Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Epic vintage haul: Part II

Yesterday, at our first stop at the Elyria Goodwill, I got a couple of really great pieces. Two little black dresses - one lacy party dress and one long, v-neck sheath.

The first is by Jeffrey and Dara, which I've never heard of but apparently makes formal wear. I love the shape of this one - the always-excellent nipped in waist and swishy skirt. It's strapless, so I'm actually pretty surprised that it fit - chestier girls like me don't do well in strapless anything.

The second one is perhaps a touch less young, more Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. But really, a classic shape. This one is by I.N. Studio, and it's hard to see but it has piping at the neck and right below the bust - a nice touch on a very basic shape.

I'm definitely feeling the sheath dress love lately.

Also thrifted were the white gloves, which actually fit me - a first! I think they're Anne Klein. Pretty comfy. Very dramatic. For $2, pretty awesome.

Taking photos for this was fun - I definitely got some weird looks from the electric company trucks as they drove past our house!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Epic vintage haul: Part I

This morning, I went to trade in my rental car and get a ride from a knitting buddy, who is being incredibly gracious in letting me borrow her car until August so that I can make the commute to Cleveland. She also happens to be an avid thrifter, so after dropping the rental off, we went on a whirlwind vintage/thrift tour of Elyria. I picked up quite a few things for not very much money, and I spent the most on two pieces that are beautiful dresses from the 50s or 60s - both of which fit perfectly and are only obviously handmade from the hand-stitching and seams. The first is this white lace number, bought at a great little boutique called New To You. It's hard to see, but it has a pink lining and a crinoline and fits like a dream. I can see it being a classic wedding dress with the right accessories - not that I need to worry about that anytime soon.

They had a lot of newer thrifted items as well as a fabulous collection of vintage garments. It was generally a little pricier than the other two places we went today, but the quality was very good. I passed up a super cute Rosie the Riveter-style dress from the 40s - polka-dotted denim (maybe chambray?) with puffed sleeves and a pleated skirt. It was very nearly a museum piece, and even though it didn't fit, I was tempted to take it home, give it a wash, and properly store it for posterity.

I'm not going in any particular order of buying, but this is another cute one I found today. It was $4.99 at Salvation Army in Elyria. I've been wearing it all day, and it's super flattering if a little bit shorter than I usually wear. The weather has been terribly hot and humid lately - even though I think it only got up to 85 F today, it felt much hotter. The dress went on a ride to Crocker Park for martinis and curry and held up great the whole time. It's sort of hard to see, but it's a red gingham, not-quite seersucker fabric. I love the details at the neckline!

Also: due to cosmicpluto's awesome shoes posted occasionally on her blog, I have a serious crush on Fluevogs. This pair in particular. Sumatra:

And, ok, maybe this pair too; Mitte:

And yeah, yeah, yeah, maybe this pair too; Cana:

Shoe love siiiiigh.

Shoe photographs copyright Fluevog website.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

O halp, I'm dyeing!

Today I went to a natural dyeing party out in LaGrange, which is only about a ten minute drive from town. We set up in front of this funky house:

and started off putting our undyed skeins in mordant; some people used copper, and I put mine in alum.

While we waited for the mordant to set into the yarn, we took a break for lunch and touring the barn, where we met some very dirty sheep and a goat that felt the need to inform us of his unhappiness every 30 seconds.

There were also a bunch of swallows and several very attention-hungry barn cats.

After lunch, we set about putting the yarn in the dye pots. We used lichen, red sandalwood, and onion skins, which gave a range of browns and reds.

By the time I got to my yarn, the dye had pretty much exhausted in the sandalwood bath - it yielded a dusty pink color instead of this brighter pink. We'll see how it washes out tomorrow!

We got there around 9 am and left a little before 2:30 - and not before a lot of tasty dessert and a little bit of napping. All in all, a good day to dye. (lolz.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Danger, Will Robinson!

Recently, Smith's received a new shipment of Art Yarns Cashmere 1, a hand-dyed laceweight cashmere. These three colors are the top contenders for my heart.

And without further ado, yarn pr0n.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hemming and... socking?

Today I sorta went on a getting-things-done spree. First on the list? Sewing the hem of a vintage Pendleton wool skirt I got a few years ago that was probably four or five inches above the knee. It's a beautiful fabric, but with the high waist the proportions were all off and I just never wore it. About two years ago, I was looking at it and realized that there was a huge turned-under hem underneath; probably some teenager wanted a sexier skirt length and got it hemmed accordingly. Luckily, the bias tape was still on it and everything! So, I let down the hem, pinned it, and sewed a floating hem.

It still needs a good ironing - I'm going to baste the pleats closed to get a crisp line, and I'll steam that baby until she's crisp and skirty!

I've also been making good progress on my Traveler's Stockings. They fit super well, and the fabric is dreamy on the feet.

Speaking of dreamy, I've been bad lately:

Ella Rae, Madeline Tosh Sock in Robin's Egg, and the discontinued Panda Wool in colorway Circus, for some plain stockinette socks - maybe with a cute little picot edge. My stash is currently in a storage locker, so I've been seriously jonesing for sock yarn. And now my wallet is telling me to stop.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How do you choose yarn?

This is a question that I consider on almost a daily basis, albeit in an unconscious way. I think about matching yarn and pattern based on a variety of different criteria: weight, color, composition, and twist are some especially important factors. With all the lace going on lately, I haven't been knitting socks - and, as my sad, empty sock drawer will attest, I'm wearing through them faster than I've been knitting them. So, what's a girl to do? Cast on for project number eleventy-billion, of course.

First, I tried to cast on for Nancy Bush's Traveler's Stockings using some yarn from my stash - Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in the colorway Dove, on size 2.25 mm needles. Nancy Bush has looser tension than me, so my rule of thumb is to go up a needle size. She recommended a size 0 US, so I chose a size 1 for mine.

Sadly, as I quickly found out, the new CTH base yarn - different in twist and softness from the same brand I used in a pair two years ago - does not play well with size 1s. The fabric was stiff, k2togs were nearly impossible, and every stitch manipulation that I attempted resulted in fluffy split stitches.

In knitting as in so many other things, the materials make the difference. I like my sock needles dangerously sharp and my twist tight. My favorite sock yarns are Colinette Jitterbug, Ella Rae Lace Merino, and Shibui Sock, all of which have twists that make stitches pop and socks long-wearing. And although I loved the old base of CTH, the new stuff just doesn't quite make it up to snuff for highly patterned socks.


Oh yeah. The yarn on the left is Ella Rae Lace Merino, which I would characterize as a light fingering merino of intoxicating, addictive softness and color. The right is the new CTH - a heavy fingering, fluffy merino that, sadly, just hasn't been that fun to work with - at least, not on my chosen needles. I suspect that it will play nicely with size 2 US needles and a less complex pattern than the one I want to make right now, but since this is a right now situation in my sockmaking career, this one's being tossed back into the stash.

So, instead, I cast on with said Lace Merino in a gorgeous, shapeshifting shade of lavender. It twists! It pops! It navigates size 1s breezily, almost irritatingly well!

Oh, Ella Rae... why can't I quit you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oodles of lace

The weather in Oberlin has been absolutely perfect lately. The mornings are sunny but it rains in the afternoons, turning the entire world this deep, grassy green. I spent the morning blocking a lace project that's been done for over a month - pictures to follow - and went to town to take care of printing and sending off some paperwork to Kansai Gaidai, then to the yarn store and off to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle at Slow Train. I wasn't really into it for the first fifty pages or so, but all of sudden I got caught up in it; it's a strange book, almost dream-like, but not even the more obtuse elements of the plot are without meaning. I'm realizing how much I miss reading during the year, although I do think that school has taught me to read with more intention.

And oh, glorious summer! How you have allowed me the opportunity for this photo to occur:

Three lace patterns. Three different yarns. Hundreds of hours of joy.

The turquoise is another cashmere scarf in the same pattern I used before; the lavender is lilac leaf, the grey is my pretty boy Crown Prince.

Good coffee, good yarn, and a good book; what else could a girl need?

Sunday, June 6, 2010


This morning I woke up with a singular desire to clean my room. I moved in about four days ago and until today, my room was still covered in boxes, I had nowhere to throw my dirty laundry, and my suitcase was keeping the door from fully opening. So I went a little crazy: put the suitcase away, dug up my laundry basket, and generally rearranged. It finally feels more like my own space.

It's cluttered. Ever since I was young, I've been cluttered but not dirty: some organized chaos I can deal with, but dirty dishes and such I cannot. When I was a teenager, I agonized over the fact that I would never be the type of person who could maintain a perfectly empty-looking room full of clean lines and crisp white sheets. As I've gotten older, I think I've finally realized that having yarn and clothing in partial view is deeply satisfying; it's what I fill my life with, it's what I like - of course it's okay to show it off. This is a touch messier than I'd like for a long-term space, but it's still nice to have all of those colors visible from my bed.

So, while I would love it if I had the time to organize this space a little more, find places for everything, and make it realize its full coziness potential, I'm only living here for two months and can thus handle a little more clutter than I usually prefer. Besides, I have a great reading nest going on, and with the amount I'm hoping to be reading and knitting this summer (which is a lot), it's a pretty nice little haven.

This weekend, in between coffee runs to Slow Train - which has the best studying/reading/knitting atmosphere I've encountered outside of little indie coffee shops in Santa Cruz - and cleaning, I got over to Ratsy's vintage store. I got a little silk scarf that I'm hoping to dye, and a short kimono top that looks pretty strange on the hanger, but goes perfectly with high-waisted skirts or pants and a bright belt. It's pretty simple, and I might have to experiment with making a couple of my own with nicer fabric.

I've also been wearing my little hair-flowers from H&M almost every day. I may have to make some of them of my own, too, because they're pretty perfect for dressing up outfits, especially when they lean towards the conservative side.

So much to do!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sweet dreams, Lilac!

Poor Crown Prince. He has been ignored - nay; cast asunder! - in favor of this pretty little slip of a thing. Their fiber content is similar: the Prince is 50/50 wool-silk, where Lilac is 70/30 alpaca-silk, and both are pretty in their own right. But Lilac, after the edging, is comprised of nothing but lace and purl rows. No nupps. Barely chart-worthy lace. Oh my dear Prince, I shall return to you soon. But the siren call of simplicity and soft lavender yarn is too much to bear! In time, I will yearn for a challenge, and we shall be together again.

Until that day comes, Lilac and I will be in my bedroom watching Glee and flirting shamelessly.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rainy Friday

Today it rained while the sun shined. The front of the neighborhood bar has been ripped out for renovations, and my haven from 5-7 pm on Fridays when all my favorite people come out for cheap drinks and good company is boarded up and covered in brick and sawdust. I sometimes forget that Oberlin gets lonely on weekends - actually, in general, I've become less and less enamored of weekends as my time here has gone on; I like having lists of things to accomplish and then checking things off one by one, and it's harder to do that on weekends. I have a pretty big list for the summer, including learning an extra 200 kanji, reading at least 10 books, knitting omiyage (thank you gifts) for my soon-to-be host family in Japan, and doing all sorts of ridiculous weaving/dyeing/knitting projects. Oh yeah, did I mention? I got into my study abroad program for the fall! I've been packing and planning and sending out paperwork all week.

It was funny the way the light hit the rain today - one of those freak rainstorms while it's perfectly beautiful and hot outside. It was like the sky was heaving a big sigh of relief.

And, speaking of knitting omiyage, I made a little trip out to French Creek Fiber Arts today to pick up a pair of Addi lace needles in size 6 US. Somehow I thought that I had a pair, but I soon realized as I was pawing through my needle stash that in fact, I had hallucinated it. So this is a shiny new project, planned to go to my host mother/sister: the Lilac Leaf Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia. Yep. I'm obsessed. I have decided, though, that for the scarves, I much prefer the cable cast-on (not traditional, though - yikes!). It's stretchy, and especially when the yarn is doubled, it almost looks like a braid at the edge. I suppose my singular dedication to Crown Prince had to end at some point. Sigh. And I moved on to one of his many pretty sisters, no less.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The prince and the alpaca

This last weekend, my mom came to town to help me move to my summer housing. We got to go down to a sheep and wool festival in Wooster, Ohio, and hang out with a bunch of yarn and this cute little dude. Alpacas look pretty funny when they're shaved and their heads aren't - helmet head in the truest sense of the phrase.

We also got over to Fine Points in Cleveland, where I picked up two cones of Habu silk/stainless steel and this gorgeous Claudia Handpainted sock yarn, seen here with a cup of iced coffee from Slow Train Cafe, Oberlin's newest addition to the restaurant/cafe scene. The colorway is Mountain Sky. I love Claudia sock yarn - it knits up beautifully and is hard-wearing to boot. I've also made some major progress on Crown Prince, which I cast on a little less than two weeks ago now.

This project is a really fun knit. I've stopped thinking of nupp rows as a nuisance, since all the rows are nupp rows, and are actually pretty fun! I love the way the nupps make the pattern stand out, and I think this one is going to block out to be crazily beautiful. I'm already scheming my next project from Knitted Lace of Estonia...