Saturday, May 14, 2011

A self taught lesson - Sergers 101

I was so excited to get my next fabric shipment in and get started on my next round of cloth diapers.  This time I will be sewing microfiber inserts.  After I got all my new fabric washed and cut to size, I sat down in front of the serger ready for the next few hours of work.  Little did I know, this was about to turn into a project that would last for days! 

A little background on me & my serger - I recently (withing the last few weeks) purchased my serger from a lady on Craigslist.  I told her I would mostly be making cloth diaper inserts, so I needed a heavy duty, built to last machine.  That was one reason why I was interested in the serger she was selling.  It was a Pfaff Hobbylock 794.  Yes, it's an older serger, but that wasn't a concern of mine.  These sergers had great reviews and were made during a time when things were actually built to be used, abused and last a long time.  Now everything is light weight, breakable and need to be replaced every few years.  I was confident in my purchased and it had just been serviced and was in amazing condition.  The best part - it was already threaded!  I had been reading about how sergers were so hard to thread.  No lie, it made me a little scared and intimidated.  I was on a mission to find a serger that was already threaded and just waiting for me to put some fabric in it.  Before I left her house, she showed me how to used it, wished me luck with the rest of my pregnancy and made sure all of my questions were answered.  I got home and couldn't wait to get started.  I did a test run & my first insert actually impressed me.  I did it!  I looked great and took less than a minute to sew.  This was a dream come true for me.  I thought to myself about how much money I am about to save by making my own inserts and hopefully I will get good enough to make them for other people to buy.  I finished the rest of my inserts and put the serger away since I was still waiting for more fabric to be sent.

Present day - I started sewing my first insert and as I was on the last edge, the serger jammed.  I tried to coax the material out, but soon realized it wasn't budging.  I tried to cut loose the fabric with my scissors, but they were too big.  I ended up getting the box cutter out and slicing the fabric off of the right looper.  The good news - the fabric was free and the serger worked again.  The bad news - by doing this I cut the thread too.  My worst fear had just unfolded before my very eyes, I was going to have to thread the serger.  The positive side was I didn't have to completely rethread it, just the holes that were inside the machine.  You know, the holes that were kind of hard to get to.  To my shock and disbelief, I was able to rethread with no problem.  A pair of tweezers became my new best friend and together we made things happen.  Now, looking back I shouldn't have thought this, but I was so proud of myself.  I thought (yes, out loud - I put it out into the universe) that all the people who complained about rethreading sergers were sissies and it was easy.  Mistake #1 - I got cocky.  Don't worry, I immediately got my payback.  I started to finish my insert and didn't pay attention to the fact I didn't put the foot down after I put my fabric in.  Seconds after my foot touched the pedal, my right needle broke.  Lesson learned - be proud of your accomplishment, don't criticize others and call them names.  Luckily the lady I bought the serger from had also given me extra needles.  I followed the directions and took out the broken needle, but to make it easier, I had to take off the left one to get better access to the right needle.  Lesson #1 - pay attention to what the needle looks like BEFORE you take off the good one.  The directions said to make sure the groove in the needle was facing me.  Everything looked good, so I put my fabric in to finish my insert.  Awesome - I obviously did something wrong because the threads were loose and they used to be perfect.  I made sure not to even touch the thread tension dials.  I put a few test pieces of flannel through and the stitches were very loose and getting worse.  Maybe it was because my flannel was too thin?  So I put the microfiber insert back in, but it still didn't work.  It couldn't have been the microfiber, people sew microfiber everyday.  I went back to the flannel test pieces.  Soon, my left needle was only poking a hole in the fabric and wasn't catching the thread loop on the front side.  My panic finally began to set in when all of the 4 threads weren't interlocking anymore and just came out of the machine individually.  I took a break to rest my eyes and calm down.  A few hours later I came back only to become more frustrated when I still couldn't get it to work.  I started looking for sewing shops in the area that repaired Pfaff sergers.  I wanted to be prepared for the worst, even though I was not ready to give up.  The next day I came back, sat down and attempted to finally figure this out.  Frustration eventually got the best of me and I decided to completely remove all 4 spools of thread and rethread the whole thing and I even reset the thread tensions back to the "N" setting.  I was starting from the beginning, from scratch and I was determined to figure this out.  After rethreading I realized I had put the thread for the right looper (the one I cut when I jammed the serger) in one of the holes the wrong way.  I was hoping this would be the issue and now everything was solved.  I put the test fabric in - same thing was happening.  I couldn't get the left needle to catch.  When I took the fabric out and manually turned the wheel, I couldn't get the thread to interlock.  Maybe it was my thread tension?  I set the tension back to what it was before the issues.  Still not working.  Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhh! I was never going to figure this out!  I opened the bottom of the serger so I could watch the thread interlock.  I studied it's every move and then noticed that the left looper was only sometimes catching the thread coming off of the two needles and most of the time it was only grabbing the right needle's thread.  I saw the groove on the needles and wondered why would the groove need to face the front, when it looked like it needed to face the back of the serger to make it easier for the left looper to hook.  I took both of the needles off and took a closer look at the groove.  There are two grooves.  A very long groove that goes almost the entire length of the needle and a smaller groove on the opposite side.  The smaller groove is the only one I notice originally and it was the groove I had facing the front of the serger - it was the wrong groove.  Thank you directions for being so specific!  I turned both needles around, tightened them, threaded them once more and was ready to see if this was my issue.  Without any fabric, I manually turned the wheel and watched the left looper catch BOTH needle's thread EVERY TIME it came through.  This had to be my problem.  Time to put some fabric in and test my theory.  I had to hold back the tears of joy that were bursting to come out.  The threads were perfect and the serger was back to working 100%!!!  I couldn't have been more excited!  One, because I wasn't going to have to take it in to a repair shop to have it fix.  Two, because I was going to finally be able to finish these inserts (I'm due in about two weeks and the clock is ticking).  Most importantly, reason number three.  I figured it out all by myself and this was a huge accomplishment for me.  I'm too stubborn to give up, but I will make myself crazy trying to figure something out.  I needed to know how my serger worked, but didn't think I was ready for a crash course in Sergers 101.  I am very happy and proud of myself.  I learned how to completely rethread my serger, correctly replace the needles, to understand the exact operation and how it interlocks the thread and how to solve my own problems with it instead of relying on a repair shop to just fix it for me.  Things can only get better from here and soon I will be a pro with my serger!

---->Update 7.12.11 -  I'm no expert, but if you have questions about this serger please feel free to contact me.  I feel confident I know the machine well enough now to offer some help.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cloth diaper inserts

I have been very busy these past 2 days making my own cloth diaper inserts.  So far I have made 24 inserts with 11 different combinations of absorbency.  I am still waiting for more fabric to come in, but I thought I would go ahead and get started.  The fabrics I used to make these inserts are organic bamboo fleece, microchamois and zorb.  The organic bamboo fleece I used is 85% bamboo and 15% cotton.  Bamboo is known for being naturally anti-bacterial, very absorbent and environmentally friendly.  The bamboo fleece is very soft and will stay soft even after all of the washes it will have to go through.  Microchamois is a fleece-like material that is super soft and goes next to the baby's skin.  It is considered a wicking fabric, so it will wick the moisture away from the baby's skin to keep them dry.  The zorb is a fairly new material.  It consists of tangled cellulose fibers from bamboo, cotton, viscose and poly micro fibers.  It is an extremely absorbent, yet compact, trim fabric.  I made 11 different combinations to test the absorbancy of the inserts so I know what works best for us and then I will make more of the best ones.  I will review the inserts and if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to make some for you too!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

5 Tips for a greener lawn

Summer time is just around the corner!  It’s time to get your yard ready for the weekend BBQ’s.  We all want a yard that all the neighbors envy.  So unless you are going the easy route and having a yard of astro turf, here are 5 tips to a greener lawn.

1 -   Mix up a secret tonic: Mix one can of soda, one can of beer, ½ cup of dishwashing liquid (not the antibacterial brands), ½ cup of household ammonia and ½ cup of mouthwash, pours the mixture into a 10-gallon sprayer and apply it to the lawn twice a month. How does it work?  The ammonia promotes growth and greens the lawn and the mouthwash kills bugs and grubs.

2 -   Aerate the lawn: Aerating is an often-overlooked aspect of lawn care. It does take a bit of extra time but it's worth the effort.  The soil beneath the lawn becomes compacted, making it more difficult for water and fertilizer to reach the roots of the grass. Aerating also lets oxygen into the soil, which can improve root growth. Not sure if the lawn needs aerating? Insert a screwdriver into a small area of the lawn, if it's difficult to penetrate, you need to aerate.  Pay special attention to high traffic areas like where soil tends to be more compacted.  You can find manual aerating tools at home improvement centers that are perfect for small lawns. If your lawn is too big to aerate manually, consider renting a power aerator or hiring a lawn-care firm to tackle the task.

3 -   Patch damaged spots: If you've got kids or pets then you've probably also got a few damaged spots in the lawn. In order for the new grass to blend with the existing lawn, it's important to patch the damaged spots as soon as possible. Start by removing the dead patches, loosening the existing soil and adding compost. Patch the damaged spot with grass seed or a fresh piece of sod.

4 -   Mow at the right height: Your lawnmower blade has different settings. Avoid the lowest setting, which keeps the grass looking like a military-issued crewcut. Instead, set the blade to 3 inches (the highest setting) to promote deep root growth. The deeper the roots, the thicker and healthier the grass and a taller lawn helps shade the soil and slows the water from evaporating. 

5 -   Sprinkle Epsom salts: Epsom salts help seeds germinate, increase chlorophyll production, deters slugs and other pests and helps supplement regular fertilizer by providing micronutrients to the lawn. The Epsom Salt Council recommends applying 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet of lawn area using a spreader.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A few tips to look good on a budget

As the economy took a dive, we have all had to cut back on certain things. There's no reason why we still can't look great - even on a tighter budget. Here are a few tips that will keep you looking amazing and not put a hole in your wallet.


Give yourself a weekly hot oil treatment -
Save a bundle by substituting jojoba oil for more expensive hair repair products. You can find jojoba oil in natural food stores like Henry’s, Whole Foods, etc. for around $10 or less.
·         Spread the oil liberally through dry hair
·         Put on a plastic shower cap and cover with a hot towel for 30 minutes
·         Wash hair completely (no need for conditioner) and rinse with cold water

Reduce redness, Get milk -
Soak a clean wash cloth in cold milk, lay down and lay the wash cloth on your face for 10 minutes.  The fats, proteins, amino acids and vitamin A in the milk will reduce redness and calm your skin.

Minimize under eye circles, Caffeinate your eyes -
Did you know tea bags can help to perk up tired looking, puffy eyes?
· Soak the tea bags in hot water for about a minute
· Then put them in ice water to cool for a few seconds
· Lie down and relax and put the tea bags directly over your eyes for 15 minutes


Mix your own whitener -
Make a paste from baking soda and a little water.  Brush your teeth with this paste a few times a month and it will help to remove superficial staining and whiten your teeth by a shade or two.

Keep teeth whiter longer -
If you are a fan of red wine, but not a fan of purple teeth, try this simple remedy.  While you are sipping your favorite red wine, snack on a few crunchy raw vegetables.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What a weekend!

This weekend was dedicated to the little one in my belly. First, I have to thank my husband for being such a good sport and letting me drag him to these events.  Deep down I think he had a good time and I know he did it for me and to make me happy, which is very smart on his part.  I mean who really wants a pregnant lady mad at them? 

Saturday we went to the Your Natural Baby Fair.  It was a local event in San Diego that featured many local vendors that sell natural baby products or provide holistic services.  It was refreshing to see so many vendors that promote, support and cater to the health and well being of your family the natural way.  I am proud to have them in my community and wish them well with their businesses.  The classes and lectures they had were very informative and we learned a few things.

Sunday we made the drive to Santa Monica for the kick off event for Pregnancy Awareness Month.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect for the event since it was partially outdoors.  What a great event!  Celebrating motherhood and pregnancy with such a wonderful group of people was great - and being told I was a beautiful pregnant woman throughout the day was pretty amazing too!  They had a lot of great vendors at the event, the gift bags were terrific and everyone was so friendly.  One of my main reasons for going to this event was to meet Kim, the owner and co-founder of gDiapers.  After loads of research trying to find the best cloth diapering system for us, gDiapers blew away the competition.  I just had a few questions for her and this was my perfect opportunity to get to ask her face to face and learn more about the diapers.  She couldn't have been any sweeter.  She was very approachable and extremely knowledgeable on her product. She answered all of my questions, gave me tips and tricks about the diapers and showed me a few other products they make that I hadn't seen before.  I was already very impressed with the company and their product.  Her professionalism and kindness surpassed all of my expectations.  It was very refreshing meeting the owner of a company that actually appreciates it's customers.  Thank you very much Kim, you made my day and it was an honor meeting you.