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.

Goodbye April

Well that was fast! Or slow. Depends on your perspective I guess! We’re well and still hanging about at home with as many long walks as possible and the occasional foray out to get groceries. The grocery shopping is pretty stressful: attempting to follow the ever-changing rules, trying to maintain 2 metres distance from everyone else, wearing disposable gloves and occasionally a mask, finding out that some important items might not be available and not stopping anywhere for long or touching anything unnecessarily. Ugh. We’re in something like Week Number 8 of this now with no real end in sight. British Columbia is doing very well at “flattening the curve” but finding a New Normal will be slow and cautious. Better that than jumping right back into things and finding out too late that it wasn’t a good move!

My emotional state has been going up and down. One minute feeling my normal positive self and the next just wanting to sit and read fluffy Regency romance novels. There’s a lot to be said for immersing oneself into a story where there are solutions to difficult problems and a guaranteed happy ending! I really didn’t think I was very stressed at all at first. I mean, nothing really has changed that much in our normally rather quiet life. Until my psoriasis flared up the worst it’s been since the horrible Year of the Itchy-Peelies in 2010. (The only good thing I got out of that nightmare was a diagnosis.) Meanwhile, I’m bathing carefully, greasing up well with cortisone and my homemade shea butter-based cream and wearing my softest leggings. I’m practically leaving a slime trail like my wee little friend here.

Teeny Tiny Slug

And I also realised that my reluctance to get back into sewing was because I was feeling guilty for not wanting to sew masks or other PPE for anyone, not even myself. The whole situation just makes me angry that something so inevitable like this pandemic wasn’t foreseen and planned for and that manufacturing of PPE was all sent offshore so that there is no domestic stock to fall back on. Profit over public safety. They’re scrambling now to retool some Canadian companies but too little too late. Better than nothing though I suppose. However I and other sewists like me can’t realistically be expected to make up the shortfall. For some sewists it’s been a way to feel helpful and contribute to their community. Good for them but I still haven’t been convinced to join in. Too stressful.

Instead I chose to go in a completely different direction and weave dish towels. I’m currently on number 5! It’s slow going and my concentration level drops right off after an hour or two. Only one more to go after this one though so I’m sticking to it. Maybe when I’m done this warp I’ll sew something? I need some new basic t-shirts and I’ve got lots of knits. Unfortunately I’ve already started to forget all the great plans I had for potential garments that occurred while I was sorting and inventorying my fabrics and patterns a few months ago. I’m sure if I start somewhere one garment will lead to another as it always does.

Otherwise, I finished a pair of socks for Thom!

Blackberry Socks

These are plain socks on 68 stitches in my own basic pattern. The yarn is ONline Supersocke 100 from deep stash. I probably bought it for me but he needs new socks more than I do. And he is perfectly happy to have them knit in wild and wonderful yarns! They don’t really show under his jeans anyway so they’re kind of like a crazy secret love message from me. Heh. I’ve already cast on another pair for him, this time in a mostly red striped yarn with dashes of charcoal, brown and a bright purple. Knitting them is something I can do while reading at least when my hands are up for it.

Gardening has been using most of my energy. It’s pretty mindless and soothing and I have something to show for all the work. Behold my tomatoes are tucked into their greenhouse.

Young tomato plants

This will be a jungle of epic proportions in another couple of months! And I got the dye garden finished. Japanese indigo is taking up the most space this year.

Japanese indigo plants

And the dyers coreopsis is in, tucked between the single bolting woad plant and the perennial coreopsis. They’ll get a lot taller and bushier and will need string and stakes before they collapse. Those are non-dye-providing Welsh poppies coming up on the left, aka pretty weeds.

Dyers coreopsis

The madder is coming up well. I always wish they were more attractive plants instead of scratchy and floppy and covered in black aphids. Right now they look pretty nice though.

Madder plants

And I’ve been harvesting greens and reds from the veggie garden for salads. The bok choy is doing particularly well this spring. Here’s just one pail full of yummy.

Garden greens…and reds

Next, I need to plant the beans and zucchinis. They can wait until next week or the one after. The soil needs to be warm enough for them. And also weeding and digging some of the front garden so I can plant the rest of the flowers somewhere. The marigolds are looking especially nice but they’re getting too big for their little pots. I put some in the dye garden but ran out of room. Moving right along. Playing in the dirt seems to be my happy place right now and this is the time of year when the most work needs to be done.

I know I’ve been rather quiet these days. But I’m hoping that feeling is passing. Time will tell. Stay well!

Interlude

We took a few days to escape the city for camping at Lightning Lake in beautiful E.C. Manning Provincial Park. The weather was most definitely chilly and changeable. We had sun, rain, cloud and wind – often all in the same hour! Luckily we’re quite used to the mountains and brought appropriate clothing and footwear along with our little propane heater for the evening. Thom’s brother and sister-in-law were kind enough to share their site with us so we had two blue VW Westfalias parked together. Theirs is a lighter blue and ours is a navy blue and they were purchased within a few months of each other over 30 years ago. Much camping has ensued ever since!

Lightning Lake, EC Manning Provincial Park

We saw some wildlife including loons, a momma merganser with 10 babies, a pika (in the rockfall you can see in the upper photo), a pileated woodpecker, deer and a bear on the side of the road on the way home. Trout were caught, trails were hiked and flowers were photographed.

Wildflowers
More wildflowers

I collaged a few of them for you! There’s too many more and although I can identify many of them, I don’t know all their names.

I also managed to finish those socks that have been on the needles forever.

Self-Striping Socks

The yarn is the no-longer-made DGB Confetti from a no-longer-in-business shop. What does that tell you about working from Deepest Stash? Love the colours obviously! The pattern is my usual top-down heel-flap basic socks on 64 stitches. No need to mess with something that works just perfect for my feet, eh? And then I started a new pair, this one’s for Thom.

Beaded Rib Socks

The rib pattern is from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks book. It’s only 2 rounds and easy to follow so these shouldn’t take too long. Notice that I’ve gone back to my Knitter’s Pride cubic needles? These are still my favourite way to knit socks. Even though my wee ChiaoGoo Minis are rather adorable. I will use them again soon anyway. Oh and the yarn is Trekking XXL and I quite like all the subtle colours that add up to brown. Almost made a pair for me with it but Thom won out. These are on 70 stitches since that’s what divided into the pattern’s 5-stitch repeat. I usually make his plain socks on 68 stitches.

So. Must run. My fishies need to be fried up in butter for supper now!

Quick Catch-Up

Still plugging away at the Goldstream Peacoat. It’s been a big job! Bigger than I expected going in anyway. I’ve ended up hand-sewing a whole lot more than I originally planned both because I have more control over the stitches and because it got pretty darned hard to get this beast under the presser foot! I ended up having to move a bunch of stuff off my sewing table because it all kept ending up on the floor as I wrestled the coat around on the sewing machine. I have to say that Janny the Janome held up very well to this thick fabric plus layers of interfacing. As long as I could get the thing under the presser foot it would sew through it. I only ran into an issue (bobbin thread nests) as I was doing the topstitching on the fronts and around the collar. Probably because I was turning the whole coat around with the needle down. Not perfect but done.

Here’s a couple of teaser photos so you can see the lining. Debbie Double is wearing the coat inside out!

Coat lining with inside pocket
Back facing with my label

Lots of critters in them thar woods, eh? I edged the lining with flat piping made from the sleeve lining fabric and I think it looks pretty neat. Now I’m sewing the sleeve linings which are the last pieces to assemble and sew in. By hand. Of course. All that’s left after that are the buttonholes and 3 buttons. Also by hand. Of course. It’s still going to take a few more days before this thing is completed. I’m kind of ready for it to be finished now.

One other thing I did was to begin a new pair of socks to try out my wee ChiaoGoo Shorties. They work quite well for me, at least on this simple basic sock. I used some DBG Confetti yarn that I totally love because it wears really well but is now discontinued. Boo-hoo. Self-striping socks are so old-fashioned now, aren’t they? I still like them though. What I don’t like is the stitch marker! The thickness leaves a bit of a ladder in the knitting which you might be able to just detect there above the pink marker. Changing it out for a thinner one now. Besides pink is my least favourite colour.

Self-striping socks on a 2mm tiny circular