Category Archives: thrifting

Shetland blues

For the last decade or so, I’ve been buying damaged Shetland sweaters from thrift stores. They had to be misshapen and/or slightly felted and/or have holes – basically unwearable at least not without significant repair.

Most of them are from the late 1970s to early 1990s and in most cases, the colors happen to be ones I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear or knit by themselves. But I finally amassed around a dozen (not pictured are some more blues, pinks, and greys) and originally I thought I’d knit a giant hap shawl/blanket, perhaps some colorwork accessories, and maybe a Spencer dress

And I bought one that was in quite good condition that I kept to wear as-is.

I love the slogan: “Wool, it’s got life.”

But then I used it in my failed MFA portfolio.

(That patch is easily removed, I just haven’t done it yet. And it’s probably not work-appropriate as it is. And my workplace is hostile and discriminatory towards sweaters – it’s been near 80F in there all winter and I’m reduced to t-shirts which is absolutely obscene in the wintertime and crushing my sweater-loving soul, but I digress…)

But this was the first project that I finally started to use my freshly harvested old Shetland sweater yarn.

The absolute best thing about this Shetland yarn is that it is all the same 2-ply weight (or close enough) brand to brand, decade to decade so it is all freaky great for anything – colorwork especially – so it’s not just another one-off for the scrappy stash. And I haven’t tested it yet, but it is probably the equivalent to, and/or would pair well with, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift yarn.

That patch above obviously used very little yarn, and I was left with quite a bit, yet not much of one individual color from this stripey sweater. (Stripey sweaters are also part of my thrift sweater collecting policy since they do make for great scrappy projects, but this one was happily the same good old Shetland yarn, only it is fairly recent – from the middle aughts most likely).

Recently my mom got new glasses and requested a new (small, more like a kerchief) scarf with blue in it. My stash only had some bulky blue earmarked for another project and some sock yarn with blues, but they seemed a little too crayon-cartoonish. I think buying something was out of the question at the time since I would have had to wait for it to arrive in the mail and/or I’d have been tempted to buy roving instead and spin something, but that would take too long… And I am stash-busting, but do make exceptions for gifts, but I don’t have a solid LYS nearby to pop into and know I could get something appropriate for a fair price (and without attitude).

So I hit the Shetland stash – enough with hanging on to the thoughts of big haps and whatnot – there is still plenty of yarn for that anyway. And I absolutely required a mindless pattern – something I could knit as quickly as I can (which isn’t that fast these days) with near zero risk of frogging and restarting. My mom liked the triangular shape of the Lacy Baktus I made for her a few years ago, and I like the the shape of a slightly asymmetric side-to-side triangle, and that is also the most forgiving for judging yarn amounts, or rather, you don’t need to worry about it at all, just stop when you’re out (the Batkus is my all-time favorite, but there will be a day I’m sure, that I will run out of yarn at the very tip).

And Clara Falk’s Tailwind shawl pretty much fit the bill. I liked that she used an icord edge to hide the yarn tails and wanted to try it out – I liked the icord edge on my Paris Toujours, but it was more of a shallow slip thing that smoothed the end rather than a tube that would successfully entomb loose ends.

And I also wanted to use up most of the blue stripey stuff, but I figured I wouldn’t have enough once the stripes grew long, so I added a purple, navy, and denim-y colored sweater to the mix. The only solid color, a cobalt blue, was from the collar, cuffs, and waistband of the stripey sweater, so I had a safe amount of that one.

I held the yarns doubled in order to get a better gradient and to plump up the weight. I used US9 needles, but probably could have gotten away with 10s – this stuff is so bloomy.

(The semi-felted sweaters can be a bit of a bitch to unravel, but the Shetland is fairly strong and can withstand some tugging, so even though the stripey sweater in particular was at least 3 sizes smaller than what it was originally, I had minimal breakage. Out of the dozen or so of these sweaters, I’ve only given up unraveling one of them, and will use it for mitten linings and such instead.)

I hemmed and hawed through the whole thing about the colors – I don’t like light blues, and I’m always a little ambivalent about knitting with colors that aren’t ones I love – but they had their purpose in making the grade.

But the gradient wasn’t always working for me – perhaps that knitting trend is out, or on the way out, or maybe still peaking? But now it’s done with gorgeous multi-toned, perhaps a little speckled yarn not in early ’80s colors that were meant to be worn with too-stiff, too-high waisted jeans and ivory corduroy pants. And maybe because it was too consistent? I think that is my issue – it’s too regimented: 10 rows of one, ten of another, 10 of another, 10, 10, 10, 10… It needed something to break up the monotony, a wave or another angle, or different stripe thicknesses…

But that isn’t for me to ponder anymore since it’s my mom’s now, and as a scarf/shawl it is spot-on: crazy warm, sheepy yet drapey, and able to be worn in several ways.

And uh, yeah, it’s not a small kercheif like thing that can be tucked under the coat…

Maybe next year, okay ma?

***

And the final verdict on the pattern is that it is a good one – the icord edge totally encased the ends (though perhaps I wouldn’t trust it as much with a non-sticky yarn). My only minor quibble is that edge isn’t quite as stretchy as I’d like, but keeping it loose when knitting helps – I think the pattern mentions to pull it tightly, but I would recommend the opposite. And then I did the icord bind off with US10.5 needles, and that was perfect – there’s about equal give on both ends. I blocked it slightly longer, but it didn’t really need to be shaped much, though the soak made the yarn bloom a little again and erase any final kinks from unraveling.

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Feb finds

Winter went away for a few days a week ago and suddenly it was mud season.

And m&*#$*^%)#**&&$%&$!!!!! TICK season.

And of course, it’s always deer season…

early feb phil (2)

And our yard smells like a barnyard, and the dog loves to eat the poop and lick our faces, and all of our recently planted deer-resistant shrubs still need ugly cages to protect them from being “sampled” to death, and…

early feb phil (2) - detail

See that open, spilled-out compost bin in the back?

That is not ours.

I really like our neighbors – great people – but we’ll never be able to discourage the gathering of beasts in our yard while open compost and birdseed left on the ground happens just over the border…

But that’s why we had to fence in our garden and compost piles. And once again it’s time to think about the garden again – some seeds were saved and are ready to go, a few more are on order. Something went wrong with our seed starting last year – more like a few somethings, so more attention and care (and documentation) need to happen this year.

Everything out there is frozen again, and that’s okay – I’m not ready for the growing demands just yet.

I’m still officially cold-sheeping and generally frugal, but I can’t resist the pull of the thrift store entirely – and it’s paid off well in the last week or two. I found some good yarn on the cheap – the thrift yarn in my area is usually the nastier acrylics or something decent but way overpriced – and I’m itching to knit up big scrappy things, so it all fits in my collecting policy as well.

And then I had one of those rare, serendipitous, delicious scores…

Around the time I first moved out here, I was having a thrift pick-me-up and found a hooded wool duster/cardigan (with pockets!) from a pricey brand of shapeless and mildly dumpy clothes (that are now becoming quite appealing to me as middle age ascends…) but it was priced out of my range – maybe something like $16? Which I would consider if it was something I could wear for work or was very well made, but I wanted it for lounge wear, a robe of sorts – and I’ve already got several oversized sweaters in the name of comfort. So I passed it up, and I regretted doing that (and I might have gone back for it?).

early feb phil (3)

And then around four years later, it is mine. For about $3.

Is it the same one? It very likely could be…

Was it involved in a violent knife attack? Perhaps… or maybe a spray of gunfire?

I saw one of the holes when I picked it up, but it didn’t matter – I loved it more for its imperfections – and I didn’t bother to inspect it at any great length apart from eyeballing if the shoulders would fit me. But when I pulled it out of the wash, I finally saw that it was full of holes a couple of sizes larger than the US’s largest coin.

It’s a slight shame – the fit is so perfect – loose but amazingly not too frumpy – so it could be public wear, but my mending might not cut it for more polished needs. The placement of the holes is random, yet spaced out enough so some interesting embroidery or patches of some sort could look really good, but for now unraveling is mitigated and it’s oh so comfortable…

 

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Randomly, near the end of another year

I’ve been trying to feed a few thoughts to bulk them up for a bit more substance – so I can chew on them for a bit, but all of the social and political static and noise has been throwing off my appetite.

The house has been up to its unpleasant hijinx again as well – the boiler finally shat the bed, and gave us a couple of cold weeks followed by a couple of long days with the plumber followed by a much thinner wallet. And then my docile old car got a whiff of the spirits and acted out unexpectedly, but at least not too extremely…

But the silver lining that really isn’t, is that I was already in the middle of another round of selling off shit online. I’m now unburdened of a few more pounds of old art supplies and bulky thrift sweaters that would have made lovely yarn once unraveled, but that were still in perfectly good wearable shape. And I feel better about that too – yes, I feel better about getting a few extra dollars when I need them, but I sometimes feel guilty about unraveling perfectly good sweaters and usually just try do it to ones that are already damaged or misshapen. I’ll miss a few of these – more accurately, I’ll miss the cardigans and bulky pullovers that they would have been re-knit into and became my favorites, but only existed in my brain and likely would have never come close to fruition – so I can’t really miss something that never was and would likely never be, right?

But I still have plenty in the rougue’s gallery of moth-eaten and slightly felted/fulled – all are of varying degrees of unpleasant to unravel, but all will be more truly “rescued” and recycled. I started a new gradient shawl out of a striped Shetland sweater and a few others in greys and purples (it’s not really yellowy-beige as seen above) and it’s a fun little sheepy finger journey right now.

(Other things on the needles have been on them for a bit and have already shown themselves here.)

A good amount of mending has been going on in these parts too – old wool socks that refuse to give up the ghost, outdoor wear that seeks out every thorn, and our beloved wool underthings that wear like iron until they pop an inexplicable hole.

And disappointingly, one of my top wool underthings companies is going under itself. Most of my most worn t-shirts are wool – the non-sport cuts are nice enough to wear where I work and then they can do double-duty under sweaters in the winter or on the trail – I could get by with a minimalist wardrobe with them if I was in to that kind of thing (but when traveling I do). And I pretty much need a layer of sheep’s clothing over most of my body surface once it drops below 75F. And the clothes were largely made in the USA, and pretty much the only things I bought (or received) new (on sale) once a year or so. I really like another company’s wool shirts that are 100% USA wool and manufactured, but their selection is more limited and I’ve sadly had two shrink to crop tops. I am too long-trunked for crop tops.

So ’tis the season for being a little more bummed out (and broke) than usual, but at least the solstice is soon and the ho ho hoing bullshit will go away soon too…

 

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Path of totality

I can’t stop repeating that in my head – it sounds like a threat, an end game, a complete takeover – but also a great summation and completion of fragmented parts – it is frightening and reassuring. And I know it’s just the term for the visible swath of an eclipse. But it’s a shitstorm out there and it has been for some time, and we keep breeding and uneducating shitcloud seeders, and there will always be a changeable swath of stupidity and a great joining together to make that path more narrow or wide.

I started this knit this time a year ago – we were on a vacation made stressful by either my still jobless status or anxiety over starting a new one, recently taking on a reactive dog, my foot-dragging acceptance of a body that now hurts more often than not, and the election that seemed far off and the candidate who got inaugurated seemed enough of a joke that even the most dense should get, but I still felt uneasy and dubious it would work out in the end. I grew up in a town with a population of more ignorant folks than not. Folks who hid behind religion and “tradition” and practiced tokenism to prove that they weren’t “bad” people, but folks who also tolerated klansmen as neighbors. None of my family lives in that town anymore and few live in the state – we did what we could when we were there, but the path of totality of intolerance was too scorched and wide.

I’m erroneously remembering that this pattern, Isabell Kramer’s Paris Toujours, was designed in response, or as a memorial to (one of) the Paris attacks. But it looks like it was commemorating a happy weekend (maybe there was a knit-along with this after the attack instead?) Either way, I knit it because it was easy and side to side – just the way I like to make and wear scarf/shawls – I’d clearly confused the designer’s intent and blurred yet another violent act of many so I can’t say I knit this as a statement against ignorance. But this kind of knitting feels like my own little path of totality to keep my fingers calmly and constructively moving through another year of shit, coming out at the other end with something soft and warm – and I won’t say safe, since there are no “safe places,” and let’s face it, a scarf could be quite deadly as a garrote, or a gag, or bindings in the middle of nowhere without access to food and drink (though it would make it at least a cozy slow death).

I was a little surprised that I finished it by my secret deadline, and by the end of the summer. I’d started it in the mountains and planned to work on it in another set of mountains later this year, but I’ll likely be wearing it there instead – it’s already my new favorite even in the muggy dog days.

The yarn was from a thrifted JCrew cardigan, slightly felted, in a wool, cashmere, viscose, and rabbit (I’m assuming angora) blend – and it is mad soft and not at all sneezy, with great drape and enough definition.

I would have liked it to be a bit larger – I was hoping that the last band of garter would be twice as wide as the one before it, and I lost yarn chicken twice at the end and had to unknit a couple of times, but it is large enough.

A couple of heads up about the pattern that are obvious for those in the know, but need to be stated for those who aren’t (me), especially if you deviate from the stripe sequence like I did. The stitch counts will be off unless each section is done in even numbers of the pattern repeat, so after the set up, if you want to keep doing lace, then start with row 3 of the lace pattern. I was often off with this, randomly ending up with 2 (as per pattern) or 3 stitches at the end. It didn’t really matter to me since fudge is good to do and to eat, but I kinda preferred ending in 3 stitches – if I did it again, I’d keep up with the 3 (or more) stitches at the end of the lace since a tiny bit more of garter makes the edge a little more stable. And then I can’t really describe this but the first row of garter after the lace makes a row of stockinette, so the lace sections aren’t symmetrical – again, it didn’t bother me enough to figure out how to fix it (a row of purl somehow?) but I think it could make some itchy.

This (or rather another loose variation thereof) will likely be on my needles again. And I’ve got my eye out for another one of these sweaters – wondering if it came in other colors – not that I don’t love this olive though, it’s among of my favorites. And this finishing up older projects thing has been working for me these days although everything that is left is vastly more complicated – but my path of unfinished totality is pleasantly closing in…

 

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Ahoy, more scraps!

These days are busy.

The blizzard (was that just last week?) got things off track a bit.

I’ve been selling off a lot of my old stuff online – both vintage old and cool – and my old still-usable discards. It’s kind of a drag, but more is leaving the house than is coming in, and I’ve got a little more cash. It’s weird though, the more recent stuff is selling better than the vintage things – kinda sad.

Another thing that is slightly sad is the craft supply thrift store place in my town closed down – I learned just a day after they’d had the last weekend clear-out sale too. I certainly didn’t help keep them in business – I think I spent $18 there once, but mostly it was about $6 every couple of months on a wad of fabric scraps and old sewing notions.

I didn’t get this there, but it was the kind of thing I’d find – a bag full of someone’s potential quilt pieces, or quilt scraps.

I found this at one of our regular antique mall in the sticks haunts – a gallon sized bag of a decent stack of pieces/scraps.

The fabric could date to WWII, or maybe a bit later, but probably not much into the ’60s? I’m not sure, but it “feels” ’40s to me.

Some days I think they’re the negative space pieces cut away from something else.

Some days I think the two curved pieces are an undersized sail and jib for the striped boat.

Some days I think about selling them.

What little swelling of patriotism I’ve ever had is utterly deflated now, so the mere juxtaposition of red, white, and blue makes me shudder.

But I “feel” that they’re older and their other pieces were lovingly made to comfort someone going away, or being welcomed home, or for a baby who might never meet its father (or less possibly, mother). Or maybe these are the pieces and the project was futile – the person never came home?

Perhaps the next step is to search for WWII era patchwork patterns and see if something makes sense.

Or just sell them.

Probably for a least a little more than $2.50.

 

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Failures and fluff

I still haven’t gotten the hand-cranked Singer up to speed – I was waiting to order more cleaning/greasing supplies (and the blasted always forgotten spool pin) until I knew I didn’t need anything else…

Because another sewing machine came home with me.

There was a label on it that read: “works, needs new belt.”

I cleaned the case and the machine, picked out the motor belt and other belt that I thought I might need, and just before I placed my order, I figured I should plug it in…

The light works, the motor is blown.

But whatever – it was only $12, I didn’t need it, (and why didn’t I test it at the store like I usually do?) but I have it now, and perhaps I’ll try to replace the motor, or perhaps I’ll take it right back to ReStore – only with proper identification of its faults this time.  It’s also a bit young for my machine tastes, but it is the next version of my mom’s sewing machine, and it’s got a zigzag (I just have one machine that can do that now), and it actually dates to around the years of me, so there’s a bit of a nostalgia thing going – if I get it back up and running, perhaps I can go whole-hog authentic on my ’70s quilt (that I haven’t started yet).

*************

In a moment of frustration and brain failure a few weeks ago, I took a break to make a cheery pompom.

I thought I knew how to make pompoms, but like the sewing machine, some shit from the 70s doesn’t work anymore…

I’m not enamored/charmed/giggleful with them, and I certainly didn’t embrace their bombastic return a few years ago, but I have some thoughts on their usefulness now that may or may not come to fruition.

And I wouldn’t mind topping a hat with one, once in a while…

But a second try (and a video) brought success.

Now I just need to control myself from trimming them down to nothing…

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One from the scrap heap

I need to lighten my stash, I’ve been wanting to start some scrappy projects, and I needed a gift, so once again my mother will soon be the recipient of a project that might go very wrong, but I’ll still finish it and give it to her (like this hat).

scrapheap

On the heap are several unraveled thrift sweaters including a few that had [abandoned] intentions of becoming pussyhats, one or two from last spring or early summer, a never-ending cone of (I suspect, but I still haven’t tested) faux or partially faux, mohair – fauxhair? from the Cascine market in Firenze several years ago…

boot-redo-firenze

…a few balls of wool from the big box craft store that I got on the cheap nearly, or over, a decade ago to make into felted bags (I still haven’t put the handles on a couple I made around that time, but I do see myself eventually making more, so it’s not urgent I use it all up), the last bit of my kool-aid dyed yarn, and finally, and possibly regretfully, some novelty yarns – yes, a “fur”(must be under the other stuff in the pic) and some metallics. I kinda sorta like metallic yarns – if mixed well enough with wool, they feel okay and fancy up a handknit – I wear this batkus with a tiny silver thread that never shows up in photos at least once a week:

baktus3-restaurant

And recently unraveled this one…

…but I’m not so sure about gold since I don’t wear it, and I should put it in this project, but it’s just enough to make a shawl-thing on its own, so I don’t want to shortchange it. But I think I got a few balls of metallic yarns with the intention of making some knitted jewelry – ropey lariat things – but the coppery one seen above and below is fairly thick and unpleasant on its own, and most times I’d rather have a scarf, so that is no longer an intended project…

But for a long time I’ve been wanting to make some grand, chaotic, scraptacular feather & fan/old shale shawls.

A perimenopausal aesthetic has taken over and I want more drama in my knits.

I took a baby step toward this with this shawl from a few years ago that I thought I was going to sell, but have kept to use while being utterly stationary at the computer.

spring-shug or shawl

It’s made up of two sweaters – one was a blue Shetland thrifted one, and the other (I wore in the ’90s) was an Italian multicolored mohair mix that I doubled, and that was a mistake – I ran out of it before I got the length I wanted. But it’s wide, and some days I think of making a dramatic shrug out of it, or just adding more length with the blue wool, but it functions well enough for what I use it for, so best leave well enough alone.

But my mom needed a more practical scarf and I needed to finish it in a reasonable amount of time, so I’m going sideways on big, but not too large, needles with nearly all garter stitch except for a wavy-making row every 4 or so.

It now has the fun fur and hot pink silk from an ’80s skirt and it’s drunkenly teetering on the line of fuglytown…

…so it’s time for more metallics and even louder colors, right?

 

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