Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I hope that everyone is being happy little witches and wizards today!!

My friend Nad sent me the most wonderful Hallow's Eve package in the mail:


This is the new Harry Potter sock yarn in the Hedwig Owl colourway! Hooray!!! I have a special idea for a pattern in my mind just waiting to attach itself to this yarn...

Isn't the tiny skein great? Its the Harry Potter colourway... and the wrapped package is a stack of music CD's of the group Harry and the Potters singing such rocking tunes as Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock and Luna Lovegood is OK.

Have a wonderfully spooky day and night, little batling friends! I'll be flying with you in spirit.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I had one of those weeks – those weeks where you get a call from the doctor’s office and they say “we saw something on the xray…” and you have call back a million times and then go into the hospital and have a million tests and several doctors come in and stand by your bed and talk about your tests in front of you but to each other….and you’re really grouchy to everyone who comes in to take care of you. (oh, you’re not really grouchy? Well…hmmmm...I am.)

But finally, one doctor comes in, and she’s nice and intelligent, and a good communicator. And she says, “it’s nothing – well, a mysterious something, but not cancer.” And you finally get to get dressed, and go home, and you’re sore all over, and embarrassed that you cried in front of them.

This is me, curled under the ugly scrap blanket. Don’t you find that crochet is so comforting when you are stressed? When times are hard, I get out this blanket and add a few rows, going around and around the outer edges, sort of like a square spiral…


It’s made out of all the bits of all the other projects I’ve made in the past several years. When I look at it and run my hands over all the different textures and colours, all the beauty of the various finished projects that are now living other lives with their recipients comes back to me. It’s very comforting and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

I have a new project in process. It’s another Shetland Triangle, from 100% Silk in Oregon Clover Honey (made by Blue Moon Fiber Arts). This is such a fast and easy pattern (if you don’t count the number of times I had to search the entire house for the pattern which – of course – I hadn’t put back in its place when I finished with it last time) and I think the luminous silk makes the little leaves look like phases of the moon!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Girl Guiding with Wool

I have met many nice people on Ravelry, but one of the nicest is my friend Melanie. Melanie lives in the frozen North... perhaps that is why she loves those soft yarns that you can wear so comfortably around your neck!

Recently, she sent me a package of wonderful surprises, and I was delighted to find this, wrapped in pretty tissue:

Wool 'round the Year
is an official publication of the Canadian Girl Guides from 1950. Just like the American Girl Scouts, girl guides got badges for achievement of skills, and one of those seems to be for working with wool.

This book covers making things with wool felt (puppets, needle books, lapel pins, flowers), sewing clothing out of wool cloth as well as how to shop for wool from a mill (for economy) and how to clean and preserve wool.

The very best, and largest section of the book, though, is on knitting...


The patterns are very 50's: Bobbie socks, Argyle, "Weskits" (vests), and twin set cardigans and pullover sweaters...


I do plan to try out these patterns. They are the epitome of those wardrobe basics and that would make Tim Gunn proud to look in my closet! I would make the cardigan a little longer (and make one of the wool felt lapel pins for it) and make the turtleneck a little looser, but their classic style is still appropriate. It would make me feel like Audrey Hepburn!

I love these Argyle stockings:


and think I should make them in sky blue with the main diamond in this colour,


and the secondary diamond in cream or very, very pale green....


Monday, October 13, 2008

jam for brains....

so. I've been putting lots of time into getting this falling-down farmhouse into some semblance of water-and-wind tightness before winter... all day, every day has been spent painting, hammering, cutting boards, lifting posts, pruning, clearing, and then soaking my aching body in green salts... I am not a heavy-lifting kind of person in general, more comfortable lifting a book than a fence post, but 'needs must when the devil drives' as a loquacious painter told me when viewing my fallen-down barn wall...

this is my brain:



this is my brain on jam:



soon to be very cherry jam, indeed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the waning....

It's Fall and the maple leaves are turning bright reds, yellows, and burgundies, and for some reason I always think of Junior High and how I used to put away my summer clothes and get out the warmer things to be prepared for the harsh New England winter to come. We haven't had much of a warm Fall this year - its been very cold - but yesterday's sun was a pleasant exception...


I have no knitting news. I've taken some time off from work to repair my house (the back wall of the barn fell down!) and let me tell you, communicating with workmen is an art of it own! skillz...I needz them!

Well, okay - maybe a little knitting news....

My boyfriend's mother is getting THIS for Christmas in a muted natural cashmere (he talked me into it!).... and his sister is getting a Shetland triangle out of this (Blue Moon Fiber Arts Single Silk in the Oregon Clover Honey colourway):


Meanwhile, I'm sawing boards and wielding an electric screwdriver instead of knitting needles and a paintbrush instead of a crochet hook. And I have a skunk building his winter nest under my front porch and a spider the size of Texas trying to annex the entryway...


fun and games...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My other life (number 27)

Those of you who know me IRL, know that I've been living several lives at once for a long time. Like Paul Revere (though not as brilliant, of course), who was a politician, a craftsman, a landlord, and a shop-keeper, I move from one castle of the heart to another - sometimes through several different occupational identities in the same day. One of my other lives is as an antique textiles restorer.

The piece that I'm working on is an 88 square cotton crochet coverlet. Its owner tried to brighten it by soaking in bleach. And bleach, as we all know, is an eroder of natural fibers - it literally eats them away.... when you lift the item from its bleachy bath - whether it's antique lace or cotton lingerie - this is what you find:


My heart goes out to lovely antique lace or clothing painstakingly handmade that has been destroyed in a matter of minutes by an uninformed descendant and inherited by a chagrined historical society or museum.


The first thing I do is to lay the lace on a dark surface and catalog the damage. I make a grid or use graph paper and designate each square by horizontal and vertical rows to note both its specific destruction and how many stitches are needed to mend it and what kind. For instance, the tear above is

#15 2/5 to 2/6; 3 triangles 4 loops 2 st

This coverlet had 102 areas needing mending.

Matching the weight and colour of the original materials is an important prep step, too. I have a collection of vintage crochet threads and knitting yarns that I use for this purpose. Usually lace thread this old is the colour of old bones. But in the case of cotton crochet thread that has been bleached, new white thread is needed to match the now too-white colour.


In most cases, I use my antique tools in order to match the size and effect of the original stitches as closely as possible. Most of the old crochet hooks that I have were inherited from relatives and most of my antique knitting needles have been gifts from my friend Marky. The particular lace hooks that I used for this bit of lace were a gift from my bf one Christmas:


Over time, cotton crochet stitches pull against each other and tighten so that it's sometimes hard to get even a lace hook between the threads. In many places I didn't have the tiny hook size I needed so I crocheted with the tip of a sewing needle.

I also use any vintage books I have to look up the lace pattern that was used in the original. I don't have nearly the archive that I need, and in this case I ended up recreating a square of the pattern by counting stitches visually. Once I've established in my mind how each part of the original was created, I use that knowledge to mend the individual portions. In this case, the design was a multiple of three: each part was either 3 stitches, 6, 9, or 12 stitches, etc. This helps to keep the proportions of the mended parts equal to the original parts. After this, it's just a matter of painstakingly and methodically moving from one square to the next, referring to my grid and sample-square notes, and mending, mending, mending. I always incorporate any remaining ends of threads into the mend - this results in a stronger overall fabric that won't unravel through another 100 years of wear.

Here are the photos of the same area as the first one, above, after I was finished:



Wednesday, October 1, 2008