Thursday, 23 January 2014

A ha!

I had an a ha moment the other day. After a disastrous first muslin for Jacqui's Cambie that will be part of a robin hood costume I was stumped about what to do next. I had traced the largest size and done a full bust adjustment so that the front bodice had 2 darts but it was still to small and the darts where just horrible. Frumpsville.
1st muslin pattern with added width added. You can see the original dart.

I decided to go big or go home and added an inch to the front and back side seams and an inch to the centre back and sewed up muslin no.2 except this time I didn't sew up the vertical front bust darts. When Jacqui came for her fitting I was patting myself on the back because at least this time she was all covered up. There was a lot of room in a few spots but at least she wasn't naked. Success. I took out a sharpie drew a dot for her nipple and pinned a dart that actually fit her body.

Hours later I unpinned the dart that I had just drawn up and felt like I had discovered something pattern companies and companies that make rtw for plus sized women don't want you to know about. I have often complained that straight darts just do not make sense. We are dressing a curve so the dart must be curved. 

Here is a picture of Jacqui's custom pattern.

See how it curves under makes another point and then straightens out. Almost like a dart you would find on a shift dress only more extreme. On a shift dress the vertical darts start out at the bust comes in at the waist and then flares out again at the hip line. But on Jacqui's body and mine our "waist" is not that smallest part. And I don’t know why we should pretend it is.

I sewed up the darts on the muslin and held it up to me own body. Jacqui and I are not the same size so while nothing else fit or looked right my boobs have never looked better with clothes on. I was so excited I emailed Jacqui declaring I had solved the big boobed code.

I have since changed my mind. This amazing dart hasn't solved all my fitting problems but it is a lesson I will never forget.  

My First Machine

If you have read any of my previous posts, hell if you have read my blog introduction, you will know that I own a couple of sewing machines. I will write about all of them one day when I get to know them a bit better. This might sound strange to normal people but to people who *collect* them it doesn't. There are people who name them and only refer to them by name. I don't. They already have names. Today I want to talk about my very first machine. My 201K that my father gave me when I was very small, I think about 5. Dad was a real estate agent for most of my childhood and he is a hoarder/appreciator or old things. The story goes that a little old lady let him sell her house and he bought her car and this machine off her as well.


201's were made by Singer for a long time and they were very popular common machines. eBay and gumtree are full on them. The K on the end of the model number means it was made in the Kilbowie factory in Scotland. I looked up the serial number and it says it was released from the factory on April 24th 1956. They came in two shapes, the earlier feminine shape and the later constructionist shape. These are names I've made up because that's what they remind me off. The were first made in black or black and black just like all of Singers other machines but by the 60's they started making them in beige/brown.
http://www.singersewinginfo.co.uk/201/

http://www.singersewinginfo.co.uk/201/
These machines are gear driven, use a 66 class bobbin and have a internal motor.  Mine is controlled with a knee lever. They are very heavy sturdy work horses.The advertisements you see around proclaim they can sew 1,100 stitches a minute. They have reverse stitch and you can lower the feed dogs to embroider or to make buttonholes using a buttonholer, but that feature is hidden under the bed and looks like something that shouldn't be fiddled with. Which is why it took me such a long time to find it. I had the machine for 20 years before I did.



I love this machine. It's not rational, when I see other 201's they are not that impressive and I pass by them with not even a glance. But this machine. Something about it makes me very nostalgic. I even love the smell of the bentwood case. Which I know sounds crazy. This is the only machine I own that smells nice.

I remember using it a lot when I was little. I remember just taking it out to look at and test the stitching. It felt like I had the tools and some of the know how to clothe myself using this machine but I never felt competent enough to handle it's speed and power and actually create something. So I used my Mum's machine to sew things. Still it always felt special. It was also a great hiding place for things. In my early twenties I hid my ex boyfriend's cigarettes in it more then once. One day it started skipping stitches and I had no idea how to fix it so I packed it up and it became a d├ęcor piece/conversation piece/hiding place.

What it actually looks like when in use, electrical tape in place for a seam allowance guide
It wasn't until I found instructions on-line on how to remove and clean the bobbin area that I fixed it and started using it again. This is a complicated process and instructions are crucial. But they are easy to find on-line, or if your lucky enough in the service manual.  Since then I have actually made things with it, and while the speed can still be intimidating I just grit my teeth and trust in my skills. I can always unpick it if I have too.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Pushy Friends/Unselfish Sewing

Everyone has one of those friends that isn't very good with boundaries. I have a couple actually but my sewing related boundary pusher friend is Jacqui. She is one of those people that assumes you will do anything for her, including sewing things for her. Which is great actually.

I have been tempted before to offer to sew something for friends, but I usually have to be drunk to even offer and because the offer has happened when I was drunk it usually doesn't actually turn into clothing. Jacqui came to me.

One of my favourite past times at parties, while drunk, is telling everyone I talk to that I am wearing a handmade item, exactly how much money it cost and if applicable how many hours it took to sew. Sometimes these conversations end with said person taking pictures of my fabulous outfit to send to other friends who have moved away, could not be at the party and are missing out on my fabulous outfit. Anyway Jacqui knew about this sewing thing. I have made a few things for her before but this project was a little bigger. I had to make her a robin hood costume, that is a dress and hat, and a little red riding hood cape. One for Jacqui and one for her Mum. These are the patterns I used as starting points.

Sewaholic Cambie


picture from Vintage Pattern Wiki I have the medium-large size

 soldier's flight cap pattern from the 1940's sold by Mrsdepew on etsy
I ended up doing 3 fittings with Jacqui and her Cambie and while she is happy with it I am not. I know that this is because she is used to rtw and if anything fits kind of right, it fits. I read somewhere that for a lot of odd shaped people if clothes don't hurt, they fit. Which rubs me the wrong way. I know it fits better than something off the rack would but it was still not perfect. I am using a cotton/silk blend from Darn Cheap Fabrics. It is matte on one side and shiny on the other. It is so soft and I am sure it wasn't designed for dresses. I think it was $12.95 a meter but don't quote me on that. I have used some leftover poly peacock print for the pockets and belt lining piece.  Hat was just some suede feel stretch stuff, I made the back more pointy and added some red turkey feathers.  It looks like it took more time and effort than it did which is a good result.

The dress, and the hat
I am really excited about little red riding hood. The pattern I started with is a cape stole pattern from the 40's that I had in my stash but never sewn up. I added some width to accommodate a larger size, removed the lower front part that originally had a pocket, added a front placket, drafted a facing and drafted a hood. I tried not to add width to the shoulders but when I sewed up my first muslin I of course had to trim the shoulders a bit because they were huge.  

You can see the extra seams in the hood in this pic
For the hood piece I started with the hood pattern from Sewaholic Minoru jacket which I made last winter. I wanted to play with the style lines and I knew the fabric I had wouldn't accommodate another large pattern piece after the front and back, so I cut it into three pieces. Two on the back and one that frames the face. I got the idea from a hooded jacket from Zara that had a seam running through almost the fold line so the hood lay on the shoulders just right and didn't look crumpled. I didn't get it right but I really like the style lines that I added. I top stitched the seam allowances down to make them more obvious.


I found the fabric a couple of months ago at Savers for $4. It felt scratchy and awful and it has something very odd written on the selvedge. It says "0% wool". I kid you not. I took the fabric at it's word and left it there till after Jacqui told me what I would be making and went back for it. I washed it because it was a synthetic of some kind nothing horrible would happen. Problem was when I pulled it out it smelled like wet dog. Which is usually a sign it is a protein fibre of some kind. After a burn test I think it's a blend of something natural with a poly or acrylic. It might not be wool but it was once hanging off an animal.

I think it looks adorable. I want one and was wearing it off and on in my sewing room while I was making everything.  Even in the 40 degree heat we had.  

I took a few photo's on the night of the fancy dress party but I have to check with Jacqui first before I post them, I was also recruited to prepare all the food on the night with promises of free alcohol and time with other friends.  The other friends cancelled at the last minute and I was so tired I didn't drink anything anyway.  But I got lots of compliments on me sewing skills all night so there is that. Now I can play with new sewing machines and sew things for myself.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

My first post.....

I have a problem. Some would say an obsession. Some of my favourite people have pulled me aside to talk about it. They are concerned. My BF has threatened to leave. I have to many vintage sewing machines.

It all started just over a year ago with a road trip to Sydney. Back in Melbourne I was living in an uncomfortable room mate situation and my sewing output was at an all time high. So when my father and step-mum offered me a vintage sewing machine for my birthday I jumped at it. The Bebarfald Bluebird vibrating shuttle treadle.

When I got it home I was busy trying to get it to work I got an email from my mum who likes to google things on my behalf. She had found Cyndy Kitt. Cyndy makes her own corsets and sells sewing machine parts on etsy and eBay. She had a copy of the instructions for sale. In our messaging she told me about the Vintage Sewing Machine Facebook group.

If you like having a clutter free spacious home do not join this group. If you have very little spare cash around to spend on vintage sewing machines do not join. If you already have lot's of expensive hobbies and would not like another one do not join. This group will become a huge time suck and you will discover you NEED at least three more machines.

On the other hand if you already love and collect them this group is a great place to hang out. The members are enthusiastic and helpful to a fault. .

So it has been about 12 months since I have joined the group and it's a constant in my life. I am checking eBay twice a day. And and now I own 9 sewing machines. After I get one I am content with my collection for a few weeks. Then someone posts a picture or asks a question and I realise I NEED another one.