Monthly Archives: August 2013

Half-cool sweater weather

Earlier in the month, the days turned half-cool.  It was an awesome and welcome relief after the steamy summer inferno.

These are just a handful of days in the year when you can wrap a thin wool blanket over a silky chemise and comfortably drink coffee/tea on the porch (assuming you don’t have creepy neighbors).  Or don a fingering-weight wool sweater over a sundress when seated in the shade.  These kind of days are rare, yet so many knitwear designs are inexplicably styled and photographed this way.  I suppose other parts of the country and world have climates where these kind of days are more frequent – higher altitudes and northern coasts, but here in the Mid-Atlantic/East Coast and for the lower and middle parts of the states, it’s usually hellishly half-naked hot, or full bodily-coverage cold and only about three days of pleasantry on either end.*

I also think of it in terms of sock weather or not sock weather (or tights weather or bare legs weather).  And these rare comfortable days are also perfectly described in Toni Morrison’s Sula as “too cool for ice cream.”

The return of cooler evenings also stirs up a certain muscle-memory itchiness for the dozen and more years spent in school.  The summer is ending, freedom will go away, much needs to be crammed in before it’s all over – anxiety about unfinished novels, end to swimming days, late night bonfires, and playing in the creek; dread and depression of the impending virtual lock-down for most of the day, stupid classmates, stupid teachers, and stupid homework assignments**; and a slight glimmer of excitement since one more year is starting and it’s one more year closer to being done with the whole mess, a long-awaited class or teacher might finally be on the schedule, and perhaps it will be nice to see a classmate or crush again.  Here and now in my sh*tty apartment complex, some of the ne’re do well kids from the neighboring state are appearing again to attend the better schools on this side of the river, and the school buses are making their shortcuts in the parking lot that come maddeningly close to clipping my car.

Every year around this time I want to knit a thin sweater.  I own one cheap commercially (probably also unethically) made thin cardigan that I either wear for several days straight in a row or not at all during an autumn or spring.  I know a thin sweater could take me ages to knit too, or else I’ll get a bit obsessive about it and knock it out in a few weeks, but still couldn’t reasonably finish it until the next window of half cool days.

Half cool cardigan

I’ve queued the Featherweight Cardigan, paulie, and Autumnal Cardigan but none of these is quite what I’m after, though they’re all close.  I like the top-down construction of the paulie, (and I like this one as-is, just not for what I need at the moment) but with the drapey hang of the Featherweight or Autumnal, but none of these three patterns has the gauge I’d like to use.  I’ve got a few balls of Lion Brand Sock-Ease yarn in the stash that I got on the cheap and was saving for tights or a sweater.  I’d prefer to re-create the gold/saffron of my current sweater, but this “toffee” yarn will also work with what I usually wear with it.  Part of the reason I haven’t started this yet is the math needed to re-configure or create a new pattern from scratch – I am sorely lacking in math education and natural ability, so I rarely knit garments to fit because of this – especially since I need to modify most patterns to fit my weird body anyway (except something boxy I suppose).  So I prefer items I can try on as I go rather than having to work out everything on paper beforehand.

But I also haven’t started yet because at the moment I am soooo busy with portfolio pieces and will be for a few months more, although I’m absolutely dying for a side project, a distraction, mindless knitting…

And most importantly, it is hot again and thoughts of a thin sweater are mothballed.

My legs and feet are bare once again.

*I omitted air-conditioning.  I often need sweaters in air-conditioning, and interior environments often mimic half-cool weather.  Since I half-work from home now, I can control my own thermostat, and thus no longer need the air-conditioning sweater.  And in my previous gainfully employed life, I usually left the air-conditioning sweater in the office and rarely wore it outside, so it was more of a tool rather than a wardrobe component.

**I like school, school is good, but my primary school was bad, so stupid was a reality on all fronts.

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Child stitchery (not in a sweatshop)…

On a trip to visit my folks (I won’t say home because they tragically (for me) sold it some years ago) earlier this summer, I finally found this little fabric picture that used to hang in my bedroom.

Birdscene

The scene is one I drew, and drew quite often as a slightly obsessive little sh*t, and at the dumbsh*t age when I didn’t comprehend that the sky wasn’t just up there and therefore depicted it as a stripe.  So let’s say I was four, or should four-year-olds understand how the sky works?  So maybe I’ll say three…  Regardless, my mother deemed my “Bird In Flight to Nest” precious and decided to turn it into a sewing lesson.  I’ll say that it was my first, but I really don’t know.  She cut out the pieces, sewed the margins on the machine, and gave it to me to applique.  I do clearly remember getting somewhat bored or frustrated with it, and it is also quite clear that she finished it for me and then added a few embroidered embellishments.  I don’t know if this took place in the span of a day or I abandoned it for some time and she got tired of having it only partially completed for weeks or months.  I also don’t remember if it was during the one truly massive blizzard of my youth (though I think I was down with the chicken pox then) or in the leisurely long days before I had to go to school.  Either way, it was something I did as a child wherein my hands and mind were engaged (and it wasn’t so traumatic that I didn’t want to do it again).

Birdscene-det

This was before the recent cringe-worthy days of fashionable “upcycling.” Smack in the 1970s when fuel crises, a renewal of the back to the earth movement, thoughts of Silent Spring, and the birth of Earth Day were kicking around.  My parents left their urban home to escape air pollution, overcrowding, and to grow wholesome organic food on a few idyllic acres.  We were also broke-ass poor, so recycling old clothes into craft projects was both a necessity and entirely practical – how many thousands of years have we just used what we have and then used it some more?  Why should this now be a trendy buzzword to help sell our crafty stuff?  Convince the buyer that her materialism is ok because it’s upcycled and therefore she is a conscientious fabulous person?

Fabric is fabric is fabric… and is infinitely re-usable.  Sometimes the perfect print is on a bolt, sometimes it’s a pair of pants… you’re not special for using or buying either one.

But back to the picture.

The components are:

Sun:  I assumed the terrycloth sun was salvaged from a much abused towel, but my mom said it was leftover fabric from some shorts she made for my brothers as small children in the 1960s… I’m not sure I’d like terrycloth shorts… they seem so, absorbent?

Tree trunk:  Yep, that’s my dad’s old tie – gotta love plaid neck wear…

Sky:  Leftovers from a quilt my mother made for me of yellow, green, and blue gingham to match my wallpaper of the same colors (only the wallpaper also had puke tones in it too).

Flowers, eggs, bird parts:  Felt scraps – who didn’t have random felt scraps lying around?

Nest:  Burlap feed sack – we lived on a little farm with little animals and a pony.  Food for them came in burlap bags.

Bird:  This is an odd denim/oxford cloth hybrid that was probably clothing in its former life.

Grass, leaves:  We can’t remember what these scraps are from, but I wore various homemade calico skirts, shorts, halter tops (remember, 1970s over here) and dresses.

Background:  This could have been leftover paining canvas or material for rustic curtains.

And even though this turned into a rage against the preciousness of upcycling, it was originally meant to be a rage against not teaching children how to sew or make bread or brush animals or do anything constructive with their hands.  Yeah, there are a few schools that teach such things, but as a whole we’re becoming such boring dumb-asses with our iSh*t.

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Mid-August progress…

We spent last weekend in the Adirondacks.

It was the last of the summer hiking trips for us.

ADK-pond hike

Our cottage was decorated in “Wal-Mart for cabin.”

ADK-bear

I actually miss the tacky painted saw blades, crude whittlings, and sh*t made out of driftwood and antlers of mountain/country crafts of yesteryear (or just a few years ago really).

Now it is plastic sh*t from China (often copied from domestic crafters).

ADK-racoon

But I managed to finally finish basting all of those damn letters.

Letters-done

The pile looks smaller than it really is.

I will never be so wordy on a quilt again.

Our CSA has been offering loads of lovely flowers.

It is a nice thing to have fresh flowers, but not in place of food – they really need to step it up in the veg department.  And as vinyl village apartment dwellers, we can’t compost, so I don’t like to have too many fresh flowers.

Quilt-shirt fabric

The letters are ready to mingle with the as yet unmade quilt blocks.

In Review

I’m also getting wordy with a fair isle scarf.

I don’t love stranded knitting.

I don’t hate it though.

PRS-lettuce on machine

My Tour de Fleece spinning goals fell short.

PRS-lettuce skein

But I finished plying my Pigeonroof Studios “lettuce” and have one braid left to finish spinning for a particular project.

I spun this one a little too thin and it came out lighter and softer in color, so it might have to become a different project.

Or the original project will be scrapped altogether.

That will have to wait.

I also started a major embroidery piece.

It will take some time.

It is pink.

I don’t love pink.

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Neck stretches and why I’m not an archaeologist

waneka-no face detI can now reveal my Waneka cowl by the fabulous and fun designer Annie Watts (aka Wattsolak).  I used my recent Kool-Aid dyed yarn for a super bulky version and totally love its gargantuan squooshiness.  The pattern is easily and brainlessly adaptable to any weight of yarn – thinner yarn = more coils, thicker = fewer.  And it looks great with gradient dyed yarn – a perfect one-skein project especially for the thousands of beautiful indie dyed hanks out there at wool shows and in webworld.  I also made a  worsted weight version out of the maligned Lion Brand Amazing, and though I love the colors and the pattern, I still hate the feel of the yarn.

Waneka-with lamb

And I actually prefer my obnoxious-hued, still slightly noxious-smelling version.

waneka-no face

I can even wear it on my head.  Aging old-time Hollywood actress turban-chic.

This has had me remembering my youth (yet again – I guess I’m doing some mid-life thing) and the countless hours I spent traveling via National Geographic magazine.  I couldn’t stop thinking about neck rings worn by Kayan and Ndebele* women while I was knitting.

 400px-Kayan_woman_with_neck_rings ndebele1

Of course Waneka won’t ruin your collarbones or require marriage…

But as a child, I was utterly fascinated about the rest of the world – especially cultures that seemed unchanged or little changed for thousands of years.   When not reading or playing with animals, my other favorite pastime was digging up old sh*t – fossils in the creek, arrowheads in the field, or broken saucers, rusted scissor halves, and bottles in buried trash heaps in the woods.  By the age of nine, I was quite certain I wanted to be an archaeologist.  Luckily around that time, we had a class assignment of interviewing someone who was what we wanted to be when we grew up.  We lived in the sticks; I have no idea how most people were employed around there apart from service and functional jobs – teachers, undertakers, auto repair persons, farmers, and the like.  I don’t remember what my classmates wanted to be (and most girls were destined for early motherhood and possibly marriage anyway).  But my parents actually found a relatively local archaeologist at a university in the closest thing resembling a city 40 minutes away.  I was nervous about interviewing this professor – it was like meeting Indiana Jones or glimpsing into my certain glamorous and fulfilling future.

At first glance, his office was full of books and sunlight was streaming down on piles of Very Important Documents about Very Intriguing Finds.  He was (and yes, I could be making this up) cloaked in a brown corduroy blazer with worn elbow patches, mussed with unclean hair and a lack of a shave, and sporting a timeworn look of fascinating experience and adventure.

Then he opened his mouth.

I don’t know much about children, but I know that up to a certain age you should deceive them into thinking that life is ok.  If you study and work hard you can achieve whatever you want within reason.  Money should matter less than happiness.  It’s best to do something you love and the world will embrace you and appreciate your effort.

But instead of encouraging my little sh*t self, he launched into an epic and exceedingly bitter rant about the profession.  It boiled down to: don’t do it because the pay is sh*t, the days are long, hot, and tedious to the point of self-immolation, your projects won’t be funded or so severely underfunded that you will pay out of your own pocket, you will have to resort to teaching and you will not be respected at the university and will have to sell your soul to campus politics, tenure games, and administrative delirium, you will loose your marriage, your kids will despise you, your dog will run away and you’ll die stinking in the streets.

So today, though I work somewhat in the history business, I am not an archaeologist.

Trash from woods

I still occasionally dig up old broken sh*t in the woods though… (when not knitting of course).

* Pictures (that aren’t mine) yanked off the web from here and here.

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Cutter please come home

I bought a shiny new rotary cutter a year or two ago.  I’m pretty sure I even bought extra replacement blades.  It was during one of those mega-sales at the big box store and back when I had a bit more cash to burn.  I cannot find it now.  I have an old tiny one with a dull blade that sits unused in my sewing box, so I went to purchase new blades for it.  But then I didn’t because they are so inexplicably and maddeningly expensive.

So I continue to search for my lost one.

I have several boxes marked “art supplies.” So far, it has not been in any of them.  Instead I’ve found some other useful things.

Found-birds

A box of faux cardinals.  I have some bright red roving [red rover, red rover… ] in my stash that I got unenthusiastically in a grab bag.  I think I was thinking of making cardinal-themed art yarn out of it.  I don’t think it’s a great idea.  I still might make it one day.

Found-dyeDyestuff.  I just knew I bought Kool-Aid a few years ago for yarn dying purposes, but hadn’t been able to find it until now.  And yay, I have greens, blues, and darker red now!  And the henna – why not try it on wool?

Found-teeth

Yeah, I had a couple of wisdom teeth extracted (and one quite violently) and had to keep a souvenir.

Found-bath

And since I don’t have a new real bathroom, I can play with this vintage/antique? dollhouse set.  I forgot I found it at an antique store just a couple of years ago as well.

The box should have been labeled sh*t from a couple of years ago but not including your rotary cutter.

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