Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dieing or is it Dyeing?

Some years ago, a friend and I were having a wonderful time dyeing in my kitchen. This was before I had a studio for such things. A physician neighbor came to the door about something and I answered it wearing my surgical gown (which makes a great cover-up for dyeing and painting by the way).  He looked rather startled and I said: "Oh, we're just dyeing."  His expression became more concerned and I realized that he thought I said "dieing" and not "dyeing". I hurriedly explained and his whole body visibly relaxed.  Evidently he was planning to spring into action to save our lives.  I still laugh over this incident many years later.

Yesterday I rinsed out a new batch of a 15 step gradation using ProChem MX Sun Yellow (108), Fuchsia (308), and Intense Blue (406). The above picture shows the dyes soaking in my laundry tub before I threw them into the washing machine. I used to spend a lot of back breaking time rinsing and rinsing and rinsing until the water ran clear before I put the dyed fabrics into the washer. Several years ago, I discovered that if I quickly rinsed the fabric under running water and then left them to soak in hot water until the water cooled (at least 30 minutes), followed by a Synthrapol wash and then a Milsoft rinse, they were good to go. My back is very grateful for the relief.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Digital Age

I love to read.  I have had a love affair with books my entire life.  I also have a masters degree in information and library studies. I have always loved the look, the feel, the smell of the printed word but.....I looooove my Kindle.  How to justify my love affair with my Kindle with my love of the physical book?

Over the course of my life, I have had to adjust to many changes not the least of which is digital technology. I started key punching programs that I wrote in graduate school and ran on a mainframe computer. My first computer was an Atari and later I graduated to a Windows PC and at this point I have owned at least 3 desktops and 3 laptops. I love computers although I do get crazy sometimes with their quirks but I appreciate all of the things that they can do for me from keeping my accounts to designing quilts to sharing my thoughts and feelings with friends and even strangers on Facebook and this blog.

Which brings me to the Kindle. I believe that digital books are the future (Amazon already sells more digital books than paper ones). I can read my Kindle books on my PC, my iPhone, my iPad or my Kindle reader. I have my current book available to me wherever I go and I can take 3,500 books with me at any one time. Try that with paper books. I have a built-in dictionary to check the definition and pronunciation of words instantly and I use it often because who wants to get up and find a dictionary to check out a word that is not familiar assuming that a dictionary is even available. The Kindle is lighter in weight than most books and can be read in bright sunlight unlike most digital readers. I can hear about a new book and download it to my Kindle in one minute or try a free sample chapter before committing to a purchase. No time consuming trips to the bookstore only to discover that they do not have the book in question. My tired old eyes also appreciate the ability to change the size of the font or listen to my book by turning on the audio.

We are living in an age when instant gratification is becoming the norm and digital books are only another reflection of that phenomenon.  I believe that libraries and bookstores have a future but they must adapt and change as our culture changes. That is not a new concept for libraries. Many libraries already lend digital books and have computers available for patrons to use.

As of the last count, nine people have sold over a million digital books and one man, John Locke, has sold over a million SELF PUBLISHED digital books. He has even written a book about how he did it - "How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months". The trick is MARKETING. The publishing industry must also adapt to current practices. Some publishers are limiting the number of times that a book can be borrowed from a library, some publishers are controlling the selling price of ebooks, and some booksellers are attempting to take a 75% cut of the selling price. It can be a win-win situation for everyone but it will take a while for all sectors to adapt and eventually thrive but don't worry.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Call of the Loon

I love loons! They are so elegant and regal with their highly contrasting black and white plumage. No wonder I like to wear that color combination and use it to make quilts as well.

I took the above picture several years ago of one of a pair of Common Loons residing in our cove. I look forward to seeing and hearing their calls every summer. They have been very quiet so far this year for some reason. The only time that I have heard them is when a seaplane flies over. I can only guess that they are telling the seaplane (which is probably a giant bird to them) that this is THEIR territory and keep away.

Our water level was very high last year and remained high for many weeks. Our dock was under water for a long time. There were no loon babies in our cove last year and I surmised that their nest had been flooded. I am hoping that they will be more successful this year.

Until recently I had thought that one of the parents sits on the nest until the egg hatches but evidently that isn't necessarily so. The eggs (usually two) have to be turned on a regular basis (about once an hour for Common Loons) but the eggs don't have to be sat upon all of the time. Some studies have shown that loons only spent about 55 percent of the time on their nest but it probably depends on many factors especially the weather. On sunny, hot days the loons can probably leave incubation to mother nature for a while.

I listen for their calls which reassure me that all is well especially at night. There are four distinct calls which have been labelled  the hoot (emitted softly and used between family members), wail (a call of interaction between 2 loons such as a loon calling its' mate to relieve it on the nest), tremolo (often compared to an insane laugh), and yodel (which is given only by the male and is a territorial warning).

If you are out on the water this summer, watch for loons but remember to keep your motor boat far away to protect one of our precious natural resources.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tension Techniques

Most people get very nervous when the subject of changing tension settings is broached.  Mastering the ability to change the tension on your sewing machine will broaden your horizons in your sewing career.  It will allow you to sew with many different types and weights of thread and will allow you to add new specialty techniques to your sewing toolbox. The following instructions are based on using the same weight of thread top and bottom.

There are two places where the thread tension can be changed on a sewing machine. The main one is the tension dial on the top of your machine and the second one is the tiny screw on the bobbin case. The first thing to know about tension is that you must raise the presser foot when you thread your machine. When the presser foot is down, the tension discs are closed and the thread cannot be properly seated between them. When you want to change the upper tension, place the presser foot in the down position so that the discs are closed onto the thread.  To repeat: raise the presser foot to thread and lower the presser foot to change.

The above illustration shows three tension settings. The first one is locking the stitches on the underside of the fabric which means that the bobbin tension is too tight or the top tension is too loose. Since it is easier to change the top tension, we would move the dial to a higher or positive number. The illustration shows the arrow pointing in a clockwise direction. Righty tighty and lefty loosey. Have you ever heard that expression before?  Remember it because you will use it many times in your life and not just for sewing.  The second illustration is the opposite of the first one. The threads are locking on the top side of the fabric. In this case we would loosen the top tension and as you can see, the arrow is pointing in a counterclockwise direction.  The third illustration shows balanced tension with the threads locking in the center of the fabric.  It is much easier to see the tension balance or lack of it if you use two different colors of thread top and bottom when learning to adjust tensions.

The above illustration of a bobbin case shows the adjusting screw and once again, righty tighty and lefty loosey. The adustment would be the exact opposite of the adjustment of the upper tension dial. If the thread is being pulled to the underside, the bobbin tension is too tight so loosen it by turning the screw 1/4 turn to the left and vice versa if the thread is being pulled to the top side.  Always make your bobbin tension adjustments one quarter turn at a time and then test it before turning it further. The screw is very tiny and very short. To be safe it is best to change the tension inside of a plastic bag so that if your screw falls out, you can find it again. One of my dear friends dropped her screw in class recently and several of us were climbing around on the floor looking for it.  Fortunately we did find the screw and I was able to put the bobbin case back together for her.