Typewriters

A Growing Sphere of Interest: The Typosphere Gains Momentum with Neighbourhood Type-Ins

After having officially collected and regularly used manual typewriters for over a year, it was inexcusable that I had yet to attend a type-in.  For those not [yet] a part of the realm of typospherians, a type-in is much like any other gathering of like-minded folks who meet, geek out, and share camaraderie over a common interest; in this case, it’s all about the love for manual typewriting.

When I came across the Kirkland Reporter’s article, “Kirkland man organizes third ‘Type-In’ event” (http://www.kirklandreporter.com/life/kirkland-man-organizes-third-type-in-event/), just a day before the event held on April 2, 2017, I knew I had to go.  It was local and had yet to meet the organiser of the event, Cabot Guidry.  In the year that I’ve been a part of the typospherian crowd, I’ve only met a few others with the same passion for these machines as I do, so I was eager to widen the circle.

Having heard about other type-in events around the country through letters and online messages from my rapidly-growing network of typospherian friends, I became aware of a variety of formats these events can be held in.  One important element of them all was to be present in a public place to inspire, include, and engage people of all ages to sit at a typewriter—whether it be their first time or a revisit after a long absence away from these machines in our distracting, digital world.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of this type-in event, but as my first, that’s what made going so exciting.  However, as a seasoned typospherian, one thing I did know was that it would be sacrilege to arrive without a typewriter.

I spent the better part of the morning of the event hovering in deliberation over my current collection of twenty-eight machines to decide which one to take with me.  Four are heavy, standard-sized machines, which I immediately decided would stay put considering their size.  The other twenty-four are either portables or ultraportables—each size perfect for traveling.  Portables are exactly that and perfect for travel since they usually come in their own cases.  Ultraportables are much smaller and often thinner, like mechanical laptops of their day.  I wanted to choose one that was both unique and elegant; one that I may not see among the others at the event.  Ultimately, I chose my 1933 Royal Model P: a glossy black portable with round, glass-topped keys, and a crisp, snappy typing action Royals are famous for.  I also considered the history behind this machine as being good for conversation.  When I purchased this machine on eBay in June 2016, I learned from the seller that this typewriter once belonged to Ellen Platte, the wife of Richard Addison Ford who was one of three of President Gerald Ford’s half-brothers.

1933 Royal Model P

Cabot’s third occurrence of his event “TIK TIK TIK: Type-In Kirkland” was to be held at BookTree in Kirkland, Washington from 2:00 to 4:00pm.  I gave my Royal Model P a good polishing before leaving so she was showroom quality for the event, packed a writing tablet, some KO-REC-TYPE tabs my grandmother gave me in case I made mistakes, and a square of rubber grip liner to place the typewriter on.  I had letters on my desk to respond to, but I decided to write a freestyle letter to one correspondent friend of mine in the spirit of reportage.

Having announced my intent to attend in an online message to Cabot the day before the type-in, I was pleasantly surprised to find that both he and Mary Harris, one of the co-owners of BookTree, were expecting me as soon as I walked in with my typewriter case in hand.  There was one last spot saved for me at a foldout table in the front of the store where three other typewriters were sitting: Cabot’s Underwood No. 5, an Underwood 4-Bank, and an Underwood Leader.  In the windowsill sat an Olympia SM7 and a Royal Futura between propped hardcover books on display and small potted plants.  It was a day of intermittent showers, so the light that came in through the window was a bright grey which became brilliantly yellow when the sun reached out between the clouds.

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Before taking a seat, I immediately found myself immersed in shop talk about the machine I brought and the excitement I felt at being at my first-ever type-in.  Cabot was just as enthusiastic about typewriters as I am and was clearly the best fit for organising a community type-in that anyone could enjoy and benefit from.

I arrived right before 2:00 to find that there were already people sitting at typewriters, clicking away at the machines in their own unique typing styles.  To the right of my seat was a square foldout table with a sleek little Adler Tippa ultraportable that a gentleman brought, Cabot’s Smith-Corona Silent-Super, Smith-Corona Silent, and a Corona flattop.  Toward the back of the store were smaller stations set up with two or three typewriters each.  I enjoyed the fact that typewriters were set up all over rather than in one place so that the ambient sound of clicking and clacking carried throughout the store.

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Once I got my Model P in place on the table, I sat down to start on my letter.  Directly across the table was a boy using what looked like an Underwood 4-Bank or Universal with glass-topped keys and the trademark stencil-cut spool covers.  To my left was an older gentleman using a relic of an Underwood No. 5 that sounded tedious to type on; the gentleman used a forceful staccato typing method with his index fingers supported by his thumbs.  Cabot told me that this No. 5 had once been used as a prop before he came to own it which is why it looked like it had seen better days.  Still, this No. 5 marched right along with the efforts of its typist.

As I worked on the first page of my letter on the tablet-sized paper, I looked around occasionally to find that the crowd was a mix of all ages.  People came and went into, out of, and throughout the small venue, some taking photos (including of myself, which always makes me acutely aware of how my face looks while I concentrate, so I tried to appear neutral in my expression rather than too serious as I worked).  Parents had their children try out and experience the various machines, some giving them little hints and pointers on what the various typewriter functions are.  Surprisingly, many children made some insightful correlations between typewriter functions and computers.

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Some of the parents there were my age or slightly older, so I wondered what their exposure to typewriters was when they were growing up.  Before our first family computer, I remember my mother’s black, electric Brother typewriter which intrigued me as a child, as did most things with buttons.  I remember playing on it and finding the automation of its functions a little daunting, but I still found satisfaction in seeing a reaction from the typewriter for every action I made.  I also remember my first manual typewriter that I bought for something like a quarter or fifty cents from a neighbour’s garage sale.  Remembering vaguely what it looked like supplemented with my current typewriter knowledge, the jowly standard must have been a 1950s Remington.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t equipped with the knowledge and experience needed to get it back up and running, so after a disappointing experience trying to get it to work the way I wanted, my parents suggested I give it back.  It wouldn’t be until 2012 that I’d buy another manual typewriter, but in mint condition: a black 1945 Smith-Corona Clipper, which I still have.

By 3:00, the store felt like it had reached full capacity.  There were quite a few observers mingling over the tables, chatting either with the typists or with one another.  Every typewriter in the store was clicking and clacking away with fervent use.  In the middle of the table where I sat was a pile of a variety of stationary, so occasionally people would reach over to pick out a sheet of decorative paper that they favoured.  The children seemed to like reaching directly across my arms to get the paper they liked.  Now and then I would take a moment to watch all the different typing styles people would have when they approached a typewriter: more traditional, school-taught styles with fingers of both hands properly and evenly placed over the banks of keys to the ever-amusing hunt-and-peck.  There was also a woman who briefly sat across from me while she held her child in her left arm while typing and moving the carriage with her right hand.

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In addition to typing my letter, I jumped in to help others with information about collecting, typewriter repair and maintenance, how to source ribbon, and ways to acquire typewriters when I heard questions arise on these topics.  One gentleman named Douglas who sat across from me at one point in the day had some questions about where to get ribbon, so I told him spools can be purchased on eBay and Amazon, but if he intended to be a prolific typist on the two machines he told me he had at home, I suggested he order a reel from Baco Ribbon & Supply (contact information at the end of this article).

Baco Ribbon & Supply is a wholesale company known by word-of-mouth among many typospherians who order entire reels of ribbon as a more economical option for sourcing ribbon rather than continually buying spool sets that cost upwards of $6.  From my own experience, I purchased a reel of all-black, half-inch ribbon at a length of 660 yards for $45 in March 2016 and, as of this writing, still have a three-inch radius of ribbon left on the reel.  Baco also offers the red-black ribbon for those who wish to have the option to type red text in addition to black.  The only catch with ordering a reel is that one would need to become comfortable with re-spooling ribbon themselves which is not a terribly difficult task, but will require latex gloves.

For those interested in getting a typewriter of their very own, places I’ve had great success finding the typewriters in my fleet are local Craigslist ads, eBay, OfferUp, and of course, a plethora of antique shops that are either local or ones I’ve visited while traveling.  While browsing typewriter ads online can be a fun way to ‘window shop’ for these machines, what I love most about antique shops is ‘the hunt’ for typewriters and having the ability to test them out on my own when I do find them.  (As a note, it’s courteous to ask the shopkeeper for permission to test typewriters you find in their inventory before helping yourself to them.)  The hunt in the wild for typewriters is one of the great thrills I get as a typospherian, prowling about with a detective’s eye until I see that familiar sight of the intricate array of typewriter keys.  Some antique shops keep their typewriters in one designated place, but the best ones—especially those organised with vendor booths—have them scattered about so you can enjoy the adventure of finding them on your own.

The best part about being a first-timer to a type-in was that I didn’t know what to expect.  As I was driving there, I imagined it being a large table full of typospherians working at their own machines while the public came and went after watching us compose our prose, poetry, or letters.  In fact, this type-in was just the opposite.  I spent a great deal of time working at my own typewriter, but most of the attendees were using the variety of typewriters brought my Cabot.  The Adler Tippa that one gentleman brought was made available for others to use, so once I finished my letter, I made my Royal Model P available for others to use as well.

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Having been so accustomed to using my typewriters at home, it was a strange feeling leaving one of my prized typewriters out for just anyone to use.  Being a solitary typist within the confines of home sort of develops a protective instinct over these machines that so much personal time is spent with; typewriters become your literary comrades over time.  I was unsure about having others use my machine, but I realised that the spirit of the type-in is to allow others to try out different typewriters with the hope that they are inspired, feel included, and become engaged in the excitement of using them.  The whole point of holding type-ins in public venues is to attract curiosity and impart our passion for these machines onto others so that more might appreciate these machines again.

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As soon as I got up from working on my Model P, I stood near the entrance of the bookstore so I could see who might take interest in it.  One gentleman came to use it right away, followed by another, then a lady who took great prolonged interest in typing on it.  I found myself pleased with all the different reactions to the Model P.  I took pride in the fact that it delighted people.  Eventually, Douglas and Cabot would also take a seat at the Model P to try it out.

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In all, the type-in camaraderie was wonderful and the shared fascination endearing.  It gave me great hope to see people of all ages take interest in these machines.  If this one event was any measure to predict by, typewriters will continue to grow in popularity for their simple and timeless purpose: to type words on paper.  The tactile experience is unmatched and one where the typist can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing their thoughts materialising on paper with ink and metal.  Most notably, these machines will outlast their digital device successors with a novelty that will never die; typewriters are for all generations.

 

Baco Ribbon & Supply

2230 Mason Lane

Ballwin, MO 63021

(314) 835-9300

E-mail: bacoribbon@sbcglobal.net

(Note: As of this writing, BRS does not have a website or catalogue.  They can take orders by phone or e-mail.)

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Current Events

United, We Resist

We must beware the beginnings, and we must continue to do so as we already have, for our masses are rising and will not go unheard.

As was seen during the rise of Hitler, one of the tactics to his success was the separation and demoralisation of the Jewish people, including many other groups of people that were deemed political enemies.  It seems that now, undeniably, the world is witnessing an attempt to repeat this darker history by President Donald Trump.  This time, it’s our Muslim community at the center of this new, reckless hate, and this is only the beginning.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words resonate truer now than ever, for we are seeing the imposed darkness of one, but the beacon of hope through the light of the American people.  In keeping up with the speed with which Trump has executed his orders, we have demonstrated and marched to show in great strength that we know this history and we know Dr. King’s words.

Just as Hitler persecuted Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals, a number of religious groups, and others who did not fit into Hitler’s Nazi ideologies, we are seeing the same tunes of dictatorship in the form of executive orders.  Under the notion that such orders are keeping America safe from terrorism, Hitler spouted similar rhetoric to convince an already-divided society that Jews and others were the enemy.  Only, this time, Muslims are unjustly being singled out.  While we must secure our nation for its citizens, doing so by targeting people of one religious faith from specific countries ought to incite suspicion rather than patriotism.

The popular vote that would have saved America and the world far less turmoil, is rising up to demonstrate that we are the force that will speak loudest, and we are the relentless movement that will bind division into unity.  It’s no wonder that our Tyrant-in-Chief claims voter fraud to explain his loss of the popular vote.  Using deceit, he would wish us to believe lies to justify his discomfort with the reality that the popular vote is a threat to his authority.  In times such as this, it is easy to recognise the fear and insecurity of the oppressor by the way they’re trying to hide it.  We did not ‘win’ the election, but we are the moral true-north that will achieve victory over tyranny; in that sense, we will win where we lost.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters are part of ‘us’, the collective human WE.  Not only is it the measure of a fool to deny this, but a futile attempt to try and divide us.  Denying passage of many into our country on the basis of a radical few does not afford us any greater safety, but an invitation of more profound risk and dangerous isolation from the world that we must embrace.  It only encourages the hate that we aim to overcome.  Battling terror by closing our gates to one group of people is an attack just the same as persecuting one group of people from within our borders.  It is also damaging to all because it delivers the message: there is a lesser human being who shall not be afforded the same rights as others.  It leaves the yet-to-be-oppressed questioning: who, then, is next?

For those of us who are not left on the outside, not yet barred and banned from the liberties that the foundation of America is built on, it is our urgent mission to rise up and fight.  If one fool is allowed to degrade a part of ‘us’ into ‘them’ under the guise of strengthening and protecting our nation, the ‘us’ that stands strongest now will only be further divided, leaving another essential ingredient of the diverse and collective ‘us’ to be targeted and denied our human rights.  America is, and always has been, a powerful nation of immigrants; we must continue to nurture and cultivate a colourful diversity to uphold our pride that we are a nation for all, for we were established to be a reflection of the vast world we are a part of.

Defending human rights is the responsibility of everyone.  If some are attacked, we are all attacked.  Regardless of gender identity, ethnicity, age, ability, religion, and sexual orientation, the time to rise for all—the ‘us’—is now so we do not decline into a Hitleresque world of criminalised ‘thems.’  To march only for our own direct identifications shows that we can be divided.  Men and women must fight for each other, including those of other gender identities; ethnic backgrounds must converge because we are all composed of the elements of this world; generations must come together because there is much we can learn from one another; those of varying abilities must support one another to show that we can ALL do it; those of every religious faith and spirituality must gather to share the divinity of good deeds for ourselves and others and marvel at the unquantifiable beauty of the world and universe around us; that the potency of love in all forms is worth celebration, for having, experiencing, and sharing love is the essence of humanity.

If the true desire at heart is to protect the nation, and if the wish to instate increased vetting measures for those who seek to enter, do it for all, not for one group of people.  Terror is not limited to Muslim extremists; more acts of terrorism have been committed by those who already live here than those who came and are coming to our country to seek refuge.  “Huddled masses” on the Statue of Liberty is not exclusive.  In banning Muslims, we are not protecting anyone; rather, we are taking measures to invalidate our values as a nation and morality as human beings.

Should the current administration even last four years, the strongest message we can send to the oppressive power is: both as a nation and global community, we will not suffer division so some can be made less than the whole.  The power of ‘us’ will be more radiantly deployed for a worthy resistance and a cause for justice.  It is time to engage and take action for ALL because united, we will resist.

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Current Events

On We March

On the day of the historic inauguration of Donald Trump, Washington, D.C. saw both parade for and protest against the 45th president of the United States.  A day after the inauguration, we rose up for the Womxn’s March on Seattle in Washington State and all over the world.

The Womxn’s March on Seattle (“womxn” spelled with an ‘x’ to acknowledge and promote awareness of all forms of discrimination) joined in solidarity with the efforts and spirit of the Women’s March on Washington movement.  Collectively, the intent of these marches—with the support and peaceful resistance of everyone regardless of gender identity, ethnicity, age, ability, religion, and sexual orientation—was to march in force for both women’s rights and human rights in response to the threatening and hateful rhetoric of this past election.

Beginning with a rally at Seattle’s Judkins Park, the masses assembled with picket signs, pink ‘pussy hats,’ and warm clothes for the determined resistance that would tune in and turn out, even on a signature Seattle day.  It made you proud to be present for history in the making, to watch thousands grow into tens of thousands in a matter of hours, becoming a crowd exceeding 100,000.  Not only women, but men and children were there to support the march with and for women.  The energy of anticipation, participation, and the will to be heard was palpable.  This wasn’t merely a protest, but joining in force to send the message and make it known that yes, we will rise.

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As crowds grew with people pouring in from all directions onto the fields of the park, the streets, bleachers, roofs of park buildings, and balconies of surrounding homes, the steady hum of conversation rose high and friendly with laughter, understanding, love, and camaraderie with friends and strangers, but in endearing unity as one family.  Glances at others were met with their smiles, nods, and expressions of knowing to say that, yes I—WE—are all here for a purpose, and those who wish to silence us or have us suffer repeats of darker history better hear us and never forget it.

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Picket signs rose too, prominently displayed by those who carried them.  These often spoke the loudest, not only by the words written, drawn, and printed on them, but by their imagery:  women’s genitals will not be grabbed; love will win; the people will be the change; silence equals violence; Muslims will not be persecuted; women will roar; the power of the people is stronger than the people in power; love the earth you live on; water is life; America will be diverse and equal; no one is free when others are oppressed; humanity will come first; we will unite against fascism; we will be resilient; we will not mourn but we will organize; we will be the resistance.

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Light rain fell on the crowd as all waited for rally speeches to begin.  Upon arrival only an hour before, it was easy to walk briskly throughout the upper field of the park, occasionally treading through patches of mud, from one end of the crowd to another.  No one seemed fazed by the cold or precipitation because patches of light were beginning to show throughout the sky and we knew that—whether or not the sun would break through to shine down on us—we would march anyway.

Music that had been playing from large speakers on each side of the stage on the upper field of the park began to fade as a number of women began to ascend the stage.  One by one—with the help of another signing their words for the hearing impaired—each delivered powerful messages to the crowd to inspire, empower, and engage; women, African Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ, Jews, and all others from all walks of life would be heard and would all come together to help one another.  We listened with pride, stoic and heartfelt as we chanted—in unison—affirmations of change and solidarity, and that, in the face of adversity, we would rise.

At the conclusion of the speeches, the clouds began to dissipate and the sun shined through brilliantly.  It was time to leave Judkins Park to march the streets of Seattle.  The sheer size of the crowd took considerable time to empty the fields—like a slow liquid—onto the streets, but we all made our way politely, taking our time, and leaving the space where we stood in good order.  Taking alternative routes back up from the fields and away from the general flow was favourable as it allowed time to get ahead to side streets and smaller gatherings of picketers who were making their own way to join back up with the larger vein of the march.

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Once everyone had converged onto S. Jackson Street, we stood in place for about an hour while we waited for the momentum of movement to reach those of us who were toward the middle and end of the crowd.  By now, the clouds had almost completely disappeared and clear skies prevailed.

Almost halfway down S. Jackson Street, as we approached the International District, independent voices started to rise, faces began to turn toward the sky, and arms rose to point at something above us.  “Eagles!” some people cried out.  Sure enough, there against the bright blue sky, were two bald eagles sailing overhead.  They circled continuously, but moved their formation in the direction we were marching.  Once everyone could see the eagles, cameras rose up in their direction, loud cheers resounded, and someone even yelled, “FREEDOM!”  It sent chills down your spine to see this powerful affirmation and watch the marchers respond; if anyone needed encouragement to keep going, this was it.

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As the march descended on downtown Seattle, we were met with the cooling shadows of the buildings around us.  Occasionally, some would cheer well ahead of us and you could hear the rise and fall of the roaring voices that undulated from the front of the crowd to the back.  Our cheering was strong enough before reaching the concrete jungle of downtown, but as we marched under bridges and between the high-rises, our collective voices sounded like a train as the echo carried throughout the city.  This was the sound of democracy at work.

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At the rally, we were warned that there might be opposition to our efforts, and to remain true to our intention of marching calmly and peacefully if we did.  To see us gather in unprecedented numbers and to feel the tremendous spirit, it was difficult to imagine anyone audacious enough to protest us, let alone even show up to try.  If anyone had, in small or large number, they would have been obscured and overpowered totally.

Fortunately, on this day, we marched unchallenged, owing to the true power of the people and being on the right side of history.  This—in unity with the other marches across the country and the world—gave you comfort and hope in your fellow men and women that we will always assemble and rise up for civil rights, because anyone or anything that challenges them will be met with a fight.  It’s only in silence that we face defeat, but like many have done before and will continue to do, we remind those in power that they work for us, and if they should forget, on we march.

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Arts, Crafts & Creative Inspiration

Unusual Fibers: The Pleasure and Process of Spinning Dog and Cat Fur Into Yarn (Part I)

While the average person may be familiar with the art of spinning animal fibers into working yarn for hook and needlework such as crocheting and knitting, they may think of the more common fibers such as sheep’s wool, and perhaps even more exotic fibers like alpaca, llama, and mohair.  I can tell you from experience that these are all wonderful fibers to spin into yarn, but I have learned during my several years as a spinner that it is also possible to spin and make garments from the fur of dogs and cats.  It can be just as soft as cuddly as wools, but far more convenient to source.

Before I go any further, I should tell you that obtaining animal fiber for spinning is completely ethical and entirely harmless to the animal donating its fiber or fur.  For wool-producing animals such as alpacas, llamas, sheep, and goats, their fleeces are shorn from their bodies with either manual or electric clippers, just like a human head would be buzzed or clipped to remove the hair.  To obtain wool fleeces, harming or killing of the animal could not be further from the truth, and has been a perpetuated lie by radical animal rights groups.  Given the many centuries that human civilization has relied on animal fiber for the creation and production of clothing, I could hardly believe that—especially in this day in age—we would continue to allow systematic harm committed on animals simply for their fleeces.  While animal abuse does unfortunately exist, it seldom occurs in the world of fiber arts.

You could certainly shear a dog or cat for its fur (ever see the feline ‘lion cut’ or poodle clips?), but it’s not exactly the best way to go about it.  You’d not only make your family pet feel undignified, but you’d also be including the coarser fur of their outer coat that would only make the resulting yarn more prickly.  With dogs and cats, the undercoat of their fur is what produces the softest fiber for spinning.  The best way to obtain this is to simply brush them out like you would normally groom them.  Fine-toothed combs are typically best as they do well to extract and retain the undercoat fur.  The FURminator®, for example, works wonders.  Unless your dog or cat has an objection to being brushed, grooming does them a favour and provides quick material for spinning.

In the world of spinning, not all fiber lengths are useful.  Unless you have the patience and willingness to pinch-feed loose fiber millimeter by millimeter into a spinning wheel- or drop spindle-produced twist before feeding the length of spun yarn into the gather of yarn around the spindle or onto the bobbin of your spinning wheel, it’s best to use fiber with at least a two-inch staple length.  If you take an individual strand of either your hair or your pet’s fur and measure it from end to end, that is the staple length.  Sufficient staple length allows a mass of fiber to hold on to itself when twist is applied by your spinning wheel or drop spindle.  A shorter staple length may hold at the beginning, but it ultimately creates a weak yarn that may cause the resulting garment to deteriorate more quickly.  That said, your domestic shorthair feline or purebred Labrador Retriever may not be the best candidates for making yarn using their fur alone.  Another option, however, is to blend their fur with that of other, longer-staple fibers like wool or alpaca.  The mixture of fibers might also make it fun to later say that you’re wearing “sheep-cat” or “dog-‘paca.”

My first experience spinning dog or cat fur took place in 2012 when my friend Debra (also a spinner) gave me a bunch of excess fur from her long-haired German Shepherd, Matilda.  I won’t omit the fact that the raw fur stank like dog musk, a smell most dogs tend to carry around with them, but it didn’t deter me from experimenting with spinning this unusual choice of fiber after I had already gained some proficiency with various wools and other fibers like cotton, flax, and silk.  Matilda’s soft undercoat was at least two inches long throughout, so it was the perfect length to spin a strong yarn.  Additionally, the groomed clumps of fur retained the beautiful black, tan, and white of Matilda’s coat.  My first instinct was to try and wash the raw fur to get some of the smell out of it before I started spinning, but from an aesthetic standpoint, I instead spun it ‘in the raw,’ or ‘in the grease’ (phases commonly used by spinners to describe the act of spinning fleece or fiber fresh off the animal; that is, without washing or processing of any kind).  Instead of lanolin (a greasy substance commonly used as a base for ointments and lotions) that naturally occurs in sheep’s wool, I went ahead and spun ‘in the dog funk.’  It wasn’t exactly the most pleasant olfactory experience, but doing this helped to keep the different colours of the fur separate so that the end result was a beautifully marbled thick-and-thin yarn.  Washing or combing beforehand would have likely muddied the colours together, leaving a less desirable effect.

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Once I spun an entire bobbin-full of German Shepherd, I decided to ply it against black thread (meaning I removed the full bobbin and attached it to the Lazy Kate—an apparatus that allows you to freely draw from the yarn you just spun—so I could spin the yarn against the thread on a new bobbin).  This made the yarn even stronger, and gave it a ‘nubbly’ effect with the thin thread impressing upon the spun yarn in the ply twist.  When the bobbin was full of this plied German Shepherd yarn, I removed from the bobbin by winding on a niddy noddy, which is a tool that helps turn loose yarn into an organized skein by winding the yarn around its ends.  I then tied off the skein at four points in order that it remained together once I took it off the niddy noddy, and soaked it in a solution of hot water and Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap.  Dish soap can be used too (and might even be a better solution for the grease), but would necessitate repeated rinsings, where Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t require rinsing at all.  The steam that emitted from this concoction of hot water, soap, and raw dog fur did indeed wreak of a pungent dog funk, but the oils in the fur were breaking up and separating from the fur itself, which was the desired outcome.

When dealing with really smelly dog fur, one soak, I learned, is not enough.  Following the first bath, I drew another of fresh hot water and soap.  Again, the yarn went in for a long soak until the water ran lukewarm.  This time, I could barely detect the potent stink of before, so I knew this was working.  For good measure, I gave the yarn a third bath, after which the water remained clear, and the yarn itself smelled like fresh wool.  I gently squeezed the excess water from the skein and hung it outside on a hanger where it could dry.

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Now that the experiment of spinning dog fur was a success, I had no long-term use for someone else’s dog fur.  I decided, then, to knit the German Shepherd yarn into a cowl for Debra so that she would always have something to remember Matilda by.  The process of knitting this yarn into a garment also loosened it up even more so that a fourth wash of the finished product left the fibers as clean as I could possibly get them.  Exceeding my expectations of just how this yarn would turn out in knitted form, the end result of the cowl looked even more marbled than the yarn itself—resembling a coffee cake with rounded crumbs on top—and was as soft to the skin as alpaca.

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It may be that because I am owned by two cats, I don’t smell them, but I think that spinning cat fur is a far less smelly experience.  My two cats are Arthur and Gwen.  Arthur is a black, domestic shorthair while Gwen is believed to be a Lynx Point Siamese mixed with Calico.  Of the two cats, Gwen is far more spin-worthy with her fur staple being anywhere between two and three inches.  Arthur, however, has a staple length of about an inch, so, while he loves being groomed, the grooming is purely for his benefit.  Gwen is predominantly a cream-white with notes of grey, and flecks of tan here and there.  Being an exceptionally fluffy cat, she needs to be groomed multiple times a week, otherwise her coat will end up all over the house in a blizzard of fur, regardless of what season it is.  Fortunately, she yields some beautiful spinning material from every grooming session.

arthur

gwen

In 2012 when I was spinning Matilda’s fur, I did not yet have Gwen, so the idea of spinning cat fur hadn’t really occurred to me.  It was only until recently that I gave cat fur a try and was taken by the fact that it was almost like having my very own little Angora rabbit in residence.  Before long, I had accumulated a large Ziploc® bag full of her fur and began to spin a very thin single out of it with the anticipation of plying it against another single of the same thing.  Instead of spinning thick-and-thin like I did Matilda’s fur, I have been spinning as consistently as possible so that it would look better as the two-ply yarn.  So far, this has gone very well with only the occasional prep work if I happen to find mats in the combings.  I found that the large Ziploc® bag full of Gwen fur emptied quicker than expected, so I regularly draw from the source, sometimes even combing from her as I’m sitting at the spinning wheel while she rests on the sofa beside me.

Given that I am spinning Gwen’s fur into an almost lace-weight yarn to produce the two-ply end result I want, making the first skein is still underway.  However, while spinning, the way one can get a preview of a single as a two-ply is to take the end of the single and let it spin back on itself by holding the end further up the length of the yarn and letting the twist take over.  This way, I have a very good idea what to expect when I ply two single strands together.  I can also give it a looser twist or tighter twist when I ply which can give the resulting two-ply yarn completely different looks.  I am not sure what I will be making out of this cat yarn, but I will likely knit instead of weaving it so the quality of the yarn shows in a more pronounced way in the stitch work.  As Gwen’s fur is remarkably wispy in nature, I’m anticipating that washing the yarn will expand it slightly, adding a ‘fluffing’ characteristic similar to the aura of yarn spun from the fur of the Angora rabbit.

cat-fur2

As dogs and cats are more often considered members of our families than just pets, there is also a tremendous sentimental aspect to spinning their fur.  In the case of Matilda, the German Shepherd, she was alive during the time I spun and knitted her fur into the cowl that I gifted to her owner, Debra.  Unexpectedly, Matilda had to be sent over the Rainbow Bridge not long after the cowl was made.  The cowl then became a memento by which Matilda could be remembered.  As many of us have probably experienced at least once in our lives, losing a dog or cat (or any kind of beloved animal for that matter) is difficult because we come to love them just like our human family.

One of my other current spinning projects is similar to what I did with Matilda’s fur.  Instead of German Shepherd fur, I was asked to spin the fur of an Alaskan Malamute, named Maximus, for my friend Laureen.  Sadly, Maximus has also passed away.  I was sent a bag with all the fur that was brushed from him prior to his own journey over the Rainbow Bridge.  Knowing that the quantity of the fur I had would not be enough for the cowl that Laureen wanted, I knew I would need to improvise by using another natural-fiber yarn as part of the makeup for this cowl.  The spinning of Maximus is also underway as is the planning for the cowl that the yarn will be knitted into.  Like I did with Matilda’s fur, I will be plying the single of spun yarn on a thin strand of white thread or mohair to complement the cream-white of the fur.  The thinness of the ply will also give this yarn the ‘nubbly’ effect I look for that will make the cowl a beautifully textured reminder of the treasured animal and family member the fur once belonged to.

maximus

alaskan-malamute-fur

To an ordinary person, excess dog or cat hair is often just a nuisance.  With two cats in the house, I certainly have a lot of it despite grooming both of them regularly.  Somewhere (probably online), I read the quote, “In this house, cat hair is a condiment.”  Regardless of my OCD-level cleaning tendencies, it still ends up everywhere (and yes, from time to time, this includes my food).  It’s like what they say about how we unknowingly consume insect parts in our food on a regular basis; like insect parts, sometimes cat hair just sneaks in there too and there’s not much you can do about it.

To the avid spinner, though, we, like other artists, see possibilities in the many materials around us, and often fashion uses out of them that were not intended for the artistic purposes we decide to use them for, or we give them a use when, to others, they may seem entirely useless.  When I arrived at the idea of spinning Gwen’s fur, I thought I might be just one knitted cat scarf away from a 12-step program for crazy cat men, but the thought of having my own little high-volume source of spinning fiber to make into yarn for seldom-seen kitty couture seemed practical and delightfully resourceful.  The quiet eccentric in me also can’t wait for the day when I’m asked about my unique scarf or cowl and I can say, “Oh, this?  It’s Lynx Point Siamese.”

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Travel, Typewriters

October Road-Tripping: Antiquing from Fall City to Cle Elum, Washington

I hadn’t made any specific plans for the weekend which is usually how I like weekends to begin.  There’s something about waking up to two whole days of potential and some money in the bank that always makes me feel extra ambitious.  After making coffee and feeding the cats, I sat down in front of my laptop to start searching local listings for antiques of interest: typewriters and, lately, record players.  Typewriters alone are a prolific hobby, but, for me, they seem to beget other kinds of collector behaviour including that of stationary, postage stamps, and now the desire to listen to music from the eras my typewriters were made in.  What better way to do that than listen to the audible charm of the crackle of vinyl on a turntable?

The most eye-catching listing I found was for a 1930s Silvertone gramophone, but it was living in Tuckaway Attic Antique Mall in Cle Elum, Washington—about an hour-and-a-half southeast of where I live.  I had never been out that direction and was hankering for a road trip, so I decided to take the drive not only for a new antique shop and the possibility of seeing others, but for a beautiful fall drive.  It was a cool, cloudy October 1st, and a day that I knew would promise beautiful views of carpeted mountains and vivid colours marking the change of seasons.

Because the route to Cle Elum took me along where I usually go to visit my local antique shops in Fall City and Snoqualmie, I of course stopped at each on the way to see what had come in.  Fall City Flea Market was in the process of reorganizing some of their vendors’ booths when I walked in, but I was pleased to see a black Corona Standard flattop sitting on a bench at the entrance.  It was in its case with the lid up and an original manual included.  It was in need of a good cleaning both on the outside and inside, but had I not already owned a Corona Standard flattop, I would have considered it a worthy purchase.  Everything on it worked properly too.  The shop also had a minty-looking Torpedo in a two-tone dark and light beige, but owing to my love affair with classic black typewriters, I just couldn’t see myself typing on it for long sessions.  Both the Corona and Torpedo were fine examples of their kind, but I left them in the wild for another typospherian to find.

corona

torpedo

A stop into Fall City Vintage & Collectibles Mall didn’t yield any discoveries, but I had an engaging conversation with the shopkeeper gal, Denise.  I didn’t recognize her from my past visits, so after she asked me if I had been in the shop before, I told her that I was a regular and typically on the hunt for typewriters.  She immediately lit up and told me about recent activity next door (Fall City Flea Market), and about possible leads that she would happily follow up on.  We spoke a great deal about how I came to be interested in typewriters and how I use them.  As a former Legal professional, she told me about the days when she used them.  Denise appeared to belong in my parents’ generation and had recently retired; helping to run the shop was more of a paid hobby than work, and her enjoyment of it showed in an infectious, optimistic, and inspiring way that I have seen only in a select few who have been able to artfully pair skill and purpose to fill their time.  My conversation with Denise was enlightening on all counts, but the one thing we most agreed upon was that putting down a written record of something in a tangible way—be it handwritten or typewritten—was the best way to concretely memorialize what was being recorded.  “I can go back to my notes from years ago,” she said, “and be immediately transported back to the exact circumstances before I wrote those notes.”

On the road through Fall City, Snoqualmie, and North Bend, there was an array of competing reds, yellows, and oranges on the deciduous trees in vast, sweeping strokes along the highway and further into the distance at the base of the mountains.  These vibrant colours were vivid all on their own, but more so with a backdrop of rich browns and greens of the conifers that crowded together to scarcely leave space as their sharp shapes protruded into the sky, then became softer and almost caressable as my eyes followed them up to the peaks.  As I drove along the asphalt and cement that cut through the green, I wondered what the depths of those forests sounded like once past the steady hum of the highway traffic below.  What animals were in those woods in that particular place as I drove by?

By the time I was on the 90, the road had become longer and the views more majestic.  After descending Snoqualmie Pass, I skirted Keechelus Lake on the left.  Towards the southern end of the lake, I saw some sort of lookout tower that stood high on the bank over ground that looked to have once been under water given the light, barren appearance of the earth.  There was also an assembly of dry, rotted tree stumps that must have once been waterlogged, thus giving them the look of thirsty sponges.  Despite the natural beauty surrounding it, there was a deserted feeling about that lake that reminded me of the desolation of the Salton Sea.

I had my GPS set for arrival at Tuckaway Attic Antique Mall, but before I reached the destination (about a quarter mile away) I noticed a thrift store on a corner called Attic Treasures (seems Cle Elum attics are chock-full of stuff).  Like most self-respecting antique shoppers, I’ll brake for the words ‘thrift store,’ so I parked and went in for a look.  Since I’ve had a number of spontaneous you-never-know moments come to fruition while stopping at thrift stores, I would have considered it a careless oversight later had I not given it a chance.  However, as it sometimes turns out, there was little in the way of typewriters or even record players, so after a quick browse through a sea of circular racks of used clothing and shelves of old appliances and dishware, I left.

A hop-and-a-skip later, I was in Tuckaway Attic.  Earlier that morning, I had called and spoke with an older lady about the availability of the gramophone and whether or not they had any antique typewriters in their inventory.  She confirmed the gramophone was still there and that they had just one typewriter—a Royal.  Having a great affection for Royals, it sounded promising, but I’ve learned not to hold my breath until I’ve seen a typewriter for myself.  I walked in and saw an older gal sitting in a chair in front of a cash wrap at the center of the shop who looked to have been a match to the voice on the phone.  As soon as she saw me approaching her, I said, “Hi there.  I called this morning about your gramophone and typewriter.”  “Oh yes,” she said, “let me show you where we have the typewriter.”  I followed her along and along the way she pointed out the gramophone that was prominently displayed across from where the Royal typewriter sat.  Given our conversation on the phone, I thought it appropriate to introduce myself, so after giving her my name, she said, “I’m Bert.”  She mentioned having a longer name that Bert was short for (Bertha or Bertie)—I can’t recall it, but she followed by saying, “but everyone calls me Bert.”  Bert wasn’t a name I could forget because it was the name of a neighbour whose dog I used to walk for a bit of income when I was in middle school.  Bert lived with her daughter, Mary (or “Nikki” as she was called), and their dog, Cinder, a sweet-as-can-be elderly black Lab.  The Bert I had just met didn’t linger very long and left me at the Royal.  The poor thing hobbled right back to her chair which made me feel bad for making her leave it in the first place.

The Royal was a 1930s standard model that looked redeemable on the outside, but after some basic testing, seemed inoperable beyond my ability to repair.  As I already have one Royal standard and another on order, this one would have had to be in mint condition at a cheaper price than listed for me to buy it.  Had it met those conditions, it would have been a unique addition to my fleet, but it would have also taken up limited space considering it could not have been as easily stored away as my portable typewriters.  I was happy to have fondly acknowledged a member of my favourite make of typewriters, but left it with kind regards as I stepped away to examine the contents of the other alcoves of the shop.  I knew the gramophone sat waiting for inspection, but I always like to do a full walkthrough of any antique shop to see what’s offered.  Sometimes unsurpassable treasures can be found even when you are intent on finding something entirely different.

Upon closer look at the gramophone, I realized that it was larger than I originally thought, so its proper placement at home would have been a bit of a challenge.  It was also crank-operated, so keeping it operable while playing an album seemed more labourious than I anticipated.  Cosmetically, it was a fine piece of musical equipment, but I decided to pass on it as well.  Before leaving the shop, I let Bert know that I would be leaving empty-handed and thanked her for the time spent during our phone conversation that morning.  Rather unexpectedly, she graciously referred me to another antique shop nearby that might have what I was looking for.  “I’m sorry that you had to come all this way for nothing,” she said.  “Not at all,” I replied, “I wanted to take a road trip anyway and have never been to Cle Elum, so I enjoyed the visit.”

Having followed Bert’s instructions to get to the other antique shop, I took a right after leaving Tuckaway Attic and walked a block before I saw what she had been referring to.  The building was a tall, pale-grey, stand-alone, masonry structure with an easel out front with ‘Antiques’ on it.  There was an ‘OPEN’ sign, but when I went to open the door, it was locked.  The dim sunlight shown against the glass, so I used my left hand to shade my brow as I looked in through the window to see if anyone was inside.  Lights were on, but there was no activity.  I started to feel awkwardly gawky, but I stayed pressed against the window looking for the slightest sign of easily decipherable typewriter keys.  As soon as I backed away, ready to head to the car, a woman appeared from around the corner of the alley.  “Oh I’m sorry.” she said, “We were out back and decided to lock the front door.  But, we’re open.”  She looked to be in her 70s, was thing, had short, grey-blonde hair in small, tight curls, and wore jeans, tennis shoes, and a loose, light pink, long-sleeved sweatshirt.  She had a sweet, kindly face and wore glasses.  Once we were inside the shop, she went on to explain that there was construction going on behind the shop for a utility flat that they were renovating.  Apparently the previous tenant lived in this flat for sixteen years and was a chain smoker.  “So, what are you looking for today?” she said.  “Actually, I’m a typewriter collector.  I first stopped at Tuckaway Attic to look at one they had, but it was more of a conversation piece.  The gal there sent me over to your shop to see what you might have,” I replied.

Before I had a chance to peruse the shop, the lady and I had a lengthy conversation about why I collect typewriters, the writing work I use them for, and the still-relevant benefits of analog technologies.  She seemed genuinely interested, so she asked a lot of questions in a pressing, but well-meaning way that I notice older folks often do when talking to younger folks.  Occasionally she would catch herself talking at length and say, “I’m sorry; sometimes I just ramble, ramble on.  Not too many folks come in.”  I found this endearing and made me want to give her a hug as I would my grandmother.  Older folks may opt for simpler lives than the rest of us, but they certainly deserve our attention, patience, and genuine empathy as they come from eras when social interaction didn’t involve the rapid-fire technology that it does now.  It’s important to stop and just talk, especially if you know very little about someone; sadly, this seems to be dying etiquette as existing seems to have become a racing competition that ultimately spreads our efforts too thin over time.

By this time, an older gentleman came into the shop from the back, slowly approaching us as he laboured on a walker.  “This is my husband,” the lady said.  He too looked to be in his 70s (though, perhaps an older septuagenarian than his wife), was white-haired, and also kindly-faced with glasses.  He seemed interested in joining, but went directly for a chair in the office so he could be comfortable.  The lady seemed to be the talker of the two and continued our conversation.  She briefly reiterated to her husband what we already spoke about, so that prompted him to ask his own questions on the same topics.  I told them more about my interest in typewriters, how using them suits me better for drafting work, what I did for work, what I really wanted to do for work, traveling, and having come from San Diego, California.  My place of origin seemed to prompt a side story about their own separate moves from Southern California (the husband came from San Diego himself, in fact) in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  As conversations between separate generations often do, the topic turned to age.  “I could be your grandfather!” the man said with a laugh after I mentioned having been an ’83 baby.  His wife quipped by saying, “I won’t dare tell you my age.”  I laughed and said, “I would never have asked.”

When we returned to my hunting for typewriters, the lady mentioned having just one, a Royal standard that was sitting in a corner to the right of the entrance.  She walked over to take the dust cover off, revealing a beautiful Royal KMM.  Initially, I didn’t know what the mode was, but after finding the serial number, I noticed the “KMM” prefix.  I quickly pulled up The Typewriter Database on my phone and identified it as being a 1939.  It was priced at $85, which I considered a fair price for a fine-looking KMM that seemed to be operable after doing the usual tests, but I remembered that I had one on order from EBay, so I decided to leave it, but hesitantly.  While the three of us continued to chat, I noticed a hardcover, 1952 Doubleday edition of The Diary of a Young Girl on a shelf in front of me.  I pulled it out from between other vintage hardcovers and flipped open the cover: $8.  I was feeling a slight pang of guilt for having already spent so much time in their shop and passing on the Royal that I wanted to walk out with something.  I had been meaning to read this book for years and found its slightly worn green cloth exterior with silver embossed letters tactilely beautiful despite my understood sadness of its contents.

The lady had taken a seat in one of the cushioned armchairs they had for sale while her husband stood with crossed arms over the ledge of the opening from the office to the shop.  After inquiring about other interests of mine, I mentioned fiber arts, specifying crocheting, knitting, spinning, and weaving.  This led to a surprising discussion about their two llamas and the lady’s former interest in spinning.  She mentioned not having the time anymore with the recent construction, and the running of “their baby,” Little River Antiques, LLC.  The two llamas they currently had used to belong to a larger herd, but when the herd was put in the care of someone else for a time, the ‘caregiver’ often left the herd to its own devices and many of the llamas died either from predators or neglect.  Once the fate of their llamas became known, they look back the two survivors, intent on giving them the best care they possibly could in those llamas’ remaining years.  I could see the stern grief in the lady’s eyes as she told me the story.  I thought not to swell on the subject, so I mentioned having cats and that having ‘fur babies’ was a great part of my happiness.  “Oh, we couldn’t do without animals,” she said.  “That’s why we have so many animal-related things in the shop.”  I started to notice these details, seeing a towel rack with cat-shaped ends, rooster statues, dishcloths with chickens on them, and a number of animal figurines.

As it was getting on in the day, I knew I needed a bite to eat, so I asked to pay for the book so I could get on my way.  The man asked me if I was sure I didn’t want the typewriter, but I thanked him and declined.  I suppose I could have bought it and sold whichever of the KMMs was in least favourable condition once the one on order had arrived, but the amount of space the standard-size typewriters take up is always more once you get them home.  Instead, I bought only the book, happy with my modest purchase.  It wasn’t until I was about to leave that we exchanged our names.  These kind folks were Richard and Zera Lowe.  I took their business card (which has a fun, tie-dye design) and said goodbye with the hope of visiting them again.  Cle Elum is, after all, a relatively short distance away, despite feeling a world apart.  I think it was its quiet country charm and one-horse town feeling that made it seem that way.  Also, it’s rare to come across strangers in the city who are willing to give you almost two hours of their time to genuinely get to know more about you.  That part of my visit, I think, was the most notable.

Before heading home, I stopped at Beau’s Pizza & Pasta for a meal.  There were few people there, so I opted for a table at the window facing East 1st Street.  There was a man in cowboy attire sitting at the bar, a middle-aged couple sitting at a table near mine, and a family of four sitting at a table against the wall to my one o’clock.  I had a nice Cabernet Sauvignon with a chicken Caesar salad, and warm slices of French bread dipped in a plate of olive oil and red vinegar with raw garlic cloves that seasoned the mixture.  The salad came with three slices of lemon which, when squeezed over the entire plate, gave a pleasant tartness complementary to the parmesan cheese on top.  One should never judge restaurants by the size and location of a town because my expectations were exceeded by this gourmet meal.

I was on the road by 5:00pm and expecting rain on the way home.  The evening sun showed brightly in patches, often requiring a flip of the visor.  As the sun dipped lower behind the mountains, their grand facades became a rich purple that matched the darkening swaths of clouds that were coming in from the northwest.  Now and then I would hit preceding showers ahead of the bulk of the rain.  By the time I reached North Bend, the rain had started falling steadily.  I wasn’t planning on any further stops on the way home, but when I was waiting at a red light, I noticed a bland, beige building with a lit ‘OPEN’ sign in the window and an ‘Antiques’ sign out front.  I pulled over and parked in the tiny parking lot next to it.

When I walked in, I opened a heavy door with cowbells on it that rang more loudly than I wanted to announce for an entrance.  There were fluorescent light fixtures that hung overhead and, upon first glance, this antique shop seemed more haphazard and scattered than the others.  Behind the cash wrap sat an elderly gentleman who wore jeans, a flannel shirt, and a cap.  He looked to have been in his late 70s.  He slowly got up from his chair to greet me and asked what I was looking for this evening.  Before I could tell him, I noticed two typewriters out for display just ahead of me.  “Typewriters,” I said.  “I collect typewriters and just happened to see your store, so I thought I would stop in to see what you had.”  He pointed at the two I had just seen and said, “Well, we have those two over there,” then he took me to the back of the shop where he showed me a light grey Royal Quiet De Luxe in its case with the lid open.  He also pointed to two electrics in their closed cases standing upright on the floor.  I mentioned specifically looking for manuals, so he left me to examine the Royal while he shuffled back to his chair.

The square Dreyfuss model Quiet De Luxe (named for its designer, Henry Dreyfuss) was similar to one I already had, but appeared to be a slightly older model.  It was in good shape and worked well, but needed some basic cleaning.  On the right of the machine was a four-digit number written in silver marker, so I thought that it could have perhaps belonged to a school at one time.  I left it to go look at the two I first saw.  One was a square model of Sears portable while the other was a rounded ‘60s or ‘70s Royal portable.  Neither piqued my interest, so I meandered around the shop for other interesting items.  I went back to the cash wrap and asked the man about Collier’s magazines, but he said that there were none in stock and that they rarely came into the shop.  There were, however, piles of old National Geographic magazines, so I briefly flipped through a few of those.  Staying mindful of the time, I gave the Quiet De Luxe one last look, but for $80, decided to leave it for someone else.  I knew the rain must have been falling harder now and that the man would be closing shop soon, so I thanked him for his time and left to get myself home.

Though I came home without any of the items I intended to get, I realized that spontaneous trips away—even in relatively short distances—are worth taking when the mood strikes.  The beauty of this world lies waiting, new friends await to be met, and the wealth of stories and new perspectives are plentiful to help broaden one’s understanding and appreciation of what’s out there.  I’ve learned that as comfortable as I am at home, I find myself just as easily comfortable in new and unusual places either nearby or far away.  Making plans as you go often turns into the good stuff worth living for.

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Typewriters

A Visit to Bremerton Office Machine Company

After reading the recent Seattle Times article (http://www.seattletimes.com/business/local-business/areas-last-typewriter-repair-shop-to-go-on-clicking/) about Bremerton Office Machine Company, I wanted to make this an opportunity to see Bremerton for the first time and to see the shop for myself.   I also had a couple typewriters of my own that I wanted to take in for some work: a 1939 Remington Deluxe Noiseless and a 1948 Royal Quiet De Luxe.  The Remmie had a skipping issue with the carriage, needed its paper feeders replaced and the finger toggle on the carriage return lever re-sprung.  The QDL just needed professional attention for a more thorough cleaning beyond what I could initially accomplish.  Leftover gunk seemed to prevent the ribbon vibrator from moving up and down.

For those of you unfamiliar with Bremerton, it’s located on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State’s Puget Sound.  To get to Bremerton, I had to take a ferry from the terminal right by the Alaskan Way viaduct in downtown Seattle which is about a 45-minute ride.  These are large vehicle-hauling ferries, so I had my car with me to be able to drive around the area.  Once on the ferry, passengers can either sit in their cars or take the stairs to the upper deck where they can purchase concessions like coffee and snacks and either have a seat inside or take a walk outside from the bow to the stern.  Regardless of how cold it might be, I always opt for the latter as the sightseeing is much better that way.

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Once the ferry pulled into the Bremerton terminal, I only had to drive a few blocks before I reached BOMC.  My first sights were the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard with ships at the naval base to my left.  It was an overcast-to-rainy kind of day, so the grey colour of the ships seemed to blend in with the sky above them.  Driving through downtown Bremerton feels and looks very much like a Navy town.  There are many naval administration buildings and sailors walking and driving around.  There is also a quiet charm with gift shops, antique stores, cafes, pubs and bar-and-grill restaurants.

When my GPS led me to the destination of BOMC, I immediately recognized the building from the photo in my online search.  However, I was expecting a storefront which turned out to be another business on the first floor.  Next to it on the right were double doors with a sign for BOMC and a phone number to call to be let upstairs where BOMC was.  I called and the new owner, Paul Lundy, answered and said he would be right down to let me up.  While I waited, an older gentleman approached me to ask if this was, “the typewriter place,” seeing that I was holding a black typewriter case which held my Remmie.  He had a young man with him who I guessed was his grandson.  I told him that he was in the right place, pointed to the sign on the door and said that I had already called to be let up.

A few minutes later, Paul appeared at the door with a well-used, white shop apron over his clothes, and let us in.  As we followed Paul to the elevator, I introduced myself and told him that I was the one he had the recent e-mail exchange with about the Remington Deluxe Noiseless.  The other gentleman introduced himself and the young man as his grandson.  They were apparently both in town for the day and wanted to stop by the shop after hearing about it from the same Seattle Times article that brought me to the shop.  The gentleman seemed more enthused about visiting a typewriter repair ship than his grandson, but from what I gleaned from their conversation with Paul, the grandson worked as a mechanic, so having the opportunity to see a place where there was similar tinkering on a different kind of machine seemed to appeal to him on some level.

I decided to first bring up the Remmie since it needed the most attention and would later go back down for the QDL if he was able to fit it in with the Remmie.  Once we reached the second floor, I could see the door to BOMC down the hall from the elevator.  From there, it seemed like it would have been a small shop, but after walking in, I realized that there were many other rooms: one dedicated to making parts, a little gallery for typewriter sales and a large room overlooking the street that served as the office, storage and backlog.

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While the older gentleman and the young man browsed around, Paul had me set the Remmie up on a pushcart so he could inspect it.  After reiterating the issues that needed attention, Paul immediately advised that the paper feeders and finger toggle on the carriage return lever would be straightforward fixes, but the carriage skip would take some time to investigate.  The initial inspection didn’t take long.  Paul wrote up an estimate on a slip and had me fill in my contact details.  With his current backlog, the expected turnaround time was over a month, but I told him that I had many other typewriters to keep me from having withdrawals and that I was more pleased with the fact that he was getting so much business.  He laughed and said, “I’m glad I am too!”

I figured Saturday was just like any other workday for Paul, so I felt incredibly honoured when he gave me and the two other visitors a tour of the shop and took the time to explain all the functions of the shop in the same detail as if he was giving another interview.  The way he spoke of the shop and the work that he does there was inspiring in itself because it isn’t often that you come across someone with the same kind of passion for their work that Paul has.  I wasn’t just listening to someone knowledgeable about their profession, but a guy who was contently immersed in his craft, totally in his element.

After the other customers finished perusing and left, I decided to go downstairs to get the QDL out of my car to bring upstairs after Paul said he’d be happy to have a look at it.  When I got it back upstairs, he confirmed my suspicion that gunk I couldn’t quite get to when I cleaned it up after purchase was probably interrupting the ribbon vibrator, causing the top half of the typeface to be cut off or faded.  Some of the typeslugs also had some ink buildup which he confirmed could easily be cleaned using both a toothbrush and even an aluminum needle.  I was wary of using needles to clean the typeslugs on my machines, afraid that I would scratch them, but he insisted that the metal used to make the typebars was strong (usually steel) and could handle the prodding from an aluminum needle.  He then wrote up an estimate slip for the QDL and added it to his queue.

After the business portion of my visit was covered, Paul and I spent over an hour just talking typewriters.  I also asked when Mr. Montgomery usually comes in as I was hoping to meet him as well.  “He usually comes in on Fridays,” Paul said.  “When he’s here, he usually likes to talk to the customers.  They’ll usually be here a minimum of two hours just listening to him talk about typewriters.”  BOMC has been in business since 1947, so the collective knowledge between Paul and Mr. Montgomery is immeasurable.

While all the tools and workstations throughout the shop were fascinating, I was most interested in checking out the typewriters for sale.  There were roughly two-dozen different typewriters for sale, ranging from $50 to $700 (that I saw, anyway).  There was a Facit, a Hermes Rocket, L. C. Smiths, an Olivetti, Olympias, Remingtons, Royals, Smith-Coronas and Underwoods.  Some were electrics, but most were manuals.  There was paper left out so they could be tested by customers.  The best part about this was that there was such a diverse collection; many of these were makes and models I had only seen in pictures or heard of but never actually had the opportunity to type on.  Some machines typed as I had expected while others were a pleasant surprise.  If I had extra disposable income that day, I would have gone home with at least one of these machines—probably the L. C. Smith standard.

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Because Paul comes into contact with countless typewriters and typewriter sources, he is also happy to match-make customers with typewriters they are looking for when he comes across them.  I’m sure that whatever he found would be top-notch and if it needed some work, it’s already in the very capable hands of someone who can service or repair it to be type-ready by the time it reached the customer.  Paul charges $49 per hour (most servicing and repairs take roughly three hours or less per typewriter) and approaches work on typewriters as both his livelihood and never-ending learning experiences.

My favourite part of the visit was just talking about our shared love for typewriters.  BOMC is not just a repair shop, but also like a working museum of these relics of bygone days.  We agreed that the restoration and maintenance of these machines is not only important to the people who use them as an alternative to digital technologies, but vital to the preservation of our inventive history.  Paul appreciates the abundance of business he gets from those who want to continue using typewriters, but is also generous to impart his knowledge.  He remarked on the importance of owners of typewriters having the ability to maintain their own machines and be empowered to share their passion and educate others so typewriters continue to grow in popularity once again and benefit the typosphere movement as a whole.

If you live in the Puget Sound area or ever find yourself in or around Seattle, I highly recommend taking the ferry ride out to see Paul Lundy (and if it’s a Friday, you might also get to see Mr. Montgomery).  You’ll get to hear invaluable information about typewriters, muse over and play with (and maybe even buy?) typewriters for sale and no doubt leave having learned something new.  Above all, I am confident that you will leave with greater appreciation for these marvelous machines and feel more inspired that you may have been when you walked in.

 

 

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Arts, Crafts & Creative Inspiration

The Magic of Creative Inspiration on Country Retreats

I spent this weekend at my friend Sally’s ranch in Ramona as I have been doing for quite some time now.  To provide a bit of background, this is where I began training with horses back in 2008 and have spent the better part of the time since then reacquainting myself with country life.  I used to be one of those city boys who would cringe at the idea of getting dirty and even mucking horse poo, but despite the work it takes to keep a ranch and care for horses, there is calming effect about it all that grounds your soul.  Weekend after weekend of being in this environment changed me.  After a while, I even began growing a resentment for the concrete jungle.

Now, with horses no longer on the ranch, weekends are spent doing general maintenance of the property (e.g. weeding, trimming, landscaping and, now that it’s October, focusing on keeping a defensible space around the house).  The property is within viewing distance of Witch Mountain, so for anyone who was in San Diego County during October of 2007, you remember the Witch Creek fire very well.  The ranch was, in fact, affected tremendously during the wildfires (traces of which can still be seen in spots) and it is always an ongoing project to keep at least the area around the house well-manicured.  With the property totaling nearly twelve acres, some of it can only be left to grow wild if there are only two people to regularly work it.

When it’s decided that work is done for the day, there is always time to spend enjoying the surroundings.  With the abundance of plant life, animal life and ever-changing weather conditions, it is hardly difficult to be creatively inspired.  I am never without my camera and am never without a new idea for a photograph when I have been receptive enough and quiet enough to allow Nature to show me what she has to offer.  Capturing images of the many critters takes patience, but when you’ve been noticed and graciously allowed to be within their immediate space, it can be a very gratifying and honorable feeling.  The same is also true for the variety of insects that can be found.  My favorite are the honey bees because they’re usually so focused on their task at hand that they never seem to notice my camera lens coming up alongside them.  Arachnids, despite their malevolent reputation, are also sometimes subjects of interest.  While I can’t promise having one ON me won’t provoke a less-than-masculine reaction, they are interesting to watch while still or constructing their webs.  Wolf spiders, orb-weavers and the seldom-seen tarantula are some of the more intriguing species.  And yes, even the black widow has its own unique beauty.  Being rather fond of black and red myself, I have to admit that these girls do know how to look sharp!  At some point, I’d like to get a good photograph of at least one (and not to worry, my camera has terrific zoom).

This weekend in particular, I was able to capture some new photos, but mostly of the effects of the wet weather.  Being a water sign, I seem to have always been innately drawn to water.  I’m fascinated by its many forms whether it be a simple water droplet resting on a petal or the state of a body of water when, on a microcosmic level, it is disturbed by another force.

Since Sally likes to knit and after I recently learned to crochet, I brought my crocheting materials with me so that I could immerse myself in the teal scarf that I’m making while Sally worked on a new sweater.  She began to teach me how to knit last weekend, but as it turns out, I found that crocheting is much simpler.  I still want to learn to knit, but just as I wanted to drive all over Kingdom Come when I FINALLY learned how to drive the stick shift, all I wanted to do is crochet something I could be proud of with this new skill.  From the little bit if knitting I have practiced, it takes a lot of hand coordination to efficiently handle the two needles, which, in essence, is training your brain to manage a new type of kinesthesia.  Now that I’m fairly proficient at using one hook needle, it might help when I advance to using two needles.

On Sunday morning after Sally and I emerged from our own rooms and filled our cups with coffee, we sat down to resume our respective projects.  We’re comfortable enough in our friendship to be able to be in each other’s presence while working on our projects in silence while every once in a while engaging in choppy conversation.  During one of the moments of silence, I looked up at our hanks of yarn sitting on the ottoman in front of us then at the strings of yarn being rapidly extracted from each with our needles and swiftly woven into form as if we were machines.  I laughed in an almost indecipherable two-syllable exhale before looking back at my work.

Once we were thoroughly caffeinated, Sally suggested we drive up to Wynola and Julian for a “creative re-charge” excursion by visiting some of the craft stores up there.  We drove from the ranch through Santa Ysabel and up the mountain into Julian where we found Main Street bustling with tourists.  I put my window down for a moment to inhale the natural mountain-high scents mixed with pies baking and chimneys smoking, all on a restless cool air.  Once we found parking on one of the side streets, I was able to feel the wind’s full effect.  It was very characteristic and hollow and seemed a bit…mischievous in the way it picked my hair up and suddenly dropped it again, almost as if benevolent ghosts were surfing the gusts and reaching out to me as they flew past.  The veil between worlds is, after all, thinning as we draw near to All Hallow’s Eve.

Our first stop was at a store called Funky Spun (http://www.funkyspun.com/) where we were greeted outside by the owner who was sitting next to a spinning wheel while holding a giant rabbit.  He was being groomed for excess hair which, as we were told, was to be later spun into soft yarn.  We stood there for a moment and talked with the owner before stepping into the small shop that was FILLED with all sorts of knit and crochet wear such as socks, shawls and scarves.  The scarves were hung right by the front door, so I stopped right away to finger through those while Sally went to the back to have a look at the raw materials for spinning.  Some of the scarves I looked at were multi-colored, some loosely crocheted, some not, and others were decorated with beads and even button-sized sea shells strung randomly throughout.  I thought this was a neat idea and something I could incorporate into my scarves.  Women might like that in theirs, I thought.  The idea of introducing beads to scarves got my creative gears working.  I began pondering the specifics: What kinds of beads with what type of yarn?  What colors should I pair together?  What about hematite on black?…or turquoise on cobalt blue?…or tiger’s eye on espresso brown?  Sometimes it takes the simplest of new visuals to activate my creativity like water to a dry sponge.

After about forty-five minutes of conversation with the shop owner and perusing, Sally bought some sheep’s wool to take to her next spinning class.  I didn’t purchase anything this time, but knew that I would be coming back for some of the finer materials once I finish my first scarf.  I’m currently working with acrylic yarn from Wal-Mart – which is a good material to start out with – but having considered all these fresh ideas I had dancing around in my head, basic acrylic yarn might not do.  Some new items I have in mind I would like to give a more “rustic” look.  Variations in home-spun yarns would help achieve this effect.

We left Julian for Wynola via the route that passes by the cemetery.  On this route, the road cuts through meadows, which, on this particular day, were partially obscured by the rolling mist.  I had to stop in a turnout at one point to take a picture.  The mist seemed to roll by like marauding spirits.  Perhaps the inflow of tourists in town sent them off to find more peaceful grounds until night settled back in.  It was, in fact, quieter where the many trees on the meadows’ edges stood tall and stoic without a hint of breeze blowing through them.  A good resting place for traveling souls, I thought.

In Wynola, we stopped at a shop called Mountain Beadworks.  For those of you who like to bead, if you’re ever out in the Julian/Wynola area, this is a definite stop.  Before going into the shop, we decided to meander through the farmers’ market that was set up outside.  We sampled some of the local fare like home-made beef jerky, jams and other preserves, various types of humus with pita and raw honey.  I’m glad I didn’t have much cash on me at the time, because I could have spent a small fortune on the amazing goods being sold.  I love markets like these.

Upon entering the bead store, we were greeted by the two shop dogs, Winston and Ruby, two of the sweetest and most mellow Golden Retrievers you’d ever want to meet.  The store, as one would expect, was wall-to-wall beads.  All were color-coded and categorized by bead type.  I personally favor glass beads or those cut from semi-precious stones, so, naturally, I immediately gravitated toward a display full of stone beads.  Those particularly stunning were the turquoise, remembering, oh, these are my sister’s favorite, the tiger’s eye and the hematite.  All were somewhat pricey per strand, but if I were to use them sparingly throughout a garment, the cost wouldn’t seem quite as bad.  I continued looking around, picking up and rolling different beads between my fingertips before deciding whether or not I liked them.  The hematite might have to come with me next time, I thought.  Others were nominated for purchase as well after deciding how they might fit into the bigger picture of a new crochet project.  Before long, Sally had picked up a few choices for purchase, but again, I decided to leave empty-handed.  Having never been very interested in beading, I could never imagine myself dropping a lot of money in a bead store, but now, knowing how I could diversify by integrating them into another craft, I’m quite sure that I could.  Hmm…this may perhaps become another craft obsession I will have to mediate.

On the drive home, I kept thinking, days like this are absolutely necessary, even if I don’t buy anything.  The inspiration alone is a gem unto itself and the ideas born from it are infinite.  One needs a healthy change of scenery, a few generous looks at materials with “POSSIBILITIES” written all over them and the desire to create.  Trust yourself completely and watch the art manifest.

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