Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sloppy Craft

Photo courtesy Flickr

Perhaps the term should be “mock up”. Mocking is in order for my recent attempts at fabricating pillow cases. I let my sewing machine go a few years ago, having grown tired of dusting the case and toting it off to be tuned. Sewing is not a cost-effective activity for me.

The Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain used to sell white waffle-weave short staple cotton dish towels, and I picked up a ton of them when I returned a rug too late to qualify for a cash refund. The towels are honeys all, and last summer I wanted pillow shams for a bed so that it would look presentable during the day. I didn’t want to bother with a sewing project, and the new dishtowels looked like promising candidates for casual bedding.

I hot-glued a pair of shams, and they’ve worked well through a number of washings. The waffle-weave cotton is very comfortable in hot weather.

A couple of years ago, I used a remnant of unsized artist’s portrait linen as a support for experimental writing with archival quality markers. It was fun, and the unpremeditated project sat around waiting for me to figure out how to use the goods. Another pillow sham shortage developed in another space, and I hot-glued seams with the raw edges out. Now I have a small collection of talking pillow shams, reminiscent of some of the most vulgar products of the 1930s. I hope my language is a little more edifying, though. The random statements generated by cutting and fabricating the original piece of linen are like overheard mutterings on the bus. The work suits the room it’s in, and I can always salvage the fine linen and use it in another application.

If I really cared to sew by hand, I’d hunt up a piece of beeswax to stabilize the thread, use a needle of the right size to pass between individual threads rather than splitting them, and be sure to have the leading end of the thread off the spool be the trailing end of the thread on the needle. If I were being furiously exact, I’d dull the needle ever so slightly to protect the threads of the weave. If this stuff matters to you, hunt up London’s Royal School of Needlework. They’ll really know what they’re doing.

-30-  More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

$40, Or Thereabouts, Later

Photo courtesy Flickr

Last summer I put a fresh coat of paint on an upstairs floor and furnished the room only with a bed and chair. I set magical sliding teflon castors under the feet of the bed in the hope that I could easily shift it from place to place in the room. The plan was to take advantage of wall- and ceiling-mounted original lighting or the comfortable daylight of summer.

It’s been easy shifting the bed from spot to spot, but unfortunately the physics of the castor arrangement turned out to be trickier than I thought. That is the story of many of my bright ideas for the house. It looks as if my fourth try with the sliders will be successful.

The bed is old and, like much nineteenth century furniture, set on small iron wheels. They are too cobby to use directly on the floor, but lively enough to  jump around in the plastic castor cups I mounted on sliders. When I shift the bed, the cups leave tracks on the floor. No gouges, thank heaven, but the system is not yet elegant. Even so, I can clean the floor in under a minute.

Last week I tried a snowshoe equivalent: small plastic castors to restrain the bed’s wheels and the largest round sliders stuck to the castor bases to distribute the load. So far so good.

When I began this experiment, I decided simply to lay a fresh coat of paint on the floor if things didn’t work out. They didn’t, but I will try cutting a rectangular mask to use to stencil patches of the same floor paint on the new marks. We’ll see. There’s always a subtle difference in the color, but patches may enrich the look of the room.

The neighborhood is growing fiercely, and we are in a holding pattern on home improvement. So far, things look promising.

-30-  More after the jump.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr

I’ve done a little casual reading lately in business management and Paris fashion. All three sources say much the same thing about clothing: it’s nuts to have too much.

Living light allows easy travel, compact storage, and innovative costume. None of the three writers has much patience with designer waiting lists, and all like to mix first-quality goods with ordinary labels.

The following advice has served me well for decades: dress for the weather, for who you are, and for what you will be doing. Choose clothing with travel in mind. Keep a tightly co-ordinated closet. I find a combination of high-tech outdoor wear (often several seasons ahead of ordinary retail), cashmere, fine wool, and linen most serviceable. I prefer scarves to jewelry.

Happy Trails. Seattle’s Northern European Clothing Chain is about to stage its summer festival of bargains.

-30-  More after the jump.