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.

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

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?! 🙂

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!

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.

 

 

Baby, it’s cold outside!

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Saturday evening, right around 7pm, the predicted “artic blast” arrived with 30 mph winds in our part of Austin, quickly dropping temperatures from the upper 70’s (Farenheit) during the afternoon to an overnight low in the low 20’s in just a few hours.   Sunday stayed right at freezing at our place all day, and then temperatures last night again hit the low 20s.  Tonight will probably freeze again.   Things will warm up a bit before Christmas Day.  Then we can put away our woolies until the next cold front comes through.

A few years back we had an outside spigot and pipe freeze, flooding one of our back rooms and making a cold mess when the ice thawed.   This year, Monte designed a wooden box to house a 25w incandescent light bulb for each of our exterior spigots to keep them warm and avert disaster this time around.   He cut out the pieces.  I assembled them, while he wired a light socket and lamp cord for each of them.  They worked great!  We can put them away later this week, until the next deep freeze heads our way.

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Boat repair.

A week or so ago, we were at anchor and rafted-up in a cove with another boat when we experienced the largest boat wake we have ever seen on Lake Travis, courtesy of a motorhead who is ignorant of the damage that his wake causes other boats and docks along the lake.  We never saw him, but his wake caused our two boats to smash into eachother, resulting in our port-side gate stanchion breaking.

The next day I got on the phone with Catalina Direct and ordered a replacement.  That was the easy part.  The fun-part remained:  figuring out how to access the nuts & bolts below deck to make the repair.  Suffice to say that it was not a Catalina 320 design point to make access to the stanchion bolts easy or straightforward.  The Catalina 320 owners’ association discussion forum was a helpful resource, with some threads describing the repair.  I decided to document our experience, along with some photos, in the event it helps another sailor down the line.   This is a two-person job, as screwing and unscrewing the nuts requires one person above deck, and one person below.  Oh, and the below deck person needs to be small enough and able to contort his/herself in a very confined space for the duration.  This repair took about 4 hours.   While this post documents replacement of a port-side gate stanchion, I imagine it would be a similar experience for replacing any other stanchion, but the location will dictate a different set of steps to gain access.

In the photo below (new part on the left, broken part on the right)  you can see that the threaded rod of the port-side gate stanchion’s aft leg was broken off at the deck.  It’s actually a great design, in my opinion, because even though the stanchion was bent significantly enough inboard to pop the weld on the threaded rod, there are no outboard through-deck bolts to damage the deck by being pulled out when the damage occurs.  Another thing worth noting is the width of the “h” on the new stanchion was about an inch less than the old one.  You can kind of see that in the photo.  But we were able to remedy that by a gentle, but firm, pull on the legs to spread them enough to make the bolt holes line up with those on deck.   Don’t forget to order the new nuts/bolts/washers that are recommended in the listing for the stanchion on the Catalina Direct website.  They have to be ordered separately.  Our old bolts were bent pretty good, and the washers were cupped a bit.

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The life lines on our 320 connect forward at the bow pulpit.   Easy enough to remove for the repair.

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Now for the fun part.  On a 320, the bolts for the aft leg of the gate stanchion are located behind the aft galley cabinet.  The bolts for the forward leg are behind the middle galley cabinet, where the microwave sits.  You’ll want to open both of them up to gain access.   I recommend taking the divider wall between the two cabinets out as well to make maneuvering a little easier.  There is a molded fiberglass cable chase/run behind the wood trim inside the cabinets.  You will need to cut away part of that to access all the bolts.  A previous owner of our boat had cut some of it away for some other repair or installation.img_1147

When I first opened things up to see what I could see, this is what I saw in the aft cabinet.   Some of the fiberglass panel had been cut away already, but not enough for this repair.

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I used a Dremel tool to cut away another 4 inches or so.   BE CAREFUL to not damage the cabling behind the fiberglass panel!  Also, take precautions to not work around live electric cables, to avoid damage/death to yourself.     I also recommend eye protection and wearing a mask to protect yourself from breathing in the dust while making the cut.   And, beware, that cut fiberglass edge is sharp.img_1142

This is an upclose view of the 3 bolts for the aft leg of the gate stanchion.   The big one is the broken outboard threaded rod.  The 2 inboard ones are the smaller through-deck bolts for the aft leg.  I had to lower the cabling that was fastened below deck to get access to the bolts.  I found that there was no clearance below the threaded rod to allow me to use a socket of any kind.  So I had to use a wrench to turn the nut, little by little.  As I did, the top of the broken-off rod rose slowly above the deck, eventually enough to be able to put a vicegrips on it above deck, to keep it from turning as I removed the nut the rest of the way.   I also will note that the recommended bolt/nut/washer kit that we ordered contained new stainless bolts for the inboard holes of the aft leg that are about an inch longer than the old ones.  That might make using a socket difficult, if you don’t have a deep enough one.

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This picture shows all 5 bolts – the 3 of the aft leg, and the 2 of the forward leg.  It also shows how nice it is to not have the dividing wall between the cabinets there.  It made reaching through with tools easier.img_1143

We first removed the inboard bolts of the aft leg.   Monte unscrewed the bolt above deck, while I held the nut below.

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This is a shot of the deck with all the bolts removed, and the old adhesive scraped away.   We used fresh marine adhesive, liberally covering the area of each foot.  All that remained was to install with the new hardware.

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Voila!  repair complete.

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I ♥ Kohler.

When we remodeled our house 5 years ago, we put in a beautiful Kohler Simplice faucet (model number K-647-VS) at the big kitchen sink.

I love it.  A few months ago, though, it started leaking water from under the single hot/cold control handle.  There was always a puddle around the faucet.  It drove me NUTS.

Google showed me that Kohler has really great documentation on how to fix this on their web pages here and even a short video here.   And I eventually dug out and read the owner’s manual/guide that came with it  – yes… i keep those things 🙂   I read about the Kohler Faucet lifetime warranty.   You can read the fine print here, but Kohler basically says:  “if the Faucet should leak or drip during normal use, Kohler Co. will, free of charge, mail to the purchaser the cartridge necessary to put the Faucet in good working condition.”   Yes, free.   I can’t believe anyone does that anymore.

So, I called Kohler’s customer service line (1-800-4KOHLER) and described the problem to a real and knowledgeable person and they said with all likelihood it was a bad valve.  They sent me a replacement valve in the mail for free.   It arrived over the weekend, and I installed it.   VOILA problem solved!

I just wanted to give a shout out to a company that still provides great customer service!

Read on for a few comments on what was a little more difficult than described in my experience of changing the control valve.  Good Luck!  My DIY photo:

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The documentation and video online are pretty much self-explanatory.   There were 2 steps that took a bit more effort than I anticipated.

1) It took a significant amount of effort to get the Hot/Cold water control handle off (after removing the set screw) – more than I was capable of, so I enlisted Monte for that job.  It took a while, but it did come off with a sustained, firm, upward pull.   The problem was the black, plastic sleeve on the valve was stuck in the handle, creating loads of friction.  The new valve comes with a replacement black sleeve, so I had to remove the old one using needle nose pliers after the handle came off.

2) the decorative “bonnet” under the handle was hard to unscrew.  But, I used one of those rubber, grabber pads that helps unscrew the lids from jars.  And with some perseverence, it did the trick.  After those two steps, everything else went as advertised.

The replacement kit came with a teeny capsule of grease, which I spread around the new valve’s o-ring.  The video doesn’t mention that.

Yay KOHLER!

Indie-pendants.

I’ve been playing with beads again.  I’ve gotten it in my head that pendants that can easily slip onto chains would be fun to make and very versatile.   Here are a few I’ve recently made.

Made with (L-R):  turquoise, tiger’s eye, swarovski crystal, and howlite.

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One more pair.

Sterling filigree balls.
Sterling filigree balls.

I really don’t intend to re-purpose this blog to be a beading blog, but since it is a photoblog showing various moments from my day…. and since I’ve been thinking about and doing a lot of beading lately..this is what you get.  🙂

This is a pair that I made today, inspired by this pin on pinterest.  The noteworthy thing about this pair is that they are my first attempt at making a wrapped loop at the top of the headpin.  A little rough, but I’ve got plenty of time to practice.

Another piece.

Turquoise ditties
Turquoise ditties

I bought some turquoise stones and some brown round beads a while back.   This morning I pulled out my bead box and strung together this bracelet and earrings.

I have lots to learn about making jewelry.  My loops are basic and unornate.  My strung beads are looser than I would like.  But I’m having fun learning!

Now, if i could just learn how to photograph them properly….  🙂

As for my post yesterday, my friend had the best possible case during her surgery last night, according to her doctors.   Thanks for your prayers.    Now fingers crossed for good news from the lab next week.

We’re off to the lake this afternoon.  Have a good one!

DIY: Jewelry board project.

My lastest project.
My lastest project.

I finished yet another pinterest-inspired project today:  a board for hanging my jewelry.   The inspiration pin can be found here.

Wanna make one, too?  Read on.

I bought an inexpensive corkboard, about 18″ x 24″ or so, from IKEA.   For future reference, you should note the thickness of the board material (not the frame part, but the field part of the bulletin board).   You may need to trim the screws that come with the drawer pull hardware, like I did.  The thickness of my board material was 1/4″.   When the screws were screwed all the way into the hardware, there was 3/4″ of an inch showing.  Which meant I would have to cut off 1/2″ from each screw (with a hacksaw) so that they would fit my board.  You’ll either have to do that, or look for screws that are the right length.

IKEA corkboard
IKEA corkboard

Then I bought some miscellaneous drawer pulls.   I also picked out some hooks and small chain and some push pins.  Yes.  This would have been less expensive if I had this stuff laying around already…

Laying out where the hardware will go.
Laying out where the hardware will go.

Then picked out some fabric and ribbon from Joanne’s.

Pretty bits.
Pretty bits.

Cut and hem the non-selvage edges of the material big enough to wrap around the bulletin board leaving several inches.

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Sew on ribbon to add some accents.

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Put the fabric you’ve just sewn aside.  Now using an awl, poke holes in the corkboard where the screws for where you want each piece of hardware to go.

Poke holes where the drawer pull hardware goes.
Poke holes where the drawer pull hardware goes.

Using a drill, with a drill bit no bigger in diameter than the fasteners for the drawer pulls, drill all the way through the corkboard and its backing board.  My corkboard had a thin, fiber board backing.  So, when I drilled through it, it sort of made a hole with rough, fuzzy edges.  After I drilled each hole I scraped away the debris from the front and back of the board around each hole.

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It’s a good idea to do a dry run and screw the hardware to the board, to make sure the holes are all in the right places.  If not, make adjustments, then take the hardware off again.

Testing to make sure the holes match the hardware.
Testing to make sure the holes match the hardware.

Now it’s time to wrap the board in fabric.  I did this using a stapler, into the back of the board.  Wrap the fabric tight, working your way around the board.

The back of the board.
The back of the board.

Again, using an awl through each pre-drilled hole in the back of the board, poke a hole through the fabric on the front.  Be careful not to snag your material.  This will allow the screws to go through the fabric without twisting it or tearing it.  Then, place the screws into each hole, through the back of the corkboard, using a screwdriver to turn the screws through the holes you’ve just pierced into the fabric.

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Pierce the fabric for each screw-hole, to make way for the screws.
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Turn the screws through the back of the board til they are clear of the fabric.

Now you just need to place the hardware over the screws and tighten them down.

I added some chain fastened with push pins on either end – more space to hang earrings.

Voila!

The finished board.
The finished board.

Corked.

Look what I just made!

I was inspired to make this wreath by a do-it-yourself project that I ran across on pinterest (original link here) and pinned it in my “DIY: wannado’s” board a month or so ago.   I immediately knew that I was going to try to make one – not just because I loved the way it looked, but because I have been hoarding corks for 10-15 years (much to monte’s bemusement) just waiting for a project I could use them in.   The hot-pad-trivet-made-out-of-corks projects I usually run across just didn’t do it for me.

I love wreaths, and with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, I knew I’d better get started if I wanted to finish it before the holidays.  I love how it turned out.   Here’s how I did it.

What you’ll need: straw wreath body, straight pins, glue and lots of corks.

I bought an 18″ diameter straw wreath body (from Michael’s) a box of 1 1/4″ dressmaker pins (longer is better) and some craft glue (from Joanne’s).   Then I dug out and dusted off several bags/boxes labeled “corks” from the garage and started sorting.   I didn’t keep track of exactly how many I used, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the order of about 400-500 corks.  I can’t help but do a little math here…. if i estimate that on average I spent $12 a bottle… that means this wreath cost in the neighborhood of about $5000.   (heheheh… sigh)   Anyway, as I was sorting,  I tossed corks that weren’t 100% solid cork.  Many were made up of lots of little pieces of cork molded in the shape of a cork.   I also wanted to mix up the red wine (stained) & white wine corks and mix in a champagne cork every now and then.   So I picked out bunches of them as I went along.

Sort your corks.

Stick a pin into each cork – get a good bite but leave as much of the pin hanging out as you can.

Stick a pin in the end of each cork.

Then put a line of glue on the pin.

Apply glue to the pin to help it bond with the straw wreath form.

Then stick the cork into position by pushing the head end of the pin into the straw wreath form.  I inserted them all at an angle, where one row laid on top of the last one.  Sometimes the pins went into a gap between the straw and didn’t stick well.   So try to make sure you poke the pin through some of the straw when you push them in.   Between the pins and the glue, the corks were surprisingly stable in the wreath when finished.

Push the head end of the pin into the wreath form at an angle.

I must admit that it was a little daunting getting started, but after the first row or two, it really was easy and went a lot quicker than I expected.  Here is a close up of how the layering turned out.  Some of the corks had years printed on the end or a unique logo, which added a nice touch to the detail.

Mix ’em up.

I hastily added the ribbon as an afterthought, to dress it up for the holidays.   I know the ribbon looks a bit hokey, but I wanted to hang it up on the door to take a picture, so I was in a hurry.   But you get the idea.  After Christmas I’ll remove the ribbon and hang it on a wall in the house dining room or kitchen.

Start saving those corks!