Thursday, October 13, 2016

One Thing Leads to Another

A few months ago I went to a humungous church rummagesale, where back in one corner I found the only real bargain in the place. (This was the sale charging four bucks for tatty used t-shirts.)

A whole box of this great sewing magazine for three bucks. Which I am still making my way through. (I like to savor each issue.) In issue number 39 (February/March 1992)

I found reviews for two new “top-of-the-line” sewing-and-embroidery machines, and one of them sounded terrific. The Singer Quantum XL-1, which they declared “is indeed a quantum leap beyond any of Singer’s previous machines.” The list price in 1992 for this first of the Quantum line was – are you ready? - $2499. That’s the equivalent of almost $4300 in today’s dollars! Wow, I thought, maybe I can find one of these puppies at an estate sale or something to augment the capabilities of my much-loved Singer 201. So I’ve been looking.

I'm not sure how long they made the XL-1 before it became the 1000, and beyond. The current version appears to be the XL-6000. I kept an eye on eBay, where recently an XL-1000 went for $1200! A bit discouraging for someone who begins to flinch at anything that costs more than a fiver. But I kept looking, and saved a search on Craigslist. Meanwhile I kept picking up great pieces of cotton fabric to play with.

Last Sunday my Craigslist search paid off. An XL-1000 up in Portland for $100. How fast do you think I replied to that ad? The answer: faster than anyone else! I hopped in the car and drove up Interstate 5 in the pouring rain. Which is when I realized the fan in my car was kaput and the only way to keep the windows from completely steaming up was to leave the windows open. Brrrrr!

I got lost, even with my GPS, Gretel Pemberton Smith, telling me where to go. She was unaware of all the road work happening everywhere. Or at least everywhere I wanted to go. We persevered, found the address, where we met two lovely young women named Heather. Yes, both of them. One of them inherited the sewing machine from her grandmother ten years ago and hasn’t been using it. Her grandmother sounded interesting. They told me granny’s name was Florence, which she didn’t like, so she renamed herself Greer and went by that the rest of her life.

We plugged in the machine and turned it on. A touch screen lit up. I sewed a few inches. She purred. Done deal. One of the Heathers even toted her down to my car and heaved her into the trunk. This is one solid sewing machine – weighs at least as much as the 201 and she’s made of solid iron. My $100 also got me a fabulous rolling case (which alone would cost $100 or more retail), a bunch of presser feet, a cool pair of thread clippers on a retractable clip, and three boxes of Gutermann thread.

Getting home from Portland proved even more challenging. Neither Gretel Pemberton Smith nor I knew it was the day of the Portland Marathon and we landed smack dab in the middle of the route, trying every way we could to get around the blocked off streets and back to the freeway.

The learning curve on this baby will take some time, but I have completed one small project. I've been wanting some kind of small trash receptacle to keep on my desk and decided to make one of fabric. Found a pattern on Pinterest, picked out two pieces from my stash, and off we went. And oh, my, can this baby sew! Look, she'll even make a wavy topstitch with the touch of one button!

And the icing on the cake? She threads the needle all by herself!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Our Friend Craig

I have a soft spot for Craigslist.

I know there are folks who never use it, believing it's full of scams and danger. And maybe it is. You have to be careful with anything.  But we’ve bought and sold things via Craigslist for years without encountering anything worse than idiots who say they are going to come see something you have for sale and then not showing up.

My favorite of these was the woman who made a specific appointment, didn’t show, and when I emailed to make sure she had not been run over by a truck, she said she forgot. So then I wanted her to be run over by a truck. (I'm not really a very nice person.) But only a small truck.

Craigslist is of course my weekly source for yard sale ads. In southern California I didn’t need to pay much attention to ads. The place is so densely populated and there were so many sales I could just go out and cruise, looking for signs. Not so here in Oregon, so Craigslist tells me where the sales are, I put the addresses in my GPS, and off we go. No wasted gas, no wasted time—which is the really important part, since you want to get to sales as quickly as you can before someone else runs off with the bargains that should have been yours.

We have found some good stuff the past couple of Fridays. I didn’t bother to take pictures of the practical stuff—a citrus zester, four Dansk linen placemats, a box of kosher salt—and while I'm excited about the top quality wood and canvas market umbrella, it’s out on the lower deck and it's raining, so you’ll just have to imagine it. Then imagine it with a $15 price tag. And it wasn’t even much hassle to get home. The house up the street that’s been on the market had an estate sale this weekend, and we just carried the umbrella and the quite heavy stand home. Half a block, downhill, made it. Whew!

This is probably the most ridiculous thing I bought. It was fifty cents, it's vintage.

It's in two pieces, and covers a booze bottle. I hope to resell it to some poodle collector. (They will have to supply their own booze, I'm keeping my triple sec.) How much do you want to bet it was a hostess gift at a bridge club fifty years ago?

I adore this Steinbach music box, even though it doesn’t seem to play its tune any more. 

Woodcutter elves! Playing a zither and doing that foot-slapping dance! Who cares if it plays? (Though if anyone could tell me how to fix it, I’d be happy to try.)

Probably my favorite driveway find from last week was this great rusted metal piece. 

It's a wind chime, but designed in a way that it doesn’t ring very loudly.

And it's all thanks to Craigslist. But that’s not the main reason I'm currently filled with Craigslist appreciation. This is.

Yes, we have a new family member, and found her on Craigslist! We adopted her from a busy family with working parents who found they had underestimated the amount of work she would be. She’s been spending long days in a crate with a short break for lunch and potty, and while I know they miss her, I also know we can give her a lot more attention and exercise. At the moment she and Zoë are asleep beside my chair, having been to the dog park for an hour this morning, followed by several romps out in the yard.

Looks like we’re going to change her name from Lucy to Fannie (for my husband’s Great Aunt Fannie). Fannie Lucille, to honor her first family. She is a basset/black lab mix, five months old. Zoë is a bit disconcerted but coping. We were more concerned about Millie since she’s still pretty small, and I have to admit the dogs have been chasing her. But don’t start feeling sorry for Millie. She can elude those galumphing dogs at will, and when they can’t keep up with her she circles back around to give them another chance. With, I regret to inform you, a very smug expression on her little kitty face.

Part of me is sorry we didn’t get to experience Fannie at this age.

On the other hand, she’s now crate trained, housebreaking is well started, and she’s pretty well socialized with kids and crowds (they were taking her to their son’s football games). 

But there’s another reason that as soon as I saw her picture I was sure she should be ours. If you’ve read any of my mystery series set in mythical Willow Falls (Sleeping Dogs Lie; In Dogs We Trust; The Dog Prince…and a fourth title coming out soon!) you’ll remember that one of the characters is Jack, a black lab/basset mix. Who I created in honor of a stray dog I met years ago and was not able to rescue, and I've regretted it ever since. And now, along comes Fannie.

Sometimes we do get second chances.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Both Sides of the Hill

“So did you girls bring a pickup?” inquired a gray haired gentleman as we walked up to the first sale last Friday. He had a definite twinkle in his eye. “Because we need to load it up for you. There’s even free stuff.” He pointed to their free box. We demurred on the pickup but dove into the free box (never pass up the free box; usually it's pitiful junk but not always!).

I pulled out a large spoon-shaped object that had been made from a gourd. Judy & KK and I looked at it and all said, “SUCK-ulents!”

See, two or three years ago, Judy and I went to a Ladies Night event at a large local nursery. There were refreshments and a little fashion show and demonstrations of how to create your fall décor (with items you could purchase right there at the nursery, because of course the point was for you to shop, shop, shop). We sat through a couple of the demos, hoping for inspiration, but were not terribly impressed by the originality of hay bales, corn stalks and pumpkins on the front porch. The next lady had all kinds of junk and proceeded to show us how to plant succulents in various objects. You’ve seen them – a shoe or boot, an old hat, a rusty trowel, anything that can hold a bit of dirt. If you want to dally in front of your computer, go to Pinterest and do a subject search for something like ‘creative succulent planter.’ But the thing that had us holding in our laughter was the way the demonstrator said succulents. Heavy emphasis on the first syllable every time: SUCK-ulents. For some reason we thought this was hilarious. Naturally we shared it with KK, so now all three of us go around saying SUCK-ulents any chance we get.

Okay, so we are easily amused. And now I had a gourd spoon, and yes, I have planted it with SUCK-ulents.

It was a fun sale. I spent a whopping fifty cents for a decanter that KK spotted and handed to me. Turns out it's by Dansk.

Looks great with the other decanters.

The real draw was not just the barn full of stuff to look through, but the couple having the sale. As we looked and chatted their story emerged. The property is where the wife grew up; her parents owned that side of the hill, and his parents owned the other side of the hill. They raised cattle for a while back in the Sixties, but Christmas trees had been their business for many years. They were selling boxes of gigantic pine cones and stacks of curious wire forms in several sizes, which turned out to be wreath forms. The wife picked one up to show us how they had constructed wreaths from fresh greenery and pine cones, using some kind of machine that pinched shut the prongs on the metal form when you pressed a lever with your foot.

“My parents used to come over in the evenings and we would all make wreaths,” the husband reminisced. “It was a lot of work, but we just had the best time.”

They were so much fun to talk to that we hated to leave, but finally forced ourselves back to the car to go to the other half dozen sales we had planned. A couple of these turned out to be nonexistent (do you suppose there are people who put ads in Craigslist for a joke?). All of the others had chicken objects for sale.

You know how there’s usually one motif that runs through a day of garaging? It can be anything – baby gates, martini glasses – and today it was chickens. I even bought one.

Isn’t she cute? She was fifty cents, and her plump form reminded me of my pottery duck. They are hanging out together on the deck.

Another sale provided a DVD I was thinking I needed only the other day.

I love it when that happens. Another sale provided fifty cents worth of vintage magazines.

Eye candy galore.

I always love the way they pose the men. The manly men.

Our last stop was at an adorable little cottage in a neighborhood near downtown. I spotted some vintage linens to drool over, and picked up a large lace tablecloth to show KK. “This could be upcycled into a really cool top,” I said.

The cheerful red-haired lady presiding over the sale noticed what I was holding and came to tell us its story. “That was made by a lady I knew back in Wisconsin.” We looked at the piece more closely and I realized that it was indeed handmade, in a technique called Mondano netting. Wish I had taken a picture for you, but it was something like this.

“We were good friends, even though she was much older. She wanted me to marry her son,” the lady went on. Her own son, the owner of the adorable cottage, was amazed. “You never told me that,” he said. She looked demure. I bet she has a few more secrets he doesn’t know. “Her grandson did marry my cousin though.” We moved on to another lace tablecloth. This one looked to be machine made lace, and had a few tears. We got to talking about mending, and I told her how I would repair some of the damage. Just as at the first sale, I was enjoying myself so much I could have stayed all day, and when she mentioned that she lives in an old Craftsman house in the country up near Gervais, it was all I could do not to invite myself over!

Let me close with a couple of completely gratuitous kitten pictures. Our Millie has been growing. (She is draped across my arm as I am trying to type this.) Here she is with the Velveteen Rabbit back in July when we brought her home.

Here she is with VR this week.

And when she is not tipping over houseplants or scaling the fireplace, she is still pretty darned perfect!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Happy Returns

My friend KK and I had breakfast the other morning at a local coffee shop, and during our conversation she mentioned that she had meant to go back to the estate sale we’d attended the previous Friday. “I was hoping there might still be some paints available, but I never got over there.” KK is a painter, paints are spendy. We always have our eyes peeled for art supplies.

Since it was a holiday weekend I had little hope for a decent number of sales, but the first one that popped up on Craigslist was the artist’s estate sale! It seems that the previous week the family had turned everything over to an estate sale company to handle, but there was so much left that the middle-aged brothers and sister decided they would handle another sale themselves. The house is on the market, their mother has moved to assisted living, and everything that was left in the house and studio needed to go.

When we arrived, KK headed straight to the studio at the back of the property, and I went in the house to see if anything was left. A nice man held the front door open for me to enter. Then I had to go back out again to read the hand-lettered sign on the door! Five bucks to fill a big paper bag, or two bucks for a plastic grocery sack. I overheard enough conversation among the sellers to know that if anyone showed the slightest interest in anything they were going to make sure it went home with them.

Of course a lot of stuff had already gone, but the back bedroom was still piled with a variety of linens. The estate sale company had tied things into bundles, which is not always a good strategy. I was happy with the bundle I bought last week (the kitty embroideries & the days-of-the-week towels) but there were matched pairs of items in separate bundles. I don’t know if it was carelessness or they figured they could get people to buy two bundles to complete a pair. As if.

I figured by now the bundles didn’t matter; clearly the family wanted stuff gone. So I pulled the two adorable poodle pillowcases from their bundles.

Last week KK bought a bundle with a plaid tablecloth, this week I found eight matching napkins in two other bundles.

This appliqued linen case is beautifully made, 

and has a felt insert inside. I wish I knew what it had been made to hold.

I might use it for a pocket on some upcycled piece of clothing.

In one corner of the room was a jumble of old sheets, a bedspread, and a plaid coverlet of some kind. I pulled out the coverlet, and my hands instantly proclaimed, “This is wool—nice wool!” I checked it over, and found this in one corner.

A Pendleton throw, in perfect condition!

By now it was clear I had at least a bag’s worth, so I went to the living room and got one of the two-dollar bags. Yes indeedy I can stuff a Pendleton throw into a plastic grocery bag! The only other thing I wanted in the house was another adorable vintage piece, this clothespin bag.

It was in a closet with a few aprons; into my bag it went. 

Happy with my finds, I went out to the studio, where KK had scored an oblong wooden box and filled it with tubes of paint. She said that all the oil paints (which she doesn’t use) had been cleared out, leaving the acrylics (which she does use) for her. I told her about the two dollar bags, so she went off to get one and check out the house. But when we were finished I realized we could get everything in one bag.

Okay, it was one really full bag, and I felt a little guilty. So when I went to pay I said, “We really stuffed this thing, so if—” The lady didn’t even let me finish the sentence. “That is FINE,” she smiled. I handed over two ones.

It's a wonderful thing when two bucks can make both parties happy!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Summer Roads

I had to go down to the Corvallis area to pick up some plants at a nursery on Thursday. When I saw an ad on Craigslist for an “enormous estate sale” in nearby Albany I figured I might as well go there too. Of course I left the house a bit later than I'd planned and fretted that there would be a zillion people ahead of me for the sale. Fortunately I didn’t fret much, because when I got there (a senior condo community) there were only about six people waiting to go in. 

It was one of those friendly crowds with everyone chatting as we waited. I met two lovely women and we ended up swapping pet stories. One had lost her dog about the same time we lost Edward, and misses hers like I miss him. The other rescues Arabian horses and showed me pictures of the one who seems to think he’s a giraffe, stretching his neck out longer than you’d think would be possible for a horse.

She also tells a story about a dog that arrived at her house one day carrying a sandwich in his mouth. Isn’t that a great image?

Most of the sale was simply not my taste. But I had barely gotten in the door when I saw this cute vintage lamp. 

Looks like a cross between Bambi and Rudolph (covering all their marketing bases I guess). Hmmm, that would work in the children’s literature-themed guest room.


I picked it up to check the price. I liked the price.

It was at least 20 minutes later before I noticed the tail is missing, and by then we had bonded. (Even without a tail you can still have a tale and that’s good enough for me.)

Another room held hundreds of pieces of nice quality clothing. I went for this ankle-length linen dress to upcycle

because it came with a matching ankle-length skirt that I can use to embiggen the dress. I'm not sure why anyone would buy both pieces, but it works out for me.

I thought I was finished and headed out to pay—and found yarn in the garage. Picked up some Irish wool for a buck a skein 

and a little booklet that will be a gift. 

I’m sure the person it's for will guess she’s the recipient, especially when I point out that the pictures place its publication around the first time she taught herself to knit!

From the estate sale I drove to the nursery, then headed home. I decided not to go back to the freeway and headed north on the back roads I've used before.

Detour, said a sign, so I detoured. Drove several miles, then came to another detour. (I think they’re doing work on some railroad crossings in the area.) I detoured again. The back roads became really back roads (still good paved roads, but I had no idea where I was). 

My GPS said turn here, then turn there, so I did—and realized she was guiding me to the ferry over the Willamette River. Trouble was, the river is low this time of year and the ferry is closed. I turned into someone’s driveway and found the setting in the GPS to ‘avoid ferries’. She recalculated another route. Whew! Took a while to get home, but it was a beautiful drive.

I don’t get lost. I just take the scenic route!

Friday morning KK and I headed out early for another estate sale, one that promised art supplies. Again there were only a few people in line ahead of us. But one of them happened to be a large, rather nasty man who actually started a fight with another guy at KK’s own garage sale a while back. She thought she might have to call the cops that time. I got annoyed at him once we were inside this sale because even though the place was not crowded, he bumped me aside a couple of times lest I get to something before he could. Sheesh. 

But don’t worry, I'll get my revenge: I'll use him as a character in one of my books and give him an unpleasant fate. Ha, take that!

KK did score some art supplies and an original oil painting, and I picked up a bundle of vintage dish cloths. There are two kitty embroideries, 

two days-of-the-week, 

and this curiosity. 

I was semi-astounded when I undid the bundle, because my last house was in Santa Ana and I'd never heard of this air base. Turns out it existed from about 1941 to 1946, and the land now includes John Wayne Airport and the county fairgrounds. So this is a pretty old towel.

They are all in an oxy soak now!

We went to a few more sales but nothing was tempting enough to buy. (KK found the bracelet of golden bees for fifty cents before I saw it!) We paused to admire a wonderful picket fence, 

and had a good laugh over the straightforward name of this product.

When we finished, there were no detours to keep us from our favorite Thai restaurant for lunch!
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