Dec 31, 2013

Garibaldi Shirt making - Collar mock up

I've been trying to figure out the collar for my Garibaldi shirt. The standing collar from the Simplicity shirt pattern I'm using to 'Frankenstien' parts is too small for me, so I've had to work out how to make it bigger. I basically just extended it from the fold, and it seems to be ok.

Trouble is, I have no idea just how tall a Garibaldi collar would have been. What I have made stands about 5cm tall. Is that too high I wonder?

Dec 20, 2013

Bullet-shaped Egg

One of the ladies produced a weird egg. The question is, is she trying to send a message? And should I be afraid?

bullet-shaped egg

Dec 6, 2013

Op-shop score: Caning it! [Marie Antoinette Dress project - Part 3]

Y'know how oneday in a thirftshop you'll walk past a big old bag of cane and think, ugh, who would buy that? Even I can't see a use for that.... And others days, you think, OMG OMG that's exactly what I needed!

For the first time in my life I was in need of cane. And I found it. For only $6 from the lovely ladies at the Mosgiel 'Butterflies' op-shop.

Why cane? Am I channeling my inner 70s child about to make easter baskets for everyone! One for you! And you! Dear Timmy needs an Easter basket! Nope, it's quite simply my dear: Paniers.

"Huh?" You may reply

You know, those delightful 18th century devises for making skirts all sticky-outy. Let me remind you Gentle Reader, henceforth as I am on the journey of making my niece a Marie Antionette dress for her birthday. And back in the day cane was what was used to form the internal structure of said paniers.

And thanks to the Dreamstress' clear instructions I even know how to make' em! To the sewing machine! Cane ho!

I also snagged over 4 metres of cream satin which I plan to use for the underskirt/petticoat.

"How much for the fabric?" you may ask.

 $2. Not $2 a metre, $2 for the lot! Ahahah hahah ha! 

Sorry, overcome with a breif bout of bargain madness - which is a real thing. Look it up.

cane for making paniers, and fabric, part of my Marie Antoinette style dress project

Nov 22, 2013

Life before me - objects from the drawers of my 100 year old sewing machine

I think anyone who has bought an old piece of furniture will understand that odd thrill to find something in the drawers.

I was very lucky when I bought Ms White, the former owner -- how many have there been since she was made in 1906 I wonder? -- hadn't gotten around to restoring her, or sorting through the junk in the drawers.

And admittedly it was mostly junk - but correct me if I'm wrong, it's the endless possibility of what might be within, than what's actually going to be, that drives the nosey/curious/dreamers like myself. As if we can make a connection to lives gone before through the things they leave behind.

Most fortunately for me my White VSIII sewing machine came with a nearly complete box of rust-free sewing feet, (most of which I have no clue at this stage how to use) and two bobbins for the shuttle. Not many bobbins, true, but better than none.

Other items of note were: vintage rag-rug tools, two steel corset bones, a fountain pen nib, Bakelite buttons, a spool of silk thread on a wooden cotton reel, and a tiny squirrel jewellery charm.

What's the best thing you've found 'left behind'?

Nov 19, 2013

Garibaldi Shirt project - Shaping the back

With making a Garibaldi-"Franenkstein shirt" being a shirt made up from several commercial patterns, I just wasn't feeling the way the back was progressing with the patterns I have gathered so far.

Although I haven't found any photos/illustrations which are speficially of the back of Garibaldi shirts, it seems to me the common back piece of 1850s and 1860s bodices have curving side-seams, so that the main back piece forms a sort of triangle. I really like the look of that cut too.

So in order to get that look I'm adding another pattern to the mix: Simplicty 4900 .

Simplicity 4900, which I have borrowed, has that triangle back in its dress pattern. Although it doesn't have the drop-shoulder I wanted. But somehow I managed to trace a new back pattern piece by blendingthe back from Simpilicty 4900 with the drop shoulder in the Very Easy Vogue V8193 back piece.

I don't know how I managed it, but it seems to be working...

Nov 15, 2013

The Perfect Apron

My handmade birthday present of choice this year has been aprons - partly due to getting a ruffler foot for my sewing machine, and what could be better suited to ruffles than an apron?

I came across "The Perfect Apron" by Robert Merrett at the good old Dunedin Public library and for my sister-in-laws B'day whipped up (10 hours! ack! I'm so slow) an apron based on the Hot Lips cocktail pattern. My only change was to add a pocket - using the pocket pattern Floral Dance from the book.

the apron I made for my sister-in-law

My youngest niece just loved it and wanted one too (not the niece who wants the Marie Antoinette dress). I gave her the book and she picked out Gypsy Spirit.

My only change was to make the design reversible and again use the Floral Dance pocket. It took me about seven hours to complete - not including the pocket.

She loved it, wore it all night as we played 'shop'. And when my hubby went around to their place the next day, she was still wearing it.

reversible apron for my niece

Nov 12, 2013

Opshop score! Wedding Patterns

Recently I acquired 3 - yes three - wedding type sewing patterns from the op-shop, Orphans-aid international, located in South Dunedin for $2. Money well spent I feel. No, I have no plans to make a wedding dress, but I couldn't help but notice the sleeves and skirts do resemble Victorian styles.

Despite my glee at obtaining such a neat haul of patterns, it feels wrong somehow, getting wedding dress patterns from an orphan's charity...

Style Patterns  - No# 1204. "Misses [Wedding] Dress or Bridesmaid dress". circa 1976
Simplicity - No# 7389. "Misses Bridal and Bridesmaid dress". circa 1977
Simplicity - No# 9050 "Brides' and bridemaids' dress". Circa 1989.

Oct 11, 2013

Marie Antoinette Dress - Part 2

When I suggested to my niece I make her a Marie Antoinette style dress she seemed very keen. A week later and she confesses she doesn't actually know what style that I meant...

Uh oh

So I asked her to draw a picture of the kind of dress she would like...And what do you know, looks like a Rococo style to me.


However, even to my inexperience sewer's eye I can see the back sketch doesn't quite match the front, but I can work around that. I've even found some polkadot and powder-blue fabric. Yay!

And even more progress: I made up a bodice toile using the Simplicity 5042 pattern I borrowed --- although I have altered it somewhat. The original pattern has a zipper in the back. Agh. No, thank you. --- and when J tried it on, it fit perfectly.


Let's hope she doesn't grow much in the next 3 months...

Oct 1, 2013

Tutorial: How to Take apart an Empisal Sewing Machine Tension Unit

Why would you want to take apart the tension assembly unit on your vintage Empisal sewing machine? Good question. Perhaps like me, the tension check spring broke and needed to be replaced. Maybe your unit needs to cleaned. Whatever your reason, I wouldn't advise doing this unless it's absolutely necessary.

Should you decide to take your tension unit apart make a photo record of the process, your machine maybe not be identical to mine.  

Finally, I'm no expert, I'm just sharing this in case it helps someone out there because when I broke my tension check spring I couldn't find any info online about what to do for this brand of sewing machine, and I had to figure things out for myself.

In the another post I will show you how to put the tension unit back together - which is a lot more complicated, so be warned!

One last note: in these photos I'm using a replacement tension check spring which I made from salvaging another part, read about that HERE.

Sep 25, 2013

Buying this 100 year old treadle would be totally legit if I collected sewing machines... Right?

You know how one day you have five sewing machines and the next day you have six?

Maybe not.

Regardless of where you personally fall on the awesome scale (award yourself 1 point for each sewing machine you own), please Say Hello to my little friend, I mean newest acquisition: A vibrating shuttle treadle sewing machine, with "Coffin Top" table, made by White. (White were a USA company that rivaled Singer back in the day)

White Vibrating Shuttle treadle sewing machine VSIII
White Vibrating Shuttle treadle sewing machine VS III
Ain't she pretty?

Ok, important details, you'll want to know: How old?
Ah, not quite sure, the serial number puts her manufacture somewhere between 1903 - 1915, so let's say at least 100 years old. [UPDATE: Thanks to Tammy in the USA for ringing the Helpline at Husqvarna - who took over the White Sewing Company - I now know my machine was made in Cleveland, Ohio on the 26th of Feb, 1906!!!]

Does it work?
*ahem* Not sure at this stage. It appears to have all its parts... so Maybe. I'll clean it a bit before I try sewing.

How did your husband react?
Good question. He was...nice about it. Didn't bat an eyelid. (Makes me suspicious he's planning on buying expensive new golf clubs). He just said, "No more buying machines this year" and then he went on to change that to "If you want another sewing machine, you'll have to give one away."

And I agree that seems fair. Very fair. Too bad he doesn't know about the broken one I have hiding in the basement! Ah hah ahhaha hahah hahah! That still counts as one! I could get rid of that and get something better! Ahhhhh...


Now I totally understand how old ladies become obsessed with cats.

Sep 23, 2013

Tutorial: How I made a replacement Tension Check Spring

When I broke the tension check spring on my vintage Empisal Goldline sewing machine, I was unable to buy a replacement.

Here's how I made a replacement by salvaging a tension spring from another sewing machine:
 I salvaged a tension spring which had these characteristic in common with the broken spring:
  •  same coil length,
  • same coil diameter,
  • coils wound in the same direction as the broken one.
Using wire side-cutters, I cut the salvaged tension check spring to resemble the original.

= Voila! Replacement spring ready to go.

Sep 18, 2013

Mini Tutorial : How to Make Ruffle Cuffs

Sorry this is a bit brief, I made these ruffle cuffs for a friend's birthday, and didn't take many photos, so hopefully you can follow along what I did.

To Make Your Own Ruffle Cuffs, you will need:
  •  4 pre-ruffled fabric strips conforming to the measurements below
Make these using your sewing machine ruffler foot if you have one - mine looks like this - or gather the fabric, to these dimensions: (NOTE: these are the completed dimensions AFTER ruffling/gathering)
Main ruffle =  longest edge is your wrist measurement, shortest edge approx 3 and a half inches.
Smaller accent ruffle = longest edge is your wrist measurement minus 1 inch, shortest edge approx 1 and a half inches. 
You will also need:
  •  2 strips of leather (length = twice your wrist measurement plus 2 -3 inches)
  •  4 D-rings
  •  2 pieces of bias binding or scrap fabric to make a casing. 
Then follow the pictures below, and I hope it works for you. :)

Tutorial: How to sew ruffle cuffs for Steampunk

Sep 17, 2013

Iron Beauty awakes from her coma!!!

You know how sometimes you go to bed an ordinary person but the next day you wake up and you're a super genius? Today is my day!

Even though I have tried before and failed, the sewing machine gods were smiling on me today because I figured out how to put my vintage Empisal tension assembly unit back together, even though there are no instructions anywhere online.

But that too is soon to change. Learning from my mistakes I took lots of photos, and in the next few days I'm going to post a tutorial How to Take an Empisal Sewing Machine Tension Unit a part - And How to put it back together.

Not only that, I figured out how to replace my broken tension check spring using a salvaged spring from an old Singer - I'll post a tutorial on that too. UPDATE Tutorial: How I made a replacement Tension Spring

Right now I'm off to run victory laps around the garden. I fixed Iron Beauty! I fixed Iron Beauty! I fixed Iron Beauty!

Iron Beauty awakens from her coma

Sep 9, 2013

Costuming Outting

Some mornings are ordinary, other mornings you get to dress up in Victorian and Edwardian outfits, huzzah!

Today the costuming group I joined recently, Images of Past Dunedin , were invited to present at this month's Mosgiel Ladies Probus Club meeting.
I was very fortunate to be able to attend, mostly due to the generosity of Helen, loaning me two of her splendid outfits.

Members of costuming group: "Images of Past Dunedin" attend Mosgiel Probus meeting
Images often do "fashion shows" around Dunedin, any money raised goes to buying books for the children's ward of the hospital.

Sep 5, 2013

Birthday Request - Marie Antoinette Dress - Part 1: The countdown begins

This weekend my niece asked me to make her a *ahem* French Maid's outfit.

After a few minutes of looking in the air, twiddling my thumbs, wondering how I could tell her I didn't feel that was appropriate for a 12 year old - without having to explain why, I chickened-out and instead suggested, "How about a Marie Antoinette dress?"
That was greeted with enthusiasm.


But having barely made a 'fancy' dress for myself. Will I be able to make one for someone else? Will it end in tears? As the dress is intended for her next birthday - Feb 2014 - at least I have plenty of time.

To begin I have borrowed a pattern which I think will make a good base for the outfit - Simplicity 5042.

Simplicity 5042 kids Marie Antoinette costume - bottom left
In case anyone else out there also needs to make a Marie Antoinette style costume, I'm gathering resources which may prove useful and they can be found on my pinterest board HERE

Aug 31, 2013

Making an 1860s Garibaldi Shirt - Part 2

My Garibaldi shirt is well under way. Here are some progress shots of the first mock-up using calico. So far I've stuck to using the Very Easy Vogue pattern V8193 which can be seen in Part 1. As you can see the front bodice panels have a single dart at the waist and a pronounced drop shoulder - the drop shoulder is a key characteristic of 1860s clothes. So far the shirt is very plain, dare I say dull, but I like the way the bodice curves in at the waist.
The sleeves are a bit volumputious--volumness--fricking huge with pleats at the shoulder. And I can't tell at this early stage if the sleeves will look right until I put cuffs on them...

Garibaldi Shirt making in progress

For fans of old sewing machines may be interested that I'm sewing this shirt using my vintage Singer 15 circa 1937. Made in Scotland the machine was purchased new by my mother-laws family in Malaysia. Originally a treadle powered machine, it was converted to an electric motor in the 1970s. That means it's a little temperamental to operate - starting and stopping is a process of winding up or down. It's not a fancy machine by any standards and only has one function: straight stitching - forward - it lacks reverse.

But it gets the job done and perhaps this low-tech way gives me a slightly more authentic experience in the making of the shirt as originally they would have been hand sewn. Although mass-produced sewing machines started being sold in the 1850s, it wasn't until the late 1860s when they became a common (but expensive) household item.

Obligatory Cat-on-Fabric-photo & 1937 Singer 15

Aug 17, 2013

Aug 13, 2013

Making an 1860s "Garibaldi" Shirt - Part 1

I've been thinking about what to make next, and from the research I've done I've decided to go with a Garibaldi shirt, as it will go nicely with the skirt I already made for my 1863 outfit. The style was very popular during the early 1860s, if you want to learn more there is a really good article on 1860s clothing HERE from the University of Vermont.

Thanks to the Internet Archive, I was able to download an 1862 copy of Godey's Lady's Magazine, which has several pictures of Garibaldi shirts, I've complied them below, for your viewing pleasure.
The Garibaldi Shirt - Images complied from Godey's 1862 edition

As to drafting a Garibaldi shirt pattern, I'm playing the mad scientist and my plan is to make my own 'Frankenstein-Garibaldi' by cobbling pieces from various patterns I've bought in op-shops.

The Bishop-style sleeves in the two Vogue patterns on the left look about right to me, and the Very Easy Vogue has the drop-shoulder I'll need. The Simplicity pattern has a collar that I think will work...

[Cue the lightening and the maniacal laughter]

Aug 5, 2013

How to Make a beeswax polish to Restore Singer Bentwood case

The bentwood case that came with my Singer66 was in need of a little TLC as the wood was very dry. I researched online what was the best - easiest - cheapest method and came up with this recipe:
1 part beeswax to 4 parts olive oil

I tried it and it worked fine, but being a tinkerer I modified the recipe a tiny bit so that it would smell even better.
my polish recipe = 1 part beeswax, 1 part coconut oil, 5 parts olive oil.

Here is how I made my Beeswax Polish:

1) I chopped off about a teaspoon of wax (when balled together) from a pure beeswax candle I had.
2) In a heatproof glass, and using a double boiler, I slowly melted the wax.
NOTE: Beeswax is highly flammable - Do take care!
3) Removing the liquid wax from the heat, I poured it into a container with 4 teaspoons of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (I used tanning oil because that's what I had) and kept stirring with my wooden chopstick.
As the wax cooled it looked like whipped honey.
4) I applied a small blob onto a soft, clean cloth and smeared it on the side of my Singer sewing machine case. I then used the cloth to polish the wax into the wood.
The 5th picture shows the case, with the left side freshly polished, and the right side in it's original condition.

I was a bit concerned the case would feel sticky afterwards, but once applied it left the wood glossy with no apparent residue. I applied a few more coats over the next couple of days, and I'm very pleased with the result.

If you're going to try this, I suggest you apply a small amount at a time, always test on an out of the way patch of wood in case you don't like the results. And as I said before: Beeswax is highly flammable, make sure you use a double-boiler, keep away from open flames.

Have fun!

Homemade Beeswax Wood Polish

Jul 24, 2013

It's a Boy...

...In case you hadn't heard.
Which reduces my name guessing game in half.
My Picks = Richard or George.
Apparently George is the top favourite in the UK.
Richard doesn't even make the top 5.
Why not?
I thought there had been a softening to old Richard the Third in recent times.

Jul 22, 2013

ohhh! Royal Baby on the way!

Quick, quick, place my last minute guess for a name.

Boy = Richard, or George.
Girl = Alice or Alexandra.

Now, off to watch CNN, live, live live!

Jul 19, 2013

1863 Outfit to Mark the Dunedin Botanical Gardens 150th

Made it! Just not on the actual day...

This is only my second ever Victorian Costuming Project.
I drafted the spoon bonnet pattern myself, an earlier version seen here. The skirt is simply 4 plus metres of panels that have been box-pleated at the front and sides, and cartridge pleated at the back. It's worn over my cage crinoline petticoat hybrid. The jacket is based on the Spring Paletot pattern a free pattern available through resources provided by The Ladies Treasury

Now what to do with my 1863 outfit? As luck would have it, Otago Boys High School are also celebrating their 150th this year. I wonder if they'll have a fete open to the public? If not, maybe I'll go pose outside the gate. It's all about the photo-op after all. ;p

Happy costuming everyone, and Happy 150th Dunedin Botanical Gardens! My, you are old!

Jun 25, 2013

Project Petticoat - Stage 3

At last I have found a suitable product to provide the internal support for my cage crinoline petticoat hybrid. I was in Mitre10 and saw a gardening bag kit that had 3 steel hoops to support the bag - and it had been marked down from $50 to just $5. Yay!

So the petticoat is sorted, but to finish my 1863 outfit in time for the botanical gardens 150th celebrations, I still need to hem the outer skirt, attach sleeves and trim to the bodice, and I haven't even started on a bonnet.
I estimate I have about two weeks work still to do. Unfortunately the 150th celebration is this weekend. I don't think I'm going to make it...

Jun 17, 2013

Book Review : "Guide to dress making" by J Henry Symonds (published 1876)

The Guide to dress making by J Henry Symonds is a must-have for anyone interested in Victorian sewing techniques. 
Published in 1876 it includes earlier dressmaking techniques with diagrams on how to do cartridge pleats (which it calls gauging), and also how to make engagaentes, a type of separate under sleeve popular in the 1850s.

The main downside is the book focuses on ‘Ladies Underclothes’ and therefore doesn’t have many patterns, and what’s included is extremely basic but the How-to-sew information provided by the very readable text makes up for this lack and I rate this book 4 out 5 stars.

Patterns of note: chemise, nightdress, engagaentes, basic skirt, dress trimmings-ruches

The Guide to dress making also includes:
  • estimating material yardage
  • a glossary of terms
  • diagrams and examples of stitches, hems, cording, bias binding
  • instructions and diagrams of how to measure person
  • pitfalls for beginners to avoid.
  • Very clear written instructions on cutting gored panels for skirts, including lengths required and allowing for hems, followed by a clear but basic pattern (which is drawn very small)
  • Written guide how to assemble a dress
  • diagrams how to lay out pattern on fabric
  • sew seams and create seam casings for whalebones.
  • Shows a couple of methods of dress decorating with ruches – this a little complicated looking, but worth seeing
  • briefly covers bodices for balls, discussing options and giving tips on materials and styles– text only.
  • A few pages dedicated to making over old dresses – text only.
  • Text discussion with tips to making jackets, Dolmans etc.
  • Chapter with clear instructions and diagrams on making a chemise and nightdresses.

The Guide to dress making is free to download through the Internet Archive HERE.

If you liked this Review, check out my next Victorian Sewing Book Review HERE

Where to find Public domain How-to-Sew books from the Victorian Era

If there's anything that gets my wannabe costumer's heart beating a little faster it's genuine Victorian dressmaking books, add to that FREE Victorian sewing books and you can well understand my joy at discovering the wealth of public domain books available through the Internet Archive - which as far as I can tell,  are scanned copies of old books housed at the Library of Congress.

The books can be downloaded as PDFs, and some you can even load to your Kindle etc.

However, searching the archives can be a bit hit and miss, so I thought I would share and review some of the books that I find there, to find my reviews click on the "Book Reviews" link or "Public Domain Dress making books" in my side bar.

May 23, 2013

Project Petticoat - Stage Two

Using an absolutely massive 4 metre length of calico I acquired recently, [Making Makes My Life: Project Petticoat: Stage One  ] the construction of my crinoline petticoat is going well but I've come a bit unstuck on what to use for the boning. I should say, use cheaply.

Because after much thought it occurred to me that flat sprung coils used for drain snakes might be perfect - and have the bonus of being closest modern equivalent to what cage crinolines were made of.

I searched every local $2 shop with no luck, only to find the type of drain snake I needed at Mitre10 - $12 for a 4.5 metre coil.

I bought one just to try, and it works perfectly, holds it shape but is also flexible. But my petticoat has 4 channels, so I'd need to buy 2 more drain snakes, putting the project well over budget.

I'll have to think about this. I was hoping to get my whole 1863 outfit done for under $40.

making my crinoline petticoat hybrid - stage 2

May 22, 2013

Christchurch CBD Two years after Earthquakes

This month I went to Christchurch, my  plan was to check out the Edwardian heritage park of Ferrymead, but this didn't eventuate. I did get to look around the CBD and thought I'd share some of my photos.

Since the devastating earthquakes 2 years ago (learn about there HERE) over 1000 unsafe buildings have been demolished with still more to come down. Cranes now dominate the skyline and tourists like me wander near-empty streets.

Christchurch Central 2 years post quakes

Apr 30, 2013

Is it possible to be addicted to Sewing Machines?

A recent conversation:

Me:           "I just bought a Singer sewing machine."
My Sister: "Another one!"
Me:           "Er...yes. But this one has a hand-crank. It has great control."
My Sister: "How many sewing machines have you got now?"
Me:          "Counting broken ones?"
Sister:       "Yes."
Me:          "Counting mum's rusty one she made me store?"
Sister:       "Yes, counting them all."
Me:          "Five..."

Barely a year ago I had zero sewing machines. How did I go from none to many? I'm glad you asked.

After I met and fell in love with Iron Beauty, a friend was moving away and wanted to sell her old Singer. I bought it sight unseen and learned something wonderful. You see, excuse my ignorance, but at that time I didn't realise Singer produced different models. They looked the same to me: ornate chrome face plate, curved body, black enamel.

But I had just bought a Singer 319, circa 1957. It didn't look standard. It looked awesome.

A little while later my mother-in-law wanted to give away her Singer 15. Built in 1937 it was pre-war! How could I say no?

I was happy, I was content. The 319 has a vast array of decorative stitches, but Iron Beauty remained my workhorse, having the most reliable zigzag stitch. Then I broke her.

Of the 2 remaining, the Singer 15 could only do straight stitch (no reverse either), but nothing bothers her, she can handle the thickest material - unlike the 319. The downside to the 15 is she was originally a treadle-powered machine converted to a motor, so her starting and stopping function lacks precision.

I started to think how good it would be if I could buy a hand-crank that I could attach to the Singer 15.

That's when a circa 1924 Singer 66 in working order with hand-crank came up for sale on Trade Me.

And I started to think, uh-oh, what have I become? Am I a collector? Or do I have a sickness?

Apr 16, 2013

Project Petticoat: Stage One

In making an 1860s outfit the secret to getting the skirt 'poofing' nicely is a Cage Crinoline. As the name implies it was just that - a cage - made of graduating hoops which were strapped on with the under garments. A revolution in its day this contraction held aloft a lady's skirts, maintaining the fashionable dome-shape, while also reducing the weight and freeing the legs from being entangled in multiple layers of cloth petticoats.

Dresses in the 1850s were supported by a round hoop system but by the 1860s the fashionable silhouette had become elliptical, flatter at the front with the skirts swooping out behind.

There are plenty of great companies out there that still make crinolines/patterns today, like Truly Victorian.
But they're way over in America, and as I'm not too concerned about this being historically accurate construction-wise, I figure why not try and make my own?

My starting plan is to make a hybrid Petticoat Crinoline - basically a boned petticoat. I've been experimenting with mocking one up using a striped sheet that I sewed in channels for boning. 

Project Petticoat - First Mock-up

I think if I pad the hips with my bustle pad the shape will be OK, but I can see from this test run I'm going to have to make it much, much bigger. The bottom hoop has a 2 metre diameter. I think I need to make about 3 metres. Epp! SO MUCH FABRIC!

Good thing I bought a huge calico curtain from Toffs for only $2 - as pictured on the washing line. Have to wait and see how it turns out...
Project Petticoat - stage 2: Build it Bigger

Apr 8, 2013

Iron Beauty Update

This is a post I've been putting off, but as my post on the box of Stitch Cams that came with Iron Beauty, is one of my most popular posts, people are probably wondering why no follow up...

The reason is, Iron Beauty is currently in a coma from which she may never recover. And it's all my fault.

What happened was, several months ago I was having trouble with her tension (a common problem with vintage sewing machines) and so I wound the tension knob a little bit tighter than I should - okay, A LOT tighter - and something went spoink-clunk, and the fine wire that guides the thread snapped off. But that's not the worst of it.

I thought, all I need to do is take the tension unit apart, remove the broken spring, buy a replacement, put it all back together.

Firstly when you take a broken tension spring of a vintage Empisal/Brother sewing machine of indeterminate age into a modern sewing shop where they sell only brand new *cough, plastic* machines, asking for a replacement, they look at you as if you're cr-a-zee.

I returned home - the sales ladies laughter ringing in my ears - and it occurred to me: My mum has an old, old black Singer, (you know the type) rusting in her garage. I figured I'd take the spring from that. No worries. Problem solved.

I took the tension spring from mum's Singer, and went back to the pile of parts that was iron Beauty disassembled tension unit and *pop* the way it used to look vanished from my mind. Not a problem I thought. I'd have taken photos when I took it apart, after all I always take photos. I'm not an idiot.


I am an idiot. I didn't take any photos. I couldn't put the unit back together. In the end my long-suffering hubby managed to put most of it together, however, one tiny, tiny screw left over, and it's all over red rover.

I oiled her, packed her into her case, were she remains. In a coma.

Lesson Learned: Always, always take photos when you take anything apart from your Sewing machine.

UPDATE - after nearly a year Iron Beauty has awoken from her coma! Iron Beauty lives!!!

Apr 5, 2013

Original Spoon Bonnets from 1863

Browsing online I found a fantastic group photo of women wearing spoon bonnets - I can see with mine I'm going to have to add a big bow under the chin, and also stuff a heap of ruffles/flowers under the brim.

"The First Board of Officers of The Iowa Soldiers Orphans Home. Sept. or Oct. 1863, Davenport, Iowa”

The original link to the photo is HERE

Apr 3, 2013

My First Victorian Costuming Project: 1860s Spoon Bonnet

Having recently become interested in Victorian costuming I've been wondering where to start. What to make first? I love the fashions from the 1870s and1880s when bustles ruled supreme and flounces and pleating burst from every seam, but I'm a beginning sewer, I'm using the skills taught to me in high school, so as much as I hate to admit it, trying to make an 1880s outfit would be a bit ambitious.

And then I learned something that gave me an idea.

Both the Dunedin Botanical Gardens and Otago Boys High School were founded in 1863 and are celebrating their 150th this year, and it occurred to me that Dunedin has a wealth of buildings and venues built during the Victorian era and over the next few decades many more establishments will celebrate such milestones.

So my idea is: I will begin my costuming journey in 1863, when clothes and fashions were simpler, and as time marches on, hopefully my sewing skills will too.(either that, or I will get bored and do something else)

Wanting to start with something small, and after a bit of research on fashions in the 1860s, I decided to tackle a Spoon Bonnet. My decision was partly due to finding a tutorial HERE which showed me how to get the brim shape.
>>I didn't follow all her steps, like lining my hat with hessian instead of cardboard, because I wanted it to be washable, also I sewed it flat so it could be reversible. [My construction is far from historically accurate, but I could do a tutorial if people are interested.]

Constructing an 1860s inspired Spoon Bonnet

Above are a few pictures from when I made the Spoon Bonnet, (it took about 4 days to make!) and a photo from its first outing at Brighton Gala Day - now I just have to make the rest of an 1860s outfit. The Botanical Gardens celebrate their founding on the 30th of June 2013, I guess that gives me about 3 months...

Apr 1, 2013

Nugget Point Lighthouse

With the long Easter weekend, and the continuing run of warm weather, the hubby and I thought we'd go for a mini adventure, somewhere we'd never been before. Inspired from reading "The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse" (by Dunedin author Fredrik Brouneus), I suggested we go to Nugget Point Lighthouse.

And I started to wonder, with the lighthouse located only an hour and a half drive south from Dunedin, an ideal day trip, why had I never been there?

But now, having been there, I have the answer: I am afraid of heights. I am very afraid of heights.

Nugget Point Lighthouse, South Island, New Zealand, 2013

The pictures do not capture just how high up it is!!! The path is mostly unfenced! Eeeek!
Excuse me while I go outside and hug the ground.

Mar 18, 2013

Guess who got a Ruffler Foot for her sewing machine...?

And thanks to people posting tutorials on Youtube , I now know how to use the darn thing!

 Pictured above is the first thing I completed: a vintage-esque apron for my cupcake-baking sister.

Jan 11, 2013

Meet the Ladies

Since we live the quarter acre dream, we thought it was time we got some chickens.

Pictured top left is the first egg! Laid unceremoniously in the dirt, perhaps that was the chook's way of saying she didn't think much of the plastic storage cubes that we were trying to trick them all into using as nesting boxes. So Hubby built a lovely wooden nesting box and now everyone is happy.

We've had a few weird eggs, including a couple of giants double-yolkers, middle picture left-hand, and even some with soft shells, as per below.

And the chooks names? Henrietta, Henmione, Henna and Chiquita.