Sunday, April 1, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish for

A couple of days ago, Doug and I were talking about our recent projects and saying that we needed something that would take longer to finish--our house is too small to accommodate more stuff, but we love working on things.

Yesterday, Doug may have gotten even more than he bargained for.

We went to an estate sale in Lewes, Del., which is pegged as "the first town in the first state." Lewes has lots of old houses, so we were excited about the possibility of finding lots of old stuff--cameras, tools, picnic tins, Pyrex....

It didn't look promising when we got there. Doug and I are both snake-phobic, and one of the first items we saw for sale was a frighteningly realistic rubber snake curled up on a chair right inside the front door. That wasn't a good start, and it didn't get any better as we made a quick tour of the house. It was the second day of a three-day sale (it had started on Friday), and the place was pretty wiped out.

We headed out to the garage, where an old treadle sewing machine caught Doug's eye.  It was a brand we had never heard of--Minnesota.  The "head," or machine itself, was in good condition:

The cabinet, on the other hand, was pretty beat up, with two drawers missing and the veneer cracked with age and water damage:

As Doug continued to look at it, a young woman came up to him and started telling him about the machine and her never-carried-out plans for it.

Then she offered it to him for $10. How could we not buy it?

Uh, maybe because it wouldn't fit in our Honda Civic?

Well, we did manage to get it into the back seat of the little car, where we used a bungee cord to fasten it to the backseat head rests so it wouldn't flop all around on our 90-mile trip home.

When we got it home, we found a few treasures in the two remaining drawers, including an original manual. Although the paper is brittle and yellow with age, all of the pages are there, and it's still stapled together...mostly:

There was a box full of of attachments:

And a box of other odds and ends including needles and hardware, plus a paper tape measure and a partially used package of "gripper" snaps. Also included were four bobbins (below right), which are very long and narrow--nothing like the ones in my newer machines, which are round and flat:

We did a little research on the machine and found out it was made around 1912 by the Davis Company for Sears. It sold for about $16 and was marketed as a high-end machine because it had ball bearings. (Doug probably understands why that's a selling point, but I can't say I do.)

I also learned that you could buy a "handsome parlor cabinet" for it in the 1920s:

In looking around for images and information on the machine, I stumbled on a blog called Serendipity Handmade, where blogger Collette posted a photo of a restored Minnesota A, owned by a friend of hers:

Go for it, Doug. This project should keep you busy for a long time.

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