Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Retro Hat to Love: Interweave Crochet Amelia Hat and Scarf

Ok, I saw this last year in the latest Interweave Crochet Magazine. We're talking December 2009. It stuck in my mind to the point that I had to buy the issue, if only for this pattern. It's so retro. And since crochet seems to come naturally to me, whereas knitting always feels like an uphill climb on a mountain of glass shards, this just feels like the next project to do. Sometime after I finish the Gone with the Wind Hat. That would have been finished a long time ago, except it's too big, and consequently, I've just lost my mojo, since it's really only suitable for someone with big head. And I had all sorts of plans for the Gone with the Wind Hat. Tea parties. Flirtatious encounters with the matching glove kind. Heck, excursions to the next town over. Not very ambitious, but you get the idea. So the Amelia Hat and scarf seems like a nice diversion from what I'm not doing right now. Not finishing up the Gone with the Wind. I really like doing the Amelia because did you know that Amelia Earhart (and I didn't see the Hillary Swank movie, it seemed too dumb) had a line of clothes at Marshall Fields? Yes, she was one of the early celebrities with her own line. So that Chicago connection alone makes Amelia special to me. She walked the same streets I did. When I get around to making the Amelia, perhaps I'll link to some pictures of Amelia the aviator wearing her finest and prettiest. In the meantime, I'm just picturing myself in the abovementioned hat and scarf project, perhaps in brown and yellow, or how about brown and blue? That would be pretty too. Of course, the extra ambitious part of me says I need to sew a complementary leather jacket too. Just for the challenge. And to say I made the whole outfit. Dare me. Nudge me. Tell me I can do it!

Enough about me. What hats are you making now?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Get Your Vitamin D On: Anthropologie Daisy Patch Hat

If you spend any significant amount of time outside during the winter, the question of what hat to wear becomes significant and the weather forecasts are particularly important. Is there sunshine in the works? Then it's a matter of something you can wear easily with a pair of sunglasses. Wind? A lid that stays on firmly no matter what is tantamount; a floppy brim that could temporarily blind you just isn't a good idea. Even an earflap hat with ribbon ties isn't terribly practical on a blustery day - the ribbons, unless firmly looped in a tight bow, could whip against your face. Snow on its way? A hat with a firm brim is a fine idea. Lined? Even better. Bright and colorful? Double-check. The above hat, from Anthropologie, is my idea of a hat that's just cheery and practical all around, especially since flowers at this time of year in my part of the world are about as rare as prairie dogs in downtown Chicago. They're extremely uncommon. Now, I've this daydream that I'm wearing this hat on a ski slope somewhere in Colorado. While the snow's plentiful and it's cold, it's not the bone-chilling variety that you find near Lake Michigan. It's bearable. Anyhow, ski poles in hand, matching ski jacket with yellow piping, this hat escorts me down the bunny hill. It makes me look great, especially as toddlers sans ski poles whip past me easily and fast. Of course, I'm certain on this ski slope, it's not only how well you ski, but how good you look on the descent. So it's not only a competition of skill, but the hats. Which one is the silliest? The perkiest? The brightest? And of course, the stupidest. The Anthro Daisy Patch hat is in a category all its own. If you're going to get hat hair, and you will with this thing, you might as well do it wearing a mini-garden of daisies on your noggin. This hat is just cute. Nothing more, nothing less. There are no dumb flaps and pointy ends to make you the butt of someone's joke. It's just summer, an early taste.

Anyhow, I'd like to make this hat, even if it means taking a plainer than Jane knit cap from a department store and embroidering the daisies on with leftover yarns with other knitting projects. You could possibly even do it on a sewing machine with invisible thread, and stabilizer underneath. I'm not sure how much faster it would be than to do it all by hand, but you at least you do have another option. Now, is just me, but I don't understand why there isn't a black version of this hat? Why? Why?
P.S. I'm working hard on at least one hat...my Annie Modesitt Gone with the Wind hat. It's beautiful, but too big for my 22.5-inch head. I'll post pictures once I'm done. I'm at the wiring the brim stage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Hats to Love*

Quickly, with feeling. 52 Hats in as many weeks? Impressive. Check it out here on this blog. A pumpkin patch of hats for newborn babies (so it was last year. It's still a good idea!). From Anthropologie Addict, there's this sheer black hat with matching embellishments.
* The above hat was in the window yesterday at Dame Couture in Evanston. Guess how it was made? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Little Halloween Knitting: Emily Fitzroy in The Bat (1926), Origins for "Batman"*


Vogue Knitting didn't exist in 1926. Nor did Knit1 or Interweave Knits. But if any one of these knitting publication had been around then, you know they would have made a beeline to interview Emily Fitzroy, who knits nearly non-stop in the Bat, the silent film that led to the Batman movies you see today. Here's they no doubt would have heard Ms. Fitzroy say (you can see her in action in the above clip.)
Reporter (R): Miss Fitzroy, you're quite the knitter. We were quite impressed that you didn't drop a stitch in any of the scenes for The Bat. How did you do it?
Fitzroy (F): How do you know I didn't drop any stitches, young lady? I know how to make my marks. I'll have you know I've been knitting nearly my entire life. I learned how to knit and purl when I was five.
R: That's quite young.
F: You mean you didn't learn how to knit at at that age? All my friends and relatives did. If our mothers and grandmothers didn't teach us, we learned in school. How will you ever get married if you can't knit?
R: I learned when I was eight. I was a late bloomer. All of my girlfriends made fun of me and poked me with their pins. Yes, I'll be an old maid already at 20, don't remind me!
F: That'll teach you. Learn to knit properly and you'll get married in no time.
R: Yes, ma'am. Tell me what pattern were you knitting? What yarn did you use?
F: A Minerva pattern for a man's golf sweater. Fingering weight yarn.
R: How did you remember the pattern? Especially in those tense scenes with the Bat!
F: Listen, young lady. I'm a professional actress. I know how to work under duress. This was nothing. I used to knit in the dark when I worked in vaudeville. I'd poke those players with my pins to get them out on the stage on time. More than half of the time they were so stone-drunk they didn't know what end was up. If the poke didn't work, I'd get a lit cigarette. That usually worked like a charm and cut through the alcohol.
R: My. I had no idea. That was before my time.
F: You can only imagine the motion-picture industry was a piece of German chocolate cake in comparison. I didn't have to rely on my knitting skills to make it through the night.
R: Did Roland West know that you knit?
F: Absolutely. He saw me working up a pair of socks on an earlier picture, and he thought knitting would be a great prop in The Bat. It became part of my character, Miss Cornelia Van Gorder. I was so good I was typecast as the knitting grandmother in nearly every role after. I hated Joan Crawford. She got all the best roles - before and after the talkies.
R: You captured your character's nervous energy and confidence. She didn't let The Bat shake her up.
F: Of course not. Miss Cornelia didn't believe in ghosts or spirits. She was ahead of her time in that respect.
R: You mean everyone else on the set was superstitious?
F: Wouldn't you be if you saw a bat, even a make-believe one, everywhere you walked? My co-stars were skittish to even open a door.
R: I see a mouse and I make for the hills. I love that last scene where you-
F: Don't say it! Don't spoil the plot for anyone who might want to see The Bat! Didn't you read what Mr. West said in the beginning of the picture? He said don't ruin it for the others, you silly reporter. Now you can quote me on that.
* I saw The Bat at the Portage Park Theater last week. Excellent! I give it four stars out of five.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I Like Now When It Comes to Hats...

I like this shot on The Sartorialist, this hat made from sock yarn, this 1930s vintage hat pattern (from this eBay listing), this Anthropologie knit hat embellished with a tartan tie, and this pricey but lovably warm fur hat pattern (in Kelly green, of course, for me).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Done: Interweave Knits Ribbed Tank, Spring 2007 issue*

I think I started this top back in May, when springtime was a mere promise, and thoughts of frilly cotton tops, saucy skirts and particular pants filled the stale air inside my apartment. A new season with brand-new outfits that would have all the mannequins at Anthropologie swirling their little vintage heads like nobody's business. Not to mention their counterparts at Free People. They'd be even more jealous, to the point that their detachable limbs clatter to the ground, their feelings on display for all passerby to see.

I started tracking my progress in June on Ravelry, after more than a few false starts. The pattern looks so simple, deceptively so. For one thing, it's knit up in a dark brown so you can't see the details, which should have been a tip off to just how difficult this pattern would be. But I won't bother you with the details, just hit the major points, some of which can be be applied to other knitted wearable works of arts.

1. If the instructions warn you to be careful of twisting the chain, be aware that this is extremely easy to do, especially when the chain is long. I think I twisted the darn chain at least three times, and finally mastered the fibery beast with the help of one of the sales ladies at Loopy Yarns. In the future, I'll knit back and forth three rows, then get the circle of stitches going when I have something more substantial to hold onto that won't be so wiggly when it's time to get everybody (all the stitches) holding hands in a circle.

2. Be willing (yes!) to put the project aside temporarily if things aren't going well. This happened to me plenty of times. More times than I care to count stitches, which I think I did a lot of. Instead of starting other projects, I read books, magazines and newspapers. I couldn't bring myself to launch anything else, though on second thought, that's a good time to do something really easy - a pair of leggings with a basic repeat. Honestly, I feared buying some expensive yarn and starting something that would be equally difficult to finish.

3. Be creative when yarn runs out. I thought I had plenty of the Lion Brand Cotton-Ease. I didn't. It was the creative Kathy Kelly that came up with the brilliant idea of using the Ty-Dy cotton for the bodice, which is probably the best part of this top. The colors are just Dreamsicle cool. I just used one skein of the Ty-Dy for the bodice, which set me back about $15. Not bad for a great punch of color on a tank top that might have a little ho hum otherwise. On the flip side, I think a multi-color yarn looks best in a ribbing or stockinette, but it would lose its fantastic-ness in lace. I might try this combo (plain/multi) combo again - but in a much simpler pattern. It's also good way to work in a little luxury into your work if you're trying to save bucks. Think of it as the summer version of fur.

4. Don't be afraid to wear cotton in the fall. I thought this would be too hot to wear now that the temperatures have dropped, but I found this pleasantly warm, a great layer to wear over something else. I might actually wear this through the winter, even though we are not in that time of year yet. Nope, it's not here and I'm not going to think about it right now. It's still Indian summer right now.

5. Edit, edit, edit! Yes, I creatively cropped the pictures. You can't see the lace. There's a reason for that. I don't like how the fullness of this top - it makes me look like I'm expecting. I wish it were a little more fitted, and less roomy. That said, I will still probably wear it. All that time I spent working on it - ripping back, starting, ripping back yet again, but not tossing it into the corner of the living room. I didn't go to that extreme, not that there would be anything wrong with that. Some projects are meant to be pitched into dark places where dust mites cavort. I might eventually take some other pictures that show a close-up of the lace part, but it won't be anytime soon. If I do, I might do what the models do: clip the back so that the whole shebang gracefully skims the hips. Okay, I'm linking to Interweave Knits' version. Their version doesn't skirt the issue like mine does. Sigh. Time to go get a Guinness and forget.

6. Plan your next project while you're on the last lap of the Big One. It makes all the stitching and grafting go that much faster. Me? I've kind of decided that I've had it with knitting anything for the body. I need things that work up much quicker, say in a week or two, a month or so. So I'm thinking leg warmers, arm warmers, a hat, socks, anything else. Of course, these little projects are much lighter and easier to carry in a bag on my way to one adventure or another. Easier on the checkbook too. That said, there's a little part of me that wants to launch a February lady sweater or even a bolero jacket. These things can't be all that complicated, can they? Stop me!!! I have other things to do! Other molehills to climb!
* The ruby lacy top underneath? I sewed that, using the Santa Monica Tee pattern.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Style Stategy by Nina Garcia: A Book Review

This is Mary Beth's assistant Ashley here. She just wanted me to say, "Hi!" No, really she wanted to say a whole more. Actually the assignment is to write a book review of The Style Strategy by Nina Garcia from the perspective of a hat lover. I said, "NO problem! I LOVE hats." And I really do talk in all caps sometimes, particularly when I'm texting my friends. It's a good way to get a point across.

Anyhow, Nina Garcia's book. From the viewpoint of someone who's really crazy about hats, I'd have to say this book was a disappointment. I mean I love Nina in "Project Runway" but I honestly think Ruben Toledo's illustrations were far more interesting than anything had to say about dressing up or down during these tough times. Besides, I'd like to see some photographs, so I found "Style Strategy" a little boring in the way. I thought it was interesting that Ruben had a lot of sketches with women wearing hats, but Nina said hardly a word about them. She does mention Prince's "Raspberry Beret" as a source of inspiration - "This song makes me want to wear one!" That's about all she says about hats then. You would think she would talk about them more. I mean, hats are fairly cheap, compared to a pair of nice jeans or cool boots. It's also easier to make a hat than to sew a pair of good jeans. Besides, hats are SO much fun to wear. Especially to a bar. If you want a guy to buy you a drink. If you are poor, wouldn't it be better just to wear a fedora and go window shopping, then sit inside and cry all day that you don't have a job? I think so. Your day would be much more interesting if you wore a hat. You might even get a job offer. Really, it could happen. It's more much likely to happen than if you're inside your bedroom bawling your eyes out. So I'd think a great hat, even if just one, would be the essential accessory during this bad economy. Every recessionista should have one, don't you think?

Ok, anyhow, Nina has lists of all these essential clothes you should have. Mary Beth said to come up with five must-have hats. That's easy.
1. A Black beret. You cannot go wrong with a black beret. It goes with everything, and it's pretty cheap. I can usually find one at the thrift store, but I bet you could find one at the Gap or Old Navy. I wear a beret when my hair's a mess or it's cold outside.
2. A red fedora. I know Mary Beth doesn't like Red Hats, it has something to do with the Red Hat Society. But it doesn't bother me. My mom and grandmother are in the Red Hat Society. It makes them happy, so who cares? They both come back kind of tipsy from those events, but they're smiling for the rest of the day. Anyhow, a red wool felt fedora would be so awesome. I could see Lady Gaga wearing one. I don't have one myself, but I think about making one in the next millinery class I take.
3. A leopard print hat, any style. I think the leopard print shirts and scarves are kind of old-ladyish, but I do like that kind of print in a hat. It's kind of naughty-looking, and nobody expects you to wear spots of any kind on your head! I'd like a cute little pillbox, maybe with some netting, perhaps with a hole cut out for a cigarette (JUST KIDDING!). A fedora would be foxy too. You know all the boys would like it.
4. A fur hat with ears or floppy sides. I love this kind of hat especially when it's freezing outside. It looks cute, keeps you warm and goes with just about everything, like a parka or one of those long coats.
5. A cloche. This is pretty, something you could wear to church, if you go or save for Christmas or any other important holiday. It looks very flapper girl, and goes with any kind of dress. It would be also very easy to crochet, knit or sew. I have one, I think, at the back of my closet. It's kind of dusty probably, which goes to show you how often I wear it. But I do think it's a great versatile hat.
That's all for now. I've got to go work on a Powerpoint presentation for class. Mary Beth will back in a few days. Ciao for now!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mad Men Fans Take Heart : Crochet Today, Nov/December issue

It's a little too early to think about my birthday month (November), but I adore this cover. It looks like some of the vintage Good Housekeeping or Lady's Home Journal magazines from the 1950s that you see on eBay. So green and white dresses with a bow are in! The 70s-looking Christmas tree skirt - hurrah! I'm not nearly thrilled with the content but the capelet/cardi is up to my speed. It would match my winter jacket, also white. I'll blend in with the snow, which we're expecting a lot of this year. Anyhow, this is just a slapdash intro to my other topic: hats. Here's a story from the SF Gate that gives me hope for the future...A local (for me anyway) story on a fun, hatty bash...One great 1932 crochet cap and tie pattern, and instructions for a funky 1960s interpretation of the tyrolean hat. Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hat by Eia in Aisle 5: Clandestino event TONIGHT

Now Eia, my former millinery instructor, always did say you should wear your hat to go grocery shopping. Now she's taking her own advice and showing her own creations in a local grocer just for one night. Now, tell me, if you saw a woman with the above hat on while you were picking up a box of Cheerios, wouldn't that put a smile on your face? Even just for the moment? I'd be grinning ear to ear all the way out to the parking lot even the cashier was snotty and rude and the person in front of me in line appeared to be buying out the entire contents of aisle 2. Perhaps that's why Eia recommends wearing a hat when you're stocking up for the fridge. You need a little levity when you must traipse across a store that's longer than most football fields, these days anyways.

Back to tonight's event. In the true nature of Clandestino events, the web site only mentions vaguely where this trunk show will take place. It'll be at a Lincoln Park (that's in Chicago for you out-of-towners) grocery store. I'm hoping, guessing, that'll it be at the new Whole Foods store off of the main drag known as North Avenue. Lots of traffic, and potential for great publicity for Eia and her incredible (and apparently edible) hats. I can't make it, but maybe you have a window of time to go. Sounds like good eating, lots fo laughter and a great time. And who knows what could happen in Aisle 11? Only the Shadow knows!!! Here's the link to Fashion and Feast.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Speaky-Easy Fling

My beau, we'll call him Jack because I don't want him to get in trouble with the laws because he likes to frequent certain places, rings me up on the phone at my folks' bungalow. I live upstairs in the in-law apartment with my own gas stove and sink. It's quite the life, I can come and go as I please...unfortunately mother and father know when I come home, so I've taken to slipping up the stairs in my stockings late at night, even then they just know. It doesn't matter that I'm an adult at the old age of 22 years. I know I should be married by now, but Jack's just taking his time, typical Irish bachelor, you know. So he rings me up on the party line:

"Honey, want to go out tonight?
"Sure thing, darling. Are we going to go see a picture? I really want to see Shanghai Express. "
"Naw, need to wait until payday to do that."
"So...what do you have in mind? Cutting the rug at Howie's?"
"Maybe....what do I say I pick you up in an hour?"
"Okeydokey, see you soon, Jack."

He's vague, only because he knows everyone can hear what he's saying. That busy-body old lady, Mrs. Waldover, down the street. Mr. Harvey, the Senn High School janitor, my mother, quite possibly that little Robert Hagendorf, who's always hanging in the maple tree overlooking over the white picket fence on our sideyard. A know-it-all if I ever saw one. I pretend to hang up to see if I can tell anyone else is on the line. To my disappointment, I don't hear the tell-tale click.

I hear the clink, clink, clink of gravel on my window at half-past eight. Not again. Daddy's going to be furious if he hears because he claims that Jack scratches the window when he does that, and he gets the window all dusty. Besides, daddy doesn't want to climb up the ladder again to wash windows yet again this year. Bad back and all.

I'm all ready to go, so I carry my Mary Janes and my hat down the stairs, hoping not to snag my stockings on any splinters on the stairs. I open the door. God Bless America! The door still creaks even though I greased the joints yesterday!

I open the door. Jack's smoking his corn-cob pipe as usual just like my daddy does. I have to say he reminds me of Pa in that regard. Otherwise, they're so different: Papa, short and squat, cautious behind the wheel, always has to plan everything in advance, complains about everything. "Roosevelt! He doesn't know what he's talking about!" and "Can't you see that I'm reading the newspaper? That means I'm resting." And" "Why don't you ask your mother? She always seems to have an answer!" Jack - he's so spontaneous, ready to go to the beach, a picture show, the diner, bowling, all at a moment's notice. I like that in a man! Now, if he would only ask me to marry him. I keep throwing around hints like a good girl, but he just doesn't budge. What is it with men these days? I've been meaning to ask Father Xavier about that sometime, but I just can't bring myself to think about that right now. Too depressing! It's bad enough that I have to save up my own money to buy a radio. I'm tired of listening on my parents'!

Jack, all six-feet and a wee bit more, leans down to kiss little ole five foot two me. He looks all dapper in his three-piece grey herringbone suit, holding his well-worn matching grey fedora by the crown. He does take my breath away even three years after we met at the St. Benedict's annual picnic. He's got those dark brown eye just like Buddy Rogers does and glossy dark hair like him too. And that smile! He's movie star handsome. I tell him we should move to Los Angeles so we can get married and make millions of dollars just like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. But he likes Chicago, don't know why. I want to live where it's warm and there are palm trees everywhere.

"So where we going, Mister?"

He looks about furtively. Probably looking to see who's peeking out the windows nearby.
"Oh, just a little place down the ways."

I know what that means. A speak-easy. He's been telling me that he has a pharmacist friend who knows how to make some "happy" drinks. I don't know what they means, but I think I can add two plus two. I feel a little scared and excited too. I don't want to get in trouble with the coppers.
I come from a good family, you know, and I want to keep it that way.

I slip on my hat (a restyled cloche from Montgomery Wards. I bought some new feathers to update it just like McCall's suggested), button up my wool coat, slip my arm into Jack's. We head toward the Chicago Avenue streetcar. We might not live in California with the movie stars, but we're going out to have some fun.
*When I heard that the Violet Hour was styled like an old speak-easy, my mind went into 1932 Prohibition era overdrive, thinking about what I'd do if I were really going to one of these forbidden places back in the day. Here's what I came up with.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Need a Lift? More Hat Stories,* Judith M Millinery and More

Here are some more: A Reuters piece, some criticism on Mad Men hatwear, a list of upcoming workshops at Judith M Millinery and a story on vintage hats. What interesting hat-related stories have you read lately? Please post.

* The pattern above? A favorite already in my collection (I particularly like Belle- Buoy in the lower right corner). It's up for auction here. Bid, bid, bid!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Great Hat Comeback - A Round-up of Stories

There's a hat revival going on, if you haven't noticed. In particular, you see many people (men and women) wearing fedoras. The newspapers have noticed, so I give you a round-up of stories on the topic. First up: the one year Hat-a-Day Project, a Wall Street Journal article, one woman's fantastic inheritance, another on how to wear a fedora from the San Francisco Chronicle, the resurgence of interest in the cocktail hat and the return of the pillbox (!!) in Australia. What hats are you wearing now?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hat Love: the Crocheted Tyrolean, circa 1939

I'm just going to say I have this pattern in my bedroom drawer. The original, pre-War II version. Yellowing, loosened staples and all. I was reminded of whereabouts when I spotted the instructions for this loony-balloony hat on eBay. Oh yeah, I thought, I have that already along with some pretty nifty pretty nifty 1930s hat projects that I've yet to see online.

Anyhow, back to the tyrolean you see above. Just about as easy to make as it is to peel a banana, especially one that's really ripe and must be used for banana and not impromptu eating. I'd have to read the fine typeface, but I'm betting this pattern calls for the cordet, which was popular for handbags and hats in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a full box of the original unused stuff in my front closet, bought expressly for retr0 millinery, but I haven't gotten around to using it, although I did try my hand at a popcorn-stitch handbag that I promptly unraveled. I should have just finished it as it was because I haven't touched the cordet since. That I bought on eBay.

So the tyrolean. It would be fantastic to wear on a day such as this, although it could blow away it's so windy out there. However, it would be cool (as in comfortable to wear). Now the model above is wearing hers with a wool jacket, this hat isn't strictly for fall. Actually, it's fairly all-purpose, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it will not protect the ears when the sun's further away from the planet, and the digits begin to freeze. It's just an idea I have, nothing I've confirmed and actually experienced, especially since I haven't made this hat.

But if I did make this hat, it would go quickly; like it would be done in a weekend. Maybe not the wiring the brim, and decorating the crown with a petersham ribbon and feather. That part might take another full week to address, but the hardest labor would be done. It's all done in a circle, for those of who've made caps. You increase here and there, at some point begin the (I was going to say the Beguine, but that's not correct) the brim. Before you know it (yes, I watched a Carol Burnett retrospective last week, and I can't help recall her signature comedy show sign-off), you're done. Tie off the knot, and contemplate your workmanship, become addicted to making more of these hats.

Now that I'm writing about this hat, perhaps it's about time to start it. I've procrastinated long enough. It's been years. Children have been born, elders have died, it's high, high time to break out the crochet hook and just make a loop already. I can convince myself it's the perfect purse project. It's not heavy like the cotton tank I'm about to finish sometime soon. It'd be lightweight in a sock sort of way. I'd almost wouldn't even feel it. My phone and the handbag hardware would be heavier. Significantly.

What do you tell yourself when you see a hat that's seriously cute, but are hemming and hawing to start? What little tips push you off the iceberg and into the freezing water that we'll call "Craft Purgatory"?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Central Street, Evanston: Dame Couture, Jess Audey

It's a tad unfortunate that Dame Couture, a tiny dress shop on Central Street in Evanston, is closed on Sunday. The storefront alone is oh...my...! Peering inside, the store has this 1950s vibe, the only items are missing are rows upon rows of tulle crinolines fighting for space, stilettos, rose perfume and mid-century interpretations of the cloche. But what little I could I liked: the bright black-and-cream dresses in the window - two knee-length - one boat-neck, the other strappy. The latter is for latter-day Bette Davises strolling down the sidewalk, hatboxes and shopping bags in tow. The long version I could see on Lena Horne, a black iris clipped onto her hair, a strand of pearls around her neck. All these dresses are by Chicago Fashion Incubator Jess Audey, who's having a trunk show on the premises, Friday, August 14, 4-7 p.m., according to a sign propped on the sill.

The capelets next to the door just reinforced the retro-esque vibe: fitted little lacy boleros trimmed in matching satin, two in white, the other in black. I think they're intended for brides, but I think they'd be perfect to wear in an air-conditioned office, easy to slip off once you're headed back out into the heat and humidity (true finally here in Chicago, and oh-so true in unusually hot Seattle).

What are the best of the black and white dresses you've seen to date? Sweaters for inside the office?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How To Get from Here To There: Annie Modesitt's High Society Hat

This is a hat I started and stopped last year, all because I need another skein of Gedifra Wellness. A very particular skein (2115) with a specific dye lot (9100). Since I launched this project long after I bought the original bunch of yarn for a halter top, I've had a really hard time finding a matching skein so I can finish this chapeau. I've searched all over Ravelry, send messages to members, pleaded for help on various forums. I've turned up nothing.

Yet as you can see the hat is cute even if there's no top and the brim is all curly. It has potential in a way an undecorated cake has promise. See I'm like a mother to my hats in progress: "YOU can be great if you want to be. But you MUST try. MUST!" Some frosting is all this little hat needs. However, unlike a cake, my frosting needs to match... or does it? I'm wondering if I'm just making life much more complicated than it needs to be by focusing on blending the new yarn with the old.

Can I tell you what I don't want? I don't want a bucket hat. As you can see from this picture, this hat is supposed to be stylin' in a very 1930s sort of a way. The brim is wired, which you can't see in the photograph, but it is because I've done this in previous renditions. So no bucket hat suitable for camping or baking on the beach. I want something breathtaking, something divine, pretty enough to wear with a ruffle-front plaid blouse and a pair of white summer gloves, suitable for a tea or a wedding.

So what could I do to revive this hat-in-progress? What can I possibly do to take this knitting project from the resting-on-the-couch stage to active, live on a set of circular needles? I'd really appreciate your thoughts. Since this is cotton, it would be nice to wear this finished hat sometime soon before the cold weather blows through and demands wool attire and accessories.

Here are some sober thoughts on what I could do:
  • select another skein of Gedifra Wellness yarn in a brighter hue, finish the hat and use what's leftover to wrap around the brim.
Actually, I can't think of another option. I don't want to use a completely different color, for example, brown. I just can't see it looking graceful, just kind of clunky and dumb. Pink? Same thing. Yellow? Orange? Nothing else.

Or should I just let this marinate for another year, fading ever so much more on the top of my couch? Toss it in the garbage (sob!), give away at my next fabric swap? Start a prayer vigil for the skein of my dreams?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Plaid Caps on My Mind: Vogue 8528, a Patricia Underwood Design

I've got plaid on my mind. It must be some of the caps I've been seeing while I'm out and about in Chicago. Lots of guys wearing 'em. There's also one in the display window at Hats Plus (see top and bottom pictures). And whaddaya know....milliner Patricia Underwood has one in the latest Vogue Patterns catalog (Vogue 8528). So I want to make one...a cotton one for now until the heat disappears sometime in late September, and then I want a bunch of cute wool ones to keep my head warm from Octoberfest and on. I'm not sure if a bunch of fat quarters in a 1930s vintage fabric would work. I'd probably get a pattern piece or two, and I'd have to piece together the hat band. I already have some buckram for the visor and I actually already have a similar pattern in my pile. Somewhere.

Here are some variations on my scheme:
  • paisley print embellished with an iron-on felt letter and bedazzled with some rhinestones
  • brint orange denim print with complementary vintage striped ticking fabric for the hatband
  • white denim with a striped ribbon stitched down off-center on the main part
  • your suggestion here!
As for the going-away party/fabric swap last week for Erin McKean, it was a small affair. Just me, Erin, and Calico Sarah. I ditched some sad bad craft felt, and acquired a yard or two of teeny tiny plaid red/black plaid, two small cones of stretchy serger (sunshine yellow) thread and an old paint kit with fresh squishable tubes of paint, and lots of cookies from the Swedish Bakery. Cookies were naturally devoured nearly immediately, the new acquisitions? They're separated for now - thread, paints and fabric just don't get along, until they're forced to by me.
*By the way, read what Underwood has to say about wearing hats here. What do you think? Leave your comments here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last Call Before Fall: A Fabric Swap and Going Away Party*

It's a last call for fabric, yarn, fat quarters, notions, etc. Plus we're doing a going-away party TONIGHT for Erin, who's leaving town. Read her blog for details on what's she bringing.

Time: 6-8:30 p.m.

Date: Thursday, July 23

Location: Rogers Park Public Library
6907 N. Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626
2nd floor, south room

What?: Fabric Swap

What's a Fabric Swap?: We'll be exchanging fabric, notions, yarn, patterns and bagged remnants. Fat quarters are welcome this time around. Quilters take note!

Anything Else I should Know?: Since this is a swap, no money/check can be exchanged on the premises. This is important. As I mentioned previously, anybody caught paying real U.S. dollars for items in the swap will be lashed with a tape measure or forced to count pattern pieces.

What can I bring?: See above. Wear a dress too (if you're sew inclined). Perhaps one you've sewn would love to show off to Erin before she boards her airplane west.

How can I help?: Thanks for asking. In addition to bringing fabric, please bring food or a drink. Paper plates, napkins and cups too. We all sort fabrics on tables. Afterwards, we'll need a driver with enough room in the car to cart leftover unwanted fabric to local Salvation Army.

Where can I park if I drive? What about public transportation?: There's a parking lot behind the library. Call for details. You can easily get to the Rogers Park Public Library on the no. 22 bus. It's also two blocks west of the Morse Red line stop, a block east of the Rogers Park stop on the Union Pacific North Metra line.

Ok, what next?: Email marybeth.klatt @@@gmail DOT com with Fabric Swap in the subject line, let me know you're coming and how you'd like to help OR leave a comment underneath this blog post. I'll be checking it regularly.

I have a few more questions!: Email marybeth.klatt @@@ gmail dot com OR leave a comment on my blog.

* Gratuitous fabric shot at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. These bandana prints are on sale. I want some, which reminds me the store is having its Pirate Days sale this week. Additional discounts on fabric already marked down. I'm going to go!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Anthropologie Look on a Walmart Budget**

It's too bad this blog (sorry I can't find URL now) isn't updated regularly, 'cause the topic of the Anthropologie look for less seems to be a popular one, if the crafty DIY sites are any indication. The A-word comes up a lot on Ravelry, a knitting social-networking site. Ditto Patternreview. What is it about this chain store that causes a grown woman's eyes to glaze over and say, "I totally can make that for less" and proceed robot-like outside the store without buying one thing, then nearly collide with oncoming cars as she forgets the stop light is turned RED and she should stop walking and dreaming of Clothes She Could Make Better than Anthropologie until she's safely on the other side of street? I'll admit I'm one of those females from time to time, which is why if I am going to get into the Anthropologie Altered State of Mind (no doubt caused by sniffing those super-expensive canned candles in the store), I might as well drink first, and see what creative ideas I could come up. In fact, certain alcoholic beverages might actually affect different parts of the brain, with varying results. Here's where my experiment might start sometime (all drinks will be on special, of course, since we're after the inexpensive Walmart way.). The beverage, followed by the brain effect:

Guinness: One will get you looking at all brown attire in the store. You will home in anything that looks like it could be worn in Ireland. Anything 100 percent wool will be especially alluring under the influence of this stout. Cables will be especially appealing. You will likely leave the store seeking out a local yarn shop so you can start a long sleeved sweater you will never finish.*

Pomegranate Mojito: The antioxidants in the pomegranate will get you thinking that you have forever and two days to recreate all dresses in stock. All. You will become certain that even 90 years old you will be able to whip up the bias-cut plaid dress in the image resting on your hard drive now. The mint sprigs will prompt you to sniff and touch all green items in the store. It's possible a store employee might call security when you start overdoing this particular action.

Skinny-Tini(TM): This Bethanny Frankel concoction may mislead you to think you can fit into all the small sizes leftover in the backroom or the non-stretch jeans on the rack closer to the display case. The jumpsuit, which should have plenty of wiggle room, might be the best thing right now...besides it's just what Frankel, a New Yorker, might wear for her new reality show. Do her one up and sew this baby. Find a vintage Butterick pattern on eBay. I dare you.

Miller Lite: Even at one, you're in no shape to even window shop at Anthropologie. You must down a classy drink to do the tipsy browse and tell at this store. Go on. Return to the Cubby Bear where you belong until you're ready for some serious I-phone photography in the fitting rooms. Or drive directly to Walmart. Scratch that. Hire a taxi driver and do the same.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Okay, you're teeth are stained now, that's okay. Don't smile. The grapes will force you to look at all the trendy ombre ruched skirts, dresses and cardigans. Naturally, you'll speculate about how you can recreate this all at home in your back yard in a plastic tub for twice the fun and the money. And the pictures for Facebook, of course!

Prosecco: Pricey, yes. The bubbles in this Italian specialty will compel you to look longingly at the hundred dollars plus leather mules and wedgies, all imported from Spain, and wonder how you can get the same for less. A lot less. Can't be done (Budget Fashionista disagrees). Save your pennies for the real.

Drinks aside, what Anthropologie goods have your DIY side working overtime? Link and tell.

* This is my favorite beverage, just so you know...
** Display windows are at the Anthropologie on Southport in Chicago.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Double Deal: Going Away Party for Erin McKean/Fabric Swap

Yes, it's a double-header, which is a rare bear especially as it relates to the Chicago Cubs. This past Saturday, they played two games at Wrigley Field with a couple hours to separate the events.

We're going to do the fabric version of a Windy City double-header: a party for fabric collector and blogger Erin McKean, who is deserting "flat is fine" Chicago (!!!) for the hills of San Francisco, and taking a considerable part of Vogue Fabrics' fine selection with her. (She tells me she has seven plastic tubs of fabrics that are going with her and her family to the West Coast. She could use those textiles to insulate her new home, but from what I understand and have experienced, California simply isn't that cold.)

Anyhow, Vogue Fabrics' lost is Britex's gain. I've been to San Francisco twice, and never set foot in that place. Not once. Not even to pet the fabric and see if it feels any different than the Illinois variety. I think I thought at the time, "Too expensive! Why bother?" So I didn't. Next time, I'll go, just to say I did, then go find a pub, of course, for a pint of Guinness to see if that tastes any differently there.

This is all makes for a long, long winded way of saying we're having a Special Edition Fabric Swap to help Erin get rid of fabric that's she not toting with her on her next adventure. Her loss is your gain. She's got tons of remnants, perfect for that next dress, skirt, playsuit or coverlet! So swing by the Rogers Park Public Library next Thursday, July 23 at 6 p.m.

Here are some of the details:

Time: 6-8:30 p.m.

Date: Thursday, July 23

Location: Rogers Park Public Library
6907 N. Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626
2nd floor, south room

What?: Fabric Swap

What's a Fabric Swap?: We'll be exchanging fabric, notions, yarn, patterns and bagged remnants. Fat quarters are welcome this time around. Quilters take note!

Anything Else I should Know?: Since this is a swap, no money/check can be exchanged on the premises. This is important. As I mentioned previously, anybody caught paying real U.S. dollars for items in the swap will be lashed with a tape measure or forced to count pattern pieces.

What can I bring?: See above. Wear a dress too (if you're sew inclined). Perhaps one you've sewn would love to show off to Erin before she boards her airplane west.

How can I help?: Thanks for asking. In addition to bringing fabric, please bring food or a drink. Paper plates, napkins and cups too. We're having a party! We all sort fabrics on tables. Afterwards, we'll need a driver with enough room in the car to cart leftover unwanted fabric to local Salvation Army.

Where can I park if I drive? What about public transportation?: There's a parking lot behind the library. Call for details. You can easily get to the Rogers Park Public Library on the no. 22 bus. It's also two blocks west of the Morse Red line stop, a block east of the Rogers Park stop on the Union Pacific North Metra line.

Ok, what next?: Email marybeth.klatt @@@gmail DOT com with Fabric Swap in the subject line, let me know you're coming and how you'd like to help OR leave a comment underneath this blog post. I'll be checking it regularly.

I have a few more questions!: Email marybeth.klatt @@@ gmail dot com OR leave a comment on my blog.

For those of you who can't join us, perhaps you could leave a link in your comments showing you in your favorite dress. A virtual show and tell, if you will.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Favorite Excuses to Wear A Hat?*

Here's my running list of excuses to wear a hat:

1. I'm in a bad mood and I need compliments, car honks and whistles to get me out of it.
2. I relish the idea of wearing my fedora and posing next to any "Public Enemies" poster I can find with the behatted Johnny Depp. Getting harder as newer posters get slapped on top of older ones.
3. I long for a waitress/waiter to treat me extra nice when I sit down to eat in their workplace.
4. I'm feeling vaguely like the brooding guy in a coat, hat in the famous painting Nighthawks painting by Edward Hopper.
5. I need to keep warm but I don't want to carry a jacket, but hope a hat and a lightweight scarf will do the trick.
6. I want the train engineer to toot his horn when I wave to him.
7. I don't want to be bothered, cancelling out #1.
8. I'm eager to hide my messy, unruly locks which really need to be washed.
9. I can pretend it's the 1940s just for a minute or two, although I'm truly happy to be alive now.
10. I must match the bottom half of my body with the upper part. A black hat usually does the trick.
11. I duck outside and I know it's going to rain. A hat, even the straw variety, will protect me even if it self-destructs during the process.
12. The link for the Ginger Spam salad recipe on the top of my Gmail account page doesn't seem remotely appealing, but wearing a hat does.
13. The dust bunny population is exploding in my closet, which requires me to open up and clean off the covers of a few hat boxes. Some hats of the vintage variety clamber out onto my head. Creepy.
14. I seek to impress my various nieces and nephews with my eccentric aunt image. A cat or two would round out that perception.
15. Feeling bloated, a hat takes my mind off of how crummy I think I look. Amazing how the head doesn't gain pounds? I'm not talking about the neck.
16. I don't want to wear a necklace, but a hat feels....just right.
17. I can focus better since a hat, particularly one with a brim, limits my peripheral vision.
18. Putting on a hat makes me think of the various sewn and knitted hats that are waiting to be completed and I feel really guilty.
19. I can flag down the bus driver to stop on a dented dime and pick me up even if I'm not standing at an authorized stop.
20. I need a story to tell at the end of the day. A hat worn somewhere, somehow guarantees it, don't you think?

What are your favorite reasons to wear a hat?
* Picture taken at the intersection of Lawrence and Clark Streets in Chicago yesterday.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer of the Fedora, 2009*

Here in Chicago it feels like the summer of the Fedora, a style that pops up on locals regularly at this time of year. As predictable as crowds spilling out into Clark Street after a Cubs game, dandelion dozens after a sudden storm and the crush of CTA buses bunched together during a routine rush hour. However, what makes this year different is how many women are wearing this hat. They wear it with t-shirts, jean cut-offs or a maxi dress, flip flops. Super casual. Nothing slick, nothing high style. Something to wear 'em to the beach and back home. It takes care of the bad hair, cool weather, "I don't feel talking" mood all in a fell swoop. Well, that's at least what a hat, particularly one as sleek as a fedora, does for me. Lately I've been wearing my black straw H&M hat, purchased for $7, and I'll be breaking out the same hat, white straw trimmed with a sky-blue grosgrain, just as soon as I feel like I have something remotely matching on the bottom three-quarters of my body.

Browsing around on online, here's what I like of the fedoras I've seen to date: this menswear striped one from Target and this collection at Villagehatshop. Honestly, the more I think about it, you couldn't go wrong shopping at these two Chicago stores: Hats Plus and Optimo Hats (they made all the fantastic hats in Public Enemies). Hats Plus is more affordable with ready-to-wear hats, and their selection of Kangol toppers is phenomenal. Phenomenal! Optimo is all about the pricey custom-made hat you want to store in a special box, wrapped up in tissue paper. Here's a link to a Los Angeles Times story on hot hats on the runway.
* A series of goofy photos I took with the "Public Enemies" poster at the South Boulevard stop on the Purple Line in Evanston. The Johnny Depp posters are disappearing even though the movie just opened. Boo hoo!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Pattern Left Behind: the Second Fabric Swap*

It wasn't quite the sunny, hot pre-Fourth of July weather I pictured. And to be honest, I wasn't quite in the mood to spearhead another swap, even though I had organized it. I just wanted to nurse a pomegranate martini and swing dance at Martini Park. However, I'm a responsible community organizer, so I follow through on what I'm say I'm going to do. So off I trotted to the Rogers Park Public Library with my box of sewing dollars, a loop of lottery tickets, and vintage Carson Pirie Scott yarns (one box Kelly green, the other black).

Even though I advertised the FREE event on Craig's List, I still only had about eight fabric collectors show up, a little more than the first event. I'm not sure if it was the cool climate, a weeknight or Americans were still mourning the death of Michael Jackson. Who knows?

In any event, I found myself enjoying myself once I unconsciously put myself into Zone. It's just so much fun to meet other sewing and knitting aficionados. In no particular order, I enjoyed meeting:

* Leslie, in her sweet black and white check homesewn halter dress, was waiting in the room next door with her box of patterns and fabric when I arrived with my supplies.
* Mary, who I actually know through her work at Big City Swing. (She's a dance instructor, particularly skilled at the Charleston.) I would never have guessed that she's a quilter although with her great 1930s retro dress style, it makes perfect sense. She left with a few tote/bag patterns, and fabric, of course.
* Calicosarah, who actually convinced me to bring back the box of black wool/poly yarn that I contributed. A consummate knitter, she had all sorts of knitterly knowledge that I'm only beginning to understand three years into the hobby. I admired Sarah's sunny yellow dropped-stitch scarf that she made from a skein of Lorna's Laces.

There were others that I didn't get a chance to chat with quite as much: Lee, Jess, and two other moms whose names escape me. I'm grateful that all came, and we such a good time, and came away with some new goodies. I personally got a fuschia knit and pretty trims from Calicosarah's collection, another swishy pink and blue sky knit print, and a watercolor woven. Sheesh! I'm all set until the next fabric swap.

I don't want to omit Ruth, my regular Vogue Fabrics free sewing demo partner. She was at the swap last time with her daughters. This time her oldest didn't want anything to do with the sewing dollars, which we incidentally didn't use. Not enough shoppers! Erin McKean was also there dumping an unfinished knitted sweater in addition to fabric.

Anyhow, some of you may know Erin is leaving Chicago next month for the lovely city of San Francisco for a new job. In Fabricspeak, she's leaving Vogue Fabrics to shop at Britex. I knew you'd get that. Anyhow, she's been very emphatic about wanting another swap before she departs. It has something to do with de-stashing. Does anyone fully understand that concept?
So I promised to organize another exchange to help her out. Next time I promise to make the event more inviting to knitters and quilters. You'll be able to bring knitting needles, YARN, and bags of fat quarters. How exciting can that be? Stay super-tuned while I return to the library to set a date.
* The picture above has nothing to do with the swap. It's completely gratuitous. These are two of perhaps a dozen smocked, unfinished dress panels now at Vogue Fabrics, in Evanston.. These two are in the remnants section, near the cash register. There are more hanging on the wall in the silk room. They're each $23.99, a little pricey in my sewing book. All you had to do to complete 'em would be finish the bodice edge and edges and stitch up the back. Done!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick and Dirty: Free Fabric Swap, TODAY

No pics at the moment. If you want to unload fabric, notions, zippers, patterns, (but no remnants or pets), please feel free to come to the Rogers Park Public Library, second floor at 6 p.m. See previous entries for details.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Listen Ladies: New Free Fabric Swap, Tuesday, June 30

It's the same deal as last time. For those of you not there during the debut, read below for the lowdown. Feel free to spread the word wide and far on the Internet, Twitter from the moutains, telegraph from the local Western Union. You get the idea. I'll do a Craigslist post.

Time: 6-8:30 p.m.

Date: Tuesday, June 30

Location: Rogers Park Public Library
6907 N. Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626
2nd floor, south room

What?: Fabric Swap

What's a Fabric Swap?: We'll be exchanging fabric, notions, patterns using play money, probably Monopoly dollars. During the set-up, we'll have a little show and tell. Wear your favorite sew garment for prizes.

Anything Else I should Know?: Since this is a swap, no money/check can be exchanged on the premises. This is important. Anybody caught paying real U.S. dollars for items in the swap will be lashed with a tape measure or forced to count pattern pieces.

What can I bring?: Any type of fabric that's at least 1 yard long, 45 inches wide (I don't want to deal with remnants), notions, patterns are acceptable.

How can I help?: Thanks for asking. Here are some specific jobs we need:

1. Several cashiers' to help establish a 'value' to the fabric and pass out Monopoly money to 'sellers'
2. Several organizers to put fabric on various tables tagged according to fabric type (silk, cotton, polyester, knits, etc.).
3. A barker to call out lottery numbers so 'shoppers' can orderly browse items in the swap.
4. Someone to organize show and tell part of the swap.
5. Foodie to round up snacks for hungry shoppers. "Shoppers" are encouraged to bring chips, beverages, paper plates, and napkins.
5. A driver with enough room in the car to cart leftover unwanted fabric to local Salvation Army.

Where can I park if I drive? What about public transportation?: There's a parking lot behind the library. Call for details. You can easily get to the Rogers Park Public Library on the no. 22 bus. It's also two blocks west of the Morse Red line stop, a block east of the Rogers Park stop on the Union Pacific North Metra line. For those of you with horses, there is no place to park your animal. Sorry.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Can We Just Skip The Drop Spindle and Get to the Spinning Wheel Already?

Yes, I'm completely willing to skip the drop spindle and just get to the spinning wheel now. The drop spindle is just too slow for my taste. Why ride rickshaw when you can really pick up the pace in a sportscar? When I see people making yarn this way, I just see wanna-be spinners dropping a spinning top on the floor over and over. Makes me think of novices with yo-yos, and how they continually let the discs graze the ground. Over and over. Dropping anything to floor repetitively gets on my nerves. My brothers used to dribble a basketball in the house hardwood floors while we were growing up. I'd just say, "Can you please stop????" And they'd continue on annoying me until I grabbed away the ball away.

Anyhow, let me back up. I'm taking a beginning weaving class at the Chicago Park District. I'd don't really care about the looms, I just want to learn how to make my own yarn. I mentioned my quest to a friend, she suggested I take an $18 10-week class, which started this past Saturday. The teacher would probably let me spin to my heart's contentment, she said.

So I signed up last minute with my wad of cash. Hustled my bustle to get to the 9:30 a.m. class. Perspired profusely on the way wearing my not so comfortable Born sandals. Breathlessly made it up the stairs to the classroom, which was locked. Not a soul in sight, unless you count the bodies in a nearby room stretching their limbs in a yoga class overlooking Lake Michigan.

Happily, a Park District staffer unlocked the room. I entered what looks like the Adult Woman's playroom. Loom after loom after loom, all 20 or so covered with cotton sheets, they all looked like player pianos covered in white. The sheets, you know means "Hands Off!" in adultspeak.

And there was this device, which I think is a carding machine. Crank crank crank! Now I did some carding as a kid at Pioneer Day at Crow Island school. By hand, it gets old fast. But to build muscle tone pumping the wheel on this thing? Could be fun. Could be addictive. Could call for some Guinness beforehand, off-site at a local lounge.

I'm not precisely sure what this textile in progress is, but it wasn't covered up with a sheet, but it looks like a bargello print in progress. The Missoni people in Italy, who are obsessed with zig-zag motifs, would love this, and I do too. Must find out more.

The roving reserves, a splendid system to store raw fiber. Old oatmeal containers, stacked. How do they stay shoulder to shoulder? I'm completely curious.

Here's a close-up of the roving stored, in case you're curious.
Here are I am waiting Teach (name's apparently Linda), who never arrived. For about 10 minutes, I was ready to storm the Park District Office and demand my money back. Instead, I waited for a half hour. I figured if I had my knitting and I could be patient, impatiently working my hands, which must be busy anytime I'm awake. Boy, was it hot up there, I didn't turn on the fan, but I could have. I was afraid of dust flying everywhere, and sneezes by the truckload. So I sweated it out in more ways than one. Finally, another student, Lori, arrived. She apparently took a parked bicycled near the door as a sign that Teach was here. So well-hidden among the looms, that was the one contraption I didn't see. Finally, I go downstairs to the office desk to find out Linda won't be in today. At least, the class is still on for next week.
Class over early, I headed over to Vogue Fabrics in Evanston where a big annual Custer's Last Stand festival. Here are I am testing out the latest Viking Designer sewing machine. The free project of the day was making an Ugly Doll with felt. Gosh, this machine knows when you're going to turn. It would make itty-bitty adjustments if you even thought about lurching left or running right. Talk about Big Brother at the presser foot. I just looked for an overhead camera watching my every move. There was none. Spooky.
Here I am posing with my Ugly Doll, with a girl who made her Ugly doll in a plush purple. so pretty. I think my Ugly Doll will going with tonight to Vogue for free sewing demo tonight.
Anyhow, I'm ready for next week's spinning adventure. Wish me luck in talking Linda into letting me skip the drop spindle.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Appealing Appliques ($2 each!) and Simplicity 2584

I finally got back on track with my knitting project which is excellent because I feel another long bus trip coming on. Yes, my joints are telling that we are going somewhere soon somehow with a project too. I frequently tell myself I need the intellectual break of reading, but my creative side won't hear of it. Not even listen for a mere moment! Even though there are three library books at my disposal. Three!

I wish I were sewing though, which is a weird whim especially since I have a sewing machine within arm's length. I just need to turn it on. No, I want to be among people, purchases, and plum piping (yes, there's cording right outside the classroom door at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston.).

Anyhow, next time my fingers, the pedal and presser foot and I meet, I'd like to consider the above pattern. The pattern illustration had me on the fence, but this rendition has me thinking, "Yowza. I must make this!" and cast my thoughts back to the above applique at Vogue Fabrics (Evanston), snipped carefully in the middle. Same silhouette at the neckline facing in the pattern, by far easier to stitch, I'd imagine. I'd do mine on linen just as CostumeDivasDirtyLaundry did in her version. I'd make mine graze the knees so I wear to other places besides the beach....What do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dear. C, Another Letter

Dear C. -

Yesterday was just the worst. Here I was attempting to solve problems between us, and I had to deal with terrible traffic nearly everywhere. Cars, cars, cars, trying to go Andersonville Midsommarfest, Ribfest, Bluesfest and the Cubs Game. We have a terrific transit system here and it seemed like not enough locals were using it if the back-ups on the Kennedy were any indication.

I just cannot tell you how frustrated I am with you. It's not you personally, in a sense. Maybe it's just the relationship. I'm trying to figure out where I fit in. Each time I try a new approach, I'm stymied big-time. Each time I cry, "Time out!," I find myself obsessing, revisiting the issues, replaying conversations and advice over and over like a broken piece of vinyl.

This is what I've concluded: I just don't trust you. That's why I haven't accepted your Facebook friend request. I'm suspicious. I wonder: will you twist on me again when I'm not looking? Really. I haven't had this problem in crochet, and I'm nearly an expert with not one but two shell-stitch crochet skirts under my macrame belt (one doesn't fit remotely, but I digress). I don't have trouble with twisted stitches in sewing either, but with that hobby I'm not in the least bit concerned with making and connecting a circle of stitches.

So, you've twisted on me twice, yes twice. I'm beginning to wonder: is my Ribs lace tank top meant to be? This time around, I didn't let the twist ramble for two-three inches like I did the first time. Yesterday I got to the fifth row and said: "Aunt! (not Uncle)!"

I really tried hard not to let your bad behavior get to me. I went to Arcadia Knitting at noon yesterday. Instead of completely ripping back tank top attempt no. 1, I did a cable cast-on for all 220 stitches on the other end of the skein (smart!). Now here was where I let you take advantage of me: I casted on, knit row no. 1, and then I hitched my stitches to get onto the no. 22 bus to the Little Brothers of the Elderly shindig.

Major mistake. I should have stuck around the yarn shop little longer, at least until row no. 5, or at least I could safely say twisting isn't likely to happen now. But my stomaching was growling, and so I took off...to merrily knit and purl when the bus dodged last winter's potholes.

C., I only discovered your deception late last night, while I was working on the first lace section in what has to be the worst pre-sleep activity: a complicated knit row, fraught with peril with every yarn-over. I mean I should have been preoccupied with counting sheep, not stitching and sliding on row markers. This kind of nocturnal neurosis only leads to tossing and turning at 2 a.m.

However, I am happy to report I slept well and I got my full eight hours' of shut-eye (that goes with telling you to shut up). You didn't haunt my dreams. Just before turning out the light, I did wonder whether I should I go to Vogue Fabrics' free sewing demo tonight (it's all about neat ways to use stabilizer) or go to Loopy Yarns sweater night to work on this project yet again? I just don't know. I'm so frustrated.

You know how we solve this kind of problem in the sewing world? (C. - listen closely). We snip! the offending fabric. Flip the fabric so it's facing the proper direction. Make a Solvy sandwich, with the cut fabric serving as the proverbial slice of ham. We do free-motion stitching on top of the sandwich. Wash away the stabilizer. Voila! Problem solved. No more flipping.

I'm not ready to take my scissors (which are actually being sharpened at Vogue Fabrics) to my knitted fabric. I can't quite sever the relationship yet. I need to get still more advice. God help me.

Gotta go -

Mary Beth

Sunday, June 14, 2009

That's It. We're Done.

Dear. C-

I've been in denial for the past three weeks. We're not a good match. We never were. I'm sorry. I just don't know how else to break it to you.

Sure, we had some good times. You were always good for long bus rides, hopping on the Metra train at short notice. I loved, loved how you were, time and time again, up for a Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, even though you don't like fast-food coffee joints. I'll always remember the time we were on the El - headed downtown to Martini Park for a little dancing. You didn't flinch an eye when we went around the curve near the Sheridan Road stop, and ditto at Sedgewick. You're such a good sport, and you hate heights, although we were just a several Michael Jordans off the ground, not a full-fledged John Hancock building or even the skyscraper formerly known as the Sears Tower.

Like I said, I've been in denial for the past three weeks. Something wasn't right from the get-go. Something was twisted. I kept overlooking this, telling myself, "No, everything's fine. You're working in the round. That's why the fabric won't lay flat. You're knitting on circular needles."

So I kept going. Determined, as always. Valiant even. I'd unflip - or at least I thought - the oh so pretty lace every time I came to the beginning. Everything would fix itself once I cast off the last stitch I tried to convince myself. Yes, my ribbed tank top would look just divine and dandy.

However, last night I realized that all was not right. This relationship, albeit a circular one, wasn't going to make it through the summer. There would be no more rides on the CTA buses, no more laughs on the ride downtown to Martini Park, not even late nights of "Just One More Row Before I Go" to bed. No more of that. None!

While it appeared that I was nearly at the end of the my knitted Crest Waves, the bottom of my tank top, I thought....I think I'm going to have start over. For one last time, I tried to flatten the fabric, and as usual, it kept twisting. I thought, "I'm going to have accept it that I'm making a lace MOEBIUS STRIP." Yes, what I was making would be perfectly lovely in Cat Bordhi's book (She of the intentional knitted Moebius strip fame).

So unless I wanted something pretty and twisty around my neck, I've decided I'm going to have to frog this work in progress, the second such project in two months. I'm not going to complete any knitting this summer at the rate I'm going. I'm going to have a perpetual Groundhog Dog on the same darn thing. Back and forth on the Red Line, I'll be working on my bamboo needles, the same yarn getting more frayed by the minute. Babies will grow up and go to college before I tie this one off. Budget problems will be solved in Congress. New presidents will be elected. Couples will marry, procreate, move to Saudi Arabia for a job and then back...and all the while I'll be working on the same skein of Lion Brand Cotton-Ease (C.). Yes, I'm a thrifty girl, I am.

Okay, I'm finished venting, C. Like I said, we're finished. I don't want to see you again. I'll take a picture of you, C., just for the memories. I'm defriending you on Facebook...at least for a few hours. You can send me a new friend request later today. I promise I won't ignore or delete it. In the meantime, I'll be back at Arcadia Knitting at 12 noon sharp, to see if I can't salvage this project. Hopefully I won't have to cast on all 220 stitches yet again....just merely make sure I don't twist my work at the beginning. Yes, I'm really stubborn. I want to make this relationship work. Can you really forgive a girl for trying?

Love and kisses (at least for now),
Mary Beth