Whoosh….

Did you hear that sound? That was May whooshing by. Another month disappearing in the rear view mirror. I wanted to post more this month but obviously that didn’t happen. We rambled about the neighbourhood. We gardened – a lot. We read and read and read. I finished a couple of projects. We wore our masks to get groceries, both for ourselves and for Thom’s elderly mom. We stayed isolated. We stayed well.

When put like that it sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? It doesn’t feel like that while I’m living it however. We’ve found some pleasant and most of all quiet places to walk. Our favourite is Shaughnessy, that Vancouver bastion of huge heritage mansions and treed streets pompously named after prominent members of the Canadian Pacific Railway board of directors circa 1885. Foot and car traffic is minimal, giant old trees keep it cool and the curvy streets keep us guessing as to which direction we’re going. It’s an adventure every time! I haven’t been carrying my iPad though so I have no photos to show you.

The garden is doing well and we’ve actually gotten quite a few compliments from passersby on how nice it looks. We both enjoy gardening and of course this year we have less alternative distractions, right? Yeah. Thom does the bigger stuff: pruning, mulching, mowing, leaf blowing, the larger weeding, turning compost, staking and tying up plants. I do the more delicate stuff: starting and transplanting seedlings, shaping beds, fertilizing, harvesting, the pickier weeding and plant trimming. We luckily have complementary skills and abilities! The weather has still been mainly relatively cool especially at night and this month it’s been quite changeable too. More like April weather than the mostly sunny April we had. A benefit is we’ve been blessed with enough rain that I haven’t had to water very much at all so far, except in the greenhouse of course. Everything (except the cucumbers which are still in pots in the greenhouse waiting for it to warm up a bit more) is planted now so all that’s left to do for the next few months are weeding, harvesting and watering. And watching things grow. Yes, the hammock is already out and being enjoyed.

Not much exciting has happened in the studio however. I did promise a photo of the finished tea towels:

Towels in 4-block 4-shaft Summer & Winter

I love them so much! And am now encouraged to wind a new warp for more towels in a different weave structure. Maybe there’s hope for me to regain my weaving skills yet? Then there’s the second pair of socks for Thom:

New Berry Socks

Yes, I wove the mat underneath too. Years ago now and you can see the sheep are losing their chenille “wool”! Poor things. The sock yarn is DGB Confetti from 2009. Working from deep stash these days. Heh. I truly love this yarn brand and am sad that it’s apparently discontinued. It’s very durable and the colourways were attractive. Now that the superwash sock yarns from independent dyers are more popular, they seem to mostly all use very similar base yarns which aren’t twisted as tightly so don’t hold up to wear as well. They’re also twice as expensive, but I don’t begrudge the hardworking dyers their profit. Just that I would love to be able to keep wearing the socks! Also, I do like dyeing my own but it’s hard to get undyed sock yarns for a reasonable price if you don’t have a business. Nevermind. I have enough for the foreseeable future anyway.

Here’s the masks I mentioned in my last post, free pattern from Dhurata Davies:

His masks
Her masks

They fit very nicely:

The masked woman

I have to say the masks have really helped us with the stress of grocery shopping in crowded stores where it’s difficult to maintain distancing. Some shops insist that all their customers should wear one along with only allowing a certain number of people in the store. I think there are actually more people wearing masks here now than there were. On the busier city streets I would say that perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 of the people I see these days are masked but less than 1/4 of them in quiet, low traffic areas. A much higher percentage wear masks on transit. But not everyone. Discomfort, vanity or disinterest? Even we don’t wear our masks on our ramblings but only if we’re forced to be in closer proximity to others.

And I also sewed a shirt:

Tessuti Helga

This is the Tessuti Helga shirt pattern that I cut out of some thrifted poly-something a year ago. And then it sat. And sat. While I proceeded with a whole bunch of other projects. But finally I decided that this shirt had aged long enough. It was time to test whether this pattern fit me well enough to consider making another version from nicer fabric. The lines of this shirt with its clever hi-lo angled hem are quite comfortable. The facings are stitched down so I knew I wouldn’t have my usual fights with keeping them in place. I deliberately chose a size S which surprisingly fit well with enough wearing ease even for The Belly Fluff. Can’t imagine how loose it would be if I went by my actual bust measurement! The only fit changes I made were sloping the shoulders and shortening the sleeves, both necessary on nearly every garment I make. I had some trouble with the collar which somehow didn’t lie properly against my neck. I chopped it shorter and hand-stitched the seam closed and now I like it much better. Lastly I used 5 smaller buttons instead of the 4 larger ones called for. I only had these appropriate ones in the stash.

Back view
Front (slightly blurry) view
Hem detail and close-up of the novelty fabric

If/when I make this again, I would consider adding some length to the body of this shirt. It feels a little short in front to me especially when I’m just wearing leggings like I am in the photo. This fabric is a little stiff too (some kind of home-dec stuff?) so it doesn’t drape as well as something like a linen or shirt-weight cotton. It’s more like a jacket. But I think it will get some wear, more perhaps in the autumn.

Moving right along. I desperately need some t-shirts, particularly longer-sleeved ones, since there are obvious gaps in my drawers and several old well-used t-shirts are finally wearing out. After 20 or so years I think they don’t owe me anything! I have plenty of suitable knits in the stash so there’s no excuse really. When I cut garments out in batches I can usually squeeze in a short-sleeved or cap-sleeved t-shirt as well as a 3/4 or full-length sleeved one at the same time. These are all vital for layering with my other pieces in my wardrobe. It turns out that I wear knits far more than wovens or often pair them together. Knits are comfortable and forgiving of fit and lend themselves more to my leisurely lifestyle. Got to get on this, preferably before it gets stinkin’ hot in my studio. Which it will. Very soon now.

Knit Knit

For some odd reason I’ve been finding it difficult to get back into sewing. I have several projects that have been on hold, plus a couple of things to mend and a whole list of items I want to make. But so far…nope. Nothing doing.

Instead I’ve been knitting. I finished my Wolkig Cowl in my handspun Fernwood 2-ply yarn:

The pattern is a very easy one by Martina Behm from Knitty’s First Fall 2017 issue. It worked really well with the variegated yarn, neither getting lost in the colour changes nor obscuring them. The needle size was a little large (4mm) for this yarn which is slightly finer than regular fingering but the results are very soft and squishy and truly warm! Especially when I doubled the cowl on my neck. Mmmmmmm…

The cowl only used just under 90g of my 250g total of this yarn so of course I cast on for another accessory. This one is the Midas Hat by Laura Reinbach. I was going to make another Sockhead hat but the Midas has the extra-warm doubled band which is exactly what I was wishing for after a particularly cold walk a couple of weeks ago. There’s not enough of this project to show you yet.

I’m also finally plugging along on the self-designed Deciduous Pullover that I started way back in July of 2018. Somehow I got frustrated with how it was going and bailed on it for quite some time. I reassessed my issues with it and realised that I wasn’t going to have nearly enough of the main medium grey yarn to make it a tunic length, which was my first plan. So instead I went in the other direction and cropped it severely. With my fluffy belly this is only going to be wearable over dresses or longer tunics so we’ll have to see how much love it gets in the end. I’m on the last sleeve now and making use of my “sweater turntable” (I refuse to call it a Lazy Susan) to facilitate going around and around and around.

Thom made it for me and it wasn’t even properly finished before I snatched it into use. You can just see it under that heap of sweater. Guess I should have done a video so you can see how it rotates as I knit, huh? Too hard to hold the iPad and knit at the same time unfortunately. You’ll just have to use your imagination. The needles I’m using are my wee ChiaoGoo Mini Twist Shorties which work a treat for sleeve knitting. (I’ve mentioned them before on the blog here.) These 3.25mm tips are the largest size in this set so I was happy to discover that ChiaoGoo has come out with the companion larger tips set in the Blue case. So of course I had to have them too.

They go from 3.5mm to 5mm tips in 2″ and 3″ lengths. The connectors on this set are the Small size rather than the Mini ones of the Red case so they are not able to be combined together. But I don’t think that’s much of a drawback although I would like second sets of the stoppers so I can put two sleeves on hold at the same time. A possible future purchase! I’m pretty sure the eensy wee Mini ends would be too flimsy for the larger tips anyway so that’s likely why they went with the sturdier Small connectors on the new set. The blue cables are thicker as well. I now have really short circular needles in sizes 2mm to 5mm which should hopefully cover pretty much anything of a narrow circumference that I wish to knit. I rarely knit anything heavier than that anyhow. Oh, and I’m currently using the longer 3.25mm tips with the longest cable (Red set) to knit my Midas Hat so they are definitely getting a workout!

As I’ve mentioned before short circulars are probably not for everyone. Even I still prefer dpns for sock knitting though I did knit one pair successfully with the Shorties. So far I’m finding them most useful for sleeves and hats and necklines where even a 16″ circular is too long. The modular system of interchangeable needles makes them very adaptable to different situations. These little guys fill some of the gaps left by my Addi Lace Clicks which only go down to 3.5mm tips and 16″ length. As you might be noticing, I spend a lot of time knitting so to me it’s totally worth having the tools that I enjoy using. There’s a lot of options out there these days – enough to make every knitter happy.

Clarity in 2020

Well here we are in the New Roaring 20’s! I’ve chosen the theme of “clarity” for this year since “2020” calls up associations with good vision. (Not that my own vision is actually 20/20 or anything!) I intend to focus on clearing out the junk, clarifying my future goals and generally looking to clear my head of all the negative emotions that are floating about. Don’t know about you, but I’m trying desperately to hold onto my peaceful little corner of the world. This is my 70th year of life and I can’t guess how many more years I’ll have left but I don’t plan to give up what is important to me anytime soon. All I can do is carry on the best way I know how. And keep making stuff, using what I already have as much as possible, and trying to live a little lighter on my poor abused planet. We can only do what we can only do, right?

So. I promised a bit of a retrospect of last year’s makes. The stats are interesting considering I didn’t think I’d done much! I finished a total of 39 projects: 33 sewing (including helping the granddaughter with The Beast), 5 knitting and 1 dye. The UFOs were 3 sewing, 2 knitting and 2 spinning for a total of 7. That seems like more uncompleted projects than I usually have ongoing but I guess not really since I often cut a half-dozen items out before I sew them.

A selection of successful sewing (and knitting)

Interestingly, I made more dresses this year than tops. Does that mean that my personal style is shifting? I seem to feel more comfortable in longer lengths but I still wear either shorts, leggings or pants underneath. My fondness for layers isn’t going away! I did discover a hole in my wardrobe however. After I reorganised all my drawers it seems that I don’t have many long-sleeved tops left anymore. I bought several lengths of suitable knits quite awhile ago but hadn’t gotten around to sewing it up. So solving that issue is on the agenda in a top position.

And there’s still some garments I want to make for Thom. I have the patterns and fabrics. I just have to do it. He doesn’t have nearly as many clothes as I do. Since he mostly wears shirts, pullovers (or sweaters) and jeans his needs are pretty simple. But he’s beginning to be quite spoiled with his “bespoke” wardrobe! More men’s sewing coming up.

Other than those things I don’t really need anything else until something wears out. Not that a lack of need will stop the wants. Just wait until I start going through the stashes during that section of the Make Space Project! It’ll remind me what I’ve already got until I’ll have a long queue lining up for future makes.

Meanwhile, I did finish one spinning project that’s been worked on in fits and starts for a year, the Fernwood yarn.

This is the first of 3 skeins

The fibre is 250g of New Zealand Corriedale in the colourway “Fernwood” purchased from my friend Andrea when she owned Aurelia Fibres. FYI, these rovings are now sold by Dewedlebug Fibre Emporium (Alberta) and their Fernwood seems a little brighter than mine if I can judge by the computer screen. Instead of being dye-painted the roving has the colours in carded strips aligned lengthwise. Sorry I didn’t save a bit unspun to show you (or a photo) but this makes a somewhat more blended effect when spun from the roving just as it presents itself. I spun one bobbin-full (half of the 250g) that way but for the second half I decided to strip the colours to separate them as best I could. I spun 6-10″ lengths in a sort of random-ish order which definitely made longer areas of a single colour.

Bottom: first bobbin; top: second bobbin

You can sort-of see the different effects in the above photo. (Note the photo of the finished skein shows the colours more accurately than this one.) Then I plied the two bobbins together for a kind of faux-fractal. I ended up with three skeins, two larger and one smaller, totalling about 980 yards of fingering weight. Why is it that 2 bobbins full of singles often don’t ply into just 2 bobbins full of plied yarn? I guess it doesn’t pack as closely together as the singles so there are going to be leftovers! Anyway, the amount isn’t quite enough for a sweater but a lot more than I needed for my intended project. I started with the little skein.

Cowl beginning

Yes, I started another knitting project still with two UFOs haunting me! Pfttt… This is the Wolkig Cowl by Martina Behm from Knitty, First Fall 2017. It’s deceptively simple to knit so you can guarantee I’ll be finished in a jiffy! I like the way the variegations in the yarn don’t clash with the puffy knit texture as it would if it were lace or cables. I have no idea what else I’ll make from this yarn. Maybe a hat? More fingerless mitts? At this rate I’ll end up with a matched set.