Another Month; Another Post

It’s actually starting to feel like autumn is coming. My garden (such as it is) is winding down and I’ve been clearing beds and planting cover crops. This year I’m trying crimson clover in some of the beds as well as the usual fall rye/field pea/hairy vetch blend. Unfortunately the compost we put on one of the beds before planting the crimson clover had a ridiculous number of bronze fennel seeds still viable from last year’s plant! So now I have a crimson clover/fennel blend. We’ll see how that fares over winter and how easy it is to turn under in spring. The big compost bin was obviously not hot enough to break down the hard fennel seed and I’ve had it popping up everywhere in my veggie garden, including in the greenhouse with the tomatoes. I would have hoped that it would at least be helpful but it sadly didn’t prevent the flea beetles from having a field day in there this summer. Okay, I’ve learned my lesson the hard way. This year I got smart and chopped the tops off my one big fennel plant well before the seeds matured!

I guess I left you last with my broken foot not quite healed yet. To update, I got a good checkup at the foot clinic and finally got to see my x-rays where the bone is completely fused back together. Yay! I still occasionally have a little pain probably from stressed tendons but I’m up to 8 kilometre walks now so it’s improving. I haven’t given up my walking poles however. I like them a lot and will continue to use them for balance and exercise on my longer walks. Oh and you’ll be happy to know I found a new home for Harley the knee scooter, Francine the boot and the crutches (that I barely used awkwardly for 10 minutes)! I was contacted by an Instagram friend whose cousin was getting foot surgery. She lives only a few blocks from here so was able to pick them up easily. I didn’t ask her for any compensation because I was just happy to get them adopted by someone who could use them. (I didn’t turn down the bottle of nice wine though. Heh.) I didn’t want them back either because I don’t plan on falling down again any time soon! I hope she will pass them on yet again when she is finished with them. Their value when new totals about $500 and not everyone has that to spend especially after an injury. The equipment doesn’t usually get used for very long anyway and the wear and tear on them is minimal.

So what else is new? I still haven’t found out where my sewing and knitting desires are hiding. Not to mention the spinning and weaving ones which are completely MIA. I mentioned the tiny punch needle in my last post but haven’t really gotten much farther with that. I went bigger!

Hooked rug in progress

Yes, I dug out all my old rug hooking supplies including my big quilting hoop, cutter, wool flannels, hook and linen backing. I was really glad that Past Me was smart enough to hang on to all this stuff, probably knowing I’d want to do it again some day. The wee little Bliss cutter especially is now very difficult to find, at least in Canada, and a lot more expensive than it was 20 years ago. There are spiffy new cutter types out there but they cost over $1,000 and there’s no way I could justify that for a few rug experiments. I did splurge on two new cutter heads for Bliss though (from a very nice Etsy seller CaptainYarn in Quebec) so now I have a set of 5 sizes from #4 (1/8″) to #8 (1/4″). The latter is what I use most since I like the funky blocky effect of a wide cut. Also faster to hook!

Bliss Model A at work

I also bought another piece of gripper strip from Legacy Studio in Alberta (along with a few other tidbits to be discussed in a future post) and Thom finally made me a new hooking frame. It’s fantastic!

My new mahogany gripper frame

Gripper strips usually come in 40″ (approximately 1 metre) lengths and in two gauges, coarser for burlap and linen and finer for linen and cotton monks cloth. I went with fine and it holds my primitive linen well. The lighter coloured strip is the one I’ve had for years but realised it wasn’t long enough to make a frame as large as I wanted so the darker one is the new one, bought from the same source but probably a different manufacturer. The frame is 16″ x 12″ inside measurements and has a nice slope so I can see what I’m doing. I’ve been working on my cutting table but it also fits nicely on the TV tray table. I wish I had this type of frame years ago and maybe I wouldn’t have given up rug hooking for so long. It’s so much nicer to work on than the hoop!

Lamb’s Tongue border

The design is from my own head (of course!) and consists of a centre section of overlapping scrappy squares with end borders of the shapes often called “lamb’s tongues”. I think the tongues were a popular fringe embellishment on penny rugs (appliqued felt rugs) that wandered over to primitive style hooked rugs. The name cracks me up! I always think of the way sheep stick out their tongues when they vocalize. (Yes, I speak Sheep. Can’t you hear me? LOL!!) Anyhow I thought the curved shapes would be a nice contrast to all the squares but ended up hooking the first tongue about 3 times before I was happy about the colours. My first effort was attractive but I realised that I didn’t have enough of that particular variegated wool to do both ends of the rug so back to the drawing board. Or the dye pots.

In my stash I had lots of remnants and already dyed pieces of the expensive 100% wool flannel that makes great long-lasting rugs plus at least 5 yards of it in its natural undyed state. So I went to town making some new colours to go with the old ones.

Dyed wool flannel

It takes a lot of wool strips to make a rug! I needed a few lighter values which I find hard to do since I always seem to add more dye than necessary. I was using up some of my old acid dye stock from the cupboard as well as some newer acid dye powders. Wool is the easiest fibre to dye in my opinion. Even old dead Procion MX dyes which are used for cellulose fibres like cotton, rayon and linen can be used with acid (vinegar, acetic acid or citric acid crystals) to dye wool. I experimented with some vintage (possibly upwards of 40 years old!) acid dyes that had been lurking in my cupboard just to see if they still worked okay.

Acid dyes on plaid wool fabric

As you can see (L-R) gold, red, magenta, violet, blue and black all still dyed the wool just fine. Unfortunately this fabric is too lightweight to use in my rug but it was good to know that the dyes are still viable. Who knew? I was reluctant to use them before not knowing if they would wash right out but now I’m more sure of their efficacy. I have had issues with occasional dyes in the past especially ones that were donated to me from who-knows-what source.

So now that I have a design for my rug and a proper frame to work on I’m going great guns on it!

Border number two in progress

You can just get a peek at the finished first border and now I’m working on the other end. I want to finish these up so that I can make sure I have enough of each colour and also bring any remnants of them into the centre squares, particularly the red. And while I’m hooking away I’m pondering design ideas for a second rug. They will both be for the bedroom to replace my handspun hand-dyed handwoven rugs that are wearing out so badly that I can’t stand to look at them anymore. The wool is fine but the linen fringes wore right off and the wool slid out of shape when it didn’t have any linen border to hold it back. I know I didn’t beat the weft in nearly hard enough either but I’m not happy with fringes that always wear out first! Boo. Obviously hooked rugs are durable because the one in the living room is still going strong after nearly as long (completed in 2002) and it’s only on Scottish burlap which is not recommended as long-wearing. The current one is for Thom’s side of the bed so is slightly narrower than the one that will be at the foot of our bed. On my side I already have an old latch-hook rug we made eons ago which is still in good shape. Gee. So many ways to make a rug! I’ll have to do a post on them all one day. Promise.

In other news, we had our 14-year-old grandson, aka The Man-Child, here for a week. It was lovely to reconnect with him after having not seen him in person for over a year and a half! He’s grown so tall and the voice has gone down to a much lower register. Also very long hair! He’s still a sweet goof but he was game to try different foods (roasted ratatouille, peach/cherry/strawberry clafoutis, naan-za (pizza made with naan bread), gluten-free pancakes with strawberries and yogurt) and to come walking with us and to have lunch with Thom’s mom, his great-nana. Lots of conversations, both serious and silly. Lots of playing his ubiquitous video games and trying to teach a card game to his grandpa without much success. I always feel it’s wonderful to borrow a grandchild every now and then but I’m also happy when they go home again! Does that mean I’m old and set in my ways? Probably. Heh.

Making While the Sun Shines

A whole month whipped past me when I wasn’t looking! How does that happen? The weather was mostly quite lovely but not exceptionally warm especially at night. I’ve been slaving away either in the garden or in the studio and reading books when I get too tired to work any more. I haven’t been especially active online and am falling way behind on social media. Oh well! This is usually the busiest time of year for me anyhow because the garden needs lots of work after the winter to get it ready for the growing season. Thom is having trouble with his elbow (possibly tennis elbow due to injury, not playing tennis!) so his level of assistance is reduced from the usual. At least my back and wrists are holding out pretty well and I’m being very careful not to overtax anything. Exercise is great but we have to be aware of doing damage to our aging bodies. It takes a lot longer to heal after 70! It used to be me with all the ouchies but recently I’ve been fine and Thom has not. It’s a tough job but somebody has got to keep things going around here.

My dye garden is all planted now.

Damselfly’s Dye Garden

From the foreground and following along the narrow curving bed there’s dyer’s coreopsis, marigolds, perennial coreopsis, madder, dyer’s chamomile, more madder, Japanese indigo and a couple of weld plants I left in from last year. Here’s a better look at the baby indigo.

Japanese Indigo & Some Weld

So hopefully there will be some dyeing going on later this summer when these guys grow up. Although last week I already enjoyed a day of dyeing some fabric that I wanted to sew, but with Procion MX dyes this time instead of botanical ones.

Freshly Dyed Fabrics

The colours are a little off: the blue hemp canvas is a deeper teal and the murky brown rayon/linen is more saturated too. The dyes “broke” on the latter fabric for some reason. I know that I did stir it as much as I could manage with so much heavy fabric. At least I was wise enough to divide the 6 yards into 2 three-yard lengths and used two buckets but I think the plum dye has a tendency of splitting up into its component pure dye colours so the fabric came out a plummy brown patterned with bluish-grey. It’s reasonably consistent though and I quite like the effect. The hemp canvas was also 3 yards and it was heavier weight too but it dyed exceptionally evenly, but perhaps lighter than I expected. Dyeing is always an adventure and you can never really predict how it will go. All of these pieces are already cut out for garments and I’ve started to sew the teal canvas into Muna and Broad’s Willandra Pants. The rayon/linen will become a Sew Liberated Lichen Duster for me and yet another Elbe Textiles Sanders Button-Up shirt for Thom. These fabrics have been lurking about in my stash for at least 15 years and I even have enough thread, interfacing and buttons (recycled from an old shirt) for everything. So nice to use stuff up. I’m very grateful for my copious stash because I’m still trying to avoid shopping as much as possible. Even though we finally got our first Covid jabs a couple of weeks ago the local situation with the more virulent variants is quite dire. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

So I guess I never posted the last Sanders Button-Up I made, did I?

Sanders Button-Up Shirt #2

It was hard to get a perfect photo because Thom put it on right away and wore it every day for the better part of a week! Guess that means it’s a keeper, huh? The fabric is a cross-weave linen in navy and natural tan. This time I increased some of the seam allowances so I could make flat-fell seams instead of relying on serging to finish them. It worked out very well so I’ll probably be modifying the pattern accordingly. I’ve already downsized the cuffs and took off half of the 2″ that I originally lengthened the sleeves. He loves the pockets on this shirt a lot because they are nice and deep and his glasses don’t fall out. The back has a little shaping and the cute little hanging loop.

Sanders Back View

I also cut out a cropped Helen’s Closet Pona Jacket in another dyed fabric, linen canvas dyed in madder and cutch several years ago. It’s thick but drapier than the plaid denim I made my first Pona out of. Instead of the cropped sleeves I went with the longer version. I figure I can always roll them up if I want them shorter but you can’t add length that doesn’t exist. So I have a bunch of garments all cut out now and waiting for their turn at the machines.

Dyed Linen Canvas

Do you like my new orange-on-brown tags from the Dutch Label Shop? They’re very similar to my old lime-green-on-black ones but I think they will blend better with warmer coloured garments like my soon-to-be Pona jacket. I still have lots of the first ones left but it’s nice to have a new option to play with.

I’ve also finished knitting another pair of socks for Thom but they’re currently drying from their post-needle bath so you’ll have to wait for the scoop. I haven’t really had any knitting mojo lately so it’s nice to actually finish a project. They are just plain so I can read while I knit which is obviously the secret to getting it done! However, I’m becoming interested again in knitting a cowl from a really pretty skein of merino and silk from Seawall Fibres (Nova Scotia) that I bought in 2018 at Knit City.

Silk & Wool Yarn

It’s not exactly the right time of year for a cowl but who cares? It’ll probably take me until it gets cold again to finish it anyhow. More on this project when (or if) it becomes an actual project.

I will leave you with this glorious bit of hanami, aka cherry blossom appreciating, from our neighbourhood. The blossoms of the plums and cherries were very intense this year, maybe because it was still pretty cold at night. Petals are falling like pink snow now though!


For such as these I make an exception to my aversion to the colour pink!