Friday, February 29, 2008

a momentary loss of words

I talk a lot. Not in person, but in writing. I love words, but they are limiting, constricting even. I am thinking about the concept of theater of the mind, in which an observer is set free to imagine what is happening in a piece of art, rather than having it written out, played out, drawn out. What is imagined is often more powerful than what can be expressed in words.

To play out a little mind theater, for the next 10 days or so I'll only be posting images. I'll post a picture every day. I'll make it something relevant to the day, and I will try not to write any accompanying text. I will try not to write any accompanying text.

This is something I've been wanting to push myself to do for a while, and now is the perfect time because March is rife with job application deadlines in my chosen field. Mama needs a new job, a new place, new inspiration; so my focus is now on bringing these things about.

There's a metaphor here, I think. Leap year. Leaping forward. Making great leaps. Leaping for the sky. I am getting images of leaping, but I will leave them to the imagination, not try to bound them by words.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

adventures in quilting

Hmm. I'm pulling the quilt taut and all that jazz, but I keep getting these puckers when I cross lines. I'm using the quilting foot, but with the feed dogs up, because that's how I've gotten the best results so far, except for this pucker business.

I'm doing some detective work to figure out the cause. Will report back.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

my name is edward scott, and i'm doing dolphins

What I'm doing, I have no idea.

But I don't think that should stop me. This has been a quilt top for months. It's high time to make it into a whole quilt. Not that it's promised to anyone, god forbid. It's that I can't let the damn thing chump me another day. In The Modern Quilt Workshop, Kerr and Ringle (first I called them Weeks and Pringle) talk about the importance of doing a maquette before working full-scale quilts. Maquettes, mock-ups, drafts, models, muslins, and swatches are so not my bag, but babies I like. I especially like how small their things are, and the fact that if you jack up something and give it to them, they don't complain. They find a way to live with it, love it even. Bless those babies.

So this is kind of my maquette before I get down to business on the lazy gal's quilt, and at the same time, I do want to foist it on some unsuspecting baby someday.

I'm not the only one thinking, Babies! Eureka! Here's a wonderful and informative piece on a collaboration between Kerr and Ringle and an organization that employs developmentally disabled people. The quilts are so adorable. Of course I want to buy one. And Pearl is a genius for her gum wrapper idea, which I am going to steal.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

at least we've got the zep

Thank you guys for helping me through my knitting malaise. I felt whiny about writing yesterday's post, what with people starving and global warming and all. Certainly, there are bigger things to be upset about. But I was missing the way knitting and I used to play footsie together. Thanks to you all, though, I've got the message that it's okay to ease up. It's alright to take a break, or limit myself however I need to. Buoyed by your comments, I'm not fussing too much over the loss of the few inches I had going on the little red baby sweater. That's what this project is. My lovely friend Carol, sister to Dr. Camille, asked me to knit a sweater for a newborn in her family. I don't knit no tiny sweater, because the idea of the baby outgrowing it after its first month doesn't sit well with me (Heather, I hear you, girl). My gauge was off on this one, and I could tell it was going to be smaller than I wanted, in spite of the magic math I did (that's like, The pattern calls for 4 stitches to the inch and I'm getting 5? I'll just knit the next biggest size). I'm lazy about gauge, but I reckon I can offer it up and start over. Slowly.

Can you say, non-sequitur? Here's Mary, tearing up some "No More Drama" on VH1's "Storytellers" last night. You know the singing is good when you start snapping pictures of your TV like you're at a concert.

Finally, nearly 40 years from the band's start, I've decided it's time to get into Led Zeppelin. You know. They've almost cooled off enough for me to feel like I'm cool for listening to them. Yeah, right. They'll never cool off that much. For a representative sampling, I bought Mothership. I'm really, really digging it. I'm going to check out the DVD. Does anybody know where I can score some grass?

Monday, February 25, 2008

knitting, i'm coming for you

Lately I abandon every knitting project I start and I never look back. That's not entirely true. I look back, fleetingly, and wonder why I'm not as enthusiastic about knitting as I used to be. It's true that I learned how to knit because I really wanted to quilt and sew but didn't have a sewing machine. But I never looked at it as a substitute for those activities. Once I started, I loved knitting in its own right.

I've already done my big lament over my dearth of knitting enthusiasm, which has waxed and waned since, and I do think that the thing that chased it away then is playing a large part in keeping it away now. I hardly know how to knit with a cool head. Once I start, I want all the yarn on the planet, and my thinking degenerates into the delusion that I can knit fifteen things at once. It doesn't help that there are always new patterns and new yarns being introduced, faster than I can get through the ones I've already started or queued. Sometimes I swear it's an embarrassment of riches.

The last project I completed was the set that my co-worker commissioned me to knit for his son, and, let me tell you, I was BORED shitless trying to finish the (child-sized!) scarf, annoyed by all the cables in the hat, and ready to set the first mitten on fire when I realized I'd have to knit a second one. The latest project I have decided to abandon is the baby kimono set -- don't even click on that link, unless you want to chronicle the death of optimism -- I was working on for Natalie's friends' twins (due next month. I'll be sewing something for them). I just can't stand the stringy nature of the Pakucho Organic Cotton yarn and all the shaping the pattern requires. Plus, my gawd, it's one of those time suck knits -- probably because I can never seem to keep straight where I am in the pattern and have had to rip back.

Anything to do with swatching and figuring out what size of something to knit I want nothing to do with, but scarves, which generally require neither, try my patience. What the heck is left to knit?

I can't yet accept that something that used to be so soothing and pleasurable to me is now only anxiety and torture, so I am going to try a new approach. In fact, I am going to keep trying new approaches until I find one that works. This one I will call The Fidelity Approach. Wait. The Fidelity Approach to One Small Thing. There. I will work and focus on only one project at a time, and here's what I think will ease the stress, while I am working on it, I won't make plans for my next knit. I'll love the one I'm with. And, for now, I will work on small, relatively quick knits, until I can figure out where to buy some patience.

If there is anyone out there who has been through what I am going through with knitting (or crocheting), please throw me a lifeline. How did you find a way to keep enjoying and practicing the craft?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

watch which

Hmm. The Oscars or a repeat of Chris Rock's "Bigger and Blacker"?

Hello, Chris.

ETA: Now Cedric the Entertainer's "Taking You Higher" is on. Then it'll be more Chris Rock, "Never Scared." Later, Katt Williams's "American Hustle," which I watched (again) late last night (the uncensored version) is coming on. Katt is absolutely hilarious. He and Rock are my favorite comedians (along with my girl, Kathy Griffin). Oh, I see -- Comedy Central is running "Hysterical Blackness," a night of black comics. It's Black History Month, ya know. I really, really wish Eddie Murphy would give stand-up another go. Please Eddie, no more fat suits. No more prosthetics. No more animated characters. Just get back on the comedy circuit. Please. It's been so long since "Delirious" and "Raw." Good things are supposed to come in threes.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I am so, so proud of my friend Camille. She's the little sister of one of my best friends, and feels like my sister too. She's written the definitive book on Bert Williams, a black American (by way of Antigua) star of vaudeville and Broadway. Williams was the premier black actor/singer of his day, and had a lasting influence on American popular music. He was known and admired by talents like Duke Ellington and WC Fields. Camille, ahem, Dr. Forbes, gave a reading on Williams at the Riverside Public Library today. As I learned, Riverside is where he spent part of his childhood and graduated from high school, so there was lively interest in Camille's research and her impression of the time in which he lived.

Find out more about Camille's book here.

Bert Williams: Burnt Cork, Broadway, and the Story of America's First Black Star

Friday, February 22, 2008

a walk in the dark

What did Annika win for helping me name Blanche? A few goodies, including a coffee cup cozy. Oh yeah. Those things are so fast, easy, and fun to make that I'm about to get an assembly line going. I went to Starbucks today, asked for a couple more cups, and was given 6. You know what that means -- cozy coffee, coming right up.

For Annika's, I used one of my favorite fabrics. The skull craze went right by me. As a symbol of subversion it doesn't quite work if everyone's loving it. I felt that the skull was becoming innocuous, so I ignored the trend. Until I saw this Alexander Henry fabric, which I think is rich, beautiful, and surprising. I bought it locally, at Michael Levine's. I only bought a yard, for kicks. I thought Annika would appreciate it.

Disclaimer: The skull is not a comment on Starbucks's coffee, which I suppose is as good as any, though I don't so much enjoy coffee, so I wouldn't really know.

Making this cozy was even easier than making the last, because yesterday my new walking foot arrived. Check it out.

It's not a panacea. Meaning I have to mind my p's and q's in handling the fabric while I'm using it, but it makes sewing layers a lot easier.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Tonight was our West Hollywood SnB yarn swap, organized by our fantabulous cruise director, Natalie. I hadn't been to SnB in months, and it was really fun. I went with the intention of leaving as empty handed as I came (the two humongous bags of yarn I was planning to contribute are in Bubs's car, which is in the shop), but, you know, there was yarn and stuff. And it was free. So I came home with just a few things.

Plus two skeins of green variegated yarn that I stuffed in my pocket on the way out the door.

It was a cookie swap, too, but I was too busy testing recipes to take pictures.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

another oldie but goody (part III)

At last! No? Yes. I won't claim that this post will prove to be worth the time lag since part I and part II, or even since its most recent delay, from Monday to today, but I can say I've picked up more knowledge about vintage machines, which I wouldn't have had to share had it not taken me this long! For every cloud, a silver lining (or, a glittery excuse).

For this, my final comment on vintage sewing machines (don't quote me), what important information is left to communicate? A few things.

The real honest-to-goodness reason I wound up with Blanche is that I have no self-restraint. NO, c'mon! That's the reason I wound up with Rilla, not Blanche. I bought Blanche because I wanted an all-in-one vintage machine. My Featherweight, Rosie, isn't powerful enough to sew the heavier materials I tend toward. Rilla can do that job, but doesn't zigzag. If charged with zigzagging on one machine, then setting up another to work the rest of a project, the project wouldn't be very likely to get done. I found myself dreading that process on more than a few occasions, so I knew what I had to do. I went in search of a zigzag machine, but by the time I did, I'd finally caught the hint that a checklist would serve me better than my usual strategy, which was to go Hey! That's cute! or Wow! That's cheap! then buy the machine and bring it home. I've mentioned before that I live in a tiny apartment. As of today, I own four sewing machines. Five sewing machines + tiny apartment = Crazy Sewing Machine Lady. (Some would argue that I'm already there.) It was of paramount importance that the zigzag machine do all the sewing tasks I'm likely to undertake, because it had to be my last machine (until I move into a bigger space, just to, uh-ruh, keep it real). It might seem like I went off all willy-nilly and reappeared with a machine, but what really happened leads to something important:
  • Machine selection. The aforementioned checklist. My friend, er, friends -- Hello? Is this thing on? -- the land of vintage sewing machines is a deep, murky forest with magic trees that bear golden fruit -- if you know how to find them. If not, you'll wind up lost in the murk, looking for somebody's old moldy breadcrumbs so you can find your way out. The fastest, least expensive route to the fruit is to make up a list of the things you want your vintage machine to do. Because today's computerized models can do everything but juice oranges, it's reasonable to think of vintage machines as having more or less the same limited capabilities. This is not the case. There isn't much that today's machines can do that vintage machines can't, but just like with new machines, you have to shop for them according to your individual sewing needs. With Blanche, I wanted a heavier-duty zigzag machine, but I also wanted feed-dogs that dropped so that I could quilt, decorative stitches, and automatic buttonholes. You can save yourself lots of time and money by knowing your requirements. There is a massive number of beautiful vintage sewing machines, in mint or near mint condition, to be found. Aesthetically speaking, today's machines aren't much, so no one would blame you if you fell head over heels for a vintage machine based on looks alone. Before you take that pretty boy home, have your checklist handy and make sure it will do what you need it to. Don't do this, and you're likely to wind up in the Crazy Sewing Machine Lady Club with some people we know.
  • Ready availability of peripherals. Alright. So. You've got your hot little checklist in hand. You know your musts for a vintage machine. You're looking on the cheap and dirty -- at garage sales, Salvation Army stores, Craigslist. Maybe you're even looking on your local Freecycle. The cheaper the better, right? Well, I've learned since Part II of this here series, not necessarily. It might be pay now or pay later. If you get a machine that doesn't have a manual, or accessories (presser feet, cams, etc), you'll have to go in search of. If your machine isn't a popular brand, or one that is still being manufactured, you'll have to spend extra time hunting for things you may need for it, and you may never find them. Even if you do select a major-brand machine, it's wise to take the model under consideration. In their day, some models, like the Featherweight, were highly popular, while others languished in obscurity. Major-brand models that languished in obscurity tend to have less available information, so when you try to figure out, say, whether your machine takes high or low shank presser feet, or if there are cams floating around anywhere, it can be hard, if not impossible, to find answers (except, of course, by trial and error, which equals money -- pay now or pay later). The trick with less popular models is to get them as cheaply as possible, but with as many peripherals as you think you're going to want. I posit that if an off-brand/obscure model machine doesn't come with most of what you need, it might be better to leave it for someone who knows how to make that part fit there and jimmy this mechanism here. There is always another great vintage machine waiting around the corner (sometimes literally).
I had settled on the Kenmore brand when I went looking this last time. Even when I am not planning to buy on eBay, I start there because of the wealth of information. (On the 'bay, I did get distracted by sparkly no-name vintage machines that were going cheaply, but quickly clicked away because those are the ones that usually come with nary a manual, attachment, or any extras at all.) Reading through the listings gives a good idea of more prevalent model numbers. You can always tell them. They're the ones people tend to bid on most. What I did once I found a few models that matched up with my checklist was mosey on over to the vintage Kenmore Yahoo Group and search the model numbers to find out if people had problems with any of them, or if people were getting good use out of them. None of this took as long as it might seem, and not nearly as long as I thought it would. Before I knew it, model 158.148 (Blanche) came up on Craigslist. I wasn't familiar with this model number, but the listing told me two things: The machine was being sold by a sewer, someone who knew what she was talking about; and, the machine would do the things I wanted a machine to do. When I went to search the model number on the Yahoo site, I didn't have to look far. The 158.148 -- 48, for short -- is the same model that's featured on the Yahoo group's homepage. My search yielded a decent amount of info, mostly singing the machine's praises. That, ladies and ladies (if there is even one guy reading this post speak now and I will send you a prize! Uh-huh. Didn't think so. Men don't know what they're missing with this crafty stuff), is why I bused it out to Santa Monica like I did.

An aside. Nik asked how I got the machine home. At the time, I was still in the walking boot, and I didn't have a car (still don't, yet). I did it via the kindness of a friend, the seller, and my building manager. Natalie and I had an evening at the UCC planned. It's in Santa Monica. I asked her, and she kindly agreed that we could stop and pick up the machine on the way. When I called the seller and told her what time we'd be by, she said she and her family had an outing, but they'd be happy to drop the machine at the UCC afterward. They did, and they were so cute. The whole family of four, including their little son and toddler daughter, delivered the machine. When Natalie dropped me home, Bubs wasn't here, so I tracked down my building manager, and he carried the 40-pound machine/table combo upstairs for me. (I get high with a little help from my friends.)

Whew. Just a couple more things, eleventy-hundred pictures, then margaritas for everyone! (They'll be tasty, but virtual.)

I want to share some visuals on cleaning a machine once you get it home. Chances are you'll end up with something that needs a good going over, even if it had sentimental value to its previous owner, as was the case with Blanche. This machine had been serviced roughly four years ago, but I don't think it had seen much action since. It wasn't as dirty as Rilla, but it definitely needed to meet the business end of an air can. I'll mostly let the photos speak for themselves.

Rules of engagement:

Cleaning/oiling kit:

Dirty bits:


This part gave me fits. When I removed the bobbin case and the shuttle race cover (the ring in the next photo), the shuttle itself plopped out. I can put things back together, provided I see exactly where they come from. Sometimes I take a picture as a visual aid. I panicked when the shuttle made its debut, because the photo in the manual doesn't make obvious how to put the darn thing back in. I fiddled with it for a while. Gave up. Watched TV. Fiddled some more. Finally figured it out.

The only mechanical issue with the machine was that the feed dog button was stuck, which meant the feed dogs wouldn't drop, which meant one of my requirements wasn't met, which meant I had to get busy fixin'. When parts are stuck on these old machines, about 95% of the time, oil can free them up.

Alright! Home base is in sight, baby. The last thing I want to say about vintage machines is that sewing on them is an experience unto itself. All this finding the right one, bringing it home, checking it over and cleaning it, securing manuals and accessories for it -- there is work involved. But take my word, sewers do all this, sometimes many times over, for one reason -- an amazing sewing experience. I've got a lot of love for my first machine, my Brother, because it was easy to start on and does its job well. I wouldn't part with it, and I intend to keep using it. But my vintage machines are a sewing experience, hokey as that might sound. They're solid, so they don't travel while I'm sewing, they're lovely to gaze at, they're powerful, and they make gorgeous, perfect stitches. They're easy to use, and they have me convinced that I'm smarter than I probably am because I can clean and fix them myself. They're like fine classic cars, they are.

Sewing on them will put you in the zone, make you feel like you're driving along the PCH in a vintage car commercial. Like you're right here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

bag lady

So far today I have --

Graded tests from my English Grammar II class:

Stared longingly at my pouch and mentally drew up plans for an appliqu├ęd, embroidered version:

Read a few favorite blogs:

Walked by Terry's bag and smiled like a proud mama:

Snapped a few shots of Terry posing with her bag, while our office mates gathered around and admired it (Did I mention they are very nice people?):

Monday, February 18, 2008


I couldn't let yesterday completely go down in flames; so after I posted I managed to drag my ass over to Blanche and finish sewing my lazy gal's quilt top. It's something I wanted to get done for today because Terry, my co-worker, and I had plans to go to the Urban Craft Center and rent some space so I could help her use her new sewing machine. I figured I would baste and mark my quilt while she worked on a tote bag like mine. Remember, Terry doesn't have a lot of patience when it comes to making things. Since the bag is only 5 rectangles, I saw it as a perfect opportunity for her to get confident with her machine, which her mother, a seamstress, bought her as a gift, and walk away with a presentable finished project. My plan worked, except the part about my quilt. Terry's got some of her mom's skillz by osmosis, so she didn't need much help with using the machine itself, but mostly with the cutting and the assembly. I had a great time helping her and watching everything come together for her. I didn't pull out my project (which had already changed from the quilt top because I still don't have a walking foot and the basting spray I'd planned to use would have worn off by the time I get one).

Terry LOVES her bag, and we're both thrilled that it came together in just a couple of hours. I took pictures of it-- ohmygodit'ssocute -- with my camera phone, but guess what? The phone ate them. I'll get a couple of shots tomorrow at work. For tonight, all I have to give is this funky indoor artificially lit shot of my quilt top. But you get the idea.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

let me try this one more time

If you're looking for gray roots, come back next week when the color's worn off. :)

Nothing, and I mean nothing, I intended to do between yesterday's post and right now has gotten done. I was way too tired for the physicality of cutting last night. I just couldn't get up and do it. When I woke up this morning, I tooled around, reading blogs for a while. I grew inspired by the things I saw (thanks for the tip on this blog, Lola), and jumped up to dress and shower and get my make on. All that stood between me and happy sewing was my hair. It was crying out for a wash. Seemed like my scalp was talking to me, saying Wa-terrrrr, pleeeease, waaattteeerrr. I turned on the tub faucet and nothing hot came out. Argh. I went back to bed until the hot water was fixed, and by that time most of the day was gone. And so my biggest weekend extracurricular accomplishment is clean hair.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I just got done submitting a job application that took a full work day to complete. I mean it wrung me out, jack. I'm a little dazed, but I think I can recover well enough to put in some sewing time. What I want is to feel the hum of a machine while I feed the fabric through; I want to see perfect stitches line up, one behind the other. What I'll probably get is tennis elbow from all the cutting I have to do, and by the time I'm done, it'll be beddie-bye. But no worries. What's cut tonight will be sewn tomorrow.

I've been wanting a brown corduroy tote bag ever since the one I made and gave to Naiomi, Schmin's ex- -- that's right, ex- -- girlfriend. I also want to make a couple of corduroy a-line skirts, but I'm about to open up a can of whup ass on my winter pounds, and I don't want to make skirts that turn out to be too big when I'm all svelte again. (Not that they won't be perfectly suited for next winter, when the poundage returns.)

These are some of the materials I'm thinking of using tonight.

I just love stacks of fabric. Don't you?

Friday, February 15, 2008

like tater tots

So yesterday I'm standing at the bus stop. I'm there later than usual because I stayed at work to make up for the time I spent sewing the coffee cozy in the morning. I'm standing there and my cell phone beeps, indicating I've got a text message. Other than from my sister, who loves to forward chain messages and notes about how Jesus loves me in spite of myself, I don't get many texts, so I start to read with excitement and skepticism. This is what the message says:

Love you lots like tater tots, and even more than vodka shots. I'm your FRIEND till the end! Happy Valentine's Day.

It's from a number I don't recognize, one that belongs to none of the people in my phone book. I puzzle over it, then I read it again.

And again.

And again.

I begin to smile.

And I read it again.

It starts to make me happy, puts pep in my step. The bus arrives. I bounce aboard, tinkle my fare, find a seat, and read it again.

I get through it about seven more times before I reach my stop. When I'm not reading it, I'm reciting it.

I consider calling the number and finding out who the sender is. I don't get far with this, because -- I realize almost immediately -- I don't want to know.

Maybe it's someone I know but am lukewarm about -- I don't want to know.
Maybe it's someone I know, but I already know s/he loves me lots like tater tots -- I don't want to know.
Maybe someone sent the message by mistake -- Egads! I don't want to know.

It's comforting to imagine that there's someone out there, someone who maybe sees me in passing, on a bad day -- frizzy hair, cripple walk, no makeup and all -- who thinks I'm the bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, butter to the toast of the world. Someone who feels this way so strongly that s/he took the time to put it in verse and send it to only me.

That feels lovely, like lemon drops.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

reunited and it feels so good...

Happy Valentine's Night!

I'm flabbergasted because just as I got ready to post I stopped over at Adrienne's, and lo! she posted a vintage Singer because it put her in mind of lil' ol' me.

Gee, I wonder why.

Could it be the zillion shots of nothing but my vintage sewing machines that keep showing up on this blog? Or, maybe its that I held a contest to name a sewing machine? Or how about my series of posts on owning and buying vintage machines, the last of which is coming up on Monday? Could it be because I ambled out to distant lands on the bus and with a broken leg to get my mitts on a machine before anyone else could?

It's Valentine's Day, and how have I celebrated? By dressing Blanche up in red felt spool pads.


I guess my love for the old girls is more than a little bit transparent, but I didn't think anyone noticed, ha ha.

Getting back to my girl Blanche, as if I ever left her, she's fixed and sewing good as new. The people on wefixit are truly great. I automatically assumed the problem was the belt. I almost impulsively ordered a new one from Sears, but a couple of members suggested that I simply remove the hand wheel, turn the small metal ring that sits inside it (it's the one with the five little tabs), and clean and oil the hand wheel mount. Took maybe 15 minutes, cost me no money, worked like a charm.

I tested the fix this morning, on a gift for a co-worker's birthday.

Coffee cup cozy. This project I bit from Frank, both of us using this tutorial (which is very nicely done). I copied Frank right down to the gift card, and added a package of nuts because the biscotti wouldn't fit and the madeleine's were way ill-suited for the recipient's Weight Watchers program. I'd been toying with knitting some cozies like this, but sewing kicks knitting's ass for speed, and I wanted a quick-'n-dirty gift. The only hitch I hit was in not having a walking foot. I used my quilting foot, but it's not a substitute for a walker, aka an even-feed foot. My top layer of fabric kept going one way, while the bottom layer kept wandering off, making friends elsewhere.

Now don't go getting tired of this Frida fabric. This time I used it because my co-worker loves Frida, but it'll turn up again. I pinch off of it, trying to squeeze it into as many projects as humanly possible.

Well, that's what I've been up to on this crimson love day. I hope everyone had a good one. And, Adrienne, thank you for the candy gram, lol!