Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Today, I sewed

For the time in ages today I dug out the sewing machine and some fabric and had a go at sewing something!

Previously I’ve made a couple of box bags that you can see in old posts, but I wanted to try a tutorial that left me with no raw seams on the inside of the bag – which most do. I guess it’s part of learning and being a beginner, but I hate having the untidy edges inside. If I had an overlocker, I could use that on the edges and it would look better, but I want perfection, dammit!

So enter a new tutorial: http://sew4home.com/projects/storage-solutions/930-travel-accessories-cosmetics-a-toiletries-case

I’ve used the fabrics I’ve used before – some of the stashed vinyl and another fat quarter I had laying around. One of these days I’ll try using interfacing to stiffen the bag up, as they do some up a little floppy.

I’ve also got some denim (old pair of jeans) that I might use to make a washbag – with the vinyl as a lining – that will require some different needles and thread I imagine and of course some more zips.

I also practiced sewing on Grace – something I haven’t done too much of as the electricity still scares me. Most has been done on my handcranks – but Grace is lovely:

Grace Is Gorgeous!

Thankfully now I’ve finished sewing the bag, I feel a bit happier with the machine and more comfortable using it.

Here’s some pics!

The bag is a little narrower and taller than others I’ve done – this is no doubt due to the corners I sewed – for the next one I’ll try and get similar dimensions to last time:

Hidden Seams Box Bag

Little bit of wonky topstitching by the back, unfortunately – I always struggle with doing the second half of the zip:

Hidden Seams Box Bag

From the front though, it looks pretty good!

Hidden Seams Box Bag

There’s only one seam on the inside – from where you turn using the final corner. Next time I’ll use a matching colour thread to make this as invisible as possible:

Hidden Seams Box Bag

At the back, all invisible seams inside – all you an see is my dodgy top-stitching:

Hidden Seams Box Bag

I did have a slight hiccup at the back with two pins getting stuck by the back tab when I was sewing the seams. This meant I had to cut a teeny tiny whole to get the pins out – but it can hardly be seen.

Hidden Seams Box Bag

Other than the top-stitching and contrasting inside thread, all other seams and lines are either invisible or as they should be! I’m pretty pleased!

I would probably consider making one or two tweaks to the pattern – it asks you to see all the way along the top and bottom, which means you end up sewing bits of the lining that really need to be left free (unless I’ve misunderstood the pattern) – so I had to unpick some bits.

Finished dimensions are:

A touch over 4″ tall
About 3.5″ wide
About 7″ long – plus strap

Will try and whizz up another one or two tomorrow – will then have to make a trip into town to get some more supplies.

I managed to get hold of a cheap zigzagger on eBay, which I’ll try (would be awesome to be able to use knit fabrics on this machine too) and am finally getting around to making a list of all of the sewing notions and things I want for the room. I’ve also taken Grace out of her table temporarily, to see if it’s easier to use that way. She stands up quite well on her own little feet and I might see about getting a proper desk that she can live on one corner of permanently.

So even though I’ve not been that successful on the knitting front recently, it’s nice to be sewing!


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I have spent the day becoming obsessed with the idea of quilting something. Now I might be mad, but I’ve told myself that making a quilt, that involves sewing pieces in straight lines, should be much easier than sewing a garment – with curves and the need to accommodate my oddly shaped body.

So I’ve been ogling fabric. Specifically jelly rolls. I love this one:

Mmmmmmmm. I have also been eyeing up Yarn Yard fabric – as Natalie has mentioned selling quilting kits – which fills me with a marvellous sense of joy.

Perhaps my optimism is misplaced and it’s not the best way to learn how to get comfortable with my electric machine – if it comes to it I’ll chicken out and use a hand-crank, but I love this idea of combining aforementioned fabric with this baby:

Grace Is Gorgeous!

What a combination! 🙂

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Making Monday Part 2

So since the previous post (which was written on Saturday) was done, I continued to be very busy! I had plans to make another box bag, but using the leftover oilcloth from making Grace’s sewing machine cover. So on Saturday night, I gave it a go.

Surely once you’ve made one of something, the second and subsequent versions should be quicker, simpler and better, right? Wrong. This second bag left me dangerously stroppy and in need of anger management classes. Behold:

Slanty front edges – even worse than on the previous bag:

Anger Making Bag

I managed to add in the little tag at the back of the bag, but what’s going on with these folds? Why is nothing stitched properly?

Anger Making Bag

How wonky are these edges? Look at how badly the bag bows inwards:

Anger Making Bag


Anger Making Bag

So all in all, the bag was a total disaster. I went to bed in a mood and made up for it on Sunday morning by tearing the whole thing to pieces so that I could reclaim the zip and start again.

I didn’t even show you the inside of the previous bag – which looked like such a dog’s dinner compared to bag #1. Felt miles better for just chucking it in the bin.

After a brief rest, I started on version 2.1. On bag 2.0, I tried a different technique for cutting the corner seams, to turn the bag from a flat pocket to a 3D object. I tried the instructions here in the Sides, Corners & Handle to Complete section. Just could not get them to work for me.

So for bag 2.1, it was back to pushing out the triangles and pinning, as per Dragoknits tutorial. I made sure to pin very carefully and this time took measurements – to ensure squareness and to make sure each corner was the right length. (Note to self that the line measures 7cm, with the end seam at 3.5cm.) The first corner had to be seamed three times to get the dimensions and length right, but after that it went pretty well.

Not desperately happy with some of the stitching – on most of the lining seams, when I topstitched along the side of the zip, it didn’t pick up the lining – leading to some bagginess etc inside – but this is no doubt something that will improve with more practice.

So, the finished bag!

Observe the squareness of my edges:

Happy Bag

No slanty corners here:

Happy Bag

Nice straight folds – and the little tab at the back is so useful:

Happy Bag

Not the best lining in the world, but it matches well:

Happy Bag

Both bags together:

Finished Box Bags

Definitely getting more of a feel for these bags and potential uses. Would love to make some lined with oilcloth or vinyl, to be used as washbags for travelling (we were lamenting when we went to London that we both need washbags). Or larger versions to store sweater projects. What I definitely have to work on, is how to do the corners and the lining so that all the seams are hidden. It’s exacerbated in this case as I used a light thread to match the oilcloth which stands out against the black lining, so the seams all show quite clearly. Need to think of ways to hide all the seams for a more professional finish.

Still, will get a bit more practice when I knock up some more vinyl bags in the next week or so. At this rate I’ll have a bag for every WIP, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing 🙂

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Making Monday

Natalie at the Yarn Yard has instituted a wonderful idea – a day for blogging about things we make or knit or sew or bake. And call it Making Monday. Previous making Mondays can be found here, here and here, with roundups here, and here.

I’ve made the fatal mistake in previous weeks of getting my blogging done at weekends so I’ve not been including in Making Monday so far but not this week! This week I have been busy sewing and have been picking up lots of new skills. And going back to the haberdashery and buying more fabric!

Last week you’ll remember me posting about the sewing cover I made Grace and the vinyl fabric we’d bought to line some drawers with. Because we’ve got loads left, I figured I’d try and make a box bag to store a knitting project in on the move. I keep seeing all these photos on Anne Hanson’s blog that including awesome-looking box bags and after digging out a few tutorials, decided to make one.

As I wanted to make lined bags, I toddled off to the haberdashery and bought a little roll of fat quarters from one of the bargain bins and a couple of zips:

Fat Quarters

I planned to make a second bag from the oilcloth I used for Grace’s cover and perhaps third and subsequent bags from the vinyl, but seeing as I had so much it was the perfect “test” fabric. Most tutorials recommend using interfacing to stiffen the bag – but as the vinyl is a stiffer fabric anyway I didn’t bother with this step.

I used this tutorial from Dragoknits which was extraordinarily simple and very clear – with lots of pics and good instructions. I’ve already admitted to omitting the interfacing – the only other thing I did was make a shorter, narrower handle – as I didn’t want to cut a new piece of fabric and just used a bit I had laying around.

And this is what I ended up with:

Knitting Project Box Bag

Slightly wonky top-stitching by the zip! On the next one I’ll also add a little tab of fabric that you can hold on to when pulling the zip closed:

Knitting Project Box Bag

Pretty chuffed with the handle and folding of the fabric though (you can’t see how wonky the left corner is here – it slants HORRIBLY but I’ll try a new technique on the next one and see what happens):

Knitting Project Box Bag

Funky lining:

Knitting Project Box Bag

Nice, relatively neat edges and seams:

Knitting Project Box Bag


Knitting Project Box Bag

They hold a reasonable amount – in this pic I have my little notions case, tape measure, row counter, most of a sock and a ball of yarn:

Knitting Project Box Bag

Going to be perfect for sock projects on the move. The sock project in question about is the July SISC2011 sock – one of my socks from the Knit Love Club last year which I’ll blog about when I finish it. Going pretty quickly despite the teeny needles and stitch count of 88.

Next up will be a black and white bag made from the oilcloth and then as many as I can make from the leftover vinyl. They are totally person-powered – being made on my 1948 201 hand-crank Singer sewing machine. So no fancy stitches – just a bit of straight stitching and a reasonable amount of cursing on my part 🙂

Singer 201 Hand Crank

Depending on how many I’m able to get out of the vinyl, I may even put a few up for sale once I can do them without wonky edges, if anyone would like one?

Yay for Making Monday!

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Whoever it was lied! We have been sooooper busy since last night and we haven’t even done everything we had planned for the day. Once I’ve finished writing this post (merely an excuse to sit down for more than a minute), we’ll be back at it!

So last night, I sewed my first ever proper project. It was fuelled by the most awesome vodka brought back from Moscow for me by a Russian colleague. It didn’t get off to a good start – I bodged my measurements, didn’t cut the pieces in straight lines and because of how I wanted to centre the pattern, almost didn’t have enough fabric to do what I wanted to do.

What was I making? A sewing machine cover for Grace. Since getting her, she has been forced to live under a blanket like this:

First sewing project

Not very dignified or pretty for such a venerable machine. So I procured some oilcloth and followed the instructions from Sew Everything Workshop – an awesome book for beginners!

After totally fudging my seam allowances to make sure it lined up and came out roughly the same size, we ended up with this:

First sewing project

Pretty awesome no? I’m really happy with it, except the top is a bit saggy. Not sure what I can do to stiffen the seams, but it does the job and fits the machine really nicely.

I also went hunting in town for fabric yesterday. We bought a chest of drawers last week when we went hunting for one (and I ended up with Odetta) but before using it, I wanted to line the drawers so that we can make it a bit “nicer”.

I ventured into our local haberdashery, where I’d only been once before to buy buttons. I knew they sold fabric in the basement, but was overwhelmed by the choice when I went down there. While they had no oilcloth (my original choice), they did have some nice vinyl. I bought this:

Vinyl for drawer linings

I only wanted just over a metre’s worth, but since it was the end of the roll, she chucked the rest in so I’ve got a load left. They had a ton of remnants for sale, loads of fat quarters rolled up into little bundles – I’m definitely going on a fabric splurge at the end of the month.

That brings us to today. Today I went with Trev to a tiny little nursery down the road. We know they sell planters, charcoal, wood, that sort of thing – but we’d never been in there. Went in there today and again found ourselves being overwhelmed by the sheer choice. Initially we were just after some stuff to put in the back yard, to make it look a little nicer, but in the end bought enough stuff to put together a whole herb garden.

Behold our purchases:

Plants before planting

All of the above for less than £25. So we got cracking. We also decided to tackle the giant budlia tree in the shared communal garden. At the moment it’s so large, that it blocks out a lot of light in our bit and we want to be able to get it ready to grow vegetables there for next year. There was so much dead stuff, we had to resort to getting out a SAW to be able to cut it all back. Even now we’re not done, and with our neighbour have put together a plan of the other bits to take off it tomorrow.

But after doing all of that, we ended up with a little herb garden:

Herb Garden

At the very top we’ve got lavender. In the next row down, we’ve got the beginnings of a bay tree (kept in a pot, so it’s easy to relocate when it gets bigger), rosemary, traditional mint (also in a pot to stop it going mental). The next row down we have sage and thyme and finally on the bottom a little row of pansies.

We’d like to probably add some parsley at some point and maybe oregano – which would sort most of our needs except for basil and coriander – which I always seem to kill. So going to have to be supermarket herbs for those for a while longer.

Fingers crossed the herbs will settle in soon and expand a bit, so it looks a bit less uninspiring than it does now – although we’re still really happy with it.

Moving on to the back yard:

We’ve gone for some hardy little plants that will give some colour all year round without dying. So here are our little window boxes.

Not sure what these are exactly, but we believe the right one is a form of sage:

Window Boxes

Then ivy in the other box (needs more soil) and the last two pansies for a bit of colour:

Window Boxes

We need to finish getting the back yard tidy and decide what we’d like to do in our other parts of the front garden, but it’s been really nice getting our hands thoroughly dirty today and getting some stuff done. Odd how at peace we both feel, but Trev’s mum loved to garden and I come from a farming family, so we shouldn’t be too surprised.

What have you all been up to today?

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One In, One Out

We were out furniture hunting on Saturday to look for a chest of drawers for the bedroom and our travels took me past some little babies in need of care.

The first place we went to was Retro Boutique – a very funky little place that has amazing furniture, vintage clothes and knick knacks – just the kind of place I love. They also had a fantastic little Frister & Rossman shuttle sewing machine that looks in desperate need of TLC. Now I don’t want a shuttle machine, as they need the bobbins changing frequently and it can be harder to get parts for them. But I’m tempted by this one as the decals are beautiful. I might get pics next time we go in.

But I was strong, I passed.

We then made our way to Poverty Aid, where in May we saw this machine (full blog post here):

Singer Sewing Machine 15k

A lovely little Singer 15 in a treadle cabinet. It has since been electrified, but doesn’t work, so they’ve stripped the motor off it so it can be used as a treadle again. They wanted £65 for it, which is more than I think it’s worth (even with the boatload of feet in the cupboard) and when I went back on Saturday the poor little thing was still there. Looking very dusty and unloved.

But still I was strong. We were hunting for furniture and I don’t have the room for a treadle machine and another cabinet now I have Grace.

Then, I rounded a corner. And I’m told I let out a squeal of excitement. First I saw the case:

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

It turned out to be this:

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

Look how shiny and cute and awesome. I found myself trying to find a way to make Trev let me take it home. It too was £65, but considering how old it undoubtedly was and the truly awesome condition it was in, I felt a lot better. Plus it came with lots of feet – which I know I’ve said before I don’t need, but always helps to sweeten the deal.

Trev being the lovely, wonderful hubster that he is, not only bought it but cradled it in the taxi on the way home. His mum once had a very similar machine to this, in the bentwood case, so wanted me to get it almost as much as I wanted me to get it.

Brought it home, gave it a quick wipe with some oil and looks amazing:

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

Singer 99-13 Handcrank

Amazingly, some of these feet are ones I didn’t already have – which is great – only two are ones I already owned. So wooo!

I love the condition of the decals and the metalwork. Did you see the faceplate above? You can see your face in it, it’s that shiny. That’s the same for most of the machine, actually.

The serial number is Y8093031 – which makes it a model 99 (I think a 99-13 specifically), made in Kilbowie in 1930 – commissioned on August 19th. So she’ll be 81 next week. How cool is that! She will also be named Odetta – after an American folk singer born in 1930.

She’s be thoroughly oiled and sews amazingly – Trev is super keen to learn on this one as electric machines scare him slightly and he loves how much control he has when turning it by hand. I love being able to maintain these machines myself – from cleaning to simple repairs, I want to learn to do it all myself.

Speaking of which. Upon announcing his desire to learn on the hand-crank, I decided to sell the Novum machine (info and pics here). It doesn’t really offer anything different to my other machines and if I’m being shallow, isn’t as pretty! Perfect timing, as my mother in law then offered to buy it from me, to teach Britney to sew! So when they came to visit at the weekend, it got packed off with them in the car to take back.

So for a brief period we were up to four machines, but now back down to three. Determined not to buy any more unless they are fantastical awesome specimens that I just can’t resist. Like Odetta.

Of course I can’t blog without mentioning the events taking place in the UK at the moment. I know a number of people affected – there was a shooting in Leeds only two miles from my house last night and I have to go to Salford for work tomorrow where there are currently riots taking place. Needless to say I join others in finding these events absolutely deplorable. Instead I’m trying to find some solace in the pictures of people coming together to clean up streets, or serving tea to the police on riot shields.

I saw a great quote today essentially said that there aren’t more bad people than good people – the good just take a little longer to get organised. Let’s hope that the people who are trashing their communities (while there may be political reasons involved here, let’s face it, this is just people kicking off because they *can*), can instead put that energy to better use and instead build up the areas into something to be proud of – rather than expecting to have life and a nice place to live handed to them on a plate. Things like this are going to put people off investing in areas and creating jobs – exacerbating the very issues that they are allegedly rioting over.

Anyway – this isn’t a political blog and I don’t want it to turn into such. My thoughts are just with those affected and I hope we see the end of things very soon.

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Grace’s cousin

So last week I bought something on Gumtree:

Singer 201 Hand Crank

It’s a 201 hand crank machine! Or a 201-4, to give it the full model title.

Before I go into details and specifics, let’s have some more pictures:

Singer 201 Hand Crank

Singer 201 Hand Crank

Singer 201 Hand Crank

Her serial number is EE904964 – her number was issued on December 28 (Dad’s birthday) 1948 and she was made in Kilbowie, Scotland.

The decals are in generally excellent condition – again considering the age I’m very happy. Turns out these machines (the hand-crank 201s) are very rare in the US – as by the time the 201 came out, most houses were in the process of being electrified and people wanted to purchase electric machines – so I feel like I’ve come across a bit of a special one.

She looks pretty similar to my other 201 with the potted motor – the lettering on the arm is a little different and it obviously doesn’t have the motor and light as it’s person-powered – so it looks a bit smaller. But what did strike me is the difference in the back plate. Here’s the one on the new hand-crank:

Singer 201 Hand Crank

And the one on Grace:

My Vintage Singer Sewing Machine

Their faceplates are both the same, so a little odd that these are different!

I bought it from a lovely lady who had it from her mother who loved it very much. Unfortunately she passed away from multiple sclerosis earlier this year and her daughter was chuffed to know that I would give the machine a name – something her mum always had the habit of doing. Her name was Mary, and the machine came all the way from Weston-Super-Mare where Mary and her daughter lived. The machine itself never had a specific name – it was just called Singer. So, I asked Jude if she would mind my naming it Mary – which she very graciously agreed to.

The machine itself is in lovely condition – sews very well. The hand-crank mechanism needed reassembling, so I felt very clever after taking it all apart and figuring out how to fix it. For anyone wanting to do the same, check out the Tools for Self-Reliance site. Lots of instructions about fixing and tweaking machines – mainly the hand-crank and treadle only machines, but a lot of the tips will apply to electric machines as well.

Can’t wait to get using it – will be perfect if I ever want to sew anything super chunky that my motorised machine might struggle with! Not bad for the bargain sum of £25! I want to replace the little wooden cover on the base, as it’s not original and doesn’t fit too well. It also didn’t come with any feet, but I have a full compliment of those already so that’s no problem.

Love these old machines!

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