The (sometimes scary) Life of a Freelancer

The (sometimes scary) Life of a Freelancer

Camel fashion in Petra.

Camel fashion in Petra.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been traveling a bit recently (And I’m actually preparing to head out tonight for one more adventure in a far-flung land). I tend to go on trips solo, often joining an organized group expedition that most likely involves riding my bike through some foreign country.

…you can’t keep putting off the things you want to do or the places you want to go on the assumption you’ll have time in the future to do them.

I meet lots of different people on these trips from all sorts of places and backgrounds. But two of the questions that every single person on this planet always seems inclined to ask are:

(1) What do you do for work?

And (2) some variation of How do you get so much time off work?

Different strokes for different folks

How do you get so much time off work?

How do you get so much time off work?

I give different answers to the first question depending on who’s doing the asking. Sometimes I just say I’m a tailor and pattern maker, though this confuses many people, as the fact that such a thing could be a career never occurred to them. Their idea of a ‘tailor’ is someone like their grandmother sitting at home in a rocking chair darning socks and patching jeans.

Sometimes I say I’m a tailor for film and television shows which usually elicits an “oh wow, that’s interesting!” I always answer that sometimes it is but most times it isn’t all that glamorous (I spend a lot of time hemming jeans and shortening men’s jacket sleeves) though I do enjoy what I do.

If the conversation continues from there it usually enters into the murky waters of “so you’re a freelancer?” Well, yes, sort of. But also, sort of no.

Am I a freelancer?

I am a freelancer - in a sense.

I am a freelancer – in a sense.

I’m a freelancer in the sense that I’m never completely sure where my next job might come from but I’m not in the sense that I belong to a union and therefore have excellent benefits and salary protection. Not all movies and television shows are union ones (if they’re not we call them independent films.) My particular local in NYC does not have what they call ‘a hiring hall’, meaning I’m responsible for procuring my own jobs; the union doesn’t send me on jobs or anything like that.

And I’m also not a freelancer in the way I get normally get paid on a project. Almost all film and television jobs use one of two payroll companies: Entertainment Partners or Cast & Crew. I get paid through them with taxes taken out and a W-2 at the end of the year. The nice thing about both of these companies is that they keep track of all your earnings throughout the years with all the different shows you’ve worked on so you can use them for employment and salary verification when you’re applying for things like mortgages (banks like employment verification!). They are, legally and technically, your employer of record.

Each show or movie sets up its own production company (usually an LLC) independent from whatever parent company it may have (NBC Universal, Disney, etc.) that in turn, enters into contracts with the payroll company and the unions.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em & know when to fold ’em

My answer is very simple: “I just say no.”

My answer is very simple: “I just say no.”

If I get through all this mumbo jumbo financial stuff and the person I’m talking to is still actually listening, they’ll then ask about how I get time off.

My answer is very simple: “I just say no.”

…its good not to be available all the time.

It’s taken me a very long time to get to the point where I’m able to say no to things. When I was just starting out, I said ‘yes’ to absolutely everything. You kind of have to when you’re beginning, before you’ve built up your reputation. But now that I’ve been doing this for a bit over 25 years, I can turn down things I don’t necessarily want to work on and say ‘no’ to gigs if I’ve planned a trip or vacation.

Free spirit

It’s a glorious thing to be able to say no to something that sounds horrifying (like, for instance: an over night shoot way out in Queens or a huge period television show that some network executive thinks can be made with half the manpower than what is really needed).

Nancy Reagan just says no - you can too!

Nancy Reagan just says no – you can too!

It can be scary, for sure, because I never truly, completely know if I’ll get another job (freelancing is wrought with all kinds of anxiety!). But, if history is any indication, I will. And I try to trust that.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t keep putting off the things you want to do or the places you want to go on the assumption you’ll have time in the future to do them. Because you won’t. Sometimes you just have to have a little faith.

I’m not saying it’s easy to get to the place I’m at. It’s not. I worked extremely hard for almost 20 years while never taking any sort of vacation or going anywhere. But, in my old(er) age work/life balance has become more important to me and, my connections and work reputation are strong enough to allow me to leave town for a couple weeks without jeopardizing my career.

Plus, its good not to be available all the time. Unless they’re a close friend, I never tell people why I’m not available, I simply say, “Sorry, I’m booked up for the next two weeks.”

Booked up on my own personal vacation maybe,  but they don’t need to know that.

Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.

Summer Trends: Embroidery

Summer Trends: Embroidery

Summer Vacation 2017 is upon us!

Summer Vacation 2017 is upon us!

Summer Vacation 2017 is upon us, and as could be the case for any season and time frame, it’s showing up with its own trends. There are a number of these that you can apply to your sewing, but the one that I primarily want to focus on is embroidery. According to one source, “[t]he biggest trend that is coming in 2017 is definitely embroidery,” which makes it a popular topic to explore and try your hand at. For me personally though, it isn’t my main focus in sewing, so there’s plenty of room for me to learn and grow within that category. What better way could I have to do those things than to explore and research for the sake of a new blog post?

Start at the beginning

Let’s start with the very basics, like what exactly embroidery is. In regard to the world of sewing, that definition has been given as the following: “Embroidery is ‘thread art’ used to embellish a garment, hat or some other product by adding a sewn pattern. Generally, this sewn pattern includes a design and can also include lettering and/or monograms.” If you find that a bit too far-fetched of a definition though, think of it like drawing artwork on a product or fabric. Just as you would take a marker, colored pencil, or crayon to create an image on paper, “thread or yarn” can be used in embroidery to build the picture you mean to make.

Clearly, embroidery has changed over the years, but the long-reach of this style of artwork speaks volumes to its appeal & application.

Clearly, embroidery has changed over the years, but the long-reach of this style of artwork speaks volumes to its appeal & application.

Embroidery, as it happens, is not a new concept either. It dates back to prehistoric times — “to Cro-Magnon days or 30,000 BC” — so prominently that “fossilized remains of heavily hand-stitched and decorated clothing, boots and a hat [have been] found.” Clearly, embroidery has changed over the years, but the long-reach of this style of artwork speaks volumes to its appeal and application. If it has remained for so many millennia and through the technological changes within the later centuries, it’s safe to say that it’s a topic and technique that has captured interest through the passage of time!

Your only limitation is your own imagination

One reason for that appeal is clear since, because of the many forms embroidery can take, the possibilities for design are almost limitless. If you want a picture of a flower, a bird, a house, a doughnut, or a dragon on your work, you can add any of the above — or whatever else you have in mind — so long as you don’t over-exceed your own abilities. If you can physically create it, you can do it! It’s important to note though that this is one area that merits consideration since if you try for something too large-scale on your first embroidery project, you could fall short and become discouraged with the whole process. When you start off with such a bad experience, it can be a psychological obstacle to overcome if you want to better yourself in the field. Keep in mind then where you are with embroidery, and choose projects that are fitting for your level.

If you can physically create it, you can do it!

If you can physically create it, you can do it!

In essence though, embroidery can be incredibly personal and project-specific. You don’t just have to rely on the fabric at your disposal to create a work that’s perfect for you and your purpose. If you want to sew a blanket for a friend’s baby shower, for instance, you could add to whatever adorable fabric you use for that work by personalizing it with the baby’s name. If you’re making some kind of wedding gift, you could add the wedding date right onto the material. That truly is a beauty of embroidery. Whatever you want, if you physically can do it, it’s an option — even if you have to use an embroidery pattern to make it happen!

Unlock your creativity & see where it takes you

Add to whatever adorable fabric you use by personalizing it with a name.

Add to whatever adorable fabric you use by personalizing it with a name.

Of course, this can be applied to your clothing, as is evidenced by the notion that “Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and McQueen” have all been credited with embracing this trend. The level of creativity involved with this clothing idea, again, can’t be overstated because you can tailor your designs to what you have in mind. If you want a blue top with a colorful butterfly on the left shoulder, you could make that happen even if you can’t find it in stores.

Overall, I honestly don’t know if there’s a more creative way to make your own items unique, so if you want to create a piece that’s as yours as you can manage, you might want to step into the world of embroidery! It’s trendy this summer, and a number of the popular embroidery concepts are very spring/summer-inspired — like flowers and birds. All in all, if ever there was a perfect time to step into this creative category, it’s now!

Carpet Magic from Egypt

Carpet Magic from Egypt

Some of the beautiful silk & cotton rugs can take up to 14 to 16 months to make.

Some of the beautiful silk & cotton rugs can take up to 14 to 16 months to make.

I visited a carpet making school while I was in Egypt.

The school, on Sakkara Road in Giza, was called ‘New Egypt for Oriental Carpets’. The building was a vast stone structure, wide stone steps leading up to the second floor showroom and into the main entrance on the ground floor.

Back to school

The front wood doors opened into a vast, high ceilinged, airy room. Looms of varying widths, reaching from floor to ceiling lined the walls. On two sides, children manned the looms. They were of all different ages, the youngest appearing to be around 7 –  all the way up to 16 or 18.

Each child sat a wood bench in a front a loom longer and wider than at least three or four of himself. They were all boys.

The children, along with learning how to make hand tied rugs from wool and silk and cotton, also study reading and writing. Acquiring the skill of carpet making allows them the opportunity to stay in their hometowns and earn a good wage for a trade. They can also continue their education elsewhere if they desire.

My guide and I stopped behind one of the youngest boys. He turned with a toothy grin to wave at me, then turned back to his loom. The speed and dexterity of his fingers as he tied the long strands of wool into knots was mesmerizing.

The oldest group of carpet makers at the school were no longer pupils but artists. They didn’t work from a preconceived mapped out design but from pictures in their own heads.

The youngest pupils work on the simpler designs made predominately of wool. They have long sheets of paper that show the colors required to complete a specific design – kind of like the directions that come with any rug latch-hook kit you can buy at a craft store. But much more complicated and a lot more extensive.

Snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper

Another young man of about 13 years of age was working on a rug made of cotton and silk.

“Slow down,” said my guide, “Slow down so she can see.”

He dutifully slowed his flying fingers. He worked across the loom width-wise, tying strands of silk to a sturdy cotton thread already inserted in the loom. When he finished a row, he used a wired brush to push the knotted strand down tight against its neighbor.

He demonstrated the trimming process that happens at the completion of a rug, using heavy scissors to trim the fuzz like you do to an old sweater when it’s balled and pilled up.

On the backside of the rug, I could see the long threads left where he changed colors of silk. After he’d woven in all the strands, he would go back and cut and tie all the ends so that the back of the rug looked as beautiful and clean as the front.

The student becomes the master

The oldest group of carpet makers at the school were no longer pupils but artists. They didn’t work from a preconceived mapped out design but from pictures in their own heads. They used smaller looms they could stand up at, manipulating the contraption up and down with a lever by their feet, tying and weaving the yarns with their hands.

Some of the rugs can take up to 14 to 16 months to make – truly astounding in this world of mass, quick consumerism. All of the students and artists I encountered at the school seemed to have a genuine pride for what they were doing, and a patience I suspect is increasingly rare in the instant gratification, selfie-taking, googling, internet shopping world of many western civilizations.

Works of art

As soon as I laid eyes on you, I knew that you'd be mine.

As soon as I laid eyes on you, I knew that you’d be mine.

The second floor of the school was the showroom filled with all kinds of stunning rugs. Drinking a complimentary cup of tea, I wandered amongst the treasures for a good part of an hour (or maybe two). I finally decided on two carpets I wanted to purchase.

But, since I was in Egypt, the actual buying of things involved a thirty-minute bargaining session. I pretended I hadn’t already decided which rugs I liked the best and asked to see some more similar to my initial selection. I remained undecided for a significant amount of time, especially once price came into question, hemming and hawing and murmuring and looking around.

After settling on a cotton and silk rug, I then asked about the tapestries. I’d spotted the one I wanted quite some time ago. It was one of the artist done ones with yellow and orange flowers, swans, and blue sky and water with pink water lilies. After some more back and forth, we finally agreed upon a price for both the pieces I wanted.

The cherry on top

My freebie tapestry. A nice touch.

My freebie tapestry. A nice touch.

Then, in true Egyptian fashion, the salesman offered me one more tapestry I could choose from a pile as a gift. I suspect this pile consisted of the practice tapestries done by the younger students but they were all alluring in their own right and I choose a long narrow hanging of yellow with camel silhouettes.

I left the school quite happy with my purchases and the opportunity to have seen the young carpet makers at work – and to contribute to the Egyptian economy and the school.

Now, back at home in New York City, my Egyptian carpets have been happily integrated into my home carrying with them the legacy and craftsmanship of centuries.

Sewing with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Sewing with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive motion injury in the wrist.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive motion injury in the wrist.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive motion injury in the wrist. Typing, hammering, sewing and other actions can be the cause. Those some actions can cause an existing injury in to flare up. The numbing, tingling, pain and stiffness CTS causes can make it all but impossible to sew. As someone who writes for a living, CTS is pretty much a given. I don’t want to give up my livelihood or my hobbies over it. So, I’ve learned to modify. Sewing with CTS was a challenge at first, but if I can do it, so can you!

Wear a Brace

My CTS started back in highschool when I worked in an ice cream shop. Back then, we called it scooper’s wrist. I bought a cheap brace from the drug store up the street from the ice cream parlor and managed to keep going. The next time it flared up was college – as an English major I did A LOT of typing. A sturdier, more expensive brace helped with that. The things to consider are how immobile the brace keeps your wrist and comfort. Don’t be afraid to try on several at the store to check for fit and comfort.

Use the Other Hand

I’m a bit naturally ambidextrous, so this wasn’t too hard for me, but if you’re not, it could be a little harder. Gripping tiny pins is much too painful for me to do with my right hand. The CTS makes it nearly impossible. Instead, I taught myself to pin with my left hand. This wasn’t easy since it also meant holding the fabric differently. Be patient with yourself and with the process. It will come with time and practice.

Get Lefty Scissors

Just like pinning with my right hand is nearly impossible, cutting can be equally as challenging. If you’ve ever tried to use your regular scissors in your left hand, you know it’s pretty difficult. The blades are one directional. Instead, invest in a pair of lefty scissors. You’ll find that cutting with your left hand is pretty simple after that. You may need to make other modifications to the layout of your cutting surface, etc. to accommodate using the opposite hand.

Don’t let carpal tunnel syndrome take away your sewing time. Instead, try out these modifications and keep doing your favorite hobby. And don’t forget to talk to your doctor – they may have treatment options that can help long-term.

Fabrics and Textiles in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Fabrics and Textiles in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

I recently traveled to San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico for a five day writer’s retreat with two friends. Although famous in Mexico proper, many gringos have not heard of San Miguel, located the mountains at 6,200 ft. elevation, at approximately Mexico’s center (200 miles north of Mexico City and about 600 miles from the Texas border).

Although famous in Mexico proper, many gringos have not heard of San Miguel.

Although famous in Mexico proper, many gringos have not heard of San Miguel.

I’m a sewist and a writer and while I was there to work on my book, I could not tear my eyes away from the gorgeous colors of the city and the beautiful fabrics & textiles I found there.

I could not tear my eyes away from the gorgeous colors & textiles of the city.

I could not tear my eyes away from the gorgeous colors & textiles of the city.

Even the city itself reminded me of a patchwork quilt.

Even the city itself reminded me of a patchwork quilt.

Even the city itself reminded me of a patchwork quilt.

Mexico is not afraid to use color, in fact it embraces bright, vibrant colors in both private and public buildings, art, and culture.

 

Locals claim that the birthplace of the serape is San Miguel de Allende and I was inundated with options.

Locals claim that the birthplace of the serape is San Miguel de Allende.

Locals claim that the birthplace of the serape is San Miguel de Allende.

Other items on display were rugs, pillowcases, bedding sets, purses, bags, belts, guayaberas, and embroidered and woven fabrics.

The hand embroidery I found particularly compelling. I bought a bright yellow bag with hand embroidery and my girlfriend, Lizz, bought a hand embroidered panel she plans to hang on her wall at home.

This is the panel she purchased (photo taken with permission).

This is the panel she purchased.

This is the panel she purchased.

This booth was my favorite. It was located in El Mercado de Artesanías. I was so inspired that I had my pencil and paper out and took notes to plan out quilts I’d love to make with the huge, hand-embroidered panels.

This booth in El Mercado de Artesanías was my favorite.

This booth in El Mercado de Artesanías was my favorite.

They sold smaller squares too, similar to charm packs and layer cakes. I’ve worked these into some upcoming designs as well.

I’ve worked these into some upcoming designs as well.

I’ve worked these into some upcoming designs as well.

Mexico also has the best selection of oil cloth fabrics. Make sure to pick up a few yards for your stash whenever you visit.

Make sure to pick up a few yards for your stash whenever you visit.

Make sure to pick up a few yards for your stash whenever you visit.

After a long day in el centro, I spotted this Singer sewing table used for display at a local tienda. Sewing is everywhere.

Sewing is everywhere.

Sewing is everywhere.

Here I’m enjoying a hard earned beer after a long day of writing, but it’s the bag in the foreground I want you focus on. Check out that embroidery and the stunning color!

Check out that embroidery & the stunning color!

Check out that embroidery & the stunning color!

I cannot wait to go back. Have you ever visited San Miguel? Did you buy any fabric while you were there? Share with us your finds in the comments.

I cannot wait to go back.

I cannot wait to go back.

(All photos were taken with permission)
———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
An "Embroidery" Analysis

An “Embroidery” Analysis

Weeks ago, I did a post where I analyzed a work of art that depicted sewing — specifically a woman sewing by a window with a child nearby. I said within that post that I would return to the overall concept in the future, and the art geek in me is so drawn to the process that a return visit to the strategy is coming your way now!

Embroidery: The Artist's Mother

Embroidery: The Artist’s Mother

The work now being analyzed: Embroidery: The Artist’s Mother

The artist: Georges Seurat

The medium: Conté crayon on Michallet paper

Years Created: 1882-1883

This is supposed to be “tranquil portrait of the artist’s mother” with “a serene ambiance of quiet domesticity,” but to be honest, I don’t quite see it. Of course, art is open to interpretation, but if Seurat intended to create a piece that represented any kind of peaceful or happy sensations, for me, he missed the mark.

But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself! Perhaps we should scale it back and cover the piece’s details before we dive into what those pieces mean.

Seruat’s work that’s now being addressed, just about the whole thing can be fitted into the focal pyramid.

Seruat’s work that’s now being addressed, just about the whole thing can be fitted into the focal pyramid.

On my earlier post, I mentioned the concept of triangular configuration, meaning a triangle — or pyramid — could be drawn generally around the central figures of the work to bring the viewer’s focus to that section. With this drawing, most definitely that concept is employed, but it’s in a much different way than what was seen in the painting that was previously analyzed. For that earlier work, there were a number of other elements at play that surrounded the pyramid. For Seruat’s work that’s now being addressed, just about the whole thing can be fitted into the focal pyramid.

Beyond that factor, the most notable detail of this work is potentially how dark it is. There’s very little light in Embroidery — so little, in fact, that there are only a small number of areas that are bright enough to fully be differentiated. Consider what’s going on behind the woman sewing, on her left side. The work gets brighter, then darker, as if something is there that changes the light in that area. Maybe it’s a bend in the wall because she’s working by a hallway, or perhaps it’s some kind of drapery that’s hanging there. The point is that the viewer can’t know why the difference is there. He or she can only note that it is there.

The work gets brighter, then darker, as if something is there that changes the light in that area.

The work gets brighter, then darker, as if something is there that changes the light in that area.

There’s a vagueness in that detail, and it’s mirrored in the blurred features of the woman herself as she sews by hand in a room that seems to be incredibly dark. In truth, without the visual proving that she’s using her hands, the viewer could easily conclude that the woman in the work has fallen asleep while sitting up. There’s no indication that her eyes are open, and a person can barely discern the woman’s mouth to know what’s happening there. Without the image of the actual sewing, the viewer could let his or her imagination run wild to decide she’s asleep and drooling, or frowning through a nightmare. The piece simply looks too vague to know from the facial expression alone.

Without the visual proving that she’s using her hands, the viewer could easily conclude that the woman in the work has fallen asleep while sitting up.

Without the visual proving that she’s using her hands, the viewer could easily conclude that the woman in the work has fallen asleep while sitting up.

So what we perceive is a woman who is sitting in what can barely be distinguished as a chair, and the only indication to us that she is sewing is we can see the material hanging from her curved hands.

See the material hanging from her curved hands.

See the material hanging from her curved hands.

If I put all of that together, I just can’t arrive at a peaceful meaning. To me, the darkness shows a sadness that’s mirrored in the idea that there’s nothing of sincere noteworthiness happening around the woman aside from the sewing. Since that sewing itself is inches below the lightest part of the painting, brightness isn’t a logical label to give to that activity either in order to offer a pleasantry to her task — and, by extension, the whole image. To me, this feels more like a rendering of a woman who is almost a drone — thus, her faded features — tending to a task that leaves her so unhappy that she’s sitting in darkness and perhaps nearly dozing in her efforts.

This, to me, is not a good representation of sewing! I suppose by applying the description of the work, I can rationalize that it wasn’t the artist’s intent to create a piece that so drearily portrays the process of sewing. The site even acknowledges a positive comment that’s been given to the work, so it could be that I’m the only one who comes to these kinds of conclusions. Still, if I was going to direct someone to an art piece that I feel showcases the mood of sewing, this might not be my choice!

What do you guys think? Is it dreary and vague, like I thought, or more pleasant like the artist seemed to intend?

Optimal Lighting in Your Sewing Room

Optimal Lighting in Your Sewing Room

In my house, one of the best times to get some sewing done his after everyone house has gone to bed. The only problem with this is the lighting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that the regular lighting in the room is not sufficient for a sewing project. Instead, I’ve come up with some ways to bring a little more light to my sewing area without taking up valuable sewing surface space.

Clip-on lights

I used to have one of these as a kid, clipped on my headboard. It was great for reading in bed at night. Now I have one clipped to my sewing desk. The head bends and swivels so I can change the angle to bring lighting to the appropriate area. Much easier than trying to do this with a flashlight between my teeth! I also have a clip-on light with a longer neck attached to the back of my chair. It comes up over my shoulder and provides lighting to the shadow areas closest to my body.

Bulbs

I use higher wattage bulbs to increase the total amount of light available. Personally, I prefer 120-watt (or equivalent LED) bulbs to provide light for close sewing work.  Since that’s too bright for the daytime any regular lights in the room have three-way switch options. This way everyone can have the amount of light they need for whatever activity they’re doing.

I use higher wattage bulbs to increase the total amount of light available.

I use higher wattage bulbs to increase the total amount of light available.

My daughter uses the sewing room for her own projects and does not like as much light as I do. Also, the three-way light option means that I can have less bulb lighting during the day and more natural lighting if I prefer.

I have a friend who has an overhead light with four bulbs. When she turns it on, she can choose to have either sets of two or all four bulbs lit. By placing lower wattage bulb in two of the lights and higher watt bulbs in the other two, she’s able to maximize her options.

What other ways do you work with the natural and artificial lighting in your sewing room to give you the best view?

Looking for the Light

Looking for the Light

Unless I’m sewing in my lovely big-windowed space at Blindspot, I find that I’m constantly searching for more lamps.

Unless I’m sewing in my lovely big-windowed space at Blindspot, I find that I’m constantly searching for more lamps.

The older I get, the more light I need to sew – or so it seems. Perhaps the many years of sewing in dimly lit church basements and cramped corners surrounded by double racks of clothing and piles of waxed cardboard ‘chicken’ boxes has finally taken its toll.

Unless I’m sewing in my lovely big-windowed space at Blindspot, I find that I’m constantly searching for more lamps. Even with the almost entire wall of windows in my shop I still have a couple white paper Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, two floor lamps, and small gooseneck table lights next to the machines. The little lights in the domestic machines never seem to be quite enough. I’ve even been known to prop up my cell phone with the flashlight on under the top arm of machines, leaning it against the solid part with the controls and wheel.

Industrial machines come with moveable, bendable gooseneck lamps attached. I position mine low to the left of the machine, almost touching. I never have a problem seeing when sewing with the industrial.

There are countless types of table lamps out there but, for sewing purposes – and especially if you want to be able to angle the light beam under a sewing machine – a clamp-on style or one with a small base is the best. If the base is too big it’ll just get in your way when you’re trying to sew (especially with a machine). You also need one with a long, moveable goose neck or adjustable arm so you can point it where you need it.

Daylight Slimline LED table lamp

The Daylight Slimline LED table lamp is a great choice. It’s extremely narrow and clamps to a table edge. I like that it doesn’t take up excess space; it just does its intended job without being obtrusive and overbearing (and yes, I know I’m anthropomorphizing).

Daylight or full spectrum light sources are said to improve color perception and visual clarity, as well as, mood, productivity, and mental awareness. How valid these claims are depends on whom you’re talking to but, it is pretty well accepted that they do improve color perception. Here’s one study conducted by the Lighting Research Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Daylight Slimline floor lamp

The Daylight Slimline light also comes in a floor lamp version, which is also very useful as you can bend the arm over a chair or your shoulder to work.

Ottlight Creative HD

A really nice, easily portable light is the Ottlight Creative HD high definition natural light.

The Ottlight is named after the inventor of full spectrum lighting, Dr. John Ott.

Doc Ott

All living organisms needed the full spectrum of light provided by the sun.

All living organisms needed the full spectrum of light provided by the sun.

Dr. Ott was a banker who loved horticulture and time-lapse photography. This led him into a pioneering career in photobiology; the study of light on living cells.

Dr. Ott ended up working as a consultant for the Walt Disney “Secrets of Life” film series where he found that he couldn’t successfully grow plants indoors under normal everyday artificial lighting. His research showed that, in order to thrive, all living organisms needed the full spectrum of light provided by the sun. It was also during the making of this film that Dr. Ott pioneered the use of time lapse for film and television.

Moving through the spectrum

As his career progressed, Dr. Ott began monitoring the beneficial effects of full spectrum lighting on certain human physiological conditions. He discovered that light color temperatures affected mental health, with balanced light reducing hyperactivity in classrooms and negative behavior in prisons.

One of his biggest discoveries was that proper reproduction of individual cells (plant and animal) is affected by lighting variances. He also realized that the light entering our bodies through our eyes controls and regulates our brain chemistry.

Dr. Ott wrote tons of research as well as three books. He published a series of seven articles in the International Journal of Biosocial Research, titled Color and Light: Their Effects on Plants, Animals, and People. These articles summed up Dr. Ott’s decades of independent research, which, at the time, was contrary to the established wisdom of pharmaceutical companies who were intent on toting the negative effects of natural sunlight.

The Silent Epidemic

It’s a sunny morning here in Harlem, so I’m about to grab my bike & go spend some time out in the sun.

It’s a sunny morning here in Harlem, so I’m about to grab my bike & go spend some time out in the sun.

At first, Dr. Ott’s research was most often met with polite indifference from the scientific community. Soon, though, clinicians and medical professionals emerged who recognized and aligned with his theory of Mal-illumination or “the silent epidemic”.

Mal-illumination refers to the human trend of becoming ‘contemporary cave dwellers’ and spending the majority of their time indoors and away from natural light sources. Doesn’t sound good, does it?

So, in closing, don’t forget to go outside (outside and sunlight are still free after all!), open the shades, and consider buying yourself a full spectrum lamp if you don’t have one already.

It’s a sunny morning here in Harlem and I’m about to grab my bike and go spend some time out in the sun.

Brother SE1800 Sewing & Embroidery Machine Review

Brother SE1800 Sewing & Embroidery Machine Review

Brother SE1800 Sewing & Embroidery Machine Review

If you looked at my sewing room right now, you would think I was my own little sewing shop. Seriously. There are seven machines strewn out right now. Some of them have their own little stack of projects just waiting for attention, and some are lined up against a wall waiting for projects.

This year, I added the Brother SE1800 Embroidery And Sewing Machine to my collection. I received this machine from Sewing Machines Plus in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

First impressions

I was very pregnant when this box arrived at my doorstep — about three days after completing my “order.” So, needless to say, I thought this 39 pound box was quite heavy. Lest you think the machine itself is super heavy, you should know that there are a lot of extras included with this 22 pound machine.

I was very impressed with how quickly this machine was delivered to my front porch, and how carefully packaged it was.

After I got my machine out of the box and set up, my first impression of the Brother SE1800 was how quiet it was. In both the embroidery and the sewing modes, this is a very quiet machine.

Putting the Brother SE1800 through the tests

I wanted to put this machine through as many tests as I could, so I began by reading the owner’s manual from front to back (which I highly suggest any new owner do). I then made a list of projects I could make. My goal was to try out as many of my new machines features as I could — which was a lot.

Embroidery patterns are easily downloaded to a USB, which then plugs directly into the left-hand side of the machine.

Embroidery patterns are easily downloaded to a USB, which then plugs directly into the left-hand side of the machine.

I initially set up my favorite sewing machine next to this one and planned to use the two machines together to make projects faster and smoother. However, I found myself using this combination machine for both the sewing and the embroidery parts of my sewing stack.

Switching back and forth between tasks was as easy as turning the machine off and switching the flat bed with the embroidery unit. After turning the machine back on, the display automatically switches to the proper mode.

I used this machine for basic sewing, heirloom sewing, basic smocking, embroidery and appliqué. It also has darning features I have yet to use.

The pro’s

I could go on and on telling you all the features this machine offers, but that would be boring and you can see all those details here for yourself. I will get straight to the exciting part — my favorite features.

My favorite type of machine sewing is heirloom sewing. This machine made pulling strings and sewing lace together smooth and quiet — it has been a very peaceful experience.

Secondly, I also enjoy smocking. Until receiving this machine I had previously only done this with a smocking machine and hand stitching. Although there is definitely a learning curve with this machine, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning a new trick to a timeless technique.

The appliqué process/instructions are different from how I normally do appliqué, but once again I enjoy learning a different technique.

I have, since receiving this machine, had a new baby. The Brother SE1800 has become one of the main machines I use now because of how quiet it is. Although this machine doesn’t replace a heavy duty machine or serger, because it’s a combination machine, it’s done every other project I’ve needed to do.

If you have never had an embroidery machine before, then I highly suggest getting one with a USB port, as this one has, so that data transfer cords are not needed when embroidering — unless you like to be attached to a computer for that part.

The con’s

If there is one thing I would change about this machine, it would be that the owner’s manual would have pictures of the included embroidery programs. The screen showed a picture of the embroidery and appliqué designs, but I wasn’t sure what the exact picture would look like until I did a test run for each one. Although it’s not that big of a deal, I did have to use extra thread and material to do a test run of each one to see it before I placed it on my desired garment.

While I'm unable to add beads & change colors smocking on the machine, I was able to save at least a day working on these side panels.

While I’m unable to add beads & change colors smocking on the machine, I was able to save at least a day working on these side panels.

Is is worth the price?

Would I have purchased this particular machine myself? Yes, I would have. Although I probably would not have paid the full amount of this machine, Sewing Machines Plus very often has sales going on, and that’s when I would have made a purchase.

Another thing that sweetens the deal is all the extras that they put in with this machine. I was able to get started trying out different features right away with all the tools and extras that came as part of this package (which you can check out here).

Overall impression

This machine is one of the three machines I have out on my sewing table right now, along with a heavy duty machine and a serger.  I’m sure that is where it will stay for quite awhile.  Though I will use the other four here and there, this combination machine really replaced them all in so many ways.

To read more details and see what I was able to do with my machine while I was running through its features, read this. If you have more questions after you have read this, please feel free to ask.


Deborah Olsen writes for gracegardenandhomestead.com from her farm & homestead deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
Save on Sewing Machines This Spring

Save on Sewing Machines This Spring

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

I still sew on my mom’s old Singer. It’s got its quirks and issues, but I feel close to her when I use it. Each stitch reminds me of childhood memories sewing with my mother. Like the time she came into my nursery school class and made bean bags with all of us. Or the first time she showed me how to use a pattern to make my own clothes. As much as I wouldn’t trade these memories, having a new sewing machine is appealing.

A new sewing machine has features mine doesn’t. And a new sewing machine would, in some ways, be easier to use. There have been improvements in mechanisms and needle motion since my mom’s Singer was manufactured. I’m not ready to trade up from that old Singer, but you might be. If that’s the case, Spring is the perfect time to buy from Sewing Machines Plus!

Spring Sale on Sewing Machines

As nature comes back to life and renews itself, you can renew your passion for sewing with up to $400 off sewing machines and furniture. Even with that great discount, sewing machines can take a big bite out of your budget. To help out with that, you can combine the $400 off with 0% APR financing! Check out all the items included in the Spring Sales Event from Sewing Machines Plus, including furniture, right here.

SewingMachinesPlus.com Spring Sale - shop now!

SewingMachinesPlus.com Spring Sale – shop now!

Other Spring Sales Benefits

Every purchase you make on Sewing Machines Plus that’s over $49 comes with free shipping! In most cases, purchases ship the same day and are delivered in two to five business days. Don’t miss out on your chance to save big on that new sewing machine! Whether you’re looking for a long-arm quilter, an embroidery machine, a serger/overlock machine, or a simpler sewing machine, you’ll find something amazing at the Spring Sales Event.

What sewing machine or furniture will you save on this spring?