Great $1 sewing tool

I was tempted to title this “Best $1 sewing tool” but that started an internal debate regarding best and an attempt to remember how much I’ve spent on various doodads (how much is my favorite ruler again?)…


I’m not talking about the iron, or the ironing board, I’m talking about buying a gallon of distilled water for your iron and keeping it stored as closely as possible. For a long time, a very long time I just used some of our filtered tap water, running downstairs the to the kitchen when I needed it, or pouring it out of my water spray bottle (which I think cost $1.60). Finally I bought a gallon and sometimes it is the little things – but it felt like a great improvement to my sewing space. My iron only holds about 4 oz of water (yup, I measured) and I’m a big fan of steam so it drastically cut down on water-gathering trips.

Additionally, I don’t think I ever wrote about my ironing station. In my last sewing space I didn’t have room for my ironing board to stay set up and not be in the way of something (the closet where my supplies were stored, the shelf the printer was and my futon were the usual things blocked). And I noticed that for quilting I wasn’t using most of the board anyway, so I re-purposed this cart (it fit in the space perfectly). I love that I can store things under the ironing space. When I need a larger surface I pull out my ironing board, when I need the narrow end I try using my sleeve roll first.

ironing station in a former sewing space

The ironing surface is an unfinished wooden shelf I picked up at Ikea (the size and price were right), but they don’t carry the exact piece anymore (part of a discontinued secondary storage line). Then I covered it with insul-brite, two layers of cotton batting and light-canvas cotton fabric – in that order, using a staple gun to tack everything down. The covered board is just over 12″ wide and about 30″ long. I meant to fully attach the board to the cart but never got around to it and I find it stays put decently. Of course I don’t have little ones, or cats to cause it to go tumbling to the floor.

June 27, 2013. Tags: . Organization, Sewing, Solutions. 2 comments.

Baby is in the corner, er closet

I was aiming for a Dirty Dancing pun, not a closet pun… also I’m testing blogging via the WP app.


I recently hit up Ikea for a second Helmet drawer unit and put it together today.  As I was reconfiguring the craft space I decided to try out the two Helmers as a home for my precious, my new to me Featherweight.  Now I just need to sit down and test it.  If all goes well I will be able to keep both my machines set up and ready to go.

February 5, 2012. Tags: , . Organization, Sewing, Solutions. Leave a comment.

Finished Friday, barely

I have 52 minutes left to get my finished friday post up.
These curtains were supposed to take less time than that (ignoring the ironing) – of course they didn’t. I mean seriously, the perfect size tablecloth (60″x84″ for a 36″ window with curtain rod installed 82″) plus curtain clips make for a fast set of curtains. Except when I tried the curtain clips the fabric pooled on the floor. Not good for this dog fur abundant household.
So I returned the curtain clips. Bummer. And machine basted in a casing.
Then I washed, dried and ironed the tablecloths, hung the first one back up and noticed…they shrank!
Back to Target for those curtain clips again.

whew, 35 minutes of Friday left.

February 12, 2011. Tags: , , . Solutions. 3 comments.

Entryway Keyholder

I used to be one of those people who misplaced their keys all the time.  Finally I adopted the habit of putting my keys in the same place every single time (well 98 out of 100 times).  I’m continually tweaking our entryway and way back in March I finally got around to making my version of How About Orange’s DIY Key Holder.  (I think that is where I got this wooden board + cup hook idea). Apparently I didn’t take any photos and so never blogged about this keyholder. I think it is very successful since we’ve been using it for the last 6 months.


Instead of painting and decopauging pretty paper on it I wanted to use a scrap of this Amy Butler fabric I had that coordinated with the big wall pocket* I made a while back. I bought a 24″ long 1 x 4 – the big box home improvement store I went to had a variety of shorter lengths in the same aisle as the rest of the dimensional lumber, a package of cup hooks, and a yard of iron-on vinyl.

First I decided how many hooks I wanted on the board (4 gave me the best spacing for hanging keys, though 5 would have looked nicer if I wanted to hang this horizontally), then I drew a line to bisect the 4″ width of the board and lines to indicate where the hooks should be screwed in.  I drilled pilot holes at the intersections.  Next I cut out the iron-on vinyl to be about 4″ wider and longer than my board and fused it to my fabric, and trimmed my fabric down to match the vinyl.  I used a staple gun to attach it to the board, used my awl to locate the pilot holes, poke small holes in the fabric and screwed the cup hooks into the board. Then I nailed a picture hanger into the top back of the board and eyeballed the picture hanger for the wall (hence the key holder is slightly higher than the wall pocket).

IMG_3485 IMG_3486

*I made the wall pocket back in late 2008 and it was loosely based on a smaller Wall Pocket from Craft Apple; I used a corkboard from Ikea (minus the wooden frame). I was hoping to create something that also held our keys but that didn’t pan out (I attempted to add a magnetic surface behind the fabric, but either my canvas is too thick or my magnetic hooks weren’t strong enough). Each pocket is dedicated to certain types of mail/paperwork (coupons, take-out menus, bills/important deal-with-it papers, seasonal paper reference like the art museum’s quarterly calendar).

September 20, 2010. Tags: , , . Organization, Solutions. Leave a comment.

New Knitting Tools

I enjoy getting new tools, but not quite as much as I enjoy finding new ways to use something as a tool.  Recently, Lindsey at Chronicles of Yarnia, shared a new, desperation tool idea: bobby pin as darning needle.

I also have one of my own, I’m sure I’m not the first to think of this but both women in my fair isle class commented on this so I thought it worth sharing: old pantyhose as yarn “bras”.


It is pretty simple really, just cut a pair of pantyhose (or tights) into 2 tubes long enough to cover your center-pull yarn ball or cake. As you use the yarn it will compress into a smaller, but not overly compact, ball. I did this to both keep neat yarn balls and to keep my two colors from getting too tangled while I wrestled with fair isle for the first time. I’ve only tried this with 50 gram balls of yarn so far but am guessing that as long as you cut the tube long enough to trade length for width it would work with 100 gram balls too.

December 12, 2009. Tags: , . Knitting, Solutions. Leave a comment.

Crafty Organizing

Last week I got disgusted with my left desk drawer where I keep the officey things that I grab regularly – mostly pens plus a few other things.  The drawer itself is pretty small, just over 6″ wide and not even 3″ deep and maybe 11″ long.  I’d been meaning to measure it and grab some small dividing bins the next time I saw some the right size, but I’d had it, plus I had fears of loosing some of that precious storage space since many store bought bins have sloped sides.  Then I remembered making origami boxes many years ago, so I decided to grab some of art paper hanging around since college and try folding up a couple boxes.  I decided on two boxes, each 3″ wide, 6″ inches deep and about 2″ tall.  I found the center of the paper, drew out my footprint (going from the center out) and then scoring, folding and a little trimming (no longer considered origami) to my finished box (no glue, tape or staples since I added the cuff):

Pen Box

Once a second box was made, the contents re-arranged (pen boxes in back, otherwise they would have entirely blocked access to the back half of the drawer) and I had a much neater desk drawer for free.

Desk Drawer - Improved

April 10, 2009. Tags: . Organization, Solutions. Leave a comment.

Evenly spaced eyelets

The directions “space X yarnovers evenly between Y stitches” can be hair pulling.  There is at least one online calculator to help you with this.  But I really wanted to know the formula behind it.  The closest that I could get was something with 4 variables. Sigh.  The math behind knitting isn’t actually very scary – it is all addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as far as I can tell.  But sometimes your unknowns (variables in math-speak) aren’t where you might expect them to be.

So I’ve been scribbling numbers and little math equations for the past couple days, I’ve covered most of 3 notebook pages and played with a number of permutation on excel before the most obvious answer in the world occured to me.

See I have 34 eyelets to space evenly between 211 stitches to end with a total of 245 stitches.  The end number must be divisible by 7 so that I am ready to start the lace (a repeat of 7 stitches). [k6, yo] 35 times would work great – if I wanted 35 YOs and had 210 stitches to deal with – but I don’t.

[k6, yo] 34 times, k7 does work (6×34+34+7=245 and 6×34+7=211) – but where to place those 7 stitches so they are evenly distributed among my 34 groupings?  And so I determined that I needed 27 groups of [k6, yo] and 7 groups of [k7, yo].  And I started playing with excel.  And then I realized that I would end my row with a YO – this is a big no-no in knitting.  Of course I actually I have a border of 8 stitches on either side of my 211 stitches so that would contain it – but it would look funny to end with a YO right next to my border when on the other side of the buttonband it is 6 stitches away.  It occurs to me that if I switch the second half of groupings to a [yo, k6] that would be more symmetrical – but then I have a place in the middle back where two yarnovers meet and that is no good (they’d become one big yarnover and I’d be out off one stitch in the final count).  

So I start figuring out how I can get a nice number of stitches between the middle two yarnovers.  And I start playing with groups of 4, 5, 6 and 7 stitches between yarnovers.  And I played some more and some more.  1 1/2 hours later I have a eureka!

[k6, yo] 17xs, k7, [yo, k6] 17xs.  This gives me 34 yarnovers between 211 stitches and almost every single spacing between yarnovers is exactly the same count – except the back middle and that isn’t off by much.  OMG!  How did I managed to be so clueless for the last oh hour and half that I’ve been scribbling numbers and adding and dividing and multiplying.

Symmetry to the rescue.

I’m guessing most of what I wrote above is still hard to follow if you are scared of math in knitting.  Also, sometimes, as great as math can be – a visual representation sometimes works better.  On Ravelry I heard of someone using spare change to do this.  Pennies represented the stitches she had on the needles and dimes represented the stitches she needed to add.  She just placed them in a long line and started playing with them – aiming for whatever looked even visually.  For me I use excel boxes.  And then I copy them and try various permutations.  I also used the sum function to make sure my numbers were adding up correctly.

November 11, 2008. Tags: , . Knitting, Problems, Solutions. Leave a comment.