Friday, November 29, 2013


We pre-packed for *weeks*; starting with the 'non-essentials' and moving inward. 20 years in that house, what a lot of *stuff*. Frank grouped the boxes in the garage by room.

Breaking down the guest room bed

But after awhile it becomes a challenge to continue to live in the old place.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gorgeous November

It's our rainy season but there's no rain in sight. Meanwhile, the *gorgeous*, glorious sunshine continues day after day after day. I've never seen such a golden fall.

Every year the vineyards are visited by large flocks of starlings. When startled, they rise in mass and swoop and undulate in an amazing way.

We call out, "Bird show!" 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mini Wisteria Stars

I decided I can't pack *all* the time - and we have 27 days left. I found the box in the garage that held the sewing machine, brought it back in and camped out in my own sewing room.

Nothing too hard or involved; just a little something to soothe. The sound of the sewing machine can be a comfort. I pulled out the bonus triangles from the Wisteria Stars quilt and just fooled around.

When I pre-packed the room I almost dismantled the design wall for easy moving. Glad I didn't! Block will finish at 5".

No plan right now, no goal. Just sewing.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Making It Your Own

In the last year or so I've enjoyed reading knitting books from a variety of authors and designers, but the one that resounds with me the most continues to be Elizabeth Zimmermann. EZ, as she is affectionately referred to, tells you to experiment, don't assume a pattern is written in stone, change things, make it your own. Well that hit home with me, but when I first read it I didn't know enough about knitting to make changes. I think it's similar to learning to cook. Once you know the terminology and the basics, you can make substitutions and adapt recipes to your liking. But if you don't know how to chop, mince and saute' what have you got?

Last year I found this wool sweater and reclaimed the yarn. It was a hand-knit, mens large, with a very loose fabric. I reasoned it would give me enough wool to make a ladies medium.

Last week I began swatching. I wish I'd taken pictures of all the swatches, but the difference was in how they felt, not how they looked. I knitted squares in 2 different patterns on 3 different sized needles. What looked the best? Which fabric felt the best, and which one was easiest on my hands?

The original sweater was in Seed stitch, so I tried that first. Then I switched to Moss stitch. This is 2x2 Moss stitch. I really liked the look, but switching back and forth between knit and purl made my hands ache. I Googled knitting stitch dictionaries and discovered this incredible site, Knitting Fool, that offered more than 2400 different stitches. That shot that morning while I immersed myself in all the possibilities. I finally settled on Scattered Seed stitch because in the four row repeat every other row is knit. Easy. While I was on the Knitting Fool website I explored the sweater pattern generator. Hmmm... I'll have to come back to that!

Next I wanted to plan my stripe sequence. I considered graph paper and colored pencils, but wanted something more visual. I searched the Internet for free sweater design software and landed on this amazing site.

It's intended for designing custom Fair Isle, but with a little experimentation, I was able to use it for stripes.

After you enter some basic information like stitch gauge, needle size and body measurements, you get to the design screen. Here you can choose your yarn and colors and begin designing your sweater.

This program is *amazing*. It's intelligent, easy to use, allows you to save and return to your work, work on more than one color lay out and its free! You don't even have to create an account. So... do I want even stripes?

Or uneven stripes? Even seemed a little boring to me. Frank said uneven was more interesting. Uneven it is!

So armed with my stitch gauge worked out while swatching, and having decided what type of sweater I wanted to knit, I went back to Knitting Fool's pattern generator.

I entered my gauge, needle size and body measurements and downloaded the .pdf. Knitting Fool's patterns are based on the percentage system. Ah ha, Elizabeth Zimmermann's EPS again! I didn't use the pattern generator from the Fair Isle design website because I didn't want a bottom up, seamless sweater - this time around.

After all this planning, the only caveat might be running out of yarn.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Timeless Knits

I attended another quilter's garage sale and bought another vintage knitting booklet. It seems like quilters are needle people too, doing cross stitch, crochet, knitting, candle wicking or needlepoint.

One of the things I notice about knitting patterns, is the timelessness of some of them. It doesn't matter if the pattern is from the 40's or the 70's, with some styles, they're always in fashion.

Judging from the the fashions and the lay out of this booklet, I guessed it was published in the late 60's. There wasn't any copyright information inside so I Googled Brunswick Tempo 672. January, 1968. Not a bad guess...

I recently came across this dress at a Hollywood premiere, designed by Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney.

Actress Stana Katic
Huh... the light/dark are opposite, but there are similarities. Even the shade is darn close.

It's true, the hair styles and wonky layout make this booklet very dated. But if you can look passed that, there are classic designs.

Fair Isle never seems to go out of style. Shown in traditional colors of beige, tan and white, this could work as a pattern today.

If nothing else, the colorwork charts are a treasure. They could easily be worked into a sweater or embroidered hand towel. What was old is new again.

We're Moving

After 20 years in the same place as tenants, we're finally buying our first home.

It's located 15 minutes further north in a township called Brooktrails. With an elevation of 1,500 feet, the area was once a redwood logging camp. Now it's pine forest, with madrone and redwoods. What a welcome change from the dust and heat of the Ukiah Valley!

But ohhh... the packing! We raised our two sons in this place and there's been lots of sorting and purging. Out went the snow camping equipment, the cross country skies, the back packs and dome tents. We're not up to those activities anymore so it's time to move on...

And the sewing room! I think I keep a pretty tight hand on how much I bring into that room, there's only so much space after all. But then you add in the closet in the guest room, the shelf in the office, the totes in the garage and the drawers in the linen dresser. Oy. I cleared out a bunch of fabric and projects from 18-20 years ago, going back layer by layer through my interests and skills. It was a trip.

When I'm not packing, I'd like to relax with some sewing. But that's hard to do when the room looks like it's been hit by a cyclone.

With all the pictures and wall quilts down, and the white design wall dismantled the room looks a lot smaller and darker. My new sewing room has white walls. No more light eating paneling!

And a closet that doesn't have to double as a wardrobe. Woot!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Singer Slant-o-Matic

I recently attended a crafter's estate sale and was almost overwhelmed by the woman's 16 years of fabric, yarn and craft collecting. The sale stretched out across the front yard and included many large steamer trunks of fabric scraps, tables STACKED with bolts of yardage and many, many tables of books, unfinished projects, magazines and notions. Like something you see? Make an offer. This is what I saw...

It came with all parts; power cord, foot control, bobbins, slide plate, manual and accessories. Wow! I had no idea if it worked, but I wanted to give it a try. I offered her 20 dollars and she said yes!

When I worked in sewing machine repair the technician always said these machines were rock solid, a real gem. Just like a Singer Featherweight, it has all metal parts, the only thing plastic on it are the thread spools.

I wiped it off and plugged it in, the moment of truth. - No lights, no action. I borrowed the bulb from my Featherweight and tried again. Ha, it works! I jiggled the cord where it went into the foot control and pressed the power again. Slow at first, but it did work.

The throat plate lever was jammed tight. I sprayed it with WD-40 and kept working it back and forth. Finally the throat plate lifters popped and I could get into the bobbin area. I cleaned out wadded lint and removed thread clogged around the race, but no rust. It was in good condition.

I checked the serial number on line and it was made in 1959; a year after I was born. I went back to the machine.

The bobbin winder worked.

I love the built-in thread guide, in case I ever forget how to thread a sewing machine.

I worked to degum the gears, cleaning and lubeing, cleaning and lubeing, but it never ran very fast. I'd brought it back from its abandoned state, but it needed a little more than I could give it. I took it to the sewing machine tech and she gave the motor a quick refurbish. There was build up from the carbon brushes, slowing it down. When she was done, it sang.

I've sewn some of the Ocean Wave blocks on it, and it. is. a. dream. It sews through the 6-8 layers of those pinwheels without a hiccup. It sews straight and true, just like the Featherweight; but it's full sized. Love it!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Greenwood Pier Inn

Part of our 34th anniversary was an ocean side get away. We revisited Greenwood Pier Inn, near Elk, on the Mendocino coast. Usually the weather is cool and foggy but this year we hit it just right. 72, clear skies, with a little off shore breeze. Heaven...