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My first Industrial Sewing Machine = Disaster

Saturday, March 8, 2014
I cried today over a sewing machine.  Yes, it's true!  I'm thankful I can laugh at myself right now though!

It can be a gamble to buy used sewing machines, but most times it's not.  I've never had a bad experience from all my purchases (which is many) and I guess you could say I was too comfortable and didn't stress enough about being thorough in my inspection of the machine.  I had just driven 1-1/2 hours with all 3 kids in the van and they were going bonkers, the machine was in a dimly-lit garage, I was freezing and the machine was laying down on it's back on a wobbly table.  When I first laid eyes on it I was surprised and excited (kind of like seeing your baby for the first time?)!  It was massive and beautiful - pictures don't do it justice!  I had never seen an industrial machine in person.  Since most people don't get butterflies in their stomach from sewing machines it would be comparable to a boy who has grown up looking at hot rod magazines for years and finally being able to see one in person.  The guy selling it tried to help me prop the machine upright on the wobbly table (that was teetering on a hand dolly) so I could try and turn the hand wheel and make sure it was functioning smoothly.  We couldn't keep the machine upright and hold the table at the same time so I didn't worry about it so much even though it seemed a little off to me.  I knew that I was taking a bit of a chance to begin with because I wouldn't be able to fully test it out since it wasn't hooked up to the motor.

I decided on an industrial cylinder arm machine because it would allow for me to maneuver bulky items around the needle, it does leatherwork and takes very thick needles and thread.  I've been considering starting to make more of my 'mommy purses' that people request me to make more of and thought the thick stitching this machine could do would give my purses an awesome looking top-stitch and make them ore durable, plus I could maneuver the purses better around the machine. More importantly, I could buy a right-angle binder to help sew binding to the inside curves of the bags (which I dread doing with my regular machines).

I am also scheduled to teach a sewing class on how to make leather baby shoes.  What better time than now to have this machine in my possession to allow the girls a chance to try one out for themselves and have the experience (kind of like a car lover being able to test drive a Lamborghini, right?)!

To be honest, I never paid too much attention to industrial machines I've seen for sale before.  I thought I'd never have a use for them.  Upon further thought I decided to look into them.  I checked out all my local for-sale listings, watched some YouTube videos, read some forums, looked at company websites and realized that I may have been cheating myself out on some awesome machinery.  Up until recently I thought I had the best-of-the-best machines.  Well, pretty much yes (for the average user).  Since I work in quantity and many of my projects push the limit of my strongest machines, I figured now is a good time to try one out for myself... if it makes my work easier, cleaner and faster, why not!?

So, the guy selling the machine was nice and helped me load everything in my van and even let me dig through all his leather to find some pieces I could use for my baby shoe class - it was perfect!

The drive back home was not fun.  The kids wanted to get back home (typical) and were fussy even though I packed toys, books and snacks to keep them entertained.  All I wanted to do was think about my awesome "new" machine and how I'd get it home and all set-up for a test-drive!  I even thought of a nickname for it - "MOTHER" (meaning, mother of all my machines).  My excitement was going to make me explode.

My husband helped me carry everything to the basement and we got the machine head bolted to the table and that's when I knew something was wrong.  Oh, it was so wrong and I was mad because I should have noticed the minute I first looked at it!

The shaft that holds the bobbin hook was wobbly (that's why I couldn't turn the handwheel earlier) and I actually pulled it out to see that it was broken!!  The outside part around that area was deformed which indicated to me it had been dropped and that's how the shaft broke.

Then I noticed the whole tension assembly was missing (later found it behind the machine dangling from the thread) which must have broken when it was dropped as well.

My heart sank, it felt like my hopes and dreams were crushed (don't laugh).  I knew I could very well be out a bunch of money and only have a broken (very heavy) machine in my possession.  I was mad.  I drove all that way with a van full of kids, loaded it in my van, drove it to my house and dragged it inside.  I couldn't reach the guy on the phone to explain everything so I sent him an e-mail with pictures about all the issues.  He e-mailed back and that's when I cried tears of relief!  He said he was sorry and knew it had been dropped but didn't know of all the damages.  He offered to take the machine back and that I could keep the leather to pay for gas.  I will be loading everything back in my van and driving it back up to him.  It sucks, but I'm just glad he's being nice about taking it back.

I will definitely be more thorough and cautious in the future!  I'm still going to look for another industrial machine though.  Once I have a machine in my mind I have to have it even if it's just to mess with it for a few weeks and resell.  Wow, I must be crazy.  HA!

Here's a YouTube video of the machine in action:
That walking foot is awesome, right?  And the speed?  Fast!

Chores and Chore Charts for Kids

Monday, March 3, 2014
I am a big promoter of kid's doing chores around the house.  It's simple to me: if they live in it - they need to help take care of it.

Not only does it teach them responsibility and gives them a feel for what it takes to keep it clean, but I think their future wives will be thankful we didn't baby and do everything for them.

I have found that having a chore chart is a must.  Not only does it help you keep track of what still needs to be done, but they LOVE filling in the squares.  It's also easy for me to say to my husband, "Can you help _____ with his chores?"  He doesn't have to ask questions... he can see exactly what is left to be done.

I have done all sorts of different charts for the kids and they all serve the same purpose.  I made a pack of different charts for boys and girls that you can buy on Etsy.  These are fun and colorful - great if you're just starting out with younger kids... but also great for older kids!

Potty training can be a challenge and a fun potty chart can make all the difference!  For this one, you move the boy/girl around the maze and the child gets a treats for the big squares!  When my son(s) got to the end they would get a bigger prize they picked out from the toy section beforehand.

Here's what a large personalized chart could look like... could laminate the chart and use dry-erase markers to fill in squares and re-use as many times as you want! Use titles below to customize chart for each child or make your own!  When all 10 squares are filled in for a particular chore/task they get a treat reward and start over for that task.

If there's one task a child particularly struggles with you can focus in on it more with a single chart... adding toppings to an ice cream cone!

...adding spots to a giraffe!

I ended up creating a whole new chore chart system for my kids recently that I can change as needed and print off a new one each week.  For now, I just switch a few things between my biggest boys every-other week so they're not doing the same thing all the time.

Here's what they look like:
Caden is 7-years-old and can do everything by himself, except the dishes.

Jordan is 5-years-old and doesn't "read", instead looks at books or we read to him.  For the bathroom sink he uses Clorox disinfectant wipes - super easy for kids!

Jonah is almost 3-years-old and was feeling left out that he didn't have a chart.  We made him one but don't hold him to it.  Once in a while he'll do something and can mark it on his chart.

I designed the charts so there are certain chores they have to do at certain times of the day and that really helps so we don't have a backlog of chores right before bed.  You can see for my oldest boys they have 2 bold lines separating their chores.  The top section needs to be done in the morning before they go to school.  The middle section needs to be done right after school before they play.  The last section is mostly after we eat dinner.  I put thumbnail pictures to the side of each chore to help my 5-year-old since he can't read yet.

We have what is called CHORE OF THE DAY and it is the kids favorite chore!  What I did was write a chore on each side of a popsicle stick (chores that need to get done once in a while but not necessarily everyday).  I have 4 sticks - so 8 possible chores.  They close their eyes and pick one of the sticks.  I tell them the 2 options for that stick and they get to pick the chore they like the most.  They love it because THEY get to choose! (Chores on the back: fold blankets, clean under couch, organize toy drawer, organize coat rack).

We are not perfect about doing chores, and they usually get about half of their squares filled in.  Not perfect but it's something and that's better than nothing.

I made a rule that they can only fill in their chart on THAT day... if the next day comes around and they forgot to fill squares in I don't let them go back (otherwise they'd start filling in squares willy-nilly).

I didn't really like the idea of paying the kids to do their chores because I feel like it's just part of being in the family and living in the house.  We were going to do something fun as a family if they got their charts completely filled in instead.  Well, that's more difficult than you'd think!   I ended up telling them that for every square they filled in they could get 10 cents at the end of the week.  Now that they have a chance to earn money they can learn how to save money, discover how much toys actually cost (take better care of them), etc.

I've heard from various people that you shouldn't take away what kids earn.  Somedays are hard and it seems like it's more work for me to get them to do a chore than it's worth.  If I have to ask them 3 times to do something I put a frowny face on their chart and that takes away 25 cents from what they would have earned.

I make sure to remind the kids they aren't getting paid to do their chores because it's just what needs to be done to have a nice house.  Instead I tell them mommy and daddy are so glad for their help and it's our way of showing that we appreciate what they do.

 Here is Jonah doing his chore of the day - cleaning under the couch!

Jordan wanted to do the dishes himself for the first time.

The boys putting their own laundry away!  This is SUCH a big help to me - they don't even know!

Fast & Easy way to make Doll Hair with Yarn!

I did a previous post about a doll pattern I liked.  The pattern was easy and the doll was adorable but I couldn't get past how the hair looked.  The tutorial had you sew one piece of yarn at a time down the center of the head.  It was too thin and when the doll was turned to the side the hair would flop over to one side exposing a bald head.  It was also time consuming and tedious to sew one yarn piece at a time!

I created a fast and easy solution that covers the head more fully.

Once you finish your doll, you'll need:
-yarn and matching thread
-hand sewing needle
-erasable fabric marker
-sewing machine with zigzag stitch

Decide how long you want your doll's hair - measure starting at the center of the forehead, going along the side of the head and down where you want it to end.  I wanted my shortest layer about shoulder length which was about 5".  Find a flat sturdy object twice the length you want your hair - this lid was 10" long.  Wrap your yarn around the object about 60 full turns.  TIP: don't stretch your yarn too tight because once you cut it, it will be shorter than what you want.

 Carefully cut along the yarn folds on each end of the object.

 Using an erasable fabric marker, mark your doll's head where you will be attaching the hair, starting 1/2" onto the forehead and going down the center of the head...

 ...ending where you want the base of the head to be, about 1" up from the shoulders.

 Then mark on the side of the seam closest to the face (so your hair will hide the seam), running from the very edge of the head, over the top to the other edge (about where the ears would be).

For the hair you'll be sewing your yarn pieces along a long double strand of yarn (spine).  The strand of yarn stabilizes the hair pieces and anchors them together.  You will be making 2 section of hair to go along the 2 markings you made on your dolls head.

The first section will be the length of the first mark you made on the center your of doll head PLUS 2".  You will want to sew your hair pieces really heavy/thick together.

The second section will be the length of the second mark you made on the doll head along the seam from ear to ear PLUS 1".  This section will thin out in the middle where it crosses the first section on dolls head.

 Start of with a long double strand of yarn (spine), about 15" longer than both section lengths combined.  With a wide zigzag stitch, stitch over both strands about 1/2".

For your FIRST SECTION of hair, mark on your spine the length you need to fill.  Center thick sections of yarn over spine and zigzag over the centers making sure you're sewing over the spine.  Keep working until you get the length you need.

TIP: when sewing over yarn it's easiest to put pressure over both sides of the presser foot and help machine by pushing the thickness through.

For your SECOND SECTION, leave a few inch gap between the first and continue on the spine, doing it just as you did the first but thin in out in the center.

The back of your sections should look like this (the bottom).

 Sew SECOND SECTION of hair on doll first, centering over the side markings of head with yarn spine on mark.  Fold under excess ends of spine to hide ends.  Pin in place.

Use needle and double thread and anchor thread to one side.  Do a simple chain stitch over the top of the spine all the way to the other side. Tie off thread...

...and pull needle through back of head and cut threads right against head (this hides the ends of your threads inside).

Split yarn where the center mark is to prepare for next section.

 Fold end of FIRST SECTION under about 1/2" and pin at base of head...

 ...flip doll over and match spine with marking...'ll see it extends longer than your marking by about an inch (this gives it extra volume in the front)...

 ...fold excess under... in place.  Sew section in place just like previous section.

 You can see the hair is longer in the back - do a little trimming and...


You can also create a 'side part' easily by changing center mark where you want it.  With a side part I like to anchor the fuller side to the side of the head with thread and needle to keep it from falling in the face.

Teaching Sewing Lessons

I love sewing, but I might enjoy teaching others how to sew even more!  Being able to teach someone how to create something from a pile of fabric and trims is exciting - you can almost see a boost of confidence when they finish a project.  Everyone needs to have something they feel proud of!

For Stayley's 8th birthday I gave her some coupons for a few free sewing classes at my house.

She chose to make a bean bag chair.  I got the tutorial from the blog, StarDustShoes.  We went up to my sewing room and she picked out her fabrics and we cut everything out. The tutorial has you make an inside cover and outside cover.  The outside cover has velcro and is removable for washing.  The inside cover holds all the beans and is closed permanently.

Getting all the beans into the cover was quite a challenge and we made some messes.  Stayley said, "I hope I never have to see these beans again!"  We laughed and made jokes about the mess and how much work it was.  Then we decided to give up and vacuum the last ones up.

She said she was hungry so I went and got us a snack to munch on.  I thought it was so hilarious when she reached over to the bowl while she was sewing!

Here's the last step - sewing the circles over where all the side panels meet on the top and bottom!

 Let's just say all the boys were jealous, haha!

Now she has a place to sit and read!  Best part... SHE made it!

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