Friday, November 25, 2016

Busy Springtime

It's been a hectic couple of months here on the farm. We've had a lot of gray, drizzly weather - 211 mm rain in October, less this month. But we did have 2 days of 28C this week - one extreme to the other!

Our newest arrival on the farm is Eric the Perendale ram. We got him a month ago from a neighbour when he was 2 months old.

I bottle fed him until a few days ago and now he's been weaned although he still persists in 'bonking' me each morning to try and get some milk. He's growing fast and looks like he's a little bigger than the dogs already. I am sure he is eagerly awaiting the arrival of some ewe lams to keep him company.

One real benefit of all the rain as that the grass is growing like crazy so the cattle are very happy. 

We didn't have any live calves this year unfortunately. Milkshake, our grouchy old cow, delivered twins a week ago (very uncommon in cattle) and they died. They looked normal externally so I don't know what happened as we got there just after she delivered. She had cleaned them up beautifully so I don't know if it was a cord problem. Poor Milkshake was just bursting with milk and there were no calves to give it to. Our neighbour had 2 calves without a mother so we put them together but it didn't work. They are 3 months old and mostly weaned so perhaps the urge to suck was gone. Fortunately Milkshake is drying up now. 

The other interesting event on the property was with our bees. The hive seemed to be very full as they were lining up in masses waiting to get in. One day, Ross saw a huge swarm set off down the valley. There is a box covering a water pipe junction at the bottom of the valley and it is full of bees now! The day after the big swarm, I found a huge mass of bees on a flax plant. They stayed there for several days then one morning most of them were gone and 3 days later they were all gone. Apparently when bees decide to swarm and find a new home with their new queen, they often find a spot close to the hive where they wait for the scouts to get back and let them know where their new home is going to be. I'm guessing that in the centre of that mass of bees is the new queen being carefully protected. I don't know why they left in 2 groups a few days apart. Maybe the second group just went back to the original hive? Or could there have been 2 queens? I'll have to ask the guy who manages our hive if he knows.

The vegie garden is looking great and has required a lot of weeding because of all the rain. We ate our last cauliflower from the winter garden, the artichokes are coming on, and the new plantings are now popping up. 

We have a track going through all the kanuka trees below our driveway. We put it in several years ago and have to hack away regrowing gorse, broom, and blackberry every year. But the good news is that the kanuka are getting very large and all the little native trees coming up around the kanuka are getting much larger, especially the mahoe. 

Well that's it from our little patch of heaven. We're off to pick up 2 bales of shavings to put on the chookhouse floor after we clean it all out - a big task that involves scrubbing all surfaces down with cleaner but fortunately only has to be done once a year or so.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Neenah dress

Still waiting for a pamphlet on tailoring a men's overcoat so I was forced to sew something else for myself again! I've had some beautiful Viscose/Nylon/Lycra ponte knit from The Fabric Store here in Christchurch for about a year and I finally found the right pattern for it. It's a very basic turtleneck dress from Seamwork called Neenah. The pattern is a printout pdf so I had to do the dreaded printing, taping, tracing. I do think I am getting faster at it though.

Fabric details: Viscose/Nylon/Lycra ponte knit, 50% widthwise stretch, 25% lengthwise
137cm wide, I bought 2m, which was more than enough. I prewashed the fabric with a cold handwash and dried it on a towel along the top of my sofa. Soft lovely fabric.

Pattern: I measure XS at bust and S at waist and hip. As the pattern indicated there was quite a bit of negative ease, I cut out a size S at the bust and tapered to halfway between S and M at waist then to M at hip. I cut size S for the collar and sleeves. If I made it again, I think I would go for medium for the sleeves but the collar was fine. It's quite a tall turtleneck but I have a long neck. So it might be worth shortening the collar for someone with a short neck.

Sewing machines: Brother 3034D overlocker, 4-thread, used grey overlocker thread on loopers and first needle, colour matched Guttermann polyester thread on 2nd needle; 70 ballpoint needle; Stitch width 5mm, length 3mm, differential 1.4
Janome Memorycraft 6600 Professional for skirt hem; 75 twin stretch needle with wooly nylon hand wound in bobbin, thread tension at 2.5, stitch length 3mm

I didn't make any changes to the pattern and it was very quick to sew up. I used Wonder Tape on the skirt hem and top-stitched with a twin stretch needle. I would definitely consider making it again and might try it next as a shirt using a slightly shorter turtleneck collar. The dress is super comfortable and cosy.

Genealogy trip to Otago

My husband, Ross, would like to go to Scotland and see where his ancestors came from. So as a first step, we started researching his New Zealand ancestors. It turns out that 4 of his 16 GG grandparents (Thomas Grainger and his wife Margaret nee Murie; James Bain and his wife Marion nee Christie) are what they call First Families of Pakeha (ie white) New Zealanders (ie excluding Maoris who have been here for close to 1000 years). All 4 of them arrived on the 9th ship from the UK. It was called the 'Larkins' and was built in Calcutta in 1808. Apparently it was on its last legs having already done a few convict transports to Australia and some passengers refused to board, instead choosing to take a newer ship that actually took 7 weeks longer than the Larkins. The Larkins sailed from London to Port Chalmers (near Dunedin) in 96 days, arriving on 11 Sept 1849. I couldn't find an image of the ship but here is the figurehead (an Anglo-Saxon warrior) that was saved when it was finally broken up in Australia in 1876. The teak timber was used to build houses.
After what must have been a harrowing voyage, the conditions on shore were not so great either as suggested by this quote by a Sara Lowe that we found at Toitu "...if I could have guessed half the inconveniences attending us in such a new settlement I would never have come."

We visited Toitu, the Otago Settlers Museum, including their archives. We found lots of interesting information including a diary of the Larkins' voyage, the conditions in Dunedin, family trees, and photos. They have a huge portrait gallery and Ross' GG grandfather James Bain and his daughter Catherine are in one of the displayed portraits.

We also visited the genealogy collection at the Balclutha library where this wonderful retired deer farmer, Betty, showed us lots of local books and historical records. On the way back to Dunedin, we stopped in Milton at the Fairfax cemetery and found the grave of his maternal grandparents. 

We spent one morning at the Hocken Library at the University of Otago, which has a lot of historical documents. But all we found that was relevant to Ross was a document transferring shares in the Taieri and Peninsula Milk Company from Thomas Grainger to Margaret Lindsay Robertson in 1894. We were briefly excited about finding a biography of an Andrew Liddell, who lived from 1842-1942, and had arrived from Paisley, Scotland. We were hoping he was the father of Ross' G grandmother Elizabeth Liddell but he wasn't. In fact, he was born a Docherty and when he arrived in New Zealand, he changed his surname to his mother's surname Liddell. The name change wasn't mentioned in the biography so it took a while to figure it all out. His mother had died on the voyage to NZ so perhaps it was in honour of her or maybe Liddell was a classier name or maybe he wanted to dissociate himself from his father for some reason - haven't figured it out. 

I was hoping to figure out one other family history problem and that was the parentage of a paternal GG grandmother Marion Cadzow, who we believe was born in Glasgow in about 1829. I thought Cadzow would be an uncommon name but we found lots of Marion Cadzows. We came close but it turned out that the one we thought was 'our' Marion Cadzow was still living with her parents in 1851 when our Marion Cadzow had already married James McCombie and was living in Glasgow. 

We also managed to do a little sightseeing while we were in Dunedin (and not just cemeteries). 
View from Highcliff Road

Dunedin Railway Station

Here's the pub on Shiel Hill in Anderson's Bay, where Ross' dad used to leave him in the car while he had a few pints with his mates. The bartender would come out with lemonades for all the kids left in the cars!

We also visited an early 20th century mansion called Olveston, which appears almost exactly as it did over 100 years ago. Worth a tour and it's not as dark and creepy as Lanark Castle. No photos allowed inside but I did get permission to take a photo of the Mahjong table.

On the drive home, we stopped at Naseby and tried curling for the first time ever at the Maniototo Curling rink. They gave us a lesson and we played for 2 hours. Ross was a natural but I had to switch to the stick for children and old people to avoid falling on my face trying to get the stone down the ice!

We then drove to Oamaru, had a beautiful dinner at the Riverstone Kitchen, and drove home the next morning to pouring rain and 3C. Perfect timing! 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Quilt for my daughter

Two years ago, my daughter Amy asked me if I would make her a quilt. I have only made two full size bed quilts previously. One was for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary in 1975, which I pieced and appliqued all by hand!! By the time I got to the quilting, I was a surgery resident working about 100 hours per week so my progress slowed down substantially - well it came to a standstill to be accurate. Eventually I paid a Mennonite woman in Ontario, where I lived at the time, to finish the hand quilting. She charged $50! It's still on a bed in the cabin in Georgian Bay although much faded now.

My second quilt was a wedding present for my sister and her husband back in 1990 and I did it all by machine. Much faster than making it by hand but of course, it doesn't look quite as good when you look closely. I managed to find an old photo that I took when I was basting the layers together but none of the finished project.

And I did do a wall hanging quilt of the map of New Zealand a few years ago. It was full of 3 different sizes of squares and rectangles and let me tell you, the rectangles were a bit of a challenge! It turned out pretty well though and hangs in our stairwell. I think I made the Southern Alps a little too white though! You can't see them very well on the photo but I put buttons on the main cities including a sailboat button for Auckland (the City of Sails) and a heart button for Christchurch (home is where the heart is!).

So in June 2014, Amy and I got together and designed her quilt using the 1-2-3 Quilt program. She chose 3 block designs - Star puzzle, Sister's Choice, and 4 Patch Block #1. She has a queen size bed and we planned a 6 x 5 block quilt with 12 inch blocks and 3 inch sashing plus border. Her mattress is 12 inches deep so it had to be quite large. Amy chose 5 colour schemes: blue, green, red, yellow and orange. As we live in opposite hemispheres, I had to choose the fabric but there were a lot of WhatsApp photos that Amy reviewed before purchase!

It took about a year of on again off again sewing to make all the blocks. Here are examples of two of the designs. Can't find a closeup of the third.

It took about a year to finish all the blocks. As the quilt was 6 by 5 blocks and there were 3 patterns and 5 colour schemes, it turned out to be impossible to create a symmetrical pattern with the blocks. So I just tried to strike a reasonable balance of designs and colours across the quilt - a good test for ignoring my perfectionest tendencies! 

We chose an off-white/cream colour for the sashing and I used the foreground colours from the blocks for the squares where the sashing strips met. The quilt measured 94x79 inches before adding any border. I made the border 4 inches longer on the top so there would be enough quilt to cover pillows and used the leftover material from the blocks. The final size before binding and quilting was 107 x 95 inches.

I bought a king size sheet for the backing and it wasn't long enough so I added some coloured strips at the top. That way it would look more interesting when the quilt top was turned back on the bed. I taped the backing onto the tile floor in our front hall, then added the batting (polyester as Amy is allergic to wool) and the quilt top. I pinned all the edges and across the middle than hand basted at 5 inch intervals. I should have basted a little closer together I think, especially as the sashing fabric turned out to have a little more give than I would have liked. After 8 hours on my hands and knees over 2 days, I was ready to quilt!

I quilted by machine using a walking foot, 2.5 mm stitch length, and stitched 1/8 inch from the seams of the main block pattern pieces using cotton quilting thread that matched the block main colour. I used a variegated thread along the edges of all the sashing. Wisely or unwisely, I decided to put a pattern in the sashing. I chose a cable/rope pattern and, becasue I knew I wouldn't be able to sew it perfectly, I used off-white thread to match the fabric. I made a little loop design so that I could continue across the whole width of the quilt. 

I traced the pattern onto the fabric before quilting it using a non-wax based carbon paper that I had bought in Toronto a couple of years ago. Unfortunately I ran out and had to buy some wax based carbon paper here in Christchurch and some of it was difficult to remove. When quilting the rope pattern, it turned out to be very diificult not to push up folds in the fabric, even using the walking foot. So there are a few, well more than a few, ugly bits. 

Cable template
It was quite a mountain of fabric to manipulate under the sewing machine. I think next time (if there is a next time!), I'll quilt it by hand and not worry about how long hand quilting takes.

After the quilting I added a narrow blue binding. The different colours of quilting thread look kind of cool on the back of the quilt but I didn't remember to take a picture of it. 

After quilting for about 5 hours a day for 10 days, I finally finished just in time to take it with me to the US in June. I had to put off taking out all the basting threads and washing off all the carbon marks until after I got there. I wish I had a photo of Amy and me hanging over her bathtub desperately trying to scrub out all the markings. Then to my horror, I discovered I hadn't quilted one of the 4 seams on one of the sashing rectangles. Fortunately I have a good friend in California with a sewing machine and I had brought along my various colours of threads just in case this type of scenario occurred. So at last, after a couple of days of drying, the quilt was finished. I almost forgot to take a photo but managed to throw it on the bed just before I left town. Ta da!

Knitting Updates

 I knit the Pan Am jacket a few months ago and it has been perfect for the cool spring weather. The pattern is from Ravelry and you can see my detailed blog post there as well.  I used Ashford Tekapo 12-ply that I bought from the Hands Ashford store in Christchurch. I lengthened the sleeves and body as the wool is quite warm so, if I am going to wear it, I will probably want to be well covered. The pattern was a nuisance to figure out but there are some helpful hints by other knitters on the Ravelry website, which helped a lot. The border took forever! Don't think I'll make it again but I do love it.

I have two other sweaters on the go.

One is for me - the Whippet cardigan in Holst Garn Nutmeg that I ordered online from Yarn Glorious Yarn. I'm a little bogged down in the sleeves. I started using the Magic Loop knitting technique from Knitting Daily but I didn't have a flexible enough circular needle and the pattern was looking ugly at the 2 turn points so I have switched to double pointed needles, which hopefully will make it less ugly.

The other sweater is for my sister - the Lightweight Raglan Pullover from PurlSoho in Linen Quill Kiln Red as demonstrated by my granddaughter. It's a breeze to knit so far.  The bottom will need serious blocking as it rolls up in spite of the cording stitch.

Everyday blouse by House of Pinheiro

Over a year ago,  bought a cute giraffe print on a navy background from Blackbird Fabrics with thoughts of making a dress for my granddaughter. But I decided the fabric was too dark for a little girl. Then I thought it would make a nice blouse for my daughter to wear to work as she is a pediatrician. But she has specialized in pediatric ICU now and wears scrubs to work all the time. So I decided to make a blouse for me!

Because of the biggis print, I didn't want too many seam interruptions on the front so I chose the Everyday Blouse, which I downloaded from the Upcraft Club website. Here's an example make from the website. Everyday Blouse
The fabric is a polyester crepe, 59 inches wide, and I bought 2m. For interfacing, I used FashionFuse Soft Knit 40 g/m2 from Hawes and Freer. As I am short-waisted, I shortened the bodice by 3/4 inch. I made no other adjustments. I prewashed the fabric on a cold, gentle cycle machine wash.

When cutting the fabric, I lined up the front and back so the pattern matched below the front dart. I cut each sleeve separately and tried to line it up so the pattern on the sleeve matched the front below the dart. I made a size small.

Equipment: Janome Memorycraft 6600 Professional, thread tension 4, stitch length 2.2mm; Brother 3034D to overlock seams (3-thread); 14 universal needle.

The pattern directions were excellent - very easy to follow with more detail than on 'big 4' patterns. It was a little fussy to do the elastic at the shoulder but the directions were very clear so there were no mistakes! Also remembered to make sure the front and back lengths matched up before hemming as the front and back are not sewn together all the way to the hem.

I was pleased with the result. The shirt has a very relaxed fit and is comfortable. My one issue was that the lower sleeve below the dart was rather tight - and I have pretty thin forearms. If I were to make it again, I would allow another half inch at the sleeve hem, tapering from the elbow. And I might just leave out the sleeve dart as the sleeve seems to hitch up just a little along the seam below the dart.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Vogue 7975 wool jacket

I am about to start a wool overcoat for my husband. In anticipation of this, I took the Expert Sewing Techniques for Jackets online course by Sarah Veblen, Essential Guide to Tailoring (both the Structure and Shape and the Construction classes) by Alison Smith, and I decided to sew myself a basic tailored jacket first. I highly recommend the classes, especially the one on structure and shape. This turned out to be the best fitting jacket I have ever made.

I used the following materials:

  • Loose weave Italian wool plaid 1.7m of 154cm wide; bought in Brisbane Australia at Beth-Wyne Couture Fabrics.
  • Cotton sateen for the facings (thought the wool would be too itchy on my neck) from The Fabric Store in Christchurch, NZ
  • Polyester lining from Haralds in Christchurch
  • Vilene 410, a fusible interfacing with stabilizing vertical threads, to interline the front pieces of the jacket and the welt  (made a huge difference with the ravelly wool fabric) from Stitches from the Bush in Australia
  • Fashion Fuse soft knit 1708 interfacing to interline the remaining pieces from Hawes and Freer in Auckland, NZ
  • Fashion Fuse Light Canvas from Hawes and Freer
  • Domette columbine for the sleeve head from Bias Bespoke (I bought a small amount on Amazon)
  • CLR 3002 shoulder pads from Hawes and Freer (max 4mm thickness)
  • Gutermann polyester thread
I used the Vogue 7975 jacket pattern View B Size 12 but with welt pockets - very basic with no collar and no buttons. I first made a muslin with broadcloth. Based on that, I shortened the bodice by 1/2 inch, reduced the breast point by 1/4 inch, took in the bottom edge 1/4 inch on the back side of the side front and both sides of the back and side back. 

I cut out the pieces on a single layer so that I could line up the plaid perfectly. The fabric was super ravelly so I interlined all the pieces with fusible interfacing (see above for details). Here's the interlined back piece.

I used Alison Smith's Speed Tailoring method for the canvas attaching it with fusible interfacing at the armscye and shoulder. I didn't use any tape (forgot - oops!).
I made the sleeve head from domette and attached it using Alison Smith's method, tracing it off the sleeve pattern and attaching the top edge with an ease stitch.  I then using a herringbone stitch to secure the bottom edge. After inserting the sleeves into the jacket, I attached the shoulder pads after first moulding them over a ham - see how they are sticking up like wings with the jacket inside out? As they were so thin, I didn't add anything to the front and back pattern pieces and it turned out fine. I used Sarah Veblen's method of attaching the shoulder pads - rather loose tacking stitch at shoulder seam at neck and about 1 1/4 inches of herringbone stitch at the arm edge.

When attaching the jacket to the lining/facing, I used Sarah Veblen's method of doing corners. You don't turn corners during a seam but sew right off the edge and start again. Then you go back and reinforce the seam starting 1-2 inches before the corner, going down to a small stitch length (I used 1.2mm) before the corner and then cutting across the corner at a 45-degree angle very close to the actual corner, and then continue for another 1-2 inches using a longer stitch.

This pattern did not have you attach the sleeve lining to the rest of the lining before inserting it, which is what I have done in the past. Instead, I basted the armscye edges all together (lining and main fabric) just inside the seam allowance using a firm stitch and knotting it at each end. Then I pressed the sleeve lining armhole along the seam allowance, slid it onto the sleeve and sewed it to the lining armscye. I really liked this method as it holds everything more securely and I didn't have to tack the lining to the fabric anywhere.

Because the fabric was so ravelly, I did a Hong Kong finish on all the hems using silk organza just to be safe. Then I sewed the hem using a herringbone stitch. Then I folded the lining at just the right place so it would droop over just a little when it was finished and sewed it to the silk organza where it met the fabric using an invisible stitch.
And with no buttons or buttonholes to do, I was finished! It fits perfectly although I haven't taken a picture of it on me yet.

Update: Photos wearing the jacket.