We are suckers for vintage Singers (and other sewing machines). Sewing machines have gone high-tech now, but the antique and vintage sewing machines hold a lot of repurposing potential. June 13 is #NationalSewingMachineDay and we've found five topnotch ways to repurpose and up-cycle your vintage sewing machine into a stylish and practical new piece for your home.
First, a brief history of the modern sewing machine:
In the 1700s, several attempts in Europe were made to mechanize sewing. Many of these attempts were highly controversial and were feared to put an end to the fine art of hand-sewing. (Those fears were well-founded.)
On September 10, 1846, Elias Howe was granted a patent for the first American sewing machine. In 1850, Isaac Singer began mass-producing a treadle-powered sewing machine, and that, too stirred controversy, this one between Howe and Singer over the similarities of their designs. Singer lost the patent battle, but won the ultimate war: his name was and is practically synonymous with sewing machines.
Fast-forward through the foot-treadle years to electric sewing machines, and to the last generation of homemakers who lovingly sewed clothing for themselves and their families. Many of us are left with machines and furniture cabinets once proudly owned and used by our mothers or grandmothers. If sewing isn't our jam, here are some ideas for ways to use a piece with so much sentimental value attached.
1. Repurpose that cabinet into a drink cart.
A perennially popular Pinterest idea is to play to the strengths of these cabinets: they have a flip-top and cutout. Paint it, pop in a plastic or galvanized metal tub for ice, and voila - you've got an indoor/outdoor drink cart. Gussy it up with a towel holder and bottle opener, and maybe some caster wheels on the bottom to help you roll it where it's needed. If this idea strikes your fancy, we recommend using a suitable paint and sealer - General Finishes milk paint is perfect for this project.
2. Recycle those drawers into organizers.
The drawers on the older sewing machine cabinets were often beautifully carved with details on their face and sides. If you're lucky, the original hardware is still intact; if not, you can often find them in the wild. Painted and add some small bun feet to elevate it, and it's perfect for your kitchen or bath countertop, or perched on a desk as an organizer.
3. Use the ornate treadles as a table base.
The wrought iron treadle sides are gorgeous works of art. Showcase them by repurposing them into a lovely side table or console table. Cut good quality (preferably kiln dried) wood boards to the length you want, then stain and seal them before attaching the metal sides. We recommend General Finishes water-based or oil-based stains and sealers for a finish that will last for generations to come.
4. Create a dressing table.
If you can't bear to rip your antique sewing cabinet into bits and pieces, here's an idea for celebrating it nearly intact. Remove the sewing machine and paint/stain the cabinet, to transform it into a unique dressing table.
The drawers are the perfect size to hold cosmetics and jewelry, and with a mirror and hinge, the top will open and close easily. Paint a petite chair or bench to match, and you're all set.
5. Turn the machine into a lamp.
Admittedly, this idea requires both artistry and mechanical skills to pull off, but these old machines are beautiful. Coming up with a way to reuse them is worth the effort. Find the perfect lampshade to coordinate with yoru particular machine, purchase a new lamp kit for safety, and create a truly one-of-a-kind statement piece for your home.
So there you have it: five ways to re-use your mother's (or grandmother's) sewing machine. Of course, you can always turn it into a simple bedside table; they ARE the perfect height to tuck in next to a bed.
We'd love to see and hear how you use or reused an old sewing machine and/or cabinet in your decor. Drop us a note below and tell us all about it!
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!