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?

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.