Wednesday, April 24, 2013

All That Jazz at 18th & Vine

Yesterday, I tagged along with my friend Gretchen on a home school field trip.
Unlike my kids, who are stuck in a class room all day,
Gretchen's kids are exposed to a lot more "culture",
since their school schedule is much more flexible.
Yesterday's experience was the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Misssouri.
A small, but mighty museum in the 18th & Vine district where jazz evolved and grew in the first half of the 20th century.
Luckily we latched onto a larger group that was lead by a docent so we learned more about jazz, its stars and the 18th & Vine culture than if we had just read the exhibits.
There were segregation lessons to be learned too.
I highly recommend a visit.
Ella Fitzgerald's favorite sequined gown is on display as well as Charles Parker's brass and plastic sax.  It's gorgeous!
Bill Clinton's all brass saxophone graces the lobby.
There were listening stations and viewing stations for music and early films.
(Duke Ellington made the first "music video"!)
Part of our tour included The Blue Room,
a working jazz club, within the museum, where local and not so local,
jazz musicians do their thing nightly.
They even have amateur night to encourage budding musicians.
I want to go!
The Gem Theatre is directly across the street from the jazz museum.
(that's me standing under the sign)
It's a historical venue restored and updated to host jazz concerts and other performing arts events.
If you click on my link, you'll learn that The Gem was was a movie house in the early 1900s.
We didn't go inside (it was closed), but I can only imagine what its art deco interior must look like.
I'll just have to go see a show there sometime!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My "New" Sewing Machine

Circa 1953 (the last copyright date in the manual that came with it).
My "old" Singer (circa 1980s) had stopped working just a couple weeks ago.
The needle stuck, the bobbin stitches tangled, there was a grinding sound coming from the bobbin compartment and finally the feed dogs stopped working.
I hand cranked the machine and manually moved the fabric, to finish a couple small stitching projects before I pronounced the machine "dead".
I'm sure it can be repaired, but the "Tropical Fish and Sewing Machine Repair" shop in the nearest small town had closed years ago, so it means searching for a place in The City and hauling the machine an hour or more somewhere to be left for a week to be repaired at great expense.
Then last week an older gentleman came into the post office and asked if I knew anyone who could use a sewing machine.
Walter comes in often to say hello, but this day he was on a mission
 to empty the back seat of his Crown Vic.
He had somehow bought the sewing machine at a silent auction,
without meaning to, paid little for it, but now had to find a home for it.
His daughter already had two sewing machines
(I asked).
So, of course I said "yes", depending on how it looked and ran.
Walter assured me that the auction place had test driven the machine and said it ran great.
And yes, it was "free".
He didn't want money.  He just didn't want to be stuck with it.
So I brought it home.
My son helped me haul my old machine down from my studio and bring up the "new" one, grumbling the whole time.
Thirteen year olds have lots of more important things to do,
dontcha know!
But once we had the cabinet set in place and the machine flipped up in working position,
his eyes lit up.
The machine is a thing of beauty.
Sexy even.
Seth had recently made a pillowcase (with French seams!) in school
and has been itching to sew more since.
I threaded the machine easily and admired the pretty foot and how industrial the machine looks compared to its more modern sisters.
I got aquainted with the bobbin compartment and the bobbin thread winder and together Seth and I figured out how to back stitch, reading the manual.
The machine is so old that the stich plate doesn't have markings for seam widths, so someone had carefully placed a length of cellophane tape at the half inch mark.
Amazingly, the tape hasn't dried up and fallen off.
I tried a few stitches and then let my son have a go at it.  We both grinnned at the dainty, "ince-ince-ince-ince" (rhymes with "since") sound the machine made as it ran.  Beautiful!
I will just miss the zigzag feature on newer machines, but to be able to sew on something so old and elegant is a treat!
The machine came with a shoebox of attachments so at some point "we" (my son is fascinated too) will try out the ruffler and button hole maker.
You can bet that there will be blog posts about those experiments!
In the same shoebox, along with bobbins and other sewing machine bits and bobs, I found a pair of pinking shears, lovingly kept "nice" in their original box, and a lovely folio of sewing needles.  The shears are razor sharp and cut fabric like paper while the card of needles is also in very nice condition.  I will be listing both of those treasures for sale in my etsy shop...  but the sewing machine is all mine!
Why am I giving up a perfectly good pair of pinking shears?
Because while cleaning out my old machine's storage compartment,
I found I had 3 pairs.
I have a weakness for scissors and pick them up whenever I see a pair at a garage sale or thrift store.
Surely I can spare a pair, especially if they are kept nice in their original box!