Friday, April 24, 2015

Who Made My Clothes?


The answer to that question is: I did! I made everything I’m wearing right down to the undies. At least everything except my glasses and hearing aids which are a tad beyond my skills. I even painted my Birkenstocks. But you know what? This is not an unusual situation for me.

But right now there’s an extra reason: it’s Fashion Revolution Day today. Have you heard about this? From their website:

On 24th April each year, Fashion Revolution Day will bring everyone in the fashion value chain together and help to raise awareness of the true cost of fashion, show the world that change is possible, and celebrate all those involved in creating a more sustainable future.

The “why” is here. Unfortunately I can’t send the #whomademyclothes hashtag because I’m not on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. So it’s just here on my blog. And I can’t turn my clothes inside out to show the labels – there aren’t any. So I won’t bother. And yes, I do look like I’m not feeling tip-top still, don’t I? Sniffle. Hack.

So now we know the top level of where my clothes come from and I can go a second level and even a third with a few pieces:

  • ShawlFlower Basket Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark, yarn is NZ wool handspun and naturally dyed by me.
  • SweaterTrellis by Lili Comme Tout, yarn from is dyed by me, buttons from Maiwa and hand-carved in India.
  • SocksRetro Rib Socks by Evelyn A. Clark (a two-fer!), yarn “Phoenix Rising” from Sweet Georgia.
  • T-shirt, popover apron, pants, undies – sewn by me, all patterns self-drafted, underpants fabric dyed by me.

What I don’t know is where the fabrics were made (cotton, cotton/lycra and polyester knits and polyester woven) and under what conditions. And there is no way to find out! I bought all of these ones at Dressew, our local purveyor of mill ends, closeouts, leftovers and general “100% unknown fibres”. Fun, eclectic, reasonable, but a little iffy on the quality and mostly un-labelled. You can already see that tracking who made your clothing can get complicated very quickly, can’t you? I think it’s a great thing that people are starting to pay attention though. Maybe it will spark some changes. Anyway, I’ve done my tiny bit.

One thing about making your own clothes is that you gain a new understanding of what goes into the manufacturing and why the good stuff costs more. Even if I buy lower-cost fabrics the amount of time that it can take from pattern-making to fitting to cutting and sewing is incredible. Good thing I have the time, the skills and the inclination to do it, huh? Otherwise I certainly would have a much smaller wardrobe – not that it’s particularly extensive now if you only count the things I can actually wear in public. Old worn out extra-large t-shirts that I wear as jammies definitely don’t count!

Meanwhile I’ve been knitting on my Mia Tunic. It’s already farther ahead than this:

Mia Tunic prog

You can see my African Market basket down there under the ironing board holding my yarn cones. I was right, it does hold everything better!

I’ve enjoyed the interesting construction on this tunic: beginning with the back to the underarm and picking up the fronts to the bottom of the neckline, joining and filling the gap and then down to the underarm. Then you add stitches under the arms and join it all into a tube which is where I am right now. Just knit/knit/knit for awhile. No real concentration necessary except to not split the 3 threads. The neckline on this tunic came out about an inch and a half higher than the pattern because of my too-tight row gauge. But that’s ok. I managed to make it work and still get the armholes big enough but not too big. Good thing I took this progress photo though. Now it just looks like a scrunched up blob because the 254 stitches (so far!) just barely fit on my 24” Addi Lace circular needle. I may have to buy a longer one before I’m done but that would negate the zero cost of this garment so I’m reluctant to do it unless I have to. Sadly my Addi Lace Clicks which can be made much longer only go down to 3.5mm tips and I need a 3mm needle for this project.

The weather has gone rainy and cool (even hail!) and many of my plants are getting kind of tired of hanging about in pots in the greenhouse. I didn’t even put the cukes and squashes out there for the last couple of days but left them in the house under the lights (which they are getting to big to fit under!) I was going to plant my dye garden on Earth Day but that idea got kyboshed by this stupid cold bug. Just as well since they suffered when I left them outside the greenhouse overnight on Wednesday. I’m going to have to transplant them soon though come hell or high water because they are outgrowing their pots. Why does this always happen? And why do I not expect this to always happen?

In other news, there’s a postcard out now for the exhibit that Thom & I are participating in:


Turnabout, the guitar is featured in the photos! Yippee! We will also be at the opening May 3 from 3-5pm. If you’re local, hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Look For An Old Blog!

Do not be alarmed! This is definitely the same old damselfly you’ve always known. Just thought I’d update the blog’s look in honour of my upcoming Tenth Blogiversary on May 5. Yup! A double-handful of years that I’ve been madly typing at you. Amazing, eh? I impress me myself. Who knew I could keep this up for more than 5 minutes?

Anyhoo, if things keep shifting a bit as I tweak the new template, fear not. It will all settle down very soon. Meanwhile, moving right along…

The Latest Sweater

Still coughing but feeling marginally better today. I managed to get a couple of photos of the latest FO. Sadly not on me – sorry. I wasn’t quite up to getting dressed and posing so good old Debbie Double stood in for me yet again. I love her.

Sweet Ginger Candelia Cardi

CandeliaCardi front

And the cute little back feature:

CandeliaCardi back

The yarn is Sweet Georgia BFL Sock in “ginger” but a mistake-dye so I got it at half-price. The colour in these photos is unfortunately a bit washed out. IRL it’s somewhat darker and a bit more on the rusty side. It only took a few yards more than 2 skeins. The pattern is Candelia by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. Her version is very similar to mine in colour!

This has to be some kind of speed record for yarn-to-garment! I cast on the day I bought the yarn and it only took 3 weeks to finish. The joke is on me though because my swatch lied. I knitted the size 41-3/4 thinking that would give me a cardi with 0 ease. However, it came out at least a size smaller. Perhaps I got the needle size wrong when I was working out my calculations? Or I just can’t count stitches. I think it’s ok though. Not TOO tight. But definitely not exactly what I was going for originally.

I love being able to finally use the clasps and the buttons in a project. They’ve been in stash forever. I think they are perfect for this cardi. Now that I have the better part of 2 more skeins of this yarn left you will be seeing more projects using it. Eventually.

Oh, and from the “I knew it” files: Thom found his lost glasses sock! Two days after I finished his replacement. The lost one was in the VW Westie which we haven’t driven for awhile. He had been opening up the top of the van to air it when the sock went missing. At least we know that now. It was right there the next time he opened the door. Now he has a spare!

I’ll embellish today’s rather short post with this colourful display:


Those lovely little morsels came out of my garden this morning. I picked one or two leaves from each of my salad plants. There’s lettuce (cimmaron and buttercrunch), mizuna (regular, red and kyona), red komatsuna, arugula, choi sum, lamb’s lettuce, and garlic chives. They are at the perfectly small and tender stage right now. Doesn’t get any better than this!

I also picked some more kale buds, asparagus and rhubarb. I missed having rhubarb sauce on my vanilla yoghurt and granola for breakfast this morning after we ran out of my first batch a few days ago. It’s surprising how many dishes it tastes good on. Adds a bit of sweet/tart. Delish. I can’t be bothered to make a pie or anything. Muffins would be good though. Hmmm…

Off to the studio to continue working on the Mia Tunic. Nearly finished knitting the top part down to the underarms. After that it’ll be pretty smooth sailing. Except for dragging those heavy yarn cones around! I need a better tote. Maybe I should heave the wool out of my African market basket and use that? Let’s see if that works better.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How NOT to Spend a Lovely Spring Day

Stuck in bed with some kind of bug! Bleh. This is the first time I’ve been sick in so long I can’t remember when. (Not counting The Hand Incident and the occasional migraine of course.) I successfully pretended it wasn’t there yesterday, despite the sore throat, but today it knocked me upside the head. I give! Taking it easy instead of doing all the garden things that are waiting for me. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, I have a Finished Object:


This is the replacement glasses sock for Thom, who managed somehow to lose the last one somewhere. I dug some leftover hand-dyed-by-me sock yarn out of the bin and had most of this thing done by the end of my weavers’ guild meeting on Thursday. Finished up and blocked it and now he’s got a sock to stash his reading glasses in again. He likes to keep it in his breast pocket. The sock prevents scratches on the lenses and even helps keep them from falling out. Do not ask me how he lost the previous version. He has no clue but it hasn’t turned up in over a week so we’re assuming it’s toast. He has the glasses that were in it though! Luckily. He goes through glasses even more quickly than he does their socks.

I have another Finished Object as well but you’ll have to wait for that one until I can get a photo. I got the Sweet Ginger Candelia Cardi off the needles and blocked yesterday evening. Hint: it’s really lovely and I have nearly half of the yarn I bought at Sweet Georgia’s left! More matching projects to come but I’ll likely wait until our September vacation to knit them.

While I was pretending that I wasn’t coming down with something yesterday, we went clothes shopping. No, not for me – for Thom! I’m so envious. He finds things he wants and (gasp!) they fit. The jeans, good old Levis 505’s, are exactly the same as the last 10 pairs. And on sale. The shoes that he likes best, Rockports, are still available in his favourite style and best of all they were on sale for less than half price. These will be perhaps his fourth pair? How many women’s styles are still available 10 or 15 years later? How about 10 or 15 months later? Uh-huh. I looked at the ladies shoes and…nada. Unless you like perilously steep heels or thin flip-flop styles, both with lots of cutesie embellishments and bling. Even if I liked them, which I don’t, there’s no way I could wear them. Say it with me now…I’m not the target market! Why do I only find shoes I like online? But then I won’t order them unless I know they’re going to fit and be comfortable. Otherwise it’s a crapshoot. So I don’t buy shoes. Saving big money here! Too bad I can’t make my own shoes, huh? So Thom got all the goodies this time.

Before I go I also wanted to show you what I meant the other day about cooking by colours. Here’s the beginning of the salad I made. I guess it could properly be called a slaw:


That’s a red carrot and a yellow beet all grated up! So pretty. Plus half of a Pacific Rose apple up there that hasn’t been chopped yet. The rest of the ingredients included pale green cabbage and dark green pumpkin seeds, finished with a mayo-based dressing. Yum. My taste buds enjoyed it as much as my eyes did.

Well, guess I’ll go back to lying here trying not to cough up a lung. I’m knitting on the Mia Tunic and reading an e-book from the public library. Here’s hoping I feel better tomorrow because the squashes and cukes won’t wait any longer to be transplanted into bigger pots. I totally have better things to do with my day. Grrr…

Whine over.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Life Is A Spectrum

I’ve been pondering how my tastes have changed over the last few years. For instance, I used to love jewelry and beadwork and made a lot of pieces for myself especially earrings. But I haven’t worn any jewelry at all, even my wedding ring, in so long I don’t remember when was the last time. I stopped wearing my ring because I kept getting dermatitis under it but even earrings seem to irritate me. Perhaps they clash with my hearing aids? Anyhow, I’m just not interested in beady things any more. Will that change again in future? Dunno.

Then there’s the fact that my clothing colour tastes are becoming more and more subdued and earthy. Of course I used to wear a lot of black but it was set off with one or more quite bright pieces or accessories. Now I wear less black but more grays and browns as neutrals and the accessory colours are toned down. My home is still pretty colourful though! No boring beige anywhere there. I have no idea what that says about me.

Where I am much more colourful however is in my cooking. I love bright vegetables! That’s why I buy rainbow carrots and orange peppers and grow yellow zucchini, purple kale, red cabbage and bronze lettuce. Too fun. I like to think they taste better too but that could just be enthusiastic imagination. Whatever. The good thing is that I’m eating veggies that I used to not even like, such as chard. All the better when the stems are pretty colours, no?

So my tastes in many things are shifting and simplifying. Perhaps it’s an age thing? I no longer want every craft book and magazine or covet every skein of yarn and bolt of fabric. I can choose my purchases more wisely. OK, I have to choose my purchases more wisely because we no longer have any money to waste! But I don’t feel like I need as much stuff anymore and I can let more things go. I already have most everything that makes me happy anyhow.

Perversely, I’m also knitting yet another scarf (which I don’t really need) that I mentioned in a previous post. This is the Colour Change Scarf, free pattern by Purl Bee and it’s quite colourful indeed! I’m using JST Jagger superfine merino in 5 sunny shades. I blocked the wee bit I’ve already knit on the needles just to make sure I liked the results:


I sure couldn’t tell by the shrivelled little blob it was before pinning it out! The yellow is the constant colour and the other shades take a turn in ever-increasing lengths through the scarf from lightest to darkest. Because my yarn is thicker than the recommended Habu, I reduced the stitch count to 52 and the needle down one size for a nicer hand. (It was too “thready” for my taste.) I think it’ll be nice and soft and warm. Not that we need warm scarves around here for another 6 months! It might take me that long to knit though because this is not something I can do by feel alone and I have to watch every stitch.

I’ve also finished spinning and plying the second Alpaca Tweed skein. 488 more yards of deliciousness! Only one more skein to go before I have a sweater’s worth. OK, quit laughing at me, everyone! You’ve been watching my current sweater knitting binge, haven’t you? I did say I had almost everything I need, didn’t I? I don’t have enough sweaters yet. So there.

One last item – in a comment on yesterday’s post Jean asked what I’m putting in the dye garden. Already there are rhubarb, madder, dyer’s chamomile, 2 kinds of perennial coreopsis and a woad that I’m allowing to go to seed. In the greenhouse waiting until it’s warm enough are Japanese indigo, annual coreopsis and marigolds. Still in the house under lights are a couple of weld plants. At the last minute I thought I’d put them in to mature and overwinter for next year because I need fresh seeds even though I already have enough dried weld to dye with for several years to come! I’m also not putting any new woad plants this year but will just rely on the Japanese indigo instead. I only have just so much space and I’m already reaching out onto city property! 30 indigo plants will fill it up for sure. Photos to come later when things get going.

Now it’s time for me to get going too!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shapes Of Things To Come

This will be a quick one because hey, the sun is shining and it’s warming up. There’s walking and more gardening to get in before the day is done! Speaking of gardening, we’re done prepping the veggie patch except the greenhouse, which needs clearing out but not while the poor little seedlings need to stay in there. The dye garden is cleared and composted and ready to plant. Now there’s just the front gardens to clean up. Great progress!

In knitting news, I’m nearly at the point on my Candelia where I start the hem and the pockets. The pockets are knitted as extensions to the bottom edge and then folded up and stitched into place. I may make them slightly larger both in width and length too because in the photos the pockets look a little too small to be functional. And I’m all about the functional. Easily done.

And I promised to share the next make with you as well. This is the Mia Tank by Jennifer Wood from the latest issue of Knitty. Here’s Jennifer’s version:


And the back has a cute little seed stitch tail:

KnittyMia back

As I said, I’m using several weaving threads from the stash held together:


Clockwise from the top left that’s 4/12 rayon, 15/2 silk tweed (the same yarn I used in that bubbly black and natural scarf I wove awhile back), and 16/1 natural line linen. The resulting swatch is slinky and drapey, with a good hand and a natural unbleached colour that goes with everything. I got stitch gauge no problem but the row gauge is much denser than the pattern calls for. Hopefully that won’t present too much of a problem. I can always compensate by knitting more rows to gain length if necessary.

The construction of this tunic sweater is interesting. It starts at the back neck, including the shoulders, and works short rows to slope the shoulders nicely (great for those of us without square model-hanger shoulders). Then you work down the back and add a little shape toward the underarms where it stops. Then you go back to the beginning and pick up one side of the front, knit that down to the bottom of the neckline, shaping as you go. Hold that and pick up the other front and make a mirror image of the first side, add stitches across the neckline gap, beginning the little seed stitch area, and carry on down to the underarms as for the back. Thereupon you join the front to the back, adding plenty of stitches at the underarms and start knitting in the round adding width, depth (short rows again) and the cute gather at the top of the tail section as you go. Finally you knit the seed stitch hem all around and bind off. The neckline and armholes are finished with (gasp!) crocheted picots. Love. Can’t wait to finish this one. I’m already partway down the back section. The one drawback is that the cones of yarn are heavy so this project is not at all portable.

Spinning the alpaca tweed is coming along. Nearly another full bobbin then I’ll be ready to ply skein number two. One more to go after that! Since I’m not in a hurry to start this project it’s okay that it’s taking awhile.

Goodness. It’s getting late! Off I go.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dig This

The weather has been mostly nice for the last week or so and we hustled out to the “back 40” (that’s 40 FEET not acres) to get the veggie patch ready for planting:


There was a lot of digging, weeding, smoothing, dumping of compost and deciding where everything will go. This little old lady was quite proud of holding up pretty well to all the physical exercise! Even The Hand cooperated just fine. Then typically, right after I got my little green things tucked into their beds:


…the temperatures plummeted so now it’s colder than it was in February. Sigh. At least these are all the early spring greens (lettuce, arugula, mizuna, komatsuna, gai lan) and the cabbages and kale that should be able to take it as long as it doesn’t freeze. Since we’re nearly a month past our last expected frost date, everything should be ok. Fingers crossed that they don’t get slowed down too much or they’ll all bolt when it warms up again. Gardening is such a crap shoot, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, I’m still schlepping 8 more flats of tomatoes, Japanese indigo and numerous flower seedlings in and out of the basement every day. They can’t go in yet and I also can’t plant the beans until at least the first or second week in May. I have cukes and squashes coming up under the lights indoors too they will need to go out as soon as it warms up enough. Lots of work but worth it when we get to munch on the proceeds. We went to the local farmers’ market yesterday and there was so much produce there that we didn’t need to buy because we have our own! (We did get beets and chard and goat cheeses though.) I was so proud that my rhubarb was bigger than theirs that I immediately picked some when I got home and made sauce. The best over vanilla ice cream! Oh, and I also picked the asparagus and there’s enough for a meal. Yum.

OK, enough garden talk. In crafty news, I’m cruising down toward the hem of the Sweet Ginger Candelia cardi. It’s going very well without any major hassles and I even tried it on and it fits perfectly. Whoot! Why do some projects go so much more smoothly than others? This is going to break the speed record from yarn purchase to finished object for me for sure.

I also started a scarf but I’m not sure if I like it yet so the info on it is pending. I had a lot more success with another project which combines 3 different fine threads from my weaving stash which I’ll knit together to make a tunic top. I have the pattern and have already modified it slightly to fit me. I’m finding it very exciting that these silk, rayon and linen threads can actually be perfect to knit with if combined into a thicker strand and I had great fun playing with different combos. The results are so much better than the pattern’s recommended yarn which would have cost me about $140! Free is better, no? I need to get some photos of the swatches and the yarn cones. More on this one soon.

And I’m still spinning too and now I have about half the alpaca tweed yarn that I need for yet another sweater. (No, I cannot have too many!) It’s pretty fine yarn (about sport weight when plied) so even using the faster long-draw that’s a lot of spinning still to go. Pleasant anyway – at least now that I’ve had more practise with this slubby stuff. I have the pattern chosen and ready to go but I’m going to wait until the yarn is done first.

Still haven’t located my sewjo from wherever it’s hiding! I know I need some new clothes but darned if I can get motivated in the studio. Maybe when I get the garden more completed. All that digging saps my energy and all that’s left at the end of the day is only good for the mindless stuff. But that’s perfectly all right. It’s not a race to the finish. The sewjo will return. I have plans.

Back out to the garden while it’s not raining!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


That’s the sound of time flying by. Wow! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? So, did everyone who celebrates have a lovely Easter holiday? Our family wasn’t planning anything but at the very last minute we ended up with two dinners to attend. Different days and a different selection of family members. It was fun! Sometimes it just pays to wait until somebody else does it first. ;)

The iffy weather we’d been having cleared up and we finally got a good opportunity to get dug into the garden. Of course Thom has been pruning everything in sight for a couple of months now. But this was the first chance I’ve had to get out there and do my thing. Thom does a lot of the heavier work but I’m the one who does the fiddly planting, transplanting, weeding, bed shaping and the all-important part of figuring out where everything goes. We make a great team and we both really enjoy the work. I’m a bit stiff today though! And there’s lots more to do out there. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Not that I’d want to eat an elephant. (Poor darling.) I’d rather eat the asparagus spears along with kale buds, spring onions, chives, parsley and lamb’s lettuce that I’ve been harvesting.

Meanwhile in more fibreish news, I’ve been knitting madly on my Sweet Ginger Candelia. It’s a lot bigger than this now:


Down nearly to the waist in fact. Why is this sweater going so much faster than the black one did? It’s exactly the same gauge! One of life’s mysteries, I think.

Also I’ve been spinning away on the alpaca tweed:


I think you can see in this photo of the first full skein that the actual colour of this stuff is a steel blue. NOT a natural alpaca colour at all! The gray alpaca was most definitely blended with dyed fibres which I think is what gave it that alluring bluish tinge that drew me to this roving in the first place. It’s only in full sunlight that you can actually see it clearly, along with the tweedy bits of rose, blue, gray and dark gray, and even one lone yellow blip! Very interesting. But not exactly what I was told I was buying. 100% alpaca it isn’t.

However, I’m making the best of it and although the yarn seems to shed some (what’s with that?) it’s soft and airy and I think it will make a nice sweater. I’m partway through spinning the second skein. These are honkin’ big beasts! The first one is nearly 5 ounces of sport weight two-ply. I spun the singles on my Louet Victoria and plied two of them on my Louet S-90 with its bigger bobbin. And I only need 2 more of these mega-skeins for a long-sleeved sweater. Spinning right along. I’ll probably be ready to begin knitting about the time I’ve finished the Candelia.

Of course now that I’m committed to getting the garden going I finally found my “sewjo” and have a huge desire to sew some new clothes. Which isn’t going to happen for at least another week. Sigh. But that’s OK. Everything has a season and currently spring is here bigtime! I’ve got tomatoes to transplant into bigger pots. Must get to it.