Friday, August 31, 2012

Emerging From The Sweatshop

I have been madly sewing up some new garments (mostly tops) to wear on our holiday. We can expect the weather in Oregon and northern California to be anything from very hot and dry to very cold, foggy and damp. Must pack layers that can be piled on and removed at a whim. These are all knits of one sort or another which are easy to pack and comfy to wear. I apologise for the boring non-modeled photos. I was in a hurry.

First up we have the shell I made with the leftovers of the green sport mesh from the Melia Tunic:


It’s pretty simple and the neckline and armholes are finished with dark green picot-edged elastic and a multi-zigzag stitch, the same way I would for lingerie. It can be worn as a lightweight top or as underwear. Doesn’t look quite so lumpy (I hope) on me as it does on the ever-patient Debbie.

Next I went for another simple top, my slightly modified version of the Kirsten Kimono Tee:


The fabric is a thick double-knit in a medium grey with an unknown fibre content. Less than a yard appeared in my stash from somewhere or other and I had trouble figuring out what to make from it. I wanted a skirt but the one I wanted wouldn’t fit on this remnant and since I already have a grey knit skirt, this was a better option. I made it slightly loose so it will layer over other pieces or it’s perfectly wearable on its own, if somewhat warmish. I call it the Pepper Tee. (Without the salt – get it?)

Then I got inspired by dear Shams and her L-Flounce Top. Had. To. Have. I think I did a pretty good job with this self-drafted version:


This mustard-coloured knit was a remnant from Dressew’s bin. (More 100% unknown fibres! Though I think it’s cotton/lycra. Possibly.) I made my version with the l-flounce going in opposite directions, 3/4 sleeves, and a small pocket in the cross-seam. You know. Just so Shams doesn’t think I’m copying her. ;) I kept the twisted neck band though. I love that detail. I had just enough fabric to squeeze this out.

Next we have a Pointy-Hem Tunic based on the Batik Shirt I made last October:


This navy cotton double-knit was lurking in my stash for eons. I was saving it for a dress but apparently it wanted to be a tunic. Apart from eliminating the centre front buttons and adding a neckband, I used the pattern exactly as I had drafted it for the woven rayon batik. I tried out Linda Maynard’s V-neck band instructions from The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques, which worked out pretty well for a first effort. I recently got that book and it was obviously worth it just for this! There’s just enough room under this tunic to wear a turtle-neck t-shirt if it gets colder.

Now we have an ancient UFO that somehow survived in my sewing drawer since the early 1990’s. Yikes! I couldn’t bring myself to chuck it and I never got around to sewing it until now. I do not know why. I give you the Rusty Tights:


The reason I kept this project for so long is that I love the rusty brown of the cotton/lycra fabric. It was already cut out to my old TNT tights pattern which I was concerned wouldn’t fit me anymore. Hah! I had to take them in! (Go me.) I plan to work on this pattern a little more and get it perfected for more heavy-weight tights in the future.

No, we are not done yet! Next up is a refashion that has also been hiding in my sewing drawer for years. Sorry I forgot to take a photo of the original huge ‘90’s long-sleeved top. I bought it from the Sally Ann with plans to just use the fabric because the shoulders were completely stretched out from hanging on a hanger for probably 15 years. I liked the chocolate brown colour and was interested in working with slinky knit without trying to track down actual yardage. (Can you actually buy this stuff?) I used the same self-drafted pattern that I used to make the recent Pocket Tunic:


In order to avoid the stretched-out parts, I had to piece yokes on the back and front using sections cut from the sleeves. I stabilised the yoke and shoulder seams with clear elastic and the armholes and neckline with strips of fusible knit interfacing. I used a 4mm twin-needle to stitch the neck and armholes. Plus I had to mend a bit of the hem in the back where the cover-stitching was coming loose. The front yoke is a little wonky but who’s going to notice, I ask you? This stuff was like sewing rubber bands. They don’t call it slinky for nothing!

Then I got creative. Because this stuff was the Real Deal Slinky, I decided to try embossing. I used one of my hand-cut rubber stamps and went to town on the hems, plus one print on the back yoke just for fun. Here’s a detail:


If you aren’t familiar with this technique, I placed the stamp on the ironing board, put the slinky fabric face-down over it, spritzed with a little water and pressed the medium-hot iron over it for a few seconds. Not too long or it will melt the fabric. No, it doesn’t wash out and is permanent. Worked a treat and I’m very pleased with the results. The embossing is a bit more subtle than the photo would have you believe and kind of shimmers in and out of view. This refashion is going to get a lot of wear, I can tell. I’m glad I waited until my sewing skills were up to the challenge.

Whew! That was a lot of sewing in one week. I kept having to change out the serger and sewing machine threads because, as you might have noticed, each piece was a different colour. So much for the rumour that I mostly wear black. Heh. I’m branching out. Especially with that mustard.

In other news, T-Man helped me process and freeze several bags of beans from the garden. Luckily things are winding down out there. We’re so ready to leave – at least in our heads! Not going anywhere until after the holiday weekend though. Tried that once and after 3 hours just to get through the border crossing, Never Again. Tuesday is the departure day. There’s still a lot to do around here first anyhow.

(I’ve got my knitting packed already!)

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to post again before we leave. I don’t have access to wifi while we’re camping and we are too lazy focused to stop at a wifi cafe or something somewhere on the road.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Birthday Princess Adventures

My oldest grandbeastie recently turned 8 and what she wanted for her present was to come and stay over and make stuffies with Granny. Yay! Another Maker in the family. Do I have lots to teach her in the future or what!? Must not overwhelm…

So we stole her away after her swimming lesson on Friday and the first order of business was to check out the new playground at our recently revamped park. Then it was on to a second nearby playground, one she was more familiar with since we’ve been taking all of the grandbeasties there when we have them over. Exhaustion was setting in for the Princess and her granny and grampa by then so home we went and got down to business.

The Pencil Princess decided that she needed to draw a picture of what she wanted to make: a moon, an apple, a fish and a dog. We deliberated and thought the dog might be a bit complicated for a first session but the other three items were quite possible. So while her grampa made us dinner, she and I repaired to the studio to work on the first stuffie. Using her awesome Pencil skills, she drew the pattern piece on freezer paper, I added the seam allowance and she cut the doubled fabric pieces out. We both sewed and stuffed and here he is:


This is Mooney. He’s made from a piece of the hand-dyed sheets that I used for my Rag Quilt. He is stuffed with polyfill and has beady eyes and a red Sharpie mouth. He of course belongs in the sky:


After a yummy barbeque chicken dinner we all watched an episode or two of Doctor Who before collapsing in bed. The next morning the Princess and her grampa made French toast for us and then she was raring to go on the next project. I got her stamping the fish’s fabric with scales in green metallic fabric paint so we could let it dry while we made the apple. The leaf was the hardest to do because it was very small, too small to turn and stuff. So we left it raw-edged and unstuffed. We stitched the veins on while learning how to switch the sewing machine from forward to reverse. The stem was easiest to make with a simple piece of brown jute string. The finished apple was named Singer because, even though she doesn’t have eyes or mouth she sings all the time.

The fish was a bit trickier. We had an important lesson in how to use the seam ripper when we forgot that the scales side goes on the inside when you need to turn the piece right-side out again. The fins were very small so I used the tiny tube turners to get them turned. Too hard for the Princess but she had no trouble stuffing them and we machine-stitched them to the body pieces securely before sewing the body together. By this time, she was brave enough to push the sewing machine peddle herself (though I still helped “steer” the pieces) and she’s an expert at stuffing. Her whip-stitching skills improved so much that all I had to do was hold the body steady while she sewed up the final tummy seam. The fish’s name is Lucy. She has googly eyes and is really cute. She can stand up on her fins. Very talented.

Here they all are:



I also gave the Pencil Princess her own sewing kit. My friend Kirsten made it from felt with a cute angel stitched on the cover and I won it at our guild’s Christmas exchange one year. I think the Princess will get more use out of it and it’s a good way to keep the sharp things contained. Inside there are needles, pins, scissors, thread, measuring tape, seam ripper, dressmaker’s chalk, and a wooden needle case made by her grampa.

And there’s more! After lunch we went over to Cambie Street for a street fair. The Princess got her face painted (sparkly swirly heart), a balloon dog, a helium balloon, a whistle and, after standing in line for about an hour, she got a cartoon drawing of herself in Paris. She was so patient while waiting. She was watching the man draw everyone ahead of her with great interest and said she wanted to see what the “cartoon me” would look like. She knows about this stuff – after all, her daddy owns a comic book store! She is definitely an artist in the making.

Later after we took her home, she generously gave her yellow balloon dog to her little brother who missed her (and was possibly a little envious). He will get his turn to spend time with Granny & Grampa too. We usually have them both over together because it’s more convenient for everyone but sometimes it’s really nice to have a Special Time just to focus on an individual Beastie.

That was fun! Now it’s my turn to make stuff for me in the studio. I’m working on some tops to take camping. More anon.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tree Nymphs R Us

So I got T-Man to take some photos of me in my new tunic:

Melia Tunic


Completed:  August 18, 2012

Fabric:  Green sport mesh jersey fabric, 100% unknown fibres (poly?), 60” wide, 2 metres (got a second sleeveless tee out of it also). From Dressew’s bargain basement.

Notions:  sewing thread, serger thread, 2 - 5” pieces of narrow ribbon, 2 small snaps.

Pattern:  Kirsten Kimono Tee, modified with inspiration from Sigrid’s Cowl Neck Top and lengthened into a tunic.

Comments:  This simple top gave me a harder time than it should have. It helped to have Sigrid’s great sewing tutorial printed out and in front of me. It’s not hard, but it was damned hot in my studio while I was working on it. I think my brains melted a little.

I’m still on the fence about this top. Perhaps the cowl is a little extreme especially when compared to Sigrid’s? The fabric is very lightweight which drapes well but also shows every lump! Even if T does think it’s sexy. Heh. I’m not sure how much wear I will get out of it in the long run. It was a great exercise in modifying a pattern though.

The secret weapon in this top are the strap keepers:


The whole thing kept shifting around on my shoulders and slipping back without them. They are indispensible.

About the name: Melia was one of the Meliae, the ash tree nymphs. Though that’s my walnut tree in the photo. Love the bark! The walnut nymphs were the Caryatids, but they got hijacked into columns – holding up architecture with baskets on their heads. Harumph. Here’s me being a tree nymph:


Notice this top gives me a chance to wear the Endira Necklace that I crocheted awhile back. I don’t have many garments with a suitable neckline but this one works.

In other news, I’ve been reworking the instructions for the Quercus cardigan. It’s a beautifully written pattern except that it seems hardly anybody can get the same gauge as the designer. I got stitch gauge just fine first try but row gauge is short by a whole stitch per inch. And yes, I washed and blocked my swatch! It’s a thing of beauty, I’ll tell you. Soft and slightly fuzzy. Not bad for a vintage cone of wool I inherited from who-knows-where. Anyway, I know wider rows would elongate anything that’s written in rows rather than to a specified length so I reworked the math in a few critical areas such as the armhole depth and the hip increases. Hopefully that will take care of it. I’m making a Medium which exactly matches my bust and hip measurements, not including the front bands which actually add an extra 6” to the width (and can be knit a bit wider still if necessary). I hope I’m not choosing a size too small but I don’t want to swim in it either. Such a fine dance between too loose and too tight in garments, isn’t it?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Little Something

Finally I actually finished something. Two somethings but the second one will have to wait for photos. There may be a third something by then too, who knows?

Cassia In Blues


For:  Rosebud

Begun:  June 20, 2012
Completed:  August 17, 2012

Yarn:  Sandnes Garn Smart, 100% superwash wool, colour 1002, hand-dyepainted with acid dyes in shades of blue, 108 yds + 50 g (DK weight), 6 balls (about 1/2 ball left over).

Needles:  Addi Lace Cliks, 4mm. Addi Lace circ, 3.25mm. Aero aluminum dpns, 3.25mm.

Pattern:  Cassia by Georgie Hallam, purchased as a Ravelry download here.

CassiaDress_detail Comments: This is a lovely pattern for a girly tunic or dress in multiple sizes, newborn to 12 years. Although it’s fully colour-coded, I took a highlighter pen to clarify where to go for the size 24 months and was still frequently confused by the many needle changes for the ruched yoke. I might have benefitted from re-writing the details for my size out again in a simpler form thus saving the time spent frogging!

However, this is a really cute dress! I found 3 buttons in the stash that go reasonably well. It blocked out quite large (good old stretchy superwash!) but should fit her for a long time.

I’ve also been sewing a little bit. Before we went to Manning Park I started a project inspired by Sigrid’s blog post here. Judging by her excellent photographs I decided I could copy the idea and combine the draped neckline with the Kirsten Kimono Tee pattern and come up with one of my infamous frankenpatterns. Yay! I had a little difficulty with figuring out how to split the neckline to get the shape correct.

First I took these instructions from Connie Crawford’s book:

Crawford cowl

And got this:

Cowl beg

I didn’t like how it distorted the shoulder seam and didn’t seem to add enough volume. So I went this way instead:

Cowl pat

After straightening out the neckline to allow a folded facing, I ended up with this:

Cowl dif

The top layer is the original pattern and the (wobbly, sorry!) black line outlines the new front neckline. Then I added the matching facing to the top line. It ends a couple of inches below the armhole and curves gently up at the centre. The back neckline, shoulder and armhole is the same as the original Kirsten Kimono Tee. I lengthened the top to a tunic as well and was quite pleased with the results. I cut the garment out of some green novelty sport fabric that’s quite light and drapey and has tiny little holes in it. The usual 100% unknown fibre bargain basement find at Dressew. Total cost about $4. I figured if it didn’t work out, no loss really except my time.

Trouble came when I went to sew the tunic together. I thought I understood Sigrid’s brilliant sewing order but kept messing up and had to use my seam ripper more than I usually do. I ended up printing out her blog post for reference before I got the darn thing correctly put together. I hope to have photos for the next post. T-Man thinks it’s really sexy but I swear I can’t gain any weight or it will be too tight! This stuff isn’t very stretchy at all even though it’s a knit. Now you really want to see me in it, don’t you? Heh.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Just a quick one today! I’ve decided that a quickie is better than radio silence. I’ve just been so busy that it’s hard to do a proper post even once a week. Sheesh.

When last you saw Damselfly, I was heading to a demo downtown for VIVA Vancouver. I would say VV is kind of a bust. No advertising. No schedules of happenings. Come to think of it, not much happening at all! Minimal passing interest from the pedestrians and shoppers. Big expense (temporarily re-routing the busses!) and for what result exactly? Our little pavilion in the middle of Granville Street did garner some eyeballs and occasional questions. Beryl had a couple of folks passing a stick shuttle through a warp on the table loom. I’m not sure but I doubt there was anything much that sold – though there were beautiful handwoven scarves (Beryl), shibori-dyed silk scarves (Joanne), inkle-woven trims (April), and pine needle and cedar bark baskets (Dale). The wind was really strong, especially early on, and it was hard to keep things pinned down. Several spinners ended up wearing layers of woolies to keep warm in the shade – even though it was about 25C in the sunshine! I just wandered around chatting and spinning on my Houndesign spindle for about 3 hours and then T-Man and I went home. Sorry I didn’t even take one single photograph either. Doh.

In other news, I’ve been sorting out my next few knitting projects that will come with me on our September Vacation. You might remember (or not) the Oatmeal Sweater that I was knitting last year while we travelled. It didn’t work out at all – so I frogged it. The yarn was a wool 2-ply aran weight on a cone that I got second-hand from somewhere and there’s about 1500 yards of it, enough for just about any sweater. I decided that it’s going to become a Quercus from Knitty’s First Fall 2011. This is a nice cabled cardigan (Rav link) that should help to keep me warm this winter. I was going to make it from handspun but I like this yarn better. Especially after I skeined it all up and washed it. Yucky greasy, dusty and dirty wool is now nice and soft and smells much better.

Best news is that I got gauge first try! Albeit with a needle that’s 2 sizes smaller than recommended. The row count is a little off so I may have to watch that it doesn’t get too long. Since this sweater is knit top-down that should be easy to control. I can also add a bit more hip width if I need it too or widen the front band slightly. I’m making a size medium which matches my measurements exactly, aka 0 ease. I don’t want it to be too loose and baggy on me and the measurements don’t include the bands. More on this later. I’m not going to be able to control my desire to start this as soon as I’m done Rosebud’s dress. Nearly there.

What else? The garden is winding down somewhat though we have the usual oversupply of beans and summer squashes. The tomatoes are starting to ripen. We have 3 large spaghetti squashes which I think is pretty cool for a first effort. The butternuts are sadly way behind this year and it’ll be a race to see if we get any ripe ones before it’s too late. The peas are pretty much done though I’m impressed they made it this far into August. The sodden June must have something to do with that. The lettuce is done but we have gorgeous cabbages instead. I’m hoping they will keep ok in the fridge if there’s some left before we go away. There’s new arugula and mizuna but the re-planted lettuce didn’t come up or got eaten by slugs or something. Oh well. Depending on the fall, the mizuna can actually make it through frosts.

The weld harvest is drying nicely in the hot sun we’ve been having. I should be able to pack it up into ziplock bags today or tomorrow. I need to harvest and use the woad very soon, perhaps next week. I’d like to use it once anyway, before it needs to become compost. The rest of the dye plants are doing very well too. The Japanese indigo has grown visibly since we chopped half of it off last week. The madder is flowering – tiny little yellow things. I think it likes finally being in the real dirt instead of the old galvanised buckets. Harvest is going to be a little more problematical though. We’ll try that later in the fall when the tops die back.

Well, this wasn’t quick the quickie I expected. Gotta get now. Better post next time. I hope.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yellow + Blue = Green

Running a bit behind as usual. Life happens, eh? I spent an inordinate amount of time today in the garden. The weather has been lovely but not super-hot. My favourite summer weather. A cooling breeze along with the bright sunshine. Gotta love it! I’m able to accomplish a lot outside without melting into a pile o’goo. The garden is looking much better after being neglected during our Manning Park Campout. However, now I am very tired. The good kind.

Backing up to Thursday (also a lovely day) my friends from my Spectrum Study Group came over and we made yellow, blue and green with my home-grown weld and Japanese indigo:


I’ve discovered the secret to Japanese indigo that is different from woad is to cover the leaves with cold water and heat slowly until the leaves look cooked. This can take as long as 2 hours and the temp shouldn’t go much above 60 degrees Celsius. After that, instead of lowering the temp to 50 quickly, just carry on with the soda ash and oxidation steps right away. Somehow this works. Japanese indigo has a lot more blue in it than a similar amount of woad and is very easy to oxidise with only a few minutes of whisking.

We also did a weld bath, extracting the dye from 500g of semi-dried plant parts and dyeing an equal weight of fibre that was already mordanted in alum or alum acetate. I also added 4 flavourless Tums for the requisite alkalinity. The results were a brilliant lemon yellow. Then the exhaust bath got several silk and cotton scarves popped in for a lighter butter yellow. Weld is so easy compared to getting blue out of the indigo leaves!

The first dip in the indigo vat was very dark but quite streaky. Unfortunately a second dip lightened the shade on all but the wool skeins. It did even things out some though. I don’t know if there was too much thiox which was stripping the blue back out again? It was my usual 2 tsps and there was quite a lot of indigo in it for a fresh-leaf vat. Who knows. Every vat is its own story. I’m still trying to achieve a really dark blue but it seems elusive. Especially when we stuff a whole bunch of skeins in madly! Perhaps one day I’ll keep an indigo vat all to myself and see what happens. Usually though I don’t mind sharing.

I also want to try freeze-drying the Japanese indigo – once it grows back from the haircut I gave it. The theory is that you pack the fresh leaves into a sealed bag, freeze it overnight, then take the frozen leaves out and dry them. Later they can be used as for fresh leaves. It would be fabulous if this worked so that I can make a dye vat from my home-grown indigo in deepest winter. I certainly don’t have enough of a crop to even attempt to make sukumo, the traditional composted indigo.

Some of the yellow weld-dyed skeins were overdyed in the indigo for a bright lime green. Here’s most of the skeins hanging up to oxidise:


So pretty, aren’t they? I find it so fascinating that I can get these intense pure colours from my very own garden plants. Who’d a-thunk-it? Exciting and satisfying in a way that I have a hard time explaining to non-fibre folks. Doesn’t stop me from trying…

Tomorrow I’m off downtown to participate in a street demonstration by my weavers’ and spinners’ guild at VIVA Vancouver. They’re closing Granville Mall to traffic and scheduling a number of free entertainments. I’ll be spindling up a storm by our tent on Granville St. between Robson and Georgia, 11am – 5pm. Drop by if you can. I may  not stay the whole time but I should be around for at least the earlier half.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Return Of The Native


The usual shot of Mt. Frosty from the Rainbow Bridge. Note there’s much less snow than we usually see and a whole lot more people enjoying the water. The weather was hot but the lake was really cold!

So we’re back from our Summer Family Campout. Us, our kids, their spouses, their kids and, on the last weekend, T’s brother and sis-in-law. That was fun! Although I’m covered in itchy bug bites. I think the spots represent every type of biting insect in Manning Park: mosquitoes, noseeums, black flies and deer flies. Yum. Apparently I’m delicious. Who knew?

None of us took many photos unfortunately. We were too busy or too lazy or both simultaneously. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. A little cloud, a lot of sun, a tiny sprinkle of rain early one morning. Not too hot until the last couple of days. We hiked. We talked. We fished. (OK, not me – but I got to eat trout!) We rowed in our rubber dinghy. We played with grandkids. A lot. We cooked. We sat around the evening campfire. Some people made s’mores. Blech. Somebody burned the popcorn. Darn.

There were exciting events to recount. The dog (golden retriever puppy) managed to get a fish hook in her leg which was extracted without too much fuss by Milady Daughter. Then Ninja Son and his nearly-8-year-old Super Princess accidentally caught an osprey with what was likely the same fish hook. Ospreys are big birds! Silly thing decided the float was food but spit it out but then got hooked in the leg when it tried to fly away. Ninja Son was able to reel it in and hold the bird long enough to extract the hook and let it go again. Whew! I hope it learned its lesson now. I was sorry to miss this and there is no photographic evidence either. We’ll have to take their word. It’s too amazing to not be true.

There was also a bear that got into the campground and ate someone’s lunch that he had left out while taking a trip to the washroom. Doh. Unfortunately it didn’t get lost after they tried to frighten it away with bear bangers. So the poor thing had to be shot. Sad. The next day there were sightings of two more bears in the camp so there was a lot more vigilant enforcement of the clean campsite rules. And more bear bangers that sound like gunshots. These ones were smart enough to leave without incident. Whew.

The last Saturday was the traditional BC Day weekend lantern festival. We didn’t make one but went down to the beach to watch them float out into the lake. 5-year-old Stargazer was somewhat disappointed that his family didn’t make a lantern float too. Instead they were busy fishing which he also enjoys and anyway it’s a lot of work! We know because we did it ourselves. Once. Some people made some really interesting shapes and themes. My favourite was the little woman in a bubble bath with a glass of red wine. The tea light was in the wine glass. Cute. 

As we were heading back to camp in the semi-dark, a very confused buck mule deer was coming down in the opposite direction. He didn’t realise the beach was full of humans! Somebody’s dog barked and the poor guy sprang back into the forest. He had an incredible rack of antlers, the most points I’ve ever seen in the park. Very handsome.

Here we all are on one of our shorter walks, going to look for frogs in the pond:


I was pulling up the rear and enjoyed the view with everyone in single file. 8 adults, 3 kids, 1 dog. They’re all there even if you can’t see them. Heh.

The next day we were glad to be heading for home and all the work that needs to be done. Again. We did come home in the middle of the 10 days to water and pick produce and do little people’s laundry and bring back groceries. This time there was even more watering to do since it had been sunnier and hotter while we were gone. I picked all this:


Broccoli, peas, lemon cucumbers, zucchini, pattypans, green onions, 5 kinds of beans and a cabbage. I also picked the dye flowers including all these coreopsis:


And one weld plant:


It was huge! I’ve got it nearly all chopped now but there’s 2 more plants left to go. Whew. I don’t really need any more weld but these ones planted themselves and I’m not going to waste them if I can help it. My Spectrum Dye Study Group is coming over tomorrow to use up some of my weld supply for me. I need to clean up the basement dye studio space today in anticipation.

Oh, and I did finish one knitting project while I was away:


Socks for T-Man. He’s starting wear out some of his dozen or more pairs and needs replacements.

More anon.