Saturday, September 8, 2007

Old Fashioned Quality

Time flies by at the end of summer. August is a busy family month, and this year was no exception. I took a four day weekend for Labor Day and now am readying my psyche for less time off as the cooler months roll in. Knitting again has put me in a sort of homey state of mind, so the thoughts of cold don't bother me this year.

The home arts are being infused into my consciousness from a number of sources, resulting in my desire to have my sewing machine in good running order, and in my choice of a crochet project in addition to my knitting projects. I hope the crochet project is fun - Ellen suggested I consult Deb at Village Yarn & Tea if I run into trouble, and it doesn't look like such a difficult pattern. I'll reveal it after I'm sure it's not too difficult for me at this stage.

The crochet bug confronting me came in the form of my dad's sister, Aunt Carol. Her birthday is in February, and while I rarely acknowledge it on time, I like to give gifts when I find the gift that matches the person. Several years ago, I pestered her into writing down the pattern for one of the crocheted potholders I remember from her mother/my Grandmother (that was what she liked us to call her). She sent a small package containing not only the hand-written pattern, but a collection of potholders in a variety of designs and fibers. Aunt Carol had mentioned that there was not much selection of quality threads in her area of Utah. So, when I was at JoAnn's last winter and saw a pile of crochet thread big balls in bright, vibrant colors, both solids and variagated, I bought 5 or 6 colors and sent them to her. She sent a great thank you letter with photos of my cousins and their children, and I resolved to send her thread whenever I find good colors and good quality.

What a lovely surprise when I received a small birthday package from her in mid-August containing potholders crocheted from the very threads I had sent her. Each one is a different pattern in such beautiful, vibrant colors that each is like a jewel. All used the sunny yellow of my laundry room for accent. I hate the idea of using them the way potholders are used, so they are currently functioning as trivets. Aren't I lucky?

I learned to sew in fall in my 8th grade Home Ec class (nearly 40 years ago), and sewed most of my own clothes after my parents bought me a sewing machine for Christmas that year. It's a Penncrest (yes, that's present tense) and it took me from learning how to use patterns right through tailoring and flat pattern design. It has sewn everything from alterations, complete sets of bridesmaid dresses, curtains, to stuffed animals - at one point I thought my career would be as a tailor. I've never truly needed more than what it does.

Recently, it was struggling with heavy fabrics, so I decided to buy a new machine and give mine to my niece or sell it to a friend. I took it to the shop I have used for a dozen years for a tune up and was told it probably wasn't worth working on - they offered to throw it in their dumpster for me. I wasn't able to make the emotional disconnect on such short notice: I put the machine back in my car. I mentioned my plight at Rebecca's Thursday night Village Yarn knitting class and Chris spoke up, suggesting the guy at 200th and Aurora Avenue North in Shoreline. I went there last Friday and met "Big Bad Joe". I told him about my machine and asked if there was anything he could do. He said yes, of course, and lifted the machine out of my trunk.
His view is that the current machines will never be as good as the old (and extremely heavy) machines, and that the old ones can always be tuned up to run like new. He was as good as his word - for $30 less than the other place would have charged for my hopeless case, I received my machine back the next morning sewing as well as it sewed when I first got it. And George enjoys old codgers, so we bought a vacuum cleaner as well. I'm so glad to have found Big Bad Joe! His son purchased the business from him 12 years ago and is as committed to the quality as his dad, but Joe isn't ready to retire - he says he came with the business. Quality and small business owners are still around if you know the right people! Thank you for such a gem, Chris!

And my knitting has continued happily - my next post will include more, but here are two pairs of socks. The Pure & Simple socks for my dad are Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Granite with Koigu heels and toes, and the photo just doesn't do the color justice. I blocked them, and my dad sent them right back to have me reduce them. A quick wash without any blocking had them fitting him the way socks should fit, and he wore them fishing last week. I'm just finishing another pair of same for George. The basket weave socks for my friend, Cherie, are knit with Panda Wool and were literally "Made in Egypt" while I traveled there with my dad in 100 - 135 degree weather. Amazingly, the bamboo in the yarn helped keep the yarn from sticking too badly to my hands in such heat, and a number of other travelers on our cruise down the Nile kept tabs on my progress. I liked the finished product well enough to buy two more balls to make the same socks in a different color!
More of my projects next time - and I won't wait so long between posts!