30 June 2007

A good day thrifting

Had a wonderful day of thrifting today! Went to my usual place with my usual friend, and I thought, because I was judging by the first five minutes, that it would be a bust. It was not, mainly because of Christine, who showered me with a large number of fantastic finds today.

Did you know I first met Christine while thrifting? I had not lived here long. My upstairs neighbor told me where I could get used and vintage clothing by the pound (she also told me what day and time were best—very generous!). I was thrilled, because I’d been spoilt by thrifting at the Bargain Barn in Santa Cruz (fresh used goods, twice a day, seven days a week, we’re talking a literal barnful), and never thought I’d have it so good again. Best of all, nobody in Cambridge seemed to be after what I was after! In Santa Cruz, the competition was cordial, but stiff, and they were almost all resellers, people you'd see the next day behind a stall at the flea market, charging a big markup for that tablecloth they’d whisked away before you could close in. Here, people were fighting over shredded mink stoles, leaving me in the clear.

Me and one other person, that is. I noticed right away she was my direct competitor, and almost unbelievably lucky. A thrifting witch. I watched her jealously for a few weeks before my sister came out on a visit, spotted Christine in action and said immediately, “You’ve gotta make friends with that girl. She’s got the best thrifting mojo I’ve ever seen.”

I’m shy, so I think it was actually my sister who made friends first, but not long after that we started thrifting cooperatively, and now we’re friends. We’re not the same size, we understand each other’s taste, and I am as chuffed to find something for Christine as I am for myself. Today it was the other way around, though, because Christine found me a tweed overcoat in teal houndstooth, two vintage Pendleton jackets, two 60s French-style windbreakers, and a peach-and-metallic-gold cropped jacket—perfect next time I’m in Cap Ferrat. Thank you, Christine!

On my own I found this lovely little sheer tie-collar silk blouse printed with views of Florence, an impossibly delicate navy tee, two kilts (!), excellent trousers for the whole family, a weeks’ worth of tattersall work shirts for my brother-in-law, and the best, above, Monsieur le canister. He was just barely sticking out of a pile of rags; I think it was a tiny bit of red tin that made my onboard pattern-matcher go off. He was alone, sadly, but I bet he’ll make some red-and-white friends at my place.

21 June 2007

Practical stash-busting

Howdy friends! Behold the fruit of my stash-busting labors—minute fruit, to be sure, but practical, and pleasing in a vintagey red-and-white kitchen. You will of course recognize this object as a Mason-Dixon warshrag, of which I’ve knit a number. Very soothing to knit, these are, and the finished result, if done in cream-and-red or cream-and-green, is right up my decade. I recommend this pattern for hot summer’s-day knitting. And may I suggest a Veronica Mars marathon to accompany it? Such bad, bad boys. Super fun.

Ok, enough practicality. We have three Chou-ettes on board for a Chou-along (see below), all local to Boston, and all contributors to this blog. It would be lovely to have others join us. Anyone else interested? You have only to declare yourself, and I shall set up a little website for us (or push that task off on Stacie or Amy).

Mind, this will be a quick knit, and economical to boot. Thus, low commitment. And no requirement to model your sweet nothings for publication. But you can if you want to! I might. If I can wiggle my pork into these knickers at all. Half the fun, right?

Anyway, think about it! We’re casting on July 1. Expect to hear from me again on this topic,


18 June 2007


Let’s follow up breakfast porn with something more truly frisky, shall we? This is a postcard I found at the Santa Cruz flea market a couple years ago. I’d forgotten about it but now I’ve cleaned out my closet (erm, almost) it has a themely place to hang. It’s postmarked 1934 and the salutation is actually “Dear Sis.” I love the way the unmentionables are framed by the echoing pillowy cloud...

And while we’re on the subject of ladies’ undergarments, let me tell you what should soon be on the needles: Kate Gilbert’s Mon Petit Chou!

Yesterday after tea and knitting, it happened that a copy of Naughty Needles (a wonderful book with breathtaking models of all sizes: thank you for that, Potter Craft!) was left lying around. Joe spotted it, sat down, and was instantly absorbed. Whilst preparing dinner, he mentioned casually his admiration for this sort of thing, and so, because I’ve been looking for an excuse to knit le chou, I ran straight to Woolies, and hit the Cascade Fixation bin, and... disappointment! They had some very un-naughty colors I’m afraid. I shall just have to go online.

Heavens, this is all terribly intimate, n’est-ce pas? I think I should just go for broke and invite you to join me—in a Chou-along, that is! Do you like the idea? Tell me.

17 June 2007

From the breakfastcam

Friends, as surely as day follows night, breakfast porn must follow clown vomit, and that’s how we know all’s right with the world.

Something has happened to me this year. When I first moved to New England, my attitude was that I hated the whole East Coast, so it didn’t matter what town I lived in. Then I moved to Cambridge, and what a difference a few miles makes! Even though we had what my friend Donna referred to as a “20th-century hovel” (it got no light, the neighbors screamed night and day, and there weren’t a lot of amenities nearby, especially after the Druid changed hands and became totally sterile), being in Cambridge was way better than living in the far reaches of Boston suburbs.

Two years ago, when we found our new neighborhood, I loved it immediately because the density felt so homey to me. Sidewalks, porches, trees, gardens, and crazy paint jobs. I thought of it as Berkeleyville, and I really wanted to move here. But I never quite fixed the place up, because in the back of my head, I was still thinking “oh, it’s not California, I don’t have the view and the weather I crave, I can’t grow what I really want here, and I’m not staying all that long anyway, because I’m gonna move back home soon, me! This is just temporary...

Isn’t that awful? The day I actually became aware of that thought, I shaped right up. I started eating breakfast on the balcony at every opportunity. And using the nice linens and favorite china. And I am paying attention to the garden this year. Because everything is temporary, and maybe I could just allow myself to enjoy, right now, enjoy what I do have.

Check out the cactus! I hope they’ll all be happy together. The plant stand was trash-picked and the oilcloth was left from a kitchen project. I thought the thumbtacks should be visible - kind of like a poor woman’s upholstery tack. It has a little shelf on the bottom too - have to figure out what would be happy there. Suggestions?

15 June 2007

My Favorite Ugly Sweater

Prior to heading out for a much needed vacation, I had decided that the project that I wanted to work on would be a very simple, mindless, loose-knit comfy sweater. You know, Your-Favorite-Sweater. THAT's what I wanted to knit. No thinking AT ALL. (This, of course, would mean not working on 2 festering projects, the Icarus Shawl from IK, and Hush-Hush from Knitty). Naturally, none of the stash yarn was of use for this (too heavy, tiny gauge, too bright, etc. - y'all know that little game) and I managed to get it into my little pea brain that I wanted something with some variegated colors. So off I went to Ye Olde Yarne Shoppe.

And so began the World's Ugliest Sweater.

I'm using Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn in the Tamarack colorway. The yarn is a joy to work with - smooth, soft, knits up beautifully. I'm knitting this on US3s, all in the round, going to join at the pits and work raglan decreases (though it *may* become a V-neck - not sure about that part yet). To spice things up a wee bit, I've worked the cuff ribbings in a mini twisted cable.

(that's atop a near-finished quilt, btw - if anyone is up for a few hours of handstitching, let me know!)

Anyway. Up until I connected the body and the first sleeve, I was still considering ripping the whole thing out. "This looks like clown vomit!" said I, and "I don't know if I could be seen with myself in this!" But now that things are coming together, I'm actually kind of liking it. I'm not minding the way the color is pooling and striping.

And here I am with half of sleeve number 2 done.

What do you think? Too.......clown vomit-y?

08 June 2007

Sucka Please

Have you guys seen this site?


I totally think we should start a guerilla campaign. Takin' it to the streets!

02 June 2007

How life is, and how I wish it to be

Here is life as I wish it to be: breakfast china, vintage linens, cool air, cloudy skies, hot coffee, and the incomparable scent of living rosemary. A delightful interlude of 30 minutes’ time.

On the docket of life-as-it-actually-is today I have, among numerous chores, this item: rip out Demi and start all over again. I’d only gotten through the ribbing and one of four pattern repeats on the back, so in the annals of knitting setbacks, Demi doesn't even rate a footnote. The yarn is beautiful, and I want the sweater to be right—not the collection of tiny and somewhat-less-tiny mistakes I usually settle for.

Not coincidentally, I’m reading Susan Gordon Lydon’s Knitting Sutra for the second or third time. In it she describes a life of knitting much like my own: starting in college when the craft was unfashionable and its practice branded you as a young fogey, and then knitting on for many years, producing one unsatisfying garment after another, never really getting better, not asking for the help she needed, and never quite accepting that sweaters would look different on her body than on Rowan’s models.

This describes my experience, too. My grandmother taught me to knit before I started kindergarten (my mother says I used to knit with pencils). When Stacie and Becky started knitting, I’d actually been at it, off and on, for more than 20 years. Yet within months—weeks, maybe—they were knitting circles around me. But possibly for the same reasons that I wasn’t a very expert knitter, I didn’t look into an explanation. And then Lydon handed me one, which is this: if you want to master something, you have to commit yourself to it. It’s not going to just happen.

So that’s what I’m about now. I’m tired of starting things and abandoning them when they get tough or boring. I’m tired of finishing things that don’t look good. And I’m really, really tired of error-laden or just plain dunderheaded patterns and thinking that I should follow instructions over instincts. I wish to assume control of my knitting. Be it known.

I don’t know what this neighborhood tree is (anyone?), but I love its color. It is forcing me to think of Rambling Rose from IK Winter ’06 in yellow and green. Or perhaps yellow and pink, each color with a hint of orange in... But this sweater’s pattern has instructions for two sizes: 30" and 43". Just the sort of pattern I’ve now vowed to withhold blind trust from.

On the garden front, I got to see just how tiny my flowerpots really are. How long can these herbs be happy in them? Not long, I’m guessing. But how dadgummed cute is that eggshell? It is to squeal!

And I've put some hens-and-chicks into my old long-empty strawberry planter. Their Latin name is semper vivum, which sounds like it means “hard to kill”, doesn’t it? It’s like the Bruce Willis or possibly Steven Seagal of plants. Which is just what we need.