Make It Better

A few weeks back my old rotary cutter broke, the retract button snapped off, and while technically I could still use it, the only way to get the blade back was to use the end of a pencil and poke it in the button hole, making it snap closed like a mouse trap! That old cutter lasted a really long time, it was the very first one I bought in the early 90’s after seeing it used at my local quilt shop and I remember being completely shook while watching the quilt lady slice through a pile of fabric with zero effort.

Sadly that quilt shop closed many years ago and because it’s currently a flipping pandemic, we’re still not going anywhere unnecessary, so I resorted to looking online, reading reviews and finally just picking one. I went with the Japanese brand kai (from kaiscissors.com) with a smaller 28mm tungsten steel blade (unlike the quilt lady who sold me my first one, I rarely cut thick stacks of multiple layers). So far I’m really liking this brand, it has a pressure sensitive blade, meaning that the blade slides into the cutting position when you apply pressure to cut and retracts into the garded position when pressure is released ..it’s amazing! The only time this is a problem is when I’m cutting against a ruler, you always have to have the blade side towards the ruler otherwise the stationary guard won’t let you get up close to the ruler edge and after years of having a blade that stuck out an unhindered half inch, and locked into the cut position (like a accident waiting to happen), it will take a little time to remember this one is different, safer, oh, and isn’t it just so pretty!

I didn’t get a chance to use my new tool much, because for a little stretch here it was too hot to sew, the studio can get really warm in the summer. So I stayed in the air conditioning and made an oversized doily, but instead of making an 8” thread doily, I substituted worsted weight cotton and a 5.5mm hook and made a giant 20” doily that I’m going to attach to a hoop and hang on the studio wall!

Pattern (charted) : Viola Doily (free on Ravelry) by Aki Kasaishi.

New title – Sewist and Part-Time Sewing Machine Repair Shop.

This was the very first machine I bought my adult self with my adult money (20ish years ago), a super portable Husqvarna Huskystar with top loading bobbin, needle up/down button, speed controls, auto button hole, it was a total modern upgrade from the 10 ton steel body front loading Kenmore (oddly also considered “portable”) I had been using since the 80’s (a present from my parents when I was 13, and yes, I actually asked for a sewing machine!)

Many happy sewing years passed, and then one day in 2018 my Huskystar stopped going in reverse. I tried to make do, adjusting stitch length, banging on the side hoping to knock it back into working (but mostly just the stitch length thing :) I did that until I turned so sour towards the hassle and extra effort, I gave up and put it in hibernation. Soon after that it was replaced by the cute black (very basic) heavy duty Janome I currently use. It wasn’t until recently when I stumbled across my old broken machine in a closet and thought, hum, what’s the worse that could happen if I rip into this? So I did and then Jason joined in and we ended up taking apart way more than we needed to, but in the end it was just a gummed up release mechanism and all it took was a few laughs, some head scratches, finger pinches, three swears and a can of WD-40 (we used the WD-40 to strip out the old hardened grease, a pro tip we saw on You Tube). Once the reverse was freed we oiled all the bits and put it back together. FIXED!

I was excited to use my old Huskystar, I top loaded the bobbin and started sewing and reversing and everything I loved about this machine was still true, except for one thing, it seemed to struggle through thicker fabric. Then I realized with each machine upgrade comes new things to love and maybe right now I’m completely in love with the industrial power of my heavy duty Janome, and that is more important to me at this time in my sewing life. So I smiled and turned off the machine, slid on its cover and tucked it back in the closet.

I still have that old Kenmore too, maybe I should pull it out and see what is what. If I remember correctly the power cord has a worn spot from being sucked up during some very lazy vacuuming in my baby days!

Because sewing masks is my current standard of judging machine performance, I tried a new mask pattern while I had the Huskystar out. Lex has been getting chapped lips from talking while wearing the pleated masks I usually make, she has a low profile button nose so the pleated masks were resting right against her mouth. I’ve been looking for a style with a nice boxy front, and this one is perfect for her. ♡

I used Keiko Olsson’s Summer Mask Pattern, (I added non-woven interfacing for structure & a metal nose piece so it sealed tighter over the bridge) it has the most perfect finishing ever, so beautifully tidy.

assembly line

Finally my bulk craft supply buying is proving useful, although I’m running out of non-woven interfacing and the flat elastic is gone. I’m adjusting, and ended up sewing a simple casing on each end, then I can use round elastic (from my midori planner making days) for the ear loops, a casing would also leave the option to thread in twill/bias tape for ties.

Lots of mask making & mask wearing feedback, each one now is a slight improvement on the last, I’ve learned that adding a little extra elastic length is helpful, so the recipient can adjust the ear loops larger or smaller to fit. I’ve learned I don’t need to have the interfacing go all the way to the side edges, which saves materials and reduces the pleat bulk when sewing. I’ve made a few no interfacing versions (I tried this because like elastic, interfacing is really scarce and most masks I’m seeing are just 2 layers of quilting cotton) and I will say the lighter weight is more comfortable to wear as the weather warms.

I’ve also learned that no matter how many times you wash them, some fabrics are just going to be jerks.

As I keep reaching for mask perfection (I don’t even know why that is turning in to a real thing for me?) I keep streamlining the steps, I’ve extended both the length and width for better coverage and eliminated the need for the sewn on casing by using some of that extra width to create a fold over edge casing that’s built right in. But, even my bulk craft supply buying has its usage limits and to save the elastic for making masks used by people who need quick on/off or have dexterity issues, I decided to make myself a fancy tie mask, granted I looped it around my ears because how ADORABLE anime babydoll fairytale princess is this mask (!) and because I was obsessed with flowing hair ribbons as a kid (I already scared myself though when a tie tickled my neck, thinking there was a bug crawling on me). Masks will be around for some time, so I’m going to make mine as super frickin cute and comfortable as I can!

( My post about mask patterns can be found here, if you’d like to have a go at sewing your own :)