Girls night IN.

Just because we’re not 10 years old anymore doesn’t mean we can’t have slumber parties!

Last night I joined several friends for an evening of wine, games, talking and laughing.  We wrapped it up with a good old sleepover.   We missed some of our BFFs who couldn’t make it, but had a very fun time.

One of the games we played was Apples-to-Apples, the G-rated and tame precursor to the naughty game Cards Against Humanity Fun.  It’s a great staple game to have in the hall closet, always good for a laugh no matter the age of the players.  At the end of the game, for another laugh, you can read the adjective cards you’ve won to see if they describe you or not.  Seven out of eight aint bad….   🙂

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Canvaswork bits & bobs.

I have been entertaining / vexing myself for the last week or two with a further foray into learning to sew boat-canvas projects.  This time, it was two projects for Lori and Trident; a propane canister bag in her Sunbrella color (forest green), and a lee-cloth made out of Phifertex, bordered with Sunbrella.  A lee-cloth is a sheet of fabric attached to the open side of a settee in the salon of a sailboat; the purpose of which is to keep a sleeping sailor in her berth, as opposed to flying across the salon during a rough passage.

We could have used one on the crossing from Florida to Texas back in February.  On that trip, Joe was thrown from the settee while asleep during his off-watch time and hit his face on the other side of the salon.   I’ve never seen nor used one, but Lori and I did a bit of prototyping last time I was down in Kemah and I came home with a sort of pattern.  Her settee is about 6 1/2 feet long by 20+ inches deep.  We agreed that a 4′ x 4′ finished dimension would work, with a field of Phifertex, bordered by about 3 1/2″ of Sunbrella on front and back.  Lori also asked for a run of Sunbrella up the middle, to give it a bit more structure when strung up, and a pocket for phone, glasses, headlamp, etc.   It will be anchored on the boards below the settee cushions and secured fore and aft above the cushions, by smallstuff tied to grommets.   Lori picked Phifertex because it is an open mesh vinyl fabric, to allow for airflow.  I found it to be a great fabric to work with.   I’ll be ordering some for my next project – new halyard bags for Nirvana.  Stay tuned.

And…. Voila! <<use your imagination to envision this lee-cloth being displayed against the settee of a sailboat, and not the couch in my living room>>  The pocket ended up a bit wonky, as I was running out of material, but it’ll work.

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If you’re not into sewing or canvaswork, you may want to stop reading now.  Because I will document here some of the things I learned working with Sunbrella using my valiant, but limited, Kenmore model 385 sewing machine – for no reason other than I would have loved to have known some of this ahead of time, as opposed to learning by trial and error.

  • A walking-foot sewing machine (which mine is not) is really the right tool for the job.  As it consistently pulls the fabric from above and below at the same time.  My home sewing machine only has traditional feed dogs below.  As a result, the stitches are rarely consistently spaced, due to variations in how fast/smoothly the fabric feeds under the needle.  An industrial sewing machine is designed to handle the fabric thickenesses I’ve been doing and much more, with much more ease and less pain and suffering (and swearing) and re-doing on the part of the operator.
  • Longer stitch lengths are desirable.  The max stitch length setting on my machine is 4… not sure exactly what that translates to, maybe 4 mm stitch length (?).  But whatever it is, it is not big enough.
  • My Kenmore, surprisingly, has handled everything I’ve thrown at it so far, the max of which was about 6 layers of Sunbrella and 1-2 layers of Phifertex.  Not bad.  I’m using a 110/18 needle with V-92 bonded polyester thread.  If you want beautiful and consistent topstiching, however, you’ll need to spring for a Sailrite or similar walking foot, industrial machine.
  • Pinning through several layers of Sunbrella requires fingertips of steel.  After watching a number of videos, I learned that the pros rarely use pins.  They use double-sided basting tape to hold surfaces of fabric together until they are stitched.   What a great thing!
  • My sewing machine is not rigged to use the ginormous spools of thread canvas work requires, they are too big to sit on the tiny pin on top of the machine for a normal spool of thread.  In addition, the thread has a habit of falling around the bottom of the spool, aka “pooling,” which can mess with your thread tension.  Instead, they need to sit at table level (or lower) and feed up above and then down to the machine.  I don’t know what this doohickey is called, but I’ve seen them on industrial machines, and made one of my own out of a wire clothes hanger, cutting and bending it to do my will.
  • Speaking of tension, whatever the max tension on my machine is, it was not enough for some stitching tasks.  I had to literally pinch the top thread in my right hand to add additional tension so that stitches didn’t loop on top of the fabric for one or two parts of my projects.  I found this to be the case, in particular, when topstitching the webbing that I used on top of the Sunbrella for the propane bag projects.  It didn’t happen when stitching just Sunbrella and/or Phifertex, thankfully.
  • Sunbrella doesn’t like to stay folded very well.  If you run the point of an awl along your fold line, though, it yields a bit more, helping to hold a hem until stitched.
  • A soapstone pencil (a common quilting notion) came in handy for marking Sunbrella.   It marks the fabric nicely, and easily erases with a damp cloth.   I found a #2 lead pencil and eraser worked great for marking the Phifertex.
  • Cutting Sunbrella can be a pain, because it frays.  The right tool for the job is an electric hot knife.  But I stuck it out using only my fabric shears, followed by an application of glue along all the cut edges to minimize fraying.  This took forever to apply and to dry.  Then I took the time to double turn all the hems, so no cut edge was exposed.   If I do much more of this, a hot knife is definitely in my future.

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I’ll stop there.  If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!  I hope some of this helps a fellow newbie canvasworker.

Boat run.

We are pet sitting this week – our niece, Julie’s, dog, and Doray & Tom’s parrot.   Because of that, we have been sticking close to home.  But, today we took the opportunity on this beautiful day to take a drive.

We stopped by several vantage points around the lake.  With the emergency flooding situation behind us, Lake Travis is dropping about 1.5 feet a day now, currently at 695′ above mean sea level.   The butterflies were thick today, which makes me very happy – so much of what humans do have hurt their populations over the years.  It’s nice to see them out there despite us.

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I believe these are Queen butterflies, on blue mistflower.  I think I’ll plant some of this in my yard!

We also stopped by the marina to check on our boat.  Our marina’s staff has been doing a wonderful job keeping all the docks floating and clear of obstacles.  They are running a shuttle to the docks for boat owners, since the lake is still flooded, and the water level is still about 15 feet above the parking lot.  Everything looks fine.  Our batteries are doing well (electricity has been off to the docks for 12 days, so far).

I brought my completed propane bag out to the boat and hung it.  It works great, and I found the perfect spot for it.

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Citizen Sheila.

I scored a civic triple this week. I chatted with my district’s city councilman at a neighborhood block party over the weekend, voted early yesterday, and today I headed downtown for jury duty; on the bus, no less. There’s too much traffic and not enough parking to try driving down there and back at rush hour. Monte gave me rides to and from the metro station and I caught the Express, which drops me and picks me up two blocks from the courthouse.

What I did today.

Monte built a set of bookcases for a client and I spent the day helping him install them.

Nice, very nice…

I also learned a new joke from a friend who called just to share it with me. I’m working on trying to remember it, Pilar.

🙂

Dam it.

Lake Travis is still rising, slowly.  We took another drive out to the lake, to join the other lookie-loos.  We got a glimpse of the backside of Mansfield Dam from the park off highway 620.  The lake level in the picture below is 702.6′ above mean sea level, inching closer to the dam’s spillway.

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Four flood gates were open, releasing floodwaters into Lake Austin below.

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And, as always….

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Looking for a snack.

I spied this crested caracara atop the telephone pole at the end of my driveway.  I had just enough time to go back in the house for my camera and take this shot before he flew away.   It’s not a terribly clear photo, but the best I’ve gotten of one of these big birds so far.  Caracaras are in the falcon family, but they often hang out with vultures.  You may have seen one feeding on a dead animal in a field or on the side of the road.  They they also will eat small animals and birds that they can swoop down on and pluck off the ground.  I think that is what this guy was scanning the area for.

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High water.

It’s been raining around Austin since Labor Day. And the cold front that came through yesterday morning has been dumping rain in the Highland Lakes’ Basin. The Llano River rose to march its historic high of 40′ this morning, taking a bridge out. Sandy Creek, the San Saba, and Pedernales Rivers are over flood stage as well. Lake Travis is the flood control lake in the chain and it has risen over 25′ in the last week, 16′ of those since last night.

678′ MSL and rising

We drove to the marina today. The lake’s rise is almost visible while you’re just standing there looking at it. So far, our docks are fine, being let out as the lake rises. But the rain continues to fall, and the lake is supposed to go up another 12-15′ by tomorrow, flooding many places along the shores of Lake Travis. This flood has yet to play out, so we’re watching carefully.

Brrr-ski.

Last night a cold front settled down in central Texas. The high yesterday was 92 degrees. The temps today have dropped nearly 50 degrees. A rude awakening.

All but one of my hummingbirds have moved on. This one has spent the day under the eaves out of the rain, sheltered from the north wind, and with its personal supply of nectar. I named her Ellie. I hope she makes it.

Learning new tricks.

I drove down to the coast this week to join Lori and Mike on Trident to work on some boat projects.  We sat through a day-long, hands-on class for “Marine Diesel Engine Introduction and Maintenance” which was delivered on-board Trident.  I learned a tremendous amount, and now feel like I have a basic understanding of how a diesel engine works, and how some maintenance can be done.  At night I dreamt of primary fuel filters, lift pumps, fuel pumps, engine fuel filters, injector pumps, injectors, oil extractors, heat exchangers, impellers, strainers, shut-off valves, stop-cocks, oh, my!

Today, after the lecture part of the class, Lori and Mike performed the following maintenance to Trident:   primary fuel filter change, engine fuel filter change, impeller change, oil change, oil filter change, belt tension check, transmission fluid check, heat exchanger coolant check, raw water strainer cleaning).  Nine hours of learning and doing.  I’m looking forward to opening up Nirvana and seeing if I can identify all the components on her 3 cylinder, 30 HP Yanmar diesel.

Why do they put such big engines in such small places?

The engine and generator are inside this compartment, comically called the engine “room.”  There is actually a guy (the teacher) sitting on the generator inside this compartment, pointing to components on the engine behind it.

 

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Lori is changing the primary fuel filter here, reaching through the aft access door to the engine “room.” IMG_6057

Sewing project for the boat.

The grill on our boat uses propane, the kind in the little 1 lb green Coleman canisters.   We have been stowing them in one of our cockpit lazarettes.  However, that compartment is not made to hold and properly vent propane gas, which sinks.  That means if a canister were to leak, the gas would collect in the lowest point of the boat; the bilge, waiting for an errant spark to ignite it.   Not good.

You can purchase a storage bag to hang on the rail of a boat to hold a few propane canisters, allowing any leaked gas to dissipate in the air over the water.  Magma (a marine grill vendor) sells one for under $35 which holds 3 canisters.  But it only comes in black and royal blue.  Nirvana’s canvas is navy blue (Sunbrella marine canvas in the color called Captain Navy).   For that reason, and also because I’ve really been wanting to try to sew something made out of sunbrella with my 20+ year old Kenmore 385 sewing machine, I decided to make it instead of buying one.

Lori happened to have an old bag in need of repair that I could use as a pattern, which was really helpful.   I ordered a yard of 60″ wide Sunbrella from Amazon, several 110/18 sized sewing machine needles, some size 69 bonded UV-resistant polyester thread, a heavy duty zipper, and some nylon webbing and plastic buckles.

The prototype:

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You can’t see them in the above picture, but there is a brass grommet and hole in the middle of the bottom of the bag, under that loop in the strip of webbing that runs along the bottom.  It is intended to allow water out of the bag when it’s hanging, if it rains.   The loop, I assume, is to tie a downhaul to the bag when it is hanging, so that it doesn’t swing back and forth while you are underway.  I decided to make my bag with 3 loops, and 3 grommeted drain holes, one under each loop.

The pattern I made, and some notions.IMG_6027

The first step was to install the brass grommets (which you can’t see in this pic either, but they are under the black webbing running down the middle of the canvas in the picture below).  Next step: pin and topstitch the webbing onto the outside of the bag, allowing for loops and buckles to be sewn in as you go.

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The next step was to sew the zipper on, and then sew the other two seams.  And VOILA!IMG_6043

View of side zipper.IMG_6044

I’m so thrilled that it turned out, AND that my current sewing machine was able to do the job.  I will definitely plan a few more boat canvas projects.

*smiling a satisfied smile*  🙂

Fountain 4.0.

A year or two ago, I installed a small water feature under the oaks next to our back patio. It was a small fountain powered by a tiny water pump (4W, 80 gallons per hour). The birds have enjoyed it almost as much as I have.

The first pump lasted about a year. I clean it every few weeks. But one day it just stopped working. No problem. I ordered another pump from amazon and installed it. A week later some varmit pulled the pump out of the water basin, and it ran dry until it melted. 😦

I bought a third pump and the same thing happened; probably by the same damn varmit. 😡

This time, I’ve placed the pump under a rock and added a piece of plastic tubing to carry a stream of water through holes in the rock onto the pebbles below.

Wish me luck!

Happy anny.

We recently celebrated our anniversary.  Tonight, we had Lori and Pooh over for dinner and popped open one of our oldies.

It was a bottle from a winery that we visited on our honeymoon – an almost 20 year old chianti that we brought back with us.  The cork didn’t leak or budge in the last two decades, so the wine was really pretty good!  I am very happy to be able to share it with friends.