Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bonjour from France

I don't really have anything of substance to add to my blog right now, since I'm 4500 miles away from my sewing machines for a few months.   My "sewing room" is now reduced to a little sewing kit I brought along and my "sewing" has been limited to the occasional mending of my clothing or sewing on a button. 
My "Sewing Room" for the next few months!

But I still can't resist taking pictures of old sewing machines even in France.  I was surprised to see a couple of Singer stores like the one above - there is actually one in Paris as well this one here in Amiens.  But sadly they are both closed.  "à louer" = "for rent".  

 No vintage machines here, but I still thought it was a good picture.  What probably sounds very ordinary in French  - "machine à coudre" - sounds kind of cool to me, but then again that is true for almost anything in French.  ;)

This one I saw in the window of an alterations shop in Metz.  Naturally I thought it was charming and made my companions stop while I took a picture of it.  

Best of all was the YARD SALE!  Or as the French call it, "vide grenier" which means "empty attic" which again sounds much more charming than "Yard Sale".  There, among some military relics, including what looks like some helmets from the First World War (this town is near the border of France and Germany), was a vintage Singer.    

I'm not even sure what make this is, but cute.

Well, that's all I have to offer for now - a few random photos.  I just wanted to add a post so the blog won't completely die of neglect while I'm gone.  

A+  (which means "see you later")

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fun With Sewing Around the House

We're doing some late Spring cleaning (hey, we've still got a couple of weeks to go) and yesterday we worked on the deck.  Our old patio umbrella was rotted and tattered and we were about to go buy a new one when I had the *** IDEA ***   Hey, the frame is still good and we'll just be throwing it away.  I'll SEW a new umbrella!   So I got me off to JoAnn's to look at outdoor fabric.  My choices were limited since there were only a few selections that had enough yardage on the bolt for my needs.   And being a rather impetuous person - I want to do it now, not wait for special ordered fabric - I went ahead about bought it.  And it is nice...

Cutting it out was the hardest part since it involved getting down on the floor, spreading out 10 yds of fabric, and getting all four sides exactly the same.  (Each side is 2 yds across).  

But I think it turned out very well.  Sewing it was the easy part with my Singer 301 that makes nearly 1500 stitches/minute.  Sewing these long straight seams and eight yards of hem are when you really want to put the pedal to the metal - and this machine doesn't disappoint.  My serger also made quick work of the seam finishes.  

Best part is that it actually matched very well with the cushions on the patio chairs - the same gray and white.

View underneath - and yes, this is a crappy frame which was hardly worth repurposing because.....

...the fabric cost more than an entire new umbrella!!!  Yes, I paid $100+ for the fabric @ $10/yd (which was half price).

I guess I'm just weird because I think it is fun to sew something like this rather than buy it even though it actually cost more.  It really would have been a thrifty project if I'd re-used the frame and sewn the umbrella out of re-purposed fabric, but its not like I just happened to have an old parachute hanging around the garage.

But I can justify it this way....I have enough fabric left to make matching placemats for the patio table.  Does that make me come out ahead?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Honest to Goodness Treasure Chest

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I love Estate Sales and that I am always looking for the "treasure".  I don't know why I never thought about posting this before, but a couple of years ago, I found a real live treasure for sale on someone's driveway...

The story goes like this:  my brother was in town visiting and he loves yard sales.  He is the type who will visit EVERY SINGLE sale he sees (while I am the type who does the slow drive by and if nothing catches my eye, I keep on going!) You don't want to be stuck in the car with him because he pulls a big trailer behind his SUV (to haul the stuff he finds) and he will make a U-turn in the middle of a four lane highway - trailer and all - if he passes a yard sale sign!

Anyway, this particular Sunday afternoon, after he had spent all weekend visiting literally dozens of sales all over town, he mentioned that he saw something I might be interested in.  It was a trunk of "old clothes".  He said it was a beat up old trunk about 100 years old and that it might be worth a little something as an antique piece but the seller wanted $300.  He thought I "might" like to see the clothing inside.  Seriously???

Now keeping in mind that he is from another town AND he had been in and out of countless neighborhoods chasing sales, I was kind of doubtful that he could remember exactly where it was.  But he took me straight to the house (yes, tucked way back in an out of the way neighborhood) with the intention of knocking on the door and asking if they still had the trunk.

Well not only did they still have the trunk, but they still had the sale going on Sunday.  I looked inside the trunk and almost gasped.  My brother offered the seller $100, after it had been sitting in her driveway all weekend, and it was a deal.  
A peek inside...

Pictured below is only a sample of what was in this trunk.  The items ranged from early 1800's - early 1900's and were family heirlooms saved by the seller's grandmother.  There were notes on every item telling who wore them and in what year.  
Wedding dress c. 1891

Wedding slippers c. 1830

Chistening gown, 1896.  Stunning tucks and lace.

Hem of Christening gown underslip

Silk baby dress from Paris, 1890's
Young boy's blouse from late1800's

Child's dress with broderie anglaise, c. 1860's

Lace dress c. 1900
Close up of lace dress with blue velveteen sash

Sleeve detail

Young girl's dress, c. mid-1800's

Lace detail of 1920's wedding dress

Handmade apron, 1900, made by the trunk's owner when she was a girl

Section of Irish lace lappet, c. mid-1800's

Detail of very fine gauge Irish Lace collar (ring shows scale)

Hand embroidered table linen 1825, with family monogram "H"

I was able to determine from one of the notes, that the seller's great-great-grandfather was a colonel for the Union Army in the Civil War and later served as an Ohio State Representative under Rutherford B. Hayes.  I spent many hours engrossed in tracing the ancestry of this family and the woman who originally owned the trunk.  It came to Georgia via her granddaughter after her death.  The granddaughter is the one who sold it to me.

There are many more items besides these, it was a century's worth of family heirlooms.  The value of these items lies not only in their beauty, but in their link to the past.  It is truly a treasure trove of history that was lovingly preserved for future generations and fell into my hands quite by chance.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Little French Fun..., not that kind of fun  (hélas !)

As usual I find fun fabrics and I want to make bags - and especially a sleeve for my recently acquired iPad.  I know it will be kind of corny to tote my belongings around France in French themed carry-alls but darn it, I just couldn't resist!

The tote bag I made to be heavy-duty tote worthy.  It is canvas with webbing straps that wrap all the way around.  I'm not crazy about tote patterns I see that have the straps just sewn along the top edge of the bag.  I put books in mine and I need it to be sturdy.  This one won't sag not matter what I put in it.  The printed duck fabric I got at Hobby Lobby and I wanted to buy about nine yards of it just because it was so cool, but I know better (ask me how I know).

My Rocketeer did the deco stitching along the top just because it is so fun to do it.  I'm either weird or I'm just getting old, but I think it is awesome to fire up my 1962 Singer 503, pop in a top hat cam (which one to pick?) and add a funky little design element to my project.  You guys can have your computerized Whatchamacallits that do 10,000 different stitches at the touch of your finger on a digital panel.  Me, I like the mechanical.  :)

The lining is the icing on the cake - even if I did put the fleurs-de-lis upside down!

And my iPad Air will travel in fine French style as well.

I'm not a quilter in any way, shape or form, but I did a kind of ad-lib piecing here (and fused it to fusible fleece) and it turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.  I think the main fabric has kind of a steampunk flavor to it, which is apropos since I'll be attending Université de Picardie Jules Verne in France in September.  (If I had the time, which I don't, I'd totally be into steampunk and making costumes and going to the Cons.) 

That's all folks.  I have about a zillion things to do to prepare for my trip. I'm going to have to come up with some kind of hand needlework projects to take along - maybe knitting or crocheting. (I used to do some embroidery and cross stitch, but I no longer have the keen eyesight or the patience).  And I can't wait - CAN'T WAIT - to cut loose in some flea markets/second-hand shops/yard sales in France - in the small towns, of course, not Paris.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Singer Cabinet for 301 - I Found One!

So having been lucky enough to find this black 301 shortbed at a yard sale for $10 - with another $20 to replace foot controller - I needed only to install it in a Singer cabinet to have the perfect sewing experience.  (Okay, well I say this every time I buy a new machine, but bear with me.  This one really IS it!)

Cradle Adapter for installing 301 shortbed

The 301 shortbed is unique in that it can be installed in a cabinet like any other full sized vintage Singer but then this machine just pops out of its cabinet and goes along to wherever you need to take it, carried by the clever handle right on top the machine (a stand alone feature, not seen on any other vintage Singer, not even the Featherweight.)  The thing that makes this possible is the "cradle adapter" into which the machine fits in place in the cabinet.  The lever on the left releases the machine when you want to remove it.  VERY, VERY COOL!

Since my machine came with the cradle adapter (did I say this only cost me $10??) I was all set to go...or so I thought.  I had this beautiful cabinet sitting empty since selling Queen Margaret.  I figured this was the 301's new home.  WRONG!

Alas, all Singer cabinets are not exactly alike!  There is one crucial element that determines which type of machine can be installed in the cabinet.  Most of the mid-century cabinets are configured to hold machines like the 15-91, 201, 66, etc.  When the machine is in place, it rests on a lip protruding on a hinged panel that folds down.  Like this:

Installing the 301 requires brackets to hold the cradle adapter on this panel and it must be flush in order for the machine to fit.  Like this:

I was very frustrated to realize that my 301 could not fit into either of the two cabinets I already have.   

But with my Midas Touch for all things Singer (and seriously, who saw this coming?) I was running errands yesterday and noticed an Estate Sale sign.  Slighty shabby split level house in older neighborhood: Yes! This is where I find the best stuff.  (Ladies of this era almost always had sewing machines and they were more often than not Singers.)   I always know exactly where to look too, I've done this a hundred times.   Straight upstairs to the furthest back bedroom - sewing room.  Bingo.

And there she stood.  Nice little Singer cabinet in the corner with a few sewing supplies on top.  I couldn't tell from the outside, of course, so I moved the stuff, opened the cabinet and there it was - the configuration I needed to install my 301.  It was empty - no sewing machine - just begging to be Jim's new home!  Price:  $125.  First day of the sale, too, and no way am I coming back on the mark down day, its either now or never.

I offered $50.  Bold?  Maybe.  Well they not only accepted the offer, but when I picked up a green Singer box of attachments and a set of buttonholer templates and asked if they'd throw those in as well, they said sure.  :)

Wrestled it home in my Mustang with the top down and within minutes I had it all set up and ready to go.

It has an extra long extension on the left, too, because it is in one piece rather than divided like my other cabinets (3/4s to the left, 1/4 to the right.)

Anyone who has been paying attention might rightfully ask why I am spending money on yet more pieces of sewing furniture when I am going to France at the end of the summer.  (Yes, it is definite, I am going!)  I can't give a good answer for this except maybe to offer the excuse that I will be doing some sewing this summer in preparation for my trip.  Ha, ha, that isn't even remotely true, but let's just go with that, shall we?  ;)

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Personal Note...

So a double post today, and this one is nothing to do with sewing.

IF everything goes as planned - and this is still in the works but is looking good at this point - I will be spending four months in France later this year.  When I decided to go back to college well into middle age, I figured why not go for the whole experience just like any other coed (wait, do they still say "coed"?  I didn't think so!)  So I am going to do Study Abroad to complete my minor in French.

I will likely spend the summer raising money for the trip by selling everything I possibly can.  One connection I can make to sewing, I guess, is the fact that I sold my beautiful Centennial Featherweight.

Yes, this gorgeous machine has gone to a new home and raised just enough money for my application fee for Study Abroad (!)  

So I'm not sure how much time I will have for sewing and/or playing with sewing machines for a while after I finish the Easter dresses.  Final exams are coming up in about three weeks, then I have a visitor from France coming in June who will hopefully spend the summer getting me up to speed with my French.  

I am no longer on Facebook so I am toying with the idea of another blog which will chronicle my adventures as a middle-aged student attending a French university... we'll see...

Vintage Hankie Dress

I've done a couple of posts about vintage hankies and little projects I can do with them.  But until now I haven't actually made one into a garment.

I forgot to take a picture of the hankie before I started, but I decided to use it as the bodice of a toddler Easter dress.  Since it was such a sheer fabric, and because it had scalloped edges that didn't quite fit the pattern pieces, I fused it to a lightweight cotton.
  Then I zz-ed around the edges to make sure it stayed put.
Made the little dress from McCalls 6017.  The purple sateen cotton was bought on Etsy.
And best of all found a seersucker fabric that EXACTLY matched this 50-60 year old handkerchief!  I was absolutely thrilled when I found it at Hancock.  They couldn't have matched better if they were designed to go together!  
So I used it for the flounce.  Adorned with yellow rick-rack which is just about my favorite thing in the whole world (I love yellow and I love rick-rack!)

I always dreaded the thought of cutting up one of my hankies, but I love this little dress so much I might actually take the plunge and do it again!  (Hankie I used is in the middle of this picture.)

Easter Dress Number Two:  McCalls M4817.   My nod to vintage sewing here is the old Boiltex Rick Rack from the 1940's.  I've had it in my stash for quite a while waiting for just the right project to use it.  I LOVE the color!  And it worked perfectly here.   My attempt at an applique wasn't perfect, but if you don't look TOO closely, its not bad.  ;)

Oh...and the back zipper is also from my stash of mid-20th century notions.  It is an old metal Talon zipper "Orient Blue".  Again, it perfectly matched the blue in this fabric print.
I also got to have some fun with my ruffler attachment on these dresses.  I used it for the bottom flounces on both of them because they are so long - 130" on the pink one - that it would have been difficult to gather it and keep the gathers even.  So instead I have nice, perfectly pleated ruffles.  Love!