30 June 2011

Butterick Retro Again!

Heads up, it's Butterick sale time (again), this time all current patterns are $2.88 including the Retro range.  Is it me, or has the retro range shrunk? And why don't McCall's have one I wonder? And considering how prolific they were in the 50s, why is the Simplicity repro range so poor?

I am only just starting to find some of the great repro patterns that are now long out-of-print a second time.  These two lovelies arrived in the post this morning:

There seems to have been a spate of scallop hem tutorials recently so perfect skirt pattern to complement those, I have some brown crepe looking for the perfect pattern partner. The misses and girls coat pattern includes misses S to L and girls sizes 2 to 8 in the one envelope - what value!

I've blogged before of my love for mother-daughter patterns, but is it a little sad or is it cute? (Bearing in mind my daughter is not quite 2 and too young to choose what she wears, although I do ask her opinion and she's very good at demonstrating when she doesn't want to wear something!)

Also in the post this morning:
Part one of my floral summer dress.  Just have to draft a suitable bodice now but I'm not in a hurry since summer seems to be on holiday!

I notice on the back that there a typical Vogue clothing label, this one "Vogue Vintage Model" and the "Ask at counter for this label" instruction that featured on some original Vogue patterns.  Are they actually reproducing labels again? I've not seen them about... There was also some stern copyright regulations about not producing garments to sell from this pattern.  I suspect the debate over extent of copyright still rages though...

Introducing My New Best Friend!

broken blue

When my sewing machine broke down several weeks ago, I went into a state of denial.  “It can’t possibly be broken!” I lamented.  It quite obviously was, the bobbin race had shunted forward and there were some confused looking springs sat where the race should have been….

It was like the passing of a beloved pet, one that has seen you through good and bad times, and well she was so young, she hadn’t quite reached her 5th birthday!  She went to the repair shop for assessment but I knew she would be  a write-off - the repair quote came back at around 70% of the purchase value!

Well, I had been toying with the idea of a new machine for a year or so, just wasn’t expecting it to be under these circumstances.  I know woefully little about sewing machine features, I’ve always avoiding knowing too much in case it launches a new obsession with technology!  But I knew what I was looking for in an upgrade.  It was time to go computerised with all the handy functions that come with that, also decorative stitches for embellishing Miss Mango’s clothes and alphabet were all on the list.

I went along to a sewing shop to check out the range there and the sales assistant did her upselling well, introducing me to the little bit of Pfaff magic that is IDT (or dual feed technology) and I was quite stunned. (I’m not sure if it was because of what IDT can do or how it was that I had never heard of it before?!  Apparently Pfaff were quite clever in getting it patented, since that has ceased its been incorporated into Janome and Silver Viscount machines too.)


If you’re pondering “What is this dual feed, IDT you speak of?”, it is also known as the “built-in walking foot” although I am told it works differently (and superiorly to the attachable walking-foot).  What happens is that while your feed-dogs feed fabric from below, the dual-feed feeds it from above and behind. The result is seams that align perfectly (not half an inch difference despite them being cut the same length) and without the need for pins.  Fine and slippery fabrics are sewn smoothly without puckers.  You also wondering how you’ve been living without this?  Its controlled by a lever than snaps onto the foot so it can be de-activated too.  In contrast the walking foot attachment feeds from the side, slowing down the travel speed of the fabric under the foot which is why you can still get puckering on slippery fabric seams. (Enlightenment that has only taken me 12 years to acquire!)

Now the drawback was the cost of these machines, placing most of them outside of my meagre budget.  But there was news, a new Pfaff range with a machine that would be closer to what I was looking to spend,the Ambition 1.0, if I would like to come back after their release to demo it?  Yes I would, and I did. 


I took with me the vilest, most horrible to sew samples of fabric I could find.  Fabric after fabric the machine churned out beautiful flat seams and even stitches.  It was very pretty.  The 1.5 even prettier still. But it it still didn’t tick all my boxes and didn’t feel like it quite belonged with me.  And I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend half a grand on a machine that wasn’t making me do happy dances around the room. 

Sensing my apprehension, the assistant (and a lovely, helpful person she was too) , asked if I was really set on a new machine?  Well there’s a leading question….

I thought and decided no, it wasn’t a new machine I wanted per se, just that particular feature so the assistant disappeared and produced a part exchange they had recently taken in.  The Pfaff Creative 1475 CD It was love at first sight.  Despite probably being as old as me (“Made in West Germany dates her a bit),  and a little on the yellowed and Amstrad looking side, she sat there proudly ticking off the checklist of features I had in my head: IDT, computerised, needle-down & speed control functions, decorative stitches, alphabets and oh, is that monogramming??  Yes, please! I think.  So we played with her and an hour later I left the shop with my new best friend at my side, costing a fraction of the price of the new machine.


(I’ve pinched web pics as my camera is still packed away from my last gig).

I thought it would be really hard to welcome a new machine into my life, but I am totally smitten already.  I love the fact she’s practically vintage, she’s fitted in straightaway at home!  If you ever have the opportunity to own one, I would definitely recommend it.  Pfaff also made a “Creative Designer” attachment to go with this machine.  Its basically a plastic box and some graph paper and apparently a pain to use but I’m keeping an eye on eBay for one as I’d still like to give it a go.  I love puzzles and frustration!  I’ll post a proper review soon with lots more details and pics.

My old machine was actually repaired, the company whose costumes I was working on offered to fund the repairs.  I was quite unimpressed to get the paperwork and notice that the expensive repair did not include the new needle or bobbin they put in to test it!  And less than 2 hours into my next piece of sewing the bobbin race practically leapt through the throat plate and fell silent again.  I replaced the broken needle and put back in the bobbin the repair shop had put in (wasn’t going to pay for another one). They looked it over quickly and said, “Well its got a Singer bobbin in it, course it isn’t going to work!”.  I explained I had switched to its own brand of bobbin when I loaded it with thread for my project, they’re not getting away with that one!

29 June 2011

Doing the FANDANGO!

A few long weeks ago, the buzz word across the blogosphere was "Fandango!" Specifically it referred to the Fabulous Fabric Fandango, a  fabric shop expedition to London's Goldhawk Road, super-efficiently organised  by Karen of Did You Make That? But you probably already knew that, right? With somewhere between 30 to 40 sewers there on the day, it would be hard to have missed the feedback.
DSCF2158I'm a very late with mine, but I'm pleased to finally share my spoils and my intentions for them.
Like several others I arrived keen to see what Goldhawk Road had to offer and categorically stating that I could not possibly buy any more fabric as I had no storage left and a broken sewing machine.   Of course, if I found a real bargain, or something for Miss Mango's summer wardrobe, that would be okay... 
I actual left most of the dozen shops empty-handed until the end of the afternoon when I whipped back round a few to pick up the fabrics I really wanted.  So what's a sewing blog post without pictures of gorgeous fabrics to drool over? 
DSCF2612      DSCF2649
    Spoils for Mango                                                           Spoils for Molly
Because of the fabric restrictions I had to buy with a purpose, so for everything I bought, I had an idea in my head of what pattern it would be used for. And what's a beautiful fabric without a fabulous pattern to partner it with?
DSCF2614     DSCF2618
Clockwise from left: DSCF2621
Brushed cotton lace fabric, really soft and pretty.  this was a free sample and so generous there is enough to squeeze the cute bolero out of it!  Its 100% cotton so could be dyed.  It is £4.99p from A1 Fabrics but I just found it for £2.50pm in Walthamstow!
Lemon floral needlecord £4pm.  Perfect summer weight and hard-wearing.
Red floral needlecord £3.50pm. So cute, will be making a pinafore dress with it
Patchwork fabric, cotton £3.50pm.  DSCF2623
I want to do something with lots of tea-dyed lace and frills for this a la Daisy Kingdom.  Haven’t quite got the picture in my head or the right pattern  This one might make a starting point.

The trip had a second impact on me and one that Karen may not have envisaged. The second part of the fandango for me was all about the patterns.  I already knew what I wanted and could pretty much lay my hands on them straight away, however as I headed for the pattern box I noticed a few mailing envelopes stuffed with patterns laying on my bedside table. And on the hall stand.  And in my filing in-box.  And on top of the fabric stash.  And in a box in the cupboard under the stairs. About time I filed those I thought.  So I gathered them together and pulled out the pattern boxes (divided into costume, children,  mens and ladies). To discover they were all full if not overflowing.  Ahh.
So I ended up spending two days emptying boxes, dating patterns, adding protective covers, reconsidering my filing system and putting patterns away - in chronological order. And I've yet to go through the costume and fancy dress box.   Thanks Karen!  But the exercise was worthwhile and I pulled a few more cute patterns for Mango to be teamed with fabric fro the overflowing stash:
Hot pink needlecord (ebay) for the pinafore teamed with vintage style cotton (Fabricland £2.22pm) blouse.  Hoping this won’t be too much pink!


Summery gathered cuff dungarees in navy floral brushed cotton.  I’m recycling the fabric from a slip dress I made about 14years ago and haven’t worn in at least 10 years.  Its lovely fabric though and very comfortable for Mango.


Red tartan for the jumper dress. Just hoping it won’t be too large a print and drown the poor girl.  Will see when I’ve laid the pattern pieces on it.

As for my spoils. Well, again I know what I want but this time I have no patterns to match (how can this be?), so I shall be kept busy drafting / adapting / frankensteining patterns to fit my ideas. Here’s the fabric in close-up and a rough idea of how it will end up.
DSCF2651  V2561V2267
Gorgeous floral poly-cotton fabric on an eau-de-nil background £3.50pm.  Idea: Full skirted, tea-length dress with simple, square neckline bodice.  I love the skirt from V2561 and the bodice from V2267.
DSCF2652  3738
Green floral needlecord £4p.m.  This fabric just pops and I had to have it! Pinafore style tunic length top, very simple and unfussy. S3738 is the closest illustration of what is in my head.
Teal blue sand crepe-de-chine, £1.99p.m  This has a lovely weight to it and almost designs itself.  While playing with the fabric I decided to do a long drapey skirt and empire draped surplice bodice. V8360 is more-or-less what I have in mind. 
DSCF2654 Gorgeous blue and pale grey tweed fabric.  At £2.50p.m I’m  not anticipating this has much of a wool content but it has a lovely soft drape and great spring/autumn weight.  I know exactly what I want from this having drooled so often over Couturier Dimanche’s beautiful weskit and skirt ensemble (click here).

DSCF2653 DSCF2658
Cocoa brown poly taffeta (with a lovely pink sheen to it) £2.50p.m. Wine coloured viscose stripe fabric (with a metallic thread running through it for sparkle) £2 p.m.  The latter has an incredibly soft drape to it, the picture does it no justice. 
I’m going to use these to make Victorian outfits, I’ve set no decade limitations so I am undecided on patterns, but I have quite a few original drafting instructions as well as the Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion books and modern costume patterns to draw ideas from.  I also really like these from Ageless Patterns, I’m totally in love with #1181 the blue silk ensemble. 
AgelessPatterns_1102AgelessPatterns1181 AgelessPattern1181-Louis-Seymour
There are also some lovely options at Truly Victorian (shown below). Too many to choose from in fact, it will be a while before I get onto making anything with these fabrics!
So with all this luscious booty to choose from, do you have a favourite fabric or pattern?