Archive for October, 2009

Good-Bye, JoAnn

October 29th, 2009 2 comments

Dear JoAnn –

Well, you’ve finally done it.  After years of trying to run me out of your “Fabrics and Crafts” store — years while you added more and more junky craft stuff, cheaper and cheaper crummy fabric, and tons and tons of stuff that has nothing whatever to do with either fabrics  or crafts — you’ve succeeded.

Sure, I’ll run in for thread, and a zipper if I’m desperate.  But for a long time after I’d given up on most of what you stock, when I had a bit of spare time, I’d spend it at the pattern table.  I’d take a half an hour or so to look at patterns and plan projects.  It was relaxing and refreshing.  The best kind of “down” time.

No more.  My nearest JoAnn Fabric and Craft store has installed some kind of 24/7 video that looms over the pattern section, screeching out — well, I don’t know what, because if I’m at that pattern table, thinking and planning are what I want to do.  What I don’t want is to be assaulted by noise.

Even the video has to compete with the too-loud, ever-present, radio and with the store announcements that attempt to get attention over everything else.

Yeah, JoAnn, the only thing I’ve done in the past year in your store is have a little quiet adult time.  Sure, the end result was that I’d buy things that I hadn’t planned to buy.  That should look like a big plus to you.  Buying more stuff than you meant to is what people do when they get excited and interested in what they’re doing.  You take more money out of my pocket when I like being in your store; works every time!

But I’m not getting excited about anything at JoAnn anymore.  Because, guess what?  I can look at patterns  at home.  Where it’s quite and pleasant, and no one’s trying to sell me stuff I don’t want in an unending, looping, loud interminable advertisement that I can’t escape.

So, JoAnn, this is it.  Good-bye, baby.  It’s been a long, slow process, but you finally chased me completely out of your store.  Hope that was your plan all along.  If that’s the case, it’s win-win for both of us.


PS —  Does ANYONE watch those videos?  I’ve never yet seen anyone stop to  look at them. But I have seen a lot of people  shooting dirty looks at them.

Categories: Stores Tags:

How to Carry a Baguette (or Two) in Your Skirt

October 26th, 2009 4 comments

Mr. Noile was kind enough to take these pictures of Vogue 8499.   This skirt has wonderful, deep side pockets, which can be very useful if you’re bringing bread home from the market:

Well, OK, I don’t really shop like this.  But it’s not a bad way of illustrating just how deep those pocket are, is it?

I added hidden, shallow pockets to this skirt when I made it, so I got the best of both worlds (details in the second link below).

Related:  Vogue 8499 Marcy Tilton Skirt ; Vogue 8499 The Skirt, in Black

Categories: Skirts Tags:

Thread Fragility, and How to Create It

October 17th, 2009 2 comments

Been cursing the dreadful quality of thread these days? Me, too — at least until I discovered Emma’s new avocation:

She’s chewing happily on the thread running along the back of my machine. She doesn’t eat it, or even chew through it. She just gnaws on it. This went a long way toward explaining the strange weakness I was periodically encountering as I stitched merrily along. Needless to say, I now deploy the sewing machine cover with far greater frequency than I used to.

(Yes, Emma is a GIANT cat — she’s part Maine Coon, and that’s the part that shows.  See those huge paws?  Very clever, those paws.  Very useful for water play in the bathroom, too.  Very useful for string — or thread — play anywhere.)

Categories: Misc Tags:

Pfaff 1229 Repair Update

October 13th, 2009 No comments

This post is actually an old one.  A recent comment from a reader reminded me that I had left a bunch of stuff dangling.  (Life does interfere with blogging now and then.)  There are quite a few posts in my drafts folder that never saw the light of day.  I’ll be going back and posting them as I get the chance.  In the meantime, here’s the follow up on my poor, broken Pfaff.   This one’s from July, 2008:

Mr. Noile and I have been traveling, theoretically on vacation. While Mr. Noile has been spending his time doing academic research, I’ve been having various sewing adventures, most, if not all, of which will be revealed in time. The best one, though, came about as the result of an accidental phone call when I was looking for a replacement check spring for my Pfaff 1229.  My machine and I ended up at Smith-Owen in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

so-ext-400The technician I spoke to wasn’t satisfied just to give me what I said I wanted. Instead, he asked me to tell him exactly what was going on with my machine.  I mentioned that our travels would take us to northern Michigan, and he suggested that I drop the machine off — saying that he was pretty sure that he could have it fixed by the time we left the state.

So, on the way to Traverse City from Ann Arbor, we detoured to Grand Rapids and left my well-loved machine with Brian. He called us in northern Michigan days — that’s right DAYS! — later to report that all was well, and that I could pick it up.

I’d left samples of my stitching disasters with him, along with a piece of the most troublesome fabric. He returned a swatch with perfect stitching on it, along with another test piece that demonstrated that all was well with my baby once again. And my self-diagnosis? Not quite right — somehow the throw of the zig zag wasn’t quite traveling the way it should, and that was the source of the problem.

No more — my wonderful 1229 is purring along as if it were brand new. The bill? Just under $80 for a new life and a tune-up. I was so thrilled and relieved that I bought every single accessory foot Smith-Owen sold for my machine. (More on that later.) And two copies of a wonderful, inspiration reference/tutorial (ditto).

Categories: Machines, Stores Tags:

Vintage Nurse’s Cape

October 9th, 2009 5 comments

Mr. Noile and I found this cape in an antique shop this summer. It fit perfectly, so how could we resist it?  It needs a bit of pressing, but here it is on my dummy:


Based on its construction, and the other coats available in the shop from the same source, I’m tentatively dating it from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. It might be earlier, and I suppose there’s a slim chance it’s a bit later, but this feels right. It was made by the Hospital Clothing Co. of Philadelphia (though we found it in Northern Michigan). Here’s the label (woven!):

nc-lbl-400The design is absolutely classic. It’s all wool, as the label says, black on the outside, and fully lined in blue wool flannel. The blue lining is a little unusual; nurse’s capes were more commonly lined in red. There’s a beautifully made watch pocket inside the left opening:

nc-wtchpkt-300A nurse, of course, always carried a watch to use when checking a pulse.  A small brass button is missing just under the pocket; it secures an internal tab to help keep the cape closed.  You can see the thread that was left behind when the button was lost.

A large, sturdy hook-and-eye closes the neck at the collar. These bits weren’t applied after the garment was made, but are sewn into the collar seams.  Here’s the “eye” — it’s really a loop — part::

nc-lp-300Isn’t the collar piping beautiful?

All but one of the buttons is original. The buttons are metal and a very bright brass color.  The design has a shield with a crown in the middle, with two horses rampant on either side, and an eagle above::


Four large buttons close the front, two smaller ones hold the tab at the neck, and there is another tab inside the cape, toward the hem, that is also closed with another set of the smaller buttons. If you look closely at the first picture, you’ll see that someone has replaced one missing button, but it’s a very poor match.  I couldn’t find any in stores that came any closer myself.

Incredibly, I was able to locate the exact button used for my cape. It’s Waterbury 28393, called “Horses & Eagle”. Of course, it’s also completely obsolete.  Waterbury, in business since 1812, apparently keeps all its old button styles on its website (hurray!), but, unfortunately, couldn’t tell me when this button was discontinued.  In any case, I had to find something suitable to replace the ones on my cape.  It wasn’t easy, especially since I really didn’t know what the significance of the original buttons was.

It’s possible that the cape and the button combination was customized for a particular school of nursing, or for a particular hospital, but I wasn’t able to turn up any definitive information that was specific to this cape.  In the end I chose this button:


It’s Waterbury 29016 (Crest & Shield w/Angel & Eagle).  I chose it because it most closely resembles the original button, and also because the symbolism made sense, too.  In previous wars, nurses were often called “angels of the battlefield”, yet nurses also had to be fierce and tough like eagles, fighting their own battles in the wards and in the operating rooms.

Waterbury buttons are sold either in gross lots, or in specific sets, but not by the individual button.  It’s possible to buy just a single set; in my case, it was a “blazer set” of five large buttons and five smaller.  That gave me one extra of each size, which is always a good idea.  This is an expensive way to buy buttons — or perhaps these are just expensive buttons! — and they arrived in a velvet box, just the way they would have if someone had bought them for a blazer or a fine coat a bunch of decades ago:

nc-vlvt-bx-400Behind each button on the cape (even the one that was replaced) is a tiny, flat, black anchor button, used to secure the heavy shank buttons in place, and to stabilize them.  When I replace the gold buttons, I’ll  carefully sew these right back where they belong, too.

nc-sm-btn-300I was amazed that the closure tabs were all there; the buttons were the only thing that held them in place. The first thing I did, in fact, was to take a few stitches on the right side of each of the tabs, narrowing the buttonholes so that the tabs couldn’t fall off. This in no way changes the look of the tabs; it just keeps that one side from ever coming off the buttons.

I’ll post a picture of the cape with new buttons installed in a couple of days.

Categories: Vintage Tags: