First Half Marathon

What the fuck have I done???

So, in my last post about going back to exercise, I mentioned at the end that I needed something to focus on to get back on track with my running and exercise. I also mentioned that I might have found that focus…

Well, that focus was signing up for my first half marathon!

Again: what the fuck have I done?

In two months’ time.

Again: what the fuck have I done?

Most training plans seem to be 10-14 weeks long. I have 8 weeks and couple of weeks ago I couldn’t even run all of parkrun which is only 5km. Like I said, I haven’t really been training and running much and if you don’t use it YOU FUCKING LOSE IT.

A half marathon is 21.1km by the way in case anyone is wondering.

I came across the event on Facebook. It is the  Rottnest Marathon Half Marathon & Fun Run (website here) that includes the full marathon, half marathon and 10k and 5k runs. The Facebook post I saw had the picture of the medals they had available and they looked like awesome medals with little quokkas on them. How awesome is that! I really wanted one! The medal not a quokka. I am not sure if this link will work but it should show their Facebook post with the picture of the medals. Quokkas are cute local marsupials about the size of a cat that live on the island of Rottnest.

I thought about entering for the 10k. I know I am struggling with the 5k at the moment but I had done 12k with no training, albeit slow, so I could do 10k no problems and work on my speed. Alas they had no medals for the 5k and the 10k runs. Just for the half and the full marathon.

So now I had to make a decision. How badly did I want that medal?

So, I signed up because I wanted the bling.

Yikes.

Things were too busy with a work conference over the weekend, feeling ill from a cold and actual work and whatnot so I didn’t get to start the ‘going back to exercise’ thing that week. Yeah they sound like excuses of course, anyway, first week was wasted with no exercise what so ever.

Second week I attempted a good start but migraine from hell halted that inertia. I had a day of a 6.5km run/walk that included a lot of steepness, playgroup committee meeting, rushing to get the kids to a friend’s then a 3 hour training course in the evening during which I had two hot chocolates which I normally have one every couple of years, all that in one day just on the verge of my period… I should have anticipated the migraine but there was nothing I could do to avert it. If I was at home I would go hide in bed under the dark covers and try and sleep it off. But I was out, concentrating, dealing with people, kids, lights, noise. Everything I should avoid.  It was the worst one yet chucking my guts out a few times until I made it home and managed to fall asleep in the dark. The next day I felt like a zombie, all cognitive function went out of the window. It had never affected me this bad before and all the rest of the week it constantly felt like I was on the verge of yet more headaches.

I still tried to do a bit more exercise though rest of the week but not as much as I would like and no running which is what I really should be doing.

Hopefully next week will be a better week. So I am going to try and blog every now and again with updates. I am not following a plan. I am just trying to do as much as I can, things permitting.

I could say a friend gave me the push to sign up to this, or brainwashed me or whatever you want to call it. I then  encouraged another friend to join me when she thought she would not be able to do anything like this at all. She is fitter and better than me so if I can do it she definitely can do it. It will be good to have a running buddy. It’s hard to find the motivation on your own sometimes.

As to the actual half marathon, sometimes it feels like a really scary thing to do and sometimes it feels like a totally achievable goal. The worst case scenario I brisk walk it for 3 hours. What will probably happen is  that I will run as long as I can, maybe 10-12km with shorts stops at the drinks stations every 2km, and then do intervals for the remainder which I would be happy with.

Best case? I can run it non stop!

But hell. If I finish it I will be happy even if I end up crawling at the end.

I won’t be able to blog about it everyday but when I do, I will have the chart below and on each day up to that point I will summarise what I did or did not do and do a little countdown to the big day.

Red things are reasons or excuses or whatever for not doing anything for that day. Count it as a rest day if that suits or an excuse day.

Greens are efforts I have made to do SOMETHING. Like I said. I don’t have a specific plan and I don’t have a coach so the way I see it anything I do over not doing anything will count. Ultimately running is the thing that is going to get my running better so hoping to increase the number of runs as well as the distance during the week. I will add a summary column at the end of each of the weeks totaling total kilometres at some point. I need to get some runs in there first!

That’s it.
Buko out.

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 16th

Signed up! O_o

17th 18th
Cold
19th
Conf.
20th
Conf.
21th
Cold
Week 2 22nd 23rd

6.5k (h)
migraine

24th

migraine

25th

Core
Combat

26th

Body Attack

27th

Work

28h

Feeling
Meh

Week 3 29th 30th 31st 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Week 4 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th
Week 5 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th
Week 6 19th 20th 21st 22nd 23rd 24th 25th
Week 7 26th 27th 28th 29th 30th 1st 2nd
Week 8 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
Week 9 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th
Week 10 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st 22nd 23rd
Race
Day!

Apologies for the badly rendered table. I can’t be arsed to sort it out.

 

 

 

Back to exercise…

Two years ago I had started running again and doing strength exercises. The whole exercise malarkey had started the year before with starting Tae Kwon Do and keeping my sister-in-law company during the exercise program she was following. It turns out exercise was pretty good and it helped out a lot mentally as well as physically. That all went to shit after a while though and I attempted to start again which also went to shit. It seems to be a repeating cycle.  I have been trying to get back into that frame of mind since the last time I lost it.

In December 2015 I finally started running again. I didn’t want to wait to be good at running again to start parkrun again which I hadn’t been since January that year. So, one Saturday in December I just turned up. I did terribly. I could barely keep up running for ten minutes and at the pace that I was running it, I could barely call it running. After ten minutes I just did intervals of running and walking until the end. That’s the thing though. I did finish it and every week after that I improved.

Then a friend told me about Janathon where you had to exercise everyday and blog about it. It forced me to make sure I do something every day even if it was short. I think I missed only one day. It also forced me to create this blog and put my other shit on here too which has been a good bonus as well.

I signed up to a gym back in February (2016). It was never in the plans and I hadn’t been to a gym before but it happened and in the end I was glad that it did and I got used to the environment after a while. It was a bit tricky at first getting used to the noise and an environment full of people. Really not what I am comfortable with and it is a cramped gym as well.  At the time my mum was visiting us so I had a live in babysitter which meant I ended up nearly living at the gym. What forced me to go was actually having to do my physio homework as I was having hamstring issues which was interfering with my running and walking.

Going to the gym got harder once my mum returned back to London and I was limited when I could go. Some other shit happened around April too which put going to the gym on hiatus for a couple of months.

If I remember correctly my terrible parkrun time was 43 minutes in December and by April I got my PB of 32 minutes. And then of course things went to shit again.

I didn’t do any running or strength workouts at home either and it was a pretty shit couple of months. In the mean time though I did do my first 8k and 12k races but due to lack of training my time for either wasn’t great. I can’t remember the 8k time, maybe around 58 minutes and the 12km was just under 90 minutes if I remember correctly.

And then exercise and running fizzled out again apart from the odd parkrun. Once a week running is better than nothing but it is not good enough. When I did C25K during Janathon, I was running 3 times a week (normally <4km) and then doing parkrun as well. Four times a week!!! I don’t think my running will improve if I do any less than that. I had got a friend who wasn’t running and took her through C25k which gave me an excuse to get out. It was very useful to have a running buddy. When you make a running date you gotta keep it and can’t just not turn up. Guilt always seems to work on me. It’s probably not a good thing in the long run though.

Keeping a diary, a chart, a checklist on the fridge and at the back of the door hasn’t worked so far. Maybe documenting it in a public forum, however small the audience,  may do it. We shall see.

I do really need to focus and get back to a routine and don’t let stupid shit get in the way and make me stop.

And I have kind of found an excuse for this focus which I will leave for the next post. Whether it will work is another question and it is a relatively short term solution but we shall see.

Buko
Running for Sanity since 2013

 

 

 

First real project – The Elephant

Finally!

After all that waffle, here we are! The first ever real sewing project!

Why the elephant?

I thought sewing was hard  and complicated. Why that would stop me I don’t know and it didn’t in the end which is pretty cool and I am really happy about having started all this sewing malarkey.

Anyway, so a friend suggested that the following elephant pattern would be a good beginner’s first project. The finished picture of the thing looked too cool to me to be a beginner’s project and my head said its usual “Are you sure? That looks hard. Are you sure I can do that?”. (I managed to pass an elec eng degree and my head still asks stupid questions like that. It’s a simple elephant FFS). As I mentioned in my first ever sewing blog entry, my friend was very welcoming and encouraging so I went ahead with it. My sister in law who I am doing the quilt for is also obsessed with elephants so wanted to learn how to make an elephant for her too to go with the quilt.

You can buy the pattern for the elephant here from retromama’s Etsy shop. It comes as a pdf with better photos and explanations than my waffle and crappy phone photos on here. You can use the paper pattern over and over again. She also gives you permission to make it and sell it (a lot of patterns don’t) as long as you are an individual crafter doing markets and stuff and give credit to her. She explains the wording to be used and the rules for the sale of the items in her  blog which also has lots of other easy to sew cool/cute items so go over and have a look at some point.

So the elephant pattern comes in four pieces. The head, the body, the ear and the tail. Now, this is where I once went wrong doing another elephant. It is a two dimensional animal. Two sides sewn together and then stuffing in between. I cut out two heads and two bodies because that is what I need right? WRONG. Kind of. Yes I need two of each but not the same two pieces. They need to be mirror images!!!

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So, I put two layers of fabric, rights sides together, pinned them to each other and cut out the relevant pieces.The body being one fabric and the ears and the tail being a contrasting design to the body. There are lines on the pattern to match with the grain of the fabric so you need to watch out for that when tracing the pattern. This is to ensure that the ears that are attached at an angle will still have the pattern on it aligning with the pattern on the body.

For the ears, as you will have an ear at each side of the elephant, you actually need to cut four pieces. Keep the right sides together and sew along the edge. I can’t remember the sewing allowance I used as this was 18 months ago but it will be in the pattern. My stitching looks thick as I used the triple stitch making it extra secure which is important for toys.

When the ear is turned inside out, the seam will be bulky with the fabric along the seam so before turning it the right way up, cut little triangles out of the seam all the way along. I didn’t have pinking scissors (why are they called pinking scissors??) at the time so I just did it manually but pinking scissors are cool and very useful. Turn ears right way up and then iron. Ears!

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I should have taken more pictures along the way of the process but I didn’t know I was going to document it all. The process to put the sides of the elephant together is the same for each side as they are the same, just mirror images of each other.

Put the body down on the table right side up. Put the ear that has been turned right way up down on top. The pattern will show you where along the edge of the body to position it. Then put the head piece along the same edge right side down. So the ear is sandwiched between the head and the body pieces. Then sew along the edge, open up the head piece and iron the seam down. Now it should look like the picture above. You can just see behind the leg there is the other side of the elephant underneath.

Tail.

That was a total bugger and I nearly just gave up and went home. Surely no one would care if a soft toy elephant did not have a tail, right? Sewing it was easy. It is a rectangle and the stitching went along the long edge and then 90 degree turn and along the short edge. What was difficult was turning the bugger inside out as shown in the picture below. I had to use a pencil but the fiddly process is really difficult to describe in writing. Something along the lines of put the end of it over the pencil or a knitting needle,  and keep pulling the edge down slowly turning it inside out. It took me an hour of fighting with it to get it done but my stitching had gone a bit wonky too so I think that just made everything tighter and more difficult. If I was to do it again (and I did) I would make the tail a bit wider to make it a bit easier.

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Next step that I don’t have any pictures of is putting all the pieces together; so the two sides of the elephant and the tail. Lay the sides on top of each other with the right sides together. That means you will see the wrong side of the fabric when you look at it. Sandwich the tail where the pattern says between the two side pieces. The tail will not be sticking out, it will be sandwich between the two sides. Sew all the way along the edges of the elephant with a triple stitch or just go over it at least twice but leaving a gap in the stitching. Don’t finish where you start, stop stitching maybe an inch before. This gives a gap for turning the elephant inside out and also for stuffing it.

Turn the elephant inside out and push out any curves with a pencil type pokey thing. Iron. Stuff. Stuffing takes ages! The elephant really gains a lot from stuffing it really well. You will be amazed how much it takes. It needs to be quite firm and use the pokey stick to keep stuffing the trunk and other curves. I think it took about 200g-300g of stuffing if I remember correctly. Then you slip stitch hand sew the opening to close it up. I am really rubbish at the hand sewing and exactly how to do slip stitching so this bit is where I let myself down a bit and it looks a bit shit. It is up to you where you want to position the stuffing hole. I had it under the tail and stuffed the poor animal through its bum. You could try between the two feet where it’d be hidden but more fiddle to sew it closed by hand maybe.

The elephant was made for and donated to “Softies for Mirabel” campaign. The Mirabel Foundation assists children who have been orphaned or abandoned due to parental illicit drug use and are now in the care of their extended family. Pip Lincolne from Meet me at Mike’s in Melbourne does a toy drive every year for crafters to send in handmade toys that are then matched and given to a child. Here are our donations from our sewing group including the elephant:

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And that’s about it about the elephant and my first sewing project. And here’s a picture of me holding the elephant for scale purposes. I’ve been told a banana should always be the chosen object for comparison but I did not have a banana with me at the sewing club when this picture was taken. It was also taken before I was told of banana requirements.

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Proud me! With my first ever proper real product produced by productive* me!

By the way, it was piss easy to do. Apart from the hand sewing at the end.

Next I will post about the quilt but not the one that started off all this adventure, the pre-quilt quilt. My practice quilt before the real quilt.

Make it sew

Buko out

Brother NS55 – First stitches…

The previous post went through whole lot of waffle to explain what came out of the box of my new sewing machine and how I went through awesomeness that is The Manual to  teach myself how to set up the machine for the first time.

Once I was comfortable with setting it up, I was ready to try out some stitches. Before I do that though, first a couple of things about its operation.  It looks like this on the front:

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It has a small screen that gives you stitching info along with relevant attributes like length and width. It has buttons to adjust these values rather than a mechanical dial as some machines do. Then there are numbers that are used in stitch selection.

On the arm of the machine there are further buttons. The sliding control that has the little triangles like the fast forward one is used to select the speed at which the machine operates. The single triangle on the far left is very slow. It initially didn’t feel very slow to me, it felt just right but now that I have been sewing for over a year it is incredibly, boringly, mind numbingly slow. This isn’t a bad thing though. Sometimes you do want to go that slow. My 3 and 6 year old boys have been using the machine as well and that speed is perfect for them.

The speed setting isn’t discrete to the three levels shown, it can be set anywhere along that slider from super slow to super dooper fast. Super dooper fast speed seems to have the same resonance frequency as my portable table I sometimes sew on and then the whole thing shakes like crazy. Fun!

Now, I don’t know if other machines have a speed setting like that or not. Most (all?) machines operate by a foot presser that you have under the table, a bit like the gas pedal in a car. You press gently and the machine goes slow. You press it hard and the machine goes fast.

What the speed adjuster does on this machine is to set the top speed the machine will go at when the foot presser is depressed fully. The pressure you put on the foot presser determines the speed between 0 and the max set by the slider. So if the slider is set to the lowest, even if you fully depress the foot presser, it will still go really slow. This makes it a lot safer when doing careful work or if the kids are using it. I don’t know if this kind of set up comes as standard with all machines but I really like it.

The other feature I really also like is the ‘go’ button. This is shown by the arrow in the photo above on the right. The button that looks different to the others. If the foot presser is attached to the machine, this button doesn’t do anything. If the foot presser is not attached, this is the go button that makes the machine go. Again, I am not sure if all machines have this option or not but I have a feeling most machines only operate with the foot presser.

This button is really useful when the kids want to use it. They are not tall enough to reach the foot pedal and even if they were, the precise control of the foot pedal is tricky with small feet. I doubt the 3 year old can provide enough pressure to operate it. So without this button, they wouldn’t have been able to learn to use the machine and do a bit of sewing. I will have to do a post about the kids using it one day.

So, that button. Press it and the machine starts. Press it again and the machine stops. it’s handy for slow work or if you want to so something quick with it. The ultimate control is the foot pedal set to an appropriate top speed for the job though as it leaves your hands free to control the fabric.

Then, I finally got a scrap of fabric and sewed a few lines of different stitches. Hurray! Finally! Bit of an anticlimax after all that waffle leading up to this moment.

And here’s the cliché: “That’s one small stitch for a Buko and a giant leap for a new hobby.” *groan*

The manual got me this far of threading machine and turning it on and making it go. I then followed it page by page trying all the different stitches the machine is capable of. I prepared a long strip of fabric and starting at one end did every stitch possible one by one, in order of course.

Here is the picture of that strip:

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And some close ups:

The stitches can be varied further by changing the length and width settings but for my example strip I used the default recommended setting for each stitch.

At this point I felt reasonably confident using the machine. Me! Confident! This sewing stuff has actually really been good for me since I started, in terms of confidence, socialising and even hiding away working on projects. Threading was still sometimes taking longer than it should and I did have some tension issues that were frustrating. It turns out most of the issues were to do with the bottom bobbin and not threading that correctly. There is a metal edging to the bobbin housing and the thread has to go underneath some part of that and if I didn’t do that right it would lead to tension issues. The manual does warn about that but I think partly I didn’t pay attention to the details thinking “it’ll be all right!” and partly I was rushing a little.

The quilt crept back up to my thoughts. I still didn’t know how to do quilts. At one of the sewing meets someone had promised to show me and before that another friend promised to show me how to do a stuffed elephant. (Sister in law has an elephant obsession so I decided to make one for her to match the quilt). I think that may be the next post… My first project; The Elephant.

I had some scraps with me. Quilts are made from squares. That much I knew. At least, I knew I was going to do a simple quilt of putting together large squares.  There are many other complicated ways of making quilts. So I got my scraps, very small scraps, cut them into squares and tried to put them together. I put two separate rows together first by sewing the squares together along their edges and then attached the two rows to each other. I assumed that was going to be the process for the quilt as well. Picture of the right side of the squares and the wrong messy side below:

And then I wanted to do something that looked half purposeful and came up with a… a… a thing…

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It’s a thing. A thing. A made a thing. I’d call it a bag but it has no handle or a flap/lid thing. Do bags even have ‘lids’?  I wanted to make something and I came up with that. A pouch. There you go, a more suitable word. A pouch. Kids loved it and it has become “Mini creeper’s bag”. I think mini creeper goes to sleep in it in which case it would be a sleeping bag I guess. It’s a small hand sized thing. I can find neither mini creeper nor the pouch for a picture.

So there you go. Buko sews. Does that make me a sewer? I am a dirty, scruffy fucker… (not that kinda dirty!!! Just the kind that is too lazy to wash too frequently!)

Make it sew.

Buko out.

 

Brother NS55 – Setting up

So far, I explained why I started sewing here, and how I got all my sewing paraphernalia and my new sewing machine here. In this post, I will go through how I set up the machine and then in the next post how I taught myself to use it. I think most normal people would probably call over a friend to show them the ropes (threads?) while having tea or coffee and generally having a good time. I do need to start thinking in those terms more and not shy away from social interactions but I find it incredibly hard. (I also don’t drink tea or coffee but that is the least of my problems).

Being the introverted sucker that I am (I was going to use another word but don’t feel like being that rude right this second) who runs away from social situations despite wanting them, (welcome to my brain full of contradictions), I went for the typical thing I would do and thought it would be better hanging out with my best friend The Manual.

Manuals are cool. I realise most people hate them but I don’t really understand this. Here is a book, that tells you how to do something in a no-nonsense way, in steps and diagrams, no waffle (says the person who waffles), no emotional shit to deal with, just clear concise instructions. Awesomeness.

I often think of myself as a robot, give me instructions and tell me or show me how to do something and I will follow the algorithm to produce the required outcome. Ask me to come up with something on my own and explore and be creative rather than teach me,  I panic and feel lost. I can follow recipes and even alter them to my needs but give a bunch of ingredients and ask me to come up with something? Nah. “What do I do now?” Panic!

I realise that I should relax more and don’t let rules and shit get to me and not be so scared of being judged and be more exploratory about life rather than trying to stick to algorithms but it’s hard! My favourite Star Trek characters are Data and Spock. I relate to them more so than regular folk.

Maybe I will have a mid life crisis at some point and go completely bonkers and throw all manuals aside and push random buttons to see what they do without considering consequences, rather than learn what they do before pushing them. Maybe even the ones that have big red labels on them saying “DO NOT PUSH”.

For now, until I lose it, manuals rock.

So, I did what I do and sat down, read the manual cover to cover going through all the pages and all the parts of the machine and all the different kinds of stitches and fancy shit that it does.

As I had mentioned before, I had never used a sewing machine before in my life. So, I can’t really compare how this machine does against other ones. I will just go through my experiences of it as a first timer and the stuff that it can do.

To start with, as I am writing this 18 months after it has actually happened, I have had all that time to use it and get used to it. In summary, I really like my machine. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to use all its different stitches on projects I’ve done so far. I am glad that I went for this rather than the basic model I was initially going to go for. I don’t regret my decision buying something more capable and hence a little more expensive just like the large size cutting mat.

Here is how the machine looks out of its box before the bits of tape and the polystyrene protectors were removed. Smell of new plastic is awesome:

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It took me couple of weeks after the purchase to actually get to this stage. I had to do heaps of playgroup admin and I treated playing with the machine as an incentive to get that work done. My reward would be reading the manual and using it for the first time. It stood there near my desk in its box until my playgroup admin chores were done.

It came with a hard plastic dust cover to go over the top. It initially felt like a decent carry case being made from hard plastic but it really isn’t suitable for that. It just goes over the top to keep the dust off. In order to carry the machine somewhere else, I had to buy a proper case with wheels and handles. Much safer to transport in a proper case.

Here is the stuff that was in the box apart from the machine itself and the cover:

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That’s the stitch plate showing you what numbers you have to press on the keypad at the front to get the stitch you want, it’s holder to attach it to the handle of the machine, THE MANUAL, a standard power cord and the foot press thing that makes it go.

The machine also came with several feet that do various different jobs:

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Large cool looking white one on the left is the A foot that does the various styles of button holes. It’s pretty cool actually. Maybe one day I should do a video but YouTube is full of them so you can Google those yourself if curious. You basically set it to the size of the button you want the hole for and then it does its fancy shit and you get a button hole. The only thing it doesn’t do is cut the hole for you once all the stitching around it is done.

The little white foot next to that, M foot, is the button foot for attaching buttons to fabric. It’s a bit fiddly slotting the button into it and then making sure your needle lines up with the holes of the button but after that, it is dead easy.

The metallic feet in the column next to the M foot are both G feet. That’s an overcast foot and I haven’t really used it that often as I haven’t really made many garments. The top one is broken, it has a metal bit in the middle missing. I should really throw it away.

Top middle one is an R foot which is a blind stitching foot. Again, as I haven’t really done garments, it is one I have only used during my experiments from the manual. Maybe one day I will do a more detailed blog post about the different feet.

Bottom middle one is the J foot which is the standard one it comes with that is used in most sewing jobs.

Top right foot is the N foot used for the decorative and satin stitches. It is wider to keep fabric down, has a grove on the bottom to let thick stitches go through and provides better visibility.

Last one, bottom right is the I foot which is the zipper and piping foot. Again, I haven’t done a great deal of zipper work so only used this a few times. It always feels odd at first but makes sense once you get used to it, until the next time you need to do a zip and you have forgotten how to do it. The good old manual comes very handy at times like those.

Since then I have bought additional feet to add to my collection:

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The one on the left is a free motion quilting foot. You drop your feed dogs down that normally grab your fabric from the bottom and move it along when you sew. With those disengaged, that means you are free to move your fabric left, right, backwards, forwards and stitching in “freehand”. I haven’t done much of that wibbly wobbly type of quilting yet. I have come across something called thread painting which has been intriguing. I need to find more out that at some point.

The foot next to that that looks like it is waving is the walking foot. It does kind of look like it is walking when in use, it grabs your fabric from the top and moves it along at the same speed as the feed dogs grab it from the bottom so useful when you have a thick layered quilt that you are sewing and want all the layers to move along at the same time.

The metal rod thing isn’t a foot but you attach to the side where the foot is attached and it allows you to keep the same width between lines of stitches when you are doing parallel lines whilst quilting. You set the distance and keep the previous line of stitches along that and your new line of stitches should be parallel to the old line.

The foot in front to the left is the gathering foot that helps create gathers in fabric like you may get on top of skirts. Doing gathers by hand isn’t particularly difficult and you can get the same effect without a special foot but I wanted to try it and it was okay but I don’t do many gathers anyway. It is also supposed to do gathers whilst also attaching to a flat piece of fabric lining them both up but I cannot get that to work at all. I suspect i haven’t played enough with it.

I can’t remember the name of the foot that is to the right to that but it has a tiny curved surface that the fabric is supposed to feed into, which is then folded onto itself and stitched along it to give it a really neat edge with no raw edges. I found this very very fiddly and it didn’t work for me. It was less effort to stitch, fold by hand and stitch again. Maybe I just need more practice.

Last but not least, at the very front is my favourite foot. The clear foot. It was cheap, it is plastic, it is clear. It just makes it way easier to see what I am doing and hence control it better.

The machine came with 4 plastic bobbins. I find that if I have a few projects on the go at the same time I tend to need more of these but haven’t got around to buying extras yet. I just make do with the four I have and if I need a new one for a new colour and one of them is nearly empty I just undo and discard that thread.

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The instructions claim that only plastic Brother bobbins of a certain type should be used. I don’t know if that is because they are just trying to stick to their own products or if the machine is only designed for that type and hence others wouldn’t work. I had some metal bobbins with thread on them already but still yet to try to see whether they work or not. I would hope and assume that the machine itself would be safe and not be damaged but I guess maybe the stitching can be affected.

Threading the Machine

At first it was very much a “WTF???” moment and I was having to follow the instructions step by step being glued to the manual at least for the first few times. Now it has become an automatic thing that takes not even a few seconds to do. There are all these numbers on the machine itself that tell you which way to thread and the order you have to get your thread through all the places you are meant to get it through. So that’s pretty cool and thoughtfully done by the designers. Thanks!

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The winding of the bobbin was fun. So in the past, before I knew how sewing machines actually worked, I didn’t understand how a needle and thread going up and down would make a line of stitching. What locks it into place? It didn’t make sense because I didn’t know about the existence of the bottom thread, the bobbin that was hidden below the needle. There are several moving images on this Wikipedia page about sewing machines that explain how the top and the bottom thread interact with each other to form a line of secure stitching.

In order to get the bottom bobbin ready, the plastic bobbin is put on the spindle at the top of the machine. As in the pictures below. Again, there are numbers and diagrams telling you what order you have to do things in. Then you attach the thread to it, lock it in place, press the go button and it winds a whole load of thread onto the bobbin.

You then take the bobbin off that spindle and place it in its holder below the needle. Again there are diagrams next to it telling you where the thread needs to go. The bottom bobbin window is pretty cool. Having read about different machines, not all machines have the bottom bobbin visible. They normally seem to stay hidden in their chambers. I find it really handy to have the clear window for brief looks in there to see how much more thread I have got left, without having to undo covers and lids. Also handy for noticing problems as sometimes things go funny and threads can jam.

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This machine has an automatic threader which means that you don’t have to spend ages faffing around with trying to get your thread through the eye of the needle that is attached to the machine. The plastic thing I am holding in the picture below and plastic bit that is below it is a big fancy thing that threads the needle automatically! You put the thread through the specific parts of that, which is easy, push it down and find that your thread has magically gone through the eye of the needle. It is awesome and a lot safer. I still haven’t quite figured out exactly how it works. Things do down, a big chunky part moves across and in and bam! Threaded!

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So, at this point, the machine was threaded and ready to go! Next post will be the ‘go’!

If you somehow got this far, you should have read the manual instead of my waffle!

Make it sew.

Buko

Sewing Gear Procurement

I obviously needed fabric for this quilt. In case you haven’t read my first entry explaining the start of my sewing adventures, I had never used a sewing machine but wanted to learn how to do a surprise baby quilt for my sister-in-law who had announced that she was pregnant.

A lot of the sewing stuff I saw online and places like Pinterest tended to be girlie, frilly, cute stuff but I wanted to do something different. We didn’t know the gender of the baby but I didn’t really care anyway. I wanted to do it for Alexis. I do not conform to the gender stereotypes very well at the best of times. At aged 35, I think my mother has finally realised and come to terms with the fact that I will not grow out of my tomboy-ness that she had been hoping was a phase that I would grow out of after puberty and once in adulthood.

Anyway, Alexis is into superheros and comics and especially Ironman and Batman. I was sure I had seen licensed fabrics in Spotlight, so went there to check a few out but there wasn’t as much in there as I had hoped. A plan was forming in my head of a Batman quilt. Two types of alternating squares with some borders and another type of fabric for the back. So that would mean three different Batman fabrics. Spotlight had one:

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It was a good start. It was Batman and it had a comic style to it. (I am still pretty amazed how designs are tessellated on fabric and wall paper). Anyway, I had to find two more fabrics. So I started looking online. THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS INDEED. I have refrained from shopping online since falling for it a few times. I already buy enough as it is. It was a bit frustrating though as I did find plenty of options online but a lot of the places were based in America. I was prepared to pay for shipping and even any credit card and exchange rate fees but it seems a lot of licensed fabrics are not allowed to be sold outside of the US. Stupid copyright laws.

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In the end, I did find the above ones. The ‘Batgirl’ one was a good one so that if the baby was a girl that could at least relate. The baby turned out to be boy after all though. Anyway, so I had the fabric I needed!

I wasn’t sure how serious I was going to be about sewing. It started as “I want to do one quilt.” and not as a “I want to learn sewing in general.”. So I had the option of borrowing a friend’s machine. I also found out that another friend had actually gone to sewing school but didn’t really do it as a hobby. So I had choices. However, I have an issue of feeling like I am being a burden on people and I would feel I was being annoying if I kept asking to borrow gear and I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to actually sew the thing so in the end I decided to buy my own machine and not bother people. (Yeah I realise that is probably something I should work on and that I am not being a burden and a bother to people…) Plus, if something went wrong and I damaged their gear I would feel guilty as hell. I would obviously replace and fix it all but I would still feel really bad. That’s something else I need to work on too.

Anyway, who wouldn’t want a computerised mechanical object with buttons and lights and shit as a new toy, right? At least it wasn’t a Harley or a sports car, right? I am in no way suggesting I may have been on the cusp of a mid life crisis, nope, not at all. Spending money on stuff, buying new gadgets, acquiring a new hobby, hiding away sewing away for long periods…

Moving along.

I went to the local small sewing shop and asked for advice. I also went to Spotlight before that, the large chain store, but although they had various machines, none of the workers could help me out with advice. All they did was to point to a very tall shelf where the boxes were lined up and tell me to check them out. Here, I’ll point out that I am a very small person. Barely 5 foot tall. So checking out these boxes on a tall shelf was as useful as a blind man watching a silent movie. I gave up with the chain store and went to the local small sewing shop instead.

The lady there was awesome. They had lots of machines out on show, out of their boxes. I told her my needs and that I was a beginner wanting to do a small quilt and she suggested an entry level Brother machine. I can’t remember the model number. It had I think 8 or 16 stitches. Usual standard stuff, straight, zig zag, button hole etc. As she went to the back to check stock, I turned around and saw the following attached to another machine:

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I saw that I knew I wanted it!

It had letters! It had fancy shit! It even had this weird crocodile thing (which I later discovered was not meant for decoration but stitch calibration thingy but who gives a shit, if I want to stitch that croc on fabric I will stitch that croc on fabric). It is not very clear in the above picture but it is the last stitch in the pink box. It is not an embroidery machine so the letters cannot be changed size or font wise but it was still cool to be able to do them.

She came back from the back room and I asked her how much that machine was and it was my lucky day and that machine was reduced from $800 to $500 as part of a pre-Christmas sale. (This was November 2014).

Awesome.

She demonstrated the machine for me and did a few different stitches on a scrap piece of fabric and explained the various capabilities. The service was awesome. So much better than impersonal approach from the chain store where they didn’t really know what they were talking about. Here’s the box:

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Fabric check.

Machine check.

Plus a few more bits and pieces plus putting together random sewing stuff I already had around the house:

Lines and lines and lines and lines and lines!

Lines! Squares!

The mat was expensive because it was the biggest one they had. I was going to buy the medium sized one to save money but they didn’t have any in stock. In the end, I am glad that I got the large mat because it has been very useful particularly for quilting. I am quite frugal and sometimes too frugal to my detriment. Sometimes I need to overcome that because it is worth spending a bit more to get good shit. So, if you are thinking about starting, if you can afford it and you have the space for it, get the largest mat you can. You have to store them flat though. If you store them behind a door or a cupboard vertically against the wall they will bend out of shape and that is not good when making precise cuts. I stored mine slipped under the sofa until it got its dedicated permanent place. I already damaged my small cutting mat by leaving it vertical in a hot car and learned my lesson. Luckily I learned my lesson with the small mat and not the big one!

I got the longest quilting ruler they had too plus a rotary cutter so those long, continuous, precise cuts can be made when cutting the squares out. Much more accurate and faster than trying to cut them out with scissors.

I ‘borrowed’ my boy’s Star Wars art case, that he wasn’t using anyway, and turned it into a sewing kit case. I shoved all the random bits I had in there; scissors, threads, pins etc.

At this point, I had everything I think I needed to get on with the quilt:

  • fabric,
  • machine
  • cutting mat
  • rotary cutter
  • quilting ruler
  • all the other bits and pieces; thread, pins, scissors

Apart from actually knowing what to do and how to use a sewing machine which I shall cover in the next post: The review of my new toy: Brother NS55. See you there next.

Make it sew.

Buko

 

 

Start of the Sewing Adventures

It all started when my sister-in-law announced that she was pregnant. Up until that point, I had never used a sewing machine and my hand sewing left a lot to be desired. (Still does). This will sound silly with the kinds of boring, fiddly stuff I busy myself with but I just did not have the patience or the neatness when it came to needle and thread and my brain and hands. All I ever did was the bare minimum of the odd button or the odd rip.

Sewing machines have always been intriguing though, after all they are machines, and after seeing some of the gear my friend was using; the cutting mats with all those lines and squares, the quilting rulers with all those lines and squares, I was even more intrigued! I am a sucker for lines and squares and technical geeky looking shit. However, I never had a reason to buy all that gear. I can’t possibly spend all that money on all that gear because it looks technical right? Without a valid reason? Well, sister-in-law finally provided me with the relevant excuse!

And so it began. I started my journey in November 2014. I am now documenting my adventures with a bit of backdating in mid-2016. I have shared pictures of my projects up to this point with friends on Facebook but it is really not the best place to show the steps and explain my experiences of learning and creating. Hence the catch up blog. It will be a good record of my journey, and as sometimes I make things up as I go along, it will also give me a place to look back and remind myself how I have done certain things.

How did the sister-in-laws pregnancy set me off on this adventure? My usual baby gift used to be a crochet blanket. I knit and crochet, usually a rectangle item that needs no fussing with gauge, measurements and shaping because I can’t be arsed with that shit. I go for more “meh it’ll be alright”type of projects that isn’t too dependent on detail.

Anyway, I had just started going to a sewing club with the friend that had the gear I used to gawk over. They were happy with me doing non-sewing things. Being in the club is what gave me the idea of doing a quilt rather than a crochet blanket as it would be a total surprise as no one would know I started sewing. An important point was also that I had taught the sister-in-law how to crochet and she was already doing a crochet blanket for the baby herself. Sewing would provide a surprise gift that would be different to that. I could look for fabrics that would relate the stuff she was into and a make quilt that reflected some part of her personality. Start of bankruptcy, I mean starting the dangerous pastime of spending money on sewing gear will be the topic of the next entry. (I will add a link here when it gets written).

Some people I would like to thank for setting me on this journey and helping me along it:

Alexis my sister in law. If it wasn’t for you having a baby I wouldn’t ever have thought about starting it. So thank you!

Marina for asking me to join her and her friends at a sewing club even though she knew that I didn’t sew but that was okay because she knew I did other crafty stuff like knitting and crochet so it was perfectly fine for me to join them for the purposes of crafting and eating chocolate.

Penelope for starting the sewing club in the first place, running it, organising it, being accepting and welcoming, being extremely friendly and really helpful and encouraging. I tend to struggle in some social settings but the group was perfect. I still miss it. When I asked if the quilt was something I could learn to do she was very encouraging.  At every opportunity having a “it’s easy, you can do it” attitude was exactly what I needed. I can be very self deprecating and prone to giving up as you may notice if you read any of the running posts on here. So all this helped keeping me going.

Sarah for teaching me about fabric and quilts and squaring things and cutting squares and how to put them together and all the ideas and help she has provided whilst doing my first quilt.

Finally my family, for putting up with me disappearing for hours into the study to sew away. I probably should apologise for all the money I spend on fabric and random shit but luckily no one cares about that scary spreadsheet with that scary amount but me. Phew.

Thank you all. It is another thing like running that helps me with my sanity. Most of the time.

Next few posts will cover the purchase of the machine and the first few projects. I will add the links here when I do write them. hopefully it won’t take me days/weeks/months.

Make it Sew.

Buket