A Craftsman Bungalow

A Craftsman Bungalow

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Damascus Vibrating Shuttle

What is a Damascus Vibrating Shuttle?

No, it did not come from Lover’s Package.

A Damascus Vibrating Shuttle is a treadle sewing machine that was manufactured by the National Sewing Machine Company and sold by Montgomery Wards in the 1920s.

I think it all started one day when I was web surfing……something led me to a site that featured treadle sewing machines and the people who collect them. I was intrigued and gradually convinced myself that I wanted one.

Craig’s List featured a few machines, mostly miles away from me, and I wasn’t really willing to drive very far to get one. Eventually I saw one that was located near my house, and I bought it.

After some doing I managed to figure out how it works. I found some needles for it and sewed some test stitches. Now I’m ready to make something real. I think the first project will be an apron.

This particular machine is pretty beat up. I can tell that it’s been used a lot because in its original condition it was much higher in quality compared to most manufactured items in our current time. When I sit in front of it I try to imagine all the women who have used this machine and what their projects were…..mending, curtains, aprons, dresses, skirts and quilts?

I’m going to warm up to this little treadle machine and eventually give it a name. I feel a closeness to it that I do not have for the modern sewing machines that I own.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hottest Week of The Year

Well, here it is…..the hottest week of the year has rolled around again and caught me without the pool and air conditioner I swore I’d never be without after the last Seattle heat wave (when was that again?). I’m renewing my vow. Next year I will be prepared!

When the kids were little we had a great patio right outside the door of our family room. Though we had no air conditioning, we were always prepared to be cooled off on hot days in our trusty 8-foot pool. So that we could “swim” immediately, I’d hook the garden hose up to the hot water tank and empty the entire 50 gallons into the pool. This was just enough bring the cold water up to a temperature that was bearable on the first “plunge”. All of us, including my husband and me, spent many afternoons and evenings in that pool during the summers we lived in that house.

Sadly, those days are gone, but I’m considering resurrecting them. Bob is building us a new patio this summer, and even though the kids are grown up and gone now, I can see myself getting another one of those pools for weeks like this one. The hot water tank is located in the laundry room, just off the patio……

Monday, June 15, 2009

High School Reunions

Our friends Peter and Rebecca are taking a cross country drive to Fort Wayne, Indiana to attend Rebecca’s 40th high school reunion. She learned about it by going on the website http://www.classmates.com. As a user of Facebook, I’ve noticed a steady increase in the number of other Facebook users from my high school who graduated in my same year, so I decided to give Classmates.com a whirl. To my surprise, I saw that nearly the entire graduating class of around 650 people have registered on the website. Apparently word went out some time this past spring announcing the 40th reunion. As of this morning, only 18 people had replied. I was more than a little surprised at this low number, given the size of the class.

Now, I viewed my high school experience as something different from the average. I lived in a group foster home during those four years, and my close friends were the 15 other girls I lived with. I had few “friends” from school. In fact, when I reviewed the entire class list from Classmates.com I saw only a handful of names I even recognized, and could not even claim them as having been my friends.

Perhaps the size of the class and the nature of our experimental class schedule has had something to do with the fact that not too many people care about a 40th reunion. A class size of 650 does not exactly imply a tight knight group, and it was hard to get to know people. Sure, the athletes and cheerleaders were probably close, but the rest of us just plodded our way through, trying to make it to graduation day.

I wish that I could say I’m sad that only a handful of people want to hook up again, but in reality, I just don’t care. Everything good that has happened in my life came long after high school. I’ve had a great husband for the past 32 years, great kids, great dogs, great house, good job and a 401K that hasn’t gone dry yet.

Life is good.

Friday, June 12, 2009

World’s Worst Blogger

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a year since I last posted on my own blog!! I can supply the following excuses:

Started a new job one year ago and have been “kind of busy” learning my new tasks

Lazy.....That’s it, only two excuses.

But, there are two exciting things…….1) today is my 10-year anniversary since graduating from the UW. I was an older student, so it was a momentous accomplishment for me. The last ten years have slipped by quickly. For anyone contemplating starting or returning to college in mid-life, I can say it was well worth the effort.

2) My husband and I built a greenhouse and planted a garden this spring! It’s been over 20 years since I last had a garden, and I’m very excited about it. I joined an on-line gardening community called Kitchen Gardeners International,


and have posted the progress of the garden from beginning to present.


KGI members were instrumental in getting the First Family to plant a vegetable garden at the Whitehouse.

Garden "Helpers" Huck & Becky

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My “New” Sewing Machine
I don’t know how many sewing machines the average woman owns during a lifetime these days.....I've heard it's three. I’m sure it used to be one. I bought my first machine when I was a junior in high school in 1968. It was a Singer Touch & Sew, one of Singer’s top of the line models that year. The price was $350, an equivalent of about $2,150 today. I was 17 years old, and making about $1.60 an hour working as a filing clerk in the medical records department of a hospital, so $350 was a fortune to me. Back then, credit was not easy to get like it is now. The Singer Company itself provided the financing, and I was given a book of payment coupons. I paid $17 a month for that sewing machine for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a couple of years.
I used it primarily to make and repair my own school clothes and that of my friends. A couple of years later I had the misfortune of hooking up with a slacker boyfriend who pawned my sewing machine for a few dollars. (In the meantime, I was still making the $17 monthly payments to Singer.) Just when I thought I’d never see it again one of my friends called and asked to borrow it to make curtains for her house. When I told her what had happened she offered to get it out of hawk, and that’s how I got my little machine back again! Over the next twenty years or so I sewed everything imaginable, including my husband’s dress and polo shirts and even blue jeans. When Chris and Annie were born I made everything they wore during most of their early childhood, but what they probably remember best are the Care Bears, Popples, cloth dolls, Halloween costumes, and their bedroom quilts. These items were made with the utmost love and care, knowing that they would be enjoyed as much as any child could enjoy something.

In the early 90s I decided to replace my sewing machine with a new one, and I gave away my little Touch & Sew. Machines had advanced, and sergers were available for home sewing too, so I added a serger to my inventory. By the end of the 90s, patterns and fabric had become so expensive that it was no longer cost effective to make clothing because foreign made imports were so cheap. The kids had outgrown stuffed animals, so I settled in to making quilts exclusively. In 2006 I replaced my serger and sewing machine again with new models. Thus, I was up to 5 machines by now, more than the average.

Though my new machines are powerful and well made, I began to reflect on what my original machine had meant to me. The more I thought about it, the more I really wished that I had never given it away. A few years ago I’m sure I would never have easily found one, but a few minutes spent looking on the Internet yielded satisfactory results. I found a Touch & Sew nearly like the one I bought in 1968, so I bought it. It's my "new" sewing machine!! Will I sew on it? Probably. Will it be as good as my current machine? Maybe not. But as I sit down and sew something, I’ll be filled with the memories created over years of using that sturdy little Singer. And I’ll be happy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The "Fabric" Store

I’ve been sewing since junior high school (a very long time ago). Back in those days you could go to any fabric store and actually find nothing but fabric, patterns and sewing notions. The stores were staffed by old ladies who would take your pattern pieces out of the envelope and lay them on top of your fabric to make sure you didn’t accidently buy 1/8th of a yard too much. Pattern prices were in the range of 65¢ for your average McCalls or Simplicity pattern to $1.85 or $2.25 for the really high end Vogue couture fashions. (You had to be a genius to sew those Vogue patterns.) Wow, have things ever changed!

Patterns are now $16 or $18 for McCalls, Simplicity and Butterick. You have to get a loan to buy a Vogue pattern. One curious similarity is the styles. As I glance through the pattern books today I feel like I’m back in 1964, but the old ladies are mostly gone, replaced by cashiers who don’t know much about sewing. I don’t know much about sewing clothes any more either. I stopped making clothes years ago when it became clear that I could buy them at half the cost.

The character of the stores themselves has changed tremendously. They’re still called fabric stores, but most actually contain very little fabric compared to the aisles and aisles of “crafting” supplies. Martha Stuart has her own special line of crafting supplies and projects, all in perfectly tinted pastels. You can make your own candles, soap, jewelry, greeting cards, floral baskets, wood furniture or Christmas ornaments by merely buying a kit of pre-cut, pre-mixed, pre-scented stuff and following the assembly instructions. Scrapbooking, formerly a free or at least affordable pastime, is now a multi-million dollar industry. In order to scrapbook you must buy the right stuff.

The last bastion of the true fabric store can still be found at most quilting shops. But even quilting is big business. The average woman who sews today is involved in some aspect of quilting. Most quilt shops also sell a variety of expensive quilting machines. My basic Janome machine was “only” about $1,200. It does simple stitches and embroidery, plus free motion quilting, but not computer graphic generated embroidery. Those machines range from $3,000 to $7,000. Today’s quilter buys an average of three machines during her lifetime, so you can understand the motivation for selling this product in the stores.

Despite my negative undertones here, I have to say that sewing is still one of my favorite pastimes. Like the average sewer, I’ve turned to quilts. There is nothing quite like making a lovely quilt for someone and watching the expression on their face when they open the box and take it out. When you’re making a quilt (or anything else) for someone special, you tend to think about them constantly when working on the project. You put your heart and soul and your love into every stitch. Some of my fondest memories are wrapped up in sewing, and probably always will be. My grown kids still have the last two Halloween costumes I made for them. It makes me happy to know how much pleasure they derived from those costumes, and how much they still treasure them. Happy sewing!