A New Addition to the Fleet

Well…I told you a bit ago that on a Saturday Neighbor Girl and I ran to Decorah to do errands….We didn’t have a lot of errands.  It was suppose to be Ridiculous Days (or sidewalk sales).  Quite often on those days there are lots of garage sales…and garage sales means I might find some vintage things for our booth in Harmony.

Sadly there weren’t a lot of garage sales so we hit the thrift stores.  We stopped at the first one and then onto the next one.  There was a sewing machine in a cabinet with a chair that went with it.  The cabinet had a price of $15.  The chair had a price of $15.  I was a little confused by that.

I ended up checking…there was a Singer in the cabinet.  I admittedly know little to nothing about sewing machines and which model it might be or what’s more desirable.  I just knew I was a little interested.  I did look at the machine enough to see that it wasn’t beat up.  The wheel did turn.  That’s all I knew.

I ended up going up to the counter and I asked….”Is it $15 for the machine in the cabinet AND $15 for the matching chair? or Is it $15 for the whole grouping?”  The clerk didn’t know.  She said she’d have to talk to Julie, the girl in the back.

She went and got Julie..she walked out and looked a the cabinet and looked a the chair.  I said,”Each says $15 on it.  Does that all mean the whole set…or each?”  She looked at me.  She knows I’m a regular.  She smiled and said, “$15 for it all…can you take it with you today?”  I said, “YES!”

Well as I was driving home I started thinking about how I’d fix it up and where I could resell it.   Selling a machine in a cabinet is harder than selling just a machine. Then I started wondering about what kind of machine it was.  In the quick glance I had of it, I knew it wasn’t a 301…that’s about all I knew.

Once home, I opened her up….I started cleaning.  Oh the scratches and dings.  It was worse than I thought it was.  I had already cleaning and restored the top when I took this picture.

I snapped a picture of the serial number and went to look her up.  Hmm.  I couldn’t find the number.  I messaged Connie.  She knows way more about machines than I do….then she said, “Look it has a Centennial badge”.  DUH.  Of course it was a Centennial.

Then Connie asked for a picture of the machine….she thought it was a 99K.   Is she right?  I looked a minute and am wondering if it’s a 15-91.  HELP??


…and note the top decal.  Under Singer Manufacturing it says “Made in Canada”.  Do all machines say that?

Oh she was beat up.  The entire machine had looked like the photo below.

So many dings….

I kept working with the Restor-a-Finish.  WOW…It was doing wonders!!  Just look at the dings and scratches that it is hiding.

About then is when I quit shining her up.  I wasn’t done.  I was starting to really like the cabinet.  I’ve learned that my shoulder does a little better when I’m sewing if I sew at a cabinet….Gee.  I love the cabinet and how it’s looking.  I wondered if the machine works.

Be still my heart.  It chugged…it chugged again.  UGH.  That was a waste.  I have a nice cabinet and a crappy machine.  I just blew $15.  No one will want a cabinet only.  I played with the wheel a bit and then, just like that, off she went.  The machine works like a charm.  I think it was just stuck from sitting unused.  I love the stitching…WOW.  What a deal and all for $15.  It wasn’t a crappy machine at all…..WOW!!  I’m getting to where I have a nice machine AND a nice cabinet.  DEAL!!!  Now, where can I sell it?

I went back to polishing her up….Gee…I wonder how much I could resell this for. What kind of asking price do I put on it…. Hmmm.  I better think on that…  I better consult Connie and the internet.

I continued polishing then stopped.  I needed to snap a picture so I could show you all the difference Restor-a-finish makes.  If this picture doesn’t make a person believe in Restor-a-Finish, I don’t know what will.  Can you see the bright look to the right and the yuck to the left.  Look at the difference in the black trim piece.  WOW.

This is what the product we used looks like.  There are other stain colors you can can get this in.  We have dark oak and light oak.  Those two colors cover most of our needs.

I got done polishing the cabinet and then started in on the chair….   Wow that’s looking good.  Who would have thought it could look so nice?

Right about then I decided I didn’t care about decluttering and minimalizing.  I had decided a price….NOT FOR SALE!  I’m keeping her.  To heck with the “happiness is less philosophy”.  I’m keeping her….and best yet…I’m going to use her regularly.


She deserves to live another day…and being it was me that put the work into her…I deserve to get to keep her.  Besides….This way I can see that her story will have a happy ending.  Doesn’t she look sharp?  Oh my I love her.

So then I went in to tell Hubby….  He was so sweet.  He said he couldn’t see why I wouldn’t keep her.  So blog readers…meet Julie…named after the lady in the back of the thrift store who made my day by saying $15 for it all.  So…now Julie is going upstairs to live out her life…well actually my life.  I’m hoping someone will love her after I’m gone….and now, I really need to be done purchasing machines….at least ones that I keep.

So blog readers.  If any of you knows anything about my machine or the cabinet please pass on the info.

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31 thoughts on “A New Addition to the Fleet

  1. Sally Warren

    Jo, go to http://www.sandman-collectibles.com to figure out what Singer model you have. It is pretty neat…you answer questions about your machine and it leads you to the identity of your model. If you still can’t identify it, you can take a photo of it and send it to him and he will help you figure it out. (I believe this is just for Singer machines made prior to 1950.)

  2. Sally Warren

    Also meant to say, I have never heard of that furniture polish/restorer before but I will give it a try! Your cabinet turned out beautifully! Don’t forget to give your “new” machine a good oiling.

  3. Sally

    Ok ,me again! The link I gave you above does not take you directly to the proper page. It takes you to the home page. On the left, click on link for Sewing Info-Center, then click on ID Singer Machines. That will take you to the question/answer thing I was talking about.

  4. Penny

    Your story just warms my heart! I too miss having my sewing Machine(s) in a cabinet especially the more comfortable position I was in when using it to sew for long periods! Enjoy!

  5. Lacefaerie

    What a gem! Good for you! A couple of years ago, HH said, your machine is 25 years old do you want a new one? I replied, no I want an old one!!

    Fast forward a couple of years of keeping my eyes open for a Singer treadle I could afford. I put a “Save Search” and opted for notices when a post of Craigslist used the words Sewing Machine, Treadle machine and Singer. Unfortunately, the emails about a new post isn’t immediate and every time I’d respond, it would have already been sold.

    Up until a couple of Fridays ago when I went and picked up a treadle machine being sold for an elderly neighbor that said all he knew about it was that it was his Mama’s. When we arrived it was all I could do to stand still in the driveway and not do a happy dance! It was only $50! That’s an unheard of price here in Washington State.

    I am now the very pleased owner of a Singer 27 in a gorgeous oak 7 drawer cabinet from the early 1900’s. (I named her Melinda Pearl after my great grandmother who was a very talented seamstress that supported her disabled hubby and their 7 kids by making custom wardrobes.)

    It’s always been kept in the house, it needs cleaning but it runs and there isn’t any mustiness smell to the wood. I am going to go look for that wood restorer and give it a try!

    Thanks for lettting me share!

  6. Kristin Stonham

    Oh, what a lovely Singer 15! I have one in a different cabinet and she’s my workhorse. They will sew anything you can throw at them. And I adore the cabinet yours came in – that Restore-A-Finish did a great job. $15 and some elbow grease got you one heck of a bargain!

  7. Jackie House

    It is a Singer 15-91. The ones with a JC serial number were made in St-John, Quebec between 1948-1954 but seeing you have a centennial badge probably yours was made in 1950-51. They are suppose to be good for quilting so maybe you could try it out on a runner or small quilt. They are excellent machines and I love the cabinet.

  8. Jean

    I’ve used Restor A Finish for a long long time and it is wonderful. Personally I always like to use a finish as dark or darker than the original finish. If a lighter color is used it will still look as if it is scratched.

  9. Ruth

    Oh, that is definitely a Singer 15-91!! The cabinet is made of walnut wood, a very lovely, close grained, long wearing wood. It looks like the cabinet shape has some of the modern Scandinavian influence that led to the mid-century modern movement in furnishings.
    There are still parts and accessories available for this machine, and if you put a drop of Singer machine oil on every place where two parts rub together, it will run very well.
    Lots of information online, too. They say to oil it after every quilt, but it’s the lint collecting under the feed dogs that I clean out the most on my mother’s 15-91 from 1953. I love 15-91s! I only “save” the Singer machines.

  10. Ruth

    Me again. I looked back at your photos, and wondered about the piece of metal sticking out to the left in the first pic of the drawers. Is that metal piece set there to hold up the foot pedal, if you don’t want to use the knee lever? I bet it is!
    And look at the left side of the cabinet, where your legs go – see how the left side of the cabinet is set back? That is so that you can move your chair/seat/stool over to the left so you are then positioned right in front of the needle. It is much easier to sew then.
    Bonnie Hunter was ecstatic when she found a cabinet that had the left side cut back, so she could position her chair to the left more, in front of the needle, instead of being centered on the entire machine. I think Jo Kramer will love sewing on this 15-91!

  11. Susan

    Cabinet looks great! I just used the RestoraFinish in dark walnut on a cabinet for a 301. It’s an original 65 cabinet and weighs a ton. It looked even better with a coat of beeswax and lemon. Made it feel like silk. Just love the vintage machines!
    Happy sewing!

  12. Carol Lorraine Stearns

    I loved reading everyone’s posts on your machine! About 15 years ago, I traded some decorating work for a singer in cabinet. Used it as an end table for some time in a bedroom and then finally disposed of it as I wasn’t quilting yet and it was old, etc etc. So sad that I dont still have it as it was old. I brought home a sturdy kenmore that was left at the church and I love sewing with it. Those older metal machines sew forever it seems.

  13. Carol Lorraine Stearns

    P.S. Just went back to look at that cabinet and it is beautiful! What a treasure and a showpiece. It needs to be on display in the living room.

  14. Judy

    Yes, definitely a 15-91. I have one in a cabinet, although not as unique as yours, and love it. I sew on it all of the time although I have a modern Viking zig zag/embroidery and a Viking Megaquilter.

  15. Lija Bane

    I have that same cabinet. We picked it up complete with a 301 for about $25. My cabinet is a bleached oak finish and from what I could find out it was an Art Deco. So comfortable to sew with that open side.

  16. Pam

    I was thinking the cabinet looked Art Deco-y but that would put it younger than the machine. It looks great all shined up.

  17. Cheryl K

    There’s some really good info on caring for the older Singer machines at singer-featherweight.com

    Although geared mostly towards featherweights I’m sure you could find parts and reliable info through Carmen and April….owners of the shop and web site.

  18. Colleen

    If you get a “cradle” for your Singer 301 can share your cabinet.
    There is a little “trick” to removing your Singer 15 from its cabinet.
    There is likely a you tube on that
    DO NOT REMOVE the screws you can easily see on the hinges in the wood on the wooden bed of the cabinet.

    Once you get that figured out to more easily replace either the Singer 15 or the cradle for the 301 you put a thin rubberband around the posts so the sewing machine or cradle will line up nicely with both of them at the same time.
    The cradle is light weight but holding the heavy Singer 15 with no good place to grip on angle is hard and due to the space and angles especially if it’s against a wall etc to plug those pins into the holes on the sewing machine.

    I know this clear as mud right now but it will

    Also just a caution you “should” not transport the sewing machine while in the cabinet

    And to get it up stairs will be much easier with the sewing machine out of the cabins

    Just moving around in a room is heavy but fine

    You really can not tip and turn while the machine in the cabinet you will be blessing everyone not in a nice way

  19. Darlynn Venne

    OMG….Once I saw the picture of the entire cabinet I skimmed the post hoping to tell you SOLD~~~without testing the machine. That cabinet is difficult to find…it is not constricting on ones’ legs. I have a green Singer 15 I purchased at an auction for $5. It is a sewing beast. I love that machine. Maybe more than my 301s, but my 301s are lighter for retreats. Smart move to keep this baby. While I was ready to pounce….SOLD….I am happy for you.

  20. Lola Z

    I have my machine on a “typewriter” table. A table designed for a typewriter is lower and therefore also the perfect height for my sewing machine.

  21. diane

    Love love love my singer 15-91. As others are saying it’s a work horse and sews so wonderfully. No complaints at all. Mine is 1954. Became the owner of it about 10+ years ago and it’s “golden”. You ran across a very good deal.

  22. Colleen

    Oh I just looked again and that metal projection on the inside of the cabinet is the foot petal
    Be sure to check the wiring
    I have never had a petal like that mine all similar to what your 301 uses
    The Singer 15 and the Singer 201 are “known” as the best full sized straight stitching sewing machines Singer made
    The 15 is for sewing everything a bit of this and that
    The 201 best dress maker ever although it too will sew any thing
    The 201 is a very smooth quiet sewing machine
    The 15 is smooth and is not quite as quiet but either can be used in the same room someone is watching TV without complaints of too much noise what modern machines are the silent?

  23. bobbiesews

    I haven’t the time to read the other comments this am. Congratulations are in order-nothing ventured nothing gained. With all the elbow grease you have restored a beauty. I don’t know
    vintage machines so I can’t guess value but I do like what you did to your “Julie”.

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