Thursday, January 23, 2014

You Have to Start Somewhere

As I’ve decided to go down the road of garment sewing this year, I think it best to start out right.  And by right I mean to actually acquire the ability to alter a store bought pattern to fit MY body - not the idealized body that doesn’t really exist.  I figure to do this I should start out with a sloper that is an accurate representation of my shape (as scary as that is).  Now, HOW do I do this?

I’ve been researching on the net (oh how I LOVE the Internet…) the myriad ways of creating a sloper.  I have to tell you, my head hurts right now at the thought of trying to accomplish this.  I know I’m probably just making a mountain out of a molehill, but like I said in a previous posts, dressmakers patterns make me nervous and the thought of actually making my own, well, that just freaks me out.  Isn’t it strange how I feel so intimidated by garment patterns but I can tackle the absolute hardest of quilting block patterns with hardly the blink of an eye from drafting my own mariners compass to all the curves involved in putting together an apple core pattern.  No sweat.  However the thought of trying to mimic the contours of my own breasts using a flat paper pattern is just Mt Everest to me!  I need a glass of wine for this….

I picked up my Singer 151 dressmakers dummy last night.  She’s now standing in my living room (which scared the crap out of my husband this morning when he got up and walked to the kitchen as he’d forgotten I’d left it there LOL) patiently waiting for me to turn all her knobs and dials to just the right combination to represent me.  Well, at least to kinda represent me as I’m certain I’ll do some padding here and there to really get the measurements just right.  This leads me back to my discussion on a sloper.  In reading all the ways sewers have customized their dummies many stressed the need for an accurate sloper as their first line of business in the process.  Once a muslin of your body can be created, it’s a matter of putting that sloper onto your padded dummy to make a more workable dressmakers dummy from the a dial-a-measurement standard.

Aaaaahhhh, I DO need some wine!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Year Ahead in Sewing

I’ve been quilting all my life.  There may have been some years in my youth when I let it drop away for a time but for the most part I’ve always made quilts either by hand or by machine.

Something I’ve tackled only sporadically in my sewing life has been garment making.  I’ve made the occasional skirt here and there and even made (with the help of an excellent Craftsy tutorial - The Sassy Librarian Blouse….) a wearable blouse.  But on the whole, I’m afraid of garment patterns.  All those lines and matching points and three dimensional maneuvering scares the bejesus out of me. And of course I NEVER seem to take on an easy pattern. Every project I’ve tried in clothes making has been beyond beginner/novice.  I can’t help myself.  I don’t like doing what I see as wasting my time with something I’m not interested in even if it is to achieve a level of comfort with a technique.  I’d rather just jump in with both sewing hands first hoping at the end to have something I can wear that isn’t too scary.  I’ve had mixed results with this approach….

This year I think I’m going to really dive into garment sewing and see if I can apply all the skills I’ve learned in my quilting life thus far to producing wearable garments.  And I don’t mean patchwork vests or quilted slippers (not that there is anything wrong with this for people who like that kind of stuff - I just don’t happen to be one of them).  More of what I have in mind is tailored, classic elegance in blouses and trousers and dresses.  Simple in design but outstanding in sophistication.  As my husband and I are planning a big European holiday in the next few years it would be great to work on a travel wardrobe.  How cool would it be to walk down the streets of Paris in a gorgeous swing coat (and matching hat, of course) made from fabric of my choice knowing it’s all original and bespoke?  

With my sewing future in mind I’ve joined a BurdaStyle garment making club.  I figure mingling with people who actually KNOW what they’re doing when it comes to clothes making is my best bet at a real opportunity to pick their brains when I’m stuck.  My being a part of their group will be much more beneficial for me then for them.  Of course, if they want to know how to sew curved seams or make a patchwork quilted vest - I’m there!  

Tonight I'm going to buy a Singer 151 dressmakers dummy. I've been thinking about getting a dummy for a while and finally decided I do want one. I'm hoping having a dummy in my size will not only help in making wearable clothing but also stand as a daily reminder of my new found commitment to making a wardrobe. I mean, how can you IGNORE a big 'ol red mannequin in your sewing room every single day?

Watch this space.....

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A New Arrival

This is my 'new' old Empisal Model No. 308 sewing machine I've christened Dorothy.

Yes, I KNOW, I didn't need a new machine.  Absolutely every one of my seven, that's right, seven, sewing machines are in perfectly good working order.  But for any of you out there that are sewers, and sewers with a sewing machine crack habit, you'll understand.  When I saw Dorothy on Gumtree it was love at first sight and I had to have her.  Really, isn't she a beauty!  I never knew there were any sewing machines manufactured in the color yellow! (or orange....).

Dorothy is an Empisal 'Honey' (I love that the manufacturing gave it a cute name).  I have no idea at all what her age is but I suspect early 70's as her whole body is metal and her base is heavy weight plastic. She may have been made during the transition period from all metal to almost all plastic for the 'modern' machines.

Before yesterday when I saw Dorothy advertised on Gumtree, I had never heard of a sewing machine maker called Empisal.  After an extensive search on the net I'm still no wiser really as very little information is available on this make and model of machine.  There's been some suggestion that she originates from South Africa (or was a popular brand of machine sold/used there) and that Brother or Janome may have either taken over the company or it was a branch that was part of either of those companies.  Again, this is all guess work from what I could get from the net.  Unfortunately I have no manual for the machine.  The individual I purchased it from was not a sewer and said it was her mothers and had been stored in the shed for years and years.  All the dirt and grime that I painstakingly took off her will attest to that story.  It took me well over 30 minutes to get her cleaned up enough to thread and give a go.  And the result?  Not bad for an old girl.
The access panel opened to the left of the needle.  This is where the light lives (as the light is turned on from the back directly opposite on the outside to where it's positioned
I think I'll probably send her into my favorite sewing machine repair people, Blackmore and Roy, for a good clean and once over.  They do the work on all my old machines and I couldn't be happier with the results.  The funny thing is that Blackburn and Roy have been established in Perth for ions.  And there's a sticker on Dorothy that says Blackburn and Roy so obviously she had been to them for service at some point.  It's nice to see she was loved and maintained over the years.
Her fly wheel band is unusual as its rippled.  I've never seen this before.

Dorothy's underside.  All metal sitting in a heavy weight plastic base.

As with any old machine after the initial clean up and test to see how the stitching is, I wondered about bobbins.  There are still bobbins sold that fit some of the older machines (especially for Singer) but with a brand like this I was worried I wouldn't find anything to fit without going through heaps of tests first.  Much to my delight, during the cleaning process I discovered LOADS of bobbins in the supply compartment along with a couple of extra feet.  So I have plenty of bobbins to keep me happy for a while.

Dorothy has a few issues that I'll have to deal with.  One is her feed dog button.  The Up is broken off.  I'm sure my husband can do something about it as the previous owner kept the broken button.
The feed dog up and down control.  The up is broken off.

This is the feed dog mechanism on the bottom. 
All in all, I LOVE Dorothy.  I'm looking forward to many stitching adventures ahead!

P.S.  If anyone out there in blogging land has one of these machines, and you're fortunate enough to have a manual - could I get a copy!

Friday, January 17, 2014

It's Been a LONG Time.....

Happy New Year everyone!

It's been quite a while since I sat down in front of my computer to type a post for my blog.  Taking an extended break seems to be the norm for me.  After a few months off I always come back refreshed and ready to 'talk' after resting the 'little grey cells' as Poiret would say.  As I write for a living, sometimes, even though I love to write, I need to step back from my computer screen and regroup in order to stay fresh.

So, what's on my quilting agenda for the new year?  I haven't really made any resolutions as such.  I just want to get some quilts done as in actually quilted and ready to put on the bed.  I've accumulated entirely too many finished tops so now I need to quilt them.  I'm hoping that the quilt frame my husband has been working on for just about a year now will finally be ready soon.  When it is I plan to machine quilt at least three of my present quilts.  A few others I'll continue hand quilting.  During my holiday break I already completed a number of the quilt-as-you-go blocks for the Civil War quilt.

Of course I started another quilt over the break.  It's done in solids which are cottons that look like silk.  Very pretty fabric and I think will look wonderful when put in a completed quilt from a pattern I'm using from an ebook I purchased late last year called:  Modern One Block Quilts

I've found the quilts in this book really inspiring.   This is what I've completed so far (there are ALOT of flying geese in this particular pattern!).

It's coming along pretty quick and who knows, I may actually get this quilt on the bed by the end of 2014!

I wish everyone a very productive and joyful quilting year.