Saturday, May 18

Mending a vintage silk blouse

I was recently asked to mend this silk blouse. The owner did not know exactly how old it was, but my guess is 1930s. The amazing thing is that virtually all the stitching is done by hand and as you can see from the photos below, there is an awful lot of it! Every single seam, all the pin tucks, the attaching of the lace......... it must have taken hundreds of hours.The photos are not the best - I'm still having trouble with my camera..... but I hope you get the gist of things.





The pintucks -




The collar -





The under side of the collar, showing the hand stitching -





French seams at the sides - 





There were various parts of seams that needed mending. On the far right of this sleeve seam you can see the original stitching, and to the left is my repair; not quite as neat and small -





This is where someone had mended it before, using backstitch instead of the running stitch that was used originally, and which I used. The backstitch is a bit thick and lumpy - 

Previous repair


An underarm seam, a bit sweat stained........ I did think of asking the owner to wash the blouse before I mended it, as there were other dirty marks on it too, but I refrained, and just got on and did it. I have read that you should mend old garments before washing them but personally I don't like mending grubby things and won't do it again.

Another previous repair


There is a button missing from the bottom of the blouse now as I had to use it to replace one on a cuff. I also had to make a new button loop, seen here at the top, and looking rather white compared to the one at the bottom. That might be due to a different coloured thread or just that the old one is grubby -

New button loop



Here there was a tiny loop attached to the shoulder seam, with a popper fastening, for holding in place the straps of undergarments, and this is a bit of a mystery, because - the stitching you can see is done by machine! The photo is not that clear but I can assure you that that bit of stitching is done by machine. It's the only bit of machine stitching that I found on the whole blouse, and how strange to find it here on this tiny loop! -  




It was a privilege to work on a lovely vintage garment like this.

Monday, May 6

Savoury flapjack recipe

A somewhat different sort of post for me! What inspired it was an episode of Dragon's Den earlier this year, in which the founders of a snack company called Oatein pitched for investment by the Dragons. I have since looked up their bars and have not been impressed with their ingredients.


As I watched the programme, I thought about snack bars generally and in particular the ones that Husband and I keep in the cupboard (from Aldi) and realized that delicious though they are, and very good for bike rides, most of the ingredients are grown abroad. Also, the wrappers are not recyclable. Then I wondered - could I produce something that was based on oats but which would not be very sweet and which would contain ingredients which were grown in this country? Something that even contained vegetables perhaps? So the next day I set to work, and this was what I came up with!



Savoury Flapjack

8 oz oats (I used rolled)
8oz hazelnuts
8 oz grated carrot
4 oz butter
2 oz honey
2 eggs, beaten
A large pinch each of salt and pepper

Melt together the honey and butter and mix it all up. Talk about easy.....

I put it in a tin which is about 9" square I think, and cooked it at 150 degrees C (fan) for 45 minutes.
Cut it up when it has cooled slightly, then leave to cool in the tin completely before turning out.

I kept it in the cupboard when I first made it but it went mouldy after a few days so I now keep it in the fridge. And I think it's delicious!

The only ingredient which was not from this country was the hazelnuts, but I chose them because you can obviously get them in this country in the autumn, as you can walnuts or almonds but I'm not sure that their flavour would go so well with the carrots. It's not unlike a nut roast recipe - in fact you could probably make it as that.

It is excellent for taking on bike rides as it is pretty filling stuff and is very quick to just get out of the fridge and wrap up - in something reusable. I think it is a good balance of carbohydrate, protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals. It is actually a lot more than a "snack" - I have taken it instead of sandwiches and it has kept me going for a long time.

If anyone would like to test this out, do let me know your opinions.

Saturday, April 27

Singer 411g and the mystery problem with the cam stack

I bought this machine last year via Facebook marketplace, recognising the model as one of Singer's best. It's a slant needle model and does chain stitch. In the home of the person I bought it from the machine was ready for me to try out, but it was on the floor; the person was foreign and communication was not all that easy, so after merely pressing the pedal to see if it went, and fiddling with the knobs and levers and presser foot, to check that they moved, I bought it. The only attachments with it were one foot and one special disk. It did have a sticker on it showing that it had been serviced a few years ago.

I then left it for quite a few months as other things had to take priority, plus to be honest I think my doing-up-machines mojo had got up and gone for a while, but once I got it out again the mojo came back. I have since bought two other machines, a Harris Automatic and a Singer 201 treadle in a very nice Enclosed Cabinet No 51, so my case of VSMA (Vintage Sewing Machine Addiction) was clearly just in remission.....


Usual place for machines that I'm cleaning up i.e. the kitchen table - 




I bought a manual from Helen Howes; I know I could have downloaded one for free but this time I wanted a genuine Singer one. I cleaned the machine, oiled it, greased the gears, and tested out the stitches. All was looking good. 

This machine has a stack of cams, which are the metal disks that enable the machine to produce the different stitches. I have a cam stack on the Bernina 801 that I use, but I have never needed to do anything to that, and I have had no experience with working on cam stacks on other machines. I watched this video How to clean the cam stack on Singer 401a - a very similar machine to the 411g but without the ability to do chain stitch, and it seemed a straightforward process so  I went ahead and took mine out and cleaned it. For reasons that will become clear, I just wish I had taken photos of the cam stack before I removed it.

Cam stack in bits before cleaning -



Cam stack after cleaning (we'll come back to the arrows in a minute) -

PIC 1

Cam stack back in the machine -


Now, observe - there is a wiggly spring clip (right hand arrow in pic 1) that should be held in place by that screw (left hand arrow in Pic 2, correctly termed the stud I believe). That screw should  hold down that clip, but on mine it doesn't. It should be sitting right down on it and there shouldn't be that gap under the top of the screw. 

Here is the cam stack from another machine; this is what that screw and clip should look like - 

Someone else's machine


I didn't know this until I went to try out the one special disk that came with it; it worked at first but then popped off the top, meaning the machine was no longer doing that particular stitch.

I asked on the Vintage Singers group on Groups.io (used to be Yahoo) if anybody could help; someone sent me some photos of the top of the cam stack on her machine so I knew mine wasn't right. I contacted Dan Hopgood (good blogger on vintage sewing machines in the UK) knowing he had one of these machines and he very kindly removed the cam stack from his machine, took it apart, gave me measurements I asked for and sent me photos. Everything on his machine seemed to be identical to mine. I took the cam stack in and out, in and out, and took it to bits again and again, but it seems that it is impossible to get that screw down far enough on my machine in order for it to hold that clip in place. Total mystery.

This is why I wish I'd taken pictures before I took the cam stack out, so that I knew whether or not it was like this to start with.

I plan to sell this machine but don't want to do so until I have sorted this mystery out, as even though the stitches that don't involve the special disk work fine I want to be able to sell it with that disk working properly. There are several other disks that go with this machine (how does this happen -  attachments getting separated from machines?!) and some future buyer may well want to to buy extra disks and use them.

So - I'm rather hoping that somewhere out there is someone who will read this post and solve the mystery for me!!