Friday, February 28, 2014

Shearing at Riverbank Farm

Ron the Dog and the goats
Monday was shearing day at my brother-in-law Matt's farm. He had sixteen sheep on Monday, but that number is about to explode, as most of the girls are due to lamb next week. Looks like there are lots of twins, too.

Pauline gently sheared all the sheep in quick succession. Move slowly to keep them calm, she says, but she works at such a steady pace that we were done in no time. And I would bet that most, if not all of the sheep weighed more than Pauline.

Levi was the working dog of the day. He would select a sheep and nudge it out of the sheep pile so Matt could move it along to the shearing carpet. Then he would wait for his next command, perfectly still.

One of the geese is protective of Matt. It bit me in the leg as I closed myself into the same room as him, and then knocked on the door incessantly. I should mention Matt is a veterinarian, so Riverbank Farm sometimes feels like the Land of Misfit Animals.

Dennis is the new barn cat, a return to the SPCA, on clearance. His cat instincts are hilariously screwy. He has no fear whatsoever.

But the sheep are not misfits. There are registered Clun Forest sheep, black and white Cheviots, and one Border Leicester cross.  I am antsy to get this wool spun, as we have never had Clun Forest wool in the mix.


Last year's clip was recently spun, resulting in forty five pounds of two-ply for me, and a slew of blankets for Matt. He sends the wool to MacAusland's Woollen Mill on Prince Edward Island, one of very few mills that still weaves blankets.  (Side note: Years ago we received a blanket for Christmas in a stapled grain bag.  I had to step away and pull myself together. It remains one of my most cherished items.)

Five bags full
I could not resist a little dyeing on Wednesday.

So I think I'm all set for yarn. I'll have plenty for sale to dye at Fiber College in September!

Have a great weekend, I know I will.

p.s. - forgot to mention new Aussie puppies on the farm, 5 days old.  g a s p.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Stitcher's Wardrobe: Skirt

A basic denim skirt, no frills, pattern drafted using Cal Patch's instructions in her book Design-it-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified. Cal writes bite-sized directions on how to draft a pattern: Truckloads of fun!

This is a wearable muslin -- I am not in the habit of purchasing expensive fabric, so most of my first time work with a pattern gets completed into a garment.  I figure if it doesn't fit me it will fit someone else, and I can practice my facings and zipper installations (which sometimes affect fit).

Can you find the invisible zipper?

I may have overestimated my measurements, thus ending up with a roomy skirt. I'll be trimming my pattern down on the sides and adding another pair of darts in the back, as well as belt loops and a pocket for my phone.

I am good at wearing something handmade every day. I am also good at sending the things I do not wear to the Salvation Army, even the handmade stuff, and without a bit of regret ... gratification really. But I see a few holes in my wardrobe lately, I think mostly due to my ever-changing shape. Not a complaint, this ole body gets me around just fine. I simply need to replace some of my staples, and as a sewer I can rebuild my wardrobe. I have the technology. I have the capability. Ellen Mason will be that woman, better than she was before ... better, stronger, faster. (Cue music: Six Million Dollar Man theme song)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Stitcher's Wardrobe

My household is a textile theme park. My husband says I am poised for anything.  He's right.

I have a long history with textiles (we all do, really), and for each topic I explore I pick up the necessary equipment.  I am happy to say I have a good deal of experience with each of my purchases -- I am not simply a consumer, I dive deep into the process.  But like most artists, I move into another phase. Then the equipment sadly goes dormant.

I miss my old friends. My loom waits in a place of honor, ready at a moment's notice to get to work.

My press is empty and turns smoothly, and the flash cure unit simply needs to be plugged in. 

My spinning wheel is featured in our living area, such a beautiful piece it is.

My knitting machine is back in action, but we need a get-reconnected therapy session.  My sewing machines are ready for more action, including some unusual fabrics.

My dyes, dyepots, and scale are well organized and I have new lighting in my dye space, too.

Here is my Groundhog Day 2015 Goal:
A well rounded wardrobe of basics and not-so-basics, fashioned from the bountiful textile amusements I have been hankering.

I have a checklist of comforting old skills to cover:
hand knit and write patterns
machine knit
screen print
sew on the Bernina
serge with the Husqvarna
serge and mock chain on the Siruba
acid dye
fiber reactive dye
full or felt
reclaim or refashion

Plus a checklist of some new challenges:
discharge print
design my own fabric at Spoonflower
pompom & tassel
applique & patchwork

And I have a checklist of garments and accessories to be included in my wardrobe: 
cardigan sweater, sweater vest, pullover sweater, scarf, hat, mittens, coat, dress, shirt, skirt, leggings, tee, pants, socks, slip, undershirt, bike shorts, apron, handkerchief, and brooch.

I feel sure there will be more than one of some garments (I love a study, after all), and some projects will check more than one item off the list of techniques.

Someday is finally here. Hooray!.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dress + Cardigan: Installment 12

Happy Groundhog Day!

Maybe you recognize dress no 12, it is my hiking dress from last June.  It has turned into a hard working smock, good for chores that require deep pockets and freedom of movement. The pockets are Cal Patch inspired, and I plan to make tons more of them.

This sweater is called Big Pappa after my Dad, and is a gift for our boy Sam.  It is worked in Briggs & Little Heritage yarn, purchased at the factory in New Brunswick on our way home from leaving Sam in an entirely different country.  Yarn shopping is a good pain killer.

The zipper is heavy duty with two pulls.  Normally when shortening a zipper I fold the top at a 90 degree angle and stitch it down, but this zipper is too stiff for that.  Wrapping the top in wool turned out to be the best solution.

Big P on his dozer
The back will be receiving the Mary Maxim treatment, a duplicate stitch rendition a John Deere 350C, my Dad's bulldozer.  I have a thing for heavy equipment -- it is apparently in my blood, and Sam's too.  I am tempted to make another one of these with his Case 580 Super K.  For me.

So there it is.  Twelve dresses (actually more) and twelve sweaters.  The patterns are not complete, so I will take the next six weeks to write three more.

I will lay out my goals for Groundhog Day 2015 this week, and I am giddy to get going.  Giddy, I tell you!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dress + Cardigan: Installment 11

Dress no 11 is a shift made of linen? Cotton?  Not sure, there was no fiber content written on the bolt, but it sure does feel and behave like linen.  It has three-quarter length sleeves, and is remarkably versatile.

Jane Doe is a gal with whom I have not connected.  This vest was knit on my knitting machine with sock yarn -- a little too drapey and smooth for my taste.  Bring on the scratchy.  The stitch motifs are from Mary Jane Mucklestone's 150 Scandinavian Motifs.  The bird's tail has been modified from the original pattern to fit in a 24 stitch repeat, and to reflect the bird's love of extra spicy burritos.

There is a large learning curve when working on a knitting machine.  I keep telling myself to be patient with myself, that I must be allowed to be a beginner in the beginning.  

I must be allowed to be a beginner in the beginning.

The criss-cross back is a treatment I would like to revisit.  

Tomorrow is Installment 12, my last piece in this project, a wooly number with pockets and a zipper.  And then, a deep breath and a new set of wicked fun goals.