I always thought that blind-hemming was the only hemming that was acceptable for clothes that would be worn out in public. Blind-hemming, to me, was done by hand. Imagine my surprise, and skepticism, when I found out blind-hemming can be done on a sewing machine! Some machines have a designated blind-hem stitch, some have attachments for blind-hemming.
Sewing machines became popular in the 19th Century, but lots of sewing was still done by hand. Hand-sewing is rather an art, wouldn’t you say? I love beautiful hand-embroidery, trapunto, appliqué, quilting. Those fancy stitches make plain old blind-hemming look like a country cousin. We are a couple that is also fascinated by what machines can do. So I decided to give blind-hemming on the sewing machine a try. As luck would have it, Skip had 4 or 5 new pairs of pants that mysteriously came in with no hems at all, and each pant leg was about 5 inches too long.
The first step was to get Skip to try them on and say where he wanted the length to be terminated. About a year and a half later, we were ready to go to Step 2: measuring the inseam.
Next, cut off the excess. You have to leave some length to make a cuff or turn under. I think a pants hem should be about 3/4 inch to 1 inch. My grandmother taught me that the 2nd joint of my index finger is about an inch long, so I can eyeball that distance as a rough measure.
What if I cut it off too short? Oops, I have done that before! To be safer, wash and dry the pants before hemming (if the label says you can do so; don’t wash them if it says: “dry clean only”), and make the inseam a little longer than you think it should be.
To sew the blind-hem by machine, you take the folded-over-twice hem and fold the outermost fold back in. My machine has a blind-hem foot and a blind-hem stitch that does about 4 straight stitches, then a side stitch, which is the blind-tack. If I were sewing the blind-hem stitch by hand, I would knot the thread, push the needle through the folded hem edge, then attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch that can be barely seen from the outside of the pants, then grab a big stitch from the folded edge of the hem, and again, attach the thread to the pants with a tiny little stitch, grabbing only a thread’s breadth of the pants fabric with the needle.
Sometimes people like to forget the pressing. But pressing is important; it makes the difference between shabby and sharp.
If you click on the last photo, and zoom up, you’ll be able to see the blind-tack stitches. They are more noticeable than if sewn by hand, but they look ok. They look good enough.
The recent Summers Woodworking Birdhouse Challenge encouraged me to get into the shop and resurrect my birdhouse plans. Although I didn’t create a fancy birdhouse and I didn’t finish it in time to enter the contest, I enjoy making bird houses.
Some 10 years ago I had the honor to coach a scout for his Eagle project. It was hard to contain my excitement when the scout asked if he could do a woodworking project. Another member of our scout group suggested that we build birdhouses and contact a local Audubon Society member to get guidance and to be the project sponsor. The project developed from that point on, and soon a group of young men, young women and several adults began the construction of 150 kestrel nesting boxes. The kestrels were struggling in Florida at that time due to destruction of their habitat by fires. At the completion of the project, many of the youth were able to see the boxes they made mounted some 30 to 40 feet above the ground on power poles. The following year, the sponsor reported that many of the boxes had been used by nesting kestrels and that the project had been a major success. A year or so later, we found ourselves working on another project for our sponsor: blue bird boxes.
Currently, we’ve decided to build a blue bird box for a blog project. I hope the information we share here will encourage woodworkers to seek out their area’s local needs for bird nesting boxes, and will participate when possible.
On the Cranmer Earth Design Information website you can find an interesting history of birdhouses. The use of man-made birdhouses goes back as far as the 15th century. Materials used for birdhouses ranged from baskets to bark to pottery. When English immigrants reached the eastern coast in the 18th century they found that Native Americans were making bird houses out of birch bark. The Native Americans saw a need to bring birds to their area, and recognized that birdhouses could help accomplish this goal. Europeans built birdhouses to collect eggs or trap birds. Early American settlers wanted to attract birds for insect control.
So why do we build birdhouses today? Birdhouses can help offset habitat destruction by either natural or man-made means. It’s interesting to note that we build birdhouses for birds who do not naturally build freely supported nests in trees or structures, but look for cavities to nest in.
The birdhouse construction for our blog project follows the recommendation of the Audubon sponsor we used on earlier projects. It also follows fairly closely the recommendations outlined in the website www.nabluebirdsociety.com . This website provides the dimensions used in this project, specifically the size recommended for an Eastern blue bird.
The hole size and location accommodates the habit of the blue bird to fly directly into the birdhouse. There is no perch, because one is not needed, and a perch would provide predators a platform for entering the birdhouse. The wood used is untreated cedar (treated lumber should never be used). It was also our impression that, for at least these bird types, the house should not be painted. One side of the box is hinged, to open for periodic cleaning.
In many cases other animals may use the box when the birds are not nesting and their nesting material needs to be removed. A removable nail is used to lock this side in a closed position. This side is also designed to leave a gap just under the roof’s edge for ventilation.
Another side is also cut to assist ventilation. The floor of the box is notched for drainage, and slightly elevated from the sides of the box to help keep the interior dry.
It is also recommended that a ¼ inch groove be cut underneath the three exposed edges of the roof to prevent rainwater runoff from following the edge of the roof and curling back on the nesting box walls. The diagrams do not show it here, but it is also a good idea to cut a series of grooves on the inside face of the front side of the box. This is better illustrated in the construction photographs. The grooves provide a “toe hold” for the bird fledglings to climb out of the box.
When the nesting box is completed, it can be mounted on a pole or fence post four feet above the ground, in an open area. The website above gives specific positioning guidance for various types of bird houses. Our Audubon consultant suggested mounting the blue bird boxes on a post in a location with bushes about 10 feet in front of the box. This provides an opportunity for the fledglings to practice flying back and forth from the bushes to the box.
It isn’t always easy to insure that the location you pick will be free from predators such as cats, snakes or raccoons. The website above provides some guidelines for adding structures to the birdhouse or support to protect against predators.
For our project, we selected cedar as the construction material, specifically nominal 1×6 cedar planks. A four foot length will provide enough wood to make all but the roof. A 1×10 board is needed for the roof, but if you are only going to make one birdhouse, you can purchase some extra 1×6 and glue up a panel for the roof. This is what we did, since we had extra 1×6 boards and no 1×10’s. We used Titebond 3 glue since this joint would be exposed to the weather.
You’ll find that for some other box types, the back board for the box not only extends below the bottom of the box but also above the roof. This expedites attaching the box to a pole or other structure. This was the case for the kestrel boxes we built. In the case of the kestrel boxes, the roof butts up against the back board, leaving a seam where water could leak in. To prevent this, a sealant was run along this seam.
The construction of the box calls for galvanized nails. We found during the assembly of the 100 plus birdhouses that it was quicker to apply Titebond 3 glue to the joints and then use a pneumatic crown stapler to hold the joints together while the glue dried. This method seemed to hold up as well as using galvanized nails. The main reason we chose the method we did, was because we had several young people doing the construction and driving galvanized nails into the cedar with a hammer proved to be a challenge, unless we predrilled the holes. The cedar was very prone to splintering.
Here’s a little you-tube of the nesting blue bird box build:
The cedar boards from the big box stores could be easily cut to size with a chop saw. It would be recommended to use some kind of jig to nip the corners off the floor piece, to keep your hands well away from the chop saw blade. The hole for the entrance was drilled with a Forstner bit. A jig was also used to cut the grooves on the back side of the front wall. The depth of cut was set on the chop saw to 1/8 inch, and the board was fed by hand as the chop saw was repeatedly lowered onto the board.
If you’d like to provide some housing for our feathered friends, get into your shop and chop some wood! And as always, focus on what you are doing, and be safe!
We’ve had some interesting discussions lately about how to avoid getting cancer. One way is to quit smoking if you’ve been a smoker, or to never start if you haven’t been. But, living in the 21st Century, we can benefit from LOTS of prior research that tells us things we can do to avoid getting cancer. The older we get, the more I realize that none of us is immune to it.
While surfing the list of online courses offered by University of Florida, I happened upon this one you can take for just $20: TAKE CONTROL TO REDUCE YOUR CANCER RISK. You don’t need a college degree to guess that some things you can do to head off cancer include proper diet, exercise, using sunblock, and staying away from chemical exposure, right?
Googling cancer’s history brings up a wealth of horrific lore about how the disease was looked upon in the 19th century. Apart from the various forms of gender-specific cancers, cancer overall was thought to afflict mostly women. Men were encouraged to ramp up diet and exercise so as not to be “subject to women’s diseases.” [from The Emergence of Cancer as a Public Health Concern by Ornella Moscucci, Phil, BSc ].
So diet and exercise were emphasized in the 19th century, but perhaps not to the extent they are now. Our ancestors probably did lots more walking from place to place than we do, and had physically intense jobs to do, unless they were on the wealthy end of the scale. I’ve had ancestors from both the wealthy side and the poor side. The upscale ancestors may have entertained the notion of Physical Culture, in which exercise with light apparatus such as dumbbells, bar bells, ropes, and other props may have been employed.
Our affluence and abundance of leisure time may have added to our risk of ill health, by allowing us to overeat and under-exert. I just finished a 6-week class at the local gym called “Tighten Your Tummy” in which light apparatus, of the sort I’ve never encountered before, was employed. We used foam rollers, a BOSU, a Pilates ring, mushy balls, and exercise mats for two 30-minute intense workouts per week, in addition to a 30-minute minimal workout (like walking or yoga) per day.
I go to a one-hour yoga class every morning, and I’ve been toting some light apparatus with me in the form of a yoga mat. More and more, my fellow yoginis (I go to the Women’s Gym) have added to their caches of apparatus: blocks, straps, wedges, towels, light dumbbells and gripper things. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it, since one of the 8 limbs of yoga is Pratyhara, the withdrawal of the mind from sense objects. But we don’t get far into the metaphysical aspects of yoga, it’s more of a fitness regime for us.
It was time to sew a new and upgraded light apparatus carrier, since the mat bag I made a while back is barely big enough for the mat and nothing additional. While the Gaiam online store had a nice selection of bags and totes at fairly decent prices, of course I decided to make my own. I found a piece of beige pleather in the remnant stash, some purse magnets I ordered a while back from Nancy Zieman, and a length of funky, fringe-y woven trim in the ribbon, ruffle and trim stash. That’s all it took! Easy-peasy.
I’ve been making jigsaw puzzles for over 20 years, first for my children and now for grandchildren. The tools I use include scroll saws and bandsaws. The first puzzles I made were tray puzzles. Sometimes I traced my children’s hands on a piece of 1/8 inch thick Baltic plywood. I would then cut out the traced hands and separate the fingers from the palms. The hand shapes were cut from a square piece of the plywood, which then became a fitted frame for the hands. This frame was subsequently glued onto another square piece of 1/8 inch thick plywood to back up the frame and produce a tray to hold the puzzle pieces. I would then paint each finger a different color, as well as the palm pieces. I would then pick out a lighter color to paint the parts of the tray. Then using rub-on or vinyl letters, I would put numbers 1 thru 10 in each tray opening for the fingers. On the corresponding finger puzzle piece I spelled out the numbers: one, two, etc.
The pieces were then top coated with lacquer. All the paints were toy grade and non-toxic. However, note that the size of these pieces would pose a choking hazard for small children. ASTM F963 gives the standards governing children’s toys. As an example, a toy part must not be of a size to pass through a 1.68-inch diameter hole in a jig that is 1.18 inches thick.
Now when I first made these puzzles, I had no knowledge of these standards and after all, the puzzles were for my children, and not for sale! But I don’t think the children’s mother would look favorably toward having my toys choke the children. As luck would have it, my children were old enough at the time to safely handle the puzzles I made. Another popular tray puzzle I made was a segmented, multicolored caterpillar. The caterpillar was divided into 26 pieces. Each piece was labeled with a capital alphabet letter. Under the corresponding piece the tray was labeled with the lower case letter. Since then, many other puzzles have found their way from my scroll saw to the hands of my grandchildren: free standing puzzles, interlocking puzzles and more tray puzzles. My wife has provided the artwork in many cases, while I cut it into irregular interlocking pieces, to confuse the innocent.
I found over time that not only was the size of the puzzle piece a function of the child’s age but the number of puzzle parts was also a function of age. The table below is a general recommendation for the number of puzzle parts.
“A jigsaw puzzle is a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of often oddly shaped interlocking and tessellating pieces. Each piece usually has a small part of a picture on it; when complete, a jigsaw puzzle produces a complete picture. In some cases more advanced types have appeared on the market, such as spherical jigsaws and puzzles showing optical illusions.”
In addition, newer puzzles can be spherical and 3-dimensional. Wikipedia continues…
“Jigsaw puzzles were originally created by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces with a jigsaw, hence the name. Alternatively, it has been believed that the name of the puzzle may have given the tool its name. The origin of the name Jigsaw is not entirely known. Some speculate that upon completion of some difficult puzzles, the player would then perform a victory jig upon the puzzle. Performing this jig on the puzzle would check the structural integrity of the puzzle. Once the jig was observed upon the puzzle, the person who saw the jig would confirm that the structure was sound, hence jigsaw. This origin has little evidence to back its story and is based merely on interesting hearsay. The John Spilsbury, a London cartographer and engraver, is credited with commercializing jigsaw puzzles around 1760. Jigsaw puzzles have since come to be made primarily of cardboard.”
I’ve been specifically inspired by Hans Meier who is a member of the Gwinnett Woodworkers Association and who has several You Tube videos on scroll saw puzzles. I highly recommend his videos for detailed techniques on making a variety of puzzle types.
The project chosen for this blog post is a tray puzzle for one of our 5 year old grandchildren. He loves birds, fish and animals, so we chose a parrot. And even though he has worked puzzles we have made with 48 pieces, this picture lends itself to 12 pieces which is on the lower end of the recommended number for a 5 year old.
My wife, the artistic one of our blog team, sketched a parrot which I was able to divide into 12 puzzle pieces. This sketch was subsequently mounted on a 1/8 inch thick piece of Baltic plywood.
The parrot tray puzzle was a 13 step process:
1 Select a puzzle subject. In this case the grandchild dictated the subject matter.
2 Sketch an outline of the puzzle subject, a parrot. My wife sketched the parrot and selected the colors. The sketch is then divided up into the required number of puzzle pieces attempting to select areas of the figures that will either make it easy or difficult to solve the puzzle. It’s important to consider the size of the pieces.
3 Use contact spray cement to attach the sketch to a suitably sized piece of 1/8inch thick plywood.
4 Drill a starter hole in the sketch with a 1/16 inch diameter drill bit. Think about this location. The object is to be able to completely cut out the whole figure from the board, leaving the remainder of the board as the frame for the puzzle.
5 Using a number 0 46 TPI spiral scroll saw blade, the outline of the subject (in this case the outline of the parrot) is cut out.
6 Once the subject has been removed from the frame portion of the board, the subject is cut into pieces. For the parrot puzzle, 12 pieces were selected. The body parts of the parrot were selected to be parts of the puzzle. Several miscellaneous cuts were included to add some challenge to solving the puzzle.
7 Use mineral spirits or a heat gun to remove the paper sketched pattern from the frame and puzzle pieces.
8 Lightly sand the frame and puzzle pieces.
9 Cut another 1/8 inch thick piece of plywood that will form the back of the puzzle (i.e. the bottom of the tray). Lightly sand this board.
10 Glue the tray bottom to the bottom of the frame.
11 Apply a sanding sealer to all the puzzle and tray parts and lightly sand with 320 grit sandpaper.
12 Paint the puzzle with toy safe acrylic paint and apply a clear top coat of lacquer.
13 Mail puzzle to subject grandchild and wait for kudos!!
The straps are from Cindy’s Button Company. I found a 1/2 yard remnant of Pellon Flexible Foam Stabilizer in the interfacing stash that was just the right dimensions to line the body, and used some plastic needlepoint canvas to line the bottom and top rim.
A small red zipper showed up in the zipper stash, and a packet of red bias binding provided the edging for an inner purse pocket and 4 loops to attach the leather straps.
Had this idea in my head for years, but it took a designated Selfish Sewing Week to bring it into the real world. Thank you Rachael at imagine gnats for your inspiration!
Um, yes…I do recall posting late last week that Selfish Sewing Week was coming up…now it’s almost over and I still haven’t done any sewing for myself. Pretty lame!
In my defense, I have been planning some projects…but haven’t carried out those plans to fruition yet (as of Thursday morning). We’ll have to remedy that.
Here’s what I planned:
1) Camel Ponte Roma & microsuede skirt
2) rayon blouse to match
3) black & gold boucle knit sweater
4) white embroidered cotton shirt
5) brown stretch jacquard lace skirt
6) white crushed voile top lined with white Posh polyester
7) denim & knitted art yarn purse with red leather handles
8) either a skirt or top in a leopard print
9) something out of that teal and gold plaid-printed jersey
10) rayon slip-dress
Have you stopped laughing yet? Looks like a tall order!
But since I wrote down this list yesterday morning, I’ve already made the first two items and cut out the fabric for 2 other items. Each little project is economical in that I used fabric remnants. Sometimes it’s a challenge to come up with something wearable from a piece of fabric that is less than a yard.
#1: Camel Ponte Roma/microsuede skirt. The pattern for this is one I made, using an old skirt I bought at Beall’s Outlet, and tracing around it. I found two remnant bundles at JoAnn’s that were the same color: Camel, Cornstalk, or beige. Ponte Roma is always awesome, and to pair it with a faux Suede, seems timely!
#2: Rayon 1-yard top. This pattern was a freebie from Runway Sewing; I scoped it out on Pinterest. I didn’t have any 1/4″ bias binding around to apply to the neckline, so I used some 1/2″, and I didn’t like it all that much. And the neckline itself was way too big, resulting in a very sloppy look. I took a great big tuck in the front, making it look a bit like the Colette Sorbetto top, also a freebie pattern. You might wonder, “Why didn’t she just use the Sorbetto then?” The sleeveless Sorbetto is a little skimpy for me. I like my shoulders to be covered.
So I wasn’t a total no-show for Selfish Sewing Week. I’ll be relieved to get back to non-apparel sewing, though.
As we experiment with 21st century technology, we find that unless we put a lot of our 50-year plus brain cells to work, this new technology will often move us backward, in lieu of forward, with our craft. In keeping with our blog’s theme, we decided to take a 19th century brew and apply a 21st century twist to it.
We love root beer. One of our children really loves root beer (at one time he actually placed 99 bottles of root beer on a ledge in our kitchen). Another son spent 2 years in the UK, where there’s not much root beer for sale. We bought some 2-liter plastic bottles of Mug Root Beer from Wal-Mart and spent about 10 times the price of the soda to ship it over to him. While my wife set out to explore the history of our favorite root beer, IBC root beer, I set out to construct a beer-of-the-root tote.
Many of my favorite You Tube woodworkers have designed and produced beer totes on their channels. Not being a beer drinker, in the purist sense, I’m not sure why you really need a beer tote. From what I have seen, beer bottles usually come from the store in a nice cardboard tote. In fact, even our IBC root beer comes in a nice cardboard tote. But I digress… on to the application of 21st technology to construct a wooden root beer tote.
As luck would have it, I found a CNC model of a beer tote on the Vectic web site. The model was complete and provided the g-code to run our Shark 3.0HD CNC machine. The model called for a 24-inch x 24-inch board, in my case a piece of 0.45 inch thick Baltic plywood. I anchored the board to a sacrificial board on the CNC machine, loaded the g-code and pressed go.
As a side note, I did check out the tool paths to make sure I had the correct router bit installed, a ¼-inch end mill, and that I had the right cutting depth set for the plywood used. When the CNC machine had done its job, I separated the pieces and performed a dry fit.
This is where my lack of close attention to details caught up with me. First, I had somehow neglected to include the cutouts for the wedges that were designed to hold the tote together. This problem could be overcome with some strategically placed glue. So after a dry fit , I added a little glue, sanded the tote and applied a coat of white primer in preparation for my wife’s 19th century enhancements.
However (the eraser word) another synapse short-circuit became apparent when I tested the fit of the IBC root beer bottles. They didn’t fit!!! Evidently they are larger in diameter than an average beer bottle. After some serious hammer applications and some significant trial and error with the oscillating spindle sander, the bottles fit. The tote was reassembled and a coat of red, white and blue paint was applied. My wife added the finishing touches.
Root beer was popular in 19th Century North America. A tourist back then could find root beer throughout the country, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the same drink from town to town. The root used to make the concoction might be sarsaparilla, burdock, dandelion, or sassafras (real sassafras roots and bark were banned by the FDA in 1960 so now artificial sassafras flavoring is used). A foaming agent could be added, along with spices such as hops, anise, ginger, or many other choices or combinations (see Wikipedia’s article for the whole story).
We remember having homemade root beer at Halloween parties in the days of our youth, made memorable with the addition of dry ice, so it looked like a smoky, spooky potion! If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to try Dr. Fankhouser’s Homemade Root Beer tutorial. It’s powerful stuff, so take care!
Root beer? Check. Root beer tote? Check. Now we have to figure out where to tote the root beer.
So we’ve been thinking about Fall home decor and Halloween hi-jinks. If you want to see some fascinating history about how modern-day Halloween celebrations have evolved since medieval times, check out this History Channel page.
Meanwhile, one of our two cats, Grayzie, had to go back to the Vet Specialist to get a second radiation treatment to burn out his thyroid, because apparently the first treatment didn’t work. Like before, he went and stayed at the vet hospital for about 5 days, until his radioactivity levels lowered enough for us to take him home. When he got home, the other cat, Pauly, hissed at him and treated him like–well, like a dog. Like he was a total stranger. We worked with them on that, rubbed Pauly, then Grayzie, down with a pair of dad’s dirty old socks (which they love to snog) and got that hissing back down to a minimum. But for a joke, we found this prop at the hardware store and put it out for Pauly, to see how she reacted.
We had a lot of laughs with this photo; if you can come up with a funny caption you’d like to submit, please leave a comment!
Finished reversible table runner with an everyday side and a holiday-ish side.
The design on the every day side was “traced” using the machine’s 2mm satin stitch, and free-motion settings. I feel that my machine’s specialty stitches are underused, so I wanted to try out one for this project. For stitching the outer border, the feed dogs were turned back on, and the machine’s star stitch was used.
Finished just in time for Fall Selfish Sewing Week, It’s also the final wrap-up of National Sewing Month. Not sure if Selfish Sewing Week is a widespread phenom. I’d never heard of it before, but I do like the notion of it! Sometimes I don’t feel justified just sewing for myself, which is a little crazy, because there isn’t a lot of feedback generated from folks to whom I’ve given home-sewn gifts. Or the feedback isn’t overwhelmingly positive. If I sew something for myself and I end up hating it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. If I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it in public, there’s no visible shame, there’s no ongoing question. There’s no wondering if the other person received it in the mail, or getting the same package returned from the postal worker three months later.
What would you plan to sew if you were participating in Selfish Sewing Week? Something trendy? Elle
Knitting is in my blood. I learned how (English method) from a grandmother when I was about nine, then never really developed that skill until I retired, a few years ago. My other grandmother, who was born in England and came to the US as a teenager, was an accomplished knitter. Her husband, my grandfather, was a descendant of Catalyntje Tricaud, originally of France but living in Holland to escape religious persecution, and who came to America in the 1600’s. Some sources say that Tricaud came from a family of specialty weavers. Perhaps the name Tricaud is a variation of tricot, from the French “to knit” and in English, a special type of knit fabric.
If you had to classify the degree of technicality of the types of knitting, probably machine knitting would be the most high-tech. We haven’t ventured into the world of knitting machines, probably because I don’t know all I want to know about hand-knitting yet. Most knitters I’ve met are pretty passionate about the type of knitting they like best: English method, Continental method, loom knitting…
Then again, the most low-tech method would be hand-knitting on regular old wooden knitting needles, do you agree? And you could be knitting with your own hand-spun yarn from your own sheep’s fleece, that you made into batts and spun on a drop-spindle.
My variety of knitting probably comes in as medium-tech. I bought this yarn at Hobby Lobby, on sale, and it was already intended to be made into a hat. The necessary amount of yarn was wrapped around a cardboard tube, with the knitting pattern attached on back of the label, and a big pre-fab pompon was stashed in the tube, so that when the yarn was all knitted up the pompon would be freed up to attach. The yarn, Keppi Sparkle, colorway Orange Fizz, was a mixture of lots of different types of fibers all together in a continuous strand, so it was self-striping.
Rather than the traditional double-pointed needles (which usually spell disaster for klutzy me) I used a more medium-tech circular needle.
This whole project was easy and quick. Meanwhile, I’m on another more complex knitting project, and I just took a break to zip through something rewardingly speedy.
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts