Monday, November 25, 2013

Fingerless mittens time!

A while back I made a couple pairs of fingerless mittens. These first pair, made out of a bulky cashmere blend yarn, are simple and fold back to create an extra layer of warmth. I knit them for a Welsh woman who was visiting, and they seemed like just the thing for the cold, damp winters in Wales. Or so I have heard, never having been to Wales myself. But I imagine, in my extremely fecund (and wistful) imagination, that it is much like coastal Northern California, except colder and tremendously more Welsh. 
There is no left or right, only thinking makes it so.
Lest you doubt the seriousness of these mitts, witness them on my hand.

Granted, I am petite.
The second pair of gloves were purely for sale. They're in my etsy shop. I'd had the yarn forever (Grab bag or gift? Can't recall, but I love me a good grab bag.)

See that white Corelle mug? I confess, I generally commit serial monogamy with my coffee mugs. Before this one was a hand made mug that cost me $15 at the local farmers market, and we were going along quite well until V. broke it. So it goes. I still have the above Corelle mug, but I put it away once I saw the green mug (second photo down in linked page) in the thrift store. I know - spurned over a $1.91 used mug! But frankly, I found the Corelle mug in a free box on the curb, and it was dirty, so really it should just get over itself and be glad it's in a cupboard.

And frankly, even the green mug doesn't compare to just my memory of the yellow mug.
They fit small women hands. Because I am a small woman.
A matched pair. Way easier than with striped socks.
I have an idea for some funky fingerless glove/mittens ideas, which will be coming up soon.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Vintage Thursday: Hats, Hats, Hats!

It has been a while since I've done a Vintage Thursday, so here I go.

I have hats on my mind lately. Not just because I am knitting a quadrillion earflap hats. It's because I just like hats. I even got a book on millinery, and as soon as I order some buckram, there is going to be some serious hat madness around here. In the meantime, we'll have to settle for this kind of hat madness, the kind that stems from thrift stores and flea markets.
Nonchalant in my Victorian bathroom, as usual.
This fuchsia hat is one of my favorites; it requires wearing at a jaunty angle and needs its elastic repaired so that it doesn't fly off in the wind. Not that I have worn it outside. I have yet to find an occasion that warrants wearing any of these hats, which is just sad.
Does this match my hair?
This hat is a bit more earthy and may not entirely go with my Dress of Mild Confusion, which is my photo op dress of choice. Unlike the hats, I have worn it outside, but only once. Back around 2005 I wore it when my then partner-boyfriend-whatnot took me out for dinner on my birthday to a restaurant in the North End of Boston. Only time he took me out for such an occasion, so it called for this dress, which I bought to coordinate with an accordion. (Because one does.)
Pseudo-flapper, but not earflap.
This hat is not so much vintage as vintage-ish. It's almost a cloche. With the brim down, I am in complete disguise because no one will see my face.

It has a little black velvet bow - here!
This pillbox-esque hat is actually one of my favorites. It's oddly provincial, and makes me feel I came of the farm to the big city in 1933 or something.
Ignore the hot pink bobby pin!
Another favorite. I can't resist a lone feather just sticking up at an odd angle.
Some feather love.
I consider this my formal hat, and the dress' natural accessory. When I found it ($5 at a flea market) I said to myself (silently), "At last! A hat to go with the Dress of Mild Confusion!"

Relax, it's synthetic.
I'm not 100% about how to wear this hat, but I gave it a shot. It makes me feel like I'm way more Eastern European than I am. Someone loved this hat, because they even relined (amateurishly) half of the inside lining. I'll probably fix that later - something like an exquisite lilac sateen that no one will ever see - but for now, V. uses it as a "nest" for her stuffed animal birds. 
Yes, that's weird eye shadow. Because I can.
This hat is difficult to photograph, and not just because it's that dingy black that vintage things become in time. It's sort of a lopsided, tiny tam, with a bow.
Vintage UFO's
I have several vintage UFO's that I need to address for next Thursday, since I can't just go about buying hats, alas. At the end of this post I have created a poll so that you may help me decide which torment project I'll undertake. You know, when I'm not knitting earflap hats.
Men's Argyle Stockings, Circa 1920

Progress since ripping them part.
As you may well know, I've been revisiting these stockings for a while now. They were much further along than you currently see them. But I am still under the impression that my housemate wants to wear them someday, and really, if you don't consider my anal retentive habit of unraveling about 6" of it every now and then, they're easy.
1920's Fillet Crochet Dress 
I bought the book for this pattern.
I began this dress some time ago. I stopped working on it because I had my doubts about the sizing of the head opening, and I was not advanced enough in the arena of clothing modification and construction to deal with it sensibly. (Really, all I could really do was hem pants. Figuring out a head circumference and comparing it to a crocheted dress neck would have exploded my head.) It is something I would really like to finish, however. The substitution for synthetic silk I used (tencel weaving yarn) is wonderful - it is light weight and drapes beautifully. (You know it's nice stuff when you take the project out occasionally just to run it between your fingers.)
You can see where I stopped.
This project, spool and all, has traveled with me from Boston to California and then back here to Philly.

1970's Knee-Highs
Grandma knit it, I seamed it.
My grandma started knitting these knee-highs for my oldest aunt when she was in high school. That was about forty years ago. (And you thought you had UFO's, eh?) When she cleaned out her attic, she gave it to me. I've tried them on - they fit me. (Sorry, Aunt Susie!)
And now for the poll:

  • 1920's fillet crochet dress
  • 1920's men's argyle stockings
  • Grandma's 40 yr. old knee highs
More polls: Free poll

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Flapping away

 V. and I convened at the local coffeehouse of choice/perpetual habit to have a bagel and contemplate earflap hats. Coffee was also involved.

Finger dipping good!
OK, so perhaps she was more about the bagel than the knitting, but I give it a couple years. Then we'll see. (I already have a knitting spool for her, she just doesn't know it yet!)

A rare photo op involving a flower!
This earflap hat - the third in perhaps two and a half days, all the same pattern - is a kind of gray-green that is very... indeterminate. In my dark bedroom, it looked like a deep pine green. In the daylight it was gunmetal. I just don't know anymore. The only thing I really am certain about it that it is done, and just barely!
This time I am wearing pants.
Here I am, modeling in my bathroom again. I know this looks a lot like the pictures I took yesterday, but I swear, it is not. I am just wearing a slightly different earflap and a slightly different sweater. I have a yen for those lightweight merino sweaters that originate at places like The Gap or American Eagle, then get machine washed by some careless undergrad, who then donates them to a thrift store where I swoop down upon them with glee. (I got yet another one in green today, which I have plans to create a scene from Godzilla on in felt. Trust me. It will be fabulous!)
Godzilla wants an earflap hat! (Yes... I am a nerd. Had you any doubt?)
Anyway, this earflap hat also needs blocking. The ties aren't as long as on the other hat because I cut it pretty close near the end - I almost didn't have enough yarn and would have had to set it aside like the first one (7/8 done) until I decided which yarn to use. That is my current strategy, since I'm dealing with handspun yarn. I have no idea how many yards are in each ball, and the balls and the yarns themselves are certainly not uniform. There's a lot of guesswork.
My balls. And a bag of mohair.
For instance, I began with the medium gray-colored ball, featured dead center in the above photo. That made a large 7/8 hat. Then I went to the big ball - that made yesterday's hat, and there was enough left over for me to be a bit confused about what to do with it. Today I tackled the dark ball, to the left, and made a medium hat. That was (as Goldilocks would say) just the right size. The remaining two balls may or may not make a medium hat each since they are a similar size to the dark ball. But one never knows. Plus, I am confounded by the orange ball. If it is not enough for a hat of its own - and I have only two sizes to work with here, medium and large - then I need to figure out a tasteful way to use it with another yarn. And you know I am all about the taste.

Which reminds me, I am blocking the pieces of the funky sweater even as I type this.

Sleeve or psychedelic fish?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Out and about

I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art today to meet up with a friend and see the Vermeer they have on display there. I am a big fan of Vermeer and his peers. Some advice: if you are going to see a famous artist's painting that is just on loan to your local museum, go on a Tuesday, just about when everyone is having brunch. Because the scene will be like this: 
When did these fountains last run? I always ask myself.
What is not featured in these photos of the front steps is the pair of tourists taking turns snapping pictures of each other running up the steps and doing the Rocky pose. It just so happened that they were done just a moment before I had my camera out. What a pity. (Can you feel the sarcasm dripping?) Visiting the PMA is an interesting and sometimes stomach-churning meeting of worlds. I think Rocky was a fine movie (I will not speak to its sequels) but these kind of pop-culture displays leave me lactose intolerant - I simply can't take the cheese. Add to that a woman who thought the pediment by C. Paul Jennewein was Jesus and the Canaanites, and I was really ready for some art.

Because obviously, I am an art snob. In a fuzzy hat.
Witness all the open space.
I can't resist a curtain wall reflection, even if I am rushing to catch a trolley:
Also while rushing to catch the trolley:

Pretty leaves!
In other news 
I've been commissioned to knit up some hats for the holidays by a friend who spins and knits and sews and, well, doesn't have a doppelganger to help her to do all of those things simultaneously in time for Christmas. I am the stand-in for her doppelganger. So far, I have knit 1 7/8 earflap hats out of her handspun and hand dyed yarn. (7/8 because all it lacks is edging and ties.) They need blocking, but here is the one I consider done.
My expression is serious to belie the fact that I am not wearing any pants.

I think it has a nice mossy look to it.

Monday, November 18, 2013


I have probably mentioned this before, but I am venturing into dollmaking. Specifically, the Waldorf-style doll.
Oh, and I have something like internet again.
This fellow here is one of my smaller dolls, about 9" long. I'm experimenting with various styles - there's the traditional floppy ragdoll style, or the half button-jointed style (arms jointed, legs simply sewn on or an extension of the body), full button-jointing, and of course, any of the above button-jointing variations done with HIDDEN button-jointing (the buttons are INSIDE the limb, so they can't be bitten off or just be, you know... unseemly.) This fellow below is fully hidden button-jointed.

He embraces big hair.
Originally, this doll was going to be a girl. Or, since dolls really only have secondary sex characters (and in saying that, I'm being generous - it's really just the hair and clothes) this fellow could also be a short-haired girl. I don't know. Much like with the scrupulously blank expression, you can go ahead and imagine whatever you want with this doll. Whichever they are, they like butterflies. The hair is a mohair wig I crocheted, and since I am experimenting left and right, it was an experiment that proved to me just how to make extremely fluffy, full, too much hair. So I cut most of it off. I didn't want the doll mistaken for a feather duster.
The artistic photo. Sort of.
I made the clothing and shoes, which were also all prototypes and took forever because of it. I am very pleased with the shoes, which are a kind of simplified Converse-inspired style with an elastic band cunningly (if I do say so myself) used to eliminate pesky issues like buttons and Velcro and snaps. The pants have pockets in front and back. The butterfly t-shirt Velcro's closed in the back.

Some quick thoughts on dollclothes
About the same time I was sewing up the clothes for this blondie, I was making Barbie clothes for V. Barbie. Oh, ok, I was making myself Barbie clothes for V.'s Barbie that she didn't play with. I was getting fairly into it. Which led me to the discovery of specialty notions for doll clothes, such as almost completely flat, super-thin Velcro and itty-bitty buttons and snaps the size of French lentils. (Although not quite as tasty.) I wasn't easy, even in this internet age, to find these micro items, just as hat wire for a 12th century headdress is a bit of a hunt to find. You know how it is. But once found, they are worth it. I don't know how I got by without them.

I made this light-box type thing to photograph the doll in. It's working out okay. Once again, an expensive architectural education is paying off, sort of. In areas completely unrelated to architecture.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sky dress

I'm circumventing the issue of the smartphone being my only internet access during this period of quasi-temporary lack of full internet privileges by going through the drafts I've saved here that have photos and amazingly enough, finishing them. You see, I don't know if I can upload photos here from this phone yet.
It's a lot harder than it sounds, so please forgive any irregularities and just think of this as that charmingly quirky time when I was forced to basically phone it in, but not with the negative connotations that phrase has... It feels a bit like blogging by telegraph. (If the smartphone breaks, you'll know because those little puffs on the horizon? Those are my smoke signals.)
So, the blue tie-dye shirt pictured above? I found that on the sidewalk while out walking the kid. Naturally, I washed it and cut it up to make a dress for her.
Then of course I hand embellished it with crocheted edging. I used the smallest crochet thread generally available (30?) but then I happened to be at the closing clearance sale of my old beloved LYS Windsor Button in downtown Boston (the many references I have made on this blog to it I would reference with a link if I were actually able) and discovered some crochet thread so tiny, Victorians would consider it satisfactory. I didn't use it on her dress, but next time... next time.
In these photos V. is kindly modeling the dress for me so that I can check its progress. I have some cute pictures of her in it while we were out walking since she does really wear the dress. I'll post them post-smartphone and link them back to this page, etc.
Closer view. I am rather pleased with how it turned out. I even used interfacing in the button placket! (Feel free to reel from shock.) However, I am looking forward to the day when I can afford not only a sewing machine that does freearm zigzagging, but buttonholes.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

she has gone down!

would you believe I'm typing this ever so slowly with my smart phone?

years ago when I started this blog this idea would be inconceivable. Not just because of technological innovation but because my then partner-boyfriend-whatnot was quite a Luddite. He might not have kicked up too much of a stink because he fancied himself to not be a controlling type of person, but I certainly would have known his opinion.

I remember the day I got my first cellphone. A more clandestine meeting could not have been arranged than going into that cellphone store. I went far beyond my usual haunts to open the box and activate the phone. I knew I couldn't possibly run into him there because he had a very predictable routine.

When I got home later I just ever so casually mentioned the phone and that was that. That was a bit surprising since this was the same guy who had once insisted that we didn't really need a land line at home. Or perhaps it was because of that incident; he'd been the one in the end who was most inconvenienced by the lack of a phone and called to get one put in.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Not for the faint of heart

Do you recall way back when I said I wanted to make a pair of argyle socks? That was over a year ago, and I did start to make them using some red and black Jawoll sock yarn. I know that's not entirely authentic; nylon didn't come about until the '30's, but I had the yarn and it made sense to use it because the person I'm making them for doesn't care that much about the authenticity. He just wants some bitchin' socks to go with his kilt, and really, who doesn't?
They look so benign...
They bad boys are from Weldon's 4D #17 c.1928 - Men's Socks & Stockings, which I got at my favorite place to shop for patterns, Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions. This is one of the earliest examples of an argylish style to be found. These are worked in the round, using only two colors (brown and fawn), which is what adds the "-ish" to the argyle. True argyles are worked flat, and notoriously in more than two colors.

Not too bad, right?
About ten hours of knitting got me this far. This is not a charted pattern, so by the time I got to the first cross-over in a diamond, I got cocky and thought I knew the pattern. And I suppose it doesn't really matter if it's the precise pattern, except the back of the sock has shaping, and I didn't (and still don't) like how that was turning out.

A nightmare, I tell you!
So... I didn't like it. You can probably guess from reading here over the years what comes next.

That's right. I took a trip to the pond. Just now. (After all, these should be done in time for some Christmas.)
It doesn't know what's coming, poor thing.

Surprisingly easy!

Even a bit fun!

Hmm... did that suddenly get a bit short?

I guess there really is no turning back now...
Riiiiiipppp... there?

I guess not.


A pause to reflect.

In context, except you can't see the look on my face.
Now, I happen to know it pays to not just rip all crazy-like down to whatever row. (Don't ask me how I know, I don't want any flashbacks.) It needs to be a chosen row. If it is not, then from that way lies madness. Madness, I tell you! Not that this is particularly sane. But it has its points.

I ripped it down to the first row of red yarn in the pattern.

Then I carefully picked up the stitches with one of the smallest needles I have, likely a 0 or 00 or something like that. Let's put it this way: I have never used these needles for anything but something like this. The benefit of using such itty bitty little death stabbers is that it puts less tension on the yarn loops so that stitches aren't dropped.

Sanity restored.
The actual needles used on this project are the Old US Steel Needle Size 12, a.k.a. modern US #1 (2.25 mm). It varies by brand a bit (I'm looking at you, German dpn makers!), but I happen to use some bamboo needles that are exactly that size.

That is a US #1 I'm pointing with!
So now, that wasn't so bad, right? Not that I'm going to work on them right now or anything. I think maybe I'll actually go do anything but knit, because my other WIP is this:

Cthulhu? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Maybe.
I only have finishing left on V.'s "Cross Country" pullover. Whose bright idea were these projects, anyway?

Oh, right. Me on both counts.