Jan 27, 2014

Sewing Machine Tutorial: How to Use Stitch Pattern Cams

If you have a vintage zig-zag sewing machine you might have a box of stitch pattern cams. These come in the shape of weird knobs or discs that you have to place within your sewing machine if you want to go beyond the basic zig-zag stitch and create other decorative stitches.

It has taken me ages to figure out how to use the stitch pattern cams that came with my vintage Empisal sewing machine, because there are no instructions anywhere online (seriously, am I the only one who has one of these awesome machines??) but now that I have I wanted to share a tutorial just in case it will help someone else.

How to Use Stitch Patterns Cams on a Empisal Goldline zig-zag sewing machine, Model GL-2E

How to Use Stitch Patterns Cams on a Empisal Goldline zig-zag sewing machine, Model GL-2E
  • Select a Cam
  • Set the ZigZag control to the max - this step is important
  • Open up the top cover housing.
  • Peer inside and locate the tooth gear wheel - don't worry, it's obvious.
  • Place the cam exactly centre on the gear, aligning the hole in the cam with the small knob on the gear. It should fit nicely and sit perfectly flat. [If it doesn't, check you set the zig-zag to 5]
  • Only now loose the dial controlling the zig-zag length so the stitch width goes down to zero. No need to re-tighten the dial.
  • Reduce the stitch length to as small as you can - mine is set to half a stitch. You'll probably need to play around with the length once you start stitching.
  • Close up the cover and proceed to sew.
  • Magic! The cam now controls the stitch that is produced. 

Jan 24, 2014

18th century Petticoat - Marie Antoinette Dress Project - Part 5

Having learned how to make an adult-sized 18th century skirt, which you can see here in an HSF challenge, it was easy peasy making a kid-sized one mostly because I didn't have to make it much smaller.

The ingenious bib front and back construction of the petticoat means it will fit for ages - probably until it wears out. All I really need to do is sew some ties underneath to control the length.

Anyhow, here are photos of the completed petticoat showing with and without the under support of the paniers I made which as you may recall, my niece was less than thrilled about. That's ok, I won't make her wear them but I wanted to show you, because as you can see they really do create the right silhouette for the era.

18th century style petticoat - with and without panier supports

And below you can see some of the making details. I sandwiched two layers, the silky outer is backed with cotton.
And if you to have to make a late 1700s inspired outfit, I have gathered a ton of resources on a Pinterest board HERE

Jan 22, 2014

Op Shop Score! Vintage craft tools for Tambour Embroidery

Have you ever read these lines from Jane Austin's novel Northanger Abbey

Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim. Catherine knew all this very well; her great aunt had read her a lecture on the subject only the Christmas before; and yet she lay awake ten minutes on Wednesday night debating between her spotted and her tamboured muslin, and nothing but the shortness of the time prevented her buying a new one for the evening.

Did you briefly acknowledge the word tamboured and have no clue what it meant? Well get ready for enlightenment.

While reading some library books researching I came across 'Tambour Embriodery' a popular 18th century pastime. It involves a net-type fabric stretched over a drum or hoop (think Tambourine and the names makes sense) and the embroiderer passes a tiny hook through the front of the fabric, hooks a thread from underneath and draws up a loop through the net, repeats, drops the first loop onto the second in a crochet action, carries on to form a row of chainstitches.

Although I have never done any embroidery - or crochet for that matter - it occurred to me, here was a potentially super easy historically accurate method for embellishing garments.

I trotted off to my local craft and sewing stores to inquire if they stocked Tambour embroidery hooks. Oddly enough they did not. Only one store had even heard of them, announcing no-one had asked for Tambour hooks for twenty years. Well, what can I say? I'm decidedly retro.

Fortunately being decidedly retro I don't stick to the beaten path and in Butterflies Hospice Op-shop on Hanover Street I scored these awesome vintage craft tools that look like tiny crochet hooks. See how tiny the hook is? OK, now these aren't officially Tambour hooks, but they should do the business.

[If anyone can tell what these hooks were really meant for (lace making??) Please let me know.]

And after scoring an embroidery hoop from Restore, (whoop only cost a $1.50) I've been experimenting with differtent types of thread to create the chain stitch, which, just as I hoped is super easy satisfyingly historical.
Tiny hooks (they have their own caps! too cute) used for my Tambour-style embroidery
If you're keen to learn more I've set up a pinboard Embriodery DIY which contains Tambour Embroidery How-Tos amoung others.

PS.  Also known as 'Aari' this style of embroidery is used today for attaching beads to fabric in the couture garment industry. And final fact for the day: Tambour Embroidery was the inspiration leading to the invention of the sewing machine. Neato!

Wait, wait, I forgot to say how much the hooks were. 50 cents each! Score!!!

Linking up this week with other thrifters: Black Bird has Spoken, and Sir Thrift Alot.

Jan 13, 2014

HSF '14 - Challenge # 1: Make Do & Mend - An 18th century petticoat

Although my posts are getting behind, in real life I am speeding along in completing a Marie Antoinette dress for my niece's birthday - due second weekend of Feb.

And thankfully I've finally timed it right so I can enter this step as part of the 'Historical Sew Fortnightly' which I have been following on Facebook since last year.

Part of making the MA dress meant sewing a petticoat or underskirt and thanks to the tutorial "An Easy, Authentic Eighteenth Century Petticoat" by Koshka the Cat I was able to make one - two in fact. I made an adult-sized one for myself, which I'm sharing today for the HSF challenge, and I made a child-sized one for my niece, photos of her one to be posted soon.

To construct the petticoat: basically take a huge rectangle of fabric, pleat it down to 70% of total waist, add an apron style waistband and ties. Repeat so you have a front and back. Stitch together at the sides but leave the top 9 inches open. The only thing I altered from Koshka's instructions is I doubled the thickness, pleating down two sheets to give the petticoat extra poof. You can see in the photos, top side and under side, show the two layers of pleating.

bib openings makes it great for sizing!
The Challenge: Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014 - Challenge # 1: Make Do & Mend

Fabric: 1 x stripey polycotton valance, 1 x white polycotton flat bedsheet

Pattern: no pattern required

Year: 1700s

Notions: just thread

How historically accurate is it? Not sure. The shape is accurate, but the materials, let's say...50% and I did sew it on a machine, not by hand...

Hours to complete: 6 at least. Not complicated but bulky!

First worn: not worn yet

Total cost: $3 for valance from Toffs Dunedin, already had the white sheet.

Completed 18th century petticoat

Jan 7, 2014

Op-shop Score! Dressmaking Book

Teaching myself sewing had me borrow every book I can find on the topic from the Dunedin Public Library, often having to borrow the same book again and again. But I won't have to be so reliant on the library now as I have my very own how to sew text "The Complete Dressmaker" by Peggy Hayden (first published in 1976) which I picked up from the Salvation Army for $4! Yay.

It covers how to make your own block/sloper and several sections which can be applied to my Victorian costume making projects, for example there's a section on wide belts which should help when/if I decide to tackle making a Swiss waist, which I'm feeling would be a nice addition to my 1863 outfit.

Jan 3, 2014

Paniers for Marie Antoinette Dress Project - Part 4

Let's talk Paniers.

Using the excellent instructions provided by the Dreamstress here and the cane I purchased here I completed some pretty nifty paniers. Since it was the first making them I thought I'd follow the Dreamstress' directions exactly and made them adult-sized, planning to make a smaller child-sized version for my niece once I got the hang of the design.

However, on showing the paniers to my niece, and giving her the big spiel about it all being historically accurate blah blah, her response was, "They look weird"


Obviously 12 year olds don't appreciate historical accuracy as much as one would expect. Poo! Looks like I might just have to sew a big poofy petticoat of some sort. Time is really ticking on though - just a month to go until her birthday and I have to deliver a completed MA dress. Maybe I should have started a little earlier?

Hmmm, and what am I going to do with an adult-sized pair of paniers? It's not like I'd make an 18th century outfit for myself, I mean like, I'm all about the 19th century... *sigh*
18th century repo Paniers I made using cane for the internal supports
finished paniers with their internal cane supports

...of course though, no reason I couldn't branch out. Just a little. Maybe. Change is scary.

[Note if you to have to make a late 1700s inspired garments, I have gathered a ton of resources on a Pinterest board HERE ]