Friday, November 20, 2009

The Learning Curve Projects

The first piece we turned out from the Big Bad Barudan:

My iPhone hates me sometimes when it comes to taking photos but it was easier than finding either one of the other cameras!

The horseshoe design was already loaded into the machine's memory and we kind of wanted instant gratification so we stitched it out first in black, then I moved the pantograph slightly up and to the left and reran the design in white, giving kind of a drop shadow look. Not much, but hey, the machine did what it was supposed to.
Next came one of our own designs. It was intentionally two-color, but I had forgotten how to tell the machine to change colors so it stitched the entire piece in all black (bottom). This wasn't bad, not the effect we wanted, but it also worked well.

I remembered how to program the color sequence so we ran the same file again, this time with two colors (top). That went VERY well. But it would be a couple of weeks before making another attempt because we had some life- and energy-sucking obligations.

Yesterday's (our third) attempt went kind of well. We decided to see how big we could go. This project ran well until the machine ran out of bobbin thread and I tried to “fix” missed stitches by backing up. I threw the whole thing out of alignment and caused a broken needle (dumbass). But I did learn what NOT to do next time. It wasn't easy, but I got the alignment back on and continued stitching the whole wing. In the future, something with as large an area as this will probably be done as an appliqué instead of solid stitching.
Notice the pattern started on top of the left side (inside) of the wing. Again, this was supposed to be white and I (duh) hadn't programmed the machine correctly. Black is nice so I kept the machine going. This is where things got messed up. Something in the file conversion was messed up so there was a lot of extra starting, stopping & cutting, with a lot of needle unthreading going on. Again, I messed with the settings and threw the alignment off again with no real way to get back where I started. Now I know at least TWO things not to do.

Today I just said, “screw it” and took the wing out of the hoop and cut away most of the fabric stabilizer that was underneath (that's the white around the perimeter). I never did stitch the white on this piece. That's okay, though, this wing will be used as a placement template for future projects.

I still wanted to stitch out the top white part of the wing, though. I decided to put in a piece of remnant fabric backed with the stabilizer for a stronger piece.
This little bit of work took about three HOURS! It's quite beautiful and not anywhere near finished. There were so many stops & thread cuts programmed into the design that after every sew 10 stitches, cut, begin to sew, needle unthread, thread needle again, start again, sew 10 stitches, cut, begin to sew, needle unthread, thread needle again, cry, start again, etc…
I made minor adjustments to the tension the whole time. I probably quit just before I “got it”, but I won't know until tomorrow. I still think the thread tension might be too tight so I'm going to crank it to the loose end and try again.
Notice in the picture the needle is UNthreaded, that's how I left it.
*SIGH* here's to better luck tomorrow. I think I'll go drink now.

It's All About ASS Comfort!

We're heading back to the ol' busstead after an errand and Big Al makes a U-turn—I wasn't paying attention, I was probably tweeting from the iPhone or something—and we end up at a small furniture store. Big Al has been looking for a work chair for some time now. The old office chair, “kills my ass” and so did the folding chair, and the folding recliner, “sat back too far”. We looked at chairs, too big, too small, not sturdy enough, too expensive…

(Ahhhhh!) You could almost hear the angelic choir as a golden beam came down from the sky and shone on this chair. Not too big, not too small, brand new, and a decent price. New furniture is great although, personally, I hate shopping for it. Worse than shopping for it is getting it home. Have I mentioned that we have a Hyundai sedan? WTF are we going to do with that chair now? Well, he left me inside with the crazy Chinese owner who had to tell me about the whole business, his great prices, and, “Tell all your friends to come here, I give them good deal!” Because he brings in whole containers of “Good stuff from China". (cringe)

I finally broke away from the conversation to go outside to this:

Notice the camo ratchet strap holding it all in. This is how the trunk of the LAST Hyundai got dented. They were so excited that the back came off the chair so they could get it in there better (cringing again). Anyway, it's HIS chair. It isn't leather, it's fabric. The ratchet strap had grease on it from being behind the bus on the scooter or something. Now that grease is part of the chair. But it's HIS chair, I have to keep reminding myself. We waved goodbye to the crazy Chinese guy and returned to the bus to work on our venture, this time in total ass comfort.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Racing Season is Over, Now We Get Busy

I had already forgotten about my post a month or so ago about buying the Big Bad Barudan and the bus remodel. We've had a lot going on since then three events and the end-of-season inventory and clean-up for our NHRA trailer.

It was nearly a MONTH before we got to try out the Big Bad Barudan! Of course by then my memory on exactly how the machine worked was not all that great. Of course it isn't easy to distract me…nope, not at all. Luckily I can work from written instructions. Give me a user manual and even if there are errors, sooner or later I will figure it out. This time was no exception. However, it probably took me an hour to thread two colors of thread into the machine. Once it was done, it was done right and I haven't had to mess with that since.

The very first files I stitched out were very successful. A horeshoe looking thing, and a wing. That was all I was able to do at the time. Now another couple of weeks have gone by and we made another attempt. All went well until the bobbin thread ran out. Instead of just stopping, changing the bobbin and resuming, I tried to back up to where I left off using the command keypad. Somewhere in that process I really screwed up because I resumed sewing and the needle went straight over and embedded the needle between the two sections of my hoop. Pretty lucky, because if it had hit the hoop it would probably have messed up the machine! Oh, and I also broke the needle. That was enough of that.

Didn't have extra needles so I got online and found a shop about 4 miles down the road in San Dimas, CA, that sold needles, thread, and the like for industrial machines. I bought a pack of 100 needles (hopefully I will never need that many).

I didn't continue my efforts until hours later. I put a new needle in the machine and tried to find the starting point of the original patter once again. A few tweaks and I got pretty close to spot on. Then I needed to advance thousands of stitches to where I left off or sew the whole damn thing again. Again, got pretty close to right on and started the machine and it went for a coupe minutes, then Big Al noticed that the needle had fallen out so the machine was really sewing nothing.

Grrr. it's dark, I'm sewing with black thread on a black background. The room is dimly lit and I keep having to rethread the needle, not to mention putting it back in AND making sure the right side was facing forward, again, a very difficult thing to see in the near dark. But after that little repair we were on a roll…for a little while.

The machine beeped and slow down. I figured it was time for a color change. It was supposed to change to white, but it didn't. I was in pushing buttons and whatnot and probably told it to change to black instead of white. Not that black-on-black doesn't look cool, and it really does, but the machine wasn't doing what I thought I told it to do. The status indicator didn't say it was time for a color change anyway.

Then, I probably, accidentally programmed in some stop-and-cuts because the machine would sew three stitches, stop, cut the thread, sew, stop, cut (needle comes unthreaded, rethread needle), sew, stop, cut, sew, stop (needle comes unthreaded, rethread), sew…

"This is stupid", I thought. I'll just advance forward to the next color change. So I started pushing buttons again, and in the process got the pattern all out of alignment somehow. It would be nearly impossible to back up where I left off at this point. I now have black-on-black, can't see a damn thing, I'm frustrated, tired and Big Al wants me to give up on that bit and start another one. NO WAY, I need to learn how to manipulate the machine to make it do what I want. I did it before, I'll do it again, I tell ya!

I'll try again tomorrow.