Monday
Nov272017

What Is That Thing?

I keep a running mental list of things I need to look for when I visit thrift/junk/antique stores. It includes items like sewing machines, a steam press (I am having to be really patient on that one), sewing accessories, various kitchen items for my kids, etc. One of the items I that has floated to the top of the list lately is a point presser/clapper. Amazingly, I do not have one. I have two tailor's hams and a sleeve roll, but no point presser. I am looking for one not so much for the point presser part, but for the clapper part. I have been told that it is useful for flattening seams on bags. 

I could get a new one. There are some nice handmade wooden ones on Amazon, but they are about $40. Wouldn't you know it, when I was wandering around the junk store in Bonners Ferry, I found one sitting on the floor under a desk. (There is a section in the back of the store with a lot of sewing items.) The price was just a fraction of what I would have paid for one new, and it was in great shape:

It has a stamp on the side:

I took it up to front counter and set it down, indicating to the proprietor that I needed to use the facilities and would come back in a moment to pay for it. When I got back, he and his buddy were looking at the point presser like it was some kind of alien.

Buddy: What the heck is that thing?

Proprietor: We have a theory, but we want to know if we are right or not. 

Buddy: We've never seen anything like that before. 

I took a few moments to explain the purpose of the point presser/clapper and they both nodded sagely as though they were now possessed of some great wisdom known only to a select few. I was happy I was able to enlighten them. 

I also saw four anvils at this store, none of which was less than $250. In fact, one—not even the largest one—was $1250. Who knew? 

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The pork processor's wife called this morning to let me know the pork was done. I had told her that I would come up tomorrow and get it, but as it turned out, the husband came home at lunchtime and was done for the day, so he decided to go up and get it this afternoon. The weather is nice (read: not raining or snowing) and he has a better idea—it being his truck—how to stack all the boxes and ratchet-strap them down. I could have figured it out, but it's just easier for him to do it. After work, I went out to the various freezers (they are in the garages) and moved and consolidated what was left of last year's pork supply. I am always on pins and needles when we get the pork from the processor. I worry that we won't have enough freezer space. We have 1-1/2 empty freezers, though, so I think we'll be okay. 

Mrs. Pork Processor told me a funny story when she called. Apparently, her husband was out in the woods last week splitting logs and the top of the splitting maul came off and hit him in the hand. He had to go to see an orthopedist in Kalispell. The orthopedist that he went to see was my friend Tera's husband, Kurt. (He is a hand specialist.) During the visit, they put two and two together and figured out that Mr. Pork Processor was processing one of our pigs for Kurt and Tera. 

Sometimes I like to play the six degrees of separation game because it's such a small world around here. Usually it's less than six degrees of separation. 

I might sew tonight, I might not. We'll see. I have a few things around the house that need attention, and it's going to take some time to get the pork put away. 

Sunday
Nov262017

Happy Birthday to Me

I gave myself a weekend trip to Spokane for my birthday this year (it was last Friday). Neither of our girls was home for the holiday and I was getting itchy for a road trip. I also had to retrieve a sewing machine from DD#2's storage unit. 

I didn't cook anything special for Thanksgiving. I had made a pork loin earlier in the week and we were still working on that. The husband said he didn't have any emotional attachment to turkey with all the trimmings and that if I didn't feel like cooking, I shouldn't. So I didn't. I worked for a few hours in the morning to knock out half my Friday quota and then I sewed for the rest of the day. I started with a whole bunch of bits and pieces and by the end of the day, I had three completed quilt tops, one almost-complete quilt top (it just needs the second border sewn on), and half of a fifth quilt top. I also made the back for another quilt, although I didn't get it basted together with the top and batting because I need more basting pins. 

Whew. It was an insanely productive day and it gave me a good idea of what I needed to look for—and hopefully buy—in Spokane. I had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, too. Thanks, Mom. 

I got up early and finished out my quota on Friday morning and hit the road. DD#1 called me from Seattle just as I was getting close to Coeur D'Alene and her boyfriend's family sang Happy Birthday to me. That was lovely. I took a quick detour into Coeur d'Alene to see if there was anything interesting happening at the Jo-Ann Fabrics store.

It was mobbed.

When I walked in, there were two checkout lines, each with 20-30 people in line, and another couple dozen people lined up at the cutting table. I had neither the time nor the patience for that circus (and there was nothing interesting on the remnant rack), so I left. 

The first place I stopped at in Spokane was Heartbeat Quilting. This is more of a longarm quilting store. They have a little bit of fabric and some batting, but I go there for the thread. I needed small 3000-yard cones of royal blue, red, and gold for some upcoming quilt projects. I really like the Signature 40 wt cotton and so does my Janome. On the recommendation of one of the salesladies, I also picked up a small spool of Glide 100% polyester thread. I really prefer cotton for quilts, but I haven't given polyester thread a good thorough testing yet, either. I'll try it and see what I think. 

This quilt store is right across the street from a gas station with diesel and also a carwash, so I fueled up and treated the BMW to a bath. It gets pretty icky-looking in the winter. 

The next stop was The Quilting Bee, which is an enormous store full of all things quilting—fabric, thread, machines, you name it. They outgrew their original space and moved to this building last spring. I tend to get overwhelmed when I go in there. The last three times I was there, I left without buying anything because I coudn't make a decision. This time, though, I needed something specific. I went to the section called "Last Chance Alley," where they put, on sale, the last remaining bolts of recent fabric lines. I needed a back for the Christmas present quilt and I was hoping to find something from the same fabric line as what was in the quilt. I did find two bolts, but they were prints that weren't really suitable for backings. However, another fabric line by that same designer had a similar color palette and one of the bolts looked like it had the required yardage. (I am getting really good at guesstimating the yardage left on a bolt by counting the folds.) I needed four yards. There were 5-1/8 yards on the bolt, so I took the extra and was rewarded with an additional 30% discount for finishing the bolt. If I cut judiciously, I might have enough for two quilt backs. 

I left the Quilting Bee and stopped at a couple of thrift/antique stores in the same area. I like that they are all clustered together; it makes shopping a lot easier. I saw several sewing machines, including a few vintage ones, but I am down to looking only for Necchis now. By that time, it was after 3 o'clock so I went by the hotel and checked in, then headed up to the neighborhood called South Hill. This is where DD#1 lived when she was in grad school for two years. There is a lovely little quilting store up there called Regal Fabric and Gifts. It's where I took that jelly roll race class last February. I wandered around in there for a bit and got fabric for another quilt back as well as some bagmaking supplies. Neither The Quilting Bee nor Regal Fabrics was very busy. I suppose everyone must have been at Jo-Ann Fabrics loading up on fleece and flannel.  

[One of the (non-sewing) things I tend to stock up on in Spokane is alcohol, for two reasons: 1) You can buy hard liquor at grocery stores and even at Fred Meyer and Target. I like to pick up a bottle of whiskey every now and again and it's easy to do there; 2) They have beers there that aren't available in Montana. For some reason, the vast majority of beer drinkers in the Flathead Valley seem to prefer IPAs, because there are only about six dark beer varieties available locally. The husband prefers dark beers. Going to Spokane is like going to beer Disneyland. There is a grocery store on South Hill with the most amazing beer selection. I stopped there and picked up a case of beer for one of our neighbors (it's their Christmas present) and decided I would come back on Saturday to get beer for the husband.] 

By that time, I was starving. I really wanted pizza for dinner, so I went to Mod Pizza and had the most delicious little thin crust pizza with fresh mozarella, mushrooms, red peppers, and pesto drizzle. It hit the spot, and I was refreshed enough to try my luck at the Jo-Ann Fabrics on South Hill. I figured that the big crush had probably died down as people went home for dinner, and sure enough, the store was mostly empty. Even better, I went on an archaeological dig of the clearance rack and found three bolts (!) of Tim Holtz fabric with about a yard-ish of fabric on each bolt. I think I mentioned—when I was making the blog tour bag—that I tend to collect Tim Holtz fabric when I find it. I bought what was left on all those bolts to replenish the stash. 

And then it was back to the hotel and an evening glass of wine. All in all, it was a lovely birthday. 

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Being the glutton for punishment that I am—and also being up at the butt crack of dawn because I am a morning person—I was at the Jo-Ann Fabrics out in Spokane Valley by 7:30 Saturday morning. It wasn't overly busy, but the women who were there were clearly on a mission. And they all had carts which they were wheeling around like chariots. More than once I was told that I needed to get out of the way. It felt more like Mad Max Thunderdome than a fabric store. I got fabric for another quilt back and decided to forego looking for any more Tim Holtz fabric. I can check on the next trip. 

Still feeling ovely optimistic, I went to the mall next door to see if Macy's had anything good. I needn't have bothered. Finding anything there that fits well and is made to last more than a few months is an exercise in futility. Thankfully, the Liz Claiborne section at JC Penney's yielded some treasures. If it weren't for the Liz Claiborne label, I would be naked. Probably 85% of the clothes in my closet are from Liz Claiborne, although I've noticed a decline in quality and fit there, too, over the past two years or so. Everything is so bloody short. If I were built like an Oompa-Loompa, I'd have my pick of things to wear. I am not, so I have to look more carefully.  

After the mall, I went to both Hobby Lobby stores—the one near the mall and the one north of Spokane (I had my route planned carefully to be as efficient as possible). I didn't really need anything at either place, so I just wandered around and then left. I headed to the other mall, where I scoped out the Liz Claiborne section at that JC Penney and bought a few more items. (The two stores tend to have vastly different selections.) 

Sew EZ Too is a little fabric store in Spokane that has a quilt section, but they really cater to garment makers rather than crafters. Their selection is extensive and I love wandering around and seeing what's available. (Hot pink wool flannel!) I noticed that they were also carrying cork fabric in several colors. Cork is a big thing among bagmakers at the moment. I hadn't seen any in person (I asked about it at the quilt store here and was told they had no plans to carry it), so it was fun to actually see and feel it. It is a very thin layer of cork fused to a backing fabric. I can't imagine that it will hold up well, but I have no idea. I toyed around with the idea of buying half a yard to play with and then the rational side of my brain kicked into gear. Maybe next time. 

By that time, it was mid-afternoon and I had plans to meet DD#2's boyfriend and his sister for dinner. I made a quick trip back to the grocery store to pick up a selection of dark beers for the husband. James and his sister, Kayla, came to the hotel and we went over to the storage unit and loaded the industrial sewing machine and base into the back of the wagon. We had to place all the beer carefully around it but everything fit. Once that was loaded, we headed downtown to Sushi.com. I will not eat raw meat of any kind (a semester parasitology class in college will do that to you), but this place has lots of cooked seafood offerings and it is one of our favorite places to eat in Spokane. I had a fried tofu appetizer and a California roll (boring, but safe). James and Kayla each had some sushi dishes and explained to me what each of them contained. We had green tea fried ice cream for dessert. It was a wonderful dinner. James is like one of my own kids and I enjoyed getting to know his sister.  

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You're probably wondering where the pictures are, so I'll show you. The first two were taken at a little antique/junk store in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. I have found some amazing treasures at this place so I always make a point of stopping there. 

This is a sad little SewMor in a sad Singer treadle base. The price tag of $70 in no way reflects the reality of the effort that would be required to get this back into working condition. It's sad, but I have discovered that you can't save all of them:

The Value Village in Spokane had a broken—broken as in "the cast iron body of the machine had broken in two at the pillar"—sewing machine for sale for $9.99. Someone must have dropped something really heavy on it. I stood there and debated about that one far longer than I should have. I was considering it from the standpoint of it being a great candidate to disassemble completely, because I still need to do that with a sewing machine. It was really a shame, too, because that particular model was a 3/4-sized singer 15 clone and those are pretty scarce. I have one (bought, actually, at this junk store in Bonners Ferry). I have been thinking about getting it out and cleaning it up. They are delightful little machines and that one would make a great portable to take to classes. 

This flax hackle has been sitting at the junk store in Bonners Ferry for a while. If I ever decided to grow flax—or if this country ever came to its senses and legalized hemp cultivation—this would be a great investment:

(There is a corresponding set of flax combs inside the store but I did not get a picture of them.)

This is the base to the industrial treadle machine I brought back with me:

It's identical to the base that the Necchi BV is on, although the Necchi BV has a more modern table. 

And this is the machine—a Singer 31-15—that sits in that base:

It's almost identical to the Singer 31-20 machine that I have. Once I get a space cleared, I am going to set this treadle up with the 31-20 in it. I still have the industrial base that originally came with the Necchi. It is set up for a motor. Eventually, I hope to have this 31-15 set up in that table with a motor. (Maybe Tera needs an industrial machine...) But it's a process and that may take a few months. For now, this machine and base are residing in the storage unit. 

And I have lots of work to do in the next couple of weeks, getting some Christmas presents finished. 

Tuesday
Nov212017

Pattern Winners!

The husband picked two numbers over breakfast this morning, so commenters #6 (Pamlyn) and #27 (Katherine) each win a copy of the Gizmo Garage bag pattern. I need to pass your e-mail addresses over to the tour organizers and they will contact you with the download codes. Thanks to everyone who participated! I hope you enjoyed the tour. 

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I made quite a bit of headway over the weekend on a quilt that is destined to be a Christmas present. (I can't show you pictures, unfortunately). The top is almost complete. I said to the husband that this is an interesting experiment in getting out of my comfort zone. The colors are not ones that I would pick, but they are perfect for the recipient. Ultimately, good design is good design no matter the medium or color palette. I used a layer cake, which is a collection of forty-two 10-inch squares from one designer's fabric collection. I thought the collection needed some pepping up, though, so I added another dozen 10-inch squares cut from fabrics in my stash. That was a great decision. Those extra fabrics really help to bring out the other colors. 

I may just make my goal of all handmade presents this year. We'll have to see. 

I also worked on this:

These were a whole box full of 2-1/2" squares cut from leftovers of other projects. I used them as leaders and enders for some other quilt blocks and I've been sewing them into a top here and there as I get a chance. I may have enough for two tops as I got a bit carried away...

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My birthday is Friday. (I'll be 52 for those of you keeping score.) This will be the first year in decades that it will only be the husband and me for Thanksgiving. In the past, we had an arrangement where my mother and the husband's mother and stepfather alternated coming out at Christmas. On the years where my mother didn't come out for Christmas, she came out for Thanksgiving, instead. Almost all of the cooking on that day falls to me. I get help from my mother and the girls but the bulk of it is still mine to plan and shop for.  

I don't want to sound ungrateful—it is a day of thanks for what we have, after all—but cooking is probably my least favorite household responsibility, and I do a lot of it. I've often thought that if we were wealthy enough to afford staff, the first person I would hire would be a chef. Last year, my birthday was on Thanksgiving and I spent most of the day in the kitchen. This year, DD#1 is going to Seattle to spend the weekend with her boyfriend's family and DD#2 is busy gallivanting around Europe (she is in Scotland at the moment). I told the husband that this year,  I was giving myself the gift of a weekend trip to Spokane. I do have to work on Friday—although I expect the workload to be light—but as soon as I am done, I am hitting the road. He'll have plenty of leftovers from Thursday to sustain him for a few days. 

I am not a big fan of recreational shopping and the whole concept of Black Friday is a bit much for me. We don't go overboard with gifts. I really have no reason to venture out for competitive shopping and I hate crowds anyway. What I do love, though, is all of the festivities and decorations and fun stuff associated with the holidays. When we were growing up, our parents would plan a Saturday trip to downtown Cleveland some time in December. (You have to remember that this was in the 1970s and 1980s when the various mafias in Cleveland were busy blowing each other up with pipe bombs, so going to the middle of downtown Cleveland really pushed my father, Captain Cautious, out of his comfort zone.) The big department stores—Halle's, Higbees, and May Company—were all decorated for the season. If you've ever seen the movie A Christmas Story, you've seen what downtown Cleveland looked like at Christmas because that is where they filmed those scenes. I have so many fun memories of those trips. 

That is the reason I am going to Spokane for the weekend. I want to try to capture a little bit of that feeling again. I'd also like to do some shopping at the little independent fabric stores there. DD#2's boyfriend, James, is staying there for the weekend and his sister is coming up to visit from Colorado, so I'll have dinner with them one night. I am going to retrieve the Singer 31-15 industrial treadle out of the storage unit and bring it home. Mostly, I just want to wander around by myself and do the things that I want to do without having to worry about anyone else. This is my birthday present to myself and I am pretty excited about it. 

Sunday
Nov192017

That Calvinist Work Ethic

A reminder that you still have a chance to enter to win one of two copies of the Gizmo Garage pattern from ChrisW Designs. We'll be drawing winners on Tuesday, November 21. 

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I am a hard-core morning person. I am usually wide awake and out of bed sometime between 5:00 and 5:30 every morning. (Even weekends. Especially weekends, because I have a lot to cram into my two days off.) Occasionally, I'll even get up at 4:00 or 4:30. I like to attack my day before it has a chance to attack me. 

Yesterday morning, I opened my eyes and looked at the window and noticed light coming in behind the shade. Horrified, I rolled over and looked at the clock—it said 7:39!!!! I couldn't believe I had slept that late. I had been up later than usual on Thursday and Friday nights and had hospital list on Friday, which always makes for a long day. Apparently, my body decided I needed the extra sleep. It hadn't checked with my brain, though, and I hastily had to reconfigure my plans for the day, grumbling the whole time about half the day being gone already. 

The husband—who is not a morning person and who sleeps until 9:00 a.m. on the weekends with no guilt whatsoever—just laughed at me and said I was a slave to my Calvinist work ethic. 

I ended up having to run to town to do some errands. I try not to go to town on the weekends, but sometimes it can't be helped. I needed some more quilt batts, so I stopped at Hobby Lobby to use my 40% off coupon. While I was there, I noticed that they had sewing machine belts in their Sewology notions. I don't remember seeing them there before. 

Sewing machine belts are a point of contention (one of many) among vintage sewing machine enthusiasts. These belts come in three flavors: black V-belts (like the fan belt on a car, but on a smaller scale); orange lug belts; and round rubber stretch belts. Purists eschew the round rubber stretch belts in favor of the V-belts or lug belts, claiming that the stretch belts put too much stress on the motor. The problem with the V-belts and lug belts is that getting the correct length belt can be tricky. The motor position on most machines is adjustable; the motor can be moved back and forth and up and down within half an inch or so, but you still have to be in the ballpark with the length of the belt to get it to work. Also, they aren't generally available locally and have to be ordered online. If you order the wrong-sized belt, you're out of luck. At one point, I had actually ordered orange lug belts in every size available from one supplier. I kept them in a zip-lock bag and when I had to replace a belt, I went through my collection to find one that fit. That's not my idea of efficiency.

Also, they are orange. Why orange?

The moderator of the Necchi Facebook list is an advocate of using the stretch belts, and I have become a convert. I don't think they put any more stress on the motor than the other kinds of belts unless you have them so tight that the motor is screaming for mercy. They are cheap and the Singer brand is commonly available at Jo-Anns. While I was at Hobby Lobby, though, I noticed that they had Sewology brand round rubber belts. (That's Hobby Lobby's house brand.) I hadn't remembered seeing them before. I bought one and brought it home to compare to the Singer belts:

They are the same thickness. The Hobby Lobby belt, however, is a little bit bigger: 

I have an orange lug belt on Vittorio, my Necchi BF, and I have been meaning to swap it out for a rubber belt for a while now. I am going to put the Hobby Lobby belt on Vittorio this afternoon and give it a test run. Vittorio is busy sewing quilt blocks at the moment in an attempt to get some Christmas presents made. 

I finished sewing down the binding on the tied comforter this week. It will get delivered back to Elaine at church this morning. It's very pretty:

Part of the reason I was up so late Friday night was because I was working on the binding and also because the husband found this YouTube channel called The Essential Craftsman. It's a guy who does these absolutely fascinating videos on woodworking, blacksmithing, general construction (he does a fair number of videos on concrete), etc. We watched a video on blacksmithing and now I want to buy an anvil. (Where is that 2 x 4?) 

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The other thing I did yesterday afternoon was to take a trip down memory lane. Back in 1999 or so, the husband and his then-business partner landed a contract to build a huge complex of house, barn, cabins, and guest houses at a place up the road from us. The owner was a retired tech executive and his much-younger wife. They came up here from LA, bought a 30-acre piece of land, and started building. Over the course of the next two years, the husband built the guest house, the barn, two cabins, the caretakers house, and poured the foundation for the main house, which was ultimately built by another contractor. The main house is 15,000 square feet, just to give you an idea of how big this place is. It was a real showpiece. 

A few years after everything was completed, this couple got divorced. There is a lot of backstory that would take too long to tell, but the wife ended up with the property in the divorce settlement. She tried to sell it, then turned it into a vacation resort for wealthy Europeans who would pay big bucks to come spend a couple of weeks in the wilderness of Montana (without giving up any of their creature comforts, naturally). When that didn't pan out, she rented the place out for a reality TV show called Santas in the Barn (I watched a few episodes). I have to give her credit—she really did try to make an effort to make this property profitable. For the past few years, however, it has sat empty and is starting to fall into disarray. In addition, the whole place has been stripped. All of the interior furnishings were sold at auction back in August of this year—the baby grand piano sold for $2500—and all of the fixtures have been removed. What remains are just the shells of the buildings. It has reverted back to the bank and is back on the market for a bargain 1.8 million dollars. (It started out at $26 million at the beginning and came down from there.) 

My friend Cathy drove by it when she came out to look at cows at our friend John's place a few weeks ago. She asked me what I knew about the place and said that she wanted to take a look at it. I volunteered the husband to come along since he built almost all of it and has all the instutional memory. Cathy and her husband and I met the real estate agent there yesterday afternoon. The husband wasn't able to join us because he ended up having to work, but the four of us walked around and I tried to provide as much history as I could. The upshot is that it's a fabulous piece of property and would make a great farm or a special event facility, but the buyer would have to sink another couple million dollars into the place to make the houses livable/rentable. Cathy is going to pass. 

I hadn't been in some of those buildings for 18 years, and it was interesting to get to go through them again. 

Thursday
Nov162017

Adventures With the Concrete Sequential Sewist

I hope you all are enjoying the blog tour. My fellow bloggers have made some really spectacular bags! There is plenty of time to leave a comment on the previous post to be entered into the drawing for a free copy of the Gizmo Garage pattern from ChrisW Designs. I'll have the drawing for the patterns (I'm giving away two) on Tuesday, November 21. 

If you're a new reader to the blog, welcome! I hope you'll continue to visit. This is where I talk about life in Montana on a farm(ette). My husband and I raise pigs and chickens and have a large garden. He owns a construction company and I work from home as a medical transcriptionist. Depending on the time of year, I blog 3-4 times a week about quilting, sewing, sewing machines, animals, farming, and general observations on what's going on around us. 

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I am a bit annoyed with myself. I completely tanked that Molly’s “Grab and Go” bag pattern that I was working on—the one that required that a couple of pieces of fabric be quilted before cutting out the pattern pieces. I was trying very hard to follow the directions, but honestly, after making the Gizmo Garage pattern, I am a bit spoiled. The instructions for the Grab and Go bag aren’t nearly as clear. There are illustrations instead of photos, which I don’t mind, but in order to save printing costs (this was sold as a printed pattern), the instructions are rather crammed together. I sewed two entirely wrong pieces together. If I had caught my mistake right away, I could have unpicked the seams and salvaged the pieces, but the instructions call for another pattern piece to be laid over the top of the two pieces that were sewn together and then cut out. I cut them. There was no going back. I am just going to have to start all over. For now, the pattern is in time out. I don’t know how long it’s going to stay there. I have plenty of other stuff to work on. If I do go back to it at some point, though, I have a note on the pattern about what NOT to screw up.

This is why I think I would be a great pattern tester.  If I were giving feedback on this pattern, I would note that it would be helpful not to jump around to different parts of the bag. Make the construction as linear as possible. Give the instructions for the one section first, then move on to the next section. Assemble the gusset all at the same time so that part of the gusset doesn’t accidentally get sewn to the front pocket, because those instructions were stuck in between making the strap and the front pocket. (Yep, that’s what I did, being the severely concrete sequential person that I am.) The pieces did have labels, but not any labels that made any sense to me. 

Sigh. I’m not trying to hold myself up as some kind of paragon of pattern writing—I have yet to write a knitting pattern completely devoid of mistakes, which is why I had a tech editor—but there are some best practices for pattern writing. 

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I fixed the husband’s insulated Carhartt overalls. I used a much stronger thread than the original thread, so I hope the fix lasts for a while. 

The Necchi industrial performed like a champ once I wrestled the crotch section under the presser foot. Yay me. 

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We got a lovely e-mail from Margaret this week. She is settling into her new home in Goshen, Indiana. She got an Indiana driver’s license. Her brothers live nearby and they came over to help her celebrate. Margaret loves parties. She is one of the most gracious and creative hostesses I have ever met. Any party she throws is going to be totally Pinterest-worthy. It must run in the family because she said her brothers brought balloons and they had ice cream. We miss her.

Margaret’s niece, Elaine, just moved back to our community after serving as a pastor at a Mennonite church in Minnesota for many years. (Margaret’s husband and Elaine’s dad were brothers.) We knew four years ago that she was going to be retiring and moving back to live in the house she grew up in. I’ve been waiting eagerly for her to get here, because Elaine is one of my favorite people. Last Saturday, we both worked at the fair trade festival hosted by our church every November. It was slow in the morning—the weather was crummy all three days and that cut down on the attendance—so she was knitting and I was sitting there trying not to make her lose count. Elaine loves to knit. She didn’t get the sewing and quilting gene. She does like to make comforters for a ministry program, though, so she buys large pieces of fabric with large-scale designs and ties them with heavy cotton thread instead of quilting them. After some back-and-forth discussion about our preferred tasks and methods of working, we decided that she would make the comforters and I would put the binding on them and sew it down. I need to have some handiwork projects to work on in the evenings when I don’t feel like sewing, and I love to sew down binding. She brought one of the comforters to church on Sunday. I got the binding attached Sunday afternoon and now I am sewing it down. It’s a beautiful comforter—so bright and cheerful. 

We were supposed to have a church council meeting last night but several people couldn't make it. Rather than have a meeting with just three of us, I canceled it (because I am the chairman and can do that). Dinner was leftover spaghetti from the night before* which left me with several hours of free time. I used it to do the prep work for a few more projects. I said to the husband that the second week of November is always when I tell myself, in a fit of delusion, that I have plenty of time to make all the Christmas presents this year. I don't. I never do. That doesn't stop me from trying.

[I am not going to talk about those projects in case I don't get them finished. I've often thought that gift exchanging should be pushed back a couple of weeks until after New Year's, because I usually have all the gifts done by then. There is just too much to do before Christmas to get the actual presents made. Oh, the irony.]

I have a whole shoebox full of 5" squares of various prints that have accumulated as part of scrap control. Whenever I finish a project, I cut the larger pieces into 5" squares and then put what is left—usually strips—into the scrap bag. I looked at those 5" squares yesterday and decided that they could get sewn into basic patchwork comforters for Elaine to tie. They need a solid, though, to tone them down and unify them. White is the obvious choice, but I don't know where these comforters are going to end up and I would like them to be easy to care for. I rummaged around in the Kona stash and pulled out a couple of lengths of a nice medium blue. It took about half an hour to slice them into 5" squares that I can alternate with the prints. I have no idea when I'll get to that, but at least it's done. It's all about the forward progress. 

*I could eat whatever pasta and pizza I wanted to when we were in Italy. I never got bloated and had digestive upset like I do when I eat wheat here. I still haven't nailed down the exact reason for that. I have various theories. I might be reacting to the glyphosate. I might be reacting to whatever is added to fortify/enrich grain products here. My friend Tera can't eat bromated wheat (she makes her own bread), so that could be a possibility. A few weeks ago, I picked up a package of Montebello pasta at the health food store and brought it home to try. Amazingly, I didn't get sick after eating it. The package says "Imported from Italy," so I can only hope that it is bypassing all the systems in the US that turn our food into Frankenfood. I don't go overboard with the Montebello pasta, but it's nice to have a plate of real spaghetti again.