Whilst flicking through some sewing magazines from the 1940s and 50s the advertisements caught my attention:
There was obviously no shortage of gadgets being marketed at home sewers and knitters…
…and as can be seen in the advert below, kittens were used to sell things back then too!
Today I am feeling inspired by my vintage (almost antique) manual Singer Sewing Machine. I haven’t used it for a little while, but I have a few projects planed that it will be perfect for!
I also have a modern electric John Lewis sewing machine, which I love, but nothing beats the sound and feel of the old Singer… The Singer is also a thing of beauty which looks good as well as being useful, something the modern sewing machines don’t quite match up to (the beauty bit that is; electric machines are obviously extremely useful, and a lot faster than the old manual and treddle machines!).
I have collected a fairly extensive range of original Singer Sewing Machine feet and attachments (the old, ‘Simanco’ labelled ones): I think they invented an attachment to do almost anything apart from bake a cake! I have big, complicated feet for anything from producing ruffles, pin tucks or pleats (yes, those are recognised as three separate functions!) to darning, sewing buttonholes and attaching lace. The largest and most technical-looking foot is the one for producing a zigzag stitch- it seems amazing now, but the early machines couldn’t move the position of the needle to sew the common zigzag stitch, so a foot was invented that moved the fabric from side to side instead!
I have spent many hours trying to work out what various Singer Sewing Machine feet and attachments are, and how they work!
Yesterday I finished cutting out all of the pieces for the yellow fox-fabric dress, so now it is all ready to start sewing. Today, however, I got distracted. I had an old pair of jeans that I was going to take to the charity shop because the length and fit of the lower legs was far from flattering: I decided to cut them back into a pair of long shorts, perfect for the warm weather! The vintage liberty-style printed cotton fabric was one of the pieces that I found at a car boot sale at the end of June (see the 26th of June blog picture). It is relatively easy to upcycle a pair of trousers like this, and it is a good stash busting project too!
First I cut the legs of the jeans to the length that I wanted them (without adding a seam allowance, as it isn’t needed). Next, I measured the circumference of the bottom of the legs, at the top of where I wanted the cuff to sit: my finished cuff is 5cms deep, and the legs of the jeans taper, so it is important to measure them at the widest point in contact with the cuff.
I cut one rectangle of cotton print fabric for each leg: the length of the rectangles was equal to the circumference of the jeans leg, and the width was double the depth of the finished cuff (then adding a 1cm seam allowance all round). In order to make the sewing as easy as possible, I folded over and ironed the seam allowance- except for one short end, as this is covered by the other short end in the finished garment- and then ironed the cuff pieces in half horizontally.
The next stage of the project was sewing the cuffs onto the jeans legs. I pinned them in place first, with the folded and ironed short side overlapping the unfolded end to make a neat finish. To give a crisp finish, the cuffs were sewn over the jeans legs with the bottom of the legs sitting inside the cuff, all the way down to the crease at the bottom of the cuff fabric. I sewed the cuffs around the top, about half a centimetre away from the edge of the cuff fabric. Once I had sewn all around the leg, I then sewed down the cuff to fasten the overlap in place.
To make the cuffs look integral to the design of the jeans, I then added some rectangular strips of matching material to the tops of the back pockets. The pocket pieces had to be sewn on by hand, rather than with the sewing machine, to avoid the pockets being sewn shut in the process!
Ta da, finished cut off jeans ready for some sunny weather!
A few weeks ago I finally found an instruction booklet for my old manual Singer sewing machine. The booklet cover was torn and half was missing, so I took the booklet apart and re-bound it. I re-stitched the pages, and some brightly coloured ‘measuring tape’ fabric was used to cover the new cardboard cover. A photocopied and laminated vintage Singer business card was attached it to a ribbon to use as a page-marker. Now it’s ready to use!