Britex report

So I did promise to report on the fabric shopping adventure.  I bought a white slub knit, and gray sweatshirt fleece, both remnants, neither of which I’ve even thought of sewing up but both of which should make useful additions to my day-to-day wardrobe when I do.  Britex is wildly over-priced so I wasn’t too tempted by anything that wasn’t on the remnant floor.

It was a lovely day of shopping with friends in the city in spite of getting drenched by the pouring rain in the middle of the worst drought in a generation.  You can see the Britex bag in the background of recent posts featuring my dress form in her scandalous state of deshabille, which really shows in the most recent post of the jacket I recently made.  Shameless hussy.

Back for more…

McCall's 6210

In January I decided to join a monthly goal sew-along on Pattern Review.  My goals each month so far are modest in the hopes that I can actually achieve them.  This month I had just 2 goals: to use a piece of wool purchased at the last Pattern Review Weekend event in Los Angeles to make a coat or jacket and to finish the machine quilting on a small quilt.  For the coat, the piece I had in mind was a lovely soft and lofty green wool tweed.  I had chosen a pattern also.  Sadly, I did not have enough fabric to make the chosen pattern, but while I was riffling through the coat and jacket patterns looking for one that would work, I came across this one and remembered I had another piece of wool that might work for this rare cardi pattern for woven fabric.  I’d say it did work.  I’m very happy with this jacket and got compliments (I think they were sincere) from everyone who saw me wear it today, minutes after finishing it.  For more technical details on how I made the jacket, I’ll refer you to the review I posted.

Why did I title this post Back for More?  Well, I’m headed back to Los Angeles for the next PR Weekend there this spring.  I figured before I bought more fabric I ought to try to use up everything I bought there last time.  I think the green wool is the last piece from the last trip.  I probably won’t get that sewn up, but I did find a suitable pattern.  It’s just that one hardly needs heavy coats when temps are running in the 65-75 degree range most days.  Today was a bit chillier so that’s why I wore the new coat today.

February is slipping away but I may yet have some time this weekend to attend to that quilt.  I’d say it’s about 60-70% quilted.  There’s hope.

Something old, something new

McCall's 6844 Navy Ponte

This cardi is my first stab at McCall’s 6844, which is a Best Pattern of 2013 on  I think I’ve owned it since 2013.   Seeing the potential in it immediately, I bought it in one of JoAnn’s so-cheap-you-have-to-buy-ten pattern sales and I’ve had it around for a while.  I planned to make it up with some off-white French Terry and several months ago I polled some sewing/style friends on whether or not to use the peplum version or the straight-no-peplum version.  I got some curious responses.  It turns out that not everyone knows the word “peplum,” although everyone was familiar with the detail once I explained it, and once we got past the initial confusion, everyone who cared voted for the peplum.  So by the time I got around to actually sewing it up, I had lost the pattern in the moving shuffle and had to go out and buy it again at what passes for full price for patterns.  Rats.  But I wanted to make this jacket and didn’t want to wait for the next big McCall’s pattern sale.  I brought the pattern home and started working on it, doing some of the recommended alterations based on my researches and put the French Terry in for a pre-wash as it looks suspiciously like it will shrink significantly in length to me.  While the Terry was in the wash I remembered I had this lovely navy ponte in stash and thought I’d make a wearable muslin.  Here’s the result.

Notes about the pattern:

  • Sizing:  Most everyone on PatternReview comments that this pattern runs large so I made a small even though according to my measurements I’d need a medium.  They were mostly right, but I did add 1 1/2″ in length, a generous 1/2″ in the body and 1″ to the circle hem of the peplum.  I thought the pictures of this view all looked short, even on petite people.  I am happy with the length.  I also added width to the arms.  I don’t recall reading this on PatternReview, but the current Threads Magazine pattern review article features this pattern and their tester commented that the sleeves were tight.  I happened to be wearing a similar style of garment at the time I was making these alterations and compared and sure enough, the sleeves were about 1″ narrower through the bicep area than on the jacket I was wearing.  So I made the alteration for this given in Fit For Real People.  I used the version that doesn’t increase the wrist circumference as I mostly plan to wear this over sleeveless dresses.  If I was making a jacket I wanted to layer over something with sleeves, I’d add even more and let the wrist enlarge as well.  For this version, I am happy with the fitted wrist area.
  • Interfacing:  Many reviewers mentioned leaving the interfacing out of the collar/lapel and being happy with the result so I tried that.  I would interface next time.  I think the collar lacks body and will not fold correctly when I put the jacket on.  I hate having to fuss with a collar every time I put on a jacket.  I might even go so far as to double interface the collar area at the back neck.  This would give the jacket a better finish.
  • Pieces-parts:  I might buy a few more copies of this pattern next time there is a sale because when you cut the pattern apart to make the different views, you end up destroying the pattern for any other view as the pieces are drafted on top of one another.  Yes, I could have traced off the parts for the view I wanted, but my time is too valuable to bother with that when the pattern can be had for under $2.  I think I want to try the peplum-less view and the longer view with the straight hem.
  • For the French Terry:  I think I will look for a different pattern.  I think this one begs for a more refined fabric with nice drape.  Maybe New Look 6315 ?  Anyway, something a little simpler.  So if I use 6844, not one of the peplum views.

Underneath the jacket is a beach cover-up I made just before the jacket and reviewed here.  Another terrific McCall’s pattern.  I’ve always had better luck with McCall’s than other pattern lines.  I confess to having bought new fabric for this project, but I sewed it up within a couple of weeks of purchasing and it never made it to the stash.  Whew!  Close call.  I also confess to having bought 2 pieces of fabric from the 4th floor remnant area of Britex in San Fancisco a few weeks back and you can see the offending Britex bag peeking through from behind the right side of the dress form if you really look.  A bit of a backslide on the stash reduction project, but overall, still making progress.  And yes, I ironed out that wrinkle on the front of the jacket before I hung it in the closet.

Oh yeah, Something old is the navy ponte (about 5 years or so in the stash) and the something new is the fabric for the cover-up.

Crazy Knitting, Sane Sewing

McCall's 6963...again

McCall’s 6963…again




This top turned out well and I plan to wear it tomorrow when I go…fabric shopping!  Will post the results of my first purposeful fabric shopping trip in ages.  I’ve been in and near fabric shops over the course of the reduction program and have resisted adding to the stash, only buying what was needed for any current planned project and then using it up before getting back to stash reduction. This lightweight knit is again from the stash, I think it came from  There were other fabrics ahead in the queue but I finished knitting the sweater below and thought I might make a top to wear with this crazy sweater since the colors were so lovely together.  I know, crazy idea.  The best thing to do with that sweater is probably wad it up and toss it into the charity bin.  But more on the sweater in a minute.  This pattern has become my go-to cowl neck pattern.  I’ve got others, but they droop too low.  This one is just right.  Not sure how many 3/4 sleeve cowl neck tees I need, but I might make one more for winter and then will switch to spring/summer sewing and might need a few short sleeve or sleeveless versions for next year.  This time, I added a (an?) FBA to the pattern and that fixed the snugness all around.  Fit is good.  Even in this lighter weight, stretchier fabric, the sleeve cap wouldn’t set in without being cut down so I will do that to the pattern permanently now.

Note to Palmer and Pletsch:  yes, a set-in sleeve with a higher cap gives a more snappy appearance to a plain t-shirt, but what’s the point if the cap is SO high you can’t set it in without either gathering it or cutting it down in knits?

Okay, now on to the sweater:

Crazy Lace Sweater, aptly named

Crazy Lace Sweater, aptly named

Well it’s hard to say whether the yarn choice or the knitting instructions were the biggest culprit in this case but 2 lessons learned:

  • If a Craftsy Class combines the words Lace and Crazy in the title, whatever results is probably not going to be my cup of tea.  There were a couple of sweaters posted on the class boards by students in this Crazy Lace Sweater Class that were really cute, but I didn’t like most of the students’ sweaters or even the sweaters knitted by the instructor for the class and that should have been a huge clue.  The one or two successes were very experienced knitters who completely altered the pattern.  And I know Lace is not crazy.  Lace is lovely and serious, requiring attention to business at all times and deserving of a certain class of yarn, not craziness, which is for socks.  I do enjoy a little craziness in my socks now and again.
  • Singles yarns can be lovely, but the “textural” ones are declared forever off the table for me.  This yarn varied from fingering (sock) weight to nearly super-bulky weight randomly as you knitted along.  I hated knitting with it and do not like how it looks.  I will look more closely at yarn in future.  This is Manos Del Uruguay, worsted weight in Cornflower, which you’d think would be blue, but is really quite as purple as it looks in the photo.

So, there’s countless hours of knitting down the tubes.  Good thing knitting brings other rewards.  This thing came out so huge I had to basically do some half-fashioning and treat the knitted fabric as just that, fabric, and sew up the side seams, taking out about 4 inches per side after completing the sweater.  I’m not much for un-knitting a whole sweater and you really can sew knitted fabric on your sewing machine easily, it won’t ravel if you do it right.  The sweater is so lumpy and bumpy because of the inconsistent weight of the yarn and it will not settle down with blocking, I tried that.  To make matters worse, the dye is inconsistent as well so the sweater really had no hope.  I should never have tried even a minimally structured garment out of such unstructured yarn, but I only noticed the lovely color and thought the variations might add interest to the areas of plain knitting but not overwhelm the lace.  Not the first time I’ve gone this wrong, but the first in a long time.  I’ve got several successful sweaters knit from Jacquelyn Fee’s book, The Sweater Workshop.  Next time I’ve got the urge to knit a sweater, I’ll head back there and get some less capricious yarn.  Meantime, I might make some fingerless mitts out of what I’ve got left since the color goes so well with this top.  On fingerless mitts, I don’t think the yarn variations will be such an issue and although they are structured, they are quite small.  Or even better, a loose-knit open scarf pattern would serve, but I’m not sure this top needs a scarf.  The neck has enough interest on its own without adding a scarf, plus I don’t trust this wool against my neck.  I’ll think about it a bit longer before committing this time.  For the now, I’m back to knitting socks, and not even crazy ones, just plain brown superwash wool.  Winter’s coming.


Back to the Stash

McCall's 6963

Once again, what looked to be ugly fabric turned out to be a very wearable garment.  This is a test of McCall’s 6963, a Palmer/Pletsch tee with 2 cowl neck options.  I made view C with the higher neckline and 3/4 sleeves in a straight 12.  It fit perfectly when I used 3/8″ side and sleeve seams.  This fabric is a tight knit with minimal stretch.  In a stretchier knit, the 5/8″ seam called for in the pattern would probably work.  I might also do an FBA rather than the narrower seam, but since the sleeves needed the same amount of alteration as the body, I think I’ll hold off on that FBA.  I will be making this in another knit from the stash that coordinates with a sweater I’m knitting.  It’s a great pattern and it’s hard to believe there are only 2 reviews of it on so I might bestir myself to add a review.  I haven’t done that in ages because every new pattern I’ve tried lately has had plenty of reviews and I’ve had nothing useful to add.  This time I could mention I lowered the sleeve cap, which neither of the other reviewers seems to have done although one mentions how high the cap is.  My sleeve would not set in without that minor alteration.

Who are these people?

female subject ca male subject ca 1850-60

So genealogy has never been my metier, but lately I have become somewhat interested in it.  Pictures like this are apt to do that.  Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by these photos which floated around in a collection of old family mementos primarily because no one seemed to know who these folks were.  They could be Bidwells (no near relation to the famous General John who had no issue, my Bidwells are descended from John Horace Bidwell, a very distant cousin to the famous Chico scion) from Shasta County California, they could be Clines from Canada, they could be Corbetts from Ireland, they could be Morgans from Wales; when you get back that many generations, the possible permutations begin to boggle the mind and you start to have an appreciation for the concept that the human race is really one big family.  In any case, do your descendants a favor and write on the back of every photo in your house, the date, the location and the names people in it.  I have another collection of old family photos for which this was done and I thank the organized person who attended to this detail.  I think it was my great-grandmother Harriet Teel Cline, otherwise known in the family as “Hat Creek Hattie.”  I’m planning a trip to Hat Creek one day to meet some of my long-lost cousins and see the sights that are depicted and named in these photos: the Pit River, Burney Falls, the towns of Cassel, Hat Creek, and the Millville cemetary where everyone seems to be buried.

It’s good to be back to the blog after a lengthy hiatus.  More postings should come along in short order.


This year I somehow managed to get a few more illustrations done in the spring section of the Nature Poetry book.  This first page was done a while back in Three Rivers, if not in a covert then certainly in a meadow after walking over a clear stream strewn with mossy stones.   And there were birds singing.  2 out of 3 spring-ish poetic allusions covered, not bad.  Unlike Christina Rossetti, I am averse to sitting in coverts and lingering near mossy-stone stream beds with the ticks, mites, fleas and mosquitos.  Decidedly unpoetic of me, I know.

Nature Poetry illustration 2


The second is of our olive trees in bloom.  There will not be follow-up illustrations depicting the development of the fruit since we (again, most unpoetically) sprayed the trees shortly after I finished the drawing below to prevent a crop from setting.

Nature Poetry Illustration 3

Like most commercial orchard crops, olives grown in a backyard are not properly cared for to produce anything that will rival what a pro who knows how to control the critical variables can grow, but that doesn’t mean the crop won’t be abundant and cause no end of nastiness come fall.  If you want to press olive oil, you must withhold water for 3 weeks prior to harvest.  I expect some similar admonition applies if you are trying to create olives with interesting flavor profiles for curing whole.  Well, the rest of your landscape would not appreciate the stress this watering strategy causes and your HOA association might call on you to make sure you are not neglecting your landscape in violation of the CC and R’s.  So, no olives are to follow the bloom.

Many years ago, I had an old olive tree situated between my garage and the adjacent orchard that must have been treated with just the right amount of benign neglect because come fall, the elderly Armenian ladies I didn’t even know would come knocking at my door toting buckets and asking to collect the olives from my tree.  Silly me, I didn’t even think to request a lesson in the processing of olives from them back then and now, of course, they are all gone and their descendants never learned the fine art of home curing olives.  There just might be a poem hiding in that situation.

Any road, the olive drawing really belongs thematically (for me) to the poem on the facing page where it would not fit visually:  In a Spring Still Not Written Of, by Robert Wallace.  So, at “double nickels,” I guess I have become one of those he mentions who has time for poems that really are not written for me, sigh.

Why do I refer to these illustrations I’m doing here as “cartooning?”  One of my instructors in the Filoli Botanical Illustration Certificate Program refers to the linework in drawings like these as “cartoon lines” in a very dismissive way and points them out as something to avoid at all costs.  That certainly doesn’t stop me from doing work in this style of colored drawing I enjoy so immensely, it only stops me from showing any of the work to them, ever again.

High Anxiety

Just a few thoughts on why it is that I’m always feeling anxious when working at the computer, and why I’m not alone.  I thought about this quite a bit recently when my trusty laptop died and I had to upgrade to a new version of Sibelius music scoring software, a program I’ve been using for years, because the old version on which I am quite competent just doesn’t run on the Mac platform. With the death of the old laptop, we are now all Mac, all the time with a new MacBook Pro Retina 15″ laptop replacing the last link to the PC world in our little world of computing.

Consider knitting for a minute.  I learned to knit when I was 10.  I wasn’t very good at it at first, but I got better through practice and now I feel confident I can knit anything if I just follow the instructions.  There are new and better tools now and lots of interesting techniques out there of which I was completely unaware back when I learned, like circular needles, Entrelac and Moebius knitting for example, but if you gave me those same needles and yarn from 1968 (or 1668 for that matter), I could still knit with them successfully and make something useful.  Also, after a knitting interregnum of almost 20 years, I was able to take up my needles  and start knitting again as if I had never stopped.  K2tog still means knit two together.

How different with computers:  I first started working with computers at 16 in high school and did some simple programming, first in Fortran on CARDS and then Pascal in college.  The language, tools and techniques I used then are of absolutely no use to me now and probably would be unrecognizable to anyone under the age of 50.  After I took about 8 years off from computers between college and working in a library, I was unable even to start up a computer and make it run a program, much less do anything useful.  Unless you use computers every day, you are constantly out of date.  Even if you use them every day, you are out of date if you don’t upgrade every program at every opportunity. The new skills required don’t build on the old skills in the virtual world in same way they do in the analog world.  Old tools have no utility.  There is no mastery built of long experience, there is only the constant fear that the small world of utility you have created for yourself will collapse at any minute if your computer crashes and you will be starting all over again at ground zero in a new world that is several magnitudes more complex than it was last time your computer crashed, taking with it all of it’s comfortable software.  This creates a sense of dread looming in the background at all times as you work with the certain knowledge that your skills are woefully out of date and when the inevitable crash comes, you will not be able to do at all what you can easily do now.

This is one of the reasons I prefer knitting, which, by the way, I often describe as the original binary code.  Just knit and purl.  That’s all there is.  Everything is built upon a base of knit and purl, from the simplest cotton washrag to the most complicated Estonian lace shawl.  So, I’m going to take a deep breath, shut down the computer, and go finish my latest knitting project, the instructions for which I admittedly downloaded from the Internet, and very easily from the lovely site.  Slip one knitwise and call me in the morning.

Celtic Braid Mitt


Sweet Violets and Healthy Vegetables

Sweet Violets

One of the requirements of any new home was that it have a place to grow violets.  I guess the new house passes muster.  This is the second display of this magnitude we’ve had since we moved here in February and some of these plants are still sending up new blooms stalks!

Another requirement was a place to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and zucchini.Zucchini Sprouts Garden Boxes 2014

Check, check, check, check and check.  As you might guess, there are a few other things to check off the list, but vegetables and violets are a very good start.  We got the white raised planter boxes from New England Arbors.  We’ll see come July how they perform for raising vegetables.  We know the Tomato Boxes  can raise great tomatoes because we’ve used them before.  And there’s always the Farmer’s Market in case of crop failure on any front, but I do love putting vegetables on the table at noon that were still growing on the vine at half-past 11.

Forbidden Fabric

plaid crop photo

These new crops could use a press, but I just pulled them out of the dryer after wearing them today and it’s late and I’m lazy, so there you are.  You’ve seen this top before.  Now there are crops to go with.  Really, this is a test of a Burda pattern that I want to use for some nice solid twill in a deep khaki/taupe from the ever-diminishing stash.  Okay, I confess I bought some t-shirt fabric when I went to buy the zipper(s) for these 2 pairs of crops, but that’s still an overall reduction and if I sew the t-shirt fabric right away, it won’t ever add to the stash.  And it’s so rare to find a decent t-shirt knit at a local fabric store I buckled under the pressure.

The reason this post is titled Forbidden Fabric is that when I moved and sorted the stash, I had help and my help declared this fabric out of bounds and tossed it into the charity box.  In fact, the last two projects I’ve sewn are of rescued fabric I was forbidden to sew/wear.  Since the garden of Eden, forbidden things are the hardest to resist.