Friday, November 16, 2018

Adventures In Bra Making

Hello! I’ve been sewing up a storm the last while. Well, ok. Maybe not a storm. Slow sewing at its finest perhaps. Things with a gazillion pieces and lots and lots of topstitching! I finished yet another shirt for Thom. He’s wearing it today but I haven’t been able to capture him to get any photos yet. Hold that thought.

i do have a couple of pics of my latest though, the Pin-Up Girls Ingrid Non-wired Bra, a new pattern from the wonderful and amazing Fairy Bra Mother, Beverly Johnson!

What I liked about this bra pattern was first and foremost the lack of underwires. I’ve tried but I don’t think this body is ever going to be really happy with a wired bra. The multi-pieced cups on the Ingrid give good support without underwires but avoids the dreaded “uniboob” look that can happen with some non-wired bras. Engineering at its finest! I also liked the good amount of coverage as well as the padded straps. Maybe not sexy nor lacey though it could be if that’s what you’re going for! I prefer relatively plain and functional myself. This first tester version used a bunch of supplies that I already had:

Not too shabby! Kind of resembles the purple and black version on the Bra-maker’s website. Unfortunately if it fits Debbie Double then it’s a little loose on me since she has no squish factor. I’m wearing it anyway but I might just spend the time and pick out the stitches on the hooks and eyes and strap elastic so I can shorten the band. Big job so I’m not leaping to it! The cups fit really well though and it’s very comfortable so I’ve already cut out Tester Number Two with a size smaller in the band. I only needed to cut and overlap one pattern piece, the back band, because every other piece was unaffected. So easy!

While I’m talking sizes I should mention that this was the first of the bra patterns published using Beverly’s BCD sizing system. So simple to understand! Everyone should get on this bandwagon. Two measurements, the Bottom Cup Depth from underbust line to the apex and underbust around the body, and that’s it. Trace off the pieces for your size cup and the back band piece that corresponds to your cup size and band length. The straps are the same for all sizes. Once you’ve made the tester bra you will know if you need to go up or down a size in the cup or band. As I discovered with my band because I’m actually between sizes and I should have gone down instead of up. Doh. Conceivably I could have gone between the two sizes but I think tighter is probably better for me.

The one fit adjustment I made was to move the straps inwards for my narrow shoulders. It worked perfectly! I followed Beverly’s blog post on how to do it which made it easy.

Making a bra isn’t really all that difficult but there are a lot of wee little pieces and a lot of different elastics and findings. This one took four fabrics: cup fabric, sheer cup lining (because the blue stuff is too stretchy), power net and cut & sew foam. It also took four elastics: 5/8” band, 3/8” side, 5/8” strap and 3/8” fold-over. Plus 5/8” rings and sliders and a 2 x 4 hook and eye. (It really only needs a 2 x 3 but I had this one available.) Whew! Sewing it together gave me an excuse to use several different feet and stitches on my new machine too. Not to mention my cup ball stand that Thom made me for pressing. I definitely love my Janome. She did a great job even though I had to change thread colours a bunch of times.

I found that the recommended yardages for fabrics and elastics were considerably more than I needed for my size. I guess they cover up to the largest size? I can cut all the cup pieces from two layers of fabric 10” x 16” (being careful with the DOGS - direction of greatest stretch). That means that I can actually get at least 2 bras from the .5 M listed.

Yes, I’m good at 2D puzzles and Tetris! I can also get the pieces that need to be cut from power net from just two layers of 8.5” x 10” so I could get lots of bras from .5 M! I did an inventory and the math and figure that if I went for multiples I could make a bra for around $20 Canadian with all the supplies from Bra-Makers. They aren’t cheap but they’re Canadian (no exchange or duty for me) and good quality. Plus lots of colour choices for fun! I would buy the parts separately though because the findings kit for one bra alone is $19, not including the cup and band fabrics. I guess you pay a bit more for the measuring and packaging which is only fair. Sure convenient though there’s a little more waste than if you used exactly the amount needed.

So the next tester bra will be a black and brown one. I found some leftover brown Duoplex that fit all the cup pieces and a brown findings kit for the Pin-Up Girls Classic bra that I hadn’t used. Just eliminate the wire channelling and substitute some brown FOE from stash for the fancy upper front elastic and all the rest of the findings work for the Ingrid. The power net parts and strap padding are again black because I have lots! I see more thread changes coming...

And then if this one fits the way I hope then the next one will be the first of the Black Cherry bras. Yum! And I could definitely make a Black and Cherry one with what I have on hand. Then I have enough of the cup and band fabrics for more but no more coordinating findings so there will be another order in my future.

Meanwhile, out to rake the leaves! The walnut tree is finally letting go. It’s been slow this year. Now it’s finally starting to feel like November.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Sew Your Own

Well, the month of November is here! (Where did October go?) I had ordered some bra-making supplies from...Bra-Makers Supply. And the package came in time for my birthday! Which is pretty good since Canada Post is doing rotating strikes around the country. (Just in time for the holiday season, huh? Typical.) So here’s the pile of goodies:

You get exactly what you want when you buy your own birthday presents, am I right? Though now I’m kind of wishing I had bought more. Now that I’ve dug more thoroughly into my supplies I can see a few more gaps. You need so many different fabrics and elastics and other findings for bras. Oh well. There’ll be a next time. Soon too.

When Beverly Johnson came out with her Pin-Up Girls Ingrid #5382 pattern I was determined to try it out. I had some success with her Classic bra after I modified the heck out of it until it resembled her Shelley bra - right before her Shelley was published, of course! However, I’ve come to realise that even when it fits pretty well I still hate underwires. Also all the underwire bras I’ve made, the ones that fit properly at least, are pretty much worn out. Couldn’t bring myself to make another. So much so that I actually bought several non-wired RTW bras. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone!) Anyway, the Ingrid pattern ticked all the boxes for me: no wires, full coverage, padded shoulder straps, innovative sizing system, “gothic arch” upward curve in the front and optional front closures. I may not ever use a zipper or front hooks but this pattern is ready for that option. It’s not lacy or sexy but that’s not what I need or want in a bra. I need support and plenty of it! I think this bra will be easier to fit too. Here’s hoping anyhow.

So while I was ordering the pattern, I got enough supplies for a complete bra and also to add to the stuff I already have for several more. The Black Cherry colour is really pretty although I actually wanted navy but they were out of some of the matching supplies for that. And black is always useful and can be easily combined with other colours. This colour-blocked one from the website is cute:

I also got some cut and sew foam for further versions since that’s what’s needed for the shoulder strap padding. Plus I could also make a foam cup version if I want. Getting the pre-cut findings kits makes it easy to see what elastics etc are recommended before I go getting creative with what I have on hand. (Hint: nothing in the stash matches!) So nice that Beverly has many of her fabrics and notions dyed to match each other for coordinated sets. Much nicer than the usual white or beige, huh? I also got a metre of sheer cup lining so I can stabilise a stretchy cup fabric. That gives me more options. But first I need to make a trial bra. Crossing my fingers that it will be wearable.

Naturally I was right in the middle of sewing another shirt for Thom when the package arrived. I promised to finish it first but, ahem, this happened:

Oops! I traced off what I hope is my size. There is a very inclusive size range and you choose yours by measuring your Bottom Cup Depth (from apex to wire line while wearing a well-fitting bra) and your actual Rib Cage Measurement. No magic numbers, sister sizes, guesswork or other folderol. The pattern is further divided into 2 size ranges between the 4.25” BCD and the 4.5”. The difference is that the larger sizes are drafted for a wider band elastic and a 3X3 hook and eye set. Unsurprisingly I fall just a little before the dividing line. Betweenies ‘R’ Us!

That should have been sufficient but I’m pretty convinced that I need the straps closer together to accommodate my narrow sloping shoulders. Luckily, Beverly has a helpful blog post outlining exactly how to do that. (Which I would love to link for you but it’s not happening for me.) Adjustment already done and although a little tricksy, I didn’t find it too hard to do. Hopefully it’ll keep the darn straps from falling down all the time. Now I’m ready to go. But there’s a darn linen shirt I have to finish first...and this is calling to me...

Monday, October 29, 2018

Fitting Matters

Whenever sewists talk about sewing, the largest issue amongst them all is fit. How do you fit a pattern to your unique body shape? Some people have it easy and they can usually get away with minimal adjustments to get a garment to fit them. But most of us have to work at it. Especially when you’re nowhere near the usual shape that paper patterns are designed for.

I have to say that aging makes this fitting exercise even more difficult! After menopause a woman’s body goes through a number of changes. The following may not be true for everyone but a lot of us experience at least some of these. Fat accumulates around the middle, aka a “menopot”. Gravity and declining elastin in the skin takes its toll on boobs and butt and jowls and underarms and everything starts to head south. You might lose height as the discs between your vertebrae begin to degenerate. Your back shoulder gets rounder and your upper chest becomes more hollow. Sounds kinda horrific, doesn’t it? I like to think of it in terms of: I’m. Still. Here. Consider the alternative for a minute.

So what do we still have? A body that may not look like the ones you see in the media regularly. It still works pretty well though, thank you very much. And I want to dress mine to celebrate. To cherish it. To have fun. And to be seen. After all, it’s the only body I have. Truthfully, once I learned how to fit clothes for this potato-shaped body with short stick arms and legs I actually started to love it more! Sounds suspiciously like Body Positivity, doesn’t it? Yup. I don’t have to feel frustrated in the shops because nothing looks any good on me. I can have that expensive boutique garment or a close facsimile and it will fit me better than the real thing. Sewing your own clothes is powerful. Mindblowing. I don’t even go into clothing shops anymore - except maybe to borrow ideas. (Kind of wish some of them would share their fabric sources though. Just sayin’.)

Damselfly’s First Law of Fitting: Start at the top and work down. It’s important to get the shoulders, armholes and neckline right because everything hangs off of these points. I have to alter for the shoulder slope, forward shoulder with accompanying baby dowager’s hump and hollow chest, skinny upper arms and a forward neck. I almost got it right with my latest make, Grainline’s Farrow Dress:

I struggled with this one a lot even though it seems to be a fairly straightforward dress. The neck and shoulders are good but the underarm is still a little low for me. Which of course you can’t see in this photo! However the neck and shoulders fit really well. I discovered I’m starting to need even more fabric across the high back and less across the slightly hollow front. New fitting knowledge! I also didn’t need the back neck opening in the Farrow probably because the neckline is wide enough to get into it with my narrow head.

After the critical areas at the top, I tend to fit the bust without a lot of ease but skim into more ease at the waist and hem. In this pattern, I cut a size 12 at the bust but it was still a bit loose at the underarm. Then I graded out through size 14 and then 16 on the way down. I think next time I would go from a 10 through a 12 and it would still fit me fine. Of course none of the measurements given for bust, waist and hips in those pattern sizes correspond to my personal body measurements. At all. Happens all the time! Just measure your pattern and make sure it works for you and your desired amount of ease. Use your basic blocks, a similar pattern you’ve already fitted or a garment that fits the way you like it to judge this. The pattern size has nothing to do with your actual body.

This dress is rather an expensive wearable muslin in linen but it’s still going to be a garment I wear a lot. Next time I make it, it will be different again. I’ll re-draft the facings to have the armholes and neckline in one. The pockets are a little low which I should have taken into consideration because that’s often an issue for me. And the fit is quite loose and flowy and I might like it a little more snug. Kind of depends on the fabric as well. We’ll see but right now I’m done with this one.

So that’s 3 garments from a 5 metre length of fabric: a jumper (Helen’s Closet York hack) and a dress (Grainline Farrow) for me and a shirt (Thread Theory Fairfield) for Thom. Only tiny scraps left so excellent marks for waste avoidance! Next up there’s the grey version of the same fabric in another Fairfield shirt. After that I still have 2 more garments cut out for me and yet another shirt for Thom. I’m alternating one for him and one for me. Seems fair, no? I’m trying to increase his wardrobe of bespoke garments just like I have mine already. He certainly wears them enough. Appreciation gets you everywhere, hon’!

And in turn I appreciate Thom’s help chopping up the two buckets of madder root to dry. It took 3 days to finish! I love my Alaskan ulu for this job. These roots are harder than the rhubarb roots were. I was getting blisters.

Lots more than one dyebath worth this time! The above photo only shows less than a quarter of the total. It was a really excellent production for my wee patch. Whew! This will do nicely for at least 3 years until they grow big again.

Next year I plan to keep the dye garden simple. Besides the re-planted madder, I have a few weld plants that I left in plus a perennial coreopsis and a clump of dyers chamomile. I’m going to fill most of the rest of the space with Japanese indigo since I have lots of seeds this year and I never really feel that I have enough to do anything with the usual amount. More is better! At least they aren’t quite as ugly as the madder is. Sorry, madder. Love you anyhow! Especially now that I’m done chopping you up into tiny pieces. Mwa-ha-ha!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

West Coastin’

So I didn’t do very well with the promise to post more often, did I? Naughty damselfly! No excuses but the weather was glorious for the past few weeks. We decided to run away to Tofino for a week or so. It was perfect! The campground in Pacific Rim National Park was stupidly closed (it seems they’re doing some construction) so instead we stayed at Bella Pacifica on MacKenzie Beach. It worked out really well since it was close enough to also enable us to walk into town and to access the Tonquin Trail and Chesterman Beach without having to drive. The campground is pretty rustic. Basically a parking spot in the bush with a plug and a picnic table. The washrooms were unheated and the water tepid. Showers were coin operated too - a pricey $2 for 3 minutes - so we settled for spit baths. At least we had our plug-in heater! The nights were chilly but the days were warm enough for shirtsleeves. Warm enough for the best gelato I’ve ever had at Chocolate Tofino. Mine was Dutch chocolate. Now I want another one.

We had a very relaxing time! And our last night when we were running out of groceries we had an amazingly delicious dinner at SoBo, one of the many fine eating establishments in Tofino. I swear, for a small town of 2000 souls they sure know how to treat the tourists. No wonder it’s crazy busy in summer.

We also drove down to Ucluelet, just so Tofino’s main rival didn’t feel left out. They have a really nice trail system called the Wild Pacific Trail which we explored. It’s a pleasant forest trail with peek-a-boo views of the ocean and the Amphitrite Lighthouse. There’s also a longer section along the coast that we didn’t explore. Yet. Gotta save something for next time, right?

What else? Oh yeah. I spent 2 days digging up my dye garden and harvesting the madder:

Two buckets full which is not too shabby for my wee garden strip. I’ve replanted the crowns in a different section this time and they’ll get another 3 years to grow before they get dug up again. Can you tell that it’s pretty easy to tell the madder from other roots. They’re pretty smooth but brittle and bendy and definitely have a reddish colour. If in doubt you just have to break it and see the orange centre. Now I have to dredge up enough energy to wash them all and chop and dry them for storage. Just like the rhubarb root! Sigh. The things I will do just for some natural colour. Madder is one of the very few reds so it’s precious. Too bad the plant itself isn’t one of my favourites. Not particularly attractive, it sprawls all over and attacks you with scratchy leaves and stems when you pass by. I’ve had my revenge now. Mwa-ha-ha!!

Did I show you Thom’s latest shirt that I finished just before we ran away to the coast?

It’s the same pale green linen that I made my hacked York Pinafore from. I love that stuff! I still have a Grainline Farrow cut out which is next on my sewing queue. Plus there’s another shirt for Thom in the gray version of this same fabric.

And in knitting news there is no news except that I haven’t actually finished anything. I have 3 projects going but I seem to be concentrating on the Highland Shawl (actually named the Study Hall Shawl from Knitty):

I’m further along than that now. I think the Cloudborn Fibers Highland Fingering yarn in Espresso Heather and Natural that I dyed in smoke bush prunings has a very vintage look to it. I absolutely adore the pattern with it’s graphic designs on a regular triangular shawl. Fun to knit but I do need to finish up the Lacca Laneway Tunic sometime. I’m on Sleeve Island. Yup.

Also related to knitting, I had a pair of socks that I’m very fond of that are getting thin under the heel. I tried to figure out when I knit these but it predates my Ravelry membership by several years so sometime between 2001 when the pattern was available to the end of 2004 when my more detailed notebooks start. The pattern is Prism by Jaya Srikrishnan and I think I might need to knit another pair someday soon. It uses two colours so good for leftovers in a slipstitched stripe.

Anyway these socks are about 15 years old! Goodness. Guess they’re worth the mending, huh? I channeled my inner Tom of Holland and his lovely visible mending and got out the darning egg, made for me by my Thom, and went to work:

Swiss darning, aka duplicate stitch. It helped that the yarn wasn’t quite worn through so there was a scaffolding to work on top of. I’m not usually one who makes sharp holes in socks, just wear mostly under the heel.

I also made liberal use of my magnifier light. These older eyes aren’t quite up to tiny stitches without help.

I went for similar yarns but not matching since who knows if there’s anything left by now. They’re probably included in my two Ten Stitch Blankets made from sock yarn scraps. Anyway, I think they’ll give me a few more years of wear now.

So I recently tried to write a post to talk about my Slow Fashion and how it fits with what I’m doing and have basically been doing for decades now. However, it self-destructed. I think this post is much more true in some ways. But I haven’t given up on a theme that I really want to put down in a tangible way. Coming soon. Though I’m not making promises because it seems that will jinx it!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Stitch In Time

Yep, I’m back already! Promised, didn’t I?

So I went to put on my Combers Tunic this morning and...ruh-roh...

There was a hole in the front near the hem. It’s not even a year old yet! No idea what happened though it was definitely not a wear spot and I haven’t seen any signs of evil m*ths recently. Especially since I tossed around all my sweaters only a couple of months ago and washed a number of them. It affected at least 2 rows of knitting and was more like a snip or cut and not a snag. Luckily I still have quite a lot of that Cloudborn Fibers Highland Fingering wool left so I was able to duplicate stitch over the ouchie:

You can’t see it now but only feel it. And who’s going to be feeling up my skirt anyway? <snicker!> I love this tunic so much and it was such a lot of work to design and knit and some of the yarns dyed by me too. I want to be able to wear it for years to come. Apologies to Tom of Holland but I went for not-so-visible mending.

Slipping back to Monday at Granville Island, we wanted to see at least some of the textile exhibits that are still scattered amongst the shops after the Textile Society of America’s 16th Biannual Symposium that wrapped up last weekend in Vancouver. This gave us a great excuse to wander through some of the shops that we normally pass by. I didn’t take many photos but the highlights for me were in the Silk Weaving Studio, these pieces by Amy Putansu:

Rayon and barbed wire! And unless you’re a weaver you might not notice that the threads aren’t straight vertically. They were woven on a specially adapted loom with a shaped reed creating a wavy pattern called ondulé. Also indigo dyed. I’d love to know if the barbed wire eventually causes interesting rust stains on the cloth over time.

In Circle Craft I fell in lust with this fabulous coat by Angelika Werth:

I apologise if it’s somewhat hard to see but its location right by the window made it hard to photograph a dark garment. The fabrics are all recycled wools including tweeds and there are lots and lots of vintage mother-of-pearl buttons and zippers.

In the Cloth Shop we found a number of pieces by quilter/surface design artist Catherine Nicholls:

A through-the-window shot mostly because I was a little uncomfortable taking inside photos in this small shop. These pieces are rust-dyed and machine-stitched and I love the patterning that happens with the rust. It’s not something I’ve explored much but you can tell I’m fascinated with the results, huh?

We also saw beadwork and felting and tapestry and there’s lots more in odd spots like the broom shop, the luthier and a boat charter! We played a game of “Where’s Waldo” with the lovely little quilt by Bonnie Adie that served as a map for the exhibits:

We finally located it in the Silk Weaving Studio high on the wall behind one of the looms! Who knew? Glad we were able to visit before the end of the month. Last but not least, there’s another textile exhibit at the Italian Cultural Centre that my Spectrum Study Group plans to visit on a field trip. That show is on until the end of the year though so there’s lots of time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Hello, my little autumn leaves! How are you? I’m fine but I dunno - am I falling for the Instagram (quick & easy) over the blog (more work & time)? I was hoping not, but judging by the lack of recent blog posts I’m not doing as well as I should be. Bad damselfly. I’ve written to you lots in my head! Just not for reals. Oops.

Anyway, if you’re still with me, the weather has been quite variable for the last couple of weeks. We’ve had sun and rain and more rain and it’s downright chilly unless you’re in the sunshine. My house was 15C (59F) inside this morning. Time to add another layer of blankets on the bed! We’re playing the “how long can we go before we get cold enough to turn up the furnace” game. The sun is bright and warm today though so I should be able to remove my woolies later on! So far I look like this:

But I could seriously add fingerless mitts to the outfit! That’s my Multnomah shawl in handspun yarn dyed in rhubarb roots and leaves, madder and blackberry shoots all from my garden. The James sweater (mine is named Sunny Jim) is also dyed in rhubarb root. (Which reminds me, I still have the rest of a bucket of roots to chop up before they mould or get too hard to cut!) Underneath is my latest make, a modified Helen’s Closet York Pinafore. Oh, you’d like to actually see it?

The fabric is a medium weight linen purchased at Atex awhile back for another Thread Theory Fairfield Button-up shirt for Thom. I wisely bought 5M because it’s a nice colour and a nice weight and mostly so I could have something out of it too! I ended up being able to fit the shirt and a Grainline Farrow with enough leftover to squeeze out this York. I used Helen’s hack for spaghetti straps with a few mods. I didn’t have enough fabric to make full facings so I just made ones for the tops of the bibs and used bias binding to finish the rest.

Hope you appreciate the weird contortions it took to selfie my fabulous bindings for you! I wasn’t about to remove anything to do it. Cold.

The results are quite soft and a little floppy but I think it’s ok. The straps are wider (1”) than spaghetti and I had to fudge with the angle at which they are attached before I stopped getting weird folds. My sloping shoulders demand to be accommodated! It took several unpickings and re-sewings before they were reasonably acceptable. One of the 3 garments done and I’ve worn it several times already proving that it doesn’t even wrinkle too badly. Next...

I was really productive and chopped out about 8 garments in total. I get into a space where I’m working with the patterns or I’m cutting out a bunch or I’m sewing things up in batches. I figure I should just go with what works for me rather than do one item at a time from pattern to sewing up. The only drawback to this method is if I don’t get it made within a reasonable time frame I might not get it made at all. Tastes change. Needs change. Bodies change. Then I’ll be left with chopped up pieces of fabric that are very hard, if not impossible to make anything else out of. Nae sae guid.

Speaking of sewing, Jannie my new sewing machine and I are getting to know each other better now that I have 4 garments under my belt. I still reach for things in the wrong place occasionally but the muscle memory is starting to stick. I still have that bobbin holder issue but only very rarely and I’m pretty sure it’s operator error and that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the machine. At least I’m going with that for now anyway.

In knitting news, I sadly pulled out quite a large chunk of my Lacca Laneway Tunic when I realised that the skein of lighter mauve was too different from the last one and showed unsightly lines where I shifted over.

Unsprisingly it didn’t improve when I continued knitting so I just frogged it or I would have continued to wish that I had done that earlier. I’m nearly back to where I was and it definitely looks better with another more even skein. This is from right after I frogged and got it back on the needles:

Don’t have a current photo yet. Have to say, this beast is taking forEVAH to finish. Love it so far however. It’s gonna be worth all the trouble.

In the garden there’s not a lot of edible stuff left. There’s the scarlet runner beans that perked up once it got cooler. The other beans are toast. I’ve got the second batch of asian greens and lettuce I planted and they’re doing well along with the herbs. I need to plant the garlic bed soon. And dig up and replant the madder once it dies back further. We already got the rhubarb done which I’ve been putting off for a couple of years. I planted 7 crowns back into a larger space so they can grow for the next 3 to 5 years before I have to dig them up again. The rest are going to be used for that lovely soft yellow dye. Here’s what the beautiful big roots look like:

It smells quite nice while I’m chopping, kind of sweet and woodsy. My sweater still retains a little of that scent too. They aren’t too hard, a little softer than carrots, but I have to work on them in reasonable sized batches or my hands get sore. I’m not risking my functionality for some free dyestuff. I’ll just take my time.

In other news I have a report on some of the textile exhibits that we were able to see on Granville Island. These were in conjunction with the Textile Society of America conference that just wrapped up here in Vancouver. However, this is getting long and I need to get back to the choppy-choppy thing. Next post will be sooner rather than later. Promise.

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...