Thursday, May 13, 2010

Measuring tape fix

I stopped by Daiso at lunch today because who can resist a little bit of cute overload at the Japanese dollar (actually $1.50) store? Check out this little bear measuring tape:

And it is "convenient for the sewing and the body check." Perfect! Now I can do a body check. (click the picture to see it larger, if you can't read the expression at the top).

Since the "Bear's faced measuring tape" is metric I thought I'd keep it in my knitting bag for those times when I'm working on non-US patterns. But in the process of opening the package, which was maybe a little too easy to open compared to the indestructible rhino-proof plastic shells most things are packaged in these days. The measuring tape slipped out of my hands onto the wood floor and...


Actually the picture doesn't make it look as crazy as it was. Everything scooted under the coffee table, and I tried to find all the parts without knowing what parts I needed to find. The coil had completely "sprung" but I rolled it up and held it together with a clothespin until I could figure out what to do. Miraculously I found everything, including a little tiny spring. Now most people would throw the whole mess in the trash. After all, it was from the dollar $1.50 store. But not me. I'm an engineer. And I'm cheap and don't like to put stuff in landfills, so I fix things. But I didn't have a clue what went where or even how retractable measuring tapes worked. I searched online but found the same answer: throw it away and buy a new one.

So I had a glass of wine to ease my disappointment over the demise of my bear measuring tape and decide if I wanted to accept the challenge of fixing it. Of course I did. I love a mechanical challenge.

I'm going to share my discoveries in case you want to fix your retractable measuring tape instead of chucking it in the trash, because I suspect these little plastic ones have pretty much the same internal design. I figured it couldn't be too complex given that it was so inexpensive. I also figured that every notch and hole and piece of plastic served a purpose. I just had to figure out what went where. The only thing that was partially intact after the crash was the tape; it was still mostly wound around the outside of the black wheel, so that meant the coil had to go on the inside.

I was almost correct in the above picture. It turned out I had the assembly upside down but in this view, you can see how one end of the coil fits into the notched, plastic center post. There are four notches cut into the sides of the plastic wheel: the looped end of the tape slips onto the two notches that are closest together and the other end of the coil is secured in the other two notches. When the wheel is wound, the coil, being secured now at both ends, tightens and stores energy. I found that the way to get the tape onto the wheel was to wind the wheel so that the coil tightens and at the same time, guide the tape around the outside. But that's not all. When the coil is as tight as it will go, carefully undo the tape from the wheel but leave the looped end attached. Then you reverse the direction of the wheel (slowly!) and the tape will wind back onto the wheel in the opposite direction as the coil unwinds. When all of the tape is reeled in, the coil is no longer fully wound and ready to fly off. But when you pull the tape the coil winds up; release the tape and the coil reels in the tape again.

The next part was figuring out how the middle button (bear's nose) fit. The tiny spring in the center post was a key piece and made me realize I had everything upside down. It's correct in the above picture. See those plastic tabs in the inside of the wheel? Those are the "brakes" that are disengaged when the button is pressed. This is also why these type of measuring tapes go click-click-click when you don't depress the button.

So there you go. My little bear measuring tape is happy again and I solved a puzzle, saved a bit of plastic and metal from the dump, and best of all I have a cute tape measure for my knitting bag.

And if you're wondering, the bear measuring tapes also come in blue and yellow. I didn't see any other animals, just bears.

Friday, May 07, 2010 my head

The guest room/sewing room #2 renovations continue. We painted last weekend (3 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint) but it turns out the guy doing the drywall wasn't quite finished. Ugh. Fortunately it's only affected one wall. We thought the window just needed trim but actually it needed drywall to finish the opening. So now there's a bit more primer and paint to do. Fortunately we have plenty of paint left over. The contractor is going to start working on the closet next week and either this weekend or next we'll get to the floors.

In the meantime I've been thinking about what I'll be sewing when the room is done and I can get both sewing room #1 and #2 back in order. Unfortunately it will be home dec. It's unfortunate because I am not very fond of home dec sewing. I hate wrestling with the large pieces of fabric. But since I can save so much money by doing it myself, I think I should do it. Originally I thought I would splurge and have someone make the Roman shades but I'm guessing that they'd cost around $400 or more. Am I right?

Here's the list, probably in order of priority:
  1. Roman shades for French doors in guest room
  2. Curtain for window in guest room
  3. Window seat cushion for master bedroom
  4. Duvet cover for daybed in guest room
  5. Pillows for daybed
  6. Pillows for window seat
  7. Curtain for master bathroom window
  8. Curtain for hallway bathroom window
I'm afraid I have to buy fabric for items 1, 2, 4, 5 and 8. Yup. I have to go fabric shopping. I really do wish I could use some of my stash but it's mostly full of wool, knit, and ITY jersey in 2-3 yards pieces. I do have some home dec fabric, some of which I purchased in Paris, of all places, but I don't think the colors will work since I bought those fabrics for a different room that was gold, brown, and green-toned. The walls of the guest room are grayish-purple. Had I gone with my second choice (and my husband's first choice) of green, then the fabrics would have worked. But I was feeling purple for this space...and I'm not repainting the walls. I should probably dig out the fabric just in case because it's been a long time since I've seen it and my memory of the colors might be different. And who knows, it might actually work. I'm always happily surprised when some orphaned piece of fabric in my stash matches perfectly with something else. Although I realize that's probably just a sign that I have way too much fabric.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

I can see light at the end of the dusty tunnel

We're making progress on the guest room/sewing room #2 renovations and I'm excited that I will soon be able to get back to sewing. The drywall will be finished today and this weekend I think we'll be priming the walls. It'll take a couple of coats since there's new drywall  on the walls and the once textured ceiling has a couple coats of drywall mud on it now to make it smooth. I'm so glad we're hiring contractors for this work because we simply don't have the energy anymore to put in a full day's work and then work on house renovations in the evening. I also enjoy coming home and seeing the progress. It's like a surprise every day and they're doing a very nice job.

It's been at times stressful but loads of fun to design these renovations. I especially love that I've been able to customize things to fit not only our taste but how we use the space. Since this guest room is also used for my some of my sewing activities, I have been able to make some design details that will be very useful for me.

The room is a basic bedroom. It had one rectangular window, which was fairly high up on the wall and a closet with two heavy, mirrored sliding doors on it. The bed has a pop-up trundle bed underneath it. My cutting table sets up in the middle of the room and pretty much occupies all of the space, so I'm glad it folds up and can be wheeled away.

The major change to the room was replacing the window with outswing French doors. The doors lead out to a full view of two peach trees and to what will be a deck, which will wrap around the side of the house to the right where the new window is located. This new window is taller, with a casement window below and an awning window on top for ventilation. The view from the new window looks out on our side yard fence (covered with a Jasmine bush) and the neighbors well-kept back yard. And we can finally see the hills! This is the only south facing window of our house that is not blocked by the neighbor's house. 

The pattern cabinet is a custom-made dream of mine. I used to have all of my patterns scattered throughout multiple cardboard and plastic organizer bins. Finally they will all be in one place. The cabinet replaces a much smaller bookshelf that was really a re-purposed small IKEA china cabinet. I will share pictures of the new pattern cabinet later when I do my big "reveal." The cabinet turned out a bit larger than I anticipated but it stores all of my patterns and has room for lots of sewing and knitting magazines. I also designed it with a pull-out shelf, which will be convenient for browsing the magazines or, as I've found, setting up my yarn swift and ball winder.

The other noticeable change is with the closet. The original closet had a standard clothing rod and some crooked wood storage shelves a previous owner put in. The new closet will have custom-built shelves, drawers and hanging areas and a pull-out ironing board. This ironing board is probably 20 times more expensive than your standard ironing board, but it'll be worth it. I had the contractor put in an outlet in the skinny wall space between the door and the closet so that it's handy to plug in the iron. Another custom change is with the closet doors, which will be triple doors on sliding tracks. Two doors will have mirrors on them and one will have a design board affixed to it. I plan to make the design board removable so I can change the fabric cover whenever I want to change the look.
There's still stuff to do like paint and refinishing the wood floors, and then I'll have the big task of organizing and putting things away. My first sewing project will probably be window coverings. The new doors and window let in a lot of light and although we bought them with super energy efficient glass, all that light will translate into extra heat too.

So there's an end in sight, and I am looking forward to it! It'll also be nice to finally be done (?) with the renovations inside the house, but I will have no excuse now for not cleaning things, especially dusting. The inside of the china cabinet is quite dusty from lots of floor refinishing and dry wall dust over the years, but as long as there was more to do....So I guess I'll be putting that on my to-do list now.