Monday, July 28, 2014

Starved Rock State Park

I got my nature "fix" at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.

This beautiful state park is almost right in my backyard, less than 2 hours away, and I cannot imagine why I've never been here until a few days ago. It's a nature lover's dream, especially if you live in an urban area like I do.  It's one of the prettiest parks in Illinois. Keep in mind, we not have the scenic views or "wonders" in our flat Prairie State so we take what we can get.

Most of the trails are nice and well kept.

There are sandstone canyons, bluffs, pretty rock formations, waterfalls and hiking trails throughout. The area was hit by several nasty storms in June so when we were there many of the trails were closed due to dangerous conditions - downed trees and damaged walkways and stairways  - but there were still plenty of trails and canyons open. We also went to see the canyons and trails at Matthiessen State Park - just as pretty but lesser known and a few miles south of Starved Rock. 

The canyons are beautiful and it's so cool and quiet and peaceful when you get down there.

 The only problem with going down into the canyons is that, yes, you have to climb back up  eventually : ( 

The other bad part was that on our first trip out on the trails we did not get there early enough in the morning and the crowds were horrible. Too many noisy people and screaming babies. So, if you go, go early. One guy was actually walking along playing loud music on his phone if you can believe it. A kid screamed: "I want to go home! I know why they call this 'Starving' Rock - there's NO food here!!" I guess he expected a hot dog stand and ice cream vendor along the way, LOL. We lagged behind for a bit and let the obnoxious guys get ahead and then we sneaked off onto a side trail that was less populated and much quieter. Despite the heat and humidity it was mostly cool in the canyons. The next day we set out much earlier and were able to hike by ourselves.

Tip for my sister: Some of the streams have bridges you can cross over, but not all . . . .  You're going to get wet at some point.

The park provides stairways to get down into some of the deeper canyons. 

While up on a bridge looking down into a canyon we spotted some teenagers attempting to climb DOWN this slippery waterfall if you can believe it. 

I can't help but act like a Mom to all kids I meet. I thought of my own and yelled at them and asked if they thought they should be doing that. It was pretty deserted up where we were on the bridge - we just happened to be there at the same time they were and I'm sure they were surprised to see us. Later, after we had walked down into the canyon ourselves by way of the stairs, we ran into them again. The girl looked at me shyly and said "We decided to take the safe route down after all." Whew! I told her her mom could thank me later. I'm pretty sure the park rangers see injuries or fatalities every year involving stupid kids doing stupid, reckless things like that.

If you live near Chicago or are visiting this summer, think about planning a trip here. It is worth seeing and we will definitely go back in the fall for the colors. Hopefully, the other trails will be accessible by then. I hear the waterfalls are also much larger and prettier in the spring after a rain so we'll have to return for those as well.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Singing Along with My New/Old Singer

Well, last week you may remember that I found an old Singer sewing machine, by chance. It's amazing, the things you can find - stuff you didn't even know you were looking for sometimes. The machine appears to be in great condition. Definitely used but it still looks good and so I couldn't wait to try it.  I could not get the tension set correctly and I wasn't even sure I was threading it properly so to play it safe I took it to a Singer dealer in Chicago that restores old machines. 

She came back to me yesterday. Man, can this baby SING! Now I know why they call them Singers . . . . (I know, I know, the company was founded by Isaac Singer in 1851; that's where the name comes from. Please don't e-mail me.) I just love listening to that tick tick tick as she sews away . . . . 

Speaking of names, I know a lot of you name your machines. She was born in 1950 and marketed for the 1951 Singer Centennial so I knew I had to come up with a good name that reminded me of that era.  

I've decided to call her "Penny."  A very good, solid fifties name. I imagine ponytails or penny loafers when I say it out loud. And, the truth is, she's as shiny as a new penny and believe it or not only cost me $12.01. Twelve dollars and a Penny. So there you go. It fits her perfectly. 

I haven't decided if I am going to keep the cabinet or buy a base for it since once it's out of the cabinet it wobbles and doesn't sit evenly on a table. So I cannot actually sew on it yet. (We had to take it out of the cabinet to bring it into the shop. They would not make a house call, imagine.) The Singer store recommended I restore the cabinet since that's probably where she will be happiest. But, take a look - 

The veneer is peeling off and the wood is chipped and the top gouged and stained. It's amazing the sewing machine was in such good condition. The table just looks so crappy and I don't know if I am up for restoring it or will even have the time to do it well. Looks like a big job and definitely not a fun one. If I do, I was thinking of sanding it down and painting it a nice vintage green. I've always wanted a vintage green sewing table. 


Something like this would be so cute.

If I bought a base, it would look something like this -
                             Singer 99K
Who knows when I'll get the table issue sorted out and be able to sew on it. Time will tell but there's never enough of it lately. The next time you see Penny she may be sitting pretty in or on her nice, new table. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Joined the Club

Well, I know I always said I probably would never join the vintage sewing machine club many of you belong to because I already have several working sewing machines and so why on earth should I buy another? I just do not have the room to collect sewing machines. Yesterday, however,  that silly idea went flying out the window. 

Of COURSE I need a vintage sewing machine . . . . Who doesn't?

I always imagined that if I ever did cave I would splurge on a Featherweight first so I could join THAT exclusive club (Featherweights are smaller, lighter and much more collectible and quilters everywhere adore them, in case you're wondering. Plus, they're just so darn cute and sew like a dream, I hear.). But so many Featherweights that I have seen smell really bad and I was always afraid to take the chance. Okay, so the one you see here is not a Featherweight, but I still kinda like it. 

This little baby practically fell from the sky when I wasn't looking and just landed in my lap. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how little I paid for it but it was next to nothing, so I told myself to go for it.  I couldn't carry it home myself because it's in a cabinet (a very, very beat up cabinet, I might add. It's no wonder no one opened it to look inside!). My husband offered to pick it up after work and when he went over to where I saw it in the afternoon the guy asked him if he wanted to make use of  the Senior discount  : )  He was not offended at all and just for having a little gray hair was given 20% off the already ridiculously low price,  LOL. Such a deal!

So my question to all of you vintage Singer collectors is - do I keep it? It seems to run smoothly but there is no foot pedal, although it's electric. Does this mean it's a hand crank too? There is no manual but now that I know the model number I will look online for one. Can I take it out of the cabinet and use it alone? Should I clean it? I once met a woman who damaged the scrollwork by cleaning hers so I didn't want to take that chance and just wiped it off with a cloth. It has some scratches but it looks good. Should I try to restore the cabinet? It's in pretty bad shape and I'm not fond of the style. Paint it, perhaps? It would have been much more fun to find one of those treadle cabinets like my mother had when I was really young. I love those.

Here's what I know: It's a Singer model 66 machine (thanks, Carol!). The Centennial edition, made in 1950 in NJ but labeled with a blue badge commemorating the 100th anniversary of the company in 1951. Thousands were probably made during this time so perhaps these are a dime a dozen and not anything special? I looked at some websites and did not see too many with the blue badge.

If I keep it, is it worth taking it in to have it repaired or serviced, parts replaced? There were no attachments or accessories included. They surely just wanted to get it out of grandma's basement along with her china as fast as they could . . . .

I'm having a lot of fun just looking at it today. The delicate filigree scrollwork is in pristine condition and really adds something to the appeal. My daughter said if nothing else I should keep it as a prop for my quilt photos. Let me know what you think or if you own one of these and have any tips for me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Doll Beds

What is it about doll beds? Ever since I got my first Barbie doll bed as a child one Christmas - a white four-poster canopy bed with a pink and white ruffled bedspread - I've been hooked. 


My tastes have changed a bit since then but I never stopped loving doll beds and bought quite a few for my daughter to play with when she was young. This was what got me started making doll quilts for her, all those beds needing blankets of some sort. I now have a few wooden doll beds of my own and I use them to display some of the small quilts I've made.

Doll shown is the "Disney doll" made from a Gail Wilson pattern. She's one of my prized possessions. Recognize her?  She appears in my book Prairie Children & Their Quilts

Years ago, at an antique shop somewhere in Michigan or Wisconsin, my husband found a small antique pocket dictionary (measuring 2 1/4"  x  3 1/2" ) which I discovered happens to fit her perfectly. 

Yes, she reads it every night before bedtime and so she's very educated . . . .

Cradles count too, don't they?

This mini-cradle is too small for a quilt so it holds my scraps or sometimes I keep it on my sewing table and fill it with fabric for a new project I'm working on.