rag dolls and woollies

rag dolls and woollies

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Another New Sewing Machine

Based on the last two machines, it seems I can beat up a $100 brother in about 5 - 6 years.  I hadn't thought about it, but when the repairman pointed out that it wasn't worth fixing, I realized he was right and it was time to get into the market and buy a new one.

Buying a machine in Israel however is a challenge.  Oh yes, they have them all right, but they cost an arm and a leg!  A basic "Bernette" (do they have those in America?) which is like $100 Brother is....wait for it....2400 NIS or in USD -- 662.70!!  No way!

After spending a week figuring sewing machines up one side and down the other, the best plan was to buy a Singer 3232 in Rome.  Our trip was coming up in two weeks, so everything looked really easy.  Pick one up, put it in a carry-on suitcase, fly back, and Bob's your uncle. So we advised the store we were coming -- in a week -- and would like to pick up the machine. So in between sight seeing....

.... we took a cab out to the store.  NO ONE in any sewing machine store in Rome speaks English. I can say buongiorno in Italian. They do speak "Singer" and so we corresponded.  Cuicherona was the best option -- in the afternoons Katia came in and we could sort of communicate.

But they had just changed some of their complicated business laws to more complicated business laws in Italy and not even the store owner understood what to do.  Two weeks later, after consulting with their accountant -- and our trip was over and we were back in Israel -- my machine arrived in the mail.

So here it is! With the instructions in ... Italian! Very pretty, isn't it?

I truly don't know what normal people -- even normal people who sew a lot like I do -- use all those stitches for on these mechanical machines, let alone the computerized ones!  If you'd care to tell me, I'd love to know.  Maybe you can give me some ideas.

I get the straight stitch and zig zag and hem stitch.  But which design do you prefer and for what??

So now I am back in business.  My next post will describe additions to my doll making....

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Takeover

Ever since beloved last Kid Number 3 moved out...

I have been slowly taking over the whole house.

 I work mainly on the kitchen table and have taken over two kitchen drawers, one for body parts (for dolls, muah ha ha), and the other for thread and such. My spinning wheel makes lovely living room furniture when not in use, so I spin in there. Our bedroom was always for wool storage (hubby said he felt he slept in a sheep shed) (funny guy, huh?)

and now the guest bedroom is my sewing room.  So guests have to bravely make their way through it to get to the bed, if the dogs don't get there first. But when I was cleaning up Kid Number 3's room, it really hit me:

I have a lot of toys.

I have remade his room into my weaving room, with the floor loom and its accouterments.  And there also resides my lovely treadle machine.  

There is a spot on the floor for his mattress, too.

How things have changed!

In the early days (30 years ago) when I began spinning, I had secret feelings of superiority that I had ONLY one spinning wheel and nothing else -- and I could turn out homespun sweaters.

Other people had roomfuls of implements, niddy-noddies, drum carders (well I did want one of those), extra wheels -- and I sort of looked down on them.  Well no more.

Do you want to know what I have now? 

Two Ashford traditional wheels, a single treadle Ashford Joy, one pair of Ashford carders, one pair of Clemes and Clemes carders, one flicker, one wooden comb (Ashford), extra bobbins in two sizes, a Leclerc table loom, an eight shaft Norwood floor loom with a sectional beam, a tension threading box, Schact bobbin winder, a spool holder, unknown number of shuttles including three boat shuttles, a Brother electric sewing machine, a 1905 treadle sewing machine, a forest of bamboo knitting needles, many, many more than three bags full of wool, piles of skeins of handspun yarn, silk roving, bamboo roving.

Wow, this is getting really embarrassing.  I feel moved to point out that one of my Ashford traditional wheels is with my daughter in law in the US, so I only have two here at home -- one traditional and one traveling wheel.  Surely that is better?

Five or six pairs of dressmakers' scissors, an awesome pair of scissors with micro-points, telescoping tubes, two dart markers, extra boxes of pearlized round head pins (I'm picky), two self healing cutting boards (listen, I inherited one from my mother in law), and the fabric! the ribbons! the lace! the elastic in all sizes!

I did receive stashes from two women -- and the one from my mother in law was gigantic. I have sometimes tried to visualize this amazing mass  of sewing supplies and fabrics that moves between women.  When one woman is done with hers (much of it inherited), it moves along to the next.  It picks up odd buttons, scraps of fabric, patterns, dressmaker's chalk, spools of thread. It's rather lovely really.

My mother in law got heavy into quilting in the last 15 to 20 years of her life.  That's a long time for a quilter! I have heaps of precut squares, triangles and rectangles, all colors, all hues.  And the fat quarters!  And almost finished quilts....two of which I have completed, all the while trying to guess what she had in mind....

My lovely, lovely friend, Eve, has such a HUGE stash that when she decides to divest parts of it, she needs a MAN to move it. So Kalman dutifully brought over boxes and boxes for me.  

Which I joyfully tore through -- 

I will use it. I am using it. I shared some. I found treasures. We -- all of us needs friends like these if we are to really create from the depths of our hearts.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Warping with Dogs

I babysit dogs -- and I prefer the bigger ones, like labs, because they are so much calmer.  The little guys can be too nervous and bark too much and I don't like running around all day trying to shut them up.

So I fill the place with big dumb dogs, usually the kind that shed a lot. 

If you came into my 84 square meter house, you'd see them lying around on the furniture, sometimes on their backs, feet in the air....can you picture that?

Or just hanging out, "dogging up the couch," as we say in our family.

Two of these yoyos are paying customers.....the other two NEED to get a job.

So I'm pack leader and when I go upstairs, they come.  Bathroom, dogs follow. Kitchen, they're right there.  My buddies.

What does this have to do with warping? In my continuing clumsy efforts to warp my sectional beam Norwood 8 shaft loom with no yarn yardage counter, I keep trying to figure out how much warp to wind onto each spool to then feed through the tension box, to warp each section of the beam.

Lately I hit upon a new way to measure out that length: use the banister that runs around the top of the stairs -- from one post to the other and back is 184 inches and if I need to put on 5 and a half feet of warp in each section, that's 12 sections, and that measures 5.5 times 12 which is 66 yards, which is 2376 inches divided by 184 inches --remember that's the length around the banister -- and that comes out to 12.9 winds (approximately) around the banister posts.  Got that?

Ok.  So there I am upstairs. We have a bedroom at the head of the stairs, the bathroom in the middle and another bedroom at the other end. And I'm walking the length of the narrow upstairs hallway .... 12.9 times. I begin.  I walk towards the bedroom.  Aha! they think.  It's bedtime. Let's go jump in the bed!

Three dogs do this. Two are not so sure.  I turn and start the other way down the hall. 

Three dogs get off the bed. The other two think it's time to collapse in front of the bathroom door and wait for me to come out.  So they fall on the floor and I step over them, heading towards the other post by the stairs.

Time to go down! (so think four of them) They pile up behind me in the hall, ready to follow me down the stairs.  The bottleneck is totally confused when I turn and head back towards the bedroom. 

Aha!  It IS bedtime, think two.  Jump in the bed.  No! Bathroom, think two others, fall on the floor.  One is just standing there looking confused as I walk and turn again (remember, this is 12.9 winds...)

Damn, I think. I have finished winding my 12.9 winds and I forgot the spool I needed to wind it all onto, so downstairs I go to get it. My pack is at my heels as I go down the stairs, thinking this is IT! we're going to the kitchen!

Grab the spool and go back upstairs.  Bedtime? Bathroom? We start all over again. Dropping in heaps on the floor, bottle necking the hallway, grid lock in front of the bathroom.... 

Thank God, I'm going to take weaving classes when I visit my son in Oregon in January. I sincerely hope they have a better method to suggest because the dog-pack-banister-method ended up to be yet another Eventful Warp.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You're Knitting What??

My daughter is a doula -- the birth coach/assistant -- you know.  And she is rather GOOD at it, and the fact that I'm her mother has nothing to do with my opinion.  She just is darn good.

 If you're having a baby and want to have a good time -- call Rachel.

So this fall, she decided to add to her already rather impressive list of skills and become a Lamaze instructor.  I used the Lamaze approach when I was having babies.  Apparently they stopped teaching the heavy breathing techniques and I think that is good because I definitely could have done without that heavy breathing part those-oh-so-many-years-ago. 

Her class is composed of an instructor, originally from Zimbabwe,  and seven or eight students, all of varying backgrounds.  Some of them are doulas like Rachel, others have a background in massage, lifeguarding, or La Leche League leadership. They meet once a week for seven hours and will end up with college credit.

Not bad.

Sometimes I even get the grandchildren while she's in class.  A pretty nice deal for me.  I took number two granddaughter to a cute kiddie place full of toys -- ROOMS of toys -- and she was the only kid there. So she burbled around happily while I knit my latest project.

And now the plot thickens. What am I knitting??

You knitters are all familiar with this, of course.  You're out in public and mostly get ignored, but some people will smile at you, and then there is the exceptional individual who will ask --

"What are you making?"

The ones who used to knit tell all about how they used to do it, but their hands got arthritic (this gives me unpleasant shivers), and then there are those that "tried but never could get it," or "made a scarf once."  I like these people.

There are those who say they could "never do it!" and so I reassure them (and I'm sure you do too) that they most certainly can....every woman could do this once...it just takes practice....

But here's the deal.  Remember the Lamaze class? This post began with Rachel's Lamaze class. 

Okay, so they need audio/visual aids to teach all about gestation, labor, birth, post-partum -- and even about complications.  So they use videos, diagrams, pictures, life-sized infant dolls...

And they need uteruses.

The best uteruses are knitted. They have a snap-on birth canal and a ribbed cervix. The body of the uterus is in stocking stitch and the top is closed off in a decreasing swirl like the top of a hat.  They need to have placentas and umbilical cords to "expel" with the baby and it's best if those are knitted, too.

Now there are several styles online.  Some have a drawstring top (to make it easier to jam the baby inside in the first place) and others have a button or zipper opening for C-sections.  Ravelry has a few patterns and there is a Mothering website from Canada that has one too.  That pattern does need to be redone though, because it has a lot of mistakes in it.

So picture yourself, sitting in a hallway, bus station, doctor's office, or lobby, knitting away, and along comes that sweet, unsuspecting person who innocently asks "what are you knitting"?

There is surprise.  "You've got to be kidding me." Shock.  Giggles. "Look," I show them, "You can see the head crowning this way," I say, punching my fist through the "cervix" to show how it works.

To be honest, I especially like punching my fist through the "cervix."  The effect is always a certain......well....je ne sais quoi....

 Listen, there's money in this, too.  These things can sell for as much as $80.00 a pop (sorry), including the placenta.  And if you buy that self-striping baby yarn, they come out real pretty.  My latest is a lovely light lavender with a deeper purple stripe, and little dots all dispersed throughout.  A real work of art....

So those in the knitting business need to consider those doulas, birth instructors and midwives who are out there trying to help the new to-be parents figure out what is what ....


Monday, February 4, 2013

The Uneventful Warp

I like the title of this post -- the Uneventful Warp.  Doesn't it sound nice?  Well, it has never happened for me.  All my warps have been Major Events, Tangled Webs -- a sort of theater in the round. Could have been a TV show entitled, "The Three Stooges Warp the Loom."

I am a self taught weaver, plugging away at it now for about four years.  First I bought Estee's old table loom, a real beauty. I packaged it up carefully to bring it back with me to Israel as one of my two allowable suitcases (remember those days?).  At the El Al counter in New York, they ran it through the X-ray machine.

"What is this?" a nice clerk asked me.

"A loom."

"A what?"

My attempts to explain what it was all failed. It is for making fabric. It weaves threads. It is an old fashioned way to make clothes. It is how people did it before machines. We tried hand gestures, body language....

So they began opening the box, trying to peek at it. They peeked. More confusion. They opened it a bit more. More confusion.  Opened more.  More -- well they opened it all the way, never figured out what it was, decided it wasn't a weapon, and put it on the plane. 

These guys are great in my opinion.  I loved every minute of it.  LOL.  ROFL.  You know.

So I read Debbie Chandler's book on the plane, even underlining important parts, and got home ready to weave. I didn't have a warping board. Ok. No problem. I'll make my own.

With chairs. Door knobs. A coat rack.  Looped around the desk. Warp running the length of the hallway.  Up the stairs. And I could chain my warp just fine, but I never understood THE CROSS.

So I had LONG warps hanging off the back of the loom which I patiently untangled.  And I untangled them as I wove also. Some warp just got cut off.  I wove anyway, and made a tallit for my nephew, some weird towels, a couple of short (really short) scarves (hubby doggedly wears them) and put the loom away for the next year.

In the years that have followed, I still never got THE CROSS. But then I lucked onto a great find. A cherry wood 40" wide Norwood 8-shaft floor loom with a sectional beam. People in Israel don't really value this kind of equipment -- and have no one to sell it to. So I got $5,000 worth of stuff for $700.  A-ma-zing!

I have the loom, a bobbin winder, a spool holder, tension box, sectional beam, extra reeds, every kind of shuttle, extra heddles, fancy tex-solve snap ins, bags and bags of unwanted yarn, a warping board (ALAS!! It was broken!!) -- the list goes on and on.

For several weeks, I just nervously sat in the living room and watched it.

Then Dina came over and with her reassuring presence, we poured through books on how to do it and we warped the beam (ok, she did most of it). Then she went home.

There were tension problems. Threads were tangled coming from the sections to get to the heddles. I called Dina. She suggested advancing the warp completely, then rewinding it.  Good idea.

OMG. Threads were snapping all over the place! I advanced that warp at the rate of about three inches at a time, climbing all around the loom, on the floor searching for broken warp threads -- and after 8 hours of this, I fell in love with the loom -- and still can't figure out why -- and then rewound the warp with more threads snapping....

The next warp was handspun silk which was not spun firmly enough...as it turned out.  And I have studied pictures and watched youtube videos and can't get the hang of that weavers' knot. Maybe because I'm left handed? I'd lose warp threads completely and try to figure how to add new threads. Everybody tells you to hang them using film cans with a few pennies in them for weight.

What's with the film cans?? Who has film cans anymore?? I certainly don't! I had nothing I could figure out to use for tensioning new warp threads. So I tied them on and sort of wound them around the pegs on the sectional beam. Well, everytime you advance a warp like that, you have to retie all of them...

But I did weave two more tallits -- and sold one of them! -- and then another!

It's winter and weaving time again. Just wound on a new warp. I put 24 spools on the spool rack and wound on my nice new warp.  As I went to thread the heddles, I find that I've only wound on 23 threads. HOW CAN THAT BE???? I rechecked all the spools and they were all empty and even counted them individually although it is kind of obvious if you have an even number on the spool rack or not.... 

I love weaving. I really do. And now I am even starting to have ideas of what I'd like to make.  I'm spinning yarn just for weaving projects. But an UnEventful Warp?? Don't make me LOL.  Don't make me ROFL.  Don't even think about it!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Inner Piggy

There can be a lot of fads in psychology and many of them are "popular" fads. Maybe you're old enough to remember Games People Play, which came out in 1964 and was a big hit. Or how about I'm OK, You're OK?  That one hit the New York Times best seller list in '72 and stayed there for two years. Many people found they could identify with the 12 step program of AA and soon we understood ourselves to be addicted to all sorts of things -- sex, food, each other.

Even in theoretical -- serious -- academic psychology, there have been "fads." Lobotomies were popular in the 1940s and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a sort of expose about that. There was a time when psychologists chocked an awful lot of problems up to having a "dominant mother and a passive father." Fortunately we seem to be over that one.

We knitting and fiber people -- and you all know who you are -- have long admitted our problems. I'd say we've been in the vanguard of honesty when it comes to ourselves, don't you agree? We've all known about fiberholics and yarnaholics for ages. We talk openly and freely about our addiction to fiber and how we just can't control the urge for yarn.

All this has been out of the closet for years.

But who has been truly willing to name and confront their "inner piggy"?  That grabbing, grasping, insatiable little core of nasty naked greed? The plotting and scheming. The selfish urges. Yes even embezzling money from the food budget! or thinking of doing it! to buy more yarn, more fleece, more roving. More! More! More!

Do you surf the net late at night? Read knitting books in the bathroom? How about daydream about the latest Noro or sari silk while you're driving? Do you use that credit card when you know you shouldn't?? And accidently on purpose forget to remember to mention it to your husband? If a friend asks if you have any extra yarn of a certain color, have you ever lied about it? Did you really donate freely to that kindergarten project??

This is the inner piggy. And I'll be the first to admit it, ok? I'm not blaming anybody else or trying to pass the buck. I saw a merino silk blend on Wingham Wool Works' site (they're in Yorkshire, England) and with trembling hands, reached for the credit card. Cotton Clouds have some lovely warp yarn cones on sale....but I resisted. I stuck to the budget at Camilla Valley Farm (outside Toronto) -- but even after buying 15 pounds of yarn, I woke in the middle of the night wishing I'd just slipped in another copy of the weaving magazine they had. After all, who would have noticed? My husband is just flat befuddled by my stash (muah ha ha ha).

But come on now.  After buying 15 pounds of yarn, it was just flat ungrateful to want weaving magazines too. But that is the inner piggy at work.  Unconscious, but ever lurking, wanting more and more and more and more!

In our family we try to have an accepting attitude about these things. We remind each other that "pig happens," so try not to feel too bad about it. But be honest. Don't just go around thinking your inner piggy is completely innocent --
When I try to deny her true nature, she (quite naturally) gets irritable, angry and more greedy. Suddenly I wake up to find I've gone into another one of those fugue states and -- as if in a dream -- filled my "cart" online and pushed "pay now."

And after I've made that purchase, I'll try to convince myself it won't happen again; that she's happy now and will remain that way....
But I know it's a lie. She'll start wheedling me, wanting more. Looking out for Numero Uno.

So try to journal about this. See if you can identify the piggy early in the game; before she's become angry at being suppressed. Work with her, try to incorporate her into your life more. I truly believe you'll find she can be a good, thoughtful and friendly part of your personality.
And much less expensive.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Where Are They Now?

At this point, I think I've sold twenty dolls. They have been sent to Vancouver and Toronto, Hawaii, Colorado, Minnesota, Alabama, Washington state, and several areas on the East Coast. One went to China (!!) and another to Perth, Australia (!!) There is one in London, England. Six more are floating around Israel. And I've given away at least four more.

They never have names -- not while I'm working on them anyway -- and when one doll buyer asked me the name of the doll she had chosen, I told her I didn't know because it wasn't mine -- and never was mine -- it was always to be Someone Else's doll and they would surely know her Name. And that is the truth.

So what names did they get? "Abigail" and "Rachel" are in Washington state. Rachel hangs out in a church nursery. Nan asked me to keep in mind that she would be played with a lot, so I made her bomb proof. She apparently got cold and a bit lonely so they gave her a sweater and a dog for company and here they are, cuddled together in the nursery --

 Janine wanted a super fancy party doll, so I had a blast hitting the wedding trim counter and fooling around with satin. Her name is "Sara" and she will belong to a young lady named Chloe. In addition to her party dress, she has PJs (had a wonderful time figuring out how to make a PJ hat with a tassle), a jumper outfit, and shorts and a top.  Oh yes, and matching shoes. Janine really inspired me to try new things. Here she is ready for a party. Check out that bling along the hem of her dress --

Eric from Alabama challenged me to try different hair colors. He wanted a blondie with a dark blue dress. No one has to ask me twice to go cruise fabric or yarn stores, so I had a lovely day "working hard" in the shops.

Then there is "Minou Deux," a replacement for a long ago lost doll. The original doll, "Little Minou" belonged to Hannah's sister when she was a little girl. But Little Minou was accidently sold at the family's yard sale -- quite a heart wrenching experience for a little five year old....This Christmas, Hannah will give her sister two dolls: a grown up version of what Little Minou might have looked like -- and my doll (!!) who reminded her of the original. She will be called "Minou Deux."  Here she is (with her matching shoes) --- 

My first cousin's daughter -- what does that make her to me? First cousin once removed? Anyway, for her birthday, they gave her this doll. Her Mom said the doll looked like her daughter (but Camille is a Whole Lot Cuter). Her grandmother, my Aunt Judy (are you getting all the family connections straight?) is an artist and she painted a picture of this doll who came to be named, "Coco." Here she is: Cami, "Coco," and picture of Coco -- 
 It's nice to hear about the dolls, and who they become, and it soothes my anxieties to hear they are holding up ok, their hair is still on, the child can manage the clothes -- and even more, that the child wants to play with the doll.  At one craft fair, it was sad to see child after child walk right by my dolls and show no interest at all -- not even stop to look for a second (even if just to make a face that they hated them) -- but instead the kids went straight for the tables with the plastic toys....
There is something about a cloth doll  that seems so basic and vital to childhood. Nevermind if I made them.
But other kids do get it, as in Cami above. I enjoy corresponding with  parents and grandparents who tell me they want something special and unique (and trust me, they are one of a kind -- I don't have enough skill to actually copy one). And then there are the adults like Janine who can design a whole wardrobe for a doll because they themselves never forgot how to play. Or Hannah who understands how deeply we can feel about dolls and how much they can mean.