Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vintage Sewing Mysteries: buttonholer attachment

One of the things you hear when you say you use a vintage sewing machine is how there are so many things you are missing out on like instant buttonholes. Well, let me tell you about the secret weapon of the bottonholer attachment. This enables a straight stitch sewing machine to create a buttonhole.
They usually come in cases or boxes at least that ones I have seen have come in them. Inside the box you will find a smooth plate with a small screw, a larger screw, the buttonholer and some metal templates. Some earlier ones don't come with templates at all but the have other settings. You need to make sure you get the right one for your machine. There are ones for short shank, high shank, and slant shank machines.

The smooth plate is for covering the feed dogs of the machine if the feed dogs do not drop down on your machine. You will place this into place and make sure you needle is lined up. I like to place my needle down before screwing the plate into place. I find this the easiest method to make sure the needle and opening are lined up correctly. Now you know what those little screw holes are for on the bed of your vintage sewing machine because you get to use one of them.

The next step is to select the template you wish to use. These come in a variety of sizes from eyelet to 15/16 and from straight to keyhole shapes. Place the template inside the buttonholer. To do this flip it over and unlatch the metal door. Insert the template with the cog in the center.

If you flip over the buttonholer you will see and feel texture to it. This is the magical part of how this works. The buttonholer attachment works by moving the fabric instead of the needle. So the needle stays right where it is as it can't go anywhere on a straight stitch machine anyway. If you have a vintage machine that can zig-zag, like the Singer 500a, you leave it in the straight stitch mode when using a buttonhole attachment.
Although there were a few attachments made for some zig-zag machines where you need to use the zig-zag because it only moves the fabric around in the shape of the button hole as opposed to this one which moves it in the buttonhole shape while also moving it in a tight zig-zag.

The next step is to attach to buttonholer to the machine. You completely remove the sewing foot currently on the machine and it's screw. In it's place you put the buttonholer and it's screw. There is a part of the buttonholer that also needs to slip on to the needle bar.At first it might be tricky to get on but trust me it does go on an it gets easier every time.

Now you can do the final selection which is selecting how wide or narrow you want your zig-zag for your buttonhole to be. This particular one has settings 1- 6. One cool thing you can do is set it at wide setting for one go around and then set it at a narrow one for the second go around. This will give the look of a hand bound buttonhole. I usually go around the buttonhole twice anyway because once usually looks a little ragged.
The knob on the top is so you can adjust where the buttonhole starts. You need to be consistent with where you start.
Set the presser down and start the buttonhole. I like to draw up the bobbin thread to the top and then hold both by bobbin and top thread while sewing the buttonhole. If you are the type of sewist that likes to push or pull your fabric through the machine, stop just stop. You don't want to do that here and actually you really need to break that habit anyway. With this you want that attachment to do all the movement.

This final steps once it is all done is to clip the threads and open the buttonhole. I like to use a seam ripper or extremely sharp tiny scissors. I usually add a bit of fray check to the buttonholes once they are open.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A 1940's Stye Blouse: Simplicity 1692 Pattern Review

My first garment for the Vintage Pledge is done. I decided to start with something simple. I had picked up this reproduction pattern recently, during on of those great pattern sales, at JoAnn Fabrics. It is Simplicity 1692. The pattern is for a 1940's style blouse with varying sleeve and neck options. I choose to make version D which features a scoop neckline and dolman style sleeves. It has buttons at the shoulders, an invisible zip and the pattern called for trim to go around the sleeves and neckline. I opted not to do any trim detail as that isn't really my style. I did use vintage buttons at the shoulders and instead of trim I did top stitching.

This pattern is fairly simple be careful when cutting it out. I noticed a misprint on my pattern pieces on one of the facing pieces it was marked with the wrong sizes although the piece was the correct size it was not marked with the correct sizes of that pattern and the front facing piece was marked as being for the back.
I did make a couple of changes. I opted to self face my facing fabric instead of using an iron on interfacing. I really wanted my fabric is keep the same feel and drape. Iron on interfacing tend to be disappointing or at least my experience with them has been less than wonderful for garment sewing. The other change I made was I added a rounded hem to the front and dipped the hemline down a couple of inches. I am bustier than what the pattern company's draft for and so when I did a muslin of this blouse I found the front hemline was creeping up. This isn't really an issue if you tuck shirts in but I don't like tucking my shirts in. Changing the hemline meant moving the tucks for the blouse. I sewed the back ones in at their pattern placement. The front ones I wanted until just before doing to bottom hem. I wanted to make sure that they were placed correctly before sewing.I did mark them with tailors tacks.
I made my shirt out of a lovely plum colored fabric of unknown fiber content. I got the fabric from my mom and she couldn't even remember. Anyway this fabric has a lovely feel but tends to unravel quite easily. That meant I'd have to do some work on seam finishes. Some of my seams are french seams and the side with the zipper I opted to go with a bound seam using bias binding. I sort of wish I had just cut my own bias binding and done a hong kong finish instead of using commercially made double fold bias tape. Oh well I will know this for a future project. The importance of these seam finishes is so I can laundered the shirt without it falling to bits.
I also want to say that this was the very first time I have ever put in an invisible zip. I'm feeling rather proud of myself for getting it in. Let me just say that an invisible zip foot is a handy thing and worth every penny to get one. 

Big question would I make this again and the answer is yes. I think next time I will make if out of a cotton fabric that can have a quicker seam finish. I really like how the blouse fits and drapes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pattern Review Simplicity 1538

This year I decided to start sewing with some of those fabrics I have been hoarding in hopes of meeting some sort of magical goal or date. It finally seemed silly to hold on to these fabrics when the reality is I should just use them now. Enter the first project in this plan: a flannel shirt.

I bought a few yards of plaid flannel at Jo-Ann Fabrics one year. I can't even remember if it was last year or the year before. In any case it is a nice weight flannel with plenty of flannel nap. After I got the fabric I found the pattern it is Simplicity 1538. It's a simple shirt pattern suitable for flannel, cotton, chambray, broadcloth, poplin, and similar. It has variations in sleeve and your can opt to add a front yoke for a western style. You can add contrasting fabrics for a unique look. I stuck with just the one flannel although I did cut some pieces on the diagonal.
I decided to make a muslin of the shirt first. Being new to garment sewing and adjusting patterns; I like to see how things are first then make my adjustments. I went into this know that I'd most likely have to do a FBA (full bust adjustment). Luckily this pattern has plenty of ease so I didn't have to go too crazy with the adjustment. I did move the dart placement so it would be more appropriately placed. The other adjustment I made was on the sleeves. My arms are average with relatively thin wrists, so I decided to cut the cuff for a small sized shirt and then taper the sleeves to fit the smaller cuff. I'm really glad I did that because other wsie it would have been swimming at the wrists.
I spent a long time cutting out my fabric. I really wanted the plaid to match at the seams and across the body and arms. I spent quite a while marking and double checking placement before cutting. All this extra work really paid off.
Sewing went fairly well. The pattern was easy to understand although one area could have had some separation between two lines of text on the cuffs. It was a bit confusing on interfacing the cuff and then dealing with the cuff facing. I did change how the continuous lap band for the sleeves was stitched on. The pattern has you line up the stitching lines but due to the taper of the cut line that would have meant my sleeve was only stitched two or three threads in from the cut edge at the point. I didn't think that would be secure for this particular flannel fabric. So I took a deeper seam.
I will certainly use this pattern again in other casual fabrics.
Here is my final result placed on my vintage Uniquely You Dress form.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I got a dress form

For several months now I have been wanting a dress form. My research had lead to be believe the best one for my budget and skill level would be the Uniquely You dress form. It's a foam dress form that comes with a cover that you sew to your specific size. You sew the cover so that it's like a second skin so that the dress form would end up be a close representation of yourself.
A dress form is of course not a priority in my purchasing. Just the other day a quilter, my mom has known for years, mentioned that she was looking for rehome her dress form. I said I'd take it. I had no idea what type of dress form it would be. So I was really delighted to discover that it is a vintage Uniquely You dress form.
My new "friend" is smaller than myself so I'll need to pad her out some and I will need to make a new cover for her. Luckily, a few weeks ago I registered for a Craftsy class on Customizing Your Dress Form. I wont have to deal the the unique torpedo boobs feature that new Uniquely You dress forms often have. My form has been in her original cover for many years so the foam has been compressed. I'm not sure it is going to puff back up.
Like all dress forms I will have to give her a name. I got her from a woman named Betty so I could always name her Betty.

Friday, February 6, 2015

It's a blog makeover

Pardon the virtual dust around here. I started my blog last year to sort of go along with my etsy shop but then that seemed too spammy. I mulled it over and thought about it some. Then I realized I could use that domain that I had purchased for another online shop. So from now on the Rain Girl Designs blog is now known as Rainy Day Sewing. I will be blogging all things sewing, sewing machines, dress forms, quilts, garment making, little sewn craft projects and of course fabric. You can read about my adventures in sewing.