Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Lightening Strikes Twice

My deep apologies for the darkness of the photos of my shirt! I swear the details were visible on my iPad but on my big computer screen - not so much. They're somewhat blown out now but at least you should be able to see the shape better. My luck for sewing nearly-black garments in darkest January!

So, the front:

The back:

Detail of the buttons and collar front:

And the naughty ripply shoulder dart:

Is that better? Hope so. Yes, it's an oddly fitting shirt but it's just weird enough that it doesn't matter. At least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I wear the heck out of my blue linen-blend vest version but then vests are more versatile anyway. I also wear the vest that I made out of the scraps of this fabric. I hope I can find enough occasions to wear this shirt too. The fine worsted wool fabric is just yummy! Did I mention it passed my machine wash and dry test with nary a wrinkle? I'll be more gentle in future but no damn dry cleaning for this baby!

Moving right along. This next FO should show up alright - it's definitely bright enough! I give you the finished Stripey Sweater:

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I started with the Mon petit gilet raye'  by Isabelle Milleret, a free pattern on Ravelry. It's one size and needed quite a lot of modifying to fit me (as usual) so I booted up the old Knitware program and rejigged the yoke and body shaping. Of course the fact that I ended up with two different gauges, one in the striped area and a tighter gauge in the main yarn, kind of messed up my careful calculations but it came out all right in the end.

If you'll recall, the yarns are Plymouth Happy Feet Dye For Me (90% merino/10% nylon), dyed in my homegrown madder. And Plymouth Alpaca/Tencel/Bamboo, dyed and overdyed in seven different shades with natural dyes. I added a little Fair Isle pattern to the striped section for variety since I'm not that fond of plain stripes. The buttons, all 15 of them, are ceramic handmade years ago by Esther Grav (What's Weft, Belleville, Ontario).

I just had enough madder-dyed yarn left to complete the sleeves. It was rather a tight race! The sweater fits very nicely and now I have to find some other garments to style it with. Or maybe it's an excuse to sew more? It thrills me no end that I can make clothes that I love and that fit me so much better than anything in the shops. Maybe it's not always cheaper but most often it is, especially when I use materials already in the stash.
Speaking of using things up, I'm cruising right along on the Featherstonehaugh. Nearly half finished! The plan was to use up the rest of the contrast yarns that weren't used in the sweater. The little modular fans are rather addicting to knit though I have to be careful where I put the colours since they are knitted directly onto each other and can't be moved around once I'm done. I'm also finishing in the ends as I go so there won't be a big job waiting at the end. More on this soon.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

End of January

Sigh. The much more powerful blogging app that I found isn't as perfect as I thought. It can't manage paragraphs in Blogger which is rather important! Tech support says soon. I'll wait.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have an FO! This is Marcy Tilton's shirt V8709:

Please excuse the crap lighting. It's been raining every time I try to take a picture and black pinstripes are problematic at the best of times. This is View A with the folded collar and more simple split cuff.

I've made this once before, View B as a vest in a linen blend and I love it. In this version the sleeves look shorter on the dummy but they're full length on Ms. Tyrannosaurus Rex Arms! On the other hand the body needs length so this time I added about 6". I left in all the wonky bits:

The extra odd pleat in the back and the asymmetrical front bands:

Don't know if you can see it but the buttons are also striped. You never know what you'll find in the stash.

I made a few more fitting changes (lowering the bust darts, narrowing the sleeves and shoulders) but I'm not sure it made any major improvement. For instance the shoulder darts I added refuse to lie flat. They press beautifully in this high quality Italian wool suiting but they don't stay! Life pops back into them the minute the fabric cools. Oh well. This lovely (and expensive) fabric is light weight and comfortable to wear in many different temperatures. I hope I can get lots of wear out of it.

In knitting news I've finished the Stripey Sweater! More on this one soon. The sleeves ended up full length but I had this much yarn left:

Not a lot. Obviously I didn't divide the ball equally or I might have gotten another row or two longer. Close enough though.

And there's some really exciting news! We are definitely going to the Sew Expo in Puyallup! Campsite reserved and everything. Who cares if it all costs half again as much this year thanks to the low Canadian dollar. Bleh. I'm not going to let that spoil a good time. As usual I won't be taking any seminars but I hope to catch the Tiltons' style show on Thursday, the one day I'll be attending. Then if the weather cooperates we'll be continuing on more of a camping trip, maybe to the Oregon coast for awhile. It all depends and our plans are flexible. I can stand a few days in our little Westie in the cold pouring rain if necessary. I have knitting and I have books! We even bought our old Fraulein a 27th birthday present, a new propane heater for when we don't have access to electricity. We are ready for anything now. Good. To. Go.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Testing. Testing.

Hello, my darlings! Today we are experimenting with a new app to post to my blog. I won't mention names until I know it's working the way I want it to. There's a learning curve to this one. Mistakes will be made. Guaranteed! It was raining hard today. See?  
  I spent the day busy in my studio. First I plied another skein of the Falklands wool. It's been washed and is currently drying on the basement clothesline. Then I knitted another section of the Featherstonehaugh:  
  The wrinkled grey one is the newest section. I keep blocking them as I knit because they are just too pathetic otherwise! Of course I'll give it a proper wash and pin-block when I'm done. Meanwhile I'm pretty sure I have enough naturally dyed yarn to make a full shawl. Next I sewed for awhile on my latest Tilton. I'm nearly finished- just have the collar left. More soon.   First I want to see how this works! Crossing my pinkies....   ETA:  Obviously a paragraph issue! I'm waiting on a tech support reply.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Winter Report

How can January be nearly over already? Wasn't it just New Years the other day? I'm obviously having much too good of a time!

I've been doing a little of this and a little of that. Yesterday was a good example. I read for awhile, sewed on my latest garment, spun some Falklands wool while listening to a podcast, and sewed the buttons on the bands of my Stripey Sweater:

What a perfect way to use those ceramic buttons! They've been in the stash for probably 20 years or more. There's mostly single colours or just a few of any one colour so they never quite worked out for a project. The buttons were made by Esther Grav from Belleville, ON, who is also a weaver and owner of What's Weft. I'm pretty sure she doesn't make them anymore so they're a treasure.

As you can see the sleeves aren't finished yet. I divided the remaining ball of yarn in half and will knit until I run out. The sleeves will probably end up about 3/4 length because I don't think I have enough for longer. Oh well. It's turning out pretty cute anyhow. Of course now I'm madly knitting away trying to outrun the end of the yarn balls! Why do we all think that will work?

Since it was fairly nice out yesterday (not like today's rain) I wandered out to the garden for a visit with the plants. The mache (corn salad) is getting big enough to nibble:

It's kind of tedious to pick and wash but the fresh greens are quite tasty. My garlic is getting taller:

The chives are starting to come up and the kale will soon have delicious buds to pick. I was seriously disappointed in the new kale variety that I planted last year. They are basically little bare sticks. Guess I'll be continuing with my old standby, Rainbow Lacinato from West Coast Seeds. Lesson learned.

This winter has been fairly mild and rainy. We had cool enough temperatures to kill most of the alyssum and the water garden plants but most everything else survived nicely, even my potted recumbent rosemary which has flower buds on it ready to pop. We only had a skiff or two of snow that didn't stick for long, some really foggy mornings and some very pretty hoar frost. Current temps have been around 8-10C - rather nice actually! They don't call our little corner of BC "Lotusland" for nothing. Oh wait - that does have other connotations, doesn't it? Also fairly well deserved. Heh.

So now off to the studio and the sewing machine. Time's a-wastin'!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Blog Housekeeping Note:  I've widened the left column somewhat to make more room for my photos. Hopefully it doesn't interfere or look wonky on your reading device. Let me know in the comments if there's a problem, won't you?

Two More Sewing FOs

As you might have noticed I'm trying to post more frequently. If they can't be very long at least they can be often!

These two pieces are from the same fabric that I bought in September in Portland on our way home from Colorado. It's a cotton/Lycra French terry in a charcoal mix. It was supposed to be for Thom but I was happy that there was just enough to squeeze out a top for me too. I love this stuff. It's easy to wear, not too warm or too lightweight, skims the curves instead of catching, and generally behaves itself nicely.

First as a warmup I sewed mine:

The pattern is a mashup of parts of my previously modified Katherine Tilton's B6101 (top half including sleeves, neckline and collar) and the lower half self-drafted. The pockets are single layer facings top-stitched to the front:

The stitching barely shows and they lie nice and flat. I stay-taped the opening edges so they won't bag out. Yeah, I know it's kind of a shapeless sweatshirt but it's something I just about live in this time of year.

This fabric is very easy to sew despite its excellent stretch capability. So the second go-round was done in a day:

Unlike a lot of guys, Thom is pretty appreciative whenever I make him something. It really doesn't happen as often as it should! This Thread Theory's Finlayson Sweater was totally the perfect thing:

This is the type of sweater that Thom wears all the time. This one obviously fits him perfectly so I plan to make more as soon as I find the appropriate fabric for it. It needs something not too thick since the collar front edge has many layers of fabric in it. This French terry is actually the third piece I bought! One was too flimsy and thin and one was too bulky. This one was just right!

Speaking of the collar, I got tripped up by the instructions. Sorry, dear Morgan, you have it with the under collar on the top side when you're done your tricksy method! I also get confused by the shaded wrong-side/white right-side illustrations which are the complete opposite to what I've been using for the past 50+ years of sewing experience. So I did it my way and the collar looks just fine and rolls correctly. I even remembered to note my changes on the pattern. Don't want to have to rip anything next time. Big pain in the posterior.

So I still haven't sewn up all the garments that I cut out before the Holidays. I'm currently working on the ones to be sewn with black thread so I don't have to keep changing it. However there are also plenty more pieces in the queue that will need pattern fitting before I cut them out. It's an ongoing process. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Yet Another New Book

Well, I've finished sewing another top but don't have enough light for a picture yet. So you will have to make do with another book review. This one is on natural dyes:

The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar is a beautifully photographed and laid out hardcover book covering many of the commonly available and reliable dyestuffs. The "modern" in the title refers to the revised amounts and safer procedures that are used now that we are more aware of the toxicity of some of the the historical recipes. Also dye extracts have been developed for a number of plant (and animal, in the case of cochineal) dyes that really simplify the process and expand the options for applying colours.

Kristine herself grew many of the dye plants that are photographed for the book's intriguing illustrations but she uses purchased dyestuffs for her examples. I was a little surprised actually at how much I liked the projects included. That's not at all what I usually buy a book for! They really help to demonstrate the many ways natural dyes can be used in a fun way. If you're the type who likes to make things easy, kits are available through her shop, A Verb For Keeping Warm in California and you can follow along as she is currently demonstrating everything in more detail on her blog.

Would that I could afford Alabama Chanin - even their simpler machine-sewn line:

I know yellow is not many people's favourite colour but how can you resist the glorious yellows produced by natural dyes? So cheerful.
Then I'm particularly enamoured with this sweater:

It has a really fun detail in the back! And the painted fabric as well as the variegated yarn in this top:

The book also includes helpful dye charts like this one:

Formulas are on the opposite page and there's one for cellulose fibres as well as protein ones. So pretty, no? Detailed techniques for indigo are in a separate section including some simple shibori and an amazingly gorgeous quilt.

OK, I will admit to being somewhat of a dye aficionado. But this book wins for both information and inspiration! It won't replace Jenny Dean's more comprehensive books in my heart but I think it's a great reference for the beginner to intermediate natural dyer with solid and useful procedures. Damselfly's four wings up!


I will leave you with a photo from Thom - the undeniable hint that spring is coming soon to Vancouver!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Assorted Thises and Thats

After my last post I thought I had better explain why I called it the Lattice Dress. The full length photo unfortunately didn't show the detail:

The background colour is definitely black, not navy! These rather dark days are not particularly conducive to good indoor photos, just saying. I love this woven pattern which is used (in real life) most often in seat caning or baskets. My photo is wonky but it's a "triaxial" weave: vertical, horizontal and diagonal elements. Just a wee bit of trivia to brighten your day!

I haven't been sewing for the last couple of days. Thom went and lit the fire in our living room's airtight wood stove and it just seems wrong to work upstairs when it's so cosy down here! Instead I've been spinning and knitting and reading on the couch. Decadence.

So I was checking out the latest issue of Brooklyn Tweed's BT Winter 16 look book. Oh yum! I did NOT need anything else to knit but there are some really lovely sweaters in there. I rarely buy a pattern until I'm ready to knit something, yarn and needles in hand. But this time I fell hard for this:

(Note the refreshing choice of model?) It's called Intersect and the designer is the ingenious Norah Gaughan. Here's front and back:

It just called to me, you know? Absolutely My Style! It's knit in sections with each piece picked up from previous pieces so no sewing together. The only drawback is that there is a truckload of yarn in this thing! Enough to make TWO regular sweaters. And yes, of course I want to make it in handspun. Fingering weight no less. Sadly the mahogany-dyed Falklands that I've been spinning is not going to give me enough yardage and I can't get more. So the Intersect Sweater will be a definite long-term project while I shake down the stash for enough suitable wool for this. Might take a year to complete. Who knows? But I will stick to it. Slow clothes.
True confessions: I realised today that in the last couple of months I have become one of Those People. The ones who have an iPad attached to their person at all times. I can't go back to my old stupid slow netbook computer without screaming in frustration! The only advantage is that it's easier to type on a real keyboard. Otherwise nearly everything else is significantly faster, clearer, simpler, better. Who knew?