Tarnation

The Magnolia did its big showoff thing, and has packed it in for another year…

I wish we had more than just a week or so with the bombastic blooms.

magnolia vs gazelle

However, I also wish that we didn’t have evil everlasting Japanese Knotweed!

No more knotweed

I can’t keep up with those petal-pink phallic fuckers…

I swear it grows at least a foot overnight.

I finally found the pliers I’ve been looking for for nearly a year.

pliers, once

I’ve no idea how they came to rest in the middle of the backyard, but that was where they wintered.

It’s a  shame too – I’ve had those for decades…

I’m also back to waging a dark horrid war on poison ivy

I got rid of so much of it last year – carefully pulling up every bit of brittle buried vine – but it seems that there is even more this year.

The days at home have been busy and tiring and we’ve been on the road often again, so I haven’t been making fibery things much…

But I cut up three of N’s old t-shirts to make some tarn for a tiny clog rug.

tarn rug

It isn’t all that, but it is the perfect size to make up the difference from the less than perfect sized rug by the door where I kick off my muddy clogs.

tarn rug for shoes

I’m not a fan of knitting with cotton and things on big needles and tarn sheds a maddening fine clingy fuzz, but I’m itching to make some large basket/bowl things…

but I’d need a helluva lot more t-shirts…

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The [once] ubiquitous roll neck sweater

I found my old XL charcoal roll neck sweater about a month ago.*

rollneck-neck

I got it for Christmas in the very late 1980s or early 1990s and wore it and wore it and wore it.

I wore it with leggings, I wore it with baggy army surplus pants, I wore it with the 1990s version of skinny jeans but the waists were still too high so they were really tight black mom jeans, and I wore it with long skirts and Docs.

A college boyfriend “borrowed” it for awhile until I had to “steal” it back.

I was pissed when I smeared a bit of PC-17 on it in a sculpture class (a bit of crust of it still remains, though I’ve no idea of what happened to that sculpture).

It was the only sweater I packed to study in Italy.

I wore it on an overnight train to Oktoberfest (a dumbass American move on my part – I got confused with the 24-hour time table and missed my original train with my fellow students) but I partied with a fun group of newly-made Italian friends in my compartment, drinking most of the night, and shoving the sweater under my head for an hour of sleep after watching the Alps at dawn.

I wore it when I worked in a doomed-to-fail gallery during long hours hovering in the drafty front entrance in wintertime. (It closed after I quit).

I wore it wandering in the woods near the former family home.

And I occasionally wore in grad school during night classes.

I mostly stopped wearing it in public by the end of the century, but still threw it on at home.  It’s got a few crudely patched spots and a few more that need to be sewn up – victims, I think, of a long ago moth attack, and some encounters with brambles and rusty nails.

One spring in the mid to late oughts, I packed it away with other non-public woolens, and never unpacked its particular bag until now.  It also has a brown sibling – one I was slightly wiser in ordering a large instead of XL, and I wore it fairly often, but mostly saved it for “good” – but I couldn’t tuck my knees under it as comfortably, so it never gained household status.

rollneck

When I was triumphantly lounging about in it again, N thought that it was his – party because I always sneak his wooly discards out of the charity bin – and he’s still eyeing it with skepticism and perhaps a little jealousy, but I can identify every mark on its wooly corpse and prove without a doubt – and with the help of many photographs – that it is, in fact, mine.

I look for them in thrift stores to unravel since I know the yarn is sturdy stuff (with the exception of a newer lighter grey one my mom had that shed great clumps of darker dingleberries and felted a  bit) but I recently saw the “vintage” ones going for a decent amount on ebay.  It’s odd to think of things I owned as an adult, or near-adult now deemed vintage, but it had to happen sooner or later…

My first sweater knitting project was almost a roll neck, but the years since the 1990s were then too few, and I abandoned it.  But now I’m seeing a few recent patterns with the neck and the bagginess and they feel familiar and friendly.  I’m also always attracted to simple top-down stockinette patterns that show off handspun and don’t have much fuss with construction or shaping, so I may knit one in the near future, just not one with armpits that hit my waist and a body large enough in which to tuck all of my body.

So now I’ll see if my decent old brown one will fetch a decent amount of some much-needed cash, as well as any older thrifted ones I have or will find, and save only the holiest of the old ones to unravel.

My baggy, poorly patched, crusty, old charcoal sweater isn’t going anywhere though – you hear that N?

*Need I say it’s the brand with the oarsman?

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Plotting my dinner…

We’re a little late with the garden this year, but that’s because we have a brand new big one!

It went from this pathetic thing:

garden-before

To this glorious piece of productive real estate:

garden after-leftgarden after-right

(Too big for my lens)

Still lots more digging  and other random fence finishing tasks to do, and only a few herbs planted at the moment, but hopefully we won’t have to contend as much with the local feral cats and this lovely lady and her buddies:

deer2 003 - Copy

And just playing and planning with seeds makes me hungry…

garden-planning

And when I get hungry, I can get just a teeny bit bitchy…

The whole Whole30 craze is making me really sad, and social media has made fad diets so exceptionally annoying. Back in the ’90s you could just walk away from the Atkins conversations and stink of your co-worker’s daily half chicken from Boston Fartet, but now you can’t putter about the internet without seeing images of plates and shopping baskets and bizarre exclamations of “gee, ghee in my coffee is really awesome!” And many of those shopping basket pics are full of things that aren’t really that healthy or good for the environment – factory farm meats and heavily packaged veg aren’t really food in my book. I get that people struggle to loose weight, have frustrating undiscovered food sensitivities or massive allergies, and have a hard time adopting a healthier lifestyle when they weren’t raised with one. But I don’t get the fad part. I don’t get that the message of eat whatever moderately as long as it is organic or nearly organic as possible, and as local/fresh as possible, and cut out processed shit isn’t good enough? Or experiment with an elimination diet to see what truly does mess you up rather than flatly demonizing certain foods (foods, by the way that populations of entire continents eat daily, so it’s downright offensive to deem something poisonous just because you are privileged enough to not have to eat it or it isn’t a part of your culture).

So I’ll be here sipping my delicious butterless coffee and licking my plate after an occasional small almond pastry while I watch the plants grow (and dig-weary fingers and arms heal enough to start knitting again…)

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Nothing in my oatmeal but oats…

Last summer, my mom sent this silky little ditty my way:

cigsilk-whole

She found it at a church rummage sale and described it over the phone as something that had lace and was probably silk with a bunch of flags and was from a factory in New Jersey.

I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about.

When it arrived, I immediately recognized that it was made of cigarette silks – little fiber freebies that used to come with a pack of shit-sticks to entice women to smoke, or encourage the men in their lives to smoke more…

Mad quilts and other decorative home textiles were made from these little beauties.

cigsilk-bather

My favorite patch in the above piece is the “Michigan Beach Girl” poised to dive in what was undoubtedly a woolen swimming costume and stockings that would have done more for drowning than swimming…

As much as I hate today’s overabundance of factory made shite, I’m quite smitten with the original versions of the stuff – the explosion of goods and advertising from the late 19th century to nearly halfway up the last.

I would have loved to open a box of oats (though I would have hated it was called “Mother’s Oats” and would have written a terse letter to the company to rename them “My Oats” or “Oats Aren’t Just for Children” or “Men Eat Oats Too” or “Woman Does Not Always = Mother” or “Women Without Children are Busy and Desirous of a Fast Breakfast Too” or “My Mother Ate Gruel Made of Ground Corncob with Stones, So Don’t Remind Me”) and found a new teacup inside. Perhaps I would have been so strapped for cash working at the shirtwaist factory, I could only dream of buying the oats with the swag and only been able to purchase a box a year or every other year, and by the time I was wasting away from an early death of consumption or radium poisoning I’d have had just a service for one and a half…

OatChina

(Image yanked from page that didn’t identify its source and was selling butchered publications – shame on you!)

But the past is past – thankfully, for the most part.

And I’m slowly dealing with all of my collected old things that I purchased with less sweat and toil than that of my predecessors, and for much less, even factoring in the cost of oats, since they were discards at the thrift stores.

HLwild rose

But in researching some of the things I’m thinking about selling, I found out I had a few pieces of oat china!

HLpastoral

See?

HL Pastoral in oats

I think both of these were made by Homer Laughlin (the company that makes my beloved Fiestaware) and date from the 1940s – ’50s, not the 1930s which I had originally guessed them to be…

So that didn’t get me any closer to getting rid of them, but at least I’m a more informed hoarder, right?

I’m disappointed that we don’t get free things in boxes of oats and soap powder and whatnot these days – and the free things in the cereal boxes of my childhood were always a disappointment (that is, when I got real cereal, and not that godawful desiccated puffed wheat bullshit…)

But then I remembered Red Rose tea.

I drank gallons of the stuff along with a brand of coffee too embarrassing to admit in my poorest student years as they were the cheapest sources of caffeine. I think I still have some of the figurines that came in the tea (somewhere) but I wanted that small rush again of finding a little porcelain freebie.

Red Rose tea mermaid

But now I find the tea undrinkable – it gives me a stomachache – the product and/or processing has gotten so cheap to be able to afford putting in the swag? My delicate system only tolerates organic, fair-trade, ripened by the harvest of the solstice moon?

So I’ll just call it dye instead.

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Continuing randomly…

Those premature daffodils finally fell to some conquering beauties.

spring-daffodils

I’ve been puttering about the yard, finally paying attention to what is what out there and making plans to move some things around and add more. My research on native deer-resistant plants is just beginning, but I’ve got a decent list so far – at least for this year. The big project is expanding the vegetable garden 4-5 times the size it is now and installing a beefy deer fence… More on that later, I’m sure (after my arms recover from post hole digging, even though N is doing most of it).

My studio/workspace is still a partially unpacked mess, but I’ve run out of storage room, and once I start working on things, it will probably always look like a partially unpacked mess. But I need to clear a table to cut out a few simple patterns for summer clothes I intend to make but likely the seasons will change again before I get around to that…

spring-frogged mohair

I wanted some mohair to add to an upcoming knitting project, so I found it in this boxy 1980s bright beauty at a thrift store last year.

Remind me to never, ever, harvest mohair (at least this particular mohair mix) again. I’ve only finished the sleeves, which I think will be enough – especially since I took it an asinine step further and separated the plys to make even more… But perhaps the leftover body parts can be sewn into an enormous baby chick.

Speaking of baby chicks, I keep seeing them in the farm stores and I’ve got some serious baby rabies of the poultry strain…

But not this year – too many things to continue to get in shape and major fortifications would need to be made for some hens – I’m looking at you, you beautiful but murderous fox (and the hawks and raccoon and cats).

spring-shug or shawl

I finished that old shale (or feather and fan, but that’s wrong, right?) thing. It was supposed to be a dramatic drapey wide shawl – something that could be whipped around and trailed behind – but I ran out of yarn. It was harvested from an old mohair blend sweater (this one was easy to rip) and an old Shetland one, so there was zero chance of obtaining more, and I wasn’t interested in adding another color, though as I write this, perhaps I will consider adding something more blended with the Shetland at either end…? But more likely, I will turn this into a shrug – somewhat still dramatic with wide scalloped sleeves and a back at a reasonable length – I hate cropped shrugs, at least on me. The problem is, I was planning on selling this, I don’t like the color on me and don’t have the appropriate flowing navy or brown or black outfit with which to pair it. But it fits my weird ape-armed curvy but lanky body, and for many, the sleeves would be too long…. So perhaps I’ll try blocking it wider rather than longer, but I wanted the scalloped ends to pop out more…

spring-scraps

And even though I ran out of yarn for the length I wanted, the fiber gods smiled down on me for allowing the finishing to happen with the appropriate number of repeats and bind-off with only 6 inches of yarn to spare… that’s satisfaction.

cashmere-skein

I finished spinning that beautiful New Mexico cashmere.

But this picture is a lying liar about its tumultuous youth.

Yes, it is beautiful now, finally, but…

spring-kinky cashmere

…things got a bit kinky for a bit…

I wanted a rustic, bumpy, somewhat thick and thin single. But I still, always, over spin singles. So I had to run it through again to take out twist. But short staple + too thin parts = break, break, breaks!

In the end, it is good – goodly soft – but thin, something from cobweb to light fingering. I haven’t decided on a good pattern for it yet – I want a neck thing, preferably something simple and relatively dense, meaning not much lace if any… Might end up with a simple garter something or other… It’s about 650 yards if anyone has any suggestions?

spring-grape hyacinth

In the meantime, I dig and dig and dig and now weed too, and get awfully distracted making wreaths out of pruned wisteria vine… I can’t wait for it to bloom to find out if we’ve got the native stuff or the evil import…

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A catalog of curtains

I finally finished sewing and hemming curtains (for now).

curtains-hemming

I sort of like making curtains – barely like, definitely not love – and sometimes find it a happy challenge to pick out a good fabric to make the room more interesting, or calm down too many interesting things.

I can also usually make curtains for less than buying them – something somewhat rare for sewing these days in times of big box cheap home shite and pricey designer fabric.

But I just realized my curtain-making burnout is because I’ve had to make or hem every single curtain in the house (I refuse to say All The Curtains!). Our last house had long windows and high ceilings, so anything pre-made fit as long as it was long enough. In this little cape cod squatbox, I can take one curtain and cut it into two and still need to hem it.

I first made these for the kitchen,

kitchen curtain

this fun one for the half bath

blue light curtain

and this pretty one for the full bath.

curtains-bath

Then I got several single unpackaged Ikea curtains from the “as-is” bin and either cut them in half to make two,

curtains-ikea hack

or checked it a few trips in a row and found another to make a pair – always look in that bin!

(That is yet another newly refinished dresser too – it’s not Heywood Wakefield like the others – anyone recognize it?)

Then N bought a floral rug for his study/guest bedroom but wanted mid-century looking curtains – quite a challenge for coordination, but another mustardy colored quilting cotton worked well enough.

curtains-guest

(Oddly, it’s from the otherwise not mid-century inspired Jan Patek for Moda Castlewood line. And also the most expensive pair since I bought the fabric only a little bit on sale. And yes, that is the wall that was once fugly paneling – still holding up just fine!) 

curtains-guest detail

And finally, the cheapest curtain hack?

curtains-dining

A discounted cotton shower curtain halved to make dining room window curtains.

Yes, the pattern is big box trendy, but it really goes well with my favorite wool rug we’ve been carting around for years.

My studio still has some temporary curtains, but I’m waiting to see if I end up making a dress out of the fabric that would work best in there… but I have plenty others in my stash that would look nice too…

eventually.

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Randomly, as the season begins to change…

 daffydills

We’ve got a rogue patch of overachieving daffodils that bloomed weeks before their cousins.

And immediately it becomes spring.

Our bodies are still confused about the seasons…

turkey devonshire

Still craving heavy winter food – like the disgusting-looking, but oh-so-delicious turkey devonshire sandwich – better with smoked turkey and yes, you can make cheese sauce with soy milk, and of course, lots of cheese, and I’m not one to believe bacon makes everything better, but in this case, it does…

jeni's

But also finally feeling warm enough to eat ice cream…

last of the 2014 salsa

But disappointed because last year’s home-canned tomatillo salsa ran out way before we can make more…

New tin

Still not quite willing to give up indoor activities like thrifting – especially when I can add a new tin to my collection

lamppad

Or a crocheted thing to protect newly finished furniture

Little quilt

And sewing little things because my physical space and current brain can’t handle anything much bigger…

Morandiesque

And continuing to unpack and arrange long stored things (Morandi, anyone?)…

whitewash not

And dragging my heels in deep about finishing the basement…

I experimented with whitewashing the ugly paneling, but only succeeded in making it uglier.

More painting, again? Now, so soon after all the rest…?

Noooooo……………

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