Often an old “broken” sewing machine only needs a simple repair or a good cleaning. I once got the cutest vintage Kenmore machine for free from a rummage sale because it was missing a belt. $10 and a quick trip to Target got it all up and running beautifully.
This isn’t one of those stories.
Several months ago I picked up a Singer Fashion Mate 257. Literally, picked it up because it was just sitting there by the side of the road. There was a note on the top saying “bad worn gear.”
The outside of the case was pretty nasty! Ewwwww....
My husband and I set to working on it. He did all the actual hands-on work while I just researched stuff on the internet. We found the worn gear, which was in fact corroded and broken entirely in two, and ordered a replacement. That’s where things were left when I wrote this post.
Here’s where it became not a simple repair. First, the worn gear was waaaaay down in the workings of the machine, and there was no faceplate that could be removed to access the part. My husband fiddled and messed and finally figured a way he could access the gear, only to find out he didn’t have an Allen wrench small enough to take the gear out.
This didn’t bother him too much because he was now able to justify buying a new set of Allen wrenches. And then life happened and we got busy. Finally, last week we were able to get back to my curbside sewing machine. And guess what? All of the Allen wrenches in the new set were too big! The smallest one in the set was 1.5 mm diameter ,and that was still far too big.
He didn’t give up. Now the solution was to drill out the screw holding the worn gear in place. That required an extra long drill bit, which required another trip to the hardware store to get one that was long enough and small enough.
He took the machine out to the front porch and started drilling out the screw. And drilling and drilling. It wouldn’t come out! I was hovering in the background the whole time, hoping the drill didn't slip and he didn't end up ruining the machine for good.
Here's an action shot. It was dark outside and the porch lights are yellowish, thus the bad photo. But wow, look at that drill bit going into the heart of the machine! He's got his phone sitting on top of the machine with the flashlight on to give him better lighting.
Eventually he realized he had drilled all the way through the part and through the shaft behind the part. At this point he was able to get the worn gear out and the new replacement back in. And hallelujah the hole drilled through the shaft didn’t affect it at all. Yay!!!
You know this isn’t the end of the repairs, right?
Because as he was putting it all back together he realized that all this tinkering had caused the timing to get out of whack. So he figured out how to get that all back the way it should be. I should mention now that he figured out how to do ALL of this without aid of a repair manual. He is a mechanical genius. Seriously.
After he got the timing all fixed and we gave it a good oiling, this free curbside sewing machine is sewing beautifully!
Of course, the free machine was anything but free when you factor in the cost of the replacement part, the Allen wrenches, and the new drill bit. We probably have $40 in it altogether, which is really not bad at all to get a working sewing machine out of it. And we had the fun of getting to see this old cast off machine brought back to life.
Who knows what had been sewn on this machine before we got it. Perhaps Halloween costumes, or a Christmas dress, or a quilt for a loved one. And then it broke, and it collected dust until we found it and my husband was able to make it stitch again. I have no plans for the machine, as I already have several working machines. But as soon as I figure out what adventures are in store for this little Singer Fashion Mate 257, she’s in working order and ready to go.