Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Yard Sale Of 2012

...and man, it was cold. I usually don't hit yard sales in February but it was rumored to have sewing items. Plus it  was right on the way as I headed to Jo-Ann Fabrics to pick up some fabric for a quilt I'll be starting (more on this very soon).

Here is what $35 bought me at Jo-Ann's.
4 yards of white Kona cotton, 3 remnants,
a pattern and needles. 

And here is what $13 bought at the yard sale:
 12 yards of fabric.

A bunch of seam binding, bias tape, lace, rick rack, etc...

Misc. patterns.

And a bag of assorted presser feet, needles and parts.
(See that roach clip in the middle?)

Some free fabric and set of 3 baskets.

Not everything from the yard sale is to my taste (like the Barbie patterns) but they will come in handy for bartering. You gotta love yard sales! May favorite find of the day? This nifty old Dritz thimble. So comfy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Afghan Beginnings

Recently I have been spending time in a health clinic waiting room. The perfect opportunity to begin a new fiber arts project. Since retiring I have found myself with a rather large stash of Plymouth Encore worsted weight yarn. I am an unabashed fiber snob, preferring natural fibers and hand spun yarns, but Encore is the perfect yarn for afghans. It knits and crochets up nicely, feels soft, is machine washable and wears like iron. I have been meaning to replace the current sofa afghan which was crocheted over 20 years ago, from nasty Red Heart yarn, and feels like it's made of plastic. Yes, it looks nice but it is not the least bit snuggly or warm. I confess I am not overly excited about my afghan project. Afghans can be tedious and cumbersome to create. Especially those made all in one piece and a single color. Boring! Being a child of the 60's I have always had a soft spot for granny square afghans. They remind me of stained glass or quilts and are the perfect project for using scraps of yarn. They also allow for creative expression because you get to use whatever colors you want in each square.

I recently stumbled upon this FREE pattern from Garn Studio's DROPS Design. Instead of the standard granny square motif, this one features a round center reminiscent of a wagon wheel. The pattern's featured yarn is variegated with long color repeats. I am mimicking that look by using 3 related colors per block. I am using a size H hook and each of my blocks is 5 1/2" square. I have 5 squares made and will need 60 or more for the afghan. I will also have to watch for a sale on Lion Brand Wool-Ease yarn (which is very similar to Encore) so I can purchase the black needed to crochet all the squares together.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Bear For Reggie

I have properly christened Betty. Her first project? A new toy for Reggie. He has already killed the little pig he received at Christmas. He's bitten the leg open releasing the nasty polyester stuffing. I'm always afraid he'll eat it, and choke, or else get some awful blockage. Once the toys start leaking stuffing they get tossed. That pig didn't even last 2 months. Today I got the idea to make Reggie some sturdier toys. I'll make them out of biodegradable materials; recycled denim, cotton thread, and wool for stuffing. This little bear took only minutes to make. And Reggie loves it as much as those expensive pet shop toys.

In fact I had a heck of a time trying to snap a picture. He kept shaking it and running up and down the big pillow at the end of the couch. He likes to stand on the top of the pillow. It makes him feel tall.

Finally he got tired and set the bear down. It's nice to sew for someone who's so appreciative of my efforts. Once the bear reaches the end of its life it can be tossed onto the compost pile instead of into the landfill.

Making Friends With Betty

Today I set about learning to treadle. It was immediately apparent that the belt was slipping badly and needed to be tightened. The husbeast snipped off about an inch of the belt and reattached the c-clip. That's better. Now we're in business. The oil is beginning to seep into the long parched moving parts and every time I sit down to sew it gets easier and easier. It's difficult to explain just how relaxing it is to sew using a treadle. I cannot believe how perfectly even the stitches are. Here is my latest practice piece.

Meet Betty White

She's just 7 years older than the "real" Betty. It's no secret that I adore vintage sewing machines. Most of the machines in my collection are from the 50's and 60's (I also love automobiles from this same time frame but that's a whole different obsession). The quality and styling of those years is unmatched. But to me, the most beautiful sewing machines ever built are the treadle machines of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two words, Simple Elegance. High quality components, straightforward engineering and beautiful presentation. They are built to do one thing, do it well, and last forever. I have been keeping my eyes open for an affordable treadle machine which uses round bobbins instead of the vibrating shuttles. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter but I am more familiar with bobbins and they are easier to come by. I was actually hoping (and still am) to find a Singer treadle machine because those can actually use modern bobbins and attachments. However, when I was offered this 1915 White Rotary Machine for a mere $25, I couldn't say no. That's practically free! Yesterday I enlisted the husbeast's help and we drove to Renton to retrieve my prize. I really had no idea what condition the machine would be in or if it was all there. I'd only seen a few pictures. But for $25 I wasn't going to dicker. I didn't want the fellow to come to his senses and realize he was basically giving this lovely machine away. Once I saw it in person I could tell it was indeed complete, right down to the original box of attachments and an old oil can. Be still my heart! We couldn't figure out how to remove the head from the base so had to transport them still attached which isn't wise. I worried the entire drive home. But the machine made the trek just fine. Once I had Betty set up in the living room it was time to clean her up a bit. As you can see, she is covered, inside and out, with about 50 years worth of dust. Even grimy she is still beautiful, with her fancy decals and gorgeous oak cabinet.

The machine head.

The business end.

The bobbin case.

I brushed and vacuumed as much of the dust out as I could. The poor machine was dry as a bone. Luckily I had located a manual for a later version of the White FR Model 12 and could see where all the oiling spots were. It really isn't difficult to figure, even without a manual. Turn the hand crank while you have the bottom of the machine exposed and if something is moving, oil it. There are also a few places on top of the machine to oil, as well as a spot on the bobbin race. Once she had some oil Betty loosened right up. I was anxious to see if she would sew and ran to get a spool of thread. Threading her was tricky since the threading diagram in the photocopy of the old manual was rather hard to make out.

The bobbin was a bit easier to figure and soon I was ready to take that initial stitch.

Try as I might I couldn't get the machine to pick up the bobbin thread. Was my machine broken? I took the bobbin case apart, reassembled it, and tried again. Still nothing. When all else fails, read the manual. It seems that the hand wheel on these early Whites needs to be turned AWAY from you, not towards you like on my other machines. Once I had the wheel turning the correct direction the bottom thread was picked right up. I grabbed some fabric and sat down, ready for my first treadle sewing experience. What a laugh. Between having to keep the wheel turning away from me, and the awkwardness of the treadle, I had a heck of a time. I did manage to sew. Not straight but it still counts.

I will need lots of practice to feel comfortable sewing on her. Then I can play around with all the attachments she brought along.

I am thrilled to have Betty join my little sewing machine family. We will have lots of fun together.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Road Trip To Winlock, WA

Today we headed down to Winlock, WA, to house hunt. We looked at 3 properties, none of which was what we are looking for. One house was too small. Another house was full of personality, with lots of built-ins, but the 1.7 acre parcel was all woods and on a steep incline. The 3rd place had a lovely 2 acre plot with many fruit and walnut trees, and some great outbuildings. Unfortunately the house was ugly beyond hope. There's not much to do in Winlock,  which is part of the draw. Just a poor, sleepy little farming community. Everyone knows everyone, and people actually wave at you when you drive by, even though you're a perfect stranger. Winlock's claim to fame? Eggs. They used to be one of the largest egg producers in Washington. And they are still home to the World's Largest (misshapen) Egg.

To be fair I think my Leghorn has laid an egg or two with that exact shape. Many cities are famous for their outdoor artwork. Winlock, not to be outdone, has chicken statues posted at nearly every turn. Here's just one of them.

They also have their version of a skyscraper.

I love this little town and still hold out hope we may eventually relocate there. Either there, or Glenoma.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Curtains For The Basement

I was commissioned to make a set of curtains for under the husbeast's workbench. He asked that they be either black, brown or gray. I thought brown was the least boring choice. I picked up some really cheap poly cotton blend at Jo-Ann's. This stuff was awful to sew. But he is happy with his new curtains. That's all that matters.

Now I can start on a colorful, fun project. The cat's quilt is next on the agenda. Then maybe something for me? I'm starting to get a nice little collection of patterns. I just received these today. I bartered a skein of yarn for them.

 And my friend Marti stopped by with some quilting books. Thanks, Marti!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Lovely Present

A friend surprised me at this month's knitting group. 
She brought me these:

Seven sets of gorgeous coordinated fat quarters.
I especially love this set.

I better get sewing. My fabric stash is starting to overwhelm my sewing room. I need to come up with a better  storage system.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Turning Yarn Into Fabric

My dilemma? I find myself with a mountain of yarn and no desire to knit. Wouldn't it be great if I could magically turn all that yarn into fabric? That is what I have been trying to accomplish. It's not happening overnight and takes a bit of effort, but I have managed to find quite a few folks with mountains of fabric who wish to turn it into yarn. First on Ravelry, but that costs quite a bit in postage. Not to mention the risk you take whenever mailing things. The USPS managed to lose (as in vanished into thin air) a box filled with $150 of high end yarn. I'm pretty sure a postal employee, somewhere, is happily knitting away. I'd rather not have to mail things unless absolutely necessary. Thanks to Craigslist I managed to find 2 local ladies, with huge fabric stashes, who are happy to barter. One came to visit yesterday and we traded toys. I received this big stack of fabric.

True, it's not as much fun as visiting the fabric store and being able to choose from 1000's of bolts, but I'd rather have fabric to sew than yarn I will never knit. Here are details of the new fabrics. Most are yardage (a couple of 5 yd pieces) but there are also some fat quarters and panels.

I am not a fan of pre-stamped quilt panels but I had to have these. Especially the vintage sewing machine prints.

I certainly didn't need another quilting book but I had to get this one. The title lured me in. Bees?

I think I have another lady coming to visit this weekend. Slowly but surely that yarn is turning into fabric.