Yard and garden late spring 2018 notes

This time of the year is all about the pulling and planting. Not much making stuff happens because my appendages need rest and my finger skin has extra cuts and splinters. I’m equal parts ready and willing to be outside and feeling better from the vitamin D blast, and feeling enraged and bound to all of the fecund green things out of control (and then really out of control if neglected for a day or two).

This is the fourth year battling Chinese wisteria, Japanese knotweed, lesser celandine (pretty much lost the battle with that one), garlic mustard, creeping charlie, other unknown vines and weeds, and the native poison ivy. Things are starting to get under control – everything is still coming up everywhere, but it can mostly be pinched off. I’ve moved on to the bigger things, and identified Japanese barberry (now gone), Russian olive (needs to be gone, but something needs to replace it), and a Callery pear that is well within my sites, but it’s probably too big to take down ourselves now (want to put a redbud in its place).

N made some window boxes deemed “adorable” by a passer-by (they are – just the icing on the cottage cake) and the magnolia had a bombastic bloom this year. The massive perennial planting of 2017 is coming back to life – except for  most of the hyssop…? Not sure what happened there, but a second massive perennial planting has happened…

N has also foraged some very excellent chicken of the woods mushrooms, and I finally played with the wild violets that are all over the yard. My violet syrup doesn’t taste like much – more of just a simple syrup with a slight vegetal tone – and the flowers don’t have much of an aroma, so either I needed to pick them another time, or our violets suck? But the syrup is handy for experiments in fruity popsicles that have started happening thanks to a brief hot spell (now it is cool and rainy and woolly and definitely not popsicle weather again).

Ghost stairs. #construction #ghoststairs #ladder

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There’s also a big house project happening – one that’s almost done, but foiled by the rainy weather

And then there’s the veg.

The garden is planted and growing (the beets, carrots, and inexplicably the bok choy failed to germinate well, but so far I’ve had better luck with carrots in the fall. The new additional grow light (cheap led strips hung in between the florescents) made a lot of tomato plants happen.

Despite what I thought was a decent 2 week hardening off period, all suffered transplant shock and a bit of sun scald, but all have come back from it. I put them out slightly early too, but I’d already transplanted them once into bigger pots and there wasn’t room for even bigger pots – there were around 50 plants, and the leftovers went to the neighbors. I definitely started the squash to early, and some didn’t survive transplanting, but starting them indoors isn’t entirely necessary, but I’m trying to get ahead of the bugs. And something is eating the pepper plants, so I might have to buy a few…

And now we’ve got asparagus beetles – our little asparagus row is over half dead thanks to last year’s false spring – we’ve gotten a couple of side dish and garnish’s worth of spears, and the skinny ones left all have damage from the little fuckers – now everything out there has a pest or disease to nom it down to nothing and maybe kinda makes me think a little about how life would be easier with just a lawn. Most of the neighbors have just a lawn with a tree here and there, and maybe they are the smart, or at least relaxed and not in pain, ones…

But fuck lawns, they taste terrible.

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A poncho in a weekend, no week, no week and a half…

I was itching to finish something (something knitted something), but my unfinished somethings all need a good amount of time yet, and the effects of the Rosa’s Caponcho kool-aid I drank last fall (and decided to rip) hadn’t worn off yet.

The long Easter weekend had no holiday and associated obligations for me, and the weather’s been shitty, so I cast on the poncho the Thursday night before thinking I might just be able to finish it by the end of the weekend. And I could have if I knit for more hours than just the evenings and one afternoon for a bit, but instead, I sort of finished it in a week. Not finished, exactly – started the bind-off the following Thursday and then found it was too stretchy, and I would have liked another row in garter, and I was going to run out of yarn for the bind-off anyway, and I should have gone down to smaller needles for the garter portion, then bigger needles for the bind-off but not too stretchy of a bind-off, the regular kind whose name I don’t know and that can be too tight but sometimes you need a little less stretch, and I’m really not sure if the thing is long enough as it is because I never stopped to take off the needles or on to another set to try it on and I didn’t love that the gauge was so loose, at least in partsssss……….

So I almost finished it in a week, then unknit the cast-off I began on Thursday, ignored it on Friday, tried it on on Saturday, deemed it a very good cozy thing, finished un-knitting it – took it up another row or two (I didn’t keep track, damn me) so I’d have another row of garter, and started a few stitches of garter to remind myself it should be smooth sailing from here on out and maybe I could finish by the end of the weekend?

But that was Saturday night.

But it was finished (though still needs to be blocked) courtesy of the plumber opening up some knitting time on Monday.

As a practical wearable woolly thing, it is perfect – cozy as all get-out – perfect for shoulder seasons, perfect for sitting around indoors and out.

But again I’ve made something that looks like a souvenir from a 1990s gap year in Central/South America. Not that that is a bad thing by any means, it just doesn’t look handmade by me, or a not-quite-handmade where did you buy that because a lot of commercial knits have a handmade aesthetic now? On the one hand it is utterly boring stripes, easy mindless chunks dark to light, or light to dark if you’re flat on your back, and I should have done something more creative, inventive, unique, and…. hip? It is utterly not hip. But I don’t like hip. But I’m feeling a bit frumpy. But is it frumpy? But I don’t care.

And there’s always the option to wear it sideways.

I like options.

The sheep geek (not geeking sheep) in me likes that this is all Jacob wool, and I’d like to think that most of it came off of one sheep, but of course, it didn’t. The bulk of it was roving from Jenny Jump farm and it is gorgeous – soft but structured – the rest was an ounce or two of not very nice stuff (more about the spin here). And oddly, my spinning varied much more than I’d thought between the colors. My favorites where the darkest and second darkest, and by far they were the best spins. The white sucks – I hadn’t gotten chain plying down by then yet and it is overspun. The spinning on second lightest is much better, but for whatever reason, this was much thinner than all of the other colors… no specific reason for that…?

Also there was more white than dark, but the dark part is vast – and that’s obvious because the rows were short for most of it, but I still thought the white would have a tiny bit more than it did, but not an issue, just a mild huh…

So the details:

Quad-colored Jacob roving, separated by color, chain plied to a bulkyish weight, roughly 528 yards.

Dark ~166 yards, medium dark ~82 yards, medium light ~110 yards, light ~170 yards.

Stretchy cast on 70 (might have miscounted and it was 69) stitches

4 plain knitting rows on US 10 needles, then 3 repeats of the 2 row pattern, 2 repeats on US 10.5, 7 repeats on US 11, then roughly 30 repeats on US 13 – this is the part I lost track of since I ripped back a bit, then three ribs of garter on US 11 needles, bind-off in traditional one over the other way with a US 13 in my right hand.

Then done.

I’ll bother blocking it when it needs its first wash – I’m slightly concerned about it stretching out since the gauge is a bit too loose, but a couple more inches is fine – more than that and I might have to felt slightly or take it up a few rows – or knit another…?

I might just have to knit another anyway…

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Lion or lamb wham…?

We’ve had four nor’easters in three weeks.

At first it was gearing up to be an early spring – the blackbirds were hanging out, the buds filling out, and I wasn’t quite ready, but at the same time itching to get out.

For the sake of seasonal documentation. #hyacinth #springiscoming #bulbs

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And then foot after foot of white stuff – the heavy kind, not the fluffy kind, and now I’m fearing our Magnolia blossoms have been damaged again – we had exactly one last year – one bloom on a giant old tree…

But then again, we’re a little too north for Magnolias anyway…

I started a linen stitch scarf for N out of yarn from one of his old sweaters.

Then I realized I couldn’t finish it before the season was out, so there is no hurry…

Late winter afternoon. #shadows #horse

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Then I got out a very long-suffering sweater that has a serious game of yarn chicken going on, and less than ideal options for the bottom hem. After hemming and hawing about the hem, I’ve set off for sleevetown to knit down the yarn. If there is any remaining, I’ll unknit the current hem and re-knit it in the way I’m thinking will drive me crazy the least.

I forgot to note when I finished this spin – I’d meant to keep track since I’d like to know how long it takes me to spin for a sweater when just spinning for 30-45 minutes or so here and there, but at least around 3-4 days a week. I think I finished at the end of February, but February is short – maybe early March? Either way, it took around/a little less than, two months…?

Sweater, eventually. #spinning #handspun #kitchensinkspinning #wool #yarn

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Not unreasonable – a good pace actually since I don’t need to make yarn faster than I can knit it. But it’s only 1,200 yards, so about the minimum I’d need for the bigger/longer things I like to wear these days. I haven’t done any swatching yet, but I was aiming for a worsted/aran generally (it’s got an intentional thick and thin thing going on) and I’m thinking it might be slightly less, so I’ll start with a US 7 needle first…

Debating about a very basic pullover or a cardigan (really need cardigans)…if it is a cardigan, I’ll probably need to spin more or more likely use commercial yarn for the button bands and such.

(And perhaps it’s worth a mention that the yarn almost exactly matches a felted bag I made probably around 10… 10! years ago but have yet to finish. And should I admit that part of that is from bedbug fear? I’d made it as an overnight/light traveling bag but then imagined that the felt would grab and hold thousands of bedbug eggs from overhead compartments and hotel surfaces… That, and it is a bit heavy too, so it defeats the purpose of traveling light…)

The garden is almost ready – I started writing this last Wednesday thinking the snow would melt by the weekend, and it didn’t, but it has today, but it’s still fairly cold and I’ve got a little cold.

Waiting… #seconddayofspring #impatient #springstorm #gardening #snow

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But the storms have also caused other delays – the farm store I get bagged compost to supplement ours has had their scheduled dirt delivery overdue for a month…

But I’ve got babies growing in the basement (let’s hope I didn’t start them too soon) that should be ready to be outside by the time everything else is…

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Not mittens for kittens

I finally knit a pair of mittens for myself.

The pattern is The World’s Simplest Mittens and they are, but perhaps not yet a go-to, never-fail, can knit it in my sleep pattern for me.

I spun the yarn last summer from fibery odds and ends acquired mostly from the NJ wool fest – some of it was an ounce or so pity purchase, much of it came from $1 or so an ounce grab bags containing matted bits of roving, second cuts, and all around mystery fiber both happy and nasty – it’s likely about 60% alpaca and 40% sheep – the most common breeds around here are Romney and Jacob.

Something went wrong in my weights and measures department because I thought I had over 8 ounces of fiber, but ended up with around 160 yards of yarn – granted, it’s a 3-ply and I wanted a thick, denser yarn – and I got that, but not too dense that it was painful to knit – and apparently I’m too lazy or forgetful to weigh my mittens, so we’ll just say that these took much or many beast/s. And the yarn was mostly fun to spin – just when I was annoyed with some rough and sticky or filthy stuff, I hit some angelic alpaca – and it transformed into a plump beaut after its first bath.

I spun the yarn for mittens or slippers and decided on mittens since I’d yet to make some for myself, and commercially made “warm” mittens often aren’t – or they’re too expensive and poor-fitting for me.

I cast-on for an adult medium (fearing that it might be too small) in worsted because I usually wear men’s gloves or largest women’s (I did a provisional CO so I could later pick up and knit the cuffs down in case my yarn ran short) and I wanted them to be dense – the yarn was more of a bulky weight.

And they were way too big. Part of that was a brain fart on my part – I was doing the thumb gusset as a Kf&b since the fuzzy yarn wouldn’t show the less neat increase as much, but I forgot that makes an extra stitch between the markers, so I ripped back and did a M1R and M1L like I should have in the first place, thinking the too-bigness was mostly due to the too-much-thumbness.

But ass that I can be, I kept knitting when I could tell that they were still too big. I justified this with the intention to line them with old cashmere sweater scraps and/or felt them a bit. But… the fit seemed slightly short. I started the the decreases after I’d cleared my little finger like I do with my little toe when making socks (and interestingly both are a little over 1 1/4 inches in difference) but this mitten decrease is faster than the toe one I use, so I added a knit every other row once I was a few rows in. Either the whole thing should be knit every other row, or I should wait until the cuticle of the next finger from the end to decrease.

My hand isn’t in the right place and my fingers look more aligned than they are, but I’ve got at least an inch or more of width I don’t need – if I knit them again, I’d take off at least 4 stitches. The other issue I’ve always got with mitts and now mittens, is the that palms are never long enough, so I automatically always add at least 4 or 5 rows, maybe at least an inch or so before starting the thumb gusset.

Then there’s the issue of the pointy tops. I don’t like perfectly rounded mitten tops because my middle finger does poke up (in its resting state, not just when gesturing), and I don’t love the sharply-pointed tops you see on some colorwork mittens – so by adding a few knit rows my tops are more of a relaxed point, but if I cup my hands, I still get a pointy nubbin.

That looks like a rooster beak.

And I don’t want to mix my wool and poultry – I’m a little grossed out by the thumb gusset that resembles a chicken leg even though I’m sure it’s a more practical one – and really this might be the pattern I should try next…

But back to my current mitten bitchin’ – this combo of pointy top and side thumbs (not left or right specific) does not work. I knew this going into it – I’ve made several fingerless mitts and the side thumb is fine for a plain top. But one pair I made has a singular design element that twists in when the thumb tucks toward the palm – and the decrease lines of the top twist in toward the palm. So to correct this, either the thumb needs to be left and right specific and needs to be in more, or the pointy decrease needs to happen in more, or the top should have more spaced out decreases so it can spin a bit (though I don’t like the ones that align and end up a bit pinwheeled)…

But whatever, I knew the risks but I wanted mittens quick.

So I’m a little concerned about loosing length if I felted them, and they aren’t as itchy and in immediate need of a lining as I thought they might be, and figured I needed to test drive them first to find out how water and wind tight they were on their own and maybe I needed to do nothing and I had arctic-ready hand protection and I just needed to wait for next winter (or clean out the freezer) to test them out.

Then we had a nor’easter with not-too-much precipitation but way too much wind, and our power was knocked out for 4 days – a bone-chilling, smelly (no water either), very long four days. And the sun came out and it was in the 40s in the day and I still couldn’t get warm – even the dog wanted under the blankets. So the mittens got their test – and failed – the wind still comes through a bit and they are stretching out a little too, so rather than re-knit them, a lining and a little bit of felting should do the trick – or at least improve them enough.

And wearing them made me think of street festivals in the 1990s with Central and South American flute players and hand-knit goods and crystals and shit and I had a very strong suspicion that perhaps I already once owned some hand-knit rustic alpaca mittens…

But I think I was thinking of these – that have seemed to have gone AWOL…

And in the end, I don’t think I need a solid-go-to vanilla mitten pattern like I have with socks – I don’t really need or want another pair of knitted mittens soon (have thoughts of sewing a pair anyway) though perhaps I do need one for fingerless mitts since I wear those very frequently and always have to scramble around a bit to determine stitch counts and whatnot.

For now though, I’m just hoping we’ll have power while another storm is upon us…

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Shetland blues

For the last decade or so, I’ve been buying damaged Shetland sweaters from thrift stores. They had to be misshapen and/or slightly felted and/or have holes – basically unwearable at least not without significant repair.

Most of them are from the late 1970s to early 1990s and in most cases, the colors happen to be ones I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear or knit by themselves. But I finally amassed around a dozen (not pictured are some more blues, pinks, and greys) and originally I thought I’d knit a giant hap shawl/blanket, perhaps some colorwork accessories, and maybe a Spencer dress

And I bought one that was in quite good condition that I kept to wear as-is.

I love the slogan: “Wool, it’s got life.”

But then I used it in my failed MFA portfolio.

(That patch is easily removed, I just haven’t done it yet. And it’s probably not work-appropriate as it is. And my workplace is hostile and discriminatory towards sweaters – it’s been near 80F in there all winter and I’m reduced to t-shirts which is absolutely obscene in the wintertime and crushing my sweater-loving soul, but I digress…)

But this was the first project that I finally started to use my freshly harvested old Shetland sweater yarn.

The absolute best thing about this Shetland yarn is that it is all the same 2-ply weight (or close enough) brand to brand, decade to decade so it is all freaky great for anything – colorwork especially – so it’s not just another one-off for the scrappy stash. And I haven’t tested it yet, but it is probably the equivalent to, and/or would pair well with, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift yarn.

That patch above obviously used very little yarn, and I was left with quite a bit, yet not much of one individual color from this stripey sweater. (Stripey sweaters are also part of my thrift sweater collecting policy since they do make for great scrappy projects, but this one was happily the same good old Shetland yarn, only it is fairly recent – from the middle aughts most likely).

Recently my mom got new glasses and requested a new (small, more like a kerchief) scarf with blue in it. My stash only had some bulky blue earmarked for another project and some sock yarn with blues, but they seemed a little too crayon-cartoonish. I think buying something was out of the question at the time since I would have had to wait for it to arrive in the mail and/or I’d have been tempted to buy roving instead and spin something, but that would take too long… And I am stash-busting, but do make exceptions for gifts, but I don’t have a solid LYS nearby to pop into and know I could get something appropriate for a fair price (and without attitude).

So I hit the Shetland stash – enough with hanging on to the thoughts of big haps and whatnot – there is still plenty of yarn for that anyway. And I absolutely required a mindless pattern – something I could knit as quickly as I can (which isn’t that fast these days) with near zero risk of frogging and restarting. My mom liked the triangular shape of the Lacy Baktus I made for her a few years ago, and I like the the shape of a slightly asymmetric side-to-side triangle, and that is also the most forgiving for judging yarn amounts, or rather, you don’t need to worry about it at all, just stop when you’re out (the Batkus is my all-time favorite, but there will be a day I’m sure, that I will run out of yarn at the very tip).

And Clara Falk’s Tailwind shawl pretty much fit the bill. I liked that she used an icord edge to hide the yarn tails and wanted to try it out – I liked the icord edge on my Paris Toujours, but it was more of a shallow slip thing that smoothed the end rather than a tube that would successfully entomb loose ends.

And I also wanted to use up most of the blue stripey stuff, but I figured I wouldn’t have enough once the stripes grew long, so I added a purple, navy, and denim-y colored sweater to the mix. The only solid color, a cobalt blue, was from the collar, cuffs, and waistband of the stripey sweater, so I had a safe amount of that one.

I held the yarns doubled in order to get a better gradient and to plump up the weight. I used US9 needles, but probably could have gotten away with 10s – this stuff is so bloomy.

(The semi-felted sweaters can be a bit of a bitch to unravel, but the Shetland is fairly strong and can withstand some tugging, so even though the stripey sweater in particular was at least 3 sizes smaller than what it was originally, I had minimal breakage. Out of the dozen or so of these sweaters, I’ve only given up unraveling one of them, and will use it for mitten linings and such instead.)

I hemmed and hawed through the whole thing about the colors – I don’t like light blues, and I’m always a little ambivalent about knitting with colors that aren’t ones I love – but they had their purpose in making the grade.

But the gradient wasn’t always working for me – perhaps that knitting trend is out, or on the way out, or maybe still peaking? But now it’s done with gorgeous multi-toned, perhaps a little speckled yarn not in early ’80s colors that were meant to be worn with too-stiff, too-high waisted jeans and ivory corduroy pants. And maybe because it was too consistent? I think that is my issue – it’s too regimented: 10 rows of one, ten of another, 10 of another, 10, 10, 10, 10… It needed something to break up the monotony, a wave or another angle, or different stripe thicknesses…

But that isn’t for me to ponder anymore since it’s my mom’s now, and as a scarf/shawl it is spot-on: crazy warm, sheepy yet drapey, and able to be worn in several ways.

And uh, yeah, it’s not a small kercheif like thing that can be tucked under the coat…

Maybe next year, okay ma?

***

And the final verdict on the pattern is that it is a good one – the icord edge totally encased the ends (though perhaps I wouldn’t trust it as much with a non-sticky yarn). My only minor quibble is that edge isn’t quite as stretchy as I’d like, but keeping it loose when knitting helps – I think the pattern mentions to pull it tightly, but I would recommend the opposite. And then I did the icord bind off with US10.5 needles, and that was perfect – there’s about equal give on both ends. I blocked it slightly longer, but it didn’t really need to be shaped much, though the soak made the yarn bloom a little again and erase any final kinks from unraveling.

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Feb finds

Winter went away for a few days a week ago and suddenly it was mud season.

And m&*#$*^%)#**&&$%&$!!!!! TICK season.

And of course, it’s always deer season…

early feb phil (2)

And our yard smells like a barnyard, and the dog loves to eat the poop and lick our faces, and all of our recently planted deer-resistant shrubs still need ugly cages to protect them from being “sampled” to death, and…

early feb phil (2) - detail

See that open, spilled-out compost bin in the back?

That is not ours.

I really like our neighbors – great people – but we’ll never be able to discourage the gathering of beasts in our yard while open compost and birdseed left on the ground happens just over the border…

But that’s why we had to fence in our garden and compost piles. And once again it’s time to think about the garden again – some seeds were saved and are ready to go, a few more are on order. Something went wrong with our seed starting last year – more like a few somethings, so more attention and care (and documentation) need to happen this year.

Everything out there is frozen again, and that’s okay – I’m not ready for the growing demands just yet.

I’m still officially cold-sheeping and generally frugal, but I can’t resist the pull of the thrift store entirely – and it’s paid off well in the last week or two. I found some good yarn on the cheap – the thrift yarn in my area is usually the nastier acrylics or something decent but way overpriced – and I’m itching to knit up big scrappy things, so it all fits in my collecting policy as well.

And then I had one of those rare, serendipitous, delicious scores…

Around the time I first moved out here, I was having a thrift pick-me-up and found a hooded wool duster/cardigan (with pockets!) from a pricey brand of shapeless and mildly dumpy clothes (that are now becoming quite appealing to me as middle age ascends…) but it was priced out of my range – maybe something like $16? Which I would consider if it was something I could wear for work or was very well made, but I wanted it for lounge wear, a robe of sorts – and I’ve already got several oversized sweaters in the name of comfort. So I passed it up, and I regretted doing that (and I might have gone back for it?).

early feb phil (3)

And then around four years later, it is mine. For about $3.

Is it the same one? It very likely could be…

Was it involved in a violent knife attack? Perhaps… or maybe a spray of gunfire?

I saw one of the holes when I picked it up, but it didn’t matter – I loved it more for its imperfections – and I didn’t bother to inspect it at any great length apart from eyeballing if the shoulders would fit me. But when I pulled it out of the wash, I finally saw that it was full of holes a couple of sizes larger than the US’s largest coin.

It’s a slight shame – the fit is so perfect – loose but amazingly not too frumpy – so it could be public wear, but my mending might not cut it for more polished needs. The placement of the holes is random, yet spaced out enough so some interesting embroidery or patches of some sort could look really good, but for now unraveling is mitigated and it’s oh so comfortable…

 

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What happened to the month…?

Yeah, apparently time is flying.

Gotta be the live one's worst nightmare… #tree #trash #wood #discarded #deadoralive

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Work, some play, and still too short days…

I’m trying to get as much spinning in as I can – it’s a wintertime activity for me – the movement keeps me warm and my hand’s aren’t sticking to the wool – although they’re very dry and sandpapery at times and snag the stuff too.

I finished the Jacob gradient and finally got a good rhythm for chain-plying. I spun it from light to dark, and the light is a fairly piss-poor yarn, but the darkest is fairly decent, so much more practice is in order, but I’m not sure how often I’ll choose this kind of ply…

The new Jacob yarn was supposed to become a medium-ish poncho, but I haven’t swatched it yet – the yardage and weight are both less than I thought they would be, but maybe it will work? Otherwise I keep looking at vest-things, but I don’t wear the one I made that often.

But no sooner was that off the wheel than I started a fun spin.

It’s a kitchen sink deal with a bunch of natural wool in greys and browns and a bit of dyed stuff in blues and teals with a touch of yellow and white. There’s a little more Jacob, but mostly Romney, Gotland, unregistered “Silkwool,” and a little Mohair, Merino, Angora, and mystery stuff. It must end up a sweater quantity, and I’m pretty sure I have to up the teal percentage a bit more and hit the stash for a few more ounces for insurance purposes, but I’m about 25% there.

And actually, this wasn’t the next spin after the gradient – I sampled the black alpaca, and decided that I can’t/don’t want to spin it in the raw and must send it out to be processed into roving or batts – I can’t/don’t want to hand card more than a few ounces here and there. If anyone has recommendations for a reasonable alpaca processor in the US, let me know!

Current knitting is still the same as before, and sewing has still been more mending than making.

Though there was one recently sewn hat with my first pompom, and became the first item where I actually used a pompom.

Otherwise, I’m trying not to be on this machine much and have been burned by a recent online sale – a buyer publicly accused me of sewing fancy labels on cheap sweaters all because she bought one from me that was “too itchy” and wanted to return it when I didn’t accept returns – and it was a handknit Irish sweater with a rustic wool tweed yarn made in one of those crafty co-op deals (and certainly not a recognized “fancy” label) that I priced at only $9.99 forfuckssakes…

People suck.

 

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