Busy times and odd schedules.
I would honestly describe this as a musings post. Don't mind me, this is just something my brain came up with this weekend, and I wanted to know if anyone else has seen this sort of pattern in the sewing industry.
Throughout the year, business picks up and drops off randomly. The times that I notice it gets busy are usually for the first two months of the year, the latter parts of tax season, June/August when schools are about to go back in session, and around Thanksgiving. The week between Christmas and New Year's Day can be hit or miss. The past several years have had an uptick, but this past one had only a few. It's all odd, but part of being a good mechanic is noticing trends and how they change.
I can see why tax season tends to pick up, businesses and people tend to get their tax refund and want to get a few large orders of machines worked on. The first two months of the year also make sense. For schools, the semester is about to start, for businesses, their budgets just rolled over. June/August also makes sense for schools to get their costume shops or textile classrooms serviced. The Thanksgiving/winter holidays tends to confuse me a bit. The only thing I can tell is that most shops are closed during those times and they want to get everything looked at when they're shut down for the holidays.
Those are the consistent upswings of business, which I can rationalize out. However, there are some times during the year that just crop up when everyone and their brother needs a mechanic. Don't get me wrong, the business is awesome. It just seems that the collective hive mind of stitchers announces to everyone that there is a need for service.
Deviation from the norm to visit with family!
This past weekend I took a long vacation from sewing machine work and went to help out my family on the ranch. Cousins are all spread around the great state of Texas, and that's left my grandparents and my uncle to work the ranch on their own for the most part. So, we scheduled me a trip to fly out and not just spend time with family, but also help out as much as I could in a few days.
In all honesty, aside from visiting family and getting to work with my hands outside, the best part was being able to get away from city life for a few days and get out in a heavily wooded area with actual meadows. Being winter, there's a lot of overgrowth until they can get back out in spring to run the tractor around and churn up the long grass and seedling trees. Not to mention cut up the old oaks that fell down over the winter; just driving around we saw about 3-4 during the quick run through to top off deer feeders and check trail cams.
This is more of a nostalgic and whimsical post than anything. This week it's back to sewing machines and working on my shop for the winter organization spree. Hope everyone is well and stays safe!
Where are my mounties?
Okay, so, one thing that I know I'll never work on for money is lumberjacking. I spent a nice chunk of my week with friends cutting down trees and making wood smaller. It hurts so... I'd almost say "good," but I think my joints would revolt and try to kill me as their oppressor. Taking it easy on my hands for a few days and catching up on home machines that don't require a lot of manual dexterity to work on.
Lumberjacking is probably one of the best workouts out there, but you will hurt from it. It works just about every single muscle in your system, and you will definitely know that you didn't skip leg day. Swinging an axe is the better workout, but you'll get some decent work just from moving logs. I read once that the two best "on the job" exercise routines are shoveling and chopping wood, because they work everything in your system, and you'll not only gain muscle and lose fat, but it will be useful muscle.
I mean, I lift 80 lbs machines all the time and have to be a contortionist to get into some machines, so I don't quite ever see the point in the gym, but I know that a lot of people swear by it as a stress reliever, or something that helps them work towards a goal. Gyms, good ones without anyone making fun of one another and helping people learn, are good places.
ANYWAY, sewing machines! I think the hardest to find piece that I've had to look for lately is a shuttle bobbin slide cover for a Damascus that was built sometime around the invention of sliced bread and Betty White being born. The most common slide cover seems to be for old Singers, but they're almost a full inch wider than those for this Damascus. Manufactured by the National Sewing Machine Company, Montgomery Ward sold them branded as Damascus, and they were the some of the upper middle range for sewing machines at the time. For a vibrating shuttle bobbin sewing machine, they weren't amazing, but they were pretty darn good.
Also, we have a winner for the "Weirdest Sewing Machine I've Ever Worked On" award. A few weeks ago I worked on a Singer 457G. Pictured below. These things do not have a normal take up lever. Instead, they have what looks like a set of longhorn steer horns attached on a swivel. The thing looks like some futuristic space ray gun mixed with a sewing machine, and it, surprisingly, works quite well! The machine is a multi-step zig-zag machine that has three different stops for the needle. Not sure the proper terminology for it, but it can sew zig-zags with two stitches going either direction. Pretty nifty for some projects!
It's a little monster of a machine, but it worked great after I worked on it!
The end of the year and start of another.
The end of 2018 and start of 2019 has seen us busier than ever, and it's awesome! Apologies for lack of updates the past few months, but we've been working too much to stop and write about the roses. It's winter, so that is definitely helping us out; fewer sweltering shops and a lot more easy breathing out and about. Easy breathing when there's no various forms of respiratory illness anyway....
We've installed light fixtures, done IT work just about everywhere, and serviced multiple theaters, schools, and shops. Our goal for this year is going to be cleaning up and restructuring/reorganizing/rebuilding parts of the shop to be both clean and efficient instead of just being a massive multi-workspace storage and junk area that we work on machines. Should be able to allow us to work on more than one machine at a time, and a cleaner space to handle smaller parts.
If we still have your machines for an overhaul, they are getting worked on, but may have been overlooked due to off-site work. Our greatest apologies for that! As long as we're in-state, we're looking to catch up on those once our workspace is better suited to taking apart and overhauling machines.
Here's to a cleaner, healthier, and better organized year!
Here's a picture of the paint booth (that's not ours), where we replaced all the light fixtures from fluorescent bulbs to LED panels. We're also going to be working on our own shop to have something similar. Hooray for going greener!
Busy and exciting pair of weeks.
Hello again, everyone. It's going to be an exciting week in Raleigh! Florence should be making landfall later this week and we've been prepping our shops for the onslaught of water and wind. We live midway down a hill in our neighborhood, so, we'll probably have moving water and a lot of wind. Our shops are pretty well made and very weather resistant.
Due to storm prep and storm cleanup, I am going to be closing up shop until about this time next week, likely. The storms earlier this year knocked down some branches and did some minor damage, which has been repaired, but with the massive panicking people around the area, I feel it's best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
I was going to be prepping some work with SPARKcon and my wife's show in fashionSPARK, but SPARKcon has been postponed and hasn't given an alternate date yet. There has also been some kerfuffle that I have stayed away from and don't know much about, but I will leave it at that. Suffice to say, there's been a lot of prep work for something that is no longer happening.
This ends the current update. Not much news, and nothing overly exciting going on in our lives. I am not excited about storm prep, but sometimes it needs to be done. Everyone out there, stay safe!
Welcome to Insanity, We Welcome You For Your Extended Stay.
The next few weeks are going to be quite busy as far as work and side jobs go. I have been getting a lot of dropped off machines of late to work in my shop in evenings, which is good! The downside is that I now will also be having to find room to schedule time to make 5 sets of vastly different metal wings for Dara's entry into fashionSPARK. There are some pictures of her drawings and videos of the models on her Instagram, the Haus Page Facebook page, and her Youtube Channel.
The entire event should be a blast, but it will be involving a lot of work and not much free time. I will likely post pictures of my part of the work in the meantime. She has yet to provide the materials for what she's looking for, but it will likely involve machining and/or welding as well as quite a variety of me dealing with artistry....which is never a good idea. Most of my creative enterprises are functional products based around solving a problem. I am a Form Follows Function type of person, but these will definitely have to be something of an artistic piece.
The full show, if you want to come, will be at fashionSPARK on 9/14 time will be after dark, so likely 8 or 9 PM.
Sorry for not putting up an entry last week!
So, the past few weeks have been ups and downs of jobs, and last week was quite a busy one so my weekly post was mostly forgotten... Whoops!
A lot of stuff is happening this week, and has happened even since Sunday. I found out yesterday that a good friend of mine from college passed away. It's apparently too soon to find out details of what happened, but I am wishing him well. His funeral is this weekend, and I will be attending. My mother describes her side of the family as the show "Six Feet Under," but with less story. Funeral home families are interesting.
ALSO, this weekend is my dad's 59th birthday! I blame him for a lot of my learning to tinker at a young age, so, he's probably a big part of the reason why I got into sewing machine repairs. He's also in IT, so, I can blame him for a lot of my side work dealing with network and phone equipment. Good job, Dad, look at the monster you helped create!
Moral of this story, you can really never escape your past, but you can use it to mold how you treat your future. Both of my parents instilled a want to learn new skill sets in their monster of a child, and that has pretty much stuck throughout my life.
Thank you, Mom and Dad!
I wasn't always a sewing machine mechanic, but I have always had a tendency to pick up new skillsets, especially in slow periods in my life. I can do several types of welding, I can build and manage network systems, I can blacksmith, the list can go on and on and on.
Recently one of my regular customers had me take a look at their network because they'd been having issues, which turned into a conversation about working on networks, etc, and now I have been asked to upgrade their network system and do some managing on it to make their systems work better, faster, and more stable.
I also do some work with gunsmithing. Nothing like boring a barrel, more like adding new barrels or swapping out parts. My most often gunsmithing customer says I have both "gorilla strength" and "finesse strength," and that's why he has me make adjustments. Granted, he also has me weld together shooting targets using half-inch steel plate.
I have worked in machine shops, wood shops, fabrication shops, IT departments, phone system repairs, museum archives, and just about everything in between. I don't meant to toot my own horn, but I like to be able to help people with projects. If you ever have an odd issue that I "may" know something about, please feel free to ask.
Some weeks are quieter than others.
Nothing new and exciting over the past week. The most exciting thing to happen? Cosplayer friends who went to Supercon contacting me with questions about how to modify part of their outfit or prop, or how to fix a break that happened either during transport or at the con itself.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can offer: Avoid hot glue. It's cheap and easy, but it will not hold effectively on something that is meant to be mobile. It's good for arts and crafts, but as far as parts of an outfit go or props? Not so much. Anything over an ounce or two will likely put more strain on the hot glue than it can handle once you add momentum/acceleration/deceleration to the mix. Otherwise known as starting and stopping motion. It will hold something in place that is stationary, but the shear forces will weaken its grip pretty quickly.
Back to the main topic, the joys of making/repairing costumes or outfits generally boils down to a few questions: What tools do I have at my disposal? How long does the repair need to last? Am I aiming for form or function? How much time do I have to make the repair? My cosplay repair kit almost always has a variety of high-strength cyanoacrylate (aka CA, the older, beefier brother to superglue), gaff tape, double-sided gaff tape, leather punch/stitch kit, zip ties, a power drill/driver, and some stainless steel screws with good grip in various sizes. Those tools/consumables will be able to get just about anything repaired as far as props go that you may need, and they can fit in a relatively small tool box.
For fabric repairs, it's always good to have an older model sewing machine around. They can go through light leather, medium weight vinyl, sheer fabric and normal fabric. Wonderful tools, and are almost always easier to fix a fabric/textile part of an outfit with a machine than by hand, especially in a time crunch. I always say to keep a leather punch/stitch kit, just because sometimes you're going to have to go through something rather heavy duty, likely in an awkward place, and more than likely made of thick foam or leather.
Almost everything will need something different, but this is a short list of quick fixes:
Broken prop - CA glue with a smidge of gaff to keep it in place until the CA sets. If it's something that you can repair from the "inside" use a little CA, and a stainless steel screw from the inside out.
Broken armor - Double-sided gaff, maybe some leather stitches or zip ties
Broken shoe - CA and gaff, make sure they let it set while the shoe is on their feet.
Fabric costume mishap - Stitch it back together, or find someone who can.
It might not be an extensive list, but it's what 4/5 of repairs to costumes usually boils down to. If you ever have questions, shoot me an email or some method of text-based communication. Have a wonderful week!
Your sewing machine guy:
I am a Jack-of-Most-Trades that was roped into working on sewing machines, and managed to find a knack for it. I love hilarity, fixing things that are broken, video games, dogs, cats, most other creatures, and sleep. Especially sleep. On here you'll usually find tidbits about recent visits or ADORABLE CREATURES THAT LOVE ON ME WHILE I WORK. There may be ancient machines, there may be unique machines.