the house we left nearly 32 years ago.  When we were here before there was a Rayburn in the kitchen and open fire in the sitting room. Now there is oil fired central heating, and an inset woodburning stove has been put in for us. Husband enjoyed the man thing of lighting it for the first time....  Oh and we also have double glazed PVC windows, which I hate on principal (I believe that you can get wooden ones that are just as good and they'd be more environmentally friendly) but they are fantastic at keeping out the draughts. I have always been amazed too at how they keep out all sound. I first realized this when I used to clean a house nearby where they had been installed. I wondered why you couldn't hear any birds. So here I tend to open a window just to hear the sound of outside. In our old house you could hear the birds and the wind and horses clip clopping up the hill without needing to do that!

Although we lived here before I had forgotten how light it is compared to our old house. It faces south, whereas our old house faced west. We thought we might find it a huge wrench leaving the house we'd lived in for so long, but in fact we both loved it here immediately and were glad we made the move. Although we are only a mile away and I have been along a lot of the footpaths round here before there are lots of different circuits we can do for walks, so it actually seems like a whole new area. Having said that, I peeped in at our old garden the other day, and did feel a bit sad when I thought of our children playing in it, and all the parties they'd had there. The house is now for sale, and is described as a "dream cottage"!!!!! It will no doubt be bought by someone very rich who will get rid of the draughty windows and put in central heating and do some very major alterations and extensions. I'd like to be there to say "No, don't do that, do this!" I used to dream about how I'd alter it if it was ours. Letting go.....

Husband chainsawed down seven huge conifers at the bottom of our new garden, which obstructed the view beyond. I have pruned several of the overgrown bushes and pulled lots of ivy out of the front border. I think I'd completely lost my gardening mojo in the old house - recently I had done less than when we had all four children at home - so it's lovely to get it back! 

Before we moved, I was browsing in my favourite charity shop in Wantage, which regularly gets sewing machines in, and saw a Singer 201 in a table. It was one of the brown ones so anyone who knows their 201s will know that that means it's the "new" shape. I have actually already got a "portable" one, which I bought a few years ago in fantastic condition, and have also got a treadle 201, but I quite fancied doing up another one, as you do once you've got the bug.... The table had been painted and the machine inside was filthy and the electrics looked as if they would need replacing. It was £50 and then got reduced to £30, but I resisted the temptation. Last week it was still there!

However, while browsing again just before we moved, they had another 201, but this time in black, again in the new shape, and in a nicer table and in better condition. I asked them to hold it for me and meanwhile off I went to the library with the serial number to do some googling. Apparently the black ones in the new shape are more sought after than the brown ones, and as it was in a table I thought that although I have acquired (free) a smaller table for my sewing it might be even more useful to have a machine in its own table.

So I bought it and here it is after cleaning.

It is in good condition, including the decals, and all it really needed was a good clean. Everything had moved OK when I turned the wheel in the shop.

I took off - the faceplate, the tension mechanism, the bobbin case, the foot and the feed dogs, the handwheel, the bobbin winder and also the tension discs that you use when winding the bobbin, the gear covers underneath, the plate at the back that opens to reveal the inside, and the stitch length mechanism. I read recently of someone else who refurbishes old machines who does one bit of the machine at a time, so that she doesn't have too many bits off the head at one time, thus risking not remembering where everything goes. But I prefer to take everything off at once, and the way I remember what everything is and where it goes is to wrap up the parts and screws for each bit and label them, and put them into those little plastic bags of the type that come with spare buttons in (I save them!).

The inside of the head had quite a lot of grease in, in places where you wouldn't expect it to be. My method of cleaning was to take the head outside and spray it inside with a mixture of paraffin and sewing machine oil, which is recommended in the files of the Yahoo Vintage Singer Group that I'm a member of. I left it overnight and cleaned off as much of the dirt and old grease as I could the next day with a brush and cloths.

The small parts I had put to soak in jars of paraffin, and cleaned them off afterwards with old cloths, scraping away at fiddly bits with a screwdriver wrapped in cloth. Bigger bits, like the faceplate, I cleaned with Autosol metal cleaner. I also used this on the outside of the head and it's done a pretty good job.

The task of putting it all back together was a trifle daunting, even though I've done it before. I have memories of taking things apart when I was young and not being able to get them back together! Fortunately labelling everything helps, and where I did get stuck, with the tension mechanism, it was because I had a piece the wrong way round, but with the help of the manual and a useful blog - useful for many old Singer things, but in particular for telling you all about the 201's tension mechanism - I got it all back together and working. The photos on the blog are really clear and I find the text easy to understand.

Anyway I got it back together. Now for the electrics. These do need replacing, and while I dare say I could do it, it would take me ages to teach myself how, and be certain that I wasn't doing something dangerously wrong, and so I am going to have it done by a professional, in this case Tom Dilley  in Swindon. Once it's done I'll have to decide which of my two electric 201s is the more useful to me, this one or the table top one, and thus which I am going to keep.

Below is the table, a "library" table, that the machine came in. They came in different woods and I've yet to find out which wood mine is.

Meanwhile, I have decided that the treadle 201 will have to go. I bought this a couple of years ago and got it cleaned and running well. I liked the idea of using a treadle machine - having both hands free but not using electricity, but I have now decided that that isn't going to happen. If we had the space we had in the old house I would have kept it, but here there isn't room along with the electric Singer 201 and Bernina 801, so it has to go. I'll be putting it on Ebay once I've re-oiled it and taken some decent photos. (So if you're interested......) I bought it from its original owner, a Latvian lady in High Wycombe, who had lived in Glasgow and whose husband bought it new for her in the 1940s.

And a bit more on sewing machines.  Before we moved I had a good think about which ones I wanted to keep, knowing we hadn't got the space in our new house to keep ones I wasn't going to use, and I gave away my great-grandmother's Jones Family CS machine on Freegle. I wasn't using it and as neither of my daughters wanted it I thought it better to give it to someone who would use it. The lady who collected it was giving it to her daughter. I also sold the Featherweight that I had bought on Gumtree a few years ago and had never got round to refurbishing. I decided that I was never really going to use it in preference to my other machines so the best thing was to sell it. 

So the machines I am keeping are - one of the two electric Singer 201s, my Bernina 801, and a hand cranked Singer 66, which I had originally got free (by asking on what was then Freecycle) and refurbished. I definitely wanted to keep a hand cranked machine and I kept this latter one in preference to the Jones as that was a long bobbin model, whereas the 66 uses the same bobbins as my other Singers. 

Here's my new sewing space, a mere corner of a room instead of a whole room as I had before! I do also have space upstairs as well (in the tiny bedroom that 33 years ago housed our firstborn) to store fabric. But it works very well, and what I love about it is being able to see out of the front window onto the road so I can keep an eye on the comings and goings of the neighbours or whoever else passes by. The cat is quite at home in her new surroundings and has made that spot on the windowsill hers, and is coping very well with the neighbouring cats, of which there are at least 6 within 50 yards or so. She's not as fat as she looks in the photo - she's actually quite small!

And now on a different subject, that of books. Brenda, of Cycling in the Sixth Decade, kindly sent to me the three books below on the left. The one on the right is a library book. They are exactly my sort of reading matter and I have now nearly finished all three. Others who have read them have left their names in the front. I think this is a great idea - it's like Bookcrossing I suppose which I have heard of but never participated in. So here's the offer - only to UK residents I'm afraid - if you think you'd like to be next to read these three books then leave a comment saying so and I'll pick someone to send them to next. I haven't got thousands of readers so you stand a good chance of getting them!

Till next time......