Tuesday, June 27, 2017

These have not been lazy days

Dear Mom,

This Song is mocking me. These have been anything but lazy. A few days of hot and hazy and a little bit crazy.  I keep hoping to settle into a soothing routine, but it hasn't happened yet. The last few days have been perfect - like northern Michigan weather- and I am spending as much of it as I can on the porch.

I've been making up for last summer's convalescence by weeding, planting, mowing and tending the yard, herb garden, tomato plants and perennial garden. I've squeezed as many annuals and perennials into my flower garden as it will hold. I've got zinnias growing with my tomatoes, and a variety of seeds sown amongst the sage, basil, oregano and chives in my herb garden. The bunnies have probably eaten 90% of the seedlings as they emerge, but I remain hopeful of full vases of freshly cut flowers on my table.

We've finally had a persistent and mysterious leak located and repaired, and things were definitely disrupted while that was going on. Just getting stuff temporarily moved out of one room made me think I never want to have to really move. Needless to say, Goodwill got a hefty load and the room is put back together.  While that was going on, I wiped my week clean of appointments to be here. I needed to see with my own eyes that things stayed dry as our contractor doused the area with the hose and I didn't want to miss it.

Things were is such disarray that I didn't feel like I could add to it with a sewing project, but I did weave some dish towels.

I happened to have the book, A Garden to Dye For, from the library, and something I read inspired me to try a "sun tea" dye experiment. I have a variety of purchased plant dye stuff from fiber festivals- osage orange, madder, logwood and weld. The garage was occupied by the contractor's equipment, so using my crockpots was not an option. I also had a 'What Are You Waiting For?' feeling about the full shelf of dye stuff and decided it was more wasteful to have it all sitting there doing nothing than it would be to use it in a failed experiment. I filled a gallon jar with water, plopped the cloth bag of osage orange sawdust into it, and let it steep. In the meantime, I put about 2 oz of roving (70%merino/30%mohair) into a mesh laundry bag and let it soak in a second gallon jar with alum to pre-mordant the fiber. (Mordants help the fiber accept and keep the dye. Also, different mordants can alter the final color of the dye.) Once my osage orange tea was a nice bright color, I added the fiber and let it sit in the sunshine. 
I let the fiber steep for a day or two, took it out and carefully rinsed it with water as close to the temperature of the dye bath as I could manage. The fiber stayed in the mesh bag through the entire process to protect it from too much handling. I did not remove the osage orange tea bag, nor did I dump the dye out of the jar. Part of my experiment was to see how much fiber I could dye with this one batch. 
This is the first batch, rinsed and dried. Beautiful! I ended up dyeing 5 (2 oz) batches in total, and they very gently fade in a gradient of bright to buttery yellow. This process might be slow, but it was easy, used no electricity, and was fun to watch. Best thing: the fiber is not sticking to itself. When I've dyed roving in the crockpot, it seems like it wants to felt. I think the shock of the heat and simmering does that to the loose fiber. I've not had that happen to yarn dyed in the crockpot.  Plus, spinning dyed roving makes a prettier yarn than dyeing already spun yarn, in my opinion. 

I am currently using the same process using Madder.  I'll share the results soon!

Enjoy the sunshine!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Summer Frieze

Dear Mom,
I put the finishing touches on a summer time variation of my Friezestyle knitting pattern. Knit with 100%  cotton, this one has short garter stitch sleeves. I added some decreases on top of the shoulders for a bit of shaping. And to give the top a little A-line flair, I've added garter stitch wedges to each side.
I am hoping to find some fabric and sew a pair of loose capris to wear with this top.

Universal Yarns Cotton Supreme DK

The weather today (and yesterday) is ideal. Sunny, breezy, crisp. Summer sweater weather!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Another Smock

Dear Mom,
Another Ann Carolyn Smock went from fabric to garment last Sunday.
Elle frolics in the garden, getting her "feet" wet in the dewy grass

close up of pocket

Styling Option: Layer over a Peter Pan collared shirt!
 I've nearly finished the cardigan I plan on wearing with this smock. I just need to finish a pocket  (that white stripe you seen on the left front is waste yarn holding the place for the pocket opening), weave in the loose ends (obviously!), sew on the buttons and block the sweater. The yarn is my all-time favorite, Bartlett, in Burgundy Heather.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Back in Action

Dear Mom,
It stopped raining, the sun came out, and although a bit chillier than normal, I was able to mow the grass and get Peggy (my clothesline) back in action.
We'll have sweet dreams tonight. Drying sheets on the line is one of Life's Simple Pleasures.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Missing in Action

Dear Mom,
I guess I should have put "Write Blog" into that schedule I was so proud of in my last post!

There have been several blog posts swirling about in my head since that last post on January 30th, but I just didn't make time or have the motivation to actually write and post them.

Mostly what happened is I fell down the rabbit hole of sweater design and knit, wrote, test knit, and published a new sweater pattern: Friezestyle. This consumed most of February and March.

I made this one using up some of my handspan yarn.
The idea for Friezestyle was born after knitting class one afternoon, when one of my loyal students picked up a shop sample for this scarf and declared "wouldn't this be a pretty sweater!"....

 My guardian angel must have been driving because I think my brain was knitting a sweater all the way home.

In between and around all that knitting, the Young Lady came home for spring break. While she was home, we matted and framed some of her art work for submission to the student art show. We celebrated when 2 of her pieces were accepted. I drove down for the opening of the show and proudly witnessed her accept an award for one of her pieces. That same piece sold, too!

This week we move her home for the summer. It is hard to believe that this little girl will be a college sophomore!

In the spring storms, we lost a large tree. Luckily, as it split and fell, it did surprisingly little damage to the fence. Having it removed was a scary thing for my wee black beast. 

 I sat on my back porch with my knitting and watched a crew of Very Muscular Men remove that tree and another we felt had overgrown its place in the yard. I'd helped plant the trees and felt I needed to witness them leaving. I was fascinated by the precision removal of the tree. And once that fascination wore off, I found myself admiring some strong shoulders and flat stomachs.... I am sure those Very Muscular Men saw an old lady and her scared dog with nothing better to do.

It's a good thing they couldn't read my bubble.

And a few weeks later,  new trees are planted.

We've been in this house for almost 26 years.  Our large yard was hard, barren and drought-stricken when we moved in. Almost everything in this yard was planted my My Hero and I. We are beginning to see the need to rejuvenate and replace some of our overgrown landscaping. Unlike my gray hair, which comes in however it wants and I choose to accept gracefully, we are faced with the challenge of blending new landscaping into our mature landscaping- and hope to allow that to look natural as it happens.

After the knitting frenzy of that latest design came to fruition, the sewing bug bit me. And it bit hard.

I made one Top 64 out of a pretty cotton,  was mostly pleased with the results but found it tighter than I find to be comfortable across the upper arms.

I made a second Top 64 using a pretty Anna Maria knit fabric. This one feels better, but I have very little experience sewing with knits.  There are things I will try to change and do better if I make a third.
For quite some time I'd been admiring, then second-guessing, and mostly had dreamy ideas percolating over the Ann Carolyn Smock. Do a google image search for Ann Carolyn Smock and you will see why I couldn't shake this pattern out of my head.  I've really wanted to find that perfect sewing pattern for a top. I worried that Ann Carolyn's gathers across the yoke would not be flattering. I kept coming back to it. And finally decided to go for it. I wouldn't know till I tried, would I?
I ordered the pattern. I bought some inexpensive fabric to make the shirt version.  I have to stop right here and say that Ellen Mason's instructions are thoughtful, well written, and clear, with helpful hints and practical advice throughout. Reading through them is like having a friend sharing her best, most encouraging advice. Sewing this shirt was fun. The pattern is brilliant.

So, I successfully sewed the shirt. It fit, was flattering, the sleeves were just right, but the back was tight when I moved my arms. I was discouraged and sad, but not quite ready to give up. My first thought was my go-to self punishing one: "If you weren't so fat. If you would just lose weight..."
I let my brain percolate.
A day or two later, while getting dressed, a pleat on the back of one of my shirts (that fits without binding, that is not a knit) smiled at me. A pleat! All Ann Carolyn needs (for me) is a pleat. One little pleat at the center back. And we live happily ever after.

Here is Ann Carolyn Smock #1.

Notice the cute pocket!
The pockets are very roomy!

The pleat. I added a decorative button to the back for fun.
I've had these buttons since the early 90's.
And here is Ann Carolyn #2:
I have fabric for more. There will be more. Just wait and see! 

Okay, and let me say another wonderful, smart thing about this pattern! Fabric requirements for each piece are included so you can easily decide to mix and match fabrics with out guessing at yardage. BRILLIANT!

Comfy, cute, my new uniform- with sleeves rolled up in the summer and under a hand knit cardigan in the winter. I have yarn and fabric combinations queued up. I may look like I am channeling my inner fifth grader at recess, but wearing these makes me so happy that I don't think I mind if I do. I just need saddle shoes! Meet you at the swing set!


Monday, January 30, 2017


Dear Mom,
I've been very busy making things. Lists, menu plans and healthy dinners, and best of all, things knitted and woven and spun.
By accident, what I finished spinning last week coordinates with what I finished weaving this morning.

I try to reserve Sundays for spinning. That plan got sidetracked during the holidays, but I am getting back to it. I also try to reserve Tuesdays for sewing (once all my household chores are done). It may take weeks to finish something, but if I wait for a big block of time I'll never get started. This dress took 2 1/2 years to sew. Maybe longer. But only if you start the clock when I purchased the fabric. Good thing these things don't expire! I know I purchased the fabric intending to make a dress for spring/summer. (I am just not sure what year that purchase was made.) When that summer passed by without sewing the dress, I then hoped to have it for the next Easter. And after that didn't happen, I thought I could wear it to the Young Lady's graduation. Surgery re-arranged that plan and here I am, January 2017 and Factory Dress #2 is finished! Hemmed and pressed, ready and waiting!

I added a little lace that I purchased at an antique store to the pocket. I do love this Merchant & Mills pattern. This week I will start laying out and cutting their Top#64 pattern.

My most recently finished knitting project is this cardigan:

It is based on the vintage Sweater Wheel pattern I inherited from Aunt Betty. I've seen Sweater Wheels for sale on eBay. I made several modifications to the pattern- I knit the body of the sweater in one piece, lengthened the armhole depth and picked up and worked the sleeves from the top down, and I knitted faced button bands using Anna Zilboorg's "Almost Perfect Button holes". I really like this classic cardigan. I'll definitely make more for myself.

I 've begun a new, more thorough schedule for myself. I had one when the kids were little. Life was just easier to schedule back then, I guess. But I got away from it in the past few years. Makes sense when I think back on all the comings and goings and schedule juggling that middle and high school years brings. Now that this nest is mostly empty, I find I need that schedule again to make the best use of my days, to make time for creating and making and getting done all that needs to be done to keep this household running smoothly.
Last week I cobbled together all my lists and had fun with watercolor paints and ink to make a master   schedule for myself.
The Schedule includes exercise ( 5 days/week for heart health!) , vacuuming, specific laundry loads, bathrooms, floor mopping, plant watering, sewing, spinning, ironing- basically everything I thought of in logical, bite-sized, daily doses that I can easily manage. No more wasting time trying to decide what task to tackle. I look to my list. I get it done. And then Hallelujah! I have time to play! I have a separate notebook with the week's meal plan. When I make that plan and write out my grocery list, I include the recipe location. I wasted too much time trying to decide what to fix for dinner at the last minute. And even more time putting off housework because I couldn't decide where to start. I did all my thinking and put it down on paper. Tweaked it and made my master plan. I can still tweak things- and will need to make seasonal adjustments- but the essentials are there. Even better- I don't feel guilty for spending time at creating when I know my days work is done and done well.
I am continuing to work through the cotton fabric stash I accepted from one of my knitting students. This past weekend was very productive. Donna Reed and I wove 8 placemats and 2 table runners. That photo up there is the length of those placemats and runners before I separated them! I got smart and found 2 sets of fabrics that would be happy with the same warp and then wound enough warp for both sets, saving time dressing the loom.

Earlier in the month I wove this pretty set-

I am going through that stash of fabric quicker that I thought I would. Weaving these is almost instant gratification and I enjoy it, but I am eager to weave some nice dish towels again, soon.
All is well here at the end of the cup-de-sac. I even noticed some daffodils poking through the ground when I went out to fill the bird feeder yesterday!


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Worried Dog

Dear Mom,
We've known for a long time now that intelligence is not Olive's strength. We make concessions and know that she is as smart as she needs to be. Like Winnie the Pooh, she has some fluff in her head. Olivia Patricia Winniefred. New things are big challenges for a dog with a simple brain.

This is a worried dog.

She is separated from her Mama.

Santa brought me a Braava robot to help sweep and mop the floors.  (I've named her Florence) Don't worry, I'll still do it the old fashioned way, but Florence lets me get other stuff done while she tends to the floors.

What that really means is I have more time in Sweet Haven. (Imagine streamers and party horns.)

So, this afternoon, having thrown the sheets in the washer, I started Florence to work in the foyer and headed upstairs to gather the towels for their turn in Mr. Bosch. On a typical day, Olive is my shadow, but with the Young Lady home for winter break, Olive has been dividing her time between us. I was not concerned about my absent shadow until I heard short little distress barks. Turns out our Big Black Beastie was downstairs and the Young Lady and I were upstairs. And Florence was between us.

This is Florence.
Florence is not very big.
She is not loud. She moves slowly.

Obviously, if you are Olive, Florence has an impenetrable force field surrounding her.
It took a dog treat and me escorting her to get Olive past Florence and upstairs with her people.
At times like this I can only imagine how our other dogs would have reacted. Bumper would surely have Not Cared. And Patsy? She would either have Killed Florence or figured out which buttons to push to get her sweeping, mopping, or stopped.

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

A.A. Milne