Monday
Jul102017

Summer in Spokane

I spend so much time in Spokane that sometimes it feels like a second home to me. I have no trouble finding my way around, although DD#2 now has me beat. She drives around Spokane like a taxi driver, making U-turns with abandon and showing me shortcuts even I didn't know about. The husband asked me what I was going to do this fall, because I won't have any children there; DD#1 will be in Boise, her boyfriend will be back in Seattle, and DD#2 will be in Italy. I told him that DD#2's boyfriend will still be there and I would be happy to take him out to dinner. I'll have to go over at least once this fall to have the car serviced at the BMW dealership, but I may combine that with a big round trip to Boise to visit DD#1. We'll see how it all works out.

I worked Friday morning and went over to Spokane that afternoon. On Saturday, my friend Peter came from Seattle to meet me for lunch and to exchange some sewing machines. We haven't had a chance to visit in person since last July when I went to Tacoma for my friend Samuel's memorial service. About six weeks ago, Peter found an Anker sewing machine on the Spokane Craiglist. He is quite fond of those German machines and the Ankers are not all that common. I picked it up for him on a trip to Spokane in May and kept it until this weekend. In return, he brought me this beauty:

This is a Singer 31-20 industrial machine that Peter has had for about 18 months. He picked it up at an estate sale. He is downsizing some of his collection and asked me if there were any machines I wanted. I have been lusting after this one. The Singer 31 industrial machines are fairly common, although the Singer 31-20 is less common than, say, a 31-15. This model was meant to be used by tailors and dressmakers rather than in factories. I love that it has these gorgeous decals on it. So many industrial machines are plain black. This machine was manufactured in 1912 but you would never know that based on how smoothly it turns. 

I am going to have the husband help me tonight to swap out the Necchi industrial for this one—I think this one will fit in that table, too, although I may have to make another treadle belt for it if the lengths are different. The eventual plan is to have these two industrials, one in the treadle table and one in a table with a motor. I am not sure yet which will be which. Some experimentation is required, which includes seeing how this one treadles.   

A bonus is that it uses the same needle system as the Necchi. I thought perhaps I might have to get a whole new set of needles, but it doesn't look that way. All the feet should fit, too. I think I am now all set for industrial machines. Bag-making can commence in earnest this fall. I already have an order from DD#1, who saw my Zip-Top Tote this weekend and asked for a bag to carry her OT stuff around in. 

Peter and I had lunch in Coeur d'Alene and then wandered around the thrift shops there, which are handily located within a four-block area. My favorite is the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. They always have at least a couple of machines for sale. I was tempted by a Singer 603 in a table, just because they are good solid machines, especially for beginning sewists, but I didn't buy it. I do wish I had remembered my camera. We saw some very cool machines and that would have made a great blog post. 

Peter headed back to Seattle mid-afternoon and I took my hungry children (this includes my biological children and their significant others) out to dinner. 

On Sunday, I took my hungry children out for breakfast (clearly a recurring theme) and then we all headed over to Silverwood, north of Coeur d'Alene, to spend the day at Boulder Beach. I reserved a cabana there last year and we had such a good time that I did it again this year. I hang out in the cabana and relax and they ride the waterslides and float the lazy river. It has been terribly hot here—in the 90s almost every day—so it was a great day to be in the water. 

I left Silverwood around 4:30 p.m. because I had a four-hour drive and I lose an hour coming back. Thankfully, it stays light until about 10:00 p.m. this time of year. I passed a big wildfire on the way back. There had been some pop-up thunderstorms Friday evening with lightning, and a lightning strike started a fire about halfway between Libby and Kalispell that quickly grew to 450 acres. There was a huge smoke plume that reached all the way to Kalispell. We had a lot of precipitation over the winter and spring, but these windy 90+ days are drying out all the vegetation and we still have the potential to have a serious fire season. It's supposed to hit 100 degrees here next weekend. If nothing else, I am going to be cleaning up ash all summer. We don't have air conditioning and sometimes we have to have the windows open for air circulation. I am still wiping up ash from the fires two summers ago. 

It's cool in the basement, though, and a good place to sew. 

Friday
Jul072017

Rocking and Rolling

We had an earthquake at 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning. It was magnitude 5.8 and centered in Lincoln, Montana, the erstwhile home of the Unabomber. That's about 150 miles from here. I slept through it. The husband said he thought I was having a bad dream and was making the bed shake. 

[Me sleeping through things is not unusual. Sometimes the husband will get up to go to a medical call and come back and I won't know he was even gone until I look at my phone the next morning and see the text message from dispatch. That's especially odd because he always turns the bedside light on and I still sleep like the dead even with it shining in my face. I think my body is just making up for all the years I was sleep deprived when the kids were little.]

The earthquake was the big topic of discussion in town yesterday. Fatalists that we all are, several people commented that maybe the Yellowstone caldera is getting ready to blow. With the way things have been going lately, nothing would surprise me. 

We were without internet yesterday. I had to call my supervisor and tell her I had no way to work. If the power goes out, we can hook up the generator and I can work that way. If the internet goes out, I am out of luck. I left for a chiropractor appointment around 2:00 p.m. and it still wasn't back on; I passed the CenturyLink tech at the service box on the corner and it looked like he had every wire pulled out of the box. And it was about 95 degrees, poor guy. When I got home at 5:00 p.m., though, the internet was back up and running. I thought it was because of the earthquake, but the husband informed me when he got home that someone had run over the box in the middle of the night. It's on a corner notorious for tripping up people who have had a bit too much to drink. 

I don't mind being without the internet, sort of . . . it would be easier if I knew exactly how long it was going to be out. If I knew, for example, that it was going to be out for 48 hours, I would suck it up, deal with being without social media for a while, and just fill my schedule with other things (and there would be plenty). Yesterday, however, I had to keep checking to see if it was back on so I could log in and work. It meant not starting any big projects, as I would do if I knew I had a chunk of time sans internet. 

I went out and picked strawberries before it got hot. I straightened up and around the house. I made the straps for another half a dozen grocery bags (it was nice and cool in the basement). The straps are probably the most time-consuming part of making grocery bags. I have to sew them, then turn them inside out and topstitch them. I do have the benefit of having this helpful tool:

It's a hemostat, which is great for reaching up inside the tube and pulling the fabric through. 

The internet is up and running again, so it's back to work today. I should have some interesting updates at the beginning of next week, though. Margaret is almost finished putting the binding on the Ritzville quilt. I got a sneak peek and it's pretty stunning. She did a great job with the quilting, as usual. When I get it back, I'll take a picture. 

Wednesday
Jul052017

Easy Come, Easy Go

Sometimes—when I remember—I check the OfferUp website to see what kinds of sewing machines people are selling there. It's not quite as active as Craigslist, especially in more rural areas, but in larger cities, the selection can be pretty intriguing. Last summer, I found a Necchi Supernova right around the corner from where DD#1 was living in Spokane. 

It just so happened that I checked the OfferUp website in Kalispell on Monday and saw this:

and my heart skipped a beat. 

I know, you're thinking "How many Necchi sewing machines does one person need?" but this is one of the rarer models and one I don't own. It's a Necchi Nora. That round thing on top is the cam drive. Apparently only the Nora came in this metallic gold finish. (Peter has a Nora in his collection, a pink one, that has dials more reminiscent of the Supernova. This looks more like the BU Nova.)

The location was listed as Columbia Falls, Montana, which is about 20 minutes north of me. What are the odds that one of these would be in my backyard? Even better, the seller had listed it with the "Make Offer" button. The price was $50, so I offered $30. After some back and forth via e-mail where she finally said I could have it for $15 because it was missing the foot pedal, I asked when it would be convenient to come pick it up. I said that I was only about 20 minutes south of her and gave the name of my road. And then she responded:

Is that near Tempe? I am not familiar with it. 

My heart sank. Neither she nor the machine were in Montana. They were in Arizona. She had somehow managed to list the machine as being here and not there. That was just weird. 

Oh well. No Nora for me. I gave a heads up to the Necchi Facebook list in case anyone more local to the machine wanted to snap it up. Not that I needed another machine, but for that price...and in the process, I made a new friend on the Necchi Facebook list who lives in Missoula. She is looking for her first vintage Necchi and I offered to help her, because we're all just like that. 

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The husband took out a ground squirrel in the garden yesterday morning with the shotgun. He says there is another one still running around out there. Maybe he scared it into leaving. 

The pigs are getting big. They have already doubled in size from when we got them. Our new batch of Buff Orpington chickens—the chicks we got in March—are big enough that the husband let them in with the rest of the chickens a few weeks ago. They are acting like a bunch of juvenile deliquents, though. I have never had a batch of chickens that were this badly behaved, not even the Leghorns. This group of chickens stands by the door and tries to escape, and when I go in to collect eggs, they follow me around and peck at my legs and toes. Buffs are supposed to be docile but these Buffs are anything but. Perhaps this is just a stage and they will grow out of it, but for now, they are getting lots of lectures about proper chicken behavior. 

Because the husband was home all day yesterday, I took advantage of the opportunity to have him help me measure the control box on the boom truck that needs the cover that I am supposed to be making. Right now, it's covered with this:

It's ugly and it's falling apart, but it works, and at least I have a visual of what the cover sort of needs to look like and do. I got some measurements, but I think that I need to pretend the box is a dress form and come out and drape some canvas over it and pin it to make a mock up that I can use as a pattern. It basically needs to have three pieces: two side pieces, with bottom edges long enough that they come down and wrap underneath the center piece, and the center piece, which will wrap from front to back and underneath, enclosing the side flaps, and have similar webbing straps on it that can be cinched to tighten the whole thing up. I had to study the control box for a bit to be able to work out what I need to do. Now I just have to find some time. I am still trying to stay ahead of the weeding in the afternoon. 

Monday
Jul032017

The Great Q-Tip Massacre

It's been a long time since we have had a sewing machine post. You might be lucky enough to get another one later this week. 

We're at the start of an extended heat wave. If you believe the long-term forecast, most of July is going to be hot and dry. I am trying to not to think about fire season. It's too hot to work outside in the afternoon, so today, I had the husband help me get one of my sewing machines out of the storage container so I could clean it up. It's a Singer 401:

The slant-needle Singers started with the 301. This model was the next offering and came in three flavors. The 401 (shown above) has a built-in camstack for decorative stitches. The 403 was a straight-stitch/zig-zag machine that could take "top hat" cams for decorative stitching, and the 404 was a straight stitch only machine. This model has a lot of die-hard fans. To be honest, I have never used one. They just aren't that common around here. The Rocketeers—the 500-series machines that are basically identical to this one—are much more common. I have worked on at least a half-dozen Rocketeers but this is my first 401. How I acquired it is kind of an interesting story. I was cruising Craigslist one day and saw a machine for sale with a picture that showed a sewing cabinet cracked open a tiny bit with only a corner of the machine showing. It was enough for me to recognize that it was a Singer slant-needle machine, but I couldn't tell which one. I contacted the seller to find out if it was still available. Days went by with no response. Finally, the phone rang one night around 10:30 p.m. and blasted me out of a sound sleep. It was the seller (whose mother apparently never told her it was rude to call people after 9 p.m.). She said the machine was still there. We made arrangements for me to come and look at it the following evening at 6:30 p.m. and I got her address. It was in a part of town that wasn't really high-end, but honestly, there aren't really any bad parts of Kalispell or places that I would be afraid to go by myself. 

I pulled up to the house at 6:25 p.m. and rang the doorbell. I could hear someone moving around inside, but no one came to answer the door. I was about to leave when a car pulled up and a young guy got out of it. He asked me if I was looking for the woman who lived there and I responded that yes, I was there to look at a sewing machine she had advertised on CL, but that no one seemed to be home. He said that he lived there and she was his roommate and he would go in and see what was going on. 

A few minutes later, she came out looking kind of annoyed and said that she had just been getting ready to take a shower. I reminded her that we had agreed to meet at 6:30 p.m. She led me through the house and out to the garage, which looked like it belonged on a episode of Hoarders. She explained that all of this stuff had been left there when she moved in and the landlord told her she could sell it. She had to move a bunch of stuff to get to the machine. Once I saw what it was, I handed over the $20 she wanted and we loaded the machine into my car. 

The story doesn't end there. The next day, I was working in my office when the pager went off for the neighboring fire department. The call was for a female who had overdosed at the same address I had been to the evening before to get the sewing machine. Ahhhh. 

The machine has since been in the storage container, waiting for me to find someone who could use it. I think it will be a good machine for Ali. She is an experienced enough seamstress that she'll be able to take advantage of all the features. 

It wasn't in bad shape at all, just dirty and dry from not being used. The guts of these machines are almost identical to the Rocketeers, incuding the camstack:

Even though the machine has a built-in camstack that can produce many different decorative stitches, it can also take the top hat cams for even more stitch possibilities. You can see one in the picture above. It's that black plastic piece. 

Based on the red badge on the front, this machine dates to about 1960. It's one of the later 401 models; they were produced in the later 1950s and early 1960s. 

At the moment, I have it apart for cleaning. This is the activity that the husband refers to as "The Great Q-Tip Massacre" because this:

This is pretty mild, actually. Really dirty machines sometimes require a whole box of Q-tips. I'll get the machine put back together tomorrow, hook up the foot pedal, and run it through its paces. It is turning freely now that I have soaked it in Bluecreeper. The cabinet needs a bit of work before I put the machine back into it but then it should be ready to sew. 

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I made a batch of jam with the huckleberries. I also discovered even more bushes at other locations on our property. It's nice to know that we have our own supply here. I'll be sure to watch for them next year. 

Sunday
Jul022017

Huckleberry Plantation

The husband and I spent date night picking huckleberries last night (because there is nothing quite as romantic as tromping around the woods together in 90-degree heat getting sweaty and chewed up by mosquitos). 

It doesn't look like much, but we have close to a gallon of berries and a batch of jam is on the schedule for today:

We actually spent the first hour picking berries on our own property. We have quite the little huckleberry farm out there. WHO KNEW? I need to go out and check the other side of the property this morning to see if we have any bushes growing there. 

Out in the woods, the husband found a little motherlode of berry bushes and that's where we picked the majority of what we got. This is a good year for huckleberries. The bushes were loaded and the berries were big and it was fairly easy picking, mosquitos notwithstanding. If we can find the time, we might go out again one more night this week. 

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I am taking a sabbatical from church. Our minister recently returned from his three-month sabbatical, provision for which is written into his contract. He is supposed to take one every 4-5 years. I decided that I deserve a sabbatical, too. I have been the only pianist for our church for at least the last five years or so. During July and August, we move our worship service into the fellowship hall. We call it "breakfast church" because it starts around 8:15 with breakfast foods and is meant to be much more informal than our regular services. I think this is the sixth year we have done this. Some people really love breakfast church, some people not so much. I am definitely in the "meh" camp. I've supported the idea because I think it's good to mix things up and church shouldn't only be about what one group of people wants. It's way too intimate a setting for this introvert, though. I don't enjoy sitting around discussing theology, partly because some of my views could be considered mildly heretical even in our congregation. I don't go to Sunday School any more, either, because I got tired of being a dissenting viewpoint. (Sometimes I wish the Mennonite church worked harder at remembering its libertarian/anti-state beginnings and wasn't so ready to jump into bed with the government in the name of advancing its social agenda, but that could be an entire blog post on its own....)

I know that some people are going to see this as some kind of crisis of faith and it isn't. It's just that the timing for me to take a break is better now than at any other point in the church year. We have a lot of other talented muscians in our church, and the informality of breakfast church invites the use of the guitars and banjos and other instruments. The acoustics in our fellowship hall also lend themselves well to acapella singing. The congregation will manage fine without the piano. It will give me a much-needed personal break and also free up a fair bit of time to get other stuff done around here. Summer is just busy and there is no getting around that. 

At conference last week, I got to attend a worship service where I was not involved in the planning or music in any way. All I had to do was show up and sing with everyone else. It was wonderful. I enjoy playing the piano and being a church pianist, but it's also a burden sometimes. It's nice to be able to lay that down for a few weeks. 

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This weekend even included a bit of sewing. I have some binding ready for Margaret and I knocked out a few more grocery bags. The basement, where the industrial machine lives, is the coolest spot in the house during the summer.  I also need to get a machine out of the storage container soon and get it cleaned up for Ali. I have a Singer 401 in a cabinet that I think will be perfect for what she needs. She has her mother's old Brother Galaxie, which has a lot of sentimental value, but it has nylon/plastic gears and one of them is broken. 

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