Monday, May 28, 2012

Where Did That Week Go?

Oops. Guess I’ve been busy, huh? What have I been up to? Lots of stuff actually. Where do I start?

I crocheted a bunch of tawashi (dish scrubbies) to replace my worn out four-year-old (!) ones.


I was surprised that they had lasted so long even though they get used daily and laundered weekly. This time instead of the Japanese diagram version I used the verbal translation from Judith Prindle (free Ravelry pattern). I also didn’t use the two-colour stripe like I did last time but just went with one yarn per scrubbie. You can see that the middle orange one is larger. Even though both yarns are labelled as worsted the orange one is thicker. They are all cheap acrylic from the dollar store and one ball makes quite a few tawashi. I’m currently making a couple more. Some people like dishrags but I can’t do the dishes without a tawashi!

What else? Plugging away on the final few rounds on both of the 10-Stitch blankets. It takes hours just to do one side! And it’s not something I can work on and read at the same time. Also not very portable now that they’re over a metre square. They have become my tv project and since I don’t watch a whole lot of tv – they’re taking awhile. At least I can keep my lap warm while I’m working on one of them.

In sewing news, I was unhappy with the excess volume in the Black Swing Top that I made recently. So I took in the side seams tapering from the hem to the armholes and ended up removing about 10” of swing. I like it much better now. It fits more like the Rusty Sleeveless Top – loose but not maternity. I’m a little ancient to get away with that look! Truly.

I also have been hand-sewing a rolled hem on a square of black silk crepe:


This took hours! I can’t fathom how they can sell silk scarf blanks with hand-rolled hems so cheaply. Obviously the Chinese factory stitchers aren’t making much even though I’m sure they’re a lot faster than I am. And of course I didn’t do as nice a job as they do either. I wore my leather thimble because I was pricking my finger constantly. I was also having problems with the thread knotting up (I used real silk thread) until I remembered this:


The little box of Thread Heaven was in with my beading supplies. It really did a good job of helping the thread behave itself better. Now I’m going to do a folded and wrapped shibori discharge on my new black scarf. More on this later. It had better turn out amazing after all that work! I do have 2 more yards of this silk in the stash but it’ll be awhile before I have the patience to hem any more of it.

Meanwhile, when the weather has been nice we’ve been in the garden:


This is a view of part of the veggie patch from behind the greenhouse. It’s doing really well but then this year there are two of us so we’re keeping up much better than usual. I’m especially happy with the pathways. The ground covers (several types of creeping thyme, scotch moss, blue and white star creepers) are finally filling in between the stepping stones. It looks really nice. It’s also a challenge to keep the plants from invading the raised beds! I’d rather that then have bare mud instead.

T-Man’s pet Cherokee Purple tomato is growing nicely in its deck pot:


See Buddy the garden gnome there on guard? How about a closer view:


Looks rather pleased with himself, doesn’t he? He also smells like dead fish after I poured fish fertiliser all over him. Heh.

We also made a patio for the indoor cactuses so they can spend their summer vacation outdoors in luxury:


Several of them need room to drape down and spread out so we built pedestals out of vintage landscaping bricks. (Forty years ago they were the supports for our first bookshelves!) The rest of the patio is more of our ubiquitous paving stones and a little sand to fill in the gaps. The trick is to keep the plants out of the hot sun or they get sunburned. This spot is on the north side of the garage and only gets a little very late afternoon sunlight so it should be perfect. The snowdrops and daffodils that brightened the space earlier are done so it just ends up being bare dirt anyway. Sadly the middle-sized disocactus on the back left is the only one that bloomed this year. Though there’s still time for the other two laggards to get into gear. Hint.

T-Man has been enjoying his retirement so much! Now that it’s been nearly a month it’s finally sinking in that it’s not just a temporary holiday but forever. Along with the gardening, this is what he’s been up to:


Yes, that is a giant egg with a giant marble inserted in the flaw like an eyeball. It’s Garden Art! The plants will probably cover it up as summer goes on.

Monday, May 21, 2012

ATCs Etc.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I made a dozen Artist Trading Cards for a swap at my weavers’ guild? I forgot to show you what I got in exchange!

ATC Swap

The one on the bottom is mine and I have a couple of them left over. Some of these are real handwoven fabric (the 3 on the right) and some are reproductions of fibre art (the 3 on the left). The centre top one is a cute tiny quilt and the middle one is my favourite: hand-dyed and stamped silk with a collaged piece of handwoven fabric on top. What a nice start to my ATC collection!

At the guild meeting, potluck and schmooze-fest we also had door prizes and I won a book:


Not a favourite. Because it was published way back in 2001, it’s kind of dated with boxy styles. I doubt I’ll ever make anything out of it which is probably why I don’t already own it. I sadly did NOT win the gift certificate for Sweet Georgia. Oh well. I almost never win anything or if I do, it’s never anything I really wanted to win. Of course I couldn’t complain too much because I was wearing my fabulous scarf that I won in a draw a couple of years ago (along with a whole pile of other lovely items). It was super-finely woven, shibori-tied, dyed and painted by my dear friend Jo Anne. Once in a rare while I do get lucky!

Meanwhile, instead of sewing I spent the entire day yesterday backing up my two computers to my portable terabyte hard drive. I feel better now. I’ve been putting off that little chore but you’d think I would know better. I have already lost 2 computers with all their data, one to a thief and one to a stuck drive. My little netbook is particularly vulnerable and it’s also the computer I use most often. It contains a lot of files I would rather not lose! I do tend to back it up to the big desktop fairly often but then not back that up in turn. This time I’ve saved the lot. <pats herself on the back>

It’s a holiday weekend here in Canada (Victoria Day, aka May Long Weekend) and of course we’re into the second rainy day after several weeks of glorious sunshine. It feels odd to hear the pattering on the roof. Hopefully soon it will clear up and warm up and my garden will take off like gangbusters. If the happy slugs don’t have a huge party in it first! They were kind of scarce while the weather was dry but they were only lurking in the shadows waiting for their opportunity to return. Slimy critters.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer Top #2

No, it’s still not the BurdaStyle blouse that I started to work on awhile back. (But I think it’s going to be next!) Instead I tried a version of the discontinued pattern by DixieDIY that I was pasting together in my previous post here. I had a wee bit of trouble with it so I was glad I used a leftover knit fabric that I’m not horribly attached to. Just in case it doesn’t work out in my wardrobe.

Black Swing Top


Completed:  May 19, 2012

Fabric:  lightweight polyester knit with a waffle texture, black. 60” wide X less than 1 yd.

Pattern:  Loose Fit Knit Top With Cuffed Sleeves, discontinued pattern by DixieDIY.

Modifications:  I cut a size M for the neck and shoulders and graded out to an XL at the bottom. That probably wasn’t necessary because a straight M would have had less extra fullness. Also added a little to the length.

Comments:  Dixie included pattern pieces for the neck and sleeve bands. However, they were the exact sizes of the openings that they were supposed to fit into. The neckline gaped, even after removing a couple of inches of band length:

Neckline loose

Luckily I only sewed it in with a regular machine stitch, not the serger, so it was relatively easy to unpick and remove a bit more. Of course, I should have done the same to the sleeve openings but left the cuffs as is. They are loose on my skinny arms and stick up a little. This effect doesn’t show as much on Debbie Double since she doesn’t have arms. I decided not to unpick them though because by that time I had finished all the seams and it would be major surgery and definitely Not Fun.

One thing I tried this time was to put in a “label”. I cut and folded a little prairie point out of my hand-dyed cotton fabric and painted my initial on it in light copper fabric paint:


I know, I should have moved the initial down a little but I forgot to take into consideration the seam allowance! Next time. Now I’m debating whether to bother trying to retrofit more of these on some of my recent finished garments. It’s been bothering me that I haven’t “signed” my work. I do have some old printed ribbon labels but they don’t hold up to multiple launderings. And they’re no longer my style.

I’m a little unsure whether I like this top or not on me. It’s somewhat too swingy plus the fabric is not great quality and will probably get snagged fairly quickly. Fortunately it wasn’t a big expense in time (a couple of hours) or money (about $3). As a wearable muslin it’s pretty useful and now I’ll be keeping an eye open for suitable fabric for another version.

I have several more summer tops in mind so I’m not finished with this series yet. Plus I need another skirt or two. I’m getting lots of wear out of the Sweat Skirt and want more comfy not-too-dressy ones.

Back to the studio! I’m obviously having way too much fun here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Summer Top #1

Well I finally finished something! But it wasn’t either of the tops I mentioned in my last post. A different one jumped up to the front of the queue when I was looking through the fabric stash and came upon a narrow piece of crinkle cotton that has been lurking in there for so long that I can’t remember where it came from. All I remember is that it was given to me by someone sometime, probably at least 10 years ago. It was only 16” wide with no selvedges, just torn edges, and just under 3 yards long. The colour is kind of a rusty pink with stripes of thicker threads in navy and brown. I originally thought the navy was black until I looked at it in bright daylight! I obviously liked this fabric enough for it to avoid purging though I couldn’t figure out what to make out of such a narrow width. Finally I had a flash of inspiration!

Rusty Sleeveless Top

Rust Sleeveless Top

Date completed:  May 15, 2012

SMS view7a

Fabric:  cotton crinkle weave, 16” wide by just under 3yds long.

Notions:  8 small buttons, charcoal gray, recycled from one of T-Man’s worn-out shirts. Gutermann sewing thread.

Pattern:  7a. Ruffled Sleeveless Blouse from Simple Modern Sewing.

Modifications:  Eliminated the ruffles. Raised the front neckline 1”, added a back seam and button front.

Comments:  Because the fabric was reversible I was able to mirror the asymmetrical stripes by flipping the pattern pieces.  It was difficult to choose a thread to use to sew on this odd colour. The best match was a slightly rusty orange. I only used straight stitches and no serger to put this together. It easily ironed really flat so I was able to make French seams and just double-turn the hems instead of binding them. This stuff frays like crazy so there are no exposed seam allowances anywhere. Unfortunately the fabric stretched out a little while sewing and pressing so I ended up taking in the side seams at the underarm. It’s still a little larger than I want but hopefully it will crinkle back up more when it’s washed next. The puffy pocket with decorative buttons was an improvised addition from the minimal scraps that were left over.

I’m currently wearing my new Rusty Sleeveless Top with a nearly-matching t-shirt underneath and navy capri-length sweat pants. I’m quite happy with it as a layering piece but it’s a little loose for me to feel comfortable with it on its own, at least until it’s gone through the laundry. Too much exposure of bra straps as it shifts around! It was supposed to be a wearable muslin for another version that I still want to make but the stretching issue kind of reduced its usefulness in that regard. Oh well. It didn’t cost anything except my time so I consider that good.

Moving right along, I’m finished planting the garden now. There is no space left for anything else to squeeze in! Finally got the tomatoes tucked into the greenhouse this morning. Then we had to go buy a pot for T-Man’s retirement present, a grafted Cherokee Purple, because we ran out of room in the greenhouse. Anyhow, I want to see how well a tomato plant will do on the deck instead. The soil is sterilized so it shouldn’t get late blight which is why we grow tomatoes under cover here. It’s an indeterminate though which might make staking a very tall plant in a pot kind of interesting! Apparently this variety is very yummy so I’m hoping for good things to come. The plant even has a little garden gnome named Buddy to watch over it so that should help, don’t you think? I’ll have to get a photo of him to show you.

While we were buying the tomato’s pot we also picked up a planter for the railing so I could put the basil and cilantro in a convenient spot. The basil never does very well in the garden or in the greenhouse so I usually end up just growing it in pots and replanting often. Maybe this will finally give me half-decent sized plants? Nothing ventured, nothing gained I suppose.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sticky Subject

In the interest of keeping this 7-year-old blog going whilst being distracted by the garden and Someone who wants to walk my feet off daily, here’s another post on a random sewing subject: downloadable patterns. Yeah, I know I’ve supposedly been on a pattern-buying moratorium lately. But that won’t stop me entirely! Besides, I only meant to avoid the Big 4 and anyway some downloading happened before I decided to hold off. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

So anyhow, I’ve tried quite a few of these downloadable patterns over the last while with mixed results. For starters this isn’t really a very cost-effective way to obtain a sewing pattern. It takes your personal time, paper, printer ink and glue or tape. On the plus side, you don’t have to go to the store to get it, find it’s not available in your size or wait for the mail to deliver it. The jury is still out on whether or not these opposing factors balance out in the long run. Especially when it can take as many as 50 sheets of paper to print the darn things. Oy.

However, that hasn’t stopped me from downloading a fair number of digital patterns. There’s nothing like immediate gratification! Even if it means more work at least I’m doing something. I don’t have a convenient fabric store that carries the common pattern lines. My go-to store, Dressew, doesn’t carry any patterns any more. And the other fabric stores are a much longer transit ride away. (Though I must visit Fabricana in Richmond some day soon.) OK, so where does one find downloadable patterns?

The first place I tried, quite awhile back, was BurdaStyle. They have select patterns from the magazine and a lot of self-drafted contributions from members. The quality of the former is great; the latter varies, as you might expect. If you purchase a digital pattern you can download the PDF to your own computer plus a link stays in your account if you need to download it again for whatever reason. This is good. Navigation is a bit awkward on this site but you can see what others have made from the pattern which is a nice feature. Some garments look totally different than the photo in the magazine! I probably wouldn’t have bothered with them if I hadn’t seen the alternatives.

Then there is I’ve been a little annoyed with purchasing downloads from here. You can get a selection of patterns from the Big 4 and other independent companies but sometimes the download is more expensive than the paper pattern. Why? Plus the download interface at Printsew (where they send you) is crap. You can’t save the PDF to your computer, though you can save the instruction sheets. You have to print directly from the site and supposedly there is a limit on how many times you can do that. My printer doesn’t play nice with it at all and though I can get a printout in spite of the error messages, I can’t adjust the options to use the black cartridge or draft mode. Wasteful. Grrr…

There are other places to get downloadable sewing patterns of course. As well as the established companies, there are lots of individual designers publishing pattern PDFs. Some are even free. As always, the quality of the production varies because I’m sure, depending on one’s software and abilities, there’s quite a learning curve to producing an excellent PDF. Though that doesn’t effect whether or not it’s a great garment pattern. That’s another whole skill set. The advantage for the indie designer is not having to produce and ship paper patterns or find and pay someone else to do it. This is a big one and it increases the cost of the pattern astronomically. I am more likely to buy a digital version than pay for shipping from, say, Australia. I made an exception for my Sewaholic Minoru Jacket but then I was able to pick it up from a local shop. Helps that Tasia herself lives locally too!

So where does that leave me and my current projects? Somewhere in limbo I think! Here’s the state of my BurdaStyle Pleat-Shoulder Blouse:


That would be it all cut out and sitting forlornly on my sewing table. Waiting. And what am I doing instead? Playing with more patterns:


This one was a freebee by DixieDIY. She unfortunately discontinued it for whatever reason, I guess to sub another (paid) pattern instead. The original page is here if you want to see what you missed. Sorry, because I actually like this version better, a loose swing t-shirt with little cuff sleeves. Her patterns are meticulously designed with Adobe Illustrator and I like how she leaves the pattern lines to overlap the edges and uses both numbers and letters to differentiate the notches for easier joining. I use my paper cutter to slice off the extra on the left and top of the pieces to be joined and then I use a glue stick to paste them together:


Unlike some whom I will not name, Dixie’s lined up perfectly. (Those rainbow light effects are not my camera but reflections from a crystal in my sunny – yay! – window.)

Now I can’t decide what fabric to use to try this pattern out! Maybe I should go back to the already cut-out blouse, huh? Or not. Perhaps I’ll just head out to the garden now. My plants are calling for some fish fertiliser.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Is Refashioning Really a Word?

I just read a really interesting post on A Fashionable Stitch. (Do read the thoughtful comments too.) Sunni talks about refashioning and expresses the same views that I share: it’s difficult and the results are not always worth the effort. Not to say that some creative and skilled people don’t do a fabulous job with making new clothes out of old ones! But I think that other people don’t have the kind of brain that can easily see those kinds of possibilities. I believe that it’s in the same area as draping – a 3-dimensional way of perceiving – that I, for one, have difficulty with. I’m much more of a 2-D thinker. Flat patternmaking stuff. I can use voluminous garments as yardage. I can piece flat bits together. I can shorten hems, take in sides, chop off sleeves. But I totally blank at the really creative metamorphosis that results in the kind of attractive and wearable garments that I admire most. Ones that don’t look jury-rigged in some way and that you can wear in real life. I guess I’ll just leave most of the really cool refashioning to others while I gaze at their works in awe.

In crafty news, I forgot to show off the ATCs that I made last week at our Spectrum Study Group meeting.


These are for a swap we’re having at my weaver’s guild meeting this month. I used some hand-dyed cotton (parfait dyed with Procion-MX) and stamped it with a couple of my hand-cut leaf stamps and metallic fabric paints. Then I stitched on a few seed and bugle beads to make kind of a little flower thingy for each card. To keep it simple I didn’t do too much beadwork. After the decorating I used Steam-a-Seam 2 to attach cardstock to the back which was printed with my name, the date and some other info such as the techniques used. The previous steps were all done with the cloth in one piece, i.e. ganged. Then I finally cut them apart and machine zigzagged the edges. And there ya go – 1 dozen ATCs. I really didn’t want to spend too much time on these because I’m unsure as to how many others will be trading. Though even if I don’t swap them all at the guild, I’ll have some available for future swaps.

Don’t tell anyone, but 3 extras came out 1/4” too small. AAAK!! Illegal ATCs! Guess I’ll hang on to them. Obviously I can’t measure accurately some days.

What else? Oh yeah. The weather has been mostly sunny and quite a bit warmer so we’ve been spending some quality time in the garden. I have the dirty pants’ knees to prove it! Still schlepping a ridiculous number of seedlings in and out every day though. This is getting old. I can hardly wait until they get planted so I can stop the madness! Unfortunately it’s still too cool at night for the tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes to stay out yet.

Obviously I haven’t had much time to spend in the studio. I have quite a number of top patterns to work on now. I also finally broke down and cut the BurdaStyle pleat-neck blouse out of an old sheet to test the fit. The fabric is a lovely mid-weight cotton in a supremely ugly shade of light brownish-pink. No, it wasn’t mine but rescued from T-Man’s late auntie’s stash. The label even says “100% cotton muslin, made in USA” and you sadly can’t buy this quality of sheets any more. I’ve decided to sew it in green thread so that if by some miracle it actually fits, I can over-dye the blouse in my favourite moss green Procion-MX (a proprietary mix from Maiwa). When used in low-water immersion techniques it separates out into some lovely effects. Polyester thread won’t take the dye so if I use something that is closer to the final colours it will be more inconspicuous even if it doesn’t match exactly.

Gotta get out in the garden. Pull weeds while the sun shines! I’ll leave you with this interesting shot taken by my friend Cathie near her house:

Yes, that is a partially albino robin. Still has the red breast and the dark eye but is missing the grey colour. One in 30,000! Do read the article I linked for more interesting info.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

7 Years

Hello all my Faithful Readers! I’m celebrating today. This is the Seventh Blogiversary of Damselfly’s Delights! Yep, I’ve been babbling here since 2005 and managed to type 1,257 posts. Who knew I could keep this up for so long? Hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have!

Carrying right along…

T-Man has been retired for a week now, not really long enough for either of us to really settle into the New Normal yet. But so far I’ve lost a few pounds from all the walking we’ve done! Plus he has managed to make a good start on a few of the projects that have been hanging about waiting for his time. And I’m sure – once it stops dumping rain on us every time we step out the door – that the garden will be quite spectacular this summer with all the TLC it’s going to get. No time to be bored, that’s for sure.

In the studio, I’ve been working on patterns for several summer blouses and tops I’d like to make. I’m quite tired of t-shirts. One blouse that intrigued me is this one from BurdaStyle:

BS09-2011-128_line (source)

I didn’t buy the magazine when it came out because it was full of costumey folk garments. (Oddly enough I have no need for a German dirndl skirt!) But this gem was hiding in there made up in boring white cotton. Explain to me why the most attractive and wearable patterns that BurdaStyle offers are nearly always lurking in strangely modeled photos and made up in inconspicuous fabrics? Like my Banana Skirts, you must use your imagination to see the real possibilities. As soon as I saw oobop’s gingham version, I was smitten. Luckily they made it available as one of their downloadable patterns so I could buy it even though I missed the magazine.

The download included the full pattern for the dress version with two-piece sleeves and in-seam pockets too, which I’m sure confused a few people because they didn’t mention that anywhere, not even in the sewing instructions (such as they are). Took a lot more paper to print out too! Deceptively this looks like a simple slightly-retro blouse pattern but the pleats at the neck and the little back collar bring it into more complex territory. I had a rather difficult time trying to figure out how to adjust it for my own narrow shoulders. I think I have it right but now I’m afraid to cut into the fabric in case it’s not! Guess I need a muslin. Sigh. Seems like such a waste of fabric whether the muslin fits or not. Yes, I’m that cheap frugal. But I also don’t want to waste the “real thing” if I’ve got it wrong. Decisions. Decisions.

Other tops I’d like to make include one with a ruffled neck from Simple Modern Sewing, another one from BurdaStyle magazine and the Anthropologie Knock-Off top that I’ve been wanting for a couple of years now. I want a whole wardrobe of warm-weather options.

More anon. Time to schlep the plants out to the greenhouse. Again. At least it’s sunny today. Things are looking up!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Clearing The Backlog

When I was cleaning out the drawers in the chest in my studio, I found a few more of those “cut out but never sewn” garments. No idea how long they’ve been kicking around but I suspect not nearly as long as the Prairie Shirt did! Since I already had black thread in the sewing machine and serger from my Pettipants, I tackled the loose pants first:

Black Baggies


Completed: April 30, 2012

Pattern:  self-drafted from some basic pattern which I can’t remember now!

Fabric:  black cotton knit, wrong side liberally covered in lint and cat hair (from the cats who died several years ago now).

Comments:  These cut-out elastic-waist pants could have been lurking around in the drawer for as long as 10 years. I have no idea. However I felt that I could still use them and they’re pretty quick to sew up. Begs the question why I never sewed them up then, doesn’t it? I checked the width and skimmed about 1/2” off the front and back sides thereby reducing the hip by a couple of inches. They are still really loosey-goosey especially around the thighs but they are also very comfy. BTW, you might not be able to tell from the photo but they have curved pockets.

I’m using these as a fitting exercise – not that they are at all fitted! I got T-Man to take photos of me wearing them front, back and sides to help me analyse what might help them work better. And no, I’m not showing the photos to you! I did learn that I could take more off the thigh area and scoop the crotch both front and back a little. Also they are about an inch too long in the crotch depth. I’m not super-picky about pants fit, being content with something that doesn’t bind anywhere and doesn’t look too bad. I’m not planning to make skinny jeans or anything like that! Happily, I located my pattern tissues (a miracle!) and can adjust them accordingly for the next iteration. Because I need more pants badly, you can bet they will be coming soon.

Lurking along with the Black Baggies were some golden-brown leggings, also cut out and not sewn. As soon as I switch all my threads to brown, I’ll be whipping these together too. Can’t have too many leggings. I wear them under dresses and tunics and even under pants in the winter. I like them better than tights because they are both warmer and sturdier. These were cut from a rather vintage pattern, Butterick 3430 from 1985. I’ve made a lot of pairs of leggings from this one over the years (sadly none of which survive today) but I recently switched to McCall’s 6360. The latter took quite a bit of fiddling to get it to sort-of fit so I’m looking forward to seeing if I get a better fit from the older pattern. It’s been cut out in a 16 but with the legs tapered more and the length adjusted for my short legs. If I go by the pattern specs the 16 should be 4'” or so too tight in hips and waist but I’m betting it’ll still be fine. The fabric has a lot of good stretch in it. Even though it’s been sitting around for quite some time!

Obviously I’m still on quite a sewing jag. I’m enjoying wearing my new duds and I’m getting lots of ideas for more. The stash is still high too so unless I need something in particular that I can’t locate in it - zippers perhaps since I don’t have very many options there – then I might as well follow my Sewing Mojo while it’s still working.