So many great experiences start as a gift from my husband; the first one being the sewing machine he got me three years ago, that started my garment sewing obsession. I had off-handedly mentioned to Matt that I was interested in learning how to play the ukulele. One reason was that two of my all time favorite bands have ukulele in them: Man Man and the Magnetic Fields. The other was that I had heard that it’s a good instrument to learn as an adult beginner. Last year for my birthday, he surprised me with a ukulele and a gift certificate towards a class at Dusty Strings.

I have always been a huge music lover. Growing up, my parents had a pretty impressive record collection and stereo system and music was aways playing in the house. My dad dabbled in violin and I just found out my aunt Phoebe played ukulele as well. My sister Virginia is the true musician in the family and has been playing guitar since she was a teenager, has been in several bands, has a beautiful voice and continues to write songs and perform.

As for me, I played flute for a while when I was a kid. I remember having one recital. I sang in the junior choir at my church and jazz choir my freshman year of high school, so at one point I had known how to read music. In my twenties, my friends were all in bands and I would go to their shows and photograph them playing. One of my drummer friends even gave me drum lessons for a few months one Summer. That was short-lived when my neighbors decided to egg my house one night when I was practicing. The point is, I love music, but have always been more of a patron than a participant. I was excited to see if this would be something I could do and would enjoy. After perusing the classes at Dusty Strings, I decided to take an eight week Ukulele Fun!-damentals class with instructor Sunga Rose.

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The music school at Dusty Strings is a cool environment in and of itself. Up until that point, music schools were pretty foreign to me. The art building at UW, where I attended classes to get my photo degree, was right across from the Music school. I could hear students rehearsing as I went to class, but I never once set foot in there. So when I showed up for my first ukulele class, I was excited and nervous all at the same time.  While waiting for class, I read about the history of Dusty Strings. It was started by husband and wife Ray and Sue Mooers in 1978 and they started out making hammered dulcimers in the basement of their Ravenna home. Over 30 years later, the business has grown to include other acoustic stringed instruments (harps, mandolins, banjos, guitars and of course, ukuleles), a school, a building shop, and a repair shop. It’s a Fremont institution.

When the class started, I continued to feel a bit out of my element at first. Most of the people in my class had way more music experience than I did. All my nervousness and fears quickly melted away though, when Sunga’s patient and cheery attitude quickly set a tone of warmth and friendliness. If someone messed up or made a mistake, we weren’t made to feel bad, we all just laughed and tried again. Sunga has been such a great teacher and I have made some new friends in my classmates. I even got to practice on a classmate’s houseboat one night! I am so glad I chose her class. If I had ended up with any other teacher, this could have been a completely different experience and I may not have continued. Sunga really did make it fun, so I looked forward to class each week.

The end of the eight weeks culminated in a recital of all of her students (she teaches private lessons and classes at South Seattle Community College as well). Sunga’s Fun!-damentals students got to perform first and we played two songs: Acadian Lullaby and All Night Long. Matt took video with my phone and I have to say that the better performance was Acadian Lullaby, so that is what I will share with you. If you really want to see All Night Long, it’s here. I was little nervous at the recital, but luckily it was pretty casual. Plus, I was playing in a big group, so you wouldn’t have been able to hear me make a mistake anyway!

I am so glad I had this experience. As I have seen myself improve, it has given me such a huge sense of accomplishment. I loved Ukulele Fun!-damentals so much that when it was over, I immediately signed up for another eight weeks of Ukulele Fun!-damentals 2. I’m already halfway through it! I feel like I am learning so much and that I will have such a good foundation to build on from here. Sunga takes the summer off from teaching, but in the Fall offers an Ensemble class, so that is what I will probably jump into next. I also have a huge list of songs I want to learn and am currently teaching myself a Man Man song. If I practice hard enough, maybe I can do a solo at one of the next recitals! 😉

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I would think that no one wants to read about hand knit winter wear in the middle of April, if my knitting night wasn’t still packed full of knitters every week. Apparently, knitting is a year round activity. So I won’t apologize for sharing my gray cabled mitts (that I finished in February) with you now.

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The pattern was another freebie from Ravelry: One Cabled Mitts. I chose this pattern so that I could practice knitting cables before starting my Owl Sweater. I had been told that knitting cables was easy, but I didn’t believe it until I tried it. These mitts were good practice for knitting cables and it did turn out to be fairly simple and straightforward. You just have to follow the chart and know when to drop the cable needle to the back or the front, depending on which direction you want the cable to twist.

The yarn is from my co-worker’s family farm in Sweden. It was spun at a mill near the farm, called Baven Spinnhus and it seems to be minimally processed. It’s undyed, so that beautiful gray is the natural color of the sheep. The wool is so soft that it seems to have retained a lot of its lanolin. The yarn felt great to knit with and is not itchy at all. After some wear, it’s not pilling, but it is getting kind of fuzzy. I’m okay with that for these mitts, but I’m not sure how great that would look for a sweater. Maybe if it was knit at a tighter gauge it wouldn’t do that?

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These were a quick knit, which I loved after my year-long Miette cardigan. I finished these waiting in line at the Canadian border, on my way up to Whistler for a ski trip. It was late February, so it wasn’t super cold, but there was still some snow on the ground. I ended up wearing these the whole weekend, and they were perfect for that kind of weather!

From a Swedish sheep’s back to my hands, I love the story of these mitts and that I know where they came from. Thanks Mimmi, for bringing this yarn to work and giving me a chance to knit with it!

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Since we cleaned out our closets last month, this month’s Wardrobe Architect goal was to find the holes in our wardrobes and plan what we are going to sew. I’m adding an additional challenge to that; to use fabric and patterns I already have. As a result, there will still be some holes in my wardrobe, but at least I can use up some fabric and make room (in the budget and my studio) for new fabric later.

I went kind of old school in my documenting and planning process and just pulled out all my patterns and all my fabric and then starting pairing things together. Some fabric I already had plans for, so that made it easier, but some stuff got changed up. I then used my Fuji Instax to take pictures of the patterns with the fabric.

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Up to this point, my sewing has been kind of random. I just sew whatever I feel like at the moment. Kristen had the helpful tip of prioritizing projects by season, which makes total sense and gives a nice purposeful feeling to my sewing queue. I was going to sew the Grainline Archer Button Up next, but since it’s Spring, I should be thinking short sleeves or sleeveless right now. So I moved the Archer to Fall and decided to sew a sleeveless Moneta next.

Spring

Colette Patterns Moneta Dress
Make Version 2 (sleeveless)
Make with vintage horse and rider knit fabric (given to me by Flower)

April Rhodes Staple Dress
Make with straight hem
Make with cotton lawn from Bolt Fabrics

Sewaholic Cambie Dress
Make View B
Make with dotted black cotton from Pacific Fabrics

Colette Patterns Jasmine Blouse
Undecided on version
Make with silk from Bolt Fabrics

Summer

Sewaholic Renfrew Top
Make short sleeve version with scoop neck
Make with striped knit fabric from Pacific Fabrics

Colette Patterns Hazel Dress
Make Version 1
Make with mystery cotton fabric (I don’t remember where I got it- Joann’s maybe?) I don’t love this fabric, but feel like I should use it up. Maybe I will love it more after I make it or it will be a wearable muslin!

Fall

Colette Patterns Hawthorn Dress
Make Version 2
Make with Alexa Abegg Cotton & Steel Hatbox fabric

Grainline Studios Archer Button Up
Make View A
Make with plaid cotton shirting from Pacific Fabrics

Sewaholic Patterns Granville Shirt
Make View C
Make with floral cotton from West Seattle Fabric Co.

Colette Patterns Anise Jacket
Make Version 1 (full sleeves)
Make with gray wool and silk houndstooth lining
Inspiration- Scruffy Badger’s Anise Jacket

I liked the having the polaroids, because then I could just move them around until I had a plan I liked. I don’t usually sew as much during the Summer months, so it’s probably a good idea to only plan a couple of easy things for that season. I also didn’t do a Winter category, because I don’t really have any super wintry patterns and I’m often busy making gifts that time of year. I am lusting after the Grainline Studios Cascade Duffle Coat pattern though, so maybe that could be my Winter project. I’m not the fastest sewer, so 10 projects for the year is probably all I can realistically handle anyway. I do have a couple of knit projects in there and since I don’t do muslins for those, they should go faster.

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Not pictured/Don’t have fabric for yet-

Grainline Studios Linden Sweatshirt

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans
I pre-ordered the kit for this and am signed up for the jean-making class at Camp Workroom Social in October, so these will get made!
Inspiration- Ginger Jeans by Amber from So I Sewed This

Wishlist/Gaps-

Hey June Lane Raglan
I could imagine making this pattern a lot.
Inspiration- Lane Raglan by Amber from So I Sewed This

Imagine Gnats Alder Skirt
Seems like a good basic skirt and I like the shape of it.

Colette Clover Pants
I’d like to make a cropped, capri pant version of these.

Christina Haynes Emery Dress

Grainline Studios Cascade Duffle Coat
Inspiration- Heather from Closet Case Files’s version

Speaking of stash busting, I originally bought 3 yards of heavyweight orange linen for my Anise jacket, thinking it would look cute with my Truffle dress. Looking at it now, I fear it’s treading on “kooky middle-aged art teacher” territory. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I embrace that side of myself and I am headed there, but after seeing Scruffy Badger’s version, I realized that a more neutral color would make it so I could wear it with more things. I got the gray wool, that I’m going to use, for free from work (we use fabric for backgrounds for photos and we’re moving, so we were getting rid of it), so at least I didn’t have to spend more money to change it up. The orange linen wasn’t cheap though, so what do I do with all that fabric now? Maybe it will still be cute as an Anise jacket, but as the cropped sleeve version? Or maybe I could put it on Etsy? What do you do when you buy fabric and then decide you aren’t crazy about it anymore?

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When I first started gardening, one of the things I struggled with was trellising. I was unfamiliar with the different climbing habits of vining vegetables, so I was intimidated by plants that needed trellising. Did what I was planting need a trellis and if so, what kind? There are many trellis options and the things to think about are how high something is going to climb and how heavy the vegetable is going to be. I have learned by trial and error, but seem to have settled on a few that work for me, and use them year after year. That knowledge is so nice to have, because it’s helped take the guesswork (and headache) out of figuring out what trellis to install when it comes time plant. Matt was nice enough to draw sketches of all the trellises we use and the materials and measurements are noted as well.

My 5 favorite trellises:

1. Teepee Trellis– I’ve primarily use these for vining squash, but I think these could be good for pole beans as well, as long as the stakes are tall enough. They are pretty easy to assemble. I just tie three bamboo stakes together at the top and then fan each individual stake out, so that it forms a teepee shape. Next, I push each stake into the ground, as deep as I can get them, so that it is nice and stable. I then take twine and, starting at the top, I wrap it around the stakes in a zig zag pattern all the way to the bottom.

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I plant squash at the base of each stake, so that it can climb the stake as well as the twine.

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2. A Frame Trellis– This is a great trellis for cucumbers since they don’t climb very high, but can be heavy and have a high yield of fruit. Matt built the frame for me years ago, but it’s just a basic frame construction of 1″x2″ wood, some supports at the corners and a couple of hinges at the top. With the right tools, I think it would be fairly easy to assemble. I strung store-bought trellis netting across it and that has to be changed every year, but it’s easy to do. I just remove the staples with some pliers and then use a staple gun to install the new netting.

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3. Bamboo/Wood Stake Combo Trellis- This one is great for high climbing pole beans. I buy 6′ stakes and sink them as deep into the ground as I can for stability. A rubber hammer is good for this. I do two supports this way and then tie them together with string at the top, so they won’t pull away from each as the pole beans start to grow. I run the twine down from the top and attach it to a small irrigation stake sunk into the ground.

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4. Wood Stake and Trellis Netting Combo- I blogged about this one before in my Super Simple Pea Trellis post, but to summarize, it’s 6′ wood stakes and trellis netting. I use my trusty staple gun to attach the trellis netting to this one as well. This one can get a bit top heavy and lean a bit, but it’s such an easy trellis to install, that I’m okay with that. Again, the key is the sink the stakes into the ground as much as possible.

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5. Metal Trellis- There’s no sketch for this one, as this is a store-bought item. It was kind of pricey, but so worth it. I love how sturdy it is. I bought it at the West Seattle Nursery and there were a lot of different sizes. This one is 6′ long and fits perfect in my feed trough. It was great for growing spaghetti squash on as they can get quite heavy. Last year was my first year using it and it’s the best my squash has ever grown.

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There are even more trellis options than this, but these are five good basic ones, that have covered most of my trellising needs so far and are all easy to install. If anyone has any questions about any of these or wants more details let me know. Or if you have a favorite trellis that I didn’t mention, fire away! I’m just happy it’s that time of year where we can talk about gardening again!

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The pattern is the “Robo Dog Coat” from the book Knits of Tomorrow: Toys and Accessories for your Retro-Future Needs and was originally knit for my mother’s dog Mickey. Sadly, Mickey passed away before I was able to finish it, but I was able to give it to an adorable little Dachshund mix named Junebug and it fits her perfectly!

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All the details are on my Ravelry page, but the yarn I used was the Berocco DK Solids and I only needed one skein of each color. I cast on for the medium size which had 4 repeats of the chart (4 robot dogs total).

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I tried several different ways of holding the yarn for this and had varying degrees of success. I really wanted to be able to carry one strand of yarn in each hand while I was knitting and I did try, but it just wasn’t working out for me. So I went back to just holding one color in one hand and dropping it and picking up the next color as needed. This is definitely does not seem like the most efficient way to do this and since I do enjoy doing color work, I would like to find a better method. After the fact, I found this incredibly useful post on stranded knitting by Tasha of the blog By Gum by Golly. The next time I do color work, I will definitely be revisiting her post and trying some different options.

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 The straps are just knit in simple garter stitch, so those went by really fast.

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I bought all my supplies at Seattle Yarn and I found these perfect buttons there as well.

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I asked Juney’s owner, Scott, to take some photos of Junebug in her sweater, thinking he would just snap a few with his phone and he came back with these amazing photos. Aren’t they awesome? Big thanks to Scott for taking these gorgeous photos! Junebug looks so adorable in her new sweater and it makes me so happy that it went to a good home. I think Mickey would approve as well. 😉

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