Monday, October 31, 2011

Annis Scarf

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This scarf is part of my latest attempt to learn to Dress Myself.  Maybe at forty-three, I can become fashionable! 

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I recently purged my wardrobe of two lawn and leaf bags full of stuff I never wore.  I don’t know why I thought I needed four jeans skirts.  I did need more of this kind of thing, though.  This scarf is so perfect, adding color without a lot of frou, adding that extra something that gives a gray pullover and wool pants a reason to be smashing.  Just putting it on the dressmaker’s dummy made me feel a little bit French.  The pattern is Annis by Susannah IC.  I finished knitting it last night while I was watching the best Halloween movie ever.  Johnny, I love you!

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I love that with just a few yarnovers and k2togs, I can make something that looks like that.  I can’t wait to wear it!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall kitchen, with sunshine

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There is something so good about a clean kitchen on a sunshine day.  A bucket of hot sudsy water and a cotton rag transforms not just the floor, but also me, somehow, too. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Varsity Sweater

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Well.  This isn’t the sweater I wanted to make.  I hope this isn’t a trend.  I have to take the full blame on this one—I made a poor yarn choice.  Not that it isn’t a nice yarn, this tweedy DK-weight combination of silk and wool, because I’m sure it works out well for some people, but I have to say I am just not a fan.  And it definitely isn’t the right yarn for colorwork. 

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This was supposed to have been Oranje by Ann Weaver.  I’m sure you’ll notice right away that there are some significant differences between her very interesting design and the sweater I ended up with.  Here’s what happened:  several years ago, I was tempted by the sumptuous raspberry color of this yarn, and I bought a heap of it and made a sweater.  It took ages on size four needles and was really design-y, if you know what I mean.  It had a whole bunch of fancy techniques and weird shaping and even though it turned out well, I just never wore it.  I am, it turns out, a plain old sweater kind of girl.  The raspberry sweater was unraveled and the yarn rewound, and went back in my cupboard to await Plan B.

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Much later, I saw this and was a goner.  A turtleneck cardigan?  With colorwork?  I thought that was just fascinating, and I wanted that sweater with a burning passion.  The search for the right yarn began, and I eventually concluded for some reason that the raspberry yarn would be just the thing.  Most likely because I already had it in the house.  The clarity of hindsight can be bitter.  I dropped everything and cast on, knitted four hundred miles of stockinette stitch in the round, made both sleeves, with these interesting lined cuffs:

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Then I joined them together at the yoke and started the color section which is where the first band of stripes shows up and where the first signs of trouble appeared.  Oh dear.  It was just not good.  It was bad.  It was a mess.  I hacked my way through four of the charts (and by the way, three colors in one row?  No!)  and finally I just had to rip it all out.  I decided to leave the stripe and just work the yoke in plain one color stockinette, threw in another stripe, gave up on the turtleneck because by that point I knew it was going to be huge, and knit all the way to the bind off, still trying to decide if it would be more work to rip it all out again or just go ahead and finish it.   Since I am ultimately lazy, I decided to finish it.  Here’s what you have to do to finish it.  You have to take your scissors and cut it in half.  Whaaaat?  Okay, first you assemble your supplies:

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Then you take your scissors and you cut it, from hem to collar.  I don’t mind telling you my hands were shaking.

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So now, at this point, there’s no going back.  There’s no unraveling this hopeless yarn to be re-used yet again, so going for broke and getting it done is the only option.  Backed into that kind of corner, I did the only thing I could do.  I knit the button bands and called it a day. 

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It looks like something Richie Cunningham might wear.  It kind of looks like your boyfriend’s sweater.  Your boyfriend the basketball player, who is taking you to Inspiration Point in his dad’s DeSoto.  He sees that you’re a little chilly, so he gives you his varsity sweater to put over your shoulders.  He’s hoping to fog up the windows a little, so he wants you to be comfy.  And you are, because his sweater is big and sloppy and wooly and warm.  Just like a sweater should be.

Oranje, I’m not through with you yet.  We will meet again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teensy Books

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I love tiny things!  The more I say this to people, the more I hear that everyone else loves them, too.  I have still not gotten to the bottom of why I love them, though I think it might have something to do with portability, I don’t know.  Anyway, if all my books were as small as these, I’d have a lot more storage space for yarn, is all I can say.  I always wanted a dollhouse, too, and spent too much time sitting on my bed with a notebook, doodling unreasonable furniture plans (hand-carved Queen Anne table legs?) and wondering if functioning light switches would be possible.  I would worry later about the problem of how to become small enough to actually live in it.  Details, details.

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Somehow the dollhouse never happened, and now it just seems like I’d rather apply that kind of planning and effort to my regular-sized house, but it hasn’t stopped me from loving the tiny.  So I saw this sweet little project on Craftster last week and went kind of nutso with teeny stuff love.

I decided to take the tutorial a half step further and make little wee-tiny signatures, rather than just stacking loose paper into the centers of my books.  I thought that would make them look more book-like (and also help the binding to be squared, rather than just folded.)  I made the pages with actual book pages (don’t hate me, I love books) and the covers from leather scraps (I have a small stash of leather scraps.  I said don’t hate me) and used Mod Podge (is there anything Mod Podge can’t do?  Seriously!) to glue the signatures to each other and to the insides of the book covers.  I clamped them shut with binder clips, and waited about twenty minutes for them to dry.  Then I punched a hole through both of them together with a hammer and a small nail.  Watch your work surface if you do that!  Don’t go getting all caught up in the excitement of making teensy books and wreck your table.  It almost happened to me is why I’m telling you.  There was a last minute save, and everything’s okay, but it was close.

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I stuck a head pin through the hole and strung it on a chain.  Squeeak!  It’s so tiny!  Oh man, I just love it. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Woodstock Blanket

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I’ve never had to think so much before.   As you know, my usual way is to toss a bunch of yarn into a pile, grab whichever one rolls the closest to where I’m sitting, and just start.  You know, whatever happens, happens.  This time, I made some rules for myself, and it ended up being kind of a headache.  It really happened because of this.  The yarn happened to land that way when I dumped it on the table (see?  This is really how I work) and as I stood there looking at it, the idea for this blanket jumped into my head.  I wanted to move from one color to the next, allowing them to merge and overlap, and I didn’t want them to go in rainbow order, and I wanted it to go from cool to warm and I wanted the colors that were next to each other to look great and show themselves off to their best advantage, because that really is critical.  Trying to make leftovers and scraps gleaned from the back corners of the yarn cupboard conform to an intricate calculus of color theory and design was a lot trickier than I anticipated, but I love the way it turned out.

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I more or less abandoned my plan somewhere between the green and the purple and went back to my usual method of just using the next color that looks good, though I did try to maintain the general move from cool to warm. 

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I couldn’t believe how hard it was to move from one color combination to the next.  The first two rows of everything just looked completely wrong and I’d spend the next hour freaking out and ripping back and tearing at my hair and clothing.  (Blogless) Sara said, “Even if you think it is not right. By the time you have got some more rows down, it will be.”  Jacquie said the same kind of thing in this post, and they were both right.  But it was hard. 

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The stitch pattern I used is a version of the Catherine Wheel, called Harlequin, so named (I guess) because an extra ch1 at the top of the clusters makes them square instead of round.  I started there, inspired by a design called Greenway, from the book Comfort Knitting and Crochet: Afghans by Norah Gaughan and Margery Winter.  If you follow that pattern, you’ll want to know that it doesn’t tell you what to do after you finish the last row of squares and the edge is all pointy, which doesn’t match the beginning edge.  I figured out on my own how to square it off—here’s what I did:  after finishing row 4, turn and ch 3.  Work a 3 dc-tog and then 3 sc in the side of the cluster.  (I think that would make sense to you when you got there.)  Now, work 1 sc in the ch 1 space.  Work a 6 dc-tog, 3 sc in the side of it, sc in ch1 sp, and so on, to the end.  I hope this works for you—let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll see if I can help. 

Anyway, I also didn’t like the edging the pattern suggested, a simple round of crab stitch, which looked great in the photo, but all the sc-ing into the side of my rows just looked awful and I couldn’t stand it.  I did want a plain little row of just one innocuous color so as not to compete with all the hectic color going on, so my solution was to work one row of ch3, skip next 3, sc etc. and one row of 2 sc, ch2, 2 sc in each ch 3 space.  (I’m sorry, I’m not great at writing down crochet directions.)

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I love that depending upon how I fold it, it looks like a different blanket!

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What, you feel like a little pink today?  No problem!

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I’ll be honest;  that right there is the whole reason I keep making blankets.  I can’t even tell you how much I love looking at that teetering mountain of yarny, granny loveliness.  I also love that when my daughter’s friends visit for the weekend, she tells them, “If you get cold, there’s a blanket pretty much everywhere.”   That’s right, I’m keeping the whole world warm, one handful of college students at a time.100_8742a

I don’t know of anything more satisfying to make than a lovely cozy blanket, put together using accumulated detritus and a little brainpower.  This blanket is tie-dye technicolored, recycled and repurposed.  It was an experience.  Tell them about it, Jimi.

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edited:  Neicee found the Greenway pattern free on Ravelry!  Here it is. It looks like there’s an errata page, too.  Ravelry, I love you so much.  Thanks, Neicee!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Almost finished

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I’ve got this now.  Almost there!  *goes back to hooking*

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Woodland Cowl

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I am smitten by the designs of the fantastically dramatic Kalurah, who dreamed up the Through the Woods cowl and also wrote down the rules for this extremely simple but still somehow amazing piece of knitwear, called The Woodland Cowl.   There’s nothing to it but garter stitch and a few buttonholes, but I never would’ve thought to make it so BIG.  And BIG is what makes this delicious cowl what it is.  

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I used the yarn called for in the original pattern, one skein of Lion Brand Thick ‘n Quick in “glacier”, and four vintage coat buttons from my button jar.  This is a new yarn to me, so I don’t know how it will wear, but it seemed pretty yummy for the hour or so it took me to knit this.  Okay, speaking of that, seriously, if you have ever thought you might like to knit something but didn’t think you could?  Or you think you don’t have the patience for a whole scarf?  I am begging you, try this one out.  This yarn is light and soft (my first attempt was with wool yarn, held double, which produced an object which was so durable and thick it felt like a piece of medieval armor) and it will take you hardly any time at all to end up with this fantastic cowl!  Right?  Come on, try it. 

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Yum.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunburst Flower Granny Bag

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I was prowling around Pinterest last week (I love Pinterest!  I mean, I reeeaaallllly love it!  I have to pry myself away from there, because the awesomeness just keeps on coming.  This world is so full of fabulous creative people and their fantastic ideas) and I was just happily pinning away when this stopped me in my tracks.  I’m sorry, that’s a Ravelry link—if you haven’t found Ravelry yet, what are you waiting for?  I dove immediately into my bottomless yarn cupboard for a pile of assorted tweedy-looking yarns and then spent what turned out to be the last gorgeous weekend of the year sitting in the backyard making squares. 

The sky was endlessly blue, and I wore a sundress.  There was cold beer.  The curling crabapple leaves fluttered down into my lap, and the chickens puttered happily under the table.  It was, somehow, summer again, marvelous.  And at the end of it, when it started to act like October again (I do believe there was a little sleet today) I had this lovely fall bag--and a little bit of a tan--to remind me. 

There seems not to be a published pattern associated with this bag, so I’ll give you the quick details, in case you want to make one, too.  (I can’t help you score a beautiful weekend, but maybe the sun is shining where you are, anyway.)

The crochet motifs are called Sunburst Flower Granny Squares, and the photo tutorial for that is here, but it’s in German.  You can use the google translator, but here’s a sample of how that looks: 

"{ envelope , bite through the mesh and thread pick up.
Renewed envelope and pull through first 2 sts on needle.}

I had to laugh when it told me to “transshipment the yarn,” and I ended up deciphering it a little bit wrong, so my squares came out on the small side.  The photo tutorial is good, though, and anyway, I think the same pattern can be found in Jane Brocket’s new book, in case you can’t figure out what it all means. 

So, make 17 squares in total, and then crochet them together, setting them on point, in alternating rows of two and three.  It makes a little bit of a rectangle shape.  (Crikey, I should’ve taken pictures of this as I went.)  Hang on, here’s a diagram:

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See how they go together?  Now fold it in half with wrong sides facing and crochet it together at the A edges, and then fold up the corner and crochet it together at the B edges, like this:

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Make a lining in the same shape, folding up at the corners the same way, and stitch it into the bag. 

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I made the handles by twisting 12 long lengths of yarn together until they doubled up on themselves, and attached them to the bag using four small bone rings I had leftover from something else. 

Very cozy for fall, no? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Abacus Bracelet

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This is something I’ve been needing for years, only I didn’t know I needed it because I didn’t know there even was such a thing, until I was deep in the patterns on Ravelry and came upon it.  It’s a Row-Counting Abacus Bracelet!  (My scientist husband said, “Do you know how to use an abacus?” If this is an abacus, then yes!)  Here’s how it works:  the smaller beads count as one, and the larger beads count as ten, and as you complete your row, you scoot that little ring of teeny silver beads, which is on an elastic cord, over the first small bead—one row counted.  When you get to the tenth row, you scoot all the small beads back under the ring and move the first of the big beads through it.  Then for row eleven, you have one big and one small bead; for row twenty-three, you have two big beads and three small ones, and so on.  It’s all about how many of which beads are all on one side of the ring.  Brilliant!  This thing is going to save me, like, two bucks a year on sticky notes…and now I can hear you all thinking about how much you need one of these, too.  The tutorial I followed is here.   I just used whatever beads I had around here that had holes big enough for the cord to fit through, which is why it’s a bit of a mishmash.  It’s a little bit motley, which is just the way I like it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Too cool for comfort

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I’m trying to get back on track with the Harlequin blanket, but am failing.  You can see I have just about every color under the sun there to work with, minus the greens which have already gone in, and having carefully studied Lucy’s master class in choosing colors for blankets (whoa, she’s good!) I dragged this out of the corner where it’s been sulking for a few months and tried to reconsider it. 

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These yarns are all orphans and sale bin impulse purchases and I apparently have them in every color of the rainbow, which is good because I’m not content with anything that sits on one side only of the spectrum, but that’s where the blanket is sitting right now.  It’s sitting on the cool side.  It’s firmly entrenched on the cool side, all happy and comfy there, perhaps finding the cool side of the spectrum just a little bit too cozy, because when it came time to add some warm colors, you know, just to make it balance out, it kind of rebelled.  The blanket kind of rejected the warm colors.  I know I could just leave it on the cool side, let it be a cool side blanket, but that just seems…well, it’s too hard for me to do that.  It wouldn’t be motley enough.  I like a blanket to have a good dose of scrappiness, and right now it’s just way too orderly.

And in spite of the fact that my yarn cupboard is groaning with yarn, bursting with it, to the point that I have to wedge the door shut with my hip to make it close, I still hiked off to the yarn shop today to see whether there might not be some sort of bridge color, you know, something to ease the blanket into the warm side of things, nothing too sudden, I don’t want to shock it.  Just something cooly/warmish.  But what?  Nothing jumped out at me.  I am stuck.

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I’m moving away from the purple and hoping to start in on a pink and brown cycle, am leaning toward either the dark red or the pale pink, and  am quite sure I’m over-thinking this thing by about a country mile.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pink Cardigan

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There’s another new sweater in my closet.  You know how, sometimes, things just go totally according to plan, and you have all the right yarn and the pattern is easy to memorize and the exact buttons you hoped you’d find turn up, right there in the button jar, right when you need them?  Yeah.  That didn’t happen with this sweater.  In fact, this sweater is the opposite of that.  I had to rip back twice because something on the TV distracted me and the cables went weird.  Those cute buttons?  There were only three of them, so if my bellybutton gets cold, there will be no help for it, none.  And the yarn, which I bought all at once, in the same store, and from the same bin, is not all the same. 

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Would you believe me if I told you I did not notice that until it was actually finished and blocking?  I know. 

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I’m trying really hard to love it.  Okay, it’s a wooly cardigan, right?  There is almost nothing cozier than that.  (Let’s check the list:  wooly socks, wooly hats, hot cocoa, hugs from your grandma, wooly cardigans…) Yes.  It is the color of Bazooka bubblegum the inside of your mouth a peony.  The three-button effect is very fashionable, too, leaving the long fronts to flare open in a casual, insouciant way.  As if to say, I just threw this on, I don’t even care what I wear.  The bizarre multi-toning could be thought of as a design feature.  An intentional, ombre effect.  Yes, yes!  It’s working!

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Oh, odd little mis-dyed sweater.  You will not go to the Goodwill.  You will keep me cozy this winter.  You will make me want to bake cookies and wash the floors and be a good person.  I can tell that about you. 

I should own up to the fact that the pattern is mine, my usual top-down raglan.  I borrowed the cable panel pattern from here [Ravelry link].  Heck, I guess it does actually fit.  The button thing—yeah, that was just lazy. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Luna Moth

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Everyone in my high school biology class had to spend the summer of 1983 collecting bugs.  Some people did this the right way and went into the woods and meadows with their butterfly nets and kill jars and their field guides, seeking out the correct host plants and habitats, and then they built beautiful wood and glass display cases, mounted the insects with utmost care on tiny pins, hand-lettered labels that read Lepidoptera:  Actias luna and then got an A in biologyThe way I did it was to spend the summer of 1983 reading Tiger Beat magazine in front of the fan and picking dead moths out of the porch light fixture. 

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Some of those other kids had a Luna Moth in their collections, and I was just  stunned.  Luna Moth looked like something you’d find in another world.  They were four inches across, and had incredible, shifting, translucent, alien green-colored wings.  I had not a clue that something like that lived in my neighborhood, visiting other people’s porch lights at night like luminous ghosts.  They were as big as my hand.  It made me sort of snap to attention in biology, this knowledge that I had missed the boat completely, bug collection-wise, and that with the right kind of effort, I could have bagged myself one of those moths, mounted it properly in a glass case, and then kept it forever, displaying it like a Victorian explorer returned from the wilds of Borneo. 

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I found this pattern, called “Winged Flowers” by Mary Ellen Designs, copyright 1980, in my thrifty craft store (I know, right?) and stitched it on a napkin (also thrifted) that turned out to be just the right size weave—maybe about 18 ct?  I even had half the required DMC floss colors in my stash already, so there wasn’t any stopping me.  Would you believe I also thrifted the frame? 

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Sitting outside by the bug light at Mary Moon’s house past midnight would’ve been a good way, back then, to capture one of these, but this, now, is wonderful, too.  Not to mention being a lot nicer for the bugs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Nutkin Socks

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This picture has nothing to do with the socks I just finished.  I was just so happy the sun was shining, and the socks are knit in dark navy yarn that sort of absorbed all the light in the room—you can see there was some—and so you’ll never be able to see them. 

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My mom is thinking, get your feet off the table!  Sorry, Mom.

You’ll just have to trust me that these are pretty cool, although they are a teeny bit too small for me.  They look like they’re covered with cables, but they’re really not, it’s all done with smoke and mirrors, and with k2 tog and YO.  The lovely pattern is called Nutkin, available free from Knitzi.com, and I used (I think) some kind of sock yarn from Cascade—I started these a really long time ago and I can’t remember.  These socks might be the last of the pre-blog projects to finally be finished.  And that’s it for socks for awhile, I’m pretty sure.  The sock drawer is full to bursting again, but it was eighty degrees today and wearing socks seems crazy.  I love New York!   I might spend the whole day tomorrow sitting in the sun and embroidering.  Does that sound like heaven, or what?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The X’s have it

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I am fully captivated by cross-stitch right now.  As usual, not being satisfied with just one project of a kind at a time, I went on a link-following bender, starting here which made me swoon (Radish’s Mum!  You’re so right!) and then across the blogs to feeling stitchy, into the shiny happiness of this, finally landing in the brazen and beautiful cross-stitch underworld, like here.  And this blew my mind. Whoa, you guys!  I had no idea.  The internet is a marvelous place.  These are not the teddy bears, nor the endless variations of Home Sweet Home, nor the wise and/or witty sayings I remember about cross stitch. This is edgy, daring, modern, brave, fantastic.  I felt so much cross stitch love that I crafted a special Cross Stitch Project Zip Bag, even using up a chunk of my precious Denyse Schmidt fabric for the lining. 
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I’ll never stop being amazed at all the different ways a person can make something wonderful with just needles and string.

edited:  I got too chicken and took down one of the links.  I laughed, but it wasn't cozy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cross Stitch???

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edited:  I realized that in trying to be funny, I was inadvertently combative in this post, which was not my intention, but I got some lovely comments and suggestions, so instead of deleting it altogether, I'm leaving the photo behind.  Can you tell what it's going to be?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vintage Hats and a Curtain

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We ventured into the thrift stores this weekend.  Usually, I avoid them in the fall, since thrifting at Halloween time is like going to the mall at Christmas, which I also hate like the plague, but there was a need in the family for some costume pants, so off we went, and lo!  Looky there!   Chucked in with the plastic Darth Maul masks and popsicle green curly wigs was a little collection of vintage ladies hats!  I was a happy girl, I can tell you.  Look at this one:

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That one has a label that says, “Oscar de la Renta” which doesn’t mean it didn’t just come from Macy’s or anything, but isn’t that big glob of posies just delectable?  My teenage son was a little bit appalled since I’d already bought a pair of burgundy heels that he thought were pretty ugly and he was afraid I would be wearing this chapeau around to the grocery store and whatnot, and whoa, do I kind of wanna, but for two bucks, I’m happy just to look at it.  Sweet old lady, thanks for your hats.  I love them.

More and more, my lovely, airy, light-filled workroom is resembling a junk shop, as I chock it full of things like this.  But I looooooove it! 

I did make something over the weekend: 

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A plain, white, muslin curtain.  Try not to keel over from the excitement.  In truth, I made four of these—no, eight, since the first four were kind of skimpy and I decided to redo them.  While I was pressing and sewing the forty straight seams on the plain white cotton fabric, I realized something—I actually don’t want any curtains, and I’m really tired of making them.  I wouldn’t even be able to guess how many sets of plain white cotton curtains I have made for this house; how much boring plain white cotton muslin I have ironed and sewn.  I use muslin because, apart from sheer curtains (I’ve had those too, and what’s the point of a curtain if the people going by on the street can still see you?) they are the least there curtains I can think of.  Having curtains on the windows make my rooms feel shrouded.  No, it’s cozy!  Right?  I go back and forth on this one all the time.  What do you think?  100_8627a

Maybe if I add a crocheted lace trim to the bottom edge?  Hmmm.