Archive for June, 2009

City Museum




A few weeks ago I went to a wedding in St. Louis MO. I had never been there before and I didn’t know anything about the city other than the fact that it was on the Mississippi River and has a big arch. I was pleasantly surprised about quite a few aspects of the city (public transportation, re-purposed industrial spaces, pedestrian oriented streetcar communities still in tact) but I was in complete awe of the City Museum.

The ethic of the place was all about exploration and it appeared to be built completely from recycled and salvaged materials. It was a place that I am pre-disposed to adore – in fact, I’m actually fairly shocked that I had never heard of it before!

From their website:

Reaching no farther than municipal borders for its reclaimed building materials, CITY MUSEUM boasts features such as old chimneys, salvaged bridges, construction cranes, miles of tile, and even two abandoned planes!

We went to the museum on the recommendation of some other visitors from the wedding. There were 5 adults, but from the smiles on our faces and eagerness to acquire rug-burns you might have mistaken us for 10 year olds. The place is one giant maze/jungle gym. It was a little bit like a 10 story tactile dome taken to the extreme. On Fridays it is open until 1am! The place was decidedly not an amusement park, nor was it a traditional museum in any way. Participation was encouraged (or required?). We even heard a museum employee telling all of the parents sitting around the outdoor structure that they needed to show the kids how it was done – i.e. get up and play!



The place had no maps (although I did find one on their website) and not much in the way of directional signage. This required visitors to find their own way and keep exploring to discover what other fantastic-ness awaited them. Several times I overheard kids discussing how to get back to some part of the maze that had a feature they really liked (a slide, or ladder perhaps). Problem solving and creative thinking were require everywhere. Everywhere I looked there were structures made from everyday objects. The top floor even had a vintage clothing store including vintage clothing printed with the museum logo.



We didn’t have adequate time to explore the place (and I didn’t have nearly enough time to take pictures because I was more excited about running around) but there were two main features that were big winners with our group.



The outdoor area, called the MonstroCity, featured airplane fuselages, construction cranes, a fire engine, a giant ball pit, and large metal mesh tubes suspended several stories in the air (you can see one coming off of the plane’s wing). Everything was meant for climbing on or through. I saw people problem solving to navigate their way, overcoming their fear of heights and mostly grinning from ear to ear.

The biggest single attraction was the 10 story spiral slide made from shoots welded from sheet metal. It looked like the shoots were part of the original shoe factory (in which the museum was built) that were connected together to make one long, very twisty, slide.



The slide is the spiral all the way on the left. There were no elevators to the top, you had to walk up a spiral staircase (into increasingly hot air) all the way to the top floor to earn your ride down. While sliding down it I kept thinking the ride would end but 10 stories in circles is a long way to go! The bottom of the slide dumps you out in a series of caves which were dark, eerie, and refreshingly cool.


If you ever happen to be in St. Louis you MUST visit the City Museum. The scope and scale of this place was inspiring and exploring within the museum brought back feelings of wonder and excitement from childhood that little else can replicate. My adult side was amazed by the structures made from re-purposed materials and inspired to build large scale sculpture. My child side just wanted to play like crazy and skin as many joints as possible.

Done and Done

Collegiate national sailing championship: DONE!
It went smoothly and the wind cooperated (like it does here in the summer). Whew!

A few views of the weekend:



Black vs. yellow headed out to the racecourse. In the background you can see the new custom crane which started work the same day as our regatta. To build the suspension section of the new Bay Bridge they had to have a custom crane built (the Left Coast Lifter) and shipped over from China. If that fascinates you check it out in action, read the press release (pdf) or explore this fancy looking site showing all the sections of the new bridge.




A yellow boat on land. This style of racing puts two teams against one another, 3 boats against 3 boats, and the best combined score wins. To make things easy to see on the water the sails are colored by team, red vs. blue, black vs. yellow and orange vs. green.




Me being in charge. I spent the whole time on my feet. N had impeccable timing and went away for the weekend so I could just come home and collapse in a pile each night. I survived though and now I can go back to my regularly scheduled life!

Vintage Singer(s)




I’m adding my 2 cents to the great sewing machine debate. Here is my response to the Sewing Machine Meme from Sew Mama Sew.

What brand and model do you have?
I have two machines, both 1950′s Singers. The first is a mocha colored Singer 301 and the second is a black featherweight (221). The 301 weighs in at 16lbs and the featherweight weighs in at 11lbs. The 301 has the same bobbin case as the featherweight but uses a slant-shank instead of a low shank. It is often called the “big-sister” of the featherweight and mine came in a portable case that looks like an old suitcase.



How long have you had it?
I have had the 301 for 4 years and the featherweight for 2 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I recieved the 301 for free from a woman on craigslist (see below). Vintage machines don’t have very regular pricing, but you could probably find a 301 for between $100 and $200. You may find one for much less.

I purchased the featherweight from craigslist for $100 but they more typically cost $200-$400.



What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I sew anything and everything. I have made quilts, clothes, bags, curtians, pillows – you name it. In addition to sewing light-weight cotton and machine quilting I have sewn canvas, heavy vinyl, seatbelt webbing, bike innertube, and sailcloth on both machines. They are troopers.



How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew at least a few times a month and sometimes every day. I ask a lot from my machines as far as sewing heavy duty and unusual materials but they don’t show much wear. Both of them had clearly been used by previous owners but are still going strong.



Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love both of my machines but they do drive me crazy occasionally (see below).



What features does your machine have that work well for you?
My machines only do straight stitch (both forward and backward). I have external accessories for zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and a walking foot. Both machines came with a variety of feet, I have only used the zipper foot and rolled-hem foot regularly. The featherweight is not large enough to fit a bed-sized quilt for machine quilting, but the 301 is.



Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Sometimes the tension can be disagreeable. I will get frustrated and stop for the day and often when I come back later and try again everything works fine. I also have problems with skipping stitches on the 301. I have tried to troubleshoot why it skips stitches (changing needles, matching thread and needle, checking bobbin tension) but tends to be rather mysterious.



Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I posted a want-ad on craigslist for a Singer 301 and was contacted by a woman who had two and gave me one. Thats right, a really nice woman I met on craigslist GAVE me the machine in return for me working to “save the earth from the ill effects of humanity” (which is really what I do already, right?).

I had always wanted a featherweight. I have a nostalgic attachment to the machine I learned to sew on – my mom’s featherweight was her 16th birthday present. My featherweight was another craigslist find – the machine was not listed as a featherweight but I recognized it from the photo and drove down to adopt it from the son of the original owner. His mom ended up calling me later to give me an additional box of accessories she found. I was happy to get a machine that had seen a lot of use but was still in great working order. I have put plenty of hours on it since then as well!



Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
If you have a little patience and a love for vintage machinery I highly recommend getting one of these two machines. They are simple enough to understand and troubleshoot. I don’t know much about other vintage models, but these two both sew an excellent looking straight stitch. They use standard shank styles so you can buy new feet if necessary and featherweights are dearly loved by the quilting community so there are reproduction replacement parts. Along the way I picked up a second 301 that does not run and I’ve been keeping it stored away for spare parts when I need them. A vintage machine is not for everyone though, you have to love the quirks and personality. They sure do look cute sitting on your sewing table though!



What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I would consider strongly what it is you want to sew and what your temperament is in relation to machinery. Do you need to use a lot of different stitches? Do you want to machine quilt large things? Do you like knowing how your machines work and tinkering with them when things aren’t quite right or do you prefer to treat it like a black box? Knowing some of these answers ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.



Do you have a dream machine?
I had always wanted a featherweight but now I have one! The next machine I want is an industrial machine so I can sew even more ridiculous materials. My apartment can’t handle that now, but someday!