99 Hot Air Balloons

Hello Sewists, I’m Melissa and I’m excited to be writing my first post for Singer Australia/New Zealand. Let’s start with a quick introduction: I live in Wellington, New Zealand and when I’m not writing here you can find me over on my blog with my furry “helper”, Harriet.
Harriet the CatI’m self taught but full credit goes to my Mum who encouraged both myself and my younger sister to try sewing from a very young age, teaching us the basics on her precious Globe Cub 3. My current obsession is pretty dresses and nothing beats an afternoon of digging through my pattern and fabric stash for inspiration.
the curious kiwi's Fabric StashThis is #sewingjoy and now that you’ve seen my stash we’re practically family 😉

I may also have a small vintage sewing machine addiction.Singer vintage machine collectionthe curious kiwi's Vintage Sewing Machine CollectionI love the mechanics of the old machines and I can’t help it when they follow me home! How many do I have? Hmmm, I may have shown you my fabric stash but we’re going to have to get a little bit better acquainted before I reveal that number 😉

Now there isn’t much point in having a vintage sewing machine collection if they just sit idle gathering dust, that would be sad, so I thought I’d use one of my favourites for my first Singer blog post.
Vintage Singer 99KAllow me to introduce my 1946 Singer 99k-13, a 3/4 sized machine that stole my heart. I wrote about her recently here, and fair warning, it gets a little nerdy!picmonkey-collage-balloonsMy project is inspired by a dress I spotted in a store near my work called Moah and as I show you my progress I’ll share a few tips and tricks that I like to use.

For the pattern I’ve picked the Pauline Alice Cami Dress, it’s similar enough to my inspiration and I think it has a vintage feel that suits sewing on the 99k. My fabric is from Spoonflower and I cut everything out while reviewing my shiny new Singer scissors.
Preparing the patternI bought my pattern as a PDF file and I know not everyone is a fan of these patterns but living in NZ you’ll agree that international postage isn’t always particularly cheap or speedy so when I just can’t wait a PDF pattern is the perfect option for instant sewing gratification.

The great thing about this pattern is that you only have to print and assemble the bodice, collar and sleeves. The skirt is simply two rectangles and you are given the dimensions in the instructions including where to place the notches for the pockets and zipper.

My top tips for working with PDF patterns:

  • Invest in a paper cutter – I can cut the edges off 5 sheets at a time with this baby, it’s a huge time saver and more accurate than scissors
  • Always, ALWAYS, check the test square. Even if you know your printer, print the test square page first and measure it before printing the rest of your pattern sheets. I work with printers everyday for my real job and I’ve been caught out…that one time I didn’t check.
Cutting the pattern outI picked my size based on the finished measurements. The size chart will include wearing ease, sometimes a lot more than you would normally prefer, so I find picking from the finished measurements instead the best way to achieve the fit I want. If your pattern doesn’t include a finished measurement chart check the pattern pieces, sometimes it is noted directly on the pieces or you can always flat measure the pattern across the bust, waist and hips, remembering to remove seam allowance (if it is included) and darts/pleats etc…

I hadn’t sewn on the 99k for a little while but after a quick refresher on threading from my manual and a test sew she was ready to go.
Threading the 99KThe instructions for this dress were pretty good but there are always a few things I like to do differently.

I don’t always mark my bodice darts, often I’ll just place a pin at the apex and a pin at the end of each leg and then fold my fabric over but I decided to be a good girl and use my second favourite dart marking technique, coloured carbon paper with spiky tracing wheel.
Using a spiky wheel to trace in dartsI always sew my darts from the wide end to the tip, sewing off the end and hand knotting the threads. You can also reverse back onto the fabric on the folded side of the dart but I’ve always found sewing off and hand knotting gives the smoothest point transition.
Sewing the darts with the 99KMy preferred way to set in sleeves is by attaching them “on the flat”, that is, after the shoulder seam is sewn but before you sew the side seam. When I set sleeves in the round my new favourite technique is to pin baste them in place. Simply pin at your notches, side and shoulder seams. Now add pins in the center between these first four pins, then repeat, adding more pins until you are happy. I add the most pins at the sleeve head, easing the sleeve into the opening.
Sewing the SleevesI decided to go with an invisible zipper because I find them the easiest to insert and I love their invisibleness! I use an invisible zipper foot and always press the teeth open before stitching. After I sew one side I close the zipper and mark the waist seam on the tape on the opposite side to help line it up.
Invisible ZipperDark green was the closest colour match I could find!

Now along with vintage machines I also collect vintage machine accessories. They take up much less room than the machines! I have two vintage Singer button holers (three if you count my accidental double up from over-enthusiastic TradeMe bidding, oops…) and I was really hoping I could use one of these for the button holes.
Vintage Singer Buttonholers Singer 99K with Buttonholer attachedSadly I just couldn’t get it to work. The machine sews with it attached and everything moves following the cam shape but the needle the bobbin just won’t connect. I need to do some more testing so to save time I had to resort to modern machine one-step buttonholes.


Aaand while we're at it, the buttons too #handsewing? Pfft! ??? #sewitwithsinger #camidress ?

A video posted by Melissa (@thecuriouskiwi) on

I machine stitched my buttons on too…hand sewing and I don’t really get along, then it was time for Scarlett, my Singer 150 dress form, to model the progress:
Bodice of dressAfter attaching the pockets gathering the skirt waist was a lot of fun (so much fabric!) but then the hemming was super easy due to the nice straight edges. I top-stitched a simple double fold hem and…here it is:
The finished dressI really love the pockets!
Love the pockets!I will make a few changes next time: Lengthen the bodice, FBA, insert the pockets a little higher and make them slightly deeper but overall I really love my new dress.
Back of the dressI wore it to work last week and got a lot of unsolicited compliments so that’s a win…and now, just for fun:
99 Hot air Balloons

Happy sewing xx