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?

$5 Vogue 1250

I am a little embarrassed by how long this dress has taken me to finish. It sat waiting to be hemmed for a very long time. I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog but most recently I found a post from October 2013 – Yes, TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN! Which is JUST silly.

 

What colour thread?! I eventually went for the purple.

This fabric was from The Fabric Warehouse $5 Remnant Bin of Endless Inspiration! It was just shy of a meter but quite wide (150cm?) and I decided it must be Vogue 1250.

It’s been so long since I’ve worked with a Big 4 pattern. I have a big collection of them and I keep meaning to sew a few more from that pile but ohh look, a new sparkly indie pattern…lately everything from that corner been a bit too simple and…dare I say it? Yes, ok, boring! I suppose that’s good for my wallet and now have an excuse to dig through my pattern stash instead😉

I really love patterns that use clever shapes to transform flat fabric so I’ve always thought this pattern was really interesting. It’s only 2 pieces, 3 if you count the tiny neck facing.

The main pattern piece is basically an inverted T. The bottom “wings” of the T wrap around to make the back of the skirt with a CB seam below a curving horizontal waist seam.

 I’ve included images of the pieces below:

#1 Front/back – The long right hand edge is cut on the fold and the lower piece extends to the left to create the back of the skirt. The most left hand edge is the skirt CB and above that you can see the curved back waist seam.

#2 Neck Facing – The front cowl neck is left unfinished.

#3 Upper Back – Cut on the fold (left straight edge).

It took me quite a bit of time to work out how to cut it out while pattern matching the striped colours. I wanted to place the front piece in such a way that I could also place the back piece and keep the same colours lining up across the side seams. I was close to giving up when I cracked it.

The yardage calls for 1.2m and the trick that helped me squeeze the pieces out of this length of fabric was adding a CB seam to the back bodice. You can hardly see this, the fabric print hides it perfectly.

It’s currently a little bit tight and far too slinky for work-wear. I feel a bit self conscious but hubby likes it (of course he likes it!) so I’ll drop some extra date night hints.

That’s about all I have to say about this particular dress. It was an easy make and actually quite fast to whip up (if you don’t put it down for 2 years waiting to hem). The instructions are completely illustrated, the front cowl inside edge is left raw but the back neck edge is nicely finished.

Pointing out the vertical seams to the photographer…I think😉

I love supporting Indie pattern brands and I know the “Big 4” often get a bit of flack online. This is mostly due to confusion about ease. Some brands add more than others and often different amounts to different garment types. We all also have our own preferences for how much ease we like and this also differs between styles so it’s no wonder we often blame the pattern when a garment ends up too big (or too small). My trick to avoid all the crazy inconsistent ease is to ignore the size chart completely and check the finished measurements instead. I do this even with indie patterns. If there aren’t any finished measurements you can flat measure the pieces and work it out. Once you know the finished measurements compare them with your own and pick your size based on how much ease you want.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Vogue 1250, size 14.

Added a seam in the back of the bodice to fit on the fabric.

Fabrics – $5 mystery knit from The Fabric Warehouse $5 Remnant Bin of Endless Inspiration! 

I wasn’t the only person getting new dress photos…

Work it Kat!

A Lady Skater in Merino

Before I tell you about my newest dress (read: newly photographed!) can I please direct your attention over to the Sewing Indie Month website where voting is now open for all three categories: Dresses to the NinesEveryday Casual, and Pattern Hacking.

I don’t like to enter this style of popularity contest but I worked really hard on my Betty dress so I’ve entered it into Dressed to the Nines. I’d love it if you popped over for a look and if you like my dress the most, please vote for me by clicking on the little heart in the top right of the image:)

Then go check out the other two competitions because there’s some great sewing there too.

Ok, on to a tale about a summer…last summer…NH and I went for lunch on the waterfront. It was a good summer, actually we went to the waterfront for lunch several times, but this one time (at band camp) while waiting to cross the road I was admiring the dress of the girl in front of us. Nothing crazy special, just a pretty striped jersey dress. NH saw me looking and commented that I would look good in a dress like that and so I looked a bit closer, realised it was actually just a Lady Skater and decided I would make one.

It’s taken me a while but here it is.

I have a lot of stripes in my stash, most of them from various trips to Levana’s Factory Outlet in Levin. I chose this merino and went with the 3/4 sleeves because it was almost winter when I cut it out. Merino is so warm and lightweight. I love this colour combination which I thought would also look wicked with tights and boots.

The hardest part of this project was lining up the stripes as I cut. They were a little uncooperative and quite off grain but I wrangled them in line with the overlocker as I stitched.

I finally got around to sewing all the pieces together at this year’s inaugural NISM. It was so fast and now I need to make some summery versions quick smart.

This pattern come with two sets of instructions: A six page “Full photo tutorial for visual learners” and a one and a half page, text-only  “Crib sheet for Advanced Bad*sses”. It’s nice that you have two options and you can select which set matches your own skill level, or swap between them.

In reality I found the photographic instructions really drawn out and distracting – a clear sign that I should use the other instruction set instead.

I think the patterned fabric with white back was a good visual choice (right side/wrong side was very clear) but then it was often shown on an equally patterned background which I thought was a poor choice and confusing at first glance. 

I worked with the “crib sheet” for almost all of the construction. I used my sewing machine to secure the elastic to the neck and shoulders, then 4-thread overlocking all the seams.

I did have to check the photographic instructions when attaching the neck band. There is no instruction regarding which side the front notch at the neck should be marked on, or which shoulder to sew first. So I got myself a bit confused because I had marked my notch on the left and when the instructions said to sew one shoulder, I stitched the right shoulder.

It doesn’t matter which side you mark the notch (indicating CF of the neck band) or which shoulder you sew first, they just need to both be on the same side. So I moved my notch (read: pin) to the opposite side and then everything made sense again. 

If you are wondering how that works out, the ends of the neck band are then caught in the opposite shoulder for a tidy finish.

So apart from that the rest of the dress was quick. I improvised on what colour to use for the overlocking by using ALL THE COLOURS.

My awesome diagonal pattern matching in action!

We took these photos in Nina’s garden after a delicious high tea.

I need to make about 3 more of these, so comfy to wear and easy to throw on.

THE DEETS:

Pattern – Kitschy Koo Lady Skater, 3/4 length sleeve variation, size 5

No changes, no changes for next time, easy:)

Fabric – 100% Merino, Levana, $18.00/m bought 29.11.2014

Heeeere’s Nikki!