Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Sewing Room

You know what's great about having an empty nest (besides the peace and quiet)? Spare rooms! We have converted the largest kids' room into a brew room and this smaller bedroom is now my sewing room/guestroom. I've spent this past week getting it organized and cleaning the carpet. It is now a peaceful sanctuary. I still need to do some cleaning and lubing on my machines but should be merrily sewing along very soon.

Most of the items in that room were either free or second hand. The bed was my great grandfather's and the dresser is one we bought when we first got married. Good ol' 1980's particle board. It's a miracle it survived after being in the kids' room. Speaking of the little devils, I have their photos in my sewing room. My eldest is up there on the wall in a little frame that I embroidered when she was a baby. The 3 middle kids are all together, and the youngest is shown during her very brief jock phase.

Whenever I want to chill out and relax I simply walk into that room and gaze around. It's one of my "happy places". In preparation for actually producing some sewn items, I ordered these little labels.

I got them from Heirloom Woven Labels. Just $25.95 for 72 labels (includes shipping). I ordered the small labels in option Q (the papyrus font). The order page shows them non-italics...but I'm not complaining. I prefer the italics.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meet Flash, The Rocketeer

Someone once told me that if you had 3 it was a collection. Which means I now officially collect vintage Singers. Hubby & I took a little trip out to Graham this evening, to look over a lady's sewing machine collection. She's in her 80's and wanting to pare down. I swear she had at least 40 machines in her garage. I came away with this Singer 500 Rocketeer.

It is a slant-o-matic machine and the manual cover claims it's "the greatest sewing machine ever built"! I think it's certainly one of the most stylish. This machine is definitely a "he" and I've named him Flash (of course). The woman was asking $200. We talked her down to $100 and then worked a partial barter so it cost me $65 for the machine and $10 for the additional buttonholer.

Not too bad considering this was on my "most desirable" list. No more Singers for a while unless someone wants to barter for a Featherweight. Then all bets are off.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My New Old Singer

I love old cars. And old sewing machines. They are both lovely to look at. But sewing machines cost less, are easier to repair and maintain, don't eat gas or require insurance and take up less room. Which is probably why my husband didn't complain when I told him I wanted a vintage sewing machine. Something reliable and sturdy with a metal head and gears. I began researching the more sought after brands and models. The Singer 328 wasn't listed among them. But when I was offered this machine, for FREE, suddenly the Singer 328 looked pretty darned attractive. I agreed to give it a home, sight unseen. I didn't want to look a gift machine "in the mouth". Today was the day. We drove to Auburn to pick it up and I was pleasantly surprised. This sewing machine is in much better shape than I expected. It came with the cabinet, manuals and attachments. Woot! I need to give her a thorough cleaning and oiling. Then we'll see how she runs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Social Butterfly?

That's what I felt like this weekend. Saturday we had lunch with friends and Sunday evening we were invited to a dinner party. Our social life revolves around our pipe club and what a rich cast of characters we're exposed to. One of the guests at the dinner party was Neill Archer Roan. Even the pipe world has its rock stars and Neill is one of them. (Neill will also be the guest speaker at the annual Seattle Pipe Club Dinner on January 28, 2012). Also in attendance was our own Gary Schrier who's book 'Confessions of a Pipe Man' was featured on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. You have to watch the clip. It's hilarious. Especially if you're a pipe smoker. Click this link to go to Pipesmagazine.com web site then scroll down to watch the clip.

After that busy weekend I've been dragging a bit. I am still in a transitional state having not quite settled into retired life. I am focused on weeding out clutter from my house, getting my sewing room and fiber studio in order and making time each day for weaving and/or spinning. I have wound the warp for my second project (mini pinwheel place mats) but haven't warped the loom. I've been spinning, instead. I moved my Norwegian style wheel, Gudrun (named after my step-grandma), down to the living room. This way I can multi-task when I have the urge to watch T.V. I managed to get this much spun yesterday.

I'll give Gudrun a proper introduction in another post. Meanwhile I've been sidetracked with a new obsession, trying to acquire an older model sewing machine. One with an all metal body and gears. I have a line on a Singer Style-O-Matic 328. It has a cabinet, the manual and attachments (including decorative cams). If all goes well I'll be dragging it home this weekend. I haven't seen it and have no idea what condition it's in, but it is free, so the price is right. Speaking of free sewing machines, I've also been given this poor grimy serger.

Its been abused during it's life and is of dubious value. I have no idea if it even works. I'll have the husbeast look it over and make sure it's safe before I attempt to clean it up and see if it's operational.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weaving Windfall

Recently I drove to the Barnes & Noble Bookstore, in Lakewood, WA, seeking a copy of Handwoven Magazine. I searched all through the racks to no avail. They stock magazines for every other fiber art. But none for weaving. Unless I buy a subscription I am going to be out of luck. My mail person mangles my mail and I am not really excited about paying good money to receive bent and torn weaving magazines. I do have some older Handwovens in my magazine collection but nothing from the last 12 years. Then yesterday I was contacted by a fellow weaver who was purging some items from her studio. Books, yarn and some magazines. Did I want them? Heck yeah.

Much of the yarn looks to be from the 70's. Lots of rather drab earth tones. But I will perform burn tests on it, and if it's wool I can over dye it. There was also some thinner cottons to be used for dish towels. Here's what else was included. Be still me heart! Look at all these Handwovens. 39 of them!

That should keep me inspired for a while. There were also some copies of Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot and older Interweave magazines.

And books! There were a few that I already owned, but all of these are new to my fiber library.

And last but not least, a couple of rag shuttles. With bobbins.

Christmas came early for me. I am so thankful for the generosity of my benefactor. Now I will have to pay it forward by destashing some more items from my studio that I know I will never use.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My First Weaving Is Off The Loom

It's always been my habit to learn just enough to be dangerous, jump in head first, and sink or swim. My first foray into weaving on a multi-harness loom has followed that pattern. I tried to pick a project that wouldn't bore me but also wouldn't be so difficult that I'd get frustrated. This runner turned out to be a good first project for me. And I learned a lot.

There was only one really scary moment, when the warp decided to start untying itself from the warp beam before I was finished.  I managed to get it tied back on but had to unweave about 16 picks before I could get my fell line back to being almost even. It's not perfect but I am proud of it and will display it on my dining table. Now to think of what to weave next.

Slow Smoke Results

The Seattle Pipe Club's annual slow smoke competition took place this past Wednesday evening, the ninth of November. No, I didn't win. I didn't even place in the top five, which would've gotten my name on the club trophy. I did win the women's division. But since I was the only female entrant that wasn't much of a feat. I placed 9th out of 15. I suppose that's not too bad for my first slow smoke contest. I did have a fun time and I didn't come away empty handed. I have the competition pipe, and I also received this really cool looking aluminum tamper for coming in ninth. It's an Icon tamper from TotemStar.com and retails for $35. Not too shabby. I look forward to trying again next year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Show Lard Some Love

Over the years lard has gotten a bum rap. Replaced by hydrogenated shortening. Shortening is cheap and convenient with a long shelf life. But is it good for us? I don't believe so. I prefer "real" foods. Give me lard, butter, eggs...nourishment my body can use. Good luck finding lard nowadays. And no, I'm not talking about that hydrogenated lard you can sometimes find in cans. It might as well be shortening. I want good old fashioned unadulterated lard. Lard is rendered from pig fat. And where can you get pig fat? You might be able to make friends with a butcher. But I realized I was throwing away  potential lard on a regular basis. All that lovely fat that comes attached to the pork bought at the grocery store. Now I trim that fat and keep it in my freezer until I have enough to render into lovely lard. It's not difficult to do. You chop up the fat into small pieces and place it in a heavy saucepan. Then add a little water. I don't measure. Don't add too much water or it will take a lot longer for it to evaporate. Now heat the fat on medium heat to just bubbling, stirring often. Then reduce the heat to low. Stir it frequently. The fat will melt and the water will eventually evaporate off. You will have little chunky bits in there called cracklings. Those will rise to the surface then at some point sink back to the bottom. When they are at the bottom of the liquid lard, and all crispy, your lard is ready to be strained. I line a metal strainer with a piece of clean cloth and pour the fat through that and into a heavy glass jar of some type. This strains out the cracklings which can be saved, salted and used as a salad or baked potato topping. Your lard will be liquid and a golden color.

Put a lid on it and place it in your refrigerator. It will eventually cool and thicken into beautiful white lard. Use it in place of shortening. Hint: it makes AMAZING pie crusts. It is best used within 4 to 6 weeks. You can freeze it for longer storage. Or you can pour it into sterilized canning jars while it's hot, put on the canning jar lid and ring, and it will seal as it cools. I have heard it can keep for years this way.