Friday 3 August 2012

Power Plays with Irons... Do You Feel Switched On?

My Iron
My Iron
As a sewing fan (whether you sew your own garments, crafts, for couture clients or quilting) pressing is always an important part of the process to producing wonderful results in your work. Therefore, your iron and ironing board etc. are essential tools in your sewing arsenal.

But, hopping up and down betwixt machine and your pressing station to iron away at this piece and that bit can a) be tiring, b) time consuming, c) make your sewing area hot with a constant source of heat, and d) waste energy if you have to leave the iron turned on constantly.

Obviously, it can be wasteful of electricity (and likely your bank balance too in the very long term!) to leave your iron turned on all the time. Of course modern iron-models automatically switch themselves off after a certain waiting period; this is for both reasons of health & safety, and to conserve energy - so this can take the worry out of leaving a potential fire hazard on all the time!
You could of course try to remember to switch-off the iron by hand every time you visit your ironing board (but you might loose time waiting for it to re-heat up on your next go). Or, you can try to "work smarter" and arrange your order of construction so that you press as many pieces that require it at the *same time. (*This is something I am working towards on all new projects as it seems to increase my work flow, and I also prefer not getting up and down all the time between sewing each step in the pattern instructions).

If, like me you have a typical domestic iron (and not one of those super-duper heavy duty professional tailor's
über steamy type models) then turning it off all the time is a pain in le derrière. For my own iron there is no on/off switch - just the dial to adjust the heat setting (plus the steam settings slider/knob) and to turn it on you plug it into the mains electrical socket. Turning my iron off - means crawling down near the floor to reach the power-socket behind my pressing board - definitely not my idea of fun if you have to do it upmteen times an hour. At least my model has a fast heat-up time though :) (I've got the 'Philips Azur GC4870/02 Steam Iron'.)

My Iron... Adding an On-Off Switch

Disclaimer: Electricity is dangerous stuff - fact! This post is in no way a tutorial, or a set of instructions on how to carry out alterations or repairs to your iron(s) or other electrical appliances. I do not accept any responsibility or liability whatsoever for any losses, damages, injuries, accidents (or any other outcomes) to persons, possessions or to property as a result of anyone reading my post (or my photographs/images) who has then duplicated in full (or in part) my alterations (as shown here and/or elsewhere) upon their own (or upon someone else's) equipment. Persons who do so, do so entirely at their own risk and liability. Electrical work and repairs should always be carried out by an appropriately qualified, registered and insured professional.

So, I thought to myself "How can add an on/off switch to my iron - but without ruining it?". And, I had this bright DIY idea :) ! Add a switch to an extension lead, plug my iron into the modified extension + turn it on/off with only one finger easy-peasey! No need to unplug each time to turn off my iron (which for me needs 2 hands + crawling on the floor each time).
So, I bought this 1-Gang trailing mains extension socket for only £3.35 GBP ($5.20 USD) + an in-line **switch (sometimes called a thru-switch / cord switch) too 
**The 3-core type, so it can accommodate the UK wiring for Live (Brown), Neutral (Blue) and Earth (Yellow/Green) - plus it needs to be the correct Amp-rating for the iron (so 13A in this instance).

And, last night I (with much help from Hubby when the screws wouldn't co-operate LOL!) cut the cable into 2-pieces a few inches (maybe 7-10cm) from the socket-end.

Then, we stripped back the outer plastic, and wired it all together (very similar to my Sewing Machine Surgery last April).

On, Off Power Extension Lead (for my Iron)

Another cool option could be an in-line floor switch! You'd then be able to use your foot to turn off your iron - no bending down see :) !

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Which Way Do YOU Tilt?...

.... your Overlocker (Serger) that is!

I've read in a few blogs, and in books that it's popular for sewists to tilt their sewing machines and overlockers. Basically instead of the flat-bed of your machine being parallel to the table-top surface that it is resting on; you instead raise the back of the machine higher than the front. Thus the bed surface is tilted towards you as you sit at your machine. Supposedly, this is a more ergonomic way to sew - you do not end up leaning forward as much as when the machine is not tilted. So, it should reduce aches and pains on both your neck, back, wrists and hands, and make for a more comfortable sewing experience. Another bonus is that you should have a wider and improved field of view resulting in easier and more accurate stitching.

Threads Issue 150, Page 41 - Ergonomic Sewing (Sept 2010)

I believe that tilt tables for sewing machines are very popular in the quilting and patchwork world - where a long time can be spent sat stationary in position at your machine stitching together large swathes of fabric.

Commercially sold tilt-tables (e.g.: like , this one) tend to include an lip at the front-edge (the one nearest to your body), this prevents any chance of the machine from sliding down and off (we don't want any expensive accidents or broken toes - eekk!). However many models cost anywhere from $40 USD/£25.50 GBP, to around $70/£44.50 for this one (same model is about £50 - $78.30 in the UK here) and this one, or even nearly $100/£63.80 for this one.

Now, I don't know about you - but I ain't paying those kind of prices - "No Sir!".

So, some DIY solutions I've heard of are as follows:-
A pair of door stops! Rubber ones are best - so they grip to the machine and to the table surface slightly.
   Pros: Cheap and easy to get hold of (Pound-Shop / Dollar Store?)
   Cons: Could slip out from under the machine if nudged / knocked, nothing to stop the machine sliding off of them.

Threads Magazine Issue 118, Page 14 - Tip - Door Stops (May 2005)  02, Door Stops - Serger, Overlocker Tilting

A long computer keyboard wrist-pad rest (as per this tip from Threads Magazine)
   Pros: Same as above.
   Cons: Same as above, plus - might perhaps be a bit squishy / bouncy under a heavier weight machine.

Threads Issue 115, Page 12 - Wrist rest 
pad (Nov 2004)
An office binder / folder (as per Tip #30 from the book: 1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts and Tips)
   Pros: Same as above.
   Cons: Nothing to stop the machine sliding off of the file / binder.

Pattern Review Book - Tip No. 30  03, Binder or Folder - Serger, Overlocker Tilt Table

This Quilter bought a wooden tilt table for her sewing machine. Another lady made one using a pair of small, and a pair of large castors / wheels underneath a wooden base.

But, I've come up with another solution! And it'll only cost you £3.50 (or $3.99 in the US) plus a trip to your local IKEA...

FAIR WARNING! I think this will only reasonably work for overlockers / sergers which seem to be much lighter in weight than "normal" sewing machines. So, a vintage cast metal machine would in all likelihood bend - if not break the plastic!!

Overlocker Tilt Table from Laptop Stand

If you like this tip you can Pin-It here on Pinterest :) !

My cheapo solution is the IKEA - BRÄDA Laptop support (comes in Black or Green plastic). (Article Number: 601.501.76).

Size:    Width 16½" (42cm)
            Depth 12¼" (31cm)
            Height 3½" (9cm)

There's a rubber strip at the back horizontal-edge that prevents the support from sliding around. And, a retaining edge keeps things in place (at the lower front-edge).

If you were worried about it being to wide - you can always saw it down narrower!

Now I need to go to IKEA and buy another one - I borrowed the one above from my laptop LOL!