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sew sweet!

July 2, 2014

Back in September I was drafting a comment on Rain City Gardener’s blog about my return to sewing knits when I realized that what I’d typed was more suitable to a blog post than a comment on someone else’s blog.

Many years ago I made my first attempt at sewing with knits: Kwik Sew 3155 yoga pants.

I like to be comfy when I toss and turn in bed but warm, comfy and natural fibres don’t seem to go together in most clothing shops. One winter I decided it was time to learn the art of sewing knits with the help of my serger. (I had just gotten to the point where I liked my serger after struggling with my beasty White machine for the first few years. That machine has changed the sewing game for me and will likely be the only thing that I’ll ever thank Ralf Klein for.)

I found a cheap, not-too-synthetic knit and was amazed that I had a pair of pants that fit reasonably well in part of an evening.

My mom had been lamenting the need for a new pair of yoga pants so, since they were so easy, I passed mine on to her a few days later. I had what I thought would be a nice Made in Canada bamboo knit that I was wanting to serge up and dye. Off I went. Except the results were well… disappointing. The dyeing experiment worked alright but those pants continued to stretch and twist as I wore them. Sure they shrunk back after every washing, but it never lasted.

Over the years they required some mending and re-hemming, but they just wouldn’t give up and I wasn’t about to replace something that didn’t need replacing.

Enter my copy and adaptation of one of my favourite pairs of pants – my pRana lounge pants. My plan was to dye some raw silk to make a new pair of pajama pants so early last year I tested out my draft with the lightest cotton I could find in my stash. There was only enough to make a pair of capris. Well those super simple pants turned out fantastically. I love them so much, that I completely forgot about the silk until the end of the summer.

As it was, it took until Christmas for me to finally make them and sweet they are! (Making them was a funny story too. We were away for the holidays and I packed up everything *but* my pattern or the original pants so I made a muslin out of a sheet. They were so nice that someone else has now adopted them!) Both pair are still in their white, un-dyed state but wow, are they ever comfy! With every washing they just keep getting softer and softer too. I guess some things really are worth the wait. Should I ever need lounge or pj pants again I know just what to do!

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i love to sew!

July 2, 2014

Ah, summer! I love that it’s been so hot and that I’ve had so much to do outside so I can be sure to enjoy it! There’s the garden to water, all the landscaping prep that fills our weekends, and lots of outdoor living space to enjoy. I love it!

I got a bit too much sun yesterday so in an attempt to prevent a burn I switched my focus towards sewing this afternoon. You see, back in September I made my first knit shirt. As wearable muslins go it’s great: the double knit cotton is buttery soft and the pattern really does fit me well. The problem? I find cotton too cold in our damp winters so I hardly wear it. Next stop, wool!

When I look at what I wear to work and at home there is a consistent element… knit wool. Not the heavy stuff that I like to knit between two needles but the light, washable merino knit tops like Smartwool, Icebreaker and Ibex make. I wear them so much that two of my heaviest ones have become threadbare.

All winter long I thought I’d make the Renfew again out of wool but then I realized, what I’d really like is another dress or two. When it comes down to it, knit dresses are what I’m happiest in except that finding ones that fit well is a nightmare. Then they never come lined so there’s that whole business of wearing a slip. So not my thing!

But what dress? My own hack of a Sewaholic Renfrew? Kwik Sew 3873? Cake’s Tiramisu? Cake Sewing’s Red Velvet? Before I could decide things got way too busy with the whole house building thing.

Fast forward to the end of June and I was ready to try sewing wool. After three years of heavy use my faithful leggings were beyond mending and patching and luckily I was able to find a cheaper, light weight 100% wool in a colour I liked. I knew I could trace off of my Smartwool pair but it seemed like the perfect time to try a Cake Sewing Pattern.

Sure, leggings are pretty simple but the custom fitting that Cake Patterns get such rave reviews for seems to work. Now just to decide whether I can live with the centre front seam of the tiramisu or if I want to try something else. I do so love the drape of a half circle skirt and the bodice/sleeve patterning sure looks nice.

It is so nice to have such simple and (relatively) inexpensive decisions to make!

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We’re building a house…

October 6, 2013

… and with it, a new blog.

Borrowing from the great ideas of Sarah Susanka, Ross Chapin Architects, Tumbleweed Tiny house and others, we’re having a clean, dry and much smaller than average (1170 sf total) home built.

Come follow us in the process at slightly snug house.

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sweet summer

August 4, 2013

After a pathetic start to the summer season (lots of rain, and three weeks of illness) things have turned around and there are still a few weeks of summer to go!

In addition to the usual, we’ve been busy with building a new house; harvesting our first crops of potatoes, onions and garlic; enjoying summer visitors from out of town. I’ve also been getting into canning and sewing for me (rather than just for school).

July 22 - collecting river rocks

While enjoying a mini vacation I made some strawberry jam in anticipation of figuring out a buckwheat cracker recipe that tastes good. Then I found transparent apples but didn’t have time to figure out what kind of GF shell to make so I canned them all for future experimentation in the fall.

I’m slowly getting better at finding and using my camera too. Documenting the progress on the house has helped, as has the documentation of textile dyeing by others. Today I even pulled out the gorilla tripod and took shots of our crabapple jelly processing.

Aug 3 - Hand-dyed goodness

After three years of being on the fruit tree program call out list, I was finally able to help. Pickers help take the fruit from trees so that bears aren’t attracted to it and then distribute it among themselves, the landowner and the local food shelter. I wasn’t sure what to do with crabapples but since they weren’t plums and I was available I thought I should help. It probably didn’t hurt that 2 nights earlier I’d witnessed a huge black bear walking across our foundation and then up into the big old plum tree next door. Branches cracked and the whole tree shook as he picked it nearly clean. (Of course I wasn’t in the habit of carrying my camera so no proof, just the story!)

Crabapple surprise!

And I almost forgot – I went blackberry picking in my own town! Usually we rely on Gulf Island field trips for our seasonal fix but they’re abundant, juicy and more than a tad tart right here. Last year they were wizened and kind of gross, but I remember our black bear sightings went up right as the berries got ripe. It seems the same is true this year as I saw the black bear on the same day as I picked my first blackberry of the season.

I also saw this:
Aug 2 - new local wildlife sighting
which, thanks to my growing collection of field guides, I can identify as a common skimmer. (Which reminds me of another first encounter with an aquatic bug – a giant stonefly. It had been familiar to me in name only and it was so interesting to observe and learn more about it that fine spring day.

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island folk

January 8, 2013

I came across this old draft from September 15, 2009. I wish I’d posted it then, but rather than lose it, I’m posting it now.

The other night I drafted what I thought was a good post in my head.  It’s gone now.  I guess I should have stayed up later to type it after all.

When we were on the coast we had beach time and caught up with family but unlike most other trips we kept busy and didn’t do any real lounging around at the house and the beach.  I was disappointed by that at first but we did so many cool things and getting settled for school allowed me the opportunity to decompress.

By far one of the most memorable pieces of our trip was the eco home tour we participated in.  Kevin’s parents have been talking about building a place on their property, my mom is always keen to see other peoples gardens, my parents are currently planning some energy efficiency upgrades at home and Kevin and I have been talking about this living small thing for a while.  The tour, which we only found out about the day before, couldn’t have come at a better time.

We saw timberframe, straw bale, chipslip, and conventionally constructed homes in various stages of construction and completion.  There were solar systems (which makes so much sense when electricity is so unreliable in the winter) and perhaps best of all, we met the people behind these projects.  They graciously welcomed us and countless other strangers into their homes and yards to share what they had been doing.  Some had lived in trailers for as they used their own hands to build their homes.  Others had different ways of getting things done but the fact was they were following their hearts and doing what they felt was right, despite the side effects.  It was so inspirational!

We still don’t know where we’re going to live and while we’re thinking an older small house will best fit our somewhat nomadic livestyle I’m so looking forward to turning our dreams into reality just as these folks did.

Interestingly, we went back to see a whole new edition of the tour in 2011 and are now getting ready to build our own place! As much as we like the idea of something other than stick built and synthetic insulation, it looks like we’ll be going that route. Of course we’ll be working towards a more energy efficient house, taking advantage of passive solar gain, improved building methods, and the like.

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A different way to start the New Year

January 7, 2013

Despite its calamitous start, I’d say that 2013 is off to a good start.

That first day is one that, as much as I’d like to forget, will likely become the memory that pushes me beyond the ho-hum to make this year a great one. 

You see, I’d been feeling tired and stressed before December had even started but I’d hardly noticed.  Then I was obliged to work extra hours every day while juggling a final week of school that was bordering on insane.  On top of all the usual seasonal chaos there was a municipal hearing, two performances of a school play, preparing for and hosting our biggest solstice celebration yet, and a fabric dyeing workshop.  How I survived it, I just don’t know.  And the funny thing is, I thought I was doing well because in the 10 days following, I kept from getting sick despite all the sugar and late nights.  That was, until, I woke up on January first.

Despite not a single glass of bubbly the night before, I woke up at 9 am with one nasty headache.  I had already determined that this was the day for cleaning out our main living spaces; clearing the cobwebs so to say.  Well, I did that, but my allergies didn’t like it and by the end of the day I was little more than a miserable pile of tears with a splitting headache. 

I loathe visiting that place so by the time I went to bed I had determined that I was going to eat better and sleep better for the rest of the holidays (in the hopes that I might start the new school year better than I had ended the last).  I figured it might be easy enough and then I went for labwork.  They revealed that there was more to my crash than just a few weeks of late nights and too much sugar.   It seems I’d gotten too cavalier about taking my vitamins, holding space for relaxation and getting exercise, and all the other things that keep me healthy. 

Seven days into this year I’m on a whole different pathway.  I’ve made a list of menu ideas for the month, Kevin and I have been snowshoeing twice and cross country skiing once, we’ve gotten things started with our architect, I’ve got a plan for my stories and circles for the new year, I’ve started attending contra dances again, I’ve been going to bed earlier and getting up before the sun, I’m taking my vitamins, I’m preparing meals in advance (so that I can better avoid blood sugar crashes) and, most importantly, I’m feeling better.

2013 – I know you’re going to be one heck of a challenging year but I’m ready for you!

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So long 2012!

January 7, 2013

So long 2012, it’s been good to know you!

You were a different year alright.  I’m going to remember you as the year of crazy stress, new adventures and reacquainting myself with old friends and nature. 

You started off with lots of skiing – regular Sunday xc skis, and then a my first days of downhill in 5 or 6 years during spring break.  Oh, and there were many nights and afternoons of playing Catan while nursing my ouched toe.

 There was the kootenay road trip to visit old friends, preparing dinner alone and then taking it out to the guys after their long evenings spent scrubbing new climbing routes 

 In the summer we made our long awaited road trip into Northern California which featured long drives, outdoor dinners at sunset, tiny dots of climbers on El Cap, and meeting 3 generations of the same family enjoying the best parks interpretive program I’d ever seen – a one man act about John Muir.  It was a trip full of impulsive decisions to go this way or that and some horrible camping spots that will give us stories to laugh about for many years to come.

 Returning home, our little suite seemed huge but dark so we got back into hiking, went on a few backpacks, and spent a few nights sleeping under the stars.  We saw bioluminescence for the first time, grew our first successful garden, I started a nature studies program and then started getting ready for school.

 Our hopes of buying a lot and building a house faded after a few failed attempts and Kevin finally realized his dream of owning a boat.  And that very same week, we began negotiations on what is now our lot.  It was just a little bit stressful around here at that time!

 The last few months of the year were a blur of reading house books, meeting architects and getting to know the builders in our town.  Friday dinner nights with friends were a regular part of our fall routine and in December the snow came – and STAYED.  We did candle dipping out in the shed for solstice, won our variance appeal, had our first Christmas on the island and more. 

 You were a good year 2012, and I know that 2013 is going to be even better.  New house!

 

 

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a brief history of me and bikes – part 2

July 6, 2011

solstice… one of my favourite times of year. It’s usually a rather calm and contemplative time behind the excitement of season that is about to unfold. Solstice, and the days leading up to it were rather unusual this year. My body was in knots from a stressful end to the school year and my immediate trip south for a course. Luckily there was some excitement in there too for on summer solstice 2011 I met my new bike.

my sweetpea

I did indeed opt to go with Natalie’s beautiful bike made to my size specifications with a few other tweaks – bars as prescribed by my fitter, half and half pedals as desired by me, and sram rather than shimano components because sram hoods fit my hands better.

The most difficult part for me to decide on? The paint colour! For weeks I toiled over the possibilities and just couldn’t decide. Finally I decided that I really liked the green of my sister’s old find and went with what I thought was the closest – limetime pearl.

the bike:)

I was a bit worried about how the colour would look in person but it was wasted energy. I think it’s beautiful and it seems many other cyclists out there do to. I’ve received compliments throughout Portland, Seattle and Vancouver as well as remarks about how much it looks likes a Schwinn Varsity. I saw a couple when I was sans camera and I have to agree.

cycling part of the historic Columbia River Highway

I’ve spent the past two weeks exploring new terrain and getting to know my solstice bike…

riding on Sauvie Island

approaching the tunnels

… and on the last day of our trip I finished making a cozy for her lock. I mean I have a cozy for my apple, so of course I need some of that cuteness to carry along with my bike, right?

yep, my bike lock has it's very own cozy.

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a brief history of me and bikes

July 4, 2011

My relationship with bikes started a long time ago. My childhood tricycle collection was the envy of all our neighbourhood friends long after we’d taken to bicycling. That may explain why my transition to 2 wheels came sort of late but it was done without training wheels.

In Junior High I finally got a “real” bike for my birthday (a black and pink Norco bush pilot ladies) and started making the 8.5 km uphill ride to school because it was so much more fun than riding the bus. There were also some pretty good dirt bike trails my guys friends and I used to ride on the other side of the tracks. By high school my Norco was too small but it took until university before I upgraded to my most used bike thus far – my Specialized Rockhopper A1 Comp FS.

It was the first bike I paid for myself and I bought it from the LBS where a high school friend worked. My parents couldn’t understand how I could part with $1500 for a bike or what the appeal of clipless pedals was but I’m so glad I followed M’s advice and bought the best bike I could afford. It has stood the test of time and has taken me beyond commuting to cycle camping, mountain bike racing, and more recently road riding with slick tires.


I should mention that I had a brief stint with another bike too – a Dahon folding bike that I mentioned here. It was good for it’s initial purpose (bike/bus commuting from the suburbs) but is utterly useless now that we live at the top of a hill.

Back in February I really started to get itchy about finding another bike. You see the Dahon had shown me how quickly and easily I could really move on pavement and my rockhopper just wasn’t up to the task. It was built for dirt after all. In addition to speed I was also looking for a more comfortable ride and an excuse to leave my knobbies on the rockhopper. Thus began my renewed search.

I scoped out bike shop after bike shop but I kept hearing the same thing… pick the bike you like and we’ll make it fit. That approach had been used to make the rockhopper suit me better as my body changed but with comfort in one place came annoying things like twitchy handling and aches and pains in new places. There was no way I was going to go that route again. I also knew that I wanted a mixte and the option to haul stuff. The choices are slim and not at all tailored to short in the arm/long in the leg me.

Just as I was about to give up my quest for yet another year I came across this: the Sweetpea JJ Fantastic. I was at my in-laws place and there was no getting me off their computer that night. I looked at the fully custom options and while the 3 year waiting list was a bit much I was seriously considering taking the leap. This woman understood just what I was looking for. Then I learned that the mixte Sweetpea A-Line was customizable and advertised the dual ability to haul stuff and haul ass. Plus my favourite cut of skirt had the same name. Could this be true?

Before I’d even spoken with Natalie, I’d found a Serotta bike fitter in the city and had my appointment. That was easily some of the best $250 I’ve ever spent. New bike or not, the tips and tricks my fitter gave me were the best cycle coaching I’d ever received. That, and after the appointment I was also equipped with new knowledge of what kind of bike geometry to look for. Sweet!

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Bikey, bikey

June 28, 2011

School is now over and my focus has shifted. This summer I’m all about cycling! Not that I won’t be doing prep or the usual hiking and climbing, but cycling is at the top of my list.

Back in my university days I loved to ride and even after breaking my wrist, it was hard to keep me off the trails. Back then, mountain biking was the only thing for me and I even raced for a season. It was such an adrenaline rush and so Much FUN!

As I got more serious about cycling I started thinking about getting a road bike so I could train more. I had such a hard time finding anything that would fit and then a whole bunch of other things changed. I moved around, was introduced to new sports and re-introduced to backpacking, climbing and hockey 5 nights per week. And I started breaking bones…

Mountain biking was still part of my regular routine (albeit at a lighter pace) until 6 years ago when my crunched up wrist stopped being able to handle my aggressive position on the mountain bike. It was a painful number of years before I could even handle a couple of km’s of riding. Thankfully those days are over and for the past 2 summers and this spring I’ve been steadily increasing my riding. I’ve also had some help to make my trusty old mountain bike fit better and equipped it with slicks.

It’s been so much fun to be able to get away from school stuff and ride with new friends nearly every week. Bring on summer!