11-16-2010: banishing the demons

I woke up in a bad mood this morning, having come to the decision last night that my muslin for the Vogue Cynthia Steffe pattern was not going to work out.  It has eight(!) inset corners in the bodice and bodice lining, and I really hate sewing those.  So that wasn’t great, but what really did it in was the massive size of the sleeves – even pleated the way the pattern asks they were a bit overwhelming for my frame.  So I put it away (I am planning to rescue the skirt portion as soon as I get some wide elastic for a waistband.)  I’m going to start my cord shirtdress instead.

To cheer myself up I finished a few refashions from my pile (yes, I have a backlog of things to alter from the thrift store!)  Here is the first:

Dress: Merona, thrifted

Scarf: Merona (current season)

Tights: Betsey Johnson

Boots: Unisa

It was so dark and rainy today that I had to snap photos on the back porch (which, if you will notice, is falling apart… must remember not to stand on that corner!)

This dress was thrifted back when I lived in Bloomington, so about eight years ago.  It’s made of a thin t-shirt material, and has all the style of a potato sack, seriously.  It used to have a sad little self belt, but that has long since been lost.  For years this was my funeral dress.  You see, part of my old job required me to attend an average of one funeral a week,  and this was safe and basic.  I nearly got rid of it my last closet purge (as, thank goodness, I no longer have to attend a crazy number of depressing funerals,) but I held onto it, thinking it might be worth a refashion.

I cut 4 and a half inches off, and did a wavylettuce edge hem with the serger.  Then, paired  with a belt and some colorful accessories, the dress starts to lose some of its funeral connotations!

Other thoughts:

– I actually paid full price for this scarf.  How could I not?  It’s both leopard print and one of my favorite colors!

– I’m experimenting with colored tights.  I like the look with boots because it gives color without being overwhelming.

– I need to make a few black dresses – they work so well as a backdrop, but they are so boring to sew!

Epic thrifting day

I have a great love for thrift stores – when I was little we were very poor, but my Mom made bargain shopping into a game.  I still enjoy it!  I also like a lot of variety, but retail prices make me flinch.  I have literally no clothing budget except for my sewing.   Today I went to one of the larger Goodwills in town.  I had been on the verge of giving it up, as it seemed lately that they suffered from the same issue that all the southern Indiana stores have – very little in my size, and in fact, very little that wasn’t recent season Wal-mart discards and such.  I thrift to get nicer things than I could otherwise afford, and I could afford to shop at Wal-mart (but I don’t… it’s such an unpleasant place.)
I don’t know what happened, but it seemed that today there was plenty of merchandise in my size, from very nice brands – and even some actual vintage, which I find is quite rare in a Goodwill (I think it must get shipped to their boutique stores.)  Of course, it may also be that I was on my own – I often thrift with my husband, but he does not have the patience that I do to sift through every single rack in the store (and it is a very large store.)  I was there for two hours, but I think I made up for my recent absence from the thrift scene.
Skirts.  I have found that skirts are very easy to alter, so I have started buying them too large and altering to fit.  The red skirt  is vintage Pendleton wool – never worn, see the tag still attached!  It’s too big, but it’s easily altered.  I already washed it in Eucalen to remove the thrift store stink (how is it that all thrift stores smell the same?) and Leon slept on it (cats have an irresistible urge to sleep on wet laundry I find.) thus the wrinkles.    The other plaid skirts are also nice – the olive/purple miniskirt fits really well, and just to show you how sizing has changed, it’s a size 8 (I think it’s from the 80s, based on the tag.)  Now I usually have to buy a 2 in skirts, which I think is just silly.  I put most of these skirts in the “to be altered” pile – even if they fit they are often a low-waisted style, and I’ve definitely decided that low-rise skirts do not suit me at all.
This coat was a great find – vintage 100% cashmere, fur collar, silk lining in perfect condition except for one tiny, easily repaired rip where the sleeve lining attaches.   Sadly, it doesn’t fit me as well as I hoped, being a few sizes too big, so it is probably destined for ebay.
Various jackets… the one on the right is a Banana Republic equestrian style that appears to have never been worn, with great elbow patches.  I don’t know how I found these, because I never have any luck at all in the jacket section!  I have lately become enamoured with wearing blazers open over full skirts to extend the summer skirt season, but I had very few jackets anymore.
Many tops… you can never have too many I think, though when I had all these in my cart I was actually approached three times by people who thought I worked there!  I find that I don’t enjoy making tops as much as dresses and skirts, so I’d rather thrift those items than have to worry about making my own.  These will be worked into my wardrobe.  I need to get to making those two black skirts – I have fabric for a pencil style and a more full style, both with the thought of wearing them with my more colorful blouses.  Most of these are from Ann Taylor or NY&Co.
I bought this 80s sweater because I liked the color.  Is this style back yet?  I’m seeing the giant dolman sleeved sweaters everywhere, but that is really not a good look on me (though fab on others.)  This is better – volume on the top, but since my arms are free I don’t look like an enormous bat.
I even found a few dresses, after picking through a sea of ugly 80s denim jumpers.  The green print dress is clearly home sewn, and I had to buy it for that reason.  It needs taking in around the bust, but it will be cute next summer.  I love the teal wrap dress, which is sort of an empire wrap.  Works better on me than a waist wrap.  The calico dress is to wear with my cowboy boots and a jacket – I’ve seen a few women in similar outfits this fall, and I like the style.
And a purse… it isn’t a fancy purse, but I thought the stripes were fun.  I’m thinking early 90s maybe?  I seem to recall this sort of Ralph Lauren stripe being popular then.  Purses are stupid cheap at Goodwills here – $1.50 each.
And finally, I bought this set of vintage sheets to use as dress fabric.  I thought there was something I liked about the pattern, but it wasn’t until I had washed it and hung it over the balcony that I realized it forms a very MC Escher type 3d print.  My husband (the math nerd) was very excited to point that out to me.  I don’t know how old these are, but the fitted sheet does not have elastic, just a zigzagged edge.  Is that a clue?
Does anyone else share my love of thrifting?  None of my friends do… in fact, I bet they would be shocked if they realized what percentage of my wardrobe is thrifted.  It’s why I say sewing is not saving me anything – yes, it’s cheaper than retail, but I don’t shop retail!  That’s ok though… I just put it in my entertainment budget instead.
I’m hoping to start on my polka dot dress today… I was going to cut the fabric last night, but there was a giant wasp in my sewing room.  I’m a big wuss when it comes to anything that could sting me, so I shut it in and waited til my husband got up this morning to take care of it.  Hopefully today!


I’m at home tonight, ignoring all the fireworks.  July 4th is my least favorite holiday – it involves picnics and sudden loud noises, two things which I don’t really enjoy (and yes, I know… everyone loves a picnic except me, but I have major bug phobia.)

Instead I have started the packing process (half our things are already packed away in storage, so it really isn’t too many boxes) and I’m still working on babette!

I still have lots of squares to go, and I’m starting to feel the need for another break… I don’t want to burn myself out.  I don’t think I ever before understood how long it takes to make a blanket, but you all have my respect now!  Maybe I will try working on Joy some more (I stopped because the denim was hurting my wrists and the pattern was hurting my brain… I wish more Rowan patterns had charts!)

Last weekend we visited Marc’s family, and we managed to hit some of the thrifts there.  For some reason they have better Goodwill stores there.  Ours, while cheaper, are always junky and overcrowded with poorly organized stuff.  I got some t-shirts for the upcoming home renovations (I always look for the strangest ones to get paint on) and I also found one of my favorite thrifted books ever.

It’s a sort of guidebook to being a wife, and while I suspect that even at the time of publication (1964)  it was outdated, I still think it’s super fun!  It has a whole chapter devoted to picking out furniture for your new home, and includes such admonitions as “make sure to get furniture large enough for your husband!”

The chapter on furniture arrangement helpfully shows you how to display way too many things over your sofa.

I think it’s funny that the random letters on the wall thing seems to have come back, and whose family didn’t have a giant key on the wall (mine did – and you could hang keys on it too!)  I seriously covet the sofa, even in a drawing.  Our sofa (see above) was reasonably priced, but it’s still too overstuffed for my taste.  Ah well – I had to get one large enough for my husband, right ladies?

The book has lists of things to outfit your kitchen, and a chapter on setting a nice table (tablescapes!)  It also contains a number of recipes, and the photos accompanying these are predictably bad, as they always are in these old books.  But the recipe below… even the nicest modern camera couldn’t make that look good.

Why yes… those are indeed brussles sprouts in a cranberry rice ring, why do you ask?

Friday is for shopping…

Today it is anyway.  This afternoon I hit my favorite thrift store and the LYS.  I may have mentioned how much I love thrifting before… I think it’s the thrill of the hunt, plus you meet the most interesting people at thrift stores.  I’m usually shy, but thrift store people just start talking (ok, sometimes to invisible people, but still…)  It was a pretty good day, I managed to dig up a few cute tops, some summery skirts, and a purse I love, all for under $20 (there are a few items I didn’t take photos of too)

The bag is made of felt, and is precisely the sort of thing I would make if I made bags (which I don’t… my lone bag (The Fat Bottom bag) lies unlined and unloved because I fear sewing.)  My wardrobe is ridiculously huge, in spite of the fact that I regularly give things away or sell them at the consignment store, and I blame my thrifting habit.  I try not to let myself buy sweaters anymore though, unless it’s to recycle the yarn.

I went the Knit Nook and bought 2 back issues of Vogue Knitting (there are some really nice sweaters in the winter issue) and some pretty blue mercerized cotton to make Orangina (I decided I didn’t have enough Jaeger Siena to make it with, and I really don’t think Siena is a true fingering weight.)  I can’t figure out from the label what the brand is… umm, something German?  But it’s pretty, it’s the right weight, and it was cheap, so I’m happy.

And… I got the Sea silk I purchased off of Ebay.  I totally get why people rave about this yarn – it’s so lovely, luminous, and crunchy!  I was worried about the smell, because I can be sensitive to silk smells, but it is not overwhelming at all.  And the color… oh, it’s so pretty!  This one is lighter than the others in the Glacier colorway I have seen, which is why I bought it.  I’m going to make the Montego Bay scarf from the current issue of Knitty, just as soon as I finish the Boteh Scarf (almost there!) and I have an open slot for a small item.

And so it goes… I sell yarn, and then I buy yarn.  It keeps me from feeling as though I’m hoarding, and it makes me happy!

Tonight we’re having sushi out with friends.  I love Sushi so much that Marc has had to limit me on how often we go, or I would want to go every time we went out.  Fortunately, we have friends who love it as much as I do!  Now I’m going to go read my new knitting magazines.


Last night, filled with ripple fever, I went to Michael’s crafts and actually bought yarn.  I haven’t bought yarn there in forever, but I want my ripple to be machine washable!  Here’s what I came up with for a color scheme (and I know the idea is to use up yarn, but honestly I don’t have many leftovers.)

And here’s an idea of how I want them laid out:

I think I might place an additional light blue stripe between the black and navy.  I’m considering another color instead, but I’m not sure what to chose there… any suggestions?  I chose these colors because they’re fairly neutral, they match the living room rug, and they are as far removed from the orange/rust/avocado ripple monstrosities of my childhood as possible.

I went looking for a good free ripple pattern online, but I couldn’t find one that I liked, so I made up my own.

It looks similar to the”soft waves” pattern everyone is using, and it doesn’t require me buying another book.  I’m also crocheting into the back loop in order to give more texture to the pattern.   And yes, the only other simply soft I had was hot pink… you see why I don’t want to use leftover stash yarns here?

This morning also marked the beginning of yarn sale season for me.  I know that I’ve waxed poetic about tag sales before, but I really do love them!  This morning I bought a cute (very fake) Kate Spade bag for 50 cents, and also this guy:

The wrinkling is actually the plastic it’s covered in… the print is perfect.  Isn’t it adorable?  I love his sad little face.  Also 50 cents!  and I continued my quest to own only green coffee cups.

These were a quarter.  You know, when we have to move it’s going to be because the place is overrun with yarn and random thrift finds.  That’s ok, right?

Now I know why my Mom fears the granny square

Why am I awake at 2 am? Ok, maybe that’s not a surprise; I suffer from a combination of insomnia combined with working nights, so I’m often up at 2 am… but tonight I’m awake for a special reason. I’m attempting to avoid the “second sleeve” curse on my hourglass sweater. So I’ve knitted my way through 2 episodes of Deep Space Nine and half of Star Trek IV. I’m at 10 inches on the sleeve, as you can see here

Last night I put the body onto waste yarn and tried it on. It’s going to be too big. Don’t get me wrong; it’s the size it’s supposed to be (the smallest one) it’s just that I’m apparently exceptionally teeny. The body is slightly short too. I got scared that it was going to be too long (my stitch gauge is spot on but my row gauge is off) so I somehow in my delusional state thought I had achieved 15″ and stopped. It’s actually around 14″, but I’ve decided not to fret. This sweater is made of yarn that’s mostly cotton, and I have every confidence that it will be highly blockable into a slightly longer state. Plus I’m extremely short waisted, so it’s no biggie. Most sweaters are too long for me anyway. As for the body… well, I’ll try to reserve judgement. I think it’s big, but I’ve been fooled before. I was convinced my green gable was like linebacker huge until I finished it. We’ll see… and if it turns out to big I’ll just give it to someone slightly larger than me for Christmas.

I’m taking a break from my night of endless stockinette. Remember those magazines I found from my step-grandma? I decided to read them. It’s funny – women’s magazines today never contain much in the way of actual sewing and knitting patterns. Sure, maybe the occasional craft, but these are crazy involved. And also just plain crazy.

These are from Family Circle in 1974… and yes, that is a yarn ponytail. Sure, it isn’t described that way, but it’s definitely acrylic yarn hair.

Patterns for the men in your life. This is the reason I avoided brown my entire life – memories of being dressed in coordinating poop brown and beige as a child.

I swear that poor child is wearing an afghan.

There are groovy decorating spreads too (from Woman’s day)

I would like to own every single thing in this room. Ok, maybe not the teal shag carpeting. And certainly not all in the same place. But I like the individual pieces. I wish we’d had this sort of home growing up… but our shag carpet was orange. Nothing this exciting.

Bet you didn’t know you need a special product to clean your wood paneling. I personally cannot imagine there was a time when people said things like “How can I preserve the natural beauty of my wood paneling?” I myself have been known to walk straight out of an open house the minute I saw paneling. I cannot and will not deal with its removal, and I also can’t deal with looking at it every day… and this is coming from the person who loves the color avocado in the kitchen.

Ok, enough time wasting… back to sleeve knitting with me. I’m off tomorrow, so I can rest up from the marathon then.


I have knit 2 more increase sections on the hourglass sweater, but I can’t show you.  The cat would be upset.

Poor Dionne… left here alone with me all day.  She doesn’t like me much.  She likes Marc.

Yesterday (Sunday) was insane for me.  I had to play/sing three masses, and in between we went to finish cleaning out my Step-Grandma’s house.  She died a year and a half ago, but due to family legal issues (don’t ask) we’re only now allowed to get rid of the junk.  I went through it all and found some things I could use.

I love these bowls, even though I’m not sure what their purpose is.  They have little handles, but surely you aren’t supposed to cook in them.  Ah well, I’ll just use them for decoration, in case they have like lethal amounts of mercury in them or something.  They look cute stacked on my sideboard.

Next to them are the 4 brown cornholders I found.  Didn’t everyone’s family have a set of these in the 70s? Marc is thrilled, so even though I will never in a million years make corn on the cob (I hate corn) I’ll try to find a creative use for them.
I also found out that Dorothy (my step grandma) must have been a dedicated sewer before marrying my grandpa.  Check out the collection of patterns from the 60s and 70s.

The little book is also full of patterns.  Too bad I’m not a sewer – I just adore some of these patterns, like the blue “Valentino original” on the right.  Maybe I could bust out my sewing machine… but no.  This would only lead to disaster.  These are probably destined for ebay (although I am keeping that jar of buttons.)

There were a ton of old crafting magazines.  I took them all, but I won’t be keeping most.   There are a few knitter’s magazines from the 80s that I want for the retro patterns, but most of the rest are of the “country craft” variety.  I remember the 80s, and if I never see another goose dressed up for holidays it will be too soon.
There were a few  old  women’s magazines.  I love these – and the family circle has granny square projects from 1975!

And I found the corn husk angel I made for them in the girlscouts.  See?  Always crafty!

Leon cared not a whit about any of this, but he says I’d better not take away his new magazine holder!

He was totally stuck and wedged in, but he didn’t complain!  In fact, he seemed sort of upset when we freed him.

I also got a few other things, like a bundt pan, a new avocado blender, and some cookbooks.  I was going through the extra saved recipes in one of the cookbooks when I realized they smelled exactly the way my grandparents’ house used to.  It’s funny – you wouldn’t think I would even know that smell anymore, as it’s been years since I’d been in the house.  It made me kind of sad.  Dorothy was the coolest step grandma imaginable – she wore makeup and fashionable clothes, and always was obsessed with weight, wanting my tips (this explains all the mid-70s Weight Watcher magazines I found.)   She was my grandpa’s second wife, after an unhappy first marriage.  He bought her a fur coat and diamonds, and showered her with trips to Branson.  It was the first time I remember him seeming happy.
After my grandpa died she stayed a member of the family, coming to holiday dinners and writing me birthday checks.  Her own son was, I think, somewhat lacking.  By keeping and using some of her things, it makes her feel more like my real grandma… which I suppose in a way she was.  I don’t feel a connection to my actual grandma, who was mentally ill and died when I was seven.  Dorothy was always special to me, and today I miss her.

I’m making Rosemary bread  in the breadmaker right now.  If you’re ever looking for a bread recipe to go with italian food, I can’t recommend this one enough.  It makes a bread that is almost like foccacia, and is perfect for dipping in olive oil.

I’ll be making Lasagna soup tonight to go along with it.  This is a new recipe to me, so we’ll see how it goes.  I’m off from work until Wednesday, so I’m getting in some quality cooking time.  I love to cook, but my nighttime working schedule can make it difficult sometimes.  Tomorrow I plan to make Rachel Ray’s Ginger flank steak with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes.  It’s in the “Express lane meals” cookbook, which I’ve borrowed from my Mom.  I also have some Broccoli Rabe to cook with it… I’m still searching for a good recipe there.  I love Rachel Ray’s recipes… I just can’t stand to listen to her voice.  I think that counts me as a fan.