Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Chris’s Breeze shirt

It’s done!

And he likes it!

You know it’s love when he interrupts his driveway work to try on the new shirt.

The pattern again came together very easily. I did learn a few things.
1. When repurposing fabric, in this case a linen tablecloth, don’t assume it’s actually symmetrical. The stripes on one end were slightly longer than on the other, which meant my pattern matching front to back wasn’t exact. I fudged it but could have made it much easier on myself if I’d checked before cutting.
2. My serger is awesome. The pattern calls for French seams. They are beautiful and wonderfully functional in that they keep woven fabric from fraying. But they take twice as long to sew as every seam is sewn twice. Serging the seams also stops fraying and is done once. Much faster and I’m so pleased to be learning how to use this piece of equipment.
3. I love this pattern and am already planning another tunic out of some indigo dyed fabric I have in my stash. Just need to see if I have enough.

Tuesday March 31, 2020 statistics

From The Times Union website:

Total coronavirus cases:
• 67,384  in New York, including 1,342 deaths.
• 164,610 in the U.S., including 3,170 deaths.
• Worldwide: 787,631. Deaths: 37,840. Recovered: 166,276.
It’s been cold and rainy for the last 3 days. Temperatures in the greenhouse have been around 10 degrees warmer than outside temperatures but that’s not saying much. I plan to start my 8-week seeds on April 1st and to put some pea seeds in the ground. I’ll get my 6-week seeds going by end of week. I have high hopes but no experience with the greenhouse as this is our first season with it. Here’s fingers crossed that all this works and I don’t need to buy starts come May.
I’ve been working on Chris’s Breeze shirt and should have that finished today. Then I’m going to sew up some masks for home use. I’ve been wanting to sew some masks for use when cleaning out the chicken coop, gardening during allergy season (yeah, that’s pretty much the entire growing season), and mowing or working in the workshop. But I didn’t have a good pattern. Well, there sure are patterns out there now. And although we are staying home and therefore don’t need masks for off-property reasons, they will be handy around the homestead. My Dad even requested a couple. So I’ll get those done today too. I’ve got plenty of tightly woven cotton in my stash so I don’t need to buy anything. Always a bonus when taking on a project!
Otherwise today will be full of the usual—cooking (lasagna), critters, and projects (sewing, driveway maintenance, and moving the rain barrel). 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Spring cleaning

The sun was wonderful yesterday. Spent some time sitting out around the fire pit before getting up the gumption to do a bit of cleaning.

The front porch tends to accumulate all kinds of debris over the winter. Wood chips and bark from the firewood stored there, leaves blown in from the yard, sunflower hulls from the feeders, and way more junk than I’d like. 

But a thorough sweeping, some determined tidying, and a bit of rearranging results in a spot that just begs you to sit down and relax.

I need to move another rocker in between the two against the wall. And I really need to get that barber chair finished. Heck, all the chairs could use some sprucing up. Just needs to get a touch warmer before I can really work outside.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday March 27, 2020 Statistics

From The Times Union website:
Total coronavirus cases:
• 39,140 in New York, including 457 deaths.
• 85,996 in the U.S., including 1,296 deaths.
• Worldwide: 542,417. Deaths: 24,358. Recovered: 124,164.
Spring feels as though it’s really here. Most of the snow we got earlier in the week is gone already and it was warm and sunny yesterday. I went into the greenhouse to get ready for seed planting and saw some wee sprouts poking through the lettuce bed. They’re more likely to be weeds than Black Seeded Simpson, but it was great to see them nonetheless.

We’re still isolating; easy to do out here in the woods. I’m cooking from the pantry and so far haven’t needed to get creative in order to make meals tasty. As our inventory gets used I’m sure that will change.

But so far it’s all normal food: knishes, chicken pot pie, steak with green beans and mushroom cream sauce, eggs, waffles, spinach calzones, tuna sandwiches, General Tso’s, spanakopita. Sourdough starter is still strong and I’ve made english muffins out of the discard. Will need to feed it again today so I’ll likely make some bread too.

Everything feels a bit surreal. So much of our daily life is just as it was—project based, homestead oriented—but the whole world is upside down and crooked. Reading the news is a morning obsession but then we put it away for the day (or try to) so that we can focus on the positive: we and those closest to us are healthy at the moment. 

All my Twig and Tale patterns

Okay, there are quite a few of these. All patterns were purchased as PDF downloads which I just love. I get them fast, I print just what I need, and Twig and Tale embeds video links to tutorials. Awesome!

Breeze Tunic
Breeze tunic, wearable muslin 
Petal dresses for my nieces (this pattern is free)
Tie-back Boots (slippers)
Trailblazer vest #2 
Planning yet another of these
Butterfly wings-adapted from the Moth pattern 
Dragon wings
I have another vest pattern to try (the Pathfinder) as well as more tunics to make. Oh, and at least two more Trailblazers.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Another pattern from independent designer Twig and Tale—the Breeze shirt. I really like this designer; I’ve purchased multiple patterns from them and have had great success with their clear instructions and lovely styles. The Trailblazer vest I made last year is much loved. So much so that I made another one with old Army BDUs and a 1940s pressed blanket as the liner (I’ll get a post on that done soon). This was the first of a couple pairs of slippers. And I also made a variety of costume wings for my nieces and nephews (here are the first pair and I’ll have another post to come). Actually I’ve just realized that I’ve sewn so many of their patterns that I should just do a post of them all.

The Breeze shirt can be done as a long or short-sleeved tunic with optional features like a curved hem, side splits, or pockets. I chose to do the hip length with curved hem, long-sleeve.

Since I’d never sewn sleeves before I figured it would be a good idea to do a muslin. Fortunately it came out good enough to actually wear.

It’s cut from an antique linen tablecloth that had some damaged areas. I easily cut around those to have plenty of yardage. Once I decided that the size was correct, I moved on to my “real” fabric, some gorgeous handwoven from Guatemala. I was more than a little nervous about cutting into this stuff.
Deep breath... 
And cut!
 I’m very happy with the fit and have gained a lot more confidence in my sewing skills.

Close up
I have another swath of fabric from Guatemala in a pretty purple that I’ll be using for another of these tunics, but first Chris has requested one for himself. I’ve got some beautiful grey linen that I think will be just perfect.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Shoes are done!

We got the shoes done! Ended up adjusting some of the instructions. We didn’t like how he attached the button tab. The instructions said to make a tab with long tails, insert them into the shoe near the heel, tie a “big ugly knot”—yes, that’s a quote— and then hammer it flattish. Huh? Have a knot right where your heel rubs? Now, he acknowledged that this was counterintuitive; that it would seem weird; but that the leather would simply stretch and bulge outward and you’d never notice that knot. Huh. 
We decided against taking that chance and instead laced the tab on using our very soft deer lacing. Then we hammered that flat.

The toggle is made out of a long triangle of leather that you roll and spear. Total pain to make but I love how it looks.

The shoes are form fitting and a bit too small right now.

But I’ve been wearing them for an hour and they are starting to stretch and relax. I still think I want to add a bit of length to the pattern, but these are comfortable enough to wear as is.

Not bad for the first pair.

Did I say the snow was gone?

We got nearly a foot of snow yesterday. 

Fortunately it wasn’t a typical March snow. 

 It wasn’t wet and heavy.

It was surprisingly fluffy and we didn’t even need snowshoes to do our morning walk. Good thing as we’d just put them away for the season.
It sure was pretty though.

With the whole “don’t leave home” thing going on, Chris decided not to bother clearing the driveway.  We have a bet going that it’ll be melted off by Sunday. Small amusements matter when you’re shut in at home.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monday March 23, 2020 Statistics

From the Times Union website:
Total coronavirus cases:
•  15,168 in New York, including 114 deaths.
• 26,747 in the U.S., including 340 deaths.
• Worldwide: 311,988. Deaths: 13,407. Recovered: 93,790.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

What we did yesterday

A gorgeous day yesterday. Well, gorgeous for March in upstate NY. Went for a long walk on the property and checked out all the winter damage done to the forest. Lots of broken limbs, fallen or uprooted trees, and even some trees twisted and snapped. Cold temps and high winds can create a real mess. Some of it we’ll be able to collect for firewood but most isn’t accessible by tractor. Gonna have to give serious thought to getting that four-wheeler we’ve been considering for years. Wonder if they have electric ones yet...of course, we could do donkeys instead.

Spent most of the day working on the shoes. Whip-stitching the outer edges and seaming the upper together using deer-hide lacing. We deviated from the instructions here. He wanted an invisible butt-seam but our leather was too thin to lace that way. Instead we used the technique I learned in my Cordwainer class and did an X stitch. As an added bonus, we like the way it adds visual interest to the shoe.

Creating lots of stitch holes 
The upper ready to attach to the soles
We had a bit of cleanup work to do on the soles then we glued just the edges of sole and upper together. We’ll now stitch them together for a more permanent bond (fingers crossed on “permanent”).

Making stitch channels
You can just see the stitch holes

Inside out, glued, and ready for stitching 

Had to let the glue cure overnight so that was shoemaking for the day. That left plenty of time for cooking. I made naked General Tso’s Chicken (get your mind out of the gutter; that just means the chicken is not breaded and fried) and finished up with sourdough English Muffins. I use the King Arthur Flour recipe and it’s an excellent way to use your sourdough discard.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday March 21, 2020 statistics

From The Times Union website:
Total coronavirus cases:
•  8,398 in New York, including 46 deaths
• 19,285 in the U.S., including 249 deaths
• More than 272,300 in the world and more than 11,300 deaths. More than 88,000 have recovered.
New Yorkers have now been ordered to stay at home. No going out except for groceries or medicine. Non-essential businesses are to close. No time frame was specified. 
We bought milk yesterday but will be staying home from now on. We’re lucky that we have our property to hike and dog-walk on with little risk of encountering other humans. And there is certainly plenty to keep us busy.
Temp this morning was 28 and wicked chilly with moisture in the air. Supposed to be sunny today so I’ll probably start cleaning up the greenhouse and getting ready to start seeds. Thank goodness I bought a bunch of my planned garden items early...I imagine there will be a run on “self-sufficient” supplies soon.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Shoe progress is slow but steady

We purchased an instructional DVD of Jason Hovatter’s for making Scandinavian Turn Shoes. Basically you construct the shoes inside out and then turn them to get a finished pair. Looked cool and the DVD wasn’t expensive, so we figured why not.

The DVD is really good production value and the instructions are clear. The only trouble we’ve had is with the tools. I’ve got a very basic set of leather working tools and, as with most “beginner” sets, they’re not very good. Jason gives alternative tools if you don’t happen to have something he recommends, but lacking good quality or even the specific tool slows things down quite a bit.

That’s not to say we’re not progressing, just doing it a bit more slowly than we’d like.

Skiving the edges with a crappy tool
Today was gorgeous out with a high of 60 and some decent sun in between the cloudbursts. We sat outside to do some of the whip-stitching. 

Enjoying the Bridge
George is so helpful
This one of my uppers with most of the whip-stitching done. I’m using a “wash out” bison hide with a dark brown cow hide for the soles.
The stitching is died deer lacing-strong yet stretchy 
Tomorrow we’ll sew the edges together to make a continuous upper, then move on to soling.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bees and garden planning

Well, looks like the bees didn’t survive the winter. Not absolutely positive as we haven’t opened the hive yet, but no bees are being cleared out despite the warm temps.

I know this is common, but we really thought they’d be okay. We put up a hay bale wind break, left the honey super in place, and left them undisturbed. We’ll see what, if anything, we can learn from opening it up. Is there a term for an autopsy on a bee hive? I know an animal autopsy is called a necropsy...

In garden news, the snow has melted off the straw layer and I’ve actually seen some onion shoots leftover from last year. I’ll be doing onions again this year as the crop was great last fall and they lasted us until late January. Not too shabby. I haven’t seen any garlic shoots yet but that’s likely for the best.

I’ve been planning this year’s garden with the greenhouse in mind. I’ll be starting everything from seed rather than buying starts. We’ll see how that works out.

Thursday March 19 statistics

Rain and slushy snow this morning with a forecasted high of 39. Basically it’s yucky out.

Here are the latest Covid-19 stats from The Times Union website:

Total coronavirus cases:
•  3,074 in New York, including 20 deaths
• 9,345 in the U.S., including 150 deaths
• More than 218,000 in the world and more than 8,800 deaths. More than 84,000 have recovered.
Pretty bleak.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Snow all but gone

As you can see, the snow is all but gone now. Quite a contrast to several years ago when we were still snowshoeing around now.

Gorgeous out today with a high of 51 and lots of sunshine. The chickens, cats, and dog all loved it and are now conked out in front of the cooling woodstove. We won’t bother having another fire tonight.

Made chicken, black bean, tomato enchiladas today for lunch. It was so filling that a light meal of cheese and crackers was sufficient for dinner. That means leftovers tomorrow!

We’re maintaining isolation and it’s all “so far so good”.

When you have to stay home, make shoes!

We’re staying busy; one project is Scandinavian Turn Shoes. We found a local leather tanner and bought some oddlot finished stock. Now we’re trying to turn it into shoes.

Cutting out soles
 Cooper, of course, is supervising.
Don’t tell her she doesn’t quite fit
To the right are some of Chris’s oil paintings. To the left is my 4-shaft table loom. I imagine we’ll be playing with that stuff soon too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuesday March 17 2020 statistics

Schools are closed, gatherings of 50 or more are discouraged (10 or more is Federal guideline), bars & restaurants are limited to take-out only.
Total coronavirus cases:
•  950 in New York, including 7 deaths
• 3,487 in the U.S., including 68 deaths
• More than 179,400 in the world and more than 7,112 deaths. Nearly 80,000 have recovered
And here on the homestead:
31 degrees F
A dusting of new snow though the warm temperatures and rain we’ve had over the last week have pretty much cleared the winter snow.

Figured it was a good time to come back

Been gone a while. No real reason, just not feeling a desire to put stuff out here. But now I want to document the craziness I’m seeing around me. Maybe years from now I’ll look back and say “no way that happened”.

I am, of course, talking about Covid-19 and the community response to it. In just over 1 week we all went from life as usual to stockpiling toilet paper?!? Kidding aside, on March 9 I went to BJ’s and Price Chopper to pick up corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and the usual weekly groceries. Everything was a typical shopping experience. Yesterday I went to buy flour, celery, and again, the usual weekly groceries and the store was picked clean. We wandered around just to marvel at it. The freezer cases were empty, TP gone, chips and snack foods decimated. Cleaning supplies wiped out too. The fresh fruit and veggie aisle had plenty though. We bought the few things on our list that were actually in stock but left without the majority of what we came for. Fortunately those items weren’t critical, just part of the normal buying rotation. We did go ahead and grab some fresh greens.

We’re not in any danger of starving. I’m willing to bet most of us have plenty of food in our pantries and freezers even if we’re not preppers. But the nonsensical nature of this astounds. Some may call me naive but I get to have my opinions and beliefs just like you do. And I believe this panic buying and hoarding is incredibly selfish behavior. Do you really need 50 frozen pizzas? Two shopping carts full of stuff? What happens next week when shelves are restocked? Will you buy 50 more?

We’re going to hunker down. Spend a couple weeks doing all the stuff we enjoy right here at home—make shoes, weave, throw a pot or ten. And enjoy the grilled tuna steak (from the freezer), rice (pantry), and steamed broccoli (from the fresh aisle) I cooked last night.

I hope you and yours are well and coping as best you can.