After the never-ending winter, spring and summer seem to be moving along so quickly…

I can hardly believe that it is CSA time again! It seems like just yesterday that our farmer was sending out the spring newsletters giving us a farm and planting update…and now it is already time to bring in some spring greens.

produce bag1

produce bag2

I had some extra cotton muslin tucked away, and I thought it the perfect fabric to make up some bags with. I washed the muslin on a fairly warm setting and then tossed it into the dryer to shrink it before sewing. The bags are basic. I opted not to put in draw strings this time.

produce bag3

I simply folded the muslin selvedge to selvedge and cut across, so that the selvedges would eventually be the finished top and the fold would be the bottom. I made french seam on the edges as I like the clean look of them, although for produce bags it probably doesn’t matter what the seams look like!

produce bag4

Simple, functional, easily washed. Pretty much exactly what I was looking for in a produce bag.

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Spring is finally  here, and this last week-end saw the bike trailer put back together and the kids and I out for a ride. Granted, it wasn’t a long ride, but just long enough to put the tired 2-year old to sleep for his nap. It was nice to be out on my bike again.

Last evening, Maus and I went for our first bike ride together. She on her little 12″ bicycle she is slowly outgrowing, and I on mine (mine having somewhat larger wheels…). It was slow…those are some awfully little wheels she is working with, but lovely.

Cycling is so many different things to so many people. For some the bicycle is their main form of transportation and they use it to commute to school and work. For others, cycling is solely recreational. And for many more cycling falls somewhere between the two. Bike culture is growing around here, with more and more people using their bikes to get around the urban environment. And really, why not, parking downtown can be a pain!

Taking a break from editing my thesis chapters the other evening I took to Etsy to see what interesting accessories I could find for the modern cyclist. Etsy, as usual, did not disappoint.

For those needing to haul their bikes up and down stairs or onto buses and trains WalnutStudiolo offers beautifully simple leather portage straps for your shoulder or carrying handles lower on the frame of the bicycle. I thought of my brother and his wife who live above a shop on Queen Street in downtown Toronto, carrying their bikes up and down the narrow staircase from the street to their apartment and back.

WalnutStudiolo

Leather portage strap (left) and bike frame handle (right) from WalnutStudiolo

Many years ago, when women routinely rode bicycles wearing skirts and dresses, skirt guards were common sights. FrillRide is bringing them back, but these are definitely not the skirt guards of the 40’s and 50’s.

FrillRide_skirt guard

Skirt guard from FrillRide

Along with a skirt guard, why not add a funky garter strap to keep your shorter skirt in place while biking? BirdIndustries makes garters in a host of different colours and sizes, as well as waterproof saddle covers to keep your seat dry in the rain. There’s not much more uncomfortable than coming back out to your bike after a rain and having to sit down on a wet saddle, especially if you’re wearing your favourite skirt.

BirdIndustries

 Skirt garter for bikes (left) and waterproof saddle cover (right) by BirdIndustries

And for those heading out to a dinner party, oopsmark in Montreal makes a lovely looking wine bottle holder as well as a sleek u-lock holster.

oopsmark

 Wine bottle holder (top) and u-lock holster (bottom) by oopsmark

 All these little things you didn’t realize you actually wanted…to make your cycling life easier and to add that little extra something to your bike.

All images used with permission.

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sunday cardi 7

As I was knitting Cub’s birthday sweater Maus would periodically check on the progress, and mention, while doing so, that she would like another sweater as well. Pink, she would say. I thought the Sunday Sweater pattern would be a good one to do, and Maus approved. It has a simple lace pattern on the front to add a bit of interest, and the worsted weight yarn the pattern calls for is perfect year round (well, maybe not in July and August…).

sunday cardi 5

sunday cardi 3

The original pattern calls for long sleeves, but Mausi and I agreed that short-sleeves would be better this time round. I find that often short-sleeves actually extend the amount of time a sweater can be worn in the year. Mausi is constantly complaining that she is warm, and I know that a heavier long-sleeved sweater would almost not be worn anymore now, unless it is worn as a top layer. But Mausi will wear a short-sleeved sweater or vest well into early summer, and with a long sleeved shirt underneath it makes a great layering piece int he fall and winter. We are all about layering in this house.

The pattern was the easy part, finding a suitable pink yarn was something else entirely. I don’t often shop for pink yarn, and although my local yarn shop has a lovely selection of yarns, all the pink ones I liked were fingering weight, and so not suitable for this pattern without some pattern adjustments. I hummed and hawed and finally left without buying any wool at all. Instead I came home and checked out the pink selection at Quince & Co. in their worsted weight ‘lark’ wool. They had a couple, and Mausi mentioned she preferred light pink over dark pink, which made my decision that much easier. A few clicks later and ‘Dogwood’ was ordered. Of course I ordered enough yarn to fit the pattern requirements, not really thinking about the short sleeves. I have an entire skein left over…which I suppose means that Mausi will have a matching pink hat this fall. I’m sure she won’t complain.

sunday cardi 1

 The buttons were three matching shell buttons from this collection, and I thought them perfect for this sweater. They are smooth and pearly white on one side, and fairly rough and, well, shell-like, on the back side.

sunday cardi 6

The best part is that this little sweater has already been completely integrated into Mausi’s wardrobe. Originally I had intended it to be an Easter sweater, but seeing as I didn’t finish it until the week after Easter that didn’t quite pan out. Never mind. The pattern designer had intended the cardigan to be an all-purpose layering piece, but sweet enough to fit over dresses as well as jeans. And I think she succeeded!

 

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buttons 1

 

My dad stopped by several weeks ago with a very special treasure. A collection of old cardboard boxes and cigarillo tins, each filled with buttons. Old buttons. Special buttons. Cards of matching buttons for suit jackets carefully cut from buffalo horn. Lovely creamy white and iridescent buttons handmade from shells. And tucked amongst the boxes and tins of buttons, a long, narrow carton with ‘weiss’ (white) simply stamped at one end. The carton is half full of crisp, clean, sharply-edged tailor’s chalks.

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I vaguely remember him only as ‘Opi’. The older German gentleman whose house was right next to ours in Niendorf, the suburb of Hamburg in northwestern Germany. He would walk through our garden on his way to the road and call us “Kletteraffen” (climbing monkeys) with a chuckle as my sister and I sat in the apple tree. He was always wearing a hat. He had been a grandfather figure to my mum, as in a way, Opi and his wife, known only to me in stories as ‘Omi’ had been the catalyst to my own maternal grandparents meeting. My grandmother, a young French woman, had ended her journey from France to Germany under the protective wing of Omi, a milliner during the war. My grandfather, a young Ukranian man incarcerated in a camp in Germany during the war, apprenticed as a tailor with Opi once the camps had been liberated.

I imagine Opi to have been a very good tailor, and I can picture him fitting shirts and suits before the war. Using the corner of his chalk to make carefully sweeping lines on a piece of gabardine wool. He was in the German army at the start of the war, but the stories I have been told have him ending the war not in the army, marching in a direction so at odds with his own morality, but rather back in his tailor shop still required to work for the war effort by making uniforms.

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My mum added to the buttons I am sure. One tin holds a collection of identical buttons I am almost certain she salvaged from an old worn duvet cover. It’s the sort of thing she would have done.

There is history here, in these cartons and tins. In the tiny cut marks on the handful of buttons that look cut from bone, and the suit buttons on their cards. As I sift through them I think of Opi, a man I can’t really remember. We share no blood, but without him, I wouldn’t be writing this. And that is an odd thought. I think also of my mum, as I do almost every time I sit at my sewing machine or pick up my knitting. I love that I have these little pieces of history to add to and to use.

bone buttons

 

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Easter dress_4

A while ago Mausi’s papa gave me this book as a present, “Les couleurs francaises” by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I’ve long admired the styles in the Japanese dress books I had seen, and this book is particularly nice as it has both women’s and girls’ patterns in one book. An Easter dress seemed the perfect excuse to finally stop looking at the patterns, and to choose one to make. Mausi chose pattern ‘Z’ at the back of the book. It has a ruffled hem and I suspect appealed most to her mood at the time.

Easter dress_6

 The fabric is Meandering Flower Fields in pink from Sarah Jane’s Wee Wander line. Although I’m not always drawn to pink, I thought this was really very sweet, and just the sort of thing Mausi would like. I think the little peach footprints amidst the flowers are particularly sweet. I lined it with shot cotton in ‘shell’ and the bias binding and ruffled hem are both shot cotton in lipstick. I lined it not only for modesty (as it is an Easter dress) but also to add a bit of extra substance as it is still quite cool outside.

Easter dress_5

The pattern called for sleeves…and I had fully intended to put sleeves on. The pieces were cut, and lying on the sewing table. But I got so caught up in making the bodice pieces, and then attaching them together at the front split, that I sewed up the bodice sides before I had set the sleeve in. I didn’t want to go through the trouble of opening side seams again, so I used the bias binding the finish the arm holes and made a sleeve-less version instead. I’m actually really pleased with the dress without sleeves.

The patterns in this book require that you add a seam allowance when you are tracing the pattern pieces. Mausi is such a petite 4-year old that I left the seam allowances off, and the size 100 still fits with room to spare. In fact, I am hoping it will fit next summer as well.

Despite my inability to read the written instructions, the pattern pieces were straight-forward and the dress came together quite quickly. Cut and sewn in chunks of 15 minutes here or 30 minutes there. I’m already looking ahead to the next pattern in this book, and perhaps it’s even time to sew something for myself…

Easter dress_1

Easter dress_3

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Our little Cub turned 2 a month ago on March 1st, and although it wasn’t quite ready in time…the buttons were put on that next week, by a week later he had his birthday cardigan. Everyone needs a cardigan. Second only to a hoodie (and a hooded cardigan makes even that unnecessary) a cardigan is one of the most functional pieces of clothing for little people.

C cardi 2

This particular cardigan is the Wonder Years cardigan by Elizabeth Smith (my ravelry notes here) and was really quite enjoyable to knit. It knit quickly from the top down and the sleeves were knit on at the end from stitches set aside. The button band was last. I had a difficult time choosing buttons, as I couldn’t find any locally that I really liked. I finally settled on these, which actually match quite well, as the cardigan just needed to be completed. But I can’t say that I love the buttons.

C cardi 3

All that button indecision was about a week before my dad arrived at my door with the most amazing treasure under his arm…but more on that in the next post! In the mean time, our little man has a  new cardigan to wear as winter ever so slowly gives way to spring, and it looks as though he has enough room to grow so that it will fit next fall and winter as well. Success.

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Some new seeds just arrived from Cubits, and Maus and I have been busy dreaming about and planning our vegetable garden. There are two seed packets that I am especially excited about this year:

the funky, lobed, heirloom Reisetomate and the Japanese heirloom Black Futsu pumpkin/squash.

Cubits_Reisetomate

Cubits_Black Futsu

The tomatoes I’m excited about as I adore eating fresh tomatoes right from the garden…sadly I am the only one in this household at the moment, but perhaps the littles can be won over with such fun looking tomatoes!

And the pumpkin? Well, I haven’t tried growing pumpkins, and this one looks perfect to try with. The colour changes from black to yellowy and then settles on the tan in the picture in storage. It looks interesting, you can eat it, and you won’t find it easily, which makes it even more fun to try and grow.

What are you excited to start growing this year?

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C cardi

Little Mr. C’s 2nd birthday is fast approaching, and as it’s been a while since he has had some handknits made just for him, I thought a cozy cardigan would be just the thing. I’m knitting with with Rowan pure wool worsted, which is a superwash wool and so perfect for messy, busy 2-year olds and the pattern is the Wonder Years Cardigan by Elizabeth Smith. It’s lovely to have something on my needles again.

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Papa’s upcycled hat and neck warmer…as modelled by Mama.

papa's hat and neckwarmer

Papa doesn’t wear hats. Not really. But I’ve always felt that maybe it was because he didn’t have the right hat. So with the sweater parts leftover after making C another pair of longies this past fall I set about making a hat. I used one of mine to draw up a pattern and then one morning before taking the little Maus to school, we cut out and sewed up Papa’s hat.

And he wore it!

So, buoyed by the success of the hat, I used more of the sweater to fashion a matching neck warmer lined with grey cashmere that he then received for Christmas. But Papa doesn’t actually want to appear on this blog of mine…he would rather be behind the camera as he so often is. Which is okay, as I think I enjoy wearing the hat and neck warmer as much as he does.

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merino vest_1

It’s cold here just now. Really cold. At least really cold for southwestern Ontario. An average of -23°C not counting the windchill. I am ready for something a little warmer. Even -5°C would seem positively balmy! But the freezing temperatures have made me appreciate our woolies even more (and I wouldn’t have thought that possible). Top of the list at the moment are the kids’ merino wool undershirts.

Last year I bought one for Maus from a local mama’s Etsy shop. She wore it every day for a week and a half, and I knew I needed to make her another. I had an old light grey merino wool sweater that Papa had donated to the sewing heap, and I used a summer tank-top as a template. I wasn’t very precise, and didn’t actually make a pattern. I just lay the tank-top on top of the sweater and used my rotary cutter to cut around it. I then scooped out the front neck line a little more, making it a cm or 2 lower than the back. I sewed the shoulder and side seams, and then turned the neck and arm hole edges under a tad and zig-zag stitched them into place.

She wore those 2 undershirts all winter last year, and again this fall. However, this year I had 2 little people needing (and fitting) the same 2 undershirts, so another was in order.

merino vest_4

Another merino sweater sat in the pile, and so I used the light grey undershirt from last year as a template for this dark grey one. I knew I was making this particular one for Maus though, and so I thought I’d brighten up the dark grey with a red heart near the bottom.

merino vest_2

merino vest_3

Quick and simple. These vests go under everything, from long-sleeved shirts and dresses to t-shirts and button-down collared shirts. Cub even wears his to bed on occasion with a pair of wool longies. Because they are worn as a base layer, and naturally don’t get smelly, I hardly ever wash these things, and consequently they are always ready to go. I’m sort of thinking I may need one next…who knew that a men’s light weight merino sweater would be so very versatile?!

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