Friday, February 26, 2016

Dreams and sweaters

I got a message from the boy the other day. He sent a photo to my phone; luminous water, lit from somewhere, with stonework behind. It was a tiny photo, and I squinted at it. "That's pretty," I said. "What is it?" "It's the Trevi Fountain," he said. "I'm in Rome, btw." Morning sunlight dapples this empty room. Thinking of art; of Caravaggio and chiaroscuro and golden towns that dabble down hillsides to the sea. I find some beauty here at home--well, in some flowers from Trader Joe's. They're unscented, but I imagine one.

Finally getting a sleeve, Nenna starts to look like something a person might wear. This yarn, Berroco Vintage DK in "elderberry" is such a pretty antidote to the gray untidiness of late winter.

So is this--here's Antler, sporting the perfect contrast color, a more nuanced cousin to Patons Lemongrass, this is "Witch's Brew", I think from Periwinkle Sheep Yarn--where the heck is the label?--good grief. Well, I'll find it. Anyway, Antler has almost a whole sleeve now, too (man, I hope those arm/shoulders block out, urgh...) and it's a good thing this is near finished, because I have so many other things I want to make. I dreamed another dress last night, and imagined a small brown cardigan to go with it, with 3/4 sleeves and jacquard ribbon facings. A tunic-length vest with fair-isle patterning in heathered purples. Dark brown oil paintings with glowing dabs of turquoise and pink, and sunlight streaming through the window.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Winter's Day



Well, hello! We are having a very unexpected Snow Event. "Unexpected" because when I went to bed last night, I didn't know it was coming, and thus was totally shocked to look outside and see nothing but white out the windows in every direction. What is this snow stuff? I don't understand! It doesn't snow here anymore! [RIP, Perfect Winter 2016] Snowing is so last year. I don't know about you guys, but I had rather come to believe that we were going to escape unscathed. Remember how last week I was changing my clothes out in the backyard, going all bare-armed and everything? Not today, my friends. Today, it is winter, which means I am holed up beside the fireplace with the catdog, knitting diligently on the Nenna and listening to the postman try to get his truck unstuck from the snowbank beside my neighbor's mailbox. [Take a picture? Go help him dig? Take a picture first, then go help? He got it unstuck before I could decide.]

I've been moving stuff around and rearranging the artwork, which I truly love to do--home as laboratory, or artist's canvas maybe--and was thrilled to accidentally discover that the Denyse Schmidt Drunk Love in a Log Cabin quilt I made back in 1999 or thereabouts looked plainly perfect on this bed. Stuff like that just makes me smile, I don't know what else to say. That quilt has spent the past seventeen years folded on a shelf and looking for its purpose, and when I chucked it on there for re-folding, I suddenly realized. Purpose, finally! Nice. It's never too late. Use what you have, and move it around now and then, to keep things interesting.

It felt good the other day to dust off the bead box and string some stuff together. All this--beads, wire, findings, clasp, gemstone of some kind or another--was already in the cupboard, just waiting to be some jewelry. Sitting there. What was I waiting for? What good is it to have a pretty string of coppery/purple pearls sitting in a box? Note to self: make stuff with the pretties. Speaking of which, I've also been having a little bit of a de-stash, inspired by Felicia at The Craft Sessions. Guys, I have too much stuff, and it's time to deal with it. I'm never going to make that many quilts. More on this later.

Of an evening, when dinner is over and the dishes are done, we brew a pot of coffee and Netflix-binge many episodes of Doc Martin, and I knit Antler in Madelinetosh Sock, main color "Charcoal". I'm past the fiddly bits, and can get up a head of steam on the plain part now. [Sarcasm on] What I really need now is definitely another gray pullover. Yup. The thirty-six--that's the actual number, I counted yesterday--neutral sweaters in my closet are not enough. [Sarcasm off] But O, the Tosh! Honestly. How can yarn be this beautiful?

Friday, February 12, 2016


I've got a case of the starting stuff. Nothing at all is anywhere near being finished. This is strangely stressful, and even more strangely, the antidote seems to be to start more stuff. This giant granny is so much FUN to work on, and I am always amazed by the quantity of colorful scraps I manage to scrounge up; the scraps always seem so gray. I think it's going to head into gray territory very soon, though, and I think that's going to be awesome, too.
Nenna is taking forever. I hope my lovely mama isn't sitting at home all chilly and needing this cardigan anytime soon, because I haven't even got the body done yet, nevermind the sleeves. I promise I am working on this. I know, it is hard to tell.
With no need of any more hats, a little plain work was required. Enter this very, very plain project--a triangle in stockinette. I can tell you the pattern right now: CO 3, work in stockinette, increasing one stitch at each end of every row, until it's big enough or your yarn runs out or you slip into a deep, ennui-induced coma. This is one of those "process-or-product" things that makes you ask yourself why on earth you would want to put yourself through it, or at least you ask yourself that until you start knitting it, when you fall into a peaceful trance, and you remember that's why. And then, when it's finished, you wrap up in it every day for the rest of your life and silently thank those who taught you to knit. So yeah, I am working on this a lot, too.
Which means I'm not working on this blanket as much as I should be. This blanket is exactly the same kind of thing--soothing and meditative, trance-inducing--except that it's been on the needles a lot longer, and is therefore getting stale. I don't know how else to describe it. I keep thinking this is almost finished, has GOT to be almost finished, but in fact it is just over halfway finished. That's a little bit crushing, since I feel like I've been knitting this blanket since the day after I was born. I've been knitting this for so long that the shop where I bought the yarn is now closed.
Which brings me to the sock yarn blanket. I am so sick of this thing. Why is this not done yet? I feel like I work on it continuously [that's a lie, I hardly ever work on it] and have certainly been looking at it for a hundred years. People, do not start knitting a blanket unless you have stamina for a long haul, because a crochet blanket will become finished someday, while your knitted blanket will lie there mocking you, a basket full of squares. You will luxuriate beneath your crocheted blanket for many decades while your half-finished knitted blanket will continue to haunt your dreams. Also, trying to make a blanket using sock yarn is just asking for a headache. Sock yarn is small! You'd think I might know this by now. There are a whole lot of these squares left to go, and a whole lot of sock yarn leftovers, and not a single excuse in the world to just stop knitting them and make a teeny blanket that won't do me any good. Onward.
Naturally, I cast on a shawl. I mean, isn't it obvious? Also, isn't it obvious that I would knit this on long, straight needles, of the sort that hit the arms of the chair and get hung up in everything all the time?
I started another sweater last night. Because Madelinetosh. You know. It's some kind of fever, I think. Watch for a lot of finished objects to start showing up around here. Sometime.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Wardrobe, another DIY


Want to see what I've been making? Lo, it is a nice day, with some light in it. (If this is winter, I like it very much). My trusty assistant and I filled a basket with accessories and went out into the sunny garden for a few photos.

I've talked before about my struggles with following a pattern--even a good one--and getting a nice fit. I don't think I'm shaped all that weirdly, but must be I am, or else I am too picky, or something. Anyway, because I don't really know (yet) how to modify a sewing pattern to make it fit my particular self, I have over the years sort of accidentally made a couple nice things and also a whole big bunch of sad failures.

Also, I don't like to install zippers, or make buttonholes, or wear things that have elastic in them. I don't like facings. I don't like to use any kind of interfacing. I will set in some sleeves, but only if I have to. I like plain and easy, but it's got to fit, and it's got to be comfortable. That seemed like too much to ask, and I gave up on sewing clothes a couple times. I thought I just couldn't get what I wanted, but I found out I can. I love it when I get my way.

I made a dress from a (really lovely) pattern, and it was a fail. I made another dress, from another (really lovely) pattern, and it was also a fail. So I put them in the donate bag, got out my big paper and drew the dress I really wanted; loose and easy, but with some shaping. No zippers, nor buttons, nor elastic. I used a couple dresses from my closet as a guide, to make sure I was even close to getting the right size, and I used a french curve to help me figure out the neckline. (French curve? Oh my goodness, so nifty! How does it really work? I don't know! I just use it by placing it over the sketchy curved line I have drawn and scootching it around until I find a curve that looks right...ack! I know there's more to it than this, but life is for learning.)

Feeling bold, I did not make a muslin. (I also did not make a muslin, because, truth be told, I don't know what to do with a muslin. I don't know how to take what I have learned from making a muslin and apply it.) So I got out the pretty fabric and just cut it out. And just sewed it. And put it on. And friends, I smiled. I danced! I drove Doc crazy by making him repeatedly agree that it was amazing. I have worn this many times, and it is such a thrill. I loved everything about it, especially the plain and perfect sleeve, but a variation occured to me, and I was fired up, so I got out some more fabric and tinkered a little. Quick change...

Brr! A real model gets to put on a parka between shots.

This is the same dress, but with a little more room in the hips and a little pleated cap sleeve. When I put this on, I smiled, danced, laughed with glee. Look what I can do! I can make my own clothes, and they are good!

Whoops, it's slightly windy--watch those petticoats...

Did I stop there? Well, no. I started thinking about yokes, and about a nightgown pattern I made up a couple years ago. A few adjustments to the neckline, and done.

[Headmistress at an English boarding school. She's strict, but sweet, too. Teaches the older kids to drive in her vintage Citroen...]

This fabric is a wool plaid that I thrifted. (I know! Score!) Coming soon: the square yoke version. Honestly, ideas are coming practically on top of each other.

I started thinking tunics:

It's soft, comfy, versatile. Next time, the neckline will be lowered, and sleeves will be long. I wonder, if I cut it on the bias, will it drape more? Will that stretch out the neck opening too much? There's just one way to find out. Do it and see!

As I've said before, I come from a very crafty tribe. We all figure if there is a need for something, might be there is a way to make it ourselves. My clan of aunties are artists, every single one, and one auntie is a top-notch sewer of clothes and furnishings--she can make lined drapes and formal gowns and for-sure clothes with buttonholes and facings and the whole shebang (*waves to Auntie B*) and in the early 80s, maybe I was about twelve or thirteen, my lovely mama decided to teach me to sew for real. We went to the fabric store and picked out an easy dress pattern--it had six rectangular body panels, waist ties, facings, and a zipper--and a tiny, eighties-style calico print cotton fabric. It was simple and fun; we worked together on it, and I couldn't wait to get home from school, so we could get back to it. She made me do everything myself, and the sense of pride when it was done was huge. I wore that soft, plain dress into tatters. I was still wearing it in college, when my hair was wild, with big earrings and long underwear leggings and engineer boots, and a bookbag I made out of worn-out jeans. As a DIY girl, I'm so grateful to have those sewing skills, even as I disregard most of them. Thank you, Mom.

Thursday, February 4, 2016



It feels like this weird non-winter is really almost over. I know all the old farmers around here would laugh in my face for saying that, but I saw a fully-budded forsythia yesterday, and I'm taking that as a sign. I don't know if it's because of the mild winter, or because of the catdog [it's because of the catdog] but this season has been so lovely. I can't remember the last time I could say that. I have loved this winter, and nobody who knows me will believe it. The catdog and I are doing more training work, which is honestly the most fun thing in the world. She sits with her ears alert, tail scrubbing the floor, and studies me for information. She figures everything out immediately. She hops into position like a little bunny and earns extra points for style. When I go across the room and then call her, she barrels toward me like a runaway train, ears and lips flying, then skids to a stop just short of a crash. It's just wonderful.

Puttering and crafts: I have been making things, and as soon as there is some sunlight around here, I'll show you some of them. Lots of dresses, with ideas for more dresses. I feel a little bit like I've cracked a code on this whole making a dress thing. So much for any notions about minimalism or capsule wardrobes. I've got dress fever! In between cutting up my whole fabric stash to make clothes, the Nenna cardigan is growing (size 4 needles! Are small! I'ma try to get this done before summer!) and I found some Berroco Folio in a beautiful shade of blue/gray which means a lacy scarf is also on the needles. More covered lampshades--seriously, no lampshade is safe from me now. It takes an hour, some glue. Big, huge results. It looks completely professional, which is kinda not how anything I do ever looks, and is thus miraculous.