May 2008 Archives

You know those niggling little tasks which would improve your life immensely once done, and which aren't even that hard, but to which you somehow still never manage to get around? Well, this weekend David and I totally DID those things. It felt awesome.

During the most laid-back part of the weekend we had my parents and uncle over, and my dad tried on his jacket pieces. They fit perfectly, which is a big relief to me. I try to keep up a healthy attitude about ripping back, but I have started that left front about fifteen times now, and I'm glad I don't have to do it again. What was even nicer was that he seemed really excited about the finished garment, and I think it's going to look dashing on him. Seeing it on, it's hard for the jacket to remind me of anyone other than my own dad, but he told me the other day that he thought I'd nailed my grandfather. Needless to say, that's a very nice thing to hear. In further Warren Johnson news, after only one false start so far, I got a decent little beginning on the left sleeve:


One of the many tasks whose ass I kicked this weekend: most of the remaining design work on this jacket. If my plans for the sleeve work out, I can pretty much sit back and enjoy knitting. (Until it's time to figure out the sizing, of course, but I'm not thinking about that yet.)

Other checklist items we kicked to the curb? I'm happy you asked! David and I:

  • Made a thank-you call that's been languishing for weeks;
  • Picked up a pair of tickets for a show we want to see (Dr. John and the Neville Brothers!);
  • Cleaned the bejeezus out of our house;
  • Dropped a bag of stuff at Goodwill that had been taking up floor space for months;
  • Did a big grocery run, including lots of fresh fruits and veggies;
  • Returned a movie on time (significant for us);
  • Five months late, hung up our birdfeeder;
  • Did a photo shoot of the recent Secret Knitting. Obviously I can't show those to you yet, but they came out looking beautiful!
  • Purchased and washed fabric to make a duvet cover for our bed, after a year of leaving it open to the elements;
  • Tweaked the archives of this blog, so that they should all match the front page instead of defaulting to the Movable Type template (check this out for us; let us know if you find a glitch);
  • And lastly, a full year after buying and moving into our house, FINALLY put up shelving in the utility and bathroom closets!

This last one is really huge. We've been limping along with insufficient shelving the entire time we've been living here, making piles of things on the floor, scrunching things into tight corners. Having so much usable space is inexpressibly delightful. And see my fabric stash up at the right-hand side of the middle shelf? Having a separate space for fabric means that my yarn-stash-cum-projects-in-progress area has a little breathing room. Especially since another task I tackled this weekend was a reorganization of that little cabinet:


Those plastic bins are in-progress or ready-to-start sewing projects, with pattern, fabric and notions all collected in one place. Yarn is upstairs on the left, in-progress knitting (Warren Johnson) is downstairs on the left, and next to that I've got sewing patterns. Pretty neat and tidy! This whole reorganization project has left me re-committed to keeping a tight reign on indiscriminate acquisition of stuff, so hopefully my little crafting nook will stay tidy for some time to come.

And now, for a little self-satisfied movie-side knitting, perhaps with a glass of wine.

Back on track


With Secret Knitting done and Ms. Walkaway on the hanger, I'm recharged and making progress on the Warren Johnson jacket. (What, a garment that's actually relevant to the Family Trunk Project? You don't say!)


These are some quick snaps of the completed left jacket front, pre-felting. This project is a little bit frustrating because felting, even the kind of light felting I'm doing, is a big commitment, and something I don't want to do until I'm sure each finished piece has the proper dimensions. So I'm waiting to felt this and seam it to the back, until after I see my dad on Sunday and get a chance to fuss over the fit. Hopefully, everything will go well. Meanwhile I'm about ready to cast on for an arm. Once I have a front, arm and back all joined together, I will feel very confident about the final success of the jacket as a whole.


Previous to my little sewing-and-secret-knitting break, I struggled mightily with the treatment of the front placket and buttonhole area. First I couldn't get the transition from two-stranded grey waistband to two-color placket to look smooth, and ripped out numerous times before finally coming up with a method that works (pretending it's intarsia and twisting BOTH strands of each section around both strands of the other). The real pickle, though, was how to do the buttonholes. Due to the felting and the unorthodox colorwork, most traditional treatments wouldn't work: picking up stitches for a buttonhole band once the jacket is seamed, for example, or even knitting the band separately and seaming it on last. I didn't want a single-color band disrupting the plaid on the jacket front, and I couldn't get any kind of non-curling textured stitch to look remotely decent with the colorwork pattern. Finally, I decided to work the buttonholes in one piece with the jacket front, trimming the front with some single crochet in dark grey to control the curling. Once it's felted I think that should be enough; the felted fabric of the back has much less curl than it did prior to felting. Cross your fingers! I would really prefer to have found the solution to this little quandary, and move on.

The good news, though, is that this knitting just FLIES in comparison with my stealth knitting project. Once I ensure good fit, the right front and sleeves should be dropping off my needles in no time at all.



And here is the finished Walkaway Dress, trimmed, snapped and buttoned!


Everything continued very smoothly and easily, although heavens, that's a lot of hemming! An hour and a half of hemming on an eight-hour dress is considerable. The pattern has you do the hemming as soon as possible, which I think is a good call; by comparison, the bias tape binding just FLIES by. The flip side of interminable hemming, though, is ending up with a delightfully girly circle skirt, fit for the Princess of 1952.


I'm very pleased with the buttons we found for the front closure; David pointed out that they're fittingly evocative of the Japanese aesthetic of the indigo print:


I'm so much happier with the final product now than before the buttons and binding went on; I think the mixture of colors is much more integrated now. The only thing that's a bit annoying about the pattern - and I'm sure that some of the thousands of Walkaway Dress seamstresses of the past have thought up a solution - is that since the sheath part of the dress doesn't have a back to keep it in place, it can tend to bunch up in front as the wearer walks. I'm thinking that just a little tack of the sheath's bottom edges to the inside of the circle skirt would go a long way toward solving the problem. It might make the dress slightly more difficult to get in and out of, but I think it would be worth it. Whether I ever get around to doing it is another question. As you can see, I am a shifty devil.


Most importantly, it's super-fun to wear, and it was a nice, fluffy ride in candyland to start and finish a dress within the space of 72 hours. I wove in the ends on Secret Knitting the same day I sewed the buttons on Ms. Walkaway, so my number of in-process projects is down from four to two, which feels infinitely more manageable. Overall, I am a happy camper. Princess. A happy, camping princess.


I spent the summer...


The sky was blue beyond compare.





Heat wave!


Last summer being rainy and cold, and last winter being rainier and colder, Portlanders haven't experienced a solidly hot day in many moons. I, for one, am ready. I like to get a solid dose of each season as it passes, and between the cold weather and the preoccupation of buying a home, last summer left me feeling like I never really got that lazy, heat-laden summertime essence. Now, at last, we're having a couple of unseasonably hot days (yesterday hit 98F), and I'm celebrating in the best way I know.


There aren't many things I like better than staying up very late on a hot summer night, sewing a sundress and listening to Bob Dylan's Bringing it all Back Home. Back when I was in college and spent summers un- or under-employed, I used to stay up ALL night sewing in my tiny apartment, with the record player going softly and all 150 square feet of floor space covered with fabric. The 5 a.m. train whistle and lightening sky would signal that it was time to put the cover on the machine and head for bed. Now that I am older, working full-time and living with my partner, I'm no longer tempted to be quite that extreme. But last night I engaged in a watered-down version, and boy was it lovely! The warm breeze coming through the windows, the whirring of the sewing machine, the sandy pop of pins going back in the pincushion, and the magical process of two-dimensional fabric becoming a fitted, three-dimensional garment. What more could a person desire?

The above pattern is the famous Butterick Walk-Away dress, of which I had actually never heard before a few weeks ago. "What a cute dress," I thought, like thousands of women before me, and like thousands of women before me I whipped up a version. It's by FAR the easiest pattern I've ever sewn; I got this far, from paper-pattern alteration to "it looks like a garment" stage, in four delicious hours, and all that really remains is hemming and bias tape. Even the bias tape is going to seem like a breeze, as I just got done trimming a suit jacket with self-made bias tape over much sharper, more challenging corners. (The jacket is almost done, by the way. I just needed something a little more summery to go with this gorgeous weather.)


It always cracks me up how much I have to cut out of the backs of patterns; the upper back above was cut from a pattern piece with 2 inches removed from the middle, and it could still stand to be a little narrower. My mom says she's the same way. I don't totally understand how a small-busted woman can have that much narrower a back than the "average" for our size, but it's the truth of the matter. I like to think it's down to our fantastic posture.

Also, there has been lots of knitting going on, so don't think I've forgotten about this whole "Family Trunk Project" thing. It's just that what I'm working on right now is secret at present, but it's almost done and then I'll be returning in full force to the Warren Johnson jacket. I can feel my grandfather tapping his foot, and I won't keep him waiting for long.



Okay! I'm back! I've been on the Emily Johnson version of a mad bender, which involves drinking a lot of herbal tea, debating about class privilege, watching Dirty Dancing while experimenting with ear candles, and engaging in out-of-control purchasing of fabric and yarn. I'm aware that Charles Bukowski has a different definition of "bender," and I'm 100% okay with that.

A few weeks ago, after literally years of delay, procrastination, and unreasonable grumpiness at my parents for continuing to mention the issue, I succeeded in selling my car. Let me just say that if you're thinking of leaving a car in storage for two and a half years in the hopes that the difficulties inherent in fixing it might go away, I strongly advise against the idea. That's what I did, and as it turns out, a car only gets more expensive and troublesome to fix the longer it sits unused in a garage or back yard. Not only that, but during the selling process I had to brave the trial-by-fire that is selling a solid, in-demand used car when one is a young, reasonably attractive woman. Permit me to say: the aggressive, deal-mongering dudes comes out, and they are absolutely incredulous when you tell them - you, a GIRL - that you will not take their offer of half your asking price. No, even though the car has a small dent in one side. No, even if they come over tonight, cash in hand. No, even if they whine, yell, or tax everyone's nerves to the breaking point by pitching a toddler-style hissy fit. They will simply not believe that you want them to take their paltry offers and go boil their inflated heads.

What with the bullies, the over-developed car-related egos, the deceit and the double-dealing, I was a nervous wreck for a week, but I finally sold the car, and the whole transaction ended up making me feel good: it went to another young woman, who very responsibly took it to her mechanic and got a good estimate of how much she'll need to spend on it. She made me a generous offer based on that, and I accepted. What do you know? Respect and human dignity CAN be maintained, even when selling a used car.

Anyway, the sale of the car coincided with my almost-birthday (coming up on Friday) and a trip to the Bay Area to visit my very dear friend Leah...and, frankly, I feel like I got a little out-of-control with the acquisition of new projects, and of just plain stuff. I don't regret a thing, but now I need to take a few deep breaths and get back into the zone of productivity, rather than acquisition. In the meantime, though, you can all enjoy my splurging. These scrumptious treats came in the mail a few days before we caught our plane:


This is my last Sundara shipment for the first Seasons club (y'all can read more about Sundara's fantastic Seasons Club here if you're not already in the know). I have to say, this is some of the most beautiful yarn I have ever touched. Since our return I've been winding it slowly into balls, just to interact with it. Needless to say, given the buy-buy-buy theme of this blog entry, I re-upped for Autumn and added Spring for the upcoming round of Seasons as soon as the check for the car cleared.

Then, well, we were in San Francisco and it feels wrong to pass up a trip to the huge, beautiful edifice that is Britex Fabrics. Since my rediscovery of sewing I've been dreaming of sundresses, and I now have a couple of lovely cottons on which to cast my spells:


But in addition to the cottons, there was an entire wall of beautiful European wools. Wool alone I could have resisted, but many of them were also plaids and hounds-tooth prints, and some were so outrageously luxurious that I felt, amusingly enough, that I was making a reasonable compromise with myself in only getting two yards of this scrumptious stuff. It's funny how our mental calculus adjusts itself around an object of desire:


And...there may have been pattern purchases to go with these new fabrics, as well as a number of investments/orders of yarn to arrive in the near-to-distant future. All of which I'm psyched about - in particular, the Spring and Fall clips from Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm, whose CSA is just about the best thing ever. Even so, I am feeling a little bit frazzled. I am normally a very methodical, one-project-at-a-time, buy-materials-for-the-project-I'm-about-to-start kind of girl. Right now I have a complex sewing project, a major knitting design project, another, secret-for-now knitting design project, and a whole bunch of new, unformed materials all at the same time. I know this is normal for many people, but certainly not for me. Occasionally, especially when confronted with four floors of gorgeous fabrics, I become dazzled by dreams and infinite possibility. The same thing sometimes happens at Powell's Books, when I stumble into the coffee shop laden with novels sufficient to last a small family several years. I envision myself, somehow divorced from my job and social commitments, with unlimited leisure time in which to do nothing but craft lovely garments and curl up reading in a comfy chair. That kind dreaming, for me, is really fun for about a week, after which I have a deep spiritual need to get my feet back on the ground and start accomplshing things again.

So, that's where I am right now. The transition from heady dreams to tangible results is often a rocky one, because the results - as they are prone to do - materialize more slowly than the wild fancies. It's hard to still the clamorous idea-machine in my head and engage with an actual project, complete with quandaries and quagmires. Still, I'm starting to slow down, breathe, and delight in the gradual process of small details once again.