As you might know my blog’s title includes the motto “caring for tomorrow”. This may not become obvious or be in the spotlight in every post, but it is a very important aspect of my life.
Maybe one of the biggest steps towards a more sustainable life is to realize what plastic does to our planet and to our health and that we do good avoiding it as good as we can (I won’t go much into detail here because I don’t want to proselytise. If you want to inform yourself a quick online-seach should give you a good start) This is anything but easy, in fact so much of our daily life is made from plastic, it is next to impossible avoiding it completely. So the best we can do is to check our every day routine, where can I avoid plastic with little effort, what can be substituted with something else and so on.
One of the easiest and yet most important things is to do without plastic bags. The vast majority of plastic bags is discarded after having been used only once. And during my years working in a bookshop I have even come across some clients who complained about being used as an advertisement panel when carrying plastic bags, really, what a first world problem! We are used to not forgetting our keys, our handkerchiefs, our gloves at home, but I always encounter the same excuse “I simply forget to take a cotton bag with me”.
Interesting how our brain works sometimes, for me it’s all about prioritising and if I don’t want to forget that bag, I won’t.
I don’t want to talk about cotton bags today, I do have too many of them and I don’t sew any more of them as long as I have all these that somehow gathered in my broom closet over the years. And yes, I do keep one with me in my handbag, always.
But sometimes, a cotton bag just isn’t the right mean of transportation. Think of berries and salad from the market or a cake from your local bakery. So when my mother asked me last year if I was interested in an old basket I said yes immediately. I had planned to get a basket for already some time, but I thought this was something I could easily find on a flea market or in a charity shop and didn’t want to buy a new one, so when my mother said she had been given this old one and didn’t need it, it was just the perfect timing.
My joy ceased abruptly when I saw it the first time:
This was most probably the ugliest basket I had seen my entire life. That yellow stuff you see at the sides is yellow pvc-tablecloth and was supposed to cover the basket but the elastic inside was a little out of shape, so it just hung down very poorly, looking even more horrible.
The naked basket I liked much better:
But it has a little problem: As I said, it is old. I don’t know how old, but old enough for the material to get brittle. It still can hold weight, but the single stalks break very easily, especially at the bottom. Carrying a bottle of milk is fine, but you have to be careful not to throw anything directly onto a single stalk or it could break, therefore destabilising the whole basket. Here you see the problem:
Well, I had two choices: Leave it as it was, knowing that the basket would be completely damaged and unuseable in the foreseeable future (and risking to cover the street with my groceries one unlucky day) or I could face and solve the problem.
You can imagine that I wouldn’t write this post if I would have went for the first option 😉
I decided to copy the pattern from the ugly yellow cover and to add a lining (could you call this a lining in this case or is there a more appropriate word?). The bottom piece of the lining I attached to a piece of cardboard, so that the basket underneath would be protected from anything heavy falling on one single stalk.
I used an old lavender coloured tablecloth I got years ago for free because it has some stains. I wasn’t able to cut away all the stains, but they are on the lining so not visible because of the cover (and I can’t wash the lining, so it will be even more stained in the future, I suppose). The tablecloth had a darker stripe woven around the edges, some 10cm away from the hem, I placed these stripes vertically in the lining (below the handle) and included it in the design of the cover as well.
Somehow I made a massive mistake when calculating the lining, you see I had to add a quite wide strap to make it fit. Here a photo how it looked before I added the cover, you can see the dark woven stripe below the handle:
Let me tell you, sewing something onto a basket is NOT funny. I attached the lining with a straight needle and it was not easy at all, for the cover I used a curved needle. I have to admit, it worked better, but my fingers started to cramp because of the unfamiliar form. I am quite sure that this was the first and the last basket I ever made a cover for.
I decided to add a little embroidery to make it less plain. I went for a design I found in an early 20th century pattern sheet for machine embroidery, I already briefly mentioned it in this post. I searched for the book it belonged with (“Das Sticken mit der Nähmaschine”) online and it is dated around 1910-20 (no year was printed on it, these are the seller’s guesses) And no, I didn’t machine embroider it, but used back and stem stitches which resulted in a rather naive and plain embroidery effect, but I like it pretty much.
You can see how I included the dark stripe into the design.
I overlapped the two sides as the yellow pvc had done also, don’t ask me why the two sides look so asymetrical, they should be identical (and it is on purpose that I didn’t put one side on top of the other, this would have looked even more odd).
The edges are the original hem of the tablecloth, on the back of it I attached some cotton ribbon to thread the elastic through. Now it closes properly again.
The pattern sheet I copied the embroidery from is in a very fragile condition and tears when I unfold it, so I will try to use it at little as possible in the future. The pattern I used for this project I had traced onto tissue paper. To keep it, without manipulating the pattern sheet again, I digitalized it. And because I am so kind I will share it with you, klick on the image to enlarge it (and tell me when you makee it, I am curious to see your version):
I like the result very much and love to take it with me to the market. And though I know I won’t try to sew with baskets again, it was well worth the effort.
See you soon, love,
Well, what should I say? I didn’t finish the Christmas dress.
I am not far from doing it, so I am still positive (though not entirely sure) to wear it for Christmas Eve.
The last weeks have simply been too much. I am not at all content with the posts I wrote during this sew-along, inexpressive photos of fraying half-assembled whatevers are exactly the sort of thing I did not want to show anymore, they are nothing I am happy to share, neither are they interesting to look at, I assume.
Maybe challenges where you show only completely finished garments are more my kind of thing. So I am not sure if I should join a sew-along anytime soon again.
To throw me even further back I spent half the night awake with stomachache and shivering. As you can imagine that leaves me a bit off today.
Only very short what I have done on the dress, in case you are still curious: The dress itself is done. The belt is ready to be attached to it as are the collar and the jabot. I still have to add the closure (hidden press buttons), stiffen, assemble and attach the cuffs and cut the velvet border for the hem.
Now while I try to recover and clean this mess that is supposed to be a Christmassy-decorated flat, I will leave you with a scan of some Christmas motifs I found in the December 12th 1925 issue of my “Schweizerische Unterhaltungsblätter”.
I won’t translate the text, but will only paraphrase it:
These are supposed to be Christmassy-looking nativity set animals and comets that can be realized in a variety of techniques. The easiest way would be to cut them from eg. paper and glue them together to use as table decoration or for a door frame. Very quick as well would be to do this as appliqué in felt or cloth. To use as cushion cover, book sleeves and the like you can also make them, very modern, from cut leather. And of course simple painting them is quickly done and highly effective as well. The wreath is meant to be copied as a complete circle and can be used for doilies and similar things, but also for leather, wood painting or embroidered items. The bookmark [I suppose they mean the motif on the far right] is made from sheepskin and very solid, it can easily be cut with scissors. You can deepen the lines by dampening the leather with cold water and retrace them with a pointy object, a needle or something similar. An alternative would be to burn the lines.
I think the motifs look very special and unexpectedly abstract, nothing I would connect with old fashioned christmas decoration.
See you soon, and if I won’t manage to post in the next two days,
First because the date always collides with the due date for the HSF-challenges and I didn’t manage to write two posts in such a short time, second because sometimes I can’t decide what to show you and plan too large posts in my head I never even start to write.
And since we know that we will move again in a few months, this time into a smaller flat, I suffer from a total flea-market-ban. I already have too much things to move into the new flat, it really wouldn’t be wise to buy much more (though it is so hard!).
But a few days ago when having a close look at old books and some incunable pages my favourite antiquarian bookshop had put out for me I couldn’t help dropping into a lovely antique shop just next door. The owner knows me and knows in what kind of stuff I am interested in. When I asked him if he had something for me he said no, only a pin cushion box he would assume I am interested in. But I thought being already there I could as well have a look. Unfortunately I had to tell him that it wasn’t a pin cushion at all and the sight of the pins in the already very damaged silk really hurt. But it was so lovely I had to buy it.
It is quite large, maybe 25cm diametre. The motif is flocked or maybe painted onto the satin, which is, as cleary visible, very fragile and damaged, much of the warp thread is disappeared. On the bottom left you can see a small signature (it is hard to decipher, I assume it says “Chembine” but I can’t find anything online)
The bottom is covered with a patterned paper I am pretty sure is not original but was added in the 2nd half of the 20th century.
The inside of the lid proved my assumption it being not a pin cushion at all, but some kind of chocolate or praline box.
“Au Vieux Gourmet” in Nancy, a french city appr. 300km north of Berne.
I love love love this Robe de Style motif and the cute little doll the woman is holding in her hands. This may be the main reason I couldn’t pass on this one, even if it was quite expensive with 30 CHF (appr. 25€).
And because this was really the only thing I bought this month I thought I could show you its little brother, another chocolate box I already bought over a year ago in another antique shop only a few metres away from the other one.
Silk, again. This one in a dark red and ruffled, topped with a tambour embroidery in silk and (fake?) gold thread, a golden lace attached to the side.
You see, the silk is damaged, too. The seller assumed it to be a little younger than the new one above, maybe from the 1930ies. And she gave me the hint of it being a chocolate box.
The inside is a little more interesting because there is some paper lace still in place, though very torn and dirty.
While the 20ies box looks great inside (but as I said, I assume it being changed later), this box doesn’t look as nice. Maybe this is the reason the seller asked only 10CHF for it (appr. 8€). I have to admit I never searched for these boxes, so 10CHF being cheap and 30CHF being more on the expensive side is a very subjective evaluation, I have no idea what these things cost elsewhere.
And now you might ask how I use this box without completely destroying the paper lace (because I do use it, I try not to collect things I can’t use because I have neither enough room nor enough money to buy everything I like).
I use it to keep some of my jewellery. To protect the paper lace I covered the whole inside with a sheet of acid free wrapping paper. Like this nothing touches the inside and the lace and the material doesn’t harm it either (if I would use standard, acid, paper it would make the old substance brown and brittle, it would disintegrate sooner or later as you can see with old books, who sometimes just fall apart because of the acid in the paper itself)
Though I do already have so much boxes and old tins I really love these silk covered ones and I can’t promise that I won’t buy some more if I find some.
And I really hope the next post will be about some sewing project again. 😉
Yet again I had to skip a HSF-Challenge, simply because all my UFOs where in such an early state of work that I wouldn’t have been able to finish any of them in time.
But this time I’m back in the game. The task was “black and white” ant though I would have loved to sew a magnificent black robe with white details, I was too eager to start an experiment. So I made this experiment match the challenge.
Earlier this year, a colleague in the museum asked me if I were interested in some antique patterns she had been given years ago. She had wanted to add them to the museum’s collection, but back then nobody was intested in doing so, so she kept them in her office. Now she found them amongst her documents and finally the now new colleague in the graphic collection will officially add them to the inventory. Before this was done she gave them to me so I could copy them for my own purposes. Besides one pattern sheet from the 1910s all sheets were from 1904 and 1905 issues of the “Schweizer Frauenheim” (because it is museum property I can’t publish any photos). As Wikipedia tells, this was one of the early magazines of the Swiss women’s movement in the beginning 20th century.
The pattern I chose makes this even more obvious: It is a so called “Reformleibchen” a bodice without any boning, invented as an alternative draft to the heavily boned s-line corset of the 1900s. While it is still tight fitting and more or less supportive, it is not shaping the body, but can be understood as a hybrid between a chemise and a brassiere. I am not completely sure if it names the same thing, but it can at least be compared with the liberty bodice. And of course this new shape wasn’t restricted to undergarments, but is part of the so called dress reform (the second one, there was already a first attempt in the 19th century, today often closely connected with Amelia Bloomer, similar attempts but in different shape were also done by the Pre-Raphaelites, whose women dressed in wide dresses without shaping corsets underneath). In contrast to the early, victorian dress reform, this early 20th century reform gained much more attention and did even appear in fashion plates, but also in caricature.
In contrast to the s-shaped-Line of high fashion, the reformed dress has no accentuated waist, but falls straight from the shoulders with a wide flared skirt. The decoration is often predominantly placed around the shoulders and ends above the stomach.
The “Reformleibchen” consists of flat lying bodice parts and ruffled parts around the breasts. My pattern closes with a facing in the front. The biggest problem I had when working with this pattern was, that I had neither instructions nor pictures of how it was meant to look like, only the different cut pieces with numbers in the corners to match. I first sewed everything together to see how it looks like. Having had embroidered the facing before doing anything else, it didn’t even came to my mind that they should be placed differently than next to each other (thinking of a corset substitute rather than a fitted chemise), but in fact it seems as if these bodices where meant to be closed with buttons in the front (note that the linked example is at least somehow stiffened, maybe not with boning, but something similar as the seams around the bodice show).
The bodice consists of very loose woven cotton, bought as a duvet cover at IKEA years ago.
Fot the embroidery I used black cotton thread and patterns from a 1906 issue of “Kunstgewerbe für’s Haus”.
I used a ribbon with hooks and eyes as closure. Though I doubt that the quality I used existed in the 1900s, I did find similar ribbons in late 19th century garments, so at least the concept was known and used.
I made no changes to the pattern at all until it was finished but for the hem. In this state, it looked like this in the back:
Next thing I did was to eliminate approximately 15cm width to make it fit.
Only after I had done it I found this caricature, showing an upper garment with a very similar cut in the back without any fitting at all.
Well, it isn’t the best fitting garment I ever made, but it came together surprisingly well and it was a great experience to reproduce such a special and alternative piece of clothing.
The Challenge: #9 Black and White
Fabric: white cotton (satin or twill, can’t remember exactly and am too lazy to search for my linen tester)
Pattern: reformed bodice from an “Schweizer Frauenheim”-issue of 1905, embroidery pattern for clothing from “Kunstgewerbe für’s Haus”, 1906
Notions: white cotton and polyester thread, black embroidery cotton thread, white ribbon (to stabilise the rear neckline), black bias binding, hook-and-eye-ribbon.
How historically accurate is it? I was pretty sure about it being quite acurate until I found out about this button-closure-thing. This and the modern hooks and eye ribbon, the polyester thread and the fact that I assume the bias binding not to be correct, 75% ?
First worn: for the photos, on monday.
Total cost: the fabric cost me 4€ as a duvet cover because the pillowcase was missing, but there is plenty of it left and it was already years ago. Notions came all from my stash as well, can’t imagine having paid more than 5€ for all of them, so maybe we could say 7-8€.
First: Welcome to my new blog-adress, I hope you found it without any problems. I was contacted by my old host, telling me that I had exeeded my upload limit, so I had to react rather quickly not to lose my blog. The move made me erase a lot of the old posts, I’m sorry if some links to no more existant posts won’t work anymore.
But let’s talk about sewing:
The second challenge in the HSF 2014 was named “Innovation”.
First I though of sewing a 30ies dress with a zipper after the 1939 zipper promotion I found in november.
Innovation can have a very direct influence on fashion and sewing, namely zippers, artificial colours, artificial fibres and so on. But it can influence life (and thereby fashion) in a different, an indirect way.
Can you imagine Dustcoats developing without cars? Bicycles did so much for the acceptance of women in trousers. Putting steel hoops in crinolines allowed the skirts to grow as big as they did in the middle of the 19th century. And you wouldn’t be able to sew a cover for your smartphone or tablet if there hadn’t been someone who invented it.
Well, first I was very keen to make this miniature folding screen which is in fact a windbreak for a petroleum-operated coffee machine. But while I would have been willing to ignore the fact, that most participants sew garments (I am still not sure if it is part of the rules, if yes I am going to break it, at least this time 😉 ), I wondered if anybody would accept this as a sewing-project. At least I wouldn’t have, so I saved it for later (and please, don’t ask me when I am planning to use a miniature screen, I have no clue).
While searching for a pattern or at least an idea what to make instead of the zipper dress, I stumbled upon a little device, meant for an invention of the 19th century, surely one of the most profund ones when it comes to sewing. No doubt, sewing machines changed sewing more than anything did in the last hundreds of years. Even inventions of artificial fibres or dyes did not have such an impact on the actual process of sewing.
So I though, why not go with it 🙂
The first experimental devices to produce a mechanical seam date back to the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the middle 19th century that a properly working and commercially successful machine had been developed. The American Elias Howe had his sewing machine patented in 1846, but he didn’t succeed in turning his invention into money. After having failed badly attempting to put it on the market in England, he came back to America a few years later, only to see that a certain Isaac Merritt Singer very successfully sold sewing machines, working with his technique. This was the start of a triumphant success in the whole world.
In Europe, the 1850ies and 60ies saw the birth of a large number of sewing machine manufactories, some of them survive until today. Most of them produced licensed machines after the Howe/Singer patent, often after the founder had been to the US to study the American Singer machines. The 1870ies saw a second wave of factory foundations.
It would be too much to enlist all the additional inventions, patents and improvements made in the 2nd half of the 19th century. The chain-stitch machine, working with only one thread, was followed by the shuttle-operated machine, which again was followed by the bobbin system with the rotating hook, as we still use today, though the different systems lived alongside each other until the older ones finally died out. Zig-zag- and decorative seams became possible, the first electrical sewing machine was already issued in 1899.
But still, having a sewing machine was luxury, at least in its early years. It took the sewing machine until around 1900 to become a indispensable part of every household. And the number of handsewn gowns from the second half of the 19th century I see everyday at work show better than any statistic that only because the sewing machine had been invented, it didn’t mean everybody had one.
I own the “Der Bazar”-issues from 1872, an illustrated magazine on fashion with tutorials and patterns (unfortunately, the pattern sheets of mine are lost), not unlike sewing magazines today. A february issue featured a nice little box, meant to contain sewing machine supplies and I decided very fast that this was to become my project for the challenge:
Sewing machine supplies in these days meant oil and a cloth in first place. 🙂
The tutorial asks for “Ledertuch” to use as main fabric, which I would translate as leather-cloth. I was very sure that this wasn’t meant to be real leather from the beginning. Though I wasn’t sure what this word exactly described, I went to work, using a very shiny fabric from my stash. The ones who have been following my blog for some time might remember it: I bought very much of it, because I planned to wear a hooped skirt as my prom dress. After having bought the fabric, but before I started cutting I saw that this was a little over-ambitious back then and went for a completely different style, using only very little of the fabric. A few years ago I made part of it into a half-circle skirt, using the wrong side as right side, because I didn’t like this shiny style of the fabric anymore. I still have plenty of it left and this time the shiny-ness of the fabric was just what I had been searching for.
I searched for the meaning of “Ledertuch” shortly afterwards. According to an encyclopedia from 1905, “Ledertuch” describes a linen or cotton fabric, covered with linseed oil and grime, technically comparable to oilcloth, a treatment with patterned barrels gives it the appearance and marking of real leather (source).
Well, I had assumed something like this. But, first, I do not know if it is still possible to buy real oilcloth, what is sold nowadays is plastic-covered fabric, at least in normal houseware shops, no tinted oil anymore. I have to admit, I keep a whole roll of patterned oilcloth from the 1950ies in my closet, but that wouldn’t have made a good match, I suppose.
Secondly, I don’t suppose oil cloth is very nice to work with.
I decided the shiny fabric is as close as I could get to the original one without extensive search and bleeding fingertips (and as I said, I had already begun).
The box consists of two ovals, a large strip and two rectangles, all cut from cardboard and covered with the fabric.
the lid and the rectangles to form the compartments, already covered
The outside of the box was to be covered in pleats on all sides but the back of the box. So I made a loop from the fabric for the inside and a panel of pleats. The latter one alone took me a couple of hours. I measured the pleats (0,5cm each), pinned them down, ironed them and basted them in four parallel lines (three of them where removed after assembling the box, one is hidden under the embroidery).
I closed the upper seam, connecting the pleated panel with the lining fabric, with the machine (there are in fact only very few machine sewn seams on the box, only this connective seam and the pleats’ hem). I had cut the fabric for the inside larger than needed, like this I was able to sew it in place stringing it, connecting the seam allowance with the fabric at the bottom of the box.
Here you can see the different basting seams hidden below the pleats: the seam I used to form the cardboard strip to a ring (there is no trace of glue on this box), the seam I made to tense the lining fabric and the basting I had to do to keep the pleated seam allowance in place, without it, it shore up and was visible beneath the pleats on the outside.
After this step I sewed the bottom oval in place, attached the embroidered band to the pleats (it is in fact an embroidered strip of the fabric sewn onto a green galloon, tutorial asked for a woollen ribbon, that was as close as I was able to get) and connected the pleats to the boxes’ bottom., the gap in the back of the box I filled with a piece of fabric.The pleats are 1,5cm longer than the box itself, so it really has to hang, or it would stand on them.
The embroidery is said to be executed in “point russe” stitch. There are very different definitions online what a point russe has to look like, but the image looked to me like a feather stitch, so I went with this.
To sew the rectangles into the box to form the compartments was hell! I used curved needles, straight needles, nothing helped, it was just awful. And as you see, they aren’t set in properly, no to say orthogonally, but I won’t undo this seams to give it a second try, never!
The decoration of the lid was only very briefly described in the tutorial, it only said to apply a ruffle from the same green ribbon as used below the embroidery around the edge. So I cut the rest of the galloon in half and turned it into a a loop. This loop was laid in pleats and attached to the lid, upside down, so that I would be able to fold it over the sewing allowance and give it a clean look on the upper side. Unfortunately the galloon frayed horribly and while I folded and basted it in place, the seam allowance became visible in several spots. I couldn’t think of an alternative to attach the galloon with a better result, so I sought for an emergency solution. Luckily a darning cotton I founnd in my stash matched the colour very well, so I turned the 20m I had of it into a braid and sewed it on top of the fraying sewing allowance.
You can see that colour of the darning cotton is close, but not the same. But this is really barely visible. In the middle of the lid I attached a small loop below the ruffle, made of a small rest of the braid (the tutorial suggested ribbon or fabric, but because I had no use for the rest of the braid, I chose this).
The colours, black fabric, green ribbon and white embroidery, where given in the tutorial. I stuck to them but for some exceptions: The rectangles inside the box as well as the lid were meant to be attached with white thread. I decided this to be a very stupid idea, at least for me, because that wouldn’t only mean that the compartment themselves look messy, but the seams holding them as well, So I went to work with black thread. And the bow on the handle was to be made from black silk ribbon, but because I still had some white satin ribbon in my stash, I used this.
The Challenge: #2 Innovation
Fabric: black shiny fabric, presumably polyester
Pattern: tutorial without a pattern found in “Der Bazar. Illustrirte Damen=Zeitung, Nr. 7, 12. Februar 1872”
Notions: cardboard, twine (to sew the cardboard), polyester thread (machine seams), cotton thread (hand sewn seams), pseudo-woollen galloon (normally used to edge wool-fabric), white thread (maybe mercerized cotton, used as embroidery thread), 20m darning cotton, satin ribbon.
How historically accurate is it? Very, but for the materials used. I followed the pattern very close and tried to use only techniques available back then. I am pretty sure the green galloon is not made from real wool and I certainly know the fabric and ribbon to be artificial fibres. So the shiny-ness of the material is not caused by linseed oil, as would have been historically accurate, but by the fabric itself, so I would argue the overall appearance is at least comparable to the original.
Hours to complete: very many. This is by far the most time-consuming thing I ever made, considering the time it took and its final size. 10-15 hours I suppose.
First worn: in use since 25th January 2014
Total cost: I can’t remember how much the fabric was, something between 6 and 7€/m, I used only very little of it, so maybe 2-3€ for the fabric, but it has been in my stock for years. Cardboard was left from some calender or wrapping, can’t remember, but it was definitely for free as material. Embroidery thread was old, found it in my stock, can’t remember from where I got it, same applies to the darning cotton. Only thing I had to buy for this project was the green galloon, I bought 1m and paid something like 2 CHF.
If you include the pattern, the project was pretty expensive. For the complete issues of the year 1872 (48 issues, 392 pages total) I paid 200€ a few years ago, which is actually too much, considering its condition and its age. It is available for less, but I didn’t know back then (it was a time before iphones where widely spread and I stood at this antique fair booth having to decide very quickly). But this is only one pattern from many I can make from this source 🙂
what bow? This bow! And here you can see that I made it into a home for my hexagon quilt supplies:
As a résumé I must say, this tutorial wasn’t logical at all. The loop suggests to be used to open the box, but the lid can’t be closed, because the pleats force you to hang it, using the handle on the lid, opening it. Additionally the lid should have been made slightly larger that the bottom oval. The pleats seem to enlarge the box visually, so the lid appears to be too small. Additionally, the cardboard bents a little to the outside and intensifies the effect.
But I am content with the result and working with an almost 140 year old tutorial has been real fun.
See you soon,
all information on the technical history and the expansion of sewing machines derives from: Peter Wilhelm: Alte Nähmaschinen. Namen. Daten. Fakten, Duderstadt 2002