Monthly Archives: October 2013

Trekking, face-stuffing, and of course, wool

I’m back from our few weeks sojourn to Abruzzo.

to the castle

(And yes, those last posts were pre-written and hastily posted from an internet cafe – I wonder how much longer those will exist, and/or how long it will take me to get a smart phone?)

Being away meant I couldn’t go to Rhinebeck this year, but um, I don’t care – though I’m enjoying reading about it.

I’m now suffering through the haze of jet lag (pancakes at 3 a.m. seemed like a good idea at the time…) and clogged ears, the depression of leaving a land I love, and the bureaucratic shitstorm and other items of work I left behind (and which gathered strength instead of my unrealistic hopes of dissipating).  So just a bit now, but more later – especially the wooly bits.

First I must take a moment to praise the porchetta panino.

porchetta portrait

We set an all-time record of eating 4 in one trip (not in one sitting though).

porchetta

And they are the perfect protein-packed porcine pranzo on the trail (even if they get squashed in the pack).

Valle Gentile

Days and days spent in the mountains with near-miraculous perfect weather and autumnal shades.

truffles

And let us not forget pasta – especially with saffron and generous shavings of truffles.

hexagons

And more hexagons too!

traveling yarn

And of course, wool!

Definitely more on that later – here it is on the journey to the states after eating a pretzel in the Frankfort airport.

greenland

And we got one last dose of mountains on the way home with some excellent views of Greenland.

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Hexed

I tend to get a little obsessive/fanatical about certain colors, textures, and shapes.  For a few years, I loved the diamond.  Not hard-assed sparkly rocks that people die for literally and figuratively, but the shape in a flattened geometric form.  I had some awesome diamond-shaped eyeglasses back in the late 1990s that I wore to dust; I have some argyle clothing, jewelry with diamond shapes, some great vintage diamond-shaped buttons I’ve yet to use, and I’ve sewn and knitted many diamonds.

Little did I know I had a thing for hexagons too.

I knew I liked antique hex tile floors.  I had an original one in my first roach-infested apartment (it wasn’t the first of several infested, it was the first and happened to be infested).  And I fantasize often about having one again (a tiled floor, not an apartment full of cockroaches).

I photograph tiled floors when I see them, including this one in the late 1990s, which also served as evidence in case I was brutally murdered or came down with an incurable STD or sudden Bukowski-like alcoholism from the seediest hotel I’ve ever patronized in Niagra Falls (I mean seediest ever, not one of many in Niagra Falls).

niagra falls seedy hex

And check out this awesome antique floor in a non-hipster cafe in Brooklyn I saw last year:

Hex - phone

(And yes, I have a cheap-ass pre-paid phone and can’t figure out how to email the picture to myself, so yeah…)

When we first started fixing up our former house, I was completely and entirely ecstatic when I found this in the bathroom:

hex3

However, my joy was short lived when I found other things:

hex4

And the absence of the tile throughout and/or layers of cement and other impenetrables that prevented us from salvaging the original floor.

I wanted to put down a new authentic porcelain hex floor, but the high price sent me to the big box for the cheap alternative:

hex2

Still porcelain hexagons, but not quite the real thing – the real deal is more flat and matte with thinner grout lines.  I loved that bathroom though, and I yearn for that giant cast-iron tub again…

But I’m still always on the look-out for hex floors and sometimes find them in surprising places:

hex1

Like out in the woods in the middle of nowhere.

But the fiber word is awash in hexagons as well.

One of the classic quilt patterns – Grandmother’s Flower Garden is all about the hex.

I found this in an antique shop last year:

quilt square-hex

Look how small the hexagons are!  The tiny little hexes are just a little bit bigger than a hex floor tile.

quilt square-hex-det

I wonder if the maker was sick of it after one motif, this was a leftover from a finished quilt, it was made to be a chair pad or other small item, or yeah, maybe she (maybe he but not likely) died.  I love the inconsistent greens as well – I wonder if it was made from old-time scrubs or nurse’s uniforms, or if the fabric was home-dyed.

For those of you in the knitting world, you’re probably expecting me to say I’m hip-deep in hexipuffs for the Beekeeper’s Quilt and that’s what this is all about.  Nope, though I like it a lot, and considered it for a little while, I’m going to pass for now (even though I may have purchased a few mega-sale skeins of sock yarn with this in mind).

I occasionally find myself designing floors for bathrooms, kitchens, and foyers of homes we don’t have.  In fact, one of the houses we purchased over the last year had a half-bath (I hate the name “powder room”) small enough that I could justify the price of the real thing and to my own custom design.  But alas, I must settle on non-floor hexagons for now.

But look at this!

63050463502674595_HcReHRQr_c

(Picture yanked from internet – no idea of its original publication)

Ok, so a floor again, but even though whatever house we’ll eventually get will eventually need to be re-sold, I’m really tempted to do something along these lines.  I don’t know if it is paper or fabric, but it would be fairly economical and a more interesting alternative to the paper bag floor (which I also sort of like, but can’t get past that leather crazy quilt jacket look of it).

But back to what I can do now, which really isn’t something I can do since I must finish other things first, but what I’m fantasizing about doing is a traditional hexagon quilt.  After a summer’s worth of basting letters for an appliqued quilt, and though at the time they often annoyed the hell of of me, I had the brilliant epiphany that a quilt can actually be as portable of a project as sock knitting.  Though that is probably obvious to all already, I’d never thought of making quilts outside of hours-long blocks of time at home.  And though my earlier thoughts of sewing a quilt by hand were along the lines of you’ve got to be f*cking joking, I now want to piece that bitch up one by one by one in airports, while visiting other people’s houses, in waiting rooms, and sprawled on the sofa while binge watching some mildly awful but addictive television series.

I haven’t decided whether or not to use my current stash and scraps or come up with something a little more uniform and floor-like, but I’ve sure as hell had fun playing with the possibilities – at least in my head, of course, since I really can’t be spending any real time on it.  (And I haven’ t yet printed off a bunch of blank hex sheets I found on this site).

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the hexing possibilities with crochet in the form of hexy granny afghans – see this Flickr group for pics – but alas, I don’t crochet.  I don’t like the looks of it sometimes, but that’s usually the maker’s fault for choosing crap acrylic yarn, or poor colors, or having no general aesthetic sense.

But I’d like to learn one of these days…

Oh yeah, and my inner jukebox plays this every time I think of the word hex:

The 1990s infected me with a whole wiggling writhing wad of ear worms…

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In praise of first things…

I just unpacked my woolen winter things.

I’ve gotten rid of, or ripped out, a few of my early knitting projects, but I kept my first scarf.

It was also my very first actual project after practicing with a few useless squares of nasty acrylic yarn in a pleasing shade of grey.

firstthingsscarf

I bought the yarn for this scarf in a long since closed LYS in the Midwest.  It is 100% alpaca, in probably a light worsted or sport weight, yet I’m positive I used size US7 needles since they were all I had.  After knitting a few decadently smooth rows, I convinced myself that my life had to become that of an alpaca farmer.  I joined mailing lists for breeders associations and farms, I read up on the fleece colors and textures, I learned that they don’t need as much land as sheep and could even be transported in a minivan, and I may have even looked at acreage for sale.  However, at that time I was in graduate school and living in a squirrel-infested apartment and eating from bulk bags of dried beans and rice (I cooked them first, of course).  But I thought that perhaps the fiber-bearing-animal-farmer would be a possible life for me in at least five years or so.

(It’s now fifteen and even less possible).

firstthingsscarfdet1

The color of the yarn is bit of a dated 1990s sage green, but the drape and softness are lovely, and I still wear it.  It has a couple of mistakes, but nothing that overtly advertises it as rookie work.  And despite alpaca being less elastic than wool, it has not become misshapen, nor has it become full of pills.

firsthingsscarfdet2

It’s strange to think in person terms, this scarf could now be licensed to drive.  After its journey from the back of a warm animal in Peru, it has lived in a few apartments and houses, been seen and touched by many people – yet only been worn by me, survived the devastating moth attack of 2002, been crumpled into plastic bags at the end of every season since, traveled around the country yet not left it again, worn willingly on odorous public buses and dim slushy streets, accepted accidental nasal drips, held ice crystals on its finest fibers from my breath, blown and flapped against several coats – some puffy and some wooly cousins, and has remained loyal and comforting to the slowly loosening neck underneath it.

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How not to finish a quilt in 10 easy steps

1.  Ignore the fact that your diet is consisting of more and more mutant produce and get to work.

not1

2.  Plan a queen-sized quilt when you don’t have a queen-sized area in which to work.  Alternately, plan a queen-sized quilt when you bought a house with a big studio, but the sale wasn’t final.  Alternately, continue with said queen-sized quilt when you could have easily scaled back.

not2

3.  [Sidestep] While struggling with the space issue, contemplate the boxes and boxes of books hidden beneath Indian bedspreads (that once adorned dorm walls), pictures without walls, and the weak light from the single window in your sh*tty apartment living room.

4.  Focus your attention back to the quilt top.  Realize that though you usually have a fairly high tolerance for wonkiness, one square looks too sloppy, so carefully rip it out to fix it without thinking about the possibility of how your “fix” might not make it better, only worse.  Feel sad that it could have just been a little extra wonky instead of a lot extra wonky now since there’s no way you’re going back in there to fix/mess it up even more.

not3

5.  When ironing the top (hopefully for the last time) discover that one of the fabrics can actually shrink and warp once it’s already been ironed many many times.  No time for flailing about and shrieking WTFs, just rip the bitches, replace them, and re-iron the whole thing c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y.

not4

6.  [Sidestep]  In anticipation of quilting, play with a few samples of top+batting+backing.  Discover that your machine is entirely rejecting this action and refuses to obey proper tension.  Feel immediately panicked, then feel immediately in denial and move on.

7.  Discover that it will be impossible to lay and smooth out the layers flat.  Even if you hop from chair to sofa, you will never be able to perform the long jump necessary from end to end and will fall several times trying.

not5

8.  Consider crying.

9.  Investigate paying someone else to do this part.

10.  Consider scrapping the whole thing.

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Needle in a scrapstack

I’ve been having a run of good bad luck lately.  Not luck that is at first bad, but then allows for something awesome to come in,* but good in terms of a good dose of it.  Don’t get me wrong, it could be much, much worse, but it is annoying as all get out.

I’ve barely spent any money lately, but my last two online orders involved a bottle of shampoo ending up all over a book, and an item of clothing needed in a timely manner arriving with a giant slash – and I did not cause it myself by opening the box with an evil box cutter or anything so keen.

I’ve been trying to set up a new doctor here and ended up with a $558.00 bill for a physical that should have been free.  For the last month, I have been calmly and persistently contacting the doctor/billing office/lab/main office/insurance company to resolve it.  All say they can’t but the other guy can.  One kind soul read back to me the transcript of the call log at the doctor’s office – I sound like a f*cking obnoxious demanding crazy bitch.  In this instance though, I am not – I have been perfectly professional with them, and only cry with rage and shake a little about the potential of having to part with the money that I don’t actually owe when I’m off the phone.

But with bad, sometimes good shows up a tiny bit.

Needle in a scrapstack

I dropped one of my current favorite sewing needles into a big box of scraps.  Bad, but not too bad, but then I sometimes use my scraps to stuff things and what if someone bought something made with them and then gave it to a toddler (though I specifically say my things aren’t meant for kids) and then the toddler sucks it down his slobbery germ-hole and requires a dramatic surgery and then my precious needle ends up accessioned with the other surgically removed swallowed things at the  Mutter Museum.  Bad (although I like that museum).  But after shaking and scrounging and hoping to find it when it penetrated my own digits, I finally located it without bloodshed.  Good.

Hair thread

I stitched up a little piece with my own white hairs.  Bad?  Well, I’ll give you kinda gross, but it is what it is.  The bad part was the haircut I got a few weeks ago that was supposed to be an inch and ended up three and more in various hideous feathery layers.  And the annoying routine I go through with every hair cutter when she/he tries to convince me to color my hair.  I rarely get a haircut, you think I can keep up with roots?  And hello, money?  And hello again, chemicals?  And ciao bitch, I’m aging, that’s what happens!  But the biggest bad is that my greys are coming in at an alarming rate and falling out at the same pace.  I figure they’re my newest strands so they should be sticking around longer…  Needless to say I had more than enough to finish the piece and now I don’t know what to do with the leftovers – I don’t think I want to use hair-thread again though.  (And not to worry, I’m not saving boogers, ear wax, and toenail clippings… well, maybe a few fingernails, but they’re for art purposes too.)  Sounds scarier than it is.

Blue scraps

And the last is a bad me for not finishing the epic summer-long quilt yet.  I’m terrified to do the quilting part (and my machines are getting tensiony), so I’m considering my options of finishing the top off and calling it a coverlet.  I don’t intend to use it anyway.

And the good?

I found my rotary cutter!

* And speaking of rotary cutters and needles, if one more person/media outlet/memoir tells me that loosing their job was the best thing that ever happened to them, well I just might get slicey and pokey.

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