Monday, August 13, 2012

Repairs using what you have

Also known as macguyvering around these parts, I grew up with the idea that if something broke you tried to fix it.  And if you didn't have the appropriate part, well, you finagled it with what you had before you gave up and threw the item out.

Things have been busy around the CrazynCrafty household these past weeks.  So much stuff to do between work, side business, and personal obligations has left me no time to do any crafting for myself.  I did manage to fix a few things here and there that needed it because not having the items in question was really cramping my style.  And since macguyvering requires a certain mix of creativity, perserverance, and a stubborn will to not throw something out unless you absolutely have to - it seems like a kind of crafting all its own.

First up was an umbrella I picked up at Goodwill for $1.99 a little over a month ago.  A good deal already to start with, one of the arms snapped.  Not entirely sure how it happened, but my umbrella was out of commission.  Ignoring the fact that I'd gotten it for cheap and could certainly afford another one, the first question was how could I fix it?  The solution involved a bamboo skewer, some strapping tape, and upholstery thread.  Strapping tape is one of the strongest tapes known to mankind I think, ranking right up there with duct tape.  I used it to tape the skwer along the arm, covering the break, so the arm was straight again and braced by the skewer and strengthened by the tape.  The upholstery thread connected the small metal brace piece to the arm so the arm would be held up when the umbrella was opened.  For a couple of things I had laying around I retained the use of a very useful item given the recent rain we've been having.

Second up was a clothing drying rack.  It is a cheap wood (maybe?) one I got somewhere.  Not even sure where now, but it didn't cost me much. Cheap construction meant it was only a matter of time before it fell apart.  Not willing to accept that, and not willing to pay $20+ for a new metal one, I set about finding a way to fix it.  There were two problems here.  First issue was one of the horizontal rods where you actually hang your clothes.  They're attached to the side braces by means of an end cap that goes through the brace and screws into the rods.  One of these end caps was missing, so the rod kept coming out.  A piece of cardboard folded over and wrapped with strapping tape made a neat new endcap and a spare screw from something pulled it together:
The second issue was the horizontal rod that the top piece hooks into to keep the rack standing.  Hard to describe unless you have a clothing drying rack, but the rack folds flat for storage.  The side braces accordion flat or stretch out to form the rack and the top swings over to hook onto one of the rods to hold the whole thing up.  This rod is attached differently (read: worse) than the others.  The rod has a plastic sleeve on each end that slides over a plastic peg in the side braces.  That's it.  So when the plastic collar breaks, there is nothing connecting the rod to the side braces, and the rack can't stand up because the top piece has nothing to hook onto.  Brilliant.  So I took some strapping tape, awesome stuff, and wrapped it as tightly as I could around the plastic collar to hold it closed again and strengthen it.  Won't hold forever, but it'll limp along for a while yet.  I used a decent sized piece of tape so I got a couple layers of tape on there.  Below is a picture of the repair up close and the rack itself in case my description was terrible (it probably was) so you can see the flat top and where it hooks on the right side.

So yeah, saved myself $20 on the rack and maybe $6 on the umbrella, assuming a sale and I'm purchasing replacements new out of necessity.  Not bad for maybe 20 minutes of work total and some stuff I had around the apartment anyway.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Making martial arts pants - trial, error, and alterations

So I started a martial arts class and I needed a new pair of pants as mentioned here because I only had a pair of black knit and the white pants that go with my full gi from college.  A gi is that uniform you often see martial artists wearing - wrap jacket over pants, often white though they come in many colors.

Fabric was a 55%  cotton/45% polyester blend navy blue tablecloth I had picked up somewhere and kept in my stash.  The fabric has a subtle tonal stripey thing going from the weave so I made sure that was vertical since I liked that look better.  I used McCall's M5813 as a starting point.  The sleep pants seemed like a good base because it is designed to be loose rather than closer to the body like many pants patterns.  For martial arts you don't want the pants to constrict your movements.  Actually I lucked out on this pattern.  View A is a cropped version of the pants, and as such doesn't have a yoke piece at the waist.  However, because I am so short the cropped pant is the perfect length of full pants for me.  One of those times that being so petite works in my favor.  Save time and fabric.

Or at least saving time was the plan.  Probably would have gone quickly if I could have managed to stop messing it up.  Seriously, this pattern has two pattern pieces and four pieces to assemble.  How hard could this possibly be you ask?

Mistake one - Managed to sew one leg with right sides of the fabric together (correctly) and one with the wrong sides of the fabric together (incorrectly) and didn't discover it until I was trying to get the notches to line up for the next step.  So that line of stitching had to be seamripped.

Mistake two - Fixed the leg and then moved on to sewing the front to the back on each side.  Except I manage to sew the front to the front and the back to the back.  Somehow didn't click that it didn't look right until I was trying to figure how much to adjust the waistband foldover since I was using 1" elastic instead of 3/4" elastic.  That was two lines of stitching that had to be seamripped.

Then of course came the alterations.  I tried it on before putting in the waistband and the legs were enormously wide.  Total clown pants.  Trial and error got me the proper amount to take in from each side so my hips still fit and could move comfortably through kicks and such.  I used my existing gi pants as an example for how wide I wanted the ankle opening to be.  Then just tapered between the hip measurement and the ankle measurement.  Somehow summing it up makes it sound easier, but trust me, it was a lot of pinning and trying on, moving pins, and trying on again.  Then measuring and pinning.  Only once I was satisfied did I sew the new side seam and cut away the excess.  I made sure to note how much I took in so I could add the notes to the pattern envelope and hopefully down the road make new pattern pieces for this purpose.

From there on the construction went smoother until it was time to feed the elastic.  Got to within 6-8" of done and suddenly had a horrible time getting the safety pin to pull through.  Took forever as the safety pin kept opening and threatening to get stuck inside the channel.  I wanted to scream I swear.  Cooler head prevailed and finally got it in and adjusted.  Only thing left was hemming the ankles and that went quickly.  I used my pinking shears to trim the seam allowance a little to prevent fraying and tossed the pants in the wash to get all the fuzzies off.

Did I mention pinking the edges to prevent fraying?  Yeah that didn't work.  I lost at least 1/4" off all the exposed seams from fraying.  I'm going to have to use hem tape and cover all the exposed seams.  I am way to lazy to deconstruct the garment to do anything with the seam allowance.  Luckily the fraying wasn't so bad that it threatened the integrity of the seams.  I had totally spaced and didn't zigzag the seams so I was a bit worried.

Wore them last thursday to class and they worked out fine.  No seams failed and I had full range of movement during class.  Unfortunately my sewing machine was doing something wrong and the thread on the underside while sewing (outside when sewing outer seams) was loopy.  Difficult for anyone to see navy thread on navy fabric so I don't think anyone noticed but me.  Gotta figure out the problem there because I want to try this again with some red cotton sailcloth curtains I also had picked up somewhere.  Red pants will certainly stand out in class.

Unfortunately I was so frustrated with my time consuming mistakes that I didn't stop to take pictures of the alteration process.  I have to go back and cover the seams though so I'll take pictures of the finished project.  I'll try to remember to take more pictures when making the red pair.