Man vs. Machine – the Christmas Version

This year, ampoule as last year, refractionist I decided to make the girls’ Christmas dresses. I was inspired by a smocked dress in a high-end children’s boutique that I knew I could make, and make better. I decided this back in August and bought the fabric and pattern at the beginning of October. I assmebled the bodies of the dresses and started gathering pleats well before Halloween. I started smocking at the beginning of December. These dresses have a ton of smocking/embroidery on them and have been very time-consuming (but fun), but I’ve been watching the calendar carefully and pacing the hand sewing so I wouldn’t be scrambling at the last minute. I may have to revoke my Procrastinator Extrodinaire card.

I finished the last bit of embroidery Sunday evening and was all set to do the final assembly. I needed to sew the back seam, put in the button placket, bind the neck, sew the under-arm seams, hem the bottom and the sleeves, and put the buttons and loops on. It should have been one solid evening of machine time followed by an hour or so of hand-sewing time.   I was so proud of myself for being on schedule (Wednesday is my deadline). 

Last night I finished Claire’s machine sewing.  I sewed the back seam on Anna’s dress, put in the placket, and was in the middle of binding the neck – the trickiest part of the whole assembly – when my machine crapped out.  Right in the middle of a seam.  A critical seam.  With two more seams to go before I was done with the machine.  This machine is known to be temperamental.  It has a knack of knowing when I’m most tired and frustrated.  That’s when it makes the thread jump course and the bobbin vomit thread in a big gob on the back of a piece.  Or the bobbin jams.  Or the needle snaps.  It laughs at me.  It dares me to punt it across the room.  But I’m on to all it’s little quirks and can straighten it out with a little tinkering and cursing.

Not this time.  This was no ordinary bobbin jam.  The machine had a terminal failure to sew.   Oh, sure, the motor ran and the needle bobbed up and down, but it would not take up the thread from the bobbin.  I fiddled.  I swore.  I changed the (perfectly fine) needle.  I brushed out the innards and blew out the tribbles and doused the thing in enough sewing machine oil to deep fry with the sucker, but something was seriously wrong. 

I did what I always do when things are seriously wrong in my life.  I grabbed the laptop and googled for a solution.  It’s easier to do this when you know how to describe your problem.  “Sewing machine goes ‘thunk’ instead of picking up bobbin thread” was less than helpful.  I considered “demonically possessed machine hates me,” but where was I going to find an old preist and a young priest at 11:30 at night?  Eventually I stumbled across a very helpful tutorial that suggested that my problem was loose hex screws behind the shuttle.  This meant taking the majority of the machine apart, which was just what I felt like doing at midnight!  Many’s the night I wake up from a sound slumber, grab a glass of warm milk and a screwdriver, and start disassembling small appliances for kicks and giggles!

I gathered up an assortment of allen keys and screwdrivers, got the machine open, fiddled with the timing as instructed. . . and. . . it still didn’t work.  There was still play in the shaft that runs from the motor to the bobbin assembly.  More cursing.  It’s late.  I’m tired.  I want to get this fixed and reassembled because I have a schedule to adhere to and this is screwing it all up and why the hell is the shaft still slipping?!?!?!  Oh no.  No no no.  The shaft that’s slipping is further into the machine.  I’ve got to go deeper.  But how?  The base plate.  I removed the base plate on the underside of the machine.  There’s an assortment of shafts with stupid teeny little hex screws in nearly, but not quite, inaccessible locations.  I found the loose one on the other end of the shaft of interest.  I tightened it, and, holding my breath, tried to turn the bobbin.  SUCCESS! 

I was able to get the machine back together with no leftover parts by 1:30 a.m.  I threaded it up and it worked fine, maybe even better than before.  Had I but known, I could have saved myself 45 minutes of disassembly and reassembly and just taken off the base plate, but all’s well that ends well.  Plus I saved myself a trip to Mom’s to borrow her machine tonight (that was Plan B).   It remains to be seen if I’ll be able to stay awake long enough to finish the job this evening. 

May your days be merry and bright, and may Google always have the answers you need in the new year.

Christmas is coming

You can tell it’s December by the way the kids are behaving.
Today the girls devoured 3/4 of a new package of cookies when they were told they could have a couple. Of course neither of them ate their dinner. Anna argued with me for fifteen minutes that 11-8 must equal four (because that’s what she wrote on her homework). She bit a huge hole in her sister’s flannel nightgown for no reason. This time of year makes me count my blessings that I’m not an elementary school teacher. I can’t imagine dealing with “OMG CHRISTMAS IS ONLY THREE WEEKS AWAY” craziness times 24 kids.

Meanwhile I’ve been making (scant) progress around the house. I finally got a closet door on Claire’s closet. This sounds like a simple thing on the face of it – buy door, audiologist install door. But the door was 2″ too tall. So I cut 2″ off the bottom. But the door is hollow, so that only left a thin piece of wood on the bottom. The thin piece of wood wasn’t enough to hold the bottom pivot pin. I had Mr. Unreserved cut pieces of wood to fill in the bottom, but they were too skinny. I learned how to use the table saw and cut my own pieces while he was busy prepping the attic for insulation. I glued and clamped them, then drilled a new pivot pin hole when the glue was dry. But the door still didn’t fit – the doorstops from the old slab door were in the way.

It was time for doorway surgery. I removed the stops from the door frame with a pry bar and we cut them down (table saw to the rescue again!). I sanded the doorway and reinstalled the stops, taking time to fill the old hinge mortises while I was in there. Also while I was in there I peeled off what I could of the old wallpaper that had been painted over and was peeling off the wall (this closet wasn’t originally a closet; I suspect it was the only doorway to our once-captive bedroom) and gave the inside two coats of flat white paint (since it’s just a closet). Or that was my intention, since I had a gallon of ceiling paint left over from previous projects. But that paint had turned into a giant paint puck, so it was off to the big box store to get more paint. While I was there I got supplies to finally carpet the steps.

So the closet was painted, the doorway was repainted with trim paint, and the closet door got another coat of paint. It was hung, all was well and happy in closet land, and I put an organizer in there (because conventional hanging rods or wall-mounted organizers aren’t an option when half of a closet is a trapezoid) Ta da! I think I started with that door a year ago. Maybe two years ago.

Also done recently: Got the stairs halfway carpeted. Halfway because none of the staplers in my house have enough oomph to get the carpet to stick to the risers.

Also also done: Repainted the kitchen wall and trim from last year’s new door installation.

Also up to: Knitting new hats and mittens for the girls, started my Bohus, embroidering Christmas dresses for the girls, had two early miscarriages, registered to defend MS thesis next semester. I’ve got all these things started, it will feel nice to get some of them finished.

Finished ahead of schedule: Christmas secret knitting project.

I suppose I should update more often.