Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Moving Along

Well, goodbye August and hello September! And, August, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, eh? Can’t say I’m sorry to see you go with your excessive heat and smoke. Hopefully September will be an improvement. Besides being my favourite month in the whole calendar, it’s usually the time we go on vacation. But not this year. We’re staying home this month. Good thing we had a great vacation back in February and March, huh? Or I might be more inclined to leave than I am right now.

Speaking of the smoke/ground level ozone pollution, it certainly was bad enough, when combined with the high temperatures and no rain to speak of, to do some damage my vegetable garden. The cucumbers, squash and bush and pole beans were particularly susceptible:

Interestingly, the scarlet runner beans look just fine although they didn’t set much fruit while it was still hot.

They’re just coming back now that the skies are clear and it’s cooled down. It’s been lovely to get back out into the garden again. There was a lot of work waiting for me now that I’m not so likely to melt into a pile of goo!

That goes for my studio too. My new sewing machine and I have been getting to know each other. The jumping bobbin case issue hasn’t gone away entirely but it has only happened once more since the last time I whined about it. Which leads me to believe that it’s possibly newbie operator error as suggested by the dealer. I hope because I have no desire to drag it back into them only to be told there’s nothing wrong with the machine.

So I made three garments, all out of the same cotton/poly french terry in navy:


The pockets and neckline on the top (B6492 Katherine Tilton) are scraps from the tie-dye leggings I made last year. The pants are my TNT boot-cut pants long-ago traced from a favourite bought pair. The skirt is a new self-drafted pattern and I think it might need taking in just a little on the sides and the hem pegged a wee bit more. Which repair I need to get around to very soon or it won’t happen.

The top turned out better than I thought it would. I did my usual mods of sloping narrow shoulders and took 1.5” off the sleeve length. I had issues with the fabric being heavier than recommended so the top-stitching I thought I wanted didn’t look good at all and I had to pick it out. Luckily I had only done the curved front seam but it was 2 rows of stitching! Then I had to pick off the first pocket because the pattern markings were incorrect and I put in on backwards. Grrrr... Somehow nobody else has mentioned this issue? The tops of the points on the pocket and the side front piece are opposing instead of matching when they are aligned correctly and the notches do not match. Should not be. Not to mention the raw or exposed serging on the pocket edges. Not. I finished them off though the double-layered pocket, even with the lighter tie-dye knit on the top was still pretty thick and heavy. Could have been one layer instead. Next time, if there is one, I’ll try something different.

Another issue is that the sleeves are quite narrow fitting. They’re fine for me and my skinny arms (and actually matched my personal block quite well) but if you have more “normal” arms you might find them a little restrictive in a not-quite-so-stretchy knit. In the end however, I actually like my top and may even make another sometime. I’ve definitely made notes of where I need to pay attention.

Now I need to figure out what to sew next. I have fabric. I have patterns. And I have a new sewing machine! There’s shirts for Thom who needs them desperately for winter. I see a marathon cutting-out session coming on.

In other news, I finally bit the bullet and tried to rescue my mouldy (and now attracting flies) indigo pot. If you’ll cast your mind back to the end of July, I picked my Japanese indigo and attempted to extract the dye by fermenting it in a bucket to take advantage of the hot weather. That part worked well but the trouble came when I added soda ash to make it alkaline. I didn’t add enough. I needed more than I was used to since the fermentation made the vat very acidic. It didn’t separated out so I could remove the liquid and dry the pigment. It just went weird instead. Not realising what had actually happened I just left it. For a month.

Finally, after reading John Marshall’s book some more, I tried again. I had to filter out the mould. Yuck. And then added lye (a higher pH than soda ash) and thiourea dioxide (thiox) and heated it up on the dye stove to 50C. It actually reduced! Although it was still weird:

Full of bits (which came out on the vintage t-shirt I threw in) but eventually washed away or disappeared. Perhaps I should have waited a little longer before putting the t-shirt in? Dunno. After 6 dips the t-shirt had quite a nice shade of medium blue:

I’m quite pleased. At least I finally used my precious carefully nurtured indigo and it didn’t go to waste. That would be, like, a mortal sin or something, right? I’ve even worn the t-shirt a bunch of times since. I call that success. Next year I want to grow a larger plot of indigo. The fermentation thing worked well until I screwed up. Now I know what I did wrong. If I can keep my indigo pigment (or even sludge) and combine it together enough to make a more intense vat I would be very happy. But that’s for next year.

Moving right along...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Janome HD5000 & A Long Story

Sounds like a quidditch-playing wizard’s new broom model, doesn’t it? Heh. As I mentioned last time, I was finally ready to give up on my venerable Pfaff. We were starting to have irreconcilable differences, she and I. It was time to look for a new love...er, sewing machine. But what make and model? I applied my google-fu ninja skillz.

First I wasn’t sure whether I wanted a mechanical or a computer machine. I kept flipping back and forth during a whole two days of online investigation. Note that my Pfaffs (both sewing machine and serger) are basically mechanical machines. I’m not at all afraid of computers but I do know how easily they can go out of whack. I wanted a machine that would hopefully last for the rest of my sewing life and not need to be serviced every 5 minutes. On the other hand, computer sewing machines have lots of nifty bells and whistles that the mechanicals just don’t have: automatic needle up or down, tacking at the beginning and end of seams, more stitch and buttonhole options, memory to save settings, etc. Some of those would be nice to use, but since I’ve been sewing without them for 60 years or so, I deemed them not especially necessary.

It wasn’t easy to find a relatively basic but not too simple sewing machine! So many of the machines today are made for quilting and embroidery. Perhaps perfect for an art quilter but I’m mainly a garment maker and don’t need 300 fancy stitches. I didn’t even use half of the ones I already had on my old Pfaff! And can one really trust online reviews to be accurate and non-biased? What I was actually looking for seemed like the proverbial unicorn. You can do all the research in the world but sometimes you just have to jump in the deep end.

Of course, being an old Pfaff ffan, I first looked at their current models. My nearest sewing machine store is a Pfaff dealer but they still haven’t gotten with the 21st century and don’t have a website. Doh. I think they also carry Janome and BabyLock but since I’ve never had very friendly service there (even though that’s where I bought my original Pfaff 40 years ago and my serger 10 years ago), I skipped them entirely. Also Pfaffs are no longer made in Europe and they are just part of the same company as Singer and Husqvarna/Viking. Meh. I also didn’t want a Bernina, even though there are those who sing their praises from on high. Too rich and too fussy for my taste.

So finally I checked out Janome. It’s a Japanese company with their machines made in either Japan or Taiwan. Good overall reviews. And best of all, they had several models that would fulfill my criteria. I found out that the largest Canadian dealer is Toews Sewing in Abbotsford, an hour+ drive from me and lo and behold, they had a sale on the HD5000 model! So we went for a drive. Big shout-out to Alayna who gave me great advice and service, not to mention a deal on all the extra feet, needles and bobbins that I bought along with my machine. She even looked through her parts suppliers to see if replacement feed-dogs were available for the old Pfaff. (As I thought, the answer was sadly no.)

So here is the HD5000:

A mechanical heavy-duty sewing machine with an aluminum body underneath all the plastic. It’s heavy and powerful. Only has 18 stitches but all the ones I use regularly and at least one more that I’ve always wanted. Also a single one-step automatic buttonhole, a built-in needle threader, 7 feet included (and I bought several more just because I could!), a free arm, a hard cover and everything fits in the body of the machine:


The inside of the lid has all the stitches and their settings for easy reference. The manual (which I checked out online before heading to the store) is basic and has clear illustrations which I definitely prefer rather than photos. However, it was missing info on how to set up for twin-needle sewing so I remembered to ask Alayna about it. Easy-peasy. The only things my old machine has that this one doesn’t are the Pfaff’s patented IDT (built-in walking foot) and an automatic needle up (on the Pfaff you press down on the presser foot lever to raise up the needle to its highest postition and to bring up the bobbin thread). I’m still working on remembering to use the flywheel to raise the needle manually! The Janome’s 7-part feed dog has very positive traction so I don’t miss the IDT foot at all but just in case I also got a regular mechanical walking foot:

That’s the big beast on the right along with the rest of the extra feet I indulged in. I haven’t used any of those yet! I’m also still waiting on a button foot and a straight-stitch foot and throat plate which are on order. Why not, eh? My sewing pleasure is worth it, right? And you’re going to laugh: the whole package ended up costing no more than my Pfaff did 40 years ago! And less than half what a comparable level of computer machine would be.


Now for the not-so-good news - there’s an issue with my new machine. Sigh. Hopefully it’s easily fixable. The top-loading bobbin is totally new to me. It’s very easy to use but for some unknown reason, the holder/basket/cup/thingy that the bobbin sits in pops out of position occasionally while I’m sewing. It’s done it several times and now I know exactly what’s happening right away and can stop and fix it. However it shouldn’t happen at all! I have an email message in to Alayna and I’m waiting for her reply on whether there is something we can do remotely or whether I need to bring the machine back in. Apparently they use these machines in schools and prisons (!) and demo them sewing through 10 layers of denim and shoe leather so obviously they are tough beasts! Wouldn’t it just figure that I’d get one with a problem? Yeesh.

Meanwhile, I’ve already sewn a pair of stretch boot-cut pants and a skirt in navy poly/lycra french terry. It was exciting to use fun things like the lightning stitch, a twin-needle and the hem-stitching foot on real projects. I still have a top in this same fabric to sew and then I’ll let you see the results. These garments were already cut out so I just dove into them. Otherwise I might have chosen something in a woven to sew first. But I plan to throw everything at her eventually! I’d ask you to cross your fingers for me that the naughty bobbin holder is easily fixed but then you would find it hard to knit or sew. And that would just be mean! So think positive thoughts for me and Jannie instead, OK? Thank you.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A New Friend

Hello! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? The Fambly Campout wasn’t exactly a bust but a majority couldn’t make it due to illness and scheduling conflicts. Bummer. Those of us left made the best of it although the weather was mostly cloudy with the occasional glimpse of orange sun thanks to the smoke from all the wildfires. It wasn’t pleasant to hike in so we only had a short 5k up a mountain and back down again. The Littlest Grandbeastie was a bit bereft when her cousins couldn’t make it. She went swimming:

And found some other kids to play with while the rest of us relaxed. Maybe next year will be better than this?

Meanwhile, I finally finished Thom’s Manly Short Socks:

Yes, they are definitely purple. He picked the yarn! It’s Zitron Trekking Pro Natura, 75% superwash wool/25% bamboo. The pattern is my usual top down socks with a short cuff right before the heel flap. He wanted these to wear for comfort in his shoes without looking like he’s wearing socks:

Seems to work pretty nicely and he likes them a lot. Now naturally he wants a second pair! Although since the weather has changed and we’ve had some actual rain and cooler temperatures recently I think the pressure is off for the time being. I will knit him another pair eventually so at least he can have one to wear while the other is being washed. It’s only fair, right?

Anyway, you might have noticed the title. Here is my new friend that I alluded to:

Yes, I bought a new sewing machine! My poor 40-year-old Pfaff was developing issues that just couldn’t be fixed. There are sadly no parts available anymore for love nor money. The feed-dogs are worn so much that fabric doesn’t feed through properly and the tension is impossible to balance. Not to mention the foot pedal that overheats and runs mad. I’ve been loyal for so long and put up with the increasing difficulties but it finally dawned on me that I could actually buy a new sewing machine. Who’d a-thunk? More on Jannie (that’s her name) in the next post. And obviously she is not a Pfaff.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Finally Some FOs

We’ve had a bit of a respite from the intense heat over the last few days. It even sprinkled enough so I didn’t have to water as much! However along with the clouds we’ve had haze from lots of fires and the occasional smell of smoke. Not fun. The air quality is really bad. This seems to be a summer trend now and not a trend I wish to continue. A number of our nearby fires especially could have been prevented if people weren’t so appallingly stupid and careless. Grrr...

On a happier note, I’ve actually managed to finish a few projects. First up the Trillian In Linen Shawl, pattern by Martina Behm.

The yarn is Prism hand-dyed Euroflax Laceweight in colourway Kilimanjaro. Matches my dress and my glasses! Heh. I originally began a different shawl but decided that the pattern was too busy for this variegated linen so frogged and began again with Trillian which is mostly simple garter stitch and shows off the yarn much better. The shape ended up a long narrow asymmetrical triangle which I quite like. It was a bit tricky to block though:


I had to use more blocking wires than I expected. It ended up a shawl/scarf hybrid!

Now that shawl is finished I still have 3 knitting projects on the go:

On the bottom of the pile is my Lacca Laneway tunic, on the right is the Deciduous pullover and on the left are the short socks for Thom. Priority is the socks because there’s only a limited time left with weather warm enough for him to wear them. Which of course means the other two sweaters are patiently waiting their turn. No hurry. I have a plethora of sweaters. Assuming it ever gets cold enough to need one. Did I just contradict myself there?

I was so happy when it cooled off a little that I finally felt like getting back up to the not-quite-so-much-sweat shop. Caught up on a heap of ironing, a little mending and finished these three garments that have been languishing since last summer. First the Lane Raglan t-shirt turned into a tunic:

Then a Kirsten Kimono tee and the ruched capri leggings from McCall’s 6360. Here I’m wearing them with my denim York Pinafore:


These are all TNT patterns and basics in my wardrobe. (And you might notice how many indy patterns I’m starting to use instead of Big 4.) The fabric is a fairly lightweight cotton/lycra baby rib in a very bright orange-red. (Umm, yes, I love orange. Why do you ask?) I cut these garments out last year but didn’t get around to sewing them up before we went away on our September vacation. Glad to finally get them off my checklist! Not sure what I’ll be sewing next. I’m going to have to go through the stash to remember what I had planned.

But first we’re going away again for a few days. It’s the annual Fambly Campout this coming weekend so packing will be top of my mind for the next couple of days. I still have garden produce to deal with too before we go anywhere. I’ve been dehydrating tomatoes and making bean pickles but there are still more waiting. Looking forward to a bit of a holiday again but I know with the Grandbeasties around it’s not going to be much of a rest! A lot of fun though.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Magical Mystery Tour Report

OK, I now understand why Instagram is becoming way more popular than blogging. Because it’s so much quicker and easier! No trying to marshall your thoughts and match them to your photos. No linking information or hunting down details. Oh dear. Am I getting lazy? Maybe my brains have just melted away into a pile of goo. It’s certainly been hot enough! I don’t do well in the heat. I just want to sit there quietly and read a book and drink copious amounts of liquid. No action. No thinking. But you want to know the details, right?

So where was I? Oh yeah, we were taking off on a seniors’ tour with Thom’s mom. She very kindly invited us even though she knows it isn’t really our thing. Not that we aren’t seniors, because we definitely are! But we still prefer to travel on our own, go where we want, stop when we wish, sleep in our own bed and eat our own food most of the time. However, the chance to go places we hadn’t been before without any responsibilities sounded like fun! And it was - to a point. There were a few glitches though. I’m not naming the tour company but if you live locally you could probably figure it out. Some glitches were unavoidable but some could have been handled better. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Anyway, the trip we chose mostly consisted of a lot of ferry/bus/boat/bus/ferry kind of thing. Luckily I really love the water and the BC coast is just incrediblly beautiful. The weather was really cooperative too and for a miracle it wasn’t too hot at all, except on the last of the four days. Day One we headed up the Sunshine Coast with a stop in Gibsons:


BTW there’s a great dress shop in Gibsons called Swish. Lots of my kind of clothes! Mom and I oggled them but didn’t buy anything. Then we had lunch and a walk in Sechelt:

Another ferry and more driving past Powell River up to the end (or beginning) of Highway 101 at Lund:


Supper at the Laughing Oyster was fantastic! We overnighted at the historic Lund Hotel which was also very nice and recently renovated.

Day Two didn’t quite go as planned. Our bus driver wasn’t able to catch the two ferries that he needed to get to Cortes Island to pick us up so our boat tour up Desolation Sound ended up taking a detour. Here are the two boats (ours is the closest one, the Carrousel, and the second is the Agate Pass):

And that’s our yummy lunch being carried by our skipper and his wife to be stowed for later. Even if the cruise was longer and we only got a glimpse of Desolation Sound it was still a lot of fun.

We saw plenty of sea birds, seals, eagles and finally whales! No photos of the whales because I was too busy watching them. Oops. Lunch was onboard with both boats anchored in Gorge Harbour:

It’s a narrow entry but opens up into quite a large bay. This is only a corner of it:

After lunch we got serious and headed for Quadra Island’s Herriot Bay where our bus finally managed to meet us and took us to our lodge at Tsa-Kwa-Luten:

Every room has a view of the water and Campbell River across the strait.

Day Three took us to the island’s outdoor Saturday market instead of to the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre in Cape Mudge village. It was unfortunately closed due to the death of a chief which we totally understood. We did get to see the petroglyph stones that have been relocated there from the beach in front of our lodge not far away:



You know how I loves me some petroglyphs! These are all faces and are around 3000 years old. Some have been re-pecked into the rocks several times over the millennia. There are lots of petroglyph rocks still on the beach but the images are much harder to see after waves and weathering. Also the beach is uncomfortable cobblestones to try to walk on. I was glad these were available so I didn’t have to trust my balance and the tide!

We stopped at Rebecca Spit for our picnic lunch. It gets quite narrow:

It was lovely to finally get a good walk in around the tip of the spit where we watched the ferry heading to Cortes Island where we were supposed to have been the day before.


Later after dinner at Tsa-Kwa-Luten we got in another walk to the Cape Mudge Lighthouse:

And then further down the beach trail to the private campground associated with the lodge. We could come back here sometime in our van which would be fun and explore Quadra Island some more. There’s a lot we didn’t get to see.

Day Four was the long trip home. The ferry to Campbell River, lunch in Qualicum Beach, down to Nanaimo and the ferry again to Horseshoe Bay. The tour manager and the bus driver opted to avoid the Pride Parade traffic by going over the Workers Memorial Bridge instead which made the ride much longer, especially when they took the, ahem...scenic tour. Those of us in the back of the bus were getting quite silly by the time we got to our starting/ending point at VanDusen Gardens. I was super glad to finally get home. There’s a reason why I schedule our personal travel days to usually not more than 5 or 6 hours! That’s plenty but this was more like 10 hours on the road/water/hanging about in ferry terminals. I was pretty impressed at how well they all held up (except perhaps the tour manager!) considering Thom and I were probably the youngest passengers.

Told you it was going to be a Magical Mystery Tour! And it was.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Magical Mystery Tour

Just a quick one to say we’re off on an adventure tour with Thom’s 90 year old mom for four days. This will be our first experience travelling in guided air-conditioned style with other seniors! (Ackk! Are we that old?) We’re heading up the BC coast to Lund, Quadra Island and Desolation Sound where we’ve never been before. It’ll be fun! Lots of boats and ferries and buses. Oh my! Will post if I can. You never know what the wifi is like in these places but I’ll do my best.

Of course we worked our butts off to be able to leave. Watering, watering, and even more watering. Picking produce. Tring to do something useful with said produce. Thank heavens the garden is finally slowing down a little! Though I did plant some more baby Asian greens that are being watered with a sprinkler on a timer. I hate to leave my babies without supervision but what can you do?

So I finally finished Thom’s cargo shorts. It was a struggle and I probably broke at least 8 needles on this darned impermeable linen canvas. I sewed slowly and took advantage of all the super power in my vintage Pfaff. Even my CoverStyle serger held up once I got a big enough needle in it. There were a few issues with the pattern from Wardrobe By Me that didn’t quite resolve as neatly as I would like. Might just be me not understanding or missing an instruction somewhere? I would change a few things next time anyway. But he loves them!


Looking pretty spiff, huh? Think they’ll get plenty of wear anyway. And that is definitely all that counts! This pattern could also easily be extended to full length trousers too. Perhaps a future make for the guy who appreciates my efforts, huh?

Unfortunately my Japanese indigo experience didn’t go so well. The leaves fermented as they were supposed to do:

It took 4 days instead of 2 or 3 but that was fine. I didn’t have a lot of leaves to work with. Then I separated out the spent (and rather stinky) leaves and was left with this gorgeous turquoise brew:


I added alkali (soda ash since I have lots) to hopefully bring the pH up to 10-11. It was hard to tell with pH paper but it seemed like I had to use more than I do with my usual method? The fermented solution was quite acidic anyhow. Then I beat the solution with my indigo stained hand mixer and got lovely blue froth:


I decanted this out into 3 smaller plastic bins to make it easier to deal with. And then it sat there. And sat there. No settling out. At all. Two days later it is still just sitting. Blue. Did I do something wrong? Again? I’ve had so much trouble with dyes lately. Things that should be relatively simple. I don’t know about my indigo but I’m blue myself! If I had time (which I don’t) I might have tried to add thiox and see if I can make a proper vat if I’m not going to be able to get dried indigo from it. But my only hope now is that maybe it will settle out while I’m gone? Or I’ll try to reduce it when I get back next week. If it hasn’t gone bad in the meanwhile. Sigh. So darned fickle this magical blue. Must recall this was an experiment. Sometimes experiments don’t quite have the desired results? Argh.

So looking forward to a break. The weather is finally cooler. One more sleep.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Singing The Blues (Hopefully)

Trying to carry on here whilst my brains are melting down into my toes. Yikes, it’s been hot! Currently it’s 30C (86F for you non-metric folks). And I think it’s even hotter than that upstairs in the Sweat Shop where I spent a couple of hours arm-wrestling with the Cargo Shorts project that I started a few days ago. The pattern as I’ve mentioned before is from Wardrobe By Me and is very well drafted. The instructions are pretty clear if a little succinct. I would not call it a beginner pattern since there are so many pieces and steps but a confident sewist should be able to manage okay. There are 3 different kinds of pockets (patch, slant and welt), a fly front, belt loops and a faced waist rather than a waistband. Lots of interfacing and topstitching make these shorts look very professional. The only difficulty I’m having is my fabric choice.

I decided to use a piece of my linen canvas that I bought in Victoria last summer. I’ve dyed and overdyed it and it’s thick but quite flexible. However, it’s really really hard to sew through! Even my tough old Pfaff is struggling and I’ve already tried and broken half a dozen needles. Currently a rather slender size 80 jeans needle seems to be working in the sewing machine while a sturdy size 100 universal needle is in the serger (not even a proper EL serger needle because I didn’t have one in that size). Go figure.

I didn’t go for anything exciting for the pocket bags. Just plain old muslin. And I’m using the SF101 fusible woven interfacing that I bought for shirt collars and cuffs. The shorts are coming along but I can only work on them for a couple of hours before I am just done for the day. With my luck the weather will change before I’m finished these things! He’d better wear them after I’ve struggled so much to make them. Just sayin’.

Nothing to see in the knitting department. It’s actually too hot to knit. I think I’m going to rip the colourwork back on the Deciduous sweater and start it again using the more normal stranding technique. It should work fine since the chart I’ve designed has no long floats until the last section where I can use some float catching techniques to make that part work. The issue I’m having with the Coast Salish technique which is used with every stitch is that it just looks too uneven in this fingering yarn and obscures the delicate design image too much. I think it will look better stranded though I may have to use a larger needle or knit it inside out to prevent the yoke from becoming too tight. At least I’ve only got about 2” or so of the chart done so it’s not that big of a sacrifice. I’d rather have it right than continue and not be happy with it. Unfortunately however, I was running in the loose ends of the colour changes as I went so it’s going to be a challenge to rip out! Sometimes I’m too smart for me.

In the garden, I finally decided that the Japanese indigo was mature enough to harvest some to play with.

This is only about a quarter of the two patches in my dye garden though I don’t really have that much this year since I gave 1/3 of my babies to the Richmond guild for their new dye garden. I cut the stems above where they are starting to grow new branches and left some of the most mature stems alone. I want them to start to flower so I can get fresh seeds and if I cut them right off they take too long to grow back again to maturity. I still got a whole bucket of leafy stems.

After reading about a different method of extracting the blue from indigo other than composting (called sukumo in Japan) or my usual cooking the leaves a little. This new one I’m trying is a fermentation where you cover the leaves with water and leave them in a warm place for a couple of days to heat up and release the indigo precursors. Then as usual, you raise the pH and beat oxygen into the vat to turn it blue. I usually go straight from there to creating my indigo vat right away but you can also let the indigotin precipitate out, remove the excess water and let the paste dry for later use. It would be nice to save the product from a couple of extractions and combine them so I could actually have a dark blue vat instead of the diluted pale blue I usually get from my home-grown indigo. I could even try a 1-2-3 vat with fructose and chalk. The other advantage is that I don’t have to use it right away but can save it for when I’m more ready to dye blue. I’ve actually gone a couple of years recently just growing indigo for seeds and not using its dyeing potential at all which is rather wasteful. So I hope this works.


I weighted the leaves down with a couple of heavy plates to keep them under water. Now the bucket with a lid is sitting in my greenhouse where it will keep nice and warm. And hopefully do what it’s supposed to! Crossing metaphorical fingers.

So right while I was in the middle of stripping indigo leaves (I already have a blue fingernail!) I received this lovely item in the post:

Cost me an absolute fortune thanks to our low Canadian dollar and note the ridiculously expensive postage. Not from Amazon obviously! But I’ve been waiting for quite awhile for this publication from the talented and ever-delightful John Marshall. See, tucked in the back there’s even a real dried indigo leaf, his autograph and a personal note on a kimono-shaped bookmark.


“Singing the Blues” is the perfect handbook for someone who grows their own Japanese indigo and wants to make the most of their harvest. John includes a whole selection of practical tips and methods of extracting and dyeing with this plant. Including the method I’m currently experimenting with! He doesn’t remove the leaves from the stems first. But then he has a lot more volume from his much larger plot. There’s so many exciting techniques in here that I’ve not come across before that now I want a much larger plot too! Oh well. One experiment at a time.