Tag Archives: cotton

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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Filed under collecting, quilts, recycling, sewing

Let’s hope this one doesn’t take 15 years…

I might regret this, but I want another cotton blanket, and soon – we’ve been fighting over the one.

So I took two of N’s old sweaters:

brown black sweaters

And reduced them to stringy cakes:

brown black yarn

I started with a linen-stitch thing, but the colors don’t have much contrast (these photos lie a bit) and though that pattern is speedy, it’s not as speedy and nearly 99% foolproof as knitting only.

So I ripped and started over.

I like reversible blankets, but this one won’t be, but so be it – I wanted to do all garter stitch, but in the round I’d have to purl, and that slows me down a tiny bit and/or taxes my wrist a bit more, so I’ll only do a few all-garter bands here and there – it’s mostly the same pattern as the other blanket I finished last year.

I knit the center garter rectangle at the shore. Cotton turns out to be a very good beach knitting material, so that just bought me a few good chunks of knitting time (if the weather cooperates with our time and ability to go – we’re now just slightly over an hour to the shore rather than the 35-40 minutes it took when we lived in the ghastly vinyl village).

brown black blanket

(Let’s hope its expression isn’t a true expression of how it feels…)

And seashells work for for emergency stitch markers…

brown black shell

I’m not happy that the gauge is so loose – loose gauge is up on the list of my knitting pet peeves, but the next size needle down is on another project, and the next one after that just seems wrong to use on a large project that I want to believe will be quick, or at least not slow…

But ugh, cotton… My wrists and hands can only take a few rounds at a time, and the rounds are still short…

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Filed under home, home decor, knitting, recycling

Anatomy of a hex

I’ve yammered on about my love of the hexagon shape for a bit now, and have finally put needle to cloth and started to play…

hex-green

I’m still obsessed with the hex-tile floor and passing though my old city recently, I was shocked to see more lovely old buildings ripped out and re-planted with soulless new shitboxes. All of the other lovely and unique architectural details destroyed aside, I mourn for the very likely loss of hex-tiled entrances, halls, coatrooms, mudrooms, bathrooms, and maybe even kitchens. I still dream of living in a house that was untouched by vinyl, paneling, laminate, textured paint, beige ceramic tile, and all other destructive DIY – unless it was carpeted and paneled in a way that preserved everything underneath and it would be a matter of unwrapping a lovely surprise room to room…

But  I digress…

To date, all of my fiber hexing has been via the English paper-piercing method. I ordered some pre-cut little buggers last year and was on the lookout for some plastic ones I’d seen that require basting stitches cinched up, but weren’t stocked in my area until I forgot about them. I started cutting some shapes out of mylar to try out the general idea, but got distracted and moved on.

hex-plastic

The plastic ones reappeared at the big box recently, and at a time when I had good coupons, so I finally got some thinking that I would fall in love with them and they would last forever and I was happy that they were manufactured in the USA… But sadly, I just couldn’t get them to work for me (or I’m too set in my paper-piercing ways).

The main problems were: I had to run too many basting stitches, it was fiddly to get the tension right and the corners sharp, they are too thick to finger-press the fabric, they are slick, and the whole thing took longer.

I should back up first – I’m working on a project that needs to be very portable and not require electricity (will take on a rustic vacation later this summer) and I’m making it out of old shirts that have some poly or stretch that makes the fabric harder to control. The plastic shapes did work better with rougher, stiffer quilting cotton or  good lay with a hot iron, so all hope isn’t lost for them, but they’re just now what I need right now.

(And in general, I’m usually working on pieced things on another floor from the ironing board, or on a hot day when the iron is banned.)

So I attempted to make them more usable by drilling some holes to provide better stability with a piercing method. That helped a good deal, but I was still slow in finding the drill holes with the needle, the thickness still prevented a good finger press, and they were still too slippery.

hex-drilled

So I tried to drill some bigger holes and score the surface with a variety of rasps, but that was an utter failure…

hex-fail

So finally, I just used the shape as a template on the other half of the coupon used to purchase them (and lifted from the recycling bin) and voila, success!

hex-samples

But that was the only piece of scrap card stock in the house, so I have to wait for the mail to arrive (for a few days likely) to obtain more…

hex-templates

This piece might end up into something finished, and perhaps something with a bit of meaning… but the green hexies at the top are just a doodle for now.

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From dirt to delicious

We installed a few rain barrels off of our gutters back in April.

N tapped into his Roman ancestral knowledge of aqueduct engineering and rigged a system to flow away from the utility meters and wiring at one corner of the house a barrel down a hill and close to one of the garden gates.

Then it didn’t rain…

Until the first week of June.

(In the meantime we rigged over 200 feet of hoses from a very stupidly placed spigot on the opposite side of the house to the somewhat delicate well and I had more than one fit of anxiety over the whole thing…)

But now the barrels are filled, the garden is going really well (except for a moderate skirmish with the three-lined potato beetle on our too-few tomatillo plants that seems to be under control now thanks to neem oil, and aphids or something on  the eggplant, but I’m not that crazy about eggplant* anyway) and we’ve been able to stuff our gobs from it a bit.

pasta-rapini

I was a vegetarian for most of the 1990s and early 00s and lived in a city that only caught up with food trends (and since far exceeded them) in the last decade or so. Going out to dinner meant getting the same delicious eastern/easternish ethnic thing over and over and over and over again (vegetable lo mein, falafel, veggie korma, etc. ) or something that was often disappointing and not worth it – especially in “Italian” (Italian-American) restaurants where my only option was

pasta primavera.

Those two words in combination are a quick ticket to destroying my appetite.

The veg was almost always out of season, overcooked, under or over seasoned; the pasta was always bland and overcooked, and then there would sometimes be an overwhelming inappropriate flavor – dried herbs or an entire grove’s worth of lemons.

But N recently whipped up a little variation with some baby rapini I just thinned from our dirt, and local veg from a new-to-us organic farm just a couple of miles away, and my faith in the dish is restored.

pasta primavera

(Though I’ll still never order it again in an American restaurant…)

Since then, and after perhaps too much rain, (but I’m not complaining at all, but have had to try to air out the dirt a bit) the whole edible green-goodness has gone gangbusters. That baby rapini went big fast and has replaced our need to purchase any supplemental greens. I’m a bit worried about the zucchini only still producing male blossoms, but there’s still time for the ladies, and the dudes are at least tasty in the interim.

blossom salad

(And I don’t want to jinx it, but we might actually have ripe tomatoes in a couple of weeks which I can’t believe and I’m so excited about, but it almost doesn’t seem real, and it could all utterly fail before then…)

But for not expecting much in the first year of our dirt, I’m exceptionally pleased.

Although weeding and general garden-tending has taken a considerable bite out of my sewing/knitting/puttering time…

*Eggplant Parmesan was also one of the few dishes I could get as a vegetarian, and was most often a disaster, so it killed my taste for the veg all together – I’m only just now warming back up to it, though I’d rather have it grilled or mushed up into baba ghanoush, or baba ghannouj, or babaganouj or however the hell it’s spelled…

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A time to dye

I had one of those stupid frustrating telecommuting days last week wherein I couldn’t connect with my work computer…

and couldn’t connect with a person there who could re-connect my computer to me…

So I couldn’t work, but I had plans to work so that I’d have time later in the week to do some non-work work, and I really couldn’t stand not being able to get the work work over and was frustrated and pissy and feeling like I didn’t exist – a feeling probably common to telecommuters, but I don’t know any others so it might just be me, and there are times when in fact, I do not exist…

So I did something I hadn’t planned on doing any time soon to ease my unease.

I thrifted some comfy but insanely red linen pants  last year, and though I like bold color, I have a few red t-shirts, many green t-shirts, and most often wear a pair of yellow sandals, so I either looked like a cardinal (bird), Christmas, or condiments if I wore any of them with the pants.

(And I don’t really like yellow mustard, especially next to ketchup).

I also had a sorry once lavender t-shirt, and a commercially sewn floral canvas bag that served its purpose at the time, but I never use anymore and keep almost getting rid of it…

teal dye-before

I also have a few old boxes of that powdered dye knocking about, so I simmered the threesome in teal (which really was more turquoise).

I wanted the pants to be anything other than bright red, and was hoping for burgundy, purplish, brown, or some murkier variation thereof.

teal dye-during

And now all is well, except for the bag – I’m really ready to get rid of it finally.

I know the dye won’t stick around forever, and I know well enough to only wash these things with darker things, but since the pants and shirt were already old, the dye should hopefully hold up for the rest of their lifespans, or else the yellow sandals might wear out by the time the pants become red again…

teal dye-after

And it also became evident that the pant’s manufacturer made no effort to match the inside button to the outside and/or made the inside button match the outside, but the outside button an odd beige (now pleasingly turquoise) accent piece…?

teal dye-button

Or perhaps the original owner replaced it…

Either way, now I’m either a giant gradient when wearing a red t-shirt, pleasantly almost-complementary when wearing green, and let’s just say I’m enjoying a robust red with something mustard-schmeared…

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The UFO has landed!

 cottonblanket-finished

So yeah, I think this is the second-longest project I’ve had going, and it’s not amazing, and it wasn’t difficult, and I guess this is a great example of me going off on a tangent, getting sidetracked, distracted, moving-on-to-other-things-before-finishing-something-else-first, etc., etc., etc.  In my defense, cotton is painful to knit and I got the confidence (or my sometimes slow brain started firing up) to move past plain old garter stitch when I was halfway through it. (I still do love garter though, especially since it rhymes with farter).

I first mentioned the blanket here, as one of my publicly declared UFOs I sort of intended to finish that year, and it was also somewhat responsible for the start of my blogging.

DSCF3594 - Copy

In the beginning, I wanted a cotton blanket for summertime sofa use.  I wanted it to be reversible, and portable, so I made stripes/strips to sew together – only I didn’t pay attention to how long I made them and ended up with several (stupidly bound-off) in different lengths.  The above image shows the way it looked c. 2008, and I don’t even know when I started it, but it was around 2001, and most of it was done c. 2001-2002.

(I’m tempted to go though my actual physical photographs to see if I can find one with it visible – crumpled in on the side table in my old apartment, but that would be yet another massive distraction).

I finally started back to work on it and came up with the plans for its final design in the Adirondacks last year – we traveled a lot when we lived in our last shitty apartment – if not for these fun weekends away, I probably would’ve have been eaten alive by the ner-do-well teens that spent too much time in the parking lot.

cotton blanket

And I made a little more progress in the White Mountains last year when the power went out.

campfire knitting

Then I put it down for a year while I worked on other things, but I left it in a handy place when we moved this last time so I wouldn’t have “loosing it in the move” as an excuse not to finish it.

I worked on it in the White Mountains again this summer – this time I had a nice chunk of time since I could’t hike.

newhampshire-blanketinprogress

I forgot to bring the yarn for one too-short multicolored stripe (I actually wondered why I had the stuff, and forgot what it was for!) and just finished it in white instead, which ended up to make for a better design in the end anyway.

And then I f*cked it up – I forgot that I had planned to do the two white stripes in the center (I even had photo evidence of the plan!) and I thought about keeping it as-is, but I ripped and re-sewed instead.

newhampshire-blanketfuckup

I got back on track, though sometimes I think I prefer the mistake version…

newhampshire-blanketbackontrack

And went I home with most of the ends sewn in and only the border to do.  I don’t love that knitting on the border made it no longer reversible, and I considered sewing on the border too, but I wanted the satisfaction of running the last few laps round and round, though they were very long and painful ones.

cottonblanket-corner

 So it got a simple mitered corner.

cottonblanket-done

And it actually matches our living room again – at least the yellow walls, and the [temporary] beige linen curtains.

Though we already need wool – the cotton doesn’t cut it for more than a few degrees of chill…

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Filed under home decor, knitting, travel

Feeling peckish…

I hate most fabric marketed to babies, or rather their keepers, since perhaps babies would really just like giant boob prints, but most of it is just pathetic and timid, too cartoonish, sometimes oddly and vaguely religious, too pale and sickly pastel, and just plain ugly (however I do like some vintage baby prints).

But this one caught my eye a bit ago, and I knew about an upcoming wee one that needed a sewn item.

woodpecker-fabric.com

(Michael Miller fabric, pic from fabric.com)

I don’t make many things for babies now – at first I made many things because I only knew one.  Then more people started having them, and then the first one got a sibling, and I couldn’t keep up, or the charm wore off, or they started to blur together in a drooling blob and I couldn’t remember what I’d made and for whom.

(My apologies to all of those second children out there.)

So I whipped up a little quilt for the wall, but it could still be used as a quilt.  I had a grand idea of massive three dimensional applique with crazy depth and perspective, but in the end I kept it simple – a bit of applique birds and leaves and machine quilting.

woodpecker quilt

I had to buy thread again too – you’d think I would have learned from the last time I moved and couldn’t find it…

But the paint is drying in my new studio room at the moment, and next will be a freshly sealed floor (and then it has to become the bedroom for a while while I work on that room) and then I’ll be able to unpack allllllll of my sewing things!  So I see that day not so far off in the distance now.

But back to woodpeckers – I’m a fan of them.

I like their almost jungle-sounding call.

And their rat-tat-tat drilling (as long as it isn’t the house).

And though I don’t like that they damaged our lovely Magnolia, I’m fascinated by the pattern that they made – almost as if the tree had ripped out stitches…

woodpecker damage

…or machine gun fire.

woodpecker damage with moss

Maybe the yard is run by Woodi Peccaroni, the ancient don of the fermented tree sap bootlegging era…

 

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