Category Archives: Singer sewing machines

Slow Sewing and Dyeing

The start of leaf printing – I hope! Those are sage leaves taken from a plant outside the door and laid out on the tunic. It looks white here but it is a pretty, pale yellow. I have read that garden dyes are hard to photograph unless there is plenty of sun: unfortunately, it’s been dismal here this week so I’ll have to make do.

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The tunic parcelled up ready for steaming.

The tunic is very damp and sitting in the cupboard with the hot water tank. It’s not really drying so I’m thinking about opening it out and using the iron to dry it. I’m in unknown territory here so I can’t quite make up my mind. Interestingly, the copper pipes in the cupboard are leaving their mark on the fabric. I don’t know whether it’s permanent or not. I’m recording everything in detail so I can post about it afterwards.

And this is the result of painting with egg:

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The white strip (actually pale grey) shows the before colour of the linen contrasted with the dyed colour.

After two weeks sitting in a pot with dandelion heads the painted lines have absorbed most of the dye. I am thinking of adding another colour to the skirt – one that’s too pale to colour the painted lines further but will add a little something to the background. Maybe dock leaves?

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This is the dress I’ve made from the same roll of Irish linen as this top and the painted skirt. It’s the Curlew dress pattern from Merchant & Mills: a lovely bias cut pattern. I’ve made it mostly by hand but used the Singer hand crank for staystitching and also (oddly – no idea why) for the the bias binding round the neck. I’m planning a milk mordant this weekend and then it’ll probably go into the solar dye pot with bramble tips (expecting a pinkish colour but we’ll see).

It has been lovely to slow down the sewing in this way.  I’ve thought about every step so carefully and it’s limited the unpicking. Am I the only sewist to race away with my machine only to unpick later? It seemed very simple to ease the sleeve into the armhole by hand whereas it’s a stressful process for me by machine.

Well, I think that’s all to report. Please feel free to ask questions as I haven’t put lots of detail into this.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

 

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Filed under Clothes, dresses, dressmaking, dyeing, fashion, sewing, Singer sewing machines, slow dyeing, slow fashion, solar dyeing

More Garden Dyeing

The same tunic  – before and after. Made from an old sheet and solar dyed in daffodil heads.

The colour is actually more yellow than green – rather like these primroses:

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For those of you who would like the technical details, here goes:

10th April left in sour milk overnight and dried in the shade without rinsing.

11th April Left overnight in water and washing soda. Dried without rinsing.

12th April As 10th April.

13th April Rinsed, soaked in cider vinegar previously used to pickle eggs – not sure why but it seemed like a good idea. Added the daffodil heads and the warm water they had been heated in. I covered the pot with a sack and left it in the greenhouse. I stirred it daily until:

27th April Removed from the pot, rinsed it in warm water and hung it undercover to drip dry. The result is a very pretty pale yellow that’s hard to convey in photos.

It’s now in a drawer to mature until I’m ready for the next stage – probably leaf prints.

This is a probably the dullest skirt in the world as it is but I’m hoping it’ll soon be much more exciting. I made it from the Irish linen I had to buy so much of last year when I was making the OneYearOneOutfit top. This piece was mordanted in milk when I made the top and has been sitting in a dark place ever since. I’ve also soaked it in warm water & washing soda.

I used the brown thread for some decorative hand stitching – oddly the thread was still in good condition when I found it in an old box full of sewing stuff. It’s important to me to use these old things and I’m thinking of using some (probably 1960s / 1970s) press studs to fasten it.

Incidentally, I used my 1930s Singer to sew most of the seams. It’s hand cranked and I keep wondering whether I could find a treadle to put it in. I think it might be easier to use that way.

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The skirt is currently cooling in another pot of daffodil dye. I think next time I will solar dye as the smell of the daffodils cooking is awful and can’t possibly be doing me any good.

I will update you when I see the result.

If you would like to see more frequent but brief postings, please follow me on Instagram – find me by clicking on the photos at the side of my blog.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

P.S. I have since looked up daffodil flowers and find that they are poisonous if eaten.  I wore gloves to process and covered the pot because of the smell. For future reference I think solar dyeing is the way to go for me.

 

 

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Filed under Clothes, dyeing, fashion, sewing, Singer sewing machines, slow dyeing, solar dyeing, textiles

The Seamstress Tag

I’ve just read Emily Ann’s Seamstress Tag here and really enjoyed it, so I’m going to do one myself.

Here goes…

Who are you?

I’m  Norma and I live in beautiful Mid-Wales.

When / why did you start sewing?

I’ve always enjoyed sewing. My Mum was a dressmaker by trade and sewing was a part of life when I was growing up.

I was pretty awful at it though – my clothes were Mum-made rather than Me-made.

I started taking it seriously in my twenties and got obsessed in my thirties. The obsession continues – I love sewing.

Favourite / proudest make?

A “knock-off” Armani suit made from fabric fr0m the Jaeger factory – I bought it on Grantham Market (Lincolnshire). I needed something for a job interview. I got the job & wore the suit to death. I’m still proud of it even though it is long gone.

Disastrous Make?

Lots of those – I laugh when I think about my early attempts; I must have looked a sight. I always wore them to death though.

The worst one recently was probably my bra. I managed to put the cups on upside down. I haven’t tried again but I will one day…

Favourite place for fabric shopping?

Charity shops, vintage stalls, jumble sales, old clothes. I love a good rummage.

Most used pattern?

My own pattern free designs. And just recently, a pattern from a 1934 magazine I’ve made twice and I’ll be using again as a base pattern.

Most Dreaded Sewing Task?

Zips!

Favourite sewing task?

This is a hard one: it changes often. Anything involving handstitching is my current favourite.

Favourite sewing entertainment?

The radio. I like Radio 3 and Radio 4. For those of you outside the UK, Radio 3 specialises in classical music and Radio 4 has plays, current affairs, stories and so on.

Printed or PDF patterns?

I am trying to like PDF patterns but I find them very hard work.

What sewing machine do you use?

A Pfaff Select 1548 – it’s a mechanical rather than electronic machine and it’s been a pleasure to use since the day it arrived. My previous computerised machine went insane (yes, really!) and I decided to go mechanical. I’ve never regretted it.

And I’ve also got this

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It’s a 1930s machine and still sews perfectly.

Any other hobbies?

I’ve got two Labrador Retrievers so walking is a big thing, I run, and I keep hens. And I’ve started knitting.

I hope you’ll want to join in this tagging because I’d love to know more about you.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

 

 

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Filed under Clothes, dressmaking, sewing, Singer sewing machines

1934 Skirt

I’ve finished the 1934 skirt using only 1930s methods. It’s been a fun process and I’d recommend it as a way of relaxing. Definitely slow sewing.

Some 1930s details: the side placket and the waistband

Press studs / snap fasteners were the usual way to fasten a skirt or dress in 1934. Zips were still unusual, at least for home sewers in the UK; only one of my many 1930s sewing books gives any instruction as to how to insert a “slide fastener”.

The waist is finished with Petersham ribbon as instructed both by my pattern and by the various sewing books. The waist edge is turned over the top of the Petersham and the raw edge should be finished with “Prussian binding”. I have no idea what that is, so used a narrow bias binding. You can see from the photograph that it’s a nice finish. I did the waistband by hand – easier than by machine as it didn’t need unpicking afterwards….

I finished all the seams by hand overcasting and sewed the hem by hand too. My 1930s machine is straight stitch only.

What did I enjoy and what worked well?

I like the waist finish very much and would use that again.

I enjoyed the hand overcasting most of the time.

I love turning the wheel of my old Singer. How can it sew so well after 80 years?

I love the pleat. If you have been watching The Durrells on ITV on Sunday evenings you will have seen Mrs Durrell (Keeley Hawes) wearing a skirt with a pleat like mine, but she has one in the back too. It’s not needed for movement but it looks lovely.

What I did not like and what I would do differently

I would stay stitch the waist. One of the books warns you to check the waist measurement as the waist is likely to have stretched. When did stay stitching come in? It’s not in any of my 1930s books.

I would make a button placket rather than the press studs or I might use a zip. I’d stick to the side fastening as I think that looks good.

I will add a back pleat as well as a front pleat just because I liked what I saw on the television.

The next step is the jacket. I don’t wear suits but I think an unstructured jacket would look good with some of my other clothes. I’m going to give myself a break now and pick up the jacket in a week or two.

Meantime I’m going to be looking at this book again and again.

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It has some photos but mostly it has illustrations of 1930s clothes. I just love the illustrations.

EmilyAnn is making progress with her 1930s dress pattern so why not go over and take a look?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1930s, 1930s sewalong, Clothes, dressmaking, history, sewalongs, sewing, Singer sewing machines, textiles

More of the 1934 Skirt

The skirt’s front pleat makes walking possible but I wasn’t happy with the original design (see here for reasons if you are interested in technical details). Above you can see the inverted pleat I made instead. I looked up pleats in my 1934 (ish) copy of Polkinghorne’s book and this was something they did, so it’s authentic. I’ve sewn it in place with hand topstitching as described in the instructions for this pattern.

I’ve found the process very soothing, turning the handle of my 1930s sewing machine, overcasting the seams by hand to stop them fraying. I’ve got the left side seam and placket to do next. This is very slow but satisfying sewing.

EmilyAnn is making great progress with her 1930s dress. If you’d  like to try making your own pattern, her blog is the one to read.

Carol has some very interesting 1930s photos and sewing details if you like 1930s clothes.

Meanwhile, I have bought this to make the blouse.

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I’ll have to change the neckline because the fabric’s cotton rather than “washing silk” and it won’t drape correctly but it’s definitely a 1930s style novelty print.

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x

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The 1934 Pattern

The 1934 pattern is too fragile to use; not suprising when it’s  been folded up inside a magazine for 82 years. It has no markings except for notches and darts cut into the pattern pieces. Seam allowances of 1/2 inch are included.

I’ve started with the skirt. It’s a straight skirt with a slight flare towards the bottom but the main reason you can move in it is that there is a pleat in the centre front seam from around knee high.

I copied the pattern on to greaseproof paper and graded it up from the rather slight hip measurements of the original to mine. Plenty of ease allowed; I can always adjust when I’ve tacked the real thing. I’m no expert pattern grader but if you’re interested in trying, I think a skirt is the easiest.

How I grade a skirt:

Don’t alter any centre seams – you’re likely to throw out the grain line and the skirt will never sit correctly. Just increase the side seams equally. So if you need an extra 2 inches, add half an inch at the side seams; that gives you an inch at each side.  Take a look at one of the commercial multi-sized patterns and see how their size variations are done and how they keep the shape- an easy way to learn.

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There are no hip or waist measurements provided with the pattern – the instructions say to pin the pattern pieces together before you start to check the pattern will fit. The rest of the fitting is done after cutting out – I guess even old sheets were valuable in the 1930s and not to be cut up for toiles as I have done.

The main difficulty with the skirt pattern is the pleat in the centre front. The instructions say to press it to one side and that’s all. That’s not enough because the pleat would sag unless sewn in place. Sewing it in place would require a line of stitching showing on the outside but just on one side of the centre seam.

I can find no reference to a single front pleat done this way in 1930s sewing books and I think it would look awful. I hope the 1934 magazine readers were not disappointed in their suit. Maybe they did the same as me: I’ve turned it into an inverted pleat as described in The Art of Needlecraft by RK & MIR Polkinghorne (1934). It works on the toile.

EmilyAnn is sewing 1930s too. Take a look at her pattern – made by draping – here.

Norma x

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1930s Sewalong: A New Idea

1934 Free Patterns

I’ve owned this 1934 magazine for years now but I’d forgotten about it until this morning. Since I tried on my previous version of the 1930s dress here I’ve been very concerned that making another isn’t the right thing for me. I really like the first version and when I tried it on I realised the only problem is that I have gained weight since I made it. But that might not be such a big problem now as I’ve started training properly for a half marathon in September and so far I’ve lost 5lbs. I’d rather wait and see what happens.

Then I remembered this. The free pattern is still with the magazine and although the blouse has been made the suit is untouched. I am thinking of making the skirt and blouse. I’m  going to trace the pattern rather than use the original. It wouldn’t be the right size anyway. If I do lose weight, the skirt will be easy to alter even when finished. If I leave the blouse until last it will be clearer to me what size it should be.

The instruction pages. Click on the photo to see them close up.

I plan to make up this pattern on my 1930s Singer sewing machine.

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1930s Singer Sewing Machine

And just as a final bit of history:

1934 Send for Patterns

These are the patterns you could have sent for if you’d been in the UK in March 1934.

EmilyAnn has done a marvelous 1930s draped dress pattern at RetroGlam. Do go over and take a look: I guarantee you will be amazed; it’s really beautiful.

Thanks for dropping by.

Have a lovely weekend.

Norma x

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1930s Dress – Some Progress

Thanks to Jackie at Nuhn Handmade I had the idea that I should make the 1933 dress using my 1930s Singer machine. I don’t use it often enough and this is a perfect combination – prevents any accidental use of non-authentic techniques. So no cheating!

I’ve decided on lavender(ish) linen to make my dress and I tried quite hard to source Irish linen but that didn’t work out. I’m expecting a parcel of Italian linen some time in the next ten days.

Emily Ann at Retro Glam is progressing with her 1930s outfit research. Why not pop over and take a look?

Meantime, I’m working on a large scrap quilt and I’ve got a piece of Welsh wool to turn into a dress or a tunic (depends whether it will stretch to a dress!).

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x

 

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Filed under 1930s, dresses, dressmaking, history, sewing, Singer sewing machines, textiles, Vogue Patterns