Monthly Archives: February 2013

Curse of the redwood roving

I buy economical roving seconds from an American yarn company – I could name the company and my source, but I don’t want to give away what I feel is my own personal secret stash that I don’t actually own.   The roving is easy to spin, comes in some nice colors, and makes a durable yarn.  I haven’t had much desire for spinning a solid-colored yarn since I want my yarn to look handspun and unique, so I usually blend colors.  I have a background in art, I am good at picking out pleasing paint palettes for rooms, and I am in no way colorblind or challenged, though I do like some challenging colors.  I bought a pound of what appeared to be a soft, slightly dirty red, the warm color of redwood and the innards of cedar.  When it arrived, I was pleased, and it was the pleasant not-too-reddish hue I hoped it to be.  However, whenever I put it with other colors, it turns a nasty raspberry – I have nothing against raspberries, I like raspberry sorbet, not berets, unless it’s a song, but I don’t really like the song either, just the artist, well, sort of but really, in the past maybe, but I don’t like that part of the past very much… So yeah, raspberry reminds me of the 1980s, and those being my years of middle school and other childhood angst and trauma of being a geek in a backassward rural town, I’d rather not go there again.

I figured this first glimpse of the evil that this raspberry roving becomes is my my fault entirely.

fugly original

I don’t know what I was thinking, but I think I was thinking of the American Southwest – turquoise in a desert sunset or something stupid.  I stopped spinning when I knew it was clearly awful.

fugly hat

My mom needed a birthday present, and she had some purplish fuchsiaish eyeglasses that I thought would go with the yarn, so I whipped up a hat.  A hat only a mother could love… but this isn’t some stupid crayon drawing that can be ignored until something conveniently spills on it, so I don’t think she wears it much, and wouldn’t model it, but N is a good sport.  The hat is warm, and though the pattern was improvised, I jotted down the recipe for future bulky handspun use, so at least it had purpose.

A few months later, I bought some gorgeous hand-painted roving from Scarlet Fleece at my then LYS in a colorway called “easter egg.”  To me, it was all of the lovely colors of autumn, so I’m not sure what they were going for in the name, but the gorgeous colors were the important thing.  I wanted to make a small shawl from it, but only had four ounces, which could have been just barely enough, but I wanted more, I wanted bigger.  Enter the bastard redwood.

fugly roving

This picture really does show it being a bit berry, but trust me, I didn’t photograph it well, and see the reddish tone in the multicolored roving on the left end?  Yeah, it does match.  My other choices for blends were a saffron yellow that seemed a little too bright, and a coppery brown (see hat above) that brought it down into dinginess.  All my little samples and tests in indoor and outdoor light led me to believe the redwood would be the perfect match, so I went with it, and kept going with it even though I could see it was an utter mistake after plying the first few yards…

fugly yarn

So, now I know I suck at color when it comes to spinning and I ruined the perfect subtle warms oranges in the other roving.  It is raspberries with lemons and grapes.  Hello 1980s, hello fugly-ass yarn. It looks like one of those vomitous swirly lollipops.

Maybe I’ll make a shawl out of it for my mother…

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UFOs progess report

My current publicly acknowledged unfinished objects* are closer to being finished.  Let’s not talk about the sweater quilt just now, it is my favorite, but sadly banned back to the sack until I feel it’s ok to spend a little money on the backing – I’ve determined it should be a grey cotton jersey sheet, but damned if I can’t find one cheap.

I am tired of the rug.  I cut up the t-shirts so slip-shod and sheddy that I constantly sneezed as I braided, and my nose filled with buckets [shrew-sized] of lint – I also realized there are good tightly woven shirts that are best for projects such as this, and lousy loose ones – this is made up of mostly lousy.  So I finished with the old balls that I had already cut up, and cut up one additional shirt more since I wanted a little more green in it.  Then I remembered how much it sucks to sew these things up, and I can only do about 20 minutes at a time before my fingers are a bloody mess, my hands cramp up, or I’d rather be doing something else.  The right needle and thread would make my life easier, but I don’t know quite what those would be, and I don’t want to buy anything, so sewing while wearing kitchen gloves and multiple thimbles is sort of doing the trick at the moment.  I’m sure a heavy-duty sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch would work wonders…

(And I think I already mentioned I don’t really like the look of the “country style” home with braided rugs and too much barn red and faded blues…  But then we just bought a house which fell through, and then another which also fell through and both could have used a washable rug in one area or another, so I will continue in the hopes that a third house might not actually fall through and it might still be needed, especially for our dog that isn’t ours yet, and might not exist yet either).

rug ball

rug detail

And the shirt quilt is trucking along at a slow but steady pace.  If I put my mind to it, I could finish the top pretty quickly, but I don’t seem to have any control over my mind at the moment (I mentioned we keep buying houses that fail, right?).  I also know I will soon face the dilemma of not having a suitable backing material and possibly not enough for binding, but I have the cotton batting so my future purchase should be limited to just the fabric.  It seems that should be easy enough, right?  I’d be happy with a solid color or slight pattern – certainly there should be some basic cotton stuff on sale out there somewhere…

science fair quilt

Looks like a poster session at a rag-picker’s conference, eh?  I get to play-act being a professional again, only at my own conference there are no numbers or words (not that I don’t like words, and I have a healthy respect for numbers) or snooze-inducing power-points and sweaty nervous speakers.  Or maybe I am back at a science fair – I won a couple of those once… yeah, that’s right, boost my self-esteem with memories of victories past.  These “blocks” aren’t in any permanent order, or even in a decent layout at the moment – I just sew a bunch and then arrange them at the end.

*Yee hah!  If you only knew the real count of my unfinished sh*t…**

**I need to know about filters and whatnot – anybody know?  I’d hate to think I’d be censored for a “bad” word (godforbid the children!), though I wonder if breast still comes up as something to be censored… hmm… booby titty cans rack jugs dirty pillows.

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Who’s my momma?

thrift stitchery

In the sometimes sad cruel world of thrift shop discards, I occasionally come across some artistic foundlings.  Who wouldn’t dream of finding a lost masterpiece/rare historic document/load of cash hidden behind a paint-by-number rendition of a horse in the desert?  But sadly, the only hidden score I’ve ever made was five bucks stuck to some used gum in a jacket pocket.  But once in awhile I’ll come across some decent handmade items – amateur paintings that are crude but appealing, wonky but charming efforts from a ceramics class, or stitchery – much in the way of beautifully embroidered home items.  With vintage stitched tablecloths, napkins, dresser scarves and the like, I assume they were made by a long ago grandmother.  They were lovingly kept, passed on, and possibly used for decades until the family ended, someone had to make a significant move or downsizing and was sad to let them go but had to, or the maker was a mean old bag and no one wanted her crap.  But these two wool canvas work pictures caught my eye since they didn’t seem to fit the mold of someone making them long ago or an assignment for a community arts class or freshman art 101.  One was framed professionally, and the other somewhat sloppily.  I’m dating them to the 1980s since the whale pattern reminds me of the cotton lining of a kelly green rubber raincoat I wore with navy duck shoes* that I had then.  The primary colors in the other also make it a good fit for the decade, or perhaps as early as the late 1970s.  I haven’t dismantled them enough to see if the canvas was printed and thus a kit, and thus I wouldn’t really be interested in them anymore, so I don’t want to know quite yet.  So I am seeking opinions, identifications, possible makers, reference leads – help?  I found them in a Goodwill in Mahopac, Putnam County, New York last fall on the way up to Rhinebeck 2012.

*Links for visual references only, I’m not pushing this Etsy shop, nor is it mine.

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Quilts in my past – part III

The reversible chintz quilt.

In the late 1980s my mother re-decorated our living room in a chaos of chintz – florals, stripes, and solids in wedgewood blues, peaches, and sage.  It was over the top, but the room suddenly became bright and inviting and a good place to read the paper in the morning, especially in the winter since it was perpetual springtime in there.  Fast forward to my first apartment outside of college and I needed a quilt.  I can’t remember how I acquired the fabric – if she was tossing it and I “rescued” it, or I mentioned making a quilt and she mentioned she had a lot of leftover fabric.  But I pieced up a top in large random blocks, realized I still had leftovers, and made a pieced backing.  I then sandwiched it with cotton batting and ran some “straight” lines through the thing and was done.  I wasn’t a fan of chintz but it brightened the room and went well with a tarnished antique brass bed I had.  Then in a few years, I no longer had the bed and the relationship that went with it, and discovered the joy and necessity of sleeping under down, so I gave the quilt to my mom who still uses it.  I never photographed it properly – just a few Polaroids to make transfers in the name of “art” back in the day.

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Kitchens, not golf

Recently I made a decent score of vintage Minerva knitting magazines.  I found them in a booth in an antique mall in a semi-rural area of the mid-Atlantic (or the easternmost edge of the Midwest if you are cynical, or the East Coast if you’re being slightly unrealistic or live way out west and don’t really pay attention to maps).  They were just a couple bucks apiece and I snatched ’em all up.  I had a few from the 1930s in my personal library already, and I have the idea that I will make some of the patterns some day, but now I’m probably being unrealistic.  I fall in love with vintage patterns and then realize I don’t have the rest of the wardrobe to pull it off (mostly high-waisted skirts/pants, and I hate high waists), the knitting skills or patience to figure out how to modify to fit my 21st century body, or the patience to work with tiny gauge yarn and needles.  I will eventually sell off the ones I know I’ll never use, but some are just so lovely to look at over and over.

Mags -dog

If you asked my what my ideal kitchen would look like, it would be in the sanitary style with yellow and green accents, and would perfectly match the magazine on the right.  I would like a dog in said kitchen as well, and I actually like the sweater on the cover too – perfect for my long torso and disdain of the high-waist.  Many of the patterns in the earlier issues are quite simple, involve a lot of garter stitch and seem to offer a size close to mine – in fact, they only offer just one or two sizes.  It seems like pattern designers of today bend over backwards to try to accommodate as many sizes as possible, when a knitter could just have some better skills and a simple self-modifiable design would be enough.  But as I stated before, though I’d like to have more instinctual and skilled knitting abilities, I’m still working on that, so I should shut up.  The top on the left  is pretty awesome though, and the baggy cowl neck would make fitting a little more forgiving – that one might have a future for me.

Mags - golfAnd then there is the early to mid-20th century obsession with “sportswear” that usually involves golf.  Golf.*  Granted, clothing of the day offered very little stretch and flexibility so one had to completely change her outfit if she expected to do anything remotely active, and sport and leisure were often very social so you had to look cute doing said activity, but golf?  I could do some research and find out a good answer about the sport: the middle-class was growing in North America and was gaining increasing amounts of leisure time after the industrial revolution, public golf courses were opening to the masses, both women and men participated (though often not at the same time) and tweed knickers and and argyle socks are just plain awesome, but I will just continue to wonder instead.

*My disdain of golf runs much deeper than the general discomfort of tight high-waisted clothes.  Golf in ye olde times wasn’t too bad and it helped to preserve green open spaces in and around cities (though was very bad for being generally racist, and could be sexist and elitist as well).  But golf of today is an environmental ass-kicking – the gazilibillion gallons/litres of water and pesticides that go into maintaining them is breathtaking, they’re built in places where grass is not supposed to grow, they take up a lot of land for only one purpose, and they can be populated by the stereotypical fat-cat country clubber with his head up his right-wing ass.

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Pears, not bananas

I finished* my Lazy Daisy Shawlette** (previously mentioned here) from my handspun merino superwash roving from Pigeonroof Studios.

Pears bandana

The color of the roving is called Bosc, but it often looked like a ripe Bartlett, and some days it most closely resembles an over-ripe banana, but I choose not to think of it that way.  I like my bananas still a bit green; over-ripe turns my stomach a bit – especially their odor.

Pears with pears

See that little drip of pinkish red left of center?  It screamed out at me when I was spinning, but I love it – it’s the drip that brings it back into pear territory

Pears with pear

I finished this in record time because I was completely monogamous with the project.  Usually I get a little tired with something or my hands and wrists begin to ache, but not this time.  I’m discovering that color changes are more of a motivation for me rather than watching texture change or seeing rapid growth.

Pears drape

Record time also means I f*cked it up, and don’t want to acknowledge it yet.  I ran out of yarn three inches short of completing the bind-off.  A “good”*** knitter would rip it out and re-do, but screw that.  I used a little bit of recycled sweater yarn – it matches in color in certain places, but not texture or sheen.

Pears with tip

See?  Well, I probably won’t be able to tolerate it at some point, and I’m also afraid the edges will soon roll – again a “good” knitter would rip and tink back and do a few more garter rows to prevent rolling, but I don’t want to – I had intended to do more, I’m just shit at judging remaining yarn amounts.  I think I’ll probably attempt to spin something complementary and add a few more rows later, but for now I’m done.

*If you got to the end of this, you know it might not actually be finished yet.

**The pattern, by Orange Flower (aka Sketchbook) on ravelry is described as a recipe, and it is a good/easy one.  The original version has the maker doing a crocheted edge, but I am crochet-challenged, so I omitted that and only stuck to the increasing on every row aspect of it – great for showing off handspun.

***Don’t tell me there’s a “proper” way to do anything…see my work-in-progess manifesto in about.

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Thank you Mr. Moth (just this once)

Normally I  go on ad nauseam about my utter hatred of the clothes moth but my feelings and fears are shared with anyone who has a love of all things wool, so I won’t this time.  This time I must acknowledge my thrill of finding an otherwise perfect cashmere sweater that was banned to the thrift shop for possessing a tiny hole or two, so in a sense I have the moth to thank for my awesome collection of oh-so-soft sweaters.  But I could also thank the non-needle inclined [lazy?] person who would discard something so easily fixed (and often in my size)!

But this blazing beauty was one that was eaten beyond any hope of repair:

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From a distance, it seems ok, but it isn’t, I couldn’t possibly document every hole, and some were lovingly/desperately stitched closed with a fuchsia thread that actually blended quite well – so much so that I keep finding new repairs I previously overlooked.

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DSCF7118 - CopyBut it is a perfect blaze orange, so I gave it a new life as a hiking-during-hunting season hat and mitts ensemble.  I was able to unravel a bit of the shoulder cap so that I managed to harvest some perfect mending threads and spent a few hours closing the wounds (some more convincingly than others).  But I will cease to unravel any more since it is a pain in ass and fragile as all get out – the remaining scraps will work as mitten linings and quilt squares.

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I was sure to keep plenty of mending yarn left!

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