Social Distancing

Yep, with so many venues and businesses closed at the moment thanks to COVID-19 we can’t help but continue on with our ongoing Make Space project. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! I didn’t even get a chance to feel bad about avoiding Fibres West because it was postponed anyway. Sadly the word came right in the middle of the vendors setting up for opening the next day. And of course that was just an example of all the other cancellations going on. As an introvert I’m totally fine with the isolation though I know it’s very hard on many people, mentally, emotionally and financially. We can only do the best we can and hope that our efforts will help “flatten the curve” as they say. Crazy times, my friends! Wash your hands. And the hardest one for me, don’t touch your face! (Just saying that makes my nose itch…)

So here I am instead still sorting and cleaning and piling and trashing. Ugh. Is there no end? We have been somewhat stymied in our efforts to get rid of some of the things due to the semi-shut-down of shops and services so there are labelled stacks all over the basement. However, I’ve now completely finished the whole top floor: studio, study, closets and attics! It only took two months. Yeesh. Here’s the study.

Computer corner
Knitting etc. corner
Spinning corner
Last corner behind the door

Unfortunately I can’t get any decent photos of the closet and the attics but trust me, they have never been this clean! The hardest part was going through family memorabilia. No, I do not need old report cards and the like and the kids don’t want any of this stuff either. I think we all thought it had been chucked out long ago! I’m feeling so much lighter now and I’m sure the elderly floors are groaning their relief too. The only thing not finished is my poor old antique Morris chair which is in dire need of reupholstering (along with the two chairs from the living room) but like many things, it’s going to have to wait for awhile. I can do very simple upholstering myself as I did for the kitchen chairs but these are much more complex and far beyond my skill level. I’ll leave it to the professionals. Meanwhile I’ve piled pillows on Morris to protect my behind from the bad pokey springs! Ouch.

So now we are onto the basement and it is just a tad awkward working around the piles of excess salvage/donation stuff. I did manage to get my “grow-op” unburied and cleaned up. All the pots are sorted and today I’ve started the first of my vegetable seeds. It’s a little later than normal but since spring seems to be running a couple of weeks behind here this year anyway, it should work out just right in the end. Gardening is a bit of a crapshoot at the best of times. And this ain’t the best of times right now, is it? {insert fatalistic shrug here}

Due to all the cleaning I haven’t had either the energy or brain power to work on other crafty projects. Except for finishing my Fernwood set! I now have the cowl, hat and (tah-dah!) fingerless mitts.

H.G. Mitts in Fernwood

The pattern is H.G. by Zhora Designs and is a free download on Ravelry. They’re nice and long and definitely warm. The whole set is an interesting exercise in knitting gauge.

Fernwood Set

The cowl (top) uses 4mm needles, the hat (centre) uses 3.25mm needles and the mitts (bottom) use 2mm. All in the same handspun NZ Corriedale yarn. The three fabrics created feel quite different: the cowl is very soft and drapey, the hat is nicely slouchy but not too floppy, and the mitts are quite dense but still elastic enough to snug the wrist. Also the changes in gauge and in diameter changes the appearance of the stripey effect: stripes are shorter on the cowl and increase to larger blocks of colour on the mitts. Fun!

I got to wear the full set for the first time a couple of days ago when we went for a walk down by the Fraser River in the cold and very windy sunshine. I was very happy for the warmth of wool! Please note that getting outside and walking if you are able is still self-isolating but also especially good for your mental and physical health. And sunshine is a natural germicide. My PSA for the day. Heh.

Salmonberries in bloom

Stay well, everyone, and craft on.

I Need Nothing!

Oh. My. Goodness. Do I have a lot of stuff or what?!! It’s been weeks and weeks and I’m still not quite finished going through the studio, including the two attic spaces and the closet. One last corner of yarns and books left to go. And then I get to start on the other room next door, aka The Study! Yup, there’s more. Sigh. Two more attic spaces and a very large closet as well as 6 bookcases. And then there’s the dye/surface design stuff in the basement. Ack!!! I did get rid of some of this lot a year ago but it’s past time to do a more thorough job. I still have far too much! I’m completely beyond what I could possibly use for the rest of my natural life. Fact.

So please continue to remind me that I have almost no need to purchase supplies ever again? I will just have to stay far away from suppliers’ shops, websites, thrift stores, other crafts people’s downsizing, and saddest of all, I’ve decided not to go to Fibres West this year. That’s our local spinning and weaving show on next month (sorry, for some reason I can’t put a link in right now). I know I won’t be able to control myself so I’ll just avoid temptation. Big sigh. I will miss seeing all the familiar faces and getting hugs. My credit card is happy anyhow. Even if I’m not.

I’ve sworn I will make exceptions to this no-new-stuff rule only if there’s something I really need to finish a project that I absolutely can’t substitute from the existing stash. And even then, I’ll ONLY buy that thing and nothing else! Lets see how long I can keep this up. So far I’ve only bought one PDF pattern since January 1. Yes, I consider it a necessity since I already have a plan and found the fabric for it while inventorying the fabric stash. And it’s not something I already have that’s similar or could easily sub for.

No sewing is happening right now anyway though. Cleaning and chucking only! I have to keep going while the spirit moves, right? I’m afraid that if I stop, I won’t get back to it again. Meanwhile, check out my beauteous newly polished loom!

Woolhouse Gertrude #27 (1989)

She has no warp on her, poor thing, but I have plans. Eventually. For starters, I’m running out of handwoven tea towels that aren’t ragged! And I could use a few potholders too. I have yarns and I know how to use ’em. But cleaning…chucking…priorities…

And here’s the clean sewing area. Hope I can find things now that I’ve moved stuff around in all those drawers. You can’t see them but there’s even 8 more drawers holding up the cutting table. Oh and that vintage chest of drawers looks so much nicer now that I’ve cleared it off and polished it. There’s a lot to be said for lemon oil, isn’t there?

All shiny and clean.

I’ve discovered that this kind of deep cleaning, sorting and reorganising takes a number of passes through the sequence. Each time I do it, I find more things I really have no need for and I’m finally ready to let them go. It’s hard! Really hard. I’m not anything remotely resembling a minimalist. I tend to want to hold onto supplies if I can envision a project with them. However, I need to be honest with whether or not I will ever get around to doing it. Chances are probably not. I’m nearly 70 and my body has some osteoarthritis going on which restricts how I use it. My hands in particular. Not to mention the fact that it takes time to make things. Lots and lots of time. I really do enjoy the making but how much of that increasingly precious commodity of time do I want to spend on each project? And then too, how many finished items do I actually need? So many questions to ask myself. It’s no wonder I haven’t been sleeping well. Brain is going around and around as it ponders.

Reorganised threads
Coned threads

A Spring In My Step

Snowdrops!

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and signs of spring are popping up all over. The crocuses are out and I’ve even seen a dandelion flowering already! In the garden my garlic is up and the rhubarb is showing its red covers over baby leaves. We ate the first snipping of chives on our baked potato. Admittedly I felt as if it was cheating since they were only about 2” tall. Yummy though! And we have lots in several patches. There’s work to be done out there but every time the sun comes out, it’s so precious that we end up going for a walk instead. Also it’s still very soggy ground from all the monsoon rains we’ve had so it can wait and dry out a bit first. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

No sewing and not much knitting has been getting done. I’m struggling with the next phase of the Make Space Project, namely my upstairs work and storage spaces, actually the entire top floor of our small house. It’s a ridiculous amount of work! Although I’m actually a pretty organised person, the multiple stashes have gotten completely out of hand. A year ago I went through and downsized some of the stuff that I absolutely knew I wasn’t going to be using. But I wore out and never continued throughout the whole space. There’s more. Oh yes, is there EVER more!! It’s amazing what one can accumulate over 40 or 50 years of mad making!

And it’s not as if I actually bought all of it myself either. I’ve been the (mostly) happy recipient of other people’s stashes! Or perhaps a convenient dumping spot? At any rate, over the years I’ve been given yarn, fabric, tools and equipment from other crafters or their families. Some of it found other homes or got used up but some of it is still lurking about. Unfortunately I have quite extensive storage areas! For example, this is just one of my four attic spaces.

The North-East Attic, before…

They are all only a sloped space under the eaves with the highest side about bust height down to the (rather questionable) patchwork flooring and with a lovely little dwarf-sized door in to each. But they hold a remarkable amount of stuff! Pictured is the first one I started on, aka the Fabric Stash, with a side order of Paper Bins. This isn’t even all the fabric since about 9 more boxes were out in the main studio space. It took me more than a week of schlepping, sorting, chucking, inventorying and putting everything back in some sort of functional order.

After. Better?

That’s all that’s left including all but 4 of the 9 extra boxes. Whoo-hoo! The flat Paper Bins aren’t back in there though. I haven’t sorted through those yet and I’m hoping to find another place to put them. I kind of like having more clear space to actually get in there and grab the box I want. Every piece of fabric that’s in each box is in my inventory with the box name attached. I use an app that I’ve had for years called Sortly which works great and could even produce QR coded labels if I wanted but I move everything around too much to make that practical. (I’m sure there are other apps out there that would do the job too.) Now I know exactly what I have and it’s already inspired some ideas for new makes. Like I needed more ideas, right? Sure I do.

True confessions: I chucked a whole lotta scraps in the garbage. Yes, I know I could have made one of those ubiquitous poofs. Or 6 of them! But I don’t need one and neither does anyone else I know. Some of those scraps have been in there for-absolute-evah! I even found some from the 1970’s and nothing actually big enough to make anything much out of unless it’s patchwork. And I don’t quilt. I saved 2 big boxes of the best bits just because you never know. And the rest…out. I’m generally one of the most environmentally friendly folk you could imagine but sometimes you just have to get rid of it in the most expedient manner. I’m trying not to feel guilty.

However, I didn’t chuck anything at least a yard or more. That pile along with any other sewing/knitting supplies that I decide to part with (including 4 bags of old/vintage patterns!) is all going to Our Social Fabric, a local non-profit textile recycling initiative. At least then it will have a chance to be used instead of sitting around in my attic for another 40 years! Helps my guilty feelings a little anyhow.

It’s interesting that when you’ve been sewing as long as I have, I can see my own “history” of pattern styles and fabric choices over the decades. My pattern sizes changed! Can you believe I used to fit in an 8? Me neither. And ditsy floral prints? Yuck. No offence to those who love them but they are not me. At least since the ‘70’s anyway. Granny dresses, ruffles, oversized drop shoulders with giant shoulder pads? Nope. Okay, nearly everyone agrees the ‘80’s had a lot to answer for! But some preferences remain constant. My favourite colours of rust, green, black, brown, charcoal grey are well represented even in 20-year-old fabrics for example. There’s some polyester as you would expect but there’s also quite a lot of natural fibres. Knits are less common than woven fabrics. They got used up quicker because I definitely wear more knits than wovens. I do plan to use the nicer polyester because it’s already in existence and it would be stupid to get rid of it before it actually gets used first. Just my not-so-humble opinion. I have made better fabric choices more recently so my environmental impact continues to improve going forward.

So all this cleaning, sorting, assessing, etc. stuff is still ongoing. I have 3 more attic spaces! Most of two good-sized rooms. And another closet. This one is finished already.

The Pattern Stash, plus some weaving & spinning equipment.

All sorted and inventoried. Only took me at least four days. I’m slow and methodical? Or I wear out too easily! Note that I didn’t have any of those cool pattern hanging hooks so I made do with binder clips and bent coat hangers. There’s several patterns on each hook so I sometimes have to shuffle them to get to the one I want. Otherwise it works pretty well to keep the unfolded paper patterns together. When I’m sure I’m not going to be using one anytime soon, it gets folded into its manila envelope and filed in categories in the clear bins below. According to Sortly I have 158 patterns left in my collection! I think that should be sufficient to keep me busy for awhile. Maybe?

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.