Signs and owls

I went exploring with a friend. A lovely shopping area, one of those places you to have lunch and shop. This first sign caught my eye. Owls! I have no idea how a store like this survives, mostly cards, a few gifts and simple jewelry. I’m not in the business of figuring out the economics of these stores. I’m glad they exist, even if I’m not their best client.This got me to take pictures of owls. This one was outside that store.Even though the owl craze has died down, there were still plenty to be found.Not that they enticed me to buy them, especially not Christmas Tree decorations. This was probably one of the nicest ones I saw, a picture on a matchbook.This was the ugliest! But I did take his picture, even if I’d never let something like this into my house.Better, I think I have one like this.Even better!Nope, not at that price, even not at half that price, since there was a sign saying this table is 50% off.  I like the small one, but not gilded. I’m just not a gold girl. Two sides of a sign. This is one of those antique malls, with many stalls. I love the creativity of the signs!You didn’t expect me to leave empty-handed, did you? One display case had beautiful silver thimbles. I bought one, at a very good price. I found one that fits my tiny fingers. Came home and sewed with it.Not easy to see but there is a hallmark in there.  I’m just thrilled to have another wonderful well-crafted tool in my sewing box.



A new old sewing machine

My friend Irene collects sewing machines. She ran out of room and has offered some to her close friends.In this little box, is a treasure of a sewing machine.Yup! My very own Singer Featherweight!!  Years ago they were easy to come by and relatively cheap. Not anymore. So thank you, Irene, for hunting down good featherweights and then being willing to let some go to new homes.I love how compact everything is in the case.The tray has a hole in it for the thread holder on the machine.Irene documents as much as she can. Her husband Izzy bought this one, from Stephanie. Oh well, so we don’t know what her grandma’s name was. 1948 is a special year, that is when Israel became a state, so it has extra meaning for me.The machine in the box, there was even space for a little can of oil.Out of the box.And now for the details. I miss the days when a machine was not only well built but beautifully decorated. I have had to replace some major appliances recently. I was told that if they lasted 10 years, that was good.The Singer Insignia, back when Singer really stood for quality.Even the back, that rarely gets seen is decorated. This little power house only stitches a straight stitch, won’t even reverse. As many of us have found, that is enough for many projects. This is also a wonderful machine to travel with – because it’s so compact.I don’t think this baby got a lot of use, the gold designs haven’t worn off. Irene and her husband have a good eye for quality Featherweights. There are plenty on the market that are used and abused. Others are in great shape and today cost as much as a fancy new machine.These machines were manufactured from 1933 to 1968. The look changed through the years, from very ornate to a simple white version. There are interesting feet attachments, we will see if I ever put them to use.This machine sews like a dream.It may not have a reverse function, but it does have many different stitch lengths.

Thank you Irene, I know I will love and cherish this. It has come to a good home.









Pin cushions

I sew, I use pins, all the time.  That means I need a pin cushion, or two or four or…..p1170332This is the image that comes to mind when you say pin cushion. The tomato and the strawberry. This fellow is brand new, a gift to the members of the Valley Modern Quilt Guild from the Quilting store, Candys.  As a child,I had inherited one, possibly from my great grandmother. Not sure when it got lost,or simply fell apart.p1170333I made this about 6 years ago, just as I was getting back into sewing. Hmm, what is that fuzz I see there – you may be asking yourself. That is dust, hey, it has to go somewhere, why not in the crevices of a pin cushion.p1170336I made a few of these owls, must have given some of them away. This is the only remaining one. Don’t use him as a pincushion anymore, in photographing him, I stuck in some pins.p1170342I made this elephant a few years ago, not thinking he was a useful object. Well he is, he sits by my Juki and gets a lot of use. Notice those U-shaped pins? They are very useful when matching seams in patchwork. I have tried glue, I realize I like these pins better. Yes, they can be found at JoAnn’s, have never seen them in a real quilt store.p1170337Then there are the one I’ve received in swaps. This one has to be from Alicia from the LAMQG, for a while she used blues with one little pop of red.p1170338I did the year long swap, Crazy Like Fox, when I filled out my likes and dislikes, I said pin cushions. I think I meant I like to make them, but sure enough, I got quite a few, so now I have a collection. Most aren’t being used.p1170339I like how this one is a little pillow, down to the detail on the back.p1170341This style with a thread catcher is great to have next to a sewing machine if one has room next to the sewing machine….p1170351Then there is this beauty from Glenni.p1170355Her signature is french knots, everything she makes will have some French knots somewhere.

So which one do I use most often?p1170215It used to be a magnetic one, this one has fallen too many times and has cracked.p1170214Also, it itsn’t long before it’s one big messy rats nest. Hard to get hold of the needles.

So I splurged and bought myself a fancy Zirkel, also a magnetic pincushion, but with an upgrade.p1170217The pins fan out and are much easier to grab. If you position a pin just right, it will stand up straight in the center, well for a few minutes it will, before it falls over and joins the rest.

This whole post came about because we are having a pincushion exchange at Valley MQG, so I am busy making a pin cushion. I’ll share that in another post.


Diving into deep stash

Years ago I bought a lot of Koigu yarn when a store was going out of business. This was one of the first companies to sell handprinted yarn and theirs’ is still one of the best around. But what to do with a single hank of yarn? Of course during the sale all I could get was one skein in each color way.  After all these years I decided that when it comes to socks – they don’t have to be a perfect match.P1120753If you have a good eye for color you can see that these two balls are similar but not exactly the same. I started knitting. Aside from the color, this is a lovely yarn to knit with.

IMG_4037One thing I did was knit the toes so that they angle more along the outer edge of the foot, I don’t know if it was necessary, but now each sock it dedicated to it’s own foot.

P1120864I ended up with two very different socks.

IMG_3993And then proceeded to have fun with my new selfie stick.

IMG_3996Left foot

IMG_4002Right foot.

IMG_4011Yes the selfie stick is a lot of fun. I need more practice,  I threw away many photos that just weren’t good.  As good as an iPhone 6 is, it really distorts a lot more than my real camera.  So no, I won’t be giving up my camera any time soon.

IMG_4024I sure am going to enjoy these socks, even if they don’t look like a pair. most people won’t get more than a glimpse and those that do – who says socks have to match?



Buttons! Buttons! Buttons!

As much as I enjoyed seeing how zippers are made, there was no way I was going to get my hands on any of them.  Imagine my surprise when I came home with all kinds of buttons instead! Ross the salesman also represents other trim companies, he had many button cards he no longer needs. It was a win-win for both of us, less clutter for him, more for me!P1090787Quite a few of lovely rhinestone ones.  You notice, there is only one button of each size and style, for me this isn’t a problem, I am very capable of incorporating these in my projects.P1090786P1090785P1090765Although I didn’t get zippers, I did get zipper pulls! I’ve already put one to good use.P1090772A project I’ll be sharing later.P1090764Buckles and trims.P1090769This calls for a project where I can use the gradated sizes.P1090775Buttons all the same size, different color! That is much easier to work with.P1090776Turns out I had a few cards with these buttons, so I can repeat the red ones.P1090778Perfect match for this shirt.  Gertie Hirsch has been designing professional patterns, Butterick B6217 is one of her newest ones.  I actually really like the big four pattern companies. I’ve been burnt a few times with the newest indie pattern designers. There are some good ones out there, but just being Indie does not make one a good designer.  The big four (Butterick, McCalls, Vogue and Simplicity) know what they are doing and often their patterns have more complexity in the design.  P1090777I opted for the simplest version. With me nothing stays simple long. P1090781Trimming with another very busy fabric may seem counter intuitive, but I feel it actually makes the floral fabric pop more.  Such an overall small floral can just look like a blur. Picking up the blue and red in another print gives it an oomph that using a solid trim wouldn’t.P1090779And now, onto more sewing, with or without my wonderful new buttons and trims.



Zipper factory

P1090692I am so happy to have discovered The Los Angeles Obscura Society,  I love visiting factories, even more so if it is something close to my heart – like zippers.

U Can is the last remaining zipper factory in the west, only 3 others exist back east. Most zipper production is done in China and to a much smaller extent – Japan.P1090663HIram and his brother Malan now run the factory. Their father Paul got into the business in the mid 1980’s and worked hard to keep this kind of small manufacturing here in America.  I always say, hard working immigrants are the biggest American Patriots.

These spools are the tape, on their way to dying vats to be dyed in whatever color the client wants.P1090655The science of color can fill volumes, what I used to do  by sight when I worked for a fabric converter is now done with computers.UCAN Zippers USANot only is the tape dyed, the sliders start out looking like this.P1090658They too go through a paint process, similar to auto paint. On a good zipper, the slider the color will not chip off.P1090656Pink or red? It’s matters to the client.P1090664In time for the 4th of July, it’s nice to see a patriotic bucket.P1090669Metal or plastic, two materials for the teeth.P1090670This machine has put the teeth on the tape.P1090685Joining the zipper, often a client wants a long continuous zipper that they will then cut down to size.UCAN zippers USAIn other cases, the whole zipper is assembled before being cut.P1090677SlidersP1090688End stoppers.

UCan has survived the move of all other manufactures to China, they do so by making a superior product, working closely with clients as well as being able to get the product into the clients hands as quickly as possible.

I have never used one of their zippers, they aren’t for sale for the home sewer, that is fine, I can use cheap Chinese zippers. I do find it interesting that in small steps, manufacturing is coming back to the US. I’ve seen it with Fabric companies as well. the whole south Eastern part of downtown is made up of small manufacturing,  may it grow and prosper.


Having the right tools

I have mentioned in the past how unhappy I am with my Babylock Quest, well final straw was my inability to get decent buttonholes. My trial one would be great, maybe the first one on the shirt would also work out – then bam! It would all go wonky and I’d get very frustrated.

So I did the sensible thing, I traded in my machine.IMG_3269Now all my machines are Jukis.  This is a simple work horse, it lacks some features that I was very used to with the other machines – like the knee lift for the presser foot. Or the fact that unless I am making a decorative stitch, the needle stays right in the middle. It has the needle threader and thread cutter. Also a nice feature is that it locks in the stitches both at the beginning and end of the seam if I want to use that feature.  Since I bought this machine for garment sewing, yes I use this feature a lot.button holesFirst thing I did was try out all the button holes. Just in the way it sews them I can tell this machine can handle button holes. Not sure I’ll ever use the one on the bottom left, but the others all looks amazing.P1080927Finally, I could pull out this wonderful fabric I bought at Road to California and make a very professional looking shirt.  I adapted this pattern a little for a better fit, this is the second time I’m using this one, I think it will be my go-to for button down shirts.P1080935On the blog Male Pattern Boldness, Peter describes binding the bottom of a shirt with bias binding. Peter really knows his stuff when it comes to shirts, he took a class at FIT.

I have been using glue when binding my quilts. I realized that it would work just as well in garment sewing, here is the glue well within the seam allowance. P1080936Here it is ironed down, so lovely and smooth, much better than pins.P1080940And here it is, sewn down. I love how accurate the stitches are, for some reason the Babylock just didn’t give me these kind of beautiful stitches. I know, no one sees them when I’m wearing the garment, but I know!P1080939Now that is a beautiful buttonhole.P1080952A feature I do miss from the Babylock is the special foot and stitch for sewing on buttons.  No worries, turns out that my standard zigzag stitch is the perfect width and by dropping the length to zero – I have the stitch I need. Right now I am using my embroidery foot to sew on the button. It is a little fiddly, but I will look and see if Brother has a low shank button foot – since their feet fit the Juki perfectly.  At any rate, it was still a lot quicker than sewing the buttons on by hand.P1080951I even sewed the buttonhole and button on the collar stand. Something I haven’t done in years, not that I ever button that one, but it does look more professional.P1080950P1080954I am very proud of how perfectly the fronts meet, practice does make perfect or at least as close as is necessary.P1080941Being the quilter that I am, I had to incorporate a different fabric, just for a little spice. On the sleeve placket as well as inside the cuff, if I roll up the cuff, it will be noticeable.P1080944Enough for a little peek-a-boo on the collar stand.P1080946This one is a winner, love everything about it, and with the new machine, my garment sewing mojo is back with a vengeance!


Kater-Crafts Part II, tools of the trade

P1070852Ah the machinery.P1070860Still needs the human hand.P1070862And here is the end result. If someone wants a book made from scratch, here is it. Many of the books that come in only need to be rebound.P1070871Getting the curve, there is a machine involved here as well, I love seeing the craftsman’s hands.P1070866Ahh,  a Juki, an industrial one of course. P1070877The shop was full of embossing dies, these get used often. P1070887Nice to see this fellow as well.P1070881Two of my sons fenced, so I was thrilled to find this.P1070843These wonderful rotary cutters are used to cut leather.P1070848And now onto color

P1070898All kinds of materials used for the actual binding.P1070889Think of those dies and how many colors can be used to emboss them on the bindingP1070890Not just colored foil, holograms as well.P1070911P1070896Beside someones work bench.  I love everything about this.


Kater-Crafts Bookbinders part I

I have discovered a wonderful organization, The Los Angeles Obscura Society, they organize some very interesting trips around the Los Angeles area. It was through them that I was able to visit the Judson studios.

So this past week I had the opportunity to visit another fascinating business, Kater-Craft Bookbinders, the last remaining bookbinding business in southern CA.  I’m sure there are people who do this kind of work on a small scale, but this is a real business. It is over 60 years old and has an interesting trajectory, from binding large scale projects for libraries, to one of a kind books, rebinding old Bibles as well as menu covers for restaurants.P1070828Pico Rivera is not a tourist destination, but in a nondescript industrial park, this is what greets the visitor. A marvelous mid-century modern building.P1070829I’m not a big fan of mid-century modern. But I must say, the more one learns about a style, the more exposure one gets, the more one appreciates it. This is true of anything, from classical music to art or design. So I am no longer indifferent to this period and I have developed an appreciation, if not a love for it.P1070838Here we see the design continuing inside, with examples of some of the books and fonts used in the business.P1070913I do love the use of the brick wall both inside and out.

Of course I asked the owners Bruce, Judy and Rick about the architect. They don’t know his name. The company was started by their father Mel 67 years ago in downtown LA. In 1965 they moved out to the hinterlands of Pico Rivera, theirs was the first business in the industrial park.  Their mother was very artistic and  she is the one who chose the architect and the design.  Owning the building is what allows them to stay in business with only 25 employees.P1070832The entrance is decorated with an old press,  they are still using some very old equipment on the actual factory floor.P1070834This lamp has to be an original, they have two of them.P1070833One of the many unique books they have bound, The Thorn Birds, by Colleen Mccullough, bound in Kangaroo leather and fur.  They will use many interesting materials for one of a kind books. This is the kind of thing many artisan binders will do as well.

Before going on to the next post, the actual factory floor I must share what Bruce shared with us about paper. Paper has grain. As someone who works with fabric, I am very very aware of grain and how it affects the end product. The same is true of paper, although many people who work with books and paper have no idea, which is why some books are superior to others and last longer – simply because the printer and binder are aware of the properties of the material they are using.


Gifts from long ago

My friend Julie recently handed me a little bag, she figured I might know what to do with these items. They belonged to her mother.

P1070566Red heart darning yarn. P1070568But wait! Red Heart?? Wool?  As knitters we are all familiar with Red Heart yarn, it’s always acrylic.  It can be found at all big box stores. It was THE yarn of the 70s’. But turns out that when Coats and Clark started the company 75 years ago, there were no synthetic fibers. These would arrive on the seen just a few years later, the 1940s.P1070567At which point not only would nylon be used to reinforce heel and toes while knitting or darning, they would replace silk stockings and the word ‘nylons’ would come to mean pantyhose.threadHere was an item my friend was completely unfamiliar with. She may crochet and knit, but she hasn’t done bead work. Once again, this beading cord would have been made of silk (and today – is again) but was being made with the new wonder fiber – nylon.  The card on the right was already used, it should have been thrown away since the needle is long gone. What needle you ask?P1070578If you look closely you can see a very thin twisted wire attached to the thread. Who ever came up with this method is a genius. The wire is no thicker than the cord, which means you aren’t doubling the cord over to thread in a needle. Most beads and pearls have very small holes drilled into them, this makes stringing pearls an easy job – rather than an onerous one.  No I won’t be using this cord, silk cord is readily available today. After 60 years, the needle has rusted and left it’s mark on the cord, and who knows how strong the cord itself is?P1070574Remember these old wooden spools?  We threw them away willy nilly and now are left with plastic ones.

At Quiltcon I saw a friend wearing a necklace made from one of these old wooden spools.  I still have some very interesting beads in my collection, so off to work I went.P1070580Hers didn’t have any beads. These are handblown glass beads I bought at a show years ago. They were part of another necklace I took apart. Of course I saved the beads.P1070582I guess my eyesight is getting bad, I never noticed those little silver dots  until I took this close up picture.

The only thing I kept were the two other spools. The wool was moth eaten and I have no use for the nylon darning thread. Today good sock yarn has a percentage of nylon already spun in.  I’m not one to darn socks, when they go – they go – that just means I need to knit up another pair.