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.