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Friday, May 31, 2013

Why I Haven't Been Knitting

yarma 
I've been reading.  I found Edward Rutherfurd a couple years ago at the library and I've since read all of his books.  Each book covers a different city or area and goes through the history of that area.  For instance, London begins in the area that became London, just before the Roman's arrived.  There are five or six families that the book follows all the way through, and the families represent the major social/economic classes of the area.  The books are fiction, but the characters interact with actual historical characters and events.  I can't even begin to imagine the amount of research that goes into each book, but they read like novels even though you learn a lot of the history of the area too.  They aren't really light reading, but I really enjoy them.  Paris just recently came out, so I've been reading it this week (instead of knitting).  I just thought I'd mention them because: (A) I have no knitting blog fodder to share today, and (B) I know there are more of you like me out there, who are always looking for new books to read!

In fur baby news around here, Max went to our regular vet yesterday and she said his eye is looking great.  We've got three more days of eye drops and then we can quit.  We're glad everything is looking so good.  Logan wanted me to share how he's doing in the car.  If you remember, he hated riding in the car at the first of the school year and would drool like a fountain and just curl up and be miserable anytime we did put him in the car.  I decided to start taking him with us on the morning school drop off run to try to improve his view of the car.  He still drools a bit, but I don't have to take a towel with us every morning.  Also, he has learned to stand his front legs on the seat and stick his nose (just the tip of his nose, never any more) out the window.  He's been working on this all Spring and would mostly do it at the school when I was creeping along at about 5 MPH at the most.  This week he started doing it on the roads - even the big one where the speed limit is 40 MPH!  The funny part is, he's learned where the turns are, and he climbs down and lies on the floor for those so he doesn't go flying around!  He's learned how to ride in a car like a dog, and despite the fact that there is drool on his window, I'm very proud of him.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Sock

yarma 
I've gotten far enough on The Sock now that I've actually had Mickael try it on!  I've still got a little to go before I start toe decreases, but I'm hopeful that I can finish this first sock before Camp Loopy kicks off on Saturday morning.

You can see in the picture how much the stitch pattern draws the stitches in. If you look at the foot section, there are the same number of stitches in the instep (knit in the stitch pattern) as there are in the sole (knit in plain stockinette).  This stitch pattern pulls the stitches in, but it's like a rib - it stretches back out really nicely and will stretch farther than plain stockinette.  It's going to be a very comfortable sock to wear and I definitely want to make myself a pair (in anything but black).  What you have to watch on a stitch pattern like this though, is when you put it on the foot and it expands around the foot, you lose some length.  That's why I'm trying them on Mickael - I don't want to make them too short to wear comfortably.  Fortunately, Mickael is used to me putting knitwear in progress on him and as long as I don't stand in front of the TV while he's playing video games, he doesn't even complain about it anymore.  Of course, having a nice collection of manly, hand knit socks probably helps too - he loves his handknit socks.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Interesting Weekend

We all had a four day weekend around here (Friday was a Snow Day Makeup for Caleb's school, but we didn't use any this year, so we didn't have to make it up) and over all it was really good.  There was lots of hanging around, and watching movies together, some nice, lazy mornings, and then yesterday there was a trip with Max to the Emergency Vet.  I won't go into details because it was kind of gross (it was an eye thing), but they got him sorted out pretty quickly, he's now happy as a clam, and except for the joy of giving him eye drops three times a day (I love medicating cats, don't you?), and a recheck with our regular vet later this week, he's good.  Not really what we had planned, but I know we had a better weekend than the parents of the dog who came in right after us - we heard the words "Anti-Venom" used.  The dog got treated first of course, but that gave Max a chance to really investigate the exam room.  When the vet got to him, Max hid behind some of the medical supplies in the room.  It didn't work - the vet moved the jars of cotton balls and stuff.
yarma
In addition to all the lazy and the drama though, there was knitting!  I finished the back and the right front of my cardi and I'm almost done with the left front.  Once it's all finished and I do a 3 needle bind off of the shoulders, I can start sleeves!  I've also found a button, and it should be here soon, so I'll show you when it gets here.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Heading Towards The Toe

yarma
I'm still slowly, but surely knitting on Mickael's Black Sock.  Yes, this is still the first sock.  I'd kind of like to finish it before Camp Loopy starts (June 1), just to have it all finished.  Of course, I'll still have to knit the second one - socks are funny like that.  I know he doesn't need them to wear until late Fall, when the temps will drop, but I'd like to get them all finished for him.

Just as a Public Service Announcement, if you're thinking of going to Yellowstone over the Summer and you wait too long to call for cabin reservations, it's possible that all they'll have (for your family of three) is cabins with a single double bed and shared bathroom facilities (shared with other cabins, not just amongst your family of three).  Oh, and you'll have to change cabins and locations every night.  For obvious reasons, we will not be going to Yellowstone this summer - we'll get our act together faster next time, and reserve a cabin early so we can get one with two beds and it's own bathroom facilities.  More organized families probably don't have these issues.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Back At It

yarma 
I'm still working on the back of my cardigan.  I'm almost to the back neck and shoulder shaping though, so soon you should be seeing some fronts!  I think I've found a button for this sweater - I'll show it to you when it gets here.

This morning is beautiful, sunny, and cool, and it will probably be the last cool morning until October.  It seems important for some reason to notice this.  I'm definitely enjoying it!

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Moving Forward With The Back

yarma 
I've made it to the division between the fronts and back, and the pattern has you knit the back first, so that's what I'm doing.  The back is bigger than the fronts (although if you added the two fronts together, it would be the same size as the back, but that's not how my mind works), so (in my mind), I'm finishing the biggest part first.  The sleeves are knit top down with short row sleeve caps, so I have to finish the body of the cardigan before I can start those.

At some point (and it's looking like sooner rather than later), I need to find a button for this.  There's a single button at the neck, so it needs to be the perfect button.  It's the only decoration on a sea of stockinette, and while I don't want it to be too flashy, big, or just take over, I don't want it to get lost either.  I'm looking for the Goldilocks of buttons - just right.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Camp Loopy 2013

yarma 
I've got my yarn for the first project of Camp Loopy 2013!  This first challenge is to knit a project using 375 yard or more of a single skein of a fingering or lace weight yarn you have never used.  I chose Mini Maiden from Hand Maiden Yarns in Peacock.  (I realized this morning that I might already have some of this in my stash, but I know that I have never actually used any of it.)  My hiking group is the Mt. Fiberopolis group.  (They divide all the campers up into smaller groups to keep the camp chatter on the Ravelry group under control.)  My original pattern choice is for the Bias Before and After Scarf.  It's the kind of simple project I know I'll wear a lot, and should be perfect in the multicolored hand dyed yarn.

I've since added Rondelay (which is an elongated shawl that would wear like a scarf) and Rufflebye (which would wear the same way) as possibilities.  These two shawls would be a little more interesting to knit, and while they're not difficult, they wouldn't be strictly auto-pilot knitting either.  The scarf would be pure auto-pilot knitting.  Looking at the schedule around here for June, the scarf will definitely be doable (the first project is to be knit June 1-30).  The shawls might be doable.  On the other hand, it's possible I could fizzle out on the scarf where the shawls have enough going on they might keep my interest.  Or the shawls could take too much attention, which I might not have time to deal with, so they might get pushed to the side.

See where I'm at?  I'm going to sit down this weekend and read through the shawl directions (I've already bought all three patterns) and see how much actual undivided attention they'll need before I finalize my decision.  If you guys want to weigh in on the comments, feel free!  The more opinions, the merrier, right?

Have a great weekend

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stockinette

yarma 
Stockinette is perfect for picking up and putting down.  It's perfect in it's simplicity, when life is crazy.  It's perfect for right now.

Caleb has been doing scales in band.  For anyone who has never done band or music, scales are the DO-RE-ME-FA-SO-LA-TE-DO things, like in Sound of Music.  You can play a scale in any key, and learning scales helps you learn the notes in that key (which helps when you play music in that key).  It's not the most interesting thing to do, but scales are important building blocks for learning music.  As I explained to Caleb, scales are dead easy to play, but because they're so simple, any missteps, timing issues or other problems stick out like a sore thumb.  So while they're easy to play, they are hard to play perfectly.  Learning to play scales perfectly, while not very exciting, will translate into other parts of playing music and will pay off for the music student in many other ways.

I realized that stockinette stitch is kind of like playing scales in knitting.  It's an easy stitch to do - one of the first we learn, but if it's not knit perfectly, our mistakes are very obvious.  Other, more complicated stitch patterns can camouflage tension issues, whether they're overall tension issues, or just tension differences between the knit and purl sides.  With ribbing, cables, or lace you notice the pattern, not the fine details of the knitted fabric.  Even garter stitch brings a texture to knitting.  Stockinette, as it should be, is smooth, unbroken, and perfect.  If it's not, it really sticks out.

Of course using handspun yarn, I'm really noticing all the inconsistencies there too.  No pressure!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Virtually No Progress Has Been Made on This Sock

yarma 
Yet, I worked on it yesterday afternoon.  Apparently, I can't keep a simple knit, purl pattern in my head long enough to get across the instep stitches.  It's not like I have to think for the sole stitches - they're just stockinette.  Of course I wouldn't discover my mistake until after I'd come around on the following round.  Then I was faced with the decision to tink back the round and reknit or switch every stitch as I come to it, and then work it.  I'm not really sure which one is faster, I just know that neither is fun in black yarn.

I also realized that I should at least get this first sock finished before Camp Loopy starts this Summer, but I'm not sure if that's going to happen or not.  Yes, it's that time of year - Camp Loopy time!  The first project was announced yesterday and I've already placed my order and have a plan.  If you've never done Camp Loopy, it's lots of fun, and I've found all the challenges do-able during the past two summers.  I'll post my project details once the yarn gets here (probably later this week), if you're curious.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

This Weekend

yarma 
This weekend we had a family adventure!  We went to Scarborough Renaissance Festival.  It's just south of Dallas and runs every weekend of April and May.  It was perfect weather - sunny and breezy, and there are lots of trees all through the site.  We really enjoyed it, and even Caleb had fun (and admitted to learning a few things - accidentally of course).  The only thing I got pictures of was the birds of prey demonstration, but we ended up being in a really great place - right next to one of the bird handlers (falconers?)  The demonstration is done by Last Chance Forever, a bird of prey rescue and rehabilitation center.
  yarma
The falcons were fascinating (there was also an owl and a vulture, but I didn't get good photos of them), but my favorite part was the Bald Eagle.  Getting to see one of these magnificent birds up close was amazing!
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The day wasn't all about the birds though.  As anyone who's ever been to a medieval/renaissance fair knows, the people watching alone is worth the price of admission.  There were lords and ladies, wenches, pirates, fairies, elves, tree people, barbarians, gypsies, and a couple of hobbits.  There was even a dragon, who I'm kicking myself for not getting a picture of.  He had the most amazing costume - leather, covered in scales, and gold and green, and I'm really sorry I didn't get a picture, but I can try to describe the costume all day and it won't do it justice.  There was also way too much food eaten (much of it on a stick, of course), but these kinds of things must involve copious amounts of food on a stick to be properly enjoyed.

yarma
At the end of the day, Mickael spotted something for me, that I knew would be perfect for Ruby Mae (that's her name).  This little pewter pincushion!  Now she has a friend, even when Max is otherwise occupied!  I'll leave you with a bad iPhone picture of a Great Horned Owl.  He did that turning the head thing that owls do - Caleb was very impressed!
yarma

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Friday, May 10, 2013

More Bags!

I've been on a bag making kick lately, but I'm having so much fun with them!  As a knitter, I can always use a bag (and let's be honest, I haven't met a woman yet who couldn't use a bag or two to corral her stuff, even non-knitters), and they sew up so quickly, why not make a bunch? So I did!
yarma
These three little drawstring/project bags are the one's from the Craftsy class (it's a free class).  Instead of piecing the exteriors, I cut both the exterior and interior fabrics to the same dimensions.  I think it worked out just fine because of the prints I used.  Max helped me thread the ribbons through, so that part of the bag making process took four times longer than it needed to, but I appreciated the help.  I would have also appreciated him napping through the whole thing, but I'm flexible and crafting with a cat is always interesting.
yarma
Then I made three little wristlet zipper pouches to hold notions/accessories/whatever to match!  This is the wristlet pattern I've used before, that seems to be out of print, but the same designer wrote this wristlet pattern which appears to be a replacement for the original pattern.  The zipper finishing directions are worth the price of the pattern alone!  (Or if you're looking for free, Craftsy has another bag class that has a zipper pouch.  I haven't made that one yet, but it's cute!)

Both bags are pretty easy to make, with the drawstring being the easiest.  The wristlet pattern is very well written with loads of pictures to explain everything, so even though it's a little more complex, it's not hard to make.  (I'd put the sling bag I showed the other day at about the same difficulty level as the wristlet, although it has curves while the wristlet has a zipper.)  I mention this in case anyone is learning to sew or is re-starting sewing after a break.  If you wanted to, you could make all three bags matching and have a set!  It would take 1-1/2 yards each of exterior and lining fabrics to do a set of sling bag, drawstring, and wristlet.  You'd also need some fusible interfacing, ribbons, and a zipper (and possibly more notions that I can't remember off the top of my head).

I'm not planning on selling bags, there are more than enough well established bag people on Etsy if you're looking to buy a bag, but those of you on my gift list might have bags in your future.  I'm seriously considering doing bags instead of wrapping paper for Christmas this year - I'm not very good at wrapping and I have serious issues with tape.  It's not pretty, me and tape.  If I did bags, then everyone would have something useful (in addition to the gifts, hopefully) instead of a big pile of garbage.  The Christmas prints are already coming out...

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Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Very Special Sweater

Caleb is learning about rocks in science right now.  His homework project this week involved a pet rock.  He had to find a rock and write about it, what kind of rock it is, do some tests on it, that kind of thing.  He also had to bring the rock into school and share his pet rock.  He needed to decorate the rock somewhat because pet rocks have decorations (regular rocks don't - it's an easy way to tell the difference if you are ever faced with the common rock vs. pet rock conundrum).  Caleb decided that his rock needed a sweater and asked me to knit him a sweater.  So yesterday, I whipped up a tiny, handknit sweater for a rock.  I had a blast.
yarma
I measured the rock's girth in several places, and figured out how many stitches to cast on using some fingering weight superwash wool (rocks appreciate easy care garments).  Then I decided to make the sweater ribbed since that would easily fit the rock and it's rocky curves and shapes.  Also, ribs are slimming - I didn't want the rock to look bloated in an oversized sweater.  I was originally going to decrease and go all the way over the rock's end (do rocks have tushies?), but then I realized it would be a rock sock, not a rock sweater, so cast off when I reached a place that felt like a sweater should end on a rock.  And if you're wondering about the color?  The rock's favorite color is red.  So is Caleb's but I'm sure that's just coincidence.

He'll probably have the only pet rock with a handknit sweater in Sixth Grade, but this is the kid who had a handknit hat for a potato a few years back.  I don't think I'll get to knit sweaters and hats for his school projects too much longer so I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

If you're interested in more of the latest rock fashions, check these out.  Aren't they gorgeous?  I think these would be wonderful for a pet rock in the Summer, nice and breezy!

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Getting to Know Each Other

Once I got the treadle machine* all cleaned, I did some stitching on fabric scraps to work on adjusting her - getting the tension right, getting the stitch length and presser foot pressure right.  This time let me get everything just how I wanted it as well as let me get familiar with the machine and the treadling.  When you're sewing on scraps though, you're not necessarily putting the machine through its paces and concentrating on things like consistent seam allowances, pivoting, curves or topstitching.  I knew once I had everything going smoothly, I needed a project to really get to know her.  I decided to make this reversible sling bag.  (It's a really easy sewing project, if you're looking for something easy.)
yarma
I used some quilting cotton and was very careful lining things up when I was cutting (also, I made sure the elephants would be right side up), but I realized right before I started, that I would have a seam running right down the middle of the side as I wear the bag.  I decided I wanted a pocket there instead - so I made one, with an elephant right in the middle.
yarma
I also decided to use fusible interfacing on the back of the main fabric to give the bag a little more stability.  I'm glad I interfaced and added the pocket, but if I do this again, I might make the strap just a bit wider - you have to turn it right side out through the strap and the extra bulk made that interesting.  This is the other side which is what the front looked like before I put the pocket on - not terrible, since I didn't chop an elephant in half on it, but I like the front with the pocket.
yarma
I lined it with this little dot print (the pocket is lined too).
yarma
Since this was a getting to know the machine project, I also worked on topstitching with her.  I love good topstitching, but bad topstitching can break a project.  I think it's a good skill to have if you sew and I just enjoy topstitching (stitching in the ditch, not so much).  I wanted to do some topstitching, both for the practice it would give me with the machine, but also because it makes the project look so much more finished.  So we topstitched.  It's a little different treadling and topstitching, but we figured it out and she does a beautiful topstitch!
yarma
*I still haven't decided on a name for her.  I was leaning towards Kitty Mae (as in Miss Kitty and Mae West), but Ruby was suggested in a comment I read this morning and that hits the red (Red Eye), there's Ruby and Max (two really cute little bunnies that Caleb used to watch, and Max kitty loves the sewing machine), and also Kenny Roger's Ruby, who was apparently taking her love to town (so that gets her previous life as a dirty girl).  I'm going to keep thinking for a bit, but I think it might be one of these two names.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Card-Again

yarma 
I'm moving right along on my Bluebelle Cardigan (that isn't blue at all).  This is a wonderful project - perfect for TV knitting.  I'm also really enjoying knitting with my handspun.  I should really knit with it more often - of course, I also need to spin more.  Max is showing a bit more maturity lately (and sleeping more during the day), maybe I can safely spin now!

We're getting into the End Of Year Crazies around here.  Field trips, final concerts, all those last minute things Caleb has at school, and all those last minute things I try to get done before he's home for the Summer.  I love this time of year because it's so much fun for everyone, but it's also so busy.  I feel like we need that first week of Summer just to BE.  I can't believe we're almost through with Sixth Grade either - how did that happen?  It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I was dropping him off for preschool.  He adored preschool!  Sixth Grade, not so much, but he's had a good year academically and socially (he thinks school wastes important gaming time).  He's decided to drop band next year and take some computer classes for his electives.  The computer classes are definitely more his thing, but we're really proud of him for learning as much as he did in band.  He's enjoyed his year of band, but I think he'll be happier in the computer classes.

Wow, this was a rambly post this morning.  Hope you're all enjoying the End of Year Crazies at your house if you've got them!

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Monday, May 06, 2013

The Big Ta-Da!

yarma 
It is finished.  Almost six weeks of work, 300 cotton balls, 1-1/2 bottles of sewing machine oil and countless encouragement and enthusiasm from Logan and Max, and the machine is up and running!  Coming from an era when virtually everyone smoked, the machine head was covered in a dark layer of nicotine and old sewing machine oil.  I actually found decals as I cleaned it, decals that were invisible under the old dirt.  I accidentally damaged some decals in cleaning them as well, but if I hadn't gotten all the dirt off, it would make a mess on whatever I was sewing.  Once the head was all cleaned, I waxed her (carnauba wax) and she shines now!  She has a new bobbin tire, a new spool felt, and a new  treadle belt.  Once I got her back into the cabinet and the treadle belt installed, she was up and running in no time.  A few adjustments, and she was stitching beautifully!
yarma
I'm planning a project for her - a small one first so I can get the hang of her and we can work out any issues we might have, then something bigger!

It feels good to have her up and running again, but after all the hours of cleaning and time we've spent together already, she still hasn't told me her name.  She's a 1923 Singer 66 Red Eye (the official name for the decals is "Scroll-Red").  My Featherweight is Elizabeth, so that (and all its variants) are out.  I thought she might be a Mary, but when I really got into cleaning her and found what a dirty, dirty girl she was, I thought maybe Kitty (also Max really likes her).  Any ideas?

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Friday, May 03, 2013

In Progress

I thought I'd show you what I have done on the sewing machine head so far.  I am still cleaning it, so no finished pictures yet (she was dirtier than I thought).  The exposed metal parts have all been cleaned (needle clamp, end plate, back plate, hand wheel, bobbin cover plate, needle plate, and presser foot).  I've taken apart the hand wheel to clean it, and I've cleaned the bobbin winder assembly as well as the actual bobbin area (the Singer 66 has a drop in bobbin, not a removable bobbin case).  There was lots of metal polishing happening around here.

The smaller pieces actually got cleaned in my tumbler (the idea of which I am particularly proud).  I've dabbled in making jewelry, and when you're all done with the making of it, it needs to be polished.  If there are stones in the jewelry, you have to do it differently, but if it's all metal, you can put it into a tumbler (like what you'd polish rocks in) along with some polishing fluid and some stainless steel BB like things (they're different shapes - not just round - so they can get into all the nooks and crannies).  This will not only polish your jewelry piece, but work harden it so it's less likely to bend.  I tried it out on a couple of sewing machine pieces that I knew I could replace if for some reason it didn't work out like it did in my head.  After a couple of hours, I checked, and everything was good, so at that point I tossed in everything that would fit (I always count how many pieces I toss into the tumbler, so I don't lose any in the BB's), and just let it go.  While that cleaned and polished the smaller bits, I got to work on the bigger ones - the end plate and the back plate.  Here's what they looked like before I started:
yarma 
The back plate (the round one) was particularly disgusting.  (The thumb screw in the picture went into the tumbler.)
yarma 
The end plate had a yellow brown coating of nicotine on it, but less grime overall.  What you can't see (and it isn't showing up very well in the photos) is that in addition to the overall, large floral pattern on each of these, there is a teeny tiny honeycomb pattern in the background.  There was gunk all the way into this honeycomb pattern!  Here is the back plate all cleaned and polished:
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And here is the end plate all cleaned and polished:
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There are some places that just aren't polishing out, but I feel so much better about where we are (cleanliness-wise) on the machine head than when I started.

I'm still cleaning the head, but I'm definitely getting there.  Here is an in progress picture of what I'm cleaning off of the head:
yarma
This stuff was everywhere and I have to clean it carefully and slowly or I'll silver my decals (some of them are already silvered or otherwise damaged, but I'm trying to keep in them in as good a shape as possible).  I would like to be able to sew light colored things with this machine and as it is now, I'm not there yet.  I'm hoping to get a lot done this weekend and then get her sewing again sometime next week.  Here's what I've got left to do:

  • Finish cleaning the exterior of the head
  • Wax the head to protect the decals and shine her up
  • Put everything back together
  • Oil her up again really well
  • Get her back into the cabinet
  • Get the treadle belt installed 
  • Get her adjusted and sewing correctly again
Some things will take longer than others, and I know it will be worth it when she's all clean and ready to sew, but I was hoping I'd be a little farther along on her by this morning.  I have been oiling her and running her with the hand wheel, just to flush out any old oil and get her moving again.   She's moving really well now and if I roll the hand wheel towards me, it keeps going for a bit, so I know that when she's all clean and back together she'll sew like a dream!

Have a great weekend!

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Beginnings

yarma
I started my new sweater yesterday.  There was a little time yesterday afternoon and I got it all cast on, then I started knitting last night while I watched TV.  I've just got a tiny bit done, but I think this cardigan will knit up quickly.

There was a question in the comments about pictures of the sewing machine.  I'm still cleaning the head.  I've gotten everything cleaned that I could take off, and cleaned as much of the inside as I can get to.  I'm now cleaning the outside, which has to happen very carefully and very slowly because I don't want to damage the decals any more than they already are.  That makes it fun to get the layer of nicotine and old sewing machine oil off of it.  I am getting there, it's just slow going, and every time I think I'm just about done, I find more to clean.  I realize this could get a bit obsessive compulsive, but I do need to get it clean enough to sew light colored fabrics, and it's just not there yet.  I am still hoping to show it to you Friday, but I might not have it sewing yet.  My original goal was to get it all cleaned and put back together and adjusted and sewing by Friday morning's blog post.  That isn't going to happen.  I have actually uncovered some decals that I didn't even know were there, so that gives you an idea of the amount of crud covering her!

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