Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday Musings

Notice how well I’m avoiding heading out to the garden today? Unfortunately if I wait too long the weather will deteriorate. Guaranteed. Right now it’s sunny with some high cloud but it’s not really very warm. I’m waiting for it to warm up. Right. Sure.

I was thinking (eep!) about the little shopping trip we did with my sister last Saturday. Please note that we are related through our mutual birth mom but were both adopted out as infants to different families in different cities. We didn’t know of each other’s existence growing up. We only met about 20 years ago – when I was 40 and she was 2 years younger than that. So considering these unusual circumstances we haven’t really done much in the way of Sister Things together. Clothes shopping would seem to be one of them.

D is a little taller and thinner than me with lovely real blonde hair that now is pretty much gone totally white. Looks fabulous actually. I’m envious. Heh. There’s not much in the way of good shopping opportunities in Haida Gwaii – though you can’t beat the peacefulness and the scenery – and her nearest city, Prince Rupert, is a 6-hour ferry ride away. So we went to Mountain Equipment Coop because she wanted to get some good-quality sportswear. MEC is one of those stores that sells clothes for the youthful “athletic” people, obviously not my demographic. Though I love many of their styles and technical garments, nothing and I mean NOTHING! fits me. They are cut too slim in the hips. If the shoulders fit, then the zipper doesn’t meet at the hem. If it goes around my behind, then the shoulders are falling off and the sleeves cover my hands. Phooey. I do not buy clothes there anymore. D, on the other hand did find some cute pants and capris. She also purchased some nice tops that after she got back to our house decided they were not flattering – even after an extended try-on in the fitting room – so she returned them. Guess her body is beginning to succumb to the same issues I’ve got! Clothes need to fit but skim the curves, not get caught up on the lumps. Sigh.

So here I go again. Why, with all us aging baby boomers hunting for clothes that actually fit, don’t they make anything for us? Because apparently it costs too much to manufacture garments for such a small “niche market” and besides nobody buys them anyhow. Obviously there are a lot of women out there wearing clothes that don’t fit or flatter them. Are they unaware of this fact? Are they used to the feel of ill-fitting clothes? Or perhaps just resigned? It’s certainly a good reason to learn to sew and fit your own body better, as I’ve discovered. However the skills, fabrics and notions to make your own technical garments are a lot harder and in some cases impossible to come by. I can’t make a really seam-sealed waterproof rain jacket. Or proper flat-locked stretch cycling shorts with a padded crotch. I can’t even find a source for a silk knit to make some undies. Unless I want thousands of metres and can deal with the Chinese manufacturers. Not.

I think I’m just feeling somewhat resentful that companies like MEC don’t even register the fact that a potential customer might not be shaped like an athlete yet still want to wear the gear. Maybe it’s just not worth it for them to even consider. Maybe I’m just a rare bird? I don’t think so though.

Meanwhile I’m still slowly plugging away on sewing the RoseBunting. I’m nearly finished knitting the Abotanicity Tunic too. Only a few inches of ever-decreasing sleeve to go. It will be so nice to actually finish such a big project and get on to something else. The Watermelon Eyelet baby cardi has gone nowhere and I really want to knit Jared Flood’s Rock Island shawl (Rav link) in black Zephyr silk/wool yarn. I’m feeling the need for a black shawl and this one is so beautiful! I even paid money for the PDF pattern. How unusual for me. Had to. It haunted me until I downloaded it.

Well it’s clouded over more now and Ruby the iTouch is all charged up and ready to play some podcasts for me to listen to while digging weeds. If I wait any longer it might be too late. I’d rather get rained on after I’ve accomplished something out there – rather than before I even get started.

Monday, May 30, 2011

That Was The Week That Was

My! I’ve certainly been slipping with my blog posting lately, haven’t I? Either I’ve been super-busy doing other things or I just have nothing interesting to say. Today it’s raining, T-Man is at work and I have some quiet time to myself.

So what did happen? Gardening, watering, walking, errands, reading, sewing, family visiting, babysitting, cooking…you get the drift. The weather has still been cool and iffy but I’ve been slowly working my way around the front garden, weeding and planting annuals. The veggie garden is about half-planted now and actually starting to produce salad greens along with the daily pick of kale buds and asparagus. The tomatoes are now finally in the dirt in the greenhouse instead of in pots. The shade cloth is up on top though it’s mostly rolled up because it hasn’t been sunny enough to need it quite yet. I made some cute little plaid sandbags to hold the plastic mesh in place because there’s nothing to tie it to. You can just see them hanging here:

Greenhouse2 Greenhouse1

I have to be careful when I roll up the side so the sand doesn’t dribble out of the bags! When unrolled it covers nearly down to the tinted row and helps keep the inside a little cooler in the hot sun from the south-west. The east side will be shaded somewhat when the walnut tree actually gets leaves on it so we don’t have to worry about covering the whole top. Otherwise we would need yet another shade cloth.

I’ve also been sewing a bunting bag for baby Rosebud’s first camping trip coming up next month. I found a McCall’s pattern (M6963) for one with a hood and fold-over mittens:


I decided to download the pattern to avoid it perhaps getting caught in a possible Canada Post strike. (They are threatening us with a 72-hour notice.) Even without a postal strike, it could take ages to get here and I need to get this done before the Annual Family Campout happens in a couple of weeks. I paid a little more than if I’d waited for the $2.88 Memorial Day Weekend sale at BMV. (You’ve got until tomorrow night if you want to take advantage! And Vogues are $3.88. Dirt cheap.) But it still cost less than if I could actually find it in our not-so-local fabric store. It takes more time and effort to print out the pages and piece it together but I found it pretty painless. This time I used a glue stick instead of tape and it worked really well. I adjusted the largest size (12 months) to have a wider and straighter foot section and for a separating zipper and snaps at the bottom so it opens all the way to accommodate Rosebud’s necessary boots and bar. I’m currently about halfway through sewing the bunting using some super-soft fleece with a stretch sweatshirt fabric for the lining, both in a deep rose colour. Even though she might not get much wear out of this thing at least I’ll know she’s not going to be cold sleeping in a tent in the mountains in June! The things a granny will do for her grand-babykins, huh?

Speaking of sewing patterns, I spent quite awhile downloading a heap of them for free from a Russian company, Lekala or Leko (I’m not sure which is the actual name). Their patterns are normally available by email for a fee. You send them your basic measurements and they send you the pattern to fit them. You can also get collections on CD from sewingpatterns.com. They are still fairly standard models though – not adjusted for any particular body fitting issues. Right now the women’s patterns in size 168-100-82-106 (equivalent to BurdaStyle magazine’s 44 or US pattern size 14) are free. It says “one month” on the website but there is no clue as to how long this actually will be available. Since we’re almost at the end of May, it might end tomorrow! Or not. A lot of the styles are very cute and wearable: maybe a smidgen less “fashion-forward” than Burda but much more stylishly European than the Big 4 American companies offerings. For me a 44 is right in the middle of my fitting adjustments: a little big on the shoulders and a little small on the bottom. So it’s a good size for me to start from anyhow. If you can print on A4 paper (metric/European) there is a smaller size that is always free to download for testing. I’m not sure of the exact measurements (maybe a US10?) but the notations on the pattern pieces are in Russian instead of English. Not a big deal really.

The larger drawback with these patterns is there are no instructions unless you can read the Russian “technical description”. For an experienced seamstress it shouldn’t really be a problem but if you need your hand held to know which piece goes where, you can’t rely on the online translators to help with sewing terms and there are no diagrams. A good sewing book is handy to have for the basics anyway. Don’t forget to also save the illustrations so you have a clue what you’re making! And it’s not necessary, but I really enjoyed downloading the “design picture” files to see how the pattern looks as it was actually drafted. They’re a great learning tool even if I can’t read the Cyrillic notations. I went nuts and picked up several dozen of these patterns and now am itching to sew a couple to try them out. But I need to finish the RoseBunting first.

Sorry I really didn’t give anyone much time to take advantage of either the sale at BMV or the free pattern downloads at Leko. Sheesh. Bad damselfly. Busy damselfly.

In other news, T was off work on Friday in lieu of last Monday’s Victoria Day holiday so we went walking in the rain/sunshine. On Saturday we had adventures with one of my sisters who flew south from her home in beautiful Haida Gwaii on business. We took her to Granville Island and she was in heaven buying nuts and fruit to take back home today. Maiwa was a big hit too though neither of us bought anything. She stayed with us Saturday night and then at another sister’s in Surrey last night. It was lovely to see both of them and I made us all a blueberry pancake breakfast yesterday morning when sis #2 came to pick up sis #1. After they left we got the grandbeasties for the afternoon while their parents went to the art gallery. The weather yesterday was lovely so we went to the little local park to play. Later when everyone got back I fed them all ham quesadillas for supper. They were a big hit with the picky beasties! However now I know why I’m kind of tired today. Whew.

Yikes! It’s nearly 11am and I’m still in my jammies. Must. Get. Moving.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who Wore Out Whom?


Baby Rosebud and I had a great time yesterday! I can tell because my hands and shoulders are sore from picking her up and carrying her around for about 5 hours. She’s a big girl at nearly 6 months old – plus those boots and her fancy purple bar add even more weight. I just realised that this is the first time I’ve shown off her spiffy new “skateboard”! She has really strong legs from lifting this thing up in the air. She uses it as a counterbalance and can flip from her back to her tummy in the blink of an eye. She also uses it to nearly sit up by herself except for some occasional “stabilizer malfunctions” which are normal for her development stage. Notice the little knitted monkey puppet in her hand? That was a sweet gift from Pearl at Birkeland Bros Wool when we stopped in for a visit. (Thanks again, Pearl!) And of course we made a yarn purchase. I’m rethinking the cardi that I started in pompon sock yarn. It just wasn’t working out so I started again with thicker yarn: SandnesGarn Smart superwash wool in a watermelon red. More on that project when there’s something to show. First I have to frog what I knit yesterday while Rosebud was napping in the stroller and start yet again with one size smaller needle. Sheesh.

What else to tell? Oh yeah. Here’s one of the buttons on my newest dress that I wasn’t able to show yesterday:


That’s just a bit bigger than life-sized and the other button is the same but a little different in shape and markings. What do you think? Bone or horn? I’m suspecting horn. The shine is a clear applied coating. I have absolutely no idea where I got them or when. Just proves I should keep better notes, huh? The tweedy colour of the fabric is much closer to its real charcoal shade than it appeared in yesterday’s photo.

And there’s more news. While I was babysitting, T-Man managed to sort out the van’s awning problem and now we have a nearly identical new one – just a different colour vinyl – plus it was a lot cheaper than the one that was too big. Although now we realise that our brackets are also bent from the windstorm that broke the original awning and can’t be straightened without a very good chance of breaking them. Cast aluminum is brittle. Hopefully they will still work ok because there are no substitutes available. I’m betting we’ll be a lot more cautious about leaving the awning up overnight in future.

T also managed to stop at Lee Valley and picked up some new drawer handles for me. The two chests of drawers that hold up my big sewing worktable have cheap plastic handles that have gone completely chalky and brittle. (Gee thanks, Ikea. Not.) These new antiqued copper ones are really nice – even if they did cost me over $40 for the 16 that I need which is probably half the worth of one of the chests. On the negative side, the screws are 1/8” too long and need to be ground down to fit which won’t happen quickly. AND one of the packets came without the screws which had escaped through a hole in the plastic bag. Bleh. Why can’t anything be simple? Looks a lot nicer though, huh?


Unfortunately, my current run of rotten luck has not given up yet. This morning I made the mistake of washing my old dusty dirty and very yellowed handwoven curtains from the bedroom and the slightly newer ones from the upstairs studio and study windows. It was a big mistake because the bedroom curtains began to disintegrate in the wash and are now full of holes! And not the lacy woven kind of holes either. I know where I went wrong of course. Last time I washed them (and I’ll reluctantly admit that was at least a couple of years ago) I used that nasty evil chemical known as chlorine bleach. It not only broke down the cotton/linen yarn but also yellowed badly the natural white colour of the curtain fabric. And stupidly I didn’t use anticlor (sodium metabisulphite) afterwards to neutralise it. Doh. I even have some in the dye cupboard. Remind me to completely avoid that nasty bleach stuff in the future, will you? I’m super sensitive to it anyhow. Now I have to seriously contemplate substitute curtains for the bedroom – at least until I can weave some new fabric which probably won’t be until next summer at the rate I’m going with my current projects. Sigh. At least I have suitable yarns in the stash! I’m thankful that the upstairs curtains are unfortunately still somewhat weather-stained but functionally ok – except for being covered with cotton and linen lint.

The weather is lovely today. Too bad I won’t be able to work out in the garden for very long because I’m already sore. I’ll make a stab at it anyhow because there’s just so much to catch up on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wardrobe Makeover Garment #5

It was a busy but mostly unproductive weekend just passed. Oh, wait! It’s Tuesday already, isn’t it? It seems like the days go by in a blur. On Saturday T-Man and I went for a drive in the country. Actually we went to not one, but two different RV suppliers trying to find a replacement for our sadly exploded awning for the VW van. We need to be ready for the first camping trip of the season next month. Of course they don’t make the original version any more. So we ended up buying the New! Improved! Much Better! version but alas, after we got it all the way home we found that it’s much too large and heavy to manage. Plus we couldn’t figure out how to properly attach it to our poor bent-up rain gutter even using the old brackets which are not nearly robust enough to hold the weight. So back it has to go. After phoning to confirm that we could return it T finally found out (and why they didn’t tell us in the beginning is a mystery) that they actually still had one of the original perfectly functional awnings available. It’s burgundy instead of blue but who the heck cares about the colour? So because this one is too heavy for one person to lift, I had to get up with him at the crack of dawn this morning to help get the darned wrong awning back into the van. Naturally the back hatch door wouldn’t open (it does that sometimes just to be perverse) so we slid it in carefully through the passenger window! Whew! The one they are holding for us had better be the right one or I’m going to cry. And T is still kicking himself for not putting the old one away that fateful night last fall when we were camping in a volcano caldera. Who knew a big storm would come up while we were asleep sending a massive blast of wind to literally explode our poor old awning? That dumb mistake is costing us nearly $1000 and a whole lot of angst. And several drives out in the country. At least this time he gets to go by himself after work.

I will instead be babysitting cute baby Rosebud today whilst her parents go to their simultaneous dentist appointments. Of course when they made said appointments they hadn’t birthed Rosebud yet so it didn’t occur to them to make them sequential instead. My gain! Also the weather seems to be improving so hopefully I’ll be able to get out for a little session of mucking about in the dirt later on. It’s been so rainy that all I’ve managed to do was to keep the kale buds and asparagus picked and the plants in pots in the greenhouse watered. They are getting pot-bound and need space to stretch out their roots asap. According to the weatherman (who, as we all know lies!) it’s going to be warming up for at least the next week or so. That should give me some much-needed time to get planting.

In other news, remember this pattern from April?


Yesterday I finally finished the 5th new garment in my Wardrobe Makeover 2011, the Charcoal Dress version View B:


(Obviously I decided that the Black Striped Big Shirt would count as Garment #4!) This is in the same thick rayon/lycra (I think!) double-knit as the Banana Skirt. It turned out pretty well except that I had to tack down the points at the back of the collar. Despite all my best efforts to avoid it, they still flipped up annoyingly until I took a few small stitches underneath. This version is a little longer and less casual than the Green Tunic and I used the pockets and collar as per the pattern. Despite the fitting adjustments that I made (including moving the pockets upward and outward slightly) it looks pretty much like the photo on the envelope. I was going to give you a closeup of the very cool black and cream buttons (bone? horn? not sure) that I found in the Button Stash but my camera batteries died. Oops. I’m going to have to wear this dress several times very soon before it gets too warm for such heavy but very comfy fabric. Notice how that cheeky Debbie Double is always borrowing my clothes?

Next I’m working on adjusting the pattern for another dress:

M7297 M7297_line

This one is an Oldie-But-Goodie from 1994 that I’ve already made twice in long and short versions. This time I’m trying to make it fit a little closer by reducing some of the fullness and it will be the short version with short sleeves. The fabric is a black rayon with a bit of sheen and a slight crinkle texture. Just about ready to cut it out but that will likely have to wait until tomorrow because of all the plans I have for today already.

Meanwhile in knitting news, I’m on good old Sleeve Island trying to finally finish the Abotanicity Tunic. The lacy skirt is done and now it’s just around and around in k2p1 rib while decreasing down at the same time. Not terrifically portable unfortunately. I can hardly wait to cross this one off my list.


Friday, May 13, 2011

A Balanced Life

Now that I’m feeling if not normal at least somewhat recuperated from the Double Whammy or whatever that thing was that hit me two months ago, I’ve been back to my irregularly unscheduled program. That includes taking care of a ridiculous number of plants, most of which need to get into the garden sometime soon if only it would warm up. It also includes my revitalised interest in sewing. Though that did suffer some last week when I exercised my best avoidance techniques and cleaned out the sewing supply drawers instead of actually sewing. At least now I have a newly reorganised work area. I found things I’d forgotten that I had and got rid of some of the junk. It feels really good to at least get one small section completed.

I also made this:


That’s a pincushion in a silver-glazed teacup and saucer. I used a piece of fabric that I had stamped ages ago, stuffed it tightly with wool, wrapped it with cord, stitched on a button and glued it into the cup with Aleene’s Tacky Glue (which is water soluble if I ever decide to recoup the cup). Then I tied two emery strawberries onto the handle and pinned felt flowers with machine needle sizes onto several of the divisions. Now I can keep them separated so I don’t have to go find a magnifier every time I need to read the teensy size on the needle. The saucer holds needle threaders and other small items. I’m so happy that can enjoy the pretty cup and saucer instead of having it hiding forever unused in the buffet.

Now that the Tidy Bug is out of my system, I’m back to working on the charcoal grey dress from Butterick 5244, the same pattern I used for the green tunic back in April. This time I used the welt pockets in the pattern and they were a complete bear to sew in this thick rayon/lycra fabric. I also made kind of a mess of serging the pocket pieces together. The fabric doesn’t fray at all so the rest of the seams will be left as is like I did with the Banana Skirt which was made out of the remnants after cutting out this dress. I’m about halfway finished now. Wish me luck on the collar. I’m worried about working with so many layers that won’t press flat.

If I get bored of sewing, I can always alternate adjusting patterns and cutting out the pieces for some new garments. I have at least a couple of dozen possible items I could make from the stash without buying anything new! The process seems to be going slower than I had planned but it’s not a race, right? However I really don’t want anything to end up in my Sargasso Sea drawer. That’s the one I never really cleaned out in my frenzy. I took out an old project, all cut out and ready to sew, and realised it had been sitting there since sometime in the 1990’s. It’s a hugely oversized shirt with lots of pleats and it’s just not going to work in its current form. I should toss it but I like the fabric, an oatmeal-coloured cotton blend and I keep thinking that I can salvage the thing by cutting it down to fit better. I haven’t though. And there are at least a half-dozen other items in that drawer that are just not working out for one reason or another. I should toss them but I keep hoping for a creative solution to magically happen to rescue them. So I shut the drawer on them.

I did manage to fix two old skirts into something wearable. I patched the hole in the one that I tore last summer when I was riding my bike to the Evil Dermatologist appointment. I covered the mend with a funky black heart leaving the edges raw and roughly stitched on with hand basting. That skirt doesn’t owe me anything. It came from the Sally Ann for $2.50 a decade ago. The other one is even older, a simple faded black cotton tube where the elastic waist had gone all brittle like it sometimes does after 20 years or so. I chopped the top section off and replaced it with a wide folded piece of cotton ribbing that I serged on, kind of like a maternity skirt. It’s a bit loose (the ribbing stretched out some) but it seems to stay up ok and is very comfortable. At least it doesn’t ride up in front like it used to when the elastic was too tight. Both these skirts end somewhere below the knee.

I’ve also been slowly plugging away at knitting on the Abotanicity Tunic. I have one more lace repeat on the skirt and then the sleeves to finish. I just know it’s going to be too warm to wear it by the time I’ve finished the darn thing. I’ve already used up the equivalent of enough yarn for 4 large pairs of socks on this project. One more ball to go.

Monday, May 09, 2011

A Happy Mother’s Day. Almost.

We had a very pleasant Mother’s Day dinner yesterday. The weather cooperated enough to barbeque the pork roast and it was delicious. We had a really good visit with the family and I got to try the green hoodie on Rosebud:


It fits better than I thought it would! The bib kind of spoils the effect by hiding the cute green heart zipper pull but if you look at her drooley chin you will see that it’s a necessary fashion statement. I took a whole bunch of shots all of which seemed to include her tongue sticking out, an expression which translates to mean happiness in Rosebuddian, especially when accompanied by flailing arms and legs. And her grandpa was having a challenge trying to hang on to her. Plus she ended up wearing (and drooling all over) 3 out of the 4 new bibs I made her before they headed home. She’s messy but so adorable!

Unfortunately I made a big mistake and went to check out the damage to my garden from the hailstorm on Saturday. It’s so sad! And very frustrating. So many plants are badly torn and flattened. Here’s the biggest lettuce so you can see how shredded the leaves are:


Poor Esmeralda! Hopefully it will recuperate but I’m really concerned about the coreopsis which was even more decimated:


I’ve already planted some new seeds but they will take awhile to catch up. The blueberries lost a lot of flowers and the walnut tree’s unripened catkins were knocked off onto the ground. It should have been a good year for them but now they will be much reduced. The kale of course held up without a scratch. Man, that stuff is invincible! Even the hailstones madly bouncing off the greenhouse roof didn’t hurt them. I think that was the worst hailstorm I can ever remember. It’s the one that affected me personally the most anyway. It was kind of exciting and exhilarating to watch until I realised how much damage it caused to my garden. (And I’m sure others as well.) There were still pockets of hailstones left 24 hours after the storm was finally over.

In the studio I haven’t been sewing like I ought to. Instead I started dumping out my supply drawers. I spent half a day happily sorting the buttons:


These range from quite new to very vintage to possibly antique. Some are from T-Man’s granny’s button collection which I inherited. Some are from other people’s cast-off collections. A few are from my earliest sewing days or recycled from discarded clothing. And the rest I purchased for various projects and then weren’t used for whatever reason. There are some sets and some singles. Lose a button? I could probably find something closely matching! Now they are arranged in half a dozen old ice-cube trays waiting for a chance to be used. Or passed on yet again.

I also sorted out the zippers and trims, elastics and lace and threw out a bunch of dirty old junk that will never get used. (Have you ever noticed what horrible sleazy fabrics the manufacturers use for commercial bias binding? So much nicer and easy enough to make it yourself.) I bought several plastic baskets from the dollar store to keep everything captured in and they just fill the 2 shallow drawers in my old bureau. The bureau also holds patterns and projects in its 2 big drawers and just fits underneath the slanted ceiling in the south corner of the room. Nice to get it all cleaned out and now I have a better idea of what I have. There are lots more drawers to tackle still so I’m not finished yet.

Speaking of organising, I played some more with the My Stuff app on my iTouch and now have the beginnings of an inventory for my sewing patterns. I experimented with importing and exporting and it worked very well - except for some duplicate entries which were probably my fault for not checking or unchecking an option in the import. Easy to delete them anyhow and I’ll try to figure out how to avoid that next time. Now I can much more easily add items using Excel on my computer instead of thumb-typing on the iTouch screen. The photos don’t get passed back and forth unfortunately so they need to be added with the iTouch, very easy with the built-in camera. However they do get saved with the Backup feature and can be Restored if necessary. My Stuff seems like a really adaptable and powerful database application and you could use it to keep track of anything really. When I’m done the patterns I hope to start adding the fabrics, most of which I already have in an Excel file.

Did you see the latest issue of Threads magazine, #155 (June/July 2011)? They have an article on fabric shopping in Vancouver featuring all my favourite places! The only one I hadn’t heard of was the leather shop. Otherwise they hit all the highlights including Outdoor Innovations (right in my own neighbourhood), Button Button, good old Dressew and my fave magazine shop. If I’d known it featured a photo of Mayfair, I’d have shown it to them when I bought the issue there! It makes a complete circle, don’t you think? Mayfair in Threads in Mayfair…OK, I’ll stop now.

I need to go wash yesterday’s massive pile of dishes. No, I wouldn’t let anyone do them for me. It would have interrupted the fun and anyway I don’t mind.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

All Hail Spring

T-Man and I weren’t able to go for our usual long walk yesterday afternoon because it was pouring rain. It was still pouring this morning but near noon it nearly stopped so we grabbed our umbrellas (just in case) and finally headed out. As we walked along the sun even came out a few times and we warmed up enough to take off an outer layer of clothing. However by the time we got to our destination, Mayfair magazine shop, it was sprinkling rain again. As we headed back toward home it drizzled a little on and off but nothing serious. We stopped at Kin’s Market for fruit and veggies and by then it was starting to rain a little more in earnest. So of course a few blocks later we dove into our favourite sushi place for a late lunch (or perhaps early dinner) to see if we could wait it out. Unfortunately while we were eating the big black cloud overhead started dumping rain and hail like crazy. After we had finished our sushi we got out our umbrellas and dashed one more block to Black Dog Video where we picked a movie to watch tonight. Of course the deluge still didn’t stop so we were forced to head back into the by now pea-sized hailstones.

I think that was the most I’ve ever been hailed on! My goodness. It was wild! We were both soaked to the skin, umbrellas notwithstanding, in the 4 blocks home from Black Dog. Good thing we didn’t try to wait it out any longer because it only got worse still after we got home. Here’s my back porch and deck:


That big puddle just outside the back door is where the eves trough is plugged with ice and is dumping water all over. And here’s my poor veggie garden under an inch of hailstones:


You can hear the pounding on the greenhouse roof from inside the house! Good thing the most delicate stuff is still not planted yet. The cucumbers and squashes are just coming up inside under the lights and the beans aren’t going in until at least next week. I’m not taking any more chances. Global Weirding indeed. Now the sun is coming out! I’m sure it’s only temporary though.

At least now I hope I have enough food to feed the kids tomorrow when they come for dinner. I missed Easter by being too sick to do anything exciting so now that I’m somewhat better I decided to have it tomorrow instead. Along with Nana (T’s mom), our kids and grandkids, that makes 4 generations all together for Mother’s Day. No gifts or cards – just a pleasant afternoon of visiting and sharing a meal together. I’m so looking forward to it.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Happy Blogiversary To Me!

Damselfly’s Delights is SIX YEARS OLD today!

And this is Post #1,135. Whoo-hoo! Yes, even I’m impressed with me and my “stick-to-it-ness”. Thanks, Blogger, for giving me a place to babble to my little heart’s content. And an especial huge thanks to my Dear Readers! Sending you certified germ-free cyber-kisses. Without you all it would just be me babbling to myself. I do that anyway but still…it’s nice to know you’re there.

Our Spectrum Study Group, or at least half of our number, met yesterday and we had a good play with the red bug dyes: cochineal and lac. Of course I forgot my proper digital camera so these are craptastic out-of-focus images from Ruby, my iTouch:

SilkChenille in Lac

This is the lac bath showing some gorgeous silk chenille that just slurped up the deep grape colour. And here’s a bubbly scarf in (I think) tencel and wool also in the lac but not yet simmered very long:

Tencel & Wool Scarf in Lac

It ended up quite a lot darker and the two fibres are quite different shades of burgundy, one more purple and one more red. The other bath was cochineal:

Cochineal Bath

And for once we actually got true red instead of purple. No idea what caused the shift apart from a different batch of bugs! It did go a little more to the crimson side as it simmered than this photo shows. Usually no matter what I do I get a purple rather than anything that could be described as red. Natural dyeing = Magic. Definitely not predictable. At least to me.

I brought my skeins home bagged individually wet and not yet rinsed and waited until today to rinse them out. Consequently these are still wet so the final shades will be lighter:

Lac and Cochineal

From the left, that’s 12% lac powder on rayon pre-mordanted with alum acetate, lac exhaust on wool pre-mordanted with rhubarb leaf, and 5% cochineal (crushed bugs) on wool pre-mordanted with alum acetate. Interestingly, the cotton ties on the cochineal-dyed skein are purple even though the wool is red! Mysteries.

Lac – extracted from the insect resin used to make shellac. advantages: a little cheaper, easy-to-dissolve powder, extremely light and washfast on silk and wool; disadvantages: unpleasant odour, muted colours, hard to rinse out excess dye.

Cochineal – from bugs that are cultivated on nopal cactus. advantages: high dye content, excellent light and washfastness, wide range of bright colours; disadvantages: expensive, dried bugs need to be crushed and dye colour extracted.

As usual, I’m quite happy with the results. Though you could say I’m pretty easy to please because I think all the natural colours are beautiful in their own way. And they all go together amazingly well too. I was glad to find out that the fine yarn really was rayon and dyes easily because I still have at least a kilo of the stuff. I know. I need to get weaving again some day soon, don’t I?

Next Spectrum will be here in my dye studio as we play with madder. At least it smells better than that stinky lac!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Take That!

I just read Deborah Robson’s most impressive rebuttal to the wrong-headed notion that using sheep’s wool is cruel. Much better than the open-mouthed jaw-drop I pulled when confronted with this statement as I was demonstrating spinning at a public event. I think I mumbled something about "Are *you* hurt and traumatized when you get a haircut?" and bit my tongue on pointing out that only a complete idiot would buy the idea that shearing is cruel to the sheep rather than necessary for their comfort and health. Obviously they needed educating on proper animal husbandry practices. Don’t miss the great comments too. (Yes, it includes mine but the others are well worth a read.)

Speaking of Deb Robson, I also downloaded her Interweave video “Handspinning Rare Wools”. It’s a huge file and took 2 tries with my highspeed cable modem but I got it eventually. Haven’t had a chance to watch it yet but I know it got some excellent reviews. Now I’m waiting for her book on the same subject. Should be out soon. I’ll try to remember to write up a review of both eventually. I do think wool is really my favourite fibre.

So I have been busy. Remember those stalks of rhubarb I picked the other day? I used the leaves as a mordant for a skein of 20/2 wool yarn. Amazingly 5 big leaves cooked down to about a cup and a half of pulp:


Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and the pot didn’t smell particularly pleasant so I had the fan going full-on the whole time and even kept it on for an hour after I turned off the stove. The skein of yarn weighed about 100g and I popped it in to the yellow-green bath left after removing the pulp:


Then I simmered it for about 40 minutes, turned off the heat and left it to cool overnight. It took several rinses for the water to come clear and the yarn retains the yellow base colour:


This will of course affect the subsequent dye colour in interesting ways. We’re working with lac and cochineal reds tomorrow so I’ll show the final colour of this yarn in the next post. Rhubarb leaf is a fairly effective mordant more suited for use on protein fibres than cellulose. Dyers use it when they want to keep their processes entirely vegetal, avoiding the more common metal salts. It tends to be pH sensitive so anything dyed with rhubarb leaf should be washed with a neutral detergent or the colours will shift in unexpected ways. I just think it’s fun to get colours from my garden, especially from something that would have become compost anyhow.

The weather was quite lovely yesterday afternoon so I spent a few more hours in my garden. Got most of the dye garden planted now. Hopefully they will get a chance to pick up now that they’re out of their cramped pots. The madder is coming up – all but one of the roots that I replanted. The two woad plants (one regular, one Chinese) which I left in for seeds are budding out on tall stalks. Now that the bed is expanded, I’ve got more room for new things like the Japanese indigo and some calendula. Got quite a potential rainbow there now!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Summer Is A’Comin’ In And Winter’s Gone Away

Jeepers! It’s May already! Where did April go? Oh yeah, it was eaten by the Green Slime Viruses. How could I forget when they are still hanging around? Ewww….grossed myself out with that image…sorry.

This weekend was absolutely glorious. Sunny, relatively warm and I finally felt well enough to participate in it. Yay! Both on Saturday and on the even-nicer Sunday we got out for walks and also had some quality time in the garden. My kale patch has celebrated its First Birthday:


The plants come up to my chin now and are very homely in looks but are producing a bucketful of flower buds every week for our eating pleasure. How come kale buds aren’t available in the stores? You can get the big old leaves but not the much more tender flower buds, picked before the flowers open. They taste much better than broccoli and are very high in all the good things for you. Perhaps people don’t realise they’re edible? Or maybe farmers don’t keep the kale in the ground all winter until they bolt like I do? I harvested some of the most tender leaves quite often even in February. Since this is my first experience with growing kale, I want to see how long they will survive and keep producing! That’s a 3-litre bucket here in case you needed some size context:


And it’s not the first full one I’ve picked from perhaps a dozen plants total! There’s a few purple sprouting broccoli florets in that bucket as well. I also picked my first rhubarb for sauce. I saved those gorgeous big leaves to use for mordanting a skein of yarn that will be dyed later this week with my Spectrum Study Group. The rhubarb sauce was delicious for breakfast this morning mixed with yogurt (half plain and half lemon) and sprinkled with granola. Yum. Now I’m impatiently waiting on our first asparagus of the season. Lots of spears are showing up but they’re not big enough yet. It’s just been too cold for everything so far.

I did get a few items actually planted into the garden but there’s a lot still waiting in flats in the greenhouse:


I’m not yet brave enough to leave the tomatoes out in there overnight so it’s the usual daily schlep out and in again. Some of the other stuff can really go in the dirt now but today it’s raining so I get an impromptu holiday. I also managed to get my cucumber and squash seeds planted inside in pots. They won’t go out until sometime in June but at least this way they get a bit of a head start. No, I haven’t planted any beans yet. Not for a couple of weeks still. But my peas are a couple of inches tall! There are gaps in the rows though so I’ll probably have to poke a few more seeds in there. I have mixed up several varieties of snap and snow peas because why bother to grow the kind where you have to throw away the pods?

Of course I have lots more to do out there (barely glanced at the front garden so far!) but it’s kind of an ongoing project. Must pace myself. However I think I really enjoy puttering in the dirt even more than I used to. I guess it’s just become another one of those creative outlets that I seem to thrive on. T-Man is working hard too pruning and mulching and doing all the stuff that’s too hard for me, especially if it calls for Powered Machines! He’s also going to build me a planter box now that he has eliminated some of the laurel beside the veggie garden next to the fence. It’s a nice sunny spot that I’m happy to reclaim. And we both want butternut squashes for which there wasn’t any space before.

OK, if I can’t work outdoors today then I’m off to play in my studio instead. Lots more sewing waiting for me plus I need to wind some skeins of yarn and get them mordanted. Always something exciting to do around here! No such thing as boredom in my world. This pounding headache could go bye-bye now however. Maybe it’s the weather change?

P.S. If you’re Canadian, get your rump out there and help vote that proroguing, contempting-of-parliament, hyper-conservative, creepy guy out of office, please? I’m just waiting for T to get home from work and then we’ll do our tiny part. If you don’t vote, then you can’t bitch.