Oct 26, 2009

Adventures in sewing: cleaning the machine

I've had my sewing machine for almost ten years, now, and it was probably that old or older when I permanently borrowed it from my mother. (She was afraid of sewing her hand to the fabric, anyway.) It's a Dressmaker FA 590 — or maybe just a Dressmaker 590; the manual I have says both — and it's all lovely metal inside, so it's heavy, but super-sturdy. This is the machine I used to sew all my Jedi costumes except the first. (The first was all hand-sewn. In a week. Erk! With the gracious help of my mother, who is not afraid of sewing her fingers to the fabric if she gets to hold the needle.) This machine has sewn a great portion of the Ren Faire costumes I've made in more than ten years. This machine did my One Power concept costume in the first year of the Wheel of Time track at Dragon*Con. It's a lovely machine and I feel no urge whatsoever to replace it (though I would consider adding another machine to the collection...).

For the past couple of years, though, the machine has been acting up. And it occurs to me that, you know ... I should probably clean it after all these years. ;)

New Mexico State University, for some reason I haven't tried to figure out because I have 2,000 other things to do before Friday, has directions on how to clean your sewing machine. They look ... rather intimidating. But if uncaking all the accumulated machine oil, dust and thread fuzz will make my machine run like new again, then that's the way the starship flies.

The bulk of the grime-fighting tools came from Jo-Ann. Check! (Why do I need a bottle of sewing machine lubricant and a bottle of sewing machine oil? Oh, well. Bought it anyway. It'll get used someday.) But this solvent stuff eluded me. I checked Jo-Ann, Home Depot, the automotive parts store ... None of them gave me an obvious choice on what sort of solvent to use against sewing machine oil and years of thread fuzz, so I didn't pick anything up. Plus, I have an instinctive aversion to putting turpentine or mineral spirits or acetone into my sewing machine. It's probably silly — but I also didn't want any of that stuff sitting around the house, unused, afterward. What am I going to do with 3/4 of a bottle of turpentine? The boyfriend and I wondered if citrus oil would work.

And lo! A little research online turned up Citra Solv ... which looked familiar; it's one of those things I've seen at the health food store but ignored as something I don't have a use for. Well, now I do. I'm going to try it on my sewing machine.

The final members of the grime-fighting team*:

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

The challenger:

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

Find out what happens, find out who wins, on the next episode of Star and Crossbones Iron Sewing Machine Cleaners!

Cleaning the sewing machine: prep

*In the grime-fighters photo, from left to right, top to bottom: bottle of Citra Solv (to dissolve crud), sewing machine oil, dust/lint brush, sewing machine lubricant, tweezers (to pick out crud), screwdrivers (to help me disassemble, if and when I need to), and, in the bottom row, new sewing machine needles to use after the machine is clean. Because friends don't let friends use old, blunt sewing machine needles.

Proto Web site is live!

Finally, over a year after my domain name was snatched away from me by unscrupulous Webthieves out to make a buck, Star and Crossbones again has a home on the Web!

No internal pages, no fancy schmancy features ... just a little old index page with a couple of graphics and links. But it links here, and it links to my Etsy shop, and it will let you sign up for the mailing list (Is the light shining down from above for you?), so it will serve until I do a more serious redesign of the entire site.

Go forth and visit, if you please, and do, definitely do tell me if the site looks wonked up on your computer or if you find something about it unusable, appalling, or a complete turn-off in any fashion. You are my testing group, and your experiences are valued.


Oct 24, 2009

Crafting the craft show

Every craft booth needs a banner. We're hoping to do a few shows this holiday season, and there's one coming up that's got a "green" theme, in the eco-friendly/sustainable sense. The application form suggested that crafters make their banner or shop sign out of recycled materials to show off their creativity, so since we don't have a banner yet, I thought I'd take their suggestion. A photo from today's bannercrafting:

Star & Crossbones banner in progress

The letters are cut out of an old towel that we dyed purple in the washer. There's also a big yellow towel-fabric ampersand that will go on the final banner, and all the towel cutouts will be stuck to a background cut out of a linen tablecloth we got from the thrift store. Our actual tablecloth came from the thrift store, too, and if the tablecloth turns out not to cover the tables completely, we have some white thrifted bed-sheet on standby. Recycley enough?

Time management is important

There's a nice blog post on Avlor's Imprints that talks about how people with small businesses can use and track their time better. One of the most important ideas I think some budding small-business owners don't always remember is that their time is valuable. And since a small-business owner's hourly rate is literally set by the amount of work they do in an hour, efficiency is extremely relevant.

That's one of the ideas that drove me to quit my office job. Because at an office job? HA! Efficiency just means you work harder than the people around you, care more, and burn out faster. You don't get paid more to work harder. At least, that's my experience; I'm sure there are office jobs out there that aren't like that. If only I had had one of them. ;)

I wasn't the only one who had trouble using my time efficiently at that company, either. Some people just work fast. Those people officially still had to work exactly 40 hours a week. When there's a limited range of things you're allowed to do, that just means that you either break the rules and do things you aren't tasked to do, or you learn to work more slowly.

If I meant that in a Zen, "slow down the mad rush, learn to relax, and find a natural pace" sort of way, working more slowly would actually be good. But when it's more "read grammar blogs for three hours straight every day and call it job research, then when you run out of blogs, train your brain to work more slowly and don't dare come up with better uses of your time, at risk of getting impatient and fiddly and sneaking non-work activities that could get you in trouble" — that's the opposite of good. That's slowing down your natural pace to force yourself into someone else's schedule.

And that's not a good use of my life. Hey, even if I were to get reincarnated, I still have a limited amount of time in this life, and that means every minute has immediate personal value.

Thankfully, as a small-business owner, efficiency is a positive skill. It's useful to finish faster than expected, then come up with something else that needs to be done in the "bonus" time. Being ahead of schedule means I can actually stay ahead — no getting ahead, then waiting for co-workers to catch up so the project can proceed. No getting ahead and then feeling pressured to take on other people's jobs to get the entire project ahead of schedule. As a small-business owner, all the jobs are already mine, and I'm happy to do them.

That is, if I can get my brain working at full speed again, so I can fit a comfortably crazy amount of work into a short period of time. ;) Send good vibes for my brainpower, 'kay?

Oct 21, 2009

In a buying mood

So this may not be the best time to buy, as I just left my office job and could very well be living off savings in a few weeks, but as fate will have it, people keep posting used stuff on Ravelry that just happens to be exactly what I've wanted for years. One way to interpret this would be that something is trying to tempt me to spend all my money so that I fall on my face and have to get another "normal" job to pay the bills.

Another way to take this is that the universe is conveniently providing me with a way to equip my fiber arts studio while I actually have the money.

Equip it, then, I shall.

On the way to me this week is the loom I suspected I'd want when I heard about it, wanted more when I saw it, and have continued to want as I researched it: The Kromski Harp. The gigantic one. 32" weaving width, I dream of thee ... and just imagine the ridiculousness of double-weaving a 64" width! I could weave a ball gown on this thing. If it's compatible with my little half-Asian 5'maybe1" body.

Then there are the used spool rack and blending hackle up for sale. The first is mine unless something goes wrong — cackle; as far as the second, I haven't decided yet. There's a woodworker on Etsy who makes lovely blending hackles that come with clamps and everything, and I do feel the need to encourage people who make lovely things to keep making them. Hmm.

Oops — as I type about buying stuff, my Phat Fiber box has arrived. (What? Me? In a buying mood?) This is my first Phat Fiber box, so I got a mixed box of spinning fiber and yarn:

Phat Fiber box - mixed - October

There are even more yarn and fiber on the way from Blonde Chicken Boutique — and more to come after that as I stock up on recycled yarn for upcoming holiday craft shows.

And now I'm up against one of those things you hear small business owners talk about. It would be extremely satisfying to sit here and continue to abstractly ponder fiber and to browse the endless acquirable fiber stash of the Internets while planning product lines, but I have two dozen other things to do. I need to buy a vendor tent for the aforementioned craft shows. I need to order more business cards, and maybe some postcards or stickers. I need to create more product, and (oy!) do Web site design homework for my online class, which will lead to my building the new starncrossbones.com. A ton of things to do, and I just want to play with fluffies and take photos.

The alternate temptation is to absolutely refuse to let myself even consider playing with fluffies and taking photos, which would be multiply counterproductive; I need to be creative and happy at the same time as I get all my work done. Even the crap I don't want to do right now, that needs to be done right now.

Remember, me: This is still better than sitting in a box and unwillingly trying very hard to think like someone other than yourself for eight hours. (Willingly trying for hours to think like someone other than yourself is called "writing," which I will also be doing sometime soon. But that's a tangent for another day. ;))
Related Posts with Thumbnails