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Archive for March, 2011

Edgestitching, and Why I Love It

March 28th, 2011 7 comments

It’s this foot:

I can’t remember if it came with my Pfaff 1229, or if I picked it up somewhere else.  Every other foot for my Pfaff snaps onto the shank, so I’m inclined to think this was an add-on.  However I found it, it’s a fantastic tool for the edgestitching I love.

All I have to do is line up the edge of the material (or the seam)  with the edge of the tiny cutout for my machine’s needle:

This little gadget lets me put a stitching line very, very close to an edge.  Just about perfectly, every time:

I can go around curves with no difficulty, turn sharp corners, and do any other little, fussy thing I want without a glitch, because I can see what I’m doing every step of the way.

Categories: Tips Tags:

Plumb Done

March 19th, 2011 2 comments

Yep, it’s the third and final sink faucet unit in our living space.  This one is in a very small bathroom off our kitchen pantry; it’s 1952 sink with a 1952 faucet unit.  Somehow we never noticed that we didn’t have shut-off lines under it — not until the leaky faucet became too persistent to ignore, and I realized that I couldn’t conveniently shut the water off.

We had professionals come in to install the valves, and new, flexible hoses.  Then I tackled the faucets.  The big question was:  Were they repairable?  We already knew these were irreplaceable.  Much to my surprise, they were less of a challenge than the unit in the upstairs bathroom, largely because I only had to work from the front.

All I had to do to remove the stem was take the faucet handles off and unscrew the nut you see on the left.  Easy-peasy.

One handle was frozen to its stem, though, and the guy at our local independent hardware store bashed it off using an old screw, a screwdriver and some brute force.  He didn’t have a few of the washers I needed, so I went back to the plumbing supply place where I’d gotten the faucets for the upstairs bath.  They didn’t have them, either, but they knew who did — another small hardware store on the other side of town.

I remembered to take a picture of the stem before I dismantled it.  There was sixty years’ worth of grit in the threads, which washed off easily with the help of a soft toothbrush.  When I came back to the house, I used this picture to reassemble the stems. (An excellent trick, by the way, photograph everything. No mysteries later that way.  Digital photos are also useful at the parts stores when you’re trying to explain something.)

Then it was just a matter of screwing the stems back into the sink:

This repair is not an unqualified success:  Even the famous Jack LaLanne would find these handles difficult to turn, and I haven’t figured out how to change that.  I seem to recall having heard that this is a common complaint about faucets of this vintage.  One of the hardware store proprietors warned me to use plumber’s grease on the threads “to make them easier to turn”, which also suggests that this isn’t an unknown issue.

However, we now have water at the sink (however difficult it is to extract it), and no leaks or drips.  Just to be sure, I put a bowl beneath, but so far, all is well.  I seem finally to be out of plumbing projects.  Now if I can only find my way to the sewing room.  I know it’s around here somewhere .  .  .

(Useful tip:  Since the washers were so hard to find, I bought a duplicate set, put them into a tiny plastic bag, labeled it, and stuck it into the mostly unused bathroom cabinet.  If they need replacing, I’ve got the next set ready to go.)

Related:  The Kitchen Sink and Sinking, Not Sewing

Categories: Misc Tags:

Sinking, Not Sewing

March 15th, 2011 8 comments

More plumbing, less sewing.  Just before I left on an unexpected trip, I reached down to move the bathroom trash can and made a horrible discovery — it weighed a ton.  Underneath a snowy layer of tossed kleenices, the trash can was filled, nearly to the brim, with water.  Yikes.  We had a leak.  We had two leaks, actually; one at the faucet, and one in the line.

I turned the shut-off valve to “off” and left town.  When I got back, the toilet had stopped working, too.  And there’d been a power surge that caused an electrical explosion in the house.  Oh, joy.

Mr. Noile called in an electrician while I was gone, so that knocked off the initial electric stuff.  The toilet was pretty easy; it fails about every six months, so I’m used to dismantling it.  The sink, however, was another matter.

(I’d already removed one screw when I remembered to take a “before” shot.)   A plumber was not an option, at least partly because he would undoubtedly tell us that we needed to replace the sink, since we could get both a new sink and a faucet unit for less than I was going to pay for the new faucet unit.  If I could find it.

This would have been good advice, except that we have tile on lathe * lath-and-plaster walls.  I don’t even want to think about the bill we’d have on our hands once the plumber finished removing the old sink and installing the new one.  So it was do-it-yourself time.

Underneath the sink wasn’t too intimidating, but it was a very tight fit.  I was pretty bruised and banged up before this job was done, and never was able to imagine how a 200 pound plumber could have fit in the minuscule space between the sink legs and the wall.

Once the faucet handles are removed, you turn those chunky, nautical-looking nuts, and remove the brass nuts on the water lines, and the faucet unit pulls out.

The first challenge, though, was removing the faucet handles.  Taking the screws out did nothing; they were frozen in place, probably since the 1970s, when I suspect this set was installed.

I used this nifty tool — a (imagine that!) faucet puller:

You place the ends behind the faucet handle, and then screw until the handle comes off.  Worked a treat for the cold water handle, but then disaster struck.  The stem came with the hot water faucet, and broke off.  It’s missing in the photo below:

The broken stem is what made replacing the unit essential, as opposed to just replacing washers; can’t do anything without a faucet stem.  A trip to three local hardware stores confirmed my worst fears.  The sink itself was installed in 1952, and, as it turns out, all modern sinks have faucets that come off the top of the sink, not out the wall of the bowl.

Fortunately, there’s a plumbing supply place in a nearby town, so I headed there the next morning.  The guy behind the counter was shaking his head as soon as I unwrapped the unit, but he said he’d look upstairs and see what he could find.  When he returned he was carrying box labeled “ledgeback lavatory faucet”  made by Union Brass of Eagan, Minnesota. (Let’s hear it for the heartland, eh?)  I happily left the equivalent of my right arm in cash at the counter and returned to this:

That’s plumber’s putty; it goes under the faucet facings.  Porcelain scratches, so I used a nylon scraper to remove this yucky stuff.  By the way, don’t ever put anything metal in your porcelain sink unless you’ve lined the sink with a towel first.  That spout should not be sitting directly on the porcelain.

I thought removing the putty would be tricky, but it was pretty soft, and came off easily, yielding the result below:

The next step was truly scary.  The faucet unit is sold as as adjustable one — and was far too wide for my sink.  I had to lop off an inch or so of copper pipe from each end.  Weirdly, while at IKEA a while ago, I’d picked up a pipe cutter, thinking that I might use it for jewelry (or, just possibly, because it was very cheap and looked like a cool toy).  After measuring three times, and then double-checking my work, I marked and cut the pipes:

This was particularly nerve-wracking because the original unit was not cut perfectly to the center stem; when fit properly to the sink, the copper tubing didn’t meet the center unilaterally, so it wasn’t as if I could just cut them to match.  As you can see below, the new unit looks too big compared to the old.  It’s not; in this picture, the old just isn’t pulled out to fit the sink.

The helpful guy at the plumbing supply place warned me that there were o-rings inside the fixture that could be sheared and rendered useless if I left any kind of burr or sharp edge inside the copper pipe.  Fine sandpaper worked to make sure that the inside was smooth. (I tested it with a finger and wasn’t wounded; I figured that was good enough.)  However, he didn’t mention that cutting copper pipe distorts it.

Copper is so soft that this is apparently unavoidable.  However, the very minor distortion meant that I could not insert the brass pipe (the one to which the o-rings were attached) into the copper without shearing the o-rings.  (Ask me how I know.)   I headed off to our local independent hardware store and asked for advice.

It turns out that a full-sized pipe cutter comes with a little triangular gadget that is used to ream the pipe once it’s cut.  It molds the pipe back into the correct shape, and removes the ridge cutting it leaves.  This is apparently not a concern for IKEA, who are not notable for selling copper components.  Lesson learned.

Here’s the unit, set in place for a fitting.  The picture’s taken at a slight angle, and the fixture is resting on the bottom of the openings.  For final installation, it set higher, and was centered properly.  And it fit!  (Note the towel in the sink.  Better to be smart eventually than never.)

Installing it requires screwing the spout and the decorative flanges onto the front side (after filling them with plumber’s putty).  Then you crawl back under the sink for the hundredth time and re-attach the nautical-looking nuts, very, very gently so that you don’t crack the porcelain.  In order to seat the unit correctly, I had to fiddle a little bit with the tensions from front to back; like a lot of porcelain sinks, ours isn’t perfectly even.  Here’s the final result:

I originally thought I’d installed this unit upside down.  The famous torque adage is “lefty, loosey, righty, tighty” but in this case you turn the faucets to the right to open them, and to the left to close them.  I went to bed on installation night cursing myself for the amateur that I am, but in the morning learned that there is only one way to install this unit, and that’s how I’d done it.

After all this, though, I still had a leak.  All I’d really done is the equivalent of replacing the washers that had worn out and caused a slow leak from the faucets.  The leak that had filled the wastebasket was coming from a water line.  I had hoped that removing the line and reseating it would fix the problem, but it didn’t.

I wasn’t too sorry, though, since this meant that I could replace the old inflexible water lines with flexible ones.  Six bucks (and yet another trip to the hardware store) later, I had them in hand.  One last sojourn under the sink, bolts detached and tightened once again, and the job was done.

I couldn’t get flexible pipe in the size I theoretically needed, but the next size up worked fine, since moderate flexing in no way interferes with the transfer of water.

When I was done, I did the most important thing of all:

Yep — put a roasting pan under the whole thing for 48 hours.  You can’t be too sure.  And after that, I replaced the wastebasket, putting it in the exact same spot.  I’m a huge fan of having waterproof wastebaskets under plumbing.  This isn’t the first time I’ve found a leak this way, though it’s the first time in this house.  And the first time the leak has gone undetected for so long due to rising kleenices –that was an artful touch!

*We do not have a lathe in our walls Chez Noile.  Nor, it seems, do we have an adequate editor.  However, Noile has an excellent cousin who unfailingly catches these things, and, in doing so, makes Noile a happier person.  Merci, Fair Cuz!

Related:  The Kitchen Sink

Categories: Misc Tags:

Tapestry Capuche-écharpe

March 10th, 2011 1 comment

A couple of months ago, I made a red, black and white version of this convertible hood/shawl/scarf, and not long after that, this very different version, for a gift:

A peculiar sensitivity prevented me from donning this garment (I thought that honor should go to the recipient!), so I don’t have any photos showing what it looks like with the hood buttoned into shape.  However, I did take a few shots of the wearing variations before I sent it off:

The tapestry is a cotton blend, which I washed in cold water before using.  It’s amazing how often you can get away with this, and what a nice fabric results — one very suitable for garments!

Here’s the shawl collar version with the tapestry folded back:

The burnt orange side is a lovely wool flannel — nice and warm, but not too thick.  It’s about the thickness of old-school heavy cotton flannel.

You get a very different effect by folding the flannel back to form a shawl collar:

Overlapping the fronts gives an almost jacket-like look (and makes for a very cozy torso in weather that only requires, say, a sweater on your arms):

You can see a little bit of the shape of the hood itself below, although it’s folded.  Like my other version, this one has tassels at the end of each front piece, as well as on the point of the hood.  However, since I was mailing this one, I kept the cello sleeves on the tassels so that they wouldn’t be crushed or mussed in transit.

You can see the triple set of loops along the left.  They button to the other side to form the hood.

In retrospect, I’d probably use something else — maybe even grosgrain ribbon — for the loops.  The flannel is a wonderful fabric, but it did make fairly bulky loops.  Grosgrain, or something of a similar weight, might be a little less obtrusive and, maybe, a little easier to button.

Choosing notions for a project like this is a lot of fun!  I chose wood buttons with a little bit of detail for the tapestry side:

I used these “tortoise shell” buttons on the flannel side so that there wouldn’t be bare stitches showing:

By some miracle, I was able to find tassels in an almost-perfect color; that was the most difficult part of this project!

When I  made the previous version, I discovered that the tassels came unravelled immediately, so this time I used a combination of fray check and some carefully placed stitches to prevent disintegration.

I’d never have thought about making these if it hadn’t been for Nadine’s wonderful blog, Mes petites mains . . .  pleines de doigts, which is full of imaginative, delightful garments, including many versions of her luticharpe.  Check out her excellent tutorial and pattern instructions, too.

This is a wonderfully quick and satisfying project for days when you just want to make something, but don’t want to start a month-long project.  And what could you wear that is more perfect for the winter-spring season change?

Nadine asks that you send her a picture of your capuche-écharpe if you use her tutorial.  Please do!  It’s a wonderful way to say thank you.

RelatedLittle Corduroy Riding Hood

Categories: Accessories Tags: