Friday, December 23, 2011

Admitting the Problem

Hi. My name is Kim and I'm an addict.

They say the first step to recovery is to acknowledge the problem. Well, consider it acknowledged.

In my defense, one of my best friends is a total enabler. She's not exactly my supplier, but did call me up and let me know where to find it. Even offering to put down a deposit for me and drive me to pick it up.  I have no willpower and was unable to resist. See? It's not completely my fault. Really.

The funny thing is, I don't feel bad about it. Isn't there supposed to be some kind of guilt, or remorse? Concern for what my family is going through? I have none. Just that endorphin rush which, I suppose, is part of the addiction.

My substance of choice is cast iron, and in this case, a wooden cabinet and treadle.

Yes, I did it. Another machine. I swear, this one is my last. (I know, that's what I said after the featherweight, but this time I REALLY mean it)

How could I resist? A 1904 Singer 66 treadle machine with Egyptian Lotus design on it- stunning! Mary found it tucked in a corner of a musty smelling antique shop, a bit dusty and in need of a good cleaning. Still working, according to the shop owner, it had belonged to a 92 year old woman who had just died. Clearly, it has seen a lot of use, and at some point was converted to electric with a motor and light.

After heaving it into the back of the car and getting it home the stripping began. I wish I had taken a 'before' photo but I was in such a hurry to clean her up I didn't think of it. The ironwork base and treadle were quite rusty but cleaned up fairly well with a liberal spray of WD-40. The cabinet was in decent condition but definitely needed stripping. Have I mentioned how much I love my hand-held sander? It was fairly quick work and I was able to get the top and large drawer sanded down to bare wood and stained all in one afternoon.  I need to do the 4 side storage drawers but they shouldn't take too long.

I removed the machine from the cabinet and will clean and oil, and wax it. The decals are in fairly good condition for their age. After a few days of oiling the exterior I'll use some nice caranuba wax on it to give it a shine and protect the finish.

The shop owner gave me the name of a man in Salem who used to work for singer who is a good source for antique machine parts. The machine will need a new belt for both the motor and treadle as well as a rubber ring for the bobbin-winding mechanism but otherwise seems to be in good working order.  I can't wait to finish the cabinet and take her for a test sew!  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mouse in the House

Sometimes life has a way of delivering exactly what you need, even if you are a cat.

One morning this week when I came down to make coffee, I noticed all 3 of the kitties in the kitchen. Unusual, but I didn't think too much of it, making a beeline for the coffee maker. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Gomer  lurch awkwardly across the room. Oh no, I thought, is he having a seizure or something? Lo and behold, he was after a mouse, which he then paraded proudly around the room, carrying in his mouth. Oh lordy!

He carried it into the living room and put it down, presumably to further enjoy the chase. The mouse ran directly under the couch. It must have been quite a sight, the 3 felines and myself all peering under the couch from different angles.

Mr Mouse made a dash for it and within seconds Gomer had him in his mouth, doing the victory lap, only to set him down again.  More chasing ensued. You'd never have guessed Gomer was 16, the years fell away as he did what cats love to do best. Gracie and Millie seemed willing to take a back seat and let Gomer have his moment in the sun. They enjoyed the chase but deferred to him.

Finally I was able to corral the little creature in a plastic cup. He was definitely befuddled and terrified but I didn't see any wounds on him. I brought him outside where he took a second to get his bearings and then ran off under a pile of leaves. I hope he survived and wasn't any worse for the wear. And that he learned his lesson to stay out of our house!

For the rest of the day Gomer seemed to be on a kitty high, reliving his eventful morning. Maybe it's the medication, or the mouse encounter, or both; whatever it is his appetite is  better and he's definitely more active. Who knew a little thing like a mouse could be such good medicine for an old codger?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Merry Christmas to Me

Ever since I became aware of their existence I've always admired and had a secret longing for the Singer Featherweight. Years ago when I was taking a quilting class a fellow student had one and the teacher ooooh'd and aaaah'd over it.  The class immediately gathered around and was given a rundown as to why these machines are so coveted amongst quilters and machine enthusiasts.

They are small, weighing in at only 11 lbs and fit easily into a carrying case. Having been made before the age of "everything is plastic" they're all metal (except for the drive belt) and require very little maintenance. Because the machine is so simple, they are easy to repair; there were quite a few produced from the 30's to the 60's so parts are readily available. In addition to being sturdy little workhorses, they are very pretty, with their shiny black enamel surfaces and gold lettering and scrollwork. Their value is determined not by their ability to sew, but by the condition of the enamel and gold paint.

I happened to be browsing ebay when a Featherweight in what looked to be very good condition appeared, which was reasonably priced. Because these machines are highly desirable and collectible, they can be quite expensive. I closed my eyes and put in a bid once I realized that the location was a mere hour and a half from our house. I decided to leave it to the fates and not bid or check again until the next morning.

Lo and behold, I won the auction! Buyers remorse immediately set in and I was sure it would be in much worse condition than I expected or that there was some major mechanical problem with the machine. Expectations lowered, I arranged to pick it up over the weekend.

I was relieved and delighted to find that it was indeed in very good condition and after a bit of fiddling with the bobbin and upper thread  tensions it sews perfectly, like the day it was made. The motor truly purrs. The machine needed a bit of cleaning and there was some old tape residue on the platform, but once that was removed and a coat of wax applied, it  looks beautiful. There are a few scratches in the paint, as you'd expect from a 60+ year old machine that has been used, but the scrollwork and lettering are in great shape. The provided manual gives detailed instructions on oiling the moving parts and where to grease the gears. I love that it's possible to provide my own maintenance for the machine. If well taken care of, it should be running smoothly for another 60 years.

In order to take it for a test run, I finished sewing the Christmas gift for my mother-in-law on it. Amazing!  Does this mean I'm not going to use my gorgeous, computerized, state-of-the-art modern machine? Heck no! I love my Janome which still runs perfectly after  7 years. There are certain advantages to modern technology and I love working with it. Though it is portable, it's very heavy and not something I'd want to lug around, if not for the weight then out of fear that I'd upset some of the computerized parts with too much jostling.

I have no problem rationalizing this frivolous purchase. I didn't need another, since I have a terrific sewing machine that has never given me a day of trouble (along with 2 other antique Singers.....hmmmm, do I have a problem?)  I will eventually downsize and sell the other Singer machines, but for now I'm just so excited to have a little piece of coveted quilting history.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Unexpected Gift

I've been lucky enough to live with some of the best cats one could ever imagine. After adopting the first, Miss Kitty, who was only with us for 5 years due to a mysterious cardiac condition, we were blessed with Charlotte and Benji. Then along came Gomer- an "unplanned adoption" whom Wilson and I shamelessly guilted Joe into agreeing to. I can't speak for Joe but I know I've never regretted the manipulation, even for a moment.

Initially he was so sick from an upper respiratory infection (something not uncommon in shelter cats) in addition to his "man surgery" we were quite concerned. Several trips to the vet for exams and fluids along with the antibiotics finally paid off; after 10 days of sequestration Gomer was finally ready to come out and meet the rest of the family. Once he was up and about there was quite a bit of sniffing underneath the door by Benji and Charlotte so they had exchanged scented messages, but no face-to-face meetings because we didn't want to infect Charlotte and Benji with whatever illness Gomer had.

Introductions went very well and Gomer assimilated into the family without any trouble. True to his ginger color, he was affable and affectionate. He and Benji hit it off and enjoyed playing outside and snuggling together inside. After hearing many disaster stories of attempts to add a new cat to households over the years I'm amazed that he was accepted so well, but am grateful there wasn't even a hiss or a swat.

This all happened back in 1995, when Wilson was in kindergarten. Over the years  Gomer accompanied us on walks to school (along with Benji and sometimes Charlotte- all 3 of our  cats were very dog-like) and enjoyed playing in the yard but always came in at night to sleep with Wilson. He's had his mishaps over the years, including a nasty row with Whitey Bulger one summer (though Benji's left ear took the brunt of those battles) as well as a mysterious bite at the base of his tail, which we always suspected Benji of, but could never prove. Despite fiercely defending his territory he never was anything but sweet and loving to us.

Now he remains the last one of our Original Three, not surprising since he was the younger than Benji and Charlotte by a few years. He's 16 by the vet's estimation, no small feat for an in-and-outdoor cat. These days, he spends most of his time indoors curled up in his favorite bed. His once voracious appetite has dwindled to picking at his food and several trips to the vet over the past 6 months have showed continued weight loss. Sadly, the vet thinks he has lymphoma, which is causing the weight loss, since most other diagnoses have been ruled out. We won't definitively confirm the suspicion since we wouldn't opt for treatment at his age, which would consist of chemotherapy. The plan is to keep him as happy and comfortable as possible for his remaining time.

At his age, I suppose every day is a gift, but as his family we nevertheless delude ourselves into thinking he'll be with us always.  Now that we know for sure he won't be, and that his days are numbered, instead of dwelling on the fact that he is dying, I'm finding myself being more aware of his presence and enjoying the time we have with him. Each opportunity to curl up on the couch with him, scratch his chin or give him a gentle brushing is savored.  He's adjusted to (though doesn't enjoy) the twice a day Prednisolone pills because he knows a tasty meal will follow. The drug has seemed to stimulate his appetite and he's eating better. I confess to letting him have his fill of chicken every time I cook it.

I do feel very sad at the thought of losing our long-time family member, but surprisingly it has also given me the gift of appreciating the time at hand even more. I'm thankful we've had Gomer in our family to enrich our lives in more ways than it's possible to count, and for his important reminder in his last days to remain present in the moment and not to dwell on what is in the future. Thank you, Biggin.