Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Photos from snowy northern Ontario

Tekla, now 23 weeks old

Standing on the back deck

Those perky ears

She blinks in the bright sunshine

Saturday, January 20, 2018

So long since posting here, life has been busy with all sorts of new things. Adjusting to a new house, to a new community, to a new weather system and also to a new puppy.

But I have made some living room curtains. There is another window that needs another set, but this is enough for this week. I so dislike sewing home decor items, I find them incredibly frustrating for some reason. The quantity of fabric, the weight of it, the need for exact measuring, and then the task of mounting the hardware on the wall. Neither one of us is very practical and it takes a major effort to screw in brackets for the curtain rod. But we managed today to get this one up and so I felt obliged to finish the first pair of curtains and get them hung. The brackets need to be extended a little further as the curtains get stuck on the blind hardware that is also there, but that is a minor job.

I will so enjoy getting back to garment sewing. A zillion pieces of a pattern is far less intimidating that the 94" of curtain lengths that I was dealing with in these.

This is Tekla, a Norwegian elkhound. She is now 17 weeks old. We got her at 10 weeks, and she has been quite the handful. We have always had dogs from their young puppy age, but I don't recall any being quite so difficult to train as this one. Of course, having a UTI for two weeks at Christmas didn't help as she had to go out every 30 minutes and there were many accidents in the house. But she has a wonderful loving nature and is incredibly curious and energetic. And she will keep us exercising and walking which is so necessary in this stage of our life. 

Other than that, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring. But before that, we are heading south to visit our daughter and her family in Texas. This is the daughter who took up sewing 10 months ago, and has successfully completed over 50 items of clothing so far.  This includes 4 bras and 2 pairs of jeans, there is no stopping her. She has discovered the wonderfully creative world of sewing and her husband even bought her a serger for Christmas. She made a fleece dog coat right off with it. Next are t-shirts and sweatshirts for the kids; the oldest boy said that he was looking forward to something without buttons. 

This is Tekla when we first got her, about 11 weeks old.

And this is her when she takes a nap; she often rolls over onto her back and is out for the count. Only lasts about 15 minutes though, then she is up and ready to go again.

Of course, this has severely limited the amount of sewing that I get done. But every thing has its season.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sewing Swimwear

For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to make a bathing suit. The idea took over and I searched for a pattern that would be suitable for this aging body. Aha! Butterick 5795 popped up and, although the photos were not that helpful, the line diagrams showed a "swimdress" that I could see myself wearing. 

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The pattern has a lot of options: a crossover swimsuit, a tank top in two lengths with a swimsuit bottom, a skirt to wear over the bottom if desired, and a cover-up dress that looks quite good too.

I found this print at our local fabric store, the fabric is heavy duty nylon/lycra and it was pricey, especially when I discovered that I had cut the bottoms on the wrong grain and had to purchase more. In actual fact, I then found out that it was only the lining that I had cut wrong and the lining restricted the stretch of the print; once I cut lining with the correct stretch, everything was fine. 


I made the shorter version of the swim dress, the bottoms are pinned to the dress form because I couldn't get them up over the bottom of the stand without losing the feet (of the dress form that is). 

Rather than use the directions for the lining, I cut the front double and zigzagged purchased bra cups in the correct position. Then I simply sewed the lining to the edges of the front and treated them as one layer. That is why you can see the side seam pulling to the front; it is the elastic sewn underneath the bra cups that pulls in the lining which is attached at the side seam. It doesn't do this when I am wearing it.

This is the back view; it has a slight flare to it. The longer version would be more flared. When I tried this on, I actually thought it would make a very nice princess line dress in a knit with some body. I may actually try one later on, but I would raise the neckline and finish it with binding or a facing.  I think I would add sleeves to it as well. 

All in all, I am quite pleased with this swimsuit. Of course, one never really knows until you actually swim in it, because there can be surprises with swimwear. The swimdress may float up and be totally annoying; I should know in two weeks time when we have moved to Ontario and I take my first dip in Lake Kamaniskeg (I can hardly wait).

I have sewn two dresses this summer plus a top, but haven't posted any of that. We are intensely busy with selling this house, packing up and getting ready to leave this province. Thirty-one years is a long time and we are going back to our original province, now that Nick has retired. 

I plan on sewing one more blouse, then the sewing room will be packed up and the machines packed and ready for the big move. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Moving and Gardening

Preparing for a big move in July or August from Nova Scotia to Ontario. I am thrilled at the fact that we now have a large lot that is great for gardening. The hardiness zone is more limiting, this is zone 3 whereas Halifax is zone 4, but the soil is clay whereas Nova Scotia is rock and more rock, as well as giant tree roots.

So first up, I just had to plant a flowering crab apple tree. So easy to dig a foot-deep hole with this soil, add the sheep manure to the soil, apply the fungus to the exposed roots (apparently it helps the roots to grow and to absorb moisture), add bone meal to the soil as well and then plant. Water generously and I'm done!

Apparently the apple tree in the empty lot next door will provide the cross-pollination required. So I don't have to plant a second apple tree. Which is a bit of a relief, I am rather tired by the effort to plant this one. 

I have also discovered four peonies in one of the garden beds. And the daffodils I planted last fall are just about finished. There is a perfect spot for a clematis vine just by the back deck (feet in shade, tops in the sun), this is something I could never grow in Halifax. I am going to push my luck though and see if I can get a climbing hydrangea to grow here. It is one zone colder than hydrangea needs, but in the right spot it just might make it. 

Next week, it is back to Nova  Scotia to finish packing up the house and then selling it. Once that is done, we will move here permanently. The move will bring us within a 5-minute drive of 7 of our grandchildren which will be great. And travel to Texas to visit the other 3 grandchildren is easier from Ontario than from Nova Scotia. The only drawback is leaving our youngest daughter in Nova Scotia. We will only see her when she takes her vacation and visits us here.

 This is the view of the front yard as seen from the front steps. This is what we see out of our living room window. In the fall, the colours are magnificent with the red maple and the golden leaves of the many birch trees.

This is one angle of the back yard, the lot line defined by large pine trees, which the neighbour emphatically informed me belonged to him. "I can trim the branches if you would like", he said. I replied "they are just fine the way they are." 

The other angle of the back yard. This is the land of sheds, almost everyone has at least one in their yard and often as many as three or four. Provides great storage for wood piles, bikes, snowmobiles, ATVs, boats, and possibly racoons and their young.

Life will be different here. I am looking forward to it. I know that I will miss terribly some things about Halifax and the closest fabric store is an hour's drive away and it's not terribly impressive. I will definitely be shopping online for many fabrics and notions. But life will also be much simpler, living in a town of 1200 people rather than a city of 100,000. There doesn't seem to be that sense of urgency that you feel when you live in a city, always watching the clock because you are on a schedule. I feel that we will be living more in the moment here. 

All in all, a good move we think. As with any major change, there will be a period of adjustment. 
I am very grateful for all the blessings in my life.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

McCalls 7360


I made this top last spring in a linen printed fabric and was really pleased with it. However, when they tell you to prewash linen 3X, take the advice. The top shrunk after the first wash and is no longer wearable, well not by me.  I made a second version in a black tencel fabric, it is okay but it doesn't really thrill me.  But I still liked the pattern and got it out last week for a third version. This time in a batik rayon in the most gorgeous shades of blue and purple.

I did add more darts to the front from the waist as I found the FBA had made this too loose in the waist area. And perhaps it would be better 1" shorter, but this is good to go. I will hand wash this top to preserve the fabric for as long as possible. If you can get your hands on Eucalan fabric wash, don't hesitate, it is great stuff, you simply swish a capful into a sink of warm water, add the garment and let it soak for 15 minutes or so. Then squeeze it out gently, no need to rinse, and hang to dry. I did this with a rayon blouse from another Batik Butik fabric and I wore it pretty steadily for 8 years.

So another version of this top is up next. This time, I have a drapey fabric that I can't remember where I got it. It must have a lot of rayon in it because of the drape, but I don't think it is 100% rayon. It might be mixed with some polyester or with cotton.

This time, I will make the sleeveless version with the longer back hemline.
Alterations to this pattern include:
Cut size 18
Make a full bust alteration adding 1 1/2" to each front piece, and making a rather large side bust dart
Extend the length of the top by 1" (even though I am short, I find many tops are just too short, I prefer a longer length)
Make the top full button front rather than tab opening. Cut pockets, yoke and front bands on the bias.

My third version shows that I need to raise the end of the bust dart by 1", which will be done on this fourth version. I don't think I have ever made 4 versions of any pattern in my life.

I am finding it difficult to get much extended sewing time in these days, as we are preparing to sell our house with a move across provinces in July. So much to do to declutter the house, which is a four-storey 100-year old home. After 21 years and six people living here, there is a lot to go through and discard, recycle, rehome, whatever. I have been forced to cull a lot of my fabric stash and patterns too, and the local thrift shop has got a lot of these. One woman at the sewing guild said I see you brought your patterns to the Sally Anne. When I checked, they were all gone. I guess there are some sew-ers out there.

Next week will see another driving trip of 1000 miles to Ontario where my husband will lead his last geological field trip of his career. This is a bittersweet time for him, as he has loved teaching and retirement is not coming easy for him.

I am hoping that he will teach at the small college where we are moving, and that he can introduce a new crop of students to the subject that he loves.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sewing through the generations

My oldest daughter Rebecca who lives in Texas is learning to sew. And with the internet, there is so much at hand now that we did not have when we started out sewing.

Her daughter Miriam watches mommy sewing and I thought perhaps she might like to try something herself. So I saw a little purse on Amazon, a hand sewing project for a little girl, it is pink and there are beads included with the kit.

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I think Miriam is pleased with the purse, it is the perfect racoon holder, her mom says. The racoon is the latest of her favourite stuffed animals. She's wearing that particularly cute look she has, she is a little doll that girl. When Miriam saw her mom hanging some fabric up to dry, she asked "why do you keep going to the fabric store without me?"

Rebecca is making great strides with her sewing. In less than two weeks, she has made a dress for Miriam, one for herself, matching skirts for mom and Miriam, and another skirt for mum.
And now a Vogue blouse! I was particularly chuffed when she emailed today that she is loving making flat-felled seams. I think she might be hooked.

This is extremely satisfying to me, that she has discovered sewing and is loving it.

I am also slightly jealous of the Texas weather. Bare arms and bare feet! Here it is plus 6 Celsius (42 Fahrenheit) which is pretty good for February but I am longing for an early spring.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Landscape Quilting

Lunch with a sewing friend re-introduced me to her husband's landscape quilts. Bob had overheard a program that Brenda was watching and he was intrigued. Never one to hesitate, Bob immediately began researching the topic, ordered the book Landscape Quilting, and commenced on his first landscape quilt.

Now, about five years later, Bob has made dozens of quilted wall-hangings which he gifts to friends, hangs in his home (discreetly, never over the top), and continues to develop his art.

I don't know why we are captivated by certain things at certain times in our life and not in others, but that is the way it seems to happen. I was completely intrigued by Bob's quilted art, and after a few emails with Brenda, some video watching on the internet, I headed to the fabric store and bought a selection of quilting cottons, then to Staples to get glue sticks and permanent markers.

For my first attempt at this, I decided to copy or try to copy the wall hanging of birches in this video.

There is a lot to learn, but I think the learning curve will be steep and quick. Just what I like.

I am not overly pleased with the background fabric, but it will have to do. I wanted something that looked more like an overcast sky with more light in it, but the selection at the store wasn't that great. I can also see that the background shrubbery needs some work. As Nancy Zeiman says, you need more fabrics to add dimension, so the addition of some more greenery should do the trick. And perhaps a splash of some yellow flowers there too.

I was not at first pleased with the trees; I had one fabric to use but it seemed so dark, then I realised I could use the wrong side. So the tree on the right is the right side of the fabric; the one on the left is the wrong side.  But they do not begin to look like trees until you get the markers out and start outlining the edges with either black or silver markers.  For the tree on the left, I darkened it with the silver marker and for the tree on the right, I lightened it with the same marker, after having outlined the edges with the black marker.  Then adding the little branches was lots of fun. Those are simply drawn on with black marker, squiggling the marker as you draw it across the fabric.

I have lots of leaves to add, yellow and green, and those are cut carefully and will take some time. Then they are also marked with the markers to make veins. After all of that is done, the piece is backed with quilt backing, and a complementary fabric for the backing and the free-motion machine quilting is done. 

Leaves added. Perhaps I need more, not sure at this point. I think the groundcover needs some work, it is too monotone and needs some flecks of colour in it. 

I have done stippling before and actually love it. So I am looking forward to that part of this project. I don't think I will do small stippling on this, but will do larger free motion stitching across the sky in the shape of clouds, and then outline stitching on the tree trunks and branches. Each leaf will be stitched, plus then some straight line stitching to resemble grass in the undergrowth. 

I think I am hooked. I can already see the stash for this beginning to explode. Because you purchase about 6 or 7 fabrics for one piece (or more), but use so little, there is loads of fabric left over for another project. And there will be more. This is a lot of fun. I have always wished that I could paint but my artistic ability with a brush is pathetic; however I can see that, with this craft, you can let the fabric dictate where you go and all you need is patience, scissors, glue, and some inspiration. If you don't like some aspect of it, add more fabric. And it is all removable because it is simply tacked down with paper glue until you permanently stitch it. 

Nancy Zeiman has three videos for this technique. Simply put in two or three at the end of the URL to get to the next one in the series. What a great lady she is. 

And thanks to Bob and Brenda for the inspiration that they have given me.