I love a good estate sale, and I'm even happier when it takes place in a house that I've always been curious to see the inside of. Our next door neighbor has been living in her home since the 1930s, and recently she decided to live with her daughter, so they held a huge estate sale and I got to go into the house and snoop around. It was a cute place, and nothing had been updated since forever, unfortunate decorating decisions and all. Coved doorways. Tall baseboards. Flocked wallpaper in pale blue. And the tiniest rooms ever. It was like a little playhouse, but for living in. I wanted to buy it and make it my new fort. As it's right next door, it couldn't be handier, and then all my sewing stuff and horse things would be out of Dave's way. I told Dave we should buy it and join the two houses with a breezeway, but he said no. So much for my architectural plans. Alas!
But there was one thing I wanted for my own, so I did a little bargaining and came away with this little beauty. I call her Julia after her original owner. Julia is a New Home treadle sewing machine, and according to her serial number plate, she was built in 1882. She's seen some serious use, but she has been reasonably maintained and still runs very nicely.
She needs a serious clean. There is a grimy layer of oil, dust, and dirt on her that has built up over the years. Some things get dirty from being handled and used, and some get dirty from sitting and attracting dust. Julia has both in spades. Today is her spa day.
I've removed her from her cabinet. She's resting on an old bathroom rug with a shower curtain over it to catch drips. I'm using a cleaner that gently melts away grime and oil but won't harm the decal decorations or finish. What is this amazing substance? Gojo. It's a hand cleaner used by mechanics, but after seeing how well it works here, I'm going to be using it a lot more on parts and stuff. (If you buy some, be sure you get the kind without pumice.) EDIT: I've since learned that Gojo sometimes will damage the gold parts of the decals, leaving them silver-ish. A better cleaning recommendation is to use sewing machine oil to soften and lift grime. It won't damage anything.)
So here are Julia's before pictures.
I thought the floral scrollwork had mostly worn off, and that's why it was only dimly visible.
I applied the Gojo with a one-inch paintbrush and let it sit for about twenty minutes. The stuff starts out as kind of a wobbly, custard-like cream but after it's applied, it melts like butter. In the areas where the grime was thickest, it would turn brown and puddle up. I'd wipe the goo away with a towel and reapply fresh Gojo. If a spot was particularly grungy, I'd gently scrub at it with a soft toothbrush. Here's Julia all gooped up with Gojo.
Turns out the decal decorations weren't that worn at all (except in the stitching area, where they'd seen the most wear during sewing), and the Gojo melted away the grim to reveal beautiful colors and swirls I had no idea were there!
Look at her! Isn't she pretty? In some spots, especially near the little holes where you oil the works, there was a darker patina, and I decided to leave that rather than try to scrub it away with anything stronger and possibly damage the decals. After all, we can't expect her to look brand new at 144 years old.
Now that the machine itself is all clean, I'll re-oil it and set it aside while I work on the cabinet. That's going to be another post, so you can look forward to that, but here's a picture of what we're starting off with. Yup, it's pretty rough. But I'm hoping there's going to be a dandy "after" picture when I'm done!