Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ category

Glow Hoop Update

August 24th, 2009

I received a lot of great comments and interesting questions from people about my past post on my glow stick hoops. I was delighted to see a link posted to my blog at I love that site for videos and music suggestions. The glow sticks are a great and cheap way to make a glowing hoop on a tight budget. The lights will glow all night, but there are some downsides. The glow sticks do rattle inside the hoop (although it never bothered me, I guess some people don’t like that), and unfortunately, the glow sticks will have to be removed and disposed of. It’s a small amount of waste but they can’t be recycled. I had a question about the toxicity of the glow sticks and I can tell you that they’re not harmful. I wouldn’t suggest ingesting them, but the chemicals won’t hurt you or the planet any more than household cleaning products. I actually had one break open and it made a big glowing mess on my hands, but I didn’t have any adverse reaction.

Anyway, I would certainly suggest the glow stick hoop for someone who just wants a glowing hoop for a special night or just every once in a while. If you plan on hooping at night often (and you probably will, it’s crazy addictive) an LED hoop is a must. I’m delighted to announce that I have conquered soldering and leds and made myself a couple!

It actually wasn’t that hard, and with all the materials together (including the hoop tubing I had used for the glow stick hoop) it came in under $50 for supplies. It did take me ALL day to make my big blue/green and flashing red hoop. It’s got more than 80 5mm LEDs on it’s length and glows really brightly.

(click above images to see full size)
I haven’t yet come up with a good solution for the battery, though. I used a 9 volt so I’d only need one battery, but it doesn’t fit inside the tubing so I just taped it to the exterior of the hoop with the wires going through a small hole. Before you ask, no, the battery doesn’t effect the hooping at all on the outside of the hoop. I’ve used this hoop for hours and hours now and can’t even tell it’s there. I know a lot of people use AA or AAA sized batteries and put them inside the hoop, but they also use 1 inch tubing or more. I really like the smaller 3/4 inch tubing myself. Having the wires come out of the hoop at the ends I can pull the wires nice and tight and tape them down near the connector to keep the LEDs from rattling inside. Because I’m using the smaller tubing there isn’t enough room to wrap the LEDs in bubblewrap like I’ve seen some people do.
Anyway, I’m silly happy with my LED hoops and I’m sure I’ll be making more.
Here are some long exposure shots and a short video clip with my hoop:

Another Lucky Thrifting Find

July 9th, 2009

I get some of the best luck thrifting, but I was still surprised to find this Brother knitting machine for just $8. wow. I had to get it despite the fact that I’m rubbish at knitting and had no clue how one of these were supposed to work. It actually was pretty easy to get the hang of! I looked online and was able to find a manual and get the machine set up pretty easily. I had almost everything I needed, but I was missing a piece that held up the tension thingie so I improvised with some dowel rod. With a little more luck, the machine worked perfectly (except for some learning curve and user error) and I was making up little swatches and stuff in just a couple of hours.

I thought I’d share some basic photos to share what a knitting machine looks like.
The machine consists of around 200 of these “needles” that are just like latch hooks and lay in channels along the “bed” of the machine.
The carriage sits on top of the machine and glides across it with the help of channels along the bed. Now I’ve read a bunch of explanations of how exactly the carriage makes the stitches, but I don’t know how to explain it so we’ll just call it magic. Basically, when you slide the carriage across from one side to the other it lays the yarn across the needles. The new yarn is simultaneously pulled through the loop already on each needle, dropping the first loop below and keeping the new yarn loop on the needle ready for the next row. (yeah, we’ll just call it magic)
This is what it looks like when there are a bunch of stitches on the needles. You can just go back and forth to create stocking stitch, or you can create lacey eyelets or chunky cables by manually moving stitches from one needle to another with the help of these little tools.

using a tool to move a stitch

using a tool to move a stitch

A stitch moved over one to the right.  Running the carriage after this will leave an eyelet for this row and continue knitting as normal on the next row.

A stitch moved over one to the right. Running the carriage after this will leave an eyelet for this row and continue knitting as normal on the next row.

The machine is great for me because I have a really hard time keeping track of where I am in a pattern or how many stitches I’ve done. On the bed of the machine the needles are numbered every 5 needles, and on the back of the machine it’s got a row counter that automatically counts each time the carriage goes by.

I worked off of this pattern (with a few changes, leaving out the purl stitches and adding the lacey bit to the center)
and made a swatch that looked like this in about a half an hour
It’s a little strange, because the right side can’t be seen while you’re working, but that’s part of the fun, I think. It wasn’t until I’d bound off this piece that I could see the full pattern.

I really like this machine and I just know I’m going to have a good time getting to know more tips and tricks and how to make some nifty knitted goodies!

Let’s Pink!

June 5th, 2009

When I saw this little machine in the thrift store I was immediately intrigued.


I thought it was beautiful.  It is all metal, except for the wooden handle, and is pretty small, at a little under 6 inches tall. (on my monitor, the photo is just a little bit smaller than the real thing)  I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but as I played with it I started to get an idea of what it was for.  When you turn the handle, the wavy blade turns as well as the metal disk below the table.  I thought it had to be for pinking fabric!  I brought it home, not really caring if it would work or not because I loved it.


Just look at those neat gears on the back! You can see here that it was made by Singer.  I started looking around online after I got it home and found out that it’s a little hand pinking machine that Singer made during the first half of the 1930′s.  I was even able to download a PDF of the instruction manual.  The manual promised that the blade will “never need sharpening”!  I thought I’d better give it a try.  The little machine clamps down onto the edge of a table for security. I clamped it down, fed some sweet Kokka Japanese linen through it, and it worked like a charm! perfectly!


I wonder if Singer knew when they wrote their manual that it would really still work perfectly 70 years later.  It’s so nice because the machine feeds the fabric through as you turn the handle, all you have to do is guide it to keep it straight.  It is so much easier to use than pinking shears (scissors), because you never have to worry about lining up the zags and zigs every time you reopen the scissors to cut the next part.  You just get one long continuous line of perfect pinking!


I pinked the edges of a couple of rectangles of the linen and paired it with some lime green linen to make a pouch.  I made the pinked edges a part of the design since it was so fabulous.


And look, the machine fits right inside.  Cute, no?