Sunday, February 14, 2010

13 February 1956 “My ‘New’ Best Friend, Dress Planning and Some Recipes”

I would like to introduce you all to my new best friend:singer5001 singer500 Isn’t she a beauty? Since my sewing machine breakdown in January (which resulted in my borrowing a friend’s machine so I could do my January Dress Challenge.) I began researching the ultimate Vintage Machine.
In my research I found that the Singers up until the mid 1960’s were all steel work horses made in the USA.
I had at first thought to get the coveted Singer 401.singer401 These were from the mid 1950’s and are a coveted work horses. It’s abilities to sew through layers of leather and heavy sailcloth, the strong steel construction and the amount of various feet for different jobs keep that at around $300.00 or so in good condition on eBay ( or cheaper if you are lucky to find one locally at a yard sale!) I began to see the 500, which was called the “ROCKETEER”. I found, for some reason, that these tended to sell for less, despite the fact that they are the same machine inside and out (though I actually like the exterior Design of the Racketeer) and that it has a few more stitch abilities than the 401.
I had been squirreling away money here and there from grocery shopping and my ‘weekly allowance’ (I do the books for our marriage and give, based on my budget, a weekly ‘allowance’ of cash to hubby and I to spend or save for ‘niceties’ as we like). I finally came across a 500 at an incredible price (they are usually around the $200 range on eBay) with all the feet, the cams(that let you do different stitches etc) and original instruction booklet. So, I ordered it and have been waiting patiently for a week. I have even kept my mouth shut here on the blog and the forums, as I did not want to talk about it until it was in my hands!
I have to say, so far, I am not disappointed. It is a beautiful machine. I read an article that said to get a modern machine of this quality and abilities today would be around $2000.00. And to think my machine was made around 1950/60 and it still works wonderfully is a lot to say about its construction. There is not ONE plastic part. IT is all steel built in the USA. Even the feet are of such quality metal it feels as if they may have used silver in their makeup (they have the feel of an old quarter compared to a modern quarter).
You can really see why a homemaker of yesterday really appreciated her sewing machine. This machine was the top of the line in its day and would have been close to 1400 dollars, so would have been a major investment like a car. But, when you consider what you could do with it. There was no Old Navy to go to, so clothes handmade were a savings as were house goods, as curtains, tablecloths, you name it. We are lucky today to have at our disposal the well made wonderful machines of yore to be had at affordable prices. The sewing machine was really a tool that gave a woman endless creative outlet as well as the power to clothe her family and dress her home and anything her little heart could desire. An entire art school/studio space all rolled into a few pounds of steel!
Besides basic stitching, there are endless ‘specialty’ stitches for decorative as well as bindings etc. I was also lucky to get all the feet it came with as well as a specialty foot for embroidery, that I am very excited about. Though I have only tried it a bit, I think it will really be a great way to do pockets and decorations on aprons, skirts pillows etc. I also can envision some fabric art happening. Here it is, you can see it has a little spring and a guide to help hold things in place. embroideryfoot I really just  did a little filling in for practice, but it works wonderfully. The little foot bed under the needle raises up for embroidery work and for darning of socks/sweaters any thing that needs mending (there is even a mending setting which shows how much this type of machine would mean to a homemaker).
Here are two feet that I am excited to try: First is the Binder Foot.binderfoot (click to enlarge) this is a wonderful attachement, as it not only makes a folded roll hem, but you can feed bias tape over the edge as well. This allows for there to be a finished hem edge of bias tape with a decorative stitch if you wish. Wonderful possibilities for this.
The second foot is the Ruffler foot: rufflerfoot This contraption looks like something out of science fiction. Here are the wonders it can make: Ruffles (obviously, hence the name)rufflerfoot2 And these lovely pleats:rufflerfoot3 I have made a few skirts with simple pleats, but I had to hand pin all of them. I also think the second picture with the ‘group pleating’ would make a lovely Valence/Pelmet for a curtain topper, don’t you think?
I promise myself to slowly learn the intricacies of this machine. Right now my sewing skills involve, sewing a straight stitch back and forth. I have never even used a zipper foot (just the standard foot, but looking at the zipper foot, I can see how much easier it shall be). This also came with a wonderful Buttonholer, which seems an interesting machine. But, I want any of you out there who have not sewn before to realize, you can do it. I have had NO ONE teach me to use the machine. I have taught myself the simple things I can now do with it, yet have made dresses and skirts and aprons for myself. I want, know with my wonderful Singer ROCKETEER, to be able to make curtains and slipcovers and better tailored clothes with details etc.
In fact the first ‘challenge’ with my machine is to use the Ruffler foot to so pleats in my February Dress Challenge and to also make ruffles and make myself a new bathroom curtain. I shall share, of course, the success or failures and the ‘how to’ with you.
For my February Dress Challegne (as I want to keep them somewhat simple how-to’s for beginners, as that is what I am) will be taking a men’s shirt, here I bought this lovely chocolate brown one for 5 dollars at a local shop.brownshirt and these few yards of this lovely pink and brown cotton.pinkbrownfabric Here, for scale, you can see the print and the shirt cuff together.pinkbrownfabric2 So, my plan is to take the shirt and the fabric and make a dress. I will add darts to the shirt as need be to make it ‘fitted’ and the skirt will be hemmed and attached to the shirt. And to tie the dress together I will take excess pink fabric and either add to the shirts cuffs or collar and possibly a pocket square. IF it turns out is should be similar to this.shirtwaist1 I could even shorten the sleeves, as they have them here  and add the skirt trim as the shirt cuffs.shirtwaist3 Here you can see a darling belt. I might make one with the pink fabric and can use one of the buckles I got in my goodies from Ann’s Estate Sale.  So, I am hoping this turns out. I think if it does, I will be scouring resale shops for nice men’s shirts and can have an arsenal of easy to wear clothes for ‘daywear’ or even good ‘housedresses’.
Now, onto some cooking.
fannie farmer
I have often referred to  and used my Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1955 and this year as well. My copy is from early 50’s but I just found online HERE that this original book is free to read online! You should check it out.
Last night I made my own soup invention. “What Came First Soup” Hubby named it, as it is egg drop soup with chicken in it, so both the chicken and the egg.
“what came first soup” (named by hubby)whatcamefirstsoup
4 cups chicken broth, divided (so easy to make your own broth by boiling chicken-even better with bone in-in water, add spices, then you have the chicken and broth to make the soup.
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
chopped and cooked in butter garlic ( a few cloves)
(This is REALLY good with chives, but I had none in the house)
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste (about 1/4 –1 tsp each)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 eggs
cooked chicken

  1. Reserve 3/4 cup of chicken broth, and pour the rest into a large saucepan. Stir the salt, ginger, garlic, broccoli  into the saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. In a cup or small bowl, stir together the remaining broth and cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together using a fork. Drizzle egg a little at a time from the fork into the boiling broth mixture. Egg should cook immediately. Once the eggs have been dropped, stir in the cornstarch mixture gradually until the soup is the desired consistency. Pouring the egg through the fork gives it the long strands you see in restaurant egg drop soup. I usually give a good stir to the pot to get it going in a circular motion and then pour the eggs through the fork.
I served this with these lovely biscuits. They rise so wonderfully. I can’t even remember where I got the recipe, but it is a great one, so give it a try. I take the extra dough when I make these and roll sugar into them and shape scones and brush them with cream and sprinkle sugar and they make a great breakfast scone as well. biscuits2
Best Biscuits
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/3 cup Butter (5 1/3 TBS)
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead 15 to 20 times. Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used. Bake on a paper lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges begin to brown.
So, I hope you are ready for some new sewing challenges ladies! Until next time, keep those aprons on and march into ACTION!
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