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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Project collection

Where do I start?

I am facing facts that with two heavy summer courses (with 60 assignments a week to mark) and a whole lot of family stuff going on, it is unlikely I will be posting again before next week. Maybe a review of the new Vogues excepted.

I am also watching the clock because I am off shortly to the 40th anniversary party of some friends. He has early onset dementia unfortunately but I have to tell you if things get rough in this life it helps to have lived a good one. They have six kids (the last two were twin boys, how did my friend do it? I wondered then and I wonder now) and they will all be there today. And they all turned out too, even the twins who were a couple of characters I can tell you. It also helps to have faith, which they do in a sort of practical way.

So what has the week been like?

Yesterday my niece left for Ottawa where she is going to be spending the next two and a half weeks with my sister there before going home to Winnipeg. 

It has been a while since I had a 14 year old to take care of and I enjoyed it. We did a lot. She had surf lessons from her cousin, learned to chase toddlers (new experience for an only child - and I learned how many times a 14 year old says "Oh joy, there they go again"), now can knit on four needles (took me 20 years to get that far), and can cook enough to stay alive. For my part I now understand I need more eyeliner and  how many documentaries are on Netflicks, and that kids really are the same as they ever were, texting or no texting.

It feels odd now not to have someone in the house up till three and sleeping in till noon. I will miss her.

I have already changed the sheets in that room. 

It looks like my half-way through pregnant step-daughter has some issues and has been put on complete bed rest for the next four months. She and her dogs are going to be coming here to do that as she lives in the country and her husband travels a lot with his job. I have a ranch house with a bedroom right across from the bathroom and next to the kitchen and we are only 15 minutes from the hospital. If we do what we are supposed to, and we will, she will be fine. Personally I have decided losing one baby was enough for this family this year. More than enough.

I am always busy but I do it by making sure I have some project time, as random as it is. Here is my update for the week:

The fair isle vest. Well that project is moving closer to the finish line and I only have to cut it open for the neck and arms (yes that's what you do after you machine stitch across the knitting) and sew in 2,000 yarn ends. That will be a back-to- Netflicks project for sure. I had planned to give this to my son's girlfriend, the one I am crazy about in NYC, and I would really like this to turn out, best I can. Here is a picture to prove a) I am not that great a knitter b) I am not lying to you that I am doing this crazy thing:

You will notice, as I have, that this is not perfect. Far from it. I forgot to knit the little yellow dots in the centre of the squares in one row, but I have googled that and am now poised to add duplicate stitches to my repertoire.

I have also been working on my utility summer, going to the Superstore in shorts purse, which I hope to have finished before actual summer ends. I have never made a purse before and just used stuff lying around my sewing room so this is kind of a stuffable muslin.

I really wanted to try for a purse with a lot of pockets so it would be easier to find my things. I am super pleased with this pattern.

I have sort of a messy purse reputation. 

Once when I was working for politicians and talking to the media everyday I lost my cell phone and had to get a new one. In those days a new cell phone meant a new number. By the time I had contacted everyone who needed to be contacted, about three weeks later, I found my cell phone. It had been in my work purse the whole time, down in the dark depths, dead as a doornail along with 14 pounds of pennies.


Here is the partially completed purse, still needing the handle. There is also a bellows external pocket like this one on the other side, a zippered pocket inside and two smaller bellowed pockets, one of which could hold cell phone, near the top of the inside of the purse:

I used some cotton duck and I am telling myself it doesn't look this messy in real life. That little yellow tab by the zipper of course is a fix. The exposed zipper (gawd how I miss good NYC zipper access) went in fine but do you think I could get the markings out I put in to mark the placement at that end of the zipper? No. This made me crazy and I decided that every time I looked at this purse I would go off to get a wet washcloth or something to start scrubbing again and so I decided to cover it up so I wouldn't make myself crazier. Doing that well enough on my own.

Finally, I have been canning my brains out again. For no real reason other than it is in my DNA and because I find this the most soothing of my activities.

Here is what some of that looks like, I have lots of other shelves going on:

I grew up until I was a teenager in a small town in Manitoba. Canning was it. My dad's family were farmers (my grandfather excepted he went into Winnipeg and became a pharmacist and kept the rest of them going through the Depression, but that's another story). My dad's cousin's wife lost her legs quite a number of years ago now to cancer and the thing they say about her is she still got her canning done, the wheelchair worked just fine.

It's that kind of culture. 

In fact a few years ago the local jar making company decided, without warning, to discontinue a certain kind of lid. This caused a huge uproar. One lady in Saskatchewan was left with 3,000 jars she regularly used every summer useless, and the Hutterite colonies had 250,000 duds.

Even the Manitoba Minister of Agriculture got involved and sent a letter to the company saying " This province was founded on families surviving winter on home canned foods.."

So the scene is set. Somewhere in my reptile brain there is no Superstore.

The thing I like most about canning is not just that you preserve the food, but you preserve the day.

On my shelves now is rhubarb jam from the evening when the little girls and I went out back at my daughter's and they helped me pick rhubarb in her backyard, left over from the previous owner who was a gardener (my daughter is no more going to pick and can this herself than fly to the moon). Two-year-old hands picked what is in those jars.

And I have rosemary jelly made with rosemary my son grew on his hill near to ocean, and green beans my niece and I bought in the Annapolis Valley the day I drove her up to the Lookoff and I showed a prairie kid how the valley flowed into the ocean and that Prince Edward Island was just over there but you can't see it.

All that has been put down now. Down on shelves in the basement to last me the winter.


Sewfast said...

Great post Barb. So many things I can relate to, as I sit at the computer drinking my coffee with a million other things I probably should be doing. (It's early...the man is sleeping and I have taken all loud toys away from the dogs for now!) Your comments on canning are particulary timely. As I was canning salmon last weekend, I realized that canning is becoming a lost art with the current generation. My daughter has never shown any interest in learning to can, whereas at 18 I was making pickles, jams and jellies, canning fruit and learning about the safest way to process meats, fish and low acid foods. When I mentioned canning salmon to an older friend of mine, she responded with "oh, I've been looking for someone who knows how to do that!" It was (and is) so much a part of our family culture, but I fear it is ending soon. Nothing better than home canned preserves and memories...

BetsyV said...

You left out the most important part: Did the canning jar company re-continue (if that's a word) the lids?

Barbara said...

Yes they did Betsy, yes they did.

Carol in Denver said...

My, what a full and rich life you have! Your perspective makes it so.

You sound like a person who would appreciate David Rakoff's final work, "Love, Dishonor." A review in the Denver Post this morning tugged at my heart and I thought of lines from Rakoff's book as I read about your friend with beginning dementia:

"When poetic phrases like, "eyes, look your last"
Become true, all you want is to stay, to hold fast.
A new, fierce attachment to all of this world
Now pierced him, it stabbed like diety-hurled..."

I wonder if a person realizing dementia is on its way feel similarly.

Thank you for heart-full blog postings.

Mary said...

Barb, you have a full and rich life!

wendy said...

I really love your posts! I was making chutney and pickle last week, half a world away in Luxembourg :)

Jodie said...

Just got to share - first of all summer course, 60 assignments a week....yuck, just yuck. Hang in - wish I was there to help.
I made my own purse a few years (?) ago now. It was my solution to my FAVOURITE David Alexander bag blowing a zipper. Couldn't find what I wanted or liked in the size that worked for the price I was prepared to pay. So I poked around and thought about it and made mine. Love it. Worth it and I still get positive comments on it, considering its a little mucky from the dirt in the car last winter and where the dog licked it (icecream drip). Need to wash the thing.
As for canning - you are right, preserves the day. Two years ago a friend and I went into my classroom (Home Ec lab) and canned for a day. It was AWESOME - 5 stoves with pots going. I made plum jam for the first time and my boy LOVED it. We're finally down to the last of it and are eeking out the last jar until the plums are available in August. My boy is now the "jam police" and is known to comment, "That's a lot of jam, Dad" and "Maybe you would rather grape jelly". The deal is that he will help me make the plum jam (teach him to fish as it were). Enjoy your time with family - hope that all goes well with the baby. And can on, woman!

Anonymous said...

Re the sweater: Don't forget that perfection is an offense to the gods. Apparently they prefer the reassurance of our imperfect humanity. Lucky for us, huh? Elle

Rachel said...

How did you manage to do all that canning stuff in the heat and humidity we have been having in Halifax? I'm sweating just thinking about it. And, why is preserving food called 'canning' when there's nary a can in sight.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Re: Duplicate stitch

I once fixed up mistakes on an argyle sweater with duplicate stitches. They looked fine, but they stick out a tiny, imperceptible amount. They wore out, snagged, and just stopped looking good much faster than the rest of the sweater.

If it were me, I would just leave the little black squares as a design feature, because the great thing about fair isle sweaters is how awesome they get the more your wear them.

Of course, YYMV, and maybe normal people don't expect to wear their sweaters for 20 or 30 years anymore, although I think that vest would inspire that sort of loyalty.

Just a thought.

LinB said...

"Don't duplicate-stitch the yellow dots!" is my vote. 1. This personalizes the vest to you. 2. It was not a "mistake," it was a "design decision." 3. I don't like yellow, lol.

You can cut your vest without resorting to machine sewing, by crocheting up one side of a stitch and down the other, then cutting the ladder between. Meg Swann's knitting books have this method well illustrated. The machine stitching is probably more reliable not to run, but I've had excellent results with the crochet method. (Sometimes you're stuck finishing up a knit in a place with no electricity, as during a blizzard, or on a camping trip.)