Busy-busy! It’s been a lot of work out in the garden but it’s looking pretty darn lush out there, isn’t it?
It’s all planted now and all that’s left to do is weed, water, weed, water… Oh, and harvest! A photo of our front garden (with the flowers and shrubs, not the veggies or the dye plants) was recently featured in an article in the local weekly newspaper so I guess other people have noticed and appreciated all our hard work. (Hint: Ours is the one labelled Mount Pleasant though we’re actually a few blocks further south in Riley Park. Also I disagree strongly with the “church-going seniors” epithet. Definitely not.) Anyhow, Thom’s elbow is quite a lot better now happily although we both have to pace ourselves carefully. It’s just too enjoyable being outside in the warm sunshine pulling weeds and deadheading flowers! Here’s an excellent article on why gardening is good for you in so many ways. Just don’t be tempted to overdo it. Ask me how I know!
Please pay special notice to our new extreme fence in the above photo. Not our idea at all. This was part of a grand backyard landscaping project by our next-door neighbours and it was A Major Pain In The Patootie TM! The workmen promised faithfully to be careful of our garden but they trampled flowers, broke raspberry canes, toppled bamboo and left footprints in my cabbages and kale. There’s still wooden pallets squashed up against the bent and broken blackberry branches on the outside of our back fence. They aren’t done yet either after more than a month of running backhoes, saws and nail guns. Ugh. Our neighbours keep apologising for the delays and the mess and to be fair they did include completely finishing in the fence on our side too thinking it would look nicer for us. Just glad I’m not paying for any of it. On the upside, the workmanship is not too bad considering the lack of skills training these young guys actually get. It’ll be interesting to see the effect when their yard is finished: deck, water feature, mini-golf (not kidding!), pathways etc. Please note that theirs is actually quite a bit smaller than ours. A regular city lot. And their house is considerably bigger. No accounting for how some people spend their money I guess. Hope they will actually use their outdoor playground more than they have up until now.
On our side, we’ve been upgrading a few of our lawn and patio furnishings. For starters the slap-dash wooden hammock stand Thom made a couple of years ago is really too heavy and awkward for us. (We will not mention that I’ve already fallen off the new one, will we? Too embarrassing. Though the bruise is coming along nicely.) Plus we needed a new bistro table (on order) and another sun umbrella that we don’t have to keep moving around. We spend a lot of time in our outdoor space so why not make it a little more comfortable. I would love a comfy couch or chaise longue but feel that our plastic resin chairs are good enough. Being on a corner lot with a completely see-through fence on the public side we’ve been reluctant to spend money on fancy outdoor living rooms in case they tempt someone to take them walkabout. It’s been known to happen. Anyway, we are definitely getting prepared for a return to family gatherings. Very soon now. The two older grandbeasties are next on the list for their Covid shots in a couple of weeks. That just leaves the Littlest Grandbeastie, who at 10 hasn’t been okayed for the vaccines yet. And of course none of us, not even 93-year-old Nana, has had a second dose either. So slow.
In crafty news, I finished a couple more sewing projects. These ones are all for me-me-me. First up, the first test version of Muna and Broad’s Sculthorpe Pants. Again, Leila and Jess have created the perfect pants pattern for me. I’m already wearing these to death!
Obviously I took this photo before the cucumbers got planted. I’m encouraging them. The tomatoes are twice that size now! But I digress. I really like the lines of these tapered elastic-waisted pants with the extra side panels and the generous V-shaped pockets. It’s an opportunity for lots of topstitching and maybe opposing directional prints or colour-blocking. The fabric was the hemp canvas that I talked about dyeing teal blue with Procion in my last post. I’m wearing them here with my 4-year-old sweater (a much-modified James by Amy Miller) in oatmeal coloured yarn that I dyed with rhubarb root to this gorgeous golden yellow.
These Sculthorpes are the third M&B pants pattern I’ve tried and they needed NO mods for fit. None. I mean, really, good fitting pants are the Holy Grail for sewists, amiright? I like the way these work for me the way I like without any fuss. I’ve also tried the Glebe (wide-legged) and the Willandra (curved seam, flat-front) pants and they are also fabulous. Next I want to sew the Birchgrove (tapered, slash-pocket) pants though I don’t think I have any suitable fabric right now. The only ones I’m not likely to go for are the Noice Jeans since (unlike most people) I don’t wear jeans at all.
Muna and Broad have done really well in the short time (just over a year) that they’ve been in business. Leila in Canada does the pattern drafting and Jess in New Zealand does the web, social media etc. They create well-fitting, easy to sew garment patterns for that neglected category of sewists, the larger woman. When I bought my first pattern (Glebes) from them I was in the smallest size. Since then they’ve expanded down a couple more sizes so that it’s possible that their tops might also fit me now though I haven’t tried them, except for the Banksia Bralette which I love. This is the total opposite of most pattern lines! In bottoms my waist and hip measurements usually put me in anything from a 16 to a 20 depending on the company. M&B patterns go up to a 64″ bust and 71.5″ hip and promise that if you are larger than that, they will draft up for you. I mean, what service, eh? Who else offers that? Nobody. Obviously there was a glaring gap in the market and they filled it very nicely with easy stylish patterns and they continue to come up with new ideas. The most recent one is classic pajamas. But what works so well for me, at least, are the pants that already have all the fit mods built in: scooped crotch, tummy room, butt room (though I don’t need that so much any more), and a comfy wide elastic waist. What’s not to love?
There’s been quite a lot of controversy in the online sewing community about pattern sizing, especially in the upper ranges. There are those who will go so far as to boycott a pattern company that only caters to the usual smaller/straight/regular/whatever-euphemism-you-prefer body shape. As the owner of a non-standard body that straddles size ranges, I’m kind of reluctant to wade too far into the discussion. I don’t even know if I can call myself “fat” even though I definitely am carrying a lot of fat in my middle section. A “small fat” maybe? Who knew there were categories of “fat”? I do know that the subject is completely loaded with heavy political and emotional meaning. And for absolutely valid reasons. The public pressure put on the pattern companies in the past couple of years has definitely had some positive effects and many have expanded their ranges to include more body sizes. However, I personally feel that expecting a very small company (many indie pattern companies are only one or two people) to immediately cater to everyone of every shape and size is unrealistic. You just might have to do some of the work of fitting your own body yourself! Shockingly, even most thinner people need to make adjustments! It’s a normal part of sewing and one that I don’t think is emphasized enough. On the other hand, being able to at least start with something that is closer to your own body measurements can make a good fit so much easier to accomplish. Maybe my trouble is that I’m such a Betweenie that I see all sides of this subject and empathize with everyone?
Back to the sewing machine. My next finished garment is the cropped version of the Pona Jacket.
I’m calling this one the Canyon Jacket because the colour of the heavy linen canvas dyed in madder and cutch reminds me of the rocks of the American Southwest. (Which I totally adore and miss visiting terribly!) The fabric is another choice for this pattern from Helen’s Closet that is heavier than recommended but, like the plaid denim long jacket, turned out just fine. This one has quite a lot more drape than the denim though. I used Janny, the heavy-duty Janome machine to sew it because I remembered how much trouble I had making Thom some shorts out of another piece of this fabric (dyed a much lighter pale sand) with my late lamented Pfaff. I broke so many needles! This time I used the Janome purple-tip 90/14 cobra-head needles which, even though this application isn’t specified in the written specs, were recommended by my dealer and they worked really well. Even better than a jeans needle. I wore one out but I didn’t break any this time. And Janny didn’t have any trouble sewing through the layers, though she did make a few rude noises! The seams are finished with Hong Kong binding that I cut from a vintage floral cotton scrap from deepest stash. I think I made a dress or something about 40 years ago for my darling daughter? Can’t quite remember now but she might know. I made the bias from a 24″ square and only had a very few yards left. A good stash, or collection if you prefer, is a valuable resource.
You can see I used my new name tag which matched the fabric nicely! You can see the canvas weave structure clearly in this photo too. It’s a lot softer than it looks but still heavy enough to be warm to wear. Also a pretty good dye job if I do say so myself! (And yes, I actually wove the placemat that just shows in the top of the picture. It’s in a Summer & Winter weave though, not canvas weave. Heh.) I’m wearing the jacket with my soft green sleeveless Farrow and brown self-drafted T-shirt and leggings. Also naturally dyed handknit socks and my good old Birkies. Apparently showing garments in a seated pose is helpful for sewists who are disabled (or sewing for the disabled) to judge better how the fit works in that position.
This is a great easy to fit and easy to sew jacket that would be perfect for a more beginner level sewist. No buttonholes or set-in sleeves to worry about and as always with this company the instructions are very good. I didn’t crop the sleeves to a 3/4 length but left them long so I can turn them up. I thought that would be more versatile in styling and for extra warmth if I need it. One thing I didn’t like though are the pockets on this cropped version. They are slightly awkwardly placed and I ended up moving them more towards the centre front. But they still aren’t comfortable to put your hands into even though my ubiquitous hankie and iPhone fit fine. If/when I make another (from a lighter-weight fabric next time) I’ll experiment with pocket shapes and placements to see whether I can solve this. FYI the pockets actually hold the extra-wide front facings in place since they’re sewn through them as a last step. I like that. Floppy facings are my nemesis!
Pardon the fact that I’m not sashaying about in this swishy garment for your delectation! It’s raining and dreary and I didn’t feel like modelling. Debbie Double is my stand-in but note that she has somewhat wider shoulders than I do. (Must fix that one day!) Anyway, this fabric is the rayon/linen that I dyed in Procion on the same day that I dyed the teal hemp for the Sculthorpes. (I was on a roll.) You might be able to see the “broken” patterning that turned out when the dyes split into their component colours. It’s more accurate (at least on my screen) than my original photo last post. The fabric is one of my favourites and I’m still working on the last several yards of a 50 yard bolt I had given to me nearly 14 years ago. It’s drapey but substantial, very fun to dye, takes a very nice pressing but of course wrinkles a lot, and is super easy to sew.
This pattern was less trouble to fit than I thought it would be. I printed a combination of a 12/14/16 but ended up just going with the 12 on the upper chest and shoulders and the 14 from the underarm down. There was enough ease to still overlap a few inches on the front. I didn’t want too much fabric flapping about! I did do some fairly major modifying of the shoulder/armhole area and recut the sleeve for my droopy shoulders and skinny arms. Hmmm…that doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Swanlike shoulders and svelte arms? <Snicker!> I just traced from another pattern that I’ve already fit the way I like so that wasn’t as big a deal as it sounds. Worked very well indeed and I can still fit a reasonable layer or two underneath.
I think the pattern is quite well-drafted and reminded me of a Tilton with all the pieces that you have to assemble. Though these are at least symmetrical and fit together quite closely on the fabric when cutting out. I was somewhat annoyed with the pattern instructions however. In a bid to support more beginner sewists, there was far too much verbiage with the seam finishing and admonishments and extra cautions and…blah, blah. As a very experienced sewist I actually found it ridiculously hard to follow just what to do next. As I usually do, I had printed the instructions in booklet format and the text turned out very teeny and the illustrations not especially clear or helpful. I ended up sitting down with my magnifier lamp and underlining just the pertinent information. Also making notes in the margins as I went in case I ever want to do this again. There may be only room for one Lichen in my life however. It’s a very lovely pattern but for me it’s quite formal? Okay, not really formal but somewhat more dressy than my normal mucking-about lifestyle dictates anyway. We’ll see how much wear it actually gets.
I did have much fun doing reverse flat-fell seams everywhere I possibly could. The armscyes are finished with faux French seams which are a bit lumpy but the seam was too curved for flat-fell. I hand-stitched the back neck facing down with a catch-stitch and it looks pretty good but now I’m wondering if I need to go all the way down the very long front facings too. The jury is still out. I was going to wear it awhile before deciding if it needs it. But you know how I feel about floppy facings, right? Nemesis. Me and Lichen and a needle and thread may be spending some quality time together.
So I guess that’s enough blathering for now. It’s been fairly sunny but not too warm for days and days so it seems odd to have a full day of rain today. It was lovely to see it anyhow, saving me from having to water the garden. Unfortunately it’s a bit chilly with a high of only 15C just as my beans are all unfolding themselves from the soil. Poor babies. They’re one of the few things I actually plant directly without growing them as seedlings first. Peas are the other one. No flowers yet but I’m hopeful soon. I wait all year for fresh snap and snow peas and for fresh green (or yellow or burgundy or purple-splotched) beans. The ones in the stores are awful.
Oh and if you live where it’s going to be visible, there’s a Super Blood Flower Moon Eclipse tomorrow night! Or actually early Wednesday morning. It’s probably going to be too cloudy to see here. I’m so disappointed because we’re in the path of the full blood eclipse on the west coast. I was nearly ready to get up at Oh-Dark-Thirty to see it but meh. Rain clouds. Sad face. We caught the Super Blood Wolf Moon back in 2019 and it was amazing. Magical. Oh well, it’ll happen anyway even if I don’t get to see it! The Real Universe is like that. It goes on with or without me.