Farewell, LJ

About three years ago, I moved my active blogging from LiveJournal to Dreamwidth, but continued to cross post my entries here. Then, in early April, LiveJournal suspended my account with no notice or reason. As near as I can tell (again, no word from LJ), it had to do with messages from spambots or pornbots on my comment threads, now removed. I've since been reinstated, but there's a three-week period where mirror posts did not occur.

Rather than going back and resending them one by one, I'm freezing this blog in its current state. I can't just delete it, as I need the photos archived here and linked elsewhere.

So if you want to keep current with me, please join me a Slightly Off Center at its new Dreamwidth location.



Sometime around, oh, March 1, I thought I should get organized and start preparing for my Spring shows. I went online to Priceline, looking for a hotel room for Ceramic Showcase, April 29-May 2. I booked my room, got the confirmation email, printed out the information and put it in my Road Shows binder.

Two weeks later, Showcase was cancelled. 

What with everything else, I finally got around to trying to cancel my booking yesterday. Emphasis on trying.

I logged into Priceline, searched my upcoming trips. Found nothing. You have no upcoming trips. They have my previous ones--last fall for Clayfolk, last August for Anacortes, even the emergency overnight in Eugene while our water line was broken, when we desperately needed air-conditioning and a shower. Upcoming? Nada.

I have a confirmation number, and a trip number--print-out, remember?--but there's no place to search with them on their site. I tried to use their chat feature to ask advice, but it's currently a 'bot that asks, Are you traveling within 72 hours? and tells you everyone's busy if you say no. (Which I totally get. They've got to be imploding right now.)

So I'm not sure whether I should be relieved that my reservation has vanished, saving me the grief of trying to cancel it, or concerned that it's still somewhere lurking in the system, waiting to charge my card automatically when the date rolls around, I have the phone number of the motel on my print-out, but I'm hesitant to even open that can of worms.

Sigh. If all else fails, I guess it's still a business expense.

Work horse

I thought I'd do a little research on my sewing machine this morning. I really don't know that much about it, except that it's a sturdy little beast, and it's been getting a workout this last week.

Turns out my machine has a history that's about equal parts chicanery and innovation.

The history of the Nelco involves World War II and a man named Leon Jolson. A Jew, he was interned in a concentration camp in Germany, but because of his mechanical skills, he had more freedom of movement than most, and was able to escape and return to his wife. After the war, they moved to New York, where he began as a broker of sewing machine parts, and eventually got a license to import European sewing machines to the US.

He started the Nelco brand while working for Elna and Necchi sewing machine companies, the former a Swiss maker, the latter Italian. Sometime in the late 50s or early 60s, Japanese products were beginning to be accepted in the American market. He contacted a Japanese manufacturer (history is vague on which one) to have them make sewing machines to import. They were substantially cheaper than the European models, and apparently incorporated some of their innovations (without permission). As a result, Jolson eventually lost his distribution rights to Elna and Necchi, but by then Nelco was booming.

My best guess is that my machine dates to the 1960s. I bought it well-used in 1977 for $25 from the group home where my mother worked, and took it off to college. It's patched multitudes of blue jeans, sewed shop aprons and clothing, shopping bags and bears and hats in the nearly forty years since then, and has only been in the shop twice, once for a cracked bobbin assembly, and again for general tuning and adjusting. It's heavy and sturdy, and the only thing I miss is a free-arm for sewing sleeves and cuffs. The nifty little look-alike box is not actually a sewing kit, but a photo slide carrier that belonged to Denise's dad. (She now stores bookbinding supplies in it.)

The best part about this morning's historical deep dive is the postscript. At the end of the article, there was a video showing a machine almost identical to mine (except it has the fancy automatic four-step buttonhole option). Featuring a sewing-machine aficionado familiar to me.

That's singer-songwriter, bassist and Babes With Axes member TR Kelley.

All in a day's work

Yesterday, I took Sunday's six lengths of sewn-together strips, ironed out all 18-dozen seams, and cut them into quarter-square triangles. I'd already completed five full squares, figured I could double that amount?

This is forty-eight triangles. Twelve more squares, for a total of 21, when I'm done.


Sew many strips

It's probably not the best way to attack a project that by its very nature is taken on just to fill up time and space, but I've been a production potter for too long. Organizing a system is second nature at this point. So, when I decided to convert all of my cotton fabric scraps into quilt squares, I started out systematically.

The first thing I did was bring in an extra wastebasket.

Then I started trimming out edges, skinny bits, anything narrower than an inch and a half or shorter than eight inches. I cut bigger chunks down to the eightish inch lengths, and ironed everything. The last time I did this, I just eyeballed the strips. This time, I got fussy.

I got out my cutting mat, a straight-edge and rolling cutter. Marked an eight-inch width, and ticked off marks at 1.5, 2 and 2.5 inches. Then slapped down pieces of scrap and started cutting strips. My ideal width was 2 inches, though I cut as narrow as 1.5 and as wide as 2.5. If the usable width was a little wider or narrower, I'd trim to keep as much as I could. The rest went in the basket, where Denise could choose what she wanted to pulp for paper and what to throw out.

You'll note that there's no color scheme here. I started sewing to make myself Hawaiian shirts. Conservative colors were never on the table. I blame my Slavic heritage--bright colored flowers on black background are my default. (Anything in the buff, gold or orange range was probably made for Denise. The blue background patterns are more-or-less split between us.)

Once I had enough strips of fabric cut, I started matching pairs, right sides together, 32 strips in all. Took them to the sewing machine and stitched all sixteen pairs along one edge, one after another (to save thread). I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance because I could conveniently line up on the edge of the presser foot. I'm using black thread, partly because it goes with any color, but mostly because I had two spools of it and figured I'd be less likely to run out.

After finishing the first pass, I cut the double strips apart, spread them out, and matched pairs again. Sew, cut, repeat. Eventually, I ended up with a strip about a yard long. Then started on the next set of 32.

What I love about working with such small (and short) pieces, is I don't even both to pin them together. Line 'em up and surface tension/friction keep them in place as they zip through the machine.

At length, I was tired of sewing, so took my lengths to the ironing board and pressed the seams flat. (This is a pain in the butt, especially as they're so close together.)

Now it's back to the cutting board. I've made myself a template out of foam-core board (left over from a previous art project, natch), a right isosceles triangle 13 inches on the base, just over 6.5 inches high. I use the rolling cutter to cut out successive triangles, flipping over ever second one and using the previous edge, so get as many as possible out of each strip. The half-triangles left at either edge can be sewed onto the next set of strips. (Like I said, I got a system.)

At this point, I have to decide which edges will make the nicest match and put a pin in as a reminder. (Or just slap 'em together at random, like I did on all the previous steps.) I take them back to the sewing machine and stitch together sets of two, one after the other. (The result looks not unlike a string of prayer flags.) Clip, unfold, match and sew half-squares into squares, trying to keep all the pressed hems from flipping over. (It's not a big deal--it's a quilt, not formal wear--but I find myself getting fussy as the project continues.)

Once the squares are stitched, there's two more hems to press open, and the whole thing gets a good ironing. I finished five full squares in the first two days (so already double my previous total).

Today I went full production on the rest of the fabric strips; I think I have enough material to double that again.



Like anyone who's done a craft, ever, I have leftovers. Left over scraps of wood from carpentry projects, bits and bobs of paper from bookbinding, inks and paints and art pads from art projects. Molds, sprigs, stamps and partial bags of different clay bodies out in the studio. And fabric.

So much fabric.

I've never been a quilter, really. I don't have a closet full of Fat Quarters (quarter-yard pieces that the fabric store stocks by the thousands to ensnare the unwitting). My sewing tends toward clothing--shirts, blouses, slacks and shorts--and teddy bears. So my closet is full of tubs of fake fur, poly fill, and boxes with all the tangled bits and pieces of woven cotton fabric left from cutting out pattern pieces, the odd shaped bits that seemed potentially useful, or at least too big to throw away. Twenty years of scraps and remnants tend to build up after a while.

At one point, maybe a decade ago, I tried to put them to use. Cut them into strips, sewed them together, then cut out triangles that I further stitched into 12-inch squares. Figured with time, I'd eventually have enough to make a quilt or throw or comforter.

I managed to finish all of four, before getting side-tracked, most likely back into the pottery studio.

They've been in the bottom drawer of my dresser ever since, waiting for the moment I'd have time and energy to make more. And as I mentioned earlier, I'd just gone through the entire fabric closet recently, looking for larger scraps Denise could use for book cloth. So I figured what the heck, let's see if I can put my enforced leisure time to good use and clean up this mess. At the very least, I'll have more squares to put back in the drawer.


Who was that masked man?

My second completed sewing project. Cotton fabric, elastic, and enough light-weight fusible interfacing to line the inner surfaces of the doubled cloth. Also a wire twist tie sewn into the top edge, to allow you to crimp it over the bridge of your nose (though I still get enough exhale sneaking past to fog my glasses). The dark red one is mine, the turquoise Denise's. I don't know how necessary they are, but I felt a little more protected when I had to visit the Post Office to ship some pots, and visit BiMart to pick up Denise's meds.



Took a little time off sewing today to do the final assemble of my new sculpture. Also took a photo and 'shopped the background. Maude Kerns Art Center had to cancel their current show--artists couldn't bring the work down with the coronavirus--so they're doing an online members' exhibit, and I thought I'd participate.

Here they are: Best Friends.


I have a tendency toward workaholism, especially where pottery is concerned. I'll start one project, and a week later I'm spending all hours in the studio, going through a hundred pounds (or more) of clay a day. So I've been rationing projects: sorting and packing pots one day, filling the recycling and washing clay towels the next. Boxing things to ship, catching up on email. I took my bike out to the UPS store yesterday, to ship off one package; holding off on a Post Office trip till we get another sunny afternoon to send out the next two orders. Maybe, by next week, I'll throw some pots again.

In the meantime, I'm catching up on my reading, watching Picard on a free trial month from CBS All Access, and doing some other creative projects. Here's the start of one:

Last month, when Denise and I went through the closet looking for fabric scraps she could turn into book cloth, we found an unused swath of spring-appropriate cloth, with buttons, that I'd never gotten around to making into a shirt for her. I also found enough interfacing scraps and contrast fabric for collar and cuffs, and a spool of appropriate-colored thread.

I've had the sewing machine for years; bought it secondhand from the group home where my mother worked when I went off to college in 1977. I initially used it for patching, but taught myself to sew from patterns when I couldn't find a Hawaiian shirt in my size back in, oh, 1983. Have made a lot of shirts, occasional slacks and shorts, lots of teddy bears since then. Sun hats--from a home-brew pattern, a vest, bathrobe, mumu (It was a very old pattern and fabric Denise had that her mother had never sewed up for her), several faux sweaters, even a few silky things for Valentines.

I hadn't used this particular pattern for a number of years (and sizes), but fortunately, it included multiple copies of the major pieces and I was able to tweak it to fit. I had just enough fabric to pull it off. I think it turned out pretty well. (Still needs buttons and button holes as of this photo.)

Thinking of some other projects to work on. JoAnn Fabrics has a link to a YouTube video showing how to sew face masks, and I think I have everything I need to make a pair. And there's been this quilt square project sitting in my bottom drawer for years now that I might finally get back to.