Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ordering Black!

Pearl cotton sample card with my choices pulled over to the left: black, two shades of dark brown, burgundy, wine, navy, dark green.

For the first year and a half of running this weaving business, I've only been able to afford mill ends. It's worked out fine, really. I just tailor my colors to whatever thread I can get ahold of.

There is, however, one consistent request that I've been unable to meet: black garments. You know, the classic color that goes with everything?

The trouble is that mills don't release black very often because they can always use it. Much of the black that is released is overdyed and turned out too weak for them to use. Well, I won't use it, either. Weak threads make bad cloth.

After adding another dozen people to my "I'd like black" mailing list, I decided to invest in some black yarn. It's WAY more expensive than mill ends, and will probably cause the black cloth to cost more, but I think people will be OK with that.

The cloth I have in mind is going to be rich. It will be mostly pure flat black, but like all of my cloth, there will be some surprises. I'll be adding single shiny strands of the other colors, plied with shiny black, across the whole width of the cloth. By making sure that warm colors are next to cool colors, the overall effect should be a luxurious neutral black.

It'll be a while before this cloth is even started, but I decided to buy the yarn now because I've never bought wholesale before and have no idea how long it takes them to source and ship. One wholesaler gave a delivery date of mid-April if I order now. So I'm ordering now.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guest Author On Crafting The Sacred

I've been getting into quite a rhythm of blog writing, folding it into my real morning ritual, tea. I like to spend a couple of hours every morning drinking tea, appreciating the light of day, and collecting my thoughts. The first hour is meditation as I watch my mind wake up enough to do anything else. The second hour is when I do brain work. This includes daily task filing, review, and management, blog reading, and then blog writing.

Usually, I'm writing for my own blog, but this time I was writing for someone else. My friend, Jo, invited me to write for her blog last year, and it's taken me this long to get around to it.

Working with her was fantastic! She helped me direct my writing through several revisions until it told a side of the story that fits with the theme of her blog: helping creative people to explore the sacred through their craftwork. I think the result is fantastic, and much better than I could have written without her prompting. Thanks, Jo!

You can read the article here: Weaving The Threads Of Community

Jo Crawford of Crafting the Sacred helps creatives manifest the work they love through creative coaching and intuitive readings. Her vision for Crafting the Sacred is to create a space for creatives to gather and explore inner wisdom and sacred expression within our sacred craft work.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blue cloth is coming together

It's time to start winding the next batch of cloth, this time in shades of blue. I've pulled out all of the shades that I'm considering for the warp so I can see how much I have of each color and develop a vision for the gradient.

The design looks pretty straightforward: navy blue and royal through denim and grey to sky blue, light grey, and white. And all of it will have tiny splashes of teal, turquoise, dusty green, ultramarine, and deep purple to keep it lively. Time to wind the cones!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Whoa! A new van!

Poof! Just like that there's a new van in my life.

I spent the last couple of days researching used cargo vans on Craigslist, eBay, and other online sites, keeping the search local to this area. Vehicles are cheaper here because there is less employment here. I'm kind of lucky (and kind of strategic) that I make my own work.

Once I had a good idea of what is reasonable to spend, I decided to visit three used car dealerships and see what I could come up with. I did not expect to buy a van today, but it wasn't out of the question, either.

I got a good idea of what I was looking at from visiting the first two places and realized that there was a great deal staring me in the face at the third place. They agreed to take Pearl and even give me some money for her, even though she has a broken odometer which makes her impossible to sell except for parts.

Here's the list is things that I wanted to fix on Pearl to get her though another year:

  • Replace the heater blower so that I can clear the windshield of ice or fog and drive safely. As it stands, I have to use a towel and then drive as best I can to let the engine heat seep in.

  • Replace the windshield washer pump so I can clean the outside of the windshield without stopping on the side of the road and pouring water (or wiper fluid) from a bottle while the wipers run.

  • Replace the faulty plexiglass and single-pane homemade windows with real, latching windows so that I can lock her when she's parked on the street. My insurance company might not honor a claim of merchandise loss if they found out that she didn't really lock.

  • Service the transmission. It's overdue and could have killed her if it was not done.

  • Replace the tires. They are all bald, leading to the final episode of drama this last weekend.

  • Replace the passenger's side mirror. The current one just flops around, pretty much useless.

  • Tighten up the steering. It's loose, and beyond the limits of adjustment without replacing the whole gear box.

  • Fix the turn signal. It won't signal right, and needs to be manually turned off after signalling left.

  • Finally replace the leaky water pump gasket. This is pretty expensive because of the labor to get the whole thing removed.

These things all work correctly in the new van. The asking price was far less than the total of these repairs, even if nothing else went wrong with her. As a bonus, I also got the following features:
  • Cruise control. On long drives, this reduces one element of the complexity, allowing me to focus on the rest of the job of driving and preventing me from speeding by accident.

  • Antilock Braking System. This helps make up for human error in a panic situation.

  • Air bags. My best friend was in a pretty bad accident recently, protected in part by his airbags. Now I have them, too!

  • Protective walls. There are steel barricades between the people and the cargo. In an accident (or even just a sudden stop) the driver and passenger will not be impacted by flying items from the cargo area.

  • Brand new transmission. This new van included a recent invoice for a transmission overhaul. That's one bit of maintenance that I won't have to worry about for a while.

  • Air conditioning. I probably won't use it much because it reduces gas mileage, but it's good to know that it's there in the few cases when I want it.

And here are the factors that I considered in making the decision to purchase this vehicle right now.
  • How much do I expect to pay for the upgrades that I want on the old van?

  • What are the risks associated with NOT performing these upgrades?

    • Lost time manually working around the problems. ie: pulling off the road every exit to clean the windshield when driving on salty roads.

    • Lost opportunity if I miss a show because of a delay caused by these or other problems.

    • More lost opportunity when the word gets out to other show organizers that I am not dependable as a vendor.

    • Lost money if I have to file an insurance claim and have it denied.

  • What other risks exist?

    • The van probably has other mechanical problems that I haven't discovered as I've kept her patched together. She's ooooold, and falling apart.

So I decided to replace her, but why right now?
  • The odometer is broken, which means that I cannot legally sell her, except for parts. Maybe a friend would buy her under the table like I did, but could still lead to legal problems if we get caught. If a dealer would offer me money in trade, I'd take it just to be rid of the hassle.

  • For the level of vehicle I'm considering as a replacement, I can pay cash. If a dealer would offer me a substantial discount for bringing them actual cash and saving them credit card fees, I'd take it.

After trying three places and not being enamored of any vans that I saw for sale, one of them jumped out at me as perfect. They offered me a substantial amount for trading in Pearl, and took even more off the asking price when I offered to pay in cash. So, I was off to the bank and driving home in my new van about 30 minutes later.

I still kind of can't believe it, but I know that it's the right choice. I filed a title transfer and DMV registration today. I'll change over the insurance on Monday.

The new van drives to the first show in a week and a half.

Bedspread Delivery

This past week in San Francisco had a few shining moments. One of them was the delivery of the beautiful red bedspread that I worked so hard to sew the week before.

The colors were perfect for the space where it will live. It instantly became the defining feature of that room.

This was my first time taking a commission of this scale, and it turned out perfectly.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Limping home. Time for a new van.

Well, we're home.

We got home yesterday and I was too whipped to think about posting on the day's adventures. I think it's a better idea to tell the story of The Black Pearl and her experience on this trip...

OK, first, she's old. The friend who sold her to me warned me not to put any real money into her. I didn't have another choice, though. I had enough cashflow to keep her patched up, but not enough to replace her.

Well, this trip is making me consider the potential cost of NOT replacing her. Here's how it went...

We replaced the brake pads and got to the show. All was well. Not so much as a hiccup all the way down. Yeah! As I arrived in the parking lot of the hotel, the rearview mirror fell off. It's done this before and I have been able to just glue it up.

As I was leaving the show, I had a friend take me to an auto parts store for a mirror regluing kit. I tried it, but the glue just wouldn't set. The button is glued permanently to the back of the mirror and there was no way to hold the heavy contraption in place while the glue set.

I had to deliver the bedspread, though, so I drove for a while without a mirror. As soon as I had a chance, I went to another auto parts store to replace the whole mirror. I got it, glued the button into place and though I'd be on to my next errands while I waited for the glue to set. The van wouldn't start. AAA came out to test it and told me that the year-and-a-half-old battery was completely dead. It's not the alternator. It's the battery. OK, I carry that charged spare battery to run my booth power in places without electricity, so I could just pop it in. But not right then, because AAA jumped the van and told me to drive to wherever I wanted to be for the night, just in case it was more than just the battery.

So at the height of San Francisco's rush hour I got onto the most congested bridge, currently under construction, to drive to my friend's house in Oakland, while still waiting for the mirror glue to set. It was pretty horrible. I had to ditch half of the errands that I wanted to run in San Francisco and just tell myself that I'll do them next year. Ah, well!

The next morning the van started and ran with no problem until Wispr and I stopped for a couple of hours by the ocean. It wouldn't start again so I swapped out the battery and everything worked great for a few hours.

Until we got to Red Bluff. You saw the results of that yesterday... I thought it was a water pump gasket that blew steam from under the hood and caused us to stay the night while we waited for the mechanic's shop to open. It was just a loose hose clamp. The mechanic reattached it and we were on our way.

All was well for a few hours and then, about 30 minutes before arriving at home, the van started wobbling and vibrating pretty badly all of a sudden. We pulled off and saw that the driver's side rear tire had a pretty significant bulge and looked about to blow out. Grrrr... We were so close!

So, I placed the third AAA call in two days and had them tow me home. Today I'm replacing the tire and thinking long and hard about how I need to respond to all of this. I wouldn't even do that much except that she's the only functioning vehicle here in the collective for the next 10 days.

On the one hand, it has worked OK to keep this van propped up good enough to do shows. I was lucky that all of the problems were minor and fairly easy to fix.

On the other hand, I'm taking a lot of risk by continuing to drive a beat-up old vehicle. What if this happened on the way to a show and I besmirch my reputation as a vendor while missing an opportunity to sell $5,000 in merchandise? There's the tangible risk of losing that income, which would have just about paid for a new (to me) vehicle, but there's also the intangible risk of hurting my reputation with show organizers. I know that they talk to each other and I'll never know for sure just how many shows will lose faith in me if I am not able to follow through on my commitments to another show.

So, it looks like I'll be selling Pearl and using the money to help pay for a new van. I'd prefer to go through a dealer and make sure that there's a warranty.

With my show schedule, I've got two weeks to find a new van, deal with the financing, registration, insurance, and more in order to use it on my next trip. And all of this has to happen while producing the merchandise for the next show, preparing the loom for the next batch of cloth, and finding new sources of yarn for my upcoming projects.

Spring is here!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unhappy Pearl

In the round of van trouble last year there was one problem that I neglected to fix: the gasket on the back side of the water pump was leaking. Since then I've been adding "leak fix goo", little bottles of stuff with aluminum shavings that are supposed to clog up the leak. It worked pretty well until yesterday.

We stopped for food and came out to find water under the van. I threw a blanket over the engine, took off the radiator cap, and refilled it with the water that I carry for that purpose. This got us through another 50 miles before water and steam came spewing from beneath the van.

Thankfully, Wispr has family in the next town, Red Bluff. AAA towed us there and we're waiting for the mechanic to look at it this morning. Let's hope it's just that one gasket and there's nothing else wrong.

UPDATE: The mechanic says that a hose came unattached and caused the trouble. It's fixed already and for cheap. YES!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Very Successful Show

After the last few tough shows, including one that didn't even pay for itself, a wildly successful one is welcome to say the least. I didn't blog about it at the time, but I think it's important for people to know... I am paying part of my show fees this year with the help of an angel investor.

Most of the shows need their fees paid between January and April, right during the time of year when there are few shows to help earn the money. And many shows don't publish their deadlines and fees until January, so there's no way to know this during your first year on the circuit.

It wouldn't have mattered if I knew, anyhow. I just didn't make enough in my first half-year of small shows to pay all of my bills and startup costs with a year's worth of big show fees left over.

Sooo, I've borrowed money to grow the business fast enough to pay back the loan and have money left over to run the business at this new, higher level. The success of this show will help to reduce my debt. I'm not out of the woods by a long shot, but the trajectory is finally in the right direction.

I don't want much out of this business at this point. I just want to be able to keep weaving. That means paying the bills, buying yarn, covering living expenses, and paying back my debt. Later in the year it will mean saving money for next year's fees, but we're not there yet.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The 8x4 Booth

There isn't enough space to get very far back from my booth, but here are a couple snapshots of how it looks all set up. (No, those roof poles are not curved. It's the panorama software that does that.) The checkstand is not visible from outside the booth. It's tucked inside the ruana rack and made of "back stock tubs" with canvas on them.

You'll notice that my ruana rack is a little sparse. I am not complaining at all! I'd rather go home and need to work my butt off to refill that rack for the next show than to limp home broke.

I made one really good call on that front. On the way out the door I grabbed a stack of unsewn ruanas and hung them up for sale as "blankets". And they work great for that purpose. They also let me sell them as ruanas to customers who are OK if I ship to them next week. I ran out of green ruanas so now I'm selling the unfinished ones. Yeah!

Pearl's On Familiar Turf

Today's post is quick because I'm at a show with long days and a lot of customer interaction. I'm whipped! But I found a WiFi hotspot so I thought I'd check in...

My van, named The Black Pearl, has been to this show every February for something like 15 years. The friend who sold her to me is a vendor here. Unlike Pearl, this is my first year as a vendor at this show.

Here's a quick snapshot of the vendor hall before setup yesterday morning. I'll take a matching one today. I don't if this is interesting to anyone else, but I think it's incredible how a hundred people can squeeze a beautiful marketplace through regular-sized doors and set it up in about two hours.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Next Batch Of Cloth Is On Deck: Subdued Blue

I know it seems like the grey batch was just started, and that's true. But look how much we've woven already...

There are three of us weaving on it now and it takes several weeks to ply threads and wind a beam.

So, believe it or not, it's time to take inventory and prepare for weaving the next batch of cloth.

After pulling out all of the yarn, I can see that I do have just enough of the colors that I want to do this batch of cloth. The theme is "early morning sky and fog", lots of subdued blues and greys. It will feature a "double-fade", similar to the purple and the grey. This gives a light-colored stripe that flows across the chest when a cloak is thrown over one shoulder, which is the most popular way to wear this garment.

This color choice should lend itself to mixing with a wide variety of blues from navy to teal to turquoise, and greys from charcoal to smoke.

I do need to buy a little bit of yarn just to be sure that I don't run out when I'm weaving, but I certainly have enough of the main colors to get started winding as soon as I get back from my trip to California, where I am right now, by the way. More on that tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Method Of Communicating Weft Colors

As this weaving production scales up, I find that it's necessary to understand the flow of cloth design and creation, for myself and for the others.

Here's the new system that I've come up with. It's a record of all the garment colors that we've created, and a plan for what we'll be doing in the coming weeks.

Each of those spots on the sample blanket represents a garment to weave. From a zoomed-back view, I can ensure that there's a good balance of all the different weft colors, making sure that there's good variety in the finished garments, ie. not too many in one particular range of shades.

Each horizontal line contains four garments, roughly in the order that I'd like to weave them. When each one is done, we cross it off so that the next weaver knows what's been done.

Garments in the middle of a stripe are pure or near-pure versions of that stripe's color. Those on the border are asking for a combination of those two colors. Toward the end of the batch, I'll want to create more combinations than can be represented this way, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

This system has come into being just in time. I'll be away at three shows over the next four weeks, and this system lets others weave while I'm gone.

Cloth Workflow

With a few of us working in the studio now, managing the flow of cloth from threads to customers is becoming more important. Here are the steps to manage once the cloth is woven:

1. Finish. Stitch edges, wash, and dry.
2. Cut. This separates the individual garments from each other. Shawls and scarves are done at this point.
3. Sew. Cloaks and mobius scarves need to be sewn up before they're ready.
4. Waiting. At the end of each beam is a piece of cloth where one or two sections ran out. This can be sewn into shawls or scarves, but requires more problem-solving. As a result, there's a year's worth of it now. I moved it to the front so that I'd remember to do it.

And, finally, here's the final result: unglamorous tubs of merchandise ready to pack in the van and bring to shows.

Four ruanas that show some of the color variation in this beam: grey, green, brown, blue.

A stack of scarves: plain, fringed, and mobius:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Making Sleeves

Once getting the light mounted, I needed to sew up those sleeves I designed last week. These will let me run wires along any of the horizontal roof poles while keeping the whole setup tidy-looking.

The first step is a method of cutting cloth thar's TERRIBLE if you're doing fine tailoring, but fine for something that's not meant to be looked at. I just tear it into strips the right width.

This method is great because it let me "cut" 14 yards of cloth in about two minutes, but bad for several reasons. It stretches the edge of the cloth ensuring that edges will not meet up evenly. It also leaves long threads on the edge which make sewing a challenge.

But once the edge is double-stitched and each sleeve is turned right-side out, none of that matters. Here's what it will look like, except that it will be 7-9 feet up in the air with much more interesting things to look at. And that's the point.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sewing A Bedspread

In preparation for my trip to California, I'm tying up one more loose project. A friend in San Francisco let me use his truck for my first cloth delivery and beam retrieval of my year and a half internship. In payment for using the truck and letting me take so long repaying him, I've offered to weave and sew him a custom bedspread.

I've put it off, partly because I want to be there in person to fit it, and partly because it's terrifying to work with such a large piece of cloth.

This friend likes color, and lots of it! He requested a bedspread that has as many colors as I could stand to put into it. I like cloth made from very similar colors, excruciatingly composed, so his request had me at a little bit of a loss. Here's the cloth that we wove for him.

You can see weft colors from yellow to purple, with everything in between and no similar stripes near each other. When the side panels are sewn on, the stripes will not match up at all, lending even more liveliness to the design. I think it's exactly what he will like. His other request was to make sure that any required seams are not further than 12" or so from the edge of the bed. He does not want to lie on seams.

In my design, I was able to get the seams to lie about 6" from the edges, definitely not in a place where one would lie without rolling off the bed. This will make the main surface of the bed a simple set of stripes with a contrasting set of stripes, matching each other, on each side.

You can see that I designed it to be "fitted", but that's not what I'm going to do, at least at first. I'll bring it down without the corners cut out and see how he likes it. If there is too much bulk on the corners, I'll bring it home and modify it.

Since we had woven just the right length, including seam allowances, the first task was to cut this piece of cloth in half. First, I folded it to find the middle, then employed my favorite trick to cut handwoven cloth in a straight line.

It's a simple trick, too. You pull a thread, starting at one edge and going to the other. At the far edge, you snip the thread that's pulling and pull it all the way out. Then, hang the cloth over a curtain rod and clamp it in place to keep it from sliding off. Climb between the two layers of cloth and the cut line is standing there, plain as day.

The next challenge was to get the two side panels attached to the main body of the cloth. I decided that the best way was to attach the two full-width pieces of cloth together before cutting one lengthwise.

See the 1 1/2" overlap? That will be used in a little while to give me a flat-felled seam. I want both sides of the bedspread to have finished seams, just like everything that I sew. No raw edges anywhere, thankyouverymuch!

After pinning every 8", I have to gather the whole thing, carry it to the studio, and place it on my lap to sew with as little manipulation as possible.

I use homemade beanbags as tailor's weights to keep the rest of the cloth from moving around on the sewing table while I work.

Only after that seam is done do I cut the side panel lengthwise. At any time until I make that cut, I can change my mind about what I'm doing and rip out the seam, no harm done. I don't expect to, obviously, but I like to give myself as much time as possible to catch mistakes before making irreversible actions like cutting 3 yards of cloth down the middle.

One of the choices I made in laying out this design was to butt the selvedges together in the flat-felled seams. I did this on purpose so that I could make those seams as thin as possible. Instead of my usual approach, to fold a good-sized flap into the seam, I chose to fold the wider edge of the flat-fell so that it's just catching about 1/2" from the selvedge. This makes the seam itself only two layers thick instead of three, and more comfortable for someone who's sensitive to laying on texture.

It meant pinning every 2" for 100" of length, but it was worth the extra work to get a beautiful finished seam.

After the panels were attached, the last step was to add the hem all the way around.

There was a choice to make about the corners. Conventional sewing wisdom says that I should miter the corner, snipping it off at a 45 degree angle that grazes the line where the folded hem would end. This reduces the bulk of the corners. I didn't do that. I decided that I wanted the extra weight.

See how many layers of cloth are going into that corner? Nine of them altogether.

This would not be OK for a garment, but it's fine for a bedspread. I carefully tuck the innermost layer that would be visible at the edge so that only two layers are visible there. See? It's a little thick, but not bad at all.

The last step was to topstitch all the way around the edge. I put in a fresh bobbin to make sure I could get all the way around without stopping.

Then it gets washed and dried to "settle" all the sewing, and here's the final result.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nice Lights At Last

Arcana stepped in to weave today, freeing me up to work on the new booth lighting. Last October I bought a nice-looking set of lights from Ikea on the way home from my most successful show of the year. Yeah, it was sort of an impulse purchase, but I knew I'd want them eventually. It has just taken longer than I expected to actually use them.

The first step was to rebuild the booth frame so that the overhang was the correct size, but mounted down where I could reach it. There are lots of short pieces left over from the cutting of the correctly-sized pieces. I just use them to cobble together a framework to hold up the overhang.

And here is the pile of parts from Ikea. Of course I had to rework some of them for use on a booth instead of a home.

First, I coated the metal rods in clear duct tape to provide an extra layer of electrical insulation. Then I added white duct tape to give me a measurement for the mounting of the wires and mask the piece of tubing that will be visible between them. Then I used my trusty zip-ties to attach the mounting hardware.

It was then just a simple matter of applying tension to the wires and attaching the fixtures. These fixtures look like the professional setup in high-end retail establishments, but they are made from very cheap plastic. This lets them ride on very cheap wires that aren't under very much tension.

But aren't they pretty and clean-looking?

This setup is meant to be permanently installed in a house with a junction box supplying the electricity. To make it work in a mobile setup, I wired it to a lamp cord and mounted the whole thing on a board. This board will be painted to match the booth and mounted on the outside of it, letting me treat this thing like any other lamp in term of how it's used: just plug it in and leave it be.

To pack it up, I just undo the turnbuckles, unhook the wires, and carefully pack the fixtures in a padded box.

Goodnight, lights! See you next week!

Replacing My Own Van Brakes

For the last month or so one of my brakes has been squealing like mad. This usually means that the pads are getting worn down and need to be replaced. I had a choice. I could take it into the mechanic and pay him to fix it, losing at least a day in the process. I could also buy new pads and shoes and trust my friend who says that we can do it ourselves. "Oh, what the heck!", I decided, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least I'll get to see how hard this is."

The front disc brakes were simple. I could do them myself in about 15 minutes each. There's really nothing that can could go anyplace other than where it belongs. The back brakes, drums, were a real nightmare.

Here's Wispr, with the Haynes repair manual, trying to remember the order in which pieces are removed to get the drum shoes off.

First of all, drum brakes require a special set of tools for removing springs and such. Thankfully, Wispr has a set of those tools. These are something I'll have to buy if I expect to do this again. It took us so long to get the shoes off and back on again that night came before we were done. We had to do it twice before we got all the parts in the right place. In the end, I made a terrible mistake by wanting to see the mechanism work before we put the drum on. I asked Wispr to pump the brakes and watched one of the hydraulic pistons overextend itself and squirt brake fluid out. This unseated the piston, and made me take the whole thing apart again. It took an hour on the web to figure out that I could clean and reseat that piston myself. By the time I finished it was pitch black and we had to put the tools away in case it rained overnight, which it did.

We got up this morning and it was still drizzling. I needed to have the van either fixed or not by tomorrow when I have an appointment to get a bid on some sewing work. I brought out the patio umbrella so we could get the work done even if it really rained.

After messing up and fixing the piston on one brake and removing and replacing the whole assembly three times, I was pretty confident that I could do the second brake fairly easily. I asked Wispr to run the camera so I could share the experience.

Here goes! Once the wheel is removed, the brake drum just slides right off.

See all those springs, cables and levers? They all to be removed, carefully remembering where they came from and in what order. The drums aren't solidly connected to anything. All these little parts let them move in the ways that they need to while basically floating around in there.

Those springs are under a LOT of tension, so I'm glad there's a tool to help get them safely off and back on.

Eventually, the shoes just pop off with only a couple more parts attaching them to each other.

And here's the cause of my troubles: at some point a small piece of metal got into the brake assembly and embedded itself in the shoe. Thankfully, the squealing alerted me and we caught it before it had worn into the drum. If I'd taken the upcoming California trip without replacing this shoe, I would almost certainly have needed to replace the whole drum when I returned. This is easy, but expensive.

Here are the new shoes and all of the little parts that will need to to go back to the right locations in the right order.

Yay! Thanks to Wispr's coaching, I did it! In this picture I look exactly like my dad, not just because I do look like him, but because of what I'm doing. For my whole childhood he tried to get me under cars, trucks and tractors with him. And now, 25 years later, I wish I had done it.

In the end, I have to say that with all the trouble I had with it, my time might have been better spent weaving a garment to sell and earn the money for a mechanic. This was great experience, but I'm still undecided whether I'll do it myself next time or hire it done. Thankfully, these new shoes should get me through a year or two before they need to be replaced again.