Woof!

We’re well into the dog days of summer here. I can tell because I feel like I should be panting with my tongue out like a dog! Hot. We spend half our lives watering the garden and the other half hunting for ways to use up all the beans and zucchini. Perhaps I planted too many but you never know how well they are going to do. Extra is better than not enough, right?

I have 6 different kinds of beans so they’re rather pretty together:

Many beans

Too bad the Burgundy ones cook up green and the speckled Dragon Tongues fade to yellow in the pot! Currently I have about 10 pounds worth in the fridge. We’re eating them as fast as we can because I won’t use them if they’re frozen or canned or pickled. Fresh is best!

So my studio has been rather steamy even with the big fan on but I have been persevering with the sewing anyway. In a switch from green I’ve been working on this brick red poly twill fabric that’s been lurking in the Deep Stash for who knows how long. I tested out the downsized version of Grainline’s Farrow dress with long sleeves.

Farrow dress with sleeves

This is a much smaller size than I made the first time and I like it much better. Not nearly so voluminous. Now I want another sleeveless one too! Putting it in the queue.

With the leftover twill I cut the outer layer of a slightly revised Sew Liberated Metamorphic Dress. The underlayer is a poly voile in a softly coordinating floral that’s probably been around since the 1980’s judging by the colours. So nice to use this stuff up finally! The bodice fits better on this one than my first attempt last year but for such a simple shape it seams hard to get right. At least it’s mostly pretty bra-friendly so I can wear it without a t-shirt underneath.

Metamorphic double layers
Flower side out

I like that there’s pockets on both layers, though I did increase the size of the outer patch pockets because they seemed a little too tiny. I’ve actually worn it with the floral side out most often even though I don’t think of myself as a flower print person.

So that’s the last of the brick red projects. Next up there’s a grey shirt. And then I’ll have to start cutting out more garments. No shortage of patterns and fabrics around here!

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Looking A Little Brighter

I was going to wait until I’d finished the second project with this snow-dyed cotton knit fabric but what the heck! This one is done and I might as well get on with blogging about it, right?

Snow-dyed hooded tunic

The pattern is Love Notions La Bella Donna. This was actually a test sew for my fitting changes and I’m not totally pleased with how loose the sleeves are. I didn’t do my usual adjustment of raising the underarm and I think this needs at least an inch plus the sleeve bands adjusted to match. Otherwise grading from a size M at the top through to an XL below the bust worked okay. The neckline is a bit wide for me however, especially if I didn’t have the hood to fill in the extra space. I would bring it in if I was making a plain neck top.

Back of my hoodie

The fabric is kind of fun and I had a good time cutting the garment pieces to take advantage of the dye patterning. I also had enough to cut another Lane Raglan T-shirt too which is my next project. I did have trouble sewing this tunic neatly for some reason. The stitching lines which are in white thread show every wobble and there are a lot of them including top-stitching the single-layer pocket bags onto the front. These sit nicer than regular in-seam pockets but they aren’t invisible. I somehow managed the twin-needle stitching better. Besides the hem I went around the neckline to hold the hood’s seam down and also around the sleeves to match.

Wonky stitching aside, I quite like the results and will be using this pattern again for more versions. I’m already wearing my new hoodie a lot. There are some things I love about Love Notions patterns. Tami has made the PDFs layered so you can choose your size/sizes to print and there’s also no need to trim. That makes them especially easy to assemble. This pattern also has the front and back pieces, which are the same except for the neckline, combined into one pattern which saves paper and ink. (Although it does make it a little more difficult to arrange pattern pieces on your fabric.) There is a cool way to keep them connected but still make it easy to cut out which I should show you in another post.

What I’m not so enamoured of with Love Notions patterns (and this could just be me) is that the instructions are meant for digital use on a phone or tablet rather than printed. They flip around with hyperlinks to hop from one section to another and aren’t presented in a linear fashion. Not super-critical since the designs are pretty simple to sew but I don’t like to have to turn on my iPad every time I want to check something. I printed the instructions out for myself with Adobe Reader in booklet format and it’s okay but not wonderful. It also seems as if some information is missing that I would like to have. Like finished measurements. Illustrations are pretty basic. And even though it’s included on nearly every page it took me awhile to find out how much seam allowance has been allowed for! It’s in a tiny shaded box which is hard to read on the printout. On the other hand, there’s lots of info on printing and preparing the pattern, an “inspiration” section and a glossary. If you need all that.

In gardening news, I’m really very disappointed this year. The bug and slug damage is the worst I’ve seen in forever. Somebody keeps ringing the stems of my plants, including the Japanese indigo, and I find them one at a time with the tops severed and wilted. There are holes in absolutely every leaf. And I can’t seem to catch the culprits at work. Probably because they’re out there in the dark doing their dastardly deeds when I’m sleeping! The usual remedies aren’t working either. I’m really trying to be philosophical about it. After all, we aren’t dependant on my produce to live. There are perfectly good vegetables in the market, right? And they probably cost less if you include all the work I put into my garden.

A least the weather has improved finally. We’ve had some cool nights and quite a lot of rain this month which slowed things down and probably contributed to the happy bugs and slugs. Of course along with sunshine and more warmth comes the fact that all my early greens are immediately starting to bolt! At least the ones that survived. I could plant more but they don’t usually do very well until fall. And the lettuce should be edible for awhile longer. Meanwhile there’s quite enough to eat saved in the fridge. The peas are just starting to flower and the beans are coming up. It’s starting to feel almost like summer. The hammock stand is out and just waiting for one of us to take advantage!

Garden vs Studio

Two of our rhododendrons in full bloom

Hope you’re having a lovely May wherever you are! Yes, I realise our Southern Hemisphere folks are heading for colder weather. But they were complaining of the heat when we were freezing up here so it’s only fair to turn the tables, right? Heh. Anyway, I’ve written a dozen delightful posts in the last few weeks – but unfortunately they were only in my head! My hands were very busy.

I’ve been trying to get the garden, especially the vegetable garden, into some kind of shape now that the weather has actually warmed up enough. I’m forced to dig the beds deeply twice in order to eliminate as many of the walnut roots as possible. English (aka Persian) walnut trees don’t produce as much juglone, a toxin that inhibits nearby competition, as black walnut does but I do see a difference in some plants not being as vigorous near our monster tree.

Walnut tree just getting its baby leaves. It’s always this late!

The ancient beast is over 50 feet tall and wide and the roots extend even farther out than the canopy does! The greenhouse is now partially under said canopy and this year the root situation is ridiculous. I needed Thom’s help to dig the tomato beds in there and after only clearing half of it we dumped five (5!) buckets of roots into the city’s green bin.

The right half still to go. Whew.

I think those walnut roots were way too happy to grow in the dry and slightly warmer (at least in the daytime) soil in there all winter. Yeesh. I managed to only (only!) get less than two buckets of roots from what will be the squash and bean bed, even after going over it twice. But then it’s a little farther away from the walnut tree too.

Dig Dig Dig

After we finish the greenhouse there’s only a bit of tidying to do around the edges and I can call the veggie garden prep done. Still have to plant the beans and cucumbers and transplant tomato and squash seedlings yet though. Gardening is kind of like housework. It’s never really done! Although this is definitely the busiest time of the whole year out there. Once everything is planted it’s down to watering and weeding. And harvesting.

Baby greens (and reds)

When I got too tired to mess about in the garden I switched to my studio. I’ve mostly been working on my patterns, assembling PDF printouts and doing fit adjustments. Once they’re all ready to be used I can just grab whichever one I need to cut out without having to stop and prep the next pattern. I’ve also cut out a total of 8 projects already (all knits) but haven’t started sewing them together yet.
What can I say? I was on a roll! I’m going to have to sew them soon though because at least 3 of these are test garments, aka “wearable muslins” (or toiles, depending on your country of origin). I need to see how they work out before cutting any more using those patterns. Just in case any adjustments need to be made.

In other crafty news, my hands are too tired to do anything else! I did finish my Blue Dragon socks (pattern is “Shur’tugal” from Alice Yu’s book Socktopus) if you missed it on Insta.

Blue Dragon Socks

The yarn is from Black Cat Custom Yarn, colourway “In the Navy” and for once I pretty much followed the pattern except that I made the leg longer so the socks come up above the top of my Blundstones. Other than this though, I have barely touched needles or spinning wheel for ages. I did do a wee bit of dyeing however, but I’ll save that for another post.

Oh, you might be interested in this last tidbit: I finally got three separate offers for my bead de-stash, all within 24 hours of each other! Talk about synchronicity, eh? A whole month after I put them up for sale. Unfortunately I had to tell everyone that they were already gone home with my sister. You snooze, you lose. Might have actually made a few bucks (sigh) but at least my sis is happy!

Can’t you just smell them? I sure can. Atchoo!!

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!