Restoring a Vintage Sewing Machine

by DonnaBerlanda
Last week, I stumbled upon an old Singer 201-2 direct drive sewing machine, and decided to try to restore it to its former glory.
Similar machine in worse condition than mine
The asking price was $45. But how much work would be needed to restore the machine?

Here's what I based my purchase on:

I have a working knowledge of sewing machines, having started sewing when I was 11 years old.

The first machine I used was my mom's old, only-sewed-forward-and-backward, all-metal, belt-drive machine.

The second machine I used was similar, with the exception that it was "modern" and had a zig-zag stitch.

I had that second machine for 30 years, and did all the maintenance myself.

I inspected the machine a little closer.

Vintage Sewing Machine Checklist:

1. Turn the handwheel - does it move freely?

2. Any grinding noises when the handwheel turns?

3. Examine the power cord for cracks and brittleness

4. Tilt the machine back from the cabinet, and examine the working mechanisms on the underside of the machine. how yucky does it look? Is it dry, or has it been greased recently?

this is where you can guess whether the machine was used fairly recently, and if so, is probably working okay.

5. Does it run?

at this point, I asked to have the machine plugged it to see if it worked

6. Flip the light switch. Does the light go on?

7. Pull down the knee lever, and now for the Big Test:

8. Does the motor run?

9. And does the machine work?

10. Hear any popping sounds or do all the lights in the building suddenly go off? (Yes, this was actually something I thought about!)

Now that I knew she worked, I inspected the:

decals to make sure they weren't scratched up or missing altogether

inspected all the engraved parts

made sure the serial number was legible

went over the cabinet for scratches, dings and general stability

took off the seat cushion to see if any of the original parts or manual were in there (they weren't)

opened the drawer to look for parts, and to see if the hinges were okay

The machine passed all the tests, so I bought it!
Once I got the machine home, I cleaned it with Murphy's Oil Soap, then liberally applied Olde English furniture polish (with the dark stain added) to the walnut cabinet. Next, I buffed the cast iron machine with some Armor All.
Taking the machine apart to clean & inspect
The seat cushion was really gross and smelly, so I took it outside to work on.
I replaced the batting with a thick layer of new batting, then dug through my fabric stash to find some upholstery fabric for the seat. I stapled the fabric to the wooden frame - carefully pulling the fabric tight before each staple. Fabric was trimmed at the corners to eliminate bulk, and making it fit snugly into the seat frame.
New seat cushion!
The cushion fit perfectly on the seat frame, and I think it looks great with the decor in the room.
The machine - all cleaned up
The next step was to test the machine to see how it sewed. I was so surprised at how well it worked, and no adjustments to the tension dial were needed!
Isn't she gorgeous?

To read the full description of this restoration project, go to
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  • DonnaBerlanda DonnaBerlanda on Apr 29, 2016
    How do I remove the randomly assigned category of Outdoor Living???

    • See 1 previous
    • DonnaBerlanda DonnaBerlanda on Apr 29, 2016
      @Hannah V Thank you!