Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The best £2 I ever spent

Hi there! Things have been busy busy busy around here. I've been making a lot of cakes, I did some cupcakes for a charity day at my hairdressers. I was halfway through the 52 cupcakes and it was about 11pm and my hand mixer decided it couldn't possibly go on and went up in a puff of smoke. Typical! I carried on doing the icing by hand and didn't finish till gone 2:30am. Next day I also had to make a second cake for Miss D to take to her aunties so she could celebrate her birthday with her friends that she knows over there. I found that Delia's Children's Cake recipe topped with the milk chocolate covering from Nigella's Custard Birthday Cake is great for when you have no mixer as they both are made using melted things. A lot easier on the hands.

Once I had delivered my cupcakes to their destination I came home to a delivery of fence posts and panels that means my garden will finally be enclosed. Once they are put up that is. As Mr J isn't supposed to be lifting things and the delivery lorry was too big to get near to the house, I spent a good hour helping my dad carry everything down the lane. Mr J is currently on a 24 hour heart monitor to see if anything untoward is happening. He has a little diary to note down any abnormal occurrences so they can see on the read-out if anything changes with his heart rate at that time. Of course being me I see it as a fab opportunity to sneak up on him and shove cold vegetables from the fridge down his trousers. He wrote in his diary, 16:23 - Wife thinks she is funny.

Anyhow on to the interesting part of this blog post. A few months ago I picked up a Greist vintage buttonholer from an antique market for £2. At that point I wasn't sure how on earth to use it or whether or not it would fit on any of my machines. I thought for the price that it was worth getting just in case (why I didn't apply that logic at this weekend's car boot I don't know. I left something I later really wanted behind!) I knew that the Singer buttonhole attachments were good as my friend Lisa at Lisa Sews has one set up on permanently on a Singer machine to use for all her button holes. Lisa was the first person I ever met from the internet and I am forever grateful to her for not being an axe wielding murderer.

In the box you get a blanking plate and a set of dies that go inside the buttonholer from underneath. I'm pretty lucky as it comes with the full set of 10 so a lot of sizes to choose from.

Everything from eyelets to keyholes for coat buttons.

The lever on the side goes from wide to narrow stitch widths.
Unlike the Singer which uses the machine's zigzag stitch, the Greist overrides the stitch selected and works a satin-like stitch independently.

To use it you remove the screw that holds the foot onto the needle arm and take the foot off. There is a small hole where you can replace the screw to hold the buttonholer in place. There is a small fork that needs to be on the bar at the side of the needle screw. (hope I'm making sense!)

It wasn't as easy as just getting it out of the box and being good-to-go. Firstly I had to find out how it works and found this fantastic YouTube video. He's a guy in a vest who knows all about buttonholers. My hero! Thank you Brian.

To be able to use the buttonholer you have to be able to either blank off the feed dogs (moving things under the needle that push the fabric along) with a plate, which adds bulk, or isolate them on the machine. I have two machines, a Janome my parents bought me as a teenager and the Toyota I replaced it with once the Janome developed a few annoying traits that I think could probably be sorted out with a service. My Toyota is very basic and the feed dogs can't be dropped as far as I could see. Another problem some people have is the buttonholer being caught on the lever that lifts the needle arm up. On the Janome it isn't on the back but on the side so avoids it completely.

So I had to go across to my mother-in-law's to retrieve my Janome from her garage where it had been serving penance for being a pesky machine. As pesky as it is it has an easy switch lever inside to drop the feed dogs. The machine was filthy and still had the same blunt needle in as about 10 years ago or more but as I'm impatient I couldn't wait to have a go. It started up straight away.

And here it is, my first buttonhole

Isn't it pretty awesome? I'm so happy with it!

Getting it to work was one of the hurdles I needed to get over before I can start work on my skirt I talked about a couple of posts ago. The other was to find some fabric. I have found a few good shops on my travels, my favourite so far being Ditto Fabrics. There are some good choices also on Croft Mill and Fabric Land though I find the site really awkward and you can't order online you have to call them.

So, not quite there but progress.

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