Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Too Clever By Half

Me again! Yeah, so soon. Sometimes I need to say things before they leave my head forever. You know how it is.

Anyway, I’m finally back in the sewing studio. I started by repairing all the pants/leggings in my previous post. Only took a few minutes, most of which was time spent changing thread colours. Now they are wearable again for awhile. Yay.

Then I did the ironing. Procrastination much? Finally I dug into the cut-out-and-to-be-sewn pile. Unfortunately, sewing is not like knitting. If you don’t like something that’s already cut out, you can’t just start again at the beginning. Unless of course you cut out something smaller or piece it back together! I (mostly) finish what I start - at least in the last few years because I finally have a better handle on my personal fit and style. However, one thing that’s been haunting me since way back in 2015 is this:

This Marcy Tilton pattern is from 2008. Ten years old now, but who’s counting? In the fall of 2015 I had some charcoal plaid wool suiting in a very light weight and decided to make the skirt with the very cool cargo pockets. But since the fabric was so very light and creases like crazy, I decided it needed an underlining of black cotton batiste. (Here’s a good explanation of underlining. It’s not the same as lining.) So far, so good. Until I decided to get tricksy and make a few innovations. For instance, I wanted a small pocket inside the large one and I wanted the large one to button closed instead of zip. With big buttons that needed support underneath. Not too complex so far but then I tried a technique I’d seen somewhere to underline in a way that added enough fabric to fold around the seam allowance of the fashion fabric and finish the edges. It ends up looking like a bound (Hong Kong) finish. Cashmerette has a great tutorial here.

Ding-ding! Bad idea. This nifty technique actually only works on straight or straight-ish seams. And this skirt has curves at the bubbled hem. You can’t clip the curves to lie flat if they are already encased. Not to mention that the cloth doesn’t turn neatly around the curve. Plus I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the also-curved hem:

Anyhow, the good news is that I only sewed the side-front pieces before I realised it wasn’t going to work so there’s only 4 long seams to unpick.

The bad news is that I was so annoyed with it that I’ve left it to stew for over 2.5 years! I’m not even sure I would choose to make this skirt out of this fabric if I had a do-over. But I’m at this point now. Everything is cut out. The pockets are made and the small ones attached but the big ones aren’t stitched on yet. I can finish the edges with the serger or something. I can salvage this project if I can dredge up some patience! There’s even some colder weather left to wear it in if I get my skates on.

One new change I can still make is to shorten the skirt at the waist. This will do 2 things: give me a little more ease at the waist so the skirt won’t keep riding up over my tummy (and maybe get away without inserting the zipper which is just dumb in an elastic waist) and to shorten it. I originally chose a fairly small size that just fit my measurements and right now it’s nearly at ankle length on me. I don’t like wearing long skirts. I like the look okay but they get in my way, trip me up and generally annoy the heck out of me. My balance is wonky enough as it is without having to lift my skirts to walk up the stairs! Elegant lady, I ain’t. Mid-calf is long enough which I kind of suspect was the original style idea anyway. I’m just shorter than the target market. Heh.

Side Effect. So now having a close look at this pattern has made me want to make the shorter pants view also. In linen. For summer. Did I just make my to-make list even longer? Yeesh. So much fabric. So short the days.

Meanwhile, my seeds are starting to sprout! Aren’t they adorable?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

FO’s and UFO’s

Happy Spring! (Or Happy Autumn if you’re on the other side.) We’ve been trying to catch up on some of the gardening chores we ignored when we went haring off to the desert. Thom’s been clearing and turning some of the veggie beds. And I’ve been planting seeds in the basement Grow-Op, as my children gleefully call the small counter with fluorescent grow-lights under the cupboard above it. I’ve got a bunch of early veggies and flowers seeds in their flats and now I just have to wait until something pops up! I still need a few more seeds though so we’ll be going out to the garden supply shop soon. And some things are waiting until it’s warmer to get planted such as the tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. I start most of my plants indoors but don’t like to hold stuff in pots for too long. My most immediate concern are the peas since I don’t have the seeds yet and their bed isn’t ready anyhow. They need to get in the ground soonest. Oh well. We do our best. So did you see the kale buds I picked yesterday?

Best part of the kale plants, if you’re patient enough to wait until spring. We have pickable chives too. Plus the garlic is a foot tall and the rhubarb has baby leaves. Spring for sure.

In crafty news, I mentioned Thom’s Hank’s Pullover in passing back in the travelogue when we were in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. Since we got home, I finished up its entry in my Ravelry page and was immediately contacted by Jessie McKittrick, the pattern designer. She very kindly gave me some nice compliments and asked if she could use Thom’s picture on her pattern page! I asked and he said yes. Isn’t that sweet?

I also finished up a pair of socks for him after I finished his sweater.

Rather plain, but with an eye of partridge heel for a tiny bit of interest. I dyed the yarn last winter using the sludge that was left after attempting to snow-dye on wool with acid dyes. Of course after I finished them I remembered that I had wanted to use that yarn for myself! I totally love that dark mahogany brown colour. My goodness, that man is getting spoiled rotten, isn’t he? Luckily he deserves it.

Now for the UFO’s. I have more than a couple of them floating about. For starters, I have a shawl in progress that I haven’t touched since August. It’s linen and it needs concentration and I’m not sure about how it will block. I brought it with me on the trip and didn’t even look at it once. Obviously, I need to revisit this. But not right now.

Then there’s my Folded & Rusting pullover that I began back at the beginning of December. I’m nearly up to the underarms on this pattern by Veera Valimaki:

But I seem to be stuck or hesitating or... something. I’m not sure if I have enough yarn. I only dyed 3 skeins of the Cloudborn Wool Fingering Twist and there is no more or a way to repeat the dye colour if there was. Note that it’s actually more red than it looks in the photo. I do have some sock yarn that would coordinate ok though so that’s not really the problem. Maybe I’m not sure if this style is for me? Though there are 1196 versions on many different body types and I’m pretty sure I started out loose enough at the hem. Dunno. Maybe I just need to keep knitting? If it doesn’t work I can always frog it.

Instead, I’ve been knitting on the last project I started on our trip after I finished the socks. This is the Catch & Release Cardi, pattern by Melissa Schaschwary. This one is going along just fine:

I’m several inches farther along than that now. The yarn is again Cloudborn Wool Fingering Twist in Iron Heather. Yes, I have a thing for this yarn from Craftsy! It’s non-superwash, 100% Peruvian wool, super-reasonably priced and has a gazillion (okay, 402) yards per skein. It’s also quite springy, blocks nicely and doesn’t felt or pill too much. You can knit it at a variety of gauges and it becomes drapier as it gets looser. This is my fourth sweater in this yarn and I have maybe enough for 2 more. Obviously a fan. And I like to knit with fingering yarn best. The results are wearable in so many more circumstances even if it’s not as warm or as fast to knit as worsted.

Well, that’s the current state of my knitting basket! We’ll discuss the state of my sewing pile another time. Right now I’m staring at these pants that came on holiday with us and now mysteriously need repair for popped stitches and failing crotch seams and the like. I think I was a little hard on my camping clothes! Was it the cactuses? Too much sand? Maybe it was climbing the caves? The olive green leggings seem to think so...

Poor things need some TLC.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Part 9: Rumpety-Thump-Home

Well, I’ve left you missing the last of our holiday! I kind of ran out of steam the last few days so you might think we’ve been stuck in California still. Heh.

So where were we? Day 25 had us leaving good old Sam Taylor State Park and winding back to the coast. The weather rained some in the night but cleared up to alternating sun, mist and a high fog in some places. Our goal was MacKerricher State Park just north of Fort Bragg on the wiggly windy narrow Highway 1. Everything loose in the back of the van was sliding about but it’s always a fun drive. After arriving and having lunch we walked north on the old haul road up to where it is broken off from winter storms. The beach there is rocky with one of the spots where the harbour seals haul out. We saw semi-palmated plovers that blended right into the rocks when they weren’t moving.

The ice plant (or sea fig, I’m not sure which) grows really well along the beachside here:

The two similar species can hybridise and both are not native here. They are so pretty though the park has been pulling some of the mats out to slow down the invasion.

We are quite fond of this area so we stayed another day, Day 26. It rained again at night but cleared up by the afternoon. The temperatures were finally getting comfortable! This time we walked on the haul road south. There’s a gap where the storms destroyed it and all that’s left are the metal supports:

But since this is a popular bike and walking route (you can go all the way into Fort Bragg 2 miles away) there’s a trail around. We stopped out at the lookout to see the seals:

Can you spot them? It was funny watching their reactions as the tide came in with a big wave and splashed them with cold water! We also saw whales quite close in to shore. Humpbacks? They looked darker than the grays anyhow. We walked further down the haul road and went out to the edge of the bluff to watch some more seals and when we turned around the fog had come in and obscured everything. One minute it was clear and the next it wasn’t!

Day 27 we continued north and through the mountains and redwoods to Oregon where we stayed at Harris Beach, near Brookings. The weather was a little rainy on and off but we took our umbrellas down to the beach. This one has some very large rocks:

Including the Hole-In-The-Rock. Sorry I wasn’t about to climb down to the beach to get a better shot.

On Day 28 we were surprised by the Daylight Savings time change. Grrr. Just leave it alone, OK? Sorry, I digress. We continued north to South Beach near Newport and walked the trail to the beach and then to the South Jetty:

This is the entry to Newport’s harbour and we had fun watching some noisy California sea lions. We drove over that lovely old green bridge on Day 29 as we continued our homeward journey north. This was a shorter jump but it still took awhile since we had to stop in Tillamook for cheese! And an ice-cream cone, of course. Nehalem State Park is one of our favourites. A nice loooonnng beach to walk:

This was definitely the warmest 24 hours of the whole trip! We were in shirt sleeves on the beach and kicking off some of the blankets at night. Who knew that we would find the coast warmer than the desert? Crazy weather.

Of course it was fleeting because on Day 30 it rained all day and all night. Luckily we had bought some new windshield wiper blades in Tillamook before we stopped for cheese. The old originals were toast after being peeled off a frozen windshield back in Red Rock Canyon. Thom was going to leave it until we got home but there was a convenient auto parts store. Good thing too! We continued north over the Astoria Bridge, across Washington and up the west side of the Hood Canal to Dosewallips State Park. There we sat in our toasty van (we had electric power) and read the rest of the day in the rain. This was the first day without any sunshine at all on the whole trip! No photos either.

The last morning, Day 31, found us tootling (in the rain) up to Port Townsend for the ferry over to Whidbey Island. We didn’t even get a chance to wander around the town this time. Got this shot of the bald eagle at the wharf though:

He (or she) sat there for ages while the seagulls yelled and did flybys. Amusing to watch while waiting for the ferry. We caught the Kennewick and landed at Keystone in jig time. The border crossing was relatively quick and painless and we got home in time for lunch. And then the sun came out so we could unpack without getting wet.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the travelogue. We had a really good time, travelled about 7,000 kilometres, walked 285 kilometres and now we’re very happy to be home for awhile. Just in time to start thinking about the garden - although it’s still pretty darn cold.

Back to the usual crafty stuff next!

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Part 8: Into The Mountains

So I thought we had done Joshua Tree but on Day 20 on the way out of the park we stopped at Hidden Valley and walked the trail. This was a spot that horse thieves and cattle rustlers had found to stash their livestock back in the late 1800’s when there was still enough water and grazing available. It was a pleasant morning’s hike before hitting the highway.

Some interesting rock formations (a lot of them perfect for climbers) and the quintessential desert:

The rest of this day was kind of bizarre as we negotiated freeways with gusting winds that shook the Westie and then climbed, climbed, climbed into the clouds above San Bernardino. We actually got lost in the fog when we couldn’t see the road signs. At. All. And there was surprisingly so much traffic around us and nowhere to pull over to figure out where we were supposed to be going. Finally we pulled into a municipal park and pulled out the cellphone and still had trouble figuring out which way to go. Eventually we got on the right road and went down, down, down to Silverlake State Recreation Area. It wasn’t just pouring rain by that time but interspersing it with hail and wind. Yuck. At least we had the smarts to upgrade our campsite to a plug-in one so we could at least have electric heat. Just an overnighter. Whew.

Day 21 found us in better weather on a long haul going west and north to Pinnacles National Park in central California. We had 3 days planned here and it was totally worth it.

This place is totally alive with birds. Quail, woodpeckers, both scrub and Stellar’s jays, titmice, wild turkeys, vultures and even the magnificent California condors. Also mule deer:

On our second day here, Day 22, we drove up to the parking lot for the Bear Gulch cave trail. We had brought our caving headlamps along just for this opportunity.

The cave is more like a pile of rocks than an actual cave system.

This one had lots of handy stairs and sturdy railings to help. There was the sound of water all through as the reservoir above trickled water down through the cave.

That’s the top exit! Who knew I would enjoy caves this much. I used to be terrified of them. There is a second section that was blocked off to give the resident Townsend’s big-eared bats privacy to birth their babies. No problem! At the top we continued to the reservoir which is very picturesque.

Then we continued around the Rim trail back to the parking lot.

We saw our first condors here. They’re hard to tell from the ubiquitous turkey vultures but they’re larger and have white patches towards the front under their wings. Of course you have to see them close up enough to check! This park has 33 rare California condors and every one is tagged and recorded.

On Day 23, our last day at Pinnacles, we drove up to the Old Pinnacles trail parking area. We weren’t sure we could walk all the way to the second cave system but we managed. It was more tricky than the Bear Gulch cave.

It was quite wet and just getting to the cave entrance took some doing. However, I amazed myself by managing with Thom’s helping hand to do it. Yay!

The way out was the easy part!

Then we walked around the high trail back to the main trail.

Luckily the temperature was reasonably cool. We ended up walking over 10 kilometres which is a long way for us.

This morning, Day 24, we left not too early to drive north again up the penninsula through San Francisco and back over the Golden Gate Bridge to Samuel P. Taylor State Park again. We’re back to familiar territory and tomorrow we’ll be following Highway 1 along the coast. North toward home though it’s still a long way to go.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Part 7: Cactus Heaven

On Day 17 we left Valley of Fire and drove down through the middle of Las Vegas again, unfortunately hitting it at early morning rush-hour. Once past the downtown area though we went faster southwest and back into California. We got off the Interstate and took some rather minor roads south through the Mojave Desert. In the higher area there was actually snow on the Joshua trees!

It was quite magical. On our way into Joshua Tree National Park we stopped in the Oasis Visitors Center for maps but continued quickly into the park to try to score a campsite since we didn’t have a reservation. We were very lucky (and early) and found a really nice quiet spot in Bell Campground which is one of the First Come, First Served camps and only has 18 spots tucked into the rounded monzogranite rocks.

After nabbing our home base for 3 nights we drove down to visit the jumping cholla garden. Also called teddy bear cholla, it was pretty impressive:

There were acres of these and lots of warnings not to stray off the path or touch the plants. A first-aid kit prominently available was a good clue that these stickers are not nice! I don’t know if you can tell that the teddy bear cholla is different from the silver cholla I showed in a previous post. They have those here too plus yet another variety called pencil cholla:

We learned that pretty much every plant out here is prickly, even the ones that aren’t cactuses! This is an ocotillo, one of the few that was blooming:

There was a hummingbird in there somewhere enjoying the flowers but I can’t find it now. This plant usually looks like a tall bundle of spiky sticks:

Until it gets enough water to put out tiny green leaves and the pretty red flowers. There are of course a lot of Joshua trees here, some of them really big. They aren’t really trees but yuccas, a member of the lily family. There’s also Mojave yuccas that are related but don’t grow the tall trunk:

On Day 18 we walked the Skull Rock trail:

I couldn’t get far enough away to get the whole creepy head in! There’s a nice set of nature plaques along part of this trail to introduce you to the plants and animals here. There’s turbinella oaks, pinyon pine and juniper. I found a jojoba:

The nuts of this shrub are food for animals and the soothing oil is extracted commercially. More cool rock shapes in the monzogranite:

We also drove out to Keys View high up in the San Bernardino Mountains where you can look down on the Coachella Valley. If it’s not too murky with Los Angeles smog you can see the Salton Sea, San Jacinto Mountain, the San Andreas Fault and the cities of Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

Our last day in Joshua Tree, Day 19, found us heading back to Twentynine Palms to get water at the visitors center. We also had more time to see the exhibits and then walked the trail around the Oasis of Mara and checked out the fan palms:

After stopping for groceries and gas in town we’re all ready to leave tomorrow morning. This one will be a short hop so happily we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. But we’ve finally hit the turnaround point of this trip so our compass will be aimed mostly north from now on. Is my buddy the phainopepla singing goodbye?

Friday, March 02, 2018

Part 6: The Best Rocks

Day 13 was our second day in the Valley of Fire. The weather was near freezing in the night but sunny and a little warmer in the daytime. We drove up the road past the Visitors Center to White Domes at the end:

Yes, we came down that rather rugged trail! My favourite part of the park is in this area where the trail goes through a narrow curvy slot canyon:

After White domes we drove to the next trail at the Fire Wave:

Layers of sandstone in different shades of colour worn smooth over the millennia. On the way back we discovered these big barrel cactuses:

They’re nearly a metre tall and the dried flowers remain from the last time they were able to flower. You pretty much don’t want to touch any of the plants out here if you can help it. Ouch. Afterwards we went down to the Visitors Center where we found out the names of some of the unfamiliar plants and animals here. We were particularly interested in the sparrow-sized birds we saw for the first time: shiny black with a crest and white spots under the wings when they fly. They don’t seem to have a common name besides “phainopepla” so I started calling them “Pepi” for short. To me they look like tiny Steller’s jays but without the indigo blue and with much more pleasant voices. The females and younglings are apparently a lighter shade of gray than the males’ but we didn’t see any.

Our third day at Valley of Fire (Day 14) was a little warmer still. The sun was hot but the wind was cold so it depended on where you were and what you were doing as to whether you were too hot or too cold. We drove back up the White Domes road and took the trail to Mouse’s Tank. Mouse was a Native man wanted for murder who hid out in the red rocks, using this natural pocket of fresh water to stay alive:

You’d have to be desperate to drink it though! Also on this trail are many petroglyphs:

This one of a shaman and two people is particularly nice because it’s protected up high under a bit of an overhang. We also walked the Rainbow Vista trail but we didn’t climb up the very high rock for the 360-degree view. We saw lots of pretty green lizards and antelope ground squirrels though. The latter look a little like chipmunks but they carry their tails over their back using the white side to reflect the sun like a parasol.

On Day 15 (and our fourth at Valley of Fire) we were finally running out of ice so we drove into the nearest town of Overton to get some along with a few groceries. There were lots of noisy grackles in the parking lot, fighting over any crumbs dropped by the shoppers. These birds remind me of our small coastal crows but they have long tails.

Back in the park we stopped at Elephant Rock and hiked the loop trail. The view was pretty from the top:

You can just see the road and one of the parking lots down below. The Elephant needs a bit of imagination:

But you know people will see images in virtually anything, right? We also stopped at the cabins that were built of native stone in the 1930’s when this park was first set aside.

They apparently were for hikers to use and there’s 3 rooms. I like the round one on the near end best:

Needs a door and a window but the fireplace is still there. The park even keeps the roof in reasonable repair. Nothing mentions it but there are also more petroglyphs in the cliffs just above the cabins. Lots more bighorn sheep.

Day 16 was our fifth and last day in Valley of Fire. It clouded over again and the wind is quite chilly. We lazed about all morning reading and then drove up to White Domes again and hiked the trail backwards:

It’s amazing how different things look from the other direction! Also the lack of bright sunlight brought out more of the colours in the rocks. The drive up and back was incredibly beautiful. We’re going to miss this place but it’s finally time to move on.

Oh, I might have forgotten to mention that I finally finished Thom’s handspun Coopworth sweater. At least I didn’t have a photo until now:

He likes it and barely has taken it off since the last end was darned in. It hasn’t been blocked apart from a bit of steaming I did back home. The neckline sits a little wonky but perhaps a real blocking will help. He doesn’t seem to mind anyhow. The sleeves were both knit twice because they weren’t comfortable the first time. Gotta make it right or it won’t get worn! So. Notice the new beard? I kind of like it but we’ll see if he keeps it when we get back.

Tomorrow it’s back to California and further south for a few days before we start heading back. I’m going to miss our campsite in the holey red rocks though: