Pretty in Pink!
Anyone with a passion for sewing will enjoy this journey. This story began a little over a year ago after my husband's grandmother passed away. We went to the farmhouse one evening to look around and reminisce. Not much was left in the house as it was getting cleaned out and ready for whatever the next step would be. As we explored, time was passing. It started to get dark, and we had one area left to cover. The basement.
Even in my 30s, unfinished basements aren't my favorite place, especially unfinished farmhouse basements! I'm a scaredy-cat and not ashamed to admit it, so my goal was to get this over with (lol). Little did I know this is where a cherished keepsake would be found. Similar to the upstairs, not much was left. But, in the corner of a dark room was a cabinet with brass hardware.
I actually didn't know what it was. I'm not familiar with old sewing machines and the cabinets that house them. My husband opened the lid, and we saw a pink piece of machinery! The first thing I learned about these old sewing machines is how heavy they are! So, awkwardly, we carried this piece of history up a narrow staircase and headed home.
After sitting in the garage a few months, it was time to decide what to do. The cabinet itself was in poor condition. I could fix it and give it a good painting. Even if the machine wasn't repairable, my husband would still have something special from his grandmother's. It was an old machine, so I wasn't going to gamble turning it on. Fortunately, we have a local sewing machine repair shop in Sterling, Illinois, called Smitty's Sew-N-Vac. This business has been around for a long time, and I believe it's a multi-generation family business (which is neat). They were booked about a month out. So, we happily got on the schedule. The day arrived, and I delivered the pink sewing machine, along with its original manual and some extra parts. About a week later, we received some great news! The only repairs needed were a good cleaning and a couple of wires replaced. I was also told the machine will be around for generations because of how it is made. I couldn't stop smiling because I really thought it was broken. We saved a (perfectly good) PINK sewing machine, and I get to sew on a PINK vintage sewing machine (I mean, come on)! With all this good news, it was time to focus on the cabinet. The pressure was on to make the cabinet as great as the machine.
After a good cleaning, the veneer showed damage caused by years of use and damp conditions. That was okay. I removed most of the damage and filled the rest with wood filler. After a good sanding, the surface was prepped and ready for primer and paint. Little did I know this was to be a project where the first idea wouldn't be the finished product. Sometimes the first choice doesn't work out, and sometimes even the second or third.
The first color I painted was a flat black. It's actually my favorite color of black, and it's called "True Black" (highly recommend). With the paint job completed, the cabinet exterior was close to perfection.
My thought process was black and pink are classic vintage colors, and it would highlight the actual sewing machine very well, which it did. After about a month, I wasn't a fan and thought it could be better. Something about the piece looked "off." It just looked like a painted cabinet, nothing spectacular. After some time, I decided to go "light and airy." I thought a bright white would do the trick, but that wasn't the case. So again, I stepped back and debated for a couple months and forgot about the project. I was influenced by light grays by this time, so I tried gray on the cabinet. It wasn't working either. For five months, I ignored this cabinet and was frustrated by this point because my ultimate goal was to make the cabinet look like it had always been painted. Doubts were filling my head, and I was starting to think maybe I should have replaced the veneer and restored the wood as best as I could and left it at that. Then it hit me, the machine is PINK. That's my favorite part! Why not make the cabinet the same vintage pink!
Instead of matching the color through swatches, I decided to color-match the paint myself. I actually do this a lot, and I really enjoy it. Because of the age, different areas on the machine are a deeper pink while other spots have more peach tones. I went with the color on the sewing machine that looked closest to the original and came up with a dusty, muted pink. I started the prep work for a FOURTH time and painted the cabinet pink. The color was perfect, but it contrasted with the sewing machine, almost negatively, because the cabinet was flawless now. It needed to be aged, so it looked like an extension of the sewing machine. The first thing I did was take it apart, (AGAIN) and brought it outside with my sander to distress the edges. Now, I was getting somewhere, but the color was still a bit "new looking." So, I did an old trick. Instead of using a glaze, I got an old container of medium wood stain and rubbed it over the cabinet. Wiping off the excess stain revealed exactly what I wanted. It was the aged look I was going for, and I couldn't be more pleased! It was now an extension of the sewing machine, and that's what makes this entire piece so wonderful.
This was a personal project and something that my husband and family can enjoy. It took a long time for me to get here, but that's okay. Sometimes you need to take time on projects. Not every idea you have will be a good one. I wanted this (now) family heirloom to be perfect, and I think that was accomplished. The best part about this or any family heirloom is you end up with something rare or even one of a kind. It's fun to know that no one else has the same thing as you. I think in many ways we've turned into a "throw-away culture," but that's not entirely our fault. Furniture and machines aren't made the same as they used to be. Not because we don't appreciate it or don't want it, but because there are simply not enough resources to make things as we used to. I'm convinced most vintage items (both furniture and mechanical) are mostly fixable, and we just don't realize it. Hold on to your family treasures even if they're taking room up in the attic or basement. Or, better yet, try and fix them yourself or find someone that can fix it for you. It's well worth it, and your family will be thankful!