Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Geometry and Madrid

I made some things! I even managed to take pictures.  I made the Madrid bag from Seamwork magazine from the team at Colette Patterns.  I used all stash stuff including leather that I think originally came from my high school textile room (It has been many years since I graduated), and an antler button from the UK.  The patterns from Seamwork magazine are supposed to be 2 hour patterns.  Yeah not so much for this bag.  Maybe 10 hours.  Lots of interfacing and poly organza in this bag to give it shape.  Pretty happy with it over all.

I made the Geometry top from Katy and Laney.  I used size 14 because it had the right bust size, but it came out super boxy.  

It also came out as very christmas-ie.  I used leftovers from my stash, and I think this military green always looks really nice with red.  Not sure if it worked this time.  The green is a silk/cotton blend with one shiny side and one dull side.  Ignore the wrinkles I had just come back from lunch with a friend from "out of town". 

I used all french seams for the top and bias binding as a facing.  Came together easy.  Either choose a really drapey, annoying to work with fabric or have smaller boobs than me.  Otherwise you will be adjusting your clothes all day long.



Sunday, 10 August 2014


I was walking with a friend of mine the other day and I realised something and blurted it out loud "My BF and Jacqui have the same bust measurement". My friend reacted in horror and asked "Why would you know that?". I wasn't trying to freak her out I just thought it was interesting. That two large but very different shaped people could have the same bust measurement. I thought it said something about how we perceive body shapes, our body and others.  That silhouette and shapes confuse our perception and we imagine things as smaller and larger than they really are.

My friend was horrified that I knew anyone's measurements. She doesn't sew and wouldn't know her own measurements. I am not even sure she would know her weight at the moment. This I understand. Unless I am actively dieting I prefer to not know.  But I know my measurements. Off by heart. And my bf's, my mothers, my fathers and Jacqui's.  I remember at least their bust measurements from the last time I took it.  Why is this odd? I sew things for myself and sometimes for other people. It is pretty hard to do that if I don't measure first. 
My Ideal skirt length is always 69cm. Just thought you would like to know.
It is interesting the different relationship people have with their bodies when they sew. I say people because I know of a few men who sew and I know a lot of men who have had an unhappy time shopping for clothes. 

When I go shopping if something doesn't fit when it usually would I leave the store blaming my body.  Even if it "fits" but isn't suited to my body shape it is still somehow my bodies fault.  The shop and manufacturer is never at fault.  My body is "wrong".  I know that really there is nothing wrong with my body.  It may be larger than the stores fit model but it is not wrong.  When I sew something and it doesn't fit it is still my fault.  My sewing skills have failed me.  A much better feeling but still frustrating.  That is my experience.
I will be sure to avoid IRONIZED YEAST
I have witnessed other people react differently when things do not fit.  They blame the manufacturer. Clothes from that brand are too short, or have weird hips, or never have enough room in the bust, they always cut the bodice too long in the back etc.  While I go home and sew something when I can't find anything that fits, people that don't sew just keep on shopping.  Searching for the perfect dress or pair of jeans.  Going from shop to shop where sizes can be wildly different, never knowing their own measurements. I imagine it can make the relationship with your own body very murky.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Shopping Instead of Sewing

And now it's the Easter holidays! The last 6 weeks for me have been crazy.  I have done a little bit of sewing but it's for someone else and not blog worthy.  I have been doing a lot of reading and trying to remember lots of long words.  That memorising thing isn't really working, something I will have to work on because exams start in 5 weeks, but the rest of uni has been great.  I'm understanding things that I have seen nurse's do before and baffled me and every time I go to work I feel like uni is making me better at my job.  I am still not doing any nursing care don't worry. 

One thing I did get to do recently was go to the Alannah Hill/Danger field/Gorman factory outlet after I read on sewnbyelizabeth that they sell fabric there! She forgot to mention buttons and notions! I bought some fabric but I am most excited about the buttons. The fabrics are up the stairs in the far right corner.  The rest of the store can be a bit full on but the woman who served me was lovely and made me feel at ease in an instant.  She cuts the fabric, makes small talk, does her calculations, sticks the bill to the front of your bag of fabric and you pay down stairs with everyone else. I spent about $120. 

Firstly some fabrics that were labelled Alannah Hill.  The spots I think is a lining.  It is very thin and slippery but the hand is crisp and I imagine easy to sew.  I think I will be using it as a lining one day.  The floral just looks like Alannah Hill to me, yes that's why I bought it, but it was labelled 100% silk and is so soft and fluid.  It was $12 a meter.  In my world that's a bargain. 

These fabrics were labelled Danger Field and they do look it.  They remind me of my misspent youth.  The outlet had a lot of really amazing wools, lots of different weights and textures, not that many colours though.  Lots of black and plaid, one brown and few "prints" that aren't really prints as the pattern is weaved in. All of the wools I saw were marked at $10 a meter.  This black was the cheapest at $7 and I think it is a blend of some kind. But all of the others were either to heavy and blanket like or too light and pashmere like for what I wanted. I don't think this plaid is a wool either but I liked it in the store.  

How cool are these buttons? Almost everything in the button box were things you wouldn't see at a fabric store.  None of these cost more the $1 each.  The huge black ones that are actually black fabric with metal rims were $1.  Pearl buttons that just scream Alannah Hill. Yes those are clasps covered in red satin, they had pink satin ones as well but I passed. And little metal looking textured buttons.  

I will be going back to this store again.  I'm still planning tops with sleeves but I am also obsessing about winter coat sewing.  My anniversary with the BF is coming up and he wants to get me either a stethoscope or a pair of heels but I am trying to convince him sewing patterns make good presents. I am thinking about the Rigel Bomber.

Awesome boob friendly bomber
I have a new sewing machine to show off too! I'll try and get good day time photos of it soon.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Window Shopping

A few details about my life before I get into the sewing talk...

A few years ago I emerged from University with a degree and not many job options. I looked around for a while and after several months of nothing but judgemental looks from the staff at centrelink I got a job working in a hospital. Not what I studied but I took it. Now on the first day at work the staff gave me a uniform and told me how to wash my hands and sent me on my way.  Don't worry I'm not actually responsible for nursing care.  

I've decided to go back to Uni this year and get my nursing degree. I've only just realised how much this decision is going to turn my life upside down more then any other time I have done tertiary study. Now putting aside all the reading and time management it seems my wardrobe is going change a lot. 

I have to wear short sleeves (at least 5 cm about the elbows) cleavage covering tops most days at Uni to be allowed into the practise labs.  I have avoided that shape for a long time.  My "uniform" is usually a knit tank top jeans and a cardigan or a woven tank top jeans and a cardigan.  Throw on a scarf and jacket for colder weather. So I have to make some things to wear.

Now to the fun part. Picking patterns...
kimono top
I already own a copy of this pattern and have made it up a handful of times.  It's an easy little top I can make in a day that doesn't have darts.  I usually only wear them on really hot days because wearing it with a cardigan is comical.  This is what I have been wearing most days at Uni.  I think I will have to make up again at least once.
Sinbad and Sailor Fitted Dove T
I have already bought this one as well. I half made it up once and then remembered I don't LIKE sleeves and boob covering tops.  It makes wearing cardigans difficult and makes me look like a barrel. I don't think my lecturers at Uni will appreciate my feelings on this so I guess I will try again.  Hopefully if I pick a really young and out there print it won't make me look that horrible. 
Sewaholic Renfrew
I "own" a copy of this one as well. I traced my Mum's copy. Never made it up.  Knits are a little scary I am not going to lie.  I can make a mean pair of panties or a singlet top but I use lace on all the raw edges and those are never going to be seen by anyone who isn't sleeping with me or doing my laundry. Wearing a knit top outside the house that's different.  But it's an option.
Megan Nielsen Briar Tshirt
Finally some window shopping! I don't think I could do the crop top version and that curved hem in a knit would give me nightmares but I love the versions I have seen around.  So flattering. 
SewChic Ehlen Blouse
This top looks adorable! I've never bought anything from Sew Chic Patterns or heard much about them. I found this pattern during a late night net lurking. It really tickles my vintage sensibilities. I would probably need to do an FBA and fiddle with the peplum to get it to fit. My instinct would be to deepen the V. Don't think my lectures would like that. 
Grainline Scout T
I live in Grainline's Tiny Pocket Tank so I should already own this one. But a few things have stopped me from buying.  I don't know if the relaxed, dartless, kinda short shape will suit me and I don't like sleeves. I would probably lower the neckline a tiny bit.
Vogue 1247
The fun one! I have been meaning to buy this one just because of all the great ones around the sewing blogs. So flattering once you get the size right.  She even looks like a nurse kinda.  A sexy sexy nurse that wants to take your blood pressure. Something about her expression, short skirt and horrible pocket placement.
Salme Cut Out the Shoulder Dress
A dress! I am tempted by this one.  I can overlook the fact that it's a shape and silhouette usually pushed on plus sized women by rtw clothing companies.  Hate your arms but look like a blob when you cover them up? Look we cut a hole for you! Don't really have a waist, especially when you indulge with a large meal? It's called elastic and we have some for you! If it was in a plus sized clothing store it would have a necklace sewn into the shoulder seams, or even worse a picture of a necklace printed onto the neckline. Gross. I do think it will look great with some boots and leggings in winter if I get the length right. Without a fake necklace.

Just have to finish a very special dress then I can get started on this project.  And you know do some Uni home work. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Gold Machine

Blackside faceplate
As I was sewing my gold dress last week I kept thinking "Oh I have to write something about my 98k, it could be a series" I am dreaming big for this little blog, I know.
serial number EV 525167
If you are playing at home when you see the red S singer logo like this it means that this machine was manufactured sometime in the 60's and as we discovered last time, the K after the model number means it was manufactured in the Kilbowie factory in Scotland (that's a joke, if anyone reads this post I don't expect you to read up on old posts this is supposed to be fun not educational). This beautiful machine is from 1963 and is not that popular or well known. I have no idea why. It's gold people. And so tiny and cute.  Offically 3/4 sized. She weighs a ton though.  

Only 50,000 of these gold machines where made (later gray machine the 286k was made and these two models are usually lumped together) compare that to the numbers of featherweights made some people say one million some say 2.5 million.  A lot more featherweights around but still these little gold wonders get no love and featherweights are selling for $300-$600.
She has all blackside pieces instead of chrome, one of the reasons I had to have her.  Now everywhere I look online states that Singer made pieces like this between 1941-1953 because of  shortages of nickel and chromium.  My 98k was made a full decade after that which is interesting. 

If anyone who stumbles upon this post knows anything about them please feel free to comment. I know very little. The lovely couple who sold her to me passed along some folk law and rumour about her model but nothing concrete.  The rumour goes that these were made to be used in institutions like schools and prisons. A budget model.  Which is why she is so heavy. The very simple engineering with hardly anything you could pull off and pocket also suggests this.   
Slide plate and bobin cover plate are in one piece
You hook your finger under and remove the whole thing to get at the bobbin

I know of only 2 others both of which were "released" from the factory on the same day. One has all blackside pieces and the other has some blackside and some chrome. I wish I could say I sewed my gold dress on my gold machine but it didn't happen that way. I bought her with a visual that I would sew 60's dresses with full skirts while wearing a 60's dress with a full skirt so I should do that sometime soon.  

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Gold Dress

Lucifer my cat, my Prada sunglasses, a purse my Gran left me and my shoes
A whole month ago sewamysew warned her readers to never ever ever sew a dress for an occasion the night before. I have done this on numerous occasions. Usually for weddings or engagement parties. I have made several dresses in 12 hours or less that look okish. A few are rare success's which I wear again and again but usually I wear them on the day because in my head I have no other option, you can't go to the engagement party and wedding in the SAME dress, and push it to the back of my wardrobe the next day. On one such occasion the dress was thrown in the bin the next day. Sorry make that twice.
spoilt cat
I somehow found myself again the night before a wedding "making it work" last Friday. I promise I started a full week ahead of time and I had a plan and everything organised before Friday night. But the universe made sure I was either exhausted and recovering from night shift or out of the house at family commitments all week. I finished this dress at 4:30 Saturday morning and had to be up at 10. Which is why I waited a full week to take these photos.
This is a byhandlondon Elisalex dress. My first one and I'm very impressed with this pattern. It's not perfect mostly because I cut lots of corners but I think it's passable. I traced a size 14/18 and added a 2 inch fba.

I did this because my upper bust measurement was 40" and my waist measurement was 33". This was pretty close to the 14/18 which is full bust 40" and waist 35" except my full bust is 42". I followed the instructions from the sew along and it worked perfectly. Those girls know how to do a sew along now. I left the waist a bit roomy to leave room for a sit down dinner. I took 10 cm off the bottom of the skirt but I might take a bit more off next time.
Lucifer looking for attention and my awesome shoes with a gold heel
It is made out of 2 fabrics a synthetic gray/brown lace with gold glitter sprinkled on top and a interesting gold woven silk fabric that behaves a little like a taffeta. The lace was $4 a meter on sale and the silk was $20 a meter both are from darn cheap fabrics. As soon as I got the silk home I threw it in the washing machine and shrunk it. It was on hand wash mode. That counts right?
Trying out some model poses but the BF is making me laugh. fail.

I stretched it back as best I could before cutting it but I am sure it is all wonky. This is a hand wash only dress. The kind you do in a sink with your hands.  

Next time I will start a full two weeks in advance.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The good and the bad. The ugly and the beautiful.

very sad Singer 99
very sad photo of a very sad singer 99. Photo from the original eBay listing
I bought this machine for parts over the weekend. I needed a ¾ sized base and cover. I am in the middle of a mass maintenance of a bunch of my machines. One of them is a little ¾ sized Japanese 15 clone.

They were made in hundreds of factories in Japan after the war in any colour you wanted. These were sent all over the world to have a locally made motor bolted on and badges added.
a singer 15 with RAF decals.  I really want one of these one day.
Some people call them 15 clones because they use almost the same mechanisms and are roughly the same shape as a Singer 15. But don't be surprised if you get an ear bashing if you say "15 clone" to the wrong person. A lot of sewing machine people take offence. They are not exact copies. The Japanese made a few improvements. The bobbin case's are not always the same. Some of them have a feed dog drop switch on the bed of the machine. But as a general term I think it's a good one and I use it.

machines made in Japan usually have JA punched with the serial number
My little 15 clone is smaller then most. In fact it is a bit rare. I wouldn't want to declare that it is worth lots and lots of money, I bought it from a very nice man for $16, but you don't see them as often as the full size. It didn't come with a base or box so I bought this very sad looking 99 for the box. Now even though my little Chevret is not a clone of the 99 it did fit.  I am very thankful that those Japanese factory workers 50 years ago copied singer with so much dedication and detail.  Unfortunately the base and box is very sad as well. It's coming apart and the veneer is coming off in parts. Some bright spark painted the lid with some watered down brown purple paint which has been coming off on my hands and all over my sewing room. I don't think I will be able to save it.

The listing and the pick up was very typical for an eBay purchase. The sellers had no idea what it was. The 99 in bentwood box was designed with a knee lever mechanism. There wasn't a knee lever in the box which happens a lot. They go missing. People think it is just a random piece of metal and throw it away. But the seller had packed an extra foot peddle and cable. No matter that this plug wouldn't fit. When I got there the machine was set on top of a magnificent industrial treadle machine with gold decals. I do not know much about industrials so could not tell them much about it other then it was industrial. The sellers then told me it was a family heirloom and they bought the 99 to replace the huge machine sitting in the industrial table. That would be like putting a very small peg in a very large hole. Or driving a Cadillac and replacing it with a smart car. I told them if they sew they should use it. Maybe they will maybe they won't.

And then they mistook my brother for my boyfriend so I said good day.  

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.

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.