Brown

You know when you’ve had something for ages and every time you wear it, you wonder why you haven’t thrown it out yet? Because it’s just annoying or uncomfortable? Such as pants that won’t stay up? But you haven’t chucked it because for some reason you still like it? This pair of leggings is one of those:

Actually there’s two pairs, this brown one and a black pair that’s currently in the laundry. I’ve had them forever – at least 10 years – and they’re both by the same manufacturer. I liked them because they are warm and have interesting seamlines combining a heavy stretch knit and a rib knit. They’ve actually been quite durable even if they weren’t as comfortable as they should have been. Sorry I didn’t give you a before photo but by the time I thought of it, I’d already started altering them. This is the fixed version! Originally they had a wide folded waistband with that 2″ elastic inside. But they didn’t have a high enough rise for my body. And the elastic just kept folding up inside the waistband. And they kept sliding down. Grrr…

So I finally broke down and thought of a way to make them better without a whole lot of work. Took me long enough, eh? I didn’t want to take off the whole waistband piece so I cut through the back layer next to the flat-lock stitches and removed the elastic. Which didn’t look too bad after I pressed the wrinkles out of it so I just used a 3-step zigzag stitch to attach it onto the top of the unfolded waistband. Which effectively added nearly 4″ to the rise so the waistband is actually at my waist and most importantly, above my hips so that now they are comfortable and stay up properly. The elastic stays flat and doesn’t fold over into a rope either. So simple. Now I hope to get another few years out of these leggings. Why the heck didn’t I do this way back when I first bought them? Sigh.

Brown is definitely the theme today. I finished the second pullover for Thom that I had cut out back in February before I started on the Peacoat Project. This one is the modified Love Notions North Star pullover but this time in a brown cotton fleece-backed sweatshirt knit.

He likes this one best of all since it’s really warm and cosy. I put the soft fleece side out on the neck side of the collar and on the pocket bands for comfort. The zipper was another too-long separating zip from Dressew. It’s got bronzy-green plastic teeth with a nice rubber pull and brown tape that matches the fabric. Not a problem to shorten it. This fabric sewed much easier than the navy french terry even though it was quite thick.

Now that Thom has four pullovers made by me, I think he will stay warm for awhile! And I will go on to other things. Time for a reassessment of my sewing queue. I also hope to finally have a finished knitting project to show next time.

In other news, the garden is not growing very quickly thanks to the cool rainy weather we’ve had. I’m still bringing seedlings in and out of the greenhouse daily and I’m getting impatient to get them planted. In a moment of fair weather I did manage to get the dye garden cleaned up and ready to plant as soon as it’s warm enough for my little indigo babies. The tomatoes are still in the basement grow-op under the lights and I haven’t even considered planting the squash and cucumber seedlings quite yet. There’s plenty of time still and their beds are still waiting on me to dig them properly. Spring is still running quite late this year.

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Got My Sewjo Working

I’ve had a couple of sweatshirt-type pullover tops cut out for Thom since before I started the Peacoat Project back in February. Both that coat and the sorting/cleaning for the craft supply sale last weekend kind of got in the way of any other sewing projects since then. Which reminds me. If you don’t follow my Instagram (where I’m @damselfly.ca) you might not have seen the photo I managed to take at the sale.

A lull in the action

It was more fun than I anticipated and I did alright but there’s still too many beads, books and magazines left! More on that later when I finalize what I plan to do with the excess. Anyway, I had a few days of a rest after all that socializing – if you can call it rest when it includes repotting seedlings and getting baby plants in the ground – and finally got back to the studio yesterday.

Having something already cut out made it a lot easier to get started. Having made this Thread Theory Finlayson before I expected an easy sew. Not! The fabric, a heavier cotton french terry, gave me a much harder time than similar fabrics I’ve used before. It curled. It slipped. Pins didn’t hold it. Clips didn’t hold it. The sewing machine went through all the layers ok except that it was hard to get such thick seams under the presser foot. The serger wouldn’t cut through the seam areas so I had to pre-trim them. The top layer kept curling over the cutting knife instead of going under it which messed up the seam.

Note to self: keep your fingers away from the knife!

Struggling to keep everything doing what it was supposed to distracted my attention. Luckily the blade only sliced into my nail and not me! Anyway the final results look reasonably good from the outside. Just don’t look too carefully at it because none of the seams line up properly and the inside serging looks like it was nibbled by rats! Thom doesn’t care nearly as much as I do. Besides he’s likely to wear it out mowing the lawn or pruning the shrubs anyway.

Thread Theory’s Finlayson

I was just happy to finish and thought that hanger shot would be the end but Thom immediately put on his new pullover so there’s a modelled photo.

Guess it’s a hit, huh?

So now I still have a modified Love Notions North Star pullover cut out and ready to go. It’s a fleece-backed sweatshirt fabric so it might been even more problematic to sew! I hope not. I only have just so many fingernails.

Meanwhile I think I’ll go spin for awhile It’s raining again.

April Showers

We’ve had such lovely weather in March but now it seems that the old April showers trope is true. Luckily I got quite a lot of the garden dug and ready before the rains hit. The peas and spinach are coming up now and I’ve been harvesting kale buds, corn salad (mache) and chives. In the greenhouse the baby seedlings are waiting until they are a little bigger before being transplanted into the garden. The tiny Japanese indigo plants are still being brought in every night since it’s warmer under the grow lights.

They won’t be going out into their bed for awhile yet. Neither will the coreopsis, marigolds or sulphur cosmos.

The cosmos (the very similar looking plants in the back) are new for me this year. I’m testing to see how well they do in my garden and also how well they do in the dyepot. A yellow to orange dye, depending on pH., similar to the dyer’s coreopsis. They can grow quite large and need sun so it remains to be seen if I can give them what they need. Nowhere in my yard gets full sun all day anymore thanks to all the big trees but most things do OK with less. We shall see, won’t we? At least they don’t need a lot of water or fertilizer.

The rest of the biannual and perennial dyeplants are already perking up in the garden. The madder seems to have survived being dug up, root-pruned and divided into a different part of the dye garden. So did the rhubarb. I keep digging out part of the clump of dyer’s chamomile but it keeps looking just as large. I have a couple of volunteer weld plants which I’ll probably allow to go to seed this year just to freshen up my seed supply. Though I don’t need more than one or two plants a year anyway for the small amount of dyeing I do with weld. It’s a large plant! And very easy to grow just about anywhere.

It’s kind of nice to have a bit of a break from the digging. Though I’m especially happy to be finished with days and weeks of sorting out all the stuff for the craft supplies sale tomorrow. I have books, magazines, a bit of yarn, some sewing patterns (uncut), and beads-beads-beads. I only packaged up about 2/3 of the bead stash and there’s still lots left. For this go-round I concentrated on the beading, doll-making, paper arts, and embellishment stuff. I didn’t even go through the fabrics or fibres at all. Plus there’s still plenty of sewing, knitting, spinning, dyeing, crochet, weaving and braiding books and mags left! So I think I’m all ready now. Maybe. I have way too much stuff for a single table (18 boxes full!) but that’s all the sale space I’ve got to work with. And this was just the first pass through the stash too. Yikes. I’m certainly going to be very aware of anything new that comes into this house in future. Remind me of this when I get antsy to buy any new stuff, won’t you?

Uh-oh. Glad we already loaded up the van in the garage with the sale boxes during an earlier dry period because now it’s raining quite hard! If this continues tomorrow it’s going to be equally exciting unloading without getting vulnerable books wet. I am so not looking forward to this. Wish me luck finding new homes for it all! Or at least some of it.

Stuff & More Stuff

Baby plants catching some rays

Hello! It’s been awhile, huh? I’ve been alternating digging in the garden, planting and repotting wee little seedlings, and sorting bead supplies. It’s all very tedious! Present Me is wondering what the heck Past Me was thinking when I bought all those beads. (Although to be fair I was teaching classes at the time.) Now I’m just trying to figure out how to get rid of most of the collection in a reasonable way. These are just the 11/0 seed beads and not even all of them at that!

Ooh…pretty…

And there’s more. A lot more. I decided to keep the larger seed beads that could conceivably be used in knitting and I’m definitely getting rid of the tiniest ones that I know I will never ever use. But I had trouble deciding what to do with this most common but still pretty small size. I might need them for something? Call it Dragon-On-Her-Hoard Syndrome! So I dreamed (literally!) up a solution that will work for now – keeping a little packet of each colour and letting the rest go. This will reduce the stash to about a quarter of its former size. Hopefully it will then actually fit into the Chest of Many Drawers along with all the other bead supplies that I’m not quite ready to part with. We shall see.

So I only have one more week to fuss about before the sale that I’m involved in. (Reminder: “Bargains in the Basement” at the Silk Purse, West Vancouver, April 6, noon-4pm.) Where I’m hoping to unload at least some of this stuff on people who might actually make use of it. I have no idea how it will go and I’m a bit anxious about it. I only have a single table and way too much to get rid of. I’ve never been to this particular sale before so it’s all a complete unknown. Team Introvert here! Not good at selling. At least Thom promises to assist as he is able. Plus I am acquainted with at least 3 of the other sale participants so it’s not a totally strange experience for me.

Unfortunately I haven’t had any time or energy left to knit or sew. However my biggest Grandbeastie came over while she was on her spring break and I helped to get her familiar with her new sewing machine which now temporarily resides in my studio. She immediately went to town creating a mermaid costume completely on her own! Lucky girl gets to use all my equipment including the big table and rotary cutters and pattern paper to work with. No commercial pattern for her! It’s all in her imagination. She brought a pair of leggings to trace and some black french terry and by the end of the afternoon had what looked like one-legged tights. Next she plans to embellish it by hand with scales and fins. I can’t wait to see how it ends up! Of course Bad Granny didn’t take any photos of the process. I’m sure she’ll be back soon for more though. That was her first time coming by herself on public transit all the way from Port Moody. Now that she’s taller than me I forget that she’s only 14.

Otherwise not much else has been happening around Damselfly’s Pond. Spring has been sprunging up like crazy now that the weather has improved. The cherry blossoms are coming out, the dandelions are flowering and the birds are starting to nest. We have another Anna’s hummingbird nest in the arborvitae just outside our living room window. So tiny! Thom has a sore knee so I’ve been doing most of the gardening right now. So far I managed to get 3 veggie beds dug and the peas and spinach planted. Yay, me! And I need one more done very soon for the majority of those baby mustard greens up there to go in. I’m trying not to push it too hard because I definitely don’t want to strain anything. We official Little Old Lady types have to take care of ourselves, right? Unlike Little Old Man who ouchied his knee doing who-knows-what.

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!

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!