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Aug 18, 2014

Working on My Linen Shorts + How I Nearly Burned the House Down



So let me start with the burning the house down part, since it's clearly more newsworthy than a pair of linen shorts.

I'm laying out my linen fabric for cutting late yesterday morning and I smell something burning.  The balcony door was open so I figured it must be coming from outside.  But it lingered, and there was no smell like it outside on the balcony.

Michael was in the bathroom.  I asked him if he smelled anything burning and he said he'd just lit a match (for reasons I won't go into).  But it didn't smell like a match, plus why was I smelling it so strongly in the living room?  We opened the apartment door to see if the smell was in the hallway.  It wasn't.

I returned to cutting my linen, and happened to look over at one of the glass paperweights I use to hold down my pattern pieces.



Remember that trick you learned in summer camp (or scouting), how to start a fire with a magnifying glass?  Well that's what was going on with that glass paperweight.  Only it was starting a fire on my living room rug!





Readers, I know a lot of us live in places with strong sun and we often like to hang decorative glass crystals in our windows or display paperweights or other objects that can act like a prism or magnifying glass.  Please be careful.  I could have left one of those paperweights on the floor and gone out somewhere, and while I was gone the rug could have caught fire.  It's a scary thought. 

In other, less dramatic news, I'm nearly done with my linen shorts.  The color of my linen is sort of a light chartreuse, not sure how it appears on your monitor.



I'm using McCall's 5946, another one of those mid-Seventies John Weitz patterns.  This one makes either mens shorts or a swimsuit, and includes lots of pocket variations.  I made version "A" (below).  The shorts went together nicely.







Originally I'd intended to make long pants, but in a color like this I think I'll get more use out of shorts.  I still have enough left over to make a little jacket.  Not sure I'll get to that this year though.

I made a few changes to the pattern.  The waistband is supposed to have two pieces of elastic in it to take up some of the excess fullness in the back.  Gathers in back is not something I really wanted (especially in this light-colored linen), so I added darts as well as two patch pockets that mirror the ones in front.  Easy peasy. 



I find hemming shorts to be harder even than hemming long pants, I don't know why.  Especially in a very droopy fabric like this linen, it's hard to get them perfectly even.  I did my best.  You'll see them completed and modeled on Wednesday.

In closing, readers, have you ever heard of a glass paperweight causing a house fire?   When we leave for vacation, we're definitely keeping the shades drawn!

Have a great day, everybody!

41 comments:

  1. That is just about the craziest thing I have ever heard!

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  2. Wow - I am glad you were home! The shorts are coming along quite nicely.

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  3. I have heard of fires being started in this way. What a relief that it happened while you were present. And a good warning for others.

    Years ago I almost burned down the house by leaving the oven griller on all day while I was at work - on the day after I changed insurance companies too. Wrecked the oven and almost suffocated our 2 cats with the fumes. A near miss if ever I've had one.

    I can see the remainder of that linen as a vest.

    Spud.

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  4. Wow! I've heard of fires starting like this, but I thought it was an urban myth. Glad you were home!

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  5. Well, now you can think of them as your hot pants! They look sensational. Were you using the paperweight as a patternweight? Glad all of your household is safe and there will be another day to post MPB.

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    1. Yes, I've been using them since I started sewing!

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  6. Years ago I read an article about a car catching fire from the sun reflecting on a little crystal dangling from the rearview mirror. I tried to find anything about it online and couldn't, but instead I found an article about a bedroom in Clapham, UK catching fire from the sun reflecting on a crystal doorknob. So you definitely had a close call!

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  7. I've created some of my own flames with a magnifying glass back in the day and had an aunt who had a glass prism on a piano in the window that had caught a doily on fire. Just so glad you were around to catch it, whew. I really liked the pants and polka dot shirt you had on a MPBD and looking forward to seeing the photo shoot with the shorts.

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  8. Holy cow - I cannot believe this! I mean, maybe if you lived in Dubai or one of those places where they can cook eggs on the street... but I would never have thought that sun refracted by a paperweight could cause such an outcome. Glad your house is in tact!

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  9. That happened to my mother. She left a hand mirror on the coffee table and the reflected sun burnt the carpet. The insurance company wouldn't believe her.

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  10. So glad MPB Headquarters didn't go down in flames!

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  11. What an eye-opener. When I told my husband what you had happen he started looking around to see if we had anything that could cause this to happen. We always call him Safety Sam. The shorts look great and luckily did not burst into flame.

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  12. I'm happy that everyone in safe.

    I've heard of such fires. It's why I'm averse to glass decorations and have the blinds closed whenever I'm not at home.

    A relatively easy pattern weight: hockey pucks. They can be purchase in packs of twelve, weigh approximately a third of a pound each, and, at only an inch high, don't obstruct the view of the pattern or fabric or get in the way of tracing.

    I no longer use my pucks only I. The winter:)

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    1. What a great idea Basya. Just yesterday I bought some heavy glass tea light holders to use as pattern weights. They are about the same size as hockey pucks so they should work well. I've been keeping my eye out for cheap pattern weights and these fit the bill at .64 each. Luckily (I think) my sewing room doesn't get direct sunlight. I checked online and saw a twelve pack of hockey pucks for 14.00 (regulation size) so they would be an inexpensive way to go.

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    2. The ultimate pattern weights, that is, zero cost and unlimited quantity: river rocks. Yes, visit your local stream and look for well worn, eroded, smooth stones; bring home as many as you want, they are free! John Y

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  13. How do you sew such perfect top stitching? I use vintage singers. Do you have an attachment?

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    1. I use my straight stitch foot as a guide, that's all I use. I guess I've just had a lot of practice!

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  14. Glad you were there to catch what it was. About 20 years ago I burned a hole in the car vinyl seat in the front passenger side. I was prone to getting where I wanted to go and then toss my sunglasses on the seat. When I went to the bank for work at lunch time, my seat had a hole melted into it and me feeling lucky the car didn't burn down. I live in a very sunny climate year round so I have been conscious of this ever since.

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    1. Sunglasses did that, wow! I would have never thought of that seeing as they are designed to protect your eyes from the sun. Paper weights, sun-catchers, and now sunglasses. I am learning so much from this post and comments.

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    2. Yes I should have added they were Ray Bans glass lenses... I don't know if plastic ones will do that. I still have and prefer glass sunglass lenses but I don't throw them on the seat anymore!

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  15. My young daughter had a similar glass ornament with a tiny fairy in it that sat on a plastic base that illuminated the fairy from below. It was enchanting. One day I noticed that the base had completely melted from the sun striking the glass ball. I am now very aware of curved glass items that might focus the sun's rays. So glad you were all ok.

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  16. I had a pair of Ocean Pacific short like those, 30 years ago. And I am prone to spontaneous combustion.

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  17. Glad you were home, who'd have thought this could happen?
    The shorts look really great, what nice linen!

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  18. Thanks for the warning, I will definitely be careful in future.
    Judy

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  19. We've had that experience too. I fortunately don't live in a strong sun area. Mine was a paperweight - low sun - scorched wooden unit behind it. Lucky the sun wasn't strong as we weren't in at the time. The paperweight was well into the room and sitting under a shelf so we certainly didn't expect this although we were aware that this can be a problem. My grandparents in law had a long streak scorched along the back of a sofa from sun through a glass vase with flowers in it which was sitting on window ledge.

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  20. I know somebody whose house caught fire because of a crystal ball. It didn't burn to the ground but it was pretty bad. She had to replace all her mattresses because the whole place filled with toxic smoke.

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  21. Wow. It's a darn good thing you were there when your pattern weight decided to t u r n on you. What are the odds? You probably couldn't duplicate if you tried.

    Your shorts look awesome! I'm with Susan... what is your secret to such prefect top stitching?

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  22. Great work on the shorts. I enjoy reading what you have done in the process of altering your patterns. After reading your blog, I have now purchased some vintage men's patterns with the hopes of making my hubby something.
    someday.
    As I remember taking a magnifying glass in the summer as a kid and burning a hole in a piece of paper. But oh my gosh for a paperweight to start something burning was something I would never even think of!

    As far as light a match goes, there is a product out there called "Poo-pourri" - seriously this stuff works. Far better than a match. Bought some up at our cabin at a little gift shop - it's great! Have bought it as gifts for people who have cabins - who wants a stinky bathroom period but with a group of people around. Peee-you!

    Have a great day! I enjoy reading your posts.

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    1. Meg, we have some Poo-pourrri too! Bought it for my husband (as a "sort-of" a joke. lol) on a weekend birthday trip with my daughter from a gift shop. It really does work! You can buy it online too.

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    2. I luv the Poo-Pourri ads on YouTube.

      The spokeslady is such a crass lass. My kind of gal.

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  23. I'm glad that you were home and aware of the odor. I recently saw a headline online that solar panel fields have a dangerous side effect: they're cooking birds in mid-flight. Ouch.

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  24. I remember reading a story from an author I follow that one award for science fiction authors (I can't remember which one) comes with a warning to place the crystal trophy in a dark room because one of the early winners had a shelf catch fire. Some award.

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  25. Whoa! What a scary near miss!

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  26. Wow-- I never would have expected your pattern weight to scorch your carpet like that. Thank goodness you were there.

    I agree with the idea of using this fabric to make shorts, and I really like the pattern.

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  27. Hi Peter-it was a magnifying mirror on a windowsill that set my parent's curtains on fire....!

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  28. I am still laughing at michael with a match. More chance of combustion there I reckon.

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  29. . . .That clears up some mysteries of my youth about dark spots appearing on my 100+ year old wooden dresser, near the paperweight collection. Scary!

    I am still low-rent enough to use canned food as pattern weights. Human food. Cat food cans aren't heavy enough.

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  30. Thank god it was the rug and not your lovely shorts!
    Frankie
    Www.knitwits-owls.blogspot.co.uk

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  31. Oh crap! That could have been so much worse, good thing you didn't ignore it. Clip off the burnt top layers and brush the rest around, it should not be too noticeable. We have a parabolic cooker (large reflective dish on a stand that rotates over a grill) outside to cook on and we have to be so careful with it. A piece of paper or cloth goes up in seconds. Cooks really well though.

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  32. It's a good thing you checked, it could have become a major disaster. I honestly did not think this was possible when they told us about starting fires in scouting. I guess it really is!

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  33. Aaahhh . . . fire terrifies me! I vividly remember the first time I knew I had to light a Bunsen burner with a match in science class and I dreaded it all week long. It still doesn’t make sense that you can put press down with your finger on a match, it erupts into flame, and you don’t burn your finger. What can I say, I’m a wimp!

    So glad to hear you caught the problem before anything bad happened! And now I have to check my apartment . . .

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