Sunday, 10 January 2016

Unplug your Machines when not in use

If your machine has a bakelite foot controller you should never leave it plugged in when not in use. 
Singer tells you this in (some of) their manuals.
From Singer 201K manual

How they Work

These controllers use a stack of thin carbon discs which are compressed by the button you step on to allow current to flow. A friend of mine in Canada has a blog which explains this in detail:

Why Unplug?

There are three good reasons I can think of to unplug your machines:
1. Over time current starts to leak and this can make them hot. This heat can build up enough to start a fire, which can happen when you aren't home or when you're asleep in bed.
2. The higher voltage ones (220V/240V) were fitted with a capacitor to prevent AM radio interference. When this breaks, it short circuits and the machine suddenly goes at full speed. Yes it can happen when you're not at home! 
3. Your machines are fascinating to kids, who love to play with them. If the machine is plugged in, kids are more likely to be injured. When my machine isn't in use I unthread it, place a piece of fabric under the foot, foot down and needle down.

You can certainly tune bakelite controllers so there's less danger, but the best thing you can do is to get into the habit of unplugging them when you're finished sewing. Don't be frightened of these. They're original to the machines and perform very well, so there's no reason to get rid of them. Knowing how they work is valuable.
A few years back I did an entry on fixing them up. Not as comprehensive as archaicarchane's, just removal of the capacitor.

What do they look like again?

Not all carbon disc controllers look like this:
Singer Bakelite Foot Controller

Some of them look like this:
Husqvarna controller from early 1970s
Even clam shell controllers use carbon discs: My daughter's 1970 Singer has them, and a generic Taiwanese replacement I opened up also had them.
I was surprised they all didn't use coiled (resistance) wire, but they don't.
That's all. You've been advised to do it and told why, the rest is up to you. Have fun!

Friday, 1 January 2016

1937 Home Journal Pattern

Wasn't going to write about this until it was finished but every time I go to a Spotlight sale, I seem to bump into a fellow blogger. Same as last time, she was going through the patterns ($5 everything but Vogue sale ended today). I was not this time: Instead it was a frantic search for a zipper after realising I'd nearly finished and shops won't be open tomorrow (new year's day). Glad I did, thornberry is always fun, and seeing her reminds me of blogging for some reason :-)

So, a few months ago (okay, six) a friend asked me to make her a 1930s dress.

Here is the pattern:
The one on the right
Here's where I am up to now:
The finishing will take a bit of work, but need to add zipper, shoulder pads and facings.
It's after midnight now (happy new year) so I'm off to bed. I'll edit tomorrow and detail the details. This pattern was not easy and the bodice was quite challenging. Measuring the pleats was the most difficult. More tomorrow.

Okay maybe not quite :-)

Instructions are:

After the patternmaker adjusted the pattern for our friend, I went to work on making it happen. The fabric chosen was linen or a linen blend. Whatever it is, it takes the iron on maximum and with steam to rid it of a crease!
The first thing I needed to do was create those pleats. It was decided to make the contrast yellow so I decided that on my 1959 Pfaff 360 I could do zig-zags very close together (Pfaffs are excellent at doing this). I'd say about 85% of time and effort went into the front bodice and this is the hardest piece I've ever made. This means a lot to be learned.
I created the pleats first then the darts. The pleat measurements have to be extremely accurate. If not the neck facings (not in the pattern, but the depression was a while ago now, so splash out a little) won't fit. Use steel ruler, edge of your table or both to ensure absolute straightness of these pleats. Pin, baste and sew, and when everything is okay (you might well have to unpick - not worth it if you overlook anything) you need to create the contrast. Make sure the stitch width is almost zero and do a test before going near the production garment. The pattern is marked where you must stop. The bottom part should be pleated but the pleat edge is not attached.
I chose to put ric-rac (or rick-rack as it used to be called) on. I pinned and basted, but found it easier to attach it by hand than to machine stitch: The machine was too hard to keep between the waves and it would be almost impossible to get a zig-zag even close. A treadle may have given sufficient control for it to work, but honestly, with colour matched thread, the hand stitches are not seen anyway and I had absolute control.
The bust darts next. These are just as normal darts, and a hint with darts is that if the wearer has a larger bust, make sure the points of the darts come to a smooth point.
The rest of it was very straight forward, so we made another addition. Added some Petersham ribbon to the waist to prevent stretching. This doesn't show at all, and is just a nice added feature to ensure the shape is retained.

Seam finishes

I've been told that pinking looks terrible and makes clothes look home made. Well, in 1937 almost all garments were pinked, especially if they were home made.
Well, very few factories had overlockers back then. If you're thinking French seams, the linen is too thick and the seams would end up a bit bulky.
So I pinked every seam.
Pinked seam, with bias binding
That reminds me: Used this wide binding on the bottom edge. Sewn right sides together then blind hemmed it. This takes a long time but why else would it look as close to the picture? I don't take shortcuts.
Only the belt remains. I've ordered a load of original deco buckles from the U.K. (they seem very common there) and will update the entry when they come through. It shouldn't take long to make a self belt for this dress. Will update again after she's modelled it.