Monday, January 30, 2012

Make Do & Mend

Yup. I’ve been up to my old tricks, fixing stuff just so I don’t have to go buy new ones. I’ve been repairing my shoes. First I finally got some slipper soles to fix my poor 2-year-old slipper socks. These are by Boye:


They’re suede leather with fleece insoles and little holes punched all around. Although they come with a simple pattern for both knitted and crocheted slipper socks, I just stitched my old ones in (after sewing up the holes in the bottoms - again!):


They fit perfectly! Even if they are rather blindingly white. One repair down.

Next I tackled my Birkenstocks. The cork soles were starting to come apart badly especially at the toes. I used some ShoeGoo which is great stuff! Stinky but effective. I poked as much glue into the cracks as possible using a bamboo skewer, lightly clamped the toes and waited until that layer dried. Then I wore a vinyl glove and used a finger to “paint” the whole of the exposed cork with another layer of Goo. They are much more stable and although they look a little funky (shiny!) are going to last a lot longer now:


Then I fixed my poor old Blundstone Wedges. They don’t even make this style anymore. Maybe because of the crappy soles on these things. They were pretty much worn through and cracked right to the inner soles:


There were actual caves under there! Even though it cost nearly as much as new boots to get complete new soles put on, I would have done that except that the elastic gores are also wearing out. So not worth a major repair job. Instead, to extend their life a little longer I Gooed ’em:


That’s two layers and I just might add one more to be good. I put a lot of kilometres on these bad boys! They’re the only black Blunnies I have at the moment. The other two pairs are brown and red which I love, but black is my go-to colour for shoes. Yeah, I know. I wear such elegant footwear, don’t I?

Now that I’m on a roll, I just might resurrect my ancient and extremely comfy rubber boots, locate the holes that I know are there and fix them too! My poor wellies deserve some TLC too. I’ve only had them for about 30 years or so. The spiders will be sad to be evicted, I’m sure.

So instead of buying new shoes, I bought a bra-making kit from Bra-Maker’s Supply (Hamilton, ON) instead. The pattern:


This is the Classic Bra by Beverly Johnson. I like this style a lot and hope to get some good use out of this pattern. In the package I also got two bra kits with all of the supplies. Here’s the chocolate one:


Isn’t it yummy? I lightened up the photo a little so you can see the details. There are two different fabrics, one for the band with lots of stretch and one for the cups with minimal stretch. There’s also 5 different elastics: under band, top band, trim, strap, and channelling. The hardware packet includes a 2x3 hook closure, sliders, rings and a bow to finish it off. I also got a similar kit in black.

Lastly the most important part of the package:


The BOOK! (Yes, I know it looks like a CD but it takes up less space that way.) It’s really detailed, 235 pages, and I’ve been reading madly. Learned a lot too even though I’m only half way through. However, I’m still afraid to cut out the fabric yet! I keep vacillating on the size. I already traced off the 36C which matches my current bras but I think I really need the D. I do know that like most women I’ve never ever ever worn the right bra. So I guess I’m just going to have to jump in and cut a single D cup, sew it together and try it on. That’s the only way I’m going to find out. And even then, there may be surprises. Oh well. There’s always more fabrics being made, right? Or I can always cut it down. I think I’ll start with the black one. I don’t want to mess up the chocolate. I’ve never had a chocolate bra before.

Whilst I’ve been studying and dithering, I did manage to cut out the Sweat Skirt from the 24” of fabric length left over from my Green Tunic. I was so happy that I was able to get the big pockets that I wanted too! I didn’t think I had enough but squeezed the pocket pieces in between the front and back pieces by folding the fabric differently. Bad ASCII version:  <_> instead of < Anyway, you get the drift I hope. Now I need to go sew.

Friday, January 27, 2012


If you need another review of the Dennic Chunman Lo patternmaking book there’s a really good one here. I agree with her evaluation 100% and she’s a much better writer than I am! There’s also a lot more pictures. Enjoy.

Also thanks muchly for the lovely comments on my recent FOs! To the Knotty Spinster: the link to the Hitchhiker’s Ravelry page was there but it was a little invisible after I changed the text colour. Sorry about that. I always include a pattern link if one is available. Try this one instead. Unfortunately it’s only available through Ravelry but you can buy it separately or together with 3 other delightful shawlette patterns. I want to knit them all. Eventually.

So I have been slowly working on my Embers Cowl now that I’ve fixed the last major error. I had accidentally missed one of the three stitches in an SSSK several rows down so I had one extra stitch that confused the heck out of me for awhile. Found it with good light and a lot of patience! Now I’m zooming along again and just about finished the 3rd repeat whereupon I need to change needle tips to a smaller size to narrow the cowl at the top. I love my Addi Lace Cliks, especially when I can use a cable that gives me a 16” length. Perfect for this qiviut cowl. Isn’t it pretty?


I can’t tell if the colour is accurate for you. It’s a dark warm red. It looked good on my camera but needed tweaking on my screen. I may have gone too far! Hope not. It’s so luscious.

Gotta go cut out my skirt. I now have a pattern and the leftover green sweatshirt fabric from my Green Tunic. Let’s hope I can fit the pattern on the fabric. It’s going to be tight! A cliff-hanger…

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Patternmaking Books In Review

Today, kiddies, I’m feeling like a discussion on patternmaking (aka pattern drafting or pattern cutting) and pattern fitting is in order. As you all know (or are beginning to suspect) I have a lot of books. Also way back in the Dark Ages I took sewing and pattern drafting classes, so I think I’m a little bit qualified to comment though I am reminded why I quit sewing when things weren’t working out so well. However I recently feel that my understanding has undergone several quantum leaps. I’m re-energised and really enjoying my return to garment sewing. All because I’m now finally getting the kind of results that make me happy. Now if only I could get my young skinny-minnie body back. Sigh. Oh well.

No, I was not inspired to take a new patternmaking course. I figure that the amount I have spent on books is actually less than that would have cost – plus I’d probably still need to buy books anyway. Also I have discovered that no one single source has all the information that I need to really comprehend the techniques. There are a lot of publications out there, particularly new ones with good photos and illustrations, that really helped my understanding. The advances of the internet search engines and the generosity of sewing bloggers with their tutorials have also contributed. And let’s not forget PatternReview, BurdaStyle and the Stitcher’s Guild Sewing Forum online. Just ask and someone will answer. Resources that I sure didn’t have back in the day.

I’ve found that sewing books come in several categories. There are the ones that are trying to inspire you to get started making your own clothes, with included patterns or cutting diagrams and garments that have relatively simple lines and fitting. These are great if your body shape and style are compatible. Some titles are Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch, Twinkle Sews by Wenlan Chia, I Am Cute Dresses by Sato Watanabe and Simple Modern Sewing from Shufu To Seikatsu Sha. There are lots more coming out and many are translations of Japanese books. The drawback is that if you have a larger figure especially in the bust, there will be issues. You need to learn how to fit the garments to your body and decide whether the style will look good on you. These issues usually aren’t discussed in any depth in these titles. More research! Always.

If the simple garment approach isn’t working for you, then you need to deal with more complex patterns. Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit by Steffani Lincecum uses existing garments to create a pattern that you can then play with to get different garments. How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns by Lee Hollahan gives you instructions on adjusting commercial patterns or creating basic blocks to then manipulate further. Working with commercial patterns is also the main focus of a number of fitting books. The ones that work best for me are Fit For Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto and Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina. Other older but excellent ones are The Perfect Fit from Creative Publishing International and Fantastic Fit for Every Body by Gale Grigg Hazen.

You really need these fitting skills because the industrial-level patternmaking books don’t actually consider body shapes outside the standard ones. The first book of this type that I bought back in the 1980’s was Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich. (This book is still available, updated to the 5th edition.) Although the styles are dated in my copy, the information and the many line drawings are very helpful in seeing how the basic measurements work to create blocks (slopers) and thence how to go from there to get different styles. Of course that still wasn’t enough information for me so I recently bought the large and expensive Patternmaking Made Easy (Second Edition) by Connie Amaden-Crawford. This book is a college-level course in itself! And well worth the outlay. But then I heard about a new book that seemed really interesting and perhaps a good balance to Connie’s. It also got good reviews from others in the business.

PatternMaking book

Patternmaking by Dennic Chunman Lo in my opinion is quite fabulous! Artsy cover dress aside, it has a more organic and holistic perspective on what can be a pretty dry exercise – even while the focus is on building skills for the fashion industry. I’ve really only read about half the book so far and already had several ah-ha! moments. Yes, there are standard measurements but the mathy bits relate to them in a way that can be extrapolated to different sizes. There are practical applications and there are also inspirational (or what I consider fantasy) garments. There’s even a chapter introducing CAD-CAM pattern cutting. This book may not include everything you might want to know, but it does explain why better than any other text I’ve seen.

Lastly there are the books exclusively for “inspirational” patternmaking: Pattern Magic, Pattern Magic 2 and the soon-to-be-released Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics by Tomoko Nakamichi. These books document amazing imagination and skill in creating flat patterns for unusual garment shapes. Pure fun.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to free myself from the limitations of the offerings from commercial pattern companies. Not only do they not fit correctly, they are mostly very far from my style. So far I’m finding my new personal blocks are truly time-saving devices! My next effort is to reverse-engineer my shoulder princess blocks back into a regular darted bodice and skirt. It’s actually not hard. After that I will need to break down and finally make an actual muslin to test it. And then on to…gulp! Pants! If the worse comes to worst, I always have my favourite pair of yoga pants to trace. Heh. Yes, I believe in cheating. OK, it’s not cheating. Whatever it takes to get the desired results. Tracing, frankenpatterning, drafting, tissue paper confetti. I’m all over it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rainy Weekend

It was windy and rainy pretty much all weekend so, apart from a quick foray for groceries during a gap in the weather, we lazed around reading and drinking copious cups of tea. OK, I always drink copious cups of tea. But I didn’t even get out of my jammies yesterday and T-Man finished an entire book in one day. Talk about relaxing!

Unfortunately though, T is starting to feel quite stressed about his job. The American-owned company he works for is in Chapter 11 and even though he plans to retire very soon, he’s feeling the tension in the workplace. He has stomach-aches and heartburn. Something needs to settle out now so he can get out of the holding pattern. Even though his head is in a confident place, his tummy isn’t listening.

Even though I’ve been super-lazy, I do have some FO’s to show off. First up:

Hitchhiking to Saturn


For: me

Begun: December 29, 2011

Completed: January 12, 2012

Yarn: Schachenmayr nomotta Regia Galaxy Saturn, colourway 1576 (Janus: rusts/tan/peach), dyelot 34976, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, 420m = 100g. Purchased at Dressew for $.99!

Needles: Addi Lace circular, 3.25mm.

Hitchhiker_detPattern: Hitchhiker by Martina Behm. Purchased as one of a trilogy of 4 patterns. (No that’s not a typo!)

Comments: After one of my weavers’ guild members showed up with a Hitchhiker knitted from her lovely handspun, I just had to have this pattern! It’s not so much a shawlette as a triangular scarf. An easy pattern to knit. I didn’t even need the row counter after a couple of repeats. Very nice for highly variegated yarns. I used only one ball of yarn and got 35 points which is slightly smaller than the 42 points achievable with a 150g skein of Wollmeise. It’s still 6 feet long though so still long enough to wrap around nicely.

Next we have some sewing:

Cowl-Neck Tunic

For:  me

Date: January 2012

Fabric:  Rayon-lycra double-knit, black, purchased from Dressew. Approximately 1.5 metres of 60” wide fabric.

Notions:  Gutermann sewing thread and serger thread, black.

Pattern:  Began with Vogue 8699, View B:

Vogue8699 Vogue8699line

Modified:  I used my new basic shoulder, armhole and sleeve blocks to get a better fit than the original. Kept the neckline and hem as-is. I had to shorten the collar by 1” because I ran out of fabric. I also stitched it on by skewing the underside over 4” to give a more bubbled look to the cowl. I like the look that gives. Makes me feel very “Marcy Tilton”!

Comments: I used both the sewing machine and the serger to put this top together. The sewing went very quickly and easily. It fits very well although I’m currently carrying a little too much post-holiday fluff around the middle! Need to get serious about doing something about that.

I can foresee using this pattern as a basis for several new tops with sleeve, collar and hem variations.

Notice that in the photos I’m wearing the matching black Banana Skirt and a new necklace. Want to see it closer?

Camel Necklace


Completed:  January 2012

Materials:  silk, rayon and cotton threads, all dye samples or other leftover bits; buttons and beads from the stash; polyester upholstery thread.

CamelNecklace_det Pattern:  Camel Necklace, technique from a class project by Jannie Taylor (weaver, San Luis Obispo, CA).

Comments:  One of our Spectrum members, Cathie, took this class at a recent conference and shared the results with the group. The Camel Necklace took a lot of work to make but all the materials were from my (admittedly copious) stash. All it cost me was the time to put it together. We had to make tassels, wrap cords, stitch buttons and add beads to join things together. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not. It took me one session to make the tassels, one to make the wrapped cords, 2 Spectrum meetings and one final session to finish it up.

I blocked it afterwards by spritzing with water and combing out the tassels and then leaving it to dry. Looked much better! Now I’m a very well-dressed camel.

So what else is new? I’m halfway through the latest pair of socks for my daughter-in-law. She has holes in the first pair I made her. I’m also plugging away on my qiviut neckwarmer, the Embers Cowl. I made a mistake somewhere so I need to sit down and take out a section – again. It’s not a complex pattern but somehow I keep screwing it up! At least I can fix the errors eventually. After all this is qiviut. 100% musk ox down. Nearly $100 for a single tiny little ball. Scrapping the project is not an option. Am I weird to think this was a nicer birthday gift than any old gold and diamonds? Not that anyone who actually knows me would ever give me gold and diamonds. (Hint: silver and polished rocks. Heh. Or better still, vicuna and qiviut.)

On the sewing front, I’m continuing to refine my basic block patterns for both stretch and woven fabrics. Not moving very fast but then it’s not a race, is it? I also ordered a bra-making kit from Bra-Makers Supply in Ontario. I got the CD bundle which includes the book on CD (searchable!) plus a pattern and the materials to make 2 bras, one black and one chocolate. I have long wanted to learn how to make my own bras because I can never get them to fit me properly and I hate the options available. I want colourful fabrics but I also want them simple: no padding, wire or frou-frou lace and bows. More on this later, you can be sure.

I’ve also been reading one of the new books that I bought with my Chapters/Indigo gift certificate that I got for Solstice from Milord and Milady Daughter. Yes, I spent more than the value of the certificate. Why do you ask? Oh – moving right along. The book is Patternmaking by Dennic Chunman Lo and it’s a keeper. As soon as I’m done perusing it, I’ll give you a review.

Have I made up for lost time yet?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I’ve Been MIA

Sorry about that! My sister had a wonderful visit. We spun yarn; we dyed yarn; we knitted; we shopped; we ate and drank. We did not take photos. Oops. She and her family are now in San Diego and will soon depart on a (very safe) cruise to Hawaii. And I’m left here in the Deep Freeze! It’s been ridiculously cold for the last few days with a skiff of snow. I’ve shovelled, or more accurately, swept – twice. Tomorrow it threatens to warm up and rain it all away again. Winter in Lotus Land is very unpredictable. Either we’re complaining about the grey and the rain or we’re complaining about the wee bit of ice on the streets and the need to clean off the sidewalks before 10am (city ordinance). No pleasing some people.

On the crafty front, I’ve finished a few items but haven’t written them up yet. I have some photos (yay!) but they’re still in my new camera. I have also recently received an email from a weaver with many questions on an article I wrote for the now-defunct Weaver’s magazine way back in the dark ages of the ‘90’s. I do NOT remember the details and so far I haven’t located either the article or my notes. She wants to weave it this week. Ummm…

Doing well here, aren’t I?

I have to admit though, it was a lot of fun to spend some quality time with with my sister, D:


She’s two years younger than I am but we only met 20 years ago. (We are half-siblings and were both adopted out separately. It’s a long story.) But right away we discovered that she loves many of the same things that I do. She had a loom, a spinning wheel and angora bunnies. Me too. (Though I no longer have the bunnies.) Interesting, doncha think, in light of the fact that we both grew up in different families in different cities? Genetics. However, she resembles our mother and I don’t. Genes are funny things. Heh. Doncha just love her beautiful silver hair? Envy.

So for the first time ever with nearly a week to ourselves, I managed to give D a few pointers on her spinning. She was rusty but reasonably competent. The problems she was having was with her Louet S-90 wheel (yes, just like mine!) which needed a new drive band. I set her up with a piece of S’getti String (round plastic lacing) but it wasn’t a total solution for her because it kept jumping off the whorls. It worked well enough though to get a number of skeins spun so she could learn how to dye-paint them. We went to Birkeland Bros for some wool and Maiwa Supply for dyes so she can do more spinning and dyeing when she gets home. She also spent time at Maiwa deciding on some of the beautiful Ajrakh block-printed duvet covers and coordinating pillow cases for her guest house in Haida Gwaii. So fabulous.

And there was even more shopping. We went on a pilgrimage to Voyageur Soap and Candle in Langley. D makes her own soap and other bath items so she had mail-order experience with this company but had never actually been there before. She picked up some potassium lye which can’t be mailed to her and a bunch of cute soap moulds. I managed to squeak out of there with only a few new jars for cream and lip balm. Somehow I keep giving them away. Don’t know how that happens.

Interestingly, although D can crochet she was unfamiliar with knitting (as was our mom) so after she dye-painted her yarn in fun bright colours we had a knitting lesson. Because she was already able to crochet, I showed her how to knit Continental style which is the way I’ve knit since I learned from a German friend in the ‘70’s. I never wanted to go back to the English method that I learned as a child and now I can barely knit that way any more. At least Continental uses the same tension system as crochet so it’s a little easier to learn for someone with those skills. After a period of awkwardness and a few mistakes, D was doing pretty well. I know she was having fun because she packed up her yarn and knitting to take with her on the cruise!

Now the house is much too quiet. Last night I slept like a log for about 11 hours and feel much brighter. Obviously we aren’t used to having guests in our little house! They were great anyway and didn’t mind the rather primitive conditions. We only had D’s husband and teenaged son for one night but they’ll be stopping through on the way home again.

And I need to get back to accomplishing something other than food, laundry, dishes and entertaining. Tonight is my weavers’ guild meeting. Hope it doesn’t snow like it’s supposed to. I’d like to get home safely before it warms up and turns to rain tomorrow. More anon. Maybe even with pictures!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Couple of FO’s

Trying to make up for lost time here!

Madder Rose Shrug


Begun:  December 6, 2011
Completed:  January 8, 2012

Pattern:  Shawl Collar Vest by Amanda Berka, free pattern from Unicorn Books & Crafts. Knit largest size: 40”.

MadderShrug_backYarn:  Handspun wool, dyed in the roving with alum/home-grown madder root, spun DK/light worsted weight 2-ply. 4 skeins, approx. 324g = 848yds total. Had a small amount left over from these.

Needles:  Addi Lace Cliks, 5mm. Switched to Addi Lace circular, 5mm, part way through after difficulty with Clik tip.

Comments:  My yarn was somewhat finer than the called-for worsted but I used the same needle size and the unblocked piece came out very close to the correct size. It relaxed quite a bit after blocking. The finished shrug is more drapey and oversized than the other versions on Ravelry. I didn’t put the button in that I’d planned because it didn’t end up in the correct place. I’ll just pin it closed with my shawl stick.

Obviously I broke down yesterday and put Debbie in front of the dining room window to try to get some pictures. They aren’t ideal but they’re better than nothing, no? Of course today it’s sunny! I also tried a new plug-in for Windows Live Writer – a Flickr image importer. I can’t make cute drop shadows on them though. At least I can use the pictures that are already in Flickr. Doesn’t save any time but it’s a little less duplication of files. Of course, I’ll still need to insert some photos the other way so you’ll see both varieties.

Yoke Dress


Completed:  January 4, 2012

Pattern:  Self-drafted using my basic stretch blocks and Style Arc’s Laura Dress as inspiration.

Fabric:  Black/gray novelty slinky knit, purchased at Fabric Depot in Portland, OR. Used about 1 yd of my 2-yd piece. Contrast yoke and sleeves used scraps of black rayon/lycra double-knit, purchased at Dressew. (At least I think these are proper fabric descriptions! I never keep good enough notes when purchasing. You’d think I’d know better, huh?)

Notions:  Gutermann sewing thread, black. Serger thread, black.

Comments:  I really like this simple t-shirt-dress. It’s comfortable and yet a little dressier than my usual garb. I used both the sewing machine and the serger to put it together. I’m happy that the top-stitching doesn’t show on the pockets because they are probably a little wonky! They are a single layer of the contrast fabric inside and utilising the dress front as the top layer. I stitched both layers together from the back so I could see where I was going. The top and bottom edges of the opening were zig-zagged through all layers from the outside at the seam line to reinforce. I probably should have used a proper facing instead of turning under and topstitching the opening. It’s functional though. I like having pockets. My inspiration didn’t have any.

I could have made the front yoke slightly wider and the shoulders are a tad wide, whether from the neckline stretching out a little or a need for another tweak of my basic stretch bodice blocks. I may have added too much when I adjusted the shoulder width. However I did stay the shoulder seams with lace so they shouldn’t stretch at all and I stay-stitched the neckline before applying the narrow facing. I used a strip of crosswise stretch but had to piece it. That’s how short of fabric I was at the end!

One last garment left to go out of the “4-2-5 Collection” (4 garments from 2 pieces of fabric, 3 metres of double-knit and 2 yards slinky). This one is the Cowl-Neck Tunic based on Vogue 8699, but heavily adjusted using my shoulder-princess block to fit me better in the shoulders. It’s nearly done and I should have it finished today. Only need to apply the collar and sleeves and twin-needle the hems. I’ll be sure to double-check the fit of the shoulders before sewing the sleeves in permanently this time.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Quick & Dirty

Just a drive-by post since I can’t get a photo of my new Yoke Dress or my now-completed Madder Rose Shrug. It’s been dark and rainy and I just couldn’t get motivated enough to cajole T-Man into taking pictures. I wish that I had an area in my house that’s clear and bright enough for photo shoots but no. Apparently I have to cover every single wall with something. I have a couple of folding closet doors that would work but they are too far away from any window. I am not a fan of flash but much prefer real daylight. Of which there isn’t much around here this time of year. Standing out in the rain is not exactly an option. Sigh.

Then there’s the question of how to take the pics. He’s a dear man but T is not much of a fashion photographer. And I’m not much of a model either! I’ve tried using a tripod and timer but it’s not an improvement. I almost always look wooden and stupid to my own eyes. Not much better than Debbie Double except that I have a head and arms. And more than one leg. I quite envy the great photos that other bloggers seem to manage to get. Props, motion, liveliness! Perhaps I might do better if I really cared enough to try harder. Ya think? It’s hard to justify the time and effort though. I just want to get on to the next thing!

The jury is still out on whether or not I really like how the shrug turned out. I wasn’t able to put the button in because it fell in the wrong place at the seam lines. I’ll probably pin it closed instead. The way this sweater is shaped and constructed it feels to me like there is too much back and not enough front on it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. I’ll get back to you on this when I try wearing it a few times and the jury finishes deliberating.

Meanwhile I didn’t get much else accomplished this weekend. I was in Reading Mode, having perused a metric tonne of new-to-me sewing blogs and finished most of a historical-fantasy paperback. I even have a pile of dirty dishes to wash today to prove that I was a layabout. Except for yesterday when we walked downtown to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Excellent – though I feel like I’ve seen that movie somewhere before? But somehow Mikael looks a little bit like James Bond this time. Doesn’t have his moves though. Go figure.

So if you don’t hear too much from me in the next while it’s because my sister is coming on Thursday to visit for a week. We will be spinning, knitting, eating and shopping. She lives in heartbreakingly beautiful but isolated Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) and goes a little nuts when confronted with a city’s worth of options. Can’t blame her, can you?

Go do something useful, Damselfly!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Defining My Style

I’m heading out to a Spectrum Study Group meeting today. We’re continuing to sew on our Camel Necklaces. If I ever get it done I’ll be sure to show it off! Meanwhile, the Madder Rose Shrug is still drying on the mats unfinished. But I am wearing my finished Yoke Dress. Show-and-tell to come.

Since I only have a short while to write today, I’m just going to muse on what does and doesn’t constitute my personal style. Such as it is! I’m thinking in descriptive words. First, what I’m drawn to.


  • practical
  • unstructured
  • artsy
  • layers
  • drape
  • skim
  • pleats/tucks
  • asymmetry


  • black
  • gray
  • brown
  • green
  • rust
  • muted
  • earthy
  • geometric
  • botanical


  • plain weaves
  • ribs
  • knits
  • devore/cloque
  • wool
  • linen/hemp
  • rayon/tencel/bamboo
  • elastic

Then, the things I tend to avoid or that don’t appeal:

  • bright prints (unless I printed it myself!)
  • lace
  • ruffles
  • full gathered skirts
  • peplums
  • jeans
  • pastels
  • white
  • very shiny
  • glitter/sequins/jewels
  • too oversized
  • tightly fitted
  • elegant/dressy

I have no need for office-appropriate clothing so nobody tells me how to dress except myself. And I’m well past the age of caring what other people think, assuming I ever did. I always joke that after wearing school uniforms for 9 years in my childhood, I’ve been overcompensating in the opposite direction ever since! So it’s down to practicality on one hand and my imagination on the other. That leaves quite a wide space to explore, doesn’t it? Even taking into consideration all those bulleted lists up there.

So reminiscing about my school years inspired me to leave you with a blast from the past. This was me at barely 15 in my Grade 10 photo (circa 1965, my first year of public school) wearing the second dress I ever made for myself.


Aren’t I cute? It’s a sleeveless jumper in a napped cotton twill and I still remember having the devil of a time getting the back zipper in correctly. I had to pick it out twice! Too bad there’s not a better picture available but most of my childhood photos are long gone. (Very long story.) Also note the hairstyle which is somewhat similar to my current one. Except my bangs are shorter now since I like to be able to see! I still have a fondness for turtleneck t-shirts too. Guess some things haven’t changed much, have they?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Blog For All Reasons

Anybody who has been dabbling here in Damselfly’s Pond for any length of time has, I’m sure, come to realise that I tend to flit around from one project to another. There’s always a knitting project - or several - on the go. Occasional forays into spinning and dyeing, both botanical and synthetic. A little gardening, some blather about family and vacations to visit trees/rocks/water, and a goodly smattering of opinions on everything. (Except maybe religion and politics. My mommy warned me they could be rather contentious subjects.) Lately I’ve been Sewing Obsessed. Kinda. Did you notice?

And it’s starting to really pay off! I’m definitely getting to where I have some control over that biggest of bugaboos: fit. Yay! I feel like it’s been a college education course to learn the skills though. Apparently I have more than the average number of “fitting issues”. But I’m finally figuring out how to compensate and each time I make a garment I’m fine-tuning my basic shapes. Kind of wearable muslins. I now have a basic front, back and sleeve for stretch fabrics that I’m pretty happy with, plus an armhole and sleeve for wovens. My shoulder princess bodice is getting close to perfection but the armhole princess needs a little more work. What I don’t have yet is a basic skirt block which hopefully shouldn’t be too hard to do. And then…pants. Which frightens me quite a lot! I want two types: for wovens and for stretch fabrics. Pants are tricksy at the best of times and I don’t have the best of shapes to fit them on. I’ve got the Pants for Real People book however and as long as my sewing mojo sticks around, I know I’ll get to it. Eventually. Ultimately I’m trying to wean myself away from buying any more commercial patterns. If I have to adjust the fit anyway, I might as well start with something that fits and add the design features to it. Saves money, if not time. And hopefully I get a better result.

Meanwhile, I have one and a half more garments to sew from the two pieces of fabric I cut out awhile back. I’ve already made the Black Banana Skirt and the slinky Sleeveless Tunic, both blogged here. Yesterday I started sewing the Yoke Dress which uses both the black rayon ponte and the black/gray slinky fabric. For inspiration I swiped knocked-off borrowed Style Arc’s Laura Dress:


However, I used my own stretch pattern blocks and drafted my own pattern. The front yoke on their dress is actually a straight line! Who knew? Mine is curved and with a little of the bust fullness eased in. It’s also a little more fitted and has pockets. Not to diss Style Arc but I like my version better. (She says rather smugly.) I should have it finished up today. Then one more garment to go in the black ponte, a cowl-neck tunic with long sleeves. Not bad: 4 garments from just under 5 metres of fabric. Only tiny scraps left. BTW, the Thread Catchers that I made work a treat! The one on the serger catches the cuttings as I sew. No muss; no fuss. I need a tailor’s ham now…

While I’m on the sewing subject, I’ve been reading sewing blogs. Of course! I’ve probably mentioned this before but there are quite a few of the younger ones who are totally enamoured of the “retro” look of the ’40’s, ’50’s and early ’60’s. I don’t know if it’s the Mad Men craze or just a new-found desire to look super-girly as an abrupt change from the ubiquitous jeans and a t-shirt. I hope they don’t harbour any illusions about the limited role of women in those eras. I grew up during the latter part of those decades and I, for one, have no desire to go back there. Which is probably why that is sooooo not my style. But if you have somewhere to go to in a red lace-encrusted wiggle dress and killer heels, then go with my blessings! Just don’t try to run for the bus, ’kay?

What I enjoyed a lot were some good tutorials (for techniques like zipper applications, linings, full bust adjustments), some excellent and occasionally humorous writers and the fact that few patterns fit any body right out of the envelope. Here’s just a few of my favourites in no particular order:

And many more. Check out other people’s blog rolls. You never know when somebody will resonate with you. Or there’s the social sites for sewing folks:

And for fabulous drool-worthy garment inspiration, this person shares a lot of my personal taste (but that’s OK if it’s not yours):

Thanks to Shams for sharing Karyn’s Pinterest page. BTW, you can still see things even if you aren’t a member of Pinterest. As long as you don’t mind the site’s popup hanging around!

Bottom line, I sew for both recreational and practical reasons. I hate shopping and can’t find what I like in stores that fits me, suits me or that I can afford. If I make it, I get pretty much exactly what I want. Or a near-facsimile. Works for me.

Off to sew.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Production Time

The Holidays are over! Yay! It was really a lovely time spent with family, catching up with their lives, playing with the little ones and eating far too much good food. Now it’s time to get going and get some serious crafty stuff done before I must begin planting seeds and readying the garden for this summer’s produce. This is always a nice quiet few months for me. The weather is crappy, the days are dark and there’s nothing dragging me out and about. As long as I can avoid catching any bugs (touch wood) I can hang in my studio and play to my heart’s content.

Of course I’ve had an uncontrollable urge to cast on for some new knitting projects. Last week I cast on for plain socks out of the leftovers from the Sucky Baby Mitts:


These will be for my poor daughter-in-law who has holes in her first pair that I knit for her years ago. While trying to learn to knit her own socks, she hasn’t been able to get much past the ribbing. I can do them in my sleep! And it’s nice to have a portable project that is also fairly mindless.

Obviously from the photo I didn’t get far on the socks yet because I, um…got distracted. I couldn’t help myself and cast on for the Hitchhiker Shawlette by Martina Behm with some Regia sock yarn in the Saturn colourway. The colours remind me more of Arches National Park in Utah than the planet. (The pattern was apparently named for the book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) Anyway, I loved this pattern when I saw one at my weavers’ guild knit from handspun wool. It was such a cool shape: long and narrow with a single sawtoothed edge. In garter stitch it shows off a variegated yarn to perfection. And we all know I need Yet Another scarf/shawl/shawlette/thingy, don’t we? Of course. Here’s what it’s looking like so far:


It kind of looks like a dragon’s tail, doesn’t it? However, I’m calling it the Hitchhiking To Saturn Shawlette.

For some silly reason I decided to use my Kollage Square cable needles on this project, which are supposed to be 3.5mm but fit in the 3.25mm hole in my needle sizer. I might have reviewed these needles before but I’m going to reiterate that I like the square shape and love the dark bronze colour of the long tips, which are just a smidgen too blunt for my taste but ok for non-lace projects. What I don’t like at all is the cable. It is way too flimsy right where it attaches to the tips. See:


Note the sharp bend on the left there. As the knitting gets heavier, it drags down on the cable and gets harder and harder to slide the stitches smoothly onto the tips. It’s annoying and slows down my knitting speed which already isn’t particularly quick. Apparently it wasn’t just me who was annoyed either because now they have the option of somewhat firmer cables. However that doesn’t help the two sets I already own! This is the needles’ last chance to prove they are functional, at least for some types of projects. If not, I’m donating them elsewhere. They weren’t cheap either. Sigh.

That’s not all the troubles I’ve been having with knitting needles either. One of my new Addi Lace Clik tips has somehow gotten the spring stuck way down inside and now doesn’t hold onto the cable. I’m not sure whether it’s a defect or my fault. Pooh. I’ve contacted the shop where I bought them for options on what to do. I like these needles too! I want to use them. And I’m not particularly hard on things. I still use kitchen appliances that I got as wedding presents over 40 years ago! These needles shouldn’t be so delicate anyhow. They’re tools – not decorations! I’ll let you know what happens when I hear back from the shop. I’m not going to walk there in the dumping rain today to inquire in person.

After I changed over to my regular Addi Lace circular, I finally managed to finish knitting my Madder Rose Shrug that I was working on. It’s currently washed and blocking on the mat. Might take awhile to dry with all the rain we’ve been having. I also found a button that I think might work. I didn’t want to just pin it closed but will leave a small slot in the ribbing seam to accommodate the wooden button. So far I’m quite happy with this sweater. I pinned it on Debbie Double to check and it seems to fit fine – but that was before I blocked it. Only a very little bit of madder dye pinked the wash water too which makes me happy. The handspun wool ended up somewhat streaky but I don’t really mind. It’s handspun, after all, and dyed with madder roots from my garden. I think that’s pretty awesome.

One appliance that didn’t last 40 years is my poor digital camera. I loved this thing that allowed me to take photos so easily. It was a pretty good camera, not top-of-the-line, but with all the functions that I need as an amateur who just needs to document projects and holidays and such. I carried it everywhere as evidenced by all the scratches on its housing. Now nearly 6 years old, my Panasonic Lumix LZ3 has a lens iris that often won’t open all the way and pits and dust inside the lens that can’t be cleaned. Sadly it’s not worth repairing. Technology has moved on.

dmczs8k_largeLuckily we received $15 worth of coupons for Best Buy and they also had the new Panasonic Lumix LS8 that I wanted on sale. Best of all, when I went to get it there was a returned camera that had already been opened for $40 less than the sale price! The final total came to less than 1/3 of the recommended retail price. Guess it does occasionally pay to shop on Boxing Week, huh?

So this new Black Beauty has a better lens as well as much higher resolution and super zoom features. Lots of auto-magicals! It’s taking me awhile to learn all its tricks. Some things are similar to my old guy and some not. So far I’ve only taken the photos you see in this post (except of course for the camera pic!) which have been reduced for web. More experimentation will ensue.

Yes, I buy my own presents. Am I spoiled or what?

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Just a quick one to wish you and yours all the best in 2012! Thanks for hanging around with me as I muddle through life and craft. Blogs are kind of going out of style in favour of Facebook and Twitter but I’m sticking around. I like this format for working through my projects and expressing my thoughts. This May will be my seventh Blogiversary. Scary, huh? Time flies when you’re having a good time!

So we went to bed at our usual ridiculously early time last night but got woken up at midnight by the clamour. The boats in the harbour were having some kind of game trying to see who could hold their horn the longest. It went on for at least 10 minutes! Neighbours yelled and banged on pots and pans and an amazing amount of firecrackers and fireworks went off. Did they save them all from Halloween? It was awhile before it was quiet enough to get back to sleep.

My dear French-Canadian sis-in-law tells me that she’d never heard of banging pots and pans until she came out to the west coast. I remember doing it as a very small child here. Obviously our traditions are different everywhere! But nearly everyone follows this calendar and celebrates on the same day. What traditions do you find important to bring in the first day of the new year properly? I don’t seem to be a big upholder of any cultural traditions, perhaps because I’m such mish-mash of cultures myself (French/Bohemian/Alsatian by blood but brought up in a Scots/Canadian home). T-Man is English/Scots/Canadian but he also lacks any serious traditions. So we just spend New Year’s Day with family.

Oh, and before I forget – thanks for all the lovely comments on my Minoru Jacket! I wore it out a couple of times in the wind and a sprinkle of rain and it performed to perfection. I was warm and dry and comfortable. Happiness.

Begin as you mean to go on! I’m looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish this year. I’ve already started on my Relegation goal.

Happy New Year!