Monday, October 31, 2016


Quilters love Singer "Featherweight" sewing machines because they sew a very good straight seam.  That is all that they can do, but they do it extremely well.  Plus, they are extremely durable machines.  They are a basic, mechanical model, manufactured from 1933 to 1968.  Approximately 3 to 3.5 million of them were sold.  AND they are cute in the way that small things are cute.

I have long thought I'd like to have a Featherweight.  A really fortunate person might find one at a garage sale for $10 or so, but for a machine in good condition $300 is pretty much the going rate.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend in church choir who is also a quilter.  I asked her about her sewing machines; she has seven!  She mentioned that one was a Featherweight which she had for some years and just never used it very much.  She would like to sell it.  I told her I might be interested and she brought it to the next choir rehearsal for me to try.

This particular machine was manufactured between December, 1948 and May, 1949.  It's in excellent condition with the original decals (the gold decorations) intact.  It runs smoothly.  It was pretty much irresistible.

Here in AZ I have a Janome portable, an electronic machine that works very well and is very versatile.  At home in AB I have a Janome Horizon 7700, a large machine with an 11" throat, to accommodate a large quilt for machine quilting.  At home is also a Janome "SchoolMate" portable machine, a mechanical built to stand up to hard use.  This is the machine I bought when I first joined a quilt club and needed a portable machine.  All three of them are excellent machines.  I did NOT need another sewing machine, but I did desire that lovely Featherweight.

The Dear One was a little flabbergasted that I simply "wanted" this machine, even though I had no need of it.  But after a week of contemplation and a few discussions, he agreed that this machine could come home with me.  He's a sweetheart!

So here's the new member of my sewing family:

The blue masking tape marks the guideline for a 1/4" seam.  At home I'm pretty sure I have a magnetic seam guide that can be used with the mechanical machine.  But for now the tape with be a sufficient guide.

I'm just delighted to be a quilter with a Featherweight!  And I'm looking forward to stitching many, many squares and blocks on this little beauty.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


We went to an organ concert at the church we attend this afternoon.  A young woman, Ilona Kubiaczk-Adler, performed on the wonderful Glatter Gotz pipe organ there.  Originally from Poland, she now lives in Arizona.

In 2015 she traveled to Poland to make a recording on an almost 300 year old organ there. As part of the concert she talked about that experience and showed slides.  It is an old tracker organ meaning the action of the organ, pressing down the keys to producing the sound, is accomplished through a series of wooden links so that the person playing can control how the sound begins, gently or with more of a punch at the beginning of the note.  What a fascinating concept.  On a modern organ, the sound is either being produced or not.  It doesn't matter how you press the keys.  You can "pounce" on them or feebly depress them; it won't alter the sound.  So different from playing a piano!  Your fingers can tremble with nerves, but the sound is not affected.  So different from playing a violin!

Another difference is that this organ, when it was restored, retained the bellows, as well as having the air produced by an electric motor.  A modern organ has a motor that produces air for the pipes.  The pipes in an organ actually work much like any wind instrument.  They need a supply of air to produce sound.  Before electric motors, organs had bellows (like a blacksmith) and someone, not the organist, had to physically work the bellows to produce the air supply necessary for the sound.  I have never seen the actual bellows of an old pipe organ.  This was very interesting!  Three young men, friends of Ilona, were recruited to pump the bellows.

Here's how it works: There are fairly large, sturdy wooden spokes that need to be depressed to make the bellows move.  The men step down on the wooden spokes with all their weight to move the bellows.  As far as I could see there were two spokes for each bellows operator.  He stepped with all his weight on first one then the other.  That action opened the bellows.  They fell back of their own weight, sending the air to the pipes.

The organ was beautiful, with the surrounding of the pipes ornate and decorated with leaves, vines, cherubs, in greens and golds--real gold that is.  There were just two keyboards and a pedalboard.  The stops, which are the pistons that open or close the different ranks (voices) of pipes, are arranged on either side of the keyboards.  But they are really, really big, and too far from the organist to be reached.  So the organist needs helpers to pull out the stops and push them in, as voices are needed or not.  Fascinating.
On a modern organ the player just reaches over and pulls out a stop or flips a tab.  Also, a modern organ has couplers, which link the voices on one keyboard to another keyboard.  And it also has pistons, by which the organist can preset a combination of stops and activate all the voices chosen at once just by briefly depressing the piston.  An historic organ, such as this one in Poland, does not have these "conveniences".

Two famous organ works were on the program, Bach's "Toccata in d minor" and Widor's "Toccata."  Sometimes these, the Bach in particular, are referred to as "Dracula music."  It's pretty safe to say that each of you reading this has heard the opening bars of Bach's Toccata!  Both of these pieces also help a person understand the phrase, Pull out all the stops (Give it all you've got).  The volume of sound produced by a large pipe organ with (most of) the stops out is more than impressive!  But what great fun it is to be playing an organ with both hands, both feet, and all the brain circuits you can summon, producing as much sound as a full symphony orchestra!

I bought her CD after the concert.  I'll be listening to it in the car on the way to orchestra and choir rehearsals.  Mainly because the CD player in the car is the only way I have to listen to recorded music here in AZ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


We finished Victoria's quilt last night about 8:30 p.m.  I think she was pretty worn out.  She had spent the whole afternoon doing the machine quilting, and her arms were tired from hauling the whole quilt around on the machine.  We chose to use invisible thread on the top and a rayon Sulky marigold yellow on the back.

Monday she was able to finish sewing all the blocks together into the top.  We also cut and sewed on the narrow inner border and the wider outer border.  We planned to start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday by cutting, sewing and applying the backing.  But I wasn't able to help her until about 10:15 because of a "crisis" at home in the Dear One's use of the internet.  I function as his "techie" but this was beyond me.  The problem was in the site he was using, and that was finally straightened out.  So Victoria and I got a late start.  By the time we broke for lunch we had the three layer "quilting sandwich" put together.

She spent the whole afternoon machine quilting in the ditch.  By 5:30 we were almost, almost finished with the machine quilting.  We stepped ahead a little bit and sewed the binding to the back of the quilt.  We broke for supper and all went out to the Golden Corral, a buffet restaurant just outside the gates of our community.  It was a good break, and I think she needed it.

After supper we pressed the binding around to the front and doubled it under, ready to be stitched.  I offered to do this topstitching and she gratefully accepted, because her arms were really tired.  So I had the honour of doing the last sewing (for now) on her quilt.

Here it is finished--with a few things to be done to it when she gets home to Germany.  Just in time, as her plane left at 11 a.m. this morning.

I salute Victoria!  She was completely committed to finishing this project and worked unbelievably hard to get it done.  At the same time, she did very careful, precise work and radiated happiness at how her choices turned out.

What a lovely, cheerful quilt!  What a lovely, cheerful quilter!

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I've had the lovely experience of teaching a young German woman (16 yrs. old), an exchange student living with a friend of ours here in Sun Village, how to quilt.  She had been to Canada on a trip with her parents and saw some beautiful quilts and wanted to learn how to do this.

Marcy asked if I would show her how to quilt, and I was happy to do that.  She took Victoria see some of the quilts I have here and Victoria decided to make the "Picket Fences" quilt.  They went to 35th Avenue Sewing and picked up a large package of 2 1/2" Batik strips in yellows, reds and greens, nice and bright.

We met in the Sewing Room on Tuesday, the 11th and began.  The pattern called for 3" strips, so we had to modify it somewhat in terms of how long to cut the strips.  Victoria is good in math, so that was a big help.  We did some cutting and I showed her how to sew on my Janome portable, with a 1/4" foot.  She took to it right away!

In fact, she finished her first block that morning, after just 4 hours of work, including all the preparatory stuff.  Congratulations!

Doesn't she look happy?

On Thursday we worked together again, with Victoria doing all the cutting, sewing and pressing.  She did excellent, careful work.

At home she finished seven blocks within a few days, and then wondered how many more she should make in order to create a quilt for her bed.  Again Marcy and Victoria came over and we put my Picket Fence quilt on the floor and compared sizes, deciding how many more blocks she would need.  It was daunting, considering that she will leave for home this coming Wednesday.  Not much time!

So that Saturday she came to my condo and sewed for several hours.  She has determination!

But it wasn't going to be enough.  We decided to do an ALL-OUT effort this past Saturday.  She agreed that I should help by also sewing.  We set up a real production line with Victoria (who had cut all the strips needed) choosing the strip sets for each square, pressing and trimming the squares and setting up the blocks, four squares together.  I spent the morning sewing.  Together we worked with concentration for FOUR HOURS!  I spent the entire four hours sewing steadily and fairly quickly.  

In the meantime Victoria had scaled down the size of the quilt from a 4 by 6 block setting to a 3 by 6 block setting.  We actually were a little short of fabric for a 4 by 6 setting, in spite of the fact that they had gone back to the store for another large package of 2 1/2" strips.  She will make up for that by adding borders to enlarge the quilt.

She is a terrific worker, well organized, precise and determined.  I'm very proud of her.

We will get together on Monday and Tuesday this week to finish as far as we can.  Given how well she has worked, I think it's possible that she will go home with a finished top, probably even with the three layer quilting sandwich made, but not yet quilted.  That would be a stretch.  But having seen how hard she works, I might even be surprised again by what she accomplishes!  What a great student!

Thursday, October 13, 2016


I'm referring to the fauna, not the yahoos!

During our evening walk around Pima Lake my sister and I were thrilled to see, in one area, two Canada geese, mama duck, but not here little ducklings, and a blue heron.  The heron doesn't like company and always flies away when we approach.  The geese and the duck are more accustomed to having people around.

Mama Duck is a white bird with some beige feathers in patches here and there.  A few years ago there were always a pair of ducks here, Mama and her mate, a pure white duck.  We had often speculated on which of the pair was the male and which was the female, but really couldn't tell.  The pure white duck disappeared about two years ago.  We don't know what happened to that duck--perhaps he was caught by a coyote.

This year we saw mama duck with a whole flotilla of ducklings following here, all dark feathered with nice yellow bills.  Well, that told us definitely that the white duck with the beige feathers was the female of the pair.  Tonight we didn't see any of her ducklings and that's worrying.

It's worrying because there often are coyotes in the village.  This is rather surprising since our community is no longer the one at the edge of the desert.  The border between urban population and desert has moved north from here over the last decade.  Friends who live north in what was at the time the farthest urban setting once saw a lynx when out for their evening walk.  They quickly returned home.  I've seen coyotes here more than once.  That's surprising also because we live in a walled, gated community here.  But they do come in occasionally.  There are lots of ducks and geese here, and also small dogs.  The rule is that a dog must be on leash at all times, but I've heard of them being snatched off patios in the village.  And there is a population of bunnies running around the village, also an inviting target for a coyote.

Also paddling around in the lake were a pair of coots.  At least, we think they were coots, but rather hard to distinguish in the dark, as they are black except for yellow beaks.

Sometime this week I looked up from the pool and saw a beautiful large eagle flying overhead.  Hawks are a common sight, and also pigeons or doves.  Quite often you can hear beautiful bird song and not be able to see the bird.  They are hidden in the dense foliage of the trees.  Hummingbirds are also a frequent sight.

Our final treat of the evening was a tiny lizard that scampered across the cement sidewalk just in front of us.  Very noticeable on the cement, but almost invisible once he reached the grass on the other side.

Monday, October 10, 2016


I'm referring to the current presidential election campaign in the U.S.  First a disclaimer: I am a U.S. citizen, married to a Canadian citizen and have lived in Canada for the last 49 years, except for a 4 1/2 year interval from 1978 to 1983 when we lived in Oregon.  I do not vote in the U.S. elections.  When we first lived in Canada in 1967 I looked into becoming registered to vote, and it seemed an impossibly complicated process.  Not being a very politically motivated person at the time, I gave it up.  I have the privilege of being a Permanent Resident of Canada.  I grew up in a completely Republican conservative milieu in Michigan.  I have loyalties to both countries and think that both the U.S. and Canada are great countries, wonderful and blessed places to live.  I'm grateful to be here, part-time in Canada and part-time in the U.S.

I've watched the political process in the U.S. decay over the last 20 or so years, and considered the rise of the far-right in the Republican party with dismay.  The same can be said of the rise of the extreme "right" of the Protestant wing of Christianity.  And I think the two are related.  It seems to me that both wings are not grounded in Scripture (by which, as a Christian, I mean the Bible) nor are they grounded in history.  Such ignorance unmoors them, making them, as St. Paul said, "blown to and fro by every stray wind of doctrine," and I would add, every stray lie and controversy.

Along with millions of others we have watched the development of this campaign with interest and alarm.  We've never seen anything like the depths to which the political discourse has descended.  The only thing comparable in politics that I can remember is the whole Watergate schmozzle when the country was appalled by the web of lies and deceit that was uncovered in the highest levels of government.  Bill Clinton's infidelities and lies come a close second.  So you can't blame either the Democrat or Republican side for this atrocity.  There's enough shame to cover both sides.

Last night's debate was a sad, discouraging affair.  I'm very sad that Hillary engaged in the back and forth accusations.  I had hoped that she would, as she said, Take the high road, resolutely refusing to lower to the back and forth accusations that we heard yesterday.  I had hoped that she would absolutely stick to positive statements of her record--she has a solid record of service and achievement--and a solid, positive explanation of her plans to rectify the deep problems and divisions dragging the great country of America down into the gutter, embarrassing all of us before the world.  That's what I look for from those who would lead this country.

So I'm sad today.

The encouraging thing that we find when we spend time in the U.S., a period of months each year, is that the vast majority of people we meet here are wonderful, kind, and even righteous.

If you care to enter this discussion, please post a comment.  If you can't do that, please mail your comments to me at

Thursday, October 6, 2016


I started a pair of socks for my brother-in-law the first week of July and just finished them this past Sunday.  There were lots of other projects in between: dishcloths, 2 pair of mittens, one single mitten (have to knit the second of the pair yet), a scarf, and a pair of socks for the dear grandson who turned 16 in August.  All things that needed doing by a certain time.

Wayne's birthday was the last week of September, but I didn't want to mail them from Alberta to AZ, so I left them to finish in the car on the way here.  I think they turned out quite well:

It bothers me that the colours land in different places on these socks.  They don't seem like a matching pair to me when that happens.  For this pair I used the "Broadripple" pattern, a pattern from the internet--maybe four years ago--which appealed to me initially because it refers to an area in Indianapolis that I visited as a teen.  One of my Dad's brothers and his family lived there, and we were visiting them.  I remember going to a big indoor swimming pool by that name.  

Now I simply like the pattern for itself, as it is just two rounds, one with added stitches and stitches knit together, and the second round just plain knit each stitch.  The combination of those two rounds forms a chevron pattern, just a little more interesting than a plain sock.  It's quite adjustable because the amount of stitches between the chevrons and the amount of stitches in the chevrons themselves can be varied to adjust to the circumference desired.

I finished the second sock in the car on Sunday, and immediately cast on a new pair for Jim.  This time I'm doing a cable pattern that I adjusted to fit a 60 stitch circumference.  Toe up formula again, and I'm onto the gusset increases already.  But the cable pattern will definitely take more time to knit than the chevrons.  I like to make each of his pairs of socks slightly different so that they can be matched up with their mate after being washed.

This has been a very good first week here: went to the pool several afternoons, went to orchestra rehearsal Wednesday morning and to church choir this afternoon.  Only "downer" this week: yesterday the water heater failed.  A new one will be installed on Monday, but in the meantime we need to keep the water supply to the condo turned off, or there is leaking in the laundry room.  We turn it on for just a bit now and then to get some water for washing or flushing, and then try to remember to turn it off again.  One of the joys of owning your own place, I guess.  But I'm glad it happened while we are here and not during the time the renter is here in the spring months.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


We made our three day trek down to Arizona over this past weekend.  We try to time it so that we go through Salt Lake City at a low traffic time, and this year it was between 2 and 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday.  It wasn't too bad.  There are good HOV lanes that we can use to just keep going at a steady pace, without very much in and out traffic (limited areas where you can get on or off the HOV lane).  So that part was good.

But somehow or other, it always rains in and around Salt Lake City.  And, there is always construction on those roads.  This year was no exception.  Here we are approaching Salt Lake City:

I'm calling this "Clouds and Construction"--miles of it.  

The clouds did not just threaten, they loosed a terrific downpour just north of SLC.  It was scary because even with the wipers on full speed, it was difficult to see where the lanes were.  Jim kept his cool and just drove carefully on, and we came through without incident.

What always amazes me at times like that are the drivers in the far left lane who speed along, well above the ordinary limit.  I find that pretty scary!

Yesterday was our first day here, and in the morning I was busy stocking up on groceries.  After a lovely dinner at 1:30, we went to the pool for the afternoon.  That's always so nice!  Sunshine on the palm trees, soft breezes (well a little brisk yesterday) and the water warmed to 82ยบ.  Relaxation for sure!