Thursday, August 15, 2013

Needles Galore!

I took a twenty year hiatus from sewing.  I didn't plan to be away from my sewing machine that long, but that's how it turned out.  Now that I'm back to sewing, I'm amazed at how many different sewing machine needles there are now.

Years ago, I seldom changed the needle in my machine.  When I did, it was usually because I tried to zigzag with the wrong foot and broke a needle.  If I was mending jeans, I knew I needed a bigger needle than when I was sewing lightweight cotton.  At any rate, needle changes were not frequent.

But wow!  Things have changed!  In addition to regular sewing machine needles in various sizes (sometimes called universal needles) there are ball point needles (sometimes called jersey needles), special needles for topstitching, and twin needles (sometimes called double needles).  Since many of the new sewing machines do embroidery, there are special embroidery needles.  All these special needles come in various sizes, too.  (And to complicate things even more, sergers have their own array of needles, but that's another story.)

Needles usually come in little plastic cases - anywhere from four to six per case.  Some cases come with an assortment of sizes.  Once I've used a needle, I don't like to put it back in the case with the new, unused needles.  Needles get dull after so many hours of use, so I like to keep new and used separated.  But once a needle has been out of its case for a while, a question arises.  What kind of needle is this, and what size is it?

Size is usually etched on the shank of the needle, and twenty years ago I could read these tiny numbers.  Not now.  I have a jeweler's loupe that I bought to read information on fountain pen nibs.  I have to use it to see the numbers on needles these days.  But even if I can read a needle's size, I still have to determine what kind it is.  Fortunately, embroidery needles have a red mark at the base of the shank.  Both embroidery and topstitching needles have long eyes.  If a needle has a long eye, but no red mark, I assume it's a topstitching needle.  I don't know how to tell the difference in a regular and a jersey needle.

To try to bring some order to the confusing world of needles, I've made a needle "book" out of felt with different pages for various sizes and types of needles.  I place a special pin (with a blue head) to mark a place for the needle that is currently in my machine.  If - after a few days away from my machine - I forget what needle is in it, this saves me from having to take the needle out just to identify it.  

To make my little book, I cut four pieces of felt with pinking sheers - each one approximately 6 x 8 inches.  I folded each of these in half, making them 4 x 6 inches.  I punched three holes along the folded sides.  A regular paper punch won't work.  I used a hole punch and hammer from my MakingMemories Tool Kit.  I love it when paper crafting and sewing can use some of the same tools.  I cut a 4 x 6 inch piece of chip board, punched matching holes in it, and placed it on the bottom - under the pages - for some stability.  I bound the felt pages and chip board together with ribbon.  I used an alphabet font on my machine to do the lettering.  So there you have it!  Organized needles!  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blogging on the Go

Here I am with my iPad on my lap, making a blog post - thanks to a recently purchased iPad app called BlogTouch.  Before BlogTouch, I had to be at my computer to make a blog post; and I'm not parked in front of the computer much since the iPad entered my world.   But with BlogTouch I don't have to be anywhere near my computer.  I can blog in the car - not while driving, of course.  I can blog while waiting on the Dow train between here and Baton Rouge.  I can blog at the doctor's office, the beauty shop, or while waiting in line at the store.   The result of having BlogTouch should be more frequent blog posts.  Time will tell.  We'll see.

Although I have an external keyboard that I can hook up to my iPad, it's a little cumbersome when you're on the go.  It has taken a lot of practice, but I'm fairly proficient at typing on the on-screen keyboard.  It was maddening at first!  A slick screen is nothing like a real keyboard.  I had never thought about how much "feel" has to do with typing.  Since there's nothing to feel on the screen, I have to look at the keys as I type.  At first I thought that on-screen typing would ruin me on a real keyboard, but it hasn't.  My brain seems to have accepted that these are two different skills.

As much as I love technology, it has occurred to me that it has a tendency to multiply and devalue things.  Think about it.  In the early days of photography, photographs were rare and highly prized.  A lot of people probably didn't have more than a half dozen pictures taken of themselves in a lifetime, so descendants often fought over photographs long after great-grandpa was gone.  Fast forward to modern digital photography.  Photographs have multiplied like rabbits!  We take hundreds - maybe thousands of them in a year's time.  I'm trying hard not to think of them as a nuisance.  They take up space on all my gadgets.  They have to be constantly sorted and organized if they're ever to be of any use.  And who needs 345 pictures of the cat, chasing a ball even if it was cute to see at the time?  You see what I mean?  Pictures just aren't as valuable as they were when they were rare.

And I fear that the same thing is true of the written word.  Once upon a time books and written documents - where people babbled on about experiences or opinions - were rare and highly prized.  Now modern technology and the internet have multiplied the written word to astronomical proportions.  Anybody can write anything and publish it instantaneously.  So . . . will the world be a better place because the BlogTouch app makes it easy for me to make frequent blog posts?  Nah, not really.  But all bloggers love to drone on, and if the readers get bored, a mere click will take them somewhere else.  Or, better still, they can set up their own blog. 

(The cute red car above is courtesy of