Bobbin trouble

I have been doing some sewing recently and it seemed like every other project I did went terribly, with the bobbin thread repeatedly getting all bunched up on the back of whatever I was sewing.  And then other times I would sew something and it was completely fine with no issues.  I had tried adjusting the tension and every other potential fix I could find in my manual and online, but nothing helped.  I noticed that when I was sewing with red thread, I didn’t have the issue, but with white it was one tangle after another.  I wondered if there was something different about the thread.  But then I remembered that Sherry from YHL had issues using her new sewing machine and her problem turned out to be that she was using the wrong bobbin.  Could it be?  Have I had a set of bobbin saboteurs lurking in my sewing box all these years?

I compared my bobbins.  It’s hard to tell unless you look closely, but the offending bobbin is just slightly smaller than the good one.

See it now?  It reminds me of the old days of computer programming when I didn’t have a code editor and would spend hours trying to figure out why my code didn’t work, only to discover a single missing comma.  Anyway, it turns out I have six good bobbins that came with my machine, and somewhere along the way I bought some new bobbins that have been intermittently making my life difficult ever since.  On my latest trip to the fabric store (4th of July sale) I found this pack of bobbins on the super-sale rack, and it lists Kenmore, so I was hoping that meant it would work.

Before using them, I carefully compared them to my good bobbins.  They seem to be the exact same dimensions, but I’ll be watching out for trouble just in case.  I’ve tried one so far and didn’t have any tangles.  What a relief!

I have to give a shout out to Sherry.  Had she not 1) persevered through a very frustrating series of attempts at sewing long enough to finally figure out what the core problem was, 2) blogged about it, and 3) generally kept up a blog that I find so informative and entertaining that I read pretty much every post every day, then I probably wouldn’t have thought to look at the bobbin as the potential source of my problems.  Blogging saves the day again!


Tiling the hearth: prep part 2

Ok.  When we left off, we had demoed the old tile and started preparing for the new slate tile by pouring some concrete, selecting our tile, and cutting both the tile and edging.  We were a bit conservative pouring the concrete, so our pad was still a bit low.  After doing some more research online, I decided that using the Schluter Ditra underlayment would be a good way to bring up the height of the tile while also protecting against any cracks due to expansion and contraction of the wood floor.  Given the previous issue with the tile getting so jammed up against the wood that it created hideous cracks in the floor, taking the extra precaution against any problems seemed like a good idea.  I also figured we should use the underlayment when we do our entrance in the same tile, so why not buy it now and use it both places.  Note: using this for the hearth of a wood burning fireplace may be questionable due to heat issues, but it is fine for a gas insert. 

I installed the Ditra according to instructions (thinset mixed loose but still able to hold a notch, press Ditra fleece backing firmly into it, making sure to add enough thinset for complete coverage).

I attempted to install the tile right afterward.  Yes, attempted.  Did not succeed.  Here’s what happened.  I had everything all laid out and ready to go.  I’d read about how to do it.  I knew I still needed to come up about a quarter of an inch to make my tile flush with the wood floor, so I used extra thinset.  But I had mixed it too thin, and my Schluter edging kept sinking into it. 

I tried letting the thinset set up a little bit, but it was still not working.  I realized that I really needed two things to be different: mix the thinset to the proper consistency (duh) like peanut butter (it actually looks even oozier in the picture than it really was, but it was too thin for sure) and start at the right level so my edging could sit on it and not sink down.  My real problem was that I was trying to make a seamless transition between the hardwood and the tile so it would be level and flush, and I hadn’t created the ideal situation to achieve that.  So I decided to scratch the operation for the day and use what I’d learned to make it work on the next attempt.  Aside from the learning experience, I also got some use out of the thinset by combing it out to a level that would put me at the right height for installing the tile later.  This is my semi-defeated-but-also-semi-relieved-that-I-didn’t-completely-ruin-everything face:

And fortunately, dry (but not cured) thinset easily washes off of tile, edging, wood floors, arms, and tools. 

I put a piece of plywood over it with some random objects to keep dogs from stepping on it.  It did take longer to dry that way, but I don’t think that hurts anything. 

The next day, it was dryish.  I took that opportunity to level it a bit more using our screed from earlier with shims taped to the ends.  I pulled it from back to front, scraping off any high areas.  It worked quite well.

When the thinset was completely dry, I dry set my tile for probably the 7th of 12 times and checked the height.  It was still just a touch high in some areas, but the notches and the fact that it wasn’t cured yet made it easy to scrape down in high areas with the flat side of a trowel.  Here’s what it looked like after the scraping:

… and then I dry set my tile again.  Maybe I was paranoid cautious at this point, but I wanted to get it as close to perfect as I could so my next and hopefully final attempt at setting the tile would go smoothly.  So I taped some string across it and noted any high or low points (these variations were very small at this point).

When I felt that there were no points that were too high, the last thing I did was to lay a straight board across the tile. 

At various points, I measured how much space was between the board and the tile by slipping a shim underneath it and noting how much of the shim would fit.  I made a chart to remind myself where the tile should fit as tight as possible against the base and where I should put the thinset down a little thicker.

Was this all a bit much?  Maybe.  Do I think any of it was wasted time?  No.  I learned my lesson and I was going to set myself up for success in round two.  And I did; it went really smoothly.  I will tell you about it in the next - and final!!! - post in the hearth project series. 


D’oh! Stuck with wrong size air filters

In the fall, we were in Costco when I spotted a 3-pack of good quality accordion air filters.  We were out of air filters, so I bought them.  They seemed like the right size.  I got home, opened the packaging (proud of myself for remembering to replace the filter), and attempted to place one of the filters in the air intake of our 1952 oil furnace.   And that’s when I noticed it didn’t fit.  I bought 16”x25”x1” filters, but our furnace takes 20”x25”x1”.  Whah-whah.  But I had already opened all the packaging, so I couldn’t return them.  I could have freecycled them, which means at least they wouldn’t be wasted, but good filters are not cheap, and I was kind of bummed to think I’ll lose that money.  Plus the furnace was still in desperate need of a new filter, and now I would have to make a trip to the store to get the right ones.

Then I noticed something else: these filters have two dimensions in common with the ones I need.  It shouldn’t be too hard to get that third dimension.  I used the old filter as a guide (see it in the back, its pleats gray from a filtering job well done?) and started cutting.  A utility knife was no match for the metal grid, but my trusty tin snips worked great.  I just had to be careful of the sharp edges.

I put the pieces together with blue painters tape (making sure the air flow direction marked on the side matched), and voila, three 16” wide filters had become two 20” wide filters. 

So yeah, it would have been best if I hadn’t bought the wrong size, or if I had checked the size before opening the package.  This solution made me feel a little bit better about my mistakes.  The modified filters are getting us through the winter until that happy day arrives when we get rid of the huge, noisy, 60-year-old furnace that currently resides in our hallway.  I have news about that, which I will share soon…


A look back: window installation mishap

This is going back a ways in time, but I always meant to share a little mishap we had during the window installation.  The very first window we tried to install was not an epic failure, but a minor setback anyway.  We had allowed an inch and a half of extra vertical space inside the rough openings of the windows because our soffits came right to the tops of the old windows and we wanted to make sure we could install them properly using the nailing flanges on the windows and also have room for trim.  On the front of the house, we allowed an extra inch and a half because the bottoms of the old windows were right at the level of the brick facing, as seen in this old photo:

But then our plans changed and instead of just installing the new windows, we decided to tear off all that brick and siding so we could put on all new siding.  After the windows had been made to our specifications. Not the best planning, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Given the new circumstances, we decided that the easiest thing to do, which would also make the tops of all the windows level with each other, would be to build up the rough openings from the bottom only (and not the tops).  So for the first window we installed, which is the one shown above, we measured, decided how much we needed to add, and Matt put in a couple 2x4s plus a sliver of plywood to build up the rough opening.  We wrapped the flashing along the bottom and sides of the opening, got the window all ready by cleaning the flanges with rubbing alcohol and putting caulk on the corners of the flanges, and caulked around the outside of the window opening.  Then we put in the window.  Except it didn’t go in.  Crap.  We forgot to dry fit it.  Duh!  Now it was getting dark outside, we had a big hole in the front of our house, plus we got caulk on the window frame.  We admitted temporary defeat, taped plastic over the window opening, put everything away, and went to bed. 

The next day we bought some caulk remover and I spent a while using it along with various scraping devices (plastic putty knife, caulk removal tool, plastic loopy thing traditionally used for scouring pots and pans) until all that oops caulk was gone. 

This stuff worked pretty well, and I’ve had occasion to use it a few times since.  Caulk does tend to get on things.  At least at our house it does.

Meanwhile, Matt fixed the window opening to the right height. 

Then we dry fit the window, put on new flashing, and finally installed the window correctly. 

[Woops, I can’t find a photo of the new window as seen from out front.  Coming soon.]

The moral of the story is to always dry fit your window.  We didn’t make that mistake twice - once was enough.


Escutcheon lesson

The other day, we spent about an hour wrestling with the thing pictured above.  The bathtub faucet drips and is pretty outdated, so we’re going to replace the whole kit and caboodle.  We needed to see what was under there, so after removing the faucet handle ($6 is totally worth it for a handle puller, BTW), we tried in vain to pry it off the wall.  Fortunately, we knew it would be a major bummer if we broke the tile in the process, so we were careful and didn’t.  Finally, I looked at our plumbing book, which promptly informed me that this thing is called an escutcheon (pronounced ih-SKUSH-un) and that it is threaded.  We had tried twisting, but it makes a huge difference knowing that it’s supposed to unscrew.  It gives you the confidence to apply the extra force needed to get the job done.  A minute later, it was off.  My motto, “read the book,” proves once again to be the best advice.  Too bad I didn’t follow it sooner!  But hey, we learned something and didn’t do any serious damage, so I’ll call it a success.