Puns N Needles

Dispatches from my adventures: sewing, knitting, and otherwise.


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It’s not dirt under my fingernails

It’s grease.

Last weekend, we took our two unworking Singer sewing machines and cleaned them up. Evidence remains on my cuticles and around my fingernails (as well as the shiny black Singers in the shop).

free 201 with 15-91

We paid an average of $5 each for two gear-driven machines: a $10 15-91 that I wrote about in July, and a 201-2 that we brought home from a consignment store just before Christmas for free (because it was missing the correct power cord). The gear-driven or potted-motor machines sew without belts, meaning they are strong and have fewer parts to replace.  I have seen these two machines described as marketed to the “dressmaker” (201-2) and “farmer’s wife” (15-91). They are nearly identical.

We started with the 15-91, known affectionately as the Porch Machine because that’s where we found it. It dates to 1952 – with a serial number, you can check on the birthdate of your Singers here.

And with the 201-2, called the Free 201, because it was free, we felt like old pros.  It’s the same model as the machine we bought on our honeymoon and then cleaned up in the fall. Now, we’ve fallen into a routine – the Machinist will clean and re-wire the motor, light, and power control; I’ll clean the small pieces.  I am fascinated by all the lint crammed into the nooks and crannies.

Just like I learn something new with each sewing project, I have learned something new with each of the sewing machines that we’ve refurbished so far.  The Machinist bathed the 15-91 in diesel to start (we had no kerosene), and used BraKleen on some gunky parts. I used sewing machine oil and fine steel wool to clean the small metal parts. The shiny nickel-plated vertical-striped covers were made shinier with Mother’s Mag/Aluminum polish. And the black enamel was cleaned with buffing compound and then waxed with the same stuff you’d use on a car.

We also acquired a Singer 185j for $15 or so – it’s cute and green, and now lives in its blond cabinet as an end table in the living room.

185j