Friday, March 23

Singer Capri 141 sewing machine

I know I know, sometimes blog posts are like buses - you don't see one for ages and then six come along at once. Well, in this case, two....

The owner of this machine had had a problem with the tension and so had bought a new one. I picked it up last week and thought - hmmmmmm, Singer Capri, never heard of that. I seem to attract sewing machines which are a bit unusual and about which there is not much information on the internet! I found a few clues in the Yahoo Vintage Singer group, but now annoyingly can't find that information again as the search engine bit isn't working properly. Usually if I search the internet for a machine, it will come up with several for sale, which it did, and at least one that someone mentions in a blog, which it didn't. That's partly why I decided to do a blog post on it, rather than just advertising it for sale. Someone else might be searching for a Singer Capri 141 at this very moment! I found photos of this and other Capri models on, whence I also obtained a manual. No matter how simple a machine is, I don't feel it's complete until I've got the manual to go with it!

It is definitely made by Singer, and in Great Britain, but apart from that all I have managed to find out about this Capri range, is that they were probably made by Singer for the European market. I've no idea why that should mean that there is no information on them on the internet, as surely there must be someone in that big place called "abroad" who is still using one! The name "Merritt" on the foot controller is also a clue to it being different, Merritt being the middle name of Isaac Singer, but that's another tangent I need to go off at another time!

I think it's 1960s or 1970s, and it's a good solid machine with a mainly metal body. It is not quite all metal inside but is in excellent condition. It's a lovely machine and works well! There was actually nothing wrong with the tension; it was probably just a simple case of user error causing the problem. The machine is in fantastic condition, having no scratches or other marks that I can see. I don't think it can have been used much. The lady who gave it to me said it had belonged to her mother-in-law. The only thing wrong with it was that the clutch wheel wouldn't release to stop the needlebar going up and down when winding the bobbin. I tried and tried, and was then going to leave it overnight with some oil hopefully seeping in to the right places, but then Husband had a go and Bob was your uncle - released!

I gave the body of the machine a good clean (and the case), not that it was very dirty at all, removed all fluff from the bobbin area, oiled it, put a new needle in and tested it out. Everything works perfectly and it sews a lovely stitch. It does just straight stitch and zig-zag, and has reverse - simples! I also love the sound of it, which is something of a thing of mine - the sound that different sewing machines make.

Here it is -

With side extension plate

It sewed through several layers of cotton with ease

That all important instruction manual!

I think this might just be my favourite style of foot controller, regarding ease of control, even better than the clam style one I use on my Singer 201.

Foot controller
There are no extra feet with it, just the one for straight stitch and zig-zag, but extra feet are easily obtainable.

So, if you're interested or know someone who might be, I am selling it for £25.

Thursday, March 22

Purl Soho "Quilted Wool Vest" made from an old tent....

Over the winter I have had thoughts of wanting to make some sort of garment to go over my everyday clothes, mainly to disguise them a bit, so that I could wear, for instance, a lovely warm wool cardigan that is a bit on the tight and short side for my liking, but is nevertheless a very useful item for winter wear.

I had a brainstorming session with myself and the internet to find what it was I wanted. I didn't know exactly what I wanted but knew I'd know it if I came across it! The words that went through my head were, not necessarily in this order -

Nehru jacket
Crossover apron (I've made one of these before from my own pattern)

In my search I came across a few garments that nearly fitted the bill, in particular these -

I wanted something really that I could wear all day and not have to change or remove if I went out for a walk or cycle, so, much as I like the longer smocks on this website, I think the short ones are closer to what I had in mind.

You'll notice that one of the words in my list is "tabard" - this can mean either a short garment worn by cleaners etc., or a longer one worn in mediaeval times. I thought that if I could find a tabard (of the cleaner's sort, not the mediaeval sort...) in a charity shop, then I could probably adapt it to what I wanted. Of course it's actually a very simple garment which really I could probably have adapted  from any of my dress or blouse patterns, but as it happened when I next went into my favourite charity shop what do I see but a lovely - ahem - nylon striped one slung over a rail for 75p. So I took it home, took it apart at the shoulders, and started adapting.

I made up a couple of versions (much too basic to deserve the fancy word toile) out of old sheets, and came up with one that I was pleased enough with to think of making it up in a decent fabric. But meanwhile, I had come across this on the Purl Soho website -

Purl Soho Quilted Wool Vest

And their earlier version here

And I thought - "Ah! Maybe I'd like to make one of those..........." You can download the pattern free and it is only 11 sheets of A4. I would not have bothered with it if it had been one of those that has reams of sheets of A4 to print off!Too much printing, and cutting up and joining of pieces!!

If I was going to make this then I intended to make a trial version first, but one that was nevertheless wearable, and didn't want to spend a penny on it (sorry about that rather unpleasant picture that is no doubt now in your head....). I looked several times through my boxes of fabric and the only thing that I had that I had enough of, and that might produce something wearable, was some blue canvas which had once been Husband's boyhood tent! I think I've mentioned it before - when we were moving house in 2016 and clearing out everything, I found it in our outhouse and asked him if I could have it to cut up and maybe sew with, and after some deliberation he said yes, at which point I quickly got the scissors and started hacking before he could change his mind.

Do husbands ever let anything like this go without deliberation, even though they've had it for decades and are NEVER going to use it again? I mean, I ask you, a tent probably 45 years old.........was he really ever going to camp out in that again?  I was surprised that it survived the 60 degree wash I gave it.

For the wadding I used some curtain interlining that I had been given (pre-washed) and for the binding and the pockets I used bits of a denim dress I bought ages ago in a charity shop for £1. 

Here are the results -

The pattern is multi sized. I traced off the size (the second smallest) that I thought would fit, so that if it didn't I would still have the pattern to trace off another size.

Pattern pieces stuck together.

I should say here that I am not a quilter by any means! I know some of the rules, but basically I just make up my own as I go along. I was very pleased with how the quilting went. The instructions say to use a walking foot if you've got one but I haven't, for either of my main machines, so I just sewed very carefully, and found that the upper layer of fabric did not move much at all. I was using my Singer 201 incidentally.

Marking the quilting lines on the wadding.

Here I am trying it on before binding the edges. At this point I thought that the back of the armhole was bagging out too much, but I couldn't do much about it at this stage without ruining the look of the thing. I also thought at this stage that I should have made the next size up, as it did seem a bit tighter than I wanted, but I carried on anyway, although I did cut the armhole deeper by about 1 " as that was definitely too tight.

Trying it on before binding the edges

The finished garment

Before you shout - "The pockets aren't level!" - I know! By that stage I was getting a bit too pleased with how things were going and didn't take enough care to get them right. I think I actually hemmed them incorrectly. Incidentally I made them slightly bigger than the pattern said.

Finished garment

Armhole is just the right depth.

I did think about putting a zip down the front, rather than the press studs in the instructions, but I didn't have a suitable open ended one in my stash so instead used three of these ancient press studs which I had acquired from somewhere -

I am really pleased with how this turned out and have worn it a lot. I have often wondered why people wear this sort of garment but now I am a convert! It gives extra warmth on the upper body which I think is often where you want it. I don't necessarily need the extra warmth on the arms. I now think that the size is good - it is quite close fitting but I like the fact that it holds my others layers close to me. I can also wear it easily underneath my warm cycling jacket. I might consider making the next one slightly longer at the front, in order to cover up the too short cardigan when I wear it!

It isn't quite what I was thinking of when I started out on this quest, but isn't that often how things work out? You go down one path and veer off down another....... I still aim to make up the adapted tabard pattern when I can get hold of the right fabric either free or cheap.

One of my favourite online fabric shops, the Organic Textile Company, is currently awaiting a delivery of pre-quilted fabric. I have not found much pre-quilted cotton fabric available in this country. They previewed it weeks ago and it looks lovely. They told me that they had had problems  getting it, but it's on its way now. It would be lovely for this garment, if you didn't want to quilt your own.

Saturday, March 3

A weather report from Oxfordshire.........definitely no cycling....

It's beginning to seem like a rather long winter.............. which takes me back to the winter of 1987, when I sat by the fire growing Bump No 3 and reading "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can't remember if that winter turned out to be particularly long, but as you had to sit as close as possible to the open fire in that house to keep warm (in the years before we installed a woodburner, which vastly improved matters) every winter seemed long! I remember the words of the Indian in the book who warns Pa Ingalls of the long winter to come by saying -

"Big heap snow!"

The snow we've got here now is in very big heaps in places.

But to go back a bit, on February 6th, I'd ridden into Wantage in the afternoon to do some shopping. I pootled home,  the hour being slightly later than usual but not mattering as the days were getting longer. I was thinking "Oh isn't this lovely! The evenings are drawing out and it feels like spring has sprung!".

However, I had a little niggly sore throat and slight tickly cough, and two days later, while sewing, shivering took over, and that night I went early to bed, only slightly warmed by a hot shower, thinking that this was it - the Aussie flu had flown somehow to rural Oxfordshire. I had been due to go to Scotland to stay for a week with my daughter and baby granddaughter, as her Marines husband had had to go away for a month, but that had to be cancelled.

The next day it didn't seem to me that it was bad enough to be flu (I've had it several times in the past and I remember it as being worse than this) and over the next couple of days I just felt generally unwell and very tired. I thought I was just being rather lazy when all I wanted to do was - nothing. I looked at some boro hand stitching I'd been doing and couldn't even be bothered to lift the needle and thread to do that. However the cough got so bad that when I suddenly developed a sharp pain in the rib area, worse on breathing in, I thought I had cracked a rib, and I then saw the doctor (last patient in the surgery that night) who took my temperature and said -

"You've got flu".

Well I never.

The rib pain lessened and went away after about a week. After sleeping downstairs for several nights so as not to disturb Husband with my coughing, plus having laryngitis (my voice is still not right) and a smattering of conjunctivitis, I finally felt well enough to go out on the bike again two weeks and two days after that last shopping trip. Once again I was gaily pootling along thinking the same Springy thoughts as before.

But the weathermen had warned us that winter was coming back, and it certainly has! My bike remains in the garage, where the snow has blown in under the door. Husband's shift at work meant he had had three days off, but was due to go back to work today. He set off at 5.45 am, about 40 minutes earlier than normal, to get to work 12 miles away, but despite trying various routes he was back home an hour later as it was impossible to get there from here. A neighbour who works at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford got stuck about 200 yards from here about the same time and Husband and another neighbour helped her get her car back closer to home.

Yesterday I went out for a short walk in the morning, and the wind was biting.

Cold weather gear, with the 1898 hat (see below)

Sheep in nearby field

Husband and I went out again later in the afternoon. This time I had all the layers on that I'd worn in the morning -

4 (yes 4)  thin layers of wool
1 layer of thickish cotton/acrylic
Primaloft jacket
2 Buffs
Warmest hat (1898 hat - brilliant pattern, I'd printed it off years ago but only got round to trying to knit it this winter)
Winter lined Craghoppers
Over the knee socks
Bontrager lobster claw gloves (recent acquisition, warmer than the Pearl Izumi ones I have on in the first pic)
Leather walking boots
Husband's Rab softshell with hood.

This morning we both went out again, passing Mr and Mrs Range Rover who had got stuck and were being towed, and then went part way up a track to the Ridgeway.

I wore wellies this time, but they're not so warm. Husband's gear of Rab waterproof/windproof trousers with leather walking boots were a warmer combination.

The drifts were amazing and very beautiful.

Looking back down the track that leads up to the Ridgeway.

We didn't go much further up than this! I am walking on the side of a track which is about the width of a narrow road, so you can see how much the snow has drifted.

And then this afternoon, we thought we'd go out for a longer walk!! It was snowing  again and when it blew into my eyes it really stung. This time I put thick cotton tights on under the Craghoppers and warmer socks, again wearing wellies, which are hard work to walk far in. We walked about 3 miles, along roads which were wonderfully quiet, and across fields, and by the time we got home I was well and truly warmed up!

I don't think I can remember a winter when temperatures have remained below freezing for so many days. Typical has been -4 degrees C. We have stayed warm in our little house, lighting our inset multi-fuel stove early in the morning. The inset stove was not our choice though works very well. If we ever own our own house it will absolutely have to have a stove! At least then if you lose your central heating for some reason you have some way of keeping warm. Although we have kept our (oil fired) central heating on as well for longer than usual these last few days it is only on very low, and is turned off in the bedroom. We sleep with the window open throughout the winter, although Husband sometimes wants it shut if it is windy as the noise keeps him awake.  We also have a wool duvet which is the best we've ever had! Previously, even with a high tog down duvet, we used to have a thick blanket over the top and tuck a sheet in over the whole lot, in order to keep warm. If you live in a cold house, or just prefer a cold bedroom, I would highly recommend one. Their only slight disadvantage is that they are heavy to manhandle. But apart from the convenience of a duvet when bedmaking, I sometimes wonder why we ever abandoned blankets.........