August 15, 2014

Blast to the Past

Last week I slipped into my past life as a drapery and slipcover maker when I helped my friend Rochelle make slipcovers for her hide-a-bed. These things are really heavy but we moved it out from the wall all by ourselves!
 She didn't have a clue where to start but was just going to start cutting and somehow, magically make the fabric fit. That's where I came in. We have to make piping - a slipcover isn't worth doping unless you put piping in the seams!  I showed her how to make continuous bias piping. We made 25 yards of piping from 27" of fabric.
Next we cut the fabrics for all the sections of the sofa - the inside back, the inside arms, outside arms, outside back, the front deck, and the skirt. And we started can see Rochelle's sewing room in the back. It used to be a living room but the light here was much better... 
I cut out the front curls separately so I could position the birds where I wanted them. The front curls have piping on them
Here's what they look like pressed and ready to sew to the sofa
We did the same with the back piece, piping on the edge all around, then sew it onto the back
The tired looking cushions will have new Dacron wrapped around them to give them their ooomph back.
Here is the sofa finished! Just in time for Rochelle's big party - a 70th wedding anniversary for her in-laws.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed helping with this slipcover and slipping back to the past, so to speak. I guess it is true that you never really forget how to do these things!

August 09, 2014

A Visit to an Enchanted Garden

This weekend the staff had a "work social", and we went to the home of Carl and Joan Konig who own Sew It Was, a most unique collection of antique sewing machines dating back to the mid 1800s. But that is really Carl's collection, and while he is busy building things to house and display these fine machines, Joan keeps herself busy in the garden.
It's been a 25 year project with the original land being a cornfield! The landscaping is incredible! It makes me want to go home and rip my back yard apart and start over (with Joan's help of course!)

Through the arch is a circular garden with spokes running out for easy walking. The beds are filled to overflowing with flowers that keep the garden in colour all season long!
Beautiful tall blue spruce all around!
Look at this unusual flower. It is a Moonflower and just look at the polka dot seed pods! I knew polka dots were the latest rage, but I didn't know it extended to the garden as well!
I had never seen such a riot of colour, and yet, this garden was so perfectly coordinated...every flower was in a place where it would show off to its best advantage.
Above is a lantana flower. What a perfect mix of pink, yellows and oranges! They provided such bright and cheery colour in between the green hostas and leaves.

My sincere thanks to Carl and Joan Konig for the invitation to their home and museum. Surrounded by antique sewing machines, walking though an incredible and inspiring secret garden, then back to my house for a BBQ for the staff! This has been a most wonderful day! 

Once Upon a Time - Sew it Was

Today was one of the days that will be held in my memory as a really, really good day. We went to Sew It Was, and in my opinion, anyone who is connected to the needle trades owes themselves a visit to this very unusual museum. The museum owners, Carl and Joan Konig saw an article in the paper about Bra-makers Supply and emailed us to ask if we might be interested in a visit to their little place. Hmmm...let me think about that....YES! of COURSE I was interested! Road trip! Six of us - France, Rebecca, Vivian, Erin, Denise and I went to the countryside near New Hamburg, Ontario, about an hour west of Hamilton.

The house is tucked away so you can't really see it from the road, but the first view was impressive.
Our first view of Carl's collection was in an antique display case in the back foyer. Here were miniature sewing machines (some for young girls, but also some miniatures). Sewing machine companies reasoned that if a child was happy sewing on their own small sewing machine - she would buy one as an adult. Umm...yep, that's good reasoning. That's certainly true in my case.
There was even a very rare 1866 version of a CANADIAN made machine by G.W. Gates Company out of Toronto! The whole thing was about 10" (25 cm) long. It is a hand crank, capable of sewing a chain stitch. Yes, it still works!
Here's a Moldacot machine (Germany) made for travelling. When people traveled in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they often went for many moths at a time, so having a sewing machine along was a must. This one takes very little space.
These little darlings were in their own display case. All of these circular looking machines were either a single thread chain stitch or a two thread chain stitch.
Collectors often collect anything that closely resembles the object of their attention. In this case, this sewing machine is actually....can you guess? It's a wine bottle! It pours from the thread spool!
We moved along to the front foyer. Machines are tucked in spaces everywhere, but yet, nothing looks crowded or out of place. Look at the detail in the wood working on this sewing machine case!
It opens up to be a very practical sewing area, with room for the feet on the treadle inside!
Then we went downstairs to the real display rooms! In the stairwell was a quilt with machines embroidered on them using the chain stitch machines. The Blackwork style stitching was done so the chain stitch shows on the right side of the fabric.
A picture of the MAN himself, Isaac Merritt Singer. He was originally from Germany and shortened his name to Singer from...Kissinger. He was a Shakespearean actor in his early life. Who knew? He had 5 wives in his lifetime, and 29 children. It was good to hear that he was financially responsible for all 29. No deadbeat dad there!
Along the hallway to the display rooms, there are vintage advertisements for machines in wooden frames.  Look at the ad for this Elna!
This one is near and dear to my heart. I bought this Singer Golden Touch & Sew in 1972, as a university graduation gift for myself. I remember it was housed in a pecan wood cabinet. Total cost...$900, a HUGE sum in the day.
Here is one of the display rooms, with over 30 machines inside!
Elias Howe made sewing machines too, and he even put his own portrait on each one. Look at the mother of pearl inlay work!
Another quilt with embroidered sewing machines hangs on the wall. That's part of Rebecca in the photo. I guess I wasn't fast enough with the camera!
In the second display room, we saw even more machines! Here was a Necchi made in Italy starting in 1922. Sophia Loren (Italy's most famous daughter) was featured in the company advertising in 1959!
This machine was the machine that started it all for Carl. This is the same machine that his mother owned and she let him sew on it in 1952 when he was just five years old. He knew then that sewing would be his life's work.
This is a very rare machine. They know of only 4 in existence, so I feel fortunate that we were able to have this one so close to us! This is a Wanzer, in manufacture from 1859-1890.
What I liked best about the Wanzer was the little foot shaped treadle! I felt right at home as mine were the only feet that fit into the 8" (20 cm) foot spaces!
What a wonderful place to absorb all this history! Carl and Joan couldn't have made us feel any more welcome. I feel blessed to have been invited to their home and take this walk down memory lane! 

If you have a chance to visit, I assure you that visitors are welcome. The name of the museum is Sew It Was, and they can be reached by email at

August 05, 2014

Steampunk Heaven

Love Steampunk? Love corsets whose grommets match the busk and other metal trims? Then you are reading the right blog post!

We just received our custom order of antique bronze grommets, size #00, which is a 3/16" or 5 mm size. I have not seen this colour available in a real grommet with two sides. EVER. Yes, I have seen eyelets in this colour but eyelets have only one side and the crimped metal has an irritating tendency to scratch your back when wearing the corset.

Not so, these grommets with shank and washer sides, for easy application with a grommet press or by hand if you enjoy that special kind of pain!
Remember, when you are tired of hammering away.....we have really good hand presses for sale too! These presses include your choice of #00 or #2 grommet setting dies. You can also purchase any other size die, from #0 to #5 by special order. And for those who already own the Cadillac of grommet presses, we also sell jam dies for each of the sizes too. 
What's a jam die? Think of jam dies as the perfect replacement to noisy hole punches and unwieldy leather punches. Just insert the jam die into the press, and press down to cut a perfect hole in the fabric. And it laughs at multiple corset layers! Here's a picture of the size 00 on the left and the size 2 ( 3/8" or 10 mm) jam dies on the right.
These new grommets are in stock and available now at

Far,far away - home again

My time in the Craftsy studios was an amazing time, and I feel like I have been accepted as part of the Craftsy family! As soon as I let you know the class title and the launch date,  I will let you know!

In the meantime, I would like to thank my acquisitions editor, Eunny - it was such a pleasure to be able to have lunch with you on Friday and chat about sewing!

My producer, Karen was such a delight to work with, both on and off the set! Karen made me feel at ease on the set, and even had Val Kilmer on the screen so I would keep my eyes on the camera!
My two devastingly handsome and talented camera men were from left to right, Marshall and Andrew. I am  telling the absolute truth when i say they are the BEST cameramen I have ever worked with! Their professionalism and attention to detail made some potentially tricky shots work out perfectly.
So I am home now and ready for the next big adventure! Make it happen soon...I am starting to get used to all this!