I’m going to the dark side ladies!

Oh dear, we all knew it would happen one day. The Management had a significant birthday a little while back and I spent quite some time making suggestions for his gift. If you think back to the fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin with all the guesses at names you would be getting close to our house at that time. Anyway, almost as a joke I said I could make up the Bridget Riley ‘Nataraja’ picture he loved so much when we visited the Tate St Ives as the quilt I thought it could be way back then – and he said yes. Oh. My. Word. I haven’t done any quilting at all and he wants a quilt that would go on our bed. That’ll teach me.

The Managements quilt supplies

The Managements quilt supplies

Well, we went shopping and I allowed him to have a free hand in choosing the cottons. It was just as well I hadn’t chosen for him as I would have probably gone more true to the original picture  –  and I’m much happier with his choices despite them being very unexpected. Just look at the original!

It looks pretty straightforward at first – but look closely and you can see that not all of the colours are in single blocks, and not all of them stay in their own row. This could take a while.

In addition to that I would like some advice you quilting ladies out there. I would (where appropriate) pre wash my dressmaking fabrics but didn’t know if that was a good idea with quilting fabrics. The cotton stuff I got for the middle (the correct name escapes me entirely – you can tell I’m a quilting novice can’t you?) suggests that pre washing is optional but what is your experience?

As you can tell any help with this project is going to be very welcome. I can sew garments happily but this is entirely new to me. The only thing I know for certain is that this is a job for the old girls…..

Beautiful Molly

Beautiful Molly

Patience - Singer 27K circa 1900

Patience – Singer 27K circa 1900

and me!


Pocket skirt pattern

For a long, long, time now I have been seeing a particular skirt in a number of blogs and really liked it. I loved Carolyns, Winnies, Ruths, and about a gazillion others I have seen. It is a classic. It is simple. I wanted it.

However, I really didn’t want to buy another pattern for a very simple skirt that probably would need ‘tweaking’ to fit me anything like as well as my basic skirt block from good old Winnie Aldrich. Lets face it, if you have been sewing for any length of time you are going to have a basic skirt pattern that you like – and more importantly, that fits you well.

Not a great picture, but I like the skirt!

Not a great picture, but I like the skirt!

This skirt is made from the very basic pencil skirt pattern, but frankly any simple skirt pattern you have that fits well would probably work. By tracing a pattern you are happy with you can make your own pocket skirt pattern at very little cost – and save you money for that spectacularly complicated pattern you are coveting! No original patterns will be damaged – you can use your favorite pattern again as it wont be cut – you will cut your copy.scan.pocket skirt0001

If you are using an a-line pattern then your pieces will look more like my red outside line. Simply decide how deep you would like the top of the pockets to be from your waistband and draw a line at right angles across the front and back from the center lines (Shown in red on my diagram). These lines should match at the side seams. Bearing in mind that you want the pockets to be wide enough to get your hand in through the gap, and deep enough so that things don’t fall out (but not so deep that you have to work too hard to get to the bottom – unless it is your turn to buy the drinks!) draw a square/rectangle of the size required, you can round the pocket corners off later. Cut out another pocket piece.scan.pocket skirt0002

The pocket pieces are then added – one heading up on the skirt bottom section, and one heading down on the yoke section. I work without adding seam allowances to any of the patterns I make myself so the main thing to remember is to make sure you have seam allowances added to the sections that you actually cut!

Once you have the pattern pieces looking like those above you can go ahead and cut out your skirt. My pattern took just under 1m of 150cm wide fabric, but that would vary according to how long your skirt is. This is a pretty short version.

My pieces ready to be cut.

My pieces ready to be cut.

Once you have sewn the yoke onto the back section, and sewn the front by working a wiggly line around the pockets, you press the seams down (so you can put your hands down into the pockets),and you can go ahead and finish it off exactly as you would have done before you fiddled with the pattern.

The beige cord I used has been in my stash for longer than I dare think about, but it has finally been made into something I will wear frequently (and will probably make other incarnations of too!). I made use of all of my machines on this project – straight seams on Patience while I get my treadle action perfected, zip and other ‘fiddly’ bits on the faithful Pfaff, the overlocker did duty tidying up the seams (I’m afraid to say I didn’t do lovely bound seams like I have seen some bloggers make – maybe on a skirt I don’t need to line), and Molly made the buttonhole. A real team effort!

Some of the team!

Some of the team!

One of the regular complaints I hear from some of my clients about garments they have purchased relates to the buttons. How they have been sewn on to a garment isn’t something many of them think about until it is a difficulty for them. I recently resewed all of the buttons on a coat that were too tight to fit through the ‘turn of cloth’. That made me realise I have another ‘tool’ I use regularly that isn’t really a sewing tool – but is an essential part of my box. Step forward – the toothpick.

Toothpick as sewing tool

Toothpick as sewing tool

This little gem can be used built up to as many ‘picks’ are necessary to make a stalk behind you button long enough to accommodate the cloth. So simple, but another ‘You use what?’ moment for some of my friends.

I am very happy with my skirt. But, you know I did this adjustment to save buying and fiddling with another new pattern? I have been attending a kettlebell class at my gym and I have lost 1.5″ off my waist and ended up having to take the skirt waistband in! I’m not complaining, but honestly……

P.S. I was reading another blog today (Hi Robyn!) and read a fantastic quote which I have to share.

She said ‘Stash is like compost – it fertilizes your mojo, but it’s better if you turn it over once in awhile’.Love it! Robyn makes some fabulous garments – if you aren’t familiar with her work go have a look!

Patience is a virtue..

It is also the name I have chosen to give my Singer treadle sewing machine. Those of you with very long memories will remember her arrival from here. I was quite excited by her arrival – but knew I was going to take a while to sort her out. Not least because she was locked up solid. Absolutely SOLID! I couldn’t persuade the treadle to move at all and I knew I was going to have to just leave the oil to work it’s magic.

Well, after a long time the poor old dear started to look like this:

What a mess!

What a mess!

Yes, it is too good a dumping ground to waste. And since I couldn’t use the machine I dumped massive amounts of ‘work in progress’ on the top. The only way to stop was to get the old girl up and running.

The main problem (the lack of motion) had been quietly soaking in oil for months, but the cabinet and machine were both in need of a good clean. I have no intention of this becoming a ‘desirable antique’. All I want is a functioning machine so I got going with the well wrung out cloth and gently buffed away the muck of ages.

The dirty 'before' picture.

The dirty ‘before’ picture.


The shiny 'after' picture!

The shiny ‘after’ picture!

I was quite surprised at just how much filth came off, and just how good the decal looked when it was clean! It is well worn, you can see exactly how the person who used this machine most leaned in over the machine and rested their forearm on the base.

Once the outside was clean and dry I got inside and brushed away all the lint, dust, and rusted pins before giving everything that moved a little drink. I was able to undo the plate on the front and side but couldn’t move the cover from the feed dogs or back of the machine (despite a lot of lubrication and many unsuitable words of encouragement). Once all the dirt had been transferred from the machine to me I decided to leave the oil to work it’s magic and have a bath.

The following day I was able to gently try out the machine mechanism by hand (purred along beautifully with no ghastly noises) before refitting the treadle belt, which had also been given a drink of oil, and trying to move the pedal. Which moved! It is still a bit ‘dry’ sounding but it is now moving freely and operating the machine as it should.

This was the point I was able to replace the needle (which I had removed whilst I ‘fiddled’), thread up, and try it out on a piece of scrap cotton. After all the time this machine had been unused I was delighted to find that the stitch was pretty much perfect. A few snafus while I got my treadle legs going, but this old lady remembers how it is done. I can’t wait to give her a proper job. I think she really suits her new name, having waited patiently to come back into work.

Singer Auto pilot fits my old Janome!

Singer Auto pilot fits my old Janome!

Flushed with success (and I have to admit having just found the box again!) I put the Singer Auto-Pilot buttonhole attachment I bought on e-bay on my Janome 1580. This is the machine I use as a spare and I thought I could leave this attachment, which has plastic guides to create eyelet buttonholes, set up to use if I needed it. I hadn’t read the advert properly – I thought this would go on the hand crank machine – and it needs to be fitted to a zig-zag machine. It took longer to work out how to disable the feed dogs than to get anything else going – and I think the results are OK. But , I wasn’t able to shorten the stitch length despite fiddling for quite some time. I checked online for help (this box didn’t have any instructions so I am working in the dark here) to no avail. Sewing around the buttonhole several times helps, but some of the stitches just ended up spaced out, but on top of each other. Not quite the effect I was looking for. Does anyone out there know how I get a denser finish with this attachment? 

OK - but could be better

OK – but could be better



Islander Jacket Express – Finished!

Hurrah I hear you cry! About time – Hood has finished her jacket. Yes, this has taken far longer than it should have – but I am pretty happy with the result. It would be good to know how long it took to actually sew it, rather than how long it has taken because of life getting in the way.

The finished article

The finished article 

Topstitching and pocket detail

Topstitching and pocket detail

Now that the jacket has buttons on, and the total impression is given, I am not too concerned about the ‘correctional facility’ orange. It is pretty bright – no escaping that – but it will be fine if it is worn with a more subdued colour. The buttons (not studs as I had intended) look very good, and the buttonholes were beautifully worked by the old Singer hand crank machine with buttonhole attachment. Beautifully. Better than my computerized Pfaff would have managed despite costing way more than the old Singer.

As I had the Singer out I decided to try the top stitching (with the upholstery thread I used) with the old girl. I did the jackets topstitching on the spare Janome machine I keep as I couldn’t get a really good tension on the Pfaff and needed to adjust the bottom tension to get a good(ish) finish. Even having spent a fairly significant time messing with the tensions on the Janome to get the result I wanted I really wasn’t 100% happy. As a result I am afraid I did get a little slapdash, so the topstitching doesn’t stand up to really close examination. Step up the old Singer. Without doing anything to the tensions (and I only changed the needle because I couldn’t physically get the thread through the eye!) the result was amazing. Truly amazing. I am never going to topstitch on another machine again. I know that Melissa had made a comment about the quality of topstitch she got from her old hand crank machine in her jeans post. So what did they know about building machines then that seems to have got lost?

Singer on left  Modern machine  on the right.

Singer on left Modern machine on the right.

So, what did I get out of this Craftsy course?

  • I don’t need to pin the bejaysus out of everything. I now have the confidence to use many fewer pins, even if not going ‘pinless’.
  • Rotary cutters are much more useful than I thought. And a gift to sore joints.
  • Frixion pens are wonderful. Really, really wonderful. A great new tool in my armory.
  • My vision is worse than I thought! Thank  you Janet Pray for bringing the magnifying visor to my attention. I have used these on a number of jobs since I had them delivered, and I can’t imagine being without them now. I no longer care about walking the house looking like an alien.

If I hadn’t learned anything from the sewing side the new knowledge about the Rolson magnifyer, and the Frixion pens alone would justify the cost of the course for me. I have sewn since childhood, but always ‘domestic’ methods, so it was good to see the way that Janet batched the processes so that you worked more efficiently. The booklet with the pattern gave most of the information needed to work in this fashion, but the video lessons were great. For anyone who is fairly new to sewing (though I think a certain amount of knowledge would be helpful) this is a great course. Even dinosaurs like me learned new tricks from it.




Another old Singer Machine

It was never my intention to collect sewing machines but when you are offered something like this you have to say yes.

Singer 27K circa 1900

Singer 27K circa 1900

This beauty was being used as a sewing table by someone who didn’t want to use the treadle machine – but who now needed the space. The cabinet is a really nice piece of furniture on it’s own – but the fact that it hides a machine built in Scotland in 1900 makes it super special.

Nice cabinet hiding a fab machine

Nice cabinet hiding a fab machine

Real drawers on the left...

Real drawers on the left…

Treadle mechanism hidden behind mock drawers on the right

Treadle mechanism behind mock drawers on the right

The machine is in desperate need of some TLC , and a lot of oil! The treadle was locked solid but is moving now. I will have to have some patience and spend time of this machine when I can to bring her back into full working order. I am sure that once everything is moving and back in order this machine will outlast me. Everything (other than the treadle band) is solid metal and very hard wearing. I cant wait to try this out properly by making something on it – I am sure that the treadle action must be very therapeutic.

This has obviously been well used in the past as the decal is worn at just the point that you would hold your right hand whilst working. I have identified the decal as ‘Sphinx’ or ‘Memphis’.Whichever name you give it the pictures are beautiful.

I can work quietly on all the sewing I have for clients knowing that behind me all of the little nooks and crannies are slowly drinking up the oil I have put on them.

Sphinx or Memphis - beautiful whichever.

Sphinx or Memphis – beautiful whichever.

Please don’t offer me any more machines – The Management has been quite impressed with this old lady but if she was joined by lots of similarly aged friends I think his patience may be tried!

Another one of those?

Yes, sorry. I have been seduced by the alice+olivia Vogue 1261 again. I am sad to say that my ‘happy top’ has been worn almost to extinction and really needed a replacement. This time I decided to make view B, which is the one with the cowl and set in rather than raglan sleeves. It is still pretty cold here in the UK and I wanted something to wear right now.

Vogue 1261 - View B

Vogue 1261 – View B

After a quick trawl through my stash I came across what can only be called jersey ‘stuff’ which I can remember buying in Birmingham Rag Market for very little money. It is nice and soft, but a little firmer than the fabric I used for the previous incarnations of this top. I would guess it is a cotton or viscose, but with those painted lines it would be impossible to do a burn test!

This was a very quick project, and as I had made view A , ahem, several times before I just went ahead and sewed from start to finish without trying on. I narrowed the sleeves as before though I could probably have left a little more ease in this firmer fabric. It also appears to be a little shorter (probably not ‘dropping’ in the same way as the others) but I am quite happy. As this fabric is plain black on the inside I sewed the cowl with the right side to wrong side at the neckline seam so that the patterned side would be outside when I finished. The plain black does show a bit unless you spend some time organising the cowl so if I was making this again I would aim for a fabric that was OK to be seen on both sides.

I am pretty happy with this, but will be looking out for another top to make. I have a number of t-shirts that appear to be nearing the end of their lives. Why do they all die at once?

Lucky find!

I was in a Charity Shop recently and happened to spot a small, green box out the corner of my eye. That isn’t a ?…..is it ?…..buy it now Kim!

Lucky me! A Singer box!

Lucky me! A Singer box!

An old Singer box! I lifted the lid with some trepidation as it was labelled ‘spares’ but inside discovered a little huddle of machine feet and a couple of bobbins.

Five Singer feet and other bits.

Five Singer feet and other bits.

For £5 I have got a Ruffler,  a binding foot, a rolled hem foot, an edge stitching/zipper foot, and another foot with a single hole in the middle (no other distinguishing features). There is also a seam guide and two metal bobbins. How happy am I?! I think all of these will fit Molly, although with one hand winding I may find myself struggling to manipulate all that I need to with some of these feet. I have photographed the only foot I can’t identify on its own. Any ideas anyone?

Mystery Foot

Mystery Foot

Mystery Foot

Mystery Foot

Original design Shorts suit and cape

I confess I have not managed to get any work done for myself again this week – I am still much too busy feeling sorry for myself. It has been a major effort to keep pace with the work I had to finish to load on anything optional. I went to the dentist yesterday who has referred me to an endodontist(?)  and loaded me with more antibiotics. Fun times.

One of the things I have managed to finish this week is an outfit for a lovely lady who is competing in a hairdressing competition next week. She brought me a sketch of what she had in mind and after making a couple of suggestions, and working with the fabric provided,  this is the result. Lucy was kind enough to give me permission to post the result here. Thank you Lucy! (And good luck).

Lucys Outfit

The patterns for this outfit were all self drafted to fit the model who is very tall and slim. The shorts suit is made from a polyester jersey with a metallic coating – very effective but does tend to ‘craze’ if stretched too much width-ways. The seams are all mock flat fell, and I didn’t need to make any special efforts with neatening as this fabric doesn’t fray at all. I used the ever dependable Harlequin to make the  buttons and belt which were lovely. The cape was made from a transparent PVC type fabric which was not a lot of fun to sew. At all. Thankfully Molly stepped up and made a splendid job of stitching the binding around the edge, and the hand crank made the whole operation slow enough to be very controlled. Am I ever glad I invested in that little treasure!

The lovely model, Sophie, said it was very comfortable so I am happy with that.

Everything I need to get on with the Pattern Magic shirt is collected into one spot so I hope that will be the next post.


Pirate shirts!

The management requested another ‘fun’ shirt a little while ago. Not one to disappoint I decided that it would be a good project as part of his Christmas gift. As you might have predicted, a last minute panic ensued and one of these ended up as an IOU under the tree as it was still in pieces.

The self drafted pattern was already made so there were no fitting problems or other obstacles to prevent this being a really easy project. So…, to make the project more interesting to me I decided to make one of them entirely on the new to me 1945 hand cranked Singer (Molly).  One made on the ‘all singing, all dancing computerised Pfaff – and one VERY old school. Can  you tell which is which?

Which is which?

Which is which?

You want more detail, huh?

Pirate shirts

Edge stitching and buttonholes

Pirate shirts

Edge stitching and collars

Have a guess and I will say which the Pfaff and which Molly constructed in the next post.

I really enjoyed the process of making these – it is so easy to just rush headlong at something you have made before and this made me really slow down. That might have been irritating to some people but I found the repetitive movement really relaxing and almost meditative. The management came in whilst I was making the second shirt (on Molly) and is now convinced sewing is dead easy – ‘You just go like that (make hand cranking motion) until it’s done’. Thank you dear. Now that they are finished they count as shirts 6 & 7 in this years SAM. Clearly I am not going to be able to finish this challenge since it is December 31st now.

All that is left for me to say is Thank you to all of you who have followed my blog, and made a comment or two, throughout the last year. I wish you all (and all the other sewers in the community) a Happy, Healthy, and Wadder Free 2013.