Singer Slant-O-Matic 500 ‘Rocketeer’

A few weeks ago I was wandering around in sewing blog land, and ran across a post about a beautiful sewing machine, the Singer Slant-O-Matic 500 ‘Rocketeer’, by Jessica of Green Apples. It was love at first sight. I immediately started trolling through eBay and Craigslist listings and a few days later, after an eBay panic, I became the proud owner of two beautiful Slant-O-Matics.

Yes, I said two.

Oops.

But aren’t they lovely???

You might have thought that one, or perhaps even two, sewing machines might be sufficient, but apparently I’m happier with four. In addition to these beauties I have a brand new Janome but have been unable to part with my Kenmore, which has apparently become my ‘beloved Kenmore’ in spite of the fact that it’s 25 years old and can no longer make one-step buttonholes. More on that another time…

The question, of course, is: do the Slant-O-Matics work? I have no idea! But who cares? They’re so darn pretty!

Sooner or later I’m going to have to try them out, but I’d prefer to do that when I have enough time to be thorough – which will take even more time since I want to test them together so I can compare their performance.

For now I can report that they were both made in 1961, I love them, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson about bidding on eBay.

McCall 987 – Black gingham apron

After reading about Anna Depew’s latest apron I knew I needed to sew one myself. That didn’t mean I actually needed an apron…I have three perfectly fine store-bought ones. And it certainly didn’t mean I’d sew an apron nearly as well as she did.

Unfazed by these facts I plowed ahead, using this lovely pattern from 1942:

I quite enjoyed making this, and the extra excitement of having a needle break made it even more fun. This is the attitude of someone who took too much time off from sewing… Years ago such an occurrence would have made me irritated instead of gleeful, especially considering the fabric I was using. Who breaks a needle sewing lightweight gingham?

Fortunately I had some spare needles in the secret compartment of my sewing machine. It did briefly occur to me that they might not be the right size, but to be sure I would have had to dig out the manual, so I decided to hope for the best. Luck was on my side.

Even a casual glance will tell you that while this is a cute apron, it’s not as figure flattering as the pattern cover might lead you to believe. But it is cute!

I love the strap in the back.

I learned a few things from making this:

  • If you can’t understand the directions and decide to go your own way, figure out what your way is before starting.
  • It’s best to not drink sangria until after you’ve finished sewing for the day.
  • I love rickrack.

Wow, do I love rickrack. What’s not to love?

(There are a slew of ways to spell rickrack, so I’ve opted for Wikipedia’s version.)

I didn’t use as much rickrack as the pattern called for. The instructions say “Trim apron with rick-rack braid as illustrated on envelope.” Since the envelope was in another room (coincidentally, the same room as the Kenmore manual), I put two strips of rickrack over the two front seams. After my photo shoot I realized I’d under-rickracked. I quickly added it to the side seams, but decided not to continue the rickrack up the straps as indicated on the pattern cover. That seemed like an excessive amount, even given my newfound obsession. Besides, I was out of rickrack.

Here’s the final version, although it’s somewhat difficult to see because I was distracted by my newly washed and therefore extra fluffy companion.

Lucy matches the apron – she even has a red collar!

If I make this again I’ll use a different material. I love gingham, but this fabric (it’s 65% polyester, 35% cotton) is too thin to really protect your clothes if you’re doing something like cooking. Fortunately cooking is man’s work in our household, so I can wear my apron while I do women’s chores, like sipping wine while watching my chef slave over a hot stove, or cuddling with one of the dogs.

McCall’s 6740 – Blue shift dress

The first pattern I attempted after my multi-year hiatus from sewing not only required the basic skills which I’d had at one time, it also was designed for stick figures instead of people. I had to add 1/2″ to the diameter of the shoulders just to get to where I could pull the sleeve up my arm, and it was clear that more work would be required even if I managed to stop sewing things inside-out.

I quickly switched patterns.

The new pattern, chosen because of its simplicity (and lack of sleeves), was a simple shift: McCall’s 6740 [© 1963].

Hooray for a remedial sewing opportunity! But it provided some challenges. The first one I tackled was the neckline. Here’s the before picture:

It’s not the best photo, but take a look at the girl in the giraffe version on the pattern. She looks happy, doesn’t she? She’s probably on a beach vacation, so she’s able to ignore the uncomfortably high neckline. Sure, some people don’t mind the feeling of being on the verge of being strangled, or turtlenecks would never have taken off. I’m not one of them. This one isn’t even that tight, but for a summer frock that should make you feel carefree and happy, the neckline is surprisingly high.

Not anymore!

The inside of the dress now looks a bit Frankenstein-ish since I made the decision to lower the neckline after I’d clipped corners and trimmed away the extra fabric on the seams, but the outside looks much nicer – and the dress feels way more summery. I also learned a valuable lesson…just because the women depicted on the pattern look comfortable doesn’t mean you will feel the same.

The next task was to deal with the width of the neck. I definitely do not have narrow shoulders, so I was surprised to find that the straps were far too wide for my build. After some thought, mostly involving lots of button browsing (I love buttons!!!), I decided to fold in the fabric neckline on the front of the dress and add buttons to make it look like I’d planned this all along. I tacked it down about 1/2″ on each side.

The last step was the hem. I cut the dress out at the longest length, then asked the man of the house what he thought of the dress. He said it looked nice in a shapeless kind of way, and reminded him of the dresses his aunts used to wear when he was little…right at the time when dresses like these were all the rage. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is!

That said, it was hard to imagine I’d ever actually wear something that looked that much like a potato sack, so I hacked off 9.5″.

That’s our brand new fence in the background. The process of getting it built has been kind of like making this dress.

Now I just need a beach vacation!