Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Camel's Back

That's a possessive - as in 'straw' - not a contraction, as in 'welcome back, camel'.

No more words. No time. Only captions. Enjoy.

Sorting. Far left - washed & drying. Centre - picked ready to be washed. Far right - waiting to be picked. Bottom - compost.

Shetland rolags - tricolour foreground, white (faun?) behind.

White Shetland locks washed and ready for carding. Quite a bit of feed contamination in this fleece.
The Romney is all carded - 139 rolags altogether. (Disappointed with the amount of second-cut in this fleece. Wish I hadn't paid $2.50/oz for it. Got robbed.) Divided them in half, spun one half in 24 hours, using my newly-acquired spinning technique which is SO FAST and which everyone should know. I love it. I want to marry it.
Romney Bobbin love, up close. English Woollen Longdraw, Be Mine.
Comin' to the end. I'll be happy to see the back of this one.
Cheeky. If only it were that easy.
Oh, and.....what the heck was I supposed to be doing? Oh, yeah - de-ignoranting my children. This is Science.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Unless you wanna help.

Everyone who's anyone has only one question to ask Shannon these days. Phrasing includes the following direct quotes:

"How is Fern coming along?"
"Did you finish that sweater you were working on at my house the other day?"
" what's the news on Fern??"
"Are you done that sweater you were knitting for Ruby?"

In answer I give you Blocking Day:

And the sleeves, blocking together to ensure they match:

After it's dry, I'll knit on the collar, sew on the buttons, seam up, and then embroider the fiddleheads all around the bottom of the coat.

And this would only take me a couple of days, if it weren't for the rest of my life, which threatens to overwhelm at the moment.

Tomorrow is our troupe's hafla - a belly dance party for dancers only. It's a fantastic time, but of course Yours Truly is responsible for what will amount to six hours of work tomorrow (plus cleanup afterwards) and making several pairs of sparkly gauntlets I'll be selling to try to make back the cost of the party itself. If I sell ten pairs, I can also pay for the $125 Exotic Fibers spinning class I'm hoping to take in September.

And speaking of spinning, now we come to the most truly urgent of all my present obligations. My friend's son, eleven years of age, (reads the blog when the post is appropriate - Hi Aidan!) has a flock of about eight Shetland sheep. He is a knitter, but wants to learn how to spin. His sheep were shorn on Monday morning, and guess who got


Raw fleece needs to be washed within a few days of shearing, before the lanolin hardens on the wool. I have about six raw fleeces here, each weighing 2-4 pounds. Each fleece needs to be sorted into grades before it's washed.

Once it's washed (by hand and at 140 degrees Fahrenheit), it gets spread between sheets outside on the grass, where the diffuse sunlight and spring wind will hopefully (Oh Please) dry it fairly quickly.

So please - no more questions about how my world is revolving these days. Unless - well, y'know.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today's Earth Day

I thought, in celebration of Earth Day, that it would be neat to try an entire day of no technology. We use it a lot in this house, to the point where we take it for granted and no longer notice that we're using resources not to make our lives better, necessarily, but to use up time we can ill spare. We're doing great so far - we haven't turned on the television, the phone is off the hook, and we haven't touched a comput.......


Sunday, April 19, 2009


I am a willful and determined person. I am also sometimes extremely annoying and pushy, but it helps get things done and I'm not ashamed of that.

There is a downside to having a personality like this, though. (Besides the "annoying and pushy" thing.) In the course of my life, many high-maintenance people have attached themselves to me, I suppose hoping that I have enough strength to carry them as well as myself. If I were on the Titanic, I would have drowned for sure - fifteen people would have grabbed my spangled ball gown as I struck out with optimism and a good, churning Australian crawl towards Newfoundland.

I'm beginning to feel like I might kick some of them in the mouth and leave them to fend for themselves.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blown away.

I've just finished watching the most extraordinary.....thing I've ever seen. Hilarious, interesting, creative, quirky, gut-wrenching social commentary.

It's $4.99 on iTunes or you can get the DVD for around $10, but do yourself a favour and try to watch it cold - no IMDB, no Wiki, no forums, no trailers or spoilers.

Wow. Just......Wow.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Charlotte of Langham Place

My daughter is midway through her seventh year. She is a mild-mannered creature, anxious (perhaps too anxious) to Do as she Should and offend no one. Sometimes I forget that she is also very strong-minded, and has definite, though quiet, opinions of her own.

She had very long, curly hair last year, and decided she wanted to donate it for kids with cancer, after reading of another girl who had done the same. When she went to the salon, much was made of her - the beauty of her hair, the kindness of her gesture, the 'sacrifice' she was making. I could tell she was a little unnerved by it all, but she went ahead in silence, just smiling politely at all the people hanging over her and cooing.

When they asked her how short she wanted it, she put her hands up to her temples and said "Here."

"Oh! -- really? You have such beautiful hair, you don't want it TOO short?! Don't you think, maybe....[indicating her jaw] here?"

She glanced at me (I smiled sympathetically and said "you tell her"), hesitated, and said "Well, I wanted it here."

"Oh, well, how about here?" [hands at earlobes] What we'll do is, we'll cut it here, and then you can still tuck it behind your ears."

In the natural order of things, children defer to adults. Charlotte deferred, and got this.

It was nice enough - she kept it this way for quite a long time. Not by choice, though - in the course of nine months two other stylists refused, in the sweetest possible way, to cut her hair the way she wanted it.

A few weeks ago she told me she wanted to try again. I asked her how she would like it, and she named one of my friends. "Just like hers."

Okay then, we were off to the salon again. This time, almost a year and three haircuts later, she was very firm. "It's this one," she told the stylist, pointing to a magazine picture.

"Wow, that's short. Did you pick that yourself?"


"Is it what you really want?"

"Yes. I like it."

"Are you sure?"


And now she has this.

And look how happy she is.

We live in a sexist world, to be sure. It's a mad merry-go-round that girls are thrust onto, when very young - even the stylists collude, unwittingly, in buttonholing them into a Disney Princess stereotype. I'm glad I didn't step in, that first trip to the salon - I'm glad I let my daughter find the strength of will to make her own decision, even if it took her a year.

Raising girls is difficult. There are a host of obstacles pushed in their way from infancy - obstacles to good self-esteem, obstacles to independence, obstacles to healthy attachments. I worry a lot that I will fail to equip my daughters properly to make their way in this hostile world...I worry that they'll listen to the wrong people and accept lies about their abilities, talents, and potential. But then they surprise me. And as silly as it seems, these little victories, like this one of Charlotte's, give me a bit of comfort.

Maybe they'll be okay.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

These are the things that keep me sane.

Three little things that happened today in the middle of an otherwise stupid and pointless 24 hours.

My daughter said, excitedly, as she was going to bed, "I'm gonna take all these Usborne books to bed! Oh boy! I really want to learn lots! I've never felt so...." long pause during which Mr HSB and I looked at each other with quivering lips " LEARNY in my life!" (Hopefully one of those books was on vocab.)

I was with a group of teacher-mothers, listening to a recorded lecture by an educational advisor, who said this:

"As homeschooling parents we expect the end results to be commiserate with the effort we've put in." Of course I burst out laughing and repeated merrily, "commiserate!" Everyone looked at me blankly. I considered saying "Uh....I think she meant commensurate," but realised I would sound at best pedantic, at worst intolerably stuck-up. So I just kept laughing to myself as people looked at me fearfully, as if they thought I might start jabbing fruit skewers into my wild hairdo.


My five year old, playing on WebKinz World, shouted angrily, "If they don't give me my daily KinzCash, I'm going to wyatt!" I looked at the older one quizzically. She explained, "Oh, she said 'Riot'. We've been saying that a lot lately. It means go crazy with anger."

The moral of the story is: life can be craptastic, but as long as something strikes me funny, all is not lost.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Elephants. Steam ships. My car. Me.

10.30 PM PST
Edited for clarification (sort of):

Bethro and Shaniet

Two bloggers, both alike in sassiness
In the Galleria, where we lay our scene,
From Gap to Levis, stop at Orange Julius,
Where fruity ice makes glossy lips unclean.
And on the perky butts of these two friends
Are sale-tagged trousers hung with discounts rife.
Flaws in the garments they may chance to mend
And with their purchase buy our tail new life.

Monday, April 06, 2009

You may now resurrect. I'm ready.

Okay, I'm done.

Remember when I mentioned before that I let my daughter choose the fabric for her Easter dress? Do you see why I called it a tactical error? It's Granny's couch, made into a dress.

I had to do something to tone down the Upholster Chic, so I bought some old-rose cotton and made a little inset for the front. I just took the pattern's front piece and drew a more-or-less arbitrary line in the middle of the chest, then cut that piece out of the contrast fabric, embellished it, and seamed it to the dress front.

I think the front inset really works here - it distracts the eye from the pure kitsch of the floral print.

Here's where I point out mistakes. Because I wouldn't want you to think I didn't know they are there.

1-The collar could use a press. There, on your left. See it? I shoulda done that before I took the photos.

2-The bias binding at the back neck is uneven. Just on the inside, but still. You can see it in that first photo, above.

3-The embroidery detail on the left and right collar does not match. I had to fiddle with the collar pieces to get the curve to work as I was stitching, and I didn't do it evenly. I should have basted myself a line to follow.....oh, how I should have basted.

4-One or two of the lines of embroidery on the inset are crooked. Again - basting will happen next time.

And the Successes:

1-matchy shoulder seams.

2-centred sleeve motifs

3-nicely-inserted zipper

So both Easter dresses are done a week ahead - I'm happy about that. Next sunny day I'll wrassle my kids into their frocks and take pictures - they are all about the grass and mud today, so best the dresses stay far, far away.

Very Easy Very Vogue 9462 with contrast inset, sleeve bands, and machine embellishment added by me
Size 4
100% (quilting) cotton

Next sewing thing I am trying to get finished is the quilt I showed you 'way back when - I'm handquilting only one block of this sucker, because I don't have the patience to do the entire thing. This is taking long enough as it is - by the time I get done I am going to be able to drive nails into solid wood using only the tip of my middle finger. I have a formidable seamstress' callus forming.

The handquilting:

And I'm hoping to have Fern knitted by this time next week. The button bands and weaving of ends will take probably another week after that.

Onward, my lovelies!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Doncha wish your teachers were stocked like me?

My sister said if I was having trouble coming up with blog fodder I should post something about homeschooling. Since I love it when people post pictures of their books, here is my main school book shelf (can't decide whether to type "school-book shelf" or "school bookshelf").

You see before you everything a Grade Two kid needs to know. Actually considerably more than a Grade Two kid needs to know, counting the other books that are here and there around the place, and the separate shelf of A/V stuff - DVDs and audiobooks. I figure we are set for a few years, barring the odd workbook and some different math texts.


I can see that this poor little $70 Canadian Tire particle-board jobbie is having trouble coping with the Science and Socials. I think some actual wood might be in order for next year.

My friend, a primary teacher, laments the tendency of the lazy homeschool parent to simply "throw the book at the kid". I would contend that it mostly depends on which book and how many.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I Gotta Wear Shades.

I think I've found my next career. I'm going to make millions doing knock-offs of Girl Guides of Canada merchandise.

The Brownies aren't what they used to be. I'm sure you all remember the little brown dress with its tie, badges and pins - well, now it's navy sweat pants ("track suit bottoms" for all you Brits out there who cringe at the words "sweat pants") and orange t-shirts. The badges go right on a sash and there's still a tie, although there isn't any kind of penalty for forgetting uniform items at a meeting. (I'll do a rant on the shoddiness of the modern Girl Guides another day.)

There are a few optional pieces, such as a handy little fleece vest, which I love. However, I couldn't afford the extra $35 or whatever, last time I was near a Guide Store, so I borrowed one from a friend and copied it.

Copied it, you say?

Yes and you, too, can copy a finished garment without disassembling it. I know you're all scrambling to find a notebook and a pen, and worry not - I'll share all my secrets. It's pretty simple. (Puts Sewing Geek hat on)

First, you establish the grainline of each separate piece of the garment. You hand baste the grainline with a contrasting thread, at least 2/3 of the length of the piece from top to bottom. On a fleece vest you can't see the weave of the fabric to thread-trace it, but there are a few clues for checking the grain. The back, if symmetrical and not bias, is almost always cut on the centre fold, which will be on the straight grain. The front zip will most likely be on the straight grain as well, or close to it, if there is any stretch at all in the fabric.

Second, lay out the pieces. Start with the largest piece laid on top of a sheet of paper large enough to accommodate the garment piece plus seam and hem allowances. It's helpful to do this on a cardboard surface, for better pinning. Align the garment grainline with the straight edge of the paper, measuring with a straight ruler to make sure both the top and the bottom of the grainline marking are the same distance from the straight edge. If the piece is cut doubled - for example on a symmetrical back - you fold the garment in half and either hand baste or pin it along the seams, to make sure the seamlines will be aligned.

Third, mark the seamlines. Jab pins through the garment and into the paper, at half-inch intervals along every seamline or foldline. Start with the longest and move to the shortest. Smooth the fabric out carefully as you go, being careful not to stretch. The other pieces of the garment (because it is still seamed together) will sometimes move the piece you're working on if you push them out of the way carelessly.

What you're trying to do here is to end up with a sequence of pinholes in the paper beneath, marking the exact shape of the garment piece and (eventually) providing you with a flat pattern.

Fourth, true up the lines and curves. Lift the garment off the paper. Using a French curve and a sharp pencil, connect all the pinholes, evening out any inconsistencies as you go. You are now drawing the seamlines of the pattern piece, so you want it to be as smooth as possible.

Fifth, add seam and hem allowances. Measure your preferred seam allowance, 5/8" or 1/2", outside of all the seamlines and draw a broken line. Make it as smooth as possible, again, as this will be your cutting line. Measure the depth of the hem on the finished garment, and add that measurement to the hem edge of your pattern piece.

Sixth, add pattern markings. It might seem like overstating the obvious, but here you want to write things like "Brownie Vest - Back - size 7-8 yrs" as well as adding marks to show the placement of any zippers or pockets. Dates are optional but I find them enormously helpful when I am referring to the pattern two years from now.

Repeat for all garment pieces.

See? Easy.

I should note that occasionally a pattern piece, when still assembled, can't lie flat due to the seams. In this case, you would pin out one section of it at a time, then remove some of the pins and let the piece curl up in order to give you slack to pin out the remaining section. I have had to do this for the back piece:

Couldn't get the whole thing to lie flat at once. Note the top edge is not pinned. I pinned the fold/grainline first, and from the middle of the armscye to the hem.


Here I've removed the pins from the lower half, leaving as many as possible in place, and pinned out the upper half. You can see that the garment won't lie flat - it wants to pull upwards when the top half is pinned.

Once you've made all your pattern pieces, take a good look at the garment and make notes on how it must have been put together. In this case, my assembly notes were something like this.

a) sew blue side gores to fronts. Serge.

b) sew fronts and back together at shoulders. Serge.

c) sew collar together at top edge. Serge. Serge lower edge of inner collar.

d) sew outer collar to garment neck edge. Serge.

e) insert separable zipper from hem to collar top edge.

f) turn sides and lower edge of inner collar down along zipper and neck edge. Topstitch along zipper from hem to top edge, around top edge, and around garment neck edge.

g) serge armhole edges. Apply stretch binding at 1/2". Turn and topstitch.

h) sew side seams. Serge.

i) turn up hem. Topstitch at 1/4" and 1".

And, le voila......which is mine and which is theirs?

(Mine is the one with the better-inserted zipper. Obviously.)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hail to the Chief


I am feeling so smug right now, you wouldn't believe it. All this time I've been posting Messy Tuesdays, and you lot keep jeering "Messy?! Ha! You should see my bathroom/coat closet/countertop/laundry pile. You're nothing but a poseur!" And now I have shown you that indeed I AM Queen Slattern!

Also, you guys have just made my mind up for me - I'm going to continue blogging after all. Your comments on that last post made me laugh so hard, my stomach hurt - I actually cried from it. (From the laughter, not the stomach hurting. I'm way tougher than that.)