More on Tim Fay and the Wapsipinicon Almanac

Detail of a paper cutter

As I noted on Facebook, there are days that I feel so lucky to do the work I do and visiting Tim Fay in December, in preparation for an Etsy post, was one of those days. I’ve always admired the almanac and been a little jealous of my friends and colleagues who’ve been published therein. I was worried that Tim would be intimidating, but the opposite was true—he was friendly, interesting, and true to his journalistic training, interested. He’s definitely his own guy, living simply, in a way that few people choose. But his passion about printing and the equipment he’s gleaned from other printers over the years was easy to see. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s people who are doing something they love.

Below are some photos from that day. If you’re a local reader, there is a Wapsipinicon Almanac reading at Prairie Lights this Friday at 7. I’m planning to be there, after the UPPERCASE event at Home Ec for Sonya Darrow, aka Ladyfits, that starts at 6 pm and is in celebration of the story about Sonya in issue 16 of UPPERCASE that I wrote, with photos by Heather Atkinson and styling by Tonya Kehoe. It’s a night for celebrating Eastern Iowans!

Unbound almanacs await covers
The bed of Fay’s Miller 2-color flatbed press
Corrections on a galley of the Wapsipinicon Almanac
Sign on the paper cutter urges cautious use
Almanac cover awaits gluing
A sign printed by Fay advertising his now defunct band hangs on the shop wall
Almanac stitched volume awaits cover

Something Old and Something New

For a couple of weeks life has been slightly calmer than it was before the holidays and I’ve managed to sneak in a bit of sewing. I finished up a baby quilt that was more than two years in the making—once I’d gotten it bound I worried that there wasn’t enough quilting on something that would inevitably get washed a lot, so I added more quilting around the borders. Then it took me a mere two weeks to actually get a label made and send it off…why do those last little pieces of the puzzle inevitably take so long?

The quilt is from a bunch of Heather Bailey fabrics, with a stripe and polka dot thrown in to keep it interesting. The back wound up being totally pieced because I didn’t want to buy anything more–it’s a little crazy, but I love the feeling of really using my stash to the max.

Pieced back

Then I finished piecing the quilt top I started in October at Lake Tahoe. I’ve still got to figure out a border for this (although I’ve got the start of an idea). Hanging it outside on a warm winter day (that would be a day that it got up in the 40s—warmth in Iowa in January is relative), the colors created such a stark contrast to the season’s drab tones and made me very happy.

Finally, must add a link to the post I wrote for Moda about their Nancy Drew fabrics. I waxed a little rhapsodic about them, as I not only loved reading Nancy Drew, but have a personal link to the author of 23 of the first 30 books. Check out the story (and some of the fabric) here.

Featherweight Follow-up

Colleen & Roger Hicks Featherweight table

My recent Etsy post on Featherweights was such a treat for me. First, it enabled me to learn more about these tiny, but mighty machines. Then—always one of my favorite parts of my work—it gave me the opportunity to get to talk to others about them. Roger and Colleen Hicks welcomed me into their home and showed me Colleen’s collection of nine Featherweights. I especially loved hearing about their search for new ones and about the time they found one of the rare Featherweight tables in a junk shop and bought it for a fantastic price.

I also really loved talking with The Bobbin Doctor, Steve Pauling. I found his name through a comment on a Featherweight post on someone else’s blog (ah, I love the sleuthing aspects of journalism!) and as I was on deadline, decided to try calling him. He had just come in from shoveling 14 inches of snow and was incredibly gracious and kind and we had a great conversation in which I learned he’s also a tailor extraordinaire. I’m hoping to follow up with him, so look for more about Steve in the future. (His partner has a fantastic, sewing-related Etsy shop, too.) Steve’s comments about the durability of well-made, older sewing machines were so interesting—stitchers’ love of these machines is so great that Steve’s turned fixing vintage machines into a full time second career.

Colleen’s Featherweights on display

Finally, I absolutely adored all the comments from Etsy readers. As someone who often feels that her job is mainly sending stuff out into the void, never really knowing if people read what she writes or if it means anything to them, getting close to 200 comments is like the nectar of the gods. Seriously. And the comments were so thoughtful and there were so many great stories…I still can’t get over the skill level of people who wrote that they made wedding dresses on their Featherweights, for example. And I loved all the memories people shared of watching their mothers and grandmothers stitch away on these machines. My favorite was from a woman who said that the first letters she learned as a young child were S-I-N-G-E-R because she’d spent so much time siting at her mother’s side while she sewed. There’s brand loyalty you just can’t buy!

So inspired was I by the post and Roger Hicks’ comments about how little there was that could go wrong with a Featherweight, that I decided to try and fix mine, which sadly went on the fritz during my October Lake Tahoe retreat. There was some tension issue I couldn’t resolve. So Paul and I spent a couple hours on Saturday checking the manual and Featherweight 221: The Perfect Portable and Its Stitches Across History by Nancy Johnson-Srbebro. We oiled every nook and cranny and tried all kinds of fixes, but alas, despite feeling so empowered by my own article, I ended up taking it in to a professional on Sunday. Sigh. But I really do know so much more about how a Featherweight works than I did. So there’s that.

Resolved: To Share the Holiday Glow

The month before Christmas had more than its fair share of deadlines, and Pearl the Squirrel suffered serious neglect. My Thanksgiving knitting frenzy came to an end and I spent most of my days trying to keep up with the work, while still enjoying a bit of the holidays. I did manage to see friends and host some holiday get togethers including a craft party, birthday gathering for two Scrabble friends, and a knitting night with rowing buddies. I remind myself when things are especially crazy that in a year I won’t remember how nuts I felt, but I will remember having my friends come by for food and fun.

The culminating event to all this was our family’s Christmas in Oaxaca. After our trip there last February, we decided it would be an interesting place to spend the holidays. The time crunch became even crazier as we had to leave one day early due to an airline screw-up, and then another day earlier to foil an incoming blizzard.

Thankfully all four of us managed to arrive in Oaxaca from three different parts of the country and the subsequent days were incredible—the perfect mix of sightseeing, eating and drinking, walking through town, meeting wonderful folks, and never ceasing to be surprised by the brass band or fireworks or choir concert that seemed to be taking place around every corner. (There was also an amazing line-up of brides at every church—getting married around Christmas seems highly desirable.)

We spent an especially wonderful day at Seasons of My Heart cooking school, which included a tour of the Etla Market in the morning and the opportunity to make (among other things) mole and cook on a outdoor comal in the afternoon.

And we met other wonderful tourists, as well as enjoying time with Luis, our fantastic driver and guide, and spending a bit of time with alebrije-carvers Saul and Alma Arragon.

The colors and sun of Mexico never fail to make me feel like a new woman this time of year and I feel so fortunate to have traveled there. I hope you, too, enjoyed the holidays, wherever they found you, and are feeling refreshed and ready to take on 2013.