Shiny sharp scissors, snick, snick, snick! (and a giveaway)

I’m excited to share with you guys that I am going to be working with Singer Sewing Company, blogging on their Australian/New Zealand website.

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I’m being joined by Christina of Little Pickers who is based in Tasmania. We’ll both be blogging about our sewing over on the Singer site with a new post every three months so I hope you’ll pop over and see what we’re up to.

To kick things off here on my blog I’ve got a little goodie to share with you all and two more to give away, one each to a lucky Kiwi and Aussie follower:)

New scissors!

Singer scissors (of course!) in a beautiful heritage tin.

We’ll get to the scissors in a moment because initially I was more excited about the tin! It came protected in a cardboard sleeve and it matches all my vintage Singer accessory boxes:)

Squee! Clever packaging makes me super happy.

But we are here to talk about scissors. Here is my current fabric cutting arsenal, it consists of a pair of Mundial scissors and a 28mm rotary cutter which I use with pattern weights and various rulers.

Rotary cutting is a fairly new revelation for me. I use it for all the naughty fabrics. You know the ones. They’re slinky and/or stretchy and just looking a them moves them off-grain. Rotary cutters on a big cutting mat are perfect for zipping around naughty fabrics without disturbing them.

For fabrics that behave, stable ones such as cotton, I still prefer the satisfying snick snick of a nice heavy pair of sharp, all-metal scissors.

The Singer scissors are similar in size to my Mundials with nice sharp tips and maybe the teensiest bit heavier. I like the weight, I think it gives you more control.

So to give these shiny new scissors a thorough review I used them to cut out the project that I’ll be sewing up for my first Singer blog post – it’s the Pauline Alice Cami Dress in the Spoonflower Hot Air Balloons that I mentioned in my last post.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to make scissor action shots sexy but I set up my tripod and got to work.

The dress pattern includes only the bodice, collar and sleeve pieces. The skirt piece is drafted from the instructions. It’s basically a drindl, a rectangle that you gather to fit the bodice width. There are measurements included in the instructions including where to place your notches for center front, zipper and pocket placement.

I actually really like that there isn’t a huge waste of paper just for a rectangle. It also makes me feel like Pauline Alice takes me seriously as a home sewist. I can work out a little bit of maths (or in this case, follow simple directions) and mark straight onto my fabric.

I think the suggested skirt length will be a little short on me plus I always need a bit more over my bottom so I pinned all my pieces in place and then just divided my left over fabric length in half. I ended up with two 70cm tall rectangles instead of the suggested 55cm. After I hem this dress I’ll make a note of how tall my rectangles need to be for next time.Cutting out is one of the sewing tasks I find most tiresome. That’s why I usually cut out 3 or 4 projects in one go but only having to cut out the bodice pieces and with shiny new scissors made this feel really quick.

As you would expect, the scissors were super sharp and made that satisfying snick snick I love. My only complaint would be that they were a little stiff at first but I cut out two more projects after this and they have loosened up.

They are a great pair of scissors and if you’re looking for a decent pair for your fabric cutting needs I highly recommend them. Good quality sewing scissors are an investment and if you look after them (read: they don’t go near a piece of paper. Ever.) all-metal scissors last practically forever.

Oh hey, do you need some new scissors?😉 Would you like to win your own pair of sharp and shiny Singer scissors?

Yeah you would…so here’s what we’re going to do:

  • Share a photo of yourself using your sad sewing scissors on Instagram – maybe they are blunt, maybe they are cheap, or maybe they don’t exist at all!
  • Hashtag #ineedsingerscissors and tell us in a few words why you need your own pair of Singer sewing scissors
  • Tag @thecuriouskiwi and @singer_sewing_aus_nz
  • Don’t forget to mention where you live (Australia/New Zealand)

You have until 4th July then we’ll pick one Kiwi and one Aussie to win their own pair and then we can snick snick away together and sew. All. The. Things.

Sorry this competition is only open to New Zealand and Australian readers.

Happy cutting

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* I was given the set of Singer Dressmaking Scissors you see me using in this post to review as part of my work with Singer Sewing Company Australia New Zealand. All opinions expressed is this post are honest and my own. I freely chose to review this product because I genuinely believe it is a good product, I enjoyed using it and will continue to use it in the future.

#AnnaforArmageddon

Earlier this month I saw an advert for Armageddon returning to Wellington. That means it’s been almost a year since I first wore my still unblogged #AnnaforArmageddon…so I thought I better get some photos:)

In late July last year Armageddon was on in Wellington and for the first time NH and I decided we would go…it was the perfect excuse to finally sew up my Dr Who printed fabric from Spoonflower. I had already decided it would make a great Anna dress and, having made two previously, I knew I could whip one up really quickly…we decided we would go on to Armageddon on the Saturday morning, nice and early before it got too crazy so of course I started sewing my dress on Friday night.

Now I’m just going to pause and talk about my fabric for a bit: It’s called “The Doctor’s Favourite Things” and I ordered it on Kona cotton.

I love that the Dr Who references are designed into a damask pattern so that the symbols aren’t immediately obvious to the uninitiated. I bought it exactly one year previously (July 2014) and I remember when it arrived I was disappointed at the colour vibrancy. To the point that I thought I had ordered the wrong colour combination. I am in design so I know that the computer screen can easily misrepresent true colour but all the photos on the Spoonflower site look much more intense.

Nighttime photos of unimpressed black cats require heavy Instagram filtering – keep reading for more colour-accurate fabric photos😉

So I shrugged that off and put it into my stash for a future project. I pre-washed it on the Thursday (I am not usually a wash-as-I-buy seamstress) and as I was cutting out I noticed little white dots on the fabric.

On closer inspection these were areas where there was no ink. It looked like the fabric had pilling on it before printing and the pills had come off in the wash, along with the ink that was printed on them. I didn’t notice this when the fabric first arrived or before prewashing. There are quite a lot of them and it was really disappointing to discover these flaws halfway through cutting out. I was working quickly and concentrating on keeping the print mirrored while capturing my favourite parts without any accidental Seal-of-Rassilon-beewbs or a poorly placed Tardis.

I kept sewing and never contacted Spoonflower about my experience because I assumed that after having owned the fabric for a whole year, then already washing and cutting it they probably wouldn’t be interested in hearing my issues. However as I was drafting this post I decided that it would be unfair for me to not give them a chance to respond, in particular to the white dots.

Here’s what they had to say (click to enlarge):

So I sent some photos, lots of photos, like these:

And the reply:

Which I am sure you will agree is a great outcome. Lesson learnt: Wash and inspect Spoonflower fabric as soon as you receive it, contact them within 60 days if there are any issues.

I didn’t buy the Dr Who print again as my dress was all finished. I bought Hot Air Balloons instead, inspired by a dress i saw in a window:

I chose the cotton poplin this time and I washed my new fabric immediately. No white dots this time. Still not impressed with the colour vibrancy but free fabric is free fabric.

So anyway, back to the dress, which sewed up the same as my previous two and I wore it to Armageddon with sneakers because the Tenth Doctor is my favourite.

I even found a friendly Darlek.

These more recent photos were taken at Aotea Lagoon, I saw the phone booth on a previous visit and it seemed appropriate.

And in this image we can see that the photographer failed to notice that I didn’t quite get the zipper all the way up but if you squint you can see my label on a purple cotton rectangle that I attached to the facing…oh and slightly below average pattern matching on the CB zipper seam…

The problem with telephone booths and Dr Who themed dresses is that they are begging to be Photoshopped…

Wouldn’t you agree?

Too far?😉

We didn’t go back to Armageddon this year. I found last years event pretty unimpressive. It was held in the concourse of Westpac Stadium, that’s the area immediately inside that you walk around while you try to find the right entrance to your seats.

Concourses are not event spaces, they are circulation.

We arrived just before doors opened and it was ridiculously busy. We were herded clockwise around the concourse past all the various stands, 20% of which were interesting but we couldn’t get to because of the crowds. The other 80% were stalls selling cheap knockoffs of nerdy toys. We decided to do one lap and then head back to the stalls that had caught our eye. At the end of our circuit we found the way back to the start was blocked off for the zombie run so the only option for another lap was to turn around and fight our way back against the flow or exit completely and queue back up outside in the rain.

We exited and went home.

But I got an amazing dress and yes I do wear it to work. You never know when Darleks might show up unannounced😉

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Posh as Cushions

Hello readers:)

Well I haven’t managed to photograph any of my most recent dresses but I have acquired another vintage machine…or two. The “or two” will most likely get repaired and flicked on as it was only $1.00 and not at all what I thought it was when I picked it up. The other comes close to ticking all the boxes on a list for a machine that I thought unlikely to ever find in NZ, let alone at a price I could afford/justify.

I wanted a late 1800s hand-cranked vibrating shuttle machine, perhaps a Frister and Rossmann and what I got was a late 1800s hand-cranked vibrating shuttle Frister and Rossmann machine re-badged by Beale and Company (Australia) because…well in the late 1800s let’s just say we weren’t too pleased with Germany so other companies re-badge their machines to keep sales going.

I spent way too much to get her and she’s definitely got some history – which is a polite way of saying she’s old and she looks it!

I have no year of manufacture but she does sew. She also needs a new bobbin winder bumper and a replacement key for the case which is possibly oak. The machine base is also oak and needing some preemptive borer treatment. Ugh, borer, why do you eat all the pretty timber?!

The case has the the most beautiful mixed timber inlay which makes up for the extremely worn gold leaf decoration on the machine body and distinct lack of pearl inlay that I’ve seen on other models.

And in other exciting news…#vintagesewingmachine #newoldsewingmachine #sewcialist

A photo posted by Melissa (@thecuriouskiwi) on

I want to catch up by posting all my vintage machines in the order that I acquired them but this gorgeous girl makes me want to just drop everything…but I will be good, do my research, buy my parts, get her sewing smoothly and enjoy the journey:)

Also I sewed some cushion covers!

If you follow me on Instagram then you would have seen these photos already:

I bought several different fabrics a while ago from fabric.com after going shopping and not finding a single cushion cover I liked (and just as an aside, curtains will be next…, ugh, home dec sewing, why do you mock me?!)

I cut them all out the weekend after the fabric arrived and bought zippers the following week but I put off sewing them up, well, because I find straight line sewing so BORING!

Last weekend, after some not-so-subtle hints from NH, I sucked it up and tackled them production line style. I knew if I sewed them up individually I’d finish two, maybe three, then give up and find an excuse to sew a dress instead. So I did all the pressing, then the overlocking, then zippers and finally outside seams and in about 2 hours (with dinner and wine drinks breaks) they were done!

#DONE! #homedecsewing #timeforadrink 🍷

A photo posted by Melissa (@thecuriouskiwi) on

 

They look super chubby because the inserts I bought were a little flat so I double stuffed them:) They look great on the couch but will look even better on the new couch scheduled for purchase after the kitchen reno.

So that’s a little update. I’ve been trying to get back into my blogging, I enjoy writing about my sewing and my machines and while I’ve never been a post-a-day kind of blogger I do miss writing here.

I should also mention that Kat and I have been super busy over on The Monthly Stitch gearing up for Indie Pattern Month. It’s a lot of work but it always gives me a sew-jo boost and it’s a lot of fun to give away so many prizes.

As with previous years we’ve got four contests running during June with lots of great prizes from 29 fabulous sponsors. Everything you need to know is here.

This year we’ve also been working hard to try something new- we’re launching three different PDF pattern bundles for sale, one every two weeks, so that you can get lots of indie inspiration and patterns at a heavily discounted price. We launched the first bundle yesterday, you can check it out here. We also have an FAQ post that explains how the bundles work (launch dates etc) and how you can get some sneak peeks of what will be in each bundle.

We’re really looking forward to seeing all the great Indie Pattern Month entries this year and we hope you love the bundle sales too.

Happy sewing:)

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My Singer 99K-13

I’ve fallen really far behind with taking photos of my completed makes lately. Two dresses and two robes (one of which is my Named Asaka that Nikki has dropped a “subtle” hint about😉 ) have posts written but no photographs yet.

On top of that I am about to hem a third dress, a fourth (another version of the second dress) is half way done. Dress number five is cut out and yesterday I wore my Lady Skater for the first time in ages and instantly remembered that I needed 3 more of them…sigh…also I may have accidentally bought the new Victory Hannah dress along with 10 of my work colleagues.

My office is really social, we have everything from the usual sports teams (cricket, netball, spontaneous lunchtime mountain biking) to drawing clubs. A brief lunchtime chat revealed an unexpected count of 11 ladies who sewed and 1 who wanted to learn. There was some sort-of-serious joking about staring a sewing club and now 12 of us meet every second Tuesday after work on our mezzanine level to sew.

We may have just found our Sewing Club uniform, or at least a fun group project for the more confident among us to lead the newbies astray and then we’ll see if anyone notices when we all rock up to work on a Wednesday in the same dress…I’m actually not at all sure it will suit me but I’m keen to try it if only for the fact that it’s the most interesting indie pattern I’ve seen for a long time! I already have fabric picked out that I am happy to sacrifice.

This weekend is a long one so maybe I’ll find time to take photos of my outstanding makes but in the mean time I’ve been busy adding to my vintage sewing machine collection. I have several new/old machines to write about and it’s easier to take and edit photos of them instead!

The last machine I wrote about was my Elna One but I’m actually starting with the machine I bought immediately after the Universal Apollo, way back in June of 2013.

This little 99K-13 came up on TradeMe with two others all from the same seller. A smaller version of the 201K that started this all, I decided one of them must be mine!

They were all in slightly different condition and each came with a different selection of accessories. I thoroughly scrutinised all the photos and ranked them in order of preference. There was a bit of interest but in the end I won my first choice for $36.00.

When it came time for pickup I discovered the seller was my local Mary Potter Hospice so it was doubly nice to see my money going towards a really great charity.

My machine came with the original wooden carry case (and key!) and the knee controller clips nicely inside this case. It also came with the original oil tin and motor lubricant tube and several feet. The instruction book, which is suspect was not originally with this machine, is missing its cover and I also received a book about the motor.

The third book is for a zig-zag attachment (image above) that sadly wasn’t with the machine. I need to find one!

(edit: or maybe not!!)


The “K” is for Kilbowie, the factory in Clydebank, Scotland where she was manufactured and the serial number places this in a group of 30 000 machines made in 1946.

She needed a light clean but she sews beautifully. All I needed to do was change out the little rubber bumper on the bobbin winder, the belt was fine.

What I love the most about this machine (apart from EVERYTHING else) is the bobbin winder assembly. It’s so clever and it really illustrates what I love the most about vintage machines. I wish I could wind all my bobbins with her.

Permit me a little nerd-out here (jump ahead if it gets too much) – the whole bobbin winder assembly runs off of the balance wheel. The bobbin sits on the spindle, located by a little pin and then you lock the whole mechanism down so that the rubber bumper is against the balance wheel.

A tongue of metal sits against the bobbin and is part of the spring-loaded stop latch that holds it in place. Just like with modern machines you first need to de-clutch (release the stop motion clamp screw) and then you can begin to fill the bobbin. As the bobbin fills and the thread on the bobbin gets thicker it lifts up the metal tongue of the stop latch. When the bobbin is full the tongue is at the right angle to automatically release the catch and the whole mechanism returns to its original position. The rubber bumper is no longer against the balance wheel and so it stops turning.

At the same time there is a threaded section on the spindle turning a toothed disc , called the worm wheel, hehe. On the back of this disc is a raised circular section that sits off-center so acts as a cam. The thread guide sitting beside this has a little extension that is held against the cam on the back of the worm wheel with a spring and works as a kind of cam follower. the cam action moves the thread guide back and forth feeding the top thread onto the bobbin evenly.

It’s only 20 seconds but I could watch this all day long, it is truly delightful.

I recorded this video for a Pecha Kucha style presentation at work. The night before I got home late and still needed to get a video of the bobbin winder. The only camera in the house that could record video AND attach to my tripod had a flat battery, so…

The 99K was made from 1911 until the mid 1950s and the only significant design change during that time was the stitch length adjuster.

My machine has the earliest example, a simple screw in knob with no numbers to indicate stitch length. Later this changed to a lever with an indicating scale of stitches per inch and later they separated the scale out with a little indicator in a slot of its own.

You can also see the bobbin winder design simplifies, the worm wheel and fun little waving thread guide disappears. None of my other machines, modern or vintage, have this feature and they all fill their bobbins evenly. I wonder if this is perhaps due to how modern thread is spooled?

So that’s it.

I just think this little machine is really beautiful and so I wanted to share it with you, sorry it took me almost 3 years!

I have some more photos if you are interested, on their own page here.

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Betty in the Sky with Racoons!

I made another Betty dress!

I made another Betty dress a really long time ago!

I’ve made some other things too and haven’t blogged about them either…so here goes with my first catching up post in a while:)

I’d had this fabric since early 2014 and pre-washed it as soon as I got it which is unusual for me (yes, I’m a wash-only-as-required sewist) so that shows how keen I was to sew it up. I just needed a pattern that would suit the large scale print.

Hot on the heels of my last Betty dress I needed another one asap and realised it would be perfect for this fabric. Kat also wanted a Betty dress so we collaborated for a new Twinsie make and for October’s Monthly Stitch challenge, “The Final Frontier”…yes, that’s how long ago I made this dress…

We were a little bit slow getting our photos done and posts written so we too these photos for post during December’s TMS Amnesty Month instead…oops!😮

There isn’t a lot more to say about this make.

  • As I mentioned in my last Betty post I lengthened the bodice by 2cm which was perfect and I was more careful trimming my hem this time around!
  • I also had to piece the corners again due to the narrow width. The pattern is less abstract than the camera print so I decided to match the raccoons. This meant I had to be a bit more careful laying out so that I would have the right raccoon parts available to join on.
  • I deliberately placed the raccoons off center on the bodice front to avoid any Racoon Boobies.

If you are wondering how racoons relate to “The Final Frontier” challenge theme, the fabric colour is called “sky”…I know it’s a stretch but I make the rules and I’m an admin/editor so…😉

We took these photos at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park here in Wellington, among the sandstone columns of the Australian Memorial and in front of the carillon tower. The park underwent a major redevelopment in time for Anzac Day 2015 and the centenary of New Zealand’s participation in the First World War.

The carillon tower was built in 1932 and a large portion of the redevelopment work went into the sinking of Buckle Street so that we could have this fantastic public space in front of it.

Also there are poppies which was a nice surprise.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Sew Over It Betty dress, size 14.

  • Removed fullness from the skirt to match Colette Hawthorne as per previous version.
  • Lengthened bodice 2cm.

Fabrics – Tula Pink Acacia Racoons in Sky, USD$30.00/yd, purchased March 2014

Silk Twill La Sylphide

This will be a short post with more photos than words😉

This is my third Papercut La Sylphide. I wear my Owl La Sylphide ALL THE TIME, it’s one of my all time favourite makes. My second La Sylphide I hardly ever wear. I did something weird to the button placket, I think I cut if slightly off grain, so it doesn’t sit right. I’m also not sure that the lighter colour combined with diagonals suit me…so I needed to make another and when I saw this silk twill at Fabric-a-Brac I knew exactly what it was destined for.

This time around the fabric was way too narrow even for the reduced skirt width that I left marked from my Owl version so I had to piece on the corners. I cut these, as usual, from the selvedge, so that I could leave them unfinished to reduce seam bulk.

I feel like I’ve written ^^that ^^ in almost every blog post recently:)

But it’s a good trick and no one has ever pointed out my pieced on skirt-triangles in the 4 or 5 dresses I’ve done this too😉

Red buttons!

There’s not much else to say, I really want to make another, I just have to wait for the right fabric to pop up again. It’s nice and swishy, maybe a bit too swishy sometimes for the Wellington wind, but mostly I just LOVE the colour.

Was a bit windy…

Harriet says, “Sew more! MOAR!”

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Papercut Patterns La Sylphide dress, straight size S

Skirt lengthened approx 16cms, full width of skirt pattern piece used.

Fabrics – Silk Twill found at Fabric-a-Brac, $15.00 total, bought 2nd May 2015

The lengths we go to for photos…

“Old man, how is it that you hear these things?”*

Last weekend I added a new machine to my little vintage collection.

And you all know when I say “new” I really I mean “old right?

67 years old.

Not the oldest in my collection but certainly the cutest:

It’s an Elna One, affectionately know as a Grasshopper, Elna’s first production machine and the first ever mass produced portable free arm sewing machine.

These machines, in production between 1940 and 1952, weren’t originally given a model number but almost everyone knows them as an Elna 1 or Elna One and I think you can guess where “Grasshopper” comes from.

I’ve been hunting for a good example for quite some time. When they do come up on TradeMe (NZ’s equivalent of eBay) they often have no case or are in pretty bad shape and the good ones go for crazy prices.

There’s one currently up asking for an opening bid of NZD$450, which is particularly ridiculous considering they have only uploaded one photo (the first photo is free) and it has a single sentence description.

Really? For $450 I think you can shell out that extra 25c for a second photo…or go wild, spend a whole dollar for four photos!

/end rant

My Elna One is date stamped April 1948 and I picked it up for NZD$60.00.

It came with it’s clever folding carry case, accessory box and the original power cord which is in excellent condition. The body paint is pretty good too, only a few chips here and there, mostly at the sides on the base, probably from the edges of the carry case.

Even the light still works! I am however a little sad that there was no instruction booklet.

I used a pdf I found online to wind a bobbin and thread her up and everything works perfectly.

After I removed the wad of fluff from under the feed dogs she sewed like a happy purring kitten.

I’m currently sourcing a reproduction manual to tide me over until I can get hold of an original.

I love vintage sewing machines. They are so beautiful and often very clever.

After threading up to wind the bobbin I was trying to figure out how to declutch and couldn’t see anything in the manual. So I just started winding and realised it was already declutched. I think it happens when you fold out the special little guide that carries the thread down to the bobbin.

I also love how the military-look carry case opens. There are two little buttons, one on each side that you press. The case folds open flat and a smooth surface folds open again from some wire clips. After you fold the base inside you can place it flat upside down on a table. Then the whole thing slots over the free arm to give you more sewing surface.  

It’s knee controlled which I like because it’s still quite unique to me and I really love how the arm folds up to sit in front of the machine. I also have a knee controlled Singer but you have to completely remove the arm and clip it inside the wooden case for transporting.

And that’s about it…except that it’s not. You see between this acquisition and my last I may have acquired an extra machine or two…or three…ok, three!

I never got around to writing about them but that doesn’t mean I love them any less…although the Grasshopper is my current favourite and it will take something pretty spectacular to knock her off the top!

I love them all, especially my “baby” Singer, a 99-13 and all her original accessories…and there may be something else pretty special arriving from Auckland at Christmas time with Fashionable Younger Sister, who is my TradeMe Mule…

So I thought that my machines deserved their own page, somewhere for pretty photos, to collect information about each one, links to my posts, useful websites, and updates about the ones that need some restoration/parts. 

I’ve been working on it for a while, setting everything up took ages, so it’s still a work in progress but here it is so far..

I’ve also added a button link to my side bar.

I am considering rotating these machines so that I actually use them, in place of my usual Elna 2130 so keep your eye out for them sneaking into the odd construction photo.

And that really is it.

Ok, it’s not. I am pretty enamoured with my Grasshopper. I took a lot more photos. A LOT MORE PHOTOS! So to keep this post from overflowing I have given them their own page here.

It’s worth a visit, even if just for the Harri outtakes😉

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*Kung Fu Pilot Episode (TV Series, 1972)

Master Po: [after easily defeating the boy in combat] Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?

Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.

Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?

Young Caine: No.

Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?

Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?