Monday, 15 September 2014

A new Singer in the family.

The sewing machine I've been using till now is a little old. Not quite a hundred year old treadle Singer, but old enough to be showing its age.

My Grandmother or Great-Grandmother's sewing machine, which my mother learnt on. 
In fact my mother bought it the year I was born, and while it survived the t-shirts, bathers, leotards, tracksuits... of our childhood, recently it fell in a heap when confronted with a piece of raw silk chiffon.

So, while it was getting a much needed service, I started researching sewing machines and when Mum brought hers home, I brought one home too. It's not the brightly coloured toy that my sister bought, but I'm happy with it and hopefully it will age as well as Mum's has.

With a sewing machine back on the work bench I got stuck in and finished a couple of projects that had been awaiting the return of Mum's machine.

On the left, the old fabric, on the right, the new. 
First project was a pair of burnt terracotta cushion covers to replace a slightly less appealing set for my Aunt. The couch is comfortable, but needs the terracotta to offset the great expanses of beige tapestry.

They were relatively straight forward; a few rounded corners, overlocked hems and a normal zip (not an invisible zip) in each one.

Project number two: I had this piece of beautiful copper chiffon and decided that I would make it into a top - following a pattern surprisingly. Unfortunately it felt doomed to failure as a) it was cut on the bias, b) my bias pieces didn't exactly match up, c) Mum's machine decided to chew up my test piece (thank goodness) of chiffon before deciding to stop working completely. Resuming the project on my own machine I discovered there was too much fabric incorporated into the cowl thereby requiring some speedy adaptation. As a result the second of the layers at the front now has a deep V neckline.

However a dear friend saw it hanging in the window, expressed a liking for it and was subsequently shocked that I'd made it. Given that she buys brand names, it was a compliment indeed.

With Mum's machine chewing up the chiffon I wasn't going to risk it on the raw silk bodice I was working on. This was being made to accompany a full length skirt made from a length of sari silk. I'll admit I don't start with easy pieces. This one, my first major attempt at sewing (it began long before the dresses and skirts of this post) was inspired by an outfit belonging to Jackie Kennedy of all people. Despite the fact that her figure is vastly different from my own, it seemed, at the time, to be a good idea.

So I began folding the stiffer-than-anticipated silk and was not getting anywhere. It would pleat, but not in the way I wanted and definitely not creating a silhouette I was willing to wear. Practical enough to know that if I wasn't happy with it, regardless of the effort expended, I wouldn't wear it, it sat in a dark corner glowering at me for several months before I decided to pull all the pleating out and start the draping process again. Much better!

With the skirt utilising the pattern of the sari, the bodice was constructed from the different piece that forms the front fall when draped as a sari. I used one of the decorative borders  of the fabric to create the waist band and bodice straps, tying the two pieces together and providing a focal point for the back of the bodice.

As expected, the bodice isn't perfect as I'm still having difficulty finding a pattern or style that fits enough to meet my standards. But that will take practice and a little luck so I've no complaints at the moment.

Found on Etsy
Project Four: This one was made entirely on Mum's machine, but I'll admit is still unfinished as I haven't gotten around to adding the second of the hooks and eyes needed to close the back of the bodice. Window shopping on Etsy I stumbled upon a bodice/skirt fabric combination which in conjunction with a recently bought pattern, could provide a very nice way of using up two measures of rather dated fabric.

Somehow I seem unable to leave patterns alone and make them as is. In this particular case I shortened the zip and moved to cover only the waistband and skirt leaving the back of the bodice open, closed only by two sets of hooks and eyes. It made it easier to install the invisible zip, but I'm not sure how acrobatic I'll need to be to close the bodice up each time I wear it. And as it's not polite to show your bra strap, it may prove a slight dilemma (that hook and eye is the one that still needs to be installed... eventually).

The other alterations were not my fault. Provided zips are moved to the centre back, all waist bands and skirts are now relatively easy to make.
Saying that, I did add 2 inches to the length of the skirt. I seem to frequently forget that I'm taller than average.

Bodices however are still a bloody nightmare. In this instance I measured and cut the pattern and then discovered that it would have barely covered half my boobs. Given that an empire line is supposed to sit under the bust, not cut it in half, I found I needed to add 2 inches to the length of the bodice and even then it just worked.

This pattern also reinforced that pleats and big boobs don't really work. In the pattern diagram, the pleats are supposed to sit softly over the boobs producing a blouse-like appearance, not be pulled out of shape to draw attention to the armpits.
Perhaps 2 inches is not enough to add. Perhaps it just wasn't designed for anyone bigger than a C cup.

As a pattern that's annoying to assemble, and unflattering, it definitely doesn't win my favour, or live up to its branding of being a 'Vogue Easy Options' pattern.

Not a bodice pattern I will be using again soon.
Sorry Vogue.

The next projects have already begun...


  1. 1) you didn't put the link to the old post.
    2)I like the jackie k one.
    3) gonna try to find some nice fabric in istanbul.. let me know if you want anything in particular...

  2. Those are truly spectacular dresses! xxC


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