Happy Spring!

Or alternatively, Happy Autumn if you are on the other half of the planet! Must be spring here because today I picked the first of the kale buds from my overwintered plants.

Wee kale bouquet

The weather has been unseasonably warm and sunny for the past few days. Just to make up for having been unseasonably cold for February and the first half of March, right? Plants are speeding to catch up. The crocuses and snowdrops are fully out now and the larger daffodils are just starting to pop. I even saw some plum trees starting to flower finally. They usually come before the cherries do anyway. Such a beautiful time of year.

Yesterday we took advantage of the good weather and went on a day trip over to Bowen Island on Skytrain, bus and ferry.

Coming in to Snug Cove

Back when we had two small children and a sailboat we used to spend quite a lot of time over here since it was just a hop, skip and a jump from where our boat was moored in Fisherman’s Cove, West Vancouver. We took a look about the shops in Snug Cove and noted all the changes since we had been here last and then had a yummy lunch in the Bowen Island Pub, including a locally brewed Snug Cove lager. Thus well-fortified we hiked into Crippen Regional Park and around Killarney Lake.

Killarney Lake, Bowen Island
The farthest marshy end of the lake

It’s a good hike, some of it on smooth trails and across boardwalks and some scrambling up and down on the more rustic parts. We finally made it back down to the salt water at Deep Bay.

Deep Bay, Bowen Island

The snow is still quite low down on the mainland’s mountains but where we were standing it was very warm! A little more walking brought us back to Snug Cove, watching the ferry coming from Horseshoe Bay.

That little white dot in the middle is our ferry, the Queen of Capilano, on her way to Bowen

After we got home, very tired after the day’s adventures, Thom checked his FitBit and found out we had walked more than 14.5 kilometres in total! I think that might be at least a 10-year record for us. Whew. No wonder I lack much ambition today, huh?

Meanwhile, back at the Spring Cleaning, I’ve got 14 boxes of magazines and books ready to go bye-bye. And a bag of paper recycling and another big bag of non-recyclable trash. Not done yet, but I’m finally feeling like I’m getting somewhere at least. Unfortunately nothing else is getting done while this is going on. Apart from starting some baby seedlings under the grow-lights which can’t wait. Now I’m committed to their care and can’t leave them for more than a day. Hence the reason for the day trip to Bowen. Otherwise we might have run away for at least a week. Oh well. Can’t do everything!

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Trash or Treasure

I’ve just begun a rather difficult reassessment of all my crafty stashes. This is not going to be done quickly or without pain – both kinds: physical (books and magazines are heavy!) and emotional (that item reminds me of a special time/place/person and I had plans for it!). No, I haven’t gotten on the Kondo bandwagon. I’m not going by “it sparks joy” but more like “will I use it, ever”. Some of this stuff has been lurking about here for 40 years! Also needs and tastes change. Honestly, I only have just so long left in my life even if I consider the best-case scenario. How many projects can I finish before I’m incapable of finishing them?

So here’s part of the first lot sorted off the shelves:

Yes, I’ve read every single one!

Some has already found new homes. This bunch represents crafts that I think are exciting and inspiring and all, but I don’t want to do them myself anymore. These books and magazines are mostly from the early 2000’s – kind of the heyday of publishing before the Internet stole it all. Showing off these types of embellished creations are what Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for and all you need to see them is a device and an online connection. Since that is considerably cheaper for most people, bye-bye paper magazines. If you’re into perusing through them though, a lot of the lovely stuff in these publications remains relevant today. But I’m ready to move them on to someone who hopefully can appreciate them. I’ve already booked a table at a one-day craft supply sale in April (at the Silk Purse, West Vancouver, BC, noon-4pm). We’ll see how that goes. I hate selling. Just sayin’. Mostly I’ll probably just be giving it away.

And I’m not finished sorting yet! I’m kind of stalled on the beadwork shelves. Actually I would love to do what I did with my lacemaking supplies – find someone who belongs to an interest group and let them have it all to distribute in whatever way works for them. Know any local-to-me beaders? I used to years ago but interests change. Another thing that is stalling me is that my oldest granddaughter is becoming interested in making jewelry as an adjunct to her cosplay makes. She needs a chance to tell me what she would like to use before I sell anything. And then there’s the beads that will fit on my knitting yarns that I’d like to keep. And Thom doesn’t want me to get rid of the wire stuff quite yet. Ummm…it’s complicated.

Which is why I haven’t already done this job in any major way before now! I’m (mostly) ready to do it but it’s obviously going to be an ongoing project for awhile as I make multiple passes through everything. The good news is I’m getting a chance to look more carefully at it all and remember what I actually already have. That should prevent me from adding very much to the collection(s). Notice I’m not saying that I’m never going to buy any crafty stuff ever again? That would just be mean, wouldn’t it? Especially with Fibres West coming up very soon!

Without Further Ado

I’d like to present The Peacoat Project:

The man asked for a peacoat like Jimmy Perez on the murder mystery series “Shetland”. Neither of us had any idea how much work this was going to be! Nearly a month and about $200 worth of materials later, his dream became a reality. He gets his coat while it’s still cold enough to wear it and I get sore fingers and a whole lot of new appreciation for tailoring. My goodness it’s a lot of sewing! Of course it’s partially my own fault. I couldn’t just follow the instructions that came with Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat pattern could I? No, I had to do it PROPERLY! Hah.

I’ve done coats and jackets before of course. Back in the day I didn’t realise that the interfacings were so important to the shaping of garments and help to give it body and firmness that you can’t get otherwise. I was always a little – or a lot – disappointed with my makes. But this time I decided to learn all the heavy-duty stuff, like hair-canvas, chest shield, sleeve heads, basting, taped roll-line, hand-made shoulder pads, steam shaping, hand-stitched buttonholes etc. This is Hard Tailoring, in both meanings of the term. Thom helped me pick out the really nice wool blend Melton cloth in a dark olive green and had a blast choosing the coordinating quilting cotton lining featuring a cabin in the woods, canoes and a whole lot of forest animals. Then there was all of the interfacings, threads and buttons too. Lots of parts to put together. Oh, and if you’re ever wondering – Melton cloth is woven and then fulled, brushed and sheared so it sort of looks like felt but has an underlying woven structure. Unlike felt which is just fibres interlocked together randomly. Melton does have a right and a wrong side. The public (right) side is slightly less fuzzy and you can just barely see the woven threads whereas the wrong side is more felted-looking. I don’t know if it’s critical but I cut the coat out with-nap, everything facing one way, just in case it showed in the finished garment. I don’t think that was necessary though.

It was kind of daunting, I’ll admit. I started off with a lot of “analysis paralysis” and dreamed of sewing all night long for a week! I did a lot of research in the two tailoring books I bought and also online photos, tutorials and videos. Once I settled on how I was going to proceed it went a lot better. Just concentrating on one part at a time. All of the hand-sewing was actually quite soothing and much easier than when I had to wrestle the beast under the sewing machine! It’s approximately one-third machine and two-thirds hand-stitched.

So now that it’s all over, I’d like to thank my cast and crew of this endeavour: Janny the sewing machine, Loopy the serger and of course Debbie Double my dressform without whom this would have been impossible. Even if the coat didn’t actually fit her shoulders very well she held up under the pressure! And speaking of pressure, Chi-Long the steam iron and the rest of the pressing tools did their important part too:

Iron, sleeve board, ham and clapper/point presser

And let us not forget the little things that made the sewing a whole lot easier:

Small but necessary sewing tools

Clockwise from the top-left. This project was the first one where I needed to use the small wonder clips when pins were just not adequate. My wrist pincushion now needs replacing with a better version (I stabbed myself right through it a few zillion times) and I need to sort my very fine pins which tended to get bent in the thick coat fabric. It was fun to use this vintage silk thread for basting. It just pulled right out when it was no longer needed and didn’t leave a mark if you ironed over it. My little Clover leather thimble is the first thimble I’ve ever had that I actually use properly. It’s comfortable on my middle finger, stays on (unlike metal ones) and I forget it’s there after awhile. Judging by the wear it also saved my fingertips! The wee box of Thread Heaven is a treasure since it’s not being made anymore. It has a different effect on thread (preventing tangles) than the wax (strengthening). All depends on where the thread needs to be used. And the water-soluble marking pencil holds up under ironing but disappears with a little dab of water. Turns out I like it (and it’s pink and blue siblings) better than other markers of which I have quite a few. I can tell because it keeps getting shorter. Not shown are the several different hand-sewing needles that I made copious use of daily.

Today I’ve been taking a much-needed sewing break in order to get all of my notes finished. I cleaned up the studio all ready for the next project. I already have 2 more warm pullovers cut out for Thom using the patterns I’ve done before, the North Star from Love Notions and the Finlayson from Thread Theory. Yes, I’m sewing for him again! He’s definitely sew-worthy! And not to worry, I’ll be back to selfish sewing and other things too before long.

You’ve seen this before but…now it’s finished!

Quick Catch-Up

Still plugging away at the Goldstream Peacoat. It’s been a big job! Bigger than I expected going in anyway. I’ve ended up hand-sewing a whole lot more than I originally planned both because I have more control over the stitches and because it got pretty darned hard to get this beast under the presser foot! I ended up having to move a bunch of stuff off my sewing table because it all kept ending up on the floor as I wrestled the coat around on the sewing machine. I have to say that Janny the Janome held up very well to this thick fabric plus layers of interfacing. As long as I could get the thing under the presser foot it would sew through it. I only ran into an issue (bobbin thread nests) as I was doing the topstitching on the fronts and around the collar. Probably because I was turning the whole coat around with the needle down. Not perfect but done.

Here’s a couple of teaser photos so you can see the lining. Debbie Double is wearing the coat inside out!

Coat lining with inside pocket
Back facing with my label

Lots of critters in them thar woods, eh? I edged the lining with flat piping made from the sleeve lining fabric and I think it looks pretty neat. Now I’m sewing the sleeve linings which are the last pieces to assemble and sew in. By hand. Of course. All that’s left after that are the buttonholes and 3 buttons. Also by hand. Of course. It’s still going to take a few more days before this thing is completed. I’m kind of ready for it to be finished now.

One other thing I did was to begin a new pair of socks to try out my wee ChiaoGoo Shorties. They work quite well for me, at least on this simple basic sock. I used some DBG Confetti yarn that I totally love because it wears really well but is now discontinued. Boo-hoo. Self-striping socks are so old-fashioned now, aren’t they? I still like them though. What I don’t like is the stitch marker! The thickness leaves a bit of a ladder in the knitting which you might be able to just detect there above the pink marker. Changing it out for a thinner one now. Besides pink is my least favourite colour.

Self-striping socks on a 2mm tiny circular


Crafty Woman

The Peacoat Project is coming along. But how about a wee digression? Mostly because I’m kind of tired of semi-couture tailoring! And I do mean a “wee” digression. See?

ChiaoGoo TWIST Shorties

Apparently ChiaoGoo means “crafty woman” in Chinese and this is a really small set of interchangeable knitting needles. I heard all you going “Wait! What?” But I’ll show them to you first before I give you my reasoning behind this purchase. They are absolutely adorable!

All this is packed into that little red pouch: 6 sets of needle tips from 2mm-3.25mm in two lengths (2” and 3”) in their own little case, a needle gauge, 4 keys, 6 resin stitch markers, 3 cables (5”, 6” and 8”) 2 teensy-tiny little cable connectors, and 2 end stoppers. The TWIST connectors are the “mini” size, the smallest anyone makes and all are compatible with ChiaoGoo’s other mini items. Don’t believe me when I say how small these are? Evidence!

Mini connections

And I have really small hands too. They are beautifully machined from surgical stainless steel and the cables are flexible coated woven wire. I’m going to have to be careful with the tiny connectors so they don’t get lost but luckily replacements are also available separately. Also stoppers, tips, cables, etc. The connections are quite secure when you use the keys that look suspiciously like T-pins and the transitions all seem smooth.

Which leads me to the “why” of this needle set. As you might know I have a pretty full set of Addi Lace Clicks as my go-to interchangeable needles. But they only go down to 3.25mm needle tips and the shortest cable/needle combo is 16”. Good sizes for hats but not for sleeves or socks. I found this helpful chart online for the Shorties set:

Source: fiberific.com.au

It shows how many different lengths you can obtain by combining tips and cables. There was some talk about the company increasing the available tip sizes but that doesn’t seem to have happened. That would have made these more useful for sleeves in larger gauges. I don’t know what the hold-up is but it could be that the wee connections are just too small to support heavier tips. ChiaoGoo does also have a mini set with 5” tips from 1.5mm-2.5mm and 3 longer cables plus pieces are available separately too so smaller obviously works fine! And there’s a small-cable to large-tip adapter so if they could come out with a mini-small adapter you could add heavier tips that way. I’ll wait and see how it goes. Anyway, I thought this Shorties set would cover an empty space in my rather vast knitting needle collection. Life is too short to put up with crappy tools, amirite?

I generally knit socks on 2mm dpns (my favourite being the Knitter’s Pride Cubics) and I don’t enjoy Magic Loop at all. So the smallest size of these would be perfect. I also knit on 2 socks at the same time so I can either use the stoppers when I switch to the second sock or if the circumference is wide enough, use a differential (one of each tip length). We’ll see how it works in practice though, huh?

All that said, I wouldn’t recommend the Shorties for just any knitter! As I’ve mentioned, my hands are very small so the tiny sizes of these needles aren’t really a problem for me. I often work in fine yarns and small gauges so the tip sizes are in my ballpark. But your hands may cramp up trying to grip tiny needles or you might prefer knitting with heavier weight yarns so these would not be for you at all. They also seem to be rather scarce so you might have trouble finding a vendor. I went through Amazon.ca and it took about a month to come. From Germany! Go figure. Though since then I’ve discovered a more local source for the stoppers and connectors and such. They don’t have the Shorties kit though.

Anyway I’m looking forward to casting on something and trying them out! However, I still have 2 knitting projects to finish first. And let us not forget, The Peacoat! Today’s progress:

Handmade shoulder pads

Cotton muslin cover over 4 layers of cotton quilt batting. I made them slightly asymmetrical and with the longer side to the back, they fit well. Next step – getting the sleeves in. And a plethora of catch-stitching inside.

“It’s the coat that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friends!”

A Tale of Two Interfacings

Well, actually three interfacings but first we’ll discuss the two different brands of fusible hair canvas that I bought.

Hair canvas, two kinds.

I know it would be helpful if I knew which brands these are but unfortunately I didn’t note that down! The top one is more grey in colour and also more expensive at $15.99 per metre. I bought that one at Dressew. The bottom piece is a lighter colour, slightly heavier in the hand (but that’s mostly due to the beads of glue on the back) and cost $12.98 per metre at Fabricana (Richmond, BC). Both types were around 20 – 22” wide, so quite narrow as fabrics go. Per square metre they are more expensive than my main fabric. Even the cheap one.

Now comes the truth! The first more-expensive one was easily and successfully fused to the coat fronts and the collar pieces. It held the roll lines really nicely when I allowed it to cool and dry into shape. Just as if I had actually spent time pad stitching the shaping in as you would for a non-fusible but way less work! I had planned to also interface the facing pieces which on this double-breasted style are quite wide and could use good support. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough of the original type of canvas so when we went out to Fabricana where I bought the weft-insertion interfacing (because Dressew didn’t have any) I picked up another metre of whatever brand of hair canvas it was that they had available there. I used the exact same fusing technique that I did on all the other interfacings but this stuff did NOT want to stick to my wool blend melton cloth. It bubbled badly and you could not only feel it but see the pimpling when I tried to fold the roll line. Didn’t hold its shape either. Grrrr….

Obviously not the same product at all! And a complete waste of my money. How can you know these things though unless you test them? It’s not like the store will sell you a tiny test square of each kind! The only upside was that it peeled off my facing pieces without damaging them. Much too easily in fact because I didn’t even need to use the iron to soften the glue. Boo. Binned. So now what? I decided to use the weft-insertion interfacing on my front facings instead.

Suitmaker 602 weft-insertion fusible interfacing

I did manage to remember the name of this one! I also like it a lot. The 602 is the heavier version. (There’s also a lighter weight 601.) The fibre content is 78% viscose/22% polyester and this is the “black”. It’s much darker IRL but not really completely black. It fused easily with lots of steam and pressure for about 12 seconds and didn’t leave any glue on Chi-Long’s foot. The results are a thicker, non-stretchy but still flexible fabric. You can’t even see a line from the front where a partial interfacing piece ends. This is good stuff. Luckily I bought 4 metres (at $7.25 per metre if you’re keeping track) and I’m glad I did because I don’t have all that much left now. This peacoat is seriously interfaced out the wazoo. Did I mention how much I love Chi-Long, my new iron? He is so steamy!

Fusing the back stay

I was also working on the front pockets. I basted and hand-stitched around to tuck in the lining so it wouldn’t show at the edges.

Slip-stitching the pockets

Hey, my nails are pretty clean compared to what they look like in gardening season! Which is coming up soon. When it stops snowing. But I digress. I also topstitched the patch pockets using the triple stitch and regular thread. I tried some heavier topstitching thread but because I couldn’t get a good colour match it just didn’t look right. I may be using it for the hand-stitched buttonholes however. Not thinking about that right now. Anyway, the pockets and the flaps are on and looking pretty good. I’ll really show you the lining as soon as I get to that point. It’s very manly. Heh.

But next? Some actually assembly perhaps?

Deep Coat

Oh. My dears. I am down and dirty with this Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat for Thom. This beast is armour tough! Seventy-gabillion layers of interfacing: hair canvas, fusible weft insertion. Roll-line stay tape. Lining. Basting. Tailor’s tacks, for crying out loud! I feel as if I’ve been cutting out pieces for an eon. Fusing…

Let me tell you right now – do not believe interfacing bolt labels that state “No need to preshrink”. They are very wrong.

See the white paper showing? That’s how much the fusible interfacing made the front shrink.

I don’t think it was the fault of the dark olive green melton cloth fabric (a wool blend) because I ran it through 3 separate steam cycles in a hot dryer to preshrink it. When I fused the whole front pieces with the weft-insertion interfacing, they shrank again approximately 1/2” in length and 1/4” in width. I can work around this but luckily it didn’t shrink any further after I added another layer of fusible hair canvas to the top and front sections and yet another “chest shield” piece to the shoulder area. Whew. Major construction zone here! I also fused bias cut hair canvas to the collar pieces but they only shrank about 1/8” in every direction. I haven’t completed the front facings yet but I’m expecting some shrinking there too. Note to self: next time preshrink all the damn interfacing in hot water first! Roll in a towel to remove extra moisture and air dry. Easy peasy, right? (Coulda-shoulda-woulda-didna!) I ended up using 3 metres of the hair canvas and over 2 metres of the weft insertion in this thing. This is not a trivial part of the construction obviously. However, notice how I managed to avoid pad stitching? Fusibles are useful that way.

So even though I’m feeling as if I’ve spent forever on this coat so far, I’ve only gotten this far:

It’s backless!

Yes, Debbie Double is wearing Thom’s peacoat. Well, the front anyhow. We’ll pretend she’s not adding any chest bumps, okay? He actually has almost the same chest measurement as I do. Heh. I have wider hips though! The collar is just sitting there. And I pinned one of the pockets on to check the placement. I had to imagine the roll-line placement where the collar and lapels fold back since this pattern didn’t include it. I pin-basted the under collar on and tried it on Thom to see where it naturally broke. I marked both the fronts and the collar and hope I got it more-or-less in the right place. It looks a lot stiffer here than it will be after the seams are stitched and pressed. I hope. I really do want this coat to have some shape anyway though. No slouching on my watch!

It’s been a really hard job figuring out how to do all this “correctly”. I guess not traditionally correct because of the fusible interfacing but functionally correct. After all this work I’d like this peacoat to look good, fit properly and wear well. Hopefully that’s not too much to ask?

Meanwhile I haven’t accomplished much else. The socks are up to the heel turns finally. The Grey Coopworth has nearly a second bobbin full. Haven’t touched the Deciduous Pullover or the Fernwood yarn at all. The weather has gotten a little warmer and some of the snow has melted in the rain. We had sun today too which helped a lot in the studio to see what I was doing. I almost didn’t need the lights on. Walking outdoors isn’t pleasant right now in the sloppy mixture of ice and slush so I don’t feel too bad hanging out inside sewing instead. More Goldstream Peacoat details coming soon.