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Melissa

For Boys and Girls

I love children’s books. I love old books. I love old childrens books. To this day I’ve never read a Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew or Bobbsey Twins book. But these well-known children’s book series are hardly the only ones out there. Since beginning my collection of antique and vintage books, I’ve discovered what a seriously prolific phenomenon childrens book series were. Yes, the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s had their Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High, etc. But in the early half of the 20th book-makers like the Stratemeyer Syndicate turned children’s series into some seriously big business, and plenty of other publishers followed suit.

These series were often, like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, essentially mysteries, but they were also, to an extent, occupational. Each series followed a set of children, or youth-into-adult, generally either boys or girls, not both, through a variety of adventures centering around a single occupation. You have nurses, pilots, railroad men, soldiers, radio operators and more. I’ve managed to come across, and be thoroughly delighted by, single (on two occasions now, two) volumes of a wide variety of these series, and I’m always on the lookout for more. More in general, and more volumes from the series I already have, in specific. So far, that includes the following main characters:

Cherry Ames by Helen Wells. Nursing
Ralph Fairbanks by Allen Chapman. Railroad
Penny Marsh by Dorothy Deming. Nursing
Dick Kent by Milton Richards. Royal Mounted Police
The Brighton Boys by James Driscoll. WWI
Fighters for Freedom. WWII
Patty Fairfield by Carolyn Wells. About a girl. That is all.

I know I have others, too, but I’m afraid I can’t list them off the top of my head. Anyway, they’re always fun to read. If you come across one, pick it up!

Melissa

A Dress for Kit

It has been quite some time since I made this item, but a variety of factors inhibited me from posting about it. The short and sweet is this:

Kit and I went to the fabric store together to buy supplies to make her first-day-of-school outfit for her 1st grade year. She chose a couple of patterns that happened to be on sale cheap that day, and were very simple, so I bought them in two sets of sizes, to fit now and to fit later. Of those, we alighted on Butterick pattern 5022, item B, a jumper-style dress. We went hunting for fabric, and Kit chose bright guitars on a green background and purple with white dots. (You might recall that when I made her stocking I thought her choice of greens was… weird… but once I got them together, they looked great. Well, the same could be said of this experience.)

Some sewing, some adjusting, and some time later, here is Kit in the finished product:

Guitar Dress 2
She looks cute, and she loves it. I did some extra work to make sure there were almost no raw edges, and it’s made of quilting cotton, so it is very washable and is a nice, light and airy dress for her to wear on these HOT summer days!

Melissa

Craftster Be Awesome Swap

I recently participated in the Craftster Be Awesome Swap. My partner was the fabulous PinkMafia.

Lothruin to PinkMafia:

PinkMafia received a pair of modified Lolita Legs, from Knitty. Although the pattern calls for Elann Esprit, I used the comparable (but higher quality, I believe) Cascade Fixation in black, because that is what I had.

The original Lolita Legs lace up the back. Now, this is an interesting idea in a sock, however, I really do not like it in this application. If the stocking were solid, not net, I might like it better. Also, the stitch pattern tends to twist and the lacing up the back of the stocking necessitates persuading the fabric away from this natural tendency. I, personally, think the twist is very flattering to the leg. Meanwhile, the reason for using the stretch yarn is that you avoid having to do significant shaping, but that also means that the lacing looks poorly, because at places it is very wide and others almost overlapping. In short, if I were going to make a stocking that laced up the back, there are many ways in which it would be different than this.

And, if I were going to knit these stockings, there are many things I would change, and, in fact, did. I read a number of others’ experiences with modifying out the back laces (thank you Ravelry!) and then set about it myself. First, I allowed and accounted for the natural twist in the fabric. I started with the toe as written, and worked to the heel. Upon reaching the heel, though, I found that the original “back” of my work (between needles 1 and 4) was approximately a quarter turn off. I essentially adjusted the position of the “back” by simply designating that now, this needle, formerly needle x, was needle y (Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what needles got adjusted to what, but I have faith that you’ll know just what I mean when you get there and see it for yourself.) Then I worked the heel as written, and up to where the pattern calls for the split for working back and forth. At this point, I believe my work had twisted almost a half-turn, and again I adjusted the “back” by designating the needles differently. (And yes, I believe this gave me, over all, about an extra 3/4 round, but the nature of the stocking doesn’t make this obvious.)

The place in the pattern that calls for the split is essentially the same place where, in most long-sock patterns, you would begin shaping for the calf. Having worked it with very stretchy yarn, not SO much shaping was necessary, but I did do some at this point. I added 4 stitches on either side of the new “back”, essentially adding in two new repeats of the stitch pattern. I found the method I used made a really subtle increase that blended ALMOST seamlessly into the stitch pattern. The pattern rows are either “*YO, k2tog*, repeat to end” or “*YO, skp*, repeat to end”. It doesn’t really matter on which of these rows you work the increases. Whatever works out for your measurements. On either side of the new “back” (I worked them all four in a row, not at the beginning and ending of the round), instead of working a YO and decrease, across two repeats of the pattern I worked YO, k1, YO, k1, YO, k1, YO, k1. It’s as simple as that.

After that I just knitted and knitted until I had almost used up all my yarn. Each stocking took almost exactly one ball of Cascade Fixation, which made the figuring easy. The top of the stocking I made narrower than in the pattern, and a trick I used for a good loose castoff (a stumbling point, it seems, with the stretchy yarn) was to cast off with a crochet hook roughly twice the size of the needles I was using. PinkMafia has worn them with a garter belt, and as you can see, they look fabulous on her:

Fishnets

Fishnets 2

PinkMafia to Lothruin:

And what did I get in return, gentle readers? A bustle and little hat in teal silk. PinkMafia is a burlesque performer, and does her own costuming (it is amazing, and you should check it out on Craftster!) and she created for me a gorgeous little ensemble. What with Cory working on his portfolio and all, we took the opportunity to combine pictures for posting in the swap gallery with a professional-style photo shoot, and the results can be seen at this gallery on Cory’s website. (Yes, the rest of that costume is pieces I already owned, including the gorgeous Victorian-style corset and that amazing black crinoline.)

Melissa

Update, Schmuptdate

So, I have a number of craft projects to post about, but for the sake of my own organizational sanity, I’ll give them each their own post. But in the meanwhile, a few notes on random stuff.

Some time ago, my sister recommended to me an artist named Neko Case. Armed with this name, I created a Pandora station and was delighted with the fact that one of my old-school favorites, Mazzy Star, came up on said station. (*giddy*) Further down the playlist was another song that I thought was really beautiful, and I excitedly told my sister about The Wailin’ Jennys. (Too which my sister responded, and I had to guiltily admit she was correct, “Yeah, I told you about the Wailin’ Jennys over a year ago. You should really listen to me about music.” Yes, sister, I should.) So, if you’re in the mood, check out some of my personal favorites:

By Neko Case, Dirty Knife and This Tornado Loves You, Starlight and Long Time Traveller by The Wailin’ Jennys, the previously mentioned What Can I Say by Brandi Carlile, an OLD favorite, Fade Into You by Mazzy Star, and last but not least, Genius Next Door by Regina Spektor.

I have been working on a web project, soon to be unveiled, and for this project I got creative with scanned stuff around my house for the graphics. As I looked around my house, I realized what a wealth of textures and images there were, really. That turned out to include some rather amazing Victorian-era graphics, which I have been slowly working on scanning, cleaning up, and making available. These include images from an 1880′s German-language medical book and a little Spanish geography-for-kids book. Also, I’ve been scanning vintage and antique paper and other items for textural backgrounds and such.

Besides the crafts and a few antique books, I haven’t much else going on. Not that all that isn’t enough.

Melissa

Time, Time, Ticking on Me

Today on Pandora I heard a song by Brandi Carlile called What Can I Say, and hence the title of this post.

Yesterday afternoon my husband and daughter, Sister-in-Law, niece, and nephew left for Indianapolis for the long weekend. Originally, I was going on this trip. A series of circumstances beyond anyone’s control contrived to keep me home. As far as the trip goes, this was a bit of a disappointment, but I did so cheerfully because it meant everyone else could go. So it isn’t that I am especially upset about not being able to go. And last week I was even looking forward to having the house all to myself, so that I could accomplish several large projects that are better done without husbands and children under foot.

But today, when I woke up to a wigged-out dog, missing her lord and master, and also her young charge (I am really fairly superfluous in Mina’s scheme of things, I think), and the house was grimly quiet, well, I realized I would be alone. All weekend. I am not, by nature, a solitary person. I do seek out isolation at times, to ground myself, but for the most part I am not only naturally social, but also simply not used to being alone. Last night was the first time I have EVER slept alone in my house, and we’ve lived there for 8 years. I have slept alone away from my house, but seldom, and I was in the company of other people, if not sharing a bed with them. Before then, I had roommates, or husbands, or family. For 6 months or so, when I was 19, I had an apartment by myself, and I actually spent very little time there. I was always with other people.

So this is a unique experience for me, really. I feel like maybe I am a failure as an independent woman. I generally think of myself as self-reliant, but is that word meaningless when one has trouble being alone for a few days in one go? I don’t really think I’m dependent on my husband, on my family, but I certainly have to own that I simply do not like being alone.

Part two in Exercises in Using Materials On Hand is Apples!

Everyone has, at some point, thrown out that last apple or two because the blush of youth departed before the apples were eaten. When we eat apples, we like them to be cold and crisp. Or at the very least, crisp. I don’t know anyone who prefers their apples over-ripe and slightly mushy. So we buy our bags or baskets or other containers full of apples, and we bake with them, or we eat them with cheese slices, or we send them to school with the kids, but before we quite manage to get through all of them, they’ve gone soft, and most of us probably throw the last one or two away. I know I’ve done so, myself, thinking, “Ew, it’s going bad.”

Now, the key there is “going”. The thing ain’t bad yet unless it stinks. If it’s still firm, but the flesh is just slightly soft, and there are no rotten bits, it’s still (im)perfectly good. It’s just not necessarily good raw eating. Now’s the time to cook it. Most pie recipes call for a LOT of apples. And they want tart apples, for the most part. Tarts and crisps call for fewer apples, but still the “cooking” apple varieties, like Granny Smith and Jonathan. (Although, since I like to eat the tart apples, I’m just as likely to have one or two of them hanging around as any other variety, so perhaps a crisp would do the trick!)

So if you have one Gala left over, a pie isn’t in the offing. But there IS something you can do with one single (or a couple of) sweet or semi-sweet apple, a little past it’s prime. Applesauce. This doesn’t have to be the massive canning spectacular you might think. Fresh applesauce keeps a couple of weeks in the fridge, and it’s also delicious served hot, straight from the stove, as a dessert or snack. A basic applesauce recipe uses apples and sugar. You can fancy it up however you want, including lemon juice, orange juice or other liquid, salt, spices (think apple pie spices for a traditional flavor).

IMG_5525

How I made mine:

I had three Gala apples. I washed them, then cored them and cut them in chunks with the peels still on. I threw them in a pot over med heat. I added about a tablespoon of butter per apple, so 3 tbsp total. I let the butter melt and stirred it up well, then turned the heat down to 2 or so. I added my seasonings to taste, about 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a little bit of lemon juice, plus raisins, and let it cook down for about half an hour. (What seasoning did I use? Approximately a teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon and crushed black pepper, and pinches of ginger and nutmeg.) Once it was cooked through, nice and hot and quite thick, I mashed it with a potato masher and popped it into a leftovers container and into the fridge. (Yes, that means there are bits of apple peel hanging out in my applesauce. I happen to like it that way just fine, but if you don’t, consider either peeling the apples before you start or using a blender or food processor on them.)

Kit sampled it and declared “That is GREAT!” So she gets fresh, homemade applesauce in her lunch tomorrow. Yay mom!

Melissa

White Sheep, White Sheep

White sheep, white sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, two boxes full.

Was that silly? Yes. But by now, you know that’s just how I am. This weekend, the neighbors across the street had a garage sale, and I wandered over there to see if any of the bikes they had out would be good for Kit’s next upgrade.

Sadly, the only one that might have worked for her was in a very sad state of disrepair, to include rusted out gears. However…

Two unremarkable boxes near the money table caught my eye. I assumed they were full of packing material, or whatever. But when I actually went up to hand over fifty cents for the lovely fabric I was buying, I saw the tops of the boxes. “Wool – $2″ Two large boxes of clean wool, probably Shetland, certainly some downy breed. Roughly a fleece-worth. $2 a box. Yes, I took it home. Yes, that’s a lot of wool.

So far, I’ve carded a bit with my hand carder and knitted it up thrummed into the sole of a child’s slipper… but now I have to figure out how to make the REST of the slipper. I’ve spun a little on my drop spindle. And I’ve contemplated just how much of it I really think I need to keep for myself. (I do have a lot of wool in the basement.) I’m thinking some of this wool might end up on Etsy. If I can make enough to support my habit, I’m happy.

Melissa

Bowl-a-Thon

I have a love affair with kitschy vintage stuff. Bowling things make me especially happy. I love bowling bags. So, when I walked to the sporting goods section of the Goodwill a few days ago, and saw a tooled-leather bowling bag practically in pieces on the bottom shelf, I swooned a little. But what would I do with a bowling bag that was falling apart? Was it in good enough condition to try to save?

The answer was no. The stitching was rotting, the thing was falling apart. The bottom had obviously been sitting in water at some point, so there was some staining and some mildew. But… but… well. Tooled leather bowling pins. That’s all I’m saying. I bought it, and I brought it home, and I got some ideas.

Step one was simply giving up and taking the entire thing apart. I broke it down to its constituent parts, and then discarded whatever clearly couldn’t be saved. That was pretty much all the non-leather parts, including the bottom, as well as many of the very thin leather parts, like trims and lacing. But I did get the two large front and back panels, two smaller panels from the sides and the side/top parts where the zipper resides. Which, really, were the only important bits.

Step two was reconditioning. I first soaked the pieces in hot water for a bit, then washed them carefully. I used Dawn dish soap. (Hey, if it’s safe enough for the oil-covered critters, I figured it’s safe enough for this, and I didn’t have any saddle soap handy, although I really should get some.) I scrubbed carefully with a soft cloth to remove the dust in the tooled designs, and the filth on the inside of the leather, to include mold on at least one piece. After rinsing thoroughly, I let the pieces dry overnight. The next day, the task was to remove as many of the tedious little leftover bits of stitching as possible, and then oil those puppies. I had some mink oil I bought to condition some shoes, and along with the shoe brush and an old cotton sock, I first scrubbed, then rubbed, the mink oil into both sides of the leather pieces, being careful to get the edges really well.

Ladies and gentlemen:

leather2

The bowling scene. I love this. I believe this will be one side of a knitting bag. It will be a basic tote style, with the rest of the body made of felted plaid wool suiting or coat material, and bowling-themed lining fabric. (I’m contemplating designing my own, having not yet found one I really love anywhere.) The handle hardware will be replaced, and it will also have a shoulder strap.

leather1

The rose. Yeah, this is awesome. Another tote-style bag, possibly also a knitting bag. Like the other large panel, the handle will be replaced, and it will have a shoulder strap. Meanwhile, this one will, I think, have a black/red color scheme. I’d like to do plaid in those colors if I can find it, but otherwise a plain black or strip will work. For the lining, I’m thinking rockabilly, Day of the Dead or Catholic imagery. And I was also thinking about doing some kind of black-polish wash-type thing to only the rose portion of the tooling.

Last, but not actually least:

leather3

Each of these pieces measures a little under 6″x9″. I’m thinking I’ll knit and felt bodies for them and make clutches or little handbags out of them. The floral motif one will have a zippered coin pocket. (I am not sure what that zipper was for, but it reached into the liningless bottom of the bag.) The other piece used to have a little window sewn on to put a name label. The stitch holes delineate an area almost the exact size of my driver’s license, which means by the time I sewed a window pocket there it would be too small to actually put the ID in there, or at least, a very tight fit. So. I’m thinking it’ll have some kind of pocket, but I’m not sure what.

Not pictured are the zipper bits. I haven’t finished reconditioning them yet, as I have a LOT of stitching to take out first. (Including removing the zipper.) Once done, I think they’ll make a really interesting little bag. I have ideas. Oh yes.

The really nice thing about all this is, I think I can do a lot of the sewing on my machine, including sewing the leather pieces to the fabric. The former stitching left holes, and as long as I go slowly and/or hand crank the machine, I think my machine will be able to use the old stitch holes with no problems. That’ll save a lot of work, although the other nice thing about the stitch holes is, even my ungainly hand-stitching will look neat, wherever it happens to be necessary.

Brush Pile

This is a brush pile. It is composed almost entirely of white ash saplings, with a few elm saplings thrown in for good measure. Some of these saplings were fairly large, since we’ve neglected our South fence line something fierce over the last couple of years. I spent most of Saturday afternoon sawing these suckers down, in many cases from under the neighbor’s fence. I only got about 2/3 of the way done, and opted to complete a different project the following afternoon due to blisters.

That project? Create a small flower bed around our mail box, and move some of the daylilies from the aforementioned South fence line to said flower bed.

At about noon, I walked out my front door and stood looking at the mailbox. I glanced at the fence, then at the brush pile, then at the mailbox again. The night before I researched wattle fencing, feeling morose that I had all these lovely, straight sapling branches and would probably end up just throwing them out for lack of a way to use them. I really hadn’t even thought of putting a fence around the mail box bed, but as I stood there in the sunlight, it occurred to me that I really had nothing to lose.

A little bit of sawing, strategic use of the garden shears, some spading, about 5 hours of total work, and one injured 7 year old, and I went from a mail box surrounded by lawn and a brush pile to this:

Lilies In

You can’t see it, but there are lilies in there. I might get some more of different colors and plant them as well. These should be pretty sparse this year, but I anticipate many years of lovely lilies in the future.

My little wattle fence is made using upright pieces roughly 14″ long, pounded into the ground up to half their length. The four corner pieces are roughly 1″ to 1.5″ thick. The twelve interior pieces are in the 3/4″ range. Then I took long, skinny branches (most starting at 3/8″ to 1/2″ at the cut end) and wove them between the poles. I used 8 narrow branches per row. First on one side, then on the opposite, and then on the other two sides, one branch is woven outside/inside/outside with the ends resting on the outside of the corner poles. The second branch is then woven inside/outside/inside, making sure that the fat ends of each branch are on opposite ends of the row. I think my fence has 8 rows. It is quite sturdy, and once the wood is no longer green, I think it will be even more so, since this fence is made of hardwood (mostly white ash, as I said above) rather than the typical willow whips. I may wrap the top ends of the corner posts to secure the final row from slippage while it is curing, and also for a decorative finish.

Truthfully, this is a little more “rustic” or “country” than my taste usually runs, but I feel so good about using these materials rather than wasting them that I don’t care about style. And the process was so much fun, especially with my daughter helping me (never mind the injury, which was quite funny, actually), that I have another little plan for the too-thin and/or too-short branches left in the brush pile.

Melissa

Workbasket

Most readers will know by now of my love of vintage patterns, and the magazines that published them. I already owned a couple dozen old Workbasket magazines from the late 50′s and early 60′s. Today during a trip to the thrift store I got my grubby paws on another couple of dozen, this time from the mid 60′s to late 70′s. Awesome. Not quite as awesome as the older ones, but awesome none the less.

Workbaskets

25 Workbasket magazines, to be exact. And I’ve already found a project I adore. (You’ll probably want to picture it in a different color.)

Owl Snowsuit

That’s right, this little toddler set is just full of cool stuff. A two piece set with matching mittens, a pixie-shaped hoodie, and last but not least, OWLS. Owls. Love.

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