Do you know what this is? They can be found in homes of jewellers, watchmakers, or those people (ok: blokes) who have a gadget for everything. Maybe it can also help you…
Normally, I keep family members in the dark about my personal sewing projects – in case they begin to ask themselves how I manage to keep smuggling so much stash into the house. But we had drama here last week when in the last stages of making myself a pair of dungarees the obligatory topstitching that makes denim look like jeanswear went wrong. Not terribly wrong, just a bit wobbly on the bobbin side. This only happens when I use topstitching thread in both the needle and the bobbin. For most of the dungies, where the wrong side won’t be visible when I wear them, I used normal cheap thread for the bobbin and it worked fine. But on the straps, which flap back on the fasteners, I wanted both sides of the stitching to look the same and it wasn’t happening, despite my varying the tension in both directions. Any suggestions why?
After much unpicking, a sore thumb and wasted thread I lost my temper, swearing and hissing as so many of us fine ladies do. Guterman topstitching thread, which I can only find in spools of 30 metres, is not only expensive but I have to travel miles to buy it so it was frustrating to spend so much time on this, so close to the finish too. It’s when I threatened to take the machine upstairs and throw it out the window that my loving husband came over offering rational means of solving the problem so that he could get back to his conference calls in peace.
We went through the troubleshooting section in the machine’s manual, looking for the culprit. We could only guess it was the tension. When I explained that the machine had problems before but was serviced 10 months ago at a cost of almost £150 – and a guarantee of 6 months – I got to witness typical old-fashioned man-indignation. You know, the kind you used to see in sitcoms whenever a wife-type-character returns from the garage where a car had been treated to some wiping with an oily rag, lots of jargon and an astronomical bill? Anyway, Man got onto phone, to Janome, and obtained a technical manual. Man now not only determined to learn to service the machine himself, he will welcome the challenge! In a way similar to my daughter and I doing Colin Thompson Jigsaw puzzles at Christmas. Isn’t it strange? But great Let’s hope it’s as easy as he suspects (any reader experience of this would be a treat!). There’s a small outlay in that we’ll have to buy a gauge for tension testing but you can never have too many gadgets, can you? Meanwhile, normal thread sewing resumes without trouble.
The Illuminated Loupe I showed you above was offered to me when we were checking if I might be using a wrong needle. I don’t know about you but I can’t see the numbers on the shank. I can tell if the needle is thick or fine, but it’s nice to be able to read the small print. The loupe can enable you to do that and they don’t cost much more than a pack of needles (try here).
Here are some other useful things from the man cave: on the left, some needle-nose pliers (or as I prefer: snipe-nose pliers) being used to extract a hand-sewing needle through layers of thick denim. I think we’ve all had to borrow pliers at some point.
And my favourite discovery of all: a magnetic screw tray which I use for pins. They’re not as cute as those lilac or lime ones sold in sewing shops but you get 4 for well under a tenner (try here) and I’m too mean to pay Woman Tax! I like how the underneath can hold up pattern pieces against the sides of my metallic filing cabinet which is next to where I work. .
Have you borrowed from man caves or other insalubrious corners in the name of our craft?
By the way, it’s someone’s birthday today and later in the week mine! Join us in a little dance…