Monday, February 27, 2012

The Yarn of Grandpa's Mustard Cardigan

It's a routine I have - wander down to the library, return a few books, pay the inevitable fine, then wander round to the supermarket to pick up a few things for tea.

At the pedestrian lights the mental anguish begins... Shall I just whizz across and have a look?  Na, last time there was nothing but junk...  But remember that navy horsehair bag for $1, and the yellow bag too!  And that Festival of Britain scarf, I might even find some tools, or some scraps for the quilt, if I'm lucky some vintage patterns...  The light turns green and I cross, succumbing to the draw of The Shop With No Name.

It's in the $1 room that I usually find the best bargains, and a mustard woolly mass catches my eye.  Eekyacht - it's a gross old knitted cardigan!  It's huge but hey, it's clean!  Safe to touch, I inspect the inside - yes, it is hand sewn together - this handknitted grandpa cardigan is unravellable - yay!

There is so much cardigan that my $1 purchase fills a grocery bag on it's own.  Over two sunny afternoons in the back garden, fending off the playful cat, I unravel the lovingly hand knitted grandpa cardigan.   It has several tidily done repairs, and has even been taken in at some stage. I fantasise about who knitted it, and who wore it, and how many episodes of Coronation Street it took to complete.

I'm reminded of my Grandma when she would come to stay, as she used to unravel too.  Any outgrown jerseys in our household were turned into kinky balls of yarn before you knew it, and by Day 2 of Grandma's stay The Blanket would have begun.  I remember arriving home from school each day and checking how far The Blanket had progressed, sometimes having the privilege of choosing the next colour.  By crocheting 3-4 strands together at a time, it progressed relatively rapidly, round and round, a wheel of colour evolving subtly and not-so-subtly as each unravelled jersey was converted into it's new purpose in life:

A couple of Grandma's blankets
I don't remember the recycling word being part of our vocabulary in those days.  Reusing materials was what you did - you never threw out anything if it could be used for something else.  Materials were usually good quality and discarding them would have been a waste - common sense really.  It is good to see recycling become popular again - whether it is for environmental reasons, reasons of thrift, to obtain something totally unique, or just plain old common sense - it's all good.

Here's an initial glimpse of what I'm turning my $1 bargain into:

Don't ask - the plum stuff cost $14!
Since I found this wool, I've picked up some French navy 10ply wool for a song too!  Have you unravelled any old jumpers just for the yarn?  There are some real bargains out there for the intrepid yarn-hunter.  You may not get your first choice of colour, but that would be too easy wouldn't it?!  And it can always be turned into a blanket like my Grandma's.....

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trousers - Wide or Narrow Leg?

Are you a wide-leg trouser fan, or are narrow legs more your thing?  I've always felt more comfortable in straight or narrow legs, and have never really been a wide-leg-trouser person.  I tried some on once (actually they were pyjamas!) and they looked alright, but I've never owned a pair as they always seemed so grown-up to me!

But there are so many nice inspiring naval style trousers in blogland!  So with the belated realisation that I am grown-up, and aided by the fact that my personal trouser block has long needed redoing, because I have not only grown up but out as well, I took the plunge into Wide Leg Trouserville.

I'm quite happy with the results, and they are very comfortable - the fabric is a relatively heavy but stable knit with good drape - the same fabric as my 1956 All Black Dress.

I have a long waist to hip height, so commercial patterns never fit me.  When I make my own, the front rise looks fine:

Although it looks like I need to shift those L side buttons down a bit lol!  The back rise is good too:

I thought these two side-on photos were worth posting - in the first one I am standing as normal for me, and in the second one I am trying to hold in my tummy and tuck in my bum - look at the affect this has on how the leg hangs:

I thought this was a good example of how things need to be fitted to your natural posture, not your wannabe posture!

My favourite thing about these trousers are the buttons:

They were pilfered from my mother's button box many years ago but I had never found the perfect use for them.  I think I finally have - thanks Mum!

The buttonholes were made using my Greist buttonholer, which jammed on the first buttonhole and left
a few snags, but I made sure the worst was covered up with the button.  I decided to close the pockets in this knit fabric as they curled out slightly.  By doing this the buttonholes didn't need to be cut, so I made them longer to make those pretty satiny stitches more visible.

I'm actually thrilled with my new wide-leg trousers - they are really nice to wear, but I still have to get used to all that fabric around my ankles when I'm walking!  I'm undecided what shoes to wear them with too - I envisage these trousers would look nice with flats but I don't think I'll wear them that casual, so I hemmed them for shoes around 8cm high.

Do you like wide leg trousers, or are you a narrow-leg devotee?  Maybe you switch between both with ease!  Is there a reason you prefer one style to the other - does one flatter your figure more, or is it a personality thing?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vintage Elna Advertising

When I was writing the post on my new Elna, I searched 'Elna-Discs' to try and discover the names of all those fancy stitches.  Instead I came across this lovely image on another blog - which summed up exactly how I felt the day I bought my machine home!

image sourced here - do visit and read her purchase story!
I never did find many names for the fancy stitches, but I did find more vintage Elna advertisements - so I thought I'd share!

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They don't make them like that anymore!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Miss Supermatic 1958

So, to get my Greist Buttonholer working, I had to buy a new sewing machine!  After a couple of months stalking TradeMe I settled on another Elna Supermatic - this one actually:

This model is from 1958 - later than my mother's 1955 version.  I purchased her from a man who repairs and reconditions Elna's for a hobby - and he does a great job because she runs as smooth as silk!

He had a few other machines in his queue that he showed me, and we looked over his Elna-disc collection - swoon! I was given 10 discs with the machine, and purchased another couple from him as well - so this is my collection as it currently stands:

01 - three step zig-zag stitch
02 - serpentine stitch
03 - zig-zag stitch
05 - scallop stitch
10 - blind hem stitch
12 - spindle stitch
13 - rectangle stitch

105 - greek key stitch
107 - herringbone stitch
108 -  triangular stitch
118 - wave stitch
121 - leaf stitch
131 - stalagmites and stalactites stitch
142 - daisy stitch
143 - sunset stitch

By the way, 'Elna-discs' are the cams that slot into the 'Elnagraph Regulating Device" - don't you love that terminology?!  Here it is, all lovely and mechanical, not a computerised, digitised or automated component to be seen:

I could seriously become a cam-collector.....

Of course the first thing I did when I got home was try out every single one!

Then I tried out the buttonholer.....
Then I cut out and sewed a dress.....
I had such a fun afternoon sewing in the sun at the kitchen table - and I'm so thrilled with my new Elna Supermatic!

Image sourced here
I do have a soft spot for Elna's - I suspect it has a lot to do with nostalgic memories of sewing on the kitchen table at home as a schoolgirl!  Do you have an attachment to a certain sewing machine?  A particular brand?  A specific era?  Or, like me - the machine you learnt to sew on?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Juliette Dress

Meet my new dress - Juliette:

She is made from a printed cotton sateen from Global Fabrics, and according to this photo needs strap retainers!  (And I need ironing mitts - I've burnt my arm on the iron twice this week!!)

Juliette has a contrast neckline, waistline and underbust band, with a ruched upper front panel and gathered skirt:

And there's a CB invisible zip - invisible of course!

I think I will make a petticoat.  What do you think - the fuller skirt looks prettier doesn't it?  I have a few other things I could wear a petticoat under, plus it means walking home from work across the windy bridge won't be so hazardous!


In my recent post on Grainline Vs. Printline, StephC asked what to do in the situation of off-grain stripes - and whatdoyouknow the next thing I cut was this fabric, essentially an off-grain printed stripe!  I did the opposite to what I did for my orange all-over spot - I cut ensuring the horizontal 'stripe' was horizontal, rather than the lengthwise grain being straight.  

Why?  Well, here's the method to my madness:
  • This print is more dominant than the spot, and if the lines aren't horizontal it will be more obvious in the finished garment.  On this dress imagine the bustline, skirt waistline and hemline on a slant - eeeky.
  • A slight skew in the lengthwise grain will be negligible in this design.  The bodice pieces are short so any skew is minor. On the skirt, any skewing of the lengthwise grain is going to be hidden amongst all those gathers and won't affect the hang of the skirt.  A straight skirt might be affected, so I didn't try to make a shift dress out of this fabric.
  • It comes down to a question of which is worse - off-grain fabric or off-grain print.  Every design is different, and the most appropriate compromise needs to be made - you get to decide where!