From Trash to Treasure

“One man’s trash is another’s treasure”. I think breathing new life into something is an art! Lately, I’ve been lucky, finding fantastic items to restore and repurpose. Last week, I found something I’ve wanted forever, that’s got me giddy like a little kid on Christmas! Little did I know, this item wouldn’t just speak to me, it would tell me its history!

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Flea markets, antique stores, consignment shops, tag sales…I love them! It’s fun seeing things from the past, and going treasure hunting.   Now that it’s spring, I’ve been hitting my favorite flea market, in search of  “something” to go between two chairs on my shabby-chic porch. I was thrilled to find an old, three-legged milking stool. Covered in chipping white paint, with loose legs and a water ring, it wasn’t chic, just shabby.

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I painted it bright red, with paint I already had, and distressed it just a bit so some of the old white paint could show through.  It’s perfect, and only cost me $5.00!

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I love red.  For Mother’s Day, at the flea market, I picked out a 1950’s red covered cake tin, in excellent condition.  I’ll use it for hamburger buns at cookouts.

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I also picked up two cans of outdoor, rust-proof spray paint for $2.00 each, to restore old plant stands I bought in the1990’s. Rusty, their green paint was faded and chipped.  My husband planned on tossing them, since they went unused several summers. I knew they had more life in them.

Before...

Before…

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After

After

One of the prettiest “trash to treasure” restorations I’ve seen is by my mom’s talented cousin, Bobbette Risk.  She rescued a bench a neighbor discarded, turning it into a stunning settee.

Beautiful! Photo courtesy of Bobbette Risk, Fayetteville. AK

Beautiful! Photo courtesy Bobbette Risk, Fayetteville. AK

 

Look at the detail. From plain to fabulous with paint and pillows! Photo courtesy Bobbette Risk.

Look at the detail. From plain to fabulous with paint and pillows! Photo courtesy Bobbette Risk.

There’s two things I’ve always wanted: one’s a vintage pick-up, like an old Ford or Studebaker. That’ll probably never happen, since every time I’ve ever seen one, I can’t get the clutch all the way in (darn my short legs)! The other’s an antique treadle sewing machine.

My friend Andrea alerted me when she saw one posted for sale (I drool over her antique treadle whenever I visit).  We both tried researching the brand, Waltham, but didn’t find much, just an advertisement from the 1920’s. We figured that must be age of the sewing machine for sale. It was in a thrift store, where they were marking down items that hadn’t moved quickly.  The treadle machine was one.

To my surprise, it was older than I’d guessed!  Marked 1896, it was grimy and smelled musty, like an old barn. My husband immediately declared it “junk”, asked me where-in-the-world it would go, but said if I really wanted it, he’d load it in the car. I saw beauty, with it’s hand-carved drawers, brass hardware and cast-iron stand. I wasn’t leaving without it.  Closed, I could use it as a table in my sewing room.

This was my first glimpse of the treadle machine, sitting by the window. dusty.

This was my first glimpse of the treadle machine, sitting by the window of the shop…musty and dusty.

At home, it sat in the hallway a few days so I could clean it and decide where it’d go. A “back-breaker”, we wanted to move it just once. For the cabinet, I used a gentle, Scandinavian deep cleaner for wood, and a slightly damp, soft cloth for the machine. As I removed years of grime, (and sunflower seeds stuck in crevices), it seemed to come to life. I imagined Victorian and Edwardian clothes that might have been created with it, and who might have purchased it new, as excited as I was now. It morphed from “junk” to “art with a history”. When my husband came home, he uttered those three words every woman loves to hear: “You were right”.

IMG_8052We decided it should be displayed, not closed and hidden.  It’s along a wall in my living room, where a blank spot had long bugged me.

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Going through the drawers, I found tangible history tucked inside: the manual, original needles, 1920’s needle packages, old wooden spools of thread, leather belts, original attachments, and a newer-looking piece stamped “W.R. Parsons, Chicago, Illinois, 1904”.

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What exactly is this? Anyone?

What exactly is this? Anyone? 

I also found some old thread, wrapped around folded, yellowed paper. Prying it slightly, I saw writing. I had to know what it said. I carefully removed the thread, so old it felt like dried grass clippings. It was an envelope, postmarked 1945. The miniscule amount of thread illustrated the thriftiness of WWII. The return address was a long-gone New York machine shop.

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Researching it, I think the machine must have been serviced by them. Perhaps the machine once belonged to the addressee’s mother, who had lovingly crafted her baby’s clothes. Maybe it was sewn on for decades, eventually replaced with an electric one, like a retired work horse replaced by a tractor. Perhaps it once held family memories, until finally discarded as something “old”, in the way. I think it’s exquisite.

The working parts move, just needing a belt.  I’m not sure if I’ll restore it to working or leave it, having earned its retirement.

Sometimes we give items a new life, with new purpose. Other times, they tell us their past… if we just listen.

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

 

Leave a comment 59 Comments

  1. Adrienne says:

    I too love red and have a red Cuisinart coffeemaker, a red blender and other red kitchen utensils. As for your sewing machine, spend the money and buy the belt you need. Your treasure is meant to sew and it should be used to creatively enhance your home. Congratulations on the find!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Adrienne, I’m told it’s not too difficult to get it working. I’ll keep ya posted, but I think it would be great to get it working. There’s an unused belt in the drawer for the machine and I’ve seen them on eBay, too.
      I love red in the kitchen. My toaster burned up in January. Found the cutest little retro looking red one…made me happy the old one broke! 😉 Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Susan Abernethy says:

    I LOVE YOUR MACHINE!

    I have a cherised treadle Singer Machine 1924 that was my Grandmother’s new. My Mom told me how she would hold the lantern while my Grandmother made her a dress.
    They are special, and I am happy for you that you have one!

  3. Grace Brown says:

    OMGeepers! I JUST LUV old mid-century cake tins… I have been collecting them for the past 4 years… metal, plastic, square & round… and yes, I do use mine.
    I have even spray painted a couple for fun a fun twist (the orphaned ones missing the platter…
    hugz from this lil farm~gal aka katmom
    >^..^<

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Grace! I’ve wanted one for some time now, and it was perfect! I love it, and feel I got a bargain, too. 😉 Where all do you find your treasures? Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Maureen says:

    What a treasure to find. I have an old garage sale singer that my husband replaced the top veneer on as it was in horrible shape. As much as I love it, I was lucky enough to get my grandmother’s machine! There was an auction at the old family farm and my brother picked it up for me. How blessed I am. The top lifts with a leather strap and I’ve been restoring it just because it was Grandma’s. She had 11 children, 10 boys, and I can only imagine all the mending she did with it! I so enjoy “saving” things that others can’t seem to find the value in these days. Of course, I have a pretty fancy new-fangled sewing machine too. I just appreciate the character and the history of the pieces. I must say, my CD player is much smaller than my Edison Victrola……………

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Maureen, you made me smile. Sounds like we are kindred spirits. (And I bet that Edison Victrola is another beautiful piece). Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Sherry Holmes says:

    Clean it up and USE it. I have my grandmothers treadle machine…and I LOVE It. It is quiet and so nice to use. You have the manual…you should definitely use it.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Lucky you, Sherry, having your grandma’s machine. I am thinking of getting it working. I’m told it wouldn’t be too difficult as the main parts do turn. I’ll keep you posted. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Libby says:

    I think the metal piece you asked about is an attachment to make ruffles. I’m not sure how it works. Over the years I’ve had several treadle machines, and have two now. I learned to sew on one when I was 8 in the 50’s. After breaking a needle off in my finger, my mother decided I could use her electric machine. I’ve been sewing ever since.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Libby, is it difficult to sew on one, do you think? I have an electric but there’s something to be said for a treadle! Love your story. Thanks for sharing! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. denise says:

    I have my Grandmother’s machine and love it. it serves as my bedside table since I have a high bed. I love to hear people talk about how much they love older items! enjoy yours!

  8. Mary Beth Schwarz says:

    What a find! My maternal grandmother had a treadle sewing machine that I loved, but somehow when my mom and uncle packed up her things and sold some, the treadle sewing machine did not come home with us as i would have wanted. Then I was in 4th grade and had to play with cousins while the adults went through things. I did get Grandma Eura Marie’s Jenny Lind spindle bed and her old platform rocker and I remember sleeping in that bed at her home in Joplin MO. Thanks for jogging those cozy old memories of her and another time when I was a child. Mary Beth

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi MaryBeth! You just jogged MY memory too. I think I get my love of antiques from my Aunt Barbara. When I was a kid, her beautiful home was filled with antiques, and she even had an antique store at one point. I used to love to go there, not only to play with my cousins, but to look at all her neat things. When my older brother got married and I got his room, she gave us an antique Jenny Lind bed with matching dresser for it. I wish I still had them. I remember that once in a awhile, the slats would give out, and the mattress would crash to the floor! It was a beautiful set, though, and made for a pretty room. Do you still have yours? Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  9. I’m so glad you rescued this beauty. I searched for years for a Singer treadle. She sits in my country kitchen. It’s a Red Eye. Sews perfectly. I could find a belt for it several years ago. I had thoughts of sewing when we had a power outage!!! It’s woodwork is very pretty. It started me rescuing all sorts of sewing machines. I love bringing the dead ones back to life. My latest machine has the owner’s writing in the manual. She carefully tried all the stitches and left samples in the book along with her notes. To me, that’s treasure. You found wonderful items in your cabinet. So lucky.
    It’s funny. I just spent the morning going through my latest machine and learning its ways. Then, I find your story. Thank you for sharing. I love my stitching ladies!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sylvia,
      It would be neat to sew something on it…maybe an apron or something like that. I love that you restore machines. I like when people leave them intact as opposed to breaking them up (though I do see the potential re-purposing in the bases). What a treasure you have with the writing in the manual…makes it so much more personal! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Beautiful pictures Nicole! The carvings on the drawers of the sewing machine are beautiful. You did good all right. All the plant stands look so pretty. Very nice blog. What did we do with that Jenny Lind bed? Love you, Mother

    <

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Mom! Can’t wait for you to see it in person. Not sure what happened to that bedroom set…Love you, Nicole

  11. Roni says:

    I believe the “what is it?” Item is a ruffler attachment. Nice find! I’m envious!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks for the info, Roni! I couldn’t find anything on it online and wondered what the attachment was used for. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. Maria Reyes says:

    The machine is beautiful, I own a singer that I acquired back in 1977. I also own a treddle machine by singer called “Azteca”, the designs on that one are marvelous and beautiful very rare, lots of greens and yellows a little of orange color in it. I have also tried to research information on it and can’t find it. I would like to know more about your scandinavian deep wood cleanser. Is it something that you make? At one time you posted something for rose bugs and it had coconut soap in it. I used it and it works, i have ingreident list a home, all i can remember is that it had garlic and coconut. Thank you for your lovely post Maria

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Maria,
      Thank you so very much! I looked to see if I could find anything on your machine…nothing! It must be pretty rare and sounds very beautiful! The cleaner I used on the wood is made in Denmark. We used to sell it when we were in the furniture business years ago. I will check in with some of my contacts that are still in the business, and let you know if it is still made and sold here. It’s early here now, but I will post any info I find under this comment later for you. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Maria. I wanted to make sure the Clean and Feed I used is still available. You can still buy it here in the states, through their American distributor. We used to sell it in our store when my husband owned a Scandinavian furniture store years back. The product I used to clean the grime off and the feed thirsty wood is by Scan Care and called Clean and Feed. It’s available at scancare.net
      For everyday cleaning, I also love their Scand-Oil. It’s a great, non-toxic product made from food-grade oils.

  13. Melinda Mason says:

    Good timing for this post. Just last week I received an old 1947 Singer sewing machine that I ordered from eBay. I’m trying to find a good cabinet for it. I was originally wanting a treadle machine but couldn’t find a good one. Yours is beautiful! Congratulations on your serendipitous find!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thank you, Melinda! I just saw an old treadle cabinet without a machine a few weeks ago in a thrift shop! Happy hunting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  14. Janice K. says:

    Beautiful, Nicole! My husband had an electrical job at one of our local scrap metal businesses. He came home with two old treadle machines, rescued from the salvage heap. He also found a lovely frame, which we haven’t figured out what to do with yet! It is in our ‘save it until we figure out what to do with it’ pile. It would make a lovely table, as they are built so sturdy…Old sewing machines have lovely graphics and a charm all their own…
    Good job!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      That’s very cool that you rescued those two machines! I love how you think…you’ll have to let us all know what you finally use that frame for! I agree, too, that the old machines have much more charm than today’s models! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  15. Susan says:

    I love your blogs. The sewing machine is beautiful….I am still on the search for one. Over the years, I have bought a few and sold them, holding out for the one that takes my heart! I almost had one this past winter…..a lady had it in her garage and I commented on it. She said: you can have it if you want. I gave it to the neighbor lady but she’s never came and got it. I had my car that day and could not take it….that was a mistake! When I saw her next, she said: oh, the neighbor lady did take it after I told her I gave it away again. I had to hid my disappointment all through a cocktail party!! But—she wasn’t meant for me. Mine is still waiting for me to find her!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Susan, oh what a disappointment for you. I almost missed mine, too. The store was “cash only”, (all sales go to charity) and we had to go find an ATM. Hubby at first really thought it was junk, and my heart sank as we left the store. But then we drove to the ATM and my husband said I should buy it if I want it. If I hadn’t, I’d be sick! I had recently accomplished a goal and was going to “splurge” on something….this was much better than something like a pedicure right? Keep looking, I’m sure you’ll find one that you’ll love, too. Thanks for reading and commenting, glad you enjoy “visiting” with me. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  16. Terri says:

    I believe that attachment is a “Tucker”. It like, makes pin tucks evenly across fabric the width you select.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Terri,
      Thanks for the info! I don’t think I could do that easily on my electric, fancy modern machine, ha ha. Neat to think of what people could do even without electric and computers! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  17. bonnie ellis says:

    What a find! You did a great job cleaning it up. I have my grandmother’s treadle. I treasure it also. I learned to sew on a treadle and used one until I got my own machine when I graduated from high school. Don’t forget to try to sew on it. We practiced on lined paper without thread first to get the foot rhythm. Bonnie

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Bonnie!
      I love hearing that so many have their grandmothers’ machines. That’s so special. Thanks for the tip! Great idea. I can imagine how fun treadle sewing is! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  18. Ellen Ottoson says:

    Greetings Nicole, Yes, I have a penchant for finding neat things and restoring them too. My old treadle isn’t as pretty as the first one, like yours, that we lost in the house fire. But I love it and it’s Memphis Sphinx decals. I cleaned it carefully and took it to a sewing repair man near the Amish & Mennonite community in West Liberty, Ohio. He balanced the stitching after I successfully cleaned/oiled and got it moving quietly. He has leather belts and some missing parts that he replaced, a front plate at the needle opening. During the next winter storm when your power goes out you can now sew quilt blocks! I learned a lot on the internet and maybe you’ll find a “puzzle box” of attachments. Enjoy, Ellen

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Ellen, your machine sounds pretty neat, too. I am sorry you lost one in a house fire. It would be neat to have mine working, I just need to make sure it is someone who really knows what they are doing, like your person who fixed yours. I have a place in mind that can look at it and get it working again. I’m told it shouldn’t be too difficult. Lord knows with all our power outages the last few years, (lots of storms) it’d be nice to have it working! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  19. Barb says:

    How exciting, I can just imagine the look on your face finding such treasures. The metal gadget looks to me like a button hole maker. What a beautiful cabinet that holds the sewing machine. Congrats on your finds. Farmgirl hugs sister.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      oh Barb, it was exciting to find it. I love it. Can’t wait for you to see it at our next Farmgirl chapter get together! Miss you. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  20. Ulla Christensen says:

    waoo, that nice Nicole, you are so creative I like this
    Love fra farfar an farmor DK

  21. taylor says:

    so beautiful…such detail and your story made me feel like i had found it along with you !! what love and admiration (and hard work!) you have brought to this beautiful peice. the detail and craftsmanship is no longer found in today’s machines. i can almost hear the treadle now bring it to life……

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thank you, Taylor! I will have to update everyone when I get it to working…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  22. Love your information with pictures. Look forward to your next article.

  23. How wonderful for you to have a great piece of history in this old treadle machine..I have 8 treadle machines right now ! No kidding..I just love them..An yes they are easy peasy to get working an sewing again..My suggestion is to replace the belt with a new one an not the one that was in the drawer as they tend to become brittle over time when they have been sitting..As for sewing on it I say go for it, it will take some getting used to the rocking of the treadle, but once you get the hang of it, it”s quite fun..All those Grandma’s before us must have had some great looking gams under those long skirts because it is quite a work out for your legs !!! Happy sewing..

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Love this! Treadle machines…the “original” Thighmaster! Thanks for the boost of confidence. I will get a new belt and am calling the place I know that services them. They have taken care of a couple of vacuum cleaners for me, and they have a treadle on display (not for sale). I am sure it will be no surprise to them when I tote mine in. Wow! Eight machines! Awesome! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  24. Evelyn says:

    If you really want that old truck, then you could always make yourself a “driving pillow”. My mom is only 4′ 11″. She’s used one in every old car my dad ever brought home! She would put it behind her back for a sort of boost…

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      I may have to try that next time I see one for sale! I’ve been dreaming of owning one since I was 16! Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  25. Becky says:

    How marvelous finding that sewing machine with accessories and pamphlet in the drawers. It sure cleaned up nicely. You’ll enjoy it for years.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Becky! It has certainly brought me joy, and it is not even sewing yet! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  26. connie wagner says:

    Sadly I lost my grandmothers treadle machine in a move and my mother in laws in another move but a couple years ago got something I had never heard of. It is a hand crank portable Singer sewing machine in wooden case with a few attachments to go with it! I found out that if you go to the Singer website you can type in the serial number and find out when and where your machine was made!! Mine was made in Scotland in the late 1800’s!! Can you imagine the stories it could tell? All of you who want to get your treadle machines working again take heart and just start cleaning and tightening parts and I bet you can do it yourself! I got both my treadle machines back into running condition with no more outlay than a new belt! My handcrank needs a new plate which is available I just haven’t gotten around to buying it yet. Happy sewing and thank you so much for this blog that brought back so many memories!!
    Peace Connie

  27. connie wagner says:

    Oh I almost forgot to tell you that if you find one of these handcrank machines while traveling don’t try to take it on an airplane as carry on luggage or you might find yourself in hot water! Gee they didn’t know what it was and it had “explosives” on it. Ya think maybe a machine that old has a lot of machine oil and perhaps some gunpowder from the husband cleaning his guns while the wife sewed?? We made it thru but almost missed our flight in the process! Peace Connie

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Connie, It is sad that you lost your heirloom machines when moving. I have lost sentimental items too that way. I looked up the hand crank portable machine you mention. What a neat find (and amusing tale). Thanks for sharing the great info! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  28. Denise Ross says:

    Gosh I love red too. Fantastic job on your trash to treasure items :) your friends bench is amazing. Love the old sewing machine. It really shines. Love trash to treasure items too. I’ve done up a few old things too. They’re my most loved items in my home.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Denise! I am on a roll lately…it’s amazing what a little paint can do to transform something! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  29. Marybeth Gardner says:

    Please do not allow your machine to sit idle. I have two treadle machines, each a found treasure and it took very little to return them to working order. Belts, needles and bobbins are easily available online. I seem to hear a contented hum coming from my machine as it runs. I was also amazed to find that for my Singer and White, the history of the machine can be found, down to the factory and month they were made, by using the serial numbers on the machine.
    Enjoy

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marybeth! Thanks for the info…very useful! My friend Andrea found someone in my area who specializes in restoring and fixing treadle machines. I really do think I want to get it working again. Will keep you all posted… Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  30. Nancy says:

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