Man Come Help

1 illuminated loupeDo 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 1 uneven stitchingwent 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.

1 Through the loupe lensThe 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).

1 PliersHere 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.

1 magnetic screws dishAnd 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…


23 thoughts on “Man Come Help

  1. Wow that dancing lady is so cute!! Love it. Happy Birthday to both of you.
    I also am not interested in paying the woman tax, although I still do go to a hairstylist for ladies and pay too much for a bad haircut. I never learn. I love the tip about the magnetic trays. I recently saw a post in which someone mentioned using fishing tackle boxes as an alternative to cutesy (expensive) sewing notion boxes. This struck a chord with me as I was keen on fishing when I was a little girl and my grandfather would never take me with him as I was a girl! And my brothers weren’t even interested in fishing! So I can compensate for this disappointment with sewing tackle boxes!

    I like that your husband has the capacity to do this work well. I am not sure I know someone I would trust with this job. 🙂 My best friend C. is enthusiastic but whenever I get him to put anything up for me disaster strikes. G. is enthusiastic too but relatively untried. We had a laugh over putting together (badly) some IKEA furniture recently, which I think is a good couples test for anyone.

    Look forward to seeing the dungarees! You two should write a “practical sewing machine maintenance” book about your little experiment. 🙂

    • Hi, I’ve used a fishing tackle box as my sewing box for years and it’s great. Lots of compartments to organise bits n bobs.

      • I always fancied those industrial-looking metal toolboxes but fishing tackle boxes these days are smoother and kinder if you walk into them (and less likely to dent). A great tip, thank you.

    • I didn’t notice till it was pointed out to me but the lady in the background has some nice subtle moves too.

      Sad story about your grandfather Stephanie. Isn’t the past a funny place? Only 15 years ago in Croatia, a (distant, thankfully) family member advised not to let my husband push the buggy with our son in it, as it wasn’t nice to see!

      • It’s particularly weird as my grandfather wrote a number of personal memoirs before he died . In one he talked about his early life on the farm and described his feminine mother as also having been practical. She taught them all how to hunt. The war and the fifties must have done a number on him! I remember those baby carriage attitudes.

  2. I love the dancing lady – he he and thank you! I am taking the day off today and your happy, interesting blog is the first thing I have seen.

    I got a nice implement from Nick’s man cave – it picks up pins (magnetic) without bending down, and has a light at the end. I use his hammers, pliers and glue – but he often uses my eyebrow tweezers so that makes us even. He also gave me a little “thread counter” which is very much like your loupe, but without the light. His father worked for Tootals, selling silk ties, and the thread counter was used to determine the quality of the fabric.

    • I used to be able to read needles but either they’re imprinted less well or my eyes are older or the light in new home is not hitting at the right angle…. In any case, it’s great when the solution is so simple. I’m not sure if I’ve heard of thread counters before: it seems so obvious now and I wish I hadn’t struggled these past few years, letting little-used needles accumulate as I didn’t know which packet to put them back into. Enjoy the sunshine today!

  3. OMG Marijana, I lurve your dancing Simplicity lady – too clever.
    Wouldn’t let my hubby near my sewing machine w a barge pole. Too many failed attempts at DIY indelibly etched in my mind – a certain antique cabinet of great sentimental value with a whopping great brass screw skewered (sic) to keep the top on comes to mind! Will be very interested in ideas about top stitching thread top and bottom too – always a cause for nerve calming unctions!

  4. I have the same trouble with identifying needles – and on your recommendation I just ordered a ‘seeing gadget’.
    Now, if I can just work out how to do the dancing lady thing……brilliant!

  5. I feel your pain with the bobbin stitches. Yesterday I had a spare hour and decided to practice a bit of free motion quilting on some scrap fabric ‘sandwiches’ before committing to the real thing. The first one went fine – I wrote my name and everything but, then, the second one looked great until I turned it over and there were big loopy loops all over the underside 🙁 I hadn’t changed the tension or anything. I’ll have to do some more research and practice.
    Anyway, I have a loupe which comes with me when I go rummaging for vintage goodies in case I need to read marks on the underside of things that I find – mainly to ensure it doesn’t say ‘made in China’. I also have my own toolbox because I used to do upholstery so needed things like magnetic hammers, webbing stretchers, hide mallets, etc. I notice the contents are diminishing as my husband frequently borrows from it and doesn’t replace. I wouldn’t mind but he has 3 or 4 different toolboxes of his own. Anyway – good idea to ask for the technical menu as my Janome must also be way overdue for a service – I’ve only really ever done the equivalent of flicking a feather duster over it.
    A friend bought me some adorable little dishes for Christmas in a camembert shaped box and each dish is imprinted with the label design from a French soft cheese. They are for chutneys apparently. I long ago dispensed with such frivolities at table but they were too nice to hide in a cupboard so I’ve stuck super strong magnets underneath the bases and made them into pin holders.
    A very Happy Birthday for later in the week. Doing anything nice?

    • It’s so frustrating when the machine suddenly changes its mind and something that worked fine becomes a stubborn impossibility. Thank you for the upholstery info: this is another cave worth plundering, I think. I’m going to look those up. I enjoyed the image of you wearing your loop whilst examining possible treasures.

      As for my birthday, it’s work day but maybe a trip to Rye next weekend (I’ve not been).

  6. I always keep pliers in my sewing kit. Useful for loads of stuff. Could do with a magnetic screw dish though. Think we have one of those somewhere!

  7. Topstitching, buttonholes and zips – always the last thing to do in a garment, the most noticeable and that’s when it all goes wrong! I too have raided the tools and gadgets from the ‘shed’ – long-nosed piers, scissors for sniping fishing wire, scalpels, screwdrivers and awl. I have no idea why DH has to many of these things when he never uses them!
    Good luck with the dungarees and hope it all works out. Happy birthdays too.

  8. Thanks for the top tip. I’ve just ordered myself a magnifier as I too can never read the numbers on needles.
    Looking forward to seeing your dungarees!

  9. Surgical “artery forceps” are my go to gadget. You can buy them on eBay for £3. Much better than pliers from the man cave. Lighter and easy to control , fine tipped for accuracy ,plus they lock in place when closed which means you can leave them hanging on the needle or what ever you’ve got them clamped on which can be very useful.

    • That’s a brilliant tip, thank you! I just looked them up as I didn’t know what they were (but I recognise them!).

  10. Artery forceps sounds hard core! Any pilfering from the tool box goes unnoticed in my house as I do the diy too. If I saw The Management with a screwdriver or similar in his hand I would worry.
    With regard to topstitching tension you may have to adjust the lower tension to improve it. That would be the little screw on the bobbin case we were told NOT TO TOUCH! Alternatively, buy an old Singer hand crank which does blisteringly good topstitching with no problems. And buttonholes with the attachment are brilliant.

    • Now this is the kind of information we pay for! Thank you very much Kim ! (*goes off looking for the forbidden screw*)

  11. HAPPY DAnG BIRTHDAY! Stitch length and tension do that wobbly thing to you. I have a couple of bobbin cases at different tensions (they were cheap) and I don’t have to remember which way to turn the tiny tiny screw. There are a number of online sites where bobbin case tension testing is explained.
    In my dreamier moments, I go to the weekend sewing machine classes by Ray White (somewhere here in the USA that is no where near my home). It would be a blast, and would pay for itself in a couple of years. I have no advice for your spouse, but I wish him all the best.

    Learning how to snake my sewer line might be a better use of my time today, tho. It’s no longer just an annual event.

  12. I find when I use top stitching thread in my bobbin the machine starts to pull the bobbin up out of its case which is very annoying. Do let us know how your husband gets on with fixing the machine – mine could do with a service too!

  13. Hi – did you realise you should never use topstitching thread in the bobbin when sewing topstitching for jeans etc.? That is why you had the problem. You must use normal thread in the bobbin, in a colour that matches the fabric. I use the Guterman topstitch thread too, when I make jeans. Only specialised industrial machines are set up to take heavy thread in the bobbin. I used to make jeans in a jeans factory and I make my own at home.

    • No, I didn’t know. This would mean my attempts are pretty much futile (but the machine is fine after all). Thank you Sue (very much!). I’ve not used an industrial machine so can only imagine how they differ from home ones but an attempt at shortening the waist band on a denim jacket a few years ago was absolutely disastrous as in the corner of the waist band I found myself having to sew through 8 layers of fabric.

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