Thursday, June 22, 2017


Hello-hello-hello! Wow! We passed solstice and it's actually summer now! It's still a little cool here and we've had quite a lot of cloud and drizzle as well as sunshine. But I'm not complaining - it could definitely be worse! The days are long and I've been alternating my time in the garden in the mornings and in the studio in the afternoons. The backyard is mostly in the shade in the morning so it's much nicer to work in then. It's looking pretty fabulous this year if I do say so. It helps that we've both been in a dirt-digging mood. Thom does the heavier stuff and I do the fiddly stuff and it somehow all works out. I harvested my garlic scapes yesterday and the tomatoes are nearly up to my chin in the greenhouse.

Potential tomatoes! I need to go shake them up to help them fertilize. There's not enough wind in the greenhouse, even with the door and roof windows open.

In the studio I've been madly cutting out a bunch of new basics:

That pile equals 15 garments, nearly all knits. There's leggings, shorts, cropped pants, t-shirts and an over-tunic. (New name for my favourite type of pinafore/apron/tunic/popover/thingy!) I'm keeping them in groups of like colours so I don't have to change the serger threads too often. I hope to whip through these as quickly as I can. There's still plenty more fabric around here and I already have lots of ideas of what to make from it. The me-mades are poised to take over my wardrobe completely. Very soon.

The last couple of days I've been concentrating on my latest Tilton dress. It's finished (and I love it!) but I don't have photos yet so I'll wait to talk about that in another post. One thing I was reminded of though is how much easier it is to sew with a woven in natural fibres. The linen/cotton was easy to cut out, sewed like buttah and pressed like a dream. Not so much like that black tie-dye knit beast up there that refused to lay flat or stay still while I cut it. It was kind of like working with jello. No idea how all these makes are all going to turn out but I plan to make liberal use of the serger and batch sewing techniques. The results are at least guaranteed to fit me better than store-bought anyhow.

Besides my latest dress, I'm not sure what exactly I'll be bringing to wear at the ANWG conference in Victoria. (We're leaving a week today! Yikes.) It depends on how many of these items I can finish and how much will fit in my new suitcase. The other ladies are already teasing me about how much stuff I plan to haul along. In my defense it's mostly not clothes. So I like to have everything I need with me, OK? Hey, I'm used to having an entire Westie with everything including the kitchen sink in it. (Literally!) A 26" case is pretty small in comparison. Just sayin'...

And that's not all that's on the itinerary - when I get back (on our 46th wedding anniversary) I have a day to wash and repack and we're off for 5 days to go camping with the Fambly. And then the evening we get back from that there's a 50th anniversary party for some old friends. Whew! That's a lot of socialising for this introvert. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Must try to be as organised as possible before next Thursday. Yup.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Squirrel Wars

Somewhat behind on the blog posting, aren't I? But then, who's counting? Not me! While the weather cooperated I've been mucking about in the garden. I swear it's looking the best ever although there are still some serious issues. You wins some and you loses some, right? The Evil Squirrels and I are still feuding. I've littered the most vulnerable areas with little trays each holding a rag soaked in jalapeno pickle juice. Apart from needing refreshing every time it rains or when it dries out too much, they seem to be working to keep the beasts from chowing down on my veggies. I didn't think to protect my young sunflowers though and one was pulled up and bitten in half. Stupid creatures. I could use more of the trays still but it's hard to eat that many jalapenos! I've also tried other hot and sour ingredients but the spicy pickled stuff seems to work best and at least it's safe for the garden, unlike many of the commercially available repellants. Hate. Squirrels. Hate. Grrr...

Onto more cheerful things, I've also been sewing up a storm. I finished my Katherine Tilton B6138 top/vest in a lightweight natural linen muslin:

I'm calling it the Sculptural Top because it has such a fun shape. I didn't have any appropriate buttons (the ones I thought would work were too small) and rather than go shopping (again!) Thom offered to make me some on his lathe. I love them! They are dogwood and finished with a polymer coating so hopefully they'll hold up in the laundry. They go nicely with the rustic linen, don't you think?

Other modifications include raising the armholes and fitting the shoulders. I didn't like the way the pattern instructions said to sew the collar on with the inside facing up so I reversed it and I like it much better. This linen of course wrinkles as soon as you look at it but I don't care. I love the stuff. This is a nice light top for hot weather (if we ever get any more) but still with good coverage. And it layers over t-shirts nicely too.

Speaking of t-shirts, I also finished my test sew of Hey June's Lane t-shirt:

Of course I had to do some fit adjusting but it was pretty easy for a change since the pattern comes with a separate front piece with an FBA built in. I started with an M at the top and after the bust morphed through to XXL at the waist and hip. The sleeves were also too long (no surprise!) so for the 3/4 length I took off an inch though they're still a tad long. I had plenty of fabric, a rayon/poly/lycra interlock, so I increased the body length to what I thought was going to be a tunic with the shirt-tail hem but it ended up a dress! And just to be challenging I included quarter-moon pockets:

Lookee! More damsel-butt! Ahem. The way I'll probably wear it most often however is more like this:

Which of course means I kind of wasted my time making cool pockets. However, I can always revisit that idea again sometime in a future make. I think this not-quite-grey-not-quite-brown taupe colour matches my hair! Now I want a bunch more of these easy-fitting t-shirts in different colours. I've already got a red-orange one lined up.

But meanwhile, I'm still working on pants. Many many pants. Starting with the brown, grey and black nylon/lycra supplex rib fabrics that I bought in the bargain basement at Dressew for $4 a metre. I had to transfer my latest leggings pattern to stiff paper because the tissue was tearing too much. If I'm going to use it a bunch it deserves preservation, right? I managed to get a pair of leggings and a pair of bicycle shorts out of just 1.5 M of each of the black and the grey. I have 2 M of the brown so I may just cut 2 pairs of leggings because I know I'll wear them. And there's at least 4 more pairs of pants I want to cut out. I'm going with the flow. I needed a break from the sewing machine anyway.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Oh Pants!

In my ongoing quest to fit the body I have (rather than the one the media tells me I should have) I've been trying to collect a suite of basic block patterns that can be used in several helpful ways:

  • To make basic tops, tunics, dresses and pants in both woven and knitted fabrics.
  • To adjust commercial patterns quickly for fit, especially in the shoulders and arms.
  • To hack into new designs that I know will fit without making a muslin first.

Unlike a sloper, these blocks include some wearing ease and 5/8" seam allowances. I currently have a front, back and sleeve for a set-in sleeve top for wovens, another for knits (which has a little less ease in the bust and sleeve), a shoulder princess for knits, knit pants and now woven pants. I'm still working on the raglan sleeve top for knits and don't yet have an armscye princess or a proper darted bodice. Notice I never mentioned a skirt? I'm right off skirts at the moment because I find them uncomfortable and shifty on me. I'd rather wear garments that hang from the shoulders or pants that can't ride up on my (lack of) waist.

The pants that are most comfortable for me are either stretchy or loose and have an elastic waist that comes at least above my hip bones or a bit higher. That puts them about at my belly button. If they don't come over my hips enough then they have nothing to hold them up! This is one of the reasons I am currently in hate with ready-to-wear which thinks that everyone has a 7" pant rise and I need 10" or even more depending on the stretch factor or lack thereof.

Which brings me to my latest makes. This is my Granola Vest/Top and Pants:

The fabric is (I think) a linen/cotton blend in a woven-in pattern of brown and white:

Weavers would recognise this as colour-and-weave, alternating light and dark threads in a way that mimics a twill but is actually mostly plain weave. It has a nice soft but rustic hand which is why I called it "granola"! Also wrinkles a lot but I love linen too much to care. Presses perfectly anyhow. The top is based on a shirt that I've made before but I got very cranky after I was nearly finished sewing it and discovered that the pattern didn't include enough of an overlap for the button plackets! Grrr... It's my own fault since I made it but it's a little tight in the bust even though I put the buttons and buttonholes as close to the centre as possible. However I could have spaced them a bit better with one button right at the bust - you can see it pulling a little. It's marginally improved without a t-shirt underneath. I didn't have very much fabric so the pockets are one-layer and top-stitched but you can't even see the stitching because I matched the thread to the fabric. The pants have similar pockets as well and I just managed to squeeze them in with a tiny gusset in the back crotch. Not bad for only 2 metres of fabric, huh?

So. The pants. This is my new woven pants block which was a mashup of an old pair of ready-to-wear that I love and an older Vogue pattern to help with the crotch curve. I still had to tweak it a bit on the pants themselves but it was pretty close for a first try. Here's some (brave) photos to show you what I mean. I apologise for the blurriness in a couple of them.

The above rear photo was taken before I did a wee bit of scooping on the back crotch. I hope you can see the difference in the after:

They definitely feel better. The insides don't look as neat as they did before (thank you, loose fraying weave) but they look good on the outside and that's what counts, right? And yes, I transferred everything back to the pattern. Including moving the waist up about 1/2" higher which I wasn't able to fix on the real thing. Good to go for next time though. That would, I think, eliminate the final remaining wrinkles below the back crotch.

This was the book that was invaluable in helping me get this fit:

The styles and photos therein are somewhat dated now but the information remains the absolute best. These people have fitted pants on every different body shape and it's lovely to see so many of them in here without apology or embarrassment. Yay! Highly recommended.

I still have 2 more tunic/pinafore/apron/jumper/tops to show you. Wish I had a good name for these overlayers that I wear all the time. Some are wearable as summer tops on their own but others need to have a t-shirt underneath - like the one in the final photo above that I've bunched up over my waist! Here's what it normally looks like:

Sorry that the t-shirt is almost the same making it hard to see. The fabric is a poly/lycra rib. The second top is in this really cool black wrinkled poly/lycra woven. I've lightened it up so you can see the texture and the cool selvedges that I used on the front seam.

This also illustrates the difference a little stretch makes - this is the same basic pattern as my Granola top above. And I did not notice the pattern error on the front where it was actually narrower than the back. Fixed it now! Sheesh.

What's next in the sewing queue? You'll have to wait and see. And there's a new sweater on the needles too.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Happy Dance

Just a quick one (my roast chicken is almost ready) to say that I got my labels! Yay!

Just in time to put them on my latest four makes:

(I owe you a post on this new bunch, don't I? Coming soon.) These labels are sealed on all four sides and are woven, not printed. I experimentally tried several ways to apply them to the garments. It would probably have been easier if they weren't already finished so I could sew the label into a seam. The poly/lycra was too stretchy to sew on by machine (I picked it out twice!) so I ended up hand-stitching which worked much better.

OK, the scoop. I ordered these online from the Dutch Label Shop in Philadelphia, PA. These are the smallest and simplest type and the online creator is very easy to use and has quite a large number of options for designing your own. Of course if you are willing to pay more you can use your own logo and have many more options for label style but I didn't think it was worth it for my wee home studio. And yes, I know that's really a dragonfly not a damselfly, but most people can't tell the difference! It's close enough. I'm really quite pleased with these and am looking forward to putting them in all my future sewing. With shipping and exchange they cost me about $.59 Canadian each. I ordered them on May 16 so that didn't take too long. Unfortunately tracking ended at the US border. Good old Canada Post.

Not to be annoying but if you're interested the company has offered a referral program. If you decide to order from them just enter my email at checkout and get 10% off. In exchange I get a $5 credit on my account for the next time I need more labels. If you don't have it, you can find my email through my Blogger profile. Just in case you want to plaster your labels all over everything too!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

It's Sunny

Well, hello there! I seem to be slipping a little on my usual posting non-schedule, haven't I? Blame it on the fabulous weather we are currently having. Warm sunshine is to be savoured and not squandered indoors typing. Amirite? And I can't work on it outdoors because I can't see what I'm doing thanks to the glare on the screen. Oh well. I already spent 4 hours in the garden today so I can surely justify sitting around inside now.

We're nearly finished the main work of cleaning up and planting. And we're already having to do some watering on the new seedlings so they don't all go limp. It's really a lot of tedious work but if you don't do it, you might as well not have a garden. It's pretty discouraging sometimes though. Somebody (likely one of the Evil Squirrels) has been chomping heavily on my cabbage so I had to cover it with netting in hopes of discouraging the beast. We looked into natural repellants but they are expensive and not recommended for vegetable gardens. Anybody have a good recipe? We've tried bottled hot sauce but that didn't really deter them for long. I feel like Elmer Fudd only my nemesis is a squirrel, not a rabbit. Grrrr...

Meanwhile the housekeeping is way behind and only a little sewing has been happening in the studio. So far I've only managed to repair 4 pairs of pants and tights and nearly finished a couple of pinafores. It's been hot up here in the afternoons and I've been quite tired when I manage to get some time to work on the waiting piles. Hanging over a hot steam iron is not the greatest but if I don't suck it up I'm not going to get all my plans finished. Time to get out the big cooling fan! It works fine unless I've got pattern tissue pieces floating about. Here in Vancouver we don't usually need AC and my old house is cool enough on the lower floors so it's just up here under the eaves that's a problem. But hey, I'm not really complaining after the icy/snowy winter and super-rainy spring we had! I just need a few weeks to acclimate to the nice weather. At least I hope we get a few weeks.

I haven't actually started sewing it yet, but my Snow-Dyed Dress needed some buttons so we walked downtown on Wednesday. Just to make the walk worthwhile we also went to see Guardians of the Galaxy #2. (Hilarious. Loved it!) At Dressew I went a little nuts in the bargain basement and bought some more knits for T-shirts and leggings:

That's the brown version of the nylon/lycra wicking rib that I already have in black and gray. I don't like it as much as pants but it's fine as leggings and bicycle shorts. At $2 per metre it's not a big deal if it wears out fairly quickly. I recently priced good quality leggings at $60! I can certainly make quite a few pairs for that and they fit better too. The other two fabrics are cotton baby rib in a lighter weight. No lycra content so they are better for T-shirts because they don't have good enough recovery for pants. If there's any left over the larger scraps could be some nice undies though. I got 4 metres each at $4 per metre. And last but definitely not least, we headed up to Dressew's main floor and saw this:

That gorgeous stuff is 100% organic hemp muslin! Yum. Thom wants a long-sleeved shirt and I want something too - depending on how much is left. We got 4 metres at (gasp!) $29.99 per metre. Yeah, there went all the cash I saved downstairs. But we both adore hemp! And linen. And ramie (which you sadly don't see around anymore). Bast fibres all. Neither of us worries about wrinkles. I don't put them in the dryer (after the very first wash) but hang to dry so they last longer. And I don't mind ironing. It's really a pleasure to iron a nice bast fibre fabric.

Oh and I couldn't find a button match for the moss green fabric. I know - all the gazillion buttons at Dressew and none matched? Not in the right size anyway. So I got 2 alternative colours to choose from instead. I plan to use the second set for a top from the leftover snow-dye fabric. More on the sewing projects soon. I almost have one or two FOs for you.

But right now I have one knitted FO! This is my Sunny Jim Sweater:

If you'll recall the pattern is James by Amy Miller, the yarn is Cloudborne Highland Fingering in Oatmeal Heather and I overdyed it in rhubarb root. I changed the pattern a little by knitting an I-cord bind-off at the neck, shortening the arms so they would be 3/4 length on my T-Rex arms and lengthening the hem with short-row curves. I quite like this sweater even if it is slightly more snug than I'd hoped. My excuse is I'm still carrying some extra winter blubber that hasn't gotten worked off in the garden yet. The neckline is a tiny bit wide so my original plan of using an even smaller needle for the bind-off was probably a good one. Unfortunately I was afraid it would be too tight so I went only one size down from my main needle. It's a great top-down pullover pattern though. I loved the short-row shaping to raise the back neck and lower the front neck for a more U-shape than top-downs usually have. I just might use this one again but with even more modifications next time. Since that was the last project on my needles I've already cast-on my next sweater. Yes, I'm still on a personal sweater kick. Best to go with it while I'm feeling the desire, no? More on that one soon.

Off to sew on some pockets before I have to figure out what we're having for supper.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

To Garden or Sew?

Well! Our weather has finally started to feel more normal for May. Sunshine! Warmth! So of course we've been madly trying to make up for lost time in the garden. I have been literally falling into bed and going out like a light! And we still aren't where we should be. I won't say "finished" because no garden ever is completely finished. But we are weeks behind this year thanks to the unusual cold and the record rainfall we had.

Anyway I gave my dye garden some sea soil and fish fertiliser love this morning and I'm hoping the poor things will start to grow properly again.

See the red leaves on the Japanese indigo? That's from the cold they suffered. In my defense it was warm enough when I planted them! How did I know it would chill out again right after? They're pretty tough however and in past years managed to survive even a hail storm or two. (It missed us this year! Yay.) I'm hoping they'll catch up.

The tomatoes and cucumbers are in now and there's just one bed left to dig before I can put in the squashes. No hurry though. I think the neighbours suspect that we only grow poppies, violets and Spanish bluebells in our veggie garden:

Not true! There's food in there too! But they sure are pretty though, aren't they? It's late for the bluebells. I'm usually pulling them all out by now after the flowers finish. Doesn't hardly slow them down any! The poppies are perennial Welsh poppies and most of them are orange although there's a patch of yellow ones towards the back of the garden. We try to keep them under control but don't always succeed! There are lots in our front garden as well. We never planted them originally. They just magically appeared many years ago. Kind of like the cornflowers, foxgloves and of course, the bluebells. I do however know where the white alyssum, lemon balm, oregano, daisies, feverfew and the occasional weld plants that show up where they're not wanted came from. My penance is to weed them out - along with the "real" weeds.

Luckily we both enjoy gardening a lot. It's creative exercise! Better than going to the gym and sometimes there's a good meal or a pretty dye colour to be had from it too. Not to mention the enjoyment in just feasting your eyes on the beauty. We often get really nice comments from passersby when we're out there mucking about. Worth all the work fun!

So I'm pretty happy that we're getting stuff done in the garden but not so much in my studio. Yet. I've got 7 garments cut out and only reduced the fabric piles by less than a quarter! (Many more to go.) I cleaned and oiled the sewing machine and serger and vacuumed the floor. Thom replaced my serger knife for me after the old one got too dull. Since I couldn't figure out which item to sew first I began instead with some mending. Just to get the juices flowing, right?

One pair of purchased (back in the '90's?) cropped pants need the elastic replaced. I'm pretty annoyed with any technique that sews through the elastic because you can't just attach new elastic to old and pull it through the casing. I'm having to pick out not one but three separate rows of stitching to free the old elastic:

I couldn't just run another elastic on top either. You might wonder why I'm bothering but I love these pants. They are light, cool, wrinkle-free and I love the black and white striped crinkle fabric. I'm hoping to get another few years out of them anyway.

By the way, the commercial tag on the pants reminded me that I have finally after years of debate with myself ordered some personal woven ribbon tags for my makes. I'll tell you more about them and where I ordered them from when I receive them in the post. And if I like them, I might just order more of the same design in a different colourway. So exciting! I got seriously tired of spending time making tags that didn't hold up well over time and laundry. But I would like to mark my clothes as mine in some way. These will do it in style.

There was a dye project. If you'll remember my snow-dyed hemp/silk fabric from this last winter:

I changed my mind on what I'm going to make with it and needed some contrast fabric to go with so I bit the bullet and dyed the rest of my precious 5 yards to coordinate:

The snow dye used plum, rust and moss Procion MX dyes (from Maiwa) so I used moss alone for the coordinating plain dye. It's not perfectly even but shows some random patterning from being left unstirred in the bucket when a friend dropped by for tea. I like it better that way and think it will do the trick! More about this project when I get to sewing it. It's all cut out already and waiting but I need thread and buttons first. A gazillion buttons in my stash and although there's a good match, there's only 2 and I need 6. Boo. I see a trip to Dressew in my future. I'm compiling a list. Oh, and if you noticed - this will probably be the one time you will see me in anything containing pink. I always say there's no such thing as a bad colour, just a bad place to put it! However, pink is probably the colour that I'm drawn to the least.

Meanwhile there's plenty more to keep me busy! Moving right along...if I can move at all anymore...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

How To Spend Mother's Day

In the studio of course! OK, I did talk to one of my kids for half an hour on the phone. The other one not so much. Yet. Though to be fair, she's a mom too so this day is also for her. I'm not so into the Hallmark Holidays anyway. But I digress.

I'm now firmly into the Sewing Zone. Patterns are being ironed, adjusted, drafted, modified, chopped and generally made ready to cut out. I've got several things all ready to sew but I figure while I'm on a pattern puzzle kick I should roll with it. This was the first one I cut out ages ago in an unbleached and fairly lightweight linen:

Yup, that's one of Katherine Tilton's wonky vest/tops. A gazillion pieces and nearly all cut out on a single fabric layer. I've even picked out the buttons though the jury is still out. It's satisfying to use stuff from deep stash so I'm resisting going button shopping at Dressew. Because there would be more than buttons purchased. Just sayin'.

I've also cut another button front vest/top thing (my own pattern) from this cotton/linen blend:

It's a brown and white woven-in design, what we weavers would call colour-and-weave. I haven't analysed the structure exactly though. I also cut a new self-drafted pattern for cropped elastic-waist pants from the same fabric. Hopefully they will fit! I always love using as much of a piece of fabric as possible and these two garments used up nearly every scrap of the 2 yards.

I also cut out the Lane Raglan which I'm hoping will be my new raglan TNT (tried and true) pattern:

I used this heathered stone ponte:

Since I only had 2 yards and leggings sadly wouldn't fit along with the raglan, I cut a tunic length T-shirt with pockets. This is my tester so we will see if my modifications work out. I raised the neckline an inch and went from a M at the top to an XL at the waist and hip. The nice thing about this pattern is it comes with a piece already full-bust-adjusted so I used that - and of course had to move the bust down somewhat. I'm not cutting out any more raglan t's until I see if this fits properly.

Well, supper's ready so I'll leave it here. But first here's a photo of the poor little orange-crowned warbler who hit our dining room window and stunned itself. Thom held it for awhile and then tucked it into the shrubbery where the crows wouldn't find it. It eventually took off so I hope it was all right.