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Cloth Gift Bags are Available Now

There’s a new batch of Christmas gift bags at the SubEarthan Cottage Shop. This year, you can choose between jute twine like I use for wrapping my soaps, or white satin ribbon for the drawstrings. 

You can find all the Christmas gift bags here: https://subearthancottage.com/product-category/holidays

That is all the fabric I have in those prints, so if you like them, get them quickly before they sell out. Right now, coupon code “NewSiteSale” is good for 30% off your entire regular-priced order.

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Sewing machine repair: Hook timing

Hook timing is a fairly common problem that sends many sewers running to the repair shop. When it happened the first time on my older Kenmore, I decided to try to repair it myself first. My thinking was, since it’s a mechanical machine with mostly metal parts, as long as I was careful, I couldn’t really hurt anything. I probably would have thought twice before attempting it on a computerized machine.

All machines are a little different, so what worked on mine may not work on yours. Something I recommend to everyone who wants to work on their own sewing machine, is getting a copy of the service manual. Honestly, I still need to do this. There’s tons of info online, but having the actual service manual is even better. You should have an owner’s manual on hand, too. It  covers basic care and maintenance. For repairs, though, the service manual will give you technical instructions and confidence. 

Hook Timing?

Before taking things apart, determine if hook timing is causing the problem. If the needle (top) thread isn’t picking up the bobbin (bottom) thread, hook timing is a prime suspect. It’s always a good idea to rule out simple problems first, though. Try swapping the needle, rethread the machine and sew on some scrap fabric. If it’s been a while since you’ve dusted the lint out of the bobbin case or you’ve been sewing on linty material, give it a good cleaning.

Once you’ve tried the easy fixes, if it still isn’t working right, look at how the needle and the bobbin hook intersect. This page, https://tv-sewingcenter.com/general/sewing-machine-timing-hook-timing, has illustrations, photos and descriptions for where they should meet on both rotary and oscillating machines. 

Taking a look at my oscillating hook.

My machine is an oscillating machine, so the hook tip should pass just above the eye of the needle. Mine was passing below the needle’s eye, so clearly the hook timing needed adjustment.

Open it up

The first and honestly the hardest step was figuring out where all the screws were that I needed to remove to take off the casing. (Actually, the first step was to turn off and unplug the machine. If you’re attempting this at home, do not skip this step!) On my Kenmore, I have to take off the side by the hand wheel, a plate on the bottom, and the front panel. 

More cleaning

While I have my machine open, I like to take the opportunity to clean it out and oil it. Oiling a linty machine, using the wrong oil or putting it in the wrong places can cause tons of problems, though, so if you’re not sure, stick to dusting only.

Find and adjust

Next, I tilted the machine on to it’s back so I could get a good look at the mechanism that rotates the hook. Once I had isolated that, I found a hex head set screw. Loosening that allowed me to gently adjust the hook position so that the tip passed just above the needle’s eye.

About in the middle, just above the motor is a silver piece with a round, black screw near the top. That is the set screw I loosened to adjust the hook timing.

When I was sure I had it properly positioned, I tightened the set screw. I turned the hand wheel a few more times, making sure everything still looked good before I put the casing back. A quick test run showed everything was working properly again.

Done!

It’s so satisfying to be able to make simple repairs to my machines myself, especially when most repair shops start around $75 and go up from there, depending on what needs to be done. 


Hook timing
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Quick black ink printing tip

Have you ever had to print a paper or mailing label NOW and realized your black ink cartridge is out of ink? As much as I try to keep an extra on hand, sometimes I run out without a backup. Something I’ve found that works in a pinch is to simply remove the black ink cartridge. This forces the printer to use the color cartridge to print the document instead.

With and without the empty black ink cartridge removed.
With and without the empty black ink cartridge removed.

The label on the right was my first attempt at printing a mailing label before realizing that I was overdue for a new black cartridge. The label on the right was printed with the black cartridge removed.

My printer will usually print one or two jobs this way without complaining, then I may have to put the old cartridge back in for a bit then remove it again if I need to print something else. Usually by that time I have been able to get a replacement cartridge.

It’s always better to be prepared, but in a pinch this trick works like magic.

 


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Gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe

At least from what I’ve tasted, most store bought gluten free chocolate chip cookies are very dry and either too sweet or lacking in flavor. Chocolate chip cookies are practically a staple food, so I hacked my grandma’s cookies recipe. The results are definitely not dry, lacking in flavor or too sweet.

The biggest change I made, of course, is using gluten free flour. My preferred flour is Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour. Others will work, but if it’s not one that is blended to be a direct substitute for wheat flour, you will probably want to add about one half teaspoon of xanthan gum.

Even with the 1 to 1 blends, sometimes the cookies spread more than I like. The original recipe calls for one cup and two tablespoons of flour. If I have it on hand, I’ll replace the two tablespoons of flour with a generous one tablespoon of coconut flour. That prevents them from spreading too much. Chilling the dough for a few hours or overnight helps, too, but who has time for that? Besides, the sooner they go in the oven, the less cookie dough I’ll eat.

The original recipe calls for shortening. I would much rather use butter, but one of my boys is lactose intolerant. Straight coconut oil adds to the spreading problem, so I compromise and use half shortening and half coconut oil. The small amount of milk in most chocolate chips isn’t a problem for my son, but using for dairy-free chips would make these completely dairy-free, too! If dairy isn’t a problem, feel free to swap all the fats with butter.

The final change happened after staying up late watching Martha Stewart bake cookies. She mentioned that brown sugar helps make the cookies be moist. The original recipe calls for more white sugar than brown. I tried a few different ratios before settling on using equal amounts of brown and white sugars.

The final result is a yummy, gluten free cookie that isn’t dry and crumbly.

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 well beaten eggs
  • 2 cups 1 to 1 gluten free flour plus 2 generous tablespoons of coconut flour (or 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons 1 to 1 gluten free flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 generous cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Cream together the shortening, coconut oil, sugars and vanilla. I usually use a mixer for everything, but you can do it by hand, too.

Fold in the eggs and mix well.

In another bowl, sift (or just mix really well) the dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients and mix well.

Stir in the chocolate chips. If you are patient, chill the dough for a few hours or overnight.

Otherwise, grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or silicone liners. Greasing is what the original recipe calls for, but I prefer the results from lining the sheets.

Form your cookies (I use a 2 tablespoon sized scoop, but you can make them bigger or smaller) and place them two inches apart on the sheets.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them during the last few minutes. You want them to be golden and not doughy in the middle.

Cool for a few minutes on the sheets before removing them.

A few notes on the recipe: My recipe is actually double the original. I almost never made a single batch because it’s not really any more effort. If you want, you can save some of the dough in the fridge for a few days.

I also don’t have an accurate cookie count, mainly because cookie dough is delicious. I think I can usually get about 36 cookies with my 2 tablespoon scoop, but that is a a very rough guess.

 

One quick reminder: SubEarthan Cottage is having an end-of-summer sale! Everything is 30% off in my handmade Etsy shop until Tuesday, August 28.

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Tree trimming

Since we moved into our house sixteen years ago, we’ve had an ongoing discussion about what to do with the massive tree behind the house. It was gorgeous and shaded the back quarter of the house, but it was also just a few feet away from the house, so there was always a risk of falling limbs and foundation damage.

You can see it on the side at the back corner of the house and just behind the fence.

Yesterday, with nothing but a fourteen inch chainsaw, a loooong chain and me in the Zombie truck keeping the chain taut (and trying not to have a heart attack), Christopher made this happen:

No humans, homes, animals or Zombie trucks were harmed.

Hopefully the chainsaw survived well enough to handle the cleanup, too.

I was worried it would be dark before the tree came down. I had to wait until this morning to take pictures because it fell at the last possible moment before nightfall.

That corner of the house looks naked now. But, we don’t have to worry about storms dropping it through the boys’ room anymore. It also clears the way for us to put up solar panels once we replace the roof.