Thursday, March 31, 2011


Trying not to cough up a lung here. Ick. Also trying to recuperate after I sucked it up enough to look after the Grandbeasties yesterday. T-Man kindly came home early from work to help. We had their car seats so we could take them to see their mom in hospital. She’s not actually sick, but is undergoing a series of tests and is currently attached to a bunch of monitors. And bored out of her gourd! They are trying to pinpoint the source of her epilepsy so maybe they can go in and do something about it. She has been having seizures since she was a little girl and the meds she’s currently taking are not very effective anymore. This is her only other option. We are all very hopeful and nervous at the same time. It’s a Big Deal. I hate those things. Especially when they happen to people I love.

Meanwhile the kids are being passed around between grandparents and daddy while he tries to keep his comic book shop open and cope with housework all at the same time. Good thing he can juggle! Keeping several balls in the air was good practice for real life, doncha think? And the Beasties have been pretty well-behaved, all things considered. Only a few fights and a meltdown or two. Pretty par for the course as far as 4- and 6-year-old siblings are concerned. It’s also handy that Super-Princess is out of school for spring break this week. Adding extra dropping-off and picking-up duties to the list would be near impossible since their other grandmother lives near us in Vancouver and they live a half-hour away in Port Coquitlam. There’s at least one more day we’ll need to take them (Saturday) before the docs will release their mom, perhaps early next week. Hope I can survive.

Today I’m lying very low. I didn’t end up with any other symptoms except a sore throat and coughing so much that my ribs hurt. Unluckily the Beasties and their parents already have something similar so I won’t be accused of passing on the plague. As I’m wiping snotty noses though I’m hoping they won’t infect me with a different bug! The one I have is quite nasty enough. Oh and I remembered that I did have something similar but milder for a short while in January. So I had no cause to boast about how well I’ve been anyhow. Life has a way of smiting down the smug, no?

On the crafty front, I’ve gotten another repeat or two of the lace pattern done on the Abotanicity Tunic. Not a lot. And I’ve been messing about with my pattern fitting. Haven’t actually cut anything out yet but I’m going with the current urge to trace, chop and tape tissue paper. I found a tape that doesn’t shrink or wrinkle up under the iron: green painter’s tape. It’s a bit heavy and ugly but it holds the pieces together so it’s fine. Better than pins that tear the tissue and fall out. Yes, I’m being overly fussy about adjusting my patterns but the whole point of sewing my own clothes is so that they will actually fit my body! Not somebody else’s idea of a “standard” body. Who actually has one of those anyway?

I’m also debating whether I need to make a muslin for any of my planned garments. I think I would have to be confronted with the combination of complex pattern and expensive fabric to bother. The fabrics I have are either fairly cheap or have been in my stash for so long they don’t count anymore or both. Some are even inherited from others’ stashes. I would like what I make to be wearable but it wouldn’t be too heartbreaking if they don’t come out the way I had hoped. I’m not counting my time as important in this equation because it really doesn’t matter how long it takes to achieve acceptable results. Within reason of course.

Sorry no photos to enliven your day. I’m not getting up to do more than pour myself another big cup of tea. I need to feel up to going with Milady Daughter and baby Rosebud to the clinic tomorrow to see the shoe guy. Hopefully he can do something for her blisters since nothing else seems to be working very well. Otherwise they might have to go back to casting her leg for awhile until she’s a little older. Not sure which is more awkward but those are the only two choices. Fun times!

Monday, March 28, 2011


Well. That will teach me to boast that I managed to get through a whole winter without getting sick. Now I have a sore throat, a cough and am feeling very tired. Some bug or other decided to teach me a lesson in humility! Bleh.

I did get some work in the garden done this weekend. It was quite pleasant out even with the alternating sun, cloud and a drip or two of rain. At least the temperatures are finally mild and forecasted to stay that way for awhile. I got both of the woad types transplanted, along with some salad greens seedlings and the pea seeds are in, including the poles and nets. Before April 1st this year! Yay! T-Man was working on expanding my dye garden further so now I have oodles more room to plant in. Maybe I need to plant more Japanese indigo seeds? I wonder how close together they need to be?

So now I have some pots free to transplant some of my tiny indoor babies into. I just seem to cycle them around. New for this year is cabbage and we’ll see how they do. These are small ones as the regular-sized cabbages take up too much space. And T is building me a box to plant butternut squash, also a first. He took out one of the laurels beside my garden and the box will go on the remains of the roots rather than try to dig down. It gets a fair amount of sun there anyhow. We’ll see what happens. Every year is a different story.

As well as mucking about in the dirt, I finally got around to making some “potions” with my supplies from Voyageur Soap & Candle:


Clockwise from the top-left that’s Hemp & Oat Infused Cream, Shea & Hemp Body Butter (already dipped into!) and Black Cherry Lip Balm. This time I didn’t put scent in the cream or butter and just left them natural, though I’m tempted to mix at least one jar of the cream with lavender and sweet orange just for fun. The slight green tinge in the butter and cream is from the dark green organic hemp oil which is common to both recipes. It made the cream a lot darker than it usually is. I’m happy my potions all turned out well and T-Man’s been using them too.

The Hemp & Oat cream recipe comes from my friend Sandra and is the most complicated because it has so many ingredients. Over a dozen items with lots of careful measuring necessary! Besides all the ingredients you also need a good scale that weighs in at least half-gram increments and a thermometer. You gently melt the butters, waxes and oils in one container in the microwave:

  • 37 g Hemp Oil
  • 28 g Vegetable Glycerin
  • 16 g Sweet Almond Oil
  • 18 g Shea Butter
  • 18 g Mango Butter
  • 7 g Vitamin E 1000IU
  • 18 g Calendula Oil
  • 10 g Stearic Acid (may add less for thinner lotion)
  • 25 g Emulsifying Wax
  • 3.5 g Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) as a natural preservative

Don’t overheat or you’ll compromise the ingredients! When everything is melted, cool to 140F. While that’s happening, in another container heat to the same temp:

  • 150 g Oatmeal Water (soak raw oatmeal overnight, pressing to remove infused water)
  • 150 g Aloe Vera Gel

You can use a stick blender or I use my craft blender to whip the hot oils while slowly pouring in the hot oat/aloe mixture, just like making salad dressing. Not edible though. Finally add:

  • 2 g Germall Plus as a preservative
  • Essential Oil or Fragrance Oil for scent, if desired

Blend some more, then pour into jars and allow to thicken and cool. This recipe makes about 1 lb. or 8-2 oz. jars. This stuff is super-great for healing and moisturising anywhere. Totally worth all the fuss of making it.

The yummy lip balm recipe is here on Voyageur’s blog. I reduced the recipe by 1/5 to make 50g for 6 little jars. I also subbed black cherry for peppermint since it burns my lips uncomfortably. So I guess that makes it not-quite-organic but I’m happy with the results. The recipe for the Shea Nut & Hemp butter is here. I made half of the recipe for just one 75g jar. Only 3 ingredients! I like it for my super-dry feet and itchy shins. It’s easier to spread on the skin than straight shea butter.

There you have all my not-so-secret recipes. The initial outlay for ingredients is quite steep but usually allows me to make more than one batch of everything – depending on what size containers of each that I buy. Watch out though because many items have a limited shelf-life so I try not to get too carried away and to plan on using them up within a year or so. The jars are also available at Voyageur. They have such fun stuff there! Really. I’m finding myself inspired to start making everything from scratch.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A New Toy

See my gorgeous new knitting accessory?


Isn’t that nifty? It’s a knitting bowl, lovingly made by T-Man on his lathe just for me. We got the idea from a photo of a pottery version - it holds the ball of yarn in progress and keeps it from rolling around. It’s quite heavy and bigger than it looks in the photo and holds a full-sized yarn cake. The curly slot is wide enough for pretty much any thickness, even chunky yarns. I love it! T took it to his woodturners’ guild meeting and there was quite a buzz of interest from them so you may see more of these around in future. As you can see, it’s already in use on my Abotanicity Tunic. Which is coming along nicely, but slowly.

Meanwhile I’m much farther along on my mad sewing and pattern stash sorting project than I was a few days ago. I found I have enough fabric to sew at least a couple of dozen garments! Yikes! That should keep me busy for quite awhile, huh? Some of this stuff has been marinating in the stash for decades. Or in the case of several pieces, marinating in somebody else’s stash before mine. Sometimes materials just don’t know what they want to be when they grow up! Now I have a lot of pattern tracing, adjusting and tweaking to do before I can cut anything out. It seems to take longer to get something to fit me than it does to sew it. Oh well. Better to take the time upfront than try to fix it in the middle of stitching it together. I’m so excited to have some new clothes for spring and summer! I’ll share more when I have something better to show than the heaps of fabrics and pattern envelopes all over the studio.

Yesterday Milady Daughter and I took baby Rosebud (nearly 4 months old now!) to the hospital clinic again. She has been having some problems with blisters on her poor little foot from the boots. MD was doing everything she could to help while still keeping the boots-and-bar on 23 hours a day. Tough job! We don’t want to lose all of the progress that her curly foot has gained and MD was gratified that the staff at the clinic praised her for her careful diligence. That made her feel a little better though sometimes it feels like torturing a poor innocent baby. Unfortunately it has to be done so her foot will be as normal and functional as possible. She will be grateful in the end. But meanwhile, they gave her some special sticky skin pads to cover the ouchies until they heal. Hopefully that will work better than gauze or bandaids or moleskin. We go back next week to check on progress.

There is a real trick to getting Rosebud’s shoes on properly too – not too loose or her foot will slip but not too tight or it hurts her. Try to buckle and tie little shoes on an unhappy baby! Even the staff had difficulty so I feel somewhat better about my complete inability to get it right. However Milady Daughter is now an expert after several weeks of practice. No sign of the sparkly purple bar yet though. We’re still waiting for the hospital to get them in. The shoes will still be an issue but at least the bar will just click into place instead of screwing tight the nuts and finding that the bar has slipped out of its proper angle. The labours we do for our little ones, hey? Totally worth it.

Well, I’m currently avoiding the laundry and vacuuming. Instead it’s back to the studio…

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Patterns Patterns Everywhere

But which one should I make? I’ve now spent 2 days messing about in the studio trying to figure out several things:

  1. What patterns do I have in my collection?
  2. What do I need to do to get them to fit?
  3. What fabrics do I want to make them in?
  4. What other notions (interfacing, thread, zippers, buttons, snaps etc.) do I need to finish them?

It’s a lot more difficult than it seems. I keep changing my mind which fabric goes to which pattern and in which order to work on them. As I found out with the last project, it’s quite a job to get a garment to fit my shape properly but it’s so worth the struggle in the end when I have a wearable garment. I’ve already worn my new Funnel-Neck Top several times and now it’s in the laundry. I definitely call that a success. I want more of those successes. Thanks in advance.

I seem to have a particular problem. It’s not like there’s no more fabric in the stores to buy when I run out of stash, but I keep holding certain ones back because they’re “too nice” and smacking myself when I do. Just use it up already! Just think about enjoying more happy fabric shopping.

Speaking of which, last week’s local newspaper had a great article on my favourite fabric and notions shop, Dressew, and its eccentric owner Roger McKie and family. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been shopping there since I was a teenager when it was in its original location. I never realised that Roger was less than 10 years my senior! The author is correct – you never know what odd (but sometimes good) things you’ll find in that store. They also stubbornly stick to a no-credit-cards policy which has slowed down my shopping exuberance on occasion. However they will happily take cash, cheques with ID and recently (finally!) debit cards. And yes, I can actually walk there from here though it’s a slog uphill on the way home. Of course there’s a couple of transit alternatives but where’s the fun in that?

Anyhow I’ve become quite lost in sorting patterns and making notes from the comments on PatternReview from those who’ve already made the view I’m considering. It’s good to know what pitfalls to avoid, right? I finally figured out how to search for individual Burda Style (formerly known as Burda World of Fashion) magazine patterns. Say the issue is 8/2009 and the pattern number is 114, the code for the search box is 08-2009-114. Totally intuitive, no? No. For some reason the search box doesn’t want company names or even the company letter added to the pattern number. So if the pattern is say, Vogue’s 6814 (no idea if any of these are legitimate pattern numbers, BTW), the search box doesn’t want V6814 as it is on the envelope. It just wants 6814 and it might turn up a Butterick or McCalls or something with the same pattern number as well. So you have to carefully choose the reviews you want to read. And then it doesn’t specify views either, say View C, so you have to read each review to see which one they started with. Note to Deepika: search function could use some tweaking.

Another place to search, ask questions and discuss sewing is the Artisan’s Square Stitcher’s Guild Sewing Forum. This is another handy time-suck where you can ask questions and hopefully get useful answers plus search the archives. That said, I don’t use it much. BurdaStyle is interesting but I find the fashions too hip and trendy for me. I’d say too “young” but that could get me into trouble! Good tutorials though. I’m sure there are other forums out there but I’m already hip-deep in too much information.

Oddly enough, I’m really enjoying organising my pattern stash. It gets me thinking creatively: “Ooh, I could make this out of that!” and “That would look good worn with this!” I have a lot more ideas than time and energy though so I need to get realistic. Make lists. Clip fabric swatches to pattern notes. Have a plan. Unfortunately what usually happens is more like:

  • Make a sewing list.
  • Don’t necessarily follow the list.
  • Cut out several items.
  • Sew one or two together.
  • Start another piece.
  • Realise it’s not going to work without some creative remediation.
  • Pack the whole bunch up in a drawer.
  • Leave to marinate for several years.
  • Forget what I was making or decide that they are ugly, out of fashion, the wrong fabric/pattern choice, not going to fit…
  • Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’m trying to break that cycle. I know what happened last spring when I got on the last sewing kick: I got the Dreaded Itchy-Peelies and decided that new clothes were a bad idea when covered in various petroleum-based goops. I spent the next 6 months in old t-shirts and sweatpants or shorts. Bleh. All sewing came to a screeching halt and stayed that way. Now bolstered by the success of my newly-made top, I’m attempting to keep the ball rolling this time. But I won’t make any pledges like so many do. 12 jackets in 12 months. Capsule wardrobes. Sew-alongs. I hate having to live up to someone else’s deadlines – or even my own deadlines. That way I don’t feel anxious or disappointed when I run out of momentum.

My wardrobe (if you can call it that!) is quite different from many people’s. I don’t need office-appropriate anything. I do need casual comfortable functional clothes that can be worn for housework, gardening, walking, craft work (dyeing, weaving, spinning) and camping  and some that can be worn for slightly dressier occasions like a meeting, party, wedding or funeral. I never dress in formal clothes for anything! I prefer to be my slightly funky self. (You knew that already, huh?) None of the usual wardrobe planning advice works in my situation so I just make it up as I go along. Works for me.

However, I’m definitely feeling the need to have more dresses and skirts in my closet. Comfy ones. Maybe a little different. To that end, this might be my next project:


That’s Butterick 5244, pattern is oop but still available (as of this date anyhow) here from BMV and also in printable format. I’m going for a charcoal grey stable double-knit poly (I think – labels in Dressew are notoriously vague or flat-out incorrect sometimes) for the longer-sleeved version. If that works out, then I might try the short-sleeved tunic in a sweatshirt fabric. Which I’ll have to buy since I don’t have any. Perhaps minus the collar for variety. I’m hoping I won’t have any real fitting adjustments to make to the pattern. Fingers would be crossed but that makes it hard to function.

Decisions. Decisions.

Back to work, Damselfly. Quick before it’s too hot to wear anything synthetic with sleeves.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sock Book Reviews

But first – my faithful reader Ev asks what is the tool that I showed in the last post. That, my dear, is a fringe twister! You attach your strands (or groups of strands) from the end of your woven scarf or shawl to the alligator clips. Then you wind the handle like mad in one direction. When the ends are twisted enough you shift them all onto one clip and wind like mad in the opposite direction. Make an overhand knot at the end to hold the twist in and there you have a nice tight scarf fringe. You can even count your windings to increase consistency. There’s an illustration and a brief description on this PDF from Leclerc and a somewhat more elaborate tutorial on this PDF from Ashford. Note that Ashford’s twister clamps to the table but is otherwise quite similar. A clamp would be especially useful for making cording. Hope that helps!

Now for the promised book reviews. As I hinted yesterday, there’s a definite theme here: socks! Which is odd because although I love all the fantastic sock patterns out there, I usually only ever make plain stockinette socks using my standard memorised pattern. Boring but easy to knit on autopilot and terrifically functional. Be that as it may, here’s the latest additions to my vast book collection:

Book KneeHighs

Knitting Knee-Highs by Barb Brown, published by Krause Publications, 2011. Signed by the author! (She was actually at FibresWest this last weekend but I didn’t meet her. The Twist of Fate booth where I bought it got her to sign copies for them.) Barb is from Alberta and has had her sock patterns published in a number of publications. This book is a great resource even if you aren’t interested in knee-socks since each pattern has a short sock version as well. Most are of the stranded 2-colour pattern variety, similar to Turkish or alpine ski socks, but with my favourite flap heels and wedge toes. There are several lovely cables and lace patterns as well, including one that reminded me instantly of my last pair of Monkey socks. (Turns out it was in exactly the same yarn!) Best of all, there is a section in the beginning that includes formulas for calculating your own knee-highs, custom fitting tips and details on how to convert to shorter socks or legwarmers.

I have a few small caveats with this book. I wish Barb had included more details on the different places one can put the “calf wedges” (my term) when designing and also that all the knee-socks pictured seem too short to me. I like mine right up to the kneecap and the photos mainly show them ending right at the widest part of the model’s calf or a teensy bit above. I totally guarantee they will not stay up that way! That problem could be easily remedied with some of the patterns by adding more repeats above and below or even incorporating the shaping but others such as the ones with large colour-stranded charts would take a lot more finagling. It could just be my personal taste and you might be happy with the length as written. However, to Barb’s credit she does include several sizes for each sock pattern which is not all that easy to achieve with some stitch patterns. I also like many of the alternative shorter versions though it seems a little backwards to discuss changes from long to short socks. Might have been good to add how to do it in the opposite direction, i.e. the changes that need to be added to a short sock to make them into knee-socks. Then you could adapt almost any sock pattern. There are really not very many knee-sock patterns out there in comparison.

Book CookieASpeaking of mostly regular-length socks, the second book I got (this time from Jane Stafford’s booth) is adorably entitled knit. sock. love. by Cookie A, published by her own One Leg Press, 2010. This is a gorgeous book! The photography by Laura Kicey is spectacular and totally negates the fact that you’ve probably seen a number of these patterns before. However, Cookie has added several sizes to most (such as the familiar Hedera and Monkey socks) and included clear diagrams and instructions for each sock pattern. It pays to be your own publisher because you can get the book design the way you want it! I’m a huge fan of Cookie’s elegant design style using lace, cables and traveling stitches – no colour-stranding here. Plus there are a few knee-socks included. Love. Sock. Knit.

If you’re a rank beginner or a sock knitter who prefers toe-up short-row heel styles neither of these books may be right for you. The authors don’t give directions for alternative needle or style options nor hold your hand with basic sock knitting techniques. Both use charts extensively. An experienced sock knitter could probably adapt at least some of the designs to their preferred method. I know I’ve done that in reverse with at least one of Wendy Johnson’s toe-up sock patterns. Hint: lace patterns often look quite different when knitted upside down or in reverse order. Ask me how I know.

Anyway now there are several pairs of knee-socks in both books that are calling me to get my needles out – especially since I don’t have any socks on the go at the moment. After all, although I have many pairs of handknitted socks I only have 2 pairs of rather plain knee-socks. However I’ve been monogamous with my Abotanicity Tunic (also in sock yarn) and it’s now several repeats into the lace section and looking good so far. I didn’t change needle sizes upward yet though I’ll probably ease up to a 3.5 from the 3.25mm soon and then go to the specified 3.75 further down on the skirt. I can only read while knitting the alternate plain rows and must concentrate on the 294-stitch lace rounds! I’m just coming to the end of the second 100g ball so I’ve already knit the equivalent of 2 pairs of large men’s socks or a pair and a half of knee-socks anyhow. Onward…before it’s too warm to wear a wool tunic. Ahem. I wish. Although it must be spring because T-Man rode his electric-assist bicycle to work for the first time this year. But then it hailed on him on the way.

Monday, March 21, 2011

FibresWest & Other Fun

My! I’ve been a busy beaver damselfly since last I posted. Thursday evening was my weavers’ guild meeting. The talk was by fellow member Vennie who explained her very interesting theory that natural dyes contribute to our health. She uses dyes, both natural and synthetic, in a cancer lab and is campaigning to shift procedures over to the safer natural dyes. Vennie also uses natural dyes at home to dye her yarns. It never occurred to me that the colours of fruits and vegetables are actually phytochemicals with antioxidant and immune system support, among other benefits. She also linked the plant colours to the seasons. For example: spring greens with their chlorophyll are helpful to detoxify our internal system after a winter of heavier foods. I’m hoping that Vennie will yield to her audience’s encouragement to write this up for publishing in our guild newsletter. It was a fascinating hybrid of science and Chinese medicine.

On Friday I went with my friend Dianna out to Abbotsford for the annual FibresWest event. Sorry there’s no photos but I accidentally left the card out of my camera. Doh. I didn’t take any of the many classes on offer but we did listen to an hour-and-a-half lecture by Ivan Sayers, local treasure and walking historical clothing encyclopaedia. He discussed various types of lace and how it was used in fashion from the 16th Century onward. It would have been much more interesting if I could actually have heard it all but it was my own fault for sitting in the cheap seats. The AV system was truly sucky so Ivan eventually gave up on the microphone and then I couldn’t hear him when he turned away to point at the slide. Oh well. Not like I haven’t heard his lectures many times before! The examples he brought from his collection were exquisite though: needle lace, Irish crochet, superfine bobbin lace etc. He was only missing knitted laces (and perhaps tatted – I didn’t notice any).

Speaking of knitted lace, there were some pretty spectacular examples wandering around on people. I saw a gorgeous cowl collar and shawls galore. There was also a lovely lacey crocheted vest. And the shopping was very tempting too. However I managed to come away without going too crazy: two books, a pewter sweater clasp, a cone of black Zephyr wool/silk, and one of these:


I already have a 2-end one by the original designer/maker, the Langs. This one is from Leclerc. Wonder if it will work for making ply-splitting cords as well as twisting 3- and 4-ply fringes? We’ll find out eventually.

It was lovely to see so many old friends and familiar faces on the floor and in the sales and demo booths. That’s the part I love best about these things. Seeing all the yummy yarns and fibres and new toys and tools is great but getting hugs from someone you haven’t seen for a year is icing on the cake. However I was really firm with myself and left a lot of pretty fibres behind. Shetland, BFL, yak, cashmere and even sock yarns at 30% off! It was hard but I tried to remember all the stash I already have and how much time it’s going to take to use even half of it. I don’t really need more books either but they were much harder to resist. I plan to do a proper review of them, hopefully in the next post. First I have to read them properly! A hint: socks.

Saturday and Sunday were both rather pleasant days with some sunshine so T-Man and I laboured in the vegetable garden getting it ready for planting. We managed to get quite a lot done: spreading mushroom manure and compost around and shaping up the beds after the soggy winter rains squashed them. I pruned off the dead branches (aka crewcut most of the bush) from Lazy Rosy, my recumbent rosemary plant. She didn’t much like the cold snap we had back in November even with the protection of the greenhouse. I’m hoping she will put on some new growth now or I’ll have to get another plant. Again. We are so marginal for rosemary here. It’ll be fine for several years and then unhappily die off if we get a few too many nights of -10C. It’s too big to bring into the house and obviously the greenhouse isn’t protection enough. Global warming-schmobal warming.

Lots more to do out there but we are only good for 3 or 4 hours of that kind of hard work before we must quit. Oh well. A little at a time gets it done also - eventually. I don’t hurt anywhere today so that’s a plus. Now to tie it into the beginning of this post, I harvested a pail full of leeks and kale that overwintered a lot better than poor Rosy did. Green Things to eat for Spring. Yum.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Finally! Success

I spent a goodly portion of yesterday morning rechecking and tweaking my paper pattern for Vogue 8323 view B. That’s probably 3 days total spent on fitting! Yikes. But it was a fairly major job. Hope you can see the difference between the original side front (right; not cut out) and mine (left):


Surprisingly I mostly only needed to adjust the side front and back pieces. The centre front piece just needed a bit of length added for the Full Bust Adjustment (aka FBA), the top of the sleeve needed a sliver shaved off and I didn’t do anything at all to the centre back piece. They were otherwise an untouched size 12. I did end up taking about 1/4” off the FBA when I tried it on. Guess the inch I thought I needed was too much? Otherwise it was perfect as re-drafted. Amazing.

The book “Fit for Real People” revised version by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto is a must-have for this. Couldn’t have done it without all the helpful techniques they have developed over many years. Apart from the exhortation to use Scotch Magic Tape that is. I did not have a good result after pressing it with a hot iron (no steam – exactly as was recommended) because it buckled and shrank. It would be fine if you never ironed over it but you need to get the pattern as flat as possible after pin-fitting or folding. I ended up using pins to slash and fold my pattern alterations instead and then retraced the final version on fresh tissue paper.

Now I’m nearly done sewing my top and…miracle…it fits the way I wanted and it’s really quite attractive! I will definitely be making more versions of this top with different necklines and sleeve lengths, maybe even making it into a tunic length. I used both sewing machine and serger to finish the many inside seams but used a twin-needle topstitch to stitch the hem and cuffs instead of using the coverstitch on my serger. I like the simple look and slightly raised line of the twin-needle stitching and it was easy to do. It’s a major PITA to change the serger over to coverstitch and not so easy to work on a narrow tube like the sleeves. They would have to be done flat and then seamed but I don’t like the effect at the open cuff edge. Much easier to put it on the open arm of my sewing machine instead. I also stitched a narrow ribbon to reinforce the shoulder seams and tacked the ends of the folded cowl seams to that to anchor it. I wanted very non-stretching shoulders.

The garment had one leetle teensy problemo though: the shoulders still slipped off because the design included extra neckline fabric front and back to add fullness to the cowl. See those drape lines in the sketch?


There’s nothing to hold that in place to prevent the shoulders from dropping down off my body. Oh dear. What to do? I first thought of a ribbon inside across the back of the neck but that didn’t feel comfortable and you could catch glimpses of it down the cowl’s tube. This morning just as I was waking up it came to me. Bra strap keepers! Of course. Why doesn’t this pricey Vogue pattern include directions for this very necessary piece? Doh. Is this another one of those never-actually-been-test-sewn patterns? There is only a sketch and no garment photo so that may be true. However, many people have sewn the various views and left their comments on PatternReview for my edification. Unfortunately not very many made view B.

So now I need to make keepers with seam binding and snaps and stitch them to the shoulder seam at the armhole edge. Using self-fabric is out because it’s much too stretchy. Here’s the finished top on Debbie:

V8323 Top

Not a great photo – sorry – and it definitely looks better on me! Poor Deb has no arms. But it gives you the idea I hope. Just skims the body and gives a hint of shape. First garment of my new 2011 Wardrobe Makeover: done!

Now off to plant those darn seeds I’ve been ignoring. It’s warming up, shoots are growing and buds are bursting. Spring is here despite the soggy rain we’ve been having nearly nonstop for weeks. Plus I need to start some laundry.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Further Adventures In Patternmaking

Well here I am at O-Dark-Hundred (not even O-Dark-Thirty yet) still having trouble adjusting to Daylight Savings. I was pondering all night about my recent Patternmaking Episode and how to avoid doing so much work for no reason in future. To put it bluntly, I screwed up bigtime! The tape (the recommended Magic tape) shrank and puckered when I pressed it rendering all my careful measurements moot. Sheesh. Luckily I rechecked everything yesterday before I tried cutting out the fabric and discovered the problem. Back to the drawing board. Literally.

So instead of cutting and sewing I spent yesterday in the same position as I was in on Sunday: bent over my work table making shreds and confetti out of tissue paper. This time I used pins instead of tape. Though it wiggles around a little more, it really works better to hold the tissue flat. Maybe my tissue is too flimsy for the tape? Dunno, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment. So far I’ve gone through about 8 or so sheets with more checking and re-tracing to do today. Good thing I’m not charging myself an hourly wage for this, huh?

I am getting closer to success though. I hope. And I’m learning a lot about Full Bust Adjustments and Rounded Shoulder Adjustments on a Shoulder Princess Bodice. Whew! I also graded from a size 12 at the shoulder to 14 at the bust and all the way up to a 20 at the waist and hip. Told you I was “bell-shaped”! Believe it or not it works – at least on Debbie Double. We’ll see if it works on the real me. The test will be in the first fitting in cloth.

So of course I never got any seeds planted. Drat. Plus right in the middle of my Tissue Tussling I got an impromptu flying visit from the Larger Grandbeasties on the way home from their dentist appointments. Super-Princess (her new moniker) has lost a bottom front tooth – her first. So cute! Now she’s looking forward to the second wiggly one to come out so she can have another visit from the Tooth Fairy. They grow up so fast, don’t they?

My son The Ninja was able to assure me that their friends in Japan are all ok though one of his expat ninja buddies has so much damage in his apartment that he plans to come back to stay with his mom here until the situation improves. Plus I finally heard that other friends I was concerned about are also safe and sound. Whew. A big load off my mind. Though it seems not so good for so many in that poor beleaguered country at the moment. Guess it’s too late to mention that nuclear power seems like a good idea until it turns on you. Then it’s a very bad thing indeed. (Makes me glad that most of our power here is clean hydro and our province has no nuclear plants. Not that we’re perfect or anything though.) Hope they can get a lid on it before we all glow in the dark. So scary.

What else? Oh yeah, you probably saw the Flickr photo in the sidebar but I forgot to show off my last knitted FO:

Remix Neckwarmer


For: me

Begun: February 24, 2011
Completed: March 8, 2011

Yarn: Berroco Remix, 30% nylon/27% cotton/24% acrylic/10% silk/9% linen, colour 3970 (charcoal mix) dyelot 8581, 216 yds (200 m) = 100g. 1.5 balls (just over 300 yds).

Needles: Addi Lace circulars, 3.5mm and 4mm.

Pattern: Ambitus Neckwarmer by Lankakomero, free pattern on Ravelry.

Comments: I was really hoping to use up all of the remaining Remix yarn but still have a little left (less than half a ball). I don’t care! I’m totally tired of this stuff even if I do like it a lot.

The neckwarmer is very nice. I love the way it drapes over my shoulders and I can wear it over my matching zip-front vest. If I was to do it again though I would make the turtleneck taller. Quite a few people did that and it looks good. I also don’t think I got gauge (never measured!) so it’s somewhat larger than the pattern seems. That’s a good thing because I like it wider.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Creative Urges

Yes, I know I’m always creating something but right now I feel like I’m on fire with ideas. Maybe it’s spring fever or something? Really I have no idea why the Urge To Make seems to be even worse than usual. The only drawback is that everything goes….so…..slow……

Because all my creations take so long to accomplish and I can only work on a couple of them at a time at most, I feel like my ideas are piling up in my head. Hope it doesn’t explode from the pressure! My biggest fear is the usual one – many will disappear in a puff of smoke before they become realised. Oh well. It’s not like I get extra points for number of items made or anything. I am my own taskmistress.

Meanwhile I’m procrastinating on the planting and gardening. The weather is warming up a little but it’s been very wet. Hard to dig in the garden when it’s a quagmire of mud even if it stops raining temporarily. It needs about 3 days of sunshine to dry enough to be workable and of course we don’t get more than a day here and there at most. I have 3 flats of plants in the green house but I suspect a lot of them have been holding too long and will need replanting. Sigh. So much for getting to it early. Today or tomorrow at the latest I will finally get my flowers, tomatoes and whatever else into flats under the lights. I’ve been putting it off for weeks. That may not be a bad thing as it turns out anyway. I think we’re in for a cold wet spring like last year.

Of course I shouldn’t complain. Compared to other places with too much snow, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, meltdowns in nuclear power plants etc. we’re doing really well! Even some predicted typhoon-level winds along with accompanying power outages managed to pretty much miss us. Am I asking for trouble now by just mentioning our relative good fortune? Probably. Sadly my heart goes out to those so much less fortunate. It’s been a pretty tough time all around the world this last while, hasn’t it?

So what have I been up to? A couple of things. Really. On Saturday I went with Milady Daughter to Voyageur Soap & Candle for some supplies to make more of the Oat-Infused Hemp Cream we both like plus some lip balm which I’ve never tried before. I had a problem with the last batch of cream going a little rancid due to some rather elderly oils. They only have a one or two-year lifespan so it pays to buy small quantities and use them up quickly. They’re too expensive to waste! I’ve also decided to keep the supplies in the cold room under the front stairs to hopefully help them last longer. It’s the coolest place in the house and in winter it’s as cold as a refrigerator in there. I got some black cherry flavouring and some organic sweet orange essence oil to make yummy lip balm tastes. The recipe called for peppermint but I don’t like that because it burns on my lips. And we got tiny jars to put the lip balm in. We could have gotten the tubes but they’re hard to fill for us amateurs. Maybe another time. Now to play mad scientist with the potions.

Then we went back to MD’s house where we had left baby Rosebud in the care of her daddy and grampa. I brought my serger over so we could take the feet off Rosebud’s sleepers. She can’t use the feet with her boots-and-bar. It was an easy task to chop off the feet as close to the seams as possible but it was much (much!) harder to use the machine’s cover stitch to finish the raw edges afterward. Threads kept breaking and the presser foot got caught up in the snaps and I just couldn’t stitch straight. I might have done better with my old sewing machine and a twin needle. We laboured through about half a dozen or so sleeper sets. The end product looked like it had been stitched by a drunken sailor in a howling gale but at least she has some clothes to wear to bed now. Hopefully they won’t disintegrate in the first laundering. Baby clothes get washed an awful lot.

Then yesterday I got obsessed with fitting what should have been a simple pattern:


Vogue 8323 View B, top with shoulder-princess-seams, a cowl neck and 3/4 sleeves for stretch knit fabrics. I have a soft waffle-knit cotton in a gorgeous deep purpley-brown colour (love-love-love that colour!) to sew it in. But it took me the whole stinkin’ day to get something that I can only hope will fit me! If it does, then I’ll have a good shapely t-shirt pattern to use for many more garments. Cross my fingers – though that kind of makes it hard to sew. I’m going to cut it out this afternoon and sew the main seams together before trying it on. I will definitely not serge the seams until I know it will fit me the way I want it to!

I don’t remember having nearly this much trouble in the past. I nearly had to redraft the entire thing! I used Debbie Double to pin-fit the Frankensteined pattern tissue on and then put it on myself to double-check. I think it fits Debbie better! LOL!! I had to get T-Man to hold the back in place on me and he didn’t like my squiggling around to see what was happening when it started to tear the tissue. I ended up retracing the whole thing again on new tissue. The pattern just skims the body now but I’m not sure if it should actually fit a little tighter than that. Pattern tissue is a lot different from stretchy fabric but you can’t have negative ease and still pin-fit a tissue. Guess it’s easier to take in than let out anyhow. We shall see how it goes. I’m hoping this will be a wearable muslin. The fabric was cheap but I love it so much. I so don’t want to make a “wadder” out of it.

Darn. I feel like the whole day is whizzing by too fast. Must be Daylight Savings Time. Why don’t they stick with one or the other? I really hate the adjustment periods when we switch. Now it’s totally dark again when I wake up in the morning. It was just starting to feel like it was actually daytime instead of the middle of the night when I get up. Guess I shouldn’t complain. Pretty soon it will be light when I go to sleep!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Must Be Spring - It’s Changeable

Rain, hail, sun, wind – we’ve had it all today. I ventured out for a short while and managed to miss most of the worst of it. I was determined to get my hair cut. My hairdresser, the indomitable Pat, is helping me grow the top section out while keeping the lower back section very short. I’m hoping the end product will be kind of like a slightly shorter (and greyer) version of Louise Brooks’ famous hairstyle from the 1920’s:


Instead of bobbing my hair like Louise did, I have to grow it back so it will take me awhile to get there – as long as I don’t get annoyed and have Pat cut it off again! I guess I just got tired of the pinhead look I’ve had for nearly two decades. Unfortunately now I have to re-learn how to comb my hair. Yeah, Pat gave me the raspberry too when I mentioned that. Heh.

What else have I been up to? Oh yes. The elderly yellow blanket that I dyed turned out quite palatable:


This photo was taken while it was still crinkly from being scrunched into the pan. I ironed it and now it’s much nicer. It also had some bare patches:

Blanket holes

Which I mended (rather sloppily) with some cutch-dyed wool weaving yarn somewhat similar in grist to that in the blanket:

Blanket repair

It barely shows even though it didn’t match exactly. I haven’t bothered with a new binding, at least not yet. Maybe before we need this blanket again next winter. Meanwhile we both decided that it no longer resembles root beer but the even more delicious Seafoam Candy:


Don’t you agree? The cutch extract even left a lingering burnt-sugar scent. Yum. It’ll be interesting to see if we start dreaming of sweets while sleeping under it, huh? I’m happy that a) I could use up the leftover walnut and cutch dyes and b) it’s no longer such a boring old blanket. Success.

Then I spent most of yesterday sewing up a couple of pillowcases to go with the Watercolour Quilt:


I seem to be all about the wrinkles today, don’t I? We’ve already made use of these last evening so they’re no longer quite as pristine as they were when I finished sewing them. I used improvisational piecing to make the edging out of some of the leftover bits from the quilt. I only had enough white fabric in the stash for 2 cases – they take nearly a yard each – so we’re using them on our “extra” pillows, the ones we lean on while watching tv or reading in bed. We have a total of 6 pillows on our bed (!) but we only actually sleep on 2 each. Yeah, go ahead and make Princess and the Pea jokes. T-Man and I can handle it. We likes our comforts, we does. Why not?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Marching Right Along

I’ve been reading a lot of sewing blogs lately – just trying to get back in the mood now that my sewing space is free from the Quilt That Ate Vancouver Watercolour Quilt. (Which I might add is pretty comfy-cosy to sleep under but is still shedding some lint.) One issue that I’ve noticed is probably the largest for sewers (I hate the term “sewist”) is pattern fitting. Some are getting much better at it and are willing to post their successes and failures to assist others who are learning this difficult art. But I wonder if they take it a little too far sometimes and over-fit? I can’t imagine how comfortable you can be in really tight-fitting garments unless of course they’re made with a knit. For me it’s much more about comfort than style. But then I probably have no style to speak of anyhow. This is the person who wears sweat pants and t-shirts and fleece nearly every day speaking here. However now I want to make at least some modest changes in my wardrobe. We’ll see how far I get, won’t we?

I think it’s fun that so many are into retro-fashions. Though I can’t imagine how they actually use real vintage patterns. Not only is the sizing different from today but garments were made to be worn with truly formidable undergarments! Girdles and long-line seriously boned bras:


Less restrictive than previous generations but much more than today’s little bra and panties sets. Exercising for body shape was not popular. Also fast food didn’t exist. Regular folks didn’t eat out very often and you cooked your own food from scratch. Body shapes were mostly more in the mid-range: neither as lean nor as fluffy as the two extremes are these days. I would imagine that there are a lot of pattern mods necessary, especially if the pattern isn’t available in your size. No wonder fitting is such a popular topic! Hopefully those killer undergarments will remain in the vault of time though there’s probably some out there who think they are the bees’ knees. LOL! Modern shapewear is truly comfortable in comparison and even it still makes me feel like a sausage. Ewww…

Of course some of my old patterns would probably now be considered vintage. I still have a few from the 1960’s and ‘70’s which of course I can’t fit into nor would I want to wear them. I think I just hang onto them for nostalgia. A few from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s are TNT (tried ’n’ true) though I still have some I will never make. Perhaps I should donate them. They’re not in good enough shape or desirable enough to sell and really I just can’t be bothered. One day I’ll go through the boxes in the attic again and cull some more. Meanwhile, I have a lot of things I want to make so I had better get to it. But first some fitting. But not too much.

Speaking of projects, I’m nearly finished my Ambitus neckwarmer/cowl thingy. It should be done and blocked today. Also yesterday I finally cleaned up the leftover dyestuff from our Spectrum Browns episode last Thursday. The walnut goo was going mouldy again which encouraged me to finish it all up. So to that end, I decided to do a “make-do and mend” on my 40-year-old yellow wool blanket:

Blanket before

This was a wedding gift from a relative and though it’s thinning it still has some life in it. I used my nifty sharp stitch picker from Lee Valley Tools to remove the tatty satin binding and soaked the blanket in warm water in the washing machine. After gently extracting the water I scrunched it into my stainless steel warming tray:

Blanket scrunched

It weighs about a kilo and just fit in the pan. Next I brought the walnut goo (still with the husks in it) up to a simmer and then poured the hot stuff over the blanket using the strainer to catch the husks. Then I brought the leftover cutch up to a boil and poured it over too. Luckily both walnut and cutch are substantive dyes and though they are perhaps more colourfast with a mordant, they don’t actually need one so I didn’t bother. Here it is simmering on the dye stove:

Blanket dyeing

It fits over two of the burners though I have to keep turning it around because one is large and the other small so it gets hotter in one area than the other. Works pretty slick though. Yes, I know it’s kind of an odd colour. T-Man calls it Root Beer so that has become it’s name. I have no idea what exact shades it will be when I rinse it. I left it overnight to cool and absorb so I’ll be dealing with this later this afternoon. Might be lovely and might be yuck! It doesn’t matter anyhow because it will be used on the bed between layers so nobody will see it but me when I make the bed. It also needs some serious binding on all four edges so that might be a good area to apply some brighter colour(s). I haven’t decided what to use for that yet. More anon. Oh, nearly forgot. What did I do with the red sandalwood? Ummm…nothing. It’s still in a pail with a lid on it. Sulking.

Before I go, thought you might like to see what my Japanese indigo babies look like:

JapaneseIndigo babies

Aren’t they cute? Thanks for the seeds, Nancy in Virginia!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

That Was The Week That Was

It got away from me. That’s my excuse for my radio silence and I’m sticking to it. Oh, and there was a lot of family involved there also. I babysat Rosebud at her house on Monday night and slept over on the couch. Then I spent Tuesday morning continuing with the visiting until Milady Daughter had a chance to drive me home. They live in Surrey which is anywhere from three-quarters-of-an-hour to an-hour-and-a-half away – depending on the traffic. Wednesday was Rosebud’s next appointment at the hospital clinic and we learned several exercises for her foot. She has resigned herself very well to her boots and bar system and her parents have a spiffy new clip-on bar on order. It’s sparkly purple! And it will do her until she doesn’t need it any longer. Unfortunately they haven’t gotten a new batch in yet so Rosebud has to wait awhile to switch over.

Then right into Thursday which was my Spectrum Study Group. This time we played with browns: Persian walnut (Juglans regia) husks, cutch crystals and red sandalwood powder. I had the walnut soaking for about 2 weeks and it was a lovely dark mud! The cutch was in large crystals and took about half an hour to dissolve in boiling water with lots of poking and stirring. We poured some cheap akvavit (donated by our Danish Member) over the red sandalwood and it became a lovely red mud but it never released much colour even after simmering for an hour. The walnut (about 3 litres of husks, no idea of the weight) gave us cool browns on the wool and silk yarns but much lighter tans on tencel and cotton. Cutch at 50% WOF gave lovely dark golden-browns on everything and more golden colours in the exhaust bath. The red sandalwood at 100% WOF was a PITA to strain out with cheesecloth and then coffee filters and produced only pale apricot colours. Pretty but not what we were expecting. I know there is lots more colour in it but no idea how to extract it! The literature warns of dulling the colour with too much simmering. Any ideas welcome. I still have the “sludge” in a bucket waiting for inspiration.

Of course I was too busy and tired to remember to take photos. Doh. There were only 5 of us this time and I didn’t have anything to dye myself. I did get a donation of a skein of wool yarn but it still avoided getting itself photographed.

However I do have a Finished Object! Drum roll please…

The Watercolour Quilt


Begun: dyeing – August 2010
Completed:  March 4, 2011

Fabrics:  5 elderly cotton sheets and a couple of curtains, plus 2.5 flannelette sheets that I kept undyed for the “batting”. The rest were “parfait” dyed (technique from Ann Johston’s Colour By Accident) using Procion dyes and soda ash.

Thread:  Signature-QT, 100% cotton, 40-tex, variegated Rusty Orange.

Notes & Comments:  I had collected a number of cotton sheets from both my adopted mom and T-Man’s auntie and wanted to make a rag quilt for the bed as an alternative to our usual wool blankets. After dyeing the cloth I spent quite a long time (months!) slowly tearing it all into 8” pieces and making sandwiches of two pieces of plain cotton with a piece of flannelette in between. I needed 195 of these to make a quilt 15 squares X 13 squares with 1/2” seams. That’s 585 individual squares. I counted.

When all the sandwiches were pinned together I spread them randomly across my study floor and arranged them in rows and columns. I needed two folding tables to support the weight as I sewed them together, wrong sides facing, and I still managed to break about 4 needles in the process. There are the places where the seams come together and the machine has to go through 12 layers of fabric! I’m glad my old workhorse can handle the pressure – even if the #90 needles had occasional difficulties keeping up.

Once the quilt was sewn together I clipped the seam allowances so they would fray. I was a bit afraid to do too close together and didn’t clip right to the seam line either. It was still a very big job and took me about a week to finish. I wore seamless quilter’s gloves which helped avoid blisters and used my sharp little Fiskars sewing scissors.


After all the seams including the edges were clipped I washed the quilt on a full cycle in the washing machine. I have a very large old top loader that pretty much handles everything I throw at it and this was no exception. Lots of lint came out and I should have used the drain sieve! Then into the dryer and I had to clean out the lint trap three times to keep it from completely clogging up. The seams are now maybe not quite as frayed as I’d like but I’m sure they will continue to do so in subsequent launderings so I decided to leave it at one time through the washer and dryer.


The only thing I might have done differently is make it 14 x 14 squares which would have fit our double bed a little better. It’s still shedding some lint but the seam allowances are quite puffy and full which is what I had in mind. We slept under it last night with the Circus Blanket underneath (and a plain sheet). That’s a lot of weight on top of us because they each weigh about 8 lbs! I found it very cosy but definitely not as warm as all wool. Which is kind of the point for an intermediate season’s bed cover, no?