Monthly Archives: March 2016

Van socks in long term parking

My 1970s naval gazing continues…

I’ve been reading some fiction of the era…

van-book

This book in particular makes me think of lives I might have led if I were born a decade earlier and stuck with my circle of art friends – and the life feels more comfortable – there are missed telephone calls, visits when messages can’t be left, and letters written then received once feelings have already passed…

But it is not my life, nor anyone’s these days even if trying to shrug off social media and pocket phones as much as possible.

(And I have to admit, I picked up this book in the library booksale largely because of the woman draped in the beautiful textile on the cover…)

I started another pair of combo socks that I planned for a few months ago.

experiment-color balls

And I had to put them down.

van socks

They were starting to look way too much like 1970s vans.

And even though if I saw one, I’d be like “Whoa, check out that van!” in a somewhat admiring tone, I wouldn’t really like it, and I never did – they were creepy to me even back then.

Early in our relationship, N told me he sewed a van in a home ec class and I momentarily thought him a bit creepy for it too, but in the end more so endearing, though I can’t convince him to sew another now…

So they will sit for a bit – I don’t want to wear 1970s vans, but they make me smile thinking of N’s story, but then they creep me out…

The only other option for that offending yarn is to overdye it – it is alarmingly dominant in this project, and I could possibly get it to step back if I held it with a slightly larger yarn, but that still wouldn’t eradicate its browns with near neons and the smell of weed and coco butter and polyester with stale sweat wafting off of it…

spring socks

So I started another pair instead – with yarn made up of my favorite colors…

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British boobs; Fitting in

For the last couple of years, I’ve been knitting from my stash almost exclusively. The lids of all the tubs* close easily now – no sitting on them to get the pleasant snap of shutness – and the general clutter of my workroom has one or two fewer auxiliary bags and small boxes of random balls and skeins. Stress, impatience, curiosity, and occasionally need has had me on an accessory-making binge for most of the time too. But to make a real dent in the stash, I need to finally commit to a few sweater/jacket projects.

But I’ve already got a couple sweaters on the needles that have been languishing for nearly (or over) two years… mostly because of fit issues – I’ve cleared the busts comfortably, but I’m left with bagging armpits, or the need to decrease too much and have to completely re-do the pattern’s math…

I’m late getting the memo that most (many?) women are wearing the wrong bra size. I’m  also several decades late in accepting that I’ve got protruding mounds of flesh in an inconvenient spot when I so dearly prayed (and kneaded bread) for them as a tween. I finally got some late sprouts that didn’t quite fill out the darts in a shirt, but didn’t entirely deflate them either, in my late teens and I was content with the shape of things into my early 20s. Then they grew and grew and grew and I didn’t gain other weight or have babies or nurse babies or do anything with intention that would increase their size so I grudgingly started to minimize with ugly wide strapped chest appliances and things stayed under control for a bit…

(As an aside: genetics are not in my favor on either side…

gran and sis

…and for too long I’ve teased my mother that she needed a belt rather than a bra, so what comes around, ‘yo…)

So now I’m knitting, and in theory if you make your own clothes, you can make them to fit every weird nook and cranny of your own body. But I’m math-challenged (and ashamed of it) and focus-challenged and I’d love to be able to just knit a pattern as written, only adding in a bit of extra length as the extent of my modifications. I really like a few patterns from British designers but all of the bust shaping seems impossibly high (and waists impossibly short). I’ve been watching several British mysteries and dramas and noticed that man of the women do in fact largely have high breasts. But that doesn’t make sense – an entire island of people can’t share the same tiny pool of high-breasted genetics (in most cases)…

*****

Recently, I tried to buy a suit. I’ve tried to buy a suit many times over my life, and always end up with separate jackets and trousers. I can find woolly tweedy jackets (mostly from the ’70s) at the thrifts that fit well, but I’ve only had two proper “business” jackets fit well in my lifetime. I got rid of one that had gone shiny along the seams during the last move, and when I went to put on the other, my favorite, the best jacket ever that’s gone on countless conference talks, interviews, and other business-dress bullshit activities, I found a couple of little holes. I tried to fix the holes, but N noticed and tried to brush them off, but they didn’t bulge. So my only jacket is unwearable for the times when appearances count most (perhaps it’s still okay for conferences in my field). I panicked and hit the nearest ladies-wear shops. The Spring lines were already on the racks, and I’m not going to wear pink, or red, or bright blue when I’m trying to look “professional.” I’m also not going to plunk $200 on a polyester suit made in China, but I felt like I had no other choice. I tried on pants and eventually found some long enough (I’m too short for talls, but too tall for regulars) and then I started trying on the matching jackets… And kept returning for more… Then a salesperson started helping me. Then she suggested I wear a different bra and go online to order the tall jacket that they didn’t stock in the store. (None of that was helpful at the moment, and I got away with a thrifted cashmere twinset and thrifted “business” trousers out of my closet for my clothing need at the time.)

But the “different bra” stuck a bit in my craw – the salesperson wasn’t the friendliest, so I took it as an insult, but she had a point – rather the jacket had points, and they were too high for me. I can’t afford to (or would generally rather not) go to one of the fancier shops or department stores to get properly fitted, so I pulled up a number of online fitting calculators and lassoed myself with tape measures. I came up with a magic number and letter that reads more like a bin number in a warehouse store than a bra size. I went online to the brand of minimizers I usually buy and didn’t see either number or letter and got the closest one instead. And for fucks sake, things are starting to get into places where they should have been. But the fit still isn’t perfect, so I’m on the hunt for the right size and I’m finding that the British brands have the wider variety of sizes that the common American brands do not. So what we have here is a cluster of tiny countries of women wearing appropriate-sized bras and a giant capitalist consumer-driven one that does not?

So now I’ve got an appropriately supported rack on the days I wear my one new bra and my sweaters fit well, my shirts stay buttoned, and on all other days I’m better off  wearing clothing with more ease and bagginess. To compound things though, middle-age is shifting things around a bit and I’m left dubious if something that fits well now will fit a week or two out of the month, or next year, so I’m hesitant to knit fitted garments, or garments that fit right, right now….

But this is all a bit ridiculous, so instead of making some fancy fitted sweaters out of my limited quantities of yarn that I’ve been hording for such purpose, I’m going to make some giant glorious neck things (that also do well to drape over other things on their unsupported days).

IMGP1282 - Copy

(I’ve been holding on to this small stash of cashmere in an awesome purpley-brown that I got on an unbelievable sale but was still more than I typically spend for a skein of wool, to make a very fitted, very elegant v-neck three-quarter length sleeved sweater, but fuck it, I’m about to crack it open for a Paris toujours shawl/scarf instead.)

And I’m only looking at patterns for the bigger bulkier sweaters and coats that embrace frumpiness, coziness, and shape shiftiness…

(And I’ll possibly make a giant blanket.)

(And I still need a suit).

*My goal isn’t too solid, but I’d like to get the commercial yarn stash down to 3 not-quite full tubs – one with a few sweater/blanket quantities, one with sock yarns and random bits of superwash for gifts, and one for whatever – mostly the nicer skein or two I pick up at festivals… (and of course handspun and unraveled sweaters have additional storage…)

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March madness…

The last of the recent short series of hats is now off the needles and on a head.

turn a square on n

You can see the “seam” created by the jogless stripe technique outlined in the Turn a Square pattern – it’s barely noticeable when making more than three rows per color, but at two, it looks like one fat stitch, which is basically what it is…

Still, I think I mind it less than a jog, though I want N to wear it in the back of the hat or it will drive me bats…

turn a square in basket

His basket of handknits is also looking a bit drab – perhaps a more colorful scarf is needed…

And I’ll beat that dead horse about crazy weather – I’m sweating in the first week of March with temps in the low 80s and the yard is breaking out in blossoms nearly a month too soon…

But the weather feels like July when I first started spinning this superwash merino from Pigeonroof Studios for the 2015 Tour de Fleece…

PRS tree scum 3-ply

And it turned into a massive wipe-out, or rather detour, and I was in the wrong country, or another continent when I reached the finish line.

I’ve been wanting to spin for a specific purpose – start with a puff of wool and say I want it to become socks, and then I spin, and knit, and have a pair of socks.

I’ve sort of done that in the sense that I’ve managed to spin enough yarn at approximately the same weight to make something of it in the end, but I’ve failed on the last few sock attempts –  the last one was a bit too thick and not enough yards and this one is waaaaaay too thin and overspun.

I started spinning it slowly and somewhat gingerly, nursing some self-diagnosed tendonitis, and playing with my hand placement so I could switch it up if need be (that part I got down fairly well). Then the last few months of summer were too hot and humid to spin and I didn’t start back up again until a month or two ago, again only spinning for about 30 minutes per session to keep my meat and bones and sinew happy. And I spun, and I spun, and I spun faster, and faster, and harder and harder… And finally four ounces became nearly 600 yards of 3 ply near laceweight… It’s so smooth and tight it feels like silk, but it isn’t even remotely what I wanted for socks.

The last bit left on one of the bobbins – the last one spun most likely since it was nearly 100 more yards than the others, became a 2 ply from a center-pull ball. Since one of the plys is unspun a bit from the ball as it plys, the resulting yarn has a softer, fluffier hand and is thicker than the 3 ply.

PRS tree scum 2ply

Lesson learned.

In theory.

Since I’ve already “learned” this lesson too many times…

Since I don’t want to knit socks on tiny needles, this won’t be socks unless held doubled on the leg parts with commercial yarn feet. Instead it might be yet another neck thing – perhaps joined with that mossy green mohair

Next spinning project is going back to the basics and bulky, maybe super bulky…

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A mostly 1970s quilt…

It’s hard not to call this ramble something like “that ’70s quilt” or “talkin’ bout my generation” (even though that was the ’60s and has nothing to do with fiber) – something overstated but understood, jingly and annoying but common and somewhat comfortable…

But that somewhat encapsulates my feeling of the whole decade – it causes me equal parts discomfort and nostalgia.

I hated the 1970s because I hated polyester, stale cigarette smoke, musky perfumes, mustaches, “me,” disco (I kinda like that now), cheesy love songs, feathered hair, giant cars (El Caminos excepted), tube socks (I kinda like those now), my bible-beating public elementary school, my ignorant small town, plastic toys, Vietnam-damaged fathers and uncles (I didn’t have one, but most did), high-waisted clothes, acrylic, popular colors of pus, piss, and poo, the stench of leaded gasoline, dusty scents from too much unwashed macrame and houseplants and pillows and tapestries, halter tops on women and girls, too much wood, terrible architecture…

But I loved typewriters, lower-waisted clothes, back to earth movements, interpretations of 1920s and ’30s revivals, funk, longer hair, afros, craft revivals, interesting food, fantastical fiber creations, and a bunch of other stuff – mostly wrapped up in nature and creativity and the lovely analog life…

It sort of all started with this fabric. It might be older than the ’70s, but the calico and earthy colors reminded me of rustic quilts in mountain cabins comforting those who played banjos, wore patched corduroy, and brewed dandelion wine. I suppose that is more Appalachian than the ’70s, but since my parents moved us to the country to get back to the earth then, and I had a musical family who partook (and still partakes) in old time music and dance, my association is personal, though part of a definitive ’70s cultural movement.

1970s baking fabric

The fabric came from an antique mall (I think), and it’s a massive amount – some 10 or 13 yards, and it had to have been priced at $15 or less, so I bought it without a specific quilt in mind, but with the thinking that any cheap large amounts of cotton fabric = quilt backs. At the time, I also had a cousin who lived in an old house and participated in old time life whose wedding was a few months away, and I had grand ideas of making a massive rustic quilt for the couple. But that thought was short-lived – I never thought about what the top would be, and our own old house didn’t yet have a kitchen and sewing machines were packed away, and I essentially had stopped making quilts for anyone, or any bed-sized ones at all…

Fast forward a few months ago when I was unpacking and organizing my fabric stash, I found that fabric again, and also pulled out the tiny bit of my mother’s leftover stash that I’ve keep separate for fear of forgetting what was from my own past and what was from someone else’s.

1970s home fabric

Some of these are are a little earlier too, and I remember the top blue covering a chair seat likely done in the ’60s… and I vaguely recall the black or navy used for a piece of clothing for me. A bit more of this sort of calico found its way into the treetop of this piece.

Birdscene

And my old bonnet – which still fits…

(Remember the ’70s aslo had that patchworked and bebonneted character of Holly Hobbie and the resurgence of Sunbonnet Sue – I’m not sure which inspired my mother to sew a long dress with matching bonnet and white eyelet pinafore for a xmas outfit for me…)

1970s bonnet

But the fabric is awesome – baby chicks, scarecrows, kittens… I don’t want to cut this up though, so bonnet/artifact it will stay.

1970s bonnet detail

I also kept a terribly sewn dress that I remembered hating to wear because the neck or the empire waist, or something about it was too damn tight, and it was a baby style sized up to my girl frame, though I was forced to wear it around the person who gave it to me, and clearly it is faded so I must have been strapped into the thing often – or – the fabric was lousy and faded on the clothesline quickly. I think the fabric is a Liberty of London? And I have no idea why I kept it except for evidence in a child torture suit? Because I like brown?

(As an aside, I don’t get the hullabaloo about Liberty – sure, I appreciate the historic factor, but where is the fabric made? England isn’t known for its cotton crop, so it isn’t really made there, just printed. And though some of the patterns are lovely, some are a bit too romantic and twee for me, and some are just plain frumpy and if not in the know, would appear to be something that came from the big box…)

So I have no qualms about cutting it up – and I had it stored with an unfinished felted bag with pinks and browns, so it still could become a lining.

1970s dress detail

And finally, I remembered an aunt’s homemade skirt from that time – a mountain dwelling dancer whom I looked up to – I don’t know why I ended up with her skirt, but I was a tall child, and it fit me with the aid of a safety pin and I remember wearing several times when I needed to look “old fashioned” for some school pageant or living history sort of thing.

It still fits, but is nearly a foot too short for being the maxi-style skirt it is supposed to be. I am very hesitant about cutting it up, though I truly want to have less in my life – perhaps I’ll consider shortening it a bit to wear as a skit again, and then have the scrap to use, or perhaps I want to make a smaller wall quilt just out of it alone….

1970s-skirt detail

Though my thinking about ’70s fabric mainly revolved around brightly colored calicos and decisively shunned other fabrics of the decade, my mind started to wonder/wander about “cheater” cloth and if I shouldn’t just get several yards of the stuff and only add my own patch to it here and there.

I found this awesome hex pattern online and snatched it up…

1970s cheater fabric

It reminded me of my old pants.

1970s pants

(I’d like to think I caught Patches the cat leaping through the air in a trick feline circus move, rather than I’m probably squeezing her, or him? to the point of torture).

But that awesome mustard fabric is more of a canvas, there’s only a yard or less, and I think I’d rather make a tote bag out of it, so my focus returned.

I looked around for some more bright vintage calicos and was rather disheartened by the prices online – I’m used to picking up second-hand fabric (at least stuff that’s less than 50 years old) for a song…

But then this stuff is now “vintage” after all – I often think the ’70s was only about 18 years ago…

1970s cut fabric

I found a good deal on some pre-cut patches – normally I hate the pre-cut stuff because I like to use every last scrap of fabric and I mourn for the jagged corners thrown away, but I wanted some variety and this fit the bill.

And then I found a few larger cuts – the one on the left has a pleasing brown background, and the one on the right has a coy bird…

1970s bird fabric

(One of my online orders reeked highly of dryer sheets or some other synthetic stench. I can appreciate the need to scent the stash to deter fiber-munching predators, but if you sell it to others, please don’t use these chemical bombs – lavender and other herby sachets and naturally scented soaps and such work just as well and don’t cause respiratory distress in others as much… Better yet, send it out once it has aired and smells of nothing at all…)

And then I dug through my regular stash and found some prints older and newer that fit in well enough – most of these are scraps and fat quarters from the craft supply thrift store (usually 4 or 5 for a dollar), or in grab bags at antique malls, so all told, I spent less than $30 on my new old acquisitions to scratch my ’70s itch – not too overboard, but still fabric in, money out, and nothing to show for it….

1970s random scraps

But I don’t really like these colors – too primary with searing reds – I like that they’re warm and happy, but I don’t want to see them every day and I don’t want them in my bedroom with its calm and soothing hues. So perhaps it was enough to just gather my thoughts a bit and collect these few more fabrics – the total lot doesn’t take up much room and I’ve yet to lay it out or calculate to know if I even have enough for a quilt – a throw size definitely, which is perhaps what I’m leaning towards if anything at all…

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Hats n’at

fragile

The mood around here is still fragile as is the bulb for our UV water filter that thankfully arrived unscathed despite the mail carrier’s disregard of descriptions…

(Tick one more learned home routine maintenance task off the list and have an extra cookie for not paying a ridiculously inflated service fee… And pray to the water company that one day soon they’ll put in lines up here…)

early spring

Despite over two feet of snow and ice and more snow and gallons of rain within the last month, Spring has been determined and strong…

turnsquare-thickstripe

The hats are nearly all done – and all done with Cascade 220 superwash scraps, a yarn which I’ll no longer buy now that it is manufactured in China, but I’ve yet to find a suitable replacement – something soft, comes in a array of colors, washable, and reasonably priced…

redbubble-bag

And lest you forget my Redbubble shop (I did) but after over a year, I finally sold one floor sander sticker and was reminded of it. But I won’t get paid for said sticker until I earn at least $20. Curious about the quality of their products, I finally ordered my own tote in the veggie weenie series (it’s the medium size 16″ x 16″).

redbubble-bag detail

And it’s a good thing – not great, but useful and much better quality than those 99 cent weird fabric-ish grocery bags, though not as sturdy as canvas, but very lightweight. It’s a woven poly lined in a poly that at first glance I thought was cotton… The photo is somewhat soft and abstracted this large, but perhaps less titillating for it which could be good if easily embarrassed, but then again, it’s just a carrot for chrissakes. They’re made in USA, but I don’t know the fabric origin, nor much of anything about the company, so I’m not going to crow about it too much. But I like it for carrying packages to the post office and it’s held up well so far.

I’ll probably shut this shop down in a bit though – kinda pointless to keep it up since it was mostly a gag to begin with…

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