Thursday, August 28, 2014

Vintage sewing machine bonanza [OR the day I crossed the line into "collector"]!

Finally...the sewing machines story.
 I should preface this by saying that I never *planned* on being a "vintage sewing machine collector" but sometimes things just happen and before you know it you have a "collection" ;) 
Prior to this I did have a few "vintage" sewing machines- a Singer 201k treadle, a circa 1906 Singer hand crank and a Palmer Princess ZigZag machine. I was interested in the older machines as they had the reputation for being better built and outlasting many of their modern counterparts, having metal parts instead of plastic and being built in an age when sewing machines were a major household investment not a fleeting hobby.

Hubby had said to me that if I ever saw a older machine at a bargain price that I should go for it...little did he know that it would mean our house being full of sewing machines in a very short period of time! 
Here in Australia we have Gumtree, a classified website a bit like Craigslist in the states I imagine, where people sell all manner of things. It's always worth keeping an eye on whats on there in your local area if you are into a particular hobby or after something as you never know what might go up and at what price (yes sometimes you get crazy overblown prices but occasionally the opposite sis true- and I have told people they have undervalued their VSM [Vintage Sewing Machine] when it appears that they have done so out of lack of knowledge, rather than buy it btw).
Browsing the ads one day I come across one for a treadle sewing machine for $20. It was way across town but I thought at that price it was worth a look, maybe if the machine was half decent I could have a little "project" to do up in may "spare" (yeah right when does a mum have that?) time.
A few basic text msgs/phone calls back and forth ascertained that at least the sewing machine/treadle parts were moving and not frozen, always a good sign in old machines. 
 So cue loading the kids in the car -sans hubster who was working- and making the 45 minute trip across town.
Yes I was keen. 
And yes (for those of you who are mums) I did take packed lunches! Finally I arrive at a big shed out in what feels like the back of nowhere to see the $20 treadle. It's pretty good, in facts its probably a whole lot better than I expected for the price (this is Western Australia, where reasonably priced vintage/antique items are few and far between- the only reasoning I have for this is that our isolation meant that not many made it over by boat in the early days). 
The seller then goes on to say that he as several other machine that I can look at also for the same low price, suddenly I eye a cabinet out of the corner of my eye with lovely chevron veneer and I find myself wondering if it would be totally unreasonable to come home with 2 or three machines (or whatever I can squeeze into my wagon) instead of the originally planned one. Climbing over various building items to closer inspect the machines -after stern warning to the kids to look but NOT TOUCH anything - which are stacked haphazardly all over the small aircraft hanger sized shed, I am quite paralysed by the unbelievable choice before me. Several of the machines turned out to be Singer sewing machines! Now I'm no expert about old sewing machines but I do know that the older Singers (particular models at least) are reknown for their robustness and reliability, and are desired by collectors and quilters alike.
Maybe the seller saw how giddily excited I got over the machines or maybe he was just plain desperate to clear these things out of his shed and free up a whole lot of space (I think it was a bit of both ;) but he then casually mentions that I could have the whole lot -every machine in the shed- for a very  good price. I look around the shed and count about 11 machines (there was actually 13 in total) and work out that at that price each machine would could way less than the $20 advertised price that I came for. Cue a quick call to hubby who - probably not knowing what hes in for- says go for it. Next thing you know the deal has bean struck and I am loading sewing machines -treadles and non treadle- into my car.
(In case you are wondering you can fit two average sized treadle cabinets (one door no side drawers) and 3 loose sewing machines into the front /boot of the car).  Get home and wonder if  have crossed the line into "crazy/hoarder status" and what exactly I have got myself into. The next day I go back again to try a pick up a couple more. There were 13 machines in total, about half in cabinets, so I expected to do several trips and maybe have to come back a week later with my husband and his ute to get the rest. A  bit stressful with the kids but they behaved surprisingly well and when not checking out the horses/sheep /trucks out the window they napped for most of the driving, I did make plentiful packed lunches as hungry kids are not happy kids! One the second pick up the seller did an incredibly kind thing and offered me the use of his trailer so that I could take the rest in one go. Having never driven with a trailer before I did find the initial part scary but soon got used to it and by the time I reached home 40 or so minutes later was quite comfortable (OK might have circled the block as I couldn't reverse it but...).  On returning the trailer I saw that any space freed up by removal of the machines had quickly been taken up by the sellers friend dropping in to use the shed with his light aircraft that needed repairs...guess he really did need them out of the way after all!
Denny- the seller- told me the story of how he ended up with the machines. It turned out that they were the last of an auction lot of sewing machines that he had brought many years ago. Apparently there had been many more machines, some really beautiful, old and ornate ones in the lot that he had sold off over time at a good price and had made his initial investment back. Then he had started selling the remaining ones off and many people had come through, some taking parts of this and that machine, pulling some out of cabinets and swapping with others until they got what they wanted. Now he was left with the 13 machines that had been picked over and it seemed no one wanted. They were heavy to move, getting in the way of the small business (building demountable) that he was running out of the shed and situated in (what felt like) the back of beyond.
I would like to say that my aquisition of these machines occured due to some knowledge or reading of the Perth VSM market on my part...but really (and utterly honestly) it was all down to dumb luck and a very kind, helpful seller.
Very lucky me, I honestly never EVER expected this to happen :)

Happy sewing/collecting all!

Kate x 

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