My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

Remembering…. May 28, 2012

Filed under: Family,Hubby,Military,Navy,Random thoughts — blankenmom @ 1:25 am
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It’s Memorial day – a day for picnic’s, family and friends.  Maybe a day at the lake, camping or good shopping.






For a lot of people it’s a day to remember those who’ve been lost, even if not personally.







It doesn’t matter if you agree with this war or any war.  Even you don’t believe in it  – war still happens and these men and women still choose to defend.


I won’t be asking anyone to go and find a military burial site or hunt down a veteran, I’ll just ask that you take a moment today to remember why you have the day off or get paid extra.  If you don’t get either, just take a moment anyway –





– some of us get the reminder everyday.






Thank you to all who’ve given up so much!


Care and feeding of your machine May 26, 2012

Filed under: Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 10:14 pm
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You finally found the perfect spot for you new machine.  You excitedly took it out of the box and placed it on the table of your choice.  You’ve got all your supplies, notions and equipment lying around you strategically.  You’re rearing to go!


Now what?


You have no idea how to use this machine.  You may have never even seen one in use?  Although, I’m hoping you took the time with the salesperson to test drive it a bit, not everyone get’s that luxury however. 


The first thing I always tell my students is to at least flip through the manual.  I’m a realist – there are very few people who *actually* read through the whole manual on any device and quite frankly, I’m not sure if I’d want to be friends with that person anyhow.  At least take a quick peek.  (If it’s a used machine that came without a manual, you can find them on the net usually for free, but you can always buy one from several outlets that carry old manuals)  You’ll at least want to know how to thread your machine.  Getting all the steps right is an absolutely must!  Getting even one step wrong will keep the machine from doing any useful sewing, cause “nests” and ultimately, over time damage your machine.












From the spool (thread), make your way over to either a plastic or metal carrier, wrap it around this carrier and head towards the bottom of your machine.  Wrap it again around the bottom of either a plastic or metal carrier again.  (Older machines may actually have the tension here.)












After that, you’ll head back up to the top of the machine where there is a bar with a hook that you’ll wrap the thread around and it will self thread into the eye.  This bar has to be at the top position for you to thread it – I suppose it would be possible without it there?  But really, let’s make this easy on ourselves!  (If you miss this step, bad things will happen!)  Make sure to hit the hook at the top of the needle.  It keeps things nice and tidy!






And then you can thread your needle; either by hand or your needle threader.


Each machine threads slightly different, so this demonstration on my machine won’t do you much good in the long run.  There are however usually numbers to help you along – so if you can count, you can thread.


Your manual can also show you what the parts are called – which is useful if you want to know what someone is talking to you about.  If I talk about the “foot”, I don’t want you searching around the “pedal” in vain. 

Don’t lose your manual!  I still reference mine for various reasons.  Keep it in a drawer near by or with your other books.  Trust me, at some point you’ll be looking at it again.  And if you decide you don’t like sewing or want a different machine, it will be worth more on e-bay with it included!


Your machine will take some care and feeding also.  It is a machine with moving parts and while most machines today are computerized and that part can’t be tampered with by us lamen, we can contribute by making sure certain parts are oiled, cleaned and not broken. 

I usually go through the various parts that my students can take apart themselves.  It can be a bit scary to undo screws, take parts out and squirt fluids into various area’s – I get that.  So having someone show you what parts you can actually tinker with is a big help!



Let’s get started –












Make sure to take both screws out before lifting the face plate.  After you get them out (and safely set them aside, not to get lost), lift the plate out.  Some slide, some lift, some do both, but it does come out so wiggle it a little to see how your’s is supposed to open.  There are also front loading machines, in which case, you just flip the door open.













You’ve got it off, so start digging away!  You can use the brush provided with your machine, a paint brush or small vacuum attachments.  It’s suggested that you steer clear of compressed air – I’ve used it, but only when nothing else worked.  Make sure to get all the way to the bottom, the back and the sides.  You’ll see plenty of lint in your machine (probably not this time, since you haven’t used it yet, but after a project or two, it get’s pretty gunky.)












This is the bobbin carrier – it carries the bobbin…..  make sure to lift it out (or if you have a style that loads from the front; slide the two black bars holding it in to the left and right and poke it a bit and it will come out.) and clean underneath.












You can always remove the foot, shaft and needle if this makes you feel more comfortable with the process.  It does give you a bit more room to move around.














If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned it, you may want to dig a little deeper.  You can take the side-bottom off and get in that way.  You many need a longer tool for this however.  A paint brush works well.  Don’t worry – you won’t break anything!













This is the top of your machine where you did all that threading before.  Yes, lint can collect up there too.  As you did for the bottom, take the outside off and start poking around de-linting.













I’m a bit embarrassed to say – I found a sticker in the top of mine?!  I’ve also found a stray needle and a lot of thread before. 


So why do we go through all this every few projects?  Because all this can gunk up your moving parts stopping them from working.  I’ve had my machine start squeaking even!  It’s also a good time to check to make sure nothing is broken, chipped, rusting or in need of a bulb change or oiling.  Which is where we’re headed next.


You’ve got the machine all opened up, so let’s do a little oiling.  This is just as important as the oil in your car.  It cuts down on the wear on the gears, keeps the parts from over-heating and keeps things running smoothly.  The best rule of thumb is: If it moves – oil it.



I have two types of oil.  One that’s very liquidy and one that’s more solid.  You only really need one, but I like the solid one for up top so it doesn’t drip down onto the fabric and the liquid for the bottom.  It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you oil your machine.













As you can see, I’m putting the oil on the moving parts.  I wouldn’t suggest as much as the second picture, but taking a picture while trying to oil is a bit of a challenge….

You can always turn the dial on the side to make the parts move while the machine is open to make sure you’ve gotten all the moving parts. 

The oil will also help with humidity rusting your machine. 


Very good – you’re done cleaning and oiling your machine!  Hopefully you stored all the screws safely and are now able to put everything back together like it started out.  Don’t go too fast or you’ll pop important parts off!  Once you’ve begun sewing, you’ll want to run a piece of spare fabric through the machine after you oil it, to make sure there isn’t any oil left to get onto your good fabric.


That wasn’t nearly as hard as you thought it would be was it!


Pretty good for your first day touching your machine!  You’ve now seen all the inner workings and hopefully its bit less scary in there.



Fine qualities May 25, 2012

Filed under: Family,Random thoughts — blankenmom @ 9:33 pm
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For the second-borns 14th birthday we took him to see “Avengers”.  I had no problem with this since I’m one for action flicks.  Actually, I won’t go to see a movie unless I’m guaranteed some explosions. 


As I was watching the eye-candy on the screen I slowly realized that each character was a bit of everything every woman dreams of in a man (well, most women).  Traits other than their well-trained physics that is….


Cpt. America-  Patriotic, devoted, well-organized and a bit old-fashioned.





Iron Man-  Tech savvy, sense of humor, knows what he wants and a wealthy businessman.





The Hulk-  He’s complex.  Banner:  Smart, inventive and passionate.  Hulk:  Uses his anger to protect those he loves and a bit animal like.  (Don’t look at me like that!) 







Thor-  Demi-god, strong, sense of family, strategic and can take us to the moon.





Come on, any woman worth her salt (and into men) would be fudging to say these qualities don’t float-their-boat one way or another.  I think it’s great that they managed to capture this in a genre that tends to be geared towards men.  Maybe this is secretly what men want to find in themselves? 

How great it would be to see more guys emulate these men in some way!  Granted, smashing buses, flying in a super suit and deflecting bullets with their fashion conscious shield may not be reality, but those aren’t really the qualities women are looking for anyway.  How often are we actually invaded by aliens from outer space anyhow? 






I hope you’all have your superhero – and if you’re still waiting… remember, don’t be too picky, even superhero’s have their weaknesses!









All your gear in order May 19, 2012

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 8:44 pm
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You’ve gotten all your basic necessities for sewing: notions, pressing gear, machine.  Excellent!


You now have them sitting in your hallway, dining room or bedroom – still in the box.  Go ahead, open the boxes, smell the sewing awesomeness! 



And that’s where your knowledge of this project ends….. and that’s ok. 


Let’s get things set up!

Since I have moved frequently over my married years, I’ve had several sewing area’s.  I’ve had the dinner table in a 500 sqft apartment with 3 people, the basement of a 3 story 4-plex, a dual used computer/sewing desk in a room for 4 people, the living room of a tiny 900 sqft house with 6 people, a corner in a downstairs family room for starting out as a business, a side room used as a school room, computer room and sewing room, an entire front area used as a sewing business, a hallway midway through a tiny house and right now I’ve got my own room – with a door and all!  I’ve done just about every storage option available from baskets to hanging things on the wall.  There is an easy option, for every situation.



Where to set up your sewing area depends on a few things.  Traffic (kids, dogs, roommates walking through), space (how you’re going to fit all that in) and when you’ll be sewing (2pm or 2 am).  There can be other factors, but these are really what I can see as being issues.


Traffic – Even if you’re a college student without kids, you’ll probably have roommates who want to eventually see their floor.  So setting up your machine in the middle of the living room may cause a few rifts in the relationship.  As those of you with pets know – especially cats – they want to know *exactly* what you’re up to!  (Usually deciding that the best place for a bed is on your patterns).  And for the mom’s out there who are getting started with sewing, pins and needles aren’t the best toy for the two-year-old you’ve been dying to sew for. 


Space – Are you starting your sewing “career” in your studio apartment – that you share with 3 other people?  Storage can become an issue before, during and after a project.


When you’ll be sewing – If you and your loved one have a very small apartment and your best sewing hours are right in the middle of their best sleeping hours, this isn’t going to make for a very happy couple.  If you plan on sewing during little “Beaker’s” nap time and your sewing machine sounds like a WWI machine gun that echo’s down your hallway – NO ONE is going to be happy!



All these issues can easily be over come –


I just had to point out that this is NOT one of my sewing rooms –



Most people start out sewing on their dining room table – a big giant pain come dinner time, but majority of us have done it.  It’s not so bad if you have a kitchen eating area and only eat there 2-3 times a year, but if it’s your main eating area…. it it’s going to be a challenge.  Instead you could invest in a small side table or desk.  I still use a small desk I was given as a child with several drawers in it for storing necessary sewing items.  I’ve also purchased pre-fab Sauder (Ikea will work) furniture to make my own desk for more room.  If you have a spare corner, this is really the best way to do it so you don’t have to remove your sewing every time a guest arrives.  If you need this desk for other purposes, your machine can easily be placed where your feet go while your working.  Drawers are also nice to keep little fingers out of painful situations!  This also get’s you out of the main line of traffic and household mayhem allowing you to do your best work.














Starting out you’ll most likely be cutting on your floor, but you can also use a *clean* table for this since you can remove the fabric, once you’re done cutting it – leaving no mess behind for dinner the next night.  (Using your antique table with the high gloss shine is NOT a good option.  You WILL scratch the surface while pinning and cutting!  There are foldable boards to solve this issue however.)  Choosing to cut out your patterns right in the middle of the floor may not be advisable if you end up blocking main pathways.  If you have the room, try to pick an out-of-the-way spot or when everyone is asleep.




Getting the space you need can be a huge challenge!  With 6 of us in a 900 sqft house, space was at a premium.  As I started sewing more, I placed my small desk inside a prefab cabinet (see above photo’s), so that all my sewing supplies (read: mess) could be hidden behind the doors once I was done.  This works great, even in small area’s since it hides the clutter.  It is however a bit heavy, so if you’re a frequent mover, this may not be the best option?  A pop-up style table that can slide under your couch when not in use also works nicely and you can store your machine in a closet or on a shelf, along with your supplies in a basket.  While this isn’t the most convenient option – it does work well for tight spaces and/or small budgets.  (Or trying to show a house and make a prom dress at the same time.)



The table in this picture would slide under the couch next to it when we had people over.


When you’re going to sew will change where you’re going to sew!  You don’t want it in your bedroom if you’re only going to sew at night, when your loved one is sleeping.  You’ll also want to keep it off any adjoining walls to your or your kids’ bedrooms – unless you want company at 2 am when you’ve ripped out the same seam for the 4th time?  If you’re in an apartment, putting your machine over your downstairs or next to your next-door neighbors bedroom also isn’t the best idea – unless you don’t like them. 













If your best sewing hours are right during family t.v. time, the living room (or wherever the t.v. is in your house) isn’t the best room either.  You’ll either end up with the t.v. so loud you’ll be yelling at each other, or you’ll be getting dirty looks all night.  But if you’ll be sewing while everyone is gone at school and all you’ll miss is trashy t.v. – that’s an excellent spot!


Are you a t.v. watcher, a radio listener or silence is golden type thinker?  This will also matter since you’ll probably want that media, or lack-there-of near you. 


The biggest tip I can give you for your pressing area is to NOT put it in the main traffic area!  You don’t want the hot iron where everyone is walking.  If it doesn’t burn a child, pet or spouse – it will get the floor! 


Also keep in mind that you’ll be using sharp objects, heavy and small objects.  Pins can be lost in carpeting, scissors can be swiped off tables in seconds and irons can be brought down in no time flat!  If these items are going to be kept out all the time and you have little ones that will want to be inspecting these items, you’ll want to have a good eye on this spot.  My boys grew up with these items and rarely touched what I had told them not too, but it did still happen – pins got spilled and toes got poked.  Fingers got squooshed and skin got pricked – It’s not fun!  This also includes “fur-babies”, picking a pin out of your pooches paw isn’t pleasing.  (Yup – I just went there!)  As for the adults in the house, a good warning not to touch your scissors should be all that’s necessary as a warning! 


Lighting should also be considered.  Getting a lamp for over your work can overcome bad lighting situations, but it isn’t perfect.  The best lighting should be over head, bright and cast as few shadows as possible.  Natural light is nice, especially while picking colors – but not absolutely necessary.


Not endorsing “Ott light” specifically, just the style of lamp.


As for the pets laying on your pattern…. it’s going to happen.  It can’t be helped.  And the more you try to move them, the more they’ll tear it.  Just go make yourself a sandwich until they move.  (The sandwich will probably get them to move quicker?)



So look around your place and think about how it will be used.  Will it be safe?  Will you be in anyones way?  Do you have room for all the extra’s that come with your machine? 





Don’t worry – it will all come together in the right spot and you’ll soon be humming away!









Killed with Kindness May 18, 2012

Filed under: Boys,Broken/Repaired,Family,Homeschooling,WTFr — blankenmom @ 10:09 pm
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I love my boys – I spend almost 24/7 with them, so it’s pretty obvious.





Some days however, I really could use a little “me” time.  I’m not talking a night out with the girls here – I’m saying 1 minute to myself to recoup from the affliction of their love!


After several hours of schoolwork, the third-born came up for lunch.  But first a good spin in the dining room was in order.  All was wonderful in his dizzy world until his chubby, quickly growing hand wacked me up the backside of my head – “OUCH”!





Feeling horrible for abusing his mother in such a way he grabbed my head and hugged it with his metal laden head.  His headgear proceeded to get lodged into the already sore section of my head.  Realizing what he was doing, he quickly pulled back to remove his appliance from my cranium, at which point he became the proud owner of several strands of my hair. 


As I began to rub the tiny bald spot, he makes a further attempt at comfort by rubbing my recently sun-“kissed” shoulders.  (read: burnt to a crisp)


His younger brother seeing my pain, clasps my hand as a one would a dying loved one.  And as he holds tighter a shout of – “OW” escapes my mouth.  He looks down to realize he’s grasping the hand with a sprained finger and in shock proceeds to throw it into the table.


The third-born, in still another attempt to comfort me begins patting my head on top of the new, tiny bald spot that now exists where only minutes before it had also been stabbed and flogged.


The second-born has been sitting across the table this whole time, caught somewhere between laughter and an attempt at stopping the madness.  I look over to see a face, one eye much larger than the other, watching this circus.  He finally let’s out a shout “Stop touching mom!”  *with a small giggle behind it.





All this in less than a minute….


The dining room quiets; one child goes downstairs forgoing lunch, while the other goes back under his blanket to finish his assignment.  I feel like I should feel bad over this outcome – but I don’t…..

After my minute of “me” time, I was back to normal; short a few hairs and with an extra bruise.  I realize this will be hysterical even before the hair starts to grow back on my head, giving us a memory to retell in the years to come.


As I sit here later, I am beside myself.  I couldn’t be more thankful for these little men and the love they inflict on me everyday.