Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

Product Development and Date Night

Product Development and Date Night

I could never be an inventor. I don’t have enough patience for product development. Forget that Thomas Edison saying about finding 10,000 ways that don’t work—I’d prefer to bypass all that extra time and energy and just go straight to the one way that does work. I rarely ever “designed on the needles” when it came to knitting. Everything was planned out as much in advance as possible.

The internet, Facebook, and all of these specialized groups of people sharing common interests has been a godsend. If I have a question, I almost always start in one of my Facebook groups. I belong to the Juki industrial sewing machines group and it includes owners of both new and vintage sergers and lockstitch machines. I asked there about what needles and thread would be best for sewing canvas grocery bags on my Juki MO-816, which is my five-thread industrial serger. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of people with these sergers and I didn’t get many responses to my question. (One person responded to let me know that she had started a separate, smaller Facebook group just for the owners of that model machine; I joined and so far there are only three of us, but even three of us can share information.) The good thing about industrial machines is that they are almost always set up to do one specific task and do it repeatedly and well, so I knew there wouldn’t be a huge window for experimentation.

Still, I spent six hours with that machine changing needles, thread, and trying different combinations of both. I changed from the 80/12 needles that were in there to 90/14 needles. I rethreaded with regular serger thread in the loopers and some #46 polyester in the chain needle and looper. I even tested some Coats Heavy Duty thread in the chain needle and looper. Here’s what I discovered:

I have rethreaded that machine so many times now that I can do it in my sleep. (It’s really not a whole lot different from my domestic Juki serger except for the chain needle and looper.)

Making any changes requires turning off the motor, unplugging the machine, lifting the top of the table, opening the front cover and the needle cover, swinging the presser foot out of the way, and opening up the left side of the machine. When I have fixed or changed what needed to be fixed or changed, I have to do all of that in reverse.

The heavier polyester thread really doesn’t do much to strengthen the seam, but it does make the seam bulkier. Bulkier is not always better.

The polyester coned thread worked better than the Coats and Clarks heavy duty thread, which is also polyester.

In the end, I left the 90/14 needles in because of the heavier weight of the canvas, but I switched back to regular polyester serger thread in all the needles and loopers. The Maxi-Lock works, but I may order a couple of cones of #33 nylon thread and try those in the chain needle and looper.

[The husband offered to do some product testing for me by putting 200 pounds of nails into one of my grocery bags to see where the failure points were. I declined.]


We had date night last night. The husband had to look at a job north of here, so we headed up the highway that leads to Glacier Park and the town of Columbia Falls. I don’t get up that way very often. Columbia Falls, for all that it is so close to Glacier Park, has always been something of the low-rent district of the Flathead Valley. It used to be home to Columbia Falls Aluminum. Plum Creek Timber—now owned by Weyerhaeuser—is still there.

I am happy to see that new businesses are moving into the downtown area. It’s a nice town and deserves more traffic. Our neighbors Chelsey and Rebecca had us over for a St. Paddy’s Day party last Sunday night and Chelsey told us to try Backslope Brewing. We ended up there for dinner. It will definitely be a date night destination from now on. I had a lot of trouble deciding what to have. The husband had a burger and I ended up with the Reuben sandwich and garlic parmesan fries. (I was never a big fan of corned beef when I was growing up—I couldn’t stand the smell of it cooking—but I have developed an appreciation for it over the years and I do love a good Reuben sandwich.) We sent our plates back practically licked clean. I doubt we’ll be able to get within a mile of the place during tourist season, but now is a good time of year to eat there.

After dinner, we headed back to Kalispell in search of a propane heater and to visit the tool departments at Home Depot and Lowes. There is not a propane heater to be had in Kalisepll. The husband thinks all the stores sold out of them a few weeks ago when it was so cold and just haven’t bothered to restock. (The guy at Home Depot said, “This isn’t really propane heater season,” and I replied, “It is if you have to heat a greenhouse.”) The husband said he would rig up one of his concrete heaters to keep it warm in there.

We also had a gift card at the local sporting goods store, so we wandered around in there for a while trying to decide what to spend it on. The Swedish axes were tempting. The husband already has a hatchet from that same company. We visited with our friend who works in the gun department. The selection of game cameras was fairly well sold out or we might have ended up with one of those. After the bear incident last September, I think it would probably be prudent to mount a game camera behind the chicken coop to see exactly what is wandering around out there.

I thought these were hysterical:


They look just like ground squirrels. I’m a pretty good shot, though, and I don’t really need the target practice.

In the end, we bought nothing except a new utility knife for the husband (his broke) and a pair of Mechanix work gloves for me. We’ll have to go back and use our gift card on another date night.

A Gift of Orange Webbing

A Gift of Orange Webbing

Lacking Traction

Lacking Traction