Friday, April 30, 2010

SWAP fail (not)

I'm not going to make it in time. There is no way I can complete the remaining two garments in one day and have them fit well and be finished properly. Even if I skipped work tomorrow. I'm not going to do quick shoddy job, but rather continue making steady progress anyway...

What I have so far is a transitional season wardrobe: a handknit vest, two jumpers, two knit tops, an embroidered tunic, two blouses and a flannel shirt. Nine garments in four months. A lot more than when I started.

What do I like: I love the knit vest, and the sleeves on the flannel shirt are EXACTLY the length that makes me happy (and I will be using that style and length of sleeve again and again in the future). The clothing that I've made coordinates not only within the (unfinished) SWAP, but with my older clothing as well.

What did I learn: I followed online directions to modify a TNT pattern, and successfully made a twist-front T-shirt. Once I go ahead and make clothing for the size that I actually am, it is much more comfortable; the grey chambray jumper fits me the best because I increased the bodice ease and added more of a FBA). It is obvious that I need still more work on fitting a shirt/blouse to get the shoulders the way I'd really like them. (if only there was a way I could take a class on this, or have a dress form that accurately reflected that area so I could fit it more easily... it is my BIGGEST sewing challenge)

If when I next do a SWAP, the big thing I will do is to start the sewing right away, I will spend less time online and more time at the sewing machine...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

progress report

The new food for May CanJam is up, and it is a double whammy: asparagus OR rhubarb! Since I do not have a source for affordable asparagus, I will certainly go with rhubarb. Not exotic, but I've been wanting to stock up on my very favorite jam (strawberry rhubarb), and I know that there are still some local strawberries near the bottom of the freezer here at Acorn Cottage. I have between now and the May 21st deadline for that, so it will be no problem to find the time
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Have finished one pair of cloth socks for M3, (really so much faster than knitting). I have one more length of suitable wool, and a heavy pair that can be mended and worn. If I can find more suitable fabric (must needs find some yes), that will be my bus-work for the next month, and rainwear the home sewing project. I have ideas for ways to make a kind of hybrid sock, cloth bottoms with a knit upper, either sewn or possibly handknit. I may play around with that later on, after I have seven or eight pairs already made. Need to make another pair before M3 begins onSaturday
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Scrambling in my attempt to actually complete SWAP on time, that is as of midnight tomorrow. Yesterday I finished another jumper, grey chambray with hand-stitched pintucks as decoration. I like it very much. Need to make complete another dress and a jumper. Might not make the deadline, and it is not worth stressing over, will still make progress, and looking outside, there is no rain or hail currently; if it stays clear, I need to use at least some the day to get the long delayed garden work underway. Really need to spend time EVERYDAY on that, rather than on more sewing, which can be fitted around other work.

Monday, April 26, 2010

M3 sewing (planning for action) + media

I am going to spend the month of May wearing clothing made by me, excepting for shoes, and raingear. The idea of MeMadeMay (hereafter referred to as M3) has motivated me to get back to my sewing. My lost mojo, which ran away when it looked in the mirror, might be tempted to return.

I tend to be both very pragmatic and very quirky about clothing; it has to be comfortable, and practical, and my "style" is somewhere in the neighborhood of urban fairytale, probably on the borderland. My standard three season "uniform" is a jumper with shirt and leggings, with extra layers when it is really cold. Some of the time I wear an apron/pinafore over everything

Even if I don't make any new jumpers or dresses, I've five, enough to get by, though some are worn to a ravelling, and will be replaced as I finish up SWAP. I've a few homemade blouses and shirts, but mostly I've been wearing black knit tops from Goodwill under my jumpers, so that is one area that could be improved... I have plenty of underthings and one pair of velour leggings. Now that I've a serger, I can quickly make up several more pair of leggings if the weather remains cold

While I did learn how to knit socks, my knitting is relatively slow, I don't enjoy working at a gauge tiny enough to make comfortable durable socks, and so I've decided to make up some cloth hose. I've already made some for my SCA gear, so I know that they are actually comfortable, and being cut on the bias, they aren't terribly baggy odd looking. I might try making some in Polartec, for wearing when it is cold and rainy. Even so, it will take a while to make up several pair, I'd like to have about five to seven, enough for a week.

I'd like to also make a raincoat. I have a pattern I like, and yards of well aged London Fog fabric (black of course) in my stash cupboard that I've been carrying around ever since I lived in Seattle.

(it occurs to me that I should mention that while it looks like I am doing a fairly extreme version of M3, in fact I already sew most of my own clothing and underthings. For me the challenge is to find the gaps in my everyday wardrobe, like socks, and T shirts, and a raincoat, and maybe a bathrobe...)

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

small tragedy narrowly averted...

This morning I noticed that my kitchen counter was sticky-damp, which was a little baffling since I'd cleaned last night after dinner... Then I saw a small puddle beneath my kombucha brewing jar: a gallon-size widemouth glass jug that sits at one end of the countertop year round, that for the last four years has been a good home to the scoby, that commensal life form that makes tasty healthful drink in exchange for regular feeding of tea and sugar.

There was a forked crack in the side of the jar, and as I watched, tiny droplets of liquid seeped out and down the side towards the counter. This is sad, but fortunately the jar did not completely shatter while the house was asleep, I'd rather deal with a damp counter than a gallon of sticky "fungus-juice" everywhere. I managed to carefully slide the jar into a large mixing bowl, so as to put off dealing with it until after breakfast.

Fortunately I think I have several large glass storage jars that Nicole passed along to me, one of which will surely make a new kombucha home, but alas, since the glass is broken, I need to discard any and all contents, not wanting to ingest any glass shards! I shall have to start anew...

Friday, April 23, 2010

ManyHands Springtime Sale

Trinkets, treasures, toys and sewing tools,
handbound books, shiny glassware, and fantastic felt!

Come check us out Saturday April 24, 11-5

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ManyHands Craft Collective - Spring/Earth Day Sale

Gorgeous glass, textiles, handcrafted jewelry, needle-felted whimsies and more...

felt flower brooches and catface needlebooks

- Friday April 23 and Saturday April 24, 11AM to 5 PM -
7048 N Knowles Ave, Portland OR

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


This one seems like a perfect fit...

Earlier this month while wandering around online, I found the blog all buttoned up. Melissa is a local Portland sewer/blogger, and she was inspired by the challenge posted by Zoe of 'So, Zo...' to choose a level of wearing handmade clothing for a month that is a stretch, that pushes your personal envelope a bit further. (Zoe clarifies the challenge a bit more here)

The initial inspiration seems to come from Natalie of MakeShift, a Vancouver artist who spending a year wearing only what she makes herself, from the skin out, everything from undies to shoes. I've been looking back through her archives and really enjoying the very distinctive personal style.

If I do this, the exemption I would grant myself is that I won't include shoes, my feet would never forgive me. But everything else, yes. So one big challenge would be socks/legwear. I am a slow enough knitter that handknit socks won't happen quickly enough for a month of wearing, so maybe cloth hose are the way to go for May. Since I mostly already wear clothing that I make, this just might get me to finish up my SWAP, which I've somehow lost the mojo for.

I still definitely need dresses and jumpers, but perhaps would best be served by making a raincoat. I currently have a Goretex jacket, rather shabby after almost ten years of wear, but it doesn't fit well either, being made for a person with much smaller hips. I have a pattern for a nicely flared princess seamed coat that would make a great raincoat, and some black London Fog raincoat fabric that has been aging in my stash for about twenty years. Could be an opportunity to learn to use a tripod to take self timed portrait pictures too, which is on my list of learn to do things.

Well, back to housecleaning and making stuff for the sale this weekend...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

incremental progress, with notes on worm wrangling

Never dull here, but I wish I had more stamina sometimes. Yesterday I pounded in some of the salvaged metal fenceposts in the place where the new henyard will be. This task must be done while the ground is still soft from the winter rains, and I really couldn't put it off much longer. After just three fence posts my wrists were very unhappy, but that was all that is absolutely necessary, the henhouse will form the corner of the new run. I must continue making progress; the girls will be much happier with some shade this summer, but today my shoulders and wrists were pretty unhappy. Incremental progress is still progress...
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Fortunately one of the tasks yesterday was a bit messy and time consuming, but needs not very much in the way of upper body strength... worm wrangling requires only time, gloves, and a tarp. My little invertebrate pets have been working hard for months, and had turned almost the entire contents of their wormhome into fertilizer... time to separate the worms from the castings, and start the cycle again.

Since I will be doing a presentation on in-kitchen worm composting next month, I want to have the bin looking its best: actively in process, with fresh bedding, and worms eating food. I was given the worlds most wimpy paper shredder a few weeks ago, and it was mostly able to shred up some of the newspaper, as long as I cut each page into thirds, and fed them in one single piece at a time. Still, it makes much fluffier worm bedding than tearing the paper by hand.

But I'm getting ahead...what I did was to separate the worms, which means dumping the whole bin out on a tarp, (first removing any uneaten food and setting it aside to be put back in with the new fluffy damp bedding) and then gently forming the resultant damp soggy mess into a number of smaller heaps. The worms move away from the light and drier air, so after a while you can scoop some of the black castings from the top and away from the edges of each heap. This gets repeated over and over again until there are much smaller heaps that are mostly worms, which then get dumped back into the wormhome to start eating my scraps again.

After six months I harvested about ten pounds of very damp worm castings, larger families could generate much more, and worm castings are great garden food. And just for the record, not only are the worms completely silent, but the wormhome doesn't smell, and neither does their ummm... byproduct. If I don't tell people, no one knows I have a box of worms living in my kitchen. Originally I had them living outside my back door, but the first summer that the temperature went over 100F they all died, so now I keep them in the house.
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I've been making trinkets for our sale this weekend. Some felt flower pins, and started on a few kittyface needle-books. Hoping to complete a few soft fabric patchwork scarves, and new acorn and oakleaf earrings, and maybe scissors cases from the springtime colored leather scraps I found.

Monday, April 19, 2010

gift sale, crafternoon swap, and media

Seems like we will be having another trinket and treasure sale here at Acorn Cottage, this one timed for early shopping for Mother's Day. This coming Friday and Saturday (April 23 and 24) from 11 to 5. There will be gorgeous glass, textiles, jewelry, and needlefelted whimsies. Support the arts and delight your mother (or yourself) with a special gift!
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It's that time of the month...time to be thinking about Crafternoon Tea: This Sunday afternoon (April 25) from noon to five. Rather than a project, the theme this month is "spring cleaning swap", with the idea being that we'll have a trading blanket type* exchange, of various and sundry excess materials, tools and supplies.

We all probably have either some partially finished project that will never be completed, and/or extra fabric, or yarn, or beads, or whatever... (I know I really could do with finding a better home for some of the vast quantities of "this could be useful someday") So bring a reasonable amount of swappable stuff, and see if you can go home with something you might have a new enthusiasm for. Remember that there is a Goodwill at the end of my street, so anything unwanted by the end of the afternoon doesn't have to go back home with you.

*The trading blanket format is a little more structured that the typical white elephant exchange, so not one will be forced to trade for something they don't want, and of course, side trades are completely okay as well
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a stitchy bit of animation...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tigress Can Jam - The Light of Scarborough Fair Jelly

This is the most unusual thing I've preserved, and my very first success with a true jelly, made with only the inherent pectin in the apples.

I didn't grow up eating mint jelly with lamb, or in fact any sweet with meat save "Chinese sweet-and-sour". My mother did make stuffed cabbage, filled with chopped meat, and baked in a tomato sauce sprinkled with raisins, but as a child I had a great fear of turgid raisins, and indeed I still do...

As an adult, I love the combination of meat with fruit in medieval foods, come down to us in these times as the vestigial "meat" in mincemeat, which I liked very much the memorable time I was served some at a New England holiday dinner. But to return to the herbal jelly...

The process here was rather lengthy: boil the apples with some herbs, then strain out the flavorful juice. I strained the juice twice: once when finished cooking the apple herb mixture, and again after the cloudy juice had cooled overnight, and that worked well to give a completely transparent result.

The herbs I used were all from my own yard, and I didn't use quite as much as the original recipe called for. The resulting jelly is quite lovely to look at, a clear pinky golden, with flecks of herbs suspended. It tastes just as you'd expect, sweet and herbal and slightly tangy. It was very good with the roasted chicken legs yesterday suppertime, I'm curious how it would be with with lamb, and I think it would be delightful with cream cheese on toast, for an afternoon teatime treat.
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the Light of Scarborough Fair Jelly
(Francoise's Garden Herb Jelly, adapted)
1 lb cooking apples
½ pt cider vinegar
2 pt water
herbs to simmer with apples
6 largeish parsley sprigs, the same of peppermint
a few sprigs of thyme, winter savory, sage, and rosemary
granulated sugar, 1 lb for every pint of extracted juice
herbs to stir into jelly - total, very finely chopped, about 2 T
4 parsley sprigs
8 mint sprigs
a mixed handful of thyme, sage, and rosemary

Wash apples, remove stems and blossom end bits, and chop to bits (including peel and core). Add water and herbs and bring to a boil and simmer gently for a half hour or until apples are very soft.

Stir in the vinegar and boil hard for five minutes.

Strain the cooked fruit through muslin or a jelly bag, hang it up so it can drip into another container overnight. For clear jelly do not squeeze the jelly bag. I let it drip into a big measuring cup, which made it easy to see how much juice I had.

For every pint of juice, use a pound of sugar. Heat the juice and sugar gradually till the sugar dissolves, and then boil till it reaches the set point.

Remove from heat and let the jelly cool just a little, for about ten minutes. Then stir the finely chopped herbs into the jelly, funnel the jelly into canning jars and hot water process for ten minutes. Let cool overnight on the counter, then label and store in a cool dark place. (My whole house is cool and dark, except in the summer) The recipe made three half pint jars, and about a tablespoon left over. It set very firmly with only the natural pectin in the apples, though it took almost a half hour to get the jelly to the set point, which I tested with the cold saucer method.

music to listen to while canning herbal jelly

Thursday, April 15, 2010

circled squares

I’m calling this done, my pattern-testing knit project… I love the shape, (a lovely round-bellied urn), and the color choices that I made worked out well. The pattern was clearly written and easy to follow, and the knitting was intriguing without being frustrating. I am quite happily surprised at the nice large size that the bag turned out to be, at about 12” x 13” it will make a nice purse or knitting project bag. The base of the bag is particularly well designed, and the Lanaloft that I used for that part made a very sturdy felt.
A side view of the base of the bag,
clearly showing the triangles of unfelted knitting (bronzy-green salvaged single-ply),
and the great shaping of the "foot" created by the knitted-in tuck

The only difficulty I had was that not all the yarn felted evenly, and (despite my best efforts) neither the washing machine or hand felting, or boiling! in soapy water was able to get the Noro or the salvaged single-ply yarn to felt, while the other yarns felted very quickly, and my attempts to get the recalcitrant yarn to cooperate made the already felted parts rather too solid.

I learned two new techniques while making this bag. The foot of the bag has added shaping by a kind of knitted tuck, which seems like an excellent addition to any future knit and felted bag projects. Also the instructions for making the twisted cord used for the bag handles are so much easier than the way I did such things before.

the bag from the top down, with a glimpse of the twisted cord drawstring-handles

I'll most probably make this bag again; I can envision it in a number of different colorways, and it'd be fun to try it in a sport or fingering yarn, for a smaller "bag of holding" I used eight different colors of yarn, all worsted weight, and my recommendation for the future is to be certain that the chosen yarns are ones that felt at the same rate more or less.

Here is what the bag looked like before felting:

before felting, about 16" x 16"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

machine felting dilemma

For my test knitting felted bag project, I used several different all wool yarn “leftovers” from my stash. I wove all the ends in while I was riding the bus home from work yesterday. Last night I put the bag in the washer to start the felting process…

The different yarns are felting at very different rates: the Taos and the Lanaloft are really quick, already looking quite solid, but the Noro is barely felted; the checkerboard sections are much more felted than the garter stitch rows. I didn’t think to do a set of preliminary swatches to see if they would all felt the same, since they were all 100% non-superwash wool. I’m going to run it through the washer again today after work, and hopefully that will help. If it doesn't, I can always either line the bag, or add on some kind of felty decoration over the unfelted areas.

The bag already has a great shape, and I will certainly knit a second one (probably using all the same brand of yarn, rather than stash scraps) The technique of knitting in a welt before knitting the bottom of the bag really helps define the shape.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

wool almost over my eyes

I have been knitting like a madwoman, partially to get the test knitting finished by the deadline, and partially perhaps to keep from becoming a madwoman. The activity of knitting is soothing for me, especially if it is just complex enough that I have to pay attention to what I am doing, but not so complex that I get frustrated. Knitting this bag has been perfect that way, with lots of pattern changes and none too difficult.

The intention is that this will shrink down to become a sturdy and colorful bag of holding; the result, right now before shrinking, looks rather like an extremely large demented sort of hippie hat for someone with ginormous dreadlocks. Which I am not. Well I might be a rather demented sort of old hippie, but my skimpy little braids did absolutely nothing to keep the giant knitted bag in place... It would have been more accurate to let the whole thing slide on down all the way over my head, but that would have made photography rather difficult. Stay tuned for news of further felting developments...
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I've made a tiny bit of progress on the herbal jelly front. The first straining through muslin left me with a partial quart jar full of cloudy pinkish liquid. Then I read another different recipe that said to let the apple-y mush cool before straining. Hmmm... so I strained it a second time and now have a saucepan full 2 1/2 cups of perfectly clear beautiful peachy pink elixer. I think that if this works, it will be gorgeous, all pink and green and tasting of springtime herbs.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

no cloudblanket and other weekendry

So cold Friday night that there was ice in the backyard, in the places where I hadn't dumped out the bits of standing water from the last rain. The heat just came on again, which means that it is under 55F inside the house. In mid-April. Such is the price for a clear starry night and a clear sunny morning. Folks grouse about the grey rain, but the cloudblanket keeps things just a bit warmer. The hens are happy anyway, warm in their black and white down jackets...
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Truly entrelac is the most “addictive” of the knitting techniques I know, each rectangle or triangle takes such a relatively short time, it is continually tempting to knit “just one more”. I found another partial skein of good-for-felting yarn, in colors that will work with the yarn stash bits I'm already using, and hopefully there is enough to finish the one row of rectangles I've started...

This is going to be a fun bag of holding, whatever size it ends up (that being one of the the great felting uncertainties), and I'm glad to have more of the soothing sticks and strings activity for my transit rides. I feel pretty good about the test knitting aspect of the project; so far I've had three questions and a comment to ask of the designer, and they were all valid bits of missing information from the pattern.
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SO warm and sunny during the daytime, and instead of yardwork, I spent the weekend doing enameling with Ula. My lawn and garden may be sorry, but I am not. There is nothing I like better than sharing the joys of glass on metal with an interested student, and she really did wonderfully... Not everyone is able to complete two pieces in one weekend workshop, (and that is totally okay too) but her focus and coordination, combined with the fact that since she was my only student, so there was no waiting for time at the kiln, meant that she had two lovely enamel pendants to take home. I'm thinking about when to offer workshops in the next few months, and want to remind folks about my open studio evenings as well
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If it wasn't mid-April, the nadir of my economic life, I would definitely be pursuing this outrageously adorable Akita puppy. I remember how very very soft that plushy puppy fur is... I know that sweet puppies show up only very rarely for adoption, and the shelter he is at sounds like they screen well for good homes, and puppies find homes quickly... (sigh)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Scarborough Fayre and more

The Can Jam ingredient for April is herbs. I'd thought about making tomato sauce, but decided to instead try a variant on this recipe for herbal jelly, using herbs that I have growing here at Acorn Cottage.

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The next step in kitchen improvement is to finally attach my beautiful forged iron pot-rack to the wall above the stove. For it to be properly secured requires finding studs in the wall; sheetrock cannot support that kind of weight even with wall anchors, and the cheep-crap studfinder I have was no help at all. Not wanting to drill holes every half inch along the wall, and possibly hit the gas line, I was delighted on Tuesday to have help from Bill and his sooperdooper multilevel studfinder. Now all the spots are marked on the wall, and since I want the pot-rack centered over the stove (picky picky picky), and the studs are not, it will require a hunk of lumber 1x8 attached to the studs in the wall, and the pot-rack attached to that. I looked for months at the Rebuilding Center to find a long wide board, the board I salvaged is about a foot too short (sigh) and I need to go buy a new non-recycled piece of lumber.
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Hopefully I can fit some sewing time in, the grey chambray dress is all ready to be assembled, all the running stitch pintucks are done. And since I was lacking a transit time project, I found one on Ravelry. There is a forum group where you can sign up to be a "test knitter" for designers who are working on their not-yet-ready-to-be-released patterns. I'm test-driving a pattern for a felted knit bag, designed by Mimi, which combines colorwork and entrelac, and is giving me an opportunity to practice my two handed fair isle knitting. Should be interesting, and needs to be completed by April 15.
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Doesn't this look like fun? A fast and easy batik style textile embellishment, using glue and paint. While the site is all about artwork that can be done in the classroom, I think this would be a great Crafternoon project.
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One small fix completed, the noren between the kitchen and the studio were far too low. I raised the L-hooks almost to the ceiling, replaced the random metal tube with a nice wooden dowel, and anchored the dowel to the hooks using two thin black hair elastics, so that it will not unexpectedly disengage from the hangers. I'd been meaning to do this weeks ago, and it makes a big difference, as well as looking much more tidy.
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I'm teaching an enameling workshop this weekend, only one student, so lots of personal attention, and the down time will allow me to get some enameling of my own done as well. This evening we talked about design and planning, and while looking up some images online, I somehow found my way to The Cleveland Museum of Art. Oh my word! While not everything listed in their collections is photographed, there are hundreds of images, and best of all, some of them have additional pictures of the reverse side!! How many times have I seen something in a book, and wished to see the other side... Here is one example, a Frankish disc brooch.

Monday, April 5, 2010

monday maunderings + media

  • made some candied citrus peel, mostly intended as a belated birthday gift for my father, but will set aside whatever doesn't fit in the shipping box for the end of April teaparty. Anyone interested in a tutorial on how to make candied peel? I've got the photos...
  • was gifted with two new-to-me vintage cook-pans, a Revere Ware saucepan, (slightly larger than the one I already have) and a large wok with a lid. Both of these are things that I had been really wanting, to make it easier to cook when there are several houseguests.
  • managed to transplant the blueberry bush into the spot where the rosemary formerly lived. While I am personally ready for a wee bit of warmer less damp weather, the cold rainy days are just the thing for settling in plants that get moved; they can stay hydrated while starting to grow new little rootlets. The other plants I've been transplanting, rhubarb, parsley, and forsythia, seem to be settling in nicely.
  • started the next piece for my SWAP sewing, the grey chambray dress. Almost all the running stitch pintucks are done, and the rest will all be machine work, hopefully done by the end of the week. The black linen jumper is needing to have the armscye binding done, and that will be complete. That one is a reworking of a jumper I already had, with new neckline and armscye bindings
  • went to check out two new sewing places in NE Portland - Modern Domestic is over on Alberta, and looks to be a good resource, a kind of sister store to Bolt which is one of my favorite boutique fabric shops - they have classes, a selection of machine accessories and notions, as well as studio time rental. They also are a portal for sewing machine repair, and they can order specialty feet for my odd sewing machine... Portland Sewing is in the Hollywood District, behind the new Whole Paycheck Foods. Their focus seems to be more on specific technical skills - draping, patternmaking, setting up an apparel business, with other more general classes as well... I was bemused to see a class titled "Speed Dating with Sewing Machines", which had me imagining something very different from the actual content. They are located in an old house formerly a credit union, the banking window is going to become a "drive through notions window", for sewers in a hurry!
As much as I am not a sun lover, these dark grey days just need some color sometimes, my eyes need a change...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

down and up

Springtime is in some ways a treat, since it will eventually get warm enough to keep the windows open , and to wear one layer instead of four or five, and not to need to wear a hat inside. But I get so lonesome in the springtime. Today there were no dogs at home at the house of five dogs that I clean; usually Strider, the big old German Shepherd is home, and I get a bit of a "dog fix" from him, he follows me around the house as I clean and keeps me company...

I've started on one of the dresses for SWAP. This one will be a grey chambray shirtwaist-style dress, with pintucks around the bottom of the skirt, and at the front edges of the top, with all the pintucks hand stitched in lighter grey pearl cotton. Pintucks being something I can do while riding the bus. I might turn this one into a faux jumper, by making the sleeves out of white linen, and adding an edge binding or collar to the neckline to simulate a blouse. It is a thought anyway, dreaming about warmer weather to come, when wearing layers is less welcome.