Tuesday, 2 December 2014

An apron and lots of bias binding (again)

Alright I promise that, during my sabbatical from blogging, I did sew something other than aprons but for the time being that is what I a bringing us all up to date on.  No more aprons for a while after today.  At least for a little while.

I have already blogged about Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover.   The pattern for this full length apron comes from that.  The pattern pieces for this and the other projects in the book are included on large sheets at the back of the book for you to trace off yourself.

The book is neatly arranged for the sewing novice.  Each chapter takes the form of a 'Workshop' which teaches the reader a new technique.  This is then followed by a project which makes use of the newly acquired skill.  The 'Bound-edged apron' project tests -guess what? - the use of binding and patch pockets.

I decided that the usefully sized pocket should not pattern match with main apron piece.  I did however try to centre the pattern piece on a motif so that over all the pocket ended up looking balanced.

I was very much in Singer 15K80 mode when I was making aprons during the late spring of 2014.  Hardly surprising I got a bit smitten with that machine once I got it sewing well.  Just look at those stitches!  I am rather proud of the triangles strengthening the corners.  Remember, after all, I was able to achieve those on a hand cranked machine which lacks a reverse feed - lots of needle down, presser foot up, action going on and I actually counted the stitches while I was sewing.

I am slightly less proud of the above nonsense.  The method of attaching the binding involved sewing through all layers at the same time - it looks a lot better from the right side.  This being me I was able to include, even on an apron with only two very simple pattern pieces, a flat felled seam, albeit a very short one at the nape of the neck.  There is no way I could "press open and finish seam allowance with a zig zag" given the machine I was using to sew this project - what's a boy to do?

I cut out the ties using a ruler and rotary cutter on the long grain of the fabric.  They are stitched along their long edge, turned through and then the open ends turned in and topstitched to the apron edges with a square and cross thingy.

All the raw edges are encased with home made bias binding.  Lots of measuring and fun!  Recognise the green fabric from the second apron with a ruffle?  I told you my stitching looked more even from the right side didn't I?

Here is the finished apron all ready to be sent off it's new owner - ignore all those work shirts that needed ironing!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Another apron with a gathered ruffle

This ruffled apron is separated from the first by about eighteen months of time.  The first was such a hit with the ladies of the family that a second was needed to prevent a charge of favouritism on my part.  I was able to take more detailed pictures of the second apron before I gave it away to my Mam.

This apron is made of printed cotton poplin and lined with some plain white poly-cotton so that the raw edge of the ruffle is fully enclosed and the apron has a nice amount of heft, or body, or whatever you want to call it.

 The curved patch pocket is edge-stitched in place.  The side seams are angled slightly toward the top so that the pocket forms an open bag.

This being apron mkII I knew that I wanted to make sure to match the bobbin thread to the white lining fabric rather than to the green pocket.  Sewing with two different colours of thread is a dead giveaway for uneven tensions so full marks to the Singer 15K80 I sewed this with!

The ruffle is gathered at a ratio of 2:1.  When I first used this pattern I sewed the running stitch for the gathering by hand.  This time I was bold, I was brave, I was fearless and used a vintage Singer ruffler attachment.  I had to mess about with scraps a bit to get the fullness of the gathers as I wanted them.  I wasn't quite brave enough to use the ruffler to gather and sew the ruffle onto the apron in one operation as the old manuals suggest is possible - one step at a time!  I probably didn't save much time but using the ruffler was a lot of fun and the results are a pleasing firm even gather.

The instructions on finishing the ties are pretty nifty too.  The square ends are folded in on themselves at 45 degrees to produce neat points that are pressed and edge-stitched in place.

And one last close up of the hemmed edge of the ruffle in case any one is any doubt over how tasty the stitches produced by a 56 year old machine really are!

An apron with a gathered ruffle

Dear readers and follows I am sorry not to have written sooner.  I really don't know where the time has gone.  More responsibility at work plus regular weekend working, a new home with, for the first time, a garden?  Big changes seem to have left little time for blogging and sewing during 2014.  The choice: sew or blog so I sewed and left the blog in free fall.  Similar to not getting in touch with a friend or relative the longer you leave it the harder it gets.  Time for an update?  Past time!

The pattern for this apron came from the Liberty Book of Home Sewing.  My version, pictured below, was one of the first things I made on the Singer 401G - months before I wrote my first blog entry.  It's modelled beautifully by my gorgeous and glamorous sister.  The apron was a birthday present for her.

 I really enjoyed putting this project together.  It was one of the first things I shopped for specific fabric for.  It's made of Liberty Tana Lawn in the Carline and Glenjade patterns.  It really is lovely stuff to work with as I am sure many of you will know.  The pattern requires only two pieces which I drew on squared paper following the instructions from the book.  The waistband, ties and frill are all straight cut across the width of the fabric using a rotary cutter.

The apron was fun to make and allowed me to develop a couple of new to me, at the time, skills

  1. Patch pockets
  2. Gathering
  3. Bagging a lining
I followed the book instructions for gathering the ruffle which involved hand sewing a running stitch the length of it.  This must have added quite a bit of time to the making.  I didn't know at the time that I could just have easily sewn a long machine stitch with a loose top tension in much less time and achieved the same effect.  Thank goodness I have read some more books since then.  The next step was marking both the apron and the ruffle with pins at different spacings and gathering the latter down to the same spacing as the former.  The result was pricking even gathers!

The one other thing I would have done differently in hind sight was to make sure I matched the bobbin thread to the apron lining when I attached the patch pocket.  I never thought - experience (or lack there of) once again.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

It's curtains… for the sewing room

I moved house twice in 2013.  I have been lucky in that both of the dwellings allow for a designated sewing room.  Some of you will remember the first one from the blog entry last Summer.  The second has seen more service as a spare bedroom than for sewing.  I think this is because it is equipped with a futon rather than a decent cutting table.  It does however have a fantastic 1930s sideboard in which to store fabric, haberdashery and patterns and the room has enough floorspace for the Singer 201K in its cabinet.

The previous owners left behind a black-out roller blind and an empty curtain track so I thought I would have a go at curtains.

I was inspired, in part by one of my Christmas presents [am I really blogging about Christmas presents in April?] Sewing Machine Basics by Jane Bolsover...

… which contains instructions on how to make sheer curtains…

...and partly by a pair of poly chiffon curtains that came from one of The Much Belovéd's previous residences.  The curtains would not typically be my first choice of fabric but they were unlikely to be used again elsewhere, sheer and would therefore work well with the existing blind, free and available and therefore of no consequence should I happen to ruin them.

I laid a curtain out on the floor which was the only place big enough to do so.  The top of the curtain was finished with a tab top and the bottom partially finished with an overlocker.  I suppose the idea was to hem them yourself to the required length.  I rather suspect that this pair of curtains may have been supplied with their own packed of fusible webbing for just that purpose.

The tab top wasn't going to be much use to me because the type of curtain track I had inherited so the first thing to do was to get rid of it.  I set about it with my sharp shears.  The nasty plasticky label also disappeared along with the top hem.  Imagine putting a great heavy label like that on an item made of transparent fabric!

This operation left me with a long piece of cloth, hemmed on two sides, overlocked across the bottom width, with raw across the top.  Each curtain was more or less the width of my window and, from what I had read, using both would give me a nice fullness when gathered over the window.

The next step was to turn my attention to that overlocked bottom edge.  I decided to look upon that partial finishing as a gift on this slippery sliding shifting fabric and use it to help me produce my hem.
I began by turning up 1½ inches.  I turn the folded edge up again so that the line of overlocking was enclosed by my first fold.  This gave the bottom hem a triple thickness and a nice bit of heft which should help with the hang of the finished curtains.   I felt the need to use a great many pins to hold this turning in place.  The fabric handled something like a cross between a crisp packet and a bin liner.

The instructions in the book are to pin and then hand baste (tack) every bit of sewing you do.  I am sure that this approach produces fantastically neat results… … eventually.  A big apology to the purists but I just couldn't face that kind of investment of time in a piece of second hand polyester.  I managed to produce a decent hem using plenty of pins and the 1936 Singer 99K hand crank.  The machine handled a fabric which would not be invented until five years after it was built pretty well I thought.  I was sure to use a light tension to avoid puckering though.  I used a cool iron to press the hem because I was terrified the fabric might melt.  It just about holds a crease but not for very long.  More on how things went at the other end of the curtain next time!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bonding with Singer 15K80

One day early last autumn I got out the Singer 15K80 to do a quick job sewing some furnishing weight chintz.  The cotton thread I used was pretty old, it came from a wooden spool that arrived with the machine, and thicker than the usual polyester I buy.  I really struggled to get the '15' to produce anything like the kind of stitched vintage Singers usually make.  The stitches were loose at the beginning of the seams then would improve - a bit.  The best I could do was to back the top tension right off to get the top and bottom threads balanced but then the overall impression that the stitches gave was somehow sloppy.  It was hard to distinguish neat individual stitches making up the line.  Hard to explain and I didn't take any pictures at the time.

The poor quality of these stitches in spite of many rethreadings and much adjustment of the top tension were rapidly making me fall out of love with this machine.  I have often thought of the 15 as a bit of an odd ball in the Singer stable with its odd man out bobbin and bobbin case.  Three of my machines take class 66 bobbins so why did I even need the hassle of yet another type of bobbin?  For a few minutes I even considered throwing in my lot with the 15k80 and selling it.

Instead I did some thinking and research and came to the conclusion that my problems were, more than likely, related to bottom tension.

It took me quite some time before I could find some really useful practical advice on how to set up from scratch a class 15 bobbin case.  One method I watched on You Tube relied on buying a new bobbin case set up at the factory and then pulling yards and yards of thread through the tension until you develop a 'feel' for what should be the right tension - er there must be a more scientific way than that…!

And of course there is.  A big thank you to Charles Day who submitted these instructions to singersewinginfo.co.uk helping people like me (and you?) to improve the performance of their vintage Singers.

Step 1: weigh out just under one and a half ounces of sugar

Step 2:  put the sugar inside a tiny ziplock back.  The one I used came with spare buttons for one of The Much Beloved's shirts and was just the right size.

Step 3:  Tie the bobbin thread to the bag of sugar.  My bag happened to have a small hole punched in it for just that job.

Step 4:  Load the bobbin into the bobbin case.  The first time I did this I discovered that the tension on this bobbin case was so light that the bag of sugar quickly dropped to the floor sending the bobbin spinning in its case.  Ah-Ha!  So there's the cause of my sloppy stitches and inconsistent tension.

Step 5:  Using the small screwdriver; little by little I tweaked up the tension until it was sufficient to just hold the bag swinging in mid air.  A sharp upward motion should allow one to two inches of thread to be pulled off the bobbin before it comes to rest in mid air again.

Step 6:  Load the bobbin and case into the machine; check the thread path of the top thread;  adjust top tension to balance the top and bottom threads; admire the beautiful even straight stitches produced by class 15 Singers.  I think I may have just found a new favourite.

Monday, 27 January 2014

A nightshirt for me: McCall 8372

After successfully sewing the onesie for The Much Beloved I thought I deserved some night attire of my own.  I couldn't see myself in a one piece.  Too reminiscent of overalls - there would be real danger of me attempting an oil change in one of those.  I took a fancy to something more old school (or should that be skool?).

McCall 8372 is excellent value as a pattern.  Just look at the many garments one can make with it.  I wonder if it was one of the last non-multi-sized patterns.  I ordered the large based on my 42 inch chest measurement.

Those of you who have read the blog will know that I am keen on free or very cheap fabric especially when practicing on a new pattern.  Regulars will also know that I am quite partial to repurposing duvet covers.

I have (had) this wonderful 100% cotton Conran duvet cover bought at Heel's ages ago.  It did years of service on my bed but it must be at least four since I've used it and it now doesn't go with anything.  It's a gorgeous cotton twill ticking and much washing has improved its beautiful soft handle.  I thought it would make a great nightshirt.

The pattern has clear instructions.  Diagrams backed up with directions which take into account whether you are using a straight stitch or zig-zag machine.  There is sufficient seam allowance for  the shoulder, armscye, and side seams to be flat felled.  The neck facings are turned under and top stitched to the wrong side for a neat finish.

The shirt features a rounded patch pocket on the left front.  I made a bit of an effort to get the stripes to match up.  I missed having reverse feed when I edge stitched the pockets.

The applied cuff bands are cut on the long grain which I think makes these stripes really pop in a good way.  They are finished off with a nice bit of edge and top stitching courtesy of the 28K.

The one point where the pattern is slightly vague is when it calls for a five eighths hem giving no further instructions.  I took this to mean - turn under a quarter inch, press, turn over a further three eighths so that the raw edge is enclosed within the second fold, press again, pin and edge stitch in place.  I hope I got it right?

The curved hem creates a shallow split where it meets the side seam.  I had to do a certain amount of fudging where the flat fell and the narrow hem meet.  It looks a lot better from the RS and is holding up to washing so far…

I made the buttonholes and sewed on the buttons using the Singer 401G and Singer slant buttonholer.  Results are consistent.  The 28K showed off a bit more with the topstitching on the front placket.

The buttons themselves are vintage brace buttons from Ede and Ravenscroft, robe makers to the Queen. High end or what?  They are rather bigger than the half inch shirt buttons recommended by the pattern but I think they are more in scale with the relaxed characteristics of the night shirt and the colour is perfect.

The finished garment is roomy but then I suppose it should be.  The fabric feels great - soft, comfy and cosy.  I made this nightshirt for a bit a giggle but have ended up wearing it quite a lot.  I used nearly half of a double sized duvet cover, thread left over from another project and three of six buttons from some worn out suit trousers.  So in theory my night shirt cost me only my time and I still have enough of everything left to make another.

"Hey - that's really nice.  I can't tell that it didn't come from a store," said The Much Beloved.  Would that be the ultimate compliment by any chance?

Monday, 20 January 2014

A onesie for The Much Belovéd: Kwik Sew K3713

It seems like onesies are ubiquitous at the moment even here at Oil and Thread where we seldom follow fashion.  According to the stats the likelihood is that by now you either own a Onesie or know someone who does.  I am guessing that fewer people have actually sewn a onesie.  Unless they happen to have a copy of Kwik Sew K3713 lying around.

I thought this pattern might appeal to The Much Belovéd.  He seemed genuinely pleased when he first saw it and quite excited when I finally got down to work on it.  He tends to run around barefoot quite a bit so we agreed on version B the footless sleep suit.

I was inspired by the colour scheme on the pattern envelope and the very reasonable price of red cotton flannel.  An error on my part concerning the fabric width led me to buying twice as much winceyette as required.  During the weekend I spent shrinking, drying and ironing this fabric it felt like we were swathed in acres of red brushed cotton.

Red rag to a bull?

The pattern really isn't complicated and the instructions are first rate.  The biggest challenge is the size of the pieces.  Laying out and cutting took up a lot of space.  It's lucky the dinning table has that extra leaf!  Once the fabric was cut its size made it more than a bit of a handful.

The pattern includes a quarter inch seam allowances which are finished by zigzagging together - must be a job for the trusty 401G.  I heeded all my old sewing machine instruction books' warnings about shortening the stitch length and lightening the tension when sewing flannel.  I think this is supposed to allow the seams to 'give' a little during wear.  Kwik Sew's quarter inch seam allowances mean no trimming - refreshing!

This shade of red has proven to be virtually impossible to photograph!

The neckband and cuffs are sewn into the main body and finished in the same way.

This was my first go at sewing stretchy knits.  I did invest in some Organ needles designed especially for stretch fabric and I played it safe by sewing with my 'modern' machine.  I quite enjoyed the experience and the results are encouraging.

The pattern includes directions for either buttons or snap fastenings.  TMB put in a special request for snap fastenings so that meant buying some new kit.  I may post a full tutorial on fitting snaps at a later date.  They went on without any trouble at all and I think they work well with this pattern.

The pattern is a very generously sized.  I cut the medium based on the measurements on the pattern envelope but in my opinion the finished garment is a shade too big for TBM.  It's actually a better fit on me and I am nearer a large these days.  If I made another (remember I ended up with enough fabric for two) I would either make the small for TMB or reduce the length of the body by 1-2 inches.  TMB was however delighted with his roomy new onesie.  The proof has been in the wearing with the onesie making regular appearances at the weekend breakfast table!

The owner was not available for modelling today