Damselfly’s Delights

Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Attempting To Make Up Lost Time

I haven’t managed to get back up to my studio yet. Yesterday, since I was feeling so much better, ended up becoming a gardening day instead of a sewing day. I got the pea nets replaced with Thom’s help (he wielded the staple gun!) and some bird netting over the emerging pea seedlings. Yes, the birds tend to munch them off if they aren’t protected at least until they are bigger and tougher. Birds like their fresh salads too you know! Years ago I didn’t really believe it was birds that were decimating my peas. I thought it might be slugs, the bane of Wet Coast gardens, until I saw the triangular bites in the leaves. Bird-beak shaped bites. Grrr…

I also got a lot more of my seedlings transplanted into larger flats. Though I still haven’t gotten the first bunch of transplants into the garden yet! At least they are fine in the greenhouse at night and out on the deck in the daytime. The newest transplants still have to come back into the house each night since it’s a little too chilly for them yet. Surprisingly I had such good germination with my Japanese indigo seeds from last October that I ended up with too many seedlings! I figure 24 plants is plenty for this year’s dyeing plus the 7 or 8 woad plants. That should be plenty of blue to play with! I also transplanted my coreopsis (yellows, golds and rusty oranges), lobelias (both trailing and not) and some cabbages. Next I need to deal with the tomatoes, coleus, red alyssum and sunflowers. And finally plant the cucumbers and squashes seeds. I keep forgetting them, poor things, but there’s still time. When the weather was so warm the other day (18C) I thought I was getting behind but it’s much cooler today. I’m just rushing the season a little I think. Relax, damselfly.

Meanwhile back in the studio, I forgot show you the patterns I got from the last time I hiccupped and I fell for a BMV sale.


That’s 2 more Tiltons (Katherine this time), a Sandra Betzina, a DKNY and my very first Kwik-Sew ever. I liked the pockets on the first Katherine top and the colour blocking and tunic shape on the second one. They are a little older and I was afraid they’d go out of print soon so snatched them while I could. The Today’s Fit shirt/jacket has a great pleated collar and raglan sleeves which I’d love to learn how to fit on me. I like some of Sandra’s designs but haven’t actually sewn any of them yet. The DKNY dress has a really nice low cowl but I’m not sure if the pleats will look too maternal on my fluffy middle. I’ll have to test it with cheaper fabric just in case. It also needs sleeves, at least cap sleeves. I’m dying to test the fit of the leggings in the Kwik-Sew. (Does that cutesy spelling make you cringe as much as it does me?) This will probably be the first thing that gets sewn out of this pile. Also the leotard, particularly the view with the racer back, has some potential as bathing suit/camisole fodder. You know I never sew anything straight up! That’s why it’s so much fun.

Well obviously nothing crafty is going to be happening while I’m sitting here typing this, is it? Best get a move on. More soonest.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Back In The Saddle

Well, whatever that bug was that I had is now gone without a trace. Not even the cough left. Sheesh! That was such a waste of time! Thank you to all those who wished me well. I’m sure it helped with the Bug Begone!

Since I was feeling somewhat restored yesterday, I ignored the lovely warm day and went up to the studio to carry on with the Marcy Tilton Skirt V8499 that had been languishing for weeks. While out of commission I had been doing some reading on underling and found this nifty method of underling and enclosing the seam edges at the same time. I made a little sample:


Yeah, I didn’t match the subtle plaid but accidentally flipped one side before sewing the seam. It’s a sample, people! This technique only works for the long vertical seams but it works great. What you do is cut the underlining with the vertical seam allowances 5/8” wider (i.e. for a 5/8” seam, cut 1-1/4” allowances). Then sew each main fashion fabric piece and its matching underlining right sides together with a 1/4” seam (note they won’t lie flat because the underlining is larger), flip them right side out and press. The underlining folds neatly over encasing the seam edge. You can also baste the horizontal edges if necessary to keep them in place. Thereafter you treat each double-layered piece as one and sew the garment normally. And there ya go! Faux French seams. ETA: Oops. That was incorrect. It's really a faux Hong Kong seam finish.

This skirt has giant pocket bags as you can see here:

V8499 skirt

I decided not to use zippers on the upper edges but to make button plackets instead. I had to pick out some of the wee bit of stitching that I had already done on the pockets and then I underlined them. Since the vertical edges of the pockets are to be incorporated into the side pieces anyway, I just underlined them normally to the edge and tucked the trimmed top and bottom edges into the hems:


The outer pocket fabric is cut on the bias but the cotton sateen underlining is on the straight grain. This should help it keep its shape better. I did a lot of hand-basting, some of which will be permanent and some that will be removed before sewing the front side underlinings on. I don’t usually thread-baste and it’s probably overkill but I just wanted to make sure nothing was going to shift. The 2 buttons in the photo are just sitting on top of their buttonholes to see what the effect is. I’m actually quite pleased with the hand of the underlined wool fabric and it is properly opaque now. It has a bit more body and less cling. It still creases too easily but maybe not quite so much as before.

Underneath those big pockets I decided to put a small patch pocket situated close to the top so I could get at it easily. I was afraid that anything you put into the main pocket would be lost awayyyy downnnnn at the bottom! Yes, I actually use my pockets. Don’t you? Hmmm…I just realised that I’m going to have to sew the patch pockets to the side fronts before I put on the big pockets and stitch the underlining on. I was hoping to stitch them through the underlining as well but if I try to stitch them after attaching it the main pocket will probably be in the way. These little problems are what I get for re-engineering the original pattern, huh? Sometimes you don’t notice the assembly details until you get there.

So anyhow that’s as far as I got yesterday: cutting out the skirt underlining and completing the pockets. Is it ever going to be finished? Today though I have to get out to the garden and get some work done there while the weather is good. The peas are coming up and their nets are not ready for them yet. We’re replacing them this year as the ancient originals are really disintegrating. I actually discovered that we already had some netting in the cupboard under the grow-op when I cleaned it out so we didn’t even have to buy any! Totally worth the clean-up, I’d say. You never know what useful things you’ll find. Or total garbage too for that matter.

And now for something completely different, check out the cute animation that Thom found whilst wandering around the interwebs. Yes, we are total Westie geeks. After last year’s cross-country trip, you had to have noticed! Though we actually had 9 guys pushing our van into the repair bay in Ottawa. (My heroes!) Sadly she’s currently still limping and needs a transmission job. Soon, my pretty.

Off to have some lunch before trudging out to the Back 40 for some hands-in-the-dirt time. (That’s 40 feet – not acres!) Later, darlings.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Spring Flop

Just a quick note to say that I’m still here but feeling a little under the weather at the moment. I picked up another dose of the same bug I had the last time I got sick. It’s not exactly a cold and not exactly the flu – just a bit of sore throat, occasional sneezes and some coughing. Plus of course the nastiest symptom – an absolute total lack of energy. It like gravity has suddenly doubled! I’ve mostly been hanging out in a semi-reclining position and only doing the most pressing of tasks, like getting more tea, making food and watering my plantlets (which are starting to become desperate for transplanting). It means that I’ve gotten a lot of reading done but surprisingly not a lot of knitting. You know things are truly bad when I’m not really interested in knitting! However, this annoying illness passed fairly quickly last time (3 or 4 days at most) so I’m hoping I’ll start feeling better very soon. Yes, I’d better! I have things to do and places to be! I already missed an excellent birthday party. Bleh. I have no clue but I would love to know where I caught the darn thing so I can do my best to avoid it next time! Nobody else that I know of has been sick.

Anyhow, spring marches on with or without me. My asparagus is starting to come up! More soon.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

No April Fool

The weather is lovely and sunny and we’ve been busy. Thom has been working diligently in his studio, cleaning, sorting, vacuuming up the spiders, washing walls and painting. He’s still not quite finished but the lure of the outdoors has been too much to resist. So after we took a nice long walk yesterday and a sushi lunch, he was out in the garden pruning the laurels (Prunus laurocerasus, not true laurel). Those things need constant hacking back or they tend to take over the world! Luckily you can chop them anywhere and they sprout new leaves and fill in the gaps practically overnight. They even root easily from a cutting so they can become a nuisance if not kept in check. I do love the almond-smell of the leaves when run through the chipper-shredder though. It makes great mulch under the blueberry bushes.

While he was doing that, I’ve been mini-gardening. These babies are still being brought indoors on cold nights:


They’re growing quite nicely and hopefully will be able to be planted in the garden soon. They first have to be big enough so the slugs can’t immediately eat them off! That’s the biggest reason that I plant nearly everything (except peas and beans) in the house first. There’s just no point in direct sowing anything else. Here’s my handy grow-op:


There’s tiny tomato plants, Japanese indigo, coreopsis, red alyssum, basil, cilantro, coleus and more under the lights. The newspaper is covering some sunflower seeds that I just planted. Next it will be the squashes and cucumbers but I’ll wait a week or two more first before planting them. I don’t like to hold them in pots for long and want the ground to be warm enough when they’re ready to go in. See the cupboards above and below the lights? I spent all afternoon yesterday cleaning those out. I got rid of all the junk and now have better storage for the stuff that’s left: seeds, pots and flats to plant them in, potting soil, netting for the garden, bird seed and suet. Also a few other odds and sods. Our house may be small but it does have a lot of storage spaces. Which tend to NOT get sorted out often enough. We’re trying to catch up.

That’s the door to Thom’s studio and in the course of cleaning it up he also cleaned up the shelves behind it and painted the outer concrete foundation. So now it’s my job to finish washing the floor. Those black and red vintage linoleum tiles might not be in perfect shape but they’re practical for an area that’s right inside the basement door and subject to a lot of mud and dirt, tools and equipment, and bicycles being dragged in and out. Yes, that’s the sunshine coming in the open basement door! Love it.

Best get on with my day. Moving right along…

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Story So Far

Oh man, I am totally sick and tired of computers! Today was Day 3 of the preparations for XP-Mageddon and I’ve just about had it. I’ve downloaded and upgraded just about everything I can darn well think of – on two different computers. I still have to do some major backing up though. I’m not quite as ready as I would like to be. Yet. I see at least one more day of this crazy obsessive stuff in my future. After that I’ll be as prepared as possible. And then let the chips fall as they may. They can’t say I didn’t try! And no, I don’t care if there are no immediate consequences. There will be eventually. No computer system lasts forever. Ask me how I know.

I’d rather talk about something else right now. Oh, I know! How about my latest sweater?

Simple Tweedy Pullover


For: me (of course!)

Begun:  January 8, 2014
Completed:  March 25, 2014

Yarn:  2/8 Shetland woollen spun weaving yarn, 100% wool from UK, colour dark green blended. From the deep weaving stash.

Needles:  Needed to go down a needle size to get gauge so 2.75mm for the bottom ribbing and body. Used 2.25 for the button plackets and began with that size but shifted up after a couple of inches to 2.5mm for the collar and sleeve ribbing.

Notions:  12 - 1/2” green buttons purchased at Dressew.

Pattern:  Plain and Simple Pullover by Veera Välimäki, free pattern from Ravelry.

Mods:  Because my lower half is 2 sizes larger than my upper half, I began on the XL and decreased over 6” to the M between the hip and just above the waist. Worked out perfectly. I didn’t manage to pick up the required amount for the M collar but went with the smallest size there.

Comments:  Note that the photos are much lighter than the real thing. This stuff is nasty to knit with (harsh with dust, spinning oil) but softens and fulls a lot with washing. It’s still not next-to-the-skin soft and sadly pills some in wear but I do like the blended colour and the fuzzy woolly texture. Nice to get some use out of it after it’s been hovering in the weaving stash for many a year.

This pattern is well written and not particularly difficult but not really as simple to execute as the name would intimate. I actually used the iron to steam the armhole and neckline area before seaming because it was curling rather badly. That tamed it down enough to work with more easily. There’s a lot of seaming and picking up stitches involved. Lots and lots of small stitches on little needles.

SimpleTweedy_det I was really glad that I got a dozen buttons. The instructions suggest stitching extra buttons on the front of the collar right next to the button holes on the side that is up when it’s open. They are hidden when it’s buttoned up as a turtleneck but show when it’s unbuttoned to the shoulder. My extra-small gauge on the button bands meant that I had more and smaller buttonholes than the pattern instructions would imply. I think it turned out really wearable in the end. I love fine knits! Now I just have to make Debbie Double give it up. She likes it as much as I do. Maybe it’s cold up in the studio at night? Guess I need to make her something else to wear first.

So I have no idea what project I’m going to knit next. I have quite a few options in the queue. And there’s still the Tough Love Retro Rib Socks on the go. I’m nearly down to the heel flap on both socks. Obviously I’m much faster with this pattern stitch the second time around. Since this is a trial knit for Sweet Georgia’s Tough Love Sock yarn, I’m quite liking it. The Phoenix Rising colourway works out in spiralling stripes around the leg:


Although I’m quite fine with these black, red, orange and gold stripes I’m starting to find myself preferring more semi-solid colours these days. Either that or a very long colour change, longer than you can get by dye-painting a regular skein. Just something to note for future purchases. Or dye experiments. Colour blending?

I also have a lace shawl that’s been sadly neglected for the last few months. Poor thing. Maybe I’m kind of over triangle shawls for the moment? Instead I’m rather hot for sweaters and I have plans to actually spin for a new project. I don’t care if the weather is warming up. There’s still lots of sweater time left here or, if it takes too long, there’s always the promise of some cooler weather to wear it in sometime. I have dyed wool and a drum carder and spinning wheel and I know how to use them! It’s been awhile since I’ve spun anything at all so it’ll be fun. But first I need to finish up a few sewing projects that I’ve been neglecting. Always something new to look forward to! No, I am never bored. How could I be?

Spring moves on apace here in Lotusland. My tomatoes and Japanese indigo plants are coming up under the lights. I actually left my early baby plants out in the greenhouse tonight. It’s only supposed to go down to 7C from the (rainy) 10C it’s been all day. That’s nearly 45F. They’ll be fine. As long as the slugs leave them alone. And they’d better if they know what’s good for them. I can be ruthless where my little plants are concerned. Grrr….

More soon!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Wee Rant

Computer talk coming!!! If you’re allergic to technical stuff, I suggest you skip this post and come back later. I’ll be back with my new sweater soon! Hint: love it. Debbie Double has it on right now and I want it back!

Well, I’m in a bit of a quandary these days. We have 3 computers in our house that run on Windows XP. It’s fine; it works; it’s all good. But unfortunately Grandfather Microsoft in its infinite <cough choke> wisdom has seen fit to chop poor XP’s little OS life off! Next week. Never mind that about 1/3 of the world’s businesses still run on it. Never mind that a bunch of the legacy software that I still use won’t run easily on any newer OS. And NEVER MIND that these computers (that are paid for and all and still work just fine thankyouverymuch) are so old and decrepit that they won’t run spanking new Windows 8.whatevertheheck. NO! They will pull support out from under good old XP anyhow. Curse their bones and pixels!

So I’ve been obsessed about finding out what my options are. I’ve tried to figure out how I use my computers, what software do I use all the time and what is just old unused stuff hanging about. I was happy to find out that Symantic has promised to keep my Norton security going for the foreseeable future since XP could very well become a particular target after the plug is pulled by MS. One worry down. Many more to go.

As if chopping XP off wasn’t enough, mean nasty old MS also plans to bail out on Office 2003 which of course is what I’ve been using quite happily for nearly ever. I’m angry enough at the moment to start looking for free open-source substitutes for Outlook, Word, Excel etc. I’ll have plenty of time to get used to the new stuff and integrate it into my system. I just might like it better. Who knows? Is MS aware that they are actually driving people away from their products? I can’t be the only one. Even Windows Live Writer, which is the offline blogging program that I’m using to write this post, is no longer supported. Ugh! In my research I haven’t found anything comparable in its functionality. In this case especially I think MS is missing the boat completely. They had a very good product there and foolishly let it drop.

Whatever. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be business as usual for the next while at least. Nothing is going to immediately self-destruct! However I’ve been carefully researching my options in case I have to buy a new computer in the future. For starters, my old flatbed legal-sized scanner will likely not work on a new system because it’s SCSI which needs a special connection. Yet another expense for a new one. Sigh. And there’s lots more questions that need to be answered here. Is each important piece of software immediately transferable to Win 8.1 or would it need to be upgraded - assuming an upgrade exists? Several of them haven’t been revamped in years. (I’m looking at you, Knitware!) Others I could live without I suppose. It’s kind of like cleaning out your closet. “Have you used/worn this in the last 2 years?” My crafty focus has changed somewhat in the last while so that’s a legitimate question to answer. A rather difficult one sometimes. If I get rid of it will I need it soon after? You know how it is.

It’s fascinating to me that “hobby” programs like weaving, knit charting, beading, sweater design, tabletweaving etc. are kind of one-offs, often created by a programmer husband for his crafty wife or sometimes by the crafty person themselves. The programs see a flurry of interest, maybe get an upgrade or two and then are abandoned by the programmers (and possibly the frustrated users too) even if there are no other competing options. A few have lasted over time. One example is Fiberworks PCW, my weaving software. (Thanks, Bob!) In fact I won’t put a warp on without looking at it in PCW first. I’ve been using this thing since it was a baby DOS program. Yes, that’s a long time! There is even an upgrade that I don’t have but will need before it will work with Win 8. It costs though. Again.

Obviously I don’t use computers quite the way most other users might, especially in a home environment. Apparently most people download and answer email, surf the Internet, watch videos, hang out on Facebook, Tweet and maybe write an occasional business letter, list or report. I do some of that (minus the Facebook and Tweets) but also tweak and design knitting and weaving patterns, edit photos, write up my makes, blog and read books from my public library. Among other things. I’m not what you might call a power user at all. I’ve just had a very long-time relationship – about 30 years. Ever heard of a Commodore 64. We had one of those. I learned word processing on it with no hard drive and an 8” floppy disk. So fun. Today my microwave has more brains than that thing did. Gotta start somewhere!

Anyway, I’ve spent the better part of two days futzing around with my main system. I’ve updated several programs to the latest versions. Next, I do a really careful backup of all the important stuff from both of my computers. Thom is already onto his but he has much less to deal with so he’s not nearly as flustered as I am. Only one of his computers is a PC and he doesn’t use it very much. His MacBook Air is his baby. Do not suggest I get one! I’m just not going there. Though if pressed I might consider an iPad Mini. But not while there’s life in my iTouch (5 years old) and my netbook PC (6 years old). And my desktop computer is older than either of them. Yes, I tend to take care of my things. I want them to last as long as they can.

I guess that’s the end of the rant. I digressed somewhat but hey, I’m allowed. This is my pond after all! More soon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Quick One

Just blowing in to say that I’m going a little nutso trying to finish up the last of the ribbing on my Simple Tweedy Pullover. I’m kind of done with knitting this thing and really want to get onto something new. Nearly there. And then some buttons sewn on and a final wash and block and we’re done!

And no, I haven’t done anything else on my Tilton Skirt either. Gardening has taken over a lot of my energy these days while I’ve been tenderly nursing my tiny little plant seedlings. A whole plethora of them are now in larger digs. (Ha-ha! Get it?) All the transplanted spring greens are currently being subjected to what we call The Daily Schlep: outside in the morning and back in at night until they are toughened up enough to go into their permanent homes in the garden. If it’s raining like it is today, the flats go in the greenhouse. Otherwise they go on the deck. Now I still have the lettuce and the woad and a few other things to transplant so they can join in the migrating. Better get to it quickly too because the real estate under the grow lights is beginning to come at a premium! Lots more little seedlings are needing the lights and I still have more yet to plant. An urban farmer’s work is never done.

The other thing we managed to do is get the peas planted and the poles in for their nets. Unfortunately this year the nets really need replacing. These ones are only about 20 years old! Poor things are developing more and more gaping holes which I’ve been tying together with string for several years now. Old fishnets are not expensive. We just need to get to the gardening shop and pick up some new ones. At least I’ve got a couple of weeks reprieve before the peas will be up and needing some support.

Just so this isn’t a totally photo-free post, I promised to show you the cute little cigar box amplifier that Thom made to go with his cigar box guitars:


Doesn’t look like much but it really does work! Hot stuff.

Poor Thom can’t work in his basement studio currently because he decided that it needed some major TLC. So all the furniture, tools and chunks of wood have been hauled away from the outside walls. The lower part of the walls have been scrubbed clean of mildew stains and spider crap, scraped, undercoated and repainted a nice fresh white. He even kept going out into the area where the grow-op and the basement door is located and cleaned and repainted all the concrete foundation. He’s currently painting his studio door too. Of course when he’s done I’m going to have to go through all the cupboards above and below the grow-op counter and clean them up. I guess I don’t mind him making work for me because it’s something I’ve been meaning to get around to for quite awhile.

It’s amazing how much junk collects, especially when you’ve been living in the same house for 35 years! Maybe that’s why people move so often? I always joke that maybe we should move the whole contents of the house out in the yard and only move the stuff back that we really want to keep. The suggestion hasn’t been met with any enthusiasm however. So instead we just get to one little area at a time before we both run out of steam or get sidetracked by another project.

Speaking of which, I’m determined to finish this darn sweater today! Better get to it.