Wednesday, February 27, 2013


There is nothing quite so satisfying as a successful pairing, be it food and wine, yarn and weave structure, or two fabrics that were meant to be together. I've had some utter failures with all of the previous pairings, but also some great successes. Most recently, another little capelet.

 I had been saving this barely one yard piece of Italian wool herringbone for almost two years.

 I love it that much but was unable to find anything that remotely matched it's odd peachy/taupe or deep eggplant brown hue. So it sat. And then a roll of silk arrived one day at Fabric of Vision and (you can imagine a drum roll, and enough light bulbs going off to power a carnival), I just knew I had found the perfect pairing for my wool.

 Not only that, I had already done the perfect pattern and enjoyed wearing the style. Over the weekend I did some slow sewing. I pressed and steamed and got it all just right.

But wait, there are some other pairings going on up here at Runamuck! Monday night I stepped onto our deck and what should I spy but Mr. Fox and not just the Mr. but it would seem there is a Mrs too! Two lovely Grey Foxes, full and fluffy, that have found each other this winter mating season. They will stay together all through the spring and summer, raising their litter of kits and then the family will disperse in the fall. Kits and parents all going their separate ways until next January or February, when the cycle will repeat itself. I am hoping we will be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of those kits when they are old enough to accompany their parents. This year, summer can't come fast enough!

Back on the sewing front, I have started the duffle coat. Since it is a new pattern and while well checked in a tissue fit on Rhonda, I decided to do the lining first. There are a couple of reasons behind that decision. Number one is making sure there are no obvious fit issues
and number two is a practical measure on needle sizes. The lining is quite thin and I'm using a small sharp size 10 on it. For the outer wool shell, a size 16 jeans needle. There will be some thick seams and of course, a fair amount of simple top stitching. Pairing the needle to the fabric weight and content is always a consideration for good results. With lining complete I can change out the needle to the larger size and be good to go for the rest of the project.

Finally, Robin has provided me with some great pairings this week. The most surprising is some serious bonding with Dandy. Believe me, it was quite mutual.  I will let the pics speak for themselves. Consider them all Parting Shots of great Hello's!



Monday, February 25, 2013

Two Chicas in Chico

Last Thursday a girlfriend and I hit the asphalt for a little road trip down to Chico California. We had talked and talked about taking an overnight antiquing adventure and Chico is a good destination for just that thing! There is a a wonderful overload of antique shops, consignment and thrift shops in the greater Chico/Paradise area. It's about 3.5 hours from Ashland. Just a titch too much for a day trip but perfect for an overnight. We hit browsing overload and visited maybe half of what's there. But that doesn't mean we came home empty handed. In fact the "party" van was pretty loaded with stuff as we headed north on the I5 for home.

My dear friend got some wonderful furniture pieces to fill a perfect little dollhouse of a second home. I think the whole thing is around 800 square feet so while few pieces are needed, they all are important. A lovely chair and large wooded rack with shelves made it into the van along with some other neat smalls. Myself, I had one or two little things I was looking for, foxes always and but only spied furs. Mid century or danish style smalls of which a pair of salt and peppers

 and a pair of candlesticks fell into those parameters and my bag!

 Easy to pack and inexpensive. And then of course, the strange and funky that might catch my eye. This old elementary school desk probably fits that bill.

I was unhappy with the step down end table. The bulk of it too low for ease of use next to the comfy chair and no secure storage from curious little thieves. Frankly, it was too small to hold all the crap that accumulates by the much coveted comfy chair. Enter indestructible school desk, mid century vibe with those legs and some great storage areas.

 No worries about drink rings on this piece with its Formica top!

And it was cheap! It was gum free! A score!

Did I mention that Chico is the hometown of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company?
If you like beer this is THE place to be, and we like beer.

 I was expecting some great beer, but I wasn't prepared for how good both the food and service are. The menu is not large (but the brewery is!), but it has a good selection and that goes for vegetarian options too. It was a classic case of eyes bigger than stomachs but we managed to roll ourselves out to home base at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, another nice place with excellent value.

So if you like antiquing and are on the west coast, I'd say the Chico area is a good bet for nice finds. The prices on the whole were astoundingly reasonable. You won't find any really early stuff like on the east coast but late 1800's/turn of the century 1900's oak and mahogany plentiful and well priced. A plethora of fine glass and decorative arts and some great furniture. I found some amazing danish teak pieces and some Heywood Wakefield items all at jaw dropping low prices. Take that San Francisco! And if you are a weaver, AVL Looms is right in Chico proper too. We will certainly make a return visit at some point in time.

Parting shot: Jack and the new tattoo flash collar. A gift from a Swig & Stitch demo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

First Dibs

Free patterns! If you see one you want, let me know via the comments. First come first served. You should be able to see the sizes if you enlarge the photo but if not, just ask! All are uncut/original folds etc. Please leave an e-mail contact or e-mail me so I can get an address for mailing from you. :)

In other news, Fabric of Vision had the front window busted out (busted in actually) at some wee hour Monday morning. Owner and friend Sandi got called by the police at 2:30 a.m. and had to wait until a glass place opened up before it could be boarded up. I figured it was much more fun sitting downtown keeping someone company than cleaning house so headed down and we waited together. Thank god Starbucks opens early! :) It was a long morning, but finally a local company came and got some plywood up and was able to clean the glass mess inside. We joked that she should put a sign on the wood saying it was a meteor strike, but Ashland being Ashland, someone probably would have thought aliens or a super secret branch of the government was responsible. Most likely it was some club goer, far gone in their cups, maybe pushed by a friend in similar condition. Nothing taken, no blood or severed body parts. Just one of those things.
I had some thoughtful feedback from Valerie on Detroit and I am linking here to her comments on my previous post. Check it out, some about the author Charlie LeDuff, others on Detroit itself. My father also added to the conversation privately with this article link and an additional book suggestion; "Punching Out--One year in a Closing Auto Plant" by Paul Clemens. He has this in hard copy and it will be waiting for me when I arrive in New England come April. Thank you both for putting some additional resources and information at my fingertips and for others to see too!

Monday also marked a drastic change in our weather. Good bye warm sunny thaw, hello winter, again. This week will be one of cold little clippers dropping down from the great north, bringing just enough snow at each shot to make the roads slick as all get out and freshen up the tree flocking. Nuisance snow! On request yesterday, Gene started a fire in the fireplace.

 After cleaning I plopped into the comfy chair, complete with Kindle and critters and we enjoyed some quiet time with a crackling fire while the snow whirled and whitened outside.
Parting shots: Juno, enjoying the sun while it lasted.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2460 Miles East of Here

If I got into my car and headed 2460 miles due east, it would land me on Joy Road in Detroit Michigan. Why am I telling you this? Because I have just finished reading one hell of a moving book about Detroit. Written by a native son of Motor City it documents the rise and long, hard, sad and painful decline of what once was a hub of American innovation and opportunity. Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
is a story about corruption, prejudice, stupidity and decay on both a personal level and a national one. There's the big picture of how it all went so damn wrong and then there are the small pictures, of how life now is in a city, that really is, all but abandoned. I even found myself wondering, "Could it be that bad?" and then I did a little searching for pictures of Detroit, and yes, Virginia, it IS that bad, maybe even worse. For some of what I found, you can go here and here and here.  It's worth the time going to all three image sites. So, if you are looking for a good non fiction read that is thought provoking, current, smart, frightening and painfully honest, this is for you.

It's hard to top that as an opener, but since I'm here and writing, I'll update you on sewing.
A single blouse has made it from the sewing closet to clothing closet.

 I've been pretty caught up in the reading. I did manage to re-organize my patterns. I have tossed those that were a fail for one reason or another and also weeded out ones I just knew I was never going to make. I'll be offering those for free in the next post. I need to get pics. These are all clean unused patterns in a range of sizes. More later.

On the garden front, I e-mailed my extension service and I e-mailed two local large nurseries that grow their own natives and exotics and not a one of them has bothered to answer.  But wait, the questions are answered in spite of them! :)  What Grows Here? Mountain Gardening in Northern California by Carol L. Young . I am happy I had bought this book a few years ago and even happier I remembered doing so. It had a lot of the information I wanted and needed. She even included a list of fire resistant plants! Woohoo

Parting shot: Just the two of us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

But the Weather's Divine

Isn't it just like February to be so contrary! You expect something awful and instead, you get some incredibly beautiful days. Our January thaw has continued, much to every one's delight. Sadly, I cannot make real use of it. There is still two feet of snow in the unplowed places. Hard, granular and crusty, a product of daily melting and nightly refreezing. The plowed areas ( pitiful few too) are ice packed and treacherous unless you are careful. No riding for this girl for a while yet, but I did get to sit on the back of my handsome red steed and got that same excitement that a typical 4 year old gets at their first pony ride. Nothing like it. Tolerant Dandy, with no halter or bridle or saddle was content to let me sit up there and why wouldn't he? He had a whopping pile of dinner time hay he had tucked into.  Such is my Feb. thus far, horses, horses everywhere and not a place to ride.

 I'll take my pity party inside and sew instead! The set of 4 napkins is now complete.
The much favored little red down throw, which had multiple little teeth and chew frays (causing it to leak down EVERYWHERE), has had a simple cotton duvet cover made.

 I basically sewed the throw in there. I made a big pillow case, arranged the throw inside. Closed it up catching the edge and then stitched all four corners so it wouldn't ball up inside. A few more heavy tacks midway along each side and Viola!, a fresh throw ready to warm laps and dogs alike.

 Oh and it's bright orange!

I finally dragged out the little mechanical Pfaff 6091 which does the best buttons holes and finished the little blue top.

 Laura had asked after the pattern number, it is Vogue 8585

 an out-of-print (OOP), pattern. For those that like it and want to find it, try Etsy or eBay. Etsy is where I found my copy of it. I had also forgotten how much I loved my 6091. It doesn't have any of the whistles and bells of the electronic or computerized machines, but it does have such a smooth way of going and the 5 step button hole is easy and good. It's still out and handled my third project. The Indygo Junction Mock Smock. I made mine as a vest in a classic muted wool plaid.

 No pockets. This pattern is generous in sizing, I stepped down from my usual size pick for this company when I did the tissue fitting and will go down one more size for a summer top version. Warning, the bindings can be fussy. They aren't hard, they just require some concentration and patience. My tip, iron the turned hem edge up before you attach the reverse facing. It will make life so much easier. Square necklines and arm holes are a bugger to iron. I also added a pair of darts to the back and didn't bother with the side vents.

 Other than that, it's exactly like the ones shown! ;)

I'm ready to do an iron review too. The T Fal iron gets a solid B+.

 The steam is good, the iron gets hot enough, the "stay out of the way" cord, convenient and the front of it, good and pointy for getting in and ironing some of the harder bits in tighter places while you are sewing something together. I like the ceramic sole plate. It is smooth and glides well over both cotton and wool so far. The wool was a looser plain weave, rough and grabby and it steamed and ironed it quite well. Easy to fill and only drippy if you don't wait until it is completely warmed up to the temperature you've picked. The burst is good and consistent. But it's not an A and here is why. The iron is light, I like an iron with more heft. This has none. The temperature knob is on the body under the handle. My fingers are not long enough, nor is it free enough to turn from an iron holding position. I must put the iron down and adjust by putting a finger on each side under the handle. Plus it is just too slimline to the iron body. If the whole knob stuck up a bit more, I could get a better gripe on it overall and use one hand. Ergonomics are important with something hand held, especially when that something gets burning hot. The setting markings are sparse. Really they could have given you a few more fabrics on there. Small complaints yes, but enough to keep it from a better grade. We have yet to see how durable it is.

In other news, my parents rode out storm Nemo well. The wind howled, the snow fell, the plow guy came, cleaned them up and shoveled the walks. They were rarin' to go before the driving ban was lifted. With no loss of power they had hot meals, warm house, TV to keep updated and a worried daughter checking in more often than needed. Piece of cake! And lucky. Many people are still struggling with the aftermath, be it flood damage, downed trees, no power or one of a hundred things that get harder with bad weather.

Parting shots: Miss Bea, obviously giving me and my camera the raspberry!

Trying to think of something else to make me take it away...far away.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Button Up and Batten Down

For those on the east coast, it's going to get rough. Old timers like myself may remember the Storm of '78. If you don't, you can see pictures here of its monumental impact on the
New England area.  From the shores of Hull and Revere where they withstood (or didn't), four high tides, to the thousands of folks stranded in their cars on major roadways like 128 for days. It was an event you never forget. Back then there weren't cell phones or internet or tweeting either. If the phones went down, you really were out of touch. You had Michael Dukakis on the tube in a sweater for comfort. Oh MY! ;)

Today while watching the endless weather reports and senate hearings, I had another marathon cutting session. I finally took that cashmere coating down and did something with it. Coat and lining are cut out and ready to go.

 A couple of new patterns slipped in too. Who could resist something fun like leopard leggings?  I will admit, using animal print ( not printed animals!), is a stretch for me.

 A cute Indygo Junction vest pattern also made it into the mix.

 I did this in a small piece of wool I got to go with the coat but decided I didn't want to go that route (and cut this lovely wool for a few accents) so a different match was made. It will be trimmed out in dark brown linen. I hope this one works out well, because I think it would make a cute and comfortable summer top too. I'm losing the pockets on this pattern for now. Lastly, a really fun retro print cotton (I used fabric this for a set of napkins and fell in love with it), to be made up as a blouse. If nothing else, I'll match my table linens!

There are some napkins in progress and a few other small items to make it to the cutting table.  My garment sewing may be saying it's still winter, but I sure am enjoying bringing some bright spring colors into some of my other sewing.

The blue top is done but for buttons and buttonholes.

So stay safe people, stock up and get some cooking done for reheating easily, get the board games out, the pets in to snuggle, the extra blankets, the shovels, the boots and winter woolens, fill extra water jugs, charge up and get ready to power down and make the best of it. It's about all you can do.

Parting shots: I got your back.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Victory and Defeat

I'm guessing you all think this is about yesterdays Super Boring Bowl. I gave equal time to the Puppy Bowl to be honest and wondered if little Marta needed a home, because we would welcome her cute little self here NP! This is actually about two new patterns. One I wasn't at all sure about and one I was positive was going to be fabulous. How wrong we can be when we judge a pattern by its envelope!

Let's get to the wadder first. Vogue's Sandra Betzina line is small and not too much of it excites me, but one of her newish vest patterns grabbed me.

 I bought fabric and thread and did a pretty good tissue fitting. So what went wrong. Why do I look like a tube of toothpaste in it and what's up with that gaping neck? The pictures make this look far better than it does in person BTW.

 Well, in a word proportion, something can fit and it does, but proportion counts for a lot. The neck is far too big and an adjustment would need to be made to make the distance between shoulder seam and bust point shorter. This in turn would throw off the armhole, which is surprisingly small at the chosen size. The waist is spot on but the hip just doesn't have a pretty curve at all. Part of it may be the fabric. This fabric has a nylon blend right side, thin quilting and then a gauze cotton backing, all channel stitched.

 There is no drape and it likes a very small stitch length. It is not easy to take apart and isn't holding up well. I have to say, even without princess seams the fit and proportion of Connie Crawford's Butterick pattern (5473), is much more flattering. So, this Vogue vest has hit the salvage fabric pile, unfinished. If I look back at all my sewing, vests give me the hardest time in the fit and flatter category

Now onto the winners side.

 Decades of Style 1930's Salon Pant. It uses a seemingly endless amount of fabric and I wasn't convinced this wide leg yoked pant would be good on me. I picked a fabric from stash. A dark Old Gold colored medium weight ponte knit.

 A little give but not much, pretty darn stable. While I love this color it is not one that is particularly flattering up by the face. But for pants, perfect! I did a muslin and knew I would have to make adjustments (and future pairs will get still more tweaking), but I was so surprised and happy when I slipped these on. Again proportion. The yoke is heavily shaped right at the waist and flares out to hug the upper hip before it drops to the floor in the wide leg, the crotch, spot on. It's pretty and comfortable and fits nicely. The pictures do not do it justice.

These are a little weighty in the knit, but for a drapey summer rayon, tencel blend or linen, this may be a go to summer pant pattern. It will be cool and flowing. And who doesn't like snaps at the side?

 I didn't need both side seams open to get on and off, so the left side was sewn up and top stitched, the right got the snaps. The only thing this pattern lacks is pockets, but I have a plan for those too for future pairs. So far each of the Decades of Style patterns I've tried are well drafted, nicely sized with great instructions. A pet peeve with me and independent pattern makers is often the skimpy sizing and lack of consistent proportion up through the sizes. Just because someone gets fluffier around the body it doesn't mean their neck and shoulders grow in the same proportion. There is an art to good drafting and this pattern line seems to have it.

In farm news, it's pretty quiet. The weather has been good. No major storms on the horizon and our snow is melting down. All the beasts outside spend their days as equine solar collectors. I spied the two horses sacked out side by side in a sunny spot on clean snow yesterday. Snoozing away in the warmth, enjoying our little thaw.

Parting shot: Look behind you Stella, the dreaded bone thief Robin is honing his skills!