Last year when I was learning about all the different kinds of sewing machine needles available, I came across the Wing or Hemstitch needle. Never having heard of it, I did some research and found out this is used for Heirloom embroidery. I also read that 'Machine Embroidery' means the computerised designs done by the specialist machines, but embroidery using a normal sewing machine is referred to as 'Decorative Stitching'. Who knew?
I went on to discover that my Janome DC3050 could do 25 heirloom stitches! I promptly bought a 100/16 Wing Needle and made this sampler to try all 25 out, using a piece of Robert Kaufman Essex linen I had in my stash. I really liked the subtle effect and decided I would like to make myself a linen waistcoat, decorated with these heirloom stitches.
I bought myself the other size wing needle (120/19) and the twin version (2.5/100). I also treated myself to this book "Fine Machine Sewing" by Carol Laflin Ahles, which I found absorbing to read, as she gives loads of tips on how to improve all my machine sewing.
I had this vintage waistcoat pattern in my collection (from 1985) and tried a quick tissue fit. It was not as good as the RTW waistcoats in my wardrobe, being far too wide on the shoulders apart from anything else. So I traced the pattern onto some Swedish tracing paper, then used one of my RTW ones to alter the pattern and made a muslin using some striped sheeting.
Now this was a much better fit! When the other half saw this waistcoat he asked if I was joining a barber shop choir! I'm hanging on to this piece as it will be quite cute if I line it and finish it off, or maybe used it to line a denim waistcoat?
I cut out the fronts in a fairly coarse natural linen (not Robert Kaufman Essex) the backs in a chocolate brown faux suede (recycled from some curtains) and the lining is brown polyester satin left over from my Vintage Faux Leopardskin Coat lining. I assembled the fronts and starched and pressed them ready for stitching as Carol advised.
I did loads more samples, trying out both sizes of wing needle, with several different threads and stitches, trying to decide which combination I liked best. The linen I am using is rougher than the original sampler so the effects were different. I finally decided on the larger needle (120/19) and Gutermann Sew All #170
I used my Chaco chalk marker to draw the lines I wanted to follow, one inch apart. I used red at first thinking the white wouldn't show up well enough. Now I'm worried I won't be able to get rid of the chalk marks as they didn't brush off after I stitched over them. I tried the white chalk and it showed up well so I switched to that for the rest.
These are the first six rows I did (stitches 2 - 7 below) starting either side of the dart and moving outwards. Then I went back and fit a row on the dart itself, and another row in nearer the front (leaving gaps for the buttonholes) and lastly two more towards the side seam.
1) #35 Decorative/Patchwork (not yet added in picture above)
2) #41 Fagoting/Ladder (on far right above)
3) #48 Ornamental/Asterisk (In Carol's book this is called "Daisy")
4) #37 Ornamental/Heirloom Stitch
5) #36 Smocking Stitch/Garden Stitch
(In Carol's book there is one like this, but reversed, called Rhodes stitch)
6) #49 Cross Stitch
8) #39 Ornamental/Heirloom (not yet added in picture above)
With the decorative stitching complete, it was time to finish assembling the waistcoat. I followed the instructions from the pattern. I had omitted the welt pockets as I didn't want them interrupting the line of stitches (I will get around to making them one day!)
I had stopped and started the stitching around the two buttonhole marks so I wouldn't have to cut into them. My machine does three styles of automatic buttonhole. (It uses a button in the back of the foot to measure the size. It's soooo clever.) I chose the style with round ends and went over them twice to give them a good finish. I recycled a couple of tortoiseshell buttons from my button jar and put them on by hand as there are only two.
Finished! I hand washed it to get rid of the red chalk lines! I'm not sure if I like it now, maybe it would have been better in a darker colour? It looks a bit chunky around the edges and it may have been crisper with some top-stitching but I wasn't feeling confident that would work well so I didn't try it. Time to slip it on and do some modelling!
I really like the brown faux suede and the little strap detail on the back. My RTW waistcoat has ties so it is adjustable, but doesn't look as smart. I wonder if I could make it with adjustable ties and a sliding buckle? It needs a press to get that crease out and a more rustic shirt underneath! Also the lining is rolling out on the neckline a little, it should have been under-stitched perhaps? I'll add a note on the instructions for another time.
My rustic heirloom waistcoat!