Thursday, March 4, 2010

tools of the trade

Serviced, sharpened, oiled. 
I'm quite sentimental about my tools. 
The Mundial Serra sharp scissors aka 'the big reds' were given to me by my Dad who worked in haberdashery for many years (and incidentally used to cross stitch and embroider and is therefore responsible for some the most well executed but god damn ugly cushions I have ever seen ...the tapestry mallard duck cushion being the ultimate eye sore).  
But back to snips. 
The Prazsion Sanokaulen by Soungen (try saying that after a couple of drinks) are pinking shears from Germany and were picked up at a church fair. I like using these on children's clothing in particular, to prevent the fraying that happens when an over locker can't be used. There's also another pair of Soungen scissors with H Y Kaufmann and Sons inscribed on them, which I use for cutting out my traced patterns in transparent interfacing. And lastly, there's the pair of Fritz Bracti by Soligen nurses' scissors, presumably for cutting bandages off and the like. (the sharpener guy told me this after I had assumed they were old hairdressers snips.) Not that I'm into DIY surgery of any kind.
Anyway the point is, they all come from some place long ago. They would have been used by untold hands and various craftspeople, have probably been sworn at and may have accumulated some good cutting karma along the way. That's why I love them so.
I had all 4 pairs sharpened for $30 direct at home, by a man who came with a van, with a lathe in the back of it and it took him all of about 15 minutes to make them as good as gold. A decent pair of sewing scissors still cost upwards of $30-$45 and some will reach well into the hundreds (particularly for those 40cm blades which the textile manufacturers use to cut the bolt from the rolls- I want me a pair of those puppies). Actually I'm beginning to feel like I could turn into Mrs Edward Scissors Hands any moment now.

All this makes me think about how people used to service things out of necessity. There used to be big business in fixing , repairing and making things last. Now our toasters are assembled with inconsistent screwdriver holes that no universal screwdriver or philips can touch, as their heads require triangular head drivers. Toasters designed so that no handyman can attempt to fix them and destined as a throw away item despite that fact that 99% of the device is still functioning. Toasters that have you searching the web in fury to see if an appropriate tool exists with which to remedy the situation. Toasters you have no luck with, to the point where you contemplates drilling said holes out. Toasters that have you thrash around with them to the point where, when you eventually give up trying to fix them, you plug them in and they work perfectly again!! Toasters that will teach us for tampering with the untamperable!
But lets not give up folks, for there is something to be said for regaining control of your life via craft and DIY rather than having some corporation feeding it to you. You know, people verses the machine and anti hyper consumer culture etc It seems radical now days. Funny that. 
So get out your oil and get lubricating ladies! ...your scissors that is.

Free motion darning. The accessory otherwise known as the embroidery foot. It attaches to the presser foot holder of sewing machine and effectively allows you to draw with the stitches any which way you like. It's initially slippery and hard to control and my attempts so far have been a little wonky to say the least. But it does have the advantage over hand embroidery in terms of covering a lot of ground fairly quickly and with a finish (once mastered) equal in stroke thinness to that of an ultra fine point tipped sharpie. Which alone makes it beautiful. I have noticed tho, that If you move or turn direction too fast, the stitch length becomes quite long and I think in a final product would be likely to snag and catch on things. Which is why I'm still a fan of hand embroidery. It's amazing how much can be learned by going into a sewing shop and asking lots of questions about all the small, mysterious and useful tools and equipment there are on offer.

Acrylics. Non toxic. Applied to 'pingies' and 'tooties'. The 3 year old loves it, the 1.5 year old cried and didn't understand about keeping her extremities off anything but the paper. So be warned with the younger ones that you do have to kind of force their palms and bare feet flat, press down, hold and have rags ready to clean the paint off pretty quick.

Because the wee lady's growing like a mushroom I have two dresses (one denim pinafore and another cotton smock) a peasant blouse and some leggings on the go. For the mister (for love and to really test the tolerance for homemade garments) a raglan T in teal and black fine stretch knit. Pour moi a Japanese bat wing blouse ...more of that to come later. Oh and ginger crunch, double generous topping of course.

Woodblock prints that are hanging in my workroom window right now.

They are printed from a letter given to me by my late friend Arnold Brooker. Arnold used to work in the printing trade and when he was in his 90's he had his late wife Louise's last letter to him made into a wood block.

The letter tells of how Arnold had insisted that he buy Louise a rubber mattress for her bed, despite her protests of it being too expensive. She wrote of  how it had bought her more comfort than she could have ever imagined and thanks him for his kindness and generosity throughout their marriage. That was the last communication Arnold ever received from his wife. He was in a psychiatric unit undergoing electric shock therapy and she was lying in her comfortable bed dying of cancer. Arnold went on to become a mental health rights activist and a Wellington icon of sorts. He was instrumental in getting chapels put in psyche units all over the country and was subsequently commended in parliament for his efforts. Arnold died in 2006. I know all this because many moons ago I made a documentary about Arnold's life called 'The Whirling Man' (he used to wear placards around his neck that were always flapping in a whirl around him where ever he went). The doco was selected for the New Zealand Film Festival and became a bit of a 'sleeper hit'. Arnold was still alive at the time and dutifully and rather proudly attended all of the screenings. He was a true inspiration to me and I get quite chocked up reflecting on him in this way. Needless to say this letter and its sentiment are very dear to me. I think the connected cursive of Louise's writing style and the red ink look very romantic. RIP Arnie.