Friday, January 30, 2015

A Draft from the Past - Toddler's Romper and Bonnet

This size 2 years, McCall's romper is made in one piece and has a matching sun bonnet.  It also has a matching doll and doll outfit.  Be still my desiccating ovaries!
McCalls 2322, vintage pattern for toddler's romper, bonnet and matching stuffed doll
In these days of sun awareness, the bonnet is perhaps ironic in contrast to the bare legs, arms and back of the romper. 

It is an impractical garment on so many levels.  Ties in the front because you totally trust a toddler with a self tie in front - yeah, right.  Solution - knot the buggery ties so hard that you lose all traction on that toilet training when the "Mummy, I need to gooooooo!" moment comes, as it so inevitably does.  That tie would definitely have to be extended to wrap around to the back.

The pattern instructions suggest lining the romper but state that it is optional.  It therefore gives no  instructions for how to go about lining the garment which is quite at odds with the over-engineering of the doll pattern.

Transfer for decorative stitching on doll

The doll pattern comes complete with original transfer to mark the decorative stitching.

This pattern is completely intact down to the transfer paper. It was never made by the original owner.

I am tempted to make this in a bright gingham or sweet Liberty print just because I can and not because it would be useful to anyone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Draft from the Past - half circle skirt

Madame Weigel does it again. 

This pattern is for a half circle (in one piece) skirt with faced waistband. 

It adorable but not even the slimmest of my adult friends, has a 24 inch waist.

The instructions and pieces are intact and I doubt the pattern has been used.

It would look so cute in a print with a crisp shirt and cardie or matching bolero.

As much as I love it, this one will be going on eBay - or speak up in the comments and we can do a deal if you'd like it.  That might keep me in pattern money for a little while.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Improvised thread cone holder

So I thought I needed one of these which cost about $80 and have to be mail ordered.

commercially available thread cone holder with heavy base

What I really needed was to identify the function of the item I desired and look around me.

So I made this, for nothing, and don't have to add another unitask object to our home.

Lazy Kate threaded through the loop of a safety pin on the sewing machine's reel holder

Large sewing projects just became more efficient by not having to change the thread.  And this weekend I have half a house of curtains to make and then there are 14 or so tablecloths and several hundred metres of bunting for the wedding to sew soon, too.

Here I was winding bobbins and taking photos.  It sews better when the Kate is on the floor.

The old Husky has been serviced and is such a work horse for jobs like this.

Another improvised thread cone holder is documented here.  May give it a go as well.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Fig at the Gate

"I used to love nightclubs, now I love nurseries."

That quotation from Kate Llewellyn's "A Fig at the Gate", is a good summary of the book.

Published in 2014, it is subtitled "The joys of friendship, gardening and the gaining of wisdom".  The memoir documents a several years in Kate's life in the creation of a new garden, spending time with the oldest of friends and gaining new ones, and the consolations of age.

I wavered between enjoying very much being directly addressed by Llewellyn and reading her personal diary and having an uncomfortable feeling of TMI.  I suspect it is because I am starting to feel my age as well.  And while I am considerably younger than Kate, I am past the half-way mark by a few years now.

"It may be that gardening creeps up on one when some of the fury of youth falls away."

Some of my discomfort I experienced initially with this work is not the writing or the format (a series of diary entries), but that we see the joys of gardening differently. Llewellyn, initially, sees gardening as a subsitute for sex, I see it more a channelling of the nurturing impulse.

I became less uncomfortable as the years pass (she chronicles 2009-2012).  Perhaps the because really we have a simile for a relationship.  The initial obsessive and physical joy gives way to the creation and nurturing of new life and the grief of death.

Llewellyn explores the joys of the flesh through her garden as well as the more emotional connection of the company of her family, her oldest friends, creating new life, and making new friends.

I loved that this book made me think and address some of my own assumptions and it gives me hope for my own future.

My third book of 2015 and number 3 in the Australian Women Writer's Challenge.  Earlier reviews here and here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Draft from the Past - Overall or Sunsuit

I suspect that most of the patterns I bought in the bargain bundle were from the same family.  If I could put them in date order, I might be able to work out how many children and of which gender.  There's a lot of supposition in that sentence.

The second pattern I opened was another Madame Weigel's pattern.  This one for a child's overall or sunsuit (for Boy or Girl), 1 year.

Madame Weigel's pattern for child's overall or sun suit, age 1 year

There was no instruction sheet or illustrated list of pattern pieces for this one, but the instructions are on the back of the envelope and the pieces listed.  The only bit missing is the trouser patch pocket.

The pattern advises creating a waistband facing but provides no instruction.  A lot more assumed knowledge than on modern patterns.

My mother made us similar overalls as children, usually cut down from men's suits or corduroy trousers bought at op shops (yes, this apple didn't fall far from that tree).  She would have sewn down the straps to the back of the garment so there weren't buttons sticking into baby's back.  She would also have added length to the straps and sewn three or four button holes along the strap to allow for growth.

The bonus in this pattern is a redraft of the shoulder strap, or it could be a for a different garment.  The original shoulder strap is only an inch wide.  The sewer redrafted the piece on newsprint at half the length and double the width or the original.  I tend to agree with her - a useful strap for kids is quite wide.

Madame Weigel's pattern for child's overall or sun suit, age 1 year with hand-drafted pattern piece
The sewer used a pencil to write her cutting instructions:


Pencilled instructions on hand-drafted and altered pattern piece

The newspaper used is The Herald Sun, dated 1950.  That's as close as I can get and there are tantalising bits of advertisements on the paper.  On the side with the annotation is an advertisement for Ovaltine and on the reverse, part of a shop ad for New Look styled winter coats.

I wonder if the sewer attempted her own New Look coat?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A draft from the past - Carrying Coat

We were at a charity sale on the weekend (I know, how unusual!) where I found a small pile of vintage sewing patterns.

a selection of vintage sewing patterns from the bargain bundle

The price was low for the bundle, so they all came home with me.

I adore vintage textiles and their patterns, and thought I might have a go at sewing some of the children's patterns.

Vintage garments often have such beautiful details which I would love to be better at. Practicing on child sized garments seams a good way of acquiring skills while not investing in a large-woman sized garment's worth of fabric and time.

These old ones are single-sized, so it doesn't matter too much if they are cut.  With more modern multi-sized patterns, I'm less likely to buy cut patterns unless they are cut to the largest size.

The  first task when dealing with vintage or other second hand sewing patterns is to check that all the pieces are there.  This can be challenging as very old patterns do not have the pieces marked, you have to check them against the instruction sheet, if there is an instruction sheet.

This first one, an infant's carrying coat, is incomplete.  It is missing the sleeve which I may or may not choose to attempt to draft.

The pattern illustration gives two suggestions for construction - a smocked front and back below the bodice or a simple gather.  There is no for smocking design provided.  The instruction sheet says "Smock or shirr as desired".  Madame Weigel assumes a lot of skill.  The instructions for the hemming are "Turn hem on collar ... and spoke-stitch, - or it may be a faggoted band of rouleau."

Madame Weigel's pattern for and infant's carrying coat

The illustration also suggests either a peter pan collar or a pointed one, but there is only one pattern piece provided, the peter pan.

Now these patterns are delightful remnants of the past in themselves, but sometimes there are added joys.

There was, though, an added bonus - a pattern piece drafted on brown paper with hand notation.

Madame Weigel's pattern for and infant's carrying coat with hand drafted pattern piece

The piece does not belong to this pattern.  I could tell that by it's size, and by the shape of the piece which did not match the schema on the instruction sheet.  I could also tell by reading the notation:

Handwritten instructions on hand-drafted pattern piece

Bodice for pleated shirt
for Melva 4 years opening down back
1" 2" pleats face right to left
stitch down back of pleat

I get a thrill when I find these whispers from past sewers.  Was it Melva's mother who drafted this piece and wrote these instructions in fountain pen?  The paper from which the piece is cut has been crumpled ironed flat before drafting.  What did the paper wrap before it became Melva's bodice pattern?  There are only a few pinholes in the paper.  Was Melva growing so fast she only had one or two blouses from this pattern? Was the new baby so demanding Mum didn't have as much time to sew?

Yes, I can let my imagination get away with me at times.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reality check

While I would love my life to be all about reading wonderful, transportive and transformative books, and making useful and beautiful textile creations, sometimes the reality is this.

Table linens, fabrics for new creations and some clothing overflow engulf the ancient Elna Press


A couple of weeks of external commitments and the ironing has rather got away from me.  These photos were 10.30am Sunday and there is also another basketful lurking under the racks.  By 2pm, when we had to go out, one rack and the basket were clear.  There may be less creating and more ironing this week to gain some control.

At least it is organised and prioritised.  That helps. As do podcasts.  I am so grateful to podcasters for helping me through the necessary evils of domestic life.