Randomness, and a few FOs

I find myself in what is probably an enviable position, of not knowing what to do next when it comes to crafting. Oh, it’s not that I don’t have lots of things I should be working on, more of what I want to work on.

I should be adding buttons to the Little Coffee Bean and Henry cardigans I made for the babies. Considering I knitted them back in the spring, long before the twins were born, they definitely need their buttons, especially since the twins have doubled their weight in the past two months and have already outgrown so many of their clothes. Plus it’s winter so warm woolies are always good to have on hand. It’s just finding and deciding upon big enough buttons that will work for the cardis that is causing me problems.

I should be finishing off the socks I started for my hubby. They were originally supposed to be a birthday present for him. His birthday is tomorrow. And while the heel has been turned and I’m only halfway up to the cuff (it’s a toe-up sock pattern) but after picking them up and working on a few rounds last night I realized I’m burned out of knitting, especially with thin wool/needles. (Sorry, hubby, but you’ll get them eventually.)

I should be working on finding a stiffener and finishing off the crocheted snowflakes. I want them done before we put up the Christmas decorations at the start of December.

I should be quilting/layering the growth panel I bought for the twins. My sewing machine is working perfectly, so I have no excuse. Oh, wait, maybe I do — I still have to decide upon a fabric for the back. I don’t think the blanket-type stuff I originally thought I’d use really looks right. Again, they’re over two months old now, so it’s already late and I’m not sure I may have already missed too much time. Maybe I’ll finish it and send it to my friend in Texas for when her baby is born next spring. (Pretend you didn’t read this, Tabby!)

I could be making more fleece animal hats for the babies — but have I already made them too many? I gave them about a dozen knit hats at the baby shower, some of which they have already grown out of. And I’ve sewn about four fleece animal hats for them already in the past couple of weeks. *drums fingers* I have no idea how many they’ll actually wear before spring is here, and whether whatever I make will just end up in the “donate” pile. Which is fine, but is it a waste of time making too many things for the babies?

a photo of a stuffed bear wearing a fleece dinosaur hat, and one of him wearing a brown fleece bear hat

Also I need things I can work on in my lap in the evenings while watching TV with hubby, so projects involving the sewing machine don’t really fit on the list. I started a scarf to donate a couple weeks ago, but again, I’m really burnt out on knitting, so that’s ended up shoved in a project bag waiting as I decide whether to frog it completely or complete it next year some time.

I’ve finished crocheting a Santa Gonk for the twins, but I am not inspired to make other figures at this stage. It’s not like the twins will be aware of Christmas this year. And my son and daughter-in-law’s house is about 800 square feet, so they don’t have room for a lot of ornamental clutter.

A photo of yet another Santa Gonk, design by Ling Ryan of Hooked on Patterns, in front of two different sized Wizard Gonks

I’ve been doing some doodling (unofficial zentangling, though without the zen part of it) and that’s working out okay. I still have a lot to practice. My hands aren’t exactly steady, and drawing curves that mimic each other is a special talent that I find difficult to master. But it’s fun too. Especially as I learn how shading can really turn a flat design until it has an almost 3D rounded appearance. (I was never good in art at school. It’s all new to this old lady.)

a photo of a doodle/tangle which is a series of ribbons in a quarter circle

My main issue is that there are so many freaking patterns I spend hours (literally) trying to decide which design to put into a one section. The issue for me is finding what design works for a ribbon-like space vs a filler space vs floral, etc. I am starting to think I need a set of gaming dice or some random pattern chooser. Except that means I’d need a definitive list to choose from, and though there are several sites that do list tangle step-outs, I’d rather have something at hand rather than having to resort to spending hours online trying to find the design.

Maybe I need to create my own list of favourite patterns and organize them into a binder. Which would give me something to do, I suppose.

Still, it is interesting to realize that I have so many crafts on the go all of a sudden. Which works considering I’m never one to sit with my hands idle. Except I’m never any good at actually making decisions about what to work on next…

My version of Inktober Tangles 2019.

I know it’s here somewhere

Have you ever lost something, looked everywhere for it, but being unable to locate it, you’ve thrown in the towel and bought a replacement only to find the original item?

I have. Too many times.

I’m the queen of losing things in my purse. I can’t tell you the number of times I get frustrated and end up shoving my purse at my hubby or sons and tell them to look for it. Where they naturally (and generally quickly) locate whatever it is I’m looking for. And usually it turns out to be exactly where I looked in the first place.

I know I’m not the only one who does it. We had some guys in to service our fireplace a couple days ago (they did a terrific job, by the way) and they were mentioning how one of them had lost some…brushes I think it was, so he had finally bitten the bullet and replaced them only to find the old ones immediately afterward.

Well, I’ve lost my Cricut Scoring Stylus. I know exactly when and where I was when I lost it. I was moving my chair out from beside my desk which meant I had to lean over the spot on my desk where my Cricut stands. I felt my arm brush the Cricut’s tool chamber where the stylus was stored. When I looked to see what I’d hit, I realized the stylus was missing–I only keep the stylus and a pen there, so it wasn’t hard to determine what I’d hit. I didn’t hear it hit the floor, or hear it hit anything for that matter. But I’d definitely knocked it out of its home.

image of Cricut Scoring Stylus

I’ve crawled around on the floor, under my desk, behind my desk. I’ve moved furniture, checked in boxes and bags that weren’t anywhere near it at the time other than being in the same room. I’ve moved everything that was in that area (and there wasn’t much other than the chair at the time.) I’ve even shoved my hands down all the cracks of the chair just in case it fell into the chair the way pens have a tendency to do. I actually found a pencil, it just wasn’t the stylus.

Gizmo Guy (my pet name for my hubby) has even crawled around on my office floor checking over and under my desk too. He’s also checked all the boxes and bags that might contain the tiny stylus. We’ve even dangled my iPad into spaces and videoed where we can’t easily see, using my iPhone to light up the dark spaces.

Nada.

So Gizmo Guy finally said “go buy yourself a new one if it’s on sale.” Since Michael’s generally charges $20 (Cdn) for them up here, I’d bought the original one on sale for $7 (US) directly from Cricut. Even with the exchange rate that was a great price. Except now Cricut is out of stock of the styluses. So I checked Michaels only to discover they’re out of stock too. People who sell them on Amazon.ca must know both those companies are out of stock because the prices are creeping up from $26 to into the $50 range. (Yeah, so not paying that much.) I can order one for $14 US plus postage off of eBay (I’m not sure if that might garner an added customs duty fee.) It’s just that I hate to pay any amount for something I know I already own. That I know is somewhere in this room.

Yet…I can’t find it. And I need it to make a planned Christmas project.

I am betting the moment I order a new stylus, the original one will show up. It’s always the way it works. At least for me.

Teaching an old lady new tricks on an old machine

I picked up my sewing machine from Whitby Sewing Machine this morning, all newly cleaned, oiled and ready to go. In the 41 years I’ve owned it, I had never once had it serviced (yes, that’s bad on me). Oh, my hubby has oiled it on occasion for me, with proper sewing machine oil, but it’s never been serviced so it was definitely due to be taken in.

The shop owner, Piotr, told me that basically the oil, dust and dirt from the 40 plus years of usage (and storage) had hardened, gumming up the feed dogs as well as the needle mechanism which stopped it from doing the side-to-side movement needed for zig-zagging. I wasn’t really surprised at his assessment but I hadn’t realized what a difference it made until I brought the machine home and sewed up a quick baby hat to test it out on. It’s like working on a brand new machine.

When you pick up your machine, Piotr also gives you a lesson with some tricks to make sewing with your machine easier. (Yes, he does it for sergers too.) He spent years working in sewing factories (back when they existed in North America), learning how to fix all sorts of machines. And how to work them too. It definitely isn’t a case of mansplaining–Piotr knows what he’s talking about and has sewn a lot himself.

a photo of Piotr giving another woman a demonstration of her Kenmore serger
Here is Piotr giving another lady a lesson on how to set the knife distance on her serger.

Most of his tips I already knew, though they were good reminders that I needed after not having sewn for so long. Reminders like not to remove the fabric from beneath the needle unless the “thread take-up mechanism” (circled in red in the photo below) is at the top position and the needle is preparing for its downward journey. As I thought about it, I realized I do that automatically, so I’m guessing my mother taught me. I find it interesting that lesson stuck with me after probably fifty+ years.

Photo of a 1978 Kenmore Model 148 15600 Sewing Machine

Another reminder was to oil the shuttle area every time I use it, so he showed me exactly where to place it. Then, to make sure any extra oil won’t end up on my fabric, and to prevent any frustration regarding possible tension problems, he recommended I always start sewing with a practice piece of fabric. Otherwise I can ruin my carefully cut out pattern piece and have to start all over again. Which can get expensive.

I tend to use a scrap piece of fabric to test stitch on anyway but what I found fascinating was that for our practice pieces today, Piotr used a blue shop towel like they sell at Home Depot. I’d never used them before and had no idea how thick and fabric-like they were. I was so impressed with their quality, I may end up buying some to keep in craft room–they’re only a couple dollars a roll.

Photo of where to place oil in a Kenmore Model 148 15600 bobbin case

We also talked about tension. Naturally. I mean that’s the whole magic behind the machine, isn’t it? He’s set my machine up for standard threads based upon what I’m sewing and my needle sizes (which are generally between 11 & 16). He said if I am working with a heavier fabric that requires a heavier thread it would be better to purchase an extra bobbin case (that’s the metal thing you put the bobbin of thread into) and get the tension on it adjusted to the thicker threads rather than having to keep readjusting the current bobbin case’s tension. I have dozens of extra bobbins but had never thought of purchasing an extra bobbin case before.

He also showed me how to check my thread to see if there may be problems before I even start.

if you hold six inches of thread in the air and place your thumbs together it should form a loop
Take about four to six inches of thread, and holding it up bring your thumbs together to see if it folds like this. If it does, the thread shouldn’t give you any problems when sewing.
photo of problem thread--If you hold a six inch loop of your thread and it twists, it will cause problems
But, if your thread twists like this, you can expect to have problems with the top and bottom threads tangling while sewing.

He’d asked me to bring any accessories I used with the machine with me, so we went through the various presser feet I had. My free motion sewing foot (for when I quilt or darn) which helped him determine what type of pressure to set for the spring in the Presser Regulator. (Which we also discussed how/when to use and when it needed to be adjusted.)

We used the walking foot I bought from him a month ago, and he demonstrated the buttonhole foot which came with the machine, and the zipper foot. Then we came to the fairly basic three in the photo below. He said a lot of people think they are interchangeable. Well, okay, they think the two on the left are interchangeable. The one on the right is for straight stitching only–obviously it won’t work with a zig-zag stitch.

Three alternate presser feet for a Kenmore Sewing machine

To be honest, I didn’t think there was much of a difference between the other two. I probably have used them interchangeably. Until he had me turn them over.

The undersides of three Kenmore presser feet: a standard flat foot for zig zag, a

See the groove on the middle one? That means it should be used with thicker fabrics like vinyl or denim, or if you’re working over seams or binding or lace or…well, you get the idea? The one on the far left is the standard presser foot that should be used for thinner fabrics since it has a much bigger contact area with the fabric. If I used the middle one on thinner fabrics like cotton the fabric could end up puckering.

His most surprising tip came when I mentioned I work with a lot of fleece and thicker fabrics (which is fairly typical for Canadian winter clothing) and that I’d also be turning up my husband’s blue jeans. Piotr said, “If you want a seam to be flatter, don’t just iron it, hit it with a hammer.” At first I thought he was joking but he wasn’t. I tried it using one of my jewellery hammers that weighs a half pound, and dadgummit, it works really well to flatten a seam. That’s a tip I’ll be using again in the future.

I had no idea a hammer could be a useful tool for flattening seams.

The half hour lesson he promised ended up taking almost two hours. I know I’ve missed a few of his tips here, but these are the ones that really stuck with me the most. It was well worth the time, and I will definitely be taking my machine back to him if there are any future problems.

Seal of approval, with SK dressed as a seal