No time, No time!

Life in the fast lane. But now that it has snowed, and the yearly yard-work is finished, perhaps there will be a bit of time for other indulgences. More later.

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Spring is the season to…..

do a great variety of things! Since we now are into June, I want to recap, mostly for myself, what I have been up to for May (I still don’t know where the month vanished to!). Anyway, Gardening is probably my main adventure of the past month. We dug the vegetable garden, which consists of four 4′x16′ beds, outlined by paths of old brick (salvaged from various sources). The torrential rains of last summer had washed some of the soil over the bricks, so they had to be scraped off, and the soil returned to the beds. We then started planting. This year I wanted to try something I have thought about for the last 32 years, namely staggering the planting over a month, so as to extend the harvest. But I have always been too disorganized to do this (or the weather didn’t co-operate) but this year it has worked. Or at least the planting end of it. We’ll see if it makes a difference at the harvest end. Here is what we did. The second week-end in May, we planted snap peas, assorted lettuces, multiplier onions and spinach, in bed #1. Two weeks later, on the May long-weekend (that would be Queen Victoria’s B-day, which we are very happy to celebrate!) we planted another row of snap peas, assorted beets (round red ones, golden ones and long, cylindrical red ones) and Swiss-chard (multicoloured) in bed #2, snap beans (yellow, purple and green), assorted carrots (some orange ‘little finger’ ones, and some ‘rainbow’ and purple coloured ones), Bok Choi (Chinese cabbage) in bed #3. We also set out some tomato plants along the south ends of the beds, and planted cucumbers at the north end of bed #4, and set up a trellis to train them up. We still have the rest of bed #4 to plant, perhaps in the next day or so, if it doesn’t keep raining (although it is Children’s Festival week here this week, and it has almost always rained for Children’s Festival, for the past 20-some years that they have held it!). Bed #4 will hold yet more snap peas, a row of flowers for cutting, some more lettuces, some more Bok Choi and anything else I can fit in. We also dug bunches of quack-grass, overgrown perennials (especially the invasive ‘Campanula rapunculoides’, an old-fashioned tall blue-bell, which infests all old yards here – a favourite pioneer plant!), and the last of the asparagus roots, that died in the ‘too-cold-with-no-snow-cover’ winter of 2009-10. (We have 3 surviving asparagus plants out of a 16′ row). Clearing that space gave us room to move the rhubarb plant that was growing where the green-house is being erected, and also space for the strawberries, where were unhappy with the increasing shade in their former bed. (Gardening in the midst of an urban forest has its challenges!) Now, if we can just get the rest of the dead rose roots dug out (more casualties of that winter), the old cobble-stones (salvaged years ago, when the city wanted to dig up streets and consign them to the landfill) set in to outline the flower/shrub beds, relay some of the concrete ‘flagstones’ (broken chunks salvaged from various patios in the neighbourhood, which we have used as flagstones for paths & patios), etc…. We did get the hedge pruned severely (caragana must be beaten into submission sometimes).And the exciting news is that the first peas, the beans, the lettuces, spinach, carrots and at least one cucumber are poking through the soil!

But life is not all work. Sometimes it seems like play (or at least fun). On a walk last Wednesday evening, to the neighbourhood ice-cream store, I noticed a pile of old wire fencing in a back lane behind a garage. This is old, ‘loopy’ wire decorative fencing, about 40″ high, that was popular in these parts beginning in the 1920′s, and has mostly been discarded in favour of newer chain link, or pickets, or no fencing at all, for front yards. I like it because it appropriate for my old-house yard, and when placed appropriately, keeps neighbourhood dogs (and teenagers) from running (falling after being pushed) through my hedges. So after purchasing our ice-cream, I went and rang the bell of the house, asked about the discarded fencing, was directed to the shop of the home’s owner (across the street), and after some discussion , I was given permission to salvage the fencing, and the matching gate. So Thursday morning, I hauled it home in my little hatch-back, which thinks it is a truck. A great find, and it will be enough to finish off the sides of the front yard! Yah!

Yesterday, after going to the Farmer’s Market (mostly to buy herb bedding plants) and musing about the snow-flakes that were falling (just the odd one, but it sure was cold). I went on to Value Village, which I usually avoid on a Saturday, as it is usually crazy, which it was. But after trying on numerous items of apparel I came away with a jean-skirt, a little brown linen skirt with a flippy little double ruffle at the hem, a brown henley-neck t-shirt, a brown tank-top, a dark-olive green cord blazer and a dressy fluttery synthetic knit top in a browns & cream print. New summer wardrobe, if it ever gets warm enough to wear them (forecasts of 2 degrees C overnight has me thinking I should be covering my tomatoes). And for my potential sewing, I found 4 metres of light-weight pin-wale corduroy in a golden mid-brown, and 2.5 metres of a similar golden mid-brown, in a lovely wood (cropped blazer, vest, pants, skirt, too many choices!).

But must go now, as today is ‘Doors Open’, an initiative where (this year, 25) buildings in the city, that are not generally accessible to the general public, are open for free public tours, and the house-museum where I volunteer will be open as well. We are usually open only on week-end’s during the summer, and for special programs during the rest of the year, since all staffing is done with volunteers. I will be there in my period (ca. 1900) costume for the early shift. The first time the city did this, perhaps 10 years ago, we put 900 visitors through this 1884-vintage house, in one afternoon (between 12-noon and 4:00 pm)

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Interesting Acquisitions!

One of our favourite local used-book shops is closing. It has been in business for at least 35 years, specializing in old and rare books. The proprietors are retiring, and over the winter have been selling off stock at variously discounted prices. A dangerous place to visit, for those of us with an interest in any king of history! Tomorrow is their last day in business, so we had to make one last trip over there, partly to bring home the one box of books that had been set aside by The Man, and partly so I could view the little bookcase that had been unearthed from beneath a pile of books in the shop’s basement bathroom. Well, one thing led to another (if one buys more books, then one must purchase the bookcase necessary to house them, right?) So we did! We came home with three boxes of books, and the cute little bookcase, which is one of those small, collapsible ones from around the turn of the last century. This one is in a bent-wood style, and is too delicate to hold massive tomes, but will look right at home in the second-floor hallway, next to the wire dress-maker’s manikin (from about the same era). It may end up holding books on vintage fashion, as well as four of today’s acquisitions-old books on sewing.

The oldest of today’s books is Home Course in Dressmaking and Ladies Tailoring, American System, published by The American College of Dressmaking, Kansas City, Mo. 1908. The original price of $5.00 included “Accompanying Drafts, Curved Rulers and Tailors’ Square”. Various drafts are included as pages in the book, but the “large printed drafts, small curved rulers and tailor’s square” which “are essential to an intelligent application of the American System” were no longer included in today’s price of $22.50. Nonetheless, the book contains a wealth of interesting information, especially for those interested in period fashion. Topics include ‘Taking measurements’, ‘Drafting front, back and sleeves’, ‘Different styles of sleeves’, ‘Drafting five, nine and fifteen-gore skirts’, and even a chapter on ‘Infants, Little girl’s and Little boy’s clothing’, and one which includes ‘Boys’ pants’, ‘Russian blouse jacket’, ‘Sailor collar’, and ‘Norfolk jacket’. Chapter XXIV gives instructions on ‘Fitting up a Dressmaking Shop, and ‘How to Construct a form for one’s own use’. The last chapter (XXV) is devoted to cleaning fabrics. including velvet, cashmere and kid gloves. There are some ‘half-tone’ photographs, which illustrate various techniques for gathering, button-holes, pockets, etc.

The next oldest book is The New Dressmaker, published by The Butterick Publishing Company, 3rd Edition, Copyright 1921. This book describes ‘The necessary Equipment for Dressmaking’, how to measure for and choose a pattern, buy materials, and ‘How to Alter Patterns for Figures that vary from the Average’. There are instructions on linings, facings, fastenings, pockets, collars, ‘trimmings’ (including lace insertions, ruffles and embroidery), and remodeling, mending, cleaning & pressing. It is geared to producing ‘Clothes for Ladies, Misses, Girls, Children, Infants, Men & Boys (men & boys have the entire last chapter, No. 36, to themselves).

Color and Line in Dress, by Laurene Hempstead, Revised Edition, was published in New York, by Prentice-Hall, Inc. in 1938. It endeavors to illustrate how “basic principles of color and line… in clothing design and …selection… may enhance the appearance of the wearer”. Chapters include advice, illustrated by sketches (by Sara Whitney Olds), on hair-styles, jewellery (necklaces, earrings, brooches) necklines, hats,  analysis of Individual Colouring and colours (warm, cool & intermediate), and colours becoming to these categories, and also colours to ‘vitalize women with gray or white hair’. ‘Silhouettes & Sizes are covered, including ‘optical illusions’, ‘texture and color’, footwear, designing clothing to make figure flaws less evident (large hips, large bust, large upper arm, round shoulders, eg.), and ‘line in relation to mood and character’. Part III is dedicated to ‘Ages of Women’, with chapters on ‘Children’s Clothes’, ‘The Miss in Her ‘Teens’, ‘The Young Woman’, ‘The Middle Years’, and’ The Elderly Woman’

The newest book Tailoring by Allyne Bane (Associate Professor of Home Economics, Ohio University) was published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. in 1958. This book ‘is written for the woman who is making a first suit or coat’. It was intended ‘as a supplement to the instruction sheet’ that comes with your pattern. Chapters include Equipment and Supplies, Selection and Preparation of Fabrics, Interfacing and Interlining, Selection, Measurement and Alteration of the Pattern, The Muslin Test Copy, Cutting, Pressing, Principles of Tailoring for Skirts, Jackets and Coats, illustrated with lots of line-drawings.

These books should give me a fairly good view of clothing sewing, at least in North America, over the better part of the last century. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes, and how. These books would all pre-date the home-sewer’s zig-zag machine, and also the use of knit and stretch fabrics.

Now I know what I will be doing on those nights when I wake up at 2:00am and can’t go back to sleep. Good thing I have my ‘Itty-Bitty Book Light’!

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A new season

It is finally spring! Since my last post, we have had Easter, Income Tax, an Election (federal), a week-end Genealogy Conference, and now, finally, enough warm weather that the yard was crying out for some attention. So, over the past week-and-a-bit, we have dug one of the four 4′x15′ vegetable beds and planted sugar-snap peas, carrots, lettuce and spinach. I have acquired some tomato plants, some basil, and some begonias, lobelia, and some ‘Johhn-Jump-Ups’ for the planters (although it is still too cold at night to plant them.) We have cut back the hedge around the front and side yards (caragana is a nasty shrub, with lots of prickles, which needs to beaten into submission periodically, but on the other hand, is pretty tough and makes a relatively indestructible hedge). I raked the front, side and back lawns, and have commenced digging out the quack-grass which got away on us last summer during the ‘monsoon’ season (we live in what is generally regarded as an arid climate, but the last two or three summers have been quite rainy, which has interfered with yard work). The forsythia at the corner of the verandah is blooming yellow, and I put the ‘silk’ forsythia blossoms on the grapevine wreath on the front door. The scillas, muscari (grape hyacinths) and Tarda tulips in the front yard are blooming, and the trees are beginning to leaf out. I have done no sewing at all, and have not even managed a trip to Value Village or the Mennonite Village Green Shops, although we did drop in on the Habitat For Humanity Re-Store on Saturday, and found a low metal-mesh shelving unit which will work in the green-house. But life has not been all work and no play!

Last Saturday, a dear friend (and morning walking partner) held a tea-party. She invited 13 guests (an assortment of friends from her quilt group, our non-book club, yoga class, pot-luck supper group, and just friends & neighbours). Inspired by the Royal Wedding, we were all to dress up (to some degree) and wear a a hat. For those who could not provide their own hat, we were able to provide a selection of vintage and newer hats from our own collections. She prepared ‘smoked salmon’ canapes, cucumber sandwiches (with the crusts removed), and  lemon-curd squares. I contributed tiny scones which were served with English ‘Devonshire Cream’ and strawberry preserves and/or marmalade. Tea and coffee were available, as was an assortment of wine (white, red and rose). We enjoyed each others company from 1:00-4:00pm (and didn’t even break into the gin). The hostess had set out her assortment of flowered china in spring/summer colours, her crystal glassware and linen napkins. It was great fun to see old friends and meet new ones. The consensus was that we should do this again!

I still have not found the battery charger for my camera batteries, so no photos yet, but I am still looking (when I am in the house and not cooking or doing laundry).

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A wardrobe revisited

On Friday, last week, I performed necessary reduction surgery on the contents of my closet and dresser drawers. I was assisted in this endeavor by Tanit-Isis, my daughter, who was visiting, and who has a very good eye for colour, style, and most importantly in this case, FIT! I tried on virtually every piece of clothing I own (excluding socks, tights & underwear) and we assessed its suitability for my lifestyle, its fit, its compatibility with the rest of my wardrobe, and did I love it or could I let it go. Almost all the items worked together, colour-wise, and most of the textures worked together, but the fit was sometimes the sticking point. The bulk of my wardrobe is thrifted, and so these were commercially created garments, with some of the same fitting issues as those currently in the shops. (But sometimes,whether purchasing new, or thrifting, one feels slightly desperate, and acquires some items that may not be perfect, but ‘will do’.) To make a long story short, I had nine bags (plastic grocery, not garbage, size) to take in to Value Village the next day. I am now down to 16 little fitted jackets, and I did manage to cull at least four pairs of boots.

Since then, I have been musing about my personal style, and after reading Sal’s  Already Prettypoll:Sticking Points post, I am starting to get analytical. I dress fairly traditionally, with a bit of edge. I live in jeans, preferably dark-wash, straight-leg, or skinny, with no ‘whiskering’, fake-fading on thighs or butt, slashes or holes, and no excessive back pockets w/ flaps, sequins, etc. (Although I still have the jeans pocket that I embroidered as a university student, back in my ‘hippie-wannabe’ days. It was a purple cow, grazing on the prairie, after a nursery rhyme quoted by my mother. “I never saw a purple cow, I never hope to see one. But I can tell you, anyhow, I’d rather see than be one.”) I am more of a t-shirt girl, than a button-front, collared shirt type, although I may try to change that, as I have acquired c couple of patterns for button-front shirts. I have a few skirts; a couple of (not much) above-the-knee, A-lines (a black stretch-denim and a brown wool tweed), a dark-brown, wool pencil model, and a denim, not-quite-mini, that is just short enough to show a hint of the ‘Welsh-dragon tattoo’ on my right thigh (closer to my knee than my hip). I have a couple of longer, ‘chiffon-over-lining w/ handkerchief hem’ skirts in brown/gold/black prints, for those (very few) elegant evenings. I generally pair these, jeans and skirts, with a camisole or t-shirt and a little fitted jacket, or, a cardigan sweater (wool in winter, cotton in summer). I adore boots (generally the tall-shaft variety) and vintage jewellery, and have been playing around with re-fashioning unusable necklaces and earrings. I am experimenting with layering multiple necklaces, and mixing -and-matching earrings. (For some reason, I haven’t got into wearing bracelets, although I do have quite a number of them.)

I feel like I should be recording, in some fashion, my ‘outfits’, so that, when faced with an occasion such as a banquet, I know what items of clothing I can pair with what. And if I can be somewhat systematic about it, it will show me what items I need to add to my wardrobe (like a summer-weight, dressy little jacket). (Oh joy, more shopping! As an aside, after purging my boot collection, I discovered a pair of ‘Acme’ ladies cowboy boots, reddish-brown, w/ very tall, inlaid, shafts, at my favourite thrift shop. Hardly worn, they fit me perfectly, and at $18.00, they had to come home with me!)

There is lots of scope here for future blogs. Now, if I can just locate the battery-charger for my camera batteries, I could have pictures to illustrate my musings. But Easter, Income-tax, and a Genealogy Conference (this next week-end) are all conspiring against me. I keep thinking that life will slow down, and then I will have time to do things I want to do. But I must realize that this IS life, so I had better accept it (although I am sure that there used to be more hours in a day, and more days in a week, than there are now!)

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Life gets in the way of blogging!

It  has been three weeks since my last post. (That sounds rather funereal. It’s not meant to be.) In that time I have recovered from sinusitis (worst I’ve had in years), a quick bout of the flu and an infected fingertip. We have entertained my father-in-law on three occasions when he has come into town for a week-end. I mounted an exhibition of vintage clothing at a local house-museum where I volunteer (using both my collection and the museum’s collections). We have been out twice to hear some live blues music at local clubs. I have contributed to two organized pot-luck dinners with friends (one of which included spouses), and have another one this evening. I have managed to drop in on my favourite thrift shops at least a couple of times. Oh, yes, and I worked at my part-time job. (I love everything I am doing, but sometimes it seems there just are not enough days in the week.) And I have done a bit of sewing.

I have created an almost wearable muslin of the Ellen pants (capri-length, from a metre of cotton gabardine from one of my favourite thrift shops). After cutting out a size 40 and sewing it together, I took in the side seams (three times) to try to bring it in to a smaller size (That was day 1). The next day, I picked out the side and in-seams, and re-cut to a size 38 (leaving the fly closure intact) and re-stitched it, using a slightly reduced seam allowance. And it fits, more or less. The only quibble I have is that the back of the leg, at thigh level, seems to have excess fabric, that hangs in baggy wrinkles. (They are wearable, as long as I don’t stand still long enough for it to be noticeable.) So, after reading as much as I could find on the internet, I am trying the ‘fish-eye dart’ solution. I have cut and sewn a new muslin (from an old bed-sheet) in a size 38, and after trying it on find it a bit snug, and still with the baggy rear thigh. So, inspired by Patty, the Snug Bug, I have marked the location and size of the tuck, and am going to unpick the side and in-seams,  stitch in the tuck, restitch the seams with a slightly smaller seam allowance, and see what happens. I am musing that perhaps cutting a size 40 front and size 38 back may also work.

In the mean-time, I have acquired some more fabric (thrifted, again), and a pattern for a princess-seamed shirt (McCalls M6035), which has pattern adjustments to accommodate a variety of bust-cup sizes. Now, if I can just find some fabric to sew it in….

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I have to quit (and start)

At 4:00 am this morning, there was this fabric calling me, from Fabricland. I had looked at it at least 3 times during the last 2 weeks, but didn’t know what I would do with it; And (early) this morning, it came to me. It wanted to be the little fitted jacket and 1/2-circle skirt from the vintage (1970′s?) Burda pattern that I procured for .50 from my favourite MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) Thrift Shop a week ago. I also decided, at about 5:00 am, that it could also be a  pair of pants and a vest (see Ellen & Franzi, from Burda style). So, this afternoon, after sorting costumes and accessories for the historic house museum I am involved with, I went and purchased 6m., at 50% off regular price, of some wool-acrylic blend in a rich mid-brown, with a nice drape. And, also, a dark-olive-green sheer w/ a vertical woven stripe (100% polyester), which wants to be a softly draped, bow-tie-necked blouse (for which I don’t, yet, have a pattern). Now, I have a more-than-adequate fabric stash, enough patterns, notions etc. so I have no excuse. I have to start, by cutting out those capris.

But not tonight. It is 10pm and our traditional ‘Friday at 5:00′ guests have gone home, and after wine, cheese, crackers, pickles, olives and home-baked country ham, I am ready for bed. Tomorrow is another day, and since this is ‘Next Year Country’, I think I will start tomorrow on cutting out my first major project. (After we go to the Farmer’s Market in the morning).

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