Friday, 29 May 2015

How to Reverse Stitch on a Vintage Sewing Machine

When using a very old sewing machine, you may have noticed that you only have a straight stitch in one direction. On an electric sewing machine there is usually a button that allows you to sew backwards for a couple of stitches to secure the thread at the start or end of the run. This isn’t an option on a vintage handcrank or treadle sewing machine - If you don't secure your thread it will come undone and your piece will fall apart and nobody wants that.

You may have figured out the hard way that you can't turn the wheel backwards, don't try, it'll be messy.

You can, of course hand-stitch the ends of thread in place after sewing on the machine. I find this method time consuming and fiddly, and I am frequently short on time and patience.

My preferred method is to turn the work on the machine. 

It's not as hard as it sounds, or looks. I have made everything from heavy lined curtains to fancy dress clothes and I have never had a major problem.

Here is a detailed explanation:

I'm doing this on a wee scrap of fabric just for the camera but it will work on almost any project.

Start by sewing 4 or 5 stitches then lower the needle into the work and lift the foot.

Slowly and carefully turn the work - do not strain the needle, be very careful.

When the work is turned 180° lower the foot back down and stitch back along those few stitches. 
Lower the needle into the fabric and lift the foot.

Turn the work 180° again.

Lower the foot and sew your little heart out.

When you finish your run you simply do the same process (turn, sew back along 4 stitches, turn and sew forwards again) to secure the thread.

This is how the end of your run should look, nice and neat.

You can then snip the threads off without fear of unravelling.

Crucial points:

  • Always have the needle fully dropped before lifting the foot. This will make your work pivot neatly on one point and not pull the thread.
  • When the foot is lifted DO NOT PUT ANY STRAIN on the needle, this may snap, or bend the needle, it could pull at the fabric and damage your work.
  • Don’t forget to lower the foot back down each time before you try to sew - you will end up with tangled threads that will need to be cut free of the machine, again it could damage your work, and its a pain in the arse. Don’t do it.
  • When sewing something very large and heavy you might need to roll or fold the work carefully to help it fit under the arm of the sewing machine. 
  • If you are in doubt that you might damage the needle or the work take the long route and hand sew the ends in.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Toolbox Orginising

toolbox orginising - our handmade home

We are in and out of our toolboxes at least once a week, but they were badly disorganised. It drove me crazy and wasted so much  of our time.

This is usually how it goes:
Quick job to do,
Can't find what we need in the first toolbox,
Can't find what we need in the second toolbox,
Find it on the floor,
Do the job,
Dump the tool on top of a toolbox... or back on the floor...

Main problem: The old tool box is too small and broken to do its job

old toolbox - Our Handmade Home

The latch doesn't close, it is dirty, messy, broken, bashed, rusty, infuriatingly just too small for our hammer and scratches the wooden floors.

I was reluctant to replace it as I like the ye-olde style, but one day, someone will loose a finger, and that someone is more than likely, to be me!

I figured it was worth replacing it with a younger model.

Enter the neat and tidy and bigger-than-it-looks new toolbox *woot*

Stanley Babushka - Our Handmade Home

The old tool box was full of broken rawlplugs, sawdust, and dead beasties, everything needed a good sort and clean.

Tool Box Organising - Our Handmade Home

I laid everything out - sorted it all into categories - cleaned it all with a skoosh of WD40 and popped it all in its new home.

Tool Box Organising - Our Handmade Home

We still have another huge tool box with club hammers, chisels, staple gun and hacksaw, etc, but all of what we call our 'everyday' tools fitted in this nifty wee toolbox. I also made little laminated lists of the contents of both tool boxes so I know what to find where.

16" toolbox - blog

Now everything has a place and the box is neat enough to have stashed under the stairs for a quick picture hanging, shelf putteruppering or bathroom fitting (yup.... everyday things... that's what I said)

At last I can get to the basics without breaking a leg or loosing a finger.

Nitty Gritty -

Friday, 20 February 2015

Workspace Renovation

I've been so desperate for a desk and a couple of drawers for so long It was driving me mad. I like being organised; making lists, having my paper-clips colour coded, I like a place for everything and everything in its place.

In our initial renovation plans we always had this little pocket of the livingroom/den designated as a workspace. This space sits in a wee nook behind our staircase.

As the building work progressed, we decided to replace the plasterboard on the existing wall, adding a frame, running half a tonne of cabling round the back, and insulating.
You can see on the right of the photo the gap that we had to leave
to give us a perfectly flat wall and suitable insulation
The space we had left to play with reduced considerably from 1.75 m wide to 1.35m which is small but not impossible to work with.

The large shelving space was once a doorway leading into a corridor which no longer exists.
As you can see, the longer it took us to finish it, the more the space got filled with crap.

We were stumped looking for a desk that would fit the space. Anything off-the-shelf was too big, and I was reluctant to start building one ourselves (mostly due to time) I really wanted a simple white desk, but the dimensions were so unusual.

Back in November I picked a storage unit that would fit snugly.

Next came a couple of pin boards and a drawer... I was on the right road...

So then for the desk top. We dithered over choice of materials and size, eventually deciding on 'Contiboard'. It is basically laminated chipboard (what most flatpack furniture is made of)  Available in a range of sizes; we bought 46cm wide which is just deep enough for a desk top and fits neatly in the space we have available.
just balanced in place for a few minutes... to see if it fits
I didn't want legs cluttering up the already small and cluttered space, so I wanted to baton it instead. To ensure the (rather thin) desk top would be suitably strong and not bend I ran a full length baton along the back and side of the desk. Here you can see our other design hurdle as the only place for a desk was also the only place for a radiator. Hopefully the Contiboard will withstand the constant fluctuation in temperature better than plain wood, only time will tell though.

The contiboard was easy to work with, putting on the edging strip at the cut end was tricky but worth the extra time. 

I added a bit of art work to brighten up the space, and make it feel more homely.

An illustrated map of Glasgow - we bought at the Commonwealth Games
(check out the seller's Etsy shop - loads more lovely stuff)
I think it all looks pretty damned good and fits the space perfectly.

So here is our new workspace in all its glory!
(it is not usually this tidy)
The shelving is still a work in progress - check back later for the completed look...

And here for your viewing pleasure is the side by side shot.

The Nitty Gritty:
  • The storage unit is from the Besta range at IKEA with chrome legs to raise it to the right height
  • Pinboards are IKEA
  • The desktop is contiboard from B&Q
  • The framed illustration is The Glasgow Alphabet Map by Rosemary Cunningham you can find the map and more beautiful work available at her Etsy shop or on her Website

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