The Last Lily – 2021

Last Lily 2021

I stopped by Chelsea Lane to visit my friend Joan. Parked in the cul-de-sac and as I started up the path there it was – the last Stella Doro Daylily peeking out from the fallen leaves. They bloom profusely, and although we haven’t had any actual frosty nights, they stopped blooming locally around the middle to end of September. What a nice surprise to find this lone bloom standing bravely against the autumn background.

I spent a bit of time editing the image, cropped it, tried intensifying the background colour. And then I happened to produce this:

Edited with PhotoRoom

What a difference setting the bloom against a black background with just wisps of green/yellow foliage. A rather dramatic rendering.

Variegated Socks

Magenta Wool Socks

Finished these socks a couple of days ago. I bought the yarn at WoolWorks in Mahone Bay – Heidi Wulfraat dyes her own sock wool. It’s a superwash, and like all variegated yarns like this it produces a kind of repetitive generalized pattern that I find rather boring to knit but I liked the colours in the skein so I bought one.

Now these socks are finished. Someone will enjoy receiving them.

Purple Boiled Wool Jacket

I had approximately 1/2m of boiled wool fabric left over from my original jacket (made in 2018), not enough to do much with so I went online to see what I could find to go with it. Mood Fabrics in NYC had what looked very close to that original boiled wool so I purchased 1 1/2 yards, and guess what? The fabric content was the same and the colour almost an exact match.

In the end I didn’t need to use any of the original fabric – I had enough to make the jacket. The challenge was what kind of jacket to make. I’d sent the original to Mission Mart – I didn’t like the way the neckline/collar fit (although I was happy with the rest of the jacket). I didn’t want to reuse the Marcie Tilton pattern. I’d bought another boiled wool pattern, this one with a collar, but I was afraid the jacket was too loose fitting for this light weight boiled wool so I decided to reuse the pattern I’d used for the Kantha jackets, but to substitute the collar from the Verona Jacket pattern.

This is the finished jacket – I finished the bottom and sleeve edges with a batik facing to give the edges some stability. I’d used boiled wool backed with a mid-weight fusible interfacing for the front facings. I made single welt pockets, creating the pocket with a fabric piece sewn behind rather than a pocket bag because the jacket is unlined.

I left the collar with the raw-edge because it doesn’t get wear.

The jacket looks a bit wrinkled because I’ve been wearing it all day! It’s warm and cozy – just what I was hoping it would be. (And the two front edges are the same length, yeah!)

An Orange Autumn Sunset

Autumn Sunset

An amazing cloud colour – bringing out the colour in the buildings below. Caught the moment quite by chance. A few minutes later the clouds were dark, all orange had disappeared. I haven’t edited the image except to crop it a wee bit. I thought about cropping it further to remove the cars and power lines as much as possible but found I wanted to keep the green foreground for contrast to emphasize the wonderful orange of the sky.

Cakes In The Oven…

Cakes In The Oven!

Two hours to prepare the pans (lining with parchement), mix the dry and wet ingredients, add dry to the fruit and mix well, add wet to the whole thing and mix again using a very strong long handled spoon/spatula/whatever you have including hands! I put my lobster pot in one of my kitchen sinks so I can reach inside it easily. I kept licking, then washing, my right hand as I mixed the fruit and batter.

I have 9 two pound loaf pans and 5 small pans now in a 325° oven and it already smells divine!

The small loaves will cook in about an hour/hour and a half; the larger loaves will likely take between 2 and 2 1/2 hours. I’ve set the time on my watch and will keep checking the oven to make sure all is well there.

Because the cakes are all packed in tightly, it takes longer for them to bake – the great thing is this concoction is very forgiving and because I want it baked but moist, slightly underbaking them isn’t a bad thing. I’ll take the cakes from the oven when a wood skewer comes out clean.

I’ll add a photo when I’ve taken the cakes from the oven and put them on racks to cool. It’s a wonderful site. One Christmas thing checked off my list.

Kantha Jacket #3

King Size Silk Patchwork Kantha Bedspread

I started this jacket when I thought jacket #2 was a flop and hadn’t yet worn it. I bought this silk patchwork kantha bedspread on Amazon intending to toss the second one and make another from the bedspread.

This time I kept the back straight (taking out the fullness I’d put into Jacket #2). I did leave some fullness in the front – turns out to have been good decisions.

Kantha Jacket #3

I worked from the more “blue” end of the bedspread using the fabric as efficiently as possible – two fronts, one back, two sleeves, two cuffs, a collar, and two pocket backings (on the inside behind the pocket welts). I still have enough fabric leftover to make a second jacket!

I used very soft leftover kid leather pieces to construct the welts for the pockets. I also used leather on the inside of the collar. I debated about making leather welt buttonholes but I wanted vertical buttonholes so decided, instead, to machine stitch them. The “pocket” is formed by binding and stitching a rectangular piece behind the welt opening.

You can’t see the seams but every seam has been bound using a dark blue batik fabric. I used that fabric for the front facings. I also used a rather heavy weight interfacing on the front edge just slightly narrower than the facing so it doesn’t show but it gives a firm body to the front edge.

I’m happy with the colour arrangement both on the front and back.

Kantha Jacket #3 – Back

The construction of the bedspread is much better than the Marcie Tilton kantha fabric I used in Jacket #2. The piecing is straight, the quilt stitching is closer and for the most part straight (although there were spots where the stitching was a bit odd but I was able to avoid them). The cotton backing fabric shrank somewhat with washing giving a puffy texture to the silk top but that has pressed out to a large extent.

I’m very happy with the final result. Total working time – maybe 6 hours (spread over 2 days).

Now I’ve got to get going on the Christmas cakes! I’ve assembled all the ingredients, the butter has been sitting out over night, everything is ready to go. First, turn on the oven to 320°F, second get out my lobster pot and wipe it clean. Then weigh the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, mix the wet ingredients in my largest bowl. Put them together, carefully spoon the batter into parchment lined loaf pans (just 3/4 full!) and let them bake for a couple of hours.

My apartment is going to smell heavenly.

Delft #2 – Finished

Finished this quilt last evening.

Delft #2 – Quilt Top
Delft #2 – Quilt Back

The photos don’t do it justice – the colours are more vibrant, the relationships among the elements on the quilt top are much clearer.

I finished with a hidden binding – I didn’t think the quilt front wanted another edge element. Besides, I didn’t have ay more “petunia” fabric and used the darker blue stonehenge to finish the edge on the back.

The quilting turned out well. I chose to quilt the blocks excluding the sashing – in part because I’d have been left with an unattached row of sashing either at the top or the bottom. It was simpler to just quilt the blocks themselves. I stitched-in-the-ditch along all sashing edges, then quilted the outer border with a modification of the block design to fit the border width.

That’s it for quilts at the moment. I’m now picking up the Kantha bedspread and making another jacket – this time, the back without any flare. I need buttons – will go looking for some this afternoon.

The “Last” Times

I had an interesting experience about five weeks ago. I needed to change the batteries in the three smoke detectors in my apartment. I change them yearly ( I keep a post-it on the wall in my storage space with the date I last changed them). I don’t want them waking me in the middle of the night screaming when the batteries die.

I had bought batteries. I got out my step ladder, positioned it under the first smoke detector. Climbed to the second step – I’m too short to reach the ceiling from there. I go one step higher – but now there’s not much to grab onto to prevent me from tipping the ladder or losing my balance. I get down, reposition the ladder closer to the doorway, which I can hold as I climb back to the third step to change the battery. I manage to rotate the detector, pull it down, find the battery door, open it, take out the old battery, then fight to put the new batter in. Takes me 5 minutes or so to change that battery. I move on to the second, then the third, both taking less time since by now I have figured things out.

As I descend from the third smoke detector I breathe a sigh of relief – job done. But I also recognize this is the LAST time I am going to do this job myself. I will have to find a younger able neighbour who will do this for me next year!

This was another of those “last time”s I seem to be encountering at this point in my life.

I’m 78. Still exercising three mornings a week at the neighbourhood rec centre. I’m reasonably fit, balance not bad, but after my mattress flipped me onto the floor breaking my wrist and compressing a vertebra two years ago, I catch myself, as I go to do something that could be a bit hazardous, and wonder whether this is the “last” time I do whatever it is, or in fact, was the last time I did it, THE “last” time.

I’ve been thinking about “last” times a lot lately. A year ago I bought an automatic transmission car although I’ve driven a standard stick shift my entire life. I miss shifting gears! But I realized most people don’t know how to drive a standard shift car and were I to be somewhere and find myself not feeling up to driving I’d be stuck unless one or other of the people I’m with can also drive my car. I bought the automatic. It was the sensible thing to do.

I see my world beginning to narrow. I’m probably not going to make that solo drive to Toronto although I love driving long distances on my own; I’ve done many solo long distance trips in my life; but probably not again. Over the past 15 years I’ve travelled to out of way places on my own to join a group interested in textiles without a second thought. The last two times I became ill – fortunately I didn’t require hospitalization, but I know my solo long-distance travelling days are over.

I think this past COVID year and a half has helped me accept how my life plays out from here – taking satisfaction in visiting with friends, enjoying the creative endeavours I undertake, pursuing the iPhone photography in greater depth, making more textile art. I have enjoyed these past 18 months even though there weren’t enough hours in the day to get done everything I wanted to accomplish. I’m getting better at picking up today what I didn’t manage to complete yesterday.

I have longevity in my genetic makeup (at least on my father’s side of the family), so I’m not expecting to wind down anytime soon. However, as Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” reminds us, we all need to be thinking about “end of life” long before an actual end of life arrives.

In the past month I’ve had conversations with two younger friends, both have mothers with dementia, both the daughters with responsibility for making difficult end of life decisions for their parent. Both have had lengthy, searching journeys to get to the place where they are comfortable facing and accepting the near end of life for that parent. I’d suggested they watch Being Mortal on PBS – it has helped each of them take control of the difficult conversations they need to have with medical staff at this point.

I’ve begun keeping a record of my “very last time” moments – not with any sense of foreboding but as an essential aspect of my personal adventure. I’m not exactly slowing down, I’m still getting much accomplished every day, but once in a while I notice that I’ve probably done something I would have tackled without a thought for the “last” time.

I feel like Maggie Muggans – “I don’t know what will happen tomorrow”. Although those “last” times will continue to come along, I know new doors will open when others close. Besides, we ARE living in interesting times!

Christmas Fruit Cake – Begun

Candied Fruit soaking with 400ml of dark rum

Canadian Thanksgiving was yesterday. Today it’s time to start making Christmas fruit cakes!

Last week I tried buying candied fruit – my usual Bulk Barn had none! Today, I checked out the store online, found another outlet – they still had “regular” candied fruit and red cherries (no “Delux” fruit mix, or green cherries, or candied pineapple). That’s OK, I bought extra red cherries, candied lemon/lime peel, Thompson raisins, dried cranberries, and date bits.

Preparing the fruit:

  • at least 2 lbs of mixed candied fruit (regular or deluxe)
  • 1 lb of red/green candied cherries
  • 1 lb Thompson raisins
  • whatever other dried fruit you like: dried cranberries, chopped dates, chopped apricots, etc.
  • a 500ml jar of orange marmalade (you could use grape jelly or strawberry jam) – DON’T leave this out

Next stop the liquor store to pick up a quart of dark rum. After some consultation with one of the guys who works there I chose a locally made dark rum he assured me would be “flavourful”.

  • ~400ml of dark rum (I used Fortress Dark Rum – smelled good!)

I came home, dug out my 27 litre tupperware covered bowl, added all the fruit plus a 500ml jar of good orange marmalade, then poured in half of that bottle of rum (about 400ml).

I mixed the whole thing using a strong wooden spoon (the mixture is VERY heavy), sealed the lid on, and now I wait. Tonight I will flip the bowl over onto the top, tomorrow morning I’ll flip it back to sit on it’s bottom, I’ll keep turning the whole thing twice a day for the better part of a week. By the end of the week there is no longer any liquid rum – it’s all be absorbed into the fruit!

That gives me more or less a week to pick up the other ingredients – butter, eggs, bittersweet baking chocolate, molasses (none left in the house); I have good vanilla, almond and orange extract, white and brown sugar and flour (although I’ll probably stop at Bulk Barn and pick a bit more of each of those just to be sure I have enough).

We could do a “bake-along”. You can find the full instructions here if you’re ready to tackle some early Christmas preparation.

The “recipe” produces a very flavourful moist fruitcake, if I say so myself. I say “recipe” in quotes because the amounts of fruit and ingredients for the batter are just guidelines – this is a VERY forgiving recipe – you want enough batter to coat all the fruit but not a whole lot more. The amount of fruit I’ve got soaking is going to give me 10 2lb cakes + 6-10 small loaf cakes. Plenty to give away.

BTW just halve the amounts of fruit above (and use the amounts in the actual recipe for dry and wet ingredients) and you’ll get a reasonable amount of cake. I use the amounts of fruit above, and double the wet and dry ingredients! For me a fruit cake (plus something I’ve sewn or knit) constitutes my Christmas giving, so I make a large number of cakes.

Kantha Jacket – A Small Fix

Inside Patch

As I explained earlier, I had to patch the inside of the right front panel of the jacket in order to keep the quilt stitching ends from pulling out. As far as I was concerned that relegated the jacket to “demonstration garment” status – not a wearable muslin. But Saturday at class one of the gals suggested I put a pocket over the patch.

Good idea.

Here’s what I did:

Right Front With Pocket “Patch” Added

It’s not a beautiful fix – I couldn’t cut down the size of the sewer’s dream patch because of where the thread ends were located. I partially closed the top edge leaving a hand-size opening in the middle. Probably not a pocket I need to use – the two outside pockets are more than deep enough to hold keys, even my phone.

For now, the jacket feels “finished’.

I haven’t decided yet whether to remove the flare I put in when cutting the fabric – it’s not a complicated fix – just open hem finishing at the side seams, then open the binding on the sides, trim the sides sort of straight, rebind the sides and resize and restitch the hem finish. I want to wear the jacket with heavier clothing to see what that does to the flare when the jacket is on.

It’s never too late to make that adjustment.