Life without the internet

It’s been like living in North Korea around here since Christmas.   But, we survived.  And, I’ve kept busy.  I’ve been off work since last Tuesday and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored. 

I’ve been cleaning house a little every day…whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you do all year long and I don’t want to spend all next year with a dirty house, so I’m cleaning and cleaning.  Here are a couple of the other, more fun things I got done. 

I’ve painted the base of the new Two Spool cabinet (basic black)and moved it into the sewing room and mounted a machine in it.


This is my first two spool, mounted in the new treadle cabinet.  The new two spool had been converted to electric and it was a better conversion than mine, so I’m using it as an electric and I mounted the one I had before in the treadle cabinet and am learning to use the treadle on it.  I thought it would be easier, just like using my other treadle machine.  But, it’s not.  The action on the treadle mechanism isn’t the same and the machine isn’t the same and it’s going to take some real getting used to.  But, I’ve made a new paper clip darning foot for it, and this time I looped the extra wire around the needle bar, and now that paper clip foot is a hopping foot.  That’s all anybody can ask for, right?  And, I’ve been playing with it this morning, practicing some FMQ.  I’d like to put a linus quilt in it this afternoon and try to free motion quilt it.  We’ll see because that isn’t the only thing I’d like to accomplish today. 

I’ve also been working on that baby quilt I needed. 


It’s pieced and ready to baste and quilt.  I’ve made it all on the new two spool, using the electric motor.  That machine makes a very nice stitch. 

I’ve also spent an hour or two every morning hand quilting and have finished 5 blocks…that’s 9 of 16 quilted.  I forgot how satisfying a little hand quilting can be.  More on that when there’s more to see. 

And, after I moved the furniture in the sewing room around, I have access to the dollhouse again and I redecorated the kitchen.  That made me feel guilty, so I scrubbed my real kitchen, too.  I’m just a couple of steps from finished with that and will post pics of it soon. 

Okay, that’s all I know.  My next project is to go through my closet and move some things to the goodwill box.  And, I’m toying with spending some time in the sewing room closet, where all my fabric is stored. 

So many choices.  What will I do??? 

Maybe some more hand quilting?



Seeking the perfect needle

I was enjoying some hand quilting on Saturday when I realized that my needle had become bent…not just a little, but too much.

I like a needle that’s a little bit bent.  It feels like it gives me better leverage when I’m stacking 4 to 6 hand quilting stitches.  But, if it’s too bent, it gets hard to quilt a straight line. 

Anyway, I had no idea what kind of needle I was using, so I pulled out the box and pulled just a sample of the needles in there.  I don’t know how I’ve acquired so many needles…it’s like thread, just one of those things that accumulates.

Here are my choices.


I like a sharp needle.  That’s what I use for any hand sewing.  I like the way the taper steadily up to the eye.  It makes it easier to slide the needle through the fabric.  But, it also means they aren’t as strong.  I tried using larger and larger sharps (the lower the number, the larger the needle) but I hit a point where the needle was too thick to quilt with.

Then, I moved to quilting betweens.  They’re shaped like a pencil, with a long barrel and then they suddenly narrow to a point.  That gives them a lot of strength, but it’s hard to push that point through. 

I ended up using a between…the Mary Arden, but I’m betting my trick will work with any of them.  I never assess a needle based on the first few stitches, unless it immediately bends.  I stitch at least a foot before I assess the needle.  And, the between got easier to push the longer I used it.  So, I ran one several times through the emery strawberry on my tomato pincushion.


It seemed to smooth that transition and made the needle easier to push through the fabric.  I quilted a whole block with the same needle…once I found the right needle and the secret to using it. 

I also spent some time moving furniture in the sewing room. 


We had hit that point where it was easier to redecorate than to clean.  Plus, redecorating makes it so much easier to clean, right?  It’s like doing a chore and getting a present for it in the form of a new space.  I dusted it all.


Next time I get the urge to move stuff around, I need to remember that this really is the only layout that works. 


I’m not done yet.  I still have a few small piles of things to find homes for…or that just need to be moved to their home. 

These pictures make it look so cluttered, but really, it’s not.  There’s plenty of room for me to spread a project out and lots of places to sit and sew and lots of machines to choose from, all usable with a minimum of moving stuff around.

But, the real test doesn’t come until I try to sew in it.  I decided to bake cookies yesterday afternoon instead of sew. 

Then, I ate some cookies and wished I’d sewn. 

Anybody have experience with one of these? 


It’s the Quilters Hoop Wonder Stand and available at JoAnn’s online.  I’m wondering how stable it is, especially the feet and where the hoop joins the stand.

Be well.  Two more days of work and then it’s over for the year.



I’m in the mood for…


Uhm, yeah, tis the season, right?  But, I’m in the mood to hand quilt, too.

So, I pulled out my trusty hand quilting project.  OMG, what was I thinking? 


Remember this?  A few years ago, I asked Rob to give me the Dresden Plates for Christmas.  And, he did.  And, I opened them when we got home and they were a moldy, filthy, mildewed wreck.  So, I washed them and ironed them and gave them back to him to wrap. 

I opened them on Christmas morning and immediately sneezed.  So, I washed them again.  They were a mess.  The plates weren’t pretty like they are now.  There were a few that were pretty, and they were all very well assembled.  But, the ones that weren’t pretty needed to be taken apart and put back together in better combinations.  To accomplish that, I ended up taking all of them apart and hand stitching them back together.  Then, I hand stitched them to the backgrounds. 

Then, I had a moment of insanity and decided to hand stitch the sashing and borders. 

And, if you’ve done all that, you really have to hand quilt it, right? 


Sorry this one is so dark, but I wanted to show off my stitches.  They’re so tiny.  I’m so proud.  I wanna show them off.


I think I’m three years into the quilt.  It took me over a year to put the top together and I’ve been hand quilting it at least two years.  I could go back on the blog and find the original posts, but hey, it’s not that important, right?  The point is that I spend a little time on it every year, during the cold months because during most of the year, it’s too hot to have it lay across my lap and I don’t have the space for a full size frame and my standing frame is cheap and not at the right height…so why don’t I shorten it??? 

Because it just now occurred to me.  The brain works in mysterious ways.

Everybody have a great Friday.  I’m only feeling slightly better today than yesterday, but Rob seems to be significantly better.  Maybe it was just allergies.  He did have a restless night, tho.  I kind of added a little (or maybe a whole lot) too much black pepper to supper last night, likely because my nose isn’t working right now.  By the end, we were all sweating.  But, it kept him up part of the night and that made me feel bad.  Oops.  It’s a lot of responsibility to be the cook.



I need a baby quilt

I need a baby quilt.  It’s tradition that I give a baby quilt to all the babies born to families in my work group.  Nobody even questions it.  What they tell me is that early in the pregnancy, people start to speculate about what the baby quilt will look like because they know it is imminent. 

I like that.

But, sometimes coming up with original ideas can be daunting.

This is where I am. 


Sixteen scrappy nine-patch blocks.  A-la a quilt that Bonnie Hunter is making…seems every time I need a baby quilt, she’s making one and I can tag onto her idea.  I had these started and made the half dozen I needed this morning to get my count. 

We’ll see.  Stay tuned.  I’m thinking these might be the centers of some stars, white, set on a blue background and sashed with a red.  Pinwheels in the cornerstones. 

Or, I could continue with the scrappy theme and frame each one with strips and put them together with no sashing. 

Or, I could try to replicate Bonnie’s pattern.  It sure is a cute quilt.

Hmmm.  While I was looking in my strip drawer, I found enough white to make all the star points.  That might influence the decision.

But, this is the quilt I really want to make.  So, maybe I’ll stop at the store on the way home and pick up a nice piece of blue solid. 


Because I am nothing if not flexible. 

And, a little bit indecisive.

I found this quilt on pinterest a few weeks ago and it’s been on my mind ever since.  I want to make the quilt, whether it’s for this baby, or for our bed.  I’d like to make it with my 30’s repros if I make it for our bed. 

Who knows.  Maybe I’ll make two.

Everybody have a great Thursday.  Rob and I both feel like crap.  Don’t know if it’s allergies or if we picked up something.  I’m leaning toward allergies because it comes and goes…or maybe that’s just my imagination.

See ya’. 

Actually, if I see ya’, let’s bump elbows instead of hug…just in case.



Sydney’s pants

There is one thing that I can make for Sydney that she will wear; lounging pants.

She gets to pick out the fabric.  The last pair was black and white zebra print.  But, it was a flat cotton.  This year, I took her out to shop for fabric and she looked and she looked and she looked…really, I shopped for a half dozen projects while she looked for one fabric.  She wanted peacocks.  Okay, so that must be this year’s thing because she’s said it many times recently. 

I walked the aisles with her once and she said “ehhh” to the things I liked…a lot!  And, she said “ughhh” a few times, too.

But, every time she walked past one fabric, she reached out and touched it. 

Okay, so we all know that’s a sign, right?  So, I eventually stopped there, after exhausting all other possibilities.  I ran my hands over it once…and again…and said I wouldn’t line them and she said she liked the feel of the back of the fabric against her skin.  So, I caved and said, “hey, I’m a better sewist now than I was before.  Maybe I can handle a fuzzy fabric.”

So, here they are:


Sydney’s red, tiger print, fuzzy lounging pants.  She’s tried them on and they fit perfect.  I have learned to measure better so I get a better fit and these only need two or three measurements to get right…but even with that, I had to do the elastic waist band twice to keep them from falling off.

It was a fun project. The serger didn’t have any trouble finishing the seams and then I went over that again with a regular machine to give it more strength so she could lounge in them without me needing to repair them every other week.  The two spool did fine at first, but when it got to more than two layers of this thick fuzzy fabric, I had to switch to my “does everything, goes everywhere” machine, my Bernina 930, Evelyn.


Custom cabinet built by Rob. 

I have not tried the challenge this machine couldn’t handle.  We’ve done upholstery and way more than a hundred quilts and while she pieces as well as she does everything else, I tend to want to piece on a straight stitch machine, which gives my Evelyn a chance to rest and saves some wear and tear.  If anything ever happens to her, I will replace her with another Evelyn, just like her because I know this machine and I know how to work on it and I know what it can do.

Oh, and Mrs Howard Harman’s name was Goldie.  I found the family in the 1940 census.  I also found Cleo’s family and suspect they may have been sister’s in law.  So, the new two spool is named Goldie. 

Everybody have a great Wednesday.  It’s our team holiday lunch today.  Oh, how I miss the concept of a holiday lunch when I was a kid.  My Dad’s office would host a pot luck lunch and all the families were invited.  It was held in the office and everyone stood around and visited and it seemed real friendly and I got to see where my Daddy worked and sit in his office chair.  At my office, they have to be such a to-do event.  Expensive restaurant.  Usually a competitive event, which I somehow dodged this year.

Anyway, I’ve pulled my smile out of my pocket and shined it up and will wear it all day, come what may.  If you’re one of those folks whose smile spends more time on your face than in your pocket, I admire you.  I’m learning.  I love the way people respond when I do nothing more complex than walk round with a smile on my face.



Mrs Howard Harman

For now, that’s the name of the new two-spool.  But, if I can figure out Mrs Harman’s first name, I’ll rename the machine.  I think I have it narrowed down to two women…Cleo, or Goldie.  They both have the right dates and record of burial is all I’ve found so far for this family.  Here is the machine, setting in the table I was using for the other machine.  The other machine is in the treadle base.  The belt came in last night’s mail and I got it installed.  Works like a charm.  My first treadle belt install and it only took about 10 minutes.


Anyway, Mrs Harman the machine was sold on July 7, 1927 according to her certificate of warranty.


We hereby warrant this National Two Spool Fine Family Sewing Machine No. 48231 to endure the wear and tear of family use for Twenty-five Years from the date of purchase, and upon delivery of Machine with charges prepaid, to our office agree to replace, Free of Charge during that time, any defective parts, excepting only the wear and breakage of needles.  Northrup Sewing Machine Company, Oklahoma City, Okla.  Jul 7 1927

And, it’s a good thing she had that warranty, because in 1938, she had trouble.


National Sewing Machine Company

Belvedere, Illinois

Oct. 27, 1938

Dear Madam:

We regret to learn from your letter of the 25th that your machine is not operating satisfactorily.  We repaired the parts you returned to us.  The only other suggestions we can make are either return the sewing head complete, or if you prefer, remove the hook shaft complete with spool case, also the face plate of the machine.

We are enclosing the instructions for removing and replacing the hook shaft.  The face plate may be removed by unscrewing the knurled thumb screw that holds it to the arm of the machine.

If you return the head be sure it is packed in a strong wooden box, marked with your name and address and ship it via express. 

If you return parts only, address the package for the attention of A. G. Gay and place your name upon it.

We hope you will decide to return the head, as we feel sure this would give the best results.

Very truly,


GG (presumably, A.G. Gay above)

The problem must have been resolved to her satisfaction.  There is no other correspondence until 1958…


Northrup Appliance Co

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

April 19 1958

Mrs Harmond

Dear Madam

I have mailed to you the spool case for your sewing machine. 

That little knob on the end that holds it on the machine works like a valve in a innertube in a auto tire.

You can push down with a screwdriver and screw it out some to let it slip in your machine.  If it goes in to hard or tight, tighten or screw it down a little or if it don’t snap in tight enough to stay in, let the screw out a little & that will let the little plunger come out further.

I’ve kept all repairs for the two spool no ch (looks like they did it for free, even six years out of warranty.)

Yours truly

Jms A can’t make out the last name.

Don’t you just love vintage business communication?  A different time than now, for sure. 

I also have the original owner’s manual, including the instructions for using the attachments.  It’s in really rough shape, tho.


All this was tucked into this envelope and sealed in a ziploc and in a drawer. 


When the seller saw it, I could tell he was disappointed that he had not noticed that little bit of bling earlier. 

Oh, well.

I couldn’t resist getting both machines set up last night.  I’m going to replace the old electric foot pedal because it is not safe and I’m not skilled enough to repair it, so better to let it go than burn the house down.  I have a good plastic kenmore pedal that I hope will give me better speed control.  This is my big Christmas present. 

Okay, honestly, the machine and cabinet are only part of the present.  I’m pretty dang happy with the deal I got on it and that can feel like a Christmas present in itself.

Everybody have a great Tuesday. 

I sat down last night and wrote Christmas cards.  No sense in waiting ‘til the last minute or anything, right? 


Can someone further define last minute?  I’m not sure I understand because I’m sure this can’t be it.



The second two-spool

I almost feel guilty about having two of these machines.  Almost.  But, I also think I’m going to enjoy it very much.  And, I might be able to further the research on these machines a bit as I have some original paperwork, including warranty correspondence from 11 years after purchase.


I got the machine for $60 and I gave the guy another $20 because…well because the deal was too good for the treadle base and the machine.  I would have given him more, but he got strange about asking me how good of a deal I’d gotten and implying that I’d gotten a really good deal and that the money was going to his deceased brother’s children.  All in a very friendly way…the way of the horse trader.  But, it made me a bit uncomfortable.  And, I found a really friendly way to make the point that he should research what he’s selling if he wants to sell it for what it’s worth. 

Anyway, it was filthy.  All these old gems are.  And, I don’t mind that at all.  It took me four hours to clean the cabinet and clean and oil the machine and get it in working order.  That’s pretty quick for me.  I must be getting good at this.

First, I freed the treadle wheel from the electric foot controller.  All I can say is that somebody was real lucky that nobody ever got electrocuted.  There was wire that passed through the controller and into the iron treadle base. 


This is the kind of dirt I found.


It looked like the kind of hay based layers that would have built up in a humid barn.  I forgot to take a picture of the dirtiest part, which was the tray the machine sets on inside the cabinet, under where the hook race would have been.  A quarter inch layer of lint and what looked like oats.

The cabinet is wonderful.  A complex piece of machinery on its own.  When you lift the top, a chain causes the machine to rise.


And, the knee plate in front of the cabinet to lift out of the way.


Way cool. 


The first thing I did on the machine was remove the electricals.  Someone had done a pretty professional job of the conversion, adding that piece under the hand wheel on the left side below and drilling a hole in the back to affix the light.  The electricals are Singer parts.  You can see the motor if you look through the harp on the right side of the photo.  You can see how dirty the machine was. 


And, then it was cleaning.  I started under the machine…no particular reason except the last machine I cleaned, I started at the top and the bottom became a problem and I broke a part when it all jammed up.

Somehow, I didn’t get a picture of the underside before, but here is the after.  Let’s just say this was all brown from oil and caked on layers of dirt.  I had a bottle of oil I bought on ebay that was yellow.  Didn’t pay enough to return it, but I won’t use it in my machines.  But, it’s great for cleaning them.  Dissolves that old dirt right off.  This was all brown, now it’s shiny and clean and works smoothly.


This was the feed dog before.  YUCK


Next project was to oil and clean the hand wheel.  No before pics of that either.  There’s a bad rust spot in the handwheel and I might buy a new one.  I should be able to get one from a National Rotary machine, which shares a common body with the two spool.

But, honestly, it’s not that big a deal to me.

Next was the needle bar end of the machine.



That’s all shiny and new looking now, too.  At this point, the hand wheel is turning freely and things look good.  So, I move to the motor and light.  And, when I get them re-attached and get a belt on it, the machine won’t turn.  Some little bit of gunk from my cleaning had jammed up in some tight spot and it took me a few minutes to work that loose.  And, then I threaded the machine up and started sewing.  Works like a charm.  I did lots of straight stitching as I set the tension and then I did some free motion quilting on an old practice piece.


If you look close, you can see that the foot I’m using is made from a paperclip.  I found a lady online that made one for her machine so she could FMQ with it and so I made me one.  I’m pretty darn happy with it, too.  It took some adjusting to get the pressure right, but now I’m just zipping along.

In comparison, the decals of this machine are a bit rougher than my other one, which is pretty bad.  But, I don’t sew with the decals, so I’m good.  The insides of the new machine are slightly superior to the old one…I think the old one sat in some water at some point, and there is more pitting in the steel parts under the machine and the movement just isn’t quite as smooth.  But, they’re both great machines.  So, the plan is to keep the new one as an electric portable model and put the old one in the treadle cabinet as a treadle model.

In other news, there was holiday shopping and baking and I made a pair of pants for Sydney, so there should be plenty to talk about over the next few days.  Everybody have a great Monday. 



The first village

I realized this morning that it’s going to take more than one post to show the villages that Rob sets up for Christmas.

I’m going to start with his favorite, Retroville.  This was a set, sold at JoAnn’s for just one year and he bought several pieces.  I went back and bought the rest, except for one piece that my local store didn’t have.  And, we’ve added accessories over time because those were available for several years.

Oh, look, Dr Who has transported us in his TARDIS


to a quaint little 1950’s era village


complete with shops and modern conveniences. 


diners and a TV shop


and bustling with wintry activity


This little Christmas tree lot wasn’t part of the set.  Rob painted it himself one year.  I wish he’d do more of these.  We still see them once in a while.  I think someone at his office gave him this one and he did a very nice job with it.


Sleepy little houses with tiny lights that light up on the outside, much like the blue lights Rob has outlined our house in.


Okay, so that’s today’s visit to Retroville.  Rob really enjoys his villages and all the people are out doing things.  He can tell you what they’re up to if you ask.



Badly advertised

This post should probably more appropriately be called “the devil made me do it”. 

I have just won a second National Two Spool sewing machine.


Bad pictures, I know.  But, they’re all I’ve go so far.  They are the thumbnails from the ebay listing.

The seller did not post this as a two spool.  I only noticed because of the bobbin winder.  They didn’t know that the conversion to an electric motor makes the machine more valuable…at least it did the only other time I’ve ever seen one converted to electric by mounting the motor to the machine (sold for over $400).  The conversion Rob and I did mounted the motor to the cabinet. 

But, it wasn’t the machine that I wanted.  It was the treadle base that I was after.  If the machine is good, that’s great.  But, I want to try to quilt on a two spool, using treadle power instead of electric.  I get so much control when I quilt using the treadle and I want to try that with the convenience of the two spool.


The cabinet is actually really pretty in the pictures from the listing.  Oak and very sleek and much more in style of the furniture in our home.  And, looks like it’s in better shape than my singer treadle cabinet.  If it was any worse, it would have shown. 

It is located here in Austin and the seller wouldn’t ship, so that helped keep the price low.  Obscenely low.  And, the seller’s description was “see pictures”. 

Okay, y’all.  If you want to make any money on what you’re selling, take the time to learn a little bit about it.  A quick search on the internet would have told this seller everything they needed to know.

Really, I couldn’t pass it up.  It was so low that I might slip the seller a bit of extra, if it has all it’s pieces and parts…like that all important spool case that holds the bottom thread. 

This is one of those pick it out for yourself gifts that we like to exchange.  You always know the recipient will be happy if they picked it out themselves.  The real gift is going to be when Rob takes me to go pick it up.  I didn’t think to ask what part of town it was in before I bought it.  Oops!

Everybody have a great day!  It’s Thursday!  Yay!



Holiday quilts

How about pics of the holiday quilts.  The goal has been to make a holiday quilt every year, and I think I have, except for maybe last year.



Technically, the red silk quilt isn’t a holiday quilt, but the colors matched so close that it got to stay.

Started 2013 but still unfinished.


2012.  That one won a prize.


2010-2011…because some quilts just take that long to make.


In 2010, we hung that quilt unquilted, just enjoying the top and it got quilted in 2011.

“Earlier than that…”


I made this wreath when Sydney was in middle school….one of those years.



These two attic windows were made before she got here, so more than 8 years ago.


I made this Santa so long ago that I didn’t realize that the hand stitching I put in to accentuate some of the lines was hand quilting.  He’s hung on our door every year since.  There are bells, so no slipping out unnoticed. 

This poor little table topper came before I understood…well, before I understood lots of stuff about quilting.  But, it’s fun anyway.


And, Rob’s table runner, laid across the treadle in the foyer.


Everybody have a great Wednesday…isn’t it Wednesday?  I sure hope so.  The days pass so fast and unpredictably near the holidays.  Anyway, have a great day and I’ll try to get pics of Rob’s village and the other decorations soon.