Spring has sprung in a big way around here, even though we had one more frost yesterday morning one day past our average last frost date. The daffodils are blooming and the plum and cherry trees are covered in pink and white. So pretty! I’ve got my peas and potatoes in. I was happy to finally find the Prince of Orange seed potatoes that grow so well for me at the garden store. They are so good that I didn’t even plant any last year (or the year before, come to think of it) and still harvested an ice-cream bucket full of volunteers! I decided this year to dedicate an entire bed to them. Just because. Meanwhile I’ve been planting wee seeds in the basement Grow-Op.

It’s a mini-jungle!

Now I need to start transplanting these guys into bigger pots so I can put them out into the greenhouse before tucking them into their garden beds. I started to prep the bed for the mustards yesterday but the soil was so wet it stuck to my shovel. Yuck. And today our next door neighbour has workmen ripping things out to put in a new fence between our properties so I’m hiding out where I can’t watch them trample the raspberries. They’re trying to be careful but not really succeeding terribly well. At least we don’t have to pay for the fence. They’re doing some major backyard renovation and replacing all the fences all the way around. Fine by me as long as it doesn’t block any more of my precious light than the former eyesore. Good fences make good neighbours, right?

In crafting news, I haven’t really finished anything at all since last post. I repaired a few pairs of socks. My red kneesocks blew a hole in one heel and the other was dangerously thin so instead of duplicate stitches, my usual fix, I picked up stitches and knit a replacement heel. When I was done I grafted the free stitches onto the sock and then did a bit of freeform stitching underneath to secure the loose ends of the hole.

Preparing to graft the heel stitches to the sock.
Underneath the heel patch

The other sock didn’t yet have a hole but it was dangerously thin. I decided to make the pair match I’d do the same knit-on patch as the first sock. It feels a little thicker under my heel than the one with the actual hole but it’s not really a problem. Now I can wear them again.

I’m up to the heel turn on yet another pair of socks, these ones for Thom. The knitting is going very slowly but still faster than that last pair! They are very plain but the yarn is so nice I’m almost regretting letting him have this one. Oh well. There’s lots more sock yarn in the stash.

And speaking of Thom, the second version of the Sanders Button-Up Shirt (pattern from Elbe Textiles) in a nice linen cross-dye (darkest navy warp woven with a natural tan weft). I’m nearly finished. Just sleeves and buttons/buttonholes left to go. Meanwhile, Debbie Double is wearing it and putting lady bumps in the front! Yes, it’s truly navy blue and tan but the optical mixing makes it look charcoal grey.

Shirt in progress, lightened up a bit to show detail

This time I left myself wider seam allowances so I could do much neater flat-fell seams instead of serging them and topstitching. The look on the outside is the same but the inside is a whole lot prettier. I’ll be sure to show a detail photo when the shirt is completed.

What else? I bought Muna and Broad‘s latest pants pattern, the Birchgrove Pants. These have an elastic waist, tapered legs and slash pockets and are suitable for a wide range of different medium weight fabrics. I have a piece of linen (I think!) fabric that would be perfect for them but it’s in need of a trip to the dyepot first. I was kind of waiting until it was warm enough to do it outdoors comfortably. Which I guess could be very soon, no? I’m trying to become more used to wearing pants made from woven fabrics instead of knits. Unfortunately I still find knits more comfortable! But I like that M&B pants fit me so well with very little tweaking necessary. Their patterns call for 1-1/2″ wide elastic for the easy factor but I need to get some. My local shops don’t have non-roll in this width. And I’m afraid that if I go shopping in a real store, I might lose my determination and buy more fabric!! I’ve been doing really well for over a year of working from the stash. Still not diminished nearly far enough to be reasonable. Too many boxes still lurking about in the attic. It’s a challenge.

Mid-Month Roundup

Hey, lookee! I actually got around to a post before the end of the month! I’m impressed with me. Heh.

So I’ve been working a lot in the garden on nice days. I can only manage a couple of hours at a time so I’m attempting to pace myself out accordingly. I haven’t actually started to plant seeds indoors yet. We’ve still occasionally been having some frost in the mornings so it’s not urgent. However, the veggie beds are turned, perennials manured and clean-up begun. The dye garden is ready to plant when it warms up enough. I haven’t gotten to the front garden yet, but Thom has been raking and pruning out there. You can always tell where my priorities lie when I spend most of my energy on the vegetable and dye gardens first! And leaving the flowers and shrubs to the last. Thom and I have a division of labour where he does the mowing and most of the pruning and raking and I do the fiddly planting, weeding and harvesting. What a team!

Meanwhile, I sewed a couple more things. First I made a wearable muslin for Thom.

Sky Blue Shirt

The pattern is the Sanders Button-Up from Elbe Textiles. It’s a lovely detailed design with pockets hidden in a front yoke and a shaped and pieced back.

Button-Up Back

The sides were quite shaped and Thom isn’t so I straightened out that seam but left the shaping in the back. It fits the way he likes, not too tightly around the waist and hip. The cuffs are a little loose though so I’ve reduced them for next time. The fabric is the hemp muslin that I dyed last summer with fresh Japanese indigo leaves from my garden. It’s quite blotchy and pale but it’s holding up to laundry okay so I’m considering it a successful dye experiment. It reminded me of the sky with clouds so Sky Shirt is now its official name.

The only thing I didn’t really like is that the main seams have a faux flat-fell finish, serged and then topstitched. I prefer an actual reverse flat-fell but the seams are only 1 cm so couldn’t do that on this one. However, I’ve already cut out a second version and left the formerly serged seams wider so that I can experiment with finishing them my way. The place where the pockets meet the front yoke might be a bit tricky. We shall see.

The second item sewn is my view B version of the Sienna Maker Jacket by Closet Core Patterns. This design is based on a vintage French worker’s jacket. The belt wraps the gentleman’s way underneath the front flap, through a slot and then around the body to a double D-ring closure. It takes a wee bit of fiddling to get into or out of! The pockets are capacious and as well as the outside left breast pocket, there’s a larger interior pocket on the right side. Perfect for my cell phone.

Sienna Maker Jacket

The fabric is a very heavyweight brushed bull denim that’s been in my stash for quite a few years. I love it so much that I didn’t want to use it on the wrong garment!

Jacket Back View

I had a difficult time (as usual) figuring out which size pattern to go with. Closet Core has this in two ranges, one based on a B-cup bust and one based on a D-cup. The curvier range starts at a size 14 which is the middle of the 3-4 sizes I need to grade across to fit my body so I needed to reduce the shoulders, armholes and sleeves which is quite tricky. I couldn’t graft on the upper bodice in a smaller size in the regular size range because the two ranges are actually quite different drafts. Luckily I’ve got lots of well-fitting patterns to check against to get the changes right that I had to make. The easier part of the grading is from the size 14 out to a 16 just above the waist to the hem. Then I bravely went ahead and cut out the jacket, not making a muslin this time. And miraculously it fits really well.

Speaking of the differences in the two size ranges (which very kindly come together in the download so you don’t have to choose ahead of time or buy the pattern twice), unlike the B-cup the D-cup range has a bust dart and a curved back seam and side seams. The design includes some nice tailor-ish details like a proper bias under collar and a two-piece sleeve. The instruction booklet is very clear and detailed and I had no difficulties figuring out how this jacket went together. I sewed it all with cotton thread and a size 90 jeans needle using my heavy duty Janome machine with the straight-stitch throat plate and foot. The seams were quite thick but Janny made it through it all pretty well. Unfortunately I didn’t discover that I actually have a hump-jumper tool until I was almost finished!

Multi-Use Sewing Tool

It’s been in my drawer for about 25 years (it originally came as an insert in a magazine) and I’ve always just used it just as a point turner. I had to look up how to use this type of tool since I never tried it before. But hey-ho! It’s quite functional in helping to get my presser foot over the bulky seams! I could have used it on a number of sewing projects before now. Better not lose it in the drawer again.

I finished the jacket completely inside with reverse flat-fell, turned under or in the case of the armhole seams, a faux French seam.

Jacket Insides

The only downside to this jacket is that it’s very warm so only suitable for cooler weather wear. It would be fine as an extra layer in my chilly house in mid-winter too. I can wear it open but only if I put the tail of the belt in my pocket. Otherwise it’s so long it drags on the ground!

Jacket Undone

I seem to have been on quite a jacket sewing roll lately! Three done this year so far and I still have one more in mind. Hopefully I’ll get to it before it’s too warm to wear a jacket at all.

Shortest Month

Here we are at the tail end of February and again I’m running behind. It’s not like I’ve got a gazillion things going on in my life or anything! Just a lack of enthusiasm for typing. Or something. Anyhoo, I’ve finished a number of things since last post so here’s the quick and dirty deets.

I had a couple more knit garments that I had cut out last autumn and hadn’t sewn yet. I finally got to it and made a t-shirt, leggings and a short-sleeved tunic in a lightweight green marl. Not sure of the fibre content (possibly rayon/lycra) but there’s plenty of stretch.

T-shirt with curled selvedge neckline and leggings
La Bella Donna Tunic with plain neck

All three layers can be worn together for the full Sherwood Forest effect! Heh. I still have a couple of t-shirts that I cut out back then but haven’t sewn yet. I guess I have to be in the mood for changing all the threads on the serger and coverstitch machines.

Then there’s a couple of jackets completed:

Plaid Pona Jacket

This is the Pona Jacket pattern from Helen’s Closet in the longer version. This plaid denim was a freebee I picked up years ago but never found a use for until now. It’s a bit thick for the Pona but I think it turned out just fine, especially judging by how many times I’ve worn it since I finished it! I used scraps of indigo blue batik cotton for the bias seam finishing:

Pona in progress

The cotton was left over from the lining to my Sewaholic Minoru Jacket that I made years ago, a pattern designed by Tasia Pona for whom this Pona pattern is named. Kind of came around in a circle, didn’t it? Anyway, it took many many yards of bias and I only had less than half a metre left when I was done. Is the game of Binding Chicken a thing? Now of course I want another Pona, perhaps the cropped version in some naturally dyed linen canvas which is also too thick but drapier than the denim.

The most complex project this month was the blue Amy Parka from a pattern by Schnittchen Patterns. I had purchased the dry oiled canvas in 2019 for this jacket but got sidetracked, or maybe intimidated by the thought of sewing with fabric that marks so easily? I luckily had just bought a bunch more wonder clips recently because pins are a complete no-go. At least I was actually able to iron it gently. I used some leftover rust cotton batik yardage in a pinecone design for the lining. And Past-Me was smart enough to have already purchased the long double separating zipper so I didn’t have to go shopping.

The hardest part actually turned out to be the pattern fitting. This pattern comes in two size ranges, regular and curvy, but they are sold separately. As a Betweenie, I always have a hard time deciding which way to go with this since I’m right over the dividing line: get the regular sizes and grade up at the waist and hip if necessary or go with the curvy ones and chop the upper bust, sleeves and armhole down? Neither option works particularly well for my body and I usually have to completely rework the armhole and sleeve cap. I ended up printing out a number of pages three times to grade between the size 40 and 46. And I still needed to do more fiddling after that including raising the underarm seam by a full 2 inches.

So just to be sure I got it all right I decided to actually make a muslin which I never normally do but it turned out to be a great solution. I needed several extra changes on the muslin but only had one tiny tweak to make on the real thing, happily taking in since letting anything out shows needle holes. I also added an interior cellphone pocket and a drawstring on the hood. The finished jacket is darn near perfect except for the lack of seam sealant. It’s pretty water repellant though and will work fine in all but a serious downpour. I almost always have an umbrella with me anyhow.

Blue Amy Parka
Showing off the pine cone lining

There’s quite a bit of the oiled canvas left since I’d bought enough to make the longer version and instead made the shorter one which is plenty long enough on me. The long one would have been down to my calf! I’ve been thinking I might make a rain hat with the leftovers but we’ll see if that happens.

One last thing, I actually finished a knitting project! This pair of socks took the longest to finish ever. Since June 2019 which is just nuts.

Beaded Rib Socks

Don’t know what the problem was really. Maybe Covid stress? The Beaded Rib pattern was just that tiny bit more complicated where I couldn’t easily read at the same time. I also started these for Thom originally but ended up thinking that there wouldn’t be enough yarn to finish them. Turned out I could probably have managed especially after I decided to do the foot almost plain. The rib pattern takes up quite a lot more yarn. Oh well. I started another plain pair of socks for him and he’s happy. They are coming along much faster and yes, I can read while knitting on them. I still don’t really have my knitting mojo back though. Very odd.

Spring is coming here in Vancouver despite the couple of days of snow we got. The crocuses are out and I’ve even seen a daffodil or two. My rhubarb and garlic are coming up. I’ve still got lots of work to do out there but it’s too wet for me to feel inspired. Indoors I have seeds and soil ready to go and will be starting the Grow Op in a couple of weeks so hopefully that inspiration will hit before the baby plants need to be transplanted outside! The year continues to go around no matter what.

Thom took this on one of our walks!

A 2020 Recap

A few of my favourite makes

Yes, it’s already halfway through January and I haven’t done a final tally of my makes from last year. Now that that government south of us is sorted and we can all breathe easier I feel a little more willing to look backward again. Plus I finally finished writing up my project notes that I hadn’t touched since August so it’s all fresh in my mind. Drum-roll please! In 2020, I completed:

  • 26 garments sewn or refashioned
  • 1 seam roll and a plethora of masks made
  • 6 items knitted
  • 2 skeins spun
  • 6 tea towels woven
  • 5 fabrics dyed

I only made a couple of things for Thom. And after I put the photos together I realised that the green Jeds were actually completed this year, not 2020! I did cut them out in December anyway. And both pairs of socks above are his. He has enough pieces now that he can dress completely in wife-mades, except for his undies! (Maybe I should remedy that. Or not.)

Thom’s new clothes
3 bralettes and some of the many masks

I completely lost track of how many masks I’ve made although they were only for Thom, his mom and me. Unlike many other sewists I was slow off the mark and didn’t make any for giving away. However I think it will continue to be needful to wear face coverings for quite awhile still, at least until everyone is vaccinated and so-called “herd immunity” kicks in. So pretty much for most of the rest of 2021, I figure. Currently in my province you can’t get on a bus or ferry, shop in a store, go to a medical appointment, get your hair cut or enter a mall without a mask on. At least mine are more fun to wear than the generic paper disposables! Who knew a year ago that they would become perhaps literally a life-saver?

In the end I did complete some UFOs but there’s still several left over. I have a pile of knits cut out and ready to sew. I was threading up the machines for the green ones but I’m stalling. It’s a lightweight stretchy beast and I’m a little nervous about sewing it. Just DO IT! Also I’m finally back to knitting on a pair of socks that’s been hanging around half-done since 2019. And I was actually dreaming about spinning last night so maybe there’s hope that I will finally complete the sweater quantity project that I started forever ago. Only another 2 skeins to go, I think. And then they all get popped into a dyepot. That would be fun for a change! I haven’t spun at all for nearly a year. I also have a weaving draft and yarns all picked out for another round of towels. But there it all sits. Sad and forlorn.

Some soul-searching has me concluding that perhaps I’ve been somewhat reluctant to start new projects because I don’t actually need anything right now. Unlike some people however it’s not because I dress differently when mostly staying home! This is my normal life. Comfy practical clothes for gardening, walking, working in the craft studio, doing housework, cooking – all the usual stuff. Really, the only things I really do miss these days is getting together with family and eating out (particularly foods that don’t do so well as take-out like sushi, dosas, dim sum, yam fries with chipotle mayo…yum…). Oh, and running away to the beach or the desert in our van. Okay, enough of that, damselfly. No use whining about it. Nearly everyone is in a similar situation.

The good news is that I didn’t buy very much in the way of craft supplies all year, instead I was digging deeply into what I already have. I managed to use only stash fabrics and buttons but needed some more thread and of course a few PDF patterns that I couldn’t resist. What I did go a little spendy on were my new sewing and coverstitch machines but so far in the few months I’ve had them they’ve gotten plenty of use so definitely happy with those purchases. I also bought extra essentials like wonder tape, clips, a stitch ripper and more bobbins. I still have a ridiculous amount of fabric left though a lot of it is pretty ancient (some is over 20 years old!) and not particularly wonderful. It’s a challenge to find the best use for it and to make sure it will be something that actually gets worn. One day though I’m going to reward myself for my good reduce/reuse/recycle behaviour and buy something really special to sew! But that can wait for now.

Looking forward. I’m hopeful. I’ve already bought my garden seeds for this coming season!