Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering

This is how you fit ten sewing machines in a 10'x12' room:

On top of the bookcase.

On every level surface, under the desk, and inside the cabinet.

And lined up along the wall with the extension tables removed to conserve space.

Oh, and I did say ten. I know last week it was nine, but this week it is ten. This is number ten:

She's a 1955 Singer 201, often called the finest machine Singer ever made. I can't attest to that, since I haven't tried every--or even most--machines Singer ever made, but she is a beauty. She has a "potted motor", which means that she is gear-driven. No belt to stretch or wear out and she's very quiet. Not nearly as powerful as my Pfaffs, but definitely an elegant lady. Once again (sorry, Kat!) $25 on craigslist, with the art deco cabinet. Yes, I am aware that I am approaching crazy cat lady territory with the sewing machines, but when they fall into my lap for less than the cost of a skein of sock yarn, what's a sewing machine enthusiast to do?

Friday, July 30, 2010

FO: Buggy

Buggy--otherwise known as Hey, Teach--is officially done!

The Details:

Pattern: Hey, Teach! by Helene Rush.

Size: Um. Small, I think.

Yarn: Rowan Summer Tweed. No sir, I don't like it! This yarn was a pain to knit--literally. A heavy worsted raw silk and cotton blend with no give or flexibility at all; my wrists and elbows may never recover. It does make for a nice finished fabric, but not nice enough to go through that again!

Needles: size 7 KP Options.

Mods: I made the body two inches longer and did elbow-length sleeves. I also added buttons (6 instead of 4). I added extra ribbing to the neckline to bring it up a little higher and keep it from sagging. Oh, and I did twisted ribbing instead of regular 1x1 ribbing because I prefer it. Otherwise I followed the pattern on this one. It's a nice pattern if you don't mind seaming. Personally, I think I'm going to stick to seamless garments for a while!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And So He Grows

I've mentioned before that the KH and Older Son are in Civil Air Patrol, which is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The KH was a cadet for several years way back in the 1970s in Ohio, and it was a major life experience for him. Older Son joined the local squadron when he turned 12 last year. Since then, he's participated in many really great events and programs, but last week he took part in the most important CAP cadet experience: Encampment. This is boot camp for CAP cadets, and it is just as tough for them as real boot camp is for new military recruits. We knew he had no idea how tough it was going to be, and we wondered how he would do, and how it would change him.

Saturday was graduation day. It was the culmination of a week of 18-hour days, grueling physical training, enforced silence, endless drill, and a wild roller coaster ride of teenage emotions. For Older Son, it was a week of firsts: getting up at 5:00 am; learning to make a bed with military precision; standing perfectly still for hours on end; facing and overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles; eating, sleeping, and peeing on a schedule...and his first shave. Which I missed. For some reason, this one detail represents for me everything he experienced during this intense week of change and growth.

He's only thirteen; I still think of him as my little boy. But at the same time, he's turning into a man before my eyes. Even as he drives me crazy with his messy room, his bizarre, testosterone-driven decisions, and his endless drama of teen angst, he has moments of remarkable maturity, impressive competence, and genuine responsibility.

There are brief, shining instants when I see past the little boy he has been and the half-grown adolescent he is to the man he is becoming, and it is inexpressibly poignant.

It is a mother's job to raise adults, not children. Doing her job well renders her obsolete. It will be many years yet before my kids are truly grown and gone, but every now and then I can see the future in my little boy's eyes, and I wonder what sort of man he'll be. Will he be strong and competent and responsible? Will he be compassionate and thoughtful and reliable? Will he be the man I am trying to raise? I don't know; I can only watch and wait and hope.

But for now, in this moment, I have never been prouder of him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Truths for Mature Humans

Please note: I didn't write this, and I don't know who did, but it made me laugh out loud repeatedly, so I thought I'd share with you all.

  1. I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

  2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

  3. I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.

  4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

  5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

  6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

  7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I’m pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

  8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

  9. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind of tired.

  10. Bad decisions make good stories.

  11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

  12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don’t want to have to restart my collection…again.

  13. I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

  14. “Do not machine wash or tumble dry” means I will never wash this - ever.

  15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Damn it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voice mail. What did you do after I didn’t answer? Drop the phone and run away?

  16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

  17. I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

  18. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

  19. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.

  20. I wish Google Maps had an “Avoid Ghetto” routing option.

  21. Sometimes, I’ll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw it.

  22. I would rather try to carry 10 over-loaded plastic bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

  23. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

  24. How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?

  25. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

  26. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

  27. Is it just me or do high school kids get dumber and dumber every year?

  28. There’s no worse feeling than that millisecond you’re sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

  29. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate bicyclists.

  30. Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

  31. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Comes Next

One of my favorite parts of knitting--probably my very favorite part, actually--is choosing my next pattern. There's a delightful giddiness about it. Like a kid in a candy store, there is limitless opportunity ahead of me, innumerable possiblities, and I love them all. I can choose any project, any yarn, any color. I haven't committed to anything and the whole world of knitting is wide open before me.

I always try to put off picking a project as long as possible. I like to go through my Rav queue, look through old knitting magazines, peruse my books. I try to draw out the process as long as I can while I wait for inspiration to strike. Today I held out a good 15 minutes.

My next sweater will be based on this one. It meets my current requirements: soft wool, simple shape, lots of plain stockinette, and totally wearable. Sometimes I knit a project just to experiment with a neat shape or a cool stitch pattern, knowing that I'll probably never wear it. But that's not what I want right now. After Buggy, I feel like making something cozy and simple that I can wear to death.

I've been looking at this one for a week now. I even picked up some yarn from a Rav destash just for it (Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which, to my shock, I've never used before). I would have just knitted it from the pattern, but when I went to order it this morning, I discovered it is only available in hard copy, and I am not waiting four or five days for snail mail to kick in (impatient much?). Besides, it's such a simple design, it really doesn't require a pattern.

My version will be almost the same as this one, only with garter stitch edges, because I like garter stitch edges, and with more buttons, because I don't care for winter sweaters that don't close full length. I plan on making it a modified A-line, with a little extra shaping for the waist. I'm going to work it bottom-up in one piece to the underarms, with button bands knitted along with the body, do shaping for set in sleeves, work the hood in one piece as part of the body with short row shaping for the top, and pick up and knit set in sleeves in the round with a short row sleeve cap. That should limit my seaming to just the top of the hood and the tops of the shoulders. I think I can live with that.

I've already wound the yarn, swatched, and washed the swatch. Now I'm just waiting for it to dry so that I can get a final gauge measurement and work out the numbers. I'll be casting on tonight!

So tell me, how do you choose your next project?

Friday, July 23, 2010


Oh, wait, the World Cup is over, isnt' it?

I don't care: Buggy is done!

The KH and Older Son have been gone all week (at Civil Air Patrol boot camp--more on that later), so last night Younger Son and I had breakfast-for-dinner, we popped in a movie, and I settled in for a marathon finishing session. Buggy is blocking on a lounge chair now, and just needs buttons to be well and truly done!

Now...what to cast on next?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seamingly Endless

You know that point in knitting a project when you're just ready to be done? Sometimes you get lucky, and it doesn't hit until you're almost done. I recently participated in a lace KAL where I hit that point during the cast on row. The yarn and beads are still stored neatly in a bag in my knitting room, probably never to be seen again. Rarely, you might finish a project and still want more. With Buggy, I reached terminal disinterest about halfway through the back, with two fronts and two sleeves to go. Lately I've been having that problem a lot, which is why my collection of UFOs is growing at a distressing rate. I was determined not to let Buggy go the way of so many others, so I've been soldiering on, despite my loss of interest in the project and my active dislike of the yarn (Rowan Summer Tweed--I tried to like it, I really did, but I just hate knitting with it).

Last night I finished the knitting and put it aside with relief. Today I realized I really, really want to cast on another sweater, but because I know myself well, I made it a condition of casting on that I first finish Buggy. Please, someone remind me the next time I choose a project that's worked in pieces just exactly how much I dislike sewing seams. I have been seaming Buggy for two solid hours now, and I'm not done. In fact, I still have both the side seams AND the underarm seams left to do. The two hours only got me through the shoulder seams and setting in the sleeves. (Could someone please remind me how much I hate setting in sleeves, too?)

Once the seaming is done, I still have to pick up and knit the button bands and the collar edging, but at least that's knitting and not seaming, right?

One more thing...could someone please remind me that I love knitting?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What I've Been Doing...

...instead of knitting.

Yes, I'm afraid the obsession continues. This is my "new" Pfaff 230 from the 1950s. It is the forerunner of my Pfaff 360 from 1962, which I've shown here before. Here they are together:

They are very similar machines. They have almost all the same functions, except that the 230 is a flat bed machine, while the 360 has a free arm. The 230 has a more powerful motor and can run much faster. It sews beautifully, now that I've fully cleaned and oiled it, taken apart and cleaned the motor, and bought a new foot pedal and cords for it. I got this one for $25 off craigslist, complete with cabinet, accessories, and all sorts of sewing bits.

And this is another recent find--also $25 on craigslist. It is an Adler 187, which is another German machine, this one from somewhere between 1950 and 1952, which is the only time these machines were ever made. Apparently, Adler then switched to making only industrial machines. There are very few of these around. I have found exactly one online. I have read several opinions about these machines, though, claiming that they are even superior to the older Pfaffs that I love so much. Time will tell, I suppose.

This machine was in pretty rough shape. It had been stored in a damp shed for several years. It was in a cabinet that was cool-looking but very rickety--so rickety that when I tried to get it out of my car, it crumbled into a dozen pieces! Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to hang onto the piece holding the sewing machine. Dropping it would have been bad for both my foot and the machine. Once I extricated the machines from the remains of the cabinet, I carried it up to my workroom and started cleaning.

Every shiny metal bit was caked with rust. It was so bad that I bypassed my usual cleaning methods and sprayed the metal pieces with Lime Away. It worked like a charm. The rust just melted away. Here is a picture of the worst of the three bobbins before:

And after:

Unfortunately, the metal was pitted underneath the rust, and there's nothing I can do about that. I just wiped it with a little sewing machine oil and polished it up.

This is the only machine I have with the tensioning unit on the faceplate. I don't have a manual yet (and have been unsuccessful in locating one so far), so I'm not sure how to thread it.

If you look really closely, you can see that the labels on the feed dog lever (at the bottom in this pic), are in German: "nahen"--sew--for up, and "stopfen"--darn--for down. I love that.

Not sure whether I should admit this, actually, but these two bring the total number of sewing machines in my workroom to nine.

Maybe I should sew something.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Fiber

One of the inevitable signs of summer around here is the dog hair. With three hairy dogs, there's always a lot of "free fiber" floating around. We don't have dust bunnies; we have dust buffaloes. But at this time of year, it gets a little crazy.

This is the result of ten minutes of brushing one dog. Bear in mind, that's a 110 pound dog, so you can imagine the size of the pile.

Good thing she's such a patient girl!

Now what shall I do with all this?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tour de...


I am not a fan of spectator sports. Although I grew up playing sports (I lettered in five sports in high school and continued to play through college and grad school), I've never liked sitting around watching other people play. I am especially baffled by the concept of "professional sports", which to me seems a complete oxymoron. Sort of like "professional sleeping" or "professional reading". So I am only peripherally aware of major sporting events, and almost always because of their connection to knitting (the Knitting Olympics, the WIP Cup, and the Tour de Fleece come to mind). And so I am aware that the Tour de France is happening...somewhere. I am not participating in the Tour de Fleece, because my fondness for spinning doesn't quite extend to turning it into an endurance event. But there is pedaling--or, rather, treadling--happening around here anyway.

This is the beginning of Eliza's Quilt:

For those of you who may not have been around when this whole sewing machine obsession sprang full-grown into being a few months back, this is Eliza:

She is a 1922 Singer 66 "Redeye" treadle sewing machine (named Eliza after her birthplace of Elizabeth, New Jersey). After I purchased her (for the princely sum of $81), I carefully cleaned and polished the cabinet and cleaned, oiled, and adjusted the machine and treadle. And then I promptly leapt into sewing with my electric machines. But I've always wanted to learn to use her properly, and in the back of my mind I had this idea of an entirely treadle-made quilt.

Since my first quilt was so happily received and is so well used, another easy charm quilt for the sofa seemed appropriate. And when I found some charm packs on clearance for 60% off--in colors that match my family room, no less--I decided fate was telling me in no uncertain terms what I should attempt for my next sewing project. So, of course, I did.

It is oddly--oddly to me, at least--no more difficult than sewing with an electric machine. There is a learning curve with the treadle. Just like with a spinning wheel, you have to keep the wheel going the right direction. If you let it roll backward, you get a huge, tangled mess of thread that jams the needle and you have to stop, cut it loose, rethread the needle, pick out the seam, and start over. (Please don't ask me how I know. The less said the better. All ninety-three times.) But once the treadling aspect is mastered, it's very, very simple. Eliza is a straight stitch machine. She sews only in a straight line in one direction. No zigzag, no reverse. There's a certain minimalist satisfaction in that. She does only one thing, and she does it very, very well:

This is the best closeup I could get of her perfect, neat, even, straight stitches. As you can see from the grain of the fabric, these are pretty small stitches, but they're still beautifully formed. It didn't even take much messing with the tensions to get a perfect stitch--something I definitely can't say about my more modern machines, love them though I do.

I'm fairly confident I can get the top put together without any particular difficulty. I am a little less confident about the quilting part. I found that a bit tricky even with the aid of electricity. Still, other people manage to achieve stunning results quilting with treadle machines, so hard could it be?

Yeah, I hear her laughing, too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Must See

This is the most eloquent explanation I've ever seen of the meaning of handwork.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

FO: Spicy Tweed

It's been a while since I put up an FO post for an actual knitted object, so I'm happy to present Spicy Tweed!

This was my WIP Cup project, and I finished with five days to spare, even though it took me two days to get around to sewing on the buttons.


Pattern: Tweedy Aran Cardigan by Norah Gaughan. Great pattern, as usual with Norah, but be aware there are thousands and thousands of twisted stitches, so if ptbl drives you bonkers, you might want to think twice.

Yarn: Harrisville Wool and Flax. This is an odd yarn. I'm still not sure whether I like it. It is composed of two softly twisted, woolen spun plies. It splits easily, which is a pain when working so many cables and twisted stitches. There is also a remarkable amount of scratchy vegetable matter in this yarn--more than Noro by quite a bit. The only yarn I've ever seen so much vm in is the "barn yarn" I used for the KH's On The Road sweater, and that was half price due to the amount of vm. The yarn is light and lofty, but not particularly soft, even after washing. And it grew like crazy with washing. It doesn't seem inclined to pill, though, which is a big plus in my book, and it's very warm. Time will tell whether this one gets a thumbs up.

Needles: Knit Picks Options circs, sizes 6 and 7. I very carefully swatched, measured, washed, and measured again, settling on sizes 5 and 6 to give me just the right size. And after I had finished the back and began the cast on for the first front, I realized I had mistakenly used size 6 and 7 needles. Ripping was out of the question, so I accepted that I would have an oversized cardigan. Which it is. Very oversized. I think it's about 40" in the bust, where I am about 35" in the bust. Not my best fitting sweater, but comfy, nonetheless.

Thoughts: I didn't really enjoy knitting this. I am at a loss to explain why. I was really looking forward to it; I was excited about both the yarn and the pattern, which were well matched; it was interesting without being too difficult--but still, every time I picked it up, I lost interest within a few minutes. That's why I decided to do it for the WIP Cup. Even now, with it done, I'm only lukewarm about it.

At least the weather cooperated for my FOto shoot. It's about 65 degrees here and overcast; It looks and feels a whole lot more like fall than summer!

Monday, July 5, 2010


Heidi Before

Last year, around this time, we impulsively decided to take in a mother dog and her litter of puppies who were about to be put down at a horrible pound a couple hundred miles away. All of them were terribly ill and half-starved, thanks to the abuse they suffered at this so-called "shelter". Two of the eleven puppies died before they even reached us, and a third died within the first twelve hours, despite our best efforts to save her. After two months of care and attention, we were able to adopt out the remaining eight, healthy, happy puppies to wonderful families who were delighted to have them. Mama had a longer road to walk, as she was weak and ill from both the abuse and from pregnancy and nursing. She stayed with us until she was well enough to be spayed, and then stayed with us until she recovered from the surgery...and then she just stayed with us. We named her Heidi, and in the past year she has become an indispensable part of our pack. We love her dearly and are incredibly happy she came into our lives. But there are thousands of great dogs being put down every day, simply because no one wants them. If you own a dog, please make sure it is spayed or neutered. And if you've ever considered adopting a dog from a shelter or a rescue organization, we want you to know that some of the best dogs in the world are just waiting for people to take them home.

Heidi After

Friday, July 2, 2010

Wipping Things Into Shape

Unlike the U.S. team, my WIP Cup project is still in the running.

I finished the sleeves last night and sewed all the seams while watching a couple episodes of "Medium". It hasn't been blocked yet, so it looks pretty lumpy, but I love these cables.

I'm going to get to work on the collar today and then block it while I choose some buttons from my little button stash.

But Spicy is only a small part of the wipping we've been up to around here. My other project yesterday was this:

See that massive pile of vines? Nine or ten years ago I planted two one-gallon vines, one on each side of the arbor over the dining room window, not visible in this picture. In the interim, those vines have all but taken over the back of my house. Initially I was really pleased with the way they grew and spread and completely covered the 30 year old patio cover that has seen better days. But they are amazingly messy, necessitating daily sweeping of the patio, and the patio cover itself is in desperate need of repair and paining.

So yesterday, with the aid of the KH, I tackled the removal of the vines. It was horrible. Hot, sweaty, and absolutely filthy. We live across from a nature preserve, which mostly seems to preserve millions of rats. They love our yard. There is food galore from my fruit trees and vegetables, a constant source of fresh water from the pool, and lots of vegetation they can hide in. Like piles of vines. When the KH fired up the hedge trimmer and made the first cut, half a dozen of them flew out of the vines like...well...rats.

In yanking and pulling and chopping down the vines, I came across at least half a dozen separate rats' nests. And the poop...oh, God, the poop! I'm sure I have hanta virus.

It took about four hours to yank down and chop up all the vines. I filled every trash can and yard waste can we own, and finally resorted to stuffing the cuttings in large trash bags for future pick up (the city will only take trash in city cans).

But here's the result.

Of course the sad state of the patio cover is now all the more obvious, but that will soon be remedied. We're going to repair it, beef up the posts, and paint the whole thing. I figure I can get at least a few more years out of it.

I can't believe how much more light there is in the house now! I had forgotten how bright the kitchen and family room were before the vines grew in. I love all the light.

Best of all, without the vines on the patio cover, I won't have to sweep the patio every day, and the kids and dogs won't be continually tracking leaves and debris into the house from the back yard.

The kids lost no time in taking advantage of the newly-cleaned patio with a nighttime pool party and S'mores roast:

All in all, a successful day.

Next week, after the trash cans are emptied, I have to tackle this:

That's my son's bedroom window in danger of being swallowed up by the same vines.

But as Scarlett said, I'll think about that tomorrow.