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Entries in Make better (8)


More precious

Last year for my birthday, my lovely wife bought me a pocket watch. 

Pocket watch

I love it. I love the cogs, the colour, the weight of it. I love that it's mechanical so I never have to worry about it stopping on me. I love that it goes with my waistcoats, or just in a jean pocket. Love it. 

Unfortunately, it pretty quickly became apparent that there was a problem with it. The hour hand didn't stay in time. The minute hand would stay spot on, but throughout the day the hour hand would drift an hour behind, then catch up again. Or if I set it when it was an hour behind, it would drift an hour ahead and then back again. 

Now, I do like a challenge, and did I mention that I love this watch? So I did what any ex-engineer would do, and started googling for fixes. I pretty quickly found that the best fix for this issue was to change the entire movement. Although you could potentially just change out the damaged hour wheel, it's not easy. Potentially at this point I should just have taken it to The Clock Workshop, but where's the challenge in that? So instead I started looking for replacement movements. 

Well, you need pretty precise measurements to replace a movement like for like. So my first stop was to work out how to remove the movement and measure it properly. I had to find the tiny push button to remove the stem, then pull the whole lot out of the plastic mount it came in, and finally remember how to use my vernier callipers. Once I had my measurements (27.0mm diameter, stack height 6.8mm) I had to find a suitable replacement. 

This was when I made a second discovery about my watch. Not only was it mechanical, but this funky bit on the back that looks a bit like a challenge for Indiana Jones to run through means that it's actually an automatic watch.

Pocket watch

So in theory, it winds itself as I wear it and move. This also explained why I couldn't find the 'stop winding' point. Automatic watches have a mechanism to prevent over-winding, so you never hit that hard stop that you do with mechanical ones. 

I now had the measurements and knew I needed an automatic, three hand, 12 hour, skeleton movement in gold. I strongly suspected it was a chinese movement. I found Watch and Clock Parts, who stock the movements in the UK but had no pictures of the Chinese ones to compare to my watch. Fortunately Esslinger had more pictures (and some really helpful videos!), so I finally plumped for one to get it shipped. 

Swapping out the movement was pretty straightforward. Switching the hands across was a pain in the arse. I need better eyesight for that (or a magnifying glass!). And the last bit that was more finickity that I was expecting was getting the face aligned properly. But the movement is now swapped, and the watch is keeping good time so far.

Pocket watch

The watch face looks better aligned in real life, I promise.

Clarkie was pretty upset when she realised that the watch wasn't working. But it's actually probably given me more pleasure to fix it than just owning it ever would have. The new movement isn't identical to the old one (pics here, if you want to try to compare/contrast), but if anything I think I can see more movement through the watch now. And I know so much more about how it works - I love it even more! 


On the mend

Still catching up on all of the things I've been making and fixing!

Shrinking that Doctor tshirt left me with a number of offcuts of the sludge green tshirt material. Not my favourite colour, if I'm honest, but as it happened I have a merino top that had a hole in it. We think that the place we rented before our new house was built had moths. Certainly a lot of my merino clothing ended up with holes in some pretty strange places, and this was no exception. When I discovered it, I threw it in a bag in the freezer and fully intended to just throw it out. It's not one of my best tops, and I'd had it a while anyway. 

Then somehow it ended up in the bag of clothes that I was going to donate when I ran the half at Blenheim, and I ended up rescuing it to run in. I'd just started seeing posts about Alabama Chanin, and embroidery combining with tshirt material for mending, and I realised that the tshirt offcuts would actually be a pretty good match for my poor holey shirt. 


I happened to have the brown embroidery thread already. The hole is hidden under one of the petals, but nobody has ever spotted it or questioned it. I did start out with only two petals, but Clarkie told me it looked a bit like the Playboy bunny ears! 

So the leftover pieces of cotton have rescued a large piece of merino, and the top has gone straight back into circulation. It's not a smart top, but it's become one of my go-to after work or weekend tops. Winning! 


Still improving

My 'make it better' challenge was in theory just for 2014, but actually it's been more of an on-going mind-set. I've also got a little bit of a bee in my bonnet about throw-away tshirts. The amount of effort and energy (human and fossil fuel) that goes into a cotton tshirt is considerable, from growing the cotton, to making the fibre, to knitting the cloth, to producing the tshirt, and shipping the entire thing here there and everywhere. 

One of the presents I got for finishing my PhD was this disney tshirt.

Doctored tshirt

That's it after I went and resized it. It was originally a small 'unisex' tshirt. I don't like wearing those big, shapeless tshirts. I always feel that I look like a 12-year-old boy in them, and if I don't feel good in it I'm not going to wear it. Normally I just get rid of them, but with this one I wanted to keep it for sentimental reasons. I figured I could always turn it into a pillow or something if I screwed up the resizing, so I found a tutorial for effectively copying a different tshirt for size. 

I didn't entirely get it right. I foolishly decided that I could use one side of the tshirt I was copying and mirror it, rather than copying the two sides, and the result seems to have left the tshirt a little lop-sided. It's not really noticeable though, and the tshirt is so much more me now. Much better!


Kind of a kit?

My list of things to buy in Florida this time was quite precise. And I pretty much stuck to it too, which makes a nice change! One of the things on the list was a pair of denim shorts - y'know, go anywhere, everyday shorts. Sounds pretty simple, right? There are many, many pairs of denim shorts available to buy in Orlando. 

The small catch is that I am 160cm and have a current fighting weight of around 49kg (5' 3" and around 108lbs or 7st 10lbs in old money). This is not a size that appears to be that common for adult women in Orlando. I may have found an entire floor of Macy's that had precisely nothing in my size. So a lot of the time this reduces me to looking for stuff in the more teenaged end of the market. Teenagers appear to like denim shorts, but (as I did when I was a teenager) they like them with holes in. 

The thing is, now that I'm 37 I prefer my clothes to cover me. Pretty much, anyway. And I've worn enough holey jeans to know that those white threads they leave are really fragile, and get really matted when you wash them. But I've been wanting to try sashiko - a Japanese stitching technique that started out as a way to patch denim - for ages, and the pair of jeans I've been waiting to disintegrate are really a bit too big. So this suddenly seemed like the perfect opportunity. I ended up with a cheap pair of holey jeans from Target, where the holes appear to have been carefully rubbed only on the front and the rest of the denim is really sound.

New (holey) shorts

(It helped that my lovely assistant said they fit pretty well.)

I have no idea why anyone would want to have a hole over the bottom of the pocket. I don't get why those super short cut offs leave the bottom of the pockets sticking out either. I am clearly not down with the kids. 

Much fun marking out and stitching later, I have ended up with something I'm pretty pleased with.

Sashiko mending

I mean, clearly it's not perfectly even. And I ran out of the dark blue thread before I'd quite finished on that big hole on top of the right leg. But I've already worn these quite a lot for gardening, they have survived washing with no noticeable harm, and my pocket is no longer hanging out. I reckon that's a pretty good win!

(More detailed pics of the stitching here.)


In the kingdom of the blind

Whoops, bit of a lull again. Things are afoot, but I need to keep them under my hat for a little while longer, so instead I just look a bit rubbish. Such is life. 

First things first, I did finish Clarkie's top. Just rather later than the Monday. Somehow when the deadline was already past it felt like the pressure was off. Still, it fits rather well, and I think we are both quite pleased with it. 

CBJ 14

She has even asked for another, so it's a good job that I wrote down full and detailed instructions for this one! No, for once I really did. She can have as many of these as she likes. 

Today I have had a sewing epiphany. I mentioned recently that I am short, and have to shorten all my trousers. Well, today I had a pair to do that I wasn't looking forward to. One of those smarter types, with the hidden hem thing going on. The kind of hem that I've always done by hand because I didn't know how to do them on the machine which is tedious and I've never been really happy with the finished result. But needs must, so I sat myself down to the task today when suddenly it occurred to me that there had to be a better way. So I googled. 

I discovered that that kind of hem is called a 'blind hem'. I discovered that you can do those on the machine, if you have a 'blind hem foot'. I found a tutorial that made it sound easy. And best of all I discovered that included in the many random sewing machine feet that I haven't worked out what to do with that came with my sewing machine is a blind hem foot. 

Blind hem foot

I need fear those hems no more. I have conquered them. This has been a very good day. 

I can't help wonder why (given that I've always been short) my home economics teacher didn't see fit to teach me this. I'm giving Mum the benefit of the doubt and assuming that this is news to her too. Seriously, if you are also short, or have trousers to turn up for someone else, have a read of that link. 

Makes me wonder what the other random feet do...