Beginner’s Mind

Well, so much for posting more often. I missed the entire month of July! It was kind of tedious actually so you didn’t miss much. Hot, dry, no sewing, a lot of reading digital books on my iPad from the library, hardly any social media participation at all. I did go for more x-rays on my foot and a visit with the foot specialist clinic. I saw 2 doctors, a physiotherapist and a pedorthist and I have to go back for more x-rays and the doc again later this week. It’s been nearly 6 weeks since The Misstep and it has cost me over $800 in equipment purchases including Francine the Boot, Harley the knee scooter (which I no longer need), heel lifts, a carbon fibre sole plate, rocker-soled running shoes and a pair of walking poles. The only items I didn’t have to pay for are the crutches which I couldn’t use anyway! At least here in British Columbia I don’t have to pay for the Emergency treatment, x-rays or the clinic appointments which are paid for by my provincial medical insurance. I guess things could be worse, huh?

Anyway, I do love my poles and I plan to use them even after my foot has healed. They give me a lot more stability on our uneven sidewalks and trails and also exercise more of my upper body. Here I am with them and wearing my Blundstone boots for the first time post-break, with the stiff plate inside to restrict my foot bending too much.

Finally got the Blunnies on!

I was so happy that I managed to walk all the way to the farmers market, a 3 kilometre round trip! I’ve also been walking some in my expensive running shoes but I usually need to rest my foot later in the day and am still sleeping with Francine. (Ugh. So much fun in the heat!) The Hoka shoes have really thick soles which, when worn on my good left foot, helps balance the height of The Boot so I don’t need any other compensation.

Hoka One One Bondi 7 in black, of course.

I’m not a huge fan of running shoes but these are reasonably acceptable. At least they don’t have ugly logos and white soles. I really hate white-soled shoes! They aren’t as comfortable on my princess feet as one might suppose however. Even though these are wide width, they pinch my baby toes a little but at the same time the heel counter is too loose. I ended up tying a heel lock with the laces (also called a runner’s tie or lock lacing) which helps. My foot still hurts somewhat on and off so I’m being careful while still exercising it and yet trying to get back a little closer to normal function. I’ll find out where we’re at when I see the doctor again on Friday.

So enough about the foot! What else can I tell you? Oh yeah, Beginner Mind. I’ve been trying to learn how to do punch needle embroidery. In all my years of playing with thread/yarn/string doing every craft technique I could get my hands on, I’ve never tried punch needle. Probably because I didn’t want to make twee little pictures that hang on the wall! However recently I saw a few examples that seemed more attractive to me, perhaps to make a pillow or bag or something similar. I didn’t want to pay a huge amount of money for a punch needle tool just in case I didn’t like it, but I also didn’t want a really cheap one that would be frustrating to use. So I compromised with a medium-priced Rico Designs adjustable needle from my local shop, Maiwa Handprints. I had to make a large enough order from them anyway that I could get free shipping since I can’t walk to the store yet to pick things up so I just added the needle in to that. I wasn’t about to buy anything else for this new craft so I just raided the stash for fabric, hoop and threads to try.

Hah! It’s harder than I expected! Even though the theory is really simple, just poke-poke-poke, there are details that aren’t immediately obvious. I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I modified my cheap embroidery hoop by wrapping bias tape around it so the fabric wouldn’t slip. The fabric was a scrap of linen-like mystery stuff with a fairly coarse weave but it’s just barely coarse enough to allow the largest needle tip to pierce it. I experimented with threads and tips. It’s finally getting a little easier and I’m making less “bloops”.

Needle punch embroidery with the good side up.

But you work from the back side of the cloth.

Working side up with all my wonky stitches!

It takes practice! Which is where the Beginner’s Mind comes in. You can see where I started with loops way too far apart and very wobbly. Closer together looks much better and each different combination of thread type and needle tip size needs different spacing too. I learned to make my outlines really close so they show up better. Every time you change a colour or run out of thread you have to use a long wire threader to re-thread the needle. I also played with loop heights for different effects. It’s like a really teensy hooked rug!

Speaking of which, rug hooking is something I have done in the past and I really enjoy and we definitely use the few rugs I’ve made. There is a larger version of punch needle where you can use a much bigger tool and bulky yarns or wool strips to make rugs that look very similar to rug hooking. The difference is that instead of pulling up loops with a hook from the front, you’re poking them in from back of the cloth. Again you need a frame or hoop to hold the fabric taut while you work. Thom and I have been going to make a proper frame with gripper strips for years but it never happened. Yet. I even have a 40″ length of gripper strip which turned out not to be enough for what I wanted. I may be ready now to buy another length and get to it. I have all the other equipment and I need a new rug or two for our bedroom (and I don’t want to weave them) so why not? Maybe working teensy has inspired me to re-assess my options? We’ll see.

Meanwhile I just plan to play some more with my wee practice piece, leaving most of the mistakes in so I can see any progress I make in technique. Incidentally it’s really easy (almost too easy!) to frog punch needle. Just pull the thread out. Zzziiipppp… Scrape over the holes in the cloth with your fingernail or the tip of the needle and go again. Surprisingly I haven’t been tempted to buy any books on punch needle embroidery. I’ve made do with online info and experimenting on my own. I would always want to use my own designs anyway. It’s not hard to draw on the back of the fabric with a pencil. And then it’s just a matter of colouring it in with loops. I do like the look of pile areas with plain fabric areas showing as well so I might try a project using that.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

The Misstep

Well, I bet you thought I’d disappeared completely! I seem to be barely keeping up with one post per month these days. This time I have a couple of reasonable excuses. First is an excess of gardening: at least 2 hours or so on most days. The veggie garden was producing beautifully and the flowers and dye plants were looking really nice (except the Japanese indigo, but that’s another story). Then two forms of disaster struck at the same time.

A week ago now we were out for a walk in the lovely warm sunshine and I happened to look up at some road work that was going on the other side of the street and…stepped partly off the sidewalk into a low area of dirt, flung myself to the other side to try to keep my balance and went down. At first I just thought I’d given myself a nice new road rash on my leg. Wouldn’t be the first time! I assured the concerned women directing traffic around the equipment that I was okay. Mopped up the blood with a hankie and popped some bandaids (which I carry in my pack) on the worst of the scrapes and carried on. Limping. Pain in my twisted foot but not too bad. Yet. Walked to the bakery, walked home, did laundry, made the bed and the pain was increasing along with the bruising. Raised my foot, applied ice but not sure about whether it was just sore from the edge of my sandal or what. Decided to wait because by that point the emergency department in my favourite little hospital close to home was closed by that point.

Of course you know the story already – it just got worse overnight and by morning I couldn’t put any weight on my right foot at all! Off to hospital right after they opened at 8am. Gotta say, getting into the car was not fun. At the hospital there at least was a wheelchair! I was happy to see they were very cautious about Covid-19 protocols and even gave me a new medical-grade mask to wear. But they wouldn’t let Thom in so he waited outside. It took 3 hours in total but I got x-rayed and fitted for an air boot and crutches once they determined that yes, indeed, I broke my 5th metatarsal. Average 8 weeks non-weight-bearing healing. There goes my summer! Also broke (hah!) my 70-year record of no broken bones. Sheesh.

The Boot (aka Francine)

Unfortunately it turns out that I’m pretty much incapable of using crutches easily or safely. Not enough upper body strength especially in my hands and wrists and wobbly balance means I needed a spotter whenever I so much as tried to go to the bathroom! And I never felt secure at all. Not ideal. So several Instagram friends suggested a knee scooter which I had never even heard of before. Several months rental (if they even had one available) was more expensive than buying one brand new but Thom did some searching on Craigslist and found a used scooter nearby for half price. He immediately went out and got it for me.

Harley the Knee Rover

Meet my new Harley! Vroom-vroom! It’s heavy enough for me to feel very comfortable, has an effective disc brake that locks and a basket so I can carry stuff. Drawbacks are that the turning radius is very wide (I guess for stability) so I end up doing lots of backing and turning or else just balancing and lifting the back end around. The wheels are nice and quiet but apparently only work well on smooth hard surfaces. Thom ran around and removed all our small area rugs to clear the runway for me. The house isn’t very big but at least the rooms and hallway aren’t too small. Except the bathroom where I have to back in! I am so grateful that we put in a couple of grab bars and got a shower seat last year. Thinking ahead.

So I bet you’re wondering what the second disaster might be? The weather! Back in the beginning of June we actually had a couple of very cool days, one of which even broke a record low for that date. Now however, we are expiring under a “heat dome”! Several days of record-busting highs and no air conditioning in our house. Ugh. Poor Thom can’t keep up with the garden watering and I can’t help. Currently at 5pm it’s 37C/98.6F (aka body temperature) outside and 30C/86F in the house on the main floor. Hottest I’ve ever seen it in the 42 years I’ve lived here! Since I can’t navigate stairs, I have no idea how hot it is in my studio. Surface-of-the-sun hot, probably. Sort of glad it’s out of temptation because I really want to work on some sewing patterns.

This one for instance:

Jumpsuit Hack

Sorry about the sub-par photo. Gee, I haven’t blogged about the croquis from My Body Model yet, have I? Coming soon. It’s fun sketching ideas. I mean, what else do I have to amuse myself with these days?

Goodbye April

Well that was fast! Or slow. Depends on your perspective I guess! We’re well and still hanging about at home with as many long walks as possible and the occasional foray out to get groceries. The grocery shopping is pretty stressful: attempting to follow the ever-changing rules, trying to maintain 2 metres distance from everyone else, wearing disposable gloves and occasionally a mask, finding out that some important items might not be available and not stopping anywhere for long or touching anything unnecessarily. Ugh. We’re in something like Week Number 8 of this now with no real end in sight. British Columbia is doing very well at “flattening the curve” but finding a New Normal will be slow and cautious. Better that than jumping right back into things and finding out too late that it wasn’t a good move!

My emotional state has been going up and down. One minute feeling my normal positive self and the next just wanting to sit and read fluffy Regency romance novels. There’s a lot to be said for immersing oneself into a story where there are solutions to difficult problems and a guaranteed happy ending! I really didn’t think I was very stressed at all at first. I mean, nothing really has changed that much in our normally rather quiet life. Until my psoriasis flared up the worst it’s been since the horrible Year of the Itchy-Peelies in 2010. (The only good thing I got out of that nightmare was a diagnosis.) Meanwhile, I’m bathing carefully, greasing up well with cortisone and my homemade shea butter-based cream and wearing my softest leggings. I’m practically leaving a slime trail like my wee little friend here.

Teeny Tiny Slug

And I also realised that my reluctance to get back into sewing was because I was feeling guilty for not wanting to sew masks or other PPE for anyone, not even myself. The whole situation just makes me angry that something so inevitable like this pandemic wasn’t foreseen and planned for and that manufacturing of PPE was all sent offshore so that there is no domestic stock to fall back on. Profit over public safety. They’re scrambling now to retool some Canadian companies but too little too late. Better than nothing though I suppose. However I and other sewists like me can’t realistically be expected to make up the shortfall. For some sewists it’s been a way to feel helpful and contribute to their community. Good for them but I still haven’t been convinced to join in. Too stressful.

Instead I chose to go in a completely different direction and weave dish towels. I’m currently on number 5! It’s slow going and my concentration level drops right off after an hour or two. Only one more to go after this one though so I’m sticking to it. Maybe when I’m done this warp I’ll sew something? I need some new basic t-shirts and I’ve got lots of knits. Unfortunately I’ve already started to forget all the great plans I had for potential garments that occurred while I was sorting and inventorying my fabrics and patterns a few months ago. I’m sure if I start somewhere one garment will lead to another as it always does.

Otherwise, I finished a pair of socks for Thom!

Blackberry Socks

These are plain socks on 68 stitches in my own basic pattern. The yarn is ONline Supersocke 100 from deep stash. I probably bought it for me but he needs new socks more than I do. And he is perfectly happy to have them knit in wild and wonderful yarns! They don’t really show under his jeans anyway so they’re kind of like a crazy secret love message from me. Heh. I’ve already cast on another pair for him, this time in a mostly red striped yarn with dashes of charcoal, brown and a bright purple. Knitting them is something I can do while reading at least when my hands are up for it.

Gardening has been using most of my energy. It’s pretty mindless and soothing and I have something to show for all the work. Behold my tomatoes are tucked into their greenhouse.

Young tomato plants

This will be a jungle of epic proportions in another couple of months! And I got the dye garden finished. Japanese indigo is taking up the most space this year.

Japanese indigo plants

And the dyers coreopsis is in, tucked between the single bolting woad plant and the perennial coreopsis. They’ll get a lot taller and bushier and will need string and stakes before they collapse. Those are non-dye-providing Welsh poppies coming up on the left, aka pretty weeds.

Dyers coreopsis

The madder is coming up well. I always wish they were more attractive plants instead of scratchy and floppy and covered in black aphids. Right now they look pretty nice though.

Madder plants

And I’ve been harvesting greens and reds from the veggie garden for salads. The bok choy is doing particularly well this spring. Here’s just one pail full of yummy.

Garden greens…and reds

Next, I need to plant the beans and zucchinis. They can wait until next week or the one after. The soil needs to be warm enough for them. And also weeding and digging some of the front garden so I can plant the rest of the flowers somewhere. The marigolds are looking especially nice but they’re getting too big for their little pots. I put some in the dye garden but ran out of room. Moving right along. Playing in the dirt seems to be my happy place right now and this is the time of year when the most work needs to be done.

I know I’ve been rather quiet these days. But I’m hoping that feeling is passing. Time will tell. Stay well!

Carrying On

How is everyone holding up? Out in cyberspace I see lots of calming videos and images and lots of jokes and laughter too. Keep it up! We can get through this together even if we have to all stay apart. Best line I saw somewhere that stuck with me is this:

Introverts, put down your book and go check in on the poor extroverts now. They’re suffering!

I know. It’s not so funny if you’re truly lonely and isolated. But society is usually so dominated by the extroverts among us that it’s kind of interesting that we introverts actually have an advantage during the current situation. I can be alone for awhile without becoming lonely. I don’t need (or even want) constant stimulation and conversation. Plus I have lots of solo activities that I enjoy. On the other hand if this goes on too long, I’m kind of glad I’m sharing my isolation space with my spouse! Who is also an introvert.

You know, everyone talks about COVID-19 but do you personally know anyone who has it? My son picked up what we think is the dreaded virus at his shop thanks to an inconsiderate customer. It’s unconfirmed. He can’t get tested because they’re saving that for the serious cases but in consultation with the BC Health med-line and his doctor by phone, they’re pretty sure. Luckily he’s not too ill and is on the mend now. His family (wife and two teenagers) haven’t shown signs of coming down with it. Yet. Though the kids might kill each other first! They’re self-isolating in their small apartment with the golden retriever while building comes to a halt (by government order) on their new one. It’s already a year behind schedule. Are we having fun yet? Kind of happy we haven’t seen any of our kids in person for nearly a month! But I worry about them all.

So I finished a thing. When I discovered that I cut this jacket out back in November, I was amazed that it took me so long! Of course I was distracted by the Make Space Project. Even I am not that slow of a sewist. I had it half finished and hanging out on Debbie Double for months so I finally got it together and got it done. It’s dark and rainy today so I settled for a hanger shot with supplementary lighting.

In The Folds Flynn Jacket
Inside view of the seams

It turned out a little more oversized than I prefer but it’s not really any worse than my Issey Miyake jacket. I actually used the same size as my vest version that I made last year but the jacket has more ease with that wide back pleat and drop shoulders. I did get the sleeves the right length exactly though so I don’t have to turn up the cuffs unless I want to. There was a little trouble with the drapey linen crepe fabric stretching out on the seams. They’re a little wavy especially down the front edges. I probably really should have used my walking foot but didn’t. I was too busy switching back and forth from the regular foot to the stitch-in-the-ditch foot to sew the binding. I love that foot! I never had one with my old sewing machine and it just makes getting really close to the seam so easy. Also happiness for snap-on feet too. On the other hand, the walking foot is a lot more involved to install than my old Pfaff’s IDT foot which was built in. Ya wins some; ya loses some.

I’ve been out in my garden and for plenty of walks while the sun was shining. I got my peas planted a week early this year! My wee seedlings are going to need transplanting into bigger pots very soon (like starting tomorrow). And then begins the Daily Schlep – taking them out to the greenhouse every morning and back inside every evening until they are ready to go in the garden. There’s not enough room under the lights for them all and I need space to plant the tomatoes very soon. I was realizing that it’s a very good thing that I was able to buy my seeds before all the shops shut or I would have had to resort to mail ordering them. Not sure if we’re going to get our scheduled manure order delivered in a couple of weeks or not. We’re all in a waiting game here, aren’t we?

Sending virtual hugs to everyone! Stay well and stay occupied as best you can. As my auld Scots mum used to say: “This too shall pass”.