Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Stella!

We've weathered your first year with flying colors. Never has a puppy in this household been so photographed and never has a puppy enjoyed being so photographed. The camera loves you, the moulding in the studio, not so much. But we adore you and raise a toast to many many more birthdays to come.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Nose Knows

He may be old as dirt, blind as a bat and almost doorknob deaf but Dennett's regal nose has never failed him and yesterday morning was no exception. A masked bandit was on our front porch and the D man let me know by barking and spinning and doing his much loved propeller tail wag. To humor him I went out and took a peek and by gum, if that raccoon wasn't high tailing it down the nearest escape route to the woods. I saw his bulk and I saw his distinct tracks both coming and going on our front porch. Okay, there is still a good use for snow. Good dog Dennett! We spent most of our morning walk retracing the little devils route around our property. Like the Johnny Cash song, he had been everywhere. It was slow going, but I enjoyed every intent sniff almost as much as my partner.

I think it's time for a reading update. If you like a good beefy well written historical biography, Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser is worth your time.
It took me almost two months to read it and I savored every chapter.

Next up on the read pile ( and saving for rereading too) is A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. This is a lovely, sweet and sentimental read. You will finish the last page feeling sad it's over but fulfilled and touched. Not since I read The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel by Garth Stein have I enjoyed a dog story so much. I'm picky about my animal stories too but these two belong up there with Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe and The Yearling. And folks if you haven't read Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders, you need too. In the past few years it has been reissued. I don't think it has ever gone out of print. I was read Joe's story by my grandmother as a child and reread it in high school and again, in adulthood.

Weather wise we may have turned the corner onto Spring street. It took me until Sunday to make it to town. It just kept snowing and snowing, but Sunday's snow was light and yesterday the sun actually appeared and stuck around for the majority of the day. Of course this morning it's lightly snowing...again.

The superfantastic black pants are done and I am pretty darn happy with them. They look and fit great. I made additional changes to the pattern as I went along and will keep them. Darts in the front instead of just tucks and the elastic starts at the side seams leaving the whole front smooth instead of at the tucks that are now darts in the front.

The pockets are in just the right place and I need to measure it and note on the pattern piece the placement. The hemming was done on the silk blouse thereby putting it in the done and wearable category. I like it but I don't love it. For silky fabrics I am still on the lookout for suitable patterns and next time I buy silk hopefully it won't be so tight in the yardage.

Parting shot: Three's a Crowd.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Trend Continues

Obviously Old Man Winter didn't get the memo. We have had our usual wild early spring weather. As an added bonus this week, we had 40mph winds to swirl around that falling snow on the day Morgan the farrier showed up. Needless to say the horses were full of beans. Cooper, Dandy and Nick didn't relax and snooze like they all usually do while having their pedicures, but were patient and stood nicely. Imp and Boo were my two wiggly ones, heads up, muscles tense and we all just knew it wouldn't take much to have some absolute silliness on the end of the lead rope, Morgan worked quietly and quickly and we got it all done.

The silk scarf is making progress as it grows on the cloth beam.

I'm ashamed to admit the hemp warp is still nicely laying on the loom waiting for me. But the silk blouse is done except for hemming. I suspect I should have gone up a size. This light drapey fabric is deceiving and while fitting on Rhonda helps a lot I don't have it down to an exact science for all fabrics..yet. ;)

I also threw together a hot pink french terry top out of my own pattern and started another pair of Trio pants. I bought the last of some wonderful fancy cotton Lycra blend fabric wanting it for a trouser type pant but alas, there was no way I was going to make it stretch for that style at a scant 21/4 yards, so went to my TNT (tried and true) flat front pant. I did change up the style, making it a true straight leg and gave it a nice pocket treatment.

They are just awaiting the waistband and hemming to finish. It will be nice to have a pair of dressier pants.

While I didn't get any of the red fabric for a shirt I did find some lovely other shirting fabrics.

All of them cotton and should work up to be pretty blouses. I don't know about anyone else, but whenever I go shirt shopping all I seem to find is rather boring stripes or checks in actual button down shirts or fabrics that are office suitable not for casual wear. One of the most gratifying things about sewing for me is to be able to make a shirt in a fabric I love.

Today I will again attempt to get to town and do some much needed food shopping. A special day is on the horizon and a little celebration needs to be thrown together for that too.

Parting shot: At least someone is still enjoying the snow!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oh NO! More SNOW!

So last Friday produced a 10 inch dumping of the wet white, followed by a weekend of flurries and white outs, sun, torrential rain, graupel and lots and lots of mud. Footprints through the white substance produce our own particular version of black holes! My mud room, which is the gateway to the dog pen, earned it's name, as did the hallway and the kitchen. Stella suffered the utter heartbreak of mud butt from sitting out in it. Just one side mind you. The utter heartbreak part was having her haunch scrubbed and oh while you're here, lets do those toenails. Tell me again why a white dog was so appealing last May?

The poor weather also allowed me to finish gathering for a book giveaway. So heads up, look for it next week. There are some nice ones in the batch.

The Bernina and I got reacquainted after her spa treatment of internal fuzz busting and oiling. She runs like a Swiss clock. Not surprising since she is Swiss made (not maid!). I found that I much prefer her zipper foot to the Brother machine and yes, comparing stitches she does have better stitch quality, but not by much. I do like that I can adjust the presser foot pressure and for slippery or fine fabrics this will be the machine of choice. We whipped out another pair of jeans together.

This time in denim red Tencel with more topstitching. I love this pattern but it's time to put it away and start on some new patterns.

Why the complete take over of sewing? Well, I would like some pretty new pieces for my trip and more importantly, I also want to perfect some patterns. If I am going to weave cloth by gum I want to know that the pattern will work for a good fitting finished garment even if it my weaving might be just a trim or contrasting design. I'm also getting my skill set in order for that lined spring coat I want to make and I'm doing it by making a lined winter coat in the same pattern. I found some nice and inexpensive wool coating from Vogue Fabrics that will be the wearable ( I have high hopes), test garment.

The silk scarf moves slowly. It's fine and it's a two shuttle color weave. I am slow, I daydream, I get interrupted and then I remember, what's the hurry really. I enjoy my weaving guilt free, whether I'm fast or slow. I would like this off the loom though as I found a pattern that calls for a scarf neck treatment and wouldn't it be nice to showcase this lovely silk scarf that way? Indeed!

For now though I'm working with some commercial silk. Cut on the bias for a drapey summer top.

It's evil slippery but oh so pretty feeling next to the skin. (It will help me when I get to working with the bemberg lining fabric). It was a clearance fabric, a scant 2 yards was all that was available so my options were limited.

That can be a good thing. I would likely never try a top like this otherwise and was surprised how nice it looked just trying it on with the pins in it and no sleeves.

Sadly, when I checked for the red fabric like the green I used in the Shapely Shirt, there was not enough to make a blouse with. They did have some deep royal purple, but it's not a color I wear or will remotely match anything in my small wardrobe other than black or white.

The farrier comes this week. Should be fun slogging through the gate mud getting horses in and out. I'm hoping it will at least not be precipitating on us. I think that's a pretty modest request.

Parting shot: I still love you after the evil cleaning and clipping, now pick me up for a cuddle!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Making of the Green

If you don't know by now, green is one of my very favorite colors. It's also a hard color to find in both fabric and clothing. Believe me, when I see a pretty garment that fits or a nice fabric in green(s) I'm on it. Fabric of Vision had a beautiful jacquard woven cotton sateen fabric that I just loved and yesterday I cut into it for another Shapely

It's full bodied with great drape and is a pleasure to work with.

I'm wishing they had it in more colors than just this green and a pretty red. I didn't go for the red, as I have other reds in the shirt stash. Maybe I should reconsider that decision. The fabric is so nice.

The first sleeve was done and ready to sew into the arm hole before I packed it in for the day to feed everyone. I didn't want a french cuff on this, just a regular cuff and knew pretty much how I wanted to do this but just in case, I checked with my sewing bible to see if there was a way for a cuff set-up I might like more.

That got me thinking. Many people have commented how they have started or are getting ready to sew again after a long hiatus. I know I took quite a break and even at that, garment sewing was not my forte. So where do I go for information? My sewing bible is an oldie but goodie, Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing ( and it is!), early 80's edition.

It is far better than the newest one which cut out a whole section on garment tailoring and sewing for the home. What Lundell's or Osterkamps's books are weaving, this book is to the home sewist. I couldn't and wouldn't sew without it. You can still get used copies on Amazon. The second book is Clare Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide.

In it she lists just about every fabric known to man and how to sew it. What needle to use, what it's good for, tips and tricks for dealing with it and how to care for it after you've made something beautiful. An indispensable resource. Third up is Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing.

She takes you through each type garment (skirts, pants,etc), how to construct it and why you do what you do with it. Tips and tricks are taken from the garment industry, and often they make construction quite a bit easier. The fourth book you've already seen, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. Special treatments and beautiful couture finishes for a special garment or how to make one special!

Now weavers, don't despair, I have been busy although my time weaving yesterday was sucked up by trying to wind a skein of fine silk onto a cone for the scarf warp. I'm sure you've all run into that rogue skein that was just tied up and handled poorly. I swear it took me 40 minutes to get it all untangled from itself and onto the cone. By that point I was tired and cranky and needed some lunch. It may have been the cheese, crackers and fruit but all the dogs came over to "sooth" me......and lick my plate clean.

Parting shot: Clean Ears, the canine equivalent to clean underwear I'm sure.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pattern Development

While keeping an ear and an eye on the news for the better part of the weekend, I have managed to immerse myself in getting a jean pattern fit for prime time. A major portion of last week was spent working on muslin's of different patterns. The Vogue pattern I had hopes for didn't really flatter.

Of course flatter is a broad term, let's just call it what it was, unflattering. My needs are very simple. Good fit, comfortable, fairly easy and just a little bit of style. I found all that on the second pattern muslin. Hot Patterns Slouchy Trouser Jeans.

They have a wide straight leg, a nice menswear lined waist band,

5 pocket jean style

and considering jeans are labor intensive, not terribly hard to put together.

I had absolute fits with the fly front zipper. The first two attempts were dismal, but thanks to a tutorial done by Trudy at Hot Patterns on the fly fronts, I was able to pull it off for my very first pair of wearable jeans. And the waistband tutorial didn't hurt either! The link will take you to all of her tutorials. I'm pretty darn happy with these and will make a few more. The denim used is quite light and drapey, no stretch. I wasn't fond of the shape of the back pockets so copied the size and shape from a pair of jeans that I liked.

Next pair I'll dress them up a little more with stitching and maybe some embroidery. I like the waistband style so much I may do this on other pairs of pants. It really is comfortable and the pattern offers extremely nice shaping and contours. Should I make this in a stretch fabric (cotton/Lycra) I will drop a size since the breathing room is built into the fabric.
I'm glad I stuck with this and you can be sure some more Hot Patterns will find their way into my pattern file!

I want to take some prime time blog space and thank you everyone for your best wishes to Dennett. He actually is doing pretty well. The light dose of pain meds for his old age stiffness has made a world of difference. His blood panel wasn't much changed from last October, so no systems are failing badly. We're hoping he'll whinny on with us comfortably for a good while yet.

In other news the Greensprings Fire and Rescue was called out at 4:00am Saturday morning to a house fire. A candle. The ladies cat woke her up and saved her, along with the aged Jack Russell Terrier. The house was saved, the living room needs extensive work as the fire got into the walls, but the fire department arrived about 4 minutes before the whole thing would have gone up at flash point. Gene was tired and happy when he got back home mid afternoon and the crew handled the emergency beautifully.

Parting shot: Dreaming of My Red Rubber Ball!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

From Bad to Worse

Between the earthquake in New Zealand and the quake and tsunami in Japan, there's a whole lot of hurt going around the world. I can't do much, but what I can do I will. Here are some links should you also be moved to help a little.

Search Dog Foundation ( thank you Renee!)

Parting Shot: Oh Stella, you don't know how lucky we are.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Usual Mud Lament

For two weeks every day has started and ended the same. Snow or rain when I go out to feed: check. Mud everywhere: check. I mean boot sucking mud. Now it sometimes does clear up during the mid portion of the day only to decide to start precipitating 10 minutes before I head out the door in late afternoon. I'm beginning to feel like I have a big black cloud over me in more ways than one.

The weekend was fairly unproductive on all fronts, waiting for lab work for myself to come back and dreading the 6 month vet check up for Dennett. Mine is fine, Dennett's, well waiting on that now too, but there were some changes I knew about. He is beginning to lose muscle mass, one cataract has completely thickened so he only really has limited sight in the other eye, and he has slowed down, even on his much loved walks. I don't think we're going to pull any miracles like we did with his meds three years ago. He looks forward to his meals, he is pain free and he still has his dignity. He'll let me know when it's time and I'll be there for him. Other than love him up every single day, that's all I can do and that's really all that can be done. We can't make this good old dog young again.

On Saturday I tried out the pattern I had picked for the whopping expensive voile fabric and thank heavens I didn't feel so cocky and cut into it. So far, I just can't get a Burda pattern to work for me. This one needed a lot of adjusting before I even cut out the muslin.

Still it's wonky. Even though the waist had been shortened, the over all design was too long, so I cut one side to see if it improved it. The armholes are huge, and I could take tucks there but I don't think it's worth it especially for this fabulous fabric.It means the darts would have to be changed and basically, the whole pattern redrafted. I have another possible pattern waiting in the wings!

Note to self, princess seams are best when they tie into the shoulder, not the armholes. I don't know who they draft for but it isn't me. I don't think I will even bother with Burda in the future no matter how much I like the style.

Afterwards I scrapped everything and cut out my first fly front pant muslin. I'm not cutting the whole thing out, making a pair of shorts really since that's where all the fit magic (and fussiness) happens at the top. Today I'll start in on the construction, zippers, welt pockets and waistband. That should keep me busy! :)

On weaving, there has been a little on the silk scarf. It's quite fine and I'm pretty slow with the two shuttles but it grows a little every day. The warp is completed for the overshot and waiting to be wound on and threaded.

Parting shot: Handsome as ever

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Very Good Week Indeed!

I eased into 53 in fine style, (And oh gosh, was elected for another Stylish Award). Tuesday ended up being sunny and warm and it was a joy to walk the main street of Ashland. The Shakespeare Festival is open again and the selection of plays is fantastic this year. The city is coming to life after it's long January-February quiet time. Many shops close after the first of the year for all or part of January.
As a local, it is frankly my favorite time. No crowds, easy parking, good sales and it gets me down to the green belt from the snow belt. What's not to love! Come May, and weekends especially, it will be packed. Plates from all over the country will be spied along the local highways and byways. I always honk and wave when I see New England state plates. I'm sure they think I'm nuts. Once in a while I actually run into folks from
that region and we chat about this and that.

But as usual I've wandered.... The stores were full of fresh spring wares, all of them. More time was spent window shopping than anything. As predicted I did get whooshed into two of my favorites. It wouldn't be a proper birthday without that. And released again with bags in hand. When I saw this big heady "skein" in Web-sters of 12 hand dyed yarns, all different and in my very favorite colors I was in fiber heaven.

It's got beads and loops and all sorts of fun different textures going on. The perfect compliment is Dream in Color Smooshy sock yarn. It would seen the Choo-choo really jumped the tracks on working with all whites and naturals! I also picked up a lovely little something for my Mom on Mother's Day, which I can't show just in case.

Fabric of Vision was the the next heady stop. Mostly basics in plain colors but then there was this.

An Italian woven silk and cotton double weave voile, for lack of a better or more knowledgeable description. I had been eyeing this fabric (along with the plaid I bought for a practical spring coat). It was bite your knuckles expensive but I found a pattern after months of searching that would be just perfect for the 2.5 yards I treated myself too. That's all I'm saying, but this is going to be cut into and soon.

The rest of the booty is all nice shirting materials, cotton sateen in a deep olive green, lovely white tightly woven Pima cotton (which is harder to find than you might think) and a beautiful black/grey shirt weight linen. Lastly, a new Colette pattern for a man's shirt which I'm hoping to do some drafting magic and get a tailored ladies shirt out of it too. We'll see on that one.

Gene fed both the dogs AND the horses, which is a really nice gift. I was able to come home and flop in the comfy chair and just relax. Dinner was take out and easy and good, although we both just wanted to get to the cake and ice cream!

In the last two days, I threw this together and I have to say, these Petite Plus patterns are so well drafted and fun to make. This shirt has absolutely no modifications and fits like a glove. I love the French Cuffs.

I didn't have any buttons to finish it yesterday but I'll remedy that today for sure.

DH thought it quite 70's mod in the fabric choice. It wasn't my favorite when I bought it on line, but it was the best of the stretch cotton I could find and inexpensive too boot. I love it now though and am glad I went for it. Groovy!!!

Parting shot: Jack, who has a work around (or over) for everything!

The door was used to begin with, but he has helped some with paint removal.