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Sep 5, 2017

New Shirt, New Class, and Another Vintage Sewing Machine


Readers, I recently completed this summer shirt, made with floral shirting from Mood Fabrics.

I used Vogue 8889, an in-print, fitted men's shirt pattern I've tried a few times before.  It has back front and back side panels, somewhat similar to princess seams (except they're located largely under the arm, rather than near (or over) the apex of my chest (or the widest point of my back)).   You may notice that in the pic on the right where I'm wearing shorts, the shirt appears longer and more shaped than it does in the photo on the left.  That's because I decided to shorten the hem a bit more between shoots.


You can read more about the making of this shirt, and see some additional detail shots of it, over at the Mood Sewing Network here.  (I've heard through the grapevine that this print is an actual Liberty of London design called Edna, though it's not being sold as such: it's roughly 1/3 the price of true Liberty Tana Lawn.)

In other news, remember the Singer Featherweight I found at the Chelsea Flea Market the weekend before last for the ridiculously low price of $48?  Well it needed a bobbin case.  I'd read a number of blogs that said that repro Featherweight bobbin cases suck (particularly the ones made in China), but it seems I had to learn this for myself.  I found one on eBay that claimed to be of higher quality than most.  Long story short, it didn't work.  I found a true vintage one online, paid substantially more for it (like, as much as I'd paid for the Featherweight itself), but it works!

Repro on the left, Singer original on the right

Avoid.

In other sewing machine-related news, I visited the Chelsea Flea Market last Saturday morning and saw this -- a beautiful, working Singer 401A.  Be still, my heart!



The machine was basically complete, though it came with only a zigzag foot, and cost just $25, which is a very hard-to-resist price (for me).  It was already well-lubricated and ran smoothly -- a good sign.  (I bought some new spool pins online to replace the makeshift ones the previous owner must have created using nails and duct tape.)

The 401a is a slant machine, which means the feet (and needle) slant slightly forward, the purpose being to make it easier to see what you're sewing.  Honestly, to me it doesn't seem like a big difference, but Singer kept making slant machines at least through the 1960s and the Singer Touch and Sew.  (I used to own a Seventies-era Singer Genie and I'm certain it took regular feet.)  If you know more about the Singer slant machines and why this novel design was eventually discontinued, do tell.

I'll write a longer blog post about this machine because it's an amazing model: aluminum body (meaning it's much lighter than it looks), internal cam stack (with the capacity to take additional external cams), and amazing power (it's gear-driven as opposed to belt-driven).  You can see me sew one of the decorative embroidery stitches here.

Finally, last week, classes resumed at FIT.  I'm taking just one class this semester, the first in the Haute Couture certificate program. It's called Haute Couture Sewing Techniques (AP242).  I adore the professor, a real old-school type who takes no short-cuts.   Below are a few of her samples, decorative hem facings.  The facings themselves are faced with silk organza and everything is finished by hand (though the facing are attached to the bottom of the hem by machine).



And that's it!  I'll have some bridal gown updates shortly.  I expect to have Val's gown finished by this coming Sunday; her wedding takes place at the end of September.

Have a great day, everybody!

17 comments:

  1. The reason they stopped making it was, of course, cost. Once plastic became a viable construction material that was cheaper, kiss quality goodbye. As for the design using the forward slanting foot, I'm not really sure. I seam (ha! See what i did there?) to recall it was because it had to use special feet and they wanted to keep everything universal. I personally won't sew on anything else. Once I sewed on a friends modern straight shank (*hurl*) and it struck me how much less of the fabric I could see. There are many facebook groups dedicated to slants, singers, and featherweights with tons of info. P.S. I scoff at your paltry 16 vintage machines and raise you 22! And there are people with FAR more than both of us combined! Sew on!

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  2. That machine is the same one that my grandmother has! She bought it as a college graduation project for herself in the late 1950s/early 1960s. More than fifty years later, it is still running smoothly. As a child, I learned to sew on it and liked how easy it was to thread. Not sure what sort of pedal the one that you have includes. My grandmother's machine has an unusual one with a sort of button that you press with your toe....not my favorite design. Minor quibble given the overall quality of the machine. After decades of heavy use (she sewed clothes for her five children and annual Christmas pjs for 8 grandchildren, as well as a fair amount of quilting), the machine is still going strong, requiring no more maintenance than blowing the dust out from time to time.

    So surprised to see it here that I felt I had to share.

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  3. Lucky you that you find these fabulous machines! Enjoy your Haute Couture techniques class. I used to absolutely hate hand basting until I took this class. I learned that hand basting provides you with ultimate control and accuracy. Have fun!

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  4. That's a wonderful machine. My SIL found one under the crawl space in her house, and with 30 minutes of cleaning and oiling, I had it running. Your mock Liberty print is one I had in the 70s. Long may it reign.

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  5. I could've written E's comment above. That Singer machine looks identical to mine! My grandma (born 1923) bought it mid-century and sewed decades of projects for her three kids and six grandkids. Then passed it on to me 10 years ago. One of my spool pins has snapped like yours. Otherwise in incredible working condition -- feels like it'll last forever and ever.

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  6. I keep seeing these machines in cabinets at the big thrift store. And yes, you had me at gear driven. Oooooh.
    And thanks as ever for the reproduction part advice.

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  7. Congratulations on your 401. I just got a 403 from Craigslist and love it!!!

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  8. There is a ton of info out there on the 401s. Living on the other side of the pond, I have a (couple) of 401Gs, the version made in Germany which is very similar -- sort of half way between the 401 and the 500. For me they were hard to learn to love, with a fair amount of jangly noise around the bobbin/case, somewhat disconcerting if you like the smooth silkiness of the featherweight, but you kind of get hooked on them. Both of mine have a comforting -- how to say it -- stability in the transportation of the fabric and the stitch that is reassuring, probably part of the direct drive effect. In a way the feel reminds me of the way some of the Pfaffs between 2000 and 2010 that I've tried. Then of course those 401s are so charmingly 50s high-tech, modern looking. My manual (in French) begins by modestly describing it as the most sensational sewing machine that has ever existed. I wouldn't go quite that far, but when I do get the urge to bring one out of the closet, it does hang around for at least a couple of projects before going back into hiding. Curious to know what is spurring these renewed forays into the vintage machine world. I guess we'll just have to wait and see... in any case, have fun with the new toys.

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    1. Performance.......especially when sewing heavier fabric! Vintage machines have more weight and don't bounce all over the table. Gear driven machines have more 'backbone' and with the proper needle will sew denim without a hitch.

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  9. I have mine in a cabinet and love having that large flat surface for the fabric.

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  10. That’s my mom’s machine! Not only did she sew all our clothes on that machine, but she got us through some hard times by making some money with her sewing. Wasn’t easy, but she did it. I learned to sew on that baby. I inherited that machine and all it needs is occasional cleaning/oiling. More noise than the featherweight, but when I hear my baby purring it’s music to my ears.
    The shirt looks great! Another triumph!

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  11. I, too, have a 401A. Her name is Renée, after Renée Fleming, a classic American Singer.

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  12. You look terrific in that shirt, Peter. I'm looking forward to seeing Val's finished dress. It's going to be stunning!

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  13. Peter, this may be a bit off-topic........ but how do feel about pinning, both when sewing and cutting. I've seen a few videos where pinning was kept to an absolute minimum and I can see the point. Of course difficult fabrics such as silks and napped fabrics do require much more. I once tried to make a shirt out of cotton chiffon and I can't tell you what a disaster that turned out to be! Do you find yourself doing a lot of pinning in your work?

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    1. I rarely pin when cutting since I usually use a rotary cutter but I almost always pin when sewing. I don't get why you wouldn't want to pin except as a point of pride.

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    2. I guess it's a time saving factor....I tried it and it works on manageable fabrics, but of course I wouldn't hesitate with anything difficult. I have a rotary cutter, now what size mat do you have? Mine never seems to be big enough.

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  14. Hi Peter. What a fabulous shirt! Love what you share on your blog and thought our readers will too :) We've included this in our latest craft inspiration roundup https://craftylikegranny.com/fall-craft-ideas/ Cheers Emily

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