Monday’s Child: 80s Boucle

80s CowlIt is fall again, and my vintage sweater collection is ready to keep me toasty. I’ve been busy with lots of laundering and mending over the last year, to get everything ready. It isn’t always easy, either, to fit vintage sweaters into modern looks, and I don’t claim to be extra-great at it. Some sweaters, like a simple cream-colored Aran, or a lovely Shetland wool fair isle, will always be fashionable, because they are wardrobe standards. But others, like today’s gray boucle with a cowl neck, straight out of the late 70s or early 80s, can be tricky. It’s so very definitely the era in which it was made; there is nothing even remotely timeless about it. But it is also a flattering shape and an interesting color and texture. Paired with plain bluejeans, it definitely evokes it’s era, but sometimes, with vintage, you just have to embrace it. Meanwhile, a quick search of Anthropologie’s recent crop of sweaters for fall and winter of 2014 give us things like this neutral-colored sweater with a fringe collar and this cowl-neck boucle sweater that both have elements reminiscent of my little vintage cowl. The shapes and textures from the 80s are definitely to be found all over in 2014′s designer sweaters, so I’ll count myself lucky my pretty vintage baby is in-the-moment for it’s debut season. And I’ll count myself extra lucky that this gem came to me via a Goodwill $1-days sale.


Tuesday’s Child: Rhino Polka

I have been a member of for a long time now. When I first joined, I designed some fabrics using drawings of ferrets I happened to have handy, and they’ve been there, slowly selling, for a couple of years. At this point, I have earned more money than I ever expected, and I’m pretty surprised and grateful for it. But I realized that those designs might need to be updated, and taken seriously, and that I could probably do more, if I really meant it. So I gave myself a challenge: Every week, Spoonflower has a themed fabric design contest, and from now on, I will be choosing one of those themes per month, designing a (COLLECTION OF) fabric, and entering the contest. It has gone surprisingly well so far. I’m a little startled.

Rhino Polka Watermark On that note, my first entry into a contest is Rhino Polka. And the reason I’m posting this on Tuesday’s Child is because this fabric was specifically designed with a large-dot repeat (the dots measure just under 1 3/4 inches) in a sophisticated color palette, for use in housewares. On a canvas-weight fabric, it would be perfect for bags, throw-pillows, curtains, etc. I’m so happy to have it turn out the way I pictured. I don’t know about most artists, but I know for me, that seldom happens.


Thursday’s Child: Everycolor Yarn

braemarI frequently hit up my local thrift stores on dollar days looking for clothing for my family and also for items I can use as materials. Among the items I always look for are fur and leather coats, wool (or silk, alpaca, mohair, cashmere) sweaters and silk shirts. The wool sweaters will most of them be fulled and given to my sister for crafting. Those which are especially attractive and undamaged or with little enough damage to be repairable might actually get worn. Some few, particularly those made of more expensive or exotic fibers, but those made of wool if the wool is particularly interesting and the construction allows, get taken apart and used for yarn.

This sweater is one of the latter cases. It is a “vintage” 1980s shetland wool sweater by Braemar, size XL. It’s pretty ugly. I grabbed it off the rack for $1, initially intending it for the fulling pile because, well, it’s hard to go wrong with wool for $1. everycoloryarnBut then I took a close look at the background yarn, out of which the sleeves and entire back are also made. It’s gray. Maybe a bit on the blue side, and a nice heather, but basically just gray. Until you look closely, and then you’ll see that it’s heathered in fibers of red, orange, blue, green and purple. It is everycolor yarn. It gives the effect to the eye of being gray, but when paired with a garment of a given color, will sort of lean toward that color. The seams aren’t serged, so I can safely take the sweater apart and harvest the yarn, and that is exactly what I’m going to do, because…

One of these days, I will make myself some kilt hose. I’ve made a couple pair, and have more in the queue. Only my most favorite people get kilt hose and I’ve decided to add myself to that list. I believe the yarn is going to fall in the DK to worsted range, which somewhat limits the number of patterns out there, but fortunately I do not have dainty legs, so patterns in bulkier yarns, geared for men, will suit. At this point, I think I could safely use one of the patterns I already have and rechart some of the cable patterns for myself. Or, I might go with the Highland Schottische from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush. I’ve had those on my list for a long time. I think I’d rather do them in a darker yarn that would show off the openwork. This wool is just light enough to show cables like a dream.

Using up all the food you buy is a great way to live frugally, but it can be difficult. We are conditioned to think of cheap ingredients as basically disposable, and also to think of a lot of ingredients in one specific context. Taking some time to think about the types of items you waste out of habit and how they could be used will eventually help you to save money on food costs, while also giving you the opportunity to get creative and to find new favorite foods.

I say this with complete sincerity, but I actually do not cook. When I was a kid, I liked to bake, but I never really liked to cook; that was my sister. My first husband was a decent cook, and my second husband is a phenomenal one. I used to cook very occasionally, but after our daughter was born, even that petered out to almost never, with the exception of a recent interest in canning and candying. Now, our daughter is 11 years old, and my amazing cook of a husband has decided to do it professionally. His evening shifts mean this gal has to dust off whatever skills she put away more than a decade ago and figure out how to feed herself and her child something more interesting than sandwiches and boxed mac & cheese. I’ve been spoiled, and it’s been a pretty frightening adjustment for me. My friends and family have even joked that at this point it might be easier for Cory to teach Kit how to cook and let her feed us in the evenings.

I have to prove them wrong, of course. In an effort to ease myself into the whole cooking thing, I’ve gone back to my roots; baking. I just KNOW I can use that oven. If I mix stuff together and stick it in the oven, it will eventually be edible. Right?

CAM00236So, here’s the thing about hamburger and hot dog buns: We mostly think of them as having one job; making meat and cheese portable. Hamburger buns might be used for sandwiches and sloppy joes in addition to hamburgers, but most people don’t think of them outside of that genre of food, and hot dog buns, because of their shape, are even more specialized. Plus, buns are cheap; a dollar or two for a package of 8 buns. So if you buy a package of buns, the chances are that you won’t feel terribly guilty about throwing away the inevitable leftovers. But I’m here to tell you you shouldn’t! Stale hamburger and hot dog buns can be used for all the same things as other stale breads, and in a fit of laziness-inspired ingenuity, I discovered a really yummy one! I call them French Toast Muffins, and they go something like this:

4 stale hot dog or hamburger buns (The cheap, white-bread variety actually works best for this)
4 jumbo eggs (or just whatever eggs you have, but maybe increase to 5 if you use smaller eggs)
1/4 cup milk, or so (we use Vitamin D whole milk, but you could use half & half, cream, or 2%, I doubt it matters much)
Approx. 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Approx. 2 tbsp white or brown sugar
Approx. 1/4 tsp cinnamon, optional
Approx. 2 tbsp butter

*Do NOT preheat the oven!

I was making this up as I went. It’s basically a french toast, only I don’t actually know how to make french toast, only what goes in it. So I sort of mixed up my eggs at the same ratio of eggs to milk as I use for scrambled eggs. It seemed to work, so I don’t question it. Everything else is to taste, really. I prefer my french toast less sweet, especially since you can add sweet after. My daughter likes just a hint of cinnamon. So whatever works for you is good.

If your buns are really stale, you can use them as is. If they aren’t, I recommend drying them out a bit in low heat. Whip the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, sugar and cinnamon together. In an 8-slot brownie / mini-loaf pan, use butter to grease the bottom of each cup, leaving a bit of butter in the bottom to melt while baking. Tear your buns into pieces, putting 1/2 of a bun into each cup of your pan. Divide the egg mixture evenly between the cups. Use a fork or spoon to smoosh the bread pieces down into the egg mixture, making sure your bread is completely covered in egg in a nice, even layer. At this point, turn your oven to 350 degrees. Let your pan sit on the counter while the oven comes up to temp, so the bread can soak up all that yummy sweet egg. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a fork comes away clean from the middle of a loaf. (Baking time may vary depending on the type of muffin or loaf pan you use.)

Top them as you would french toast, although I thought they were great alone, too! These two were topped with homemade peach syrup. Leftovers should be refrigerated.


Sunday’s Child: Knit-O-Graf

Knit-O-Graf ad from 1959 McCalls Needlework & Crafts

Knit-O-Graf ad from 1959 McCalls Needlework & Crafts

Knit-to-Fit Snow White Graph

Knit-to-Fit Snow White Graph

Some day, a part of my needlework museum library will include a copy of every Knit-O-Graf and Knit-to-Fit chart published. I’m only up to 2 of each so far.

In the 1950s, knits featuring colorful pictures were all the rage, especially for children. Typical themes included cowboys, poodles, rocket ships, ice-skaters, adorable animals, clowns, and fairy tales. If you could find it on a dish towel, it was probably also on a sweater at some point. This trend really didn’t peter off until, well, ever. These days, you might find some more sophisticated designs for children; grown-up sweaters made small, but you’ll still find sweaters featuring kittens, ladybugs and choo choo trains. On the flip side, we’ve also incorporated more childlike designs into adult wear, giving grownups an in on the whimsical and cheerful that would have seemed too, too gauche not very long ago. This is lucky for everyone involved.

Big names in graphed knitting included the Knit-O-Graf and Knit-to-Fit charted patterns. When I found my first of these, I was ecstatic. Although they were designed for children, and the patterns sized appropriately, the clear charts are quirky and fun, and could be used to easily give a retro vibe to any sweater, whether for child or for adult. I own Knit-O-Graf patterns No. 170 and No. 206, featuring cowboys and poodles, and Knit-to-Fit patterns No. 410 and No. 416, featuring an ice skater and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Snow White design includes a copyright notice for Walt Disney Productions, but it’s hard to tell whether this was an officially licensed design. That whole idea of character copyright and licensing was notoriously weird during the early half of the 20th century.

Knit-to-Fit Ice Skater

Knit-to-Fit Ice Skater

From a technical standpoint, the charts are very interesting. Written instructions are included, but with a basic understanding of increasing and decreasing, sweater construction, and how intarsia works, the graph itself is all you really need. Each of the charts includes instructions for both pullover and cardigan styles, as well as different sleeve lengths and neck options.

Included below is the chart for the figure skater from Knit-to-Fit pattern No. 410. Use it to spiff up an existing garment by working the chart in duplicate stitch, or practice your intarsia chops by adding her into a new garment. She’d be adorable on a sweater, scarf, hat, or possibly even mittens or socks, or on knitted dishclothes and towels. Recharted in a clean digital file, in color for ease of reading, at roughly 5:7 ratio. Choose your own colors, of course.


Notes on copyrights: The Knit-O-Graf charts were designed and copyrighted by Della Delia Fitch and renewed in the 1980s by Nancy Karen Fitch Mott. They are still protected by copyright! They were distributed in Canada by Bouquet Yarns, and in the US by mail direct from the Knit-O-Graf Pattern Company. Knit-to-Fit charts were published during the same time period by Bernhard Ulmann Co, makers of Bear Brand, Fleisher’s, and Bucilla yarns. I cannot find any renewal information on the Knit-to-Fit charts. To the best of my knowledge the patterns are not still protected by copyright, however, designs featuring copyrighted characters may be otherwise protected. I always urge caution when approaching reproduction of such items. If I should be informed, or find information, that the chart I have provided is infringing in any way, it will be removed from the website as soon as possible.

I love vintage clothing, and I love knits, so it should come as no surprise at all that I adore vintage knits. This past season, I worked on my collection of vintage sweaters, focusing on wool. I buy vintage sweaters that most people don’t want because they need repair or are obviously out-dated, and I usually buy them CHEAP. I’d like to focus my Mondays on these sweaters as I get them each washed and repaired. If you do not want to hear a woman wax poetic about knits, these will not be the posts for you.

Vintage pink wool hand-knit cardiganLet’s start with this ridiculously pink cardigan. This is a mid to late 60s hand knit. If you recognize this from a vintage pattern book, please drop me a note; I’ve been hunting and can’t track it down. Special features include a saddle shoulder and paired cable braids on front and sleeves, with little open breast pockets at the top of each of the front cables. It has no shaping to speak of, and I really don’t know how to style it. Open over a white T-shirt and black jeans? Every time I look at I feel different about the color. Half the time I think it is perfect, the other half I make up my mind to over-dye it with purple. At the very least, I think I will update the buttons.

Now, this is also my first serious attempt at mending a sweater. I’ve fixed seams in the past, and even holes, but never with the intention of the sweater being as good as new. One of my previous attempts was a sweater of my husband’s that was worn a lot during our dog’s younger years, and lots of tooth and toenail snags latter was in the throw-away box. But he thought it was comfy, and lamented that it was ripped to shreds. So I mended it to good-enough, so he could slouch about the house in it. He could never wear it to work again, though. With my vintage sweater collection, the goal is to make the sweaters every bit as wearable as they ever were. This sweater had a hole in the back, and a weirdly crusty stain on one sleeve. After washing, the crusty stain turned into a lightly stained hole, and right over a cable, too. I couldn’t find any yarn quite the same pink, but found something pretty close and did a swiss-darning-style mend on the back to make it as invisible as possible, and then basically just tried to reconstruct as well as possible the damaged cable. It’s in a spot that won’t be noticed, and will most likely be taken for a stain rather than a darn, but my mixed-success was successful enough, I think, and will be even more so after another good blocking.



Friday’s Child: Nurse Hat

nurse One of the costumes I’ve put together for the haunted house this year is a nurse. Nurses are a standard in horror genre movies and games, and “sexy” nurse costumes aren’t hard to find year round. But we wanted something a little more authentic, with a bit more vintage feel. A lucky-find vintage nurse uniform blouse from the goodwill, a white skirt, stockings, red shoes and some hand-made accessories round out the costume.

The cap is based on research of vintage nurse caps and a bit of fiddling with some newsprint until I had a shape I liked. My model is made from some 100% cotton twill I picked up on clearance at Joann’s. It was 60″ wide fabric, and was half off the red sticker price, so I got one yard for $5, out of which I got the hat and the pleated pocket apron with only scraps left over. A pattern for the cap can be found here, and a pattern (or at least a recipe) for the apron will be posted in the next few weeks. The cap could easily be made out of white craft foam or felt for a much simpler but not as sturdy costume prop. My actor is actually pinning her hat in place, but has requested it be fixed to a headband for the future.


Wednesday’s Child: Happy October!

It is finally October! We here at are looking forward to the season opener of Eagle Hollow Haunts this Friday, October 4th. Costuming is nearly finished, and I get to act while the season runs, which is something I love to do. I’ve been so busy the last week with last-minute preparations I really have nothing else to talk about. So I’ll simply leave you with this pastel drawing of a demon dog I once saw (and photographed) at a thrift store. I do not know its history, and I don’t think I want to. I can’t tell if it’s wearing a cape or not. All I know is, it was crazy-creepy enough to take a picture, but WAY too crazy-creepy to bring home with me. Enjoy!


Last week I showed you how I started making a straight jacket out of a martial arts uniform. I finished up the project by adding sleeve-caps and straps that allow the actor to have their hands free and available while looking like they are tied into a straight jacket. The results:





Friday’s Child: Fancywork 1892

Fancywork 1892At a little antique store in Galesburg, IL I found a pair of crumbling newsprint magazines from the 1890′s. I bought them, of course. And here, for your viewing (and printing) pleasure, is the complete page of Fancywork from the October 15, 1892 Ladies Home Companion. Patterns include crocheted infant booties, square lace shawl, greek key lace trim, a knitted underwear edging and most interesting to me, a crocheted passementerie featuring nailhead and pendant beads, and designed to use as embellishment on skirts and dresses. Please note: Clicking on the small image to the left will take you to the high resolution version, which is sized to print at 300 dpi on a legal-sized sheet.

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