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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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Genius printer hack you won’t believe

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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Quick Drawstring Bag Tutorial or How to Reuse Your SubEarthan Cottage Soap Wrapping

I wrap my soaps in fabric because it looks nice, it allows the soap to breathe (read here for why), and because it feels better than plastic. I often wonder what happens to the wrapping. I’m sure there are some that toss it. I know of one person who collects the fabric for quilts. For those of you who, like me, don’t want to throw away something that could be useful but don’t know what to do with it, I have a tutorial for a drawstring pouch, just for you.

This is done with the wrapping from one of my soaps, but you could make it in any size you like.

Materials
Cloth wrapper from soap (roughly 8×11 inches)
Jute string from soap (about 29 inches)
Thread

Tools
Needle or Sewing machine
Safety pin or Bodkin
Scissors
Iron

First, iron your fabric flat. Then, fold down a long edge about 3/4 of an inch to one inch and press. This is for the casing. It doesn’t have to be super precise.

Sew a straight seam along the bottom of the flap to form the casing. All the sewing can be done by hand or machine. I have no time or patience, so I choose machine. Fold your material in half with right sides together like a book.

The fold is at the bottom of this photo.

Next, starting just below the casing seam, sew down the side and across the bottom. I use anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance for this. Again, it doesn’t have to be precise.

With scissors, clip the bottom corners, being careful not to cut your stitching. You could probably skip this step, but it helps the corners look square and crisp. Turn your bag right side out.

Now it’s time to thread the string. Tie one end of the string to a safety pin, large paper clip, or attach a small bodkin. This makes it easier to work it through the casing. Thread it through the casing, safety pin first.

Once you get the string to the other side, remove your safety pin or other tool and adjust the string so that the ends are even.

Knot the ends together once or twice to keep it from coming out.

Ta-da! It’s done! Perfect for organizing your purse, storing jewelry or other small items, or as a small gift bag.

Or holding your favorite bar of soap.

Tutorials are always a little complicated to write because it’s easy to overlook small steps in things you do frequently. If something is unclear, please ask. 🙂

If you have any other creative uses for a SubEarthan Cottage soap wrapper, I would love to hear it!

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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


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Flavoring Your Kombucha

When you get your homebrew timing right, kombucha is pretty yummy on it’s own. Sometimes you want something a little different, though. Or maybe straight kombucha just isn’t your thing but you still want the probiotic benefits. Luckily you can easily change the taste of your kombucha to make it more palatable or fix a soda craving.
Mixing
The simplest way to flavor kombucha is to mix it with juice or another beverage. This is a great way to get started drinking kombucha. To start, add 1-2 ounces of kombucha to a glass of your favorite juice. As your body and tastes adjust to drinking kombucha you can increase the kombucha to juice ratio.
I like to dilute 3-4 ounces kombucha with sparkling or still water, add a splash of lemon or lime juice and a bit of stevia. This makes a refreshing summer drink when served over ice.
Kombucha is also nice as an add in for smoothies. It can be fizzy on it’s own, though, so make sure to account for that when adding it to blended drinks. Leaving a little extra headspace in the blender is a good idea. Or, stir it in after everything else is blended.
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Flavored with Peach and Cherry herbal teas in a second ferment.
Second ferment
You can also add flavoring in a second, shorter ferment. Basically you’ll put your flavorings in a bottle or jar (I like canning jars), fill almost to the top with your brewed kombucha and cap the jar. Leave at room temperature for 2-4 days and then refrigerate or drink.
The second ferment can increase the carbonation in your kombucha, so it’s a good idea to be cautious when opening and storing the jars. I’ve never had a jar break from the pressure, but I have had the metal disks on canning jar lids pop up in the middle. If I think too much pressure is building up, I “burp” the jars by opening them just enough to release some of the pressure and recap.
There’s a variety of things you can add for the second ferment. Really, any herbs, spices or fruits can be added. If you want to increase the carbonation, add a little bit of sugar, honey, raisins or a sweet fruit. My favorite thing to do is put enough orange peel to fill the jar halfway, add a teaspoon of sugar or honey, top with kombucha and let it sit for two days. It makes a kind of healthier orange soda and uses something that would normally have been tossed.
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Orange peel and honey kombucha.
Other flavorings I’ve tried:
Lemons and limes cut into wedges, sliced or just the peels. You can also use a lemon or lime half after juicing it for another recipe.
Fresh sliced ginger, plain or with a dash of chai spice and squirt of honey.
Fruit flavored herbal teas, one bag per quart jar.
Blueberries.
Next week I plan to do a FAQ/kombucha myths post. If you have any questions please share them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Find all of my kombucha posts here: http://subearthancottage.com/search/label/Kombucha


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Taking in a Blouse the Lazy Way

I prefer my tops to be a little loose, because it makes chasing a toddler much easier. Breezy tops also make hot, humid weather a little more bearable. I tend to avoid actual blouses because they either fit too snuggly for my liking or look like a giant tent.

To fix that, I take a too big blouse and add a little elastic across the back to make it look trimmer without sacrificing comfort. I can’t take credit for this idea. I found it years ago online, but have since lost the link to that tutorial. If that was you, I would love to link to your original, much better tutorial.

IMG_4540 Giant, but so comfy tent. *A note on the door. That is my craft room door. Yes, it’s supposed to look like that. We call it the “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” door. The door frame however… Let’s just say my house is one big diy project that is slooooooowly progressing.

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Cut a piece of elastic to the size you want your shirt to come in. I played around by stretching the elastic and pinning it to my shirt. I ended up with about 4 inches. Since this shirt has the two vertical seams on the back, I made the elastic attach at each seam.

For the most flattering location vertically, find where your natural waist is and attach the elastic along that line. I found that spot by putting the shirt on, eyeballing it and marking it with a pin. I also ended up with my elastic a tad too high, so you might want to go with a more accurate method, such as actually using a tape measure.

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Sew a straight line at each end to tack the elastic where you want it, then zig-zag along the elastic while keeping it evenly stretched. I like using a three step zig-zag on elastic, but a regular zig-zag will work, too.

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Finished result on Athena, my almost-twin dress form. Why yes, I do own an iron, why do you ask?

Clear as mud? If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll try to clear things up for you.

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Tuesday’s Tip and a Video: Ants and Cap and Trade

Tuesday’s Tip: Ants, aka why NOT to drink diet soda.

For months now we’ve been fighting HUGE ant hills along our curb and front walkway. We’d rather not spread tons of chemicals on our lawn to get rid of them, especially with our aging dog, so we’ve tried baking soda and spreading ashes on the piles. I’d read baking soda worked (it did NOT), and I thing the ashes were just an idea Chris had while cleaning out the smoker. The ashes just caused them to move their hills a foot over.

Then, about two weeks ago I remembered hearing that Equal (aka Aspartame, NutraSweet, the blue packets, etc.) will kill ants. I found a few packs of Equal that we’d gotten from McDonald’s or someplace and sprinkled one each on three of the biggest ant hills in the yard.

We’ve been so busy lately that I’d forgotten to check on them until today while I took out the trash. To my surprise all of the ant hills are GONE. Not moved, not shrunk, totally gone!

This leads me to 2 conclusions:
1. I need to buy some NutraSweet to have on hand for future ant infestations.
2. Never EVER consume anything that has aspartame in it. I already knew that if I have it in a higher quantity than is in a stick of gum that it can give me a headache. Seeing such a small amount take out a giant ant hill, though, has brought it to a whole new level of scary.

Now for the video: My sister shared this catchy little music video on Cap and Trade with me. It’s almost as good as Schoolhouse Rock.

Have a great Tuesday!

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