Sewing Machines

I’m a bit of a sewing machine hoarder. If you don’t count the one that is Finn’s, I have four. That includes my sewing and embroidery machine combo, but not my two sergers. Also not including the knitting machine, because it knits.

While I’m certainly not an expert, I do have my preferences. I would take a well-built, old metal machine over a new machine any day. Mainly because when they break, I tend to do this:

That is my first sewing machine. It is a Montgomery Ward’s Signature sewing machine from the 60s, I think. I got it from my mom who got it from my grandma. I can’t remember what was wrong with it that time, but it sews nicely now.

The Signatures at that time were made by a Japanese company that specialized in industrial machines, I think for sewing feed sacks. That translates to a heavy duty, domestic sewing machine that will sew through anything. It also has a set of cams. Cams are interchangeable disks that allow it to sew pretty embroidery stitches.

My next sewing machine is another, slightly older Montgomery Ward’s Signature. This one was rescued from a lot of machines that were destined for the junk heap.

I love the blue color! It reminds me of cars from that era.

Like the other Signature, it uses cams. You can see them in the little accessory box. I actually like this one a little better than the other. It sews the prettiest straight stitch out of all my machines and has a cam that stitches a row of teeny tiny hearts!

I’ve never actually made anything on it, though. Unlike the other, this one is in a portable case, which is hilarious. I carry/wrestle a 31 lb. two year old every day and lifting that machine is a struggle. Since I don’t have a dedicated place for it, I don’t have the motivation to lug it out.

My workhorse is a 90s model Kenmore, made by Janome. The case is plastic, but all the internal workings are metal. I know, because I had to open it up when my walking foot vibrated the needle loose and messed up the timing. Photographic evidence on Instagram.

That is the best photo I could find of it. I love that machine because it isn’t as quirky as the Signatures. It also tells me how to thread it right on the machine, and when it comes to sewing machines, threading is half the battle.

My final machine is the Brother SE400 embroidery combo. I keep it set up as an embroidery machine because I have three other sewing machines. Also, it scares me, so I want to risk messing it up as little as possible. I haven’t had it opened up beyond the bobbin area, but I’m guessing there’s some plastic, and I know there is scary electronic components. With the other machines, I am freer to play because I know that if something happens, it’s not likely to be catastrophic. With this, something like a timing issue would definitely mean a big repair bill.

Playing with fonts on my new toy.

A post shared by Charity Maas Sloan (@subearthancottage) on

But, it makes pretty embroidery, has loads of decorative and utility stitches as a sewing machine, and has the most awesome needle threader I have ever seen. Seriously. Finn’s machine has a needle threader that I will never use, because it is complicated and I stabbed myself with it one time. Brother’s needle threader is like magic. It is especially handy when embroidering with multiple colors. Color changes take mere seconds.

Just to show I’m not as much of a hoarder as I could be, here is a photo of the White machine I couldn’t get working and sold on craigslist.

Then, while I was waiting for the buyers to show up, I decided to play with it a bit and figured out what was wrong. I hope they love it, or at least open it up to look at from time to time. Sigh.

 

A Tale of Two Days

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about it here yet, but we’ve been homeschooling for almost a year and a half. At this time, I plan basic independent study based lessons and I check in as needed to help and make sure tasks are being completed. This works pretty well with Thaddeus requiring lots of attention still and allows the older boys to have more control over their education.

Most days this works really well. Others, though, like yesterday make me question my sanity. Thaddeus constantly took his diaper off all morning in spite of my attempts to keep it on him. I tried to turn it into potty training, but he preferred the floor to the toilet. Thank goodness he took an early nap and forgot about streaking afterwards.
Since it was obviously going to be a thorough cleaning day, I washed the couch cover. This left the worn cushions exposed for a while, which led to Beckett picking at them constantly. He accompanied his furniture destruction with complaints about how much schoolwork he had and how hard it was and he didn’t want to do it. To put things in perspective, on the days he does his work without complaining, it takes about 30-45 minutes for him to finish. 

Finn’s contribution to the chaos was complaining about his math work and everything Beckett did or looked like he might do. By the time Chris got home, I was DONE. 

Today, though, is different. Today I wake up at seven thirty, feeling guilty I wasn’t up to see Chris off to work. Thadd woke up at the same time, so there’s no quiet moment before having to keep the T-Rex from becoming T-Wrecks. 

I get out of bed to find both older boys up and working on school work together. Finn lists off what he’s done, what he has left to do and his plan for completing it. Then he offers to make breakfast and lunch for himself and his brothers. That way I’m don’t have to cook food I still can’t comfortably chew.

Beckett has completed everything he can do on his own and is ready to read with me. He reads the first book to Thadd and I on his own, then helps me read the book he usually refuses to help with because it’s too hard. 

Today I can think about nature walks and impromptu lessons about why we designate today as the first day of fall instead of worrying that I’m killing my kids’ love of learning or not doing enough or that I will have to keep them on separate sides of the house just to maintain my sanity. 

I’m not sure why today is different. I hope it isn’t just a reaction to yesterday. Either way, I’ll take it.

New(ish)! Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Handmade Soap

Newish because I added it to my shop last summer. I haven’t shared all the yummy goodness of it here, though.

I’ve wanted to make a soap with activated charcoal for a while. Traditionally, activated charcoal is used to draw out impurities. I’m not sure if that quality carries over to the soap due to the fact that the lather is rinsed away fairly quickly. It definitely adds a kind of soft, creamy feel to the lather and a gorgeous, deep marbled grey color to the soap. This is most impressive after one or two uses when the water has polished the soap. So pretty!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/243788831/lavender-tea-tree-charcoal-artisan-soap?ref=shop_home_feat_1

While it can be used as a hand or body soap, the activated charcoal made me take it in a facial soap direction. I love my Tea Tree Oil facial soap, but wanted to change it up a bit, so I added lavender essential oil as the main note with the tea tree oil as a mellower, supporting note. I think the reduction of tto in this soap makes it a bit milder than my Tea Tree Oil soap as well. Both essential oils are thought to have beneficial properties for your skin, and they smell lovely together.

My Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Soap is in stock in my Etsy shop. My Tea Tree Oil Soap is currently sold out. Look for more soon. 🙂

Reusable produce bags and cloth napkins

I’m getting better at remembering my reusable bags when we go shopping, especially now that I have an Aldi nearby. It’s made me start rethinking the plastic produce bags. I haven’t found as many alternatives to them on the market, so I decided to make my own.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/280522062/net-reusable-produce-bag?ref=shop_home_active_3

I used a lightweight netting material so you can see what’s inside.It’s so light and see-through in fact that it doesn’t want to show up well in photos. Hmm.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/280522062/net-reusable-produce-bag?ref=shop_home_active_3

Marginally better? I don’t know. Anyway, you can find my nifty reusable produce bags here in my Etsy shop.

On a similar note, I also added a set of cloth napkins in a cute sunflower print.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/294031713/sunflower-cotton-cloth-18-inch-napkins?ref=related-6

https://www.etsy.com/listing/294031713/sunflower-cotton-cloth-18-inch-napkins?ref=related-6

Find them here in my Etsy shop. I plan to make and add more prints soon.

Kombucha Questions

Here’s a few common questions about kombucha. I’ve answered them based on my research and personal experience.

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How much should I drink?

If you’ve never had kombucha before, you’ll want to start slowly. Kombucha can have a detoxifying effect that can be unpleasant if you rush it. It is recommended to start with about an ounce per day at first and gradually increase until you reach a comfortable level for you. If you notice any ill effects cut back or stop for a few days to let your body catch up. Drinking lots of water can help, too.

Of course, you should always listen to your body. If you feel like you can’t tolerate kombucha don’t push it. There are plenty of other ways to get probiotics. Also, I’m not a doctor, and the above might not apply to everyone depending on your personal health. If you have any concerns, definitely consult your doctor.

Can I use metal utensils when making kombucha?

Metal tea kettles for boiling the water are fine. It’s fine to stir the tea and sugar together with a metal spoon before adding the SCOBY. What you want to avoid is the SCOBY coming into contact with metal as that can damage the SCOBY. Even then, I have heard very brief contact is ok, such as when cutting up a giant SCOBY. I prefer to peel apart the layers and avoid metal touching my SCOBYs, though.

Can I use honey/stevia/coconut sugar/some other sweetener?

The sugar is food for the SCOBY and plain white sugar is recommended because it is easy for the SCOBY to digest. I have heard of some people having success with other sugars, but I haven’t tried it myself. If you want to try another form of sugar, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a tea/white sugar brew as backup.

Stevia or other zero calorie sweeteners will not work because they don’t provide food for the SCOBY.

Can I use flavored teas?

Not for the main brew. You can use flavored teas to add flavor in a second ferment.

Can I use decaf teas?

This is another one where I’ve heard conflicting information. Most say not to use decaf tea. If you want to try decaf, as with different sugars, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a regular tea/white sugar brew as backup.

My SCOBY looks funny. Is it bad?

Most SCOBYs look funny. They can be smooth and creamy colored or have air pockets and brown spots. The bottoms usually have brown stringy tentacle things hanging down. New SCOBYs grow on top of older ones until they look like a stack of slimy pancakes. (Eww.) All of this is normal, and there’s probably a million variations I haven’t described.

There are two main things to watch for: mold and black. If your SCOBY molds, it will look like blue-green dusty mold, just like what grows on bread. If you get mold, throw it all out and start over.

Black means the SCOBY is dead or dying. Toss it.

My kombucha tastes like vinegar. What happened?

Kombucha is supposed to taste vinegary, but if it’s too strong you can always mix it with something like juice to make it more palatable. You can also use super-vinegary kombucha in place of apple cider vinegar in recipes. If it’s straight vinegar with no sugariness left, you could use it as a hair rinse or for household cleaning where you would use ACV.

To make future batches less vinegary, there’s a couple of things to try.

1. Kombucha brews faster in warmer weather. If it’s been hot, try a shorter brew time and/or increasing the amount of sugar in the brew.

2. If your SCOBY is getting super thick, split off some layers. More SCOBY = shorter brew time.

My kombucha is too sweet. What happened?

The easiest fix is to let it brew longer. If it’s cold, moving your jar to a warmer location may help. I think the ideal range is somewhere around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should also check the condition of your SCOBY. If it is turning black, you’ll want to replace it.

Should I store my SCOBYs in the refrigerator?

No. You want to avoid extreme temperatures because they can damage the SCOBYs. The best range is between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

To store your extra SCOBYs, place them in a lidded jar with at least enough kombucha for them to float and store in a cool-ish location, such as a pantry or shelf out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.

Find more of my kombucha posts here:  http://subearthancottage.com/search/label/Kombucha