the quest for perfect fit...

Not everyone who sews ends up on the quest for perfect fit.  Some started sewing because they couldn't find clothing that fit, other stumbled on the perfect fit path somewhere else along the way.  I probably started sewing because machines and mechanical things intrigue me.  I love tinkering and constructing things, working out puzzles and sewing is full of all that kind of stuff.

Fundamentally I sew because I love to sew, not necessarily because I need things to wear.  Fit and fashion have always been low priorities to me.  Not that I wear clothes that don't fit, just that I never paid much attention to just how well clothing I wear does or doesn't fit.  Generally if it doesn't hurt (too much) and doesn't look like a potato sack then I'm good to go.  As fashion goes I've always shopped by price and color.

I'm proud to say that I'm fairly well accomplished with my skills and I can sew most items proficiently.  However lately I've been very disappointed with how my out of the envelope sewing projects have been fitting when I use commercial patterns.  This is totally do to my becoming more aware of how clothing fits and how custom sewn clothing should fit in best case scenarios. 

A BrianSews reader helpfully suggested I check out pattern drafting software.  There's a few different companies out there making this stuff and I chose to go with Wild Ginger's Pattern Master.  The men's version is called Tailor Made and can be downloaded for a very reasonable $90 with a 90 day money back guarantee.  This was exactly one month ago which is why you've heard very little from me in that time.  I've become so obsessed with perfect fit I dream about it!

I will say that pattern drafting software is no miracle.  There's a learning curve with the software and you still need to make just as many test garments.  The patterns don't print out with instructions so you need to have a good idea of what you're doing.  

The biggest selling points for me so far:
  • Printing fresh patterns for each fitting, no more funky tissue
  • Cataloging all changes to both measurements and garment style for easy reference 
  • High degree of control without having much skill in pattern drafting

Here's a video I put together talking about my first successful pattern using custom pattern drafting software:

call me hem master......

Or at least assistant master!

One my first failures I had at sewing was "way" back in 2003 when I made my first button down dress shirt.  I was obsessed with David Page Coffin and his use of sewing machine feet.  One of the feet he uses in making shirts is a hemming foot.

These specialty feet must have been all the rage back in the day because it seems that most vintage sewing machines came with at least one if not multiple in just about every width.
I'm sure lots of people still use these feet but there's not a lot of chatter online about hemming with feet these days.  I suppose hemming isn't a very glamorous topic....  

In my recent obsession with the perfect button down shirt pattern I've be practicing with my hemming foot.  This particular foot has been challenging me since I started sewing.  Somehow I just never quite understood how to get it through the curves and keep a perfect and even hem.  I've found many work arounds to hemming a shirt without this foot that take much longer but I feel like if David Coffin can make it work, why can't I?

Well that's just what I did, make it work.  I spent an afternoon with some strips of curvy cut fabric and my little tiny 1/8" hemming foot.  I found that using a short stitch length made it much easier to learn how to control the fabric through the foot.

Here's a quick video I did showing my technique:

Once you get the hang of it it's really quite easy when you're practicing.  As these things often go as soon as you start applying the learned techniques to real garments it somehow becomes more difficult and mistakes become easier to make.  

Vigo what?...... Vigo who?....

Vigorelli  ZZ/A "ROBOT" Model
What strikes you first when gazing upon the Vigorelli is it's strange thread spool holders, and then maybe the color.  
There is very little information about this sewing machine besides the following statement mined from some blog posting comments, " Vigorelli was an Italian brand that started as a spin-off of Necchi (being Mr Vigorelli a former Necchi engineer) in the same town. The Robot model was the first one having an internal camstack that let you change up to 5 different stitch “on the fly”."  
It makes sense to me.

The Vigorelli is in the words of a friend very "sturdy" looking.  Indeed it is.  It's also quit a rare machine but not necessarily remarkable.  I spotted the machine at Sister Thrift, my favorite thift shop of course....  It was sitting against the wall and piled high with all kinds of other junk.  The only tip off was this ugly green plastic sewing machine cover of which I could only see the handle.  You know it had to be hidden because it's been sitting there the entire time I've shopped this thrift shop and I just noticed it.  It was sitting in some sort of home made sewing table and marked and astounding $49!  Wow, that's sort of pricey...  
 I pulled it out of the table and took it to the check out counter to examine more closely.  Of course the first thing I noticed is that it was entirely frozen up, as in, no movement whatsoever.  What luck!  I've never had the opportunity to bring a comatose machine back to life.  Listen...  it's an opportunity not everyone understands but believe me, those who know really know what i'm talking about here.  They've started to know me there at sister thrift and when they saw me looking at the Vigorelli they got pretty excited.  
I guess it's been hanging around for quite a number of years and I could tell they were anxious to be rid of this boat anchor.  They threw an offer on the table I couldn't refuse: $9.95 and I could leave the table.
SOLD!  I didn't even know until I picked it up later that it came with a whole bag full of feet and accessories including the holey grail of vintage machine paraphernalia.....   The original manual!  I could go on forever about this machine but I'm not sure anyone really cares that much about it being a rather unheard of name and questionable lineage.  I do happen to really enjoy this particular passage from the embroidery manual that was included with the machine.  I think it reaches much further than simple embroidery and it's good to see the manufacturer was passing these inspirational tidbits along to the home or "shop" sewer.

Here's a slide show of the entire photo album:

It took me around 10 hours to get it up and running properly.  This included lots and lots of oil and adjustments to the zigzag mechanism which only did about a half a zig before it zagged.  There are two remarkable features of this machine that sets it apart from other machine of this era.  It has a needle position selector that lets you select left, center, or right needle and...  it also uses a cam to activate the zigzag stitch.  This zigzag setup is similar to the Singer 500A but much more simplistic.  The cams are made of some sort of plastic and the Singer 500A is all metal in that department. 
All in all it's a pretty awesome machine that produces a very nice stitch.  Dream machine?  no......    but a good collector's items yes!  

OH yeah..   "Robot" referred to the automatic embroidery mechanism...   fancy right?

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