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.

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.

🙂

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!

Sterling silver jewelry cleaning technique.

I’ve read about an easy do it yourself way to clean up tarnished sterling silver jewelry. I finally got around to trying it today.

You’ll need:

– a piece of aluminum foil
– bowl
– boiling water, 1-2 cups
– baking soda, 1 Tablespoon per cup of boiling water
– some tarnished silver jewelry to clean

Crumple up the foil really well, place in an empty bowl, and nestle each piece of jewelry into the foil so it is making good contact with the foil. This is really important to ensure the electrochemical reaction required to clean the silver.

Boil the water, add baking soda, stir well and then pour into the bowl with jewelry and foil. The chemical reaction to remove the tarnish from the silver will bubble while it’s happening.

Wait 15 minutes or so. Remove jewelry and rinse well.

Tarnish results from silver reacting with sulfur-laden substances in the air, forming black silver sulfide on the surface of the silver. This technique reverses that reaction, causing the sulfur to instead move to the aluminum in the foil.

Before:

After:

Wasn’t that easy?! 🙂

From my mind’s eye.

I saw a white ceramic boot at a thrift store last week.  It gave me a flash of inspiration; a vision of what it could be.  It would become a colorful planter.  Yes.  That’s it.  I brought it home.

First, I drilled a drain hole in the bottom. Slowly and carefully with my Dremel tool.

Then I popped over to Michael’s craft supply store for paint. I have a lot of acrylic paints, but I wasn’t sure what kind would work on already glazed ceramic. After shopping a bit I found one that sounded like it might.

Craftsmart multi-surface paint pots; you let dry for 72 hours and then bake in the oven.

I also grabbed a pen to help outline the design.  I thought it would be easier than using a paint brush.

I chose a clear acrylic glaze spray-on finish to seal it from the elements.

I used rubbing alcohol to clean the surface first.   I sketched a design on paper to plan it out.  Next I drew it on the boot.  Pencil worked great on the shiny finish.  Then I let loose with color.  I was trying to mimic Mexican glazed pottery designs, though not with real kiln-fired glazes.  I was extra-pleased that it didn’t crack in the oven. After it cooled I sprayed on the glaze. Voila!

 

Now to get a lovely flowering plant.

Eight years!

I’ve been out of town for nearly two weeks.   I’ll post a summary of my trip once I get through the over 1,000 photos I took.  But when I logged on yesterday, WordPress greeted me with a reminder of my blogoversary.  Eight years ago I started posting moments from my days on sheila365.com.   Thanks for sharing them with me!

 

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For a carpenter.

I made a tool apron for Monte about a year ago. I copied the design of an old, worn one he had. It was a prototype, but has held up nicely. He recently suggested a modified version to better fit the tools he most commonly used – a little bigger pocket on his right hand side. I sewed a new one today.

I cannot sit down at my sewing machine without flashing back to memories of my mom sewing, and teaching me to sew, many years ago. This isn’t a prom dress 🙂 but I enjoyed it as a small project.

Its made out of stiff cotton duck cloth. I edged it on all sides with 1/2″ polyester bias tape; triple topstitched to reinforce. I used 6 feet of 1″ soft cotton twill tape for the tying waistband, which I folded in half and triple stitched for strength. Start by making a trapezoid shape with the duck cloth – 16″ tall, 16″ wide at the top; 20″ wide at the bottom. The trapezoid gets edged on all 4 sides with the bias tape. Fold up the bottom to make a baggy pocket 7″ tall. Stitch the sides. Stitch the pocket divider. Stitch the waist tie on. And voila!

Recycled.

A neighbor gave Monte a pile of natural (i.e., untreated) cedar boards leftover from a deck that he just had installed. We planed them, ripped and cut them down to size; turning them into one hundred or so cedar planks for grilling. 🙂

And, I held out several boards to make a bluebird house.

I found the plan online here. I’ll have to wait until spring to see if an eastern bluebird pair find it and make it home. It’s more likely that the house sparrows will claim it. Stay tuned.

Clean!

I spent the day at the marina cleaning. It was waaaay overdue, but it’s SO nice to have a clean boat. High five!

Cockpit and decks:

Foredeck:

Stove:

Fridge (you had to see it BEFORE!):

Rehung the art gallery (the sticky tabs last exactly one year in the heat here in central Texas):

Fixed some broken drawer hardware:

Barrel o’fun. 

We have a new rain barrel out back.  Just in time for today’s rain.   Installed yesterday, and today it’s full!  Fyi, City of Austin offers modest rebates for rain water harvesting devices.  Check it out if you are interested, or see if your city offers something similar. 

Bird thingie.

The backyard is getting quite crowded with bird-thingies.  The latest one is a bark butter feeder that I hung up a couple of weeks ago.   Bark butter is a spreadable kind of bird food that you can mush onto the bark of a tree,  or onto a hanging feeder.   You can buy both bark butter and bark butter feeders.   But, I decided to try my hand at making both myself.  Long story short, the birdies like it!  This is a Bewick’s wren snacking on it.  I have also seen black crested titmice and woodpeckers try it out.

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To make the feeder, I  grabbed a couple of pieces of cedar scrap from the shop, drilled shallow holes in each side with a forstner bit.  I staggered the holes on each side so they were not directly opposite each other, so that I wouldn’t accidentally drill all the way through the board.  Then I glued and nailed a piece of wood on top as an awning.   I didn’t measure, but I’d say that my board is about 16″ long and 6″ wide.

There are recipes on the web for bark butter that contain lard and corn meal and peanut butter and bird seed.  I simply got some all-natural peanut butter and mixed it with my current bird seed mix (mine is a mix of peanuts and whole sunflower seeds and millet) until it was spreadable.  Then I stirred in some cayenne pepper to dissuade the squirrels.   I spread some into each of the holes on the feeder and hung it up.  Within a week I saw some birds feeding off of it; which made me smile.