Morplan Notchers

Oh how I longed for my own pair of notchers.  Right from when I started my fashion qualifications in 1983.  Right the way through my degree course.  But, as all things in the student world are ultimately balanced against how much of a night out could be bought for the same money, the notchers repeatedly lost and I gained, in their place, countless nights out and a bunch of friends I count on as such to this very day so I can’t say it was a bad trade-off.

For those of you unfamiliar with notchers, they are typically available in three cutting widths; 1mm, 2mm or 3mm and they do exactly what the name suggests – cut a notch.  They are used in pattern making and block making and are used to create a notch in the edge of the pattern or block which corresponds to an important point which will, on the paper pattern piece be marked with a pencil mark made through the notch which mark will, in turn, be notched and, on the fabric, snipped through to mark the sewing line, the balance marks on the sleevehead/armhole, the outside extremeties of darts and anything else that needs to be marked on to the fabric.

Occasionally I would visit the Morplan website just on the off chance that they had dipped within budget and even e-bay seemed to be stalked by the pattern-savvy so no joy there either.  Then finally, a few days ago providence smiled on me as a “Buy It Now” arose at £5 for a beautiful pair of notchers.  I’m not sure whether they’re the standard or the deluxe ones and nor do I really care – I have my notchers!

They arrived this morning and I am delighted with them.  They cut a perfect 2mm notch and I can now proceed with my current project – that of creating a block for the perfect pair of trousers, but that’s a separate blog entry…


Notchers close-up and the 2mm notch created with them.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

My Dad’s War

A bit of a digression from sewing today.  I’m feeling a bit mawkish and missing my Dad so thought I’d share how he spent his war.

My Dad couldn’t swim a stroke.  In some professions this wouldn’t really matter but Dad was a Merchant Seaman, a First Radio Officer.  He said it was the best job on the ship because of all the crew he was the one person without whom the ship simply could not sail and as he was not needed at all during the loading and unloading of the cargo, which took a good few days back in pre-container days, he had plenty of time to go onshore and prove his conviction.

He signed on and off 51 ships 151 times over a career spanning 43 years. He gained his certificate on the 23rd March 1938 and joined his first ship, the “Nova Scotia” on 5th May 1938, just before his 19th birthday.  On his first trip he sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia; to St Johns Newfoundland; Boston USA and then back to Liverpool.  He left his last ship, the MV “Tipperary”, on 19th August 1981.

Dad left Antwerp on 5th January 1939, aboard the “CID” and went to Chatham to load 3000 tons of ammunition.  The ship left Chatham and went to Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria.  She then went on manoeuvres with the fleet in the Mediterranean, off Alexandria.

My Dad

From Alexandria, they were sent to Cyprus, (Famagusta) for a rest and then went out again on manoeuvres with the fleet.  The “CID” was sailing as an ammunition ship – others were sailing as store ships etc.  Ammo ships had an escort, and the “CID”’s escort was HMS “Sea Lion”, a submarine.  The submarine travelled in the wake of the ship so as to avoid creating a separate wake that could be detected from the air – all aircraft being treated as enemies.

HMS “Sea Lion” veered off sideways and created a separate wake and this was seen by an aircraft, reported to HMS “Ghurka”, a destroyer on the enemy side who arrived to ‘sink’ both the ship and the submarine.  SS “CID” took off the navigator from the submarine and returned him to Alexandria.

Later on in Alexandria, Dad met up with the crew of the seaplane who had sighted them, and from them learned about the extra wake.

The “CID” left Alexandria and entered the Suez Canal.  She anchored in the middle of the Great Bitter Lake while the decision was made whether to send her to Aden or to Alexandria.  Alexandria won and on the day war broke out the “CID” left Great Bitter Lake and dropped anchor at the harbour entrance at Alexandria.

The ship stayed swinging around the anchor, never lifting her anchor until July 1941, when she went on to Bombay.  Dad finally left her on 23rd Aug 1941.

My Dad

During the period in Alexandria Dad was enjoying himself, including a good –and indeed memorable – night out with an Australian RNR Lieutenant who was stationed on a Minesweeper, HMS “Bagshot”.  The “CID” was anchored all the way out at the harbour entrance so when, walking back to their respective vessels at 3 or 4am, “Bagshot” turned out to be closer, Dad accepted an invitation to bed down there for the night and return to “CID” at a slightly more conventional hour.  As it happened, he woke at 6am to find himself out minesweeping at the harbour entrance, finally arriving back in harbour at 2pm in the afternoon.  Dad got a boat back to the “CID” and never had any trouble from it, but when he later met up with his friend he discovered that he, the lieutenant, was transferred from HMS “Bagshot” to HMS “Maidstone”, (a submarine depot ship) and confined to ship for three weeks.

The “CID” was due to be dry-docked so she was emptied of ammunition and filled up with empty shell cases from the evacuation of Crete.  She then set out for Bombay, without a convoy, to be laid up in dry dock to have her hull cleaned of barnacles.

After Bombay she sailed on to Suez, where Dad was transferred to the “Foreland”, another ammunition ship.  He sailed down to Massawa in Eritrea, on the Red Sea and spent another 14 months swinging around the anchor, doing nothing.  Eventually the ship set sail to Mombassa.  The ship had insufficient coal for the journey to Mombassa, as the maximum speed was 8 knots so they had to go via Aden for bunkers (coal).  The ship then returned to Massawa from Mombassa, again via Aden.

On the way to Mombassa the ship ran aground, so dry-docked in Mombassa to check for leaks.  Luckily there were no leaks; only some bent plates.  This trip was repeated twice more, sometimes with a convoy, sometimes alone.  If a convoy was present, the escort (a whaler) left the ship after 500 miles so the rest of the trip was done without escort.

The “Foreland” next went to Cape Town for dry-docking.  She arrived there in mid November 1944 and Dad spent two months living ashore in Cape Town, including Christmas and New Year.

When she left Cape Town, “Foreland” sailed for Mombassa, via Durban for bunkers.  From Mombassa she proceeded to Aden with no convoys at all, took on more bunkers, headed through the Suez Canal and then up through the Mediterranean to Gibraltar.  She was still without convoy and was still carrying ammunition.

In short, Dad left home with a full cargo of ammunition and also arrived back with a full cargo of ammunition.  The ship left Gibraltar 3 days before the end of the war in Europe, still with no convoy.  Dad arrived in Preston on 15th May 1945, came home on leave and whilst there, the war in the Far East finished too.

Dad joined his next ship, the “Samindoro”, on 15th November 1945, bound for the West Indies.  He left the ship on 14 Jan 1946.

During this period Dad saw neither a ship sunk, nor a shot fired in anger at sea, nor a depth charge dropped.  An air raid conducted every Friday night on the harbour in Alexandria represented the only enemy action encountered.  There were a couple of dramas which Dad recalled: firstly, a small coaster (to carry 500 tons) which was at anchor near the ship was emptied of ammunition and once emptied, had half her stern blown off by a small bomb.  Then, some time after Dad had left; a ship was sunk in Alexandria Harbour.  Dad said they felt safe in the harbour as the fleet had erected a box barrage above it.  The navy did not engage; it was left to the army on shore to shoot down the planes.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Facelift for a Featherweight

It’s not exactly that I don’t like the striated, deco-style face plates but I’d be lying if I said I preferred them so as she is in every other respect perfect, I recently weakened and purchased a scroll-faced one for my little 222k Featherweight so she could match her big sisters, the 201ks.

Like all things to do with vintage Singers, it was extremely simple to change it: simply undo a thumbscrew and lift off.

Singer 222k old faceplate

Singer 222k new faceplate

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

A Little Cotton Shirt

This is the little cotton shirt I made for a friend’s baby boy for his first birthday present. The fabric was cream poplin, the buttons were vintage linen laundry buttons from my stash.

The pintucking on the front bodice section.

Shaping the front neck by eye.

Shaping the back neck.

Piecing the shirt.

Pinning and basting the collar.

The finished shirt.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Embellished Wedding Shoes

Here are the shoes I embellished for my wedding. With the help of hand stitching and a glue gun I secured pieces of guipure lace across the tops and the tongues of the shoes, added a few tiny little clear and pearl beads and added some colour accents in pale salmon pink Pearsalls silk floss from my step great grandmother’s stash.

My Wedding Shoes

The shoes with a small drawstring bag I made to match them using tulle over wide satin ribbon, organza ribbon and more of the lace, embroidery and beading.

Detail of the lace, embroidery and beading.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

A Handmade, Linen Christening Outfit

This is my son’s christening outfit. It was totally handmade from approximately a metre of pure, white linen, ten matching mother-of-pearl baby buttons from my grandmothers stash (Dad’s side) and embroidered with ivory and grey Pearsall silk floss from my step-great grandmother’s stash (Mother’s side).

The shirt is made entirely from squares and rectangles, the sole exception being a slight slant put on the shoulders. The shoulders themselves have a yoke, from which hangs a placketed front and back bodice worked with pintucking, fastened with small rouleaux loops and tiny, mother-of-pearl buttons. The collar is, like the bodice, exactly the same front and back and is set across the shoulders to fold back down upon itself across them. The sleeves are square set, with diamond gussets to allow the arm some movement and there are small, triangular gussets strengthening the bottom of the side seams also. All visible seams are made by the French Seam method. Top stitching was done as a whipped running stitch in embroidery floss.

A little pair of shorts with turned-up cuffs decorated with whipped running stitch completed the outfit.

Being dunked in the same font as Grandad gives a boy an appetite to match.

View of the back of the bodice.

Side view showing the yoke.

Wider side shot showing also the triangle gussets at the bottom of the side seams.

Basting the placket openings and the collar pieces. The underarm gusset is clearly visible as is the whipped running stitch on the bodice and tucks.

close up of pinning and basting the collar.

Sewing the rouleaux into the placket front.

The completed outfit.

The cuff buttons.

The finished neckline and collar.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Singer Hemstitcher & Picot Edger

The Singer Hemstitcher and Picot Edger is often mooted as one of the rarer, ‘must have’ attachments but in truth my experiences with it were disappointing. It’s not that it doesn’t work; it does. The difficulty lies in obtaining easily a result which is both neat and evenly tensioned on both sides. Because only a single needle is in play, it is necessary to make two passes at the hemstitched row; the first one pierces the holes and zig zags a row of stitching which enters each hole and pulls back and secures it open on the right hand side. When the end of the row is reached, it is essential to stop with the piercer depressed through the fabric so that it acts as a pivot around which the fabric is swivelled through 180 degrees. The second pass is then sewn, again forming the same zig zag, with the needle now drawing back and securing the second side of the hemstitching. The piercer should reenter the same holes as it made on the previous pass.

That’s the theory. In practice it is difficult to get the zig zag to form an exact mirror image of the one made in the previous pass so the holes often appear a little skewed and there are often stray threads snaking diagonally across the corners of the holes formed (insomuch as a circle can have corners). The result is not as neat as the rows sewn on a proper, dedicated hemstitching machine, the majority of which use twin needles.

The attachment is not very adjustable; because of the necessity for the piercer to drop at a predetermined point in the zig zag’s passage it is not possible to adjust the stitch length. It is possible, however, to fine tune the zig zag width by adjusting the position of the piercer in relation to where the needle falls although the primary purpose of this adjustment is to allow the needle to fall exactly in the right place – to the right hand side of the pierced hole. The piercer can also be adjusted forwards/backwards to properly allow it to pass through the hole in the throat plate, which is a raised plate screwed in place over the feed dogs, replacing the usual feed dog plate.

When finding these attachments it is essential to make sure that you have the right throat plate for your machine. If, however you have a 99/66, a 201/15, a 127/8 and a 221/222 then you don’t need to worry because unless your 66 is a 66-1 whatever you get it’ll fit one of the above.

The attachment itself is part number 121387 and is the same for all the models listed below.
The extra long thumb screw is 51347A and is the same for all models listed below.

The throat plates vary and are numbered as follows:

Class 15 & 201: 121388

Class 66* & 99: 121389

Class 101: 121390

Class 127 & 128: 121391 (including screw 202J)

Class 221: 121392

* with the exception of the 66-1.

I tried this attachment on a double layer of stiff calico and a double layer of a cotton twill. Both gave less than perfect results, even after as many adjustments as I was able to make. I don’t doubt for a minute that the fabric might better behave if it were starched stiffly first but I cannot guarantee that the result would, after washing, be any better than had the fabric not been starched as the untidy result seemed firmly lodged in the ability to get the stitch rows catching the hole in the same position rather than the ability for the needle to catch and draw back the hole.

One more hint if you are still determined to buy and try one for yourself: the rubber sleeves which feed the fabric are often perished or at best shiny and not able to feed the fabric. These can be easily replaced by the same heat-shrink insulation tube used to improve the safety of old wiring.

Me? I’m going to stick with my Stoppax Hemstitching Fork.

New rubber soles for the feet. My husband shrunk on a double layer of heat-shrink insulation tube and this works very well.

Hemstitcher on the machine, showing the piercer correctly positioned in line with the hole in the throat plate.

Photo showing the correct position for the piercer in relation to the turned and pressed hem.

Photo (blurry, I’m afraid) showing the resultant hemstitched rows.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

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