Thursday, 29 March 2012

The NS Basketry Guild show at the Craig Gallery opened last night. It's wonderful - at least to me and other basket makers. I have 3 baskets on display. The larch basket was one of my first and has a very rustic feel. I started by chopping down a larch tree and used it all but the rink. Then I made a rush hat with rushed plucked out by Lawrencetown beach. Last is an ash Shaker style basket. I got the ash from the instructor. I have tried splitting and pounding ash, but that is truly difficult.

Today I spent with a great and generous friend working on fitting a shirt pattern. She has ideas and knowledge from another part of the brain that I haven't developed. I think I may have a little dead spot there? Anyway, I have great hopes for the resulting pattern. We'll meet again next week and sew some more. Sewing has such a lovely social aspect. I love to sew by myself, but social sewing has its own wonderful perks. The company is lovely but 2 minds and someone knowledgeable to talk to really elevates the sewing experience. You don't get as much done, but the benefits apply wider and longer than the actual day.

Monday, 26 March 2012


Today I cleaned house (no snickering), did the laundry and shopped for groceries. Monday is a good house day. I need a set of red work tea towels to keep me organized. Also nesting today were 2 crows and a seagull. The crows spent the afternoon in my yard pulling up nesting material, flying off to an undisclosed location and returning to do it again. The seagull was seen crossing the road with a similar bundle in beak. A sister gave me a little holder for yarn or fabric scraps to be used as nesting material. I put it out every year, but my birds seem to be naturalists. I do try to update their look.

I had a full day of lace class yesterday. I do hope I didn't embarrass my lace teacher. She didn't sit by me. What does this say? At one point I did dump my lace pillow on the floor. I doubt that appeared as an impressive move. I learned tons as we got to watch the teacher go from pillow to pillow and lots of neat stuff was demonstrated and discussed. Some of it I even kind of understood! So I proudly get home to show off my progress and realize it amounts to a leaf. It's the purple part. If you zoom in real close you can even see it. The shape is terrible, but I do know what's wrong. I feel that's an important first step, don't you? DH admired it anyway. He is the world's greatest fan, that one. It's also the first time I have made 2 layer lace. The leaf is sitting on top of another layer. Impressive, eh?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Shirt Class

Today I spent the day with 7 other sewers learning new and old techniques used to put together professional looking shirts. It was an excellent day! Because you were using more than 1 technique (we made a little shirt but made each part a different way) you could compare and choose your fav. I could really see how things fit together. I like shirts. All that precision sewing and pressing really appeals to me. I love a well pressed edge. I used a lot of different machine feet today and got a better feel for what works well for what. Machine feet are a lot like shoes. Pretty ones are hard to resist, and you can never have too many. Oh, and they come in cute little boxes.

So in a few weeks, when some other needs are off the table, I plan to make shirts. Shirts suit me. They're comfortable and classic. If any of you want to join me, let me know. Sewing should be a social activity.

The ducks are doing well, thanks for asking. I understand the neighbour kids have named them Donald and Daisy. I prefer the more formal Mr. and Ms. Duck. Mr had to put the boots to the other couple two days ago. Once 'the mating' is complete he will tolerate them. Here you can see him on the rock pile (that's another story) putting the boots to them. I would have cropped this picture but you can see on the windowsill all my sweetheart notes from Sewing Guild Challenge night. I display them proudly! As each challenger displayed their creations the audience wrote down comments to share with them. Each person took home a bag of goodies, just like Valentine's Day when you were little. My caftan and belt/shoes were a hit - as was every other outfit displayed! I had so much fun doing it and I think the other sewers enjoyed it as well.

I do firmly believe all of us need a caftan of 2 in the closet. You could also call it a muumuu or a whole list of other names I'm sure. Anyway, pop it over your head and you're done. Underwear is optional. You can up or downscale the design as you like. Shorten or lengthen, add a belt or drawstring at any level. I could live in one of these. You may note the handmade wool felt shoes, but don't zoom in too close. One turned out just fine and one went astray. Design and production didn't mesh all the well. It's a work in progress.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

The last 2 days have been wonderful! Temperatures in the mid 20's and warm breezes - just perfect! Needless to say I have been outside, and you get so much more done when you're not restricted to weekends. It also takes the pressure off. My biggest problem is (as usual) keeping the ADHD at bay. If it's shiny, it's distracting and off I go.

I've been pruning and pruning. Most of it has been rose bushes and my forearms are a scratched mess. If only I healed like a normal person. These scratches will be with me forever! Many more bushes to be pruned. Many, many, many.
The warm weather has brought an end to the sap run. It isn't as good when it's warm, so I'm doing the last boil tonight. No more ridiculous propane bills, but no more liquid gold. We have a bit more than 3 litres. Doesn't seem like much for all that work, but it does taste Sooooooo good. 
The willow fence is breaking bud. I hadn't trimmed it yet, so that needed to be done. It took hours but yielded a lovely crop of willow to build baskets and garden cages for tomatoes and peas and things. OMG! I sound just like Little House on the Prairies! I'm thinking a little red osier will highlight the green willow nicely, and that hedge needs trimming as well. The problem I need to solve is how to insert willow sticks in the ground without them taking root. It's not good if the tomato cage grows better than the tomatoes. Here's the fence after a haircut. Still a bit messy, but you try cutting with dull shears off a step ladder when you'd rather be drinking wine on the patio.

But there are little signs of spring popping out everywhere. Isn't it grand?

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Ducks are Back!

Here they are! My ducks arrived today and immediately demanded a snack. All I had was birdseed. I'll get duck feed tomorrow. Cracked corn is preferred. These ducks have been spending the breeding season with us for 4 years now, and they are old hands at it. They have a healthy respect for us, but are not fearful. They just back up a bit when we are around. If they arrive and there's no food, they give us a polite quack and we come running. They have approached the back door at times, but haven't made it up the stairs to knock. Yet.

Now occasionally a second couple arrives. The first couple tolerates them to a point, and they don't push their luck. It's a nice arrangement. The Ducks feed with us and check in with us a few times a day until the babies are ready for the lake across the street. They nest next door on the edge of a little pond. They also spend a lot of time relaxing in a little stream that crosses our yard, and has lots of green cover. Once the babies are big enough for a stroll the parents will bring them over for snacks. We don't mow too early so the little guys have cover. You know they're coming when you see mom's head up like a periscope and grass rippling all around her. Looks like piranha closing in on the bird feeder. The neighbours will also give us a heads up if they see the procession on its way. My DH has had the honour several times of holding up traffic when the family finally heads for the lake.

Of course this has me wondering when the pheasants and groundhogs will show up. We do have a coyote currently as well, so I'm hoping for peaceful coexistence. I've always been a bit naive that way. Don't you just love spring?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The New Graduate

I finished lace school! I was top of my class, and valedictorian as well. After 12 weeks of lace making Mondays, next Monday will be a sad day. Of course all 3 of my lace pillows have unfinished projects right now, so it's not like I can rest on my laurels. I also have to practice leaves for an upcoming workshop. That will be my first time with other lace makers. My debut, so to speak. I plan to sit very close to my teacher. She can kick me gently when I go astray. Shin pads coming out of the closet now.

The sap is running faster than I can boil it down. I use one of those deep fat turkey fryers. I think I spend $30 of propane for each gallon of sap, but it is entertaining! Watching sap boil for 8 hours is so, so .... I can't find the words.

Tonight the sewing guild presents a show of what happens when you take someone else's rejected fabric home. I have a lovely caftan and shoe ensemble. I think I may have broken the rules a bit, but then I made the rules. We need to get over rules. When there isn't a winner, rules become somewhat encumbering. Sewing should never be encumbering.

My sewing room is currently tidy. I have vowed to tidy after every 2 projects. As I am rarely only working on 2 projects at a time, I'm not sure how this will work. I have enough to work on of the next 40 years. However my lace teacher has a shawl she hasn't started that will take about 1000 hours. Therefore, I think I'm ahead here. Again, I'm glad my competitive streak is dying a slow and not so painful death. Lots more fun.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

My First 1912 creation

I have finally finished my first pattern from the 1912 project (! It is a lovely Ladies Spring Mantle and it has the nicest lines and drape. I used a softly woven rough silk with a thin wool trim. The wool was slightly moth eaten and this adds to the authentic look, eh? The mantle is cut in one piece and this gives bias draping in some lovely spots - and some bias lines sewn to 'on grain' lines - so you need to be aware of these and make sure to sew them to advantage. A soft, light fabric with balanced weave would work best. The trim should also be very light and soft. My wool was a bit too heavy, I think. A China silk or something similar would work best.

I also had to decide about lining it or finishing the inside. I decided to finish the seams and not line it. It's a preference I think. If I lined it a China silk or a light silk charmeuse would have worked. I also wonder about trying some Chanel like quilting between the two layers to keep that soft cardigan wrap going.

Before cutting I compared the measurements to some ready made items I had. My bust is about 5 inches larger than what the pattern calls for, but my frame is more along the pattern lines. The front pieces seemed about right, so I added 2 inches to each side of the back seam for insurance. In the end I needed about 1" at the widest part of my CB only. I used thread markings for the darts and slash markings.

As you cut note the bias and grain lines. As my fabric was loosely woven I went right to the sewing machine and stay stitched all the edges carefully before doing anything else. The little darts at the front edges add some lovely shaping!  We full bust ladies like these a lot! Sew the CB seam. I used a tiny zigzag instead of a straight stitch to give the bias seam better drape. This means you should baste and check before finalizing the seam. If your seam allowance is too wide here the seam will not drape or curve at the small of the back properly.

I fused some 1/4" tape to the slash lines and cut the slashes about 3/4 of the indicated length. Then I sewed the sleeve and underarm seams, backstitching each side of the seam about 1 1/2" at the underarm. Keeping the 2 seams separate helps with the gusset. Press the seams open.

The 2 red pins are inserted at the pivot points. 
The gusset needs to be sewn one side at a time. Start at the side seam and pin carefully. You want to match the imagined seam pivot point of the gusset to the imagined seam pivot point at the underarm. Place a pin at the stop pivot point on the gusset. You will need to curve the gusset a bit to the pivot point at the centre of the slash. You never actually turn at the pivot point. Each side is sewn to that point.

Sew the first side. Then start pinning the second side at the slash pivot point. Here is where you get to finish the clipping as required. You get a perfect fit this way, eh? Pin to the side seam, again placing a pin through the pivot point carefully. Sew the second seam. Now you will find that you need to clip the underarm sleeve allowance for a perfect pivot, just as you did at the end of the slash. The other two sides follow the same sort of procedure.

Press and finish the seams now. If you are using a lining, create the lining in the same manner and baste it to the outer fabric at all edges (wrong sides together).

Now for the joy of the banding! I looked at the illustration and got out my ruffler. That clunky old thing is just the thing I think. You could gather both edges, but I think I tiny pleating looks more like the illustration, and rufflers were around then. Some of mine were, for sure. I cut fabric 3" wide and joined strips together. I pressed it to give the edges a flattening. Then I ran both edges through my ruffler. I'm sure you don't want to hear about my ruffler follies. There were many. After I broke one ruffler on my Pfaff, couldn't get my Kenmore to cooperate - I switched to my Singer treadle and found success. This just reminds me that I had planned to use my era correct treadle in the first place. Watch your needles, though. The ruffler knocks everything around and they keep falling out or breaking. I set the ruffler to 1 pleat per 6 stitches and a short stitch length. If you don't have one of these beasts, get one. When they work, they do a wonderful job! You just need a bit of patience to get them going in the right direction. Try to get the stitch line straight and just outside the fold over line for the trim width - about 2". This makes it easier to turn the edges under and keep the pleats under control.

Sew the trim to the edge of the mantle and sleeves - right side of trim to wrong side of mantle. Be careful. You don't want to stretch the edges and lose that nice front shaping. I did. It will flip to the front nicely. Understitch the trim and flip it to the right side. Press the seam open and press it flat carefully at the edge of the garment. Next you need to turn under the trim on the inside edge. I used pins to mark 2" and then turned and pinned it in place. You may have to clip through some of the pleats to make curves lie flat or pin other pleats closer together. I choose to hand stitch that edge to the mantle. You could edge stitch but I don't think the look would be right.

If you have ruffler stitching where it shows, you need to pick it out. 

So here is the final product. You can see that the trim is too heavy. However, I love it! Great alternative to the Chanel jacket, don't you think? I'll be making this again.

So My final checklist for this pattern:
1. Pattern Name Ladies Spring Mantle
2. My Skill Level Advanced
3. Pattern Rating 5 – lovely fit, drape and very versatile
4. Intermediate skill level required – bias seams and gusset insertion
5. Instructions I forgot to print out the instructions and forged ahead without
6. Fit was great - I'm a bit bigger than what was called for, but as it didn't need to close it worked out well
7. I didn’t alter for fit 

In a crazed cross of the centuries, I had most success with my Singer treadle but recorded my work on my iPhone, using the Cloud to transfer the photos to my desktop and iPad. Imagine that!

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Sap is Running!

Yep. We have the buckets out and I need to clean the boiling pot. I have a new sugar shack this year, and as I am now 'free' during the day, I will be the main sugarer. I have much to learn. The gardening shed is all set up with the turkey fryer hooked to the propane. The steam is not good for an OTR microwave, we have discovered, so sap will be boiled in the shed. I'll need labels. The Urban Pheasant Sugar Shack. Henri the original Urban Pheasant is currently immortalized in a wind vane on top.

We have never fried a turkey, just for clarification.

We are back from the Dominican. Cayo Levantando is a wonderful resort on its own island. So relaxing! Relaxing is a learned activity and we seem to be getting better every year. I am a good bit brown now, and hope to maintain it until the summer pool time with the sisters. Last year I looked like the albino sister and it wasn't pretty. Why do people at a resort always greet the staff with the one word of Spanish they know (Hola!) but rarely great each other? Now in our case most of them spoke little English. There were 3 different grab and go libraries and only 3 English books in all of them. German chick lit looks just wrong.

I go to a Pilates class once a week but have been exercising at home. New gadgets help with this. Today I had an excellent round of hula hooping with my weighted hoop. Maybe my hips are just big enough to keep it up now, but up it stayed. I taped an old exercise mat to a plumbing pipe to make a roller. Works great and i saved $25. I've hooked a band to the bike for pulling. I also have some free weights. It's a routine I lack. That would focus me better. I'm working on it.

I have been sewing madly. I promise to post results next.