Archive for December, 2012

As I have been sewing quite a lot recently, I thought it was time to revisit all those lovely attachments that came with my Singer sewing machine. It’s the first time since I first got it, that I’ve been using my treadle sewing machine properly. And to my surprise, I have some attachments that I would’ve used if I had realised I had them. You may remember from my woollen trousers post, that I basted every single seam; partly because I didn’t want the hassle of taking out pins, but also because my sewing machine doesn’t have seam allowance indicators on the plate.

May I introduce to you the seam guide:



As you can see, it simply screws into place, and you can move it around to get the EXACT seam allowance you want. Simply hold the edge of the fabric against the plate. What about sewing curves, you might ask? Well, luckily the Singer manual explains how to put this guide at an angle, so that the side is at the right position:



Next up, I’d like to introduce to you the seam binder:



It looks a bit complicated, but it is, in fact, really easy to use. First, insert the tape you want to use to bind your seams, this is much easier to do before attaching it to the needle bar. Here it is already attached:



Next slide the fabric in the slot, put the foot down and start stitching. All you have to do is gently guide the tape into its slot, the fluted attachment will take care of the rest:



Voilá! Tape bound seams without any bother:



Anybody want to hazard a guess as to what this little contraption is used for? I originally thought it was part of something else.




But no, it is a needle threader! Carefully clip it on the sewing needle, and the wee hook will go through the eye of the needle. The clamp will keep the threader in place so you use both hands to hook the thread around the hook and then pull it off:



There was one thing that annoyed me from day one of using the stitch length selector:



As you can see, the numbers are engraved in the selector plate, but they are really hard to see without a bright light. Luckily I found the Vintage Singer Sewing Machine blog. Nicholas Rain Noe who writes it, is a vintage Singer enthousiast and he has very good and clear instructions on almost anything. Although he seems to have a particular interest in the potted motorised models, many tips and tricks can be used on any vintage Singer sewing machine. Through his blog I managed to fix my issue with the needle bar continuing to move whilst winding bobbins. Now, the needle bar doesn’t even twitch when I release stop-motion wheel. I finally found out how to clean underneath the bobbin case. But he also has a very simple fix to get those numbers looking as new, and visible. He explains in very clear language with great pictures on how to do this, so I will just show you the end result:



Honestly, it took me less than 15 minutes to make it look like this.

I also wanted to take this opportunity as an excuse to mention Peter Lappin’s Male Pattern Boldness blog (I found Nicholas’s blog through his.) I have been reading Peter’s blog for a long time now, as, even though I have only recently started to sew in earnest, Peter welcomes all “to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, and more!” Peter loves sewing men’s and women’s garments, and like me and my knitting, he is self-taught and enthousiastic about all things sewing – I cannot recommend it highly enough.


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Vintage Buttons

Portraits of Vintage Buttons

With my new-found skills as a tailor, I finally have a good excuse to roam the button section of the haberdashery stall at the Saturday street market in The North Laine in Brighton. Possibly, I may have purchased a few more cards of buttons that I will strictly need in the next few months. Here’s my selection, I think the portraits speak for themselves.























I’m working my way through a number of toiles to make a well-fitting shirt for my partner. I’m sure I’ll be using one of these cards soon – once I worked out how to address the fit issues I’m facing at the moment.

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When I joined Team Wovember, I was introduced to the Wovember readers in a Q&A post, in which I mentioned that the only thing lacking in my wardrobe, was a pair of woollen trousers. I curated all the Wovember Words, and as this took up more time than anticipated – there were so many interesting quotes, I posted one every day – I never got round to the trousers. Or, to be more precise, I never got round to writing about them. As I did make myself a pair, shown here in a completely natural pose:


Woollen Outfit: Woollen Socks, Woollen Trousers, Woollen Jacket, Woollen Jumper, Woollen Gloves, Woollen Hat – I left my Woollen Scarf at home, as quite frankly, it was rather hot!

The gloves and the hat will get their own separate posts in due course, as today I want to tell you all about my trousers. For a long time now, I  wanted to make myself a pair of trousers, and indeed, two winters ago, I bought some lovely charcoal woollen fabric from Dïtto. I bought some calico. I bought a pattern. I bought a zip and buttons and thread. And I traced the pattern in one size too small. And I made a toile from the calico. And I found out I my mistake. I traced again;  I made a second toile. And I found it had the right size, but had an ugly fit.

And that’s when I gave up.

But, the fabric always looked at me reproachfully every time I opened the drawer in which I had hidden it from sight, so WOVEMBER2012 seemed to be the right time to try again. I was lucky that in the meantime I had made friends with Zoe, who knows a thing or two about sewing, and we agreed on a skill-swap: I would teach her how to darn, she would teach me about sewing. She gave me some tips on altering the pattern and this time, the toile fitted very well, and confidently I took my shears to the woollen fabric:


As, however, I’m not a confident sewer, and my Singer treadle sewing machine doesn’t have any seam guides on the cover plate, I basted every single seam before taking it to the sewing machine. It meant that I could pay attention to the needle, rather than the side of the seam, and I didn’t have to worry about navigating over pins: the fabric is quite heavy, so a pin, even if inserted perpendicular to the stitch line, was a slight distraction. It may come as no surprise to you, that I tried to make these trousers to the best of my abilities I currently have.

So, let me take you through my trousers, so to speak!

I hand-picked the fly and zipper for two reasons: 1) I just really love the look of it; 2) I do know how to wield a needle and thread, but I still struggle a bit with making a nicely curved stitch line.


I’m a big fan of tailored button-holes, and I once spent an afternoon perfecting my button-hole stitch, so I finally got to use it on a garment, even if my Singer has a buttonhole attachment that famously makes the most gorgeous buttonholes in the whole wide world. For a sewing machine. The vintage button was sewn on with a “woven shank”, which means that you go around and through the threads of the shank in a figure-of-eight:


I’m particularly proud of my welted pockets. I approached them very carefully, spent a lot of time pressing and basting, because a heavy woollen fabric really needs to be put into place with a lot of pressing, making fiddly folding of strips of fabric a bit of a challenge:


The cuffs also have a special finish. There used to be a time that I thought that spending £250 or more on a pair of designer trousers, was money well spent (oh how I have changed), and when you buy these kind of trousers, their cuffs haven’t been finished yet, so that they can be made to measure. One shop I used to frequent, used a seamstress who always put this sturdy ribbon in. It protects the cuff from fraying, and it also made the trousers fall very nicely over your shoes – grosgrain ribbon is the nearest I could find, although I remember the ribbon in those expensive trousers to be a bit sturdier. If anybody knows what this is called in English, I would love to hear from you. In Dutch, they are called a ‘stootband’ which roughly translates into bumper.


There is one drawback on using my Singer treadle machine. It’s a straight-stitch-only machine. I do have the zigzag attachment (it attaches in a similar fashion as the buttonholer, but instead it makes the fabric zigzag under the needle) and every time I try this out, I have less than satisfactory results. So I blanket stitched all seams by hand. I also sewed down the waistband by hand, as I wanted a very neat finish. Last but not least, I read somewhere (I can’t remember the source), that back-stitching the centre seam makes for a very strong seam, which also has a little bit of give. Which is good, as I wear these trousers on my bicycle, too, so I also back-stitched the centre seam.


I have been told by sewers that all that hand-finishing would completely put them off. But I feel differently about this: apart from actually enjoying handstitching, I’m not put off by something taking its time. I’m a handknitter, and I’m used to it. Yes, it did add an additional day before these trousers were ready, but I enjoy getting into the rhythm. I put some music on and soon I’m completely absorbed by the task at hand, making stitch after stitch, feeling at one with the object I’m making.

The woollen trousers are already a faithful addition to my wardrobe. They are comfortable, fit very well, and look rather smart. Although I chose the fabric two winters ago, having helped out with Wovember makes me even more happy that I used wool – and those of you who have followed Wovember know that there are plenty of reasons to use wool for your clothes: it’s natural, bio-degradable, hygroscopic, flame-resistant, breathable, warm, sustainable, versatile. But, ultimately, I’m just happy that all this validates what I already know: the look and feel of wool is unsurpassed.


me posing in my high wool-content outfit on Brighton beach.


My Sanquhar socks.

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