Antique Sewing Machine to Nightstand

antique sewing machine

Last weekend Brian’s folks gifted us with this antique sewing machine that had been used by three generations since his great-grandmother purchased it more than 100 years ago. It had been stored in their basement after being used for its original purpose into the 1970s.

When Brian’s mom offered it to me, I couldn’t let the chance to have something that had belonged to our kid’s great-great-grandmother go by, even though I wasn’t sure where I’d use it. Although we have a lot of “vintage” furnishings, most are thrifted or road-side finds. I’ve seen these old machines used as side tables, though, so I was pretty sure I could find a place for it.

When we got it home and measured, I found the perfect place: as my new bedside table.

carving on drawers of antique machine

I had originally been thinking about taking the table that Brian is using as a desk for a bedside table, but it would’ve been a tight fit – and it needs refinishing and repainting.

As if I don’t have enough on my unfinished list. Plus, Brian has taken months to find a new desk and now has decided to make one…which means more months. Hey, as long as it’s not on my list, I’m OK, I’m just tired of waiting.

Happily, the size of this old sewing machine works nicely, and I love the history of it and using it in a new way.

small drawers

The small drawers closest to the bed are perfect for holding the things I use nightly – reading glasses, lip balm, lotion, bookmarks, and a notepad and pen (for any ideas that hit me when I can’t sleep!).

original accessory box

The other drawers hold the original accessories we found in the drawers when we opened them, including an adorable little metal oil can, needles, and this carved box. They don’t make things like this anymore, do they?

opened accessory box

There are a ton of different feet and needle plates. I’m not sure if they all came with the machine or were added to over the years.

By the way, my vintage-y PB phone looks fun on it, don’t you think? I do believe I need an old alarm clock now, don’t I?

Bedside tables

So here’s our master bedroom right now. I sorta wish the dresser we moved in here a few months ago was a darker finish, but that’s not on my horizon any time soon. I’m planning on moving the large thrift store oil painting to another wall, and hanging a rectangular mirror over the treadle sewing machine to balance Brian’s dresser mirror. With the rectangles on each side, should I find something round for above the bed?

I’ve been happy with our bedroom for so long, but wouldn’t you know, both of these bedside changes have me thinking of making a few updates. So here’s my new to-do list for this room:

  • Move oil painting to another wall
  • Hang mirror over sewing machine
  • Find something for over the bed
  • Find new lamps (I’ve actually been looking for awhile…)
  • Think about doing this diamond treatment on the wall above the bed…?
  • Add pops of coral: throw pillows, a throw for the chair, accessories, maybe paint new thrifted lamps?
  • Bigger container/basket for treadmill table to hide outlet and cords

What do you think? Would you add something round over the bed or maybe a worn-looking shelf?

(Oh, by the way – because there was part of the original manual in one of the drawers, we know that the machine is a Wheeler and Wilson No. 9 – a later version from around 1905. WW was purchased a just few years later by Singer)


  1. Sharon O says

    I am amazed that you actually have a dresser just like mine, it is a birdseye maple (I think) era around the 50’s or later. I have several pieces in the same ‘tone’ in our room. They are very expensive, oh don’t paint it unless you want to ruin it’s value. The sewing machine is almost 98% like my own from my grandma. Only mine is the light wood like the birds eye maple. We also have a birdseye maple dining set I am trying to figure out how to reinforce the wood, chairs.
    I love the look. I think a mirror above the sewing machine might look good especially if you can get the same wood tone as the mirror on the left side of the room to balance the look. Above your bed I think either leave it alone and leave it blank, or a picture that is soft like an outside country theme or even a spray of silk greens just hanging above the bed. A natural look. If you find a mirror for the right side you might not want anything above the bed. Ours has been ‘plain’ for years.

    • Jami says

      Actually, Sharon, it is an oak dresser from the 20s or 30s. I had to refinish the top when we got it and up close it’s pretty easy to see the tell-tale oak grain. A little harder to see when it’s in the corner of a small photo. :) And I wouldn’t paint it, as it’s in good shape. If I were at all the type of person who would do something, I’d stain it darker. But I’m not. :)

  2. Winnie Spicer says

    Thanks for the memories of my grandmother’s sewing machine which is exactly like yours! Mom Mom’s was kept in an old smokehouse that at one point also served as general store; yes, it had been remodeled and windows placed in so the light could flood in. Why she kept it there and sewed there, I’ll never know…just remember learning to sew tea towels on it. Loved that machine!

    • Jami says

      What a fun memory! I actually used a treadle machine in the 70s to make a “wrestlerette” uniform for school. Which I can’t believe. Makes me sound SO old. :)

  3. KathyJ says

    looks great, Jami. I love antique furniture. Only have two dressers that are considered antique – one needs refinishing.

    As for over the bed, I vote for something architectural… Or something metal… you know, like those old sconces that are ugly until they get painted shabby chic.
    I’m good with details, aren’t I. :)

    • Jami says

      Ooh, something architectural sounds nice! I never really find any good stuff around here, though. Well…that’s in my price range, that is. sigh.

  4. Winnie Spicer says

    As to your decorating…yes, remove the picture and then live with room as is for a brief time. Do a mock up of the diamond pattern with white paper. If you decide to use it, my preference would be to place it all the way across that wall. But you may decide that pattern goes against your antique pieces. Now, as much as I really love your dresser and its mirror, I’m going to ask you if you think you would like to remove the dresser mirror and use it on another wall in that room. I, myself, would not want 2 mirrors on that back wall. Try to picture that wall without a rectangular mirror. To visually lengthen that wall, my choice would be just 1 long rectangle mirror or picture without the diamond pattern…but that’s just me. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you will love! Keep us posted!

    • Jami says

      Good thoughts, Winnie – I’ll keep it in mind as I see it progress (slowly, though, as we’ve started on the kitchen now!).

  5. says

    What a beautiful sewing machine! I love the creative use as a night table. My mother got her mom’s machine and it looked identical to this. As soon as I saw the photo I recalled sitting underneath it, on the large iron treadle, as if it were my own personal seesaw. Oh I wish she hadn’t sold it. Thank you for sharing this!
    Also – I love the bead-board ceiling. Beautiful.
    Bless you!

  6. Robin says

    I think that a big, grapevine wreath with some ivy and florals or grape clusters would really soften up the furniture on each side of the bed. It would bring a bit off nature into the mix. The shelves bight be a good idea over the sewing machine in a rectangle shape to balance the other mirrors, maybe with more family heirlooms. What fun!

  7. Sarah says

    Very nice family piece to have. I have a sewing machine that I have used as a bed side table, a lamp/ transfer ware display table in the living room and in the dining room sunny window as a plant table ( so cute with pulled out drawers with trailing plants).
    In your bedroom, I think you should skip doing another mirror. Something architecterial or an old sign would be cool…think different shape, color, texture. Pleeeeze do not do fake flowers or grape vine. Sometimes the best plan is no plan. You will see a piece and just know it is right…old chippy door, shutters, advertising, something graphic. Lighting is important. Get a nice lamp for the end of the sewing machine closest to the bed. Take your time and build it over time. That’s the fun.

  8. Mary says

    What a happy memory-the draining juice a few weeks back that you were getting ready for a cooking thing you were going to make. I remember my Mom doing that every summer with juice to make elderberry jelly. And this post-I only have the wront iron sewing machine bases-2 of them. My husband sanded & painted my Grandmother’s & we put on a nice new wood grained top on it. This one I use for my scrap & art work table. The other was my Dad’s Aunt’s. That needs to be sanded & finished yet. They are treasures.

    • Jami says

      I think it’s a great idea to make tables out of the bases, Mary – I’ve seen that done before and love how it looks and that it’s reusing something. :) I bet they’ll look wonderful when they’re done.

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