Sewing Machines

I took the sewing machine that was given to me in to get tuned up. The repairman called and said it needed a lot of work and that it would cost around $250-$300. For an old sewing machine that I didn’t like all that much, it was too much money. So I let them keep it for whatever parts they could salvage from it. I don’t sew a lot, but it is a tool that I’d like to have. So I’ve been researching sewing machines.

One thing that I did was look at the type of sewing that I do. I have never used any stitch except a straight stitch. When I was looking at a bunch of home machines, they all bragged about having 50 or 100 different stitches. This is not a selling point for me. I’ve also never made an article of clothing in my life. I’m trying to remember if I ever repaired one and I’m not sure that I have. What have I made? Quilts and curtains. What would I like to make? More quilts and curtains. But also, bags and tablecloths. I’d also like to be able to work with leather. It would be nice to be able to make a leather bag or a leather book cover. And in the far future, I could see me trying upholstery. So I want to get a sewing machine that can handle thicker fabric.

After googling around a bit, I think I want an industrial machine. You can get those that run on regular power in your house, which is what I’d like. A lot of them come with a large table, which would be fine. I don’t need a portable machine. I’m leaning toward a Juki machine because they seem to be really good and there are a bunch of very old ones still in use. I was looking on Craigslist and found a couple of used ones. And then I also looked up new ones, which don’t seem to cost that much more. Plus, there’s a distributor in town who will give you a free hour tutorial on any machine that you buy from them. I think that would be a great idea, since I’m pretty much self-taught on sewing machines. I’m sure there are some basics that I just don’t know.

For now, I’ve set up an alert on Craigslist to let me know anytime someone posts a Juki. If I find a really good deal, perhaps I’ll get a used one. Otherwise, I’ll save up my money and look into a new one.


I thought that I would take today and try to finish the curtains that I’m making for my bedroom doors. My mom gave me a new iron, which works fantastically well. I also got an ironing board, which also makes ironing so much easier. So I was making great progress with ironing and sewing the side seams. Then, I ran out of thread on my bobbin. No problem, I thought. I learned how to thread the bobbin a while back and even made a youtube video of it. So I thread the bobbin and get back to work. But I don’t get back to work. For reasons I cannot determine, the machine is not moving the material forward. If I press the reverse button, it goes back with no problem. But it won’t go forward. So I screw around with it for a while. What did I do? No idea, but the material starts to move forward slowly. (Reverse goes backwards much quicker than the material is going forward.) So I try again, but things still aren’t right, as the thread is bunching on the bottom. I remember the rule that thread problems on the top of the seam are usually due to the bobbin and problems on the bottom are usually due to the needle. So I rethread the needle and it’s just not working correctly. By and large, I have a decent amount of patience, but this drained ALL of it. I can guarantee by neighbors heard the slew of obscenties I spewed. I then decided to buy a new sewing machine and started researching them online. This gave me some time for my blood pressure to drop and to calm down.

I hate it when my tools don’t work properly. The bad thing about this sewing machine is that it was given to me and I have no manuals. But the good thing about this sewing machine is that it was given to me, so I paid nothing for it. I had thought when I spent all that time making the movie about how to thread it and practicing using it, that I had the operation down. However, now it seems like that isn’t the case. I’ve also googled all about this model and can’t really find any information on it. So I’m very much leaning toward getting a new one that I can learn how to use properly and get repaired if needed. But since I don’t really have the money right now, I’ll probably struggle along with this one for now.

Final Fun

Before I even think about going back to work tomorrow, I decided to try to do something fun in my basement. My project is to make something to hang coats by my door. I have a couple of boards that I made out of lathe that are around 6″ wide and maybe 30″ long. I sanded them down and painted them red with milk paint. Once they dry, I’m going to pound in some of the original nails to use as hooks. Then I’ll hang one of the boards on the wall by the door. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll hang them both. I think I’ll see if I like the one by itself first to see if I like how it looks. And how the nails work as hooks.



Full Circle

Lathe are strips of wood that are nailed to studs when building a wall. Before drywall was invented, plaster and lathe were how walls were put up in houses. My house had all plaster and lathe walls on the first floor. Here is a picture of the back of a plaster and lathe wall, as I was gutting the room that is currently my bedroom.


While gutting, I broke up all the plaster and then tried to save all the lathe to use later. Well, it is later and I’ve been doing some work with the lathe. The first step was to either plane or sand the lathe clean and cut all the edges. This would make it easier to glue the pieces together to make a board. This picture shows some sanded lathe in the back and lathe that still needs to be sanded in the front.


Next I glued a bunch of pieces together to make a board.


I then cut the edges of the boards and planed them to around 1″ thickness. Here I’m testing a few different stains on the boards to see how they would look.


And this is the first piece of furniture that I made with my lathe. My intention is for it to be a stand for my tv. However, I’m not sure that it’s going to be wide enough. So it might just be a bookshelf. Interestingly, I used two stains on it. The shelves were done with the stain espresso, which I had tested previously. The sides were done with provincial, which I ended up liking when I was at the store. I think I may use provincial more, though I may decide to not use any stain on my next project.


It won’t win any design contests, but I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. I very much like the idea of taking garbage and making something useful out of it.

And here it is, in my living room with a tv on it.


Financial Independence

The past couple of weeks, I have been obsessing about becoming financially independent. When I was a kid, I would have thought of this as being rich. But now, all I want to do is be able to do what I want, without having to think about money. I’d like to have the option to do things for people or not, based on whether I think it’s interesting or not, taking money out of the equation entirely.

By and large, since I’ve been working, I think that I’ve been pretty responsible with money. Aside from my mortgage, I don’t owe anyone any money. I’ve refinanced my mortgage a few times, but have never taken money out. I’ve also always reduced the term of the mortgage when I’ve done this to make sure I get it paid off more quickly. Unfortunately, I just always assumed that I’d have to work until I was 65 or whatever the traditional retirement age would be. What I never told myself is “there is no speed limit”. I could have saved so much more to become financially independent so much quicker.

The question I’m asking myself now, is this what I want to do for the next 20 years? Because I’m around 20 years away from traditional retirement. I actually love my job, but there’s this voice in my head that pops up every so often asking if there’s something else I’d like to do. For most of my working career, I’d often ask myself if I could be learning something that would help me make more money and have a better career. And I have taught myself many things that have helped. But now, what about the things that I enjoy but that won’t necessarily make me money? If I didn’t have to worry about having money to pay the mortgage or other bills, would I do more things that I enjoy?

Why am I obsessing about this now? The primary reason is that my house desperately needs a new roof. This is going to cost me about $17k, which is a little more money than I have saved up. So I’m going to have to take out a loan to cover it. This bugs me for a couple of reasons. One, I hate owing people money. Two, I can’t do the job myself. My roof is very pitched and I work very slowly. So there’s really no way that I could do this. I had been feeling pretty good about myself because I had a bit of money saved and that’s going to be all gone. I’ve also been thinking about the house, which was built in 1888 and it also still needs to be tuckpointed. This is another very large expense looming. My question then is, should I fix this house up as best I can and then move? I always though that I’d die in this house, but I’m no longer sure I want to. If I did move, where should I go? This house is great because I can bike to work. But if I didn’t have to go to work, that’s something that I wouldn’t need to worry about. Anyway, it’ll take me a couple of years to pay off the roof and get the place into sellable condition. So I’m not desperate to do anything right now, but I’m starting to make a plan and these are the things I’m thinking about.


The good news is that my kitchen is almost done. The bad news is that my kitchen is almost done. What’s left to do? I have to caulk around the windows, finish painting the trim around the big window and finish installing floor trim. Nope, not a lot to do. Why haven’t I done it? I don’t know. I did go to the store to try to buy the trim for the floor and I can’t find the same stuff that the contractor put in. That’s annoying. I was also thinking of installing another cabinet for storage. And I just found out that Ikea is discontinuing my kitchen cabinets. So if I want to buy it, I need to do it now. Already the first cabinet that I had picked out is no longer available. You’d think that would make me jump up and drive out to Ikea, but no, I haven’t done that.

I’ve been thinking about things that I’d like to do next. I have a bunch of ideas for new projects. However, I’m also being rather strict with myself in that I will not start another project until the kitchen is completely done. So these days I basically come home from work and read blogs online. A very bad habit, I know. But I’m just tired of working on the kitchen, so I’m stuck. I need something to knock me out of this, but I don’t know what right now.

Wrapping It Up

I need to get my kitchen finished because I want to move on to some other things. Over the past couple of days I’ve been:

looking into volunteer opportunities
thinking of how to design a letterpress system
investigating woodworking classes so I can build a dining room table
buying a collection of sample paper to learn about different weights, colors, types
pricing table saws
looking into joining TechShop in Detroit, even though it’s five hours away
thinking of some new quilt designs
looking into vacation ideas
thinking of moving this blog from wordpress to octopress

If I’m lucky, the countertop comes tomorrow. If not, it won’t be until next week. I’m fine with either one, but am definitely starting to plan my next project. Once it’s installed, I have to finish the plumbing, which will take some time. And then finish the trim around the windows and parts of the floor. Not complicated work, but finishing work is usually not my strong suit. This is probably going to take all the patience that I have, so I’m apologizing in advance to anyone I snap at in the next few days.

Cabinets In

Spent a couple of hours finishing my cabinet installation last week. The last ones went in on Sunday morning. The Ikea directions were a bit of a pain, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy. My biggest problem was the blister that I got on my hand from using the screwdriver so much.


Now I just need to measure for the countertop and pick out the color. Hopefully, I won’t have a hard time making a decision.

Another Cabinet Down

I went to Home Depot with Julie today. She wanted to buy paint, I needed to get an assortment of wood screws and a board to put behind the sink cabinet. With that board, I was able to install the cabinet. I also put the fronts on and it looks ok.


I also started leveling the other two cabinets to get them ready to install next. Would have done more work, but today was the first day when I could stay in and watch all the World Cup games and I wanted to do that. And I’m also still a little bit worried about whether the dishwasher door is going to hit the handles on the drawers of the cabinet next to it. I think I have enough room, but I’m thinking that I should buy the dishwasher before I install any handles.

My one problem today was that one of the undercabinet lights I installed fell out. This is why I wanted to buy some more wood screws. I got a fewer longer ones and those seem to work better. At least the light hasn’t fallen out in the few hours since I put it in. We’ll see if it stays up.

A Mistake

Last weekend, I wanted to install the new track lighting I bought to go over the sink. When I went to attach the bit that gets hooked up to the electrical box, I realized that I used a regular box in the ceiling when I should have used a ceiling box. This just seems dumb to me and I remember installing the box and not thinking much about it. I basically just bought a bunch of deep, square boxes and put one wherever I wanted outlets or switches. But the part of the light that attaches to the ceiling is designed to go onto a smaller box. When I discovered this, I just assumed that I’d be able to get an adapter of some type to allow me to hook things up. I looked at both Ace and Home Depot and couldn’t find anything like this. So then I tried to come up with something else that would work. The problem was, anything I came up with required me to remove the drywall ring (I don’t know what it’s really called) that was already installed. This meant that I also screwed up the drywall around the box, as everything had already been taped. After much messing around I finally got things up and working. Unfortunately, I also have to fix the drywall around the box.

Can you tell which light I put in and which was put in by a professional?