June 6, 2014 at 1:00 am


Regular upkeep best for sewing machine

Proper upkeep will help keep your sewing machine in good working order. (Bryan Gardner)

I recently bought my first sewing machine. Do you have any advice on how to take care of it?

A. Regular upkeep should keep your machine in tiptop shape.

Store it under a dust cover at room temperature, in a dry place. Use only new, high-quality thread to reduce interior lint buildup. Regularly unplug the machine and dust inside the bobbin case with a soft cosmetic brush. Lubricate the bobbin case with drops of sewing machine oil; check your manual for instructions, says Becky Hanson of Singer Sewing Co. (Then sew on a scrap of fabric to remove residual oil.)

Q. What type of cutting board do you recommend?

A. Ideally, you should have more than one type of board, since different uses call for different materials. Sturdy hardwood and bamboo boards are tough, donít knife-scar easily and are great for daily use. But they can hold in odors and bacteria, so designate a few plastic boards for foods like onions and garlic, and ingredients that may contain bacteria, such as raw meat and fish. (Wash the boards with dish soap thoroughly after using them.) Avoid glass-like plastic, which can dull your knife.

Q. How can I stop my dog from digging up plants in the garden?

A. If your pet is eating plants, it could be a sign of a nutrient imbalance, so schedule a visit to the vet. Most likely, though, this mischievous behavior is a sign of boredom. Redirect your dog to another activity, like a game of fetch, says Kirsten Theisen, director of pet-care issues at the Humane Society of the United States. And make the garden a less desirable spot to dig in by placing flat rocks around plants and spraying the area with a mix of water and lemon juice (most dogs dislike citrus scents).

Q. What method do you prefer for pressing flowers and leaves? What types of plants do you recommend I use?

A. Position the flowers on top of a piece of acid-free blotting paper in a store-bought flower press. Put a piece of paper and the cardboard on top, close the press and tighten the belts around it. If you donít have a press, put the clippings between two pieces of acid-free newsprint inside a heavy book, with more books stacked on top. Dry for at least a few days. Flowers or leaves that arenít too thick, such as daisies or lavender, work best.

Kitchen tip: For perfectly golden-brown pancakes, rub only a thin coat of oil, not butter, on a hot griddle so they donít stick. (Too much and the cakes will fry.) They are ready to flip when you see bubbles form and the edges have set.

Questions should be sent to Martha Stewart Living , 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. You may also email questions to mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.

Bamboo cutting boards resist knife scarring and are great for daily use. (Angel Franco / New York Times)