Monthly Archives: January 2014

Darn it pills and lint

I spent an evening this week closing up the holes in some of our sweaters.  I’ve been seeing beautiful and skillful examples of mending in the blogisphere lately and though lovely, they make me feel anxious.  Must I learn to do everything perfectly?  To have textile conservator-level mending skills to make repairs nearly invisible or mad creative ones to do a perfect herringbone in a cheeky accent color?  Don’t get me wrong, I love these things and love that someone is doing them and doing them well, but for me, I still embrace  absolute utilitarianism and efficiency when it comes to darning/mending/repairing.  I also usually wait until I have at least three garments that need to be fixed before I sit down to do them, even though it means I’ll probably need three different thread colors and it would have taken just as much time to do them one at a time.   All of the items that got a new lease on life were thrift store finds (some decades old) and I’m always what- amazed, impressed, happy?  I don’t quite know the feeling, but that these things have endurance and history, both unknown and our own, and can outlive us.

Darn-elbow

N’s favorite cashmere sweater is just a few years old and was probably fairly new when it was given up by its original owner.  (Unbeknownst to me my sister-in-law gave my brother the exact same as a [new] gift around the same time I found N’s in the thrift store.)  He wore it for work and not-work and everything in between several times a week and this year his elbow popped through.  It’s now been patched but retired from work-wear.

darn-pills

I’m also chief pill-picker.  I hate pills but I somewhat, and somewhat perversely, like picking them off.  I’ll periodically give an item a good pick and then a vigorous brushing and I’m always amazed about how much fuzzy detritus comes away… how much crap we carry around on us and how a sweater can continue to shed yet never feel as if it’s going bald overall.  But I do really hate pills on hand-knits (I’m looking at you Malabrigo!) especially when you’ve done a textured stitch and the pills hide in little valleys.

darn-lint

That little pile of pills and fuzz got me thinking about hoarders (and my fear of becoming one, though I do draw the line with things that rot and stink as being only for trash/compost).  And then N bought some new kitchen towels – some white, some red – that gave off this nice rose-pink lint in the dryer.  I know dryer lint has many uses, and once upon a time when I made paper I often used the stuff, but to keep it now seems a little excessive.  I can’t compost, don’t have a pet, haven’t spilled any oil, don’t need to start a fire, and I’m not making paper or papier mache at the moment…

…or will I be?

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Filed under collecting, recycling, sewing, thrifting

Caaaaashmeeeeere…

I had a huge thrifting score a few weeks ago.

I hadn’t been shopping for months because I’m too broke now even for thrift stores, and I already have a decent stash of wearables, frogables, and feltables.  But I needed just a few more things to complete or begin a few more things.

Thriftscore-cashcardi-grey

While there I found my sweater Shangri-La.

I can’t understand why someone would get rid of this: 100% cashmere, a nice shade of grey, and no issues apart from a few easily removed pills on one side where someone probably carried her purse.

Yes, it’s baggy and shapeless, but holy hell, it is utter bliss to wear.  It’s perfect for sleepwear or just lounging about too, so why would someone get rid of it?  Even if you lost a ton of weight, it still feels nice to wear, so unless you gained a ton, like an actual ton, or died, I see no reason to be rid of this.

I’m not the sort of shameful woman who does happy dances and squeals and all those sorts of public behaviors that continue to set women back decades, but this was one of the few times I came close as I cracked a faint but noticeable half-smile when I found it and hurriedly shoved it securely down into my cart.

And for $5.99 on the half-off day – it was only $2.99!!!

Thriftscore-cashcardi-grey-det

This also solves my need for a new long thin sweater, though I’m still planning on knitting one eventually.

I picked up another one to wear too – merino & cashmere, in perfect condition, also quite cheap.  The tag said it was from Fall 2004, so perhaps someone thought 10 years of ownership was enough?   The tag also emphatically stated DRY CLEAN ONLY, but it survived and flourished in its sudsy watery bath.

Thriftscore-stripeyT

And even more cashmere!!!

Thriftscore-cashpile

Most of these have some sort of damage or kill-worthy preppyness, so they will be harvested for their yarn or turned into linings for hats and such.

And I found a few sweaters made with good sturdy wool or wool/nylon blends in colors I like which will be harvested for their yarn as well.  The one on top is another (misshapen and holey) Shetland – I think I have enough Shetland sweaters to harvest an interesting palette of yarn now.  I was intending to make a big Hap shawl out of them, but I love the vintage spencer dresses seen here and here and here and would love to make something similar at some point.

Thriftscore-woolypile

I’m looking forward to making something out of the stripey one on the left too, perhaps along the lines of the scarf I made last year from recycled stripey sweater yarn.

stripey 007 - Copy

And it has already been reduced to a pile of lovely squiggles.

stripey 023 - Copy

Then a tower (what were you thinking?) of yarn cakes.

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Oh camel, my camel…

I went to Morocco* in early 2001.

I froze my ass off, so I bought a huge sweater from a man who was knitting them on the street.

Camel-front

  He said it was made of camel hair, but it was also dirt, vegetable matter, shit, and even a dead tick.  And it had a strong pissy odor.

But it was warm.

I washed it well when I got home.

But then it was thoroughly and viciously attacked by moths in the great wool annihilation of 2002.  Obviously I had not washed it enough, for the little wriggly f*ckers ate it up like it was smothered in delicious shitsauce.

I washed it well again, and again, and sealed it up and froze it for months.

A year later, in 2003, while spending time in New Mexico, I found some Navajo Churro bulky yarn scraps that somewhat matched the colors.  Some of my fixes and mends were good and blended well, some not at all, as seen in the right half below.

Camel-back

I wore it around the house for a few years, but not often because it was a bit sheddy, and I’d still get poked and annoyed by residual vegetable matter.

When I moved a few years later, I was still dubious of its trustworthiness and I feared that it could still have moth eggs – I didn’t have any evidence of them, but instead I felt a ghost of an ominous presence.  Not wanting to potentially infest our new place, even with phantasmic creatures, I triple-bagged it, froze it again, and didn’t bother to deal with it for a few years.

However, after a month  living with a not-quite-working-right furnace, and wanting its warmth, I just dug it out during the Polar Vortex to wash it once thrice more and assess its condition.

Camel-detail

I still can’t get over the beautiful greys and browns.

But good god, it was still a dirty beast and a few more holes and seams opened up from the wash – but it also softened quite a bit.  I’ve got some tri-color Jacob fleece that I could spin to make a convincing mending yarn, but I may just keep up with my more motley repairs and call it full of character.

(And please let that be all that it’s full of.)

*An awesome trip, and I was quite lucky to get there before all hell broke loose here months later.  I’d share pics, but those were my pre-digital (better) days.  I went with my mother who was approached by a man with an offer to trade me for a camel.  I think she had to think about it for a minute – the camel was quite lovely and had blue eyes.

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Filed under knitting, travel

Swirt, skeater, or skiter?

I love Stephen West’s Swants.

I love wool, I love stretchy pants, I love recycling, I love projects with quick gratification.

However, even though I have a mountain of old sweaters and went looking for more, I still can’t find the perfect Swantsable one (though I’ve already named mine Swousers).  I’ve got long-ish, muscular-ish legs so I need a fairly big sweater and I want my Swousers to be more pants than knickers (although I love the shorter style of Kate Davies’s Sweeks) and I want them a bit thicker too – like an adult version of a soaker, only in the reverse rather than being disgustingly diapery – for keeping out cold and damp or snow.  I hate snow pants because they swish, swish, swish and are made from synthetics, so I’d like thick wool sweatery pants for wintertime activities instead.  So I must wait until the right big, long, thick sweater comes along.

Until then, I made a sweater skirt…

swirt-back-sun

Or Swirt.

But that name already has certain sexual denotations I just learned about when Googling it… so perhaps it should be a Skeater or Skiter…

It started out as a thrift-store-found hand-knit South American sweater that had been shrunken and felted/fulled a bit (by its previous owner) making the body dense but the sleeves short and tight.

swirt-sweater

I cut off the arms, slit open the neck, sewed a hem at the top, sewed up the sides (put a zipper on one), and added a couple of hook and eye closures.  My only complaint is with the sweater itself – the star motif on the front was cropped by the neckline, so I didn’t have much room to spare for the waist.

swirt-detail

I was imagining that I’d style it for a photo with a new pair of grey and black wool tights (thanks K!) and a pair of cute but impractical boots I almost never wear anymore since I work from home, but instead I got to field test it in a more rugged fashion almost immediately thanks to Hercules.

In cold weather I literally freeze my ass off.  Even with wool unders, base layers, and pants I feel like my southerly cheeks are still flirting with frostbite.  And my knees suffer as well, though I hooked them up with a quick fix last winter.  But the Swirt kept my bum and knees warm!  It was about 19F and I also had on wool long johns, wool-blend leggings, and those bulky army-surplus wool gaiters, and I was fine.

swirt-deer

Even the deer were enviously eyeing my woolies.

swirt-back

So one day I’ll have my Swants/Swousers, but for now the Swirt/Skeater/Skiter will do.

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