Saturday, February 09, 2013

Bye Bye Digital Piano!

It all happens so innocently!

I spent the evening at Siobhan’s house getting her old girlies dusted off, cleaned up and oiled thoroughly ---

And her 66 redeye is turning SO SMOOTH, I vowed to help her locate a cabinet so we can get her up and really sewing.  She’s even got the perfect spot for a treadle, behind where the recliner is-- a mass of otherwise empty space and she’d be able to treadle AND watch tv with her hubby ---

I checked Craigslist early the next morning.

NADA in the Augusta, GA area.  Nothing affordable in the Columbia, SC area where I was traveling through on my way home to NC ---remember I made a stop off to visit my son Jason at his work?

So I looked up ads that would be on my route home through Charlotte.

NOTHING for a Singer cabinet in good enough condition at a reasonable price that did not already have a treadle head in it.  Don’t you know  --- if you buy a cabinet with a machine ---you are always ONE CABINET SHORT!? Because we’d have to get THAT machine up and running too.  That’s just the way it works.

But --- I came upon THIS ad in Concord, right on my way home:

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1885 Singer 15-1 “Improved Family”.  Beautiful cabinet, coffin top, fiddle base machine.  $85.00.

Knowing NOTHING about this model of machine, I needed to find out if it used a bobbin case, if one was there – because parts could be hard to find for machines of this age ---and I learned a TON just by posting my questions on the “mad for treadles” page on Facebook!  Big huge thank yous go out to Betty and to Capt’n Dick of Treadle-On for getting back to me on what to look for with this machine.

It does not use a separate bobbin case.  There is a little “latch/catch/door” that the small round bobbin fits behind and snaps into place.

When I went to see the machine, the bobbin – the ONLY BOBBIN --- was present behind its little funny mechanism.  After getting it home I had to figure out HOW to get this bobbin out without doing any damage!  Luckily --- the machine came home with a reproduction copy of the original manual.

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For transport, I removed the head from the cabinet so it wouldn’t bang around.  I started my clean up on the kitchen counter where the light is good and the granite countertop impervious to messes.  Here is the bobbin in its little built in “shuttle” and there is thread on the bobbin!  How old is this thread?  What was the last item sewn with this thread? Who knows!  But boy, what a lot of crud to clean up.

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A bath of oil and some W-D 40 (always flushed away with more oil) got things loose enough that I could remove this one precious bobbin from the machine.  And the clean up began.

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One of the neat features of the 15-1 is that the whole back “arm shaped” plate comes off to get into the inner workings of the machine.  It was so stuck on there, it felt like the machine had been re-varnished.  An awl and a few taps with a hammer broke the layer of gunk free to remove the back plate:

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Okay, maybe it looks like a long bone chicken leg!

"Honey, did you burn dinner, AGAIN!?" :c)

What we are seeing on the finish IS the original varnish at 128 years old.  I hope I hold up as well in my old age!  There are a few decals left, but not many – they've mostly been worn away.  I could remove the entire finish and start over, but I think I want to keep it as original as possible.  I’m fine with it not being “cosmetically” pretty.  The main concern is – can we get her sewing!?

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Here is the underside of the machine bed….you can see how I’m still loosening stuff up on the right end of the pic…that’s new wet oil to dissolve the old and that will all be cleaned up.  I love the Singer FMG CO trade mark on the underside!  This was a pleasant surprise.

The tension assembly was a bit out of whack – the check spring was stuck and in the wrong position, but thankfully – after fixing the tension assembly on the Singer 27 Sphinx I picked up on my birthday, I was no longer afraid to take it apart and get in there and fix it.

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Close up of the poor deteriorating clear coat --- the empty spaces are where decals have come off.  I bet this was once such a beauty!

There was a bit of fix-it to do on the cabinet.  There was only ONE ancient screw in place holding the irons to the table base.  A search through Lowes only found screws that were a bit longer, and a bit narrower than my 128 year old screw ---so we had to improvise.  I filled the old holes with wood putty and let them dry over night.  I used the new thinner screws with some washers so they wouldn’t dig as deep ---I didn’t want longer screws coming through the table top.  This fix worked out fine!

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She came with a belt that had never been used. I measured the length we’d need, trimmed it, and used a drill bit to drill the new hole for the staple in the end of the belt.

Now for the big question……TENSION.  And did I replace that bobbin in correctly? Will it make a stitch? I’m holding my breath here, but look:

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The only thing I can’t seem to do is regulate her stitch length with the screw on the pillar – that may be glued down after years of un-use ---I think I forgot to mention that this girl was found in a barn after years and years and years of neglect.  Which is probably why her finish is bubbling up.  Exposure to hot humid summers and cold damp winters are not good for machines!
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This is where she now resides.  The Digital piano is up in DH’s office and has been listed on Craigslist for someone else to adopt.  I just don't play anymore and it is a shame to have that piano just sit unused.  Someone else needs to make beautiful music with it while I make beautiful quilts instead.

The machine and cabinet take up LESS space than that piano – good swap, don’t you think?

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Original drawer pull with the Singer name!
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Underside of drawer pull – MFG Co.
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She sleeps under a beautiful coffin top cover ---oh, I wish this girl could talk!

And of course she needs a name ----1885!  Must do some research on popular stories of the day :c)

PS -- it is dangerous trying to find treadle tables for other people!


  1. Since she came from Concord, how about calling her Connie?
    Good luck with her, a nice find!

  2. She is gorgeous. A great find.

  3. Wow! What a find, and what a whiz you are at getting her spruced up and running! She is gorgeous!

  4. Anonymous2:45 PM EST

    Oh ho.... this find was for someone else.. heck I am beginning to feel as though I could get some machines "running". Your pictures and explanations are clear. Just don't like to get my fingers oily...LOL. You Rock Machines!

  5. My Grandma was born in 1897...her name was Annie Lee. I learned my love of quilting and exceptional craftsmanship from her. She passed one week after her 105th birthday...her mind sharp and clear until the last couple of days. Her older sisters were named Frances and Juanita...they went by Frannie and Nita. Great find!

  6. So ... Siobhan's machine still doesn't have a cabinet? :-) BUT ... you have a real beauty! I'm envious, but happy for you. You seem happiest when you are playing with your babies. Good for you.

  7. you are amAzing. I am quiet on here, but I find such inspiration in your approach to living. I favor, Alice (in wonderfulLand). Because, just as you've said, if she could talk, oh the stories she would tell...

    regards, Roberta

  8. Another beauty! I am not sure I would bebrave enough to take the machines apart and put them back together again.

  9. If she could talk, she'd tell you how nice it is to be back indoors and working! What a nice machine and cabinet!

  10. Wow, how lovely!!

    I vote for Penelope, heroine of a popular American novel from 1885, Howells's _The Rise of Silas Lapham_. In the immortal words of wikipedia, Penelope Lapham is the "elder and more plain looking" daughter in the family...but she's also the one with brains and a sense of humour!! xx http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_Silas_Lapham

  11. How about Laura (as in Ingalls Wilder) I can see her or Ma sewing on something like that.

  12. Wow, that cabinet is a beauty and to have such a wonderful stitch after all these years - just amazing!

  13. How about naming her Lady Sybil in honor of Sybil on Downton Abbey... Sybil did "Improve Family"
    In that show.

  14. Since the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York harbor in 1885, how about Lady Liberty or Libby for short? Linda in CT

  15. Bonnie, what a magnificent job of clean up - and that cabinet is well worth the price even if the machine couldn't be saved.
    Faye in Maine

  16. That case is in remarkable condition. When I got my 66 the check spring was also in the wrong position. How does this happen?????? The whole thing was rotated. Weird. The great folks at treadleon gave me all the info I needed to take it apart and fix it. It took me awhile to work up the nerve to actually take the mechanism apart put it turned out to be easy.

  17. My grandmother was born in 1885 so if I had this beauty her name would HAVE to be Bessie (her 1st name) or Idell (her middle name). What a wonderdful machine!

  18. What a find, Bonnie! I'm so impressed that you know how to clean and get the old machines running again. I bought a 1915 Singer Red Eye 66 (so I'm told by a commenter) and don't have a clue where to begin. You're probably not interested but you can see it at http://joyforgrace.blogspot.com/2013/01/i-found.html. Do you have one and did it need work (cleaning, oiling, repairs) to get it working again?

    Others have suggested names for your new girl. My grandmother was born in 1888, just a few years after your girl. Her name was Beulah Mae. Does that sound like a sewing machine's name? Other ancestors from about the same time period include Nellie, Mabel, Lula, Leota, and Emma.

  19. I have a 66 Redeye with a motor...I hve been looking for a treadle table for her but haven't found a decent one at an acceptable price! I got a singer teadle base at a rummage sale a couple of years ago. For xmas last year my husband sanded and painted them and then made a top with a cutout for the singer 301 that he also bought me for xmas last year! It is my very favorite machine. you got a great find with that machine and cabinet!

  20. Name her Eudora. My Great GrandMother Eudora Jaycox on my Father's side. She sewed on a treadle and made many a quilt of scraps on hers. Actually one of the last quilts she made was for my daughter's birth. Daughter named Ellen Eudora Matheson. Ellen for my Mom's middle name and my Mom's Aunt first name. Only child named for my Great Grandmother and it pleased her a lot. Great Grandma lived to be 103 and was never in a hospital her entire life. Died at home.
    I have a match for that machine. Same bobbin and fiddle base and about the same year. Mine works just fine and I treadle on her.
    Lucky you to get it with a booklet. I do not have one.

  21. Anonymous8:38 PM EST

    Lizzie Borden... Google it!

    1. I couldn't help but see your comment...Lizzie Borden was a quilter! A friend of mine inherited some quilts that she made. I haven't seen them yet, but she definitely was a quilter!

  22. I like Lady Liberty as well!

  23. what a treasure.....thanks for rescuing it!

  24. That's a Camilla if ever I saw one! Lovely cabinet also!

  25. Wow, Bonnie, what a beauty! Thank you for your inspiring resuscitation of such a magnificent piece of art. Thank you for sharing.
    Christina in Cleveland
    PS I KNOW you will get any stitch lenth issues resolved also.

  26. Very nice find Bonnie. I'm going to ask my sister if I can have my grandmothers old treadle machine. Since I gave it to her and she doesn't sew, she just might. Oh you could name the machine Daisy Viola.

    Happy sewing

  27. Doesn't it just make you feel good to save such a hard working girl from the cruel imprisonment of neglect! I am so glad you found and rescued her! Some of those old machines just sew so much better than the newer ones.

  28. Hi Bonnie,
    I recently purchased a 66 RedEye and I am waiting for her to arrive. I had a base but not the machine so I cannot wait to get the two put together.
    Great job on fixing her up!!
    I am in north Georgia - I'll keep a lookout for a base for your friend!

  29. Anonymous2:21 AM EST

    What a treasure! And I love reading the posts on this one lolol. I like Lizzie (Borden) for a name...heck she made it through a lot.

    I have an 1856 Wheeler and Wilcox. Her name is Lorena, from a Civil War Era song from a soldier to his wife.

    She has a glass foot, use a second spool of thread as her bobbin and you feed the fabric side to side, not front to back. Bought her in Richardson TX. Had the base for many years.


  30. You know what's really, really dangerous? Reading your posts and get the sparkle! I will probably start to look out now for some of those beauties ... Poor DH, he needs some more space, some more time to rest, and most of all: an unaddicted wife.... LOL!
    Life is sweat, life is hummin' machines =^}
    Love from a sunny Amsterdam, Irene

  31. Hey, name it after me! I am old, my finish is worn off, no decals, insides are a bit gunky, but I am still stitching away just like I did when I was young. You can call it Susie....

  32. I really hope to see all your machines in person one day...

  33. Thanks Bonnie, I nearly ruined my new 1886 IF assuming that the black layer was paint that some moron had applied. After reading your blog (and noticing that your machine looks exactly the same condition as mine) I tried applying some alcohol. The cotton was almost instantly coated in brown (mix of shellac and 138 years of dirt) so thanks :-)
    Mike from Melbourne (Aus)


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