Camo for crocuses in the snow; Blizzard socks

blizzard-zepplins

Our cars decided that they wanted to become zeppelins during last week’s blizzard.

blizzard-shoveling

And N had an excuse to break out his awesome vintage plaid wool pants.

blizzard-sock inside

And I had the time to sit on my ass and finish my latest socks while watching the snow fall and then get shoveled away while my toes stayed propped up and toasty.

(Yes, that is snow piled against the window, even after it was knocked down several times – the storm wanted darkness).

blizzard-sock before

But I too eventually went to war with the frozen shit – donning my swants over some wool long johns and stomping my way to uncover various vents and utility meters and paths to compost piles and sheds and garbage cans…

blizzard-sock after

(And I really should have put on my gaiters first.)

When I was making the socks, the colors reminded me of crocuses popping up through the snow. The multi-colored yarn also came from a market in a town in Abruzzo known for its saffron crop.

Now I see that they are perfectly coordinated with my snowshoes.

They could have been longer.

They could be warmer.

Next time maybe I’ll drop another needle size while holding the yarn doubled, but I’m starting to think I just need 100% wool socks – screw the bit of polyamide and/or nylon which I think is the culprit for clamminess…

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Quilts and blizzards

There was a whopper of a blizzard when I was a child. Right smack in the middle of it, my siblings (including some sulky tweens) and I all had chickenpox (I still have a scar on the bridge of my nose like a drunkenly placed inverted bindi), the power was out (including the water), the snowdrifts were so high that the pony* walked up and out of her corral, and our smallish house still lacked the addition that came a year later that made it much more livable – and survivable with a serious Nordic wood stove.

If I had been my mother, I’d have abandoned us all (perhaps first letting the chickens into the house so we’d have something to eat – actually they may have already been in the garage).

Instead, she made a quilt for me.

childhood quilt

The fabric, unfortunately a cotton – poly blend, and now very faded in in parts, came from a fabric store a few towns away that had been devastated by a tornado a few years earlier – you could still see its path a decade later. The colors matched the wallpaper in my room that I think I hated for my entire childhood (early on I saw faces in it, later I thought too many of the colors were too close to excrement, snot, and sickness, and I was over the moon to be able to finally tear it off for my 13th birthday, but in hindsight, I think I like it now – I kept a square of it, but I can’t find it at the moment). The paper was mostly greens and blues and sicklier shades of yellow and brown, and my carpet was a green and blue berber, so it was a tight color family in there. But I still really like green, and I liked the outdoors and my parents moved to the country when I was an infant to do that back to earth thing, so the colors of earth and sky were good ones to have overdone.

childhood quilt-poultry

The embroidery was the best part, and unfortunately most of it has worn away and neither of us remember what all was there. Certainly most of it contained scenes and icons of country life – our country life.

childhood quilt-blue eyes

Although a few oddballs cling on – like this solid-blue-eyed blonde floating head. I think it was supposed to be me, but I had green eyes and auburn hair and pupils – I’ll just pretend the blizzard kept her from obtaining the appropriately colored floss…

childhood quilt-house

And some of the applique and its puffy stuffing has literally held on by a thread…

childhood quilt-cabbage

A bit of the fabric was also on this piece and retained its deeper color.

So during this blizzard nearly 40 years later, and several states away, though nearly the anniversary to the day, I repaired it.

childhood quilt-repair

I’d like to re-create some of the missing embroidery, but knowing what it was is impossible… though I’m pretty sure this was the dedication square and the sun I sewed back on had rays…

childhood quilt-inscription

Or perhaps just leave well enough alone…

And enjoy its warmth (although stuffed with poly) during this stupid blizzard slamming into and darkening the windows while I try to knit and ignore the howling wind and my fear of loosing power (mostly because of the water).

sugar & chick snow

*Sugar the pony with a feathered friend.

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Winter blahs…

It’s finally gotten cold, well sometimes cold, and sometimes just warm enough to turn the backyard to mud again and then refreeze overnight.

january-pecker

It’s been a pecker party outside the kitchen window – red bellies, downies, nuthatches- mostly policed by a downy pair.

Our house has been troublesome – hot water heater, newish refrigerator, and well parts giving up varying degrees of the ghost within a couple weeks of each other – as well as our bodies with a mild but lingering cold since just before the new year, and routine and not so routine medical tests which required healing downtime and acceptance scenarios involving amputations, but turn out normally abnormal in the end.

We’ve been thrifting and antiquing a bit more, though on weekends when crowds make it a bit more unpleasant, but perhaps improve focus and curb impulse.

We said we had enough Heywood Wakefield * in our lives, but then a decent china cabinet opportunity came up and we took it – the scale is perfect for our small but not too small dining room and overflow Fiestaware.

furniture - heywood wakefield china cabinet

We’ve also had good luck finding more cheap and fun mid-century lamps.

january-lamp

And I still haven’t culled my vintage china herd, but I’m rotating through it with a use it or lose it tactic.

january-cakes

These meat on a spit plates have been a favorite for years but I rarely use them because they are large – perfect for part of a roasted ribcage – and we tend to eat on a smaller scale. I only have three plates and two cups and saucers that don’t officially match but do, so a meal that requires a large plate and coffee cup is rare, and all I can come up with is pancakes, which we make only maybe twice a year and usually with a souvenir bag of Polly’s pancake mix from the summer before.

N has been building some built-in bookcases and doors to previously un-doored closets, so the house is becoming more our own and finally has spaces for things, but I’d gotten used to our still semi-packed minimalism, so striking the balance between delightfully interesting and my previous states of delightfully cluttered is a bit tricky. As much as I loved my previous live-in cabinet of curiosity life, it was awfully dusty and too delicate (and a grand bitch to move).

january-door

I’m still unpacking hastily thrown-together boxes of supplies and organizing my work space.

january-studio

And doing a bit of use it or lose it on some old WIPs – nothing much to show, just a bit of slogging through to see if I want to keep slogging through…

* When editing this post, I clicked on the link to make sure it was the right one – and good god, is my life so routine that every January has me shopping for vintage lamps, watching woodpeckers, and obtaining more Hey-Wake furniture?!?

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It’s a froggy party

I’ve had to undo, rip, frog and re-knit too many things against my will in the last few months.

I made a mistake in one slow-going sweater that I thought I could live with because I am accepting and generous of flaws that make an item look handmade, but this one was big enough that it would be stupid to let something like that go in something that was still going to eat up a lot of my time, so now it is even slower-going and I’m just now back at the point where I was in the autumn.

The other problems in other projects were ones of poor focus, forgetfulness, inadequate lighting, and a desperate need for an updated eyeglasses prescription.

I rather like to unravel things, but the last few rows in a still-actively-knitting piece are quite nerve-wracking, and I hate putting the stitches back on the needles.

So after too much forced-frogging, I thought I’d cheer myself up with some empowered unraveling.

Remember this?

Baktus on rock

It wasn’t going anywhere – I hadn’t touched it for a couple of years and I knew it was developing problems – I spun the troublesome yarn much thicker toward the end, so I would have to go up a needle size or two when knitting it, which would have thrown the shape of the piece off too much (or I’d have to suffer through knitting something getting too stiff and loosing drape). So I’ll start again on a different shaped pattern that will allow the needles and gauge to grow (like a increasing-only triangle) or alternate balls of the thicker and thinner yarn throughout a piece. (I may need to wash the sand, dirt, and pine needles out of it first since it was knit mostly outdoors.)

An aside: I’m also currently not loving the way YOs look with handspun – a little too wonky – but I still love the lacy baktus, and love trucking away on my current one.

froggy-before

I had no regrets when I took it off the needles, so frogging was the right choice.

froggy-during

I love noodles from every continent, so yarn in this stage makes me hungry.

froggy after

And it is back to balls.

While mohair isn’t fun to frog, and I was seeking pleasure only, this wasn’t too bad after all, and I’ve got the satisfaction that I didn’t let it sit around too long. (Though it will be some time before I knit with it).

frog-fuzzy cakes

I can’t believe this was once an entire adult-sized sweater. The amount of yarn seems so tiny and weighs almost nothing – makes me wish I had the tolerance for knitting and wearing lace weight.

(Tolerance isn’t the right word for wearing – something more along the line of destructionlessness…)

frog-bag

And that partial sock became food for my latest sock.

frog-foot

(It did fit though, so at least I know I need 80 stitches for a sock on US 0 needles, not that I plan to make any any time soon…)

I usually prefer unraveling commercial sweaters in the warmer months so I can do it outside and reduce the fuzzy dust in the house. But with a few days at 70F in December, it was warmer outside than in (but now it is truly winter and cold as non-yarn balls).

frog-yellow

So I finished unraveling and washing a sweater of a good shade of yellow (wool with a pinch of nylon and a subtle tweed) that I’d like to turn into an open-front cardigan, much like an old commercial one I’ve got…

(And yes, I did start a Paulie too, but haven’t touched it in ages – I’m just not an enthusiastic fingering weight sweater knitter.)

froggy-round yellow

Though I’m not sure I have quite enough to make it as long and and roomy and butt-covering as I’d like – it’s a bit over 1,300 yards, so it should be enough for something mostly stockinette and without a generous collar. I’m still trying trying to figure out a good pattern for it – I don’t have the brain-power at the moment to significantly modify anything, so I’m looking for something top-down, probably on size US6 needles, but I still need to swatch so that could change.

And I also might change my mind about wanting it to button up or just flap around…

And I’ve got a bamboo yarn in my stash of a similar color that I was also planning on turning into a summery open front cardigan thingie… they’ll have to duke it out to see who comes first…

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New year, new projects

I don’t love this time of year with its certain few months of icy doom yet to come, but it’s my favorite change that happens in a year when the afternoon sunsets get pushed back little by little into their proper, later position.

finished-early dusks

I used to take off a week this time of the year, not to celebrate a holiday, but to work on and complete a major project – fixing/painting something around the apartment, or a quilt, or a major reorganization, cleaning, and purging – a defucking so to speak. It was a time to stay at home, away from shoppers and germy gatherings, garish decorations and terrible music, and enjoy some solitude, naps, Chinese food delivery, and the satisfaction of something large or looming being accomplished. But I haven’t done this for several years for various reasons, though I still have the twitch to accomplish something (even though the last several years have been nothing but fixing up houses…)

The tiling job earlier this month gave me a good dose of a similar satisfaction, and the rest will just have to come in the form of smaller-scaled projects finished and started in these weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished up the gift hat I started on vacation:

finished-selbu for k

And that pair of socks I started last June despite some issues with the yarn:

finished-fancy feets

I cast-off them off a few rows prematurely (and I’m still on the fence about overdying them in yellow) so I could immediately start on a new pair based on my doubling experiments:

newyear - new sock

(And I’ve already lined up the yarn for the next after these).

And I’m just about to start a pair with a single strand on smaller needles.

And then I couldn’t wait to start yet another Lacy Baktus:

newyear - lacy baktus

This was also one of the very few yarn purchases I made in 2015 – I pretty much stopped buying yarn except for an immediate project need – and it was from a big Pigeonroof Studios seconds sale – high twist sock in an unnamed color, 2 skeins so I can make something extra large and squishy.

I’m also going to continue to not really buy yarn this year, or basically for the foreseeable future – I have a big enough stash, and I’m slowing down.

I’ve started to re-assess some old projects and will probably frog a few and get monogamish with some others and set those smaller socks aside for waiting room/travel knitting only so those probably won’t make their way on my feet until the light begins to come back next year…

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Cheers for chairs

I have a slight problem with obtaining chairs. We don’t yet have more than we can use, but perhaps one more would be unnecessary.

There’s an awesome antique mall in a rust belt near ghost town on the way to visiting my family. We used to live close enough to it that it would be a fun weekend day trip. We both, however, drive sedans – N’s is fairly large, so a chair or two can fit in the back seat, and mine is small and can fit one small chair, but it’s also an old beater, so we’ve had no qualms about strapping a huge old oak library table to its roof among other near impossible things.

On our way back from this past Thanksgiving travels we stopped in. I was very close to obtaining another small rocking chair, a “sewing chair” that was similar to this one I got a few years ago:

chair-sewing

That I use as my spinning chair and re-covered in a lovely (and once expensive) vintage linen sample that came from an estate sale.

But then we spotted a homely mid-century chair for the whopping price of $12.00 in the basement. The basement in parts, is a dim and dank place. Good things have come from this basement, but far better things have had to be left behind due to our vehicle limitations, or the expense of renting the van to haul it home. We sort of needed a chair for the guest room/N’s study, and I didn’t need another little chair, so we considered it. The wood seemed like it was likely walnut, but it was covered in a dark streaky stuff. There was a ghastly 1980s wedgewood blue and peach dot fabric covering the seat, but in the dim light I was able to see that there was a plaid cover underneath and thought it could be the original – possibly a wool blend in black and white and red.

chair-first cover

N set out to strip the unfortunate goop off of the wood.

chair-before

And I began to pry off the nasty insipid fabric to unveil the “original” upholstery.

chair-three covers

Only in better light, I saw that it was a nasty 1970s acrylic brown and orange and gold and barely perceptible mint green thing. And likely the top layer of dark “stain” or goop was poorly applied to the wood then too.

chair-second cover

So I pried the staples off that one and got down to the original cloth.

chair-original cover

A black and brown plaid chenille-like fabric in surprisingly good condition.

But though I was pleased with finding the original seat in perfectly usable condition, it felt too dark for our house and didn’t show off the freshly restored walnut well.

So I hit our town’s shop that sells used/excess art supplies and got some more upholstery/drapery samples.

chair-after

In the end, the one that worked best and N liked the most – a nice linen – doesn’t quite match the era of the chair, but it works well enough. I’ve also got some solid-colored but nubby-textured linen and silk blend samples that look spot-on for the time should we wish to change it or sell the chair eventually. This fabric was probably meant for drapes and likely not especially hard-wearing, but it won’t be used too often and it is easy enough to change.

And the original cover is still safe and sound and protected.

Now it needs a little pillow perhaps…

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Finished objects, household edition

I wish I could live in a house that I knew would be the only one for the rest of my life. I’d immediately fix it up enough so that it would be safe, not too smelly, not extremely drafty, and visually appealing enough for the time being. Then I’d wait to come across the perfect things and work around them – a mint green double sink with double drainboards? I’d design the whole kitchen around it. Ditto with the same in the bathroom  with a green pedestal sink (which is fairly easily obtainable). And bonus points for having a house the right age for a separate clawfoot tub and shower stall… I’d wait for the perfect sized vintage/antique built-ins to show up in the salvage yard until we had a house full of nooks and crannies and only needed a few pieces of upholstered furniture for the center of the room. And I’d consider the thing a lifetime project that gets better and better with time and age as most things I love do.

(Of course my real dream would be to find an old house entirely untouched by decades of other’s “improvements,”except for newer wiring…)

But I’ve felt a sense of urgency in our last two home projects – we’re both in somewhat precarious fields full of fluctuating budgets, management whims, and soft money. My personal mantra is along scout lines in that a house should always be prepared for immediate sale if a sudden onslaught of financial ruin should befall us. I am overly skittish about such things, but I identify far closer to a depression-era mindset rather than our current one of debt and giant crap houses full of expensive soulless crap.

But it’s also because we’ve seen so many houses during our last house hunt and watched too many trashy home shows that set my teeth to grind because of other’s overall lack of what – planning? Aesthetic sense? Care? People spend so much money to have a “showcase” kitchen and then have bedrooms with missing radiators and broken windows or serious foundation issues that should have taken up most of that ugly new kitchen budget. Or a room that is nearly finished but for some missing trim pieces, or fresh paint on the walls, but a stained ceiling and the whole thing looks worse than it is for it.

In my making stuff life, I leave far more unfinished, or in a state of I-haven’t-finished-it-yet-but-will-someday. But in our last two houses, I like to wrap up the details on a project before changing focus. But this last time around, I’m not sure what happened. We let a few easy finishing touches languish – partly from indecision, partly from other things demanding attention, and partly from forces unknown.

delay-threshold

This threshold on the half bath took over a year and a half to be laid. We bought it after doing the tiling, so I was waiting to put it in until we were doing another tiling project, which also took over a year and a half.

delay-backsplash before

We wanted the kitchen to have mostly tiled walls. But then we wanted a functional kitchen faster. I knew I was going to put in a tile back splash, but we didn’t immediately know what height or which particular tile it would be. I bought some samples and enough of the smaller subway mosaic sheets to do a low band  along the counter or a section just around the window, so we painted the walls except in the one place where we knew with certainty that there would be tile. And then I stared at the ugly naked spot every day for over a year and a half. But then, I really didn’t – I looked out the window and truly didn’t see the ugly naked spot anymore.

delay-backsplash-layout

But I was done chasing splashes threatening to flow behind the sink and leaving out ratty old rolled towels to absorb their path, so I declared it would end before the year was out. We decided on the easiest layout, N went out for more tile (and yes, they changed since I originally bought them – about 1/8″ thicker) and more mastic for the last foot at the last minute.

I think I’ll always choose white subway tile in the kitchen – I like that several versions are available and cheap these days but will cringe when the masses of trend zombies declare it dated. And I’ll beat that dead horse again of my belief in only putting in semi-permanent stuff in a house that is appropriate to its age. Yes, the white subway tile is a little outdated for a house from the early 1950s, but I can’t stomach powder blue and pink dammit.

delay-backsplash-spacers

We lost our tile spacers in the move I guess – oddly, we still have the can that they were stored in, but they aren’t in it now – but some cut-up pieces of resilient floor samples worked perfectly.

delay-backsplash-during

We wanted a thin black line at the top, but thin black tiles that are glazed on the top edge, or are a narrow bullnose are not to be had unless specially ordered and bought with lots of money – I could somewhat justify spending it because the whole project was very affordable, but I was also fine with the wider black bullnose, so that’s what we went with in the end.

delay-backsplash done

And the whole thing – tiled, grouted, sealed, and caulked took less than a week – and it’s made such a huge difference. I didn’t realize how much the un-doneness of the kitchen actually bothered me after all.

(And yes, I’ve screwed the switchplate back on, as well as junked it back up with the dish drainer and canisters and radio and…)

For more on the kitchen, see what I did with the floor, sink, and curtains (that need to be ironed)…

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