I acquire a treadle cabinet and my crutch is troublesome

It’s been 3 weeks since I last updated you on what’s been happening since the start of the Silly Girl’s Project to recreate Douglas and Elsie’s road trip to Monte Carlo in 1955 (link to Part One)  – so here goes…

In my last post, I had managed to acquire 3 vintage sewing machines in just under 5 weeks and avoided buying a Rover P4 by the skin of my teeth.  I was searching for a treadle cabinet to fit Isabella, my 1901 Singer 28K vibrating shuttle (it’s a sewing machine), and look what happened.

I was watching this local cabinet on Ebay, had been to see it to make sure that my 3/4 sized sewing machine would fit but was determined not to pay through the nose for it.  The seller had bought it as an “upcycling project” which, in my opinion, is another way of saying “destroying something old and beautiful which could be easily restored with a bit of gumption”.  She neglected to mention that it already had an identical Singer 28K from 1894 cowering with fear of being turned into a lamp or some such idiotic idea inside the cabinet. The machine was probably destined to be upcycled into a boat anchor had she worked out how to remove it.

(after an initial clean with orange oil)

(after an initial clean with orange oil)

It didn’t sell the first time round – no surprise there – and the second listing had the price reduced by £70 to £100.  Still about £40 dearer than these cabinets sell for in the UK but there had only been 6 sold in as many months and this was local.  Wooden items containing large lumps of iron which move on hinges don’t travel well by courier.  I bit the bullet, bought it at the last minute, rushed off there like a rat up a drainpipe and collected it.  It may only measure 34″W x 18″D x 30″H and fit in the back of a 4×4 but it weighs the same as your average small hatchback, contains a lot more metal and has already outlived most of them by about 110 years.  It’s a Singer “Art Cabinet” so that makes me an artist.

The downsides to acquiring a lovely piece such as this are that a) something has to leave the house to make room and b) it contains orphaned vintage sewing machine number four.

the Davvy

the Davvy

My Davenport desk is heading off to auction tomorrow and should cover all my silly Singer Mania purchases and give me a big wodge of change for petrol money for the Monte Carlo trip.  Excellent plan!  The sewing machine can share the cabinet with my other 28K which is fitted with a hand crank.  This means I can treadle or hand crank either machine.  My new treadle belt arrived PDQ from Helen Howes, who is brilliant for advice as well as the supply of old sewing machine parts in the UK.  (Don’t tell her that I sent you, she already thinks I’m berserk.)  After a good oiling and much Googling, the treadle mechanism is working like new and almost silent – I just need to get the hours of driving practice in, which you do on paper with an unthreaded machine.  There are YouTube videos all about it.

So, poor Mr IP asked me the night after we collected the cabinet if we were going to be watching a film, as is our Saturday evening habit while scoffing my baking attempts, or was I going to be “playing with Marjory or whatever her name is?”.  Good choice, Marjory she is.  He did also point out that I only need one machine to sew my Monte Carlo wardrobe, not one machine per outfit.  Spoilsport.  I’m still just putting off the actual SEWING bit of the plan so, having been inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee which I found on YouTube, I decided to start off by making a pair of ladies cotton trousers a la Audrey Hepburn.  Easy.  They had 3 hours to do it in the telly programme.

I trotted off to a well-known Edinburgh purveyor of fabrics and all things sewing-related and came home with a pattern, material and bits (“notions” is the technical term, apparently) for producing said trousers.

just what I was looking for and EASY

I liked the ones on the left.  Side zip, proper waistband – none of this elasticated waist nonsense, that’s a slippery slope if you ask me – fitted with darts front and back, no pockets to show that you can’t stitch in a straight line.  Perfect.  The lady in the shop helped me choose the pattern, explained it to me and even measured me to calculate how much fabric I would need.  I chose a rather outlandish pattern which may not surprise you.

After 5 days of feverish activity when I had spare time, I landed up with this article.

after almost a week of trying

Sewing patterns are like a foreign language and shorthand combined.  Especially when parts of your carcass fall into one pattern size and other parts are a different size and you have to merge the two together.  After trying on my half-baked trousers numerous times after unpicking and re-stitching, I was certain that they had gone seriously wrong and I couldn’t work out where except that I knew the crutch shouldn’t be so close to my knees and the legs shouldn’t flap.  I bought a similar charity shop pair (yes, I know, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble – rather nice navy silk M&S ones for £2.99) and dissected and measured them and the penny dropped.  I should have gone back to basics – very basics. The woman in the shop had measured me incorrectly and I was making trousers to fit someone a bit bigger than me, the realisation of which resulted in deep joy and happiness and a desire to carry out a slow strangulation.  It’s a learning process.  I already know how to do strangulation.  The other stuff is coming along at a leisurely pace.

Being of a very cautious nature, I decided to re-do the entire complex operation using some fabric I already had (the back of an old duvet cover) and make Test Trousers to the correct spec.  Then I could dismantle them and have a fabric recipe for future Brilliantly-Fitting Trolleys rather than a tissue paper pattern which the cat keeps eating bits off.  I think he may have an addiction to Sharpie ink.  This was the progress yesterday:

duvet cover trousers AKA PJ's?

duvet cover trousers AKA PJ’s?

It’s a horribly long and complicated process when you’re new to all this.  I had to buy a gadget called a “French Curve” which is for measuring curved seams when adjusting patterns if you’re as useless as I am at judging these things.  A couple of mm either way makes a big difference between having a saggy arse or wrinkly thighs.  In the trousers. Measuring yourself is problematic as you need to be standing upright, not twisting around, sweaty and swearing and wishing you had another pair of hands.  I resorted to trying on different trousers that fit me well, standing in front of a mirror and using a Sharpie to mark not only the target fabric, but myself.  I am considering having tattoos to mark my waist and hips but there’s always potential for change in those departments, so perhaps not one of my better ideas.  I took a photo but it’s not really the sort of thing I want you to remember me for.  Once seen it can’t be unseen.

To add a further insult, I can no longer thread needles due to the relatively recent need for reading glasses.  I wear two different contact lenses so one eye does long distance and the other eye does close up.  Working out which does what takes up a minute or two if you’re really bored but makes you look like a psychiatric case if you’re waiting in a queue in Boots or somewhere.  It works a treat, in a general sort of way, but contact lens prescriptions can’t be as finely tuned as glasses so I’m still a bit lacking in the closeup eyesight department.  Luckily I found these in Elsie’s sewing box (yes, there’s a story about that too).  She must be helping me along.

Free with "The People's Friend" in nineteencanteen

Free with “The People’s Friend” in nineteencanteen

As usual, all this trouser trouble kicked off while Mr IP was abroad.  I’m beginning to think that he goes away as a result of what I might get up to rather than me getting myself in a stushie because I’m left unsupervised.  I don’t know which option is preferable.  The saving grace is that while he was having dinner in Athens, a seller came round with a basket of these items of wonder and much to the amusement of his dinner companion, he bought one…

and they say that romance is dead

and they say that romance is dead

Mr IP, Shirl and the needle threader are in a tin box in the sky heading home as I write – hurray!  Hope the plane stays up.

I may have to go to Greece to see if anyone goes around selling pinking shears from a basket.  My pattern states that I should finish the cut edges of the fabric but all my sewing machines were made to do one stitch only – lockstitch.  No, I’m not buying another one just to do zigzag.  I’ll make do with pinking shears and do French seams.  When I learn how to do them straight.

By my next post, I will have a pair of beautiful home-grown ladies trousers, maybe a Rover P4 and no more sewing machines.

Who believes any of that?

Jo ;-)

PS:  Is it crutch or crotch?  I think I would disappoint even more Googlers if I spelled it crotch.  Hey ho.

The Silly Girl’s Project will continue shortly….


A footnote re Pinterest and a future change of blog address:

Some of you, particularly my Sepia Saturday friends, will already know that I have had my images splashed all over Pinterest and that I got rather bolshy about it.  Pinterest accepted my complaints, removed most of the images and advised me that they have some wondrous gizmo which will discourage their users from Pinning – but it doesn’t work on WordPress.com, only self-hosted blogs.

As a result of the increase in blood pressure and the decrease in tolerance which ensued, I have bought the domain name “imagespast.co.uk” and will be transferring the whole blog from here to there once I have everything backed up and packed up.

Those of you who follow by email will still get emails when I post new nonsense, so WordPress tell me.  Everyone else is another matter… if you want to be sure to be able to find my blog, should the changeover go horribly wrong for those following, keep my new domain in mind, or email me and if you fail to see the warning balloon go up, I can always send you a nice spammy email :-D

See you on the other side.


Posted in Douglas & Elsie's 1955 Road Trip, Photos, Silly Girl's Project | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Two old singers from Clydebank, a wild rover (no, nay, never…) and excitement over a globe

You may remember that my meandering brain conjured up a Silly Girl’s Project which is becoming more complex as time goes by. Follow the link for Part One – the beginning of the spiral. I’m not sure whether it’s an upward spiral or a downward spiral but I’m enjoying it.

In my last post a couple of weeks ago, I had acquired a vintage Singer 201K sewing machine for the purpose of making my 1950’s-style outfits for our road trip to Monte Carlo.  Heather, as she is now known, is up and running and raring to go.  I, on the other hand, am procrastinating about the actual SEWING and have been distracted by the cuteness of the traditional Singer sewing machine.  Thus, I allowed myself to be seduced by the lovely Isabella, a 3/4 sized hand crank machine from 1901.  She’s still an ongoing refurbishment project but she remembers how to sew.  Which is more than I can.

work in progress

work in progress

Along the way, I have discovered the joys of a Dremel, which is a rotary power tool that does all manner of miraculous DIY things, but I’m only interested in polishing.  The buffer pads work a treat with MAAS metal polish which is not as rough as the compound that comes with the Dremel.  I have only used it on minimum speed as it can become unwieldy and out of  control if you give it too much welly and don’t give it 100% concentration.  Like a lot of things.  I have nearly shrink-wrapped myself twice with the dust sheet I was using to protect everything from the filthy bits of flying polish and I look like a Victorian chimney sweep after every cleaning session.  It works a treat.  Shopkeepers recoil at the state of my nails as I hand over money, though.

Did I mention that I am easily distracted and prone to flights of fancy?  Last weekend (as soon as Mr Imagespast was on the plane to Greece for a well-deserved break from the madness that is his usual routine) I went to Fife to see a 1962 Rover P4 which had been advertised on Ebay.  Just like the one that Douglas and Elsie drove from Fife to Monte Carlo in 1955, but a few years younger.

1954 Rover P4

I spoke to my friend, Colin, and picked him up at 1pm on the Sunday to go and see the car. The seller lived in a tiny (really tiny) village within 5 miles of Pitlessie, where Douglas grew up at the Manse.  I took the little album with me to show him if he was interested.

Unfortunately, although the car was in pretty good condition, it was too much of a project for me to take on.  Mr IP’s car maintenance abilities extend to phoning the garage and mine are… rusty.  In the extreme.  Also lacking in a lot of areas.  In discussion with Colin, I decided that I would prefer a bigger 6 cylinder engine for motorway comfort and ease of driving – less messing around changing gears.  Even with the bigger engine, with the overdrive it would probably work out the same on fuel economy over a long trip. I’ll hold out for another one.

I only drove the car in first and reverse in the yard but the seller took us for a little run.  It was a nice car – smaller than I expected and fine for a little squirt to drive at low speed on a very short test.  I had been concerned about the weight of the steering but I’ve had a big car with no power steering before and managed to park it daily in Edinburgh.  The size of the steering wheel helps.  Did it come off a bus?

A useful gadget for parking

A useful gadget for parking

It was my birthday yesterday and Mr Imagespast was still sunning himself in Greece. We’re not really big on birthdays and presents/cards on significant days which are required to be celebrated at vast expense according to traditional rampant commercialism, so I wasn’t fussed that he wouldn’t be here until my birthday was nearly over.

I joked that I would buy my own birthday present.  It’s all a bit of a wind up but I like to keep him on his toes and give him the occasional freak-out.  He says he knows that I wouldn’t sell the house and buy a Ferrari without telling him.  That’s only because he knows what I think of Ferraris.

I had decided that Isabella deserved an opportunity to experience life not only as a hand crank machine which she has been for her 114 years, but as a treadle.  I also relished the idea of bringing something else old, bulky and dirty into my very small house.  I found just the thing!

Wanted sewing machine desk

As a 28K is a small sewing machine, appropriate original cabinets are like hens’ teeth to get hold of, so I thought this could keep ticking over in the back of my head until the right one at the right price popped up.  No such luck.  There was one nearby on Ebay at £silly.  Treadle cabinets don’t travel well, especially via couriers who sometimes treat parcels like bastketballs so local is GOOD. Not surprisingly, nearly two weeks later, the cabinet’s still for sale at slightly less £silly.  Call me mean, Scottish or a farmer’s daughter, but I can’t pay through the nose for anything.  All three are true.  I will not jump in.  I will bide my time.

I’m continuing to search for Isabella’s hutch, I mean, a suitable 28K cabinet within driving distance.  As yesterday was my birthday, when I stumbled upon this item and it was very close to where I live, and wouldn’t break the budget, and it would give Mr Imagespast something else to try not to freak out about, I rushed off down there clutching my used readies.


Coffee pot?  Teapot?  Fire hydrant?

When I got home, clutching the dinky little thing and sniggering wildly to myself, I took some photos before I started faffing about with it.  I couldn’t find any manufacturer’s name or serial number on it anywhere.  It was badly discoloured, rusty and seized solid.  I uploaded a pic to the Vintage Sewing Machine Facebook Page to see if my new friends could help me with identification while I Googled like mad and the resident spiders sneaked out of it.  At first it seemed to be a Victorian toy sewing machine which disappointed me.  Although it was bought as a bit of a laugh, with my newly discovered knowledge of how to revive dormant sewing machines, I wanted to get it going and see if it would sew.  A toy wasn’t on my shopping list.

However, on close inspection, the idea of a toy didn’t add up.  It is small – roughly 10″ by 6″ at the base, but it had a rusty needle and a screw to change the needle.  I set it up on a bed of old newspaper, fabric and paper towels and gave it a quick dust with a dry paintbrush.  I eventually managed to get the balance wheel to move 1/2″ in either direction (dab WD40 onto any part you can see where metal touches metal, including underneath, but don’t get it on the paintwork) so that showed that the needle and the hand crank WERE actually connected. Eventually it freed off to the point where I could squeakily complete a couple of turns of the crank.  I oiled it everywhere I could see (sewing machine oil only – no 3-in-1, never ever) and within a couple of hours, it was limping along, wheezing and puffing but definitely wanting to GO!  Hurray!  There was orange goo dripping out of it as the movement shifted the internal rust.  I was still a bit upset that it was a toy but happy that it was going. There’s a screw which I think should adjust the stitch length, a tension spring to adjust the pressure on the presser foot and feed dogs to grip the material as it goes through but no bobbin or shuttle for thread underneath.  Hmm.  If it was a toy, it was a seriously good quality one.  Pretty as well, as a gentle wipe down with sewing machine oil on cotton buds darkened down the rather grey finish and showed up the colours.  Like when you wet a pebble.

DSC_0141 - Copy

I realised that the decoration was not the normal water-slide decals (transfers) but hand-painted. This must really have filled some delighted Victorian’s child’s stockings at Christmas.  (Bear in mind that the flower painting above is only about 2 1/2″ square.)

By now, my Facebook chums were in a Vintage Sewing Machine frenzy and someone came up with the idea that a chainstitch machine only has one thread.  Looking back, Heather the 1958 201K has a bobbin for her lower thread, Isabella the 1901 28K has a shuttle, which was the precursor to bobbins and before that…  Yes, of course, all there was was a chainstitch machine!  That’s when it dawned on me that not only was this a REAL sewing machine, but possibly quite a rare one.  The world is awash with old sewing machines because they are virtually indestructible (the really knackered looking ones are called “boat anchors”) and almost every home had one to make garments before ready made clothing took off.  That’s why they are worth so little now.

But here’s the big surprise.

The little machine is possibly a J G Folsom Globe.  They were made in Wisconsin between 1865 and 1871.  Only 285 were made in 1871 so it makes me wonder how many were made in total, and how did one land up in Scotland?  I’m still investigating further and need to clean the orange goo off the needle plate to see if there is any identification left engraved on it, but it looks like I have, once again, taken things a step too far.  From a 57 year old sewing machine, to a 114 year old one and possibly now a 150-ish year old one?  Further investigating to be done here :-D

If that's what a night on sewing machine oil does, make mine a large one.

If that’s what a night on sewing machine oil does, make mine a large one.

Since having a gentle go at cleaning the orange rusty goo/sewing machine oil off the needle plate, I think I’m right in saying that I DO indeed have a J G Folsom Globe chainstitcher. You won’t be able to read it – I almost can but I think it says the right things.

Needle plate close up

Sincere thanks go to all at the Facebook Vintage Sewing Machine page who have supported, encouraged, advised and educated me.  As well as given me their VSM Acquisition Disorder germs :-D  Come on in, the sewing machine oil’s warm!

The Silly Girl’s Project continues…

Posted in Douglas & Elsie's 1955 Road Trip, Photos, Silly Girl's Project, Singer mania | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Several steps forwards and a few less steps backwards

You’ll be pleased to hear that the planning of the planning of the Silly Girl’s Project to recreate my grandparents’ 1955 road trip to Monte Carlo is coming along nicely.  (Part one is here)  I’ll just say that the whole thing is still rather fluid and not forming itself in an orderly fashion due to my meandering brain.  No surprises there then.

2015 05 12 after a serious clean

In my last post, I had acquired Heather, a 1958 Singer 201K sewing machine, for the purpose of making my 1950’s-style outfits for our road trip to Monte Carlo.  As usual, it was buy first and do the research later.   During my investigation into how best to clean up and restore Heather to her former glory, I chanced upon LOADS of information about the Singer company and their products.   It turns out that there is a worldwide fan base of Vintage Sewing Machine enthusiasts (obsessives?) and that manuals, information, sources of parts and general encouragement is pouring out of t’interwebs.  There’s a Facebook page with almost 18,000 members, all encouraging each other.  I don’t need any encouragement, I’m dangerous enough on my own.

It seems that these bits of kit are so well-engineered and simple in design that, with regular maintenance, they go on forever and, barring a disaster of momentous proportions, can be looked after by their owner.  I’m all in favour of that – get a book out of the library and DIY, learn new skills along the way and save a packet.  Or nowadays, get onto t’interwebs and FIND OUT HOW.  Once you’ve seived out the garbage…

Singer-201-Service-Adjusters-Manual  SAM

Here’s some interesting stuff that I discovered along the way.  Did I mention my meandering brain?

Singer was such a successful company that in 1862 they decided to open a factory in the Glasgow area.  Demand continued to escalate and another factory was build in 1873 and in 1885 they opened their biggest ever factory on 46 acres of farmland at Kilbowie in Clydebank. This included 2 3/4 miles of railway to connect up various parts of the site and to 3 railway stations in Glasgow, Helensburgh and Dumbarton.  The company employed nearly 7,000 workers and produced an average of 13,000 machines a week.  It was the most modern factory in Europe at the time.  They even made their own cabinets and tables to house their sewing machines and employed 2,000 joiners to do so.

During World War II, in line with most other engineering companies, Singer  turned their engineering facilities at Kilbowie to producing ammunition and hand grenades.  The factory made Mills No 36 hand grenades and even the bombs that they produced were stamped with the Singer logo.  Have a look at this – is it a bullet?  Ignore the yellow stuff.

Is it a bullet?

Is it a bullet?










There’s another story behind the above…  Although Heather sews beautifully, having joined the Vintage Sewing Machine group on Facebook, that bunch of “enablers” kept posting photos of beautiful old Singers.  You know – the kind everyone’s Mum and Granny had,  all shiny black with lots of gold decoration.  I learned to sew (such as my “sewing ability” currently is) on two of those machines (a treadle and an electric) and we also had them at school.  I bet there isn’t a school in the UK who lets excitable 11 year old girls loose on such obviously horrendously dangerous equipment which is designed to murder children.  Tut. That’s why no one can sew. Besides, you only ever sewed through your finger once.  A lesson for life. You can’t beat a good solid education.

Anyway, I hankered after such a pretty little black and gold beast and I discovered that because hardly anyone sews and these machines were pretty much bombproof, there are hundreds of thousands languishing unused and neglected.  That makes them cheap to buy. Add to that the availability of parts, their reliability and virtual idiot-proof-ness, and the idiot had to have a go.

This time I did my research.  No, I really did.  I looked at Ebay for a couple of days, Googled for a bit and then chose my weapon.

28K cropped for blog

It’s no ordinary sewing machine, let me tell you.  You know that normal sewing machines have a round bobbin for the bottom thread?  This one doesn’t because they hadn’t been invented then.  She is a “vibrating shuttle” machine and has the bullet-shaped thing (above) which contains a long bobbin loaded with thread.  The pointy bullet travels forwards and backwards underneath the plate and loops its thread through the thread that the needle has just deposited through your fabric, forming a stitch.  Clever, eh?  She’s a 1901 model 28K.  The K stands for the Kilbowie factory in Clydebank where her relative Heather was also made.  So I now have two generations of Scottish singers.  Not these ones.

Lulu for blog

Sharleen for blog






Isabella (I can explain her name, if you really want to know, but it’s another convoluted story) had been living in Wales.  In a barn with chickens, judging by the look and smell of her when she arrived last Thursday. I had no idea what she was like beyond what I could see in the photos and although she was well-packaged when she arrived, the rattle from the box didn’t bode well.  I realised that if she had parts missing, I wouldn’t even know.

Oh well, too late – I had blown the enormous sum of £17 plus £15 delivery so I got my sleeves rolled up, rubber gloves on and got on t’interwebs again.  There followed a most interesting journey of discovery (story of my life) and within 4 days I had her cleaned up inside and out, oiled, threaded and last night I managed to produce this masterpiece on her first test drive.  Using the needle that she came with, some ancient thread (both no-no’s) and some old lining material.


One of us can sew.  Now I just need to produce some variations of this:

Scary sewing pattern

Sewing patterns are the next mystery to unravel.  I have the pattern, the fabric, the lining fabric, the zip, the matching thread and I’m terrified to start cutting.  I’m  liking the middle one and I’m liking the fabric that I bought enough not to ruin it with scissors yet.

Meantime, maybe I’ll just document the story of Isabella’s transformation from sad little machine so that maybe someone else who is daft enough to buy a vintage Singer sewing machine on a whim will find out how easy it is to beautify, restore and operate.  I’ve found some You Tube videos and perhaps there’s a Facebook page for Reluctant Seamstresses.

Wish me luck.

On another (connected) note, this is the car that my grandparents did their 1955 trip to Monte Carlo in –

Car to id cropped

It’s a 1954 Rover P4.  Yes, there’s a Facebook group.  Yes, I’ve joined.  Yes, I’ve got some new friends. Yes, it’s just as easy to get hold of one of them but a wee bit dearer.  That’s a whole ‘nother thread, as it were.  Let’s stick with Heather and Isabella for the next few posts.

The Silly Girl’s Project continues…

You can find other posts about the Silly Girl’s Project by clicking on the Tag :-D

Posted in Douglas & Elsie's 1955 Road Trip, Silly Girl's Project, Singer mania | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

100th Anniversary of the Sinking of The Lusitania

A less than jolly post today.  As some of you will know, The Lusitania, a Cunard ship first launched on 7 June 1906, was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland and sunk a hundred years ago today.

Lusitania courtesy of the Lusitania Resource

One of my relations was on board with her infant son and neither body was ever recovered.  It’s a very sad family story.

Hugh Gilmour, a farmer, and Marion Mitchell Stewart married on 7 November 1883 at her family home, Carrot Farm, Eaglesham in Renfrewshire.  Hugh was a good bit older than Marion when they married – he was 39 and she was 23.   Marion moved to Hugh’s farm at Ballimore, Kilfinnan, Argyll and they went on to have two children.

Agnes Watt Gilmour was born on 24 January 1886 and she had a big brother, Hugh, who was a couple of years older than her but their father died in 1886 at the relatively young age of 42 at Ballimore.  Marion was left a widow at the age of 28, and with a 6 month old baby and small child to look after, she moved in with her unmarried brother, James Stewart, at Blairtummock Farm, Campsie in Stirlingshire.  James was my great great grandfather’s brother.

As time went on, Agnes met a young local joiner by the name of Andrew Semple.  His parents farmed nearby at Enoch Farm, but Andrew went off to Canada in 1905.  The Stewart family moved back to Carrot Farm, Eaglesham after the death of Marion and James’s brother, John, in January 1909.  Andrew returned from Canada to marry Agnes where she was living at her brother Hugh’s farm, Ardoch, on 8 March 1911 and together they left for Canada. By the time of the 1911 Canadian Census at the beginning of June, they were living in Calgary and Andrew was working as a carpenter.  Agnes returned home in 1914, perhaps so that she could be close to her mother, Marion, for the birth of her first child, which was the norm but it seems a long way to travel.

Unfortunately, Agnes and her baby, John, were travelling back to Andrew and their new home in Canada from Scotland on the Lusitania when it was torpedoed on 7 May 1915.

To make things even worse for this family, Agnes’s brother, Hugh, died on 26 February 1919 aged 34 in the vicious third wave of the huge influenza epidemic of 1918-1919  and their mother, Marion, followed suit two days later at the age of 58.

Stewart Gilmour Semple headstone Lusitania

You can find out more about the Lusitania, including details of crew and passengers, the story of what happened in the run up to the sinking and the associated controversies at the Lusitania Resource.

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One step forwards and more than one step backwards

I thought I’d give you (both) an update on the progress of the Silly Girl’s Project (also known as the Big Road Trip from Dunfermline to Monte Carlo).  Part one is here.  Look – my grandparents did it in 1955 and it’s not very far at all when you’re leaving 3 children at home and taking off with your wife, brother and sister in law for a jolly.

Map Dunfermline to Monte Carlo

A few weeks ago, while thumbing through the photo album of Douglas and Elsie’s trip, I was gripped by a moment of sheer genius.  After due consideration of all the pros (lots) and cons (one, but it’s only money), I announced to the world that Mr IP and I were going to do the road trip to Monte Carlo just like my grandparents did in 1955.

We had a somewhat animated discussion after he read the blog, but he thought it was a splendid idea.  This is quite fortunate as his car is a vital component in my plan.

Mr IP Rides Again

I’m very keen on this idea and the flashes of brilliance are popping up with amazing regularity.  From a road trip, it morphed into a road trip in costume – 1950’s costume.  We rushed off to Armstrong’s Vintage the following Saturday and had a good rummage and left with one fedora (his).  Naturally, I only saw one item that I deemed eminently suitable and it was a red flowery dress in the window.  Apparently someone else had their name on it already.

I’m not easily deterred.  I developed Pinterestmania and soon had a massive private board full of fabulous ideas at equally fabulous prices.  As you know, I’m a “can do” sort of person so the next stage of the plan became “make outfits for trip”.  There.  Wardrobe sorted.  There were a few minor details to tidy up before I could put the wardrobe part into action:

1)   Acquire a sewing machine

2)  Try to remember how to use it, if I ever knew how to use one PROPERLY

By chance I mentioned to someone that I was looking for a second hand Singer and she told me that there were several at a charity shop in Bonnyrigg.  I whizzed along there a couple of days later and found this little cracker – a Singer 201K (1958, made in Scotland) and nabbed it for £35.

My Singer 201K

I lugged it to the pavement where the lady from the shop (Janet, my new BFF) had arranged for A Man to lift it into the back of my car.  This turned out to be Colin, whose fish van occupies the space outside the shop every Saturday morning.   So I scored myself two pieces of smoked haddock for dinner at the same time.  I’m unstoppable.  Janet also told me about that rare breed of shops – the local hardware store – where I could buy sewing machine oil.  You know the sort of place – mouse traps, paraffin, teapots and garden rakes.  Fork handles – humour peculiar to the Brits.

Sadly, Colin had declined to come to my house for his tea so I was on my own at the home end but I managed to grapple the Singer out of the car and very nearly to the front door. Dragging it across the grass was one thing but lugging it up two steps was quite another.   An emergency phone call to my brother fixed that problem as he and his mate nipped straight round and put in the hallway, and all for a couple of home made muffins each.

The sewing machine was pretty dirty and dusty and the elderly electrics concerned me a bit, but Mrs ICanDoIt got it cleaned up enough to be allowed to stay in the house.  Then I got on T’interwebs to find out a bit about it – well, go me!  If I hadn’t chanced upon THE very model of vintage Singer to have.  Not only is it the proper sewing person’s machine of choice and made in Scotland, but it’s apparently bombproof and all Singer’s attachments fit all Singer machines.  You can call me Lucky White Heather.

I’ve got the original instruction book so I knew where to oil it and which bits are supposed to do what but it wasn’t happy.  After many phone calls and some increasingly desperate Googling, I managed to download a PDF of “The Singer-201-Service-Adjusters-Manual“.  Yes, yes, I know, straying into dangerous territory, but by now there was no going back.  After much tinkering and a lot of WD40, a magnifying glass, a torch, an old toothbrush and a shed load of cotton buds, SHE LIVES!  I fitted a new needle, threaded her up and managed to sew a stack of kitchen paper together before she fainted.  I suppose it’s all been too much for her for one day.  I’ll try again tomorrow.

Meantime, I’m still working on how to turn myself into Audrey Hepburn.  The news about progress on that might be a long time coming.  I started by buying liquid eyeliner which everyone says is very easy to apply once you get the hang of it. Ha.  Heard that one before. Thankfully, I had the good sense to notice that the packaging says “waterproof, 24 hour wear” on it before I did some face painting then had to go to Boots the Chemist for special makeup remover with a bag over my head.

I can tell that this Silly Girl’s Project is going to be a lot of fun.  I suspect that there could be several wrong turnings and possibly a breakdown, before we hit the road :-)

The Silly Girl’s Project continues…


Posted in Douglas & Elsie's 1955 Road Trip, Silly Girl's Project, Singer mania | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Up a tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G.

I have resurrected my poor abandoned Images Past blog after a couple of years of neglect. At the moment, it features old family photos – many from the 1920’s albums that landed in my possession.  I usually post a photo and say who’s in it, what they’re doing (or what I suspect that they’re doing) and chat about who they were and what they were like.  If I don’t know, I cast aspersions.  Sometimes it’s even amusing.  Many of my family were (I said WERE) a bit crackers and make good subjects.  Like Granny (1909-1967) up a tree.(The boys were her cousins and they were close all their lives. Check out the “Great Granny’s album” tag for more pics of this Granny being irreverent ;-) my other Granny was less dignified)


I’m testing out the links between the blog and Facebook but please have a look if you are intrigued, follow if you fancy keeping up with it and leave comments if you are entertained/appalled/ambivalent.  Actually, if you were ambivalent…

I’ve resumed my Sepia Saturday weekly posts and others will follow in between, as and when I find a pic that I find interesting.  There’s no money-back guarantee that anyone else will share my sense of humour, nor will I be held responsible for any cleanup operations resulting from “coffee down the nose” moments, should they occur.

Re-establishing the link with Twitter is proving rather more challenging…

Jo :-)

Posted in Great Granny's album, Photos, Sepia Saturday | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Hard hats must be worn

This week’s Sepia Saturday inspirational photo shows linesmen maintaining electrical cables in Tasmania around 1969.


As soon as I saw the prompt I knew that, by some bizarre coincidence, I had the perfect photo in Douglas and Elsie’s album from their road trip to Monte Carlo (Part one) in 1955.

I know I’m still in the very early stages of planning our re-enactment of their trip but I had to zoom ahead 1026 miles from home to Grindelwald – a village in Switzerland.



I wondered if this man with a good bunnet for heights was working on the cable car system.

After a considerable amount of time spent Googling, I think it is the precursor to the Grindelwald–Männlichen gondola cableway which links the two villages.

The Wengen–Männlichen Aerial Cableway officially opened in July 1954 so presumably this guy was just greasing a few cables?

Whilst Douglas and Elsie may not have been ski enthusiasts in their younger days, they were both very active after retirement.  Elsie, in particular, was always game to try anything at least once.  Douglas was rather more reserved but any form of transport fascinated him, and he tried out a couple of options on snow.

Douglas skis

Douglas had a motorbike from a very early age and spent his working life in the motor trade – cars and bikes were his thing.  He was equally at home whizzing about on some new-fangled contraption.

Douglas Skidoo

It’s just a glorified motorbike!

I’m sure that they had a wonderful trip to Monaco and back and we’re looking forward to doing (almost) exactly the same!

The Silly Girl’s Project continues…

See what the other Sepians made of this week’s old photo prompt.


Posted in Douglas & Elsie's 1955 Road Trip, Photos, Sepia Saturday, Silly Girl's Project | Tagged , | 8 Comments