Saturday, May 27, 2017

It's Sunny

Well, hello there! I seem to be slipping a little on my usual posting non-schedule, haven't I? Blame it on the fabulous weather we are currently having. Warm sunshine is to be savoured and not squandered indoors typing. Amirite? And I can't work on it outdoors because I can't see what I'm doing thanks to the glare on the screen. Oh well. I already spent 4 hours in the garden today so I can surely justify sitting around inside now.

We're nearly finished the main work of cleaning up and planting. And we're already having to do some watering on the new seedlings so they don't all go limp. It's really a lot of tedious work but if you don't do it, you might as well not have a garden. It's pretty discouraging sometimes though. Somebody (likely one of the Evil Squirrels) has been chomping heavily on my cabbage so I had to cover it with netting in hopes of discouraging the beast. We looked into natural repellants but they are expensive and not recommended for vegetable gardens. Anybody have a good recipe? We've tried bottled hot sauce but that didn't really deter them for long. I feel like Elmer Fudd only my nemesis is a squirrel, not a rabbit. Grrrr...

Meanwhile the housekeeping is way behind and only a little sewing has been happening in the studio. So far I've only managed to repair 4 pairs of pants and tights and nearly finished a couple of pinafores. It's been hot up here in the afternoons and I've been quite tired when I manage to get some time to work on the waiting piles. Hanging over a hot steam iron is not the greatest but if I don't suck it up I'm not going to get all my plans finished. Time to get out the big cooling fan! It works fine unless I've got pattern tissue pieces floating about. Here in Vancouver we don't usually need AC and my old house is cool enough on the lower floors so it's just up here under the eaves that's a problem. But hey, I'm not really complaining after the icy/snowy winter and super-rainy spring we had! I just need a few weeks to acclimate to the nice weather. At least I hope we get a few weeks.

I haven't actually started sewing it yet, but my Snow-Dyed Dress needed some buttons so we walked downtown on Wednesday. Just to make the walk worthwhile we also went to see Guardians of the Galaxy #2. (Hilarious. Loved it!) At Dressew I went a little nuts in the bargain basement and bought some more knits for T-shirts and leggings:

That's the brown version of the nylon/lycra wicking rib that I already have in black and gray. I don't like it as much as pants but it's fine as leggings and bicycle shorts. At $2 per metre it's not a big deal if it wears out fairly quickly. I recently priced good quality leggings at $60! I can certainly make quite a few pairs for that and they fit better too. The other two fabrics are cotton baby rib in a lighter weight. No lycra content so they are better for T-shirts because they don't have good enough recovery for pants. If there's any left over the larger scraps could be some nice undies though. I got 4 metres each at $4 per metre. And last but definitely not least, we headed up to Dressew's main floor and saw this:

That gorgeous stuff is 100% organic hemp muslin! Yum. Thom wants a long-sleeved shirt and I want something too - depending on how much is left. We got 4 metres at (gasp!) $29.99 per metre. Yeah, there went all the cash I saved downstairs. But we both adore hemp! And linen. And ramie (which you sadly don't see around anymore). Bast fibres all. Neither of us worries about wrinkles. I don't put them in the dryer (after the very first wash) but hang to dry so they last longer. And I don't mind ironing. It's really a pleasure to iron a nice bast fibre fabric.

Oh and I couldn't find a button match for the moss green fabric. I know - all the gazillion buttons at Dressew and none matched? Not in the right size anyway. So I got 2 alternative colours to choose from instead. I plan to use the second set for a top from the leftover snow-dye fabric. More on the sewing projects soon. I almost have one or two FOs for you.

But right now I have one knitted FO! This is my Sunny Jim Sweater:

If you'll recall the pattern is James by Amy Miller, the yarn is Cloudborne Highland Fingering in Oatmeal Heather and I overdyed it in rhubarb root. I changed the pattern a little by knitting an I-cord bind-off at the neck, shortening the arms so they would be 3/4 length on my T-Rex arms and lengthening the hem with short-row curves. I quite like this sweater even if it is slightly more snug than I'd hoped. My excuse is I'm still carrying some extra winter blubber that hasn't gotten worked off in the garden yet. The neckline is a tiny bit wide so my original plan of using an even smaller needle for the bind-off was probably a good one. Unfortunately I was afraid it would be too tight so I went only one size down from my main needle. It's a great top-down pullover pattern though. I loved the short-row shaping to raise the back neck and lower the front neck for a more U-shape than top-downs usually have. I just might use this one again but with even more modifications next time. Since that was the last project on my needles I've already cast-on my next sweater. Yes, I'm still on a personal sweater kick. Best to go with it while I'm feeling the desire, no? More on that one soon.

Off to sew on some pockets before I have to figure out what we're having for supper.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

To Garden or Sew?

Well! Our weather has finally started to feel more normal for May. Sunshine! Warmth! So of course we've been madly trying to make up for lost time in the garden. I have been literally falling into bed and going out like a light! And we still aren't where we should be. I won't say "finished" because no garden ever is completely finished. But we are weeks behind this year thanks to the unusual cold and the record rainfall we had.

Anyway I gave my dye garden some sea soil and fish fertiliser love this morning and I'm hoping the poor things will start to grow properly again.

See the red leaves on the Japanese indigo? That's from the cold they suffered. In my defense it was warm enough when I planted them! How did I know it would chill out again right after? They're pretty tough however and in past years managed to survive even a hail storm or two. (It missed us this year! Yay.) I'm hoping they'll catch up.

The tomatoes and cucumbers are in now and there's just one bed left to dig before I can put in the squashes. No hurry though. I think the neighbours suspect that we only grow poppies, violets and Spanish bluebells in our veggie garden:


Not true! There's food in there too! But they sure are pretty though, aren't they? It's late for the bluebells. I'm usually pulling them all out by now after the flowers finish. Doesn't hardly slow them down any! The poppies are perennial Welsh poppies and most of them are orange although there's a patch of yellow ones towards the back of the garden. We try to keep them under control but don't always succeed! There are lots in our front garden as well. We never planted them originally. They just magically appeared many years ago. Kind of like the cornflowers, foxgloves and of course, the bluebells. I do however know where the white alyssum, lemon balm, oregano, daisies, feverfew and the occasional weld plants that show up where they're not wanted came from. My penance is to weed them out - along with the "real" weeds.

Luckily we both enjoy gardening a lot. It's creative exercise! Better than going to the gym and sometimes there's a good meal or a pretty dye colour to be had from it too. Not to mention the enjoyment in just feasting your eyes on the beauty. We often get really nice comments from passersby when we're out there mucking about. Worth all the work fun!

So I'm pretty happy that we're getting stuff done in the garden but not so much in my studio. Yet. I've got 7 garments cut out and only reduced the fabric piles by less than a quarter! (Many more to go.) I cleaned and oiled the sewing machine and serger and vacuumed the floor. Thom replaced my serger knife for me after the old one got too dull. Since I couldn't figure out which item to sew first I began instead with some mending. Just to get the juices flowing, right?

One pair of purchased (back in the '90's?) cropped pants need the elastic replaced. I'm pretty annoyed with any technique that sews through the elastic because you can't just attach new elastic to old and pull it through the casing. I'm having to pick out not one but three separate rows of stitching to free the old elastic:

I couldn't just run another elastic on top either. You might wonder why I'm bothering but I love these pants. They are light, cool, wrinkle-free and I love the black and white striped crinkle fabric. I'm hoping to get another few years out of them anyway.

By the way, the commercial tag on the pants reminded me that I have finally after years of debate with myself ordered some personal woven ribbon tags for my makes. I'll tell you more about them and where I ordered them from when I receive them in the post. And if I like them, I might just order more of the same design in a different colourway. So exciting! I got seriously tired of spending time making tags that didn't hold up well over time and laundry. But I would like to mark my clothes as mine in some way. These will do it in style.

There was a dye project. If you'll remember my snow-dyed hemp/silk fabric from this last winter:

I changed my mind on what I'm going to make with it and needed some contrast fabric to go with so I bit the bullet and dyed the rest of my precious 5 yards to coordinate:

The snow dye used plum, rust and moss Procion MX dyes (from Maiwa) so I used moss alone for the coordinating plain dye. It's not perfectly even but shows some random patterning from being left unstirred in the bucket when a friend dropped by for tea. I like it better that way and think it will do the trick! More about this project when I get to sewing it. It's all cut out already and waiting but I need thread and buttons first. A gazillion buttons in my stash and although there's a good match, there's only 2 and I need 6. Boo. I see a trip to Dressew in my future. I'm compiling a list. Oh, and if you noticed - this will probably be the one time you will see me in anything containing pink. I always say there's no such thing as a bad colour, just a bad place to put it! However, pink is probably the colour that I'm drawn to the least.

Meanwhile there's plenty more to keep me busy! Moving right along...if I can move at all anymore...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

How To Spend Mother's Day

In the studio of course! OK, I did talk to one of my kids for half an hour on the phone. The other one not so much. Yet. Though to be fair, she's a mom too so this day is also for her. I'm not so into the Hallmark Holidays anyway. But I digress.

I'm now firmly into the Sewing Zone. Patterns are being ironed, adjusted, drafted, modified, chopped and generally made ready to cut out. I've got several things all ready to sew but I figure while I'm on a pattern puzzle kick I should roll with it. This was the first one I cut out ages ago in an unbleached and fairly lightweight linen:

Yup, that's one of Katherine Tilton's wonky vest/tops. A gazillion pieces and nearly all cut out on a single fabric layer. I've even picked out the buttons though the jury is still out. It's satisfying to use stuff from deep stash so I'm resisting going button shopping at Dressew. Because there would be more than buttons purchased. Just sayin'.

I've also cut another button front vest/top thing (my own pattern) from this cotton/linen blend:

It's a brown and white woven-in design, what we weavers would call colour-and-weave. I haven't analysed the structure exactly though. I also cut a new self-drafted pattern for cropped elastic-waist pants from the same fabric. Hopefully they will fit! I always love using as much of a piece of fabric as possible and these two garments used up nearly every scrap of the 2 yards.

I also cut out the Lane Raglan which I'm hoping will be my new raglan TNT (tried and true) pattern:

I used this heathered stone ponte:

Since I only had 2 yards and leggings sadly wouldn't fit along with the raglan, I cut a tunic length T-shirt with pockets. This is my tester so we will see if my modifications work out. I raised the neckline an inch and went from a M at the top to an XL at the waist and hip. The nice thing about this pattern is it comes with a piece already full-bust-adjusted so I used that - and of course had to move the bust down somewhat. I'm not cutting out any more raglan t's until I see if this fits properly.

Well, supper's ready so I'll leave it here. But first here's a photo of the poor little orange-crowned warbler who hit our dining room window and stunned itself. Thom held it for awhile and then tucked it into the shrubbery where the crows wouldn't find it. It eventually took off so I hope it was all right.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Twelve...and counting...

That's how many years I've been writing this blog. Whoosh!! My actual blogiversary was yesterday, May 6, and I began this exercise way way back in 2005. Check the archives - that's one heckuva lot of posts! 1,727 to be precise (including this one). Who knew I had that much babbling to do? And I'm not giving up yet either, even if some say that blogs are on their way out. (I enjoy reading blogs so I disagree strongly.) Glad you are all still hanging in there for the ride! Big hugs!!!

So what's been happening in old damselfly's pond? I finished the Spring Thawl!(I accidentally typed it that way and decided it would stick.)

The yarn is Jaggerspun Zephyr wool/silk that was originally "vanilla" and I dyed it in marigold and coreopsis with an iron modifier to get that soft olive green. The pattern is Spring Thaw Shawl a free pattern on Ravelry by Cheri McEwen. I had some issues with this including a fairly easy to spot error in the edging chart. The designer chose to format her PDF in landscape mode that wouldn't print out properly for me until I loaded it into Adobe Reader on my big desktop computer. It was annoying to have 2 blank pages with just the page numbers on them (waste of paper!) so I eliminated them. And when I tried to read the pattern in the GoodReader app on my iPad, the pages that should have been vertical kept turning horizontal. Grrrr... Just make your document in portrait orientation already! But sometimes you get what you pay for, right? I just like potential knitters of this pattern to be aware of the pitfalls.

In spite of all that it's quite a nice little shawl. It's kind of angel-wing shaped, deeper rather than wide. The body chart was easy to memorise and I decided to substitute s2k1p (centred double decrease) instead of the s1k2p (right slanted decrease) throughout. The edging was a bit more problematical since the designer confusingly gave several options for it. I chose to do the "intermediate edging" chart which had the aforementioned error and got lost a few times in the lacey diamonds part. Because they lacked a centre "spine" and the left and right decreases zigzagged it was hard to automatically know where to shift. And of course I was trying to do something else at the same time! Doh. In fact I thought I'd ended up screwing it up entirely when I was done but on closer inspection realised that I did it correctly in spite of myself. Heh. Others who've knit this shawl had several different ways to block it which give different effects. When I blocked mine I just picked up the tips of the diamonds, leaving the "tulip" shapes to curve inward except for the central point which I pinned out separately. I curved the top edge because that seemed to be what it wanted to do rather than straight:

This photo though not great will still be helpful in case I can't remember what I did next time I wash and block this shawl. I really like the pea soup colour and it works with a surprising number of outfits. The fine wool/silk yarn is lightweight but surprisingly warm and holds it's blocking well. I love Zephyr for delicate shawls.

Now I just have one thing on the needles - the Sunny James Pullover. It's coming along. I'm cruising down the body adding the increases for the swing shaping every 9 rounds. I only just broke into the second ball. Man, this Cloudborn Highland Fingering has incredible length, nearly 500 yards per 100g skein! I love that. Interestingly this Oatmeal Heather shade that I dyed in rhubarb root seems slightly thicker than the Espresso Heather that I used for the Isabel sweater. I think it's the process of rinsing/dyeing/rinsing that fulled it a little and allowed it to puff up. Hopefully I haven't lost too much yardage because I only have 3 skeins to finish this knit. There is no option of matching the original colour again. I plan to use the 3rd skein to finish the neckline and knit the sleeves before I join it in to complete the hem. That way I know I'll have enough yarn and the body can be as long as I want or as the last skein holds out. I'm trying to hold off casting on for another project quite yet, but as this sweater gets larger it also gets less portable so more socks may be in my near future.

Moving right along. I'm now considering my sewing queue. Finally! And I'm totally confused. I've been trying to match patterns with fabrics - again - and wondering why I purchased each one. I think my tastes or needs or something has shifted again and I just can't decide what to do. I have a gazillion patterns for shirts and jackets (mostly Tiltons) that aren't appealing to me at the moment. I have a dress that I would love to make but not the right fabric for it. I have funky pants and skirts patterns but all I wear these days are my TNT "yoga" pants. And I want many more sleeveless overlayers like my jumpers, pinafores, apron dresses or whatever you'd like to call them.

I also have the Hey June Lane T-Shirt pattern that I'm dying to turn into another TNT. It has raglan sleeves and the designer has updated the fit and included an actual FBA pattern piece as well as a hoodie option. Since raglan sweaters fit my narrow sloping shoulders very well, I'm hoping that this t-shirt will too. I can envision a whole wardrobe of hacks! We shall see. I don't have all that many suitable knit fabrics in the stash right now but I refuse to go shopping again until I use up some of this:

And that's not even all of the fabric I own. Some of these have been in the stash for-evah! Like decades. And now for several of them I'm wondering WTF was I thinking? However, it would please me to use them in some way. Most of them had a plan when I bought them but that plan has morphed about 17 times since then. My tastes and style always shift and change, not to mention my swiftly aging body. The older I get the more I want to be both comfortable and quintessentially me. I don't have any need for fancy clothes and I have no patience for anything that doesn't stay put or gets in my way. I don't mind hand-washing delicate items but I won't dry-clean anything ever. Lately I'm finding myself annoyed with the synthetic fabrics that pill and cling with static and feel sweaty. However I still have a few polyesters in those piles and I'm going to have to decide if they are worth using or not. And if not, what do I do with them? Argh. Too many decisions.

Meanwhile I need to start somewhere. I'm making lists in OneNote. Unfortunately I keep changing them! But I really need some new clothes and I need them before the end of June. Perhaps I should take my own advice? Long ago, back when my daughter was an extremely messy teenager I used to get her to just start in one corner to clean her room. Just pick a spot. By the time you're partway into it, you've (hopefully) gained enough momentum to keep going. Gee, I guess there's a reason why she now hires an occasional cleaning lady? Ahem.

Monday, May 01, 2017

May Day!

Geesh, how did another month show up again so quickly? I know April is short by a day but here we are. "Summer is a-comin' in and Winter's gone away!" We can only hope. The weather has been up to its usual flakiness, one day of warm-ish sunshine and the next day raining. We're starting to eat from the garden now anyway. I've picked a bucket or two of my greens & reds:

Just taking one leaf from each plant as they grow. We've also had asparagus omelettes with snipped chives and ate all of the first batch of rhubarb sauce on our cereal. Delish! More to come.

Meanwhile I finally finished the After The Melting Socks for Thom. When I dyed the yarn in the sludge leftover from the snow dye I obviously didn't rinse it enough. It left crazy orange stains on my hands which were hard to get off especially my fingernails which are still faintly orange. I ended up rinsing the finished socks in hot water and Synthrapol, which is great at removing unfixed dye, and then rinsing several more times in plain water. Finally the last rinse was clear so hopefully there will be no more crocking off on anything. Though Thom's toes would look cute with orange nails! Or maybe not...

The socks ended up slightly lighter in colour than they were but not by much. Can you tell the difference from the leftover yarn as compared to the finished socks?

Anyway, now that I've finished something I'm resisting casting on for something else right away. I still have 2 projects on the needles, first the Sunny James Pullover:

This sweater hasn't grown more than a couple of inches in the last while but now it has become my TV knitting so there's hope for it to go much faster. I still glow in this gorgeous rhubarb root yellow. And there's also the Spring Thaw Shawl:

This is Zephyr wool/silk yarn dyed in marigolds and coreopsis with an iron modifier to give a soft olive green. I'm concentrating on this project now that I'm cruising down the final edging to the finish. I need to follow the chart carefully while I'm knitting so it's not very conducive to doing other things at the same time. I've been semi-watching a few video podcasts but I'd finish even faster if I'd just knit! Yeah, right.

What else? The Coopworth spinning doesn't look like it's gotten much further:

However it represents about 4 more hours work since the last post. I still haven't even finished filling one bobbin yet. Sigh. Though to be fair these are large bobbins.

Did I mention that the cold I picked up after Easter hasn't quite gone away and of course Thom managed to catch it as well, although it took him nearly a week after I got sick. With two snifflers I've been washing a lot of handkerchiefs! We've been using hankies instead of disposable tissues for quite a few years now and I've found that they are much nicer on my nose and upper lip. A lot less lint too and they never get lost in a pocket and fuzz up the laundry. Several of my friends are not convinced that hankies are sanitary but I don't worry overmuch and just throw them in the laundry with the rest of the wash. I think there's too much emphasis these days on eliminating germs by those who want to sell you something "antibacterial" and/or disposable. I paid about a dollar apiece for my 2 dozen squares of cotton that last about 8 years of regular use. They only get softer and if they get stained I throw them in a dyebath to disguise it. I even used a bunch of them to practice my shibori stitching and they are fun to use. Each one has character. Match that, Kleenex!

OK, moving right along. What's next? A dive into the sewing queue! I haven't touched my sewing machine for ages and I'm desperately needing some new duds. Of course I keep saying this and instead I keep knitting. But I'm getting serious now.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Fascinating Reading

Just a quick post to share some interesting links I've found recently. First we had Earth Day and now it's Fashion Revolution Week so there's been a lot of discussion around fair trade, sustainable production, slow fashion and garment worker's rights. Plus there's also the body positivity movements, resistance to the fashion and beauty industries' false promises, visible mending and much more. Have at it!

What makes a garment Slow Fashion? - on Karen Templer's excellent Fringe Association blog.

The Fashion Transparency Index - rating the big companies on how much information they share about suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.

Flaws - an uplifting rant from Sally of Already Pretty. I want this printed on a T-shirt.

Tom of Holland - and his Visible Mending initiative has pretty much changed the way I think about repairs in general and the ability to keep favourite textiles going long after they would ordinarily be consigned to the ragbag.

A Field Guide to Needlework - Sarah Swett: tapestry weaver, backstrap weaver, spinner, artist, musician and another amazing practitioner of visible mending.

Don't forget to give these sites a wee wander about if they're new to you. There's a lot of great content.

In more personal news, I actually got a little spinning in today:

At the rate I'm working it's going to take ages to spin enough of this Coopworth into 1400 yards of 3-ply worsted weight for Thom's next sweater. Oh well. Slow, right?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

How I Spent Earth Day

With my hands in the earth! I picked the first asparagus and rhubarb of the year plus some more kale buds:

And carried on planting my greens (and reds) from yesterday - which btw was a gorgeous sunny day for once:

All the mustards, lettuce, kale and cabbages are in now. I had lots of seedlings so this bed is a bit closely spaced but we can always eat anybody who encroaches too much. I garden my Asian greens a little differently from most because I rarely harvest the whole plant. I only pick the tender side leaves until they start to bolt and then I pick the flower shoots, usually before the flowers open but those are good too. They usually keep going for me until sometime in July or even August if I'm lucky. And the picked greens stay good in the fridge for ages. I hope to get a lot of salads and stir fries out of this lot! Yum.

And speaking of yummy flowers I seem to have a lot of violets taking over my pathways:

This variety is Viola riviniana Purpurea Group, aka purple-leaved common dog violet, often mistakenly marketed at nurseries as the rather more rare Viola labradorica, which is native to Eastern Canada as its name might suggest. Instead this species, V. riviniana is native to Europe and is perfectly happy to grow in my hardiness zone 8 garden...and anywhere else it likes! I originally got a few plants from my mother-in-law who warned me that it's invasive. I don't mind. I can just pull out any offenders easily.


And they, like all violets, are quite tasty - a little crunchy with a sweet finish. You can eat the leaves too but I like the flowers better. I'm rather notorious for eating flowers! Other faves are borage (cucumber-ish), bee balm (citrusy), nasturtium (peppery), chives (mildly oniony), and basil (spicy). You can also eat squash blossoms, scarlet runner bean flowers, calendula (pot marigold) petals, and lavender flowers. Sadly nasturtiums and calendulas get really bad black aphid infestations in my garden so I've stopped trying to grow them anymore. I'll have to bug my MIL for some more bee balm too because mine didn't make it through our icy winter but she has plenty still. I think hers are in a more protected spot.

So now I've planted out nearly half of my seedling trays. It's a good thing it started to rain while we were eating lunch! I have a legitimate excuse (besides the head cold that I'm still fighting) to quit for the moment. Besides, the dye garden plants will happily grow in their pots in the greenhouse for awhile longer and the tomatoes are still under the lights in the grow-op until they get too tall to fit. I've finally planted my squashes and cucumbers in there too. Hopefully the weather will warm up sufficiently by the end of May for them to go into their beds. Another couple of weeks from now and I can plant the beans directly. Things are finally starting to feel more normal in the garden after all the crap weather we've had. Although I suppose I shouldn't say anything, should I?

I'm happy that I have my own space to grow a few things. It's obviously not large enough to supply all our needs but at least it supplements the grocery store. Plus the produce is fresher and what I call "nearly-organic". Not all my seed is certified organic and I sometimes use a tiny amount of chemical fertilizer in the grow-op because the other alternative is fish emulsion. Even deodorised, it's just a little too stinky indoors! Once they're outside they get the fish, compost, manure and sea soil. So things are not quite totally organic but very close.

As that famous quote from Arthur Ashe, the African-American tennis player, says:

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.


It works for a lot more than just sports, doesn't it?