Sunday, March 27, 2011

Potpourri of thoughts

As you can see I've been playing around with the blog settings and getting bolder about trying a couple of new things. Technology just keeps on going and it is hard to keep up and harder still to find the time to learn all this new stuff. Did you get your new IPad this week? I bought a new printer/scanner/fax recently and try as I did I couldn't get it to scan and print the size of paper I needed. So I finally gave in and called the help line to finish the set up. The technician (who was based in Montreal) was great and so patient with me. Now I am set to go - once I get the right paper!!

At one of the classes this week we talked about preparing a project ahead and smocking it later. One lady had come with this in mind and was preparing to make up 'Little Breeze' in a combination of View A and View B - the turn-down ruffled edge with the coloured panels and picot hem. 

Her plan is to have a number of garments partially constructed and ready to smock so that when she goes to the cottage in a few months she can sit and sew in the warm sun on her deck to stitch . We talked about many different way of doing this pattern and, being a quilter first, she has a wealth of fabrics in her stach just waiting to be employed. You could just see the wheels of creativity whirlling as we talked about all the things she could do and combine. I can hardly wait till next week to see what she has chosen and how these prints work together!

This is the kind of creativity I just love to see and she has promised to let me photograph her project to share with you.

You don't have to limit yourself to simply sitting on the deck to stitch. If you are taking a road trip and don't get car sick, you can often manage a bit of handwork in the car. I know the roads to our cottage so well I could practially drive them with my eyes closed (not). I can get a hem stitched or facing sewn in place easily and feel I've accomplished a great job before I even get there.

In preparation a long flight I know ladies who prepare a small project, precut their flosses and bring along a thread snip (the kind that looks like a pendant) so they don't have to carry scissors. Again you can get a lot done in an airport or on a flight and never be bored. You might want to put everything into a needle 'book' made of felt. Your threads will cling to the felt and stay tidier than in a tin or zippered case. And do include a needle threader. No matter how good your eyes are a threader will allow you to thread up those tiny eyes more easily if the ride gets a bit bumpy. Do include a number of pre-thread needles to get you going. Don't forget your laying tool for grooming those stitches if you are smocking.

The tam to the new pattern went together in a flash - no mare than 45 minutes from layig out the fabric and tracing off the pattern to finished hat. Now it is on to finishing the text, illustrations and more sample garments in a second size range. I have two fabrics that have been begging to be used, one with strawberries and the other with little bumble bees. Their time has come. They now have coordinating fabrics for the additional pieces so I will try to get something ready for photography as quickly as possible.

So until next time, keep stitching.....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring is offially here - I think

According to the the weatherman, Spring arrived Sunday evening. Monday morning I woke to rain and the birds singing their hearts out. This is something we haven't heard for months. The robins are back as well as the mourning doves and today we saw our cardinal at the bird feeder. She is just too skittish to capture on film. But don't put away your winter boots if you live in Ontario - we are expecting snow again on Wed. We all keep asking - will it ever end?

We drove to Acton, ON Saturday to attend The Ontario Woodlot Association AGM. We drove there and home by country roads and found it was a very interesting journey with the sun shining brilliantly all day. We left here at 8 a.m. and took what the GPS said was the shortest route. "Betsy" was mistaken but we saw new territory and many beautiful country homes. We came home our usual route and made slightly better time!

Although the country side still looks very drab, matted and brown there is now and underlying hue of soft green coming through. Most of the streams and rivers are swollen and running free - we even saw several fellows out fishing near the Holland Marsh! Not sure what you would fish for at this time of year but there they were. We also noted that many of the trees were taking on a yellow-green tinge as well. So they will soon be breaking into bud.

This is the first woodlot meeting we have attended and I certainly learned a great deal. Our cottagers' Association has a membership and we attended as representatives. I learned about controlled burns and how they renew the forest and grasslands. Many times vegetation returns to what it has been years before as seeds that were buried beneath debris are freed to germinate and grow. Some undesirable species, though, are made stronger with this technique so it isn't full-proof. And here I always thought that fire was the biggest enemy of the forest.

Another speaker had been to Easter Island. He told us about how the people who had settled the island many, many centuries ago had depleted the forest and how this had been their downfall. Very briefly put, his point to us was that we, as members of the human race, need to be very thoughtful in terms of our environment, how we use it, abuse it and care for it. We should be thinking ahead by generations not just where the next dollar can be made. Funny how it all relates back to simple things like keeping our woodlot thriving.

There were several other speakers but I won't bore you with their topics. I went just to keep my husband company but I think I have become sufficiently interested to go again next time to learn more.

I've been sewing when possible between all the other things that have happened this week (the wedding couple were here for four days) but haven't accomplished a great deal it seems.  Here is the boy's jacket over the girl's shirt and kilt. Just have to make up the tam now and I will have the full set done as a white Christening outfit for boy or girl.

 So here are the two versions - girls' with the ruffled shirt and kilt and the boys' with the pants and bow tie.  I skipped the buttons and buttonholes on the jacket so it would do for both. But on the kilt I did make it so it could lap for a girl or for a boy. All that is missing is the kilt pin and a flower or bow at the neckline. 

This is just the stepping-off point for this little pattern. There is just so much you can do with it so I better get on with it, right?, so you can start creating and sewing with it too!! On that note I will close and return to writing.

 So till next time.....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I've been busy sewing!

Well, this weekend we've moved the clocks forward for daylight savings but Spring sure doesn't look any closer! It has precipitated every day for the whole of last week -waffling between rain and snow. The only good thing is that is has no accumulated. I haven't any right to moan about things here when conditions in Japan are so terrible. I turned on the news channel as I normally do at 5:30 a.m. the day of the quake and could not believe what I was seeing! The video of the tsunami was on every channel and it just didn't look real. I am still in disbelief. My heart goes out to everyone there who has lost family or homes and everything. May those who are left be safe now and may there be no more quakes or disasters over there so people can begin recovering.

This week I began stitching another set of samples for the pattern, The Infant Wardrobe I. These pieces are for a white Christening Ensemble and I used the white 100% cotton Ottoman that I found in Fabricland. (I haven't seen Ottoman fabric for decades so I snatched the remainder of the bolt!) It washed up perfectly and because I wanted the ribs going the length of the garments, cheated and cut them with the crosswise grain running lengthwise. These are baby garments and since the fabric washed so well I have no fear in doing so. The fabric looks a bit like grosgrain ribbon as the rib is fairly fine. Next I chose Swiss satin batiste for the jacket lining and the boy's shirt. I wanted to try clean lining the jacket as my first test had made use of the facing pieces. But when a friend said she hates making anything with facings it started bells ringing. So in the pattern you will have a chose of construction methods.
Here is the full suit. I've tacked a bow tie at the neck but I'm not sure it is the right size so will have to look at that a bit more carefully. There are no buttons or buttonholes on this jacket so it will do for a boy or girl.
And here is a shot of the shirt and pants on their own. These are not the very best of photos as I rushed to get them done this morning by lamp light! But at least they will give you an idea of what is coming.

The pieces have gone together perfectly and this time I chose French seams over Flat felled seams for the shirt. For the pants I serged the seam allowances as the fabric was a bit stiff and didn't like being top stitched when I made up the jacket. One needs to be flexible and adjust finishing techniques according to the fabric you are using. French seams are great on fine fabrics but don't work for everything.

I am now working on the kilt and have the girls' shirt cut out. The ribs of the ottoman fabric make pleating the kilt so easy! I will try the tam as well so there is a complete set in white. I have fabrics for two more girls' sets ready to go and they will feature a few variations to hopefully inspire you. Just have to keep my eyes peeled for fabrics suitable to do up a couple of sets for boys that will show you what you can do with the pattern with them in mind.

The kilt and tam are traditional military wear for men so if you have a Scottish background you could certainly do these up in a family tartan and many come in miniature so they would be a better scale for little people. 

One last shot - this my Christmas Cactus which is in full bloom at the moment for the third time since before Christmas. It is covered in buds and is so beautiful the way if fades from this glorious pink to white. This is a record as for years there was not even a bud on this plant!

Well that's it for today. Hopefully I will have more photos for you next week. As I am stitching, I am working on the instructions for the pattern. So it will be a little while yet before it goes to print.
Have a great week and keep stitching!!

P.S. Black Squirrel is alive and doing very well in case anyone was worried about him. We spotted him dashing across the top of the fence in the back yard this week between the snowflakes! He lives to taunt yet another day.....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shopping on Queen

The weather Fri. was mild and the sun was shining beautifully when my friend picked me up to drive into the city to shop for fabric. We picked up our friend Angela on the way down as Angela knows the fabric district so well that the staff in every store calls her by name! 

We were looking for fabric for my friend's dress for the wedding of her daughter in Vietnam this spring. It will be hot and humid and the wedding is going to be on the beach so the fabric had to be cool to wear. 

Now if you have never shopped in the fabric district in Toronto it is a real adventure. It is not like going into your regular fabric store or quilt store where the bolts of fabric line the shelves in neat rows often by colour or type. Most of the stores are like fabric jungles and people like me have a bit of trouble navigating the vast and overwhelming selection. (That's why I love to bring Angela with me She knows where everything is and which stores to visit to find the best of everything.) 

Here is just a sampling of what you might find when you pass through the doors of one of these shops.

There is every kind of fabric you can image and such fabulous silks and embroidered or pleated fabrics. Some that defy description.

And then of course there i the stuff that is so old I would consider it junk. But you know what they say, one man's junk is another man's treasure.... 

One decorating store we visited had such an amazing array of drapery hardware - all so modern and not at all what you would find in the big chain stores!

And they had walls of silk and other fabulous fabrics for draperies and upholstery but still in weights with which you could make clothing. Every colour you could imagine. Embroidered, pleated, tucked, plain. It left me breathless!

We did find my friend's dress fabric in a more traditional store called LA Fabrics. She bought the whole bolt of pure silk fine Georgette that was over dyed and embroidered in an allover design with a fine chain stitch. It seemed just a bit dark but the sales girl put a light coloured lining fabric under it and it lifted the whole colour scheme and showed off not only the embroidery but the delicate colouring. Sold! 

And then we were off to a Greek pastry shop for a bite of lunch before we all headed home. Another successful day and another great shopping adventure. 

Many of the fabric shops in my old stomping grounds are closing and suddenly bead stores are popping up everywhere. It is so sad to see the fabric stores go. Last fall we were there shopping for the wedding dress fabric and it was impossible to find the kind of lace we needed. And since then there have been so many visible changes along the street. 

If you have any hankering to experience this part of Toronto I urge you to make the visit in the near future. Like everywhere, fashion fabrics are getting harder and harder to find. So take the subway or the bus, take the train or drive (parking is not impossible) and savour this part of Toronto before it disappears! You just might find a bargain as well.

In the meantime keep stitching!!