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Billboard Art

This weekend we held a rather slow garage sale. It was still fun, though, and we met some nice people, including a gentleman who shares our fondness of TBI Suburbans.

Chris took full advantage of the time to create a few billboard art pieces he’s been picturing for months.

Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts

I think this is my favorite. I love the weathered door.

Show Stopper
Show Stopper

This is the one everyone slowed down to see. He may decide to shorten it from the bottom to make it more manageable. As it is, though, in the right space it is impressive.

Coca Cola
Coca Cola

This one just screams Americana. We held it up to see what it looks like on the outside of our house. I loved the pop of red against our brown. I can totally see this alongside other signs in rustic decor.

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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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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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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.