Monday, December 11, 2017

A Special Singer 401

Years ago, when DH and I bought our first home, we were new graduates with new jobs and not a lot of money for furniture. His dad offered to let us have some of the furniture from the farmhouse where DH had grown up, but which was vacant at the time. Among other things, we brought home this Singer sewing machine cabinet to use as a desk:

Singer cabinet #353 with my Singer 401a

It had been DH's mother's cabinet and he recalled her sewing at it.  But it didn't have a machine in it at the time we brought it home and no one knew where that machine could be. The cabinet did have a few sewing items in it, like a foot pedal, accessory box, a few patterns, and a few cams. I didn't know what they were at the time, but I kept them in one of the drawers. Later, I stripped the cabinet and refinished it with a tung oil finish.

About 10 years later, after the birth of our second child, I took up sewing to make cloth diapers and to give me something to do while being a stay-at-home mom to a two year old son and a medically fragile baby girl. It was fun and gave me a creative outlet. It didn't take long for me to progress from diaper-making to making baby clothes from Kwik Sew patterns. I set my modern machine on top of the cabinet, but it was really too high to work well and it was just too uncomfortable to sew long for that way. At some point, I asked the people on if it were possible to modify the cabinet for my modern machine and JennyG from SewClassic suggested that I look into a vintage machine. I ended up buying the Singer 401 in the picture and it is still one of my go-to machines and still resides in that cabinet.

Fast forward to a couple of weekends ago. My father in law is now selling the farm and my husband has been helping him clean out the house. DH was using FaceTime to call me while he was in the attic and show me what the house looked like now (we had spent our first summer there after our wedding) and I joking said "well, if you find your mom's old sewing machine, bring it home."  He agreed. A moment later, he and I were both surprised when he said "And there it is!"

Found at last!

His mom's original Singer 401 was tucked away in a cubby hole in the attic.  It had been sitting there at least 30 years or more. His mom passed away 34 years ago and it probably hadn't been used since before her death. It was covered in dust and grime, bird and mouse droppings and sported a mud dauber's nest underneath. It still had a filled bobbin and a broken needle. The bobbin winder tire had melted into goo and the power cord was very stiff.

Still had Cam #4 inside.

DH opened up the top and found the machine was actually pretty clean inside.  He brought it home and I spent a couple of hours cleaning, oiling and lubricating. After inspecting the inside wiring, I borrowed the power cord and a foot pedal from my other 401 and plugged her in.

She runs!
It was a beautiful sound. This machine had been well cared for before being left in that cubby hole and with a little new oil and grease, she ran beautifully after over thirty years of just sitting.

She still makes pretty stitches too:
Straight stitch and zig zag

Decorative, including satin stitch

I bought a few new parts from Sew-Classic including a new power cord, new needle plate, and bobbin cover. There is still a little rust on the thread guides and some bug stains on the back of the machine, but she is now all cleaned up and ready to be reunited with her cabinet sometime in the future.


Hard to believe this is the same machine!

From the research I've done, she would have been made about 1957 or 1958 and was Singer's top of the line machine at the time.  There was very little lint inside. While she has nicks and scratches due regular use, the fact that she moved at all is a testimony to the good care she received during her working life.

DH found another machine in the attic a bit later:  a Necchi BF Nova:

This one, per my research, dates back to the early 1950s, probably around 1954.  She is much cleaner as she's been stored in her case since the last time she sewed. I haven't played with this machine yet as the wiring has some bare spots so it is unsafe to even plug her in. This machine is much more stiff and hard to turn and will need a thorough cleaning and lubricating before she sews again.  I will probably put her away until after we have moved to the old house and our addition is built.  Then, hopefully, I will have more time and space to play with her.

Now I just need to figure out where to put them both.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Old House -- Done for now

October and November were a whirl of activity for our family: the last marching band performances, concerts, talent shows and holidays.  Work has continued on the old house as well, just a little more slowly but significant progress was still made.

Since my last post:

  • The dining room ceiling has been completely installed.
  • All the trim in the dining room, kitchen, stair case window and upstairs bathroom has been installed.
  • The third coat of paint applied to Dear Husband's (aka DH) office.
  • All the trim in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom has been painted.
  • The shelves removed from Sprite's closet.
  • Living room has been painted.
  • Sprite's room has been completely repainted, including trim and ceiling
  • Bought two rugs and a couch so we can now all sit down in one room without dragging in a kitchen or office chair
  • Started a war against the mice infesting the basement.
  • Cleaning has commenced.
I spent two weekends painting trim. The trim in upstairs bath and the kitchen was all painted white, but the trim of the rest of the house has been painted "Wild Boysenberry" by Behr in the Marquis line. We chose this to come as close as possible to the original stain.  Many, many years ago (at least 50), someone painted over most of the stained woodwork with a muddy brown painted that they then tried to make look wood by lightly brushing a darker color over it to make a "grain". It's kind of cool, but the paint was peeling, dirty and chipped. We did a lead paint test which was negative and decided to paint over it instead of stripping and re-staining. 

The entrance hall woodwork was never painted, however, and I want to retain that if possible. I am going to give it a good cleaning and maybe retouch the scratches. The Wild Boysenberry comes as close as we could get to matching the original stain.

The fun part was painting the crown molding. To prevent painting the brand new ceiling tile (in the pic at left), I did something I don't normally do: I taped everything and everywhere. Above and below the molding, around all the trim and even the floor (not shown here).

I used a lot of tape.

Tape ball almost the size of the fan from painting the dining and living rooms.

But it worked. I got minimal paint on the tiles and that small amount of paint isn't noticeable.

I panicked a bit when I started painting. The Wild Boysenberry is a deep deep purple. It is a much lighter purple when wet, however, and I was very concerned that it would look weird when I painted a whole room's worth of trim with it. Fortunately, it dried as a much deeper color and came out looking amazing.

In this picture, the inside of the doorway is the original stain, the left side is the new paint and the top is the old paint.  The paint here wasn't dry yet, but the color was still pretty close.

After all that, we hung curtains, cleaned, washed the bedding again and bought a couple rugs for the floors.  We got to spend Thanksgiving at the house just relaxing, visiting and playing a spirited game of Uno with the kids.

Here are the latest pics of the work done so far:

Entrance Hall:

Living Room (prior to curtains being installed -- they hadn't been delivered when I took the picture):

Book case doors have been installed since this picture was taken.
South window in progress.  I painted the trim but not the windows for now.  The windows will get repainted in the spring/summer when they get repaired and re-glazed.

Dining Room/Diva's Temp Bedroom:

The west (right) window didn't get painted at all.  It will make way for the pocket door that will lead into the Diva's permanent bedroom when the addition is built.  The dark trim in the back corner is covering the new drain for the upstairs bathroom.


Door to basement.  Difficult to see, but the trim now matches the door trim in the rest of the house.

Door to the storage room/downstairs bathroom

Storage Room:

I didn't paint this room or anything else as it is being removed with the addition.  I just cleaned it up.  Now you can both walk through it and find things.  Amazing!

Upstairs bathroom:

In addition to the trim being installed and painted, I also installed the towel hooks (left, past the door) and the toilet paper holder.    I installed a shower curtain later over the window to help protect it from the shower.

Senior's Bedroom:

He has new curtains and room on the floor to walk!  His room will get painted later this winter -- I am just sick of painting for now.

Office/Temporary Bedroom:

 We have curtains now too!  Yea for privacy! 

We still need to have the trim in this room installed where the new drywall was put up and this door will become the door to this room.

Sprite's Bedroom:

We did a lot to this room as it had a texture ceiling that needed to be painted, all the trim had to be painted and the walls needed three coats.  We can't remove the mirror as it was glued to the wall, so I painted its trim to match the rest of the room.

Since this picture was taken, Sprite and her dad put up the guitar hangers
so she can hang her guitars on the wall.

The doors look so much better and you'd have to look twice to see that the bedroom door (left) doesn't match the rest of the doors in the house.  It is a six panel door and the original doors are four panel.

The closet: fresh, clean and ready to organize.
I mentioned the war on mice and you may have noticed the upside down tub on each bed.  Those tubs contain the sheets and blankets in an effort to prevent mice from nesting in the sheets.  We have a fairly large colony in the basement somewhere and the furnace picks up the stench from their nest and circulates throughout the house.  We have had an exterminator out to the house and are doing all we can.  Hopefully, once we move in and are in the house all the time, we will be able to better control them.  Cats are not an option, though, due to allergies and asthma.

Our remaining task list still seems daunting:
  • Clean and polish the floors
  • Paint the Senior's room including trim and ceiling
  • Paint remaining trim in office and maybe upstairs hall
  • Paint basement stairway
  • Paint front door.
  • Clean woodwork in entrance hall and staircase
  • Clean, repair, glaze and paint 20 windows
  • Install outlets in basement
  • Power wash and stain porch and ramp
  • Order and have installed new cabinets for either side of stove, new counter tops and new stainless steel sink in kitchen
That covers about everything for the main house until we start the new addition which will be a whole new adventure. 

We are taking a break for now until January.  We have a lot of activities planned for the month with Christmas and the end of first semester.  The house is now enjoyable and it was really nice just to relax and visit with friends and family over Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Old House Update - October 2017

You know your house needs deep cleaning when the dirty footprints are leading OUT of your house.
It's been a busy couple of months since my last update.  School has not only been in full swing, but fall break begins next week.  Homecoming has come and gone, the senior has marched in his last parade and Sprite is getting ready for the school talent show this week.  The Diva has settled in with a new teacher and we are continuing to make progress on the old house.

I am not going to detail every bit of work as it would boring to read, but I will show you all we have accomplished.

First, we have a working, almost finished upstairs bathroom!!!!  We can shower at home now.

When we bought the tile, I wasn't sure if I would like it.  I wanted the standard sized 3" x 6" subway tile for the shower.  DH and J- were planning to do the tiling themselves and wanted something bigger so there wasn't as much to grout.  So we bought 12" x 24" tile instead.  I didn't like it, but figured that it would probably be okay.

My mother-in-law suggested that we talk to one of her nephews who was a professional tiler.  We hired him and he did a meticulous job.  We chose a medium gray grout to make the white tile really stand out.  It turned out so much better than I expected and I really love how it turned out.

We ran into a couple of snags in the bathroom.  First, the tiler discovered that there was a crack in the shower base.

We had to make several phone calls and found that repairs would not be covered under warranty as it happened after installation.  We don't know how it happened, but it wasn't there when the base was installed.  But we did find someone in Kansas City willing to drive out to our house to fix it.  It is barely noticeable now.

Second, when R- came to install the sink, he found that the water lines were installed to be 6.25" apart.  This would be fine for a sink set in a vanity, but we bought a pedestal sink for that bathroom as it is a fairly small space.  We had two choices:  rip up the new floor and have the water lines re-positioned or buy a new sink.  We bought a new sink with a vanity.   It is a little large for the space, but it will work and have storage for towels.

Then, after the vanity was installed, we found the new sink had been miscast and the overflow drain was so thin that it had a large hole in it.  I bought a second sink/vanity combo, we swapped the sinks and I took the old new sink and the new new vanity back for a refund.

The shower is divine and it was lovely to clean up at home after this last weekend of work.  We still have to rehang the door and install trim, the medicine cabinet, a plastic curtain to protect the window and assorted hooks and holders for towels and toilet paper, but the bathroom is usable and that makes me happy.

The kitchen is painted, both ceiling and walls.

Kitchen - North and west walls

Kitchen into the dining room

I have had a similar shade of green in my current kitchen and liked it so much that I wanted to use it again.  I think it looks pretty with the white cabinets.  We plan to add a 12" cabinet on either side of the stove to pull it away from the chimney.  In this room, we still need new counter tops, new floor and possibly a new sink.  I keep wavering between keeping the existing sink (which is really worn and rusty in spots) and replacing it with a stainless steel sink.  The steel sink is more practical for how I cook, but I love that old vintage sink and would spend the money on refinishing it if I knew that new finish would last as long as the original.

The kitchen and the bathroom are the only two rooms that get their own colors.  The rest of the house is being painted country white.  Our current home is like living in a crayon box:  Sprite's room is three shades of aqua, Senior's room is two shades of dark blue, Diva's room is lavendar, the kitchen is green, the living room and family rooms are beige and/or country white, our bedroom and bathroom are peach and DH's office is "IBM" gray (appropriate for an IT professional.)  I like it, but redecorating involves repainting and I dread having to repaint the Senior's navy walls.  The country white gives the whole house a fresh clean vibe and I plan to liven it up with colors in the fabrics ad rugs that we choose.

Dining Room - North wall

Dining room - east all

Dining room - south wall

Dining room - west wall, only one coat of paint at that point.

Dining room:  installation of  new ceiling tile is in progress

DH's office has two coats of paint, but really needs a third.  It still looks so much better than either the wood paneling or the sickly pink.

DH and I are using this room to sleep in until the addition is built next year.

DH's office - west wall and cubby.  This will look a lot nicer after the trim is painted.

DH's office -- this wall looks so much nicer with the new dry wall.  It was all cracked with lots of holes. 

The entry hall, stair case and upstairs halls are also painted.  All the pink is gone.  Mostly.

Entry Hall and Stair case

Looking Upstairs

Looking down stairs

This corner baffles me.  The area to the left where the wall juts out is just boxed in -- just dead space that can't be used.  We are not sure why anyone would configure the banister this way and figure they never expected to have to paint it.  There is still some pink and some wall paper left on the wall between the banister and that bit that juts out.  I was able to get to some of it with a thin narrow roller designed for painting trim, but just couldn't reach the last little bit.  It can't be seen unless you know how to look for it, so I will leave that little bit of history for the next owners to puzzle over.

DH and J- have been steadily working on completing the remaining wiring projects.  All the wiring in the upper two floors is done and I am so happy about that.  All the old knob-and-tube wiring and cloth covered Romex wiring is either gone or disconnected and no longer a fire hazard.  That also means we can finally insulate the attic.  DH and R- spent a Saturday blowing an additional layer of insulation.  No pictures, but the house will be much cozier when it gets cold.

The fun part of all the painting is finally getting to install some of the finishing touches, like the switch plates.   I have wanted to finish the push button switches for a long time, but couldn't find the screws. I figured that I would have to buy new screws and found some old ones to use temporarily so I could get the plate installed.  Guess what?

Found them! 
DH had put them where they would be safe and easily found.  Except we all forgot that bit.

All done.  
 We decided to use the new bronze plate instead of the original brass, but I will keep the original with the other original things found in the house.

We did a little home automation too:

To get to the basement light switch, you first have to go down three steps and turn.  If you have an armload, this could be a problem.  To make it a little easier, we added a motion sensor which will trigger the basement lights to turn on when it senses movement from either door.  If we are away from the house, it will also send a notification that there is someone in the house.  We used a SmartThings hub (NAYY - not affiliated, yadda yadda) so that we can remotely turn off and on lights and have a light come on in the house as we approach the house from outside (it senses our phones.)  We have one in our current home with lights programmed to turn off and on automatically, turn on the coffee pot in the morning and turn on a light when the garage door is opened (very useful with a teen driver who often leaves the garage door open.) I have had a lot of fun programming it and coming up with new things for it to do.

We are getting closer to the end of Phase 1.  I have only three more rooms to paint walls and all the trim.  We also need to stain the deck and finish the kitchen and next spring, we plan to begin restoring the twenty original windows.  I will be ecstatic to finally clean the house and just enjoy being there instead of working all the time.

We could not gotten this far without the incredible family and friends who have volunteered their free time to help with painting, heavy lifting and wiring projects and feeding us.  To protect privacy, I won't mention names here, but know that we are deeply grateful for all your help.

With luck, by the time I can get to the next update, we will be mostly if not completely done with phase 1 (restoring the original house) and planning phase 2 (the addition).

Have a great fall!