The Misstep

Well, I bet you thought I’d disappeared completely! I seem to be barely keeping up with one post per month these days. This time I have a couple of reasonable excuses. First is an excess of gardening: at least 2 hours or so on most days. The veggie garden was producing beautifully and the flowers and dye plants were looking really nice (except the Japanese indigo, but that’s another story). Then two forms of disaster struck at the same time.

A week ago now we were out for a walk in the lovely warm sunshine and I happened to look up at some road work that was going on the other side of the street and…stepped partly off the sidewalk into a low area of dirt, flung myself to the other side to try to keep my balance and went down. At first I just thought I’d given myself a nice new road rash on my leg. Wouldn’t be the first time! I assured the concerned women directing traffic around the equipment that I was okay. Mopped up the blood with a hankie and popped some bandaids (which I carry in my pack) on the worst of the scrapes and carried on. Limping. Pain in my twisted foot but not too bad. Yet. Walked to the bakery, walked home, did laundry, made the bed and the pain was increasing along with the bruising. Raised my foot, applied ice but not sure about whether it was just sore from the edge of my sandal or what. Decided to wait because by that point the emergency department in my favourite little hospital close to home was closed by that point.

Of course you know the story already – it just got worse overnight and by morning I couldn’t put any weight on my right foot at all! Off to hospital right after they opened at 8am. Gotta say, getting into the car was not fun. At the hospital there at least was a wheelchair! I was happy to see they were very cautious about Covid-19 protocols and even gave me a new medical-grade mask to wear. But they wouldn’t let Thom in so he waited outside. It took 3 hours in total but I got x-rayed and fitted for an air boot and crutches once they determined that yes, indeed, I broke my 5th metatarsal. Average 8 weeks non-weight-bearing healing. There goes my summer! Also broke (hah!) my 70-year record of no broken bones. Sheesh.

The Boot (aka Francine)

Unfortunately it turns out that I’m pretty much incapable of using crutches easily or safely. Not enough upper body strength especially in my hands and wrists and wobbly balance means I needed a spotter whenever I so much as tried to go to the bathroom! And I never felt secure at all. Not ideal. So several Instagram friends suggested a knee scooter which I had never even heard of before. Several months rental (if they even had one available) was more expensive than buying one brand new but Thom did some searching on Craigslist and found a used scooter nearby for half price. He immediately went out and got it for me.

Harley the Knee Rover

Meet my new Harley! Vroom-vroom! It’s heavy enough for me to feel very comfortable, has an effective disc brake that locks and a basket so I can carry stuff. Drawbacks are that the turning radius is very wide (I guess for stability) so I end up doing lots of backing and turning or else just balancing and lifting the back end around. The wheels are nice and quiet but apparently only work well on smooth hard surfaces. Thom ran around and removed all our small area rugs to clear the runway for me. The house isn’t very big but at least the rooms and hallway aren’t too small. Except the bathroom where I have to back in! I am so grateful that we put in a couple of grab bars and got a shower seat last year. Thinking ahead.

So I bet you’re wondering what the second disaster might be? The weather! Back in the beginning of June we actually had a couple of very cool days, one of which even broke a record low for that date. Now however, we are expiring under a “heat dome”! Several days of record-busting highs and no air conditioning in our house. Ugh. Poor Thom can’t keep up with the garden watering and I can’t help. Currently at 5pm it’s 37C/98.6F (aka body temperature) outside and 30C/86F in the house on the main floor. Hottest I’ve ever seen it in the 42 years I’ve lived here! Since I can’t navigate stairs, I have no idea how hot it is in my studio. Surface-of-the-sun hot, probably. Sort of glad it’s out of temptation because I really want to work on some sewing patterns.

This one for instance:

Jumpsuit Hack

Sorry about the sub-par photo. Gee, I haven’t blogged about the croquis from My Body Model yet, have I? Coming soon. It’s fun sketching ideas. I mean, what else do I have to amuse myself with these days?

More Pattern Thoughts

Or maybe that should be Mistaken Pattern Thoughts? Last post ended with me assembling the Closet Case Sienna Maker Jacket. I was completely off base thinking that I could frankenpattern the regular and extended (I was incorrect to call them “curvy”) sizes together to get something that would fit me. Wrong! The two size ranges are drafted on completely different blocks and they didn’t correspond well enough to combine parts of them together. So it became a DIY project of massive proportions! In the end there wasn’t much left of the original pattern except the collar, hems, pockets and centre front and back seams.

The pencil lines are mine!

Yes, my body is not a “standard” shape! I have a small frame but carry a lot of extra fat around the middle of me from bust to upper thigh. Unlike most people who have fat distributed more evenly on their bodies, my arms and legs (at least from just above the knee down) are relatively thin. My shoulders are also narrow and quite sloped. I’m short but not petite since my shortness is all in my legs (and arms) not my torso. All this means some pretty complex fitting changes have to be made before I’m happy with any garment’s fit.

So much work but I learned long ago that just going with baggy oversized layers makes me look like I’m wearing my big sister’s clothes. (And I don’t have a big sister.) I hate that! The proportions are completely wrong for me and I feel swamped. I need the upper bust and arms to actually fit me and then widen from the bust to hip to at least skim breezily past the fat parts. With enough ease because I also don’t like feeling squished in the middle.

In the above photo of the front of the Sienna (size 14 in the extended range), you can see I needed the shoulder sloped and narrowed, the underarm raised, the bust narrowed slightly and the waist curve removed and widened down towards the hem (not shown). I also shortened the body at the lengthen/shorten line by an inch which probably isn’t enough to bring the lower pocket markings up to where my short arms can reach properly. I’ll check that when I get there in the sewing steps.

And then I did a similar fix to the back pattern piece.

Again, pencil lines are mine!

I don’t need to slope the back shoulder as much as the front to accommodate my forward shoulder. I left a little extra width in the shoulder seam to be eased into the front which fits my round shoulder much nicer. Another option would be a dart but this is only 1/4″ so easing is better. The upper back width is also not narrowed as much as the front. I left the back curve shaping intact. (Interestingly the “regular” pattern sizes have a straight back seam. And no bust dart.) This jacket is not meant to fit too closely but to be a layer that one wears over one’s regular clothing to protect it from dirt or wear: a work jacket, chore coat, or lab coat. Or to at least look like you were planning to do some work.

So of course after all that fiddling I had to make the sleeve pattern fit the new armhole. And me, hopefully.

Only the hem remains intact!

The Sienna sleeve is a two-piece like a suit jacket. This is a little harder for me to adjust than a simple one-piece sleeve but I figured it out eventually. I had to take some height off the cap, add some to the underarm, narrow the whole sleeve and shorten it. Yikes! So much work. But if there’s anything I cannot abide it’s sleeves that are too large for me. I lived with that issue in the past but no longer. I can make them better. So I can bend my arms comfortably but not dip my cuffs in the soup.

The only other adjustments I had to make were to the shoulder seams on the facings so they would match the slope. Collar and pockets and belt are untouched. Remind me why I keep buying patterns? Seems pointless when I have to do so much to make them fit that it feels like it would be far easier to draft one from scratch! I keep saying I’m quitting buying anything new now that I have a whole suite of basic pattern blocks that I can use. At least for the simpler things. Let’s see how long I can maintain a pattern-buying moratorium. You heard it here first! Counting from NOW……

One comment about Closet Case: Heather Lou has decided to rebrand as Closet Core Patterns. It seems a better fit and less of a subtle unintended slur than “Closet Case”. All her marketing and social media redirect to Closet Core now. However, even though the timing is good I think it’s going to take awhile before it completely catches on. Especially when the original name is all over the patterns that I already own. Maybe I’ll get out the markers and correct them! Heh.

Anyway, I hope you aren’t holding your breath waiting for me to actually cut out and sew the Sienna right away. I’ve been working on a number of sewing ideas and absolutely nothing is getting finished yet! Unfortunately I get just as much pleasure out of planning as I do actually accomplishing. Okay, maybe “unfortunately” is the wrong word. I’m just going along with what works for me right now: preparing patterns, matching them with fabrics, stacking them up, wash, rinse, repeat. Once I eventually get over this phase I will definitely start chopping out garment pieces. After I have at least half-a-dozen ready to go, then I’ll start sewing them together. I know that’s not how most people sew but just working on one project at a time doesn’t make me happy. After all it’s not a contest, is it? I don’t really need anything new. I have plenty of clothes to wear already. It has to be fun or I won’t do it. And right now all I want to do is play with pieces of paper. So I am.

But just so you know, there is fabric for the Sienna.

The colour only showed up properly in the sunshine.

It’s a heavy reddish-brown brushed bull denim that’s been in my stash so long I have no idea where it came from. And I even have the D-rings in the right size for the belt. Progress!

Moving right along. I get to go to the dentist tomorrow for a teeth cleaning and check-up. I adore my hygienist but I don’t relish all the new rules for taking my temperature, distancing, masks, hand sanitizer etc. thanks to The Evil Pandemic. I can’t even wait in the office but have to be called in by phone and then leave before it’s Thom’s turn right after me. Ugh. I know they are just being careful and protecting both themselves and me. It’s important to do so. And I’m sure it’s just as much of a PITA to them too. Anyway to cheer myself up I made a new mask to wear. Obviously I can’t wear it in the chair though! Fun times, people. Fun times.

Splat!

And that was the sound of my best attempts at posting more often. Sigh. I have to admit that I’ve been having trouble sticking with anything much these days with the notable exception of reading a metric tonne of books. Or it would be a tonne if I read actual books instead of digital ones from the library! Current count is 100 since January 1. Halfway to my 2020 goal of 200 which is kind of wimpy since I read 207 in total last year. Yes, I read quickly. And I don’t skip anything either. My genre of the moment is Regency Romance. Fluff and nonsense of course, but I’m enjoying them. Makes a good contrast to current news anyhow. Just saying.

So I have a bunch of plans and ideas for projects but nothing has got me excited enough to start yet. I haven’t knit a stitch since I finished that last pair of socks. No winding of warps for more towels, though I’ve picked out some possible yarns. No sewing, not even to finish my Grainline Felix dress which has been languishing for months and months. Debbie Double is currently wearing the bodice in hopes of teasing me into getting it done. And I keep walking right past her! What is wrong with this damselfly? Where is my Maker’s Mojo?

One thing I have been doing is planning in attempt to get kickstarted on something. Anything! To that end I’ve discovered the wonder that is Trello – an online tool for project and task management. There are apps for every OS and they all sync together. I first heard of Trello on an episode of the Love To Sew podcast where Helen was waxing rhapsodic about it’s virtues for sewing plans. I kind of ignored that because I have my inventories of fabric and patterns (among other things) on my iPad in Sortly, which is an inventory app (now unfortunately subscription-based but I have a legacy access) and OneNote on the desktop, which I use as a whiteboard posting inspiration/pattern photos and jotting notes. I didn’t want to start all over again with yet another app that required me to input a bunch of data. Also Sortly has the advantage that its files are available to me offline so for example I can use my iPad to check pattern requirements for fabric yardages while in the store. So I wasn’t going to use Trello for inventory purposes.

However, Trello is much better than OneNote for planning! Much, much better. And the free level has all the tools and capacity that I need. Yay! Basically, you have “boards” that contain “lists” which in turn contain “cards”. Each card has a “front” side with its name and perhaps a cover photo, tags, dates, and progress. You can move the cards around in the list or from list to list or archive them if they’re no longer needed and they look nice and neatly lined up for you. When you click on the card, the “back” comes up and has space for all kinds of information. You can add details, tags, attach files and photos, dates, checklists and links. If you are working with someone else or a whole team you can allow everyone access to edit and comment. Pretty powerful stuff.

I’ve been setting up cards with photos of the pattern and any inspirational pictures, proposed fabric photos (copied from my Sortly inventory), notes, tags, Date Started and Date Finished fields, and a checklist so I can mark off steps like Pattern Printed, Fitting Changes, Cut Out etc. I love that I can link relevant tutorials and sewalongs directly into the Notes field so I can easily just click on them to bring up the website. You can also relate one card to another and attach the pattern’s PDFs if you want to keep them all in one place. I haven’t bothered though. To sum up, Trello is simple to use and very satisfying for an organisation junkie like myself. Helen has a great tutorial on how she uses it in a slightly different way on her blog so you can at least get a feel for what it looks like. You’re welcome.

One item I added to my Trello sewing board is a refashion/repair list. On it there is this top, which I made in 2013.

Anthropologie Knock-Off Top

It’s made from a patchwork of fabrics of various types and although it’s looking a bit faded here and there, I thought it was still wearable. Until I looked closer.

Back of the top
Closer still

See the holes? There are more on the other shoulder and at the back of the neck. This rayon is toast! I’ve always been fond of rayon with it’s drape and ease of sewing but I realise it has problematic origins as a fibre. And now I’m convinced that it really doesn’t hold up well enough over the long term. And I keep my clothes as long as I possibly can. So, what to do? I think I’m going to practice some Visible Mending and boro-stitch patches over the worst areas. We’ll see if that holds it for awhile longer. Unfortunately another rayon shirt I made in 2011 didn’t make it.

Rayon Batik Shirt
Holes, holes and more holes

The fabric is completely disintegrating! There are holes all over which amazes me actually because I don’t remember seeing them when I ironed this shirt last before it went into my storage closet with the summer clothes over the winter. Nothing else besides these two garments had holes. Definitely the rayon is the only fabric affected. Interesting. Oh my! I just had a thought! We have had a recent infestation of silverfish in the house! I’ve worked hard and have got the population way down with major cleaning and diatomaceous earth applications but it’s pretty hard to eliminate the beasts entirely. They are devilish fast and very smart and, yes, they love sugars and starches. Paper is a favourite diet item. Rayon is made from wood pulp the same as paper. Doh! That’s it! Mystery solved. Okay, I’m most definitely not planning to buy any rayon fabric in the future. I’ll stick with my favourite fibres, linen and wool, as much as possible. And of course it’s hard to avoid cotton. But meanwhile I have a stash that needs to be cut up and sewn together. Using some of those plans I’ve been working on.

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?