Sew Organized!

We are continuing to settle into our new home–and getting ourselves organized.

I started with my sewing area in the basement. I bought an Ikea Kallax 8-bin unit to define my space and set up a boundary with the kids’ play area. Bins organized toys and fabric and an attached table made a nice home for my new sewing machine. I returned to Ikea for another table for my serger and a cutting board, and an even bigger–16 bin–unit to store my fabric. A re-covered design board, a new ironing board cover, and a table skirt to hide more bins of stuff, completed my sewing room by mid-July.


With Lizi moving back home, I organized the closet in her room to compactly hold–and organiez–her clothes and my (non-sewing) hobbies.


I needed to cram a lot of books and files into a small space. Back to Ikea (several times) to pick up pieces of the Algot system and figure out how to use the space well. I finished our new, organized closet by the end of August.






Last, but certainly not least, we were able to get our garage organized by the end of September. Another Kallax system and more bins, a massive workbench and pegboard, and numerous shelves. Our bikes are stored up high on pulleys for easy access and sports bins hold the balls, discs, and skates. A rail system holds gardening tools, etc. Plus we either stored (garage attic) or threw out the rest of our junk.

Best of all, we are able to park two cars in the garage for the first time since we left our Bellwood home in 1980! We are so excited to be able to pull in and out of the garage,
away from the elements. And yes, I have ball hanging from a rope to guide me into my space 🙂


One more thing: My threads for weaving are finally “organized” after what seems like months of stops and starts. Before we left Elmhurst I laid out 400+ threads on the warping board and tied them neatly. In August, I managed to get all the threads onto the loom, but didn’t finish dressing it until this week. For me, that means going over and over it to get it right: the pattern, the threading of the heddles, the sleying of the reed and then, the tension. I love how it looks when it is all done, though I have to say the process of getting to this point is more than tedious. Now I’m ready for the fun of weaving 🙂







Really, sew organized!


New House/ Blank Canvas

We bought a house in the burbs!

After our lost bid, John spent the next day (while I worked) researching and looking at houses. He found a ranch that he said was “nice, but no glamour–functional, light.” It’s selling point was that the basement was entirely finished and very light and sunny.

We looked at it again the next day and also looked at another that had a lot more glamour but a completely unfinished basement. It also smelled like a smoker lived there.

We ended up going back and forth between the two, choosing the finished basement, clean home (the previous owner’s wife had problems with allergies so it was the polar opposite in air quality) and ranch style, which seemed wise for a couple in their mid-60s.

It’s a little boring, but I’m looking at it as a blank canvas. There is very little work that needs to be done, so we can concentrate on making it our own in other ways.

It is also relatively new–only 11 years old with one owner. This will be a new experience for us as we have always lived in old houses (with the exception of the duplex in Alaska.) It has a brand new furnace and air conditioner and a clean 2-car garage. The main floor walls are all white and the “lower level” is a pleasant yellow. (My friend said it shouldn’t be called a basement.) The deck is functional but uninteresting and the yard is mostly undeveloped, but sunny.

The kitchen/dining room is large and open, a huge contrast to the claustrophobic kitchens I’ve had in the last two houses. I haven’t measured yet, but I think there must be  a good 16-18 feet of countertop compared to what I have now and lots of drawers and cabinets. It will be our first house without a separate dining room, which I think will be a nice change. It also has a small island with a “breakfast bar.” The entire room, including the dining area, is 16’x20′.

This morning I cooked up a Tartan Room, an Alaskan Room, and a sewing area in the bright corner of the basement. There’s even room for a longarm 🙂

This is going to be fun.

(If you are the nosy type, you can look it up on Zillow: 2225 Roaring Creek Dr., Aurora.)

P.S. Today is our 40th anniversary! The proscribed gift for 40 is a ruby, but I think this is better.


I finished my towels–and finished getting the house ready for market!

The final step in weaving is finishing–usually by washing–which changes the threads into whole cloth. One writer calls it “wet finishing”, stating that may involve more than simple washing. She lists scouring, agitation and compression as key finishing factors.

Although I simply washed and folded my towels, the words “scouring, agitation, and compression” are a much better fit for the metaphor of getting the house ready. I’ve never been so tired in my life!

First of all, shortly after posting my last blog “Loose Ends” I realised I was using a sugar-coated euphemism, like none other. “Tying up loose ends” doesn’t begin to describe the work that we did these last two weeks. For example, here is John tying up a loose end:

Besides this, he spent a cold day under our back porch bringing the electric connection for the hot tub and pool up to code by burying the cables and connecting pipe to the box. He also had to remove the blocks from the hot tub. The realtor was impressed with his design, but didn’t want buyers to think that “the whole place has been jerry-rigged.” (Haha–it has!)

I cleaned and cleaned, and cleaned more. (And the more I cleaned the more I found that needed more cleaning. To be on the safe side, I left $$ to pay a cleaning lady to come in and make it shine.)

On Monday morning, I locked the door and left it all behind, driving eight hours to Stormy Lake (with a few stops at quilt and fiber stores) to join John, John2 and Lizi. Even Luna is on vacation, staying with our friends the Homiaks. We are planning to rest–and pray–while Tim Schiller does his part back in Elmhurst. We can’t even think about what’s next.

We’re finished!

Loose Ends

Earlier this week I took six yards of towels off of my loom. I spent the rest of the week with a needle, weaving what felt like a million loose ends into the weft.

Yesterday I used my serger (yeah!) to cut the towels apart and finish the edges. Today, I will hem them with my regular sewing machine.


We have also been tying up a lot of loose ends at home, in the final stages of getting the house ready for market. Picture day is Tuesday. Next Sunday, we leave town for 8-10 days while our realtor puts it on the market. Open House is planned for March 5th.

This. Is. Really. Happening.

We bought our last house from friends and sold it to friends, so we’ve never been through this process. We’re a little nervous.

We hope it sells quickly so we don’t have to live on edge for very long. Maintaining a show-ready house seems like a daunting task to us.

We also are anxious to figure out the next step in our life. We know we want to rent and we want to be closer to our grandkids in Aurora. We’d also like more freedom to spend time with our Kiwi granddaughter. We have a lot of variables to fit into the equation, so for now we are simply taking the next step, which is to get the house on the market.

Lots of loose ends.


We are in the home stretch (we hope) in getting our house ready for market. It has been a long, tedious process, one that feels like it will never end.

Fortunately, I have plenty of distractions to help maintain my sanity and joy.

This week I moved my loom upstairs to my “project room.” I cleared out a lot of stuff that was cluttering up the room: journals, scrapbooks, bins of organized family pictures and old letters, and more bins of neatly folded fabric. My u-shaped room now has a weaving area, a sewing area and a desk for my genealogy.




Weaving. I bought a warping board on my birthday (early October) and started the process of dressing my loom to make sampler tea towels. I was aiming for a 9-yard warp of 300 strands of 8/2 cotton. I thought I’d complete my project before Thanksgiving but it took all those weeks just to get the loom dressed (i.e. ready to weave.)

Once completed, however, it has been such a pleasure to weave! In the midst of life, it’s so sweet to sit down for 20 minutes here and there and weave for awhile. I love the rhythm of it as well as the challenge of catching mistakes and fixing problems. Love learning new skills.

Genealogy. I bought myself a DNA kit in December and sent it off for analysis. The results were no surprise: I am 49% Scandinavian, 30% split between the UK and Ireland, and another 11% Western European. I suppose the biggest surprise was that Western European piece. My maternal grandparents were both very Swedish; my paternal grandparents both very Scottish, though a few generations back one of the families lived in Ireland. I don’t know any ancestors that lived in Western Europe, but I suppose my genes could have traces from people that migrated north before records were preserved.

Through the process, I met an Irish 6th cousin who lives 15 miles down the road from the little town of Donaghadee, County Down, where our mutual great-great-great-grandfather was born in 1787. I spent a week or so studying his descendant tree to learn all I could about the family. About half of them emigrated to Australia and another third of them ended up in either Canada or America. Very few of them remained in the Scotland or Ireland.

Through this cousin I also found transcripts of 48 letters written by my grandmother’s bachelor uncle to a niece back in Scotland from 1905 to 1942. Uncle Andrew emigrated to America in 1905, spending a year on the east coast in shipbuilding. His name and address in Quincy, MA are listed on my grandmother’s passenger records as her sponsoring relative. However, both she and her uncle came to Chicago where they joined another uncle and his family.

Writing home, Andrew reports that “we have Jenny Bitcon here with her companion Mary Turner. We have christened Jenny “Clipper.” She has a tongue that would clip clouts.” He also mentions that “Jenny and Mary got situations both in the same house.” In 1911, he reports that “Jenny will be married soon,” commenting, “that will be all married now. My, what a great relief for the mother.”

These kind of distractions make me happy 🙂

P.S. I googled “a tongue that would clip clouts” and found this in a Dictionary of the Scots Language: a tongue that wad (cud) clip cloots (clouts), a sharp tongue; Gen.Sc.; (4) clip-clouts, a sharp-tongued person; (5) to clip cloots wi’, to quarrel with, find fault with (someone). 

Bingo Arms

IMG_1740My loom is a bit unusual. Generally, looms are either table looms or floor looms. Floor looms are more solid and bulky and usually have treadles that raise and lower the shafts. Table looms are lighter and have levers that raise the shafts. Mine is a table loom on a stand, lightweight, somewhat wobbly, with large levers on the sides that raise the shafts.


IMG_1783I finished the rag projects, experimenting with different widths of jean material and quilt fabric. I wasn’t sure I liked the end result, though I think someday I may want to try another. In the meantime, I wanted to get back to weaving something more cloth-like.

I attended a weaving conference in Milwaukee, mainly to see the exhibits and the marketplace. I bought a couple cones of Swedish thread (in blue & yellow) but realized after I got home that it was probably too fine for a beginner project. I bought a couple of magazines and tried to find a good next project. I finally settled on a sampler and found thread that was a bit more sturdy.

At the conference I also met a Kiwi representative from Ashford, the company that made of my loom. He thought I got a very good deal and hoped that I would visit the company (South Island) on my next trip. He also told me that my loom was “very old…from the 80s!” I told him something from the 80s was NOT old!

My loom is a four-shaft loom and apparently there are 62 different combinations of treadling patterns which create a wide variety of patterns in the cloth. I’m already up to #19 and enjoying the process of seeing patterns develop.

IMG_1768I’m also hoping that the repeated action of changing the large side levers (which looks like this) will do give my bingo arms a workout. It certainly feels like it.



P.S. One more adventure: Last weekend I was in the Detroit area for my high school class reunion. I followed my GPS down a long country road and up a long driveway to two long low buildings. I waved to a friendly farmer on the way, but otherwise found it a little unnerving. I hesitated before I rang the bell and once again before entering the building. (I could see familiar weaving equipment through the window.) A middle-aged woman led me inside to the one lighted spot where she and an old man were sitting at a table. I told them what I was looking for and he showed me a large side room full of colorful cones of thread–at least a thousand of them–mostly from UKI Supreme, which is what I hoped to find. We slowly picked out the colors I needed for my next project. He pushed a walker with a seat (and a cardboard box on the seat) to hold my cones. He moved slowly, eventually weighing the fibers and calculating the cost. Mid-point, I learned that he only took cash or check, but I had almost the exact change in my pocket so I was able to complete the transaction and get on my way. As I pulled out, I regretted that I hadn’t taken any pictures, but here is one of all my new cones of color and a peak at my sampler:



I finally got my loom “dressed” and started weaving.

Dressing a loom takes several hours and is a bit tedious. All the warp yarns have to be threaded through the reed and through the heddles, untangled, and then tied to both the back and front beams.

In this case, I threaded 142 ecru-colored cotton threads onto the loom. It took me a few tries before I got it close to correct. I had a few twisted threads and at least two places where I double threaded the reed. In the end, I decided to accept the imperfections and get started anyways.

IMG_1634My weft (the cross “threads”) were made from cut up jeans. I never found my box of jeans that I saved years ago so I settled for a trip to Goodwill, where I bought someone else’s old jeans. I would have liked to weave from old jeans once worn by my family, but settled for soft, worn jeans that had belonged to someone else.

I used my rotary cutter to slice the jeans into strips anywhere from 1/8 to 1/2 inches wide, as long as possible. These I stitched into longer strips on my sewing machine, and then wound them on to long thin shuttles, sticks with slots cut into the ends.

I am not sure if I really like making rag “rugs” (or more likely, placemats or a table runner.) I do like the speed of weaving with rags and I like the long thin shuttles. I’m just not sure if I like the finished product.


But I’m kind of hooked on weaving. Tomorrow I am going to visit a weaving conference in nearby Milwaukee, mostly to 1) see a wide variety of weaving styles and 2) decide on my next project, and 3) shop for supplies. Weaving stores mostly seem to be online so this will give me a chance to see (and feel) a variety of yarns all in one place.

There’s something soothing about weaving. I think it is kind of like making bread at home. Banging the beater bar is a bit like kneading dough, a little chance to bang or punch out stress. It’s relatively slow, rhythmic, and rooted in history.




Confession: I bought a loom while I was in New Zealand. It might be proof that I am certifiably a little crazy. Loomy.

IMG_1197About mid-point through my stay in New Zealand, I looked up looms on Trade Me (their Craigslist.) There was a kilt-width table loom w/stand up for bidding about an hour drive from home. I didn’t bid, but sent messages to the owner asking about the loom, make and model–and could I see it?


No one ever bid on it, so I took a drive one afternoon and bought it on the spot for $60NZ ($42.76 US.) We dismantled the major parts and put in in the trunk. I brought it back home but left it (hiding) in the trunk until the next day.

IIMG_1502t had been in storage for at least five years and was pretty dirty, so I spent the next afternoon cleaning it as best I could. I put it together and left it on the front porch, eventually moving it inside before we left for the weekend.
I searched the Internet and found directions for assembling it and replacement parts. I dismantled the whole thing, carefully labeling parts and screws, and John packaged the whole thing in box that could be taken home as baggage.

I set it aside once I got home to tackle the tasks of settling back in at home and waging war in my gardens, but once I finished those, I unpacked it and began the tedious process of putting it back together. Eventually I made a trip to The Fold, a weaving, spinning, and knitting shop that I’d visited years ago. I bought a new reed, a shuttle, some yarn and a few other small things (more than my initial investment, of course.)

But once home I realized that I hadn’t bought the right size Texsolv heddles, so I called my new weaving friend and visited her. She didn’t have the right size either, but gave me 500 Texsolv heddles that could be tied–one by one–to fit my loom. I spent a few days figuring out how to I could make these fit my loom, eventually using a board and finish nails for my project. While in Detroit, Angelo–an inventor–improved upon my design.







A car ride and a couple of sick days gave me time to tie all the knots and put 400 heddles in place, 100 on each of four shafts. By the time I got to the last 100 ties, I was getting pretty organized and efficient. (Picture below, left.) Maybe a little over-the-top? Hey, I saved about $100 by using these freebies.




This is what the heddles look like in place. If you notice an “eye” in the center, that is where I thread the warp threads. When the shafts are raised or lowered sheds are formed for the weft to pass through.

My first project is going to be a series of rag rugs, actually placemat sized. All I have to do is string up yards and yards of rug warp yarn and then use cut cloth, recycled, for the weft. Somewhere I have a bag of old jeans that I saved years ago for this project. If that can’t be found, I’m sure there is plenty in my stash.

Yep, a little loomy.

Here is the re-assembled loom, ready for its first project.