Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas to One and All!

Image Source: ... me! I drew this, ain't it cute ?

Well, it never fails to surprise me how the Christmas festivities just creep up on you - it's so weird, because even though it happens every year it just always seems inside of my head that the last Christmas was more than 12 months ago (I know maybe I'm crazy, but it just feels like longer).

Anyway, whether you personally celebrate Christmas or not - I think we should all embrace the spirit of goodwill to all mankind - so here's to good health and good fortune to one and all of you out there!

YouTube Video: Shakin' Stevens - Merry Christmas Everyone

P.S. Keep you eyes peeled for a special post from me on New Year's Day... as my little blog turns 1 year old, so I shall be celebrating this special anniversary with a GIVEAWAY (or two yay!). The giveaway details to follow... and it will be open to both UK and overseas entries :)

I'll be enjoying festive cheer with my family and in-laws when this post goes out, so wherever you area I hope you have a lovely time - remember it's not about gifts, it's about giving love and understanding :)

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Going Round The Bend...

Measuring Wheel - Kawaguchi Packet

Nope - I don't mean I'm going mad (although, what with it being Christmas it is turning into silly season trying to get all the festive chores completed in time for family trips etc. hohoho!).

I mean measuring round bends and curves! Following on from my last post about rulers that don't measure up I thought I'd mention where I bought my lovely measuring wheel from :)

I first encountered this particular product when Yoshimi held a giveaway (at the end of 2010 / beginning of January 2011 - I'm not sure of the exact date as the blog post is no longer there LOL), and I became a little obsessed with getting my hands on this lovely Japanese sewing gadget! (The lovely Melissa won that giveaway and her happy reports of using it only made my desire to purchase this notion even greater.) So I finally succumbed, and bought it this summer.

Basically, this small white plastic wheel has markings all around it's circumference from 0 - 20 cm, with fractional increments at every mm too. It's a revolving, rotary measuring tool that allows you to easily (and in my opinion) pretty accurately measure around curves 'n' bends - so perfect when you need to check the size of armholes (armscyes) and necklines etc. A great addition to my ever growing arsenal of pattern cutting tools!

Measuring Wheel (20cm Side)

One one side it's labelled 1   and is labelled 0-75 for 80 actual divisions, but I don't use that 
                                  4  side (I think it's to do with ¼ scale-drawings perhaps? Dunno!).

Measuring Wheel (Scaled Side)

It works in the same way that a 'trundle wheel', or a 'surveyor's measuring wheel' - which are used to measure distance (you might of seen your local council workers using them on the roads, and pavements of your home town sometime).

To use it...
You simply line up the 0-mark of the wheel carefully against the start of where you want to measure from.
Then, you roll or turn the wheel forwards and away from you.
Stop, at the point/end you decide - and make a note of the number on the wheel touching the end-point.
NB: If you are measuring a line longer than 20cm (which is the length of 1 full rotation of the wheel, i.e. it's circumference is 20cm), then just keep a note of how many times the 0-mark whizzes past. If it goes past 3-times, and the end-point of your curved line finishes on say 5.3cm against the marks on the measuring wheel, then the distance is:

(3 x 20cm) + 5.3cm = 65.3cm... s'easy!

Where to buy...
I got mine from a Japanese shopping site called Rakuten (apparently they are Japan's largest online retail marketplace) - it's a bit like Amazon marketplace, with lots of different stores selling stuff through them! Luckily, there is an English language version of their site (all my links below are in English - except where stated).

Manufactured by Kawaguchi
Manufacturer's Item 05-640  (商品番号 = Item 05-640)
Japanense name for the item is: マールサシ (Google translates this as 'Marusashi').
Seller / Store Name: Sanoya (あっと クラフト)
Link to Sanoya's Item/Product Page: Product Page
Price: *JPY 770 (*price I paid exc. Tax, and exc. Shipping)
Tax:  I bought 2 of the measuring wheels (so I have a spare one in case one broke - I thought it'd save me shipping/time in the long run) and my Tax for the 2x was JPY 76
Shipping Costs: JPY 180 (which was for 2 wheels) to the UK.
NB: To search for other stores selling this same item cut and paste マールサシ into the search box (or click here which gives you 2-stores). For more sellers in Japanese language only click here (for the Google translation here).

So, in total I paid for 2 wheels JPY 1,796 (approx. £15.00 GBP).
By my rough calculations, if you only wanted x1 wheel you'd be looking at (worse case scenario) around £9.00 GBP no more.

I use the XE Personal Currency Assistant to work out how much approximately items purchased from overseas will cost me.

But, you can ask questions of the sellers via the Rakuten site to check what your total costs might be, and here's their page on Delivery and Shipping Rates.

Rakuten also have sites aimed at other shopper's home countries wishing to buy from them in Japan: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and France.

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I decided to compare my lovely measuring wheel with 2 other methods I'd used in the past - dressmakers tape measure (on it's edge), and a flexible curved ruler. I drew a curved line onto some paper marked start and end points. The wheel gave me 12.25cm, the yellow tape measure 12.4cm, and the flexible ruler 12.15cm. Pics below:

Curved line on paper Measuring using flexible tape measure

Measuring using a flexible curved ruler Using the measuring wheel
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Alternative Wheels?...
I originally tried to find something similar to this tool in the UK (as I thought international shipping would cost too much).

Morplan sell a Curve Measurer (Product Code: 43895, £13.95 GBP + VAT and Delivery).
Image Source:

And, there are also 'Map Measures' (sometimes called Planimeters - although that can mean a very different type of measuring tool too) used to measure in scale distances shown in miles, kilometres and nautical miles - so I would've had to fiddle around with maths, and would've mucked it up no end I expect!

Image Source: (shown is a Gelert model)

Or, there's even a pricey model by Alvin (Alvin 1111 2-Face Map Measure, Curve Measure, Plan Measure).

Frankly, they look way more complicated than the lovely simple Japanese tool - don't they ?

Thursday 8 December 2011

When Something Doesn't Quite Measure Up...

Self adhesive measuring tape
"A silvery, slithery, snake in the grass
perhaps? Or simply an inaccurate
peddler of measurements? Hmmmm..."

I'm still midst organising the new sewing room - and have been much distracted by a) a lack of lighting downstairs in our house due to an electrical fault (which is not good in the dark winter evenings, and it has taken up too much of our time on the weekends trying to fix it without paying £££ for an electrician to come out - luckily we managed to isolate the faulty part of the circuit and everything else apart from the kitchen now works again), b) trying to assemble a new garden shed + paint + felt it's roof + insulate it etc. etc., c) life in general and d) I transferred to a new job last week too ... phew! You get the picture - sewing has been on my mind, but not being actioned at all and my fingers are gettin' twitchy!

So, I decided to instigate a little drop of progress when I bought a self-adhesive measuring tape (approx. 150cm / 59" long) from MacCulloch & Wallis after work one day, for the princely sum of £1.95 (+ VAT). It's a silver coloured tape (polyester based I believe - it certainly feels very thin and not at all metallic despite it's appearance). I decided it would be very handy on the front edge of my cutting table (which is 150cm long from IKEA).

I cleaned off the surface for dust and grease (I swiped it with a dab of surgical spirit on a J-cloth to de-grease it and allowed it to evaporate off first to ensure good adhesion). I carefully applied the tape smoothing out bubbles as I went, and I took extra care not to apply to much stretch/tension on the end, so as not to elongate and distort it as I reached the end.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw this

150cm self adhesive measuring tape
What's not right with this picture? 150cm long table + 150cm tape measure... Answers on a postcard LOL!

Hmmm... see how on my 150cm long IKEA table (I checked!) the self-adhesive measuring tape seems to have stretched during the sticking down process and is too long by approx. 4mm?...

I considered lifting and reapplying it - but I thought it'd definitely not go down again so cleanly and would end up a nasty waste of time. So, I thought I'd check it against my fibre-glass based sewing tape measure (yellow). But, according to the yellow thing my table was 6-7mm longer than 150cm  - WHAT!?*!

Okay, by now I realised that one or both of the tape measures was inaccurate - so I compared them to some rigid rulers...

Comparing to my tape measure (at 20cm)

I comparing the (silver, at bottom of photo) self-adhesive measuring tape which I suspect is not accurate to the flexible tape-measure (yellow) and a rigid plastic ruler (45cm), and an aluminium metal ruler from the DIY store (100cm).

Attempting to line them up at the 20cm mark they are all pretty close - only the yellow one appears to be 1mm longer than the rest.

Next, I thought okay if the yellow 'n' silver ones ARE out of whack, then maybe it'll show up more at a greater distance (e.g. let's say the silver one was 1% too long - 1% of 10cm would be only 1mm, but at 100cm that's 1cm more - and easier to spot too).

Comparing to my tape measure (at the 100cm)

Comparing the tapes and ruler at the end of the 100cm aluminium ruler - the vertical clear ruler is aligned with the 100cm mark on the yellow tape-measure, but see how the yellow one seems a bit "short", and the self-adhesive tape (bottom) seems a tiny bit "too long" verses the aluminium ruler!!

Lastly, looking at the end of the table top...

Comparing to my tape measure (at the end)

Comparison at end of the (silver) self-adhesive measuring tape. The table is 150cm long, but the silver-coloured tape seems short! And yet, the yellow tape measure is also short - but by a different amount. Very odd! (NB: I carefully smoothed out the yellow one and held it in place lightly with sticky tape to get the photo.)

I have concluded that the self-adhesive tape and my yellow tape are inaccurate, and not to be relied upon for very detailed work - especially not anything over 20cm (haha). This got me a bit worried about some other rulers I have - but I checked those against one another and they seem fine (phew!).

Various rulers
A few of my rulers (I DO have more haha!)

I have heard that older fabric based tailors/dressmakers rulers were very prone to stretching and distorting - but that's not such a problem for the modern sewing tape measure (often made from fibreglass enclosed in plastic - like my yellow ones pictured many times above). So, my yellow ones shouldn't get any worse LOL!

I think the moral of this story is that a bad workman can't blame their tools if he/she doesn't check them first. Accuracy in sewing and pattern making is very important, and inaccurate rulers etc. could throw you off course without you even knowing. Imagine if you accidentally added 3mm to the edge of each seam allowance line on a 2-piece, A-line skirt zipped-up the centre-back - that could mean 4x side seam edges, plus (2x) either side of the zipper - 6x edges in total. 6 x 3mm = 18mm or approx. ¾" (that's assuming you didn't stitch it inaccurately too - which could compound the error eeek!). That's a big difference between a well fitting waistband or not!

Luckily for me, I don't plan to use the tape stuck on the table for accurate work. It's there to help me measure up approximate lengths of fabric / pattern paper / trims etc. and will save me time rummaging around for a tape measure when I need one :)