Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Antique/Thrift Shopping (or How a Singer 99k followed me home)

A few Saturdays ago,  Michel, my sister Deana and I went spent the day together and set about antique shopping in some of the north Georgia towns. Deana had been asking me for weeks to go with her, just to spend time together and to help her find some Depression Glass. I was fortunate enough to inherit my mother's Depression Glass (who got if from her mother, her got it from her mother-in-law) and my sister wants to start a collection of her own. So, we set off in search of something yellow, her favorite color.

Our first stop was a veritable treasure trove of glass. You name it, they had it. We found lots of different yellow pieces in more patterns than I can remember. Deana found a few that she liked, but didn't purchase anything, as it was only our first stop and she couldn't commit to a favorite pattern. While we were at that shop, I found a few vintage sewing odds and ends that I thought were neat, but didn't purchase. On the drive to the next stop, a voice in the back of my head said to actively look for sewing paraphernalia. Sometimes I listen to that voice a little too much and passed on to Michel and Deana that I was looking for "Singer" branded items.

The second stop was a typical antiques store - lots of nice things, but at very high prices. We browsed around, with the usual 'just looking' response when asked if we needed help. I always feel bad just 'window shopping'; those store owners need to earn a living just as much as I do and every just browsing customer is a non-paying customer.  But, as we were about to leave, Deana spotted a little green box with 'Singer' on it. The box was full of attachments for a low-shank machine - perfect for my newly acquired Singer Featherweight! The price was less than I could find online and I scooped them up!

The next stop was the mountain city of Ellijay - a place with antique/thrift stores galore! Browsing around the first in a long line of stores, I gravitated towards a wood domed shaped object, knowing its significance as a case for vintage & antique sewing machines.

I opened it up and inside was a Singer 99 sewing machine. The machine was mostly intact, but missing the critical knee bar controller so there was no way to test the electric motor. The wires were in fair shape, and thinking about it, it would not have been safe to try it out; exposed wiring is not something you want to play with. For its condition and missing pieces, the asking price was a little high and I wasn't willing to take the gamble on how much work it would need, given that high asking price. I spent a good twenty  minutes or so pondering the purchase. How badly did I want it? Did I really need another machine? I lost count at eight machines, but what's one more? Right? Right? Well, rationality took over and I passed on this one. There would be others I was certain.

But I didn't leave empty handed. Deana found me this gem, for a decent price and it goes perfectly with my model 27 treadle from 1899 (machine number 3 in my growing collection).

Several more hours of store shopping yielded many interesting finds, but nothing that screamed 'take me home'. Probably not a bad thing for my wallet in the grand scheme of things. On our return trip home, we decided to stop at an recently opened antique/thrift shop near my sister's home. Deana said it was a re purposed Hobby Lobby, so I knew it would have lots and lots of treasures. There were neat things, but again, no 'screamers'. Although, I was certain I would scream personally if I had seen one more sewing machine treadle cabinet with those nice cast iron legs underneath a piece of glass for a decorator table! For me, you might as well take a Tiffany lamp and smash it against a wall. It hurts my soul to see the wonderful machines cast out as trash and destroyed. Oh the stories they could tell if only they could speak. How many hours of hard labor had each of them seen under the tender hands of their owners? Maybe that is the root of my hidden desire to restore every forsaken machine I come across. Those machines were designed to last a lifetime, many of them have done so with proper care and maintenance; some of them multiple lifetimes.

And so, at this last store of the day, this little forgotten treasure came home with me.
I wasn't going to purchase this machine; it is electric and needs a complete re-wire. That isn't beyond my skill level, but not something I had on my 'to do' list, as it were.  But through the use of modern technology (thank you Android and 4G!), we ran the serial number and according to Singer, this machine was allotted on January 5, 1950. Which in non-collector speak, means this machine was manufactured sometime between January 5 through July 27, 1950 (the next allotment for this model). Why is that important? Well, to a Singer Collector, there is no significance to that particular date; nothing unusual about the machine to make it extraordinarily collectible.  But to me, to me it has meaning. Mom was born in February 1950. This little machine and woman I treasured could very well share the same birthday. Though that I could, I know I can't bring Mom back. But, I could breathe new life into this little machine. Michel saw the gleam in my eye as we discussed the machine's 'birth date'. He knew what its significance meant to me.

Michel bought this little gem for me. Not only because it reminded me of Mom (though she never really sewed), but also because I think he gets a bit joy from watching my excitement as I bring one of these little babies back from the brink of death.  I've been busy working on her since we brought her home. Yes, this machine is a 'her', and her name is Ann. As I progress, I'll post photos so you can see Ann's rebirth. I can't wait to sew with her; perhaps Ann's first project will be a sundress for the grand-daughter her namesake never had a chance to meet.

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