amethyst73: (tazz)

About a year after we moved into our current home, three feral kittens showed up in the neighborhood, often hanging out in our yard and driveway.  The next-door neighbors assured us that they would take care of the kittens, and we thought no more about it.  Callie and her several siblings, who came along about a year later, introduced us to the feral cat population problem in California.


Callie was a pretty little calico, mostly white with harlequin patches of black and orange here and there.  The coloration around her right eye was quite striking: surrounded by an orange patch, she had a thin outline of black right around the eye that looked exactly like eyeliner.  Her fur was fairly soft, somewhere between the wiry stiffness of Mouse and the velvet of Billie.  Her skull had a prominent ridge at the back which always surprised me when I petted her.


But it took a while to learn the softness of her fur and the shape of her skull, because she was even shyer than the other kittens in the litter. We barely knew she existed for a few months after we first saw her siblings; I suppose she might have belonged to some other feral group. After some work, our backside neighbor L managed to catch her and get her spayed.  For some time after this traumatic experience, Callie refused to let any of us come near her, though she happily ate the kibble we left outside for her.


After a few years, Callie gradually lost her fear of humans.  She regularly came in to both our and L’s house.  If it was particularly cold, we’d sometimes let her spend the night, though she often yowled to be let out at five in the morning.  Over the last few months, she became quite social, demanding to be petted and jumping up onto the futon and next to or onto our laps if we were sitting there.  She was really quite affectionate if given the chance, and was even willing to approach strangers to be petted.


She was an excellent hunter and would announce her latest kill on our back porch.  After the first time that she brought her prey inside for our approval, we learned to step outside to praise her instead… and then go inside while she completed the messy business of playing with and eating her kill.  (There was one episode when she hadn’t done in her catch quite as thoroughly as one might like, and the squeak that the poor injured mouse made as it tried - and failed - to escape subsequent capture sounded _exactly_ like a squeaky cat toy.)  Despite her being fed by two households and supplementing her own diet occasionally, she never gained much weight.


Possible TMI: discussion of kitty woes including cancer and inappropriate defecation )


May you romp in fields filled with fat mice, kitty buddies, and loving humans.  We’ll miss you, Callie.
amethyst73: (tazz)
Here's some of the stuff I've embroidered recently.

Picspam! )
I haven't been as happy with the patterns that came with the machine as I have with the patterns I've bought off the web.  Part of the problem is likely that the booklet that came with the machine only has REALLY TINY pictures of the big patterns, so it's really hard to see what they look like in any detail.  Also, this particular set of patterns got printed out a shade or three too dark. Further, there's just color swatches next to each picture, without a written description of what each color is _for_.

What I would love, is to have embroidery software that can (1) read the .pcf files that are on the machine (and which are made whenever I put a combination of stuff together, like the Cthulhu text) and (2) has thread color choices that at least are pretty close to the colorset I've got.  I've now had two patterns (the ducks and the palm tree thing) where I've been distinctly disappointed by the thread colors I've used, and I'd really like to have a way to simulate results without having to spending an hour or so using materials to stitch out a pattern.
amethyst73: (tazz)
Many happy returns of the day!  (Take the day OFF, willya?)  :)
amethyst73: (tazz)
Hi everyone!  I know I’ve been a little quiet with regards to what I’ve been sewing recently.  It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything - quite the opposite - but I wanted to keep things private, so that Certain People wouldn’t see their designs in advance.
Pictures ahoy! )
So that’s what I’ve been up to recently!  It’s still a blast.  I love love love my machine.  :)

Owie.

Oct. 25th, 2013 10:14 pm
amethyst73: (tazz)
Now I understand why my parents were so incredibly unhappy when they had back pain.

(Bad enough that at 3 pm I was calling a chiropractor's office to see if they could take me this afternoon.  Fortunately, one could; it doesn't hurt quite so much to stand up from a sitting position now.  It's still kind of hurty, mind you.)
amethyst73: (tazz)
So I have a piece of canvas which is now thoroughly decorated and is ready to turn into a bag.  I spent last night with some super-strong nylon thread, a couple of different kinds of 90/14 needles, and some canvas scraps to see what was going to work with regards to construction.  What I learned:

- I always like to at least give universal ballpoints a try.  Yup, even on wovens.  I know I'm prone enough to errors that I don't want to break any more cloth fibers than I have to.  However, the denim needle gave much better results: no puckering, didn't have to mess with the stitch length or anything to keep it happy.

- I have a couple of options for construction.  These bags are meant to be used, darnit, but I don't know how much I need to over-engineer them, esp. given that I'm using something pretty close to upholstery thread for them.  I could:

  - do a regular straight stitch for the seam,and then
      - do a serge-type overlock, which will work as reinforcement as much as it works as a seam finish
      - do a fake French seam: fold both edges of the seam inward, then sew along the outside, catching all 4 layers.  Disadvantage of this finish: not specificially a reinforced stitch.


 - do a reinforcing triple stitch for the seam, and then
     - either do a simple zigzag to overlock, which is not super-reinforcing
     - do the fake French seam as above.

I can't really do the fake French seam on both the top and the side without leaving a bit of edge that's going to be susceptible to fraying.  So probably I'm going to go with the simple single seam and do the serge-like overlock, even though that will use a lot of thread.

Note to self: The nylon thread, if left idle in the top of the machine, likes to kind of stick at first and can be a little hard to pull through.  As far as the stitches themselves go, the tension looks fine though.

Another note:  Knots: As I'd noticed in the embroidery session last weekend after the serious thread clog, there's something up with the knotting process.  It kind of feels like the bobbin end isn't long enough to get caught up properly for the knot making (though that may be due more to the stiffness of the nylon thread than anything else).  If I want a knot with this thread, I need to pull the bobbin thread up out of the hole first and hold some of the top thread.  This will be important for serging, which only has the knot option.  Regular seams can just use backstitching, which seems to lock the threads fine.  It will be interesting to try knots with just regular weight cotton and see what happens.  I'll be down in Sunnyvale sometime next week and had been planning to stop by Eddies to pick up some stuff anyway; I will ask about it then and perhaps schedule a service while I'm away on vacation in November.
amethyst73: (tazz)
So I spent today doing a test run of a combo design that I'd put together: a monogram letter I'd got off the Interwebs and some text using one of the machine fonts.  For the first time EVAR with this machine, I had a real screw-up: the spool thread got irretrievably caught under the fabric, in the bobbin race and under the face plate.  I cut it out, removed the face plate, cleaned out the mess, and learned what a pain it is to snip out a color (and how much damage the fabric undergoes when you embroider over the same spot twice; I'm just lucky the area affected wasn't all that big).

The weird thing now?

Before this incident, I used to just let the top thread get sucked under during the initial knot production, and it was all fine.  Now I've learned (through a little trial and error) that I have to do what the manual says: stick the spool thread through the embroidery foot, give myself a few inches, and hang on while it ties the knot.  Otherwise, the knot doesn't get tied and I run the risk of getting another bird's nest.

I'm guessing the tension in the bobbin case has somehow gotten screwed up, and that maybe I need to take it apart and (very carefully!!!!) clean out the grooves.  Any other suggestions?

..Oh.  And the final embroidery on the actual project, which I did later, turned out fine.  I'm thinking of adding a tiny bit of superglue or fray-check to the back in the parts that I know didn't knot correctly. Or maybe I'll just stick some fusible backing onto the back to tack everything down properly.  Again, suggestions welcome.
amethyst73: (tazz)

You should be able to see all of Saturday's photographs here.

Our flight back home was at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, so we didn't have time to go out and do a lot.  We decided that since we'd seen only a small and relatively unexciting part of Balboa Park on Tuesday, we could drive up to the interesting part Saturday, wander around, and find lunch before heading for the airport.

Balboa Park brags about having one of the highest concentrations of museums in the country, and they have the right to do so.  If you're in the right area, start walking in virtually any direction and you are guaranteed to hit a museum, garden, or building/set of buildings of interest very quickly (see http://www.balboapark.org/in-the-park for links to the whole list of things in the park).  There's an outdoor organ pavilion where there are apparently performances on a regular basis.  There's about a bazillion museums, including a few different art museums, a model railroad museum, separate science and natural history museums, a bunch of gardens… it just kind of goes on and on.

The buildings are all stunning.  A lot of them look they were built in the ~1930s (though I'm not at all certain that I'm right on that: they've got that heavily ornamented neoclassical/Gothic thing going on.  The most impressive of these is the building that houses the Museum of Man, a catch-all for all those exhibits that perhaps didn't obviously belong somewhere else.  (I would have liked to go into the Museum of Man, sheerly on the basis that any museum simultaneously housing exhibits on torture devices and beer has got to be interesting, but we didn't really have time to make the admission fee worthwhile.)  Anyway.  The Museum of Man has a fantastically mosaic'd bell tower and dome, and has a gorgeous stone-carved front.  No wonder they offer the opportunity to do weddings!

We did go into two buildings: the Timken Museum of Art, and the Botanical Building, mostly on the basis of their being free.  The Timken is a tiny (but air-conditioned, which was important) museum housing a handful of paintings and a statue.  That said, the Putnam Foundation collection that it houses includes Rembrandt, Reubens, and Copley, among other painters whose names I didn't recognize.  We were happy to give them a donation on our way out.  The Botanical Building was an impressive building with a huge collection of plants, but was not the most welcoming spot.  Even though the slatted roof gave a fair amount of shade, it was open to the air and so was pretty warm.  And the signage explaining this or that group of plants was clearly written with the enthusiast in mind.  I'm not sure _I_ could tell you what a bract was without a dictionary, and I took a class in intro plant biology way back when!  (You can see at least some of the text on a typical sign in the photo album.)

We had lunch at The Prado, an upscale but still pretty tasty restaurant located in the House of Hospitality.  (Yes, I thought of Elrond. I know the name's not quite the same, but still.)  If the server offers you chips with your sandwich, take them up on it: the taro and potato chip combo is made on site and is excellent.

After lunch, it was time to head to the airport, return the car, and fly home.  Everything was reasonably uneventful.  We got home in one piece and were probably as happy to see our kitties as they were to see us.  I'm glad we went!  But home is nice too.  :)

amethyst73: (tazz)
You should be able to see all of today's pictures here.

Before diving in, let me just say that the Safari Park kind of gives you a safari before you ever reach the park.  It's way the heck out somewhere between the Escondido wine country and nowhere, and it could stand another sign or two along the way just to reassure you that you're really headed the right way.  Also, when visiting Africa Escondido, we found that it is hot.  Hot hot hot.  And, the Park people being careful to mimic the plant density patterns found in Africa, meant that sometimes there just wasn't a lot of shade.  I was very glad for my hat!

About the Safari Park )

amethyst73: (tazz)

You should be able to see photos from today here, or you can click any of the images below to get to the album.  (I think.  Clicking on the images will at least let you embiggen them.)

A whale watch and some old ships )

amethyst73: (tazz)

If you're ever in San Diego, plan to spend a day at the zoo.  (Unless you can't stand animals or something like that.  Then maybe you shouldn't go.  But even then, you should seriously consider it as a possibility.)

Where to start..?

The zoo is huge.  Unless you have infinite amounts of energy, there's just no way to see it all in one day.

But in a way, the large size of the zoo almost doesn't matter, because the quality of each section is so impressively high.  Everywhere we went, I was impressed by how the zoo had managed to combine sizable and appropriate habitats with good spots for the humans to watch the denizens.  For example, in most zoos that have gorillas, the gorillas have a good-sized enclosure that they tend to stay out in the middle of, far away from their gawping, noisy, upright cousins.  I'm not quite sure how the San Diego Zoo managed to design their gorilla space such that the gorillas wanted to nap _literally on the other side of the glass_ in one of the viewing platforms.  The human side of that viewing platform was fairly dark, and the glass was thick and went all the way up to the ceiling, so there was a lot of soundproofing and vision-proofing that went into it.  Also, the really large enclosures (gorillas, tiger, hippo, polar bear, etc) all had multiple viewing areas that, if the animal in question wasn't visible at one, they were likely to be quite visible at another, assuming that they were actually in the enclosure at the time.  The zoo's also obviously put as much thought and work into its plantings as it has into its fauna.  There are trees and bushes and ferns and stuff everywhere, much of it signed and all of it really nicely done.  If I lived here, I would get a zoo membership in a heartbeat.

We did not see the pandas 'cuz there was a line.  We didn't see many bears up close.  And there's two sections of the zoo we barely touched, but I kind of think we may see some of the animals we missed at the Safari Park on Friday.

You can see pictures that I took here (hopefully).

Some highlights of our visit )

amethyst73: (tazz)
We're belatedly celebrating 17 years of marriage this year by taking a vacation that's Just Us - no family visiting, just doing things by ourselves.  We haven't had a vacation like that in over 3 years, and it was time.  We decided on San Diego - we arrived today, and plan to hit the zoo, the Safari Park, and we've got tickets for a whale watch Thursday.  We'll be here till Saturday.  Anyway, here's the story so far.

San Diego, day 1 )
amethyst73: (tazz)
I'm probably being too ambitious, as usual.

It turns out my real first embroidery project is going to be a bunch of tote bags, some of which are going to turn into hostess presents for folks we're staying with in November.  Hence, so as not to spoil the surprise for Some People, I'm going be rather vague about what I'm actually doing.

I found a design online that I really like.  Thing is, it's big and it's solid; it's something like 48,000 stitches, and close to 6"x7".  Which is fantastic for the front of a tote bag.  But it's also about a zillion times bigger than anything else I've embroidered thus far.  It's a simple design: 6 colors, with switchings back and forth for a total of 9 spools used, with huge swaths of one color or another.  It looks rather like a large patch in terms of its makeup, actually.

I've got the fabric for My Very First Bag (tm) cut out, and done the various measurements to get the design centered.  (Much more work than I expected, but I took notes so that hopefully it'll go faster next time!)  I've got some medium-weight cutaway stabilizer for it, which is what the design company recommends, and which they say is excellent for the light canvas/duck that I'm putting it on.  I'm not actually trying to stitch the design today/tonight, because I need to pack for our trip tomorrow, and because the machine says it'll take 77 minutes (!) to do.  If that's just stitch time, it'll probably be more like 1.5-1.75 hours, and I want to have plenty of time when I do it.

Anyway.  Exciting!
amethyst73: (tazz)
Today was the last day of JoAnn's Coupon Madness week, which meant I had something like ten different 40% and 50% off coupons to use, with a 15% off anything that's already on sale or anything I couldn't apply a coupon toward.  What did I get?  Let's see...

- 4 yards (!) of undyed cotton duck, now hang-drying in the bathroom.  (I want to make tote bags for people for Christmas.  4 yards should work out to 8+ bags, which ought to be plenty.)  (Okay, it's probably plenty for MUCH more than 8.  Keep me busy, huh?)

- Some yards (lost track) of strapping for handles; I just bought what was left on the rack, since handles on the bags I like at home tend to be 24-30 inches _each_.  That turns into a lot of yards, really fast, if you're making bags for everyone.

- Heavy-duty thread and some denim needles for sewing this stuff.  Wonder if my machine's auto-threading lever can handle the heavy thread?

- A few different kinds of stabilizer: water-soluble (for doing towels), medium-stiff tearaway, fairly stiff cutaway.  I may have overbought.  Oh well, I'll likely use it all eventually.

- Some dual-adhesive stabilizer for doing a super-sekrit applique project I've got in mind

- A few more colors of embroidery thread that I know I'm going to need for various patterns (and which will let me test my pack of Mettler versus Sulky versus I forget what the other brand was that I bought a spool of)

- Fabric for super-sekrit applique project (well, the main color, anyway; I can get the rest out of my existing collection and it'll mostly work)

... basically ALL of which I was able to apply one coupon or another towards.  I ended up with my final coupon-ful price being something like 50-60% of the original price, which was a Good Thing.  That's why we go to JoAnn's with coupons in hand!

------------

The applique will be just the animal, on a bag, for Huz.  He's working on recording a book inspired by the tapestry where this animal is found.
amethyst73: (tazz)
I finally got around to playing with the embroidery function of my new sewing machine today! The machine communicates beautifully with my Macbook Pro - the green and blue lace design came off the computer. And it seems to embroider pretty well too.  :)  The Mettler embroidery thread worked fine - no breaks or tangles (not that that's saying much with a design this simple, but there ya go).

(The brownish lump, however, did not work so well. It's the start of a cat, but the system got confused when I was shifting the design around in the embroidery field, and thought that the center was shifted rightwards. So it ended up banging into to right edge, at which point I put a halt to it. Oh well - something to ask about in the intro embroidery class in a few weeks!)


I couldn't wait to get it out to take the first photo.
(You should be able to click on any of these photos to embiggen.)





My very first embroidery, in decent light (front side)




Back side of my very first embroidery, in decent light




Brother demo lace and abandoned cat-lump thing
amethyst73: (tazz)
From my good buddy [livejournal.com profile] digitalemur, I bring you: The parts of a sewing machine, as labeled by a sci-fi fan, I think.  Go and laugh, it is funny!
amethyst73: (tazz)
Tazz is adapting to his new condition astoundingly quickly.  He can haul himself around surprisingly well, and is able to get himself in and out of the litter box (yay!).  He's always happy to see me in the morning, because that means he gets his canned food, which is awesome as far as he's concerned.  His locomotion is kind of staggery because it seems more like he's lost his balance in his back half as much as he's lost his strength, so his back end sways back and forth.  And sometimes it falls.  When it does, Tazz just kind of stops and takes stock of the situation, and is able to get himself back up and going again pretty darned quickly.

We love our kitty, and are delighted that he's doing so well!
amethyst73: (tazz)
Dear embroidery-knowledgeable folks,

I think my first embroidery project is going to be a set of nameplates (with designs) for the outsides of our brand-new cubicles.  (This is not an insane project; I have two workmates, myself, and my supervisor, for whom I'm still trying to figure out what to do.)

I think just a white background for them will be best.  I'm getting a smallish (I think it's 2"x4") cat design that came in the machine, one person is getting some flowers (haven't decided on exactly what), and the other person is getting a 4"x4" quite solid, patch-like design.  Plus names, of course.

My question: what sort of fabric should I use?  Can I just use a good muslin, or should I get something more satin/silk-like?

I get to play with my machine this weekend... :)  :)   :)
amethyst73: (tazz)
So after looking at some perfectly normal to not-a-smoking-gun test results, the vet took an X-ray of Tazz's lower back, and found a probable cause: Tazz has a slipped disc, poor guy.  We're going to go with the (recommended) conservative treatment approach, which is to increase his prednisolone (or prednisone, I can never remember which cat is taking which variant) dose to a full tab daily, up from his current half tab.  It is hoped that over the course of 3-4 months, Tazz will at least get no worse, and will hopefully regain some of the strength in his hindquarters.  He's comfortable and can come on home tonight.

(The not recommended, aggressive course of treatment, for those who are curious, is an MRI and surgery.)

His current state, however, makes our lives kind of complicated.  He's effectively bedridden, which means that he needs the same kind of care as a human bedridden patient: we need to figure out how to 'turn' him so that he doesn't get kitty bed sores.  Which means one of us needs to come home at midday to care for him, or we need to stagger our work schedules, or Huz may work from home a little more frequently than he does now.

Tazz also can't get into the litter box without help.  He's been great so far about not going wherever he happens to be parked at the time, but it's another thing we'll need to keep an eye on - his skin could get irritated if it's dampened by pee a significant fraction of the time.

So, I'm glad it's not more serious than it is. There was a decent chance that the cause was going to be liver failure (he's, well, old, and he has mild renal disease already) or cancer (he's got a previously-quiescent mass on his pancreas, which could have metastasized onto his spine).  A slipped disc, while massively inconvenient for him and his humans, isn't going to be a direct cause of death.

Uh-oh.

Sep. 10th, 2013 10:58 pm
amethyst73: (tazz)
Tazz Cat (the cat pictured in my regular user icon) has quite suddenly lost all strength in his back legs.  He was fine yesterday and limping some this morning, and tonight he can't really drag himself around.  It looks kind of like a partial paralysis.  No idea what's causing it, but, well, he's 19...

Will go to vet tomorrow and see what's what.

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