Monthly Archives: April 2015

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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And yet another thing that isn’t quite what it started out to be…

While I was trying to get my mojo back last week, I was working on a few other things that I hoped were likely to turn out as I expected.

I made a big mess of these Botanic hats recently and was left with one that was a bit on the smaller side.

I know a kid who likes yellow, and his father was one of the recipients of the recent ones, so rather than knit yet another (and buy more yarn which I’m really trying not to do) I got some Wilton’s buttercup yellow food coloring for transformation purposes.

A's hat before

The yarn is superwash, so I went to town without worry, glopping in about a quarter of a teaspoon of color to a liter or so of not quite boiling water and dumping in the room temperature vinegar and water pre-soaked hat.

And as usual, the whole process was already underway before I considered gloves….

A's hat on my fingers

I was expecting to have to use more and more color, but the little bit did the trick.

I’d love to dye more often but I hate how much water it takes to rinse… I suppose water tainted with food coloring would be safe to use watering plants and whatnot, but I don’t want to dye my plants, and I don’t eat anything with artificial food coloring, so I don’t want it on my vegetables…

A's hat in the wash

The color worked in pleasantly surprising ways – the dark charcoal became a shimmery brown with almost navy blue accents and a slight yellow haze.

A's hat damp

And whether it was from the vinegar rinses or hot water baths, it has become wonderfully soft.

A's hat after scrunched

I think it is my favorite version of this hat yet.

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