Monday, November 23, 2015

Wearing Handmade

Finally, here is the finished version of my Cascade Dress for grown ups. After the pattern was sewn up, I died the entire garment using a natural dye method with black beans. I then added vintage lace details, also naturally dyed. I still think there are a few changes I'd like to make down the road if I continue making the pattern, however, I am quite pleased with the final result. A lot of time and love went into this dress. It has a comfy playfulness to it and wearing it makes me feel young at heart.

After working on my Cascade Dress, I decided I needed a break from the drafting and turned to a published pattern for my next project.

I chose The Peplone Jacket Pattern by Tina Givens. I had found this beautiful deep amethyst linen/rayon blend at my local fabric shop and just knew it would make quite a statement. So it did! I loved working with this fabric and may have to hunt down some more,

I used some organic cotton scraps I had for the pockets and sleeve trim, and a fantastic big vintage button I got from my mom some years ago. This worked up wonderfully. It's a very full fit coat-like garment reminiscent of the turn of the century boho movement. To be accessorized with a languid pose and an artistic flair. I love it truly. I can't help but feel decadent and creative whilst wearing it.

 I can see that my promise to sew more for myself is taking some interesting turns and I'm really enjoying it.

Have you made anything lately?

See you after the holiday, be well!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Vintage Color

Ooh it's getting cold and rainy 'round these parts. This morning I couldn't quite shake a chill and toyed with the idea of starting a fire in the wood stove. I didn't, but I can see that the season's first fire is not long off. How's the season treating you where you are I wonder?

Yesterday I spent the morning visiting a friend in the hospital and got home just in time to put on a dye pot. It was an easy dye as I was using the water from soaking black beans, this dye pot does not need heat so it's a bit less intensive. However, I was dyeing The Cascade Dress from my last post and it was rather a lot more fabric than I have dyed at any one time. I learned that I am going to need one of those super duper giant enamel canning pots if I intend to dye whole dresses on the regular.

I also threw in a few vintage lace and doily bits. Before I sunk my dress into the murky depths of the black bean dye pot, I did a few experiments with modifiers. On it's own, black bean water can produce purple, purplish grays, blues, and the like. Adding an iron modifier creates a really lovely blue gray, more sombre in tone, or if left to soak for a longer time, it would produce a dark gray. Vinegar, depending on the length of soak, can produce a light fuchsia pink or a brighter purple. Using soda ash as a modifier will create a really pretty vintage cream color. I am sure the variations would continue using other modifiers such as copper, etc, but I'll have to experiment with that at another time.

In the picture above you'll see some of the variations from the black bean dye pots and some from an earlier dye day using Madder.  I love looking at the pieces, especially the vintage bits. I continue to be enthralled with the process of natural dyeing and all of the variations that can happen. It is an ancient process and as with many old ways, it takes time. It's slow color, always changing.

As the seasons change and fresh dyeing ingredients are less available, I'll learn to adapt and work with what is at hand. Not to mention that with the cold moving in, those steaming dye pots will be far more welcome than in the heat of Summer. I started my natural dyeing journey earlier this year, and I can see that there is such a very long way to go yet to learn all the things I desire to. I'm ok with that, in fact, I look forward to many years of learning and travelling along this journey.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cascade Dress Part Two -

I'm working out all the kinks in grown up version of The Cascade Dress. It needs pockets, you all know how much I love a handy dandy pocket! I'm also uncertain of the contrasting band, but as I plan to dye the whole shebang, I think it will blend nicely. Plus, it's prototype #1. Will there be a prototype #2? Perhaps, I need a little break from this baby.

Going through the process of creating a new design, especially one to be worn by adults, is incredibly detailed, time consuming, and unpaid. It's a real labor of love. It makes one really appreciate handcrafted items; be they clothes, woodwork, print making, knitting, etc. Back in the old days we owned less, so what we owned needed to last longer and... ok, I'm not going to go all Nana on you and wax nostalgic for the way back times, but you know what I mean. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would hope that we, as a society, thought about what goes into the things we choose to buy. I hope that people understand that when you look at a well crafted item made by someone's hands you understand that hours and hours of passionate labor have gone into it, not to mention quality materials. It may seem expensive to some, but the truth is, most of us makers charge less than the product is worth in time and materials. We don't do it to get rich, we do it because it's what we love and we hope others will love it too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Design - The Cascade Dress

The Cascade Dress
Oh hello!

This weekend I got an itch to make up a new dress design. I was inspired by another dress, and one of my favorite places on the Oregon coast. It's an over-sized overdress. Ever expanding  my love of smock frocks, I think this one is a keeper.

I made it for Pony Girl, but I may have taken the idea of over-sized a bit too far and it nearly fits me! Once she gets home from school all shall be revealed. If it does prove to be a disaster on her, it may end up for sale in the shop. For now, it's hanging up in the lounge making for some pretty scenery.

What do you think?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Tis the season. Are you done with pumpkin spice everything, everywhere yet? I'll be honest, when the coffee shop advertises "Pumpkin Flavored Lattes," I am not the least bit tempted. It seems the only pumpkin stuff I like is a handful of home baked goods using real pumpkin, and if it is one of my tried and true recipes... then, yes I'll have some more please!

This includes my recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bread. I've tried a lot of pumpkin bread recipes over the years, and never found THE ONE. So I played around adapting from a couple different recipes until I found, The One! It isn't overly sweet, it is nice and moist, and it gets better the next day if you can resist gobbling it all up the first day. No, this isn't a health bread, but I did cut down the sugar and oil amounts from most recipes I came across.
It is also made from the pumpkins we grew in our own garden!

Seriously, you should make this, the smell of it baking in the oven is out of this world!

Pumpkin Spice Bread

2 cups pumpkin puree (non-sweetened and no spice added)
¾  cup granulated sugar
¾  cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½  teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 9x5” loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat until well mixed.

Measure the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices and nuts into a separate bowl and mix until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans. Bake on middle oven rack for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes, then remove loaves from pans and let cool completely on a rack. Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A little yarn

I can now declare that it is absolutely indeed Fall! It's not just the crisp mornings and evenings, it's not just the changing of the light, or the turning of the leaves; I mean it is all of these things, but it's something else that makes me certain of the season. I have pulled out my yarn.

Simple as that. It seems I'm not the only one to celebrate the autumnal shift with a bit of yarny malarkey, I've been seeing woolly creations popping up all over the interwebs and social media these days. It makes perfect sense of course.

I had two skeins of fat foggy gray yarn that I contemplated for a bit. Then I began, as you do, working my rusty crochet stitches one after the other until it became familiar and easy again. I love falling back into the meditative rhythm of loops and motion... well, until that moment (many moments) where I've made a crucial mistake and the peace is interrupted.  I am ashamed to admit that when that happens, some less than lady-like words have escaped my mouth on occasion. Then, I begin again.

Eventually, the last stitch is made, loose ends sewn in and I have a lovely and cozy Fall cowl for the coming colder days. It is indeed Fall!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fall Color, Natural Dyes of the Pacific Northwest

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended a Natural Dyeing class on Sunday. It was held at the amazing Wild Craft Studio here in the Northwest.

First, let me say that the setting alone is worth the trip. What a beautiful area, and so different from the landscape here in Portland, though it's only a little over and hour away. Wild Craft Studio holds a large range of awesome classes, there are so many I would like to take!

It was a bluebird day. As we arrived, we were invited into the cozy studio to have tea or coffee while we waited for the rest of the class to come. The class on Sunday was taught by the very knowledgeable and lovely Chelsea Heffner. What a grand day it was! Chelsea went through all the basics, processes, plants and so much great information. While I was familiar with most of the information from my natural dyeing fever earlier this year, there was plenty of new things to wrap my head around, and I really appreciated the way Chelsea presented everything.

 Coreopsis flower and Poke Berry

Poke Berry stains on my hands

We processed some plant material and started our dye baths. Then it was time for a forage out in nature. We learned to identify some native plants and picked rose hips for another dye bath.

I spy my good buddies Tif and Meg!

After our hike it was time for lunch. We ate outside with a beautiful view, and wow, what a gorgeous meal they prepared for us! We ate and chatted in the sunshine, all of us soaking in the new knowledge from the morning.

Then it was back to the dye pots! We had samples to dye, wool and silk. Then we were all given a silk scarf to dye and take home. I loved seeing all of the scarves and experimenting that the group did.

Our Fall Color samples: Coreopsis, Lichen, Pokeberry, St. John's Wort, 
Black Walnut, Rosehips

If you live anywhere nearby, I highly recommend taking a class with these amazing people! I know I had a blast and my love of natural dyeing has been re-energized! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Little Cabin in the Woods

This past weekend I was so fortunate to be able to have a getaway to a little cabin in the woods. I packed my bags, kissed my family goodbye, and headed out on the road. A beautiful drive up the Columbia River stretched before me on a warm fall Friday afternoon.

It has been awhile since I've been able to get out on my own and connect with the natural world. While I usually take my solo weekends at the coast, this time it was a real treat to travel to an area I have not spent too much time in. A place of rolling grassy hills, scrub oak, shadowed mountains and ribbons of rivers running through.

This was my view from the deck where I spent my mornings with coffee and my afternoons reading. It was lovely weather, quiet and peaceful with a fair amount of bird watching and crocheting. No TV, no traffic, no schedule to keep... Ah yes.

Everyday I walked down along the river and breathed deeply of fresh air and blue skies.

I slept in a cozy nest where sunlight streamed through the windows. When I opened my duffle bag upon arrival, I found that Pony Girl has sent along a little friend to keep me company. The Little Red Hen and I had quite a time.

Part of my trip included a nearby class on Natural Dyeing from local plants. It was great. I'll tell you all about that in my next post! 

For now I'll just say how grateful I am to my family for keeping the home fires burning and giving me the chance to have this relaxing and lovely weekend. Many thanks to my friends for letting me stay in their sweet little cabin in the woods, it was so special. I will keep this weekend in my heart and soul for a long time to come.

Thank you cabin 21

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Back to work

Oh goodness me! It's fall, there is a crispness in the air, the leaves are turning and I have started baking again. I am also, as of today, back to work. Hooray!

For the last month I have been a bit of a gimp, suffering from adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. The pain and lack of mobility have made doing my daily routines fairly difficult if not impossible. The real corker, is that I couldn't work in my studio. No stitchy happiness for me no siree!

However, I used this time wisely, letting ideas percolate away in my mind. I am slowly getting better and so grateful for that. I pulled out my supplies this morning ready to go! Ah, hello old friends, I'm back!

What are you up to?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fresh Eggs are Here!

Well, exciting news friends! All three of our ladies are laying at last! We all discussed it as a family and we all did agree that there is nothing quite so wonderful as fresh eggs from your own back yard. Tis true. 

Why just yesterday, I was a'wondering what I could possibly eat for my lunch. You see I was quite famished and I had not yet made my trip to the market for the week. I looked high and low and nothing seemed quite right, nothing seemed to do.  Then I spied a slab of homemade bread and the last of the Summer tomatoes and took a quick trip out to the coop to see 2 little brown eggs awaiting me! Scrambled on toast with toms, honestly one of the best things I've eaten in an age! Pure goodness I tell you.

So, thank you ladies and hooray! You have my deepest gratitude and respect.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


I've long thought that I would like to be a maker of smocks. Long smocks, short smocks, art smocks, canning smocks, gardening smocks, smock frocks... all the smocks really. I would like to make them in cotton, calico, vintage cottons, hand dyed linens, toile, barkcloth, even gauze - why not? I might open a smock making shop, a Smockery if you will.

What makes a smock a smock? Oh details people! Certainly discussions could be had, definitions linked to, experts asked and theories pontificated, but that wont happen here. Nope! I'm just gonna call it a loose garment often worn over other garments to protect them whilst doing messy work. However, I do believe a smock is much more than that, and can be worn just because. I find wearing a smock makes me feel industrious and artsy, even if in actuality I may look like a frumpy mess. I call it the psychology of donning a smock. You may call it what you like.

The above smock was made from a "vintage" See & Sew Pattern by Butterick (with a couple of modifications). They did not call it a smock though, they referred to it as a "Jumper." You can imagine, what with the international nature of the interwebs, how confusing calling it a "Jumper" could be. Clearly, it is a smock, though I might concede to sheath, chemise, overdress and what not.

I made it from lightweight unbleached muslin and some vintage ribbon. It has hidden pockets, a sneaky pocket smock it is! I really like how it turned out, still needs a bit of finish work, but all in all I see potential. The down side is that it is not my size and I am now searching for an appropriately proportioned model so I can see what it looks like on a real human. 

Now, I'm off to dream of all the smocks I will make for the grand opening of my Smockery! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sewing in the past

I didn't mean to disappear last week. It was not by my choosing, but rather due to a house wide plague that settled in upon us. Terrible thing a stomach bug, no good at all! I'm happy to report that we are all back to standing on our feet and feeling like human beings again.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

I was having a rummage through my sewing patterns and took out a few of the vintage ones. Now, it's not just styles that have changed over the years, sizing and body measurement requirements have changed quite a bit as well. For instance, that sweet dress in the middle above is a size 18 US. and if it were a modern day pattern it would in theory be a little big on me in areas. The package says that for a size 18 the bust measurement guide says 38" and waist at 30", yeah, that's not gonna fit me. A current pattern (among the major US brands) has the body measurements for a size 18 at 40" bust and 32" inch waist. That's a 2 inch jump. Interesting.

These wont fit me either, but I kind of want to sew them up any way, how groovy is that pantsuit? By the 70's measurements were beginning to change on patterns. Still, while I wear a 12 - 14 generally, according to this size 14 pattern, I would require a 27" waist. I haven't had a 27" waist since my first year of high school. Ah well. Any one out there with a slim figure who wants a fabulous custom made jumpsuit?

It's possible that the poncho would fit and the cape would totally work. Everyone should have a cape in their wardrobe, am I right? Fortunately, the Big 4 pattern companies here in the US have now reproduced a selection of their vintage patterns in modern sizing and larger sizes as well. Of course I have yet to see them put out that pantsuit pattern.

I actually have plans for sewing up another vintage pattern that I found in my stash. It wont fit me either, but I think it might lead to some groovy inspiration.

Happy Monday all!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Dottie Angel Frock - for smalls

Instagram and the interwebs are abuzz lately with #DottieAngelFrock. Simplicity has taken Tif Fussell"s frock design and put out pattern 1080 so that all of us can make our very own Dottie Angel Frock. I must admit, I am so excited for her, but it took me awhile to get the pattern myself. I wasn't sure how I felt about how I might look in it. I love it mind you, I just didn't know if I would love it for me. So I got a little sneaky and decided to try my hand at making a version for Pony Girl.

 Before the pockets

I used some Alexander Henry fabric that I've had in my stash for a couple of years. I just love it, and it's a bit different. I started out by tracing the size small. I was going off of the waist measurement and wanted to make sure it was roomy enough. I found that I could have done the extra small and been fine. I cut out the tunic length and made a few alterations to the pattern.  I will tell you that I didn't really follow the instructions, I just followed my own weaving way, like I do.  So, this isn't an actual review of the pattern, just my take on it.

I made changes to the front tucks to gather up a bit more of the ease and sewed the arms a bit willy-nilly. The one thing I forgot to consider in my rush to make the dress, was the neck line. Next time I will cut it to better fit a small person, or add a bit of elastic 'round it. I ended up making some gathers at the shoulder seams before I added the cotton lace.

I thought that the pockets that are part of the pattern were a bit too large for the small person version, so I just whipped up a very simple version of my own. Though I would make a few more alterations next time (there is certain to be a next time), it is adorable on my girl, I love it! I am even getting up the nerve to sew one for myself and see how it goes.  This really is a great frock and quite easy to work up. If you would like to see more stunning versions of the dress, just head on over to Instagram and search the hashtag #dottieangelfrock, there are so many clever makers out there. I bet you could find quite a few on Pinterest and other parts of the world wide web as well!

We are on the tip of a long holiday weekend and headed to the ocean for a couple of days, I'll be back next week. Have a grand weekend my friends!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A trip to Bountiful - via the garden

In my last post I mentioned a busy life, there is always something that needs doing and I think we have that in common. We all have our own busy and pressing matters, to-doing, running hither and yon, etc. Part of my busy this Summer was the garden, not bad as pressing matters go really. Ultimately satisfying and very delicious, still sometimes you just can't figure out how to get it all done. You see, when a garden comes on, it often comes on all at once!

This Summer we had record breaking heat, which resulted in our first bumper crop of tomatoes in years. So far we have harvested about 50 pounds of heirloom tomatoes from 3 plants. Amazing and so tasty, yet a bit overwhelming. Oh but look at those beauties! Nothing like a fresh tomato from the garden. Oh, and the chilies, good gravy we have roasted a lot of chilies this summer!

We also grew tomatillos, An experiment really - that ended up combining nicely with the chilies to make some tomatillo salsa. Oh Summer in the garden...

And now we have figs. So many figs! Our tree is drooping under the weight of their sweet soft goodness. I have been inviting passers-by to help themselves as I still have fig preserves in the larder from last year. Figs coming out of my ears I tell you!

Lastly, our new brood of backyard chickens have at last laid an egg! A teeny tiny egg sure, but no less exciting. I haven't sussed out which one is the layer of said egg yet. So looking forward to having fresh eggs again. Hooray!

So concludes this episode of "In The Garden." Are you growing anything?

In my next post you might actually get to see a spot of sewing, will wonders never cease?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Once More With Feeling!

Hello Friend,

I've missed you. It's been ages since we've hung out and chatted... or rather, since I rambled on to you. It's funny you know, how hard it is to break bad habits, and yet so easy to let the good habits fall by the wayside. For instance, that good habit of typing away in my shiny space here, getting out my "real" camera and taking pictures of interesting things, and sharing what's going on in my little corner of the world.

I know that you know how busy life can get. A hundred reasons to fall away, and the longer you go, the harder it is to start up again. I have an admission though, I was feeling a little slump, my spark wasn't sparkling quite as bright and I lost a bit of the passion for my blogging life.

Truth is, I write this blog and do what I do because I love it. Not to have thousands of followers, not to have comments in the double digits, and not to be a big time blogger. This year was the the 7th anniversary of me starting this blog, way back when I had no idea what I was doing (not that I have much of a clue even now). I have been blown away over the years by the friends I have made, the community I have found, and the endless inspiration out there in the world. Still, - and I'm sure you have heard this conversation before - things have changed in the blogging world and I was having some trouble changing with it.

I had a moment recently, a real doozy of a moment in fact. I'd lost that loving feeling, I did. It led to a conversation with The Engineer and whether or not I should chuck it in, say so long it's been fun and go on my way without looking back. Fortunately, The Engineer knows me well and told me that I had better give it a real go again, that I should really throw myself into it and fall back in love with Lola Nova, otherwise I would regret. Regrets are the worst. After all, I am Lola, well at least part of me is, and I need to give myself another chance.

This is my shiny space where I can find a moment of peace, a little beauty, no small amount of fun, all while connecting with like minded, kindred folk. This blog helps me to record my gratitude, it keeps me going and making and holding on to that little bit of youthful anarchy that I never completely outgrew.

So, I'm back. I will keep on keepin' on, me and my rambling and making and finding my weaving way home. In that spirit I am linking to my first ever blog post, because it's good to remember.

Wow, I guess I haven't lost my ability for a good long ramble after all.

Thanks to you all for hanging in there with me.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Back from the land of tall trees

Welcome to the photo show of our Summer Vacation

After a long vacation during which magical things were around every corner, it's hard to get back into the daily routine. We had an amazing trip, with only one little hiccup in the way of a breakdown on the hottest day of the year. Still, on the whole, there's nothing like a good road trip to inspire and feel free!

The Redwoods were stunning. No matter how many times I have walked under those majestic old growth trees, I am awed every time!

We hiked and played and saw herds of Elk, the ocean and waterfalls and places that make you stare in wonder.

San Francisco was a blast. So fun to visit my old stomping grounds and see the sights of the city. Taking my family to see The Palace of Fine Arts was definitely a highlight. It is one of my favorite places.

The roads we traveled are so familiar to me, every curve and bend of the highway are part of my life, It was so special to share that experience with my sweet little family.

Time spent with my California family was precious too. If you ever find yourself in Monterey, CA; go to the aquarium, it is amazing. My favorite exhibit were the giant tanks of jellyfish.

Once we got back home, we took off again for some cabins in the woods next to a river with great friends and family. What a summer we've had so far!

How about you? What have you been up to?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Road Trip

Oh goodness me! The last month of school had me jumping and jiving with all the activities and meetings and so on. Haven't had much time for this happy place. And now we are getting ready to hit the road for a much anticipated vacation. The packing has started, lists have been made, camping gear double checked and we are buzzing with excitement.

I'm taking along the finally finished Doll Couture Commission to deliver. I've been snipping and stitching away in small scale. While it's been a really fun job, I think I might take a break from sewing for wee dolls for a bit.

I'll be back soon with tales of our adventures! Until then, you can keep up with me over on Instagram under lolanova.

Happy Summer my friends!