My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

A pressing matter – Ironing parafernalia April 28, 2012

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 10:01 pm
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I know – so exciting… ironing.  Well, pressing to be exact.  But you’ll be spending A LOT of time at this task, so it helps having the right equipment to make the time you spend on it worth your while and little easier.



It shouldn’t be a long post tonight, it’s pretty straight forward, but since I didn’t even know you had to press while sewing until I had sewn 10 years, I wanted to separate this out to make sure the importance was understood!

*Just so you know…. I DON’T iron clothes!  My dentist man wears uniforms that get sent through the dryer and hung – if his dress uniforms need ironing, they go to the dry cleaners.  I am honest to goodness terrible at standard ironing – if it can’t be tumbled in the dryer – I don’t buy it!


Let’s get started then –

Pressing really will change the look of your sewing.  Quilting, crafting and clothing – it’s a must!  I’ve seen several articles on the before and after and it’s amazing.  I know my sewing really changed once I realized this was a must!  It goes from “Wow um – you made that yourself….” to “OMG’sh – Wow!  You MADE that?” 

At times I actually spend more time pressing than sewing!

First, you’ll want a good iron.  Don’t cheap out on this one!  It needs to be able to steam and if you go cheap, the iron will leak.  Whether or not you like to sew, you’ll need a good iron anyway, so spend a little extra. 


Old coal heated iron


In all honesty, I have a Rowenta – I really like it, but it’s recently begun to leak.  But since I’ve owned 10 or so years now, I can’t really complain?  I use it almost daily and that includes 4 or 5 moves.  (That means movers with a case of the “dropsies”)

Consumer Reports top recommendation for standard irons is the Kenmore 80598 which ranges around $60, not too bad! 

However, the iron I’m currently drooling over…. yes, I need a life…. would be Reliable IronMaven J420.  But since this beauty costs around $300, I’ll probably be going with the Rowenta equivalent for half the price.  Doesn’t hurt to drool though!!


The features you’ll most likely want include:

Auto turn off – you’ll be going back and forth and you don’t want to be turning that dial or pushing a button every time you switch from pressing to sewing and back.  It also helps if one of your kids, spouse or fur-baby knocks your iron over.  It will turn itself off after 30-60 seconds keeping your house from burning down – which is always nice!

A cord that can twist and turn – nothing worse than fighting with the stupid cord!  ‘Nuf said!

Steam or spray – while not necessary to have both, I do like and use my spray feature – especially after I’ve pressed a wrinkle (yet again) into my project.  *DOH*  Steam is a must!

You have a choice in metal finishes.  I prefer the satin over the matte finish.  To me it seems easier to clean and runs more smoothly over my fabric.  This may only be a preference though? 

Weight – You really do want your iron to be heavy.  Not quite as heavy as they used to be when you had to warm them on the stove, but heavy none-the-less.  It means you don’t have to do all the work pressing!


Ironing boards –

Frankly it’s a pretty boring subject, but it still has to be covered.  You can always make it more exciting with a spiffy new cover! 



Yes, this one you can go cheap on if you’re just starting out and you’re not sure you want to continue.  But if you’ve sprung for the nice iron, why not go with the nice board too?  Unless of course, you spent all your money on the iron – which I understand!


Features you’ll most likely want include:

Sturdy – Well yeah, no one likes it when their iron falls on their foot or burns a hole in their rug!  But on top of that, you may not like the creaking that comes from that $2 discount you find at your local Wallyworld?

Holey – Not the Sunday kind!  You want the steam to be able to pass through the fabric you’re working on, the fabric cover and the board.



Width – Wider is better and easier to work with. 

Adjustable height – This is especially nice if you’ve got a lot to press.  You can park yourself in front of the t.v. and go at it!  (I don’t actually know of a board that doesn’t adjust unless it’s homemade though?)

Frankly, you can go with as little as a towel on your dryer, a small travel board, over the door board, to a fancy board with all the attachments!  Just as long as it can allow steam to pass through.




I know that a lot of sewers, specifically quilters, make their own boards in very large sizes, usually a nice big square or rectangle to fit all their fabric with a grid on it so it can double as a cutting board.  Most sewers won’t need this sort of set up.  If you find that sewing is something you enjoy, there are several plans out there that you can make for yourself.


As for “attachments”, there aren’t that many that you really need.  I would highly suggest cleaner however!  Even if you don’t sew, this will help when you get random gunk on your iron and it really works.

There are all sorts of iron pads, holders, cord minders, covers, etc.  There are special pressing boards which really do come in handy, but are not needed to start off with.  That’s something you’ll want to reserve for when you know you like sewing…. or in this case, pressing.


Now – Press on!













Oh sunshine…. April 27, 2012

Filed under: Boys,Hubby,What's happening — blankenmom @ 10:51 pm
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…. I’ve missed you so!




This last weekend, we actually got to see the sun – I mean, REALLY got to see it.  Not through the clouds, not in passing, not over the mountains and not for a minute or two.  3 FULL days of wonderful, magical, beautiful *WARM* sunshine! 


Do I sound like a woman who misses the sun?




Everyone and their brother, sister and third uncle on the weird side was out trying to soak it up – our family included.










While the boys went out back to play, I headed out to buy myself a new tool.  No worries – it was with my dentist mans approval.  In fact, he *asked* me to get it – honest! 


About 5 years ago before we moved away, we had a big, beautiful truck.  But because of the move out east, we had to sell it.  His father bought it from us… and then sold it to his brother…. who we just bought it back from.  Keepin’ it in the family!  And she’s a beauty alright – but she’s got a bit of a rust problem.  At 27 years young, I’m thinking she’s due for a few issues however. 



My dentist man found a few tutorials on-line on doing a “Rustoleum” paint job and since the truck didn’t cost us much and is pretty darn old, getting a “real” paint job doesn’t make sense and doing it ourselves, even on the cheap, makes total sense.  He thought this would be a great project to do to get himself out of the house…. I beat him to it – the slow poke!



I now have my own Random-Orbital Sander – can you see my excitement!  I finished off the hood and front sides before he came out to play.  He started the top of the cab before he got bored and headed in. 



Unfortunately it started raining…. again, I know – DUH!  So now the sanded spots are starting to rust…. again. 

This weekend is supposed to be sunny *fingers crossed* and I’ll get the first layer of paint down on the front end.  It won’t be pretty, but it will at least stop the rust until I can get the job finished! 


My plans (notice this no longer includes a he or we *snicker*) are to paint it the same baby blue and paint on a bed protector to spiffy it up and keep it from rusting out again. 


Our second-born is counting on getting this for his first ride (which is only 2 years away *sigh*), so we want to keep it around long enough.


My thinking here was that my dentist man’s intent all along was to have me do it so he could keep me out of trouble and direct my work in a more controlled direction.  Hmmm – I’m thinking flames and maybe some hydraulics on this beauty!  Good luck on that one!!





Every house a home April 20, 2012


I have a mission – just as my dentist man has his “missions” (pertaining to teeth – yeah, not all that exciting) at each duty station, I have my mission at each house.  To make every house our home…. every time we move.





This doesn’t sound all that difficult on the surface really.  You put your stuff in it and there ya go.  Which was fine when the boys were all under 7 and I had just enough time in my day to get a load of laundry in and no one really cared what the furniture looked like – I was just happy the puke was cleaned off!



Those days are long gone and it’s time we actually decorated.  And for the most part we have and it’s looking really good!  That is – in the living room!  That leaves how many other rooms to make usable and nice looking?  I will admit, my sewing room is “decorated” (read: made usable) but that’s only because I’m the only one that uses it… sort of?










My biggest concern at this point is the boys’ play/rec room.  I don’t really care what their bedroom looks like, they’re starting to move out as of next year, so things will be changing anyway in there.  What I’m trying to do is collect the clutter that well, collects in there, just like every other parent.  The difference here is we have to move it in a year and every few years after that!  So anything I buy I have to look at the weight, extra durability (to not only make it through the boys, but the movers – *dun, dun, dunnn*). 





When I look up idea’s on decorating rec rooms, they tend to be over the top, which is fine,  it’s just for idea’s – but none of the idea’s are really portable.  Even painting is really out of the question since you have to paint it back in just a few months.  Not worth my time or money! 













They don’t have “a lot” of things in there, but what they do have tends to collect in the corners.  And nobody but the boys really want to go in there because it looks like…. well, their room – which means their game system has moved to my living room for friends to enjoy.  *I am not enjoying that so much!*

What I’m looking for is a spot for them to hang out downstairs (at least at this house) and have ample storage, for minimum weight. 

Oh and it has to be able to fit through every door imaginable!

East coast houses have extremely low door jams, which ment that while we lived at “that house” we slept on a mattress on the floor for 4 years because the box spring couldn’t make it and we were too cheap to buy a new bed frame.  It worked – so glad we have one now though!  (No box spring this time – I thought ahead)  So nothing over 5 1/5 feet!

So light weight, breakdownable (yes, I just invented a new word!) and durable.  BAHAHA!

Yeah, *I* don’t even believe that possible!




I’ll keep you updated…….


Up in knots April 14, 2012

Filed under: Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 10:13 pm
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Last item in our kit!



Threads – they’re pretty little things!  So many different ones it’s hard to choose….. and to know what type, size, material, company?  There’s big spools, little spools – something called serger thread?  Can you use that for your sewing machine?  Quilting?  What’s that you say – embroidery thread? 

I give up!

Ok – I promise, it’s really not this hard.  But I do get how frustrating it can be trying to choose threads sometimes when you see them in the store. 

I’m not going to be able to give you every piece of information on thread – I’m not a manufacturer, but as before – I can get you out of the store without you pulling all of your hair out!


The threads your most likely to see in your local store (in the U.S.) are:


Coats & Clark

They have my favorite “Jeans thread”.




This is what I use for majority of my sewing.



(These two have actually partnered together recently)


I mainly use their specialty threads. 



Madeira (Embroidery)

It’s made to work best in embroidery under extreme speed.  You could use this to sew blankets or quilts for the top stitching though – it’s shiny.




I actually only own this in embroidery (I bought a giant special package)  But it could very easily be used for regular sewing.




If you don't own sergers, you won't want these threads. 
They're only strong when used with a serger.

Toldi-lock (Serger)



Maxilock (Serger)




(There are more, but these are the ones I’ve personally worked with.)




Each of these types usually carries several different types of thread:



Strong, non stretchy, usually smooth.  Many uses in quilting, sewing and embroidery.



Strong, durable, fade resistant.  Great for embroidery or outdoor uses.



Strong, versatile and stretchy.  Special projects, hand sewing or where you need extra strength without the bulk.



Made from wood pulp so if you like natural, this is a great choice.  Smooth, shiny and  soft.  Good price.  Works for basic sewing and great for embroidery.



Strong – I basically only use this for outdoor stuff where I need strength more than anything else.  (It will fade over time)



Obviously shiny – this is a decorative thread.  It does tend to break easily, but is well worth the work for what it does in a project.  (Buy 4 ply as opposed to 2 ply)



Very stretchy (almost to a fault), can’t be ironed over.  Usually used in embroidery – still a LOT of fun to use.



These are pretty cool – you can have glow-in-the-dark, color changing, variegated, clear, elastic and some I probably don’t even know about yet!  The first few are usually used for embroidery and the last few in the construction of clothes.


All Purpose

Exactly what it says.  Sort of like using a butter knife as a household tool, it’s not perfect, but it will get the job done!


In all of these there are different weights.  From skinny little silks, very thick jeans thread, to fat polyesters.  Your fabric will determine the weight and for the most part, what kind.  Try to match the weights and materials, unless you’re needing a specialty thread. 


This is also when you’ll start to need to look at different needles.  *Breath*



So if you were to go to the you local sewing store and you wanted the easiest advice to start with, what would I suggest? 

Coats & Clark is always a great, inexpensive place to start.  They carry “All purpose” thread.  After you’ve picked out your fabric and you’ve gotten it cut – take the fabric over to the threads and hold it up the spools.  Pick the one that’s closest.  If there isn’t an exact match, go with the darker shade, it hides better in the stitches.  And get the smaller spool for now since you don’t know if you like sewing.  (Unless you’re making something HUGE?!)

Don’t be afraid to try out all the different companies though.  You’ll find the brands you like and which work better for you.  Sometimes you’ll have to use different ones for various reason’s though, so it’s best to know their qualities.

Make sure to get creative and try out various kinds of thread.  While I usually use all purpose, rayon is very nice for a little something extra (it’s like the cheaper version of silk) and if I’m feeling like a little luxury or have a lot of hand sewing to do – nothing beats silk thread!

When your standing in front of the thread display (which can be a bit much if you don’t know what you’re looking for) the prices are most likely up in the corner or above the display.  They usually use a chart for pricing, going by the amount on the spool and type of thread it is.

As a last note, because I wasn’t sure where else to add this on and it deals loosely with thread.  Your machine will take a bobbin.  It’s a little-tiny spool that goes in your machine (I’ll explain more on that later).  When buying extra’s at the store, be sure that you are getting the ones that go with your machine.  Either bring the one that came with your machine to compare, look at the back of the packaging to see if your machine company is listed, look through your manual or their website.  This is important – it WILL mess up your sewing and make your life miserable if you don’t.  And we wouldn’t want something so small make you want to stop sewing! 








(Regular bobbins don’t come pre-wound.  The ones you’re seeing pre-wound at the store are for embroidery – you don’t want those for regular sewing.)



Phew – that was a long one!





*Naughty Grin*

Filed under: Boys,Family,Hubby,Random thoughts — blankenmom @ 2:38 pm
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It’s no secret – I have problems behaving.  I may be a little naughty even.

Could you imagine if we all behaved ourselves?  How boring!


At the end of last summer we found a watermelon that had gone bad.  Upon finding it the boys all asked if it could be tossed off the raised porch to see what it looked like.  Being the mischievous mom I am I of course let them – and recorded it!  They got such a kick out of something so small!  (You should have seen it – it was great!  *SPLAT* )

Joan of Arc

The saying “Well behaved women rarely make history” is one of my favorites.  And it’s incredibly true! 

Think about the *great* women in history.  How many of these women that you remembered did what they were “supposed” to do?  None – that’s why they made history!  They didn’t shoot anyone (unless necessary), they weren’t out doing things that could cause harm (I hope?).  Instead they were productive, doing what they were told women couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t do!  Usually by folks that wouldn’t do it themselves and should have. 

I wonder if these women knew they would make history?



Amelia Earhart

Trust me – I’m no feminist in today’s terms.  There’s just sometimes when a woman has to stand up and do the job – and we do it well.  Incredibly well!

"Rosie the Riveter"

Does this sound strange from a stay-at-home wife, the mother of multiple children, a homeschooler, a conservative Christian woman? *GASP*  “You’re supposed to be boring!”

Ok, so that may not put me down in history, but it does make me feel like a bit of a rebel!  (Especially when people try to argue with me – about any one of those subjects.) 

 How many women do you know that get more excited about tools than jewelry?  Who’s idea of a great date night would be fixing the car together or is the instigator of some of the biggest messes in the house?  Who started the stump fire last year???  And if I hadn’t gotten the great opportunity to be a mother, I would have been a kick-a$$ Marine!



Doing what the men folk couldn't



A good gauge has always been – if it get’s my mom to make “that” face, I know I’m headed in the right direction!  You should see her face when I dye my hair orange! 

 *I think my dentist man is sort of scared for when the boys move out and I have nothing holding me back?*


Ok, Eowyn is fictional – but she totally kicks backside! 

Life is too short to behave?  There are so many things to get into, out of and talk about!  (I won’t tell you about all of them – for my family’s sake.)

I don’t want to be known or remembered as well-behaved?  I want to be known for the crazy things I did and did for people.  I want to make history – even if it’s just by making people grin. 

Now excuse me – there’s a stump out front that’s missing some lighter fluid…..  heeheehee



On Pins and Needles April 7, 2012

Filed under: Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 9:05 pm
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You picked out a couple of pairs of scissors and now you’ve turned the corner to see the wall of pins and needles.  This part get’s a little crazier as needle choices aren’t – excuse the pun – as cut and dry as scissors.  *snicker*



I’ll tackle both of these on the same page since they’re so similar and I’ll throw in a bit about hand sewing needles.

I’ll fully admit I don’t know everything about this subject.  But I definitely know enough to get you out of the store without screaming and I’ll refer you to a couple of places that do know everything about the subject.


Let’s start with pins ~ 

Pins are what will help you hold the fabric together when sewing and sometimes, if you’re brave, during fitting.  They have long, short, glass, metal, plastic, flat and all sorts between in needles.  Threads magazine has a great article on all the different styles, with pictures already laid out and explained better than I could. 

For your purpose, while still deciding on whether you like this whole sewing thing, I would recommend you’re standard package of one long and one short plastic ball headed pins before spending big money on the fancier pins.  I still use these to this day.  Short is nice to stay out-of-the-way and for most projects and the long ones are great for furry projects or stuffed projects.  *Do be aware that the heads WILL melt if you iron over them!  (But you shouldn’t be ironing over pins anyway – more on that later.) 



Keep and eye out for blunt tipped pins.  On occasion, you’ll find a pin without the point and it won’t go through the fabric.  Don’t force it – toss it!

And NEVER sew over your pins!!  I hear of folks who have done this for years and swear by it, but I’ve experienced the machine breaking my pins that I hadn’t gotten out in time or didn’t see and them shooting out at you – glad I wear glasses when I sew!  (You never knew sewing could be such a dangerous past time did you!)  Not only could you break your sewing needle, jam your feed dogs and possibly mess up the timing of the machine, but you could do serious damage to your eye.


Ok – lecture over.


The mystery of machine sewing needles ~

I know it sounds crazy that this should be such a huge mystery, but if you go and look at all your choices, you’ll see what I mean! 

I am going to once again refer you to a great, but a bit overwhelming article in Threads, just to show you all the styles and what their specific uses are.  But again, as someone who is just getting their feet wet in sewing.  I’m going to say go with Universal needles to start with.  I used just these for years and nothing exploded!  I will vouch for Jeans/Topstitch needles for your topstitching (the stitching you’ll see – like at the bottom of your jeans) for making the stiches much straighter than the Universals and the Metallics for making my metallic thread break less.  But I would suggest you buy these as you need them. 

Also make sure the needles are made for your machine.  Some needles can go in a variety of machines, while others are specific.  I know Singer is one that needs their own needles.  (My old treadle machine can only use one type of needle that has to be specially bought.  Check with the manual, manufacturer, website or needle packaging if you’re unsure)  Don’t try to use needles that don’t belong with your machine, if it can’t accept them – bad things will happen!



Also make sure to change your needle out frequently.  While I can’t go as far as Threads and suggest after each project (I’m on a budget after all), I would suggest after every few projects or if you feel it snagging, pulling, pushing or otherwise not sewing smoothly.  Your projects, machine, thread and stress level will thank you.


Last, but not least, hand sewing needles ~

You may not intend or even want to, but at some point you’re going to have to do some sort of hand sewing.  Even if you end up not enjoying sewing – a button will fall off eventually!

I myself rather enjoy hand sewing and do a lot by hand.  You can sit and watch t.v., you can get very detailed and it’s just calming for me.  Majority of people I know that sew however do not feel this way.  So don’t feel like there is something wrong with you if you’re just not into it – still learn how to at least do the basics though!

Here I’m going to refer to an article in a Threads off-shoot CraftStylish, although I wish they had a few more pictures.  But since they laid out the definitions – I can’t complain!



I keep on hand mostly sharps, your basic needle – and a lot of them!  I believe the longest?  (They come in combo packs so you can try out different sizes and see what’s easiest for you to work with; after that you can buy just that size.)  But I do have a few small quilting needles tucked away.  If I’m working on a long project I’ll keep the needles pre-threaded and waxed (which I’ll explain along with threads).



A few side items for needles ~ 

Thimbles – trust me, you’ll want at least one.  They do come in sizes so make sure to try them on first.  (There are various types of these and you can try them all on.  But really, you’ll probably just go with the basic, metal thimble.)  If you enjoy having feeling in your finger tips, throw one in your cart!





Needle threaders – Not necessary, but they do make your life easier especially for the cost.  I think they’re under a dollar and you can use them for machine needles too if your machine doesn’t thread itself.




An empty medication or vitamin bottle – I know, sounds strange.  I use these to put my broken, used and discarded pins and needles in so that no one on the receiving end gets a good poke.  Your garbage man will thank you; plus there’s no guessing which ones you’ve tossed.


I hope that clears things up a bit on this subject.  Either that or I’ve made it worse?



To brighten my day… month? Season! April 6, 2012

Filed under: Family,Hubby,Knitting,Pets,Sewing — blankenmom @ 10:31 pm
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I got a bit of money recently as a gift – they know me so well.  They knew exactly where I was headed too – straight to the fabric store!






After about 4 hours… yes, I said 4 hours of fabric shopping, I finally made it back home.  My family thought I had abandoned them; while the thought had crossed my mind as I was walking the isles, I decided I might miss them after a few years.  So back I went with my newly acquired stash – very pleased with myself. 




Did I mention I hit the yarn store on the way to the fabric store?







I must admit, the weather here is making me a bit of a curmudgeon.  Constantly grey, never warm and always wet.  What do you sew for weather like that?  Sad part is – I used to love this weather and thought I’d never want to leave!  So my strategy was to just buy fabric and figure out what I was going to do with it later.  Bright colors, happy colors, colors that would make even grey, wet, depressing days exciting!



Got any idea's - other than a cat bed?



















I’ve also been discussing with my dentist man that we need a new duvet cover.  After 17 years, it’s time!  Granted, it’s a walk through memory lane whenever I see it.  “That’s when the first-born got sick that year.”  “That’s when you had the flu.”  “That’s when we had the second-born.”  Yeah, even he agreed it was definitely time to change it out!


Our discussion was along the lines of ~

Me: “Hey Dad – what kind of fabric do you want?  I don’t want it to be too girly for you?” 

Dentist Man:  “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem with you Dear?  Nothing too busy, no orange and something that hides drool.”  (From the dog – goofball’s!)

Me: “Ok, that should be easy enough!”


Yeah, 4 hours later…..  This is what I ended up with –


Exciting - I know! Even more sad? It's the same thing as we had before!



My dentist man is out to sea again, so that gives me a bit to get that done.  Did I mention the boys all asked me what trouble we were getting into as we watched the ship float away?  That’s my boys!

The sun has been creeping out a bit more lately (does once a month count?) and it only freezes about once a week now.  I think I see a break in my disposition, maybe the bright fabric will help?  That and dreaming of our next duty station – Guam’s looking really good!  *Wink*







Happy Passover/Good Friday and Easter to you’all!