Friday, May 30, 2014

Trimming Corners and Clipping Curves

Dear Mom,
Something about warm weather makes me want to sew. I've noticed that every spring I catch a sewing bug. Mostly the result is discouraging, but apparently not so discouraging that I am immune the next year.
So, a few weeks ago when we were visiting The French Seam, it should have been no surprise that I would walk out with fabric and a book. I was clearly under the influence of a potent strain of the Sewing Bug Virus this year. The book I purchased is this one: Simple Modern Sewing. I didn't need to turn more than a few pages before I was HOOKED. I was excited. I was ready to sew a whole new wardrobe.

And then I got home and started looking at things a little more closely and realistically. I quickly realized that my ***ahem*** American Figure was not necessarily compatible with the Japanese women for whom the patterns were clearly designed. I could feel that cloud of discouragement blowing in. And then I got tough. I made a decision. NoWayNoHow was this Simple Modern Sewing going to defeat me! By golly, I took 2 years of tailoring classes in high school. Okay. So that was 35 years ago, but SO WHAT. I could surely figure out how to make this simple modern jumper, designed for a Japanese woman, fit my American Breasts. Mrs. Goodwin and Mrs. Roos were gonna be proud.

I made adjustments in width to the pattern, based on the finished measurements and suggested ease provided in the instructions. I honestly measured myself and immediately shook off the shock of that. I made Muslin #1 with an old twin size bed sheet. WAY too big. (this made me happy) I took out the adjustments and sewing Muslin #2 using the original pattern. It fit okay, but the armholes and bust darts were too high. I stood before the mirror and studied that muslin and figured out where to cut the pattern and how much length to add for the gravity induced location of the mammas (or should that be ma'ams?). I channelled that tailoring instruction Mrs Roos taught me all those years ago and I sewed Muslin #3. I did it.
And now that all the pattern alterations are finished, this is a very simple dress and the sewing of it is a breeze. I used tailor's tacking to mark the pattern. I clipped the curves and trimmed the corners. I under stitched the facings. I was In. The. Zone.

My original goal was to sew sleeveless summer jumpers that I could either where over a tee-shirt, or under a cardigan. Now that I've made 3 of them, I am also considering other pattern alterations for pin tucks, or pockets, or that apron style dress I see on Pinterest but cannot find the pattern for. I also think I will make some winter jumpers in wool to wear over turtlenecks and under cardigans, with tights and boots or leggings and funky shoes.  Like I said, when I left the fabric store I was ready to sew a whole new wardrobe.

Here is what I've done so far:
This is the first one, in a linen-like fabric. I admit this is a bad photo of both the dress and the knitted thing. That shawly cardigan thing is my most recently finished knitting. It is this pattern from the Spring 2014 issue of Interweave Knits. I used some Classic Elite Firefly yarn that I had in my stash. The fabric for this dress is not linen, but behaves like linen in every way except the wrinkly part.

The shape and size of this cardigan is not compatible with Elle. It was just about impossible to get anything even close to a decent photo.
The cardigan will serve its purpose (of covering my upper arms and dressing up the jumper) but I will NOT be making another one. It felt like I was knitting this thing for ev er.

Next up, a sunny summery combo:

I knit this sweater a while back and almost got rid of it. I am so glad I didn't! It is perfect with this dress. The cardigan details are on my ravelry page.

And last (so far) is this one:
I really like this one even though my reason for making it is a sad one. I needed a dress for a funeral but didn't want to wear my usual black dress. This looked just right with a black cardigan and my little black patent leather flats.

As I said, this jumper is super simple- no buttons, buttonholes or zippers. Just an easy pullover with a flattering boat neck. Here is a close-up of the shoulders.
With the success of these dresses and my alterations, I've caught myself considering other patterns from the book. I would feel so absolutely liberated to be able to sew and wear clothes that I like, that fit me, in fabrics and colors of my choosing, without being held hostage by the fashions and fit available in the shops. Like I said. Potent Strain of the Sewing Bug.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Dear Mom,
I'd have to check through the blog archives to see exactly how long I've been spinning, but without doubt it is only a fraction of the time I've been a knitter. And yet my spinning stash rivals my knitting stash- and frankly may even be larger. oooops. Definitely larger when I think of what is currently off to Ohio Valley getting blended and processed.
And then there is this:

When CarolWhoseHouseGotStruckByLightning visited her parents in Minnesota recently, she took a field trip to Northern Woolen Mill. She told me about the field trip a few days ahead and I asked her if it wasn't too much trouble, could she bring $50 worth of a bison/wool blend roving back next time she was in town? When I asked, I imagined that $50 would buy me a ball of roving slightly bigger than my fist. What I got was not one, not two, but THREE bigger-than-my-head balls of 50/50 North Dakota Bison and South Dakota Merino!  It spins up beautifully.
I don't know what I will do with the yarn once it has all been spun and plyed, but with this much roving, I should have plenty of options.

The first Sunday of each month, Tabby Tree Weaver hosts an Open Spin. I don't miss too many of those afternoons. A very nice group of ladies gathers to talk spinning and weaving, share some laughs, and ooh and ahh over Show-n-Tell. Last month MelissaWhoSpinsButDoesNotKnit shared this rug hooked masterpiece. This is truly a Work Of Art.

 Being the thoughtful, generous person I am, my first words (once I regained the ability to speak) were: "I want this when you die. Leave it to me in your Will." (Good thing that Melissa 'gets' me. She laughed and said okay. I think…..)

Okay, I don't want her to die. But I do admit to daydreaming about where I would hang this if it were in my house.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Favorite Things Friday

Dear Mom,
A definite Favorite Thing on my Friday mornings is my knitting class. This group of ladies met in my This is That Sweater class back in January. The group has bonded together and we just finished the Zephirine cardigan I showed you in my last post. In April, we took a field trip to the Greencastle Fiber Event. And in May we had a tea party during class.

(Our tea party probably could have been timed a little bit better- some of the ladies were starting on the lace portion of their sweaters and it was a lot to take in.)

Carol brought freshly baked scones,
Kitty brought pretty china tea cups,

Sheila brought Irish tea, Lisa brought an electric kettle, sweetener and milk, and I brought some tea pots and my favorite Orange Cinnamon Spice tea.  We vowed to do it again- maybe as a celebration at the end of each class session. As Irene has enthusiastically pointed out more than once, "This could go on for Years!" These are kind, generous women and watching friendships blossom is a priceless blessing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

About that not-so-brief intermission...

Dear Mom,
Those who are keeping up with your Holton House blog will have guessed at some of the reason for the lack of blogging here. You've happily sold your house and the packing, storing, transplanting and relocating may have given us lots to talk about, but little time to actually post anything here. And that wasn't all that has been happening.
Now that I have time to sit and have a "chat", I don't even know where to begin, or if I should even try telling it all in one great big catch up session or try cutting things down into smaller bites. I think I will start where we left off back in March(!) and see how far I get.

As part of YOUR move, a few things have come to live new lives here, and other things are just living here until they can live with you again- like your computer and some plants. One of the things I get to keep is the workbench from the garage. Our garage is bursting at the seams, but this workbench is now a coveted potting bench on my back patio. It nestles perfectly under the window and I can see it doing double duty as an outside buffet for all that entertaining I do. as if. I have a rich fantasy life.

I will gloss over the adventure that was getting this workbench and the one from your basement relocated. It wasn't pretty. But My Hero and I both live to forgive and forget. I have both feet still attached to my ankles and he was not found crushed dead at the bottom of your basement steps.
 We chose an exterior stain an My Hero set to work painting my soon-to-be potting bench.
This photo was taken shortly after we placed it under the window. We removed the aging flower box that once hung beneath that window. And just in time as the flower box fell apart and split in two as we lifted it off the supports. My new potting bench is now holding flats of vegetables, herbs and marigolds that are waiting to be planted in the garden. FYI- the garden was tilled yesterday, just in time for a nice rain. Once it dries up enough that I don't get mired in compost and mud, I will plant! I have 3 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, green bean seeds, red potatoes and cabbage. I'll surround it all with zinnias and marigolds.

I believe the beautiful display of crocus in my front yard this spring was a payback for our winter. Each autumn, for the past 3-4 years, I've added 100 crocus bulbs to the front lawn. I think the squirrels eat most of them. But this year, that heavy blanket of snow protected those bulbs and I had blooms much as I imagine each year when I plant. These photos were taken hurriedly, but maybe you can get the idea. I'd like to think the whole lawn will be filled with blooms one day. I'll keep adding more bulbs every fall. If anyone knows of a way to discourage the squirrels from digging them up, please let me know!

A bonus addition to my backyard came one afternoon when we were transplanting some of your perennials to the wooded area of your new lot that will be untouched by landscaping and construction. I am so happy you will be able to leave an area in its natural state, with wildflowers in abundance! Turning around to gaze over the portion that was soon to be cleared revealed Trillium, what I hope will be Dutchman's Breeches, and some Spring Beauty. I rescued some of those and transplanted them to the shady  places in my backyard. The Trillium seems very happy already and I've been rewarded with blooms.

The ice and snow permanently damaged some of our trees last winter and we've removed what we could manage. We are now waiting for the professionals to remove two big spruce and some stumps before we re-plant. I was grieving the loss of that landscaping and the privacy it offers, but am excited about freshening things up and the new things waiting to take their place. It really has been busy here. I thought we would NEVER get all those sticks and twigs cleared up! I believe that Olive thought the purpose of all that chopping was to provide her with a lifetime supply of sticks. She would select a stick, drag it out of the pile and chew on it awhile. While we were at it, we removed the tetherball pole since Olive's elbow is not allowed to jump and twist anymore and relocated our fire pit to the former tetherball site. The original fire pit was a family project years ago. When a nearby field was being cleared to make way for a new subdivision, we all put our boots on and filled the back of the station wagon with field stones. We picked a spot in the back yard and handed a shovel to the Young Man (I think he was about 11 years old at the time), thinking it would take him most of the afternoon to dig. Thank heavens we looked out a short time later to check his progress, because he dug the pit in no time flat! My Hero ran out to tell him to stop digging! We lined the hole with pea gravel and field stones and had a beautiful fire pit. When we discussed moving the fire pit, I couldn't bear to bury all those stones and do something different in the new spot. We dug up every rock, hosed them off and My Hero placed them into the new pit. I do think ours is a much prettier and natural looking fire pit than those made from landscape pavers.

Painting, moving and digging aren't all I've been up to. There is always knitting. Lots of it.
These next two sweaters were knit as class samples for my knitting classes at Village Yarn Shop.
Zephirine Cardigan

Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece

Buttons from Fastenation Studio

Mr, Greenjeans
Cascade Venezia Worsted yarn
And this next sweater ……evolved. I started spinning this yarn with the thought of knitting a shawl or sweater with an ombre sort of effect. Plying the yarn in hopes that I could create a subtle transition in color. I think I did okay at that part, but finding something I was happy with when it was knitted was a challenge. I started and stopped a few different projects- nothing was just right. Then I saw something on ravelry that was really far out (especially for me), but it made me rethink exactly how I was using the yarn. Thankfully my dearest knitting friends talked some sense into me before I started knitting the odd sweater that eventually acted as my inspiration. ( I'd even gone so far as to purchase the pattern!) I am intentionally not sharing the link to the sweater because I am not saying the most flattering things about it. My friends gave me the sort of quietly sympathetic look that I quickly interpreted as them trying to figure out how to talk me out of a Big Mistake without hurting my feelings or squashing my creativity. Can I tell you that I have some REALLY ESPECIALLY GOOD FRIENDS? 
I let the Idea of that weird sweater simmer, and realized I could use what attracted me to that sweater in a traditional sweater construction. And this is what happened:

An almost entirely short-rowed, round yoke constructed sweater, of entirely hand spun yarn. I couldn't be happier with the look or the fit of this sweater. I used the formula for the shaping of the round yoke sweater found in The Knitter's Handy Book of Top Down Sweaters by Ann Budd and then German Short Rowed my  way from top to bottom, switching colors at random. There will never be another sweater like it. It was actually a liberating experience/experiment- the closest I will ever come to free form knitting. 

Okay. Enough catching up for now. I still have lots of stuff I want to share with you, but should really save that for another blog post on another day. It feels good to be back here and I don't want to spill it all at once and have nothing left to say!