Category Archives: sewing

This Taffeta Is Cursed

Remember when I ordered that Casa Collection in the beautiful, discontinued Cornflower? That was late Saturday evening. There were 4 yards in stock. I ordered all of them. Today, I got this email from JoAnn:

2014-02-06-joann_taffeta_email

What the what, JoAnn? I ordered this stuff 4.5 days ago, and you’re just now discovering that it’s out of stock? Perhaps unfortunately, I also stopped in at the store and picked up the last bit they had in stock in their Red Tag clearance section (42″). What does one do with 42″ of fabric? I was going to use it to make slightly taller sections of blue on my color blocked curtains, or to make coordinating pillows, but that seems silly now.

Newest idea: White curtains with (excessively?) thin blue trim at the bottom edge.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under sewing

Taffeta Woes

What do you do when you learn that the fabric you have set your heart on is *gasp* being discontinued? Commence with the melodramatic commentary.

My curtains are RUINED! The color scheme for my living room is in shambles. The necessary monetary funds for this project continue to multiply, while my budget grows ever smaller, dimishing into a pile of NO MONEY AT ALL.

*Ahem* Now that that is done with…

I visited JoAnn Fabric on Friday, after photographing my living room furnishings, and compared my photos to several different fabrics in person. This confirmed that the Party Taffeta was not available in the right color, but made me reconsider the Casa Collection Taffeta in cornflower. I had originally thought it would be too stiff, and didn’t like any of the colors that I’d seen, but I found about a yard of cornflower in the red tag fabrics and fell in love. It looked lovely with the textiles I already have in the room, but it shifted things away from green and toward blue, just like I wanted. It made everything bright and inviting without being trendy or overly bold. I also liked the Country Classic Solids in sprig green, medium blue, and light blue (apologies for these not corresponding to colors listed online; I’m not sure which ones they are either), but I’m still pretty sure I want a taffeta for the sheen when everything else in this place is so flat.

Seeing as the fabric was available in such a small quantity, I asked the woman at the cutting counter what my options were. She was very helpful, letting me know that special orders need payment same day, so you can use coupons on them (Seriously? How did I not know this before? This is awesome!), but since the fabric was in the red tag section of the store, my best bet for a good deal would be to order online (where it was still listed as regular price) and be able to use a coupon, even if I had to pay shipping.

Next issue: Casa Collection Taffeta comes on 8 yard bolts. I need yardages that evenly divide into 4 1/2 yards. I called JoAnn’s customer service to ask about their policy regarding splitting yardages on orders that were more than one bolt (I needed 18 yards total), and, after some looking things up, discovered that Casa Collection Taffeta in cornflower is being discontinued. There were 4 yards left in the online warehouse, and if I wanted to drive an hour, I could maybe pick up the last 8 yard bolt at another JoAnn store location, but they couldn’t guarantee that the store would even have it any longer.

(See previous teeth-gnashing and anguish for my reaction here.)

So… Color blocked curtains? If I order some cobalt and white fabric as well I can do something like one of these:

curtain_mockup_light-dark-white

curtain_mockup_thindark-light-white

curtain_mockup_dark-light-white

Do I really like any of them? I’m not sure. I ordered the cornflower taffeta ($17 for 4 yards, including shipping, using a 50% off coupon), because I really love that color. Maybe it will be some pillows or a dress eventually; maybe it will go into curtains; maybe it will sit in my fabric stash for years and I’ll take it out to pet on occasion.

What do you think? Are color-blocked curtains too trendy? Will I hate myself for hacking this fabric up into 1 yard segments? Or will I love having at least  bit of it hanging in my living room?

Leave a comment

Filed under sewing

Creating a craft supplies nook (and generally getting settled into my new apartment)

Lately, I’ve been working to settle in to my new apartment. I moved in last month. I managed to fit all of my belongings (less the things that were at the Gentleman’s apartment from his amazingly generously letting me stay at his place while I got moved to the Cities) into a 10′ U-Haul truck. No kidding. That’s everything.

2013-12-01-moving_truck_full

My lovely friend and her boyfriend helped with everything from driving the truck to loading and unloading; there were an absurd number of freight elevator trips in both the storage unit building and the new apartment building. We were incredibly graceful throughout the whole process. This is how ballet dancers move things, people. I should start a moving company and charge for the show as well.

2013-12-01-moving_truck_with_rach

Of course, this was in the middle of Nutcracker season, and I quickly found out that I would be performing in The Nutcracker with my new studio, despite the fact that I am “retired.” (Query: Is a professional ballet dancer ever truly retired?) My parents were in town for Nutcracker and Christmas, and being onstage with the Gentleman again was lots of fun.

2013-12-21-drosselmeyer_and_snowflake

I had the rest of winter break to recover, and then the insanity started.

I am one of a handful of teachers at the studio where I am teaching now, and one of only three who are there 6 days per week. One of us three had a baby two weeks ago, and is now on maternity leave. The second (my boss) went on a surprise “babymoon” that her husband planned so they would have one last hurrah before she gives birth in April. In these past two weeks, we’ve had three snow days on top of the crazy sub situation created by maternity leave and vacation time. It has been nuts. And on top of it all, I’m still putting together my new apartment.

It’s a great place. It has some crazy columns (stay tuned for colorful plans for those), lots of kitchen storage and counter space (more than twice what I had in my old place), a huge living room, and it’s generally awesome. Here’s that amazing kitchen before I moved all my stuff in and it got all messy:

2013-12-01-kitchen

The Gentleman helped me unpack. He was thrilled to take bubble wrap off the myriad dishes, glasses, etc. that I have.

2013-12-02-kitchen_unpacking

Now that I’m finally all moved in, my head is full of projects to make my space work. First of all, I need a dedicated craft space. I haven’t had one since I moved out of my parents’ house and had essentially a whole room in the finished basement. Obviously, that’s not happening, even in a large one bedroom apartment. My plans involve curtaining off the far wall of my living room and setting up shelving so I can pull back the curtains and have access to all of my craft supplies, or close them and have a neat and tidy space.

2014-01-11-craft_corner_wall_and_mess

Obviously, this plan does not account for the massive amount of mess that I always have everywhere (hello, dirty dishes on the kitchen island, I’m looking at you), but I’m thinking that having an epic amount of storage that I can just close the curtains on should help with that too. (I promise I won’t put dirty dishes on the storage shelves and close the curtain on them. I just may have more kitchen counter space if I’m able to dump all my sketches, paperwork, magazines, etc. somewhere else.)

In case you can’t tell, this is a HUGE wall. It’s 11′ wide, 12′ tall. For my shelving unit, I wanted something simple, sturdy, tall, and able to fill as much of the space as possible in one unit. I was originally thinking of using the wire shelves I have on hand, but they’re nowhere near big enough for this job. They’re loaded up with paper crafting supplies and sewing notions, but I still have bins stacked up in my bedroom.

On top of wanting large shelves, I quickly decided that, since I’m renting and not allowed to screw anything into the walls, it would be easiest to use the shelves to help support the curtains that will cover them. I’d originally thought to create a steel pipe curtain rod and support, but that would be ridiculously expensive. So I started looking at wire shelves that I could possibly hook a curtain rod onto. Those were just as ridiculously expensive, and none were quite the right height.

Luckily I live in a city that has an IKEA store. This configuration of Ivar shelves looked perfect. After a few weeks trying to figure out how to fit a 132 1/4″ shelving unit into a 132″ space, I remeasured and determined that the space is actually 132 3/8″ wide. Let’s hope IKEA’s listed measurements are precise!

Ivar comes up to about 8″ below the top of the cabinet over the fridge, so I’ll use a couple of extra wood uprights to help lift the curtain rod (probably a piece of electrical conduit) up to the ceiling. I’ll be making back-tab curtains that reach from ceiling to floor. For this space, that’s a lot of fabric (27 yards if it’s 54″ wide), so if anyone wants to suggest a good place to find cheap taffeta in a light teal-ish color, I’d be grateful. Current top picks are from JoAnn (although I’m not thrilled with the color choices in my favorite fabric of theirs, the Party Taffeta), Fabric.com (Softline Netherwood Taffeta, Crestmont Lustra Sateen Twill in Sky (too light?) and Teal (too dark?), Two-Tone Taffeta in Dark Teal (too bright?), and Microfiber Twill in light blue), and Mood (Bluestone Silk Taffeta which is way too expensive but my absolute favorite, and this cotton twill shirting which is likely too matte).

And, of course, as soon as I’m done with this massive storage wall and curtains thing, I’m thinking of building a bed frame. Stay tuned to see if I ever get around to that. I have sketches, so it’s promising. (Disclaimer: The previous statement was written by a perpetual dreamer who is far too in love with the planning process of any project and rarely actually finishes things.)

2014-01-28-bedframe_sketch

Leave a comment

Filed under ballet, life, organizing, relationships, sewing

Cleaning and reassembly of Sears Kenmore 158.14101 sewing machine bobbin winder

When I bought my $25 Craigslist sewing machine, I managed to get it sewing again relatively quickly with some basic cleaning and lots of oiling. Unfortunately, the bobbin winder refused to work. I popped the bobbin on the post, threaded it just fine, unscrewed the clutch (silver wheel in the middle of the hand advance), clicked the stop lever over into the bobbin, and nothing happened:

2013-09-17-sears_kenmore_bobbin_winder_threaded

The motor turned, but the bobbin just didn’t spin. A quick investigation showed that while the stop lever itself moved, it didn’t affect anything on the underside of the assembly. It’s supposed to push a little rubber tire over to connect with the rest of the machine, but that wasn’t happening.

The logical step was to take it apart and see what was wrong. The first obvious thing was that it was about as filthy as I have begun to expect from this machine, but with more fuzz and less gooey stuff:

2013-09-15-sears_kenmore_sewing_machine_bobbin_winder_init

I tried to clean it with cotton swabs, but I just couldn’t get into all the crevices. The bobbin winder still looked filthy, the rubber tire didn’t move when I clicked the stop lever over, and the pin only turned very stiffly. So I held my breath and took it completely apart.

2013-09-17-sears_kenmore_bobbin_winder_apart_labeled

Most parts were easy to clean, and I was happy to see that both springs were in good shape, since I had suspected a broken spring might have been the reason that the bobbin winder wasn’t working. It was hard to tell as I was loosening screws and dealing with lots of grime, but I think the large spring may simply have become unseated. Another issue was the serious stiffness of the winder. I put a drop of oil on both the top and bottom of the sleeve that holds the rotating pin, and that helped a huge amount, but I noticed that as I was oiling, black residue was getting flushed out. I spent two entire episodes of Doctor Who oiling, spinning to distribute the oil, and wiping up excess as it flushed out the system. It was pretty gross. I don’t think I got it all, but at least the pin seems to spin freely now with all of this black grime flushed out.

2013-09-17-sears_kenmore_bobbin_winder_cleaning

(And, yes, those are the remains of the Manhattan that was M’s contribution to this part of the process.)

Next came reassembly. It was a bit fiddly, and I’m kicking myself for not taking more photos. But here’s the general idea: First align the lower part of the assembly, including the winder, stop lever plate, small and large springs, and the base, and screw together. Check the alignment on these parts, and then finish the assembly by screwing on the stop lever. Piece by piece:

    • Seat the large spring into the hollow in the winder. Make sure that one end goes into the little hole in the bottom of the hollow; as far as I can tell, the large spring doesn’t have an “up” or “down.”
    • Insert the small spring, pin end out, into its hole in the base and set aside for now.
    • Set the stop lever plate onto the winder. Thread the other end of the large spring through the little hole in the stop lever plate, and make sure that the tab of the stop lever plate seats into the hollow in the winder. This part is tricky, but doable.
    • Insert the longer of the stop lever & stop lever plate screws into the aligned holes in the winder and stop lever plate.
    • Align the stop lever plate and winder assembly on top of the base and small spring assembly. Push the small spring in to fit under the tab of the stop lever plate and screw the two pieces together until hand tight. This part was the worst. I didn’t have enough hands, and ended up needing M’s help holding the whole thing together while I tightened the screw.
    • Take the shorter of the stop lever & stop lever plate screws and attach the stop lever to the base, aligning the lower tab into the notch in the stop lever plate. The screws should be snug, but should still allow the lever to move.

Check your work by clicking over the lever, and seeing that the rubber wheel moves.

2013-09-17-sears_kenmore_bobbin_winder_clean

This whole thing gets reattached to the top cover with the base screws, and will wind a bobbin like a champ. Now to figure out what to do with that acursed broken reverse lever…

EDIT 29 November 2013

For reference, point A is where I was oiling the winder, and point B is where I was wiping up the excess.

2013-09-15-sears_kenmore_bobbin_winder_oil

10 Comments

Filed under sewing machine repair

The slow resurrection of a sewing machine

First life, then sewing machines:

I’ve mentioned it briefly before, but I just moved to Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago. My best friend R, her boyfriend A, and my boyfriend M moved down here in May and June, and I spent all summer switching between Fargo, Minneapolis, and Michigan teaching master classes, going on job interviews, and generally trying to see if I could make a life here in the Cities. It was nerve wracking. I quit my job in Fargo before I had signed anything with a studio here. During my last week at that job, I received a jury summons for the week that I was potentially renting a moving truck to move furniture down here. It was chaos. It was miserable.

But then I signed a contract with a wonderful ballet studio here, after finding out that I would get enough hours at a good enough pay rate to fully support myself on ballet teaching, despite the fact that my former boss had been making many sarcastic “good luck” remarks. I found an amazing apartment downtown, near the Orpheum, the Pantages, Crave, Seven, the main public library, the skyway, Target Center and Target Field, and bus and light rail stations. I got disqualified from jury duty because I changed my address a little early (and a big thank you to the amazing clerk of court who advised me when I called to ask what on Earth I should do). Everything fell into place.

Unfortunately, my lovely downtown apartment won’t be available until October 15. It’s in an old bank building that is being converted into lofts right now, and they just pushed the date back, so I’ll be spending a while longer at my boyfriend’s apartment. At least my new apartment will have a lovely kitchen, and some amazing views:

2013-09-12-loft_kitchen

2013-09-12-loft_kitchen_view

In the mean time, the Gentleman has been good enough to put up with two sewing machines (now three), my bicycle, houseplant, lots of clothing, and too many pointe shoes in his Uptown apartment. In return, I taught him how to use my Brother Pacesetter 3700, use a rotary cutter and mat, cut and sew a pattern, and helped make his costume for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival; he’s working there spinning poi and staff and hula hooping. We’ve also been making fabric covered professional performance quality hula hoops, hopefully for sale on Etsy, but he’s at least managed to recoup all initial costs through the hoops he’s sold at the Ren Fest.

In the mean time, I’m still working on restoring my new old Sears Kenmore. It has layers and layers of gunk on it. I’ve already cleaned this particular bit of the bobbin casing three times with Murphy Oil Soap, which seems to be the best at getting rid of this stuff, but the brown, sticky residue is very resilient:

2013-09-15-kenmore_sewing_machine_grime

The outside is mostly clean now (barring little nooks and crannies and spots underneath some levers and knobs), and the moving parts have all been oiled enough to flush out all the nastiness there, so it’s possible to close up the machine and sew very well. M has also made noises about sanding things down, repairing hinges, etc. I say, if he feels like working on restoring the cabinet, more power to him.

Now I’m working on the bobbin winder, which appears to have all parts functional, and was just extremely stiff. I took the whole thing apart to clean because the initial condition was disgusting.

2013-09-15-sears_kenmore_sewing_machine_bobbin_winder_init

Now it’s in pieces, but it’s probably cleaner than it has been in decades, and it’s well oiled again. I just have to make sure to put it back together correctly, mount it back on the top cover, and see if it works. Here it is earlier, halfway clean.

2013-09-15-sears_kenmore_bobbin_winder_apart

Despite the fact that the reverse lever broke this afternoon (or was broken all along and I discovered it this afternoon), I have high hopes for this machine. I tested out more stretch stitches this afternoon, and it performed beautifully.

Leave a comment

Filed under life, relationships, sewing

WIP Wednesday

My current work in progress isn’t sewing, or knitting, or anything like that. It’s this baby:

2013-09-11-sears_kenmore_sewing_machine

This machine is a Sears Kenmore 158.14101 that I bought last night from Craigslist for $25. It was filthy. So filthy that after 3 hours of cleaning and lubing, it’s still filthy. I think it was stored in a garage for quite a while, because of the unidentified film of grime covering every remotely exposed part and 90% of the inner workings.

I was very nervous about paying even $25 for this machine, since it was so stiff that I could barely turn the hand advance when I first looked at it. The inner workings looked as though they had been oiled and at least basically taken care of during their life, but the motor could barely turn anything; the fastest speed it could go, pedal mashed to floor, was a stitch about every 2 or 3 seconds. It simply creeped. But it started to loosen up even with a few hand cranks, it looked and smelled like a well-oiled machine, and I took a gamble.

Then I had nightmares all night long about taking steel wool to corroded parts and sanding away until they were nothing, leaving me with a heap of misshapen metal that wasn’t ever going to sew again. But when I woke up and put some (okay, a whole lot of) oil on all the oil points, cranking the whole time, it started to loosen up.

I cleaned the entire exterior three times because the rags were still coming away filthy on cleaning #2. I brushed away bunches of lint, cobwebs, and chunks of congealed oil and fuzz and who knows what from the upper workings. I disassembled the entire bobbin compartment, presser foot, foot plate, and feed dog assembly in order to get out all the dust and unidentified grossness. I decimated my cotton swab supply.

2013-09-11-sears_kenmore_sewing_machine_bottom

And then I put it back together. Now, it runs at a respectable speed, although the hand advance still has a mysterious squeak, the bobbin winder doesn’t work, and the feed dogs are stuck in the up position. I suspect I have more cleaning, lubing, and adjusting in my future, but I’m actually looking forward to it. It can sew a straight seam or zig zag with aplomb, and I’m very happy.

Leave a comment

Filed under sewing

Why I Should Get Promoted More Often (A Long, Boring Discussion of Sewing Machines)

When I met with my boss yesterday, he offered me a very generous promotion. It means more responsibility and time at the studio, as well as a pay increase and insurance. My first thought was, “OMIGOSH, I can buy more yarn! Maybe I can even buy yarn at Bouclé!  Look, they’re right across the street!”  I did go buy two more pairs of needles that evening, but it was totally legitimate because I can’t knit Wool of the Andes with my Knit Picks Options because they split the yarn. Therefore, I needed to buy some size US 7 Addi Turbos in order to knit my beret. (I have settled on a pattern, by the way. It’s the Gretel beret by Ysolda Teague. Further bulletins as events warrant.)

However, I think I need a new sewing machine. You might be thinking that “need” is a bit strong, because I do have a pretty new Brother machine. The issue is that, while he does perfectly fine with thinner fabrics, and I’m loving the automatic clutch on the bobbin winder, the drop in bobbin, the quilting guide, and some other modern features, he has issues with thicker fabrics. I’m thinking that it’s time to go for an old machine. Enter Craigslist. There are tens of old machines out there for sale just in my city, all pretty reasonably priced.

My dilemma is this: I could buy a 1970s era Sears Kenmore that looks to be the same machine as my parents’ but perhaps a couple of years off. The sewing table that the machine is in actually looks like it’s in better shape than my parents’ is. But that seems silly because my mom has always talked about the fact that I’m going to get their machine eventually, and having two identical machines in the family seems silly. I do love that machine, and I know all of its quirks and foibles, so having a familiar machine has its advantages. And still I hesitate.

Another option would be get something closer to my great grandmother’s machine, which is in storage right now near my parents’ house. I believe that it’s an early 1950s model Singer. It’s in a beautiful cabinet, with drawers, a wide tabletop and working surface, a matching chair, and tons of bobbins and vintage sewing supplies tucked away in it. I believe my great grandfather bought it for Granny, and, if so, he did a good job. It needs some work, and I’ve been meaning to re-wire it. In fact, other than sewing a couple of seams with it when I first took possession of it in high school, I haven’t done any sewing on it. The old, cracked insulation makes me nervous, and I don’t want to get a shock or set something on fire. But, once again, buying another sewing machine like this one seems silly because I already have one of the nicer machines from that era.

My third option would be to go for something much older, like a treadle or hand crank machine. Disadvantages include possible (probable) troubles finding needles, replacement parts, bobbins, etc, and the fact that finding someone to do repairs could be difficult and/or expensive. Advantages include the fact that most machines in this category are tanks and can sew through pretty much anything you can fit under the presser foot. On top of this, maintenance is designed to be done at home. In 1915, not just anyone could hop in the car and drive to their local repair shop 15 minutes away. Also, the lack of electrical business and other complicated features would make repairs simpler. I know how to clean and oil a sewing machine. In fact, I’m pretty good at it, and fixing mechanical things seems to be an inborn talent for me. Plus, aren’t these really old machines just so pretty?

I’m thinking I should just get Granny’s machine out here somehow, but I’ve sent out a bunch of emails to people listing machines on Craigslist and we’ll see if anything truly promising shows up.

Any comments, helpful and otherwise, are welcome.

4 Comments

Filed under knitting, sewing