September 29, 2011

Since Every Costume Blog Seems to Have One...

Well chickadees, I've got to run off for a few days to party with the family and celebrate a wedding.  I promise to show you how to put together your hoops when I get back, but until then I leave you with Marcel. 

September 28, 2011

How to Draft A Round Hoop Skirt With the Exact Shape You Want

And I do mean pretty darn exact.  Check out this photo of my finished hoops with my draft laid over the top for comparison-

Spot on!  (Ignore how high the hoop is off the floor, I like to set my mannequin to be much taller than me so I can comfortably sew hems and such)  You can use the following method to create any type of round hoop, whether cone shaped, bell shaped or a crazy undulating shape.

 You can't tell me you don't kinda want the third one now.

The key is that only round style hoops can be done like this; bustle/hoop combos, elliptical hoops and panniers won't work with this method.  But if the silhouette of your intended hoop design is identical from the front, sides and back then this will work for you. 

To start, you're going to need a largish sheet of paper, a ruler or an architect's scale, a pencil and the following measurements in inches:
  • your height 
  • your waist to floor measurement
  • your corseted waist measurement
  • desired circumference of hoop (optional; you could just draw what you like and go with the resulting circumference)
  • desired distance between floor and bottom edge of hoop

We're going to make our drawing to scale; that is, it will be drawn to the exact measurements we need, only smaller.  For instance, you could draw it so that 1" = 1/4".  If I am 65" tall and want to draw my figure in 1/4" scale I would draw it 16 1/4" tall.  Choose the largest scale that will allow you to fit a figure your height on your paper.  You'll be taking measurements later, and it's harder to take accurate measurements off a tiny drawing.  Once you've picked what scale you'll be drawing at, stick with it all the way through.  I'll be using my real life measurements as examples, but assume that from here on I'm converting them to scaled measurements when I actually draw them (so when I say I drew a line 65" up from the floor line, I'm actually drawing it to my scaled height of 16 1/4").   
    I've already got my figure drawn to scale, but I'll show you how I got there.

    To begin with, draw a line at the bottom of your page to indicate the floor.  You'll also want to draw a vertical line down the center of your page so you can center your figure and hoops exactly.  The top of your figure's head will be [your height in inches] above the floor.  In my case, I'm 65" tall, so I drew a mark 65" up from the floor to indicate the top of my figure's head.

    Make another mark where your waist will be using your waist to floor measurement.  My waist to floor measurement is 41", so I measured 41" up from the floor and made a mark.

    You can guestimate the diameter of your waist by dividing your corseted waist measurement by π (3.14).  Usually your waist is more of an oval than a circle, but a corset tends to compress your waist on the sides more than front and back, making your waist very close to a circle.  My corseted waist measurement is 25".  Divided by π, I get a diameter of 8", so I drew a 8" wide line centered at waist level (green line in the above picture).

    At this point I sketched in my figure from the waist up to that mark I made for the top of the head.  I got a bit fancy and drew undergarments and whatnot, but don't worry too much about details.  It's also no big deal if you can't draw people very well; the point is to just get a very rough idea of the shape of the body above the hoop.

    I know I want my hoop skirt to have a total circumference of 95".  I can find the diameter of my bottom hoop by dividing 95" by π, which gives me 30.25".  I also want my hoop skirt to be 6" off the floor, so I drew a line 30.25" wide 6" up from the floor (make sure it's centered!).  I added in some feet to complete my figure.

    Now you can draw the shape of your hoop skirt!  So long as it starts at each end of the line you drew for your waist, finishes at each end of the line you drew for the base and is symmetrical you're golden.  I made sure my shape was exactly the same on both sides by drawing it on one side, then copying it to the other side by folding the paper in half on the centerline and tracing it.  Whatever shape you draw is exactly what you'll get, so take some time to get a shape that pleases you.  I wanted a very bell type shape reminiscent of the early 1850's just before hoops were invented, when layering multiple petticoats gave women's skirts a shape just like an upside-down U.

    Once you've got your overall shape down, you'll need to draw in where your hoops go.  Keep in mind that you can space hoops farther apart in areas where there's little change in shape, but you'll need to space them closer together in areas where the shape changes drastically.  In the drawing above, the most drastic shape change takes place in the top half of the hoop skirt, so those hoops need to be closer together to maintain that shape.  Also consider the overall size of your hoop skirt.  Larger hoop skirts will require more support than smaller hoop skirts.  I once made a giant hoop with a nearly 180" circumference that failed because it only had 6 hoops holding it up.  It's better to err on the side of caution and add too many hoops than to have to few and watch your hoops collapse under the weight of your skirts!

    Click photo to embiggen 

    Now that you've got your hoop skirt drawn as you like it, you'll start taking measurements.  You are going to measure each space between hoops at the side edge of your hoopskirt (see photo above for example).  Don't forget to measure the distance between the top hoop and your waist too!  Measure straight from the edge of one hoop to the next, disregarding the curves.  Remember, you don't want to measure in the middle of your drawing or you'll end up with too little space between your hoops.  In the photo above, look at the area between the top hoop and the waist.  If measured on the edge, the result is 5".  If measured in the middle, it's 2".  That's a big difference!  You can write these measurements directly on your drawing or put them on another sheet of paper, but make sure you have them for later when you make your actual pattern.

    Next you'll measure the length of each of the lines you drew for your hoops.  This will be the diameter of each hoop.  You'll only need these numbers long enough to find the circumference of each hoop.  

    Now that you have the diameter of each hoop, you can easily find the circumference by multiplying the diameter x 3.14.  The result is the length each of your hoop bones needs to be (well almost; we're going to add a bit extra for overlap when we actually make the hoop skirt, but ignore that for now), so write each one down next to its corresponding hoop for easy reference.  

    Click on picture to embiggen

    Now you've got all the measurements you need to make your pattern!  You can draw your pattern out on paper full size, or you can save time and draw it directly on your fabric.  

    First, you'll need to make a rectangle as long as the circumference of your bottom hoop (so 95" in my case) and as high as all of the measurements in between each hoop combined (in my case, 6+6+6+6.25+3.25+3.5+2.25+5= 38.25).  

    You can also draw in lines for each of your hoops, using the measurements you took in between each hoop to space them properly (see above).  

    Add however much you want on each side for your seam allowance (yellow area in above picture).  

    Add a bit on the bottom to fold up to make a neat hem (green area in above picture).  If you add enough on the bottom, you can also use it to encase your bottom hoop.  

    Add enough on the top to fold down to make a casing for a drawstring (pink area in above picture).  Ta-Da!  You're ready to start sewing up your hoop skirt.  I'll show you how in the next post! Update: Learn how to sew up your custom hoop pattern in this post.

    September 20, 2011

    The Lattice Gown, Final Edition (Until I Decide to Make Lattice Gown 2.0)

    Oh hai.  The Real World™ stole me for a bit, and "tomorrow" turned into next week.  Anyways...

    When I left off the skirt was totally done and amazingly awesome, but the bodice... meh.   It was just a super basic bodice; no sleeves, no bertha or any trim and ill-fitted to boot.  While I plan to make a completely new bodice in the future, I decided to get another wearing out of this one by finishing it off and correcting what bits I could.  Again, I didn't take many pictures of the process, but hang around till the end and I'll show you lots of the finished dress!

    First up- sleeves.  Although I used Simplicity 5724 as a base for my bodice, I find the sleeves on the pattern to be almost comically ginormous (although that could be a result of my fabric choices the one time I used it).  Judge for yourself-

    I'm pretty sure that enormous sleeve has devoured my upper arm and is making plans to snack on my elbow.

    I like them for some things, but for this dress I wanted a smaller, more delicate sleeve.  I opted to use the sleeve pattern from Truly Victorian 442.  Unfortunately I don't recall if I used it as-is or added some fullness.  I used the evil silk gauze of evil, but since these were just two small sleeves I didn't mind that I had to hand sew them (and pin the everloving s**t out of them, and deal with the fabric deciding to shift and veer off in unpredictable directions, and washing my hands every two seconds, and... yeah, ok it was still annoying as all hell).  Since you can see through the gauze I used French seams so that no raw edges showed.  I decided to bind the top and bottom edges of the sleeves with skinny bias tape made of the cream silk used in the skirt for the same reason.  The sleeves were fully finished on all seams/edges/what-have-you before I attached them so that they can easily be taken on an off at will.  I whipstitched them to the bodice at the top and sides of the armscye, leaving the bottom open.  I wasn't sure what the range of movement would be with these sleeves, and since they are made of such a delicate fabric I figured leaving the bottom unattached would allow me to raise my arms without the possibility of ripping them.  I'm quite a fan of how the sleeves turned out and will probably take them off of this bodice and sew them to bodice 2.0 when it is made. 

     French seams, handsewn bias edging, and the bottom portion of the sleeve left detached from the bodice.

    Fresh from a fairly successful experience sewing the evil gauze, I started on the bertha with high hopes for fairly painless success.  That quickly devolved into growling and cursing.  I wanted the softer look of the gauze for this part, rather than the crispness of the taffeta or dupioni.  Initially I  wanted to make a pleated bertha, perhaps with the cream dupioni to back it, but with this gauze?  No friggin' dice.  After much fussing and pulling of hair (figuratively speaking of course; I had a buzz cut at the time) I just took a length of the stuff, pinched and tacked it to the bodice at CF and the shoulders and let it fall loosely in between the tacks. 

    I couldn't quite figure out what to do with the excess in the back.  I tried a few things, then ended up tacking it a few inches shy of the CB and letting it fall freely from there.  The ends aren't finished or anything; I figure if they fray too much I'll trim them between wearings. 

    To finish off the trimming I tacked the two roses I'd saved from earlier on at the shoulder.  To see how these roses were made, go here.

    I still cannot get over these roses.  LOVE THEM.

    As mentioned previously, the bodice was in serious need of some padding on top.  Each bust pad in the Simplicity pattern is made with three stacked layers of batting; each layer is cut in a sort of teardrop shape and each one is smaller than the previous one so that the pad is thicker in the middle and thinner on the edges.  I wasn't able to use the original pattern as is b/c I'd modified the neckline too much.  Cutting the pads down on top didn't quite work either; for some reason they just didn't set right.  I ended up making custom pads.  I started by laying down a single layer of batting across the whole bust to give a smooth line.  I "feathered" the bottom edge of this by gently pulling the batting apart so that there wasn't an obvious ridge where it ended.  I then cut a small oval to fit in the pointiest part of the bust, then a slightly larger oval, etc etc.  The shape of each piece changed slightly to accommodate the shape of the area it covered.  As I added each layer, I loosely tacked it to the previous one.  Periodically I held the bodice up to my body to see if there were any spots that needed more padding.  When I'd added enough to fill out the bodice adequately I cut a scrap piece of lining to cover the whole mess and carefully stitched it down around the edges.  

    And more padding, and more padding...

    I could have ripped open the side seams and let the waist out some, but I didn't care enough about the gap in the back to go through all of that, so I called it done.  On with the finished pictures then!

    You can see the sleeve quite nicely here.  You can also see that I forgot to understitch the lining at the bottom of the bodice so that it wouldn't creep out and be visible.  Ah well, next time I'll likely pipe it as I usually do.

    So far I've worn it out to dance twice, but currently I've got it packed away waiting for some awesome event to pop up that requires an over the top dress.  Any suggestions?

    September 12, 2011

    You'd Think I Could Manage to Not Screw Up a Simple Bodice...

    Where was I before I got completely distracted by vintage sewing machines?  Oh, right.

    Unfortunately, I'd spent too much time on the skirt and now had only one evening to make the bodice before the ball (I debuted this at the February 2011 Gaskells).  Since I didn't want to attend nekkid from the waist up I quickly threw together a basic bodice with the intention of fixing it up later.  As often happens, too little time = errors and unfinished bits.  I did end up adding to it for its second wearing, but I'll probably scrap it and make a completely new bodice one of these days.  For now, I'll show you what I put together for that first night out, complete with a few crappy iPhone photos b/c I was in too much of a hurry to find my camera or take pictures.

    To save time I decided to use Simplicity's ballgown bodice pattern (#5724, out of print).  I've used it a few times before; usually all I have to do is take in the waist a little.  Of course, I've never bothered to mark the pattern with the changes I make, so every damn time I have to do a quick mock up to adjust it.  While I'm generally a huge fan of the deep front point in this pattern, I chose to cut it down to a much more shallow one to avoid competing with the points of the overskirt.  I always lower the neckline of this pattern a bit, but in this mock up I overdid it and had to make a note to pull it back up an inch when cutting out the real thing.  Nothing says classy like falling out of your bodice gals!

     Oh hi.

    I went about constructing the bodice differently than I usually do.  I wanted a fairly lightweight bodice with no canvas interfacings, and I didn't want any raw seams showing.  I cut sets of all the bodice pieces out of the green silk dupioni, the silk organza, some cotton organdy and a pretty vine patterned quilter's cotton for lining.  I flatlined each piece of green silk with the silk organza, and each piece of quilter's cotton with the cotton organdy.  I sewed all the flatlined pieces of silk together to form one layer of the bodice, then did the same with the cotton pieces.  Now I had an inner shell of cotton and a separate outer shell of silk.  I sewed my bone casings on the cotton shell and used spiral steel bones to fill them. 

    The pretty quilter's cotton I used for a lining.

    I chose to do something odd to join the inner and outer shells.  Very often, one sees a lot of wrinkling 'round the waist and ribs of tightly fitted ballgown bodices.  I thought about a technique I'd learned for making corsets from the Corsetmaker's forum on Livejournal in which a little extra room is given to the fashion fabric layer, usually through roll pinning.  In part it accounts for the extra distance the outer fabric has to travel compared to the inner fabric as they bend back on themselves at a seam, but also for the extra distance the outer fabric has to travel around the body itself.  Since I just reread what I wrote and realized it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, here's some terribly drawn pictures.

    The fashion fabric has farther to travel, both at a seam (above) and around the body (below)

    Imagine looking down at a cross section of your torso wearing a corset or bodice with an inner layer and an outer layer.  The inner layer only has to go around your body.  The outer layer has to go around your body and the inner layer.  It doesn't seem like much, but it adds up!

    If the fashion layer is the exact same size as the lining, it ends up straining to go that extra distance and you get stress wrinkles.  I'd already sewn my outer pieces together, so I wasn't going to be able to account for turn of cloth at those seams, but I hadn't yet sewn the inner shell to the outer shell yet.  I pinned the inner shell on my dummy with the right side facing out.  Then I put on the outer shell, right side facing in.  I matched it to the inner one at the center front, then smoothed it till it lay nicely all the way around the dummy.  When I got around to the back, I could see that the fashion layer was nearly 3/8" shorter on each side.  That means the outer layer needs to be nearly 3/4" larger than the inner layer in order for it to lay smoothly around the body with no pulling! 

    That's quite a difference! (Ignore the weird fit on the not-yet-uniquely-me, I haven't gotten around to loping off the excess in the shoulder area and it makes everything funky)

    I figured I could lose 3/4" off the back and just make a placket to fill the gap, so I pinned the two layers together at the back edges and trimmed off the excess lining.  I sewed the layers together down the back edges and all around the bottom, then clipped seams and turned it all right side out.  I put two boning channels with room for grommets between them along each back edge.  I sewed the shoulder straps together, then bound the neckline and armscyes with thin strips of self bias.

    Twee little strips of self bias.

    In my rush to fit the mock up, I had somehow managed to take the waist in too much.  Unfortunately, I didn't notice till I was assembling the final pieces on the dummy.  Between that and the 3/4" I took out as a result of my little experiment, I had a larger gap at my lower back than I'd planned.  I had also run out of time.  I had hoped to be able to slap a bertha or sleeves on before the ball, but I had to go without those or any trimmings. 

    Looks so plain!

    I also ran out of time to recut the bust pads that go with this pattern.  Victorian bodices are meant to be wide on the top so that the waist looks smaller in comparison; oftentimes that meant padding for women who were less than well endowed.  This pattern includes giant pads and is cut with extra room in the bust to assist that tiny waist illusion.  I had a set of pads made up from the last time I made this bodice, but I lowered the neckline so much on this one that they stuck right up out the top.  Sexy, no?  With no time left I wore the bodice as is.  While it fit perfectly smoothly at the waist and lower ribs, the bust looked wrinkly and unflattering. 

    Lovely photo by Anthony Argyriou
    Pretty skirt, meh top.

    Thankfully, the skirt was a huge hit and drew most of the attention away from the bodice!  I had a blast dancing at Gaskells and managed to not dirty up/rip/spill anything on my lovely gown.  I did have a moment of alarm when the lattice snagged on the button of a passing gentleman's jacket mid-dance, but once freed I was thrilled to see that it hadn't harmed it one bit.  Yay for heat'n'bond I guess?  Anyways, check back tomorrow to see the changes I made to make the bodice less crappy.

    September 6, 2011

    Getting Down And Dirty With Your Vintage Lady

    Over the course of the last week I've been taking apart my little Singer hand crank machine to clean and repair it.  I was terrified when I started out, but with a good set of instructions there is absolutely no reason to fear this job!  In the links section of one of my recent posts I told you TFSR has a fantastic guide to completely breaking down, cleaning, repairing and reassembling your vintage Singer machine.  I can't stress enough how complete their instructions are; they show you how to take apart and put back together everything, and they point out what problems you need to look for and how to fix them.  It's intended to help folks clean up machines to send to Africa, but there's no reason you can't use it to help you clean up your own machine.  If you feel so inclined, you can always check out their how you can help page to give back a little.

    As for how to go about prettying up the exterior of the machine, everyone seems to have a different opinion.  I followed a few of the instructions here and got decent results.  You can always test out a few products on an inconspicuous area to see what works best for your machine.

    I won't be showing you what I did step by step; I'd only be badly repeating the information given in the TFSR guide.  I will show you what the guts of my machine look like, and I'll point out the things that needed a little extra TLC.  So without any further ado...

     Bobbin cover plate and slide plate removed, bobbin assembly pre-cleaning

    I started out with the bobbin area.  I actually ended up doing this twice; the first time I was too afraid to take the whole thing apart.  I used tweezers and a small paintbrush to get out all the lint and bits of stuck thread I could see, oiled the moving parts and called it a day.  Later I changed my mind and decided to get back in there and do it right.  I'm glad I did!

     The second time around I actually lifted out the feed dogs to clean them.  Thank goodness I did, 
    because I'd have missed a lot of grunk otherwise!  Look at all that nasty oily lint stuck under there!

     The rest of the bobbin assembly lifted out.  Check out the accumulated lint!  BTW, the red blob there isn't lint; 
    when cleaning your machine don't pull it out by mistake.  It's a bit of felt meant to clear out lint from the hook ring.

    Next I popped off the pretty faceplate and cleaned under there.  Lots more lint and grunk!  While I had the faceplate off I tried to shine it up with various things, but it stubbornly resisted being prettied up.  I'll have to poke about for something that will do a better job on it.  

    I just pulled out all the lint and used a brush and rag to clean things up, then 
    oiled all the moving bits.  I didn't end up having to take apart anything in there.

    I turned the machine upside-down to clean and oil all the moving parts down there (no pics, sorry).  I moved on to the hand crank/balance wheel assembly. 

    The handcrank pulled off the machine and opened up.  

    The balance wheel took a little tugging to get off.  Old oil had caked up in all the parts here and needed to be cleaned out.  After I removed all the grunk I shined up the stop motion screw and the silvery part of the balance wheel with chrome polish.  I had my doubts about that stuff, but holy crap did it clean and shine metal parts up well!

    Stop motion screw half cleaned with chrome polish.  What a difference!  

    While the balance wheel was off I pulled off the bobbin winder too.  The guide says you shouldn't take it completely apart unless there's something wrong with it; otherwise just clean it up, oil the parts that need it and put it back on.  Except for an old, crumbly rubber tire, mine was fine.  I ordered a new rubber tire from Sew-Classic (BTW, love them!).  When it came it was as simple as popping the old one off and putting the new on.

     Bad crumbly rubber tire

     The bobbin winder reassembled and halfway through winding a fresh bobbin.

    Before I put the bobbin winder, balance wheel and handcrank back on I cleaned and polished the exterior of the machine.  It's hard to get into some of the tight corners with all that stuff on, so best to do it while it's off.  After gently cleaning the exterior with a little dish soap and water and letting it dry, I rubbed it down with a light coat of sewing machine oil.  I wiped the oil off and tried a little Turtle Wax, but it didn't really give me the shine I was looking for so I stuck to the oil.  Remember to be careful of your decals when cleaning!  

    Once I got it all back together I gave the handcrank a test spin and just about had a heart attack.  The wheel had spun more or less freely before I cleaned it, but now it was sticking and starting to freeze.  I was sure I had screwed up royally somewhere.  Turns out I didn't do anything wrong at all; the moving parts were just finally getting around to protesting the little bit of grunk that couldn't be gotten out and the lack of lubrication.  While I had already liberally oiled all the parts that moved, it takes a while for the oil to penetrate everywhere it needs to go.  The solution was to just continue to gently turn the crank so that the moving parts could distribute the oil to where it was needed.  A short while later I felt everything release and the wheel spun perfectly freely. 

    The first time I disassembled and cleaned things I didn't touch the upper tension assembly.  I didn't want to mess with it unless I had to.  Once I had reassembled the machine I gave it a test run.  After some fiddling with the tension settings I was able to get a good stitch with even tension, with just one issue.  Every inch or two the stitches would form a big ugly loop on top of the fabric.  

     Ugly loops, but only every inch or two.

    I could see the take up spring seemed to be sitting at a funny angle and was catching on the thread regulator every now and again.  Figuring that was the issue, I decided that this time I had to take it apart.  

     Seriously, does this damn thing have enough parts?

    Sure enough, the spring was sitting at a funny angle because the tension mechanism housing was turned too far downwards.  All I had to do was turn it slightly, then reassemble everything.  

     Just needs a little clockwise turn

    That completely fixed the issue!  Of course, now I had to totally reset the tension.  Bah.  

     Lots of test stitches to reset and tweak the tension.  At least there aren't any big loops!  

    When all was said and done, I had a beautiful, perfectly running machine.

    If I can do it, so can you.

    September 2, 2011

    Part 2- Getting the 411 on Your Vintage Lady: Who She Is, Where She's From, Her Age (GASP!) and More (Non-Singer Edition)

    Finding loads of information on my Singers was easy, but two of the machines that followed me home last weekend weren't any brand I'd heard of.  New Home?  Jones?  No clue.  To teh interwebs!

     My New Home comes complete with a treadle!  I just need a new belt.

     The New Home close up

    I started off looking for a serial number.  There wasn't an obvious one like the Singers.  I looked all over the darn thing and finally found the only thing that could be a serial number on the bobbin cover slide plate.

    I searched through many of the sites I mentioned in yesterday's blog and was lucky enough to find a few entries about New Home on the ISMACS website.   Their page on New Home serial numbers is here.  If the number on the slide plate is indeed the serial number, then this lady was made in 1919.  The slide plate also bears the following inscription:  "New Home" S.M. Co. Orange, Mass U.S.A.  A quick check of another ISMACS page covering the company's history verified that the New Home factory was indeed located in Orange, Massachusetts during the year this machine was made.  So far so good!

    Until I tried to find a manual that is.  ISMACS has a page here with some New Home manuals, but my excitement didn't last long.  Their manuals cover machines with rotary type bobbins, and a quick check under the slide plate of my machine revealed something I'd never seen before- 

    The heck???

    More frantic searching revealed that this machine uses a vibrating shuttle to carry a long, thin bobbin spool.  You can see photos of this type of bobbin assembly and get a lesson on how to wind and load them here (his is for a singer, but they look very similar).  So now what?  

    The Smithsonian to the rescue!  The Smithsonian has collected a vast amount of literature concerning American made sewing machines and has made much of it available through a searchable online database here.  There are manuals, trade cards, catalogs, warranties and more!  Many of their items haven't been scanned yet, so they're only described.  However, they seem to have made special effort to get the manuals in their possession scanned; I was able to view pdfs of at least one manual for every brand of machine I looked for (well, except the Jones, but that's because she's British).  They had only one New Home manual that was for a slightly different model of machine, but it is very similar to mine and includes the same type of bobbin shuttle so I'm calling it close enough.

    Satisfied by what I'd managed to gather so far, I confidently turned to researching my last vintage machine, the Jones.

    Sadly, she's missing her treadle.  It was broken when the antique dealer's van blew a tire, causing 
    another piece to slam into it.  I'm keeping my eye out for another treadle base for it.

    The serial number is prominently displayed in the same location as the Singers; on the right hand front side of the bed.  The beautiful decals elegantly proclaim that this machine was made in England.

    The bobbin cover plate even helpfully reads "PAT. OCT. 4TH, 1889, No 15597". 

    Even more ornate decoration proudly proclaims that it is a "Spool" model.  With all this wealth of information already handed to me, surely I'd be able to date the machine and find a manual!  Off I went to search...

    ...and I came up with almost nothing.  Oh sure, I found some histories of the company here and here, but my efforts to date the machine or find a manual came up dry.  I couldn't even track down the patent.  The Smithsonian sewing machine literature collection was no help; they've only got records pertaining to American machines.  I found a manual for a Jones Family C.S. model, but its thread path is very different than the Spool and it uses the vibrating shuttle mentioned earlier.  My Jones has a round side loading bobbin.

    I pulled her out of the cabinet and removed the slide plate so you can see the bobbin housing

    I finally found this minimalist set of instructions for the Spool at the ISMACS site.  It's super short, but it will do!  How I missed it in the first place is a mystery. 

    Somewhere along the line (don't recall where) I stumbled across a page that mentioned that all the records pertaining to the serial numbers of these machines were destroyed by one of the Jones brothers.  If this is indeed true, it's unlikely that I'll ever be able to date this machine exactly.  But while I was browsing through the few private collections and museum pieces I found I began to suspect this gal was older than any of my other machines.  By comparing her serial number to those of other Jones Spool machines that have dates associated with them I found that this machine was likely made in the early 1890's.  Whoa!  

    Further supporting that theory is the fact that the words "Her Royal Approval", "Royal Approval Queen Alexandra" or "as supplied to HRH Queen Alexandra" do not appear anywhere on my machine.  According to various histories, the Jones brothers received a testimonial approved by the Princess of Wales lauding the performance of their machines.  They got permission to mark future machines with references to the Princess (later Queen).  So far as I understand, all of their machines, no matter the model, bore some variation of the Royal Approval inscription from the mid 1890's on.  You can see an example of one type of inscription on the shoulder of this machine, surrounding the "Family C.S." decal.  Since mine doesn't have any mention of royalty anywhere on it, it supports the theory that it was made in the early 1890's.  

    The last bit of supporting evidence is the center rose decal on the machine bed.  The rose design appears to have been used on early versions of the Spool and Family C.S. models, but was quickly replaced by a medallion style decal.  

    None of this conclusively proves anything, but the more evidence I accumulate, the more sure I can be when guessing when my machine might have been made.  I've got some more poking around through museum collections and digging up of histories to do, but hopefully I will eventually be able to say with some confidence that my Jones is a late Victorian sewing machine!

    To date other types of machines or find their manuals, check out these links- Manufacture dates for Wilcox & Gibbs machines The Smithsonian's collection of sewing machine literature.  Find manuals here.  Large index of sewing machine brands and related things Fantastic searchable site with loads of information on all sorts of machines.  Try out multiple variations of your search terms for best results. 

    Remember, if there are no serial number lists available for your machine, get creative with your search!  Collect all the information you can and cross reference it every which way.  Examine your machine for clues.  Bobbin cover slide plates are often engraved with company names and logos, patent numbers, serial numbers, etc.  Words entwined in the decorative scrollwork offer more clues.  Compare your machine to others of its type; how are they similar or different?  Search through museum catalogs and private collections.  Look up the history of the company to verify that they had active factories where and when you think your machine was made.  You may never be sure, but you'll have far more information that when you started!

    Now that I've got the 411 on my lovelies, it's time to start fixing them up.  Next I'll be showing you the guts of my little Singer 99.