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Sewing Chores: Tips to maximize sewing time

Even if you love sewing, there’s some parts that can be a chore. Ignoring those tasks or leaving them for later can result in wasted sewing time and money. Here’s a list of chores I try to tackle when I have a few minutes so that my real sewing time is spent actually sewing.

Bobbin winding

If you have a Side Winder, bobbin thread running out mid-project might not be a big hassle. If you rely on your machine to wind bobbins, though, running out means stopping your work, re-threading your machine to wind a bobbin and then setting it back up to sew. To prevent this headache, when you have a few spare moments, wind a few bobbins in your most commonly used colors. If you have a project in mind, wind a couple of bobbins in the needed colors. Keep extra bobbins on hand and wind at least one for every different thread color you have. 

Pre-winding extra bobbins makes this notice less annoying.

Clean your machine

Lint, threads and dust build up over time and can cause poor stitch quality or even damage your machine. It’s a good idea to make a habit of brushing the debris out at the end of each project, or during projects with linty fabrics.

If the inside of your machine looks like this, you should probably clean it more often.

Periodically you’ll want to vacuum out your machine to really clean it. Vacuum attachments made for cleaning computers work well for this. Some people use canned air, but that’s not recommended. It pushes some of the debris deeper into your machine.

Oil your machine

Once your machine is thoroughly clean, take a moment to oil it according to your manual. This will keep it running smoothly and reduce the need for costly repairs. If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find one online. 

After oiling, always sew a few rows on scrap fabric to soak up excess oil. That way, you won’t risk ruining a project with oil spots. 

Tidy up

The best practice is to put away tools and excess fabric as you go. It’s easy to get distracted and forget, though. Taking a moment here and there to run through your sewing area to tidy up when you aren’t working on a project can save sewing time later.

Keep a shopping list

Nothing is more annoying than having to stop work because you ran out of a necessary supply. Make note of supplies that are low or that have run out on a notepad to take on your next shopping trip.

Prewash fabric

Unless you know your final project will never be washed, you should always prewash your fabric. One way to make sure this happens is to wash it as soon as you bring it home from the store. You could also work it into your usual laundry schedule. Having a prewashing routine prevents delaying a project or worse, giving in to the temptation to make something and have your final product ruined in the wash.

Tip: Serging or zig-zag stitching the cut edges will prevent excess fraying in the wash.https://subearthancottage.com/random-sewing-tip-painless-prewash

These are the chores that, for me, are the biggest sewing time-wasters when neglected. Please share your dreaded sewing chores and tips to keep them from becoming time-wasters in the comments.

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Paw Patrol and Using My Brother SE-400 Embroidery Machine

Thaddeus turns three next week! When asked what he wants for his birthday, he exclaims, “Paw Patrol stuuuuuufff!” He is also constantly asking me to sew basically the entire cast of Paw Patrol for him. I may be crafty, but that is a bit beyond my skill set. So, since I have a lovely embroidery machine that doesn’t get used nearly enough, I thought I’d purchase a Paw Patrol design set for my machine.

The set came from Etsy seller OhMyArtDesigns. It comes with all the main pups, Rider, Robo Dog, and the Paw Patrol Logo. They also come in a few different sizes and file types to accommodate different brands and machines. So far, I love the designs. The stitch density is great, and they have a lot of detail. The only problems I’ve had fall completely in the “user error” category.

Color Charts Matter

My first mistake was using the thread colors displayed on the machine and my manual chart to choose my threads.

The thread colors and names used by different machine brands varies, so if a design is drafted using different colors than yours, the color suggestions can seem a bit off. I was in a hurry and didn’t pay attention to the color chart provided by the designer, so some of my color choices weren’t quite right.

Everest would be less blue if I had used the appropriate chart. Lesson learned. This also highlights the need to test run any new patterns before stitching them on your final product. Embroidery machine stitching is so dense that it’s almost impossible to remove without ruining the fabric.

Hoop Tightly

The other problem I encountered is also easily fixed. I just need to learn how to hoop my fabric properly. If you look closely, you can see the black outline on both Everest and Rider strays from the edge of the design on one side. I still have trouble getting the fabric and stabilizer drum-taut, so by the time the outline is stitched, the design stitches puckered the fabric in places. I have a magnetic hoop set on my wish list to see if that would help, but honestly it’s probably a case of needing more practice. Considering how many pups I have left to stitch, I may be an expert at hooping by the end of the week!

It is so fun to watch the designs being sewn. It’s like putting together a puzzle.

Everest after stitching the first color.


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One of Those Days Checklist for Parents

Yesterday, my well-behaved-two-year-old-at-the-library luck ran out. It could have been worse. We kept the chaos contained to the children’s section, and it was all of the noisy variety. Lately when we’ve gone to the library, Thadd has been content to read books and play with puzzles, so him not wanting to do much of anything but complain loudly was a little unexpected. I’m hoping it’s not an indication of what next week’s afternoon library activities will be like.

This photo was not taken yesterday.

It got me thinking about the days where you feel exhausted but like you haven’t actually done anything. Making a to-do list and checking things off, even if I only get a few things checked off makes me feel a little better. If you’re having one of those days and need something to show that you actually did something, here’s my “One of Those Days” checklist.

One of Those Days Checklist for Parents

  • Get out of bed
  • Get dressed (leggings, yoga pants, sweats, etc. count)
  • Eat something
  • Feed the little people
  • Feed the pets
  • Drink something
  • Hug the little people
  • Keep the little people alive
  • Referee an argument between little people
  • Answer the same question more than three times
  • Clean up a spill
  • Tell little people to sit down
  • Read a story to the little people
  • Put little people to bed

Feel free to print this out and use anytime you’re having a bad day and need to see that you’ve actually accomplished something. 🙂

 

 


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Homeschooling and Socialization

About two and a half years ago, we decided to homeschool our children. Oddly, one of the biggest concerns many people have about homeschooling is socialization. Odd because often more outgoing, talkative children are told that they aren’t at school to socialize, so it seems strange that school is deemed the best place for children to learn social skills.

Many families join co-ops or other homeschooling groups to give them time to be around their peers. We haven’t really found a homeschooling group that fits us well, so we have taken a different approach. If you’re in a similar spot, or just looking for fun, inexpensive after-school activities, these options may work for you, too.

Libraries

Most libraries offer storytime for younger children. This is fun and free for the little ones, and gives older children quiet time to find new books to read or to do research. Our libraries also offer activities for all ages in the afternoon and on weekends. For us, just between the two libraries we frequent, we have activities available at least four days a week.

Interest-based clubs

Chris enjoys playing chess, so each of our boys has taken interest in it from a young age. We’ve found two free local chess clubs: one meets at a library and is for children, the other meets at a bookstore and is for all ages. We primarily go to the one at the library, but occasionally go to the other one. One of our complaints about school socialization is that it really only allows children to interact with their own age group, whereas outside of school they need to be comfortable holding conversations will people of all ages. The bookstore chess club offers them the opportunity to meet people of all ages who share a common interest.

Almost ready for chess club…

Depending on their hobbies, you may be able to find clubs by asking around at libraries, bookstores, shops, or searching online. I’ve even known of people to start their own through Meetup and Facebook.

Museums, zoos, and other attractions

Many places have special homeschool days, sometimes with cheaper admissions or special tours. These offer the opportunity to meet other local homeschooling families. At the very least, it’s a fun field trip. Last year, we went to a Texas Rangers game on their homeschool day.

Take a class or join a team

Our city rec center offers a variety of classes from dance to martial arts for less than we’ve found elsewhere. Beckett is currently taking a Wing Jitsu class that Finn took alongside Chris back when B was a baby. They also offer soccer, baseball, and basketball teams for all ages. Some of our libraries have a Maker’s Spot where they offer classes for older children and adults on how to use the equipment. Ours has 3D printers, sewing, embroidery and long arm machines. Art, music, crafting and language classes are also options. My oldest took a kids’ art class at a local art center.

Beckett getting one-on-one instruction on his first day.

Parks and playgrounds

Never underestimate just getting out and playing. Parks are free and depending on the time of day, there can be tons of kids. Go afterschool or go during school hours to meet families with younger children and homeschoolers.

No one else today, but still tons of fun.

Daily life

Something that seems to get overlooked is the little social interactions that happen without thinking. Young children learn a lot just by playing with parents, grandparents and siblings. If you take your children with you to the grocery or the bank, they are likely to get little lessons on how to greet people, approach people with questions, politeness and all the other interactions we take for granted. My kids go everywhere with me. Sure sometimes makes simple errands take F-O-R-E-V-E-R, but those little lessons they get are worth it. Mostly. 😉

You have no idea how long it can take just to get to this point.

On a final note, as important as socialization is, children also need to learn how to be at peace with themselves. Sometimes I think we underestimate the need for quiet alone time. Make sure to allow plenty of unstructured downtime when planning activities for your children, regardless of whether they are homeschooled.


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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.