Chairs from Colin 1

Happy Autumn!

Hard to believe that it is November already. Since it rained so much of August and September it seems to have made the summer shorter than it was. The last of the gorgeous autumn leaves are being shaken and dragged from the trees, and we’re making desperate treks into the park to see the last glimpses of color before it all ends in muddy streets and dimness.

Speaking of color: in the process of switching our blog server, we found a fragment of an old post from August, once again sitting around and waiting for T’s obsessive need to find the right pictures. Here it is:

The other day, one of D.’s friends brought us some armchairs he’d had sitting in the basement. We’re happy to say that we now have some furniture in the place – but with the plain white walls, the creaminess of the upholstery is just a bit too much vanilla plain. Our immediate plans are to dye the covers: one orange, one yellow, perhaps. We’ll see. Maybe one red and one orange.

Lynedoch Crescent T 71

The shape of our lives, here, us such that we haven’t really worried about furniture. After all: nobody’s come to stay with us for over a year, and our local friends understand that we’re into sitting on the floor, on pillows. Well, that, plus we don’t really have people over that much. Which … is probably because we haven’t bothered to furnish the place.

By Christmas we plan to have everything settled, and to have the guest space (somewhat) cleared. Maybe we’ll get a couch or something. … because, really: we’ve been in this flat for 3 months, and it’s getting harder to pretend to still be “moving in.”

Fast Forward to Present Day: It’s been a lot longer than three months, there’s still no couch, but the guest room is mostly dug out. It’s hard to believe just how many things you can find to give away and Freecycle when you think you’ve given it all. Moving away from this auld Isle is going to be a snap, compared to how much freight and packing it took to get here. We a.) can’t take anything electrical (unless we’re moving someplace else in Europe, and that’s probably not happening) b.) aren’t taking our desks, c.) the Scottish Lemon’s already called dibs on our chairs, and d.) we can buy the exact same bookshelves at That Swedish Place in whatever state or country we’re in. We’ll roll up our rugs, fold our clothes, and that’ll be that.


Lynedoch Crescent T 70

Meanwhile, it’s too soon to think about leaving, as D’s education isn’t officially over for another two years — though with his determination and endless tweaking of his PhD project, T. puts the time at more around eighteen months. Meanwhile, there’s a lot left to do with the bits of the house we have now. T’s compiling books and plants …and more dye.

It’s a lot harder to dye things than one might think. One one hand, our mini-hardware store down the street — almost the exact size and width of our upstairs hallway back in California — has everything, and dyes in all shades. On the other and, our knowledge of dyeing in a small, front-loading washer was not exactly, er, vast. We expected deep shades when we dyed these chairs — and kind of got pastels. The colors give them a kind of lived-in, shabby, loved look, but they’re not the electric shades T. had envisioned.

Part of the problem is that we probably should have used twice as much dye for each of the applications. But, in a small washer that recycles water efficiently, we weren’t sure just how much intensity the dye would have. This was only our first foray into the world of upholstery dyeing; we figure next time will be much, much more successful. (More excuses to find a couch?)

Now, if only we could get those drapes down and dye them

– D & T

Circles of Life and All of That

Lynedoch Crescent D 93

Many girls had trousseaus and maplewood wedding chests, for which they had to cross-stitch horrible samplers and hem endless dishtowels. More modern couples have those heirloom things like banded sets of Limoges dinnerwear, great-grandma’s Oneida silver, and hand-pieced quilts with ring patterns which were pasted down sixteen generations and finally, finally bequeathed to them for their marriage bed … and then there’s us.

We have the ring patterned tie-dye duvet cover.

It just doesn’t seem like summer if you don’t have something dyed and hanging out on the line, which must be a California thing, since we’re the land of sunny skies and nice breezes, and some of us have never gotten over the whole hippie thing. No line here (well, we probably could have found one, but then our wash would have mildewed) but we tossed our newly dyed goods this summer over the bamboo laundry airer, and celebrated having been good friends and more since before one of us could legally drink with our own version of the double ring patterned quilt. Only ours is more than interlocked rings, and it’s just… not exactly like anything you’ll see anywhere else.

The circular pattern is thanks to the fact that one of us has geometry on the brain, and the other of us has a bunch of ponytail holders. Put the two together, and you’ve got the lovely concentric circles of a stone dropped into a pond, the underside of a pool after a dive, or a top view of a very see-through Moon jelly. One cheap duvet cover and four pillowslips + all the rubberbands you can scrounge + one cheap box of dye = tons of fun.

Lynedoch Crescent D 94

As with all duvet covers, the opening is somehow five inches wide, and the comforters — American sized — didn’t really want to fit, or lie flat. There’s a bit of rumple, a bit of struggle, a fair-sized chunk of individuality fighting formality, structure and classification. Kind of like us. We shoved it in, beat it into submission, then gave up when it mostly looked right. It’ll do. Which is about the best thing you can say about most things.

The Jelly Cover: Aberrant, erratic, and eccentric — and still just might be worth making the bed with fifteen years from now. We should be so lucky about a little project like a relationship, huh?


Rosey Grier is Full of Awesome

Aargh! Can you believe a scarf I started knitting a year ago (this picture is old, it’s much bigger now) is still unfinished!? My knitting mojo is completely derailed at the moment (of course, being midway through one novel and in revision with the other could possibly have something to do with it. Maybe.), so I’ve been looking around. I think I might have found something to get it back on track.

It all started when I was looking at some dusty old photographs of the Walter Reed Hospital from the early 1900’s. Those recovering from The Great War were brushing up on their knitting and making massive macrame blankets and socks to help keep the rest of the patients warm. It was a really useful occupational therapy, let me tell you, and the knitting machine in the picture looks complicated and amazing. Anyway. Someone suggested that this was “women’s work” — good grief, there’s always one, isn’t there? — and another commenter suggested that we all Google Rosey Grier. And so I did.

Nice try, huh?

Actually… it’s the right guy. Roosevelt Grier was a NY Giants defensive lineman in the fifties, and retired from the Rams in 1967. He became a bodyguard for the wife of Robert Kennedy afterward, and disarmed the man who assassinated the politician, grabbing his gun and breaking his arm. He was an actor (isn’t every sports star?) for some really bad horror movies. (Does his life not sound like a made-for-TV movie? I mean, seriously.) Now, you know we do baking and knitting here, and the occasional foray into photography and tech rants, so I have to come to the point: aside from being six-foot-six and three hundred pounds, Rosey Grier was really into his needlework. So much so that he wrote a book: Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men.

Yes. He did.

Now, okay: The seventies have a lot for which to answer, mainly, nineteen million examples of tacky, horrible taste, generally having to do with frightening colors, chaotic patterns, bad hair, and stupid names. Once you check out the slide show, you’ll realize that Rosey was a product of his times. But still — I can’t help but think he is the coolest needlepoint-ing guy ever. Obviously this book is WAY out of print, but don’t you love that director’s chair pattern? Too cute.

This gentleman is now seventy-six, and I hope he’s somewhere still stitching.

Which just goes to prove: if this dude could do it, so can I.

Remembering Beauty

This morning T. perused what she calls the Island of Lost Toys: those pieces of costume jewelry which have become tarnished, damaged or broken which we’ve been saving to repair “someday.” This morning she polished up a few pieces and passed along to me those which simply required a bit of epoxy. Finally, she’ll have use of some of her favorite bits of sparkle, after having been without them now for months.

Just been thinking — we’ve been cooking, but nothing pretty or fanciful, and there’s been no knitting done here for a long, long, long while. It’s been difficult to remember to actually make beautiful things, much less to feel that we should wear or enjoy beautiful things. It’s not just the cold, the wet, the unending grim grayness, it’s weird things like missing color — sunsets, the peculiar shades of coastal skies, the colors of water and leonine gold hills. We’ve also spent a bit of time reading the news of the world, which paints things in even grimmer shades. That combined with the lack of a social life, and being in our own heads too much has brought creativity to a standstill. We probably need to get out more; we’re getting feral!

In California, we’d see the family at least once a week, and visit friends at least as frequently. Here, though, interactions are still sometimes strained, like we’re speaking a different language. Also, we’re both tucked into our individual tasks: me with the master’s research, T. with her writing (one more novel sold, and a deadline on yet another fast approaching). So … we’ve been neglecting being artistic for its own sake for quite a bit.

But, no more! It’s time for a change.

We’ve finally unpacked the “art box” – a big deal, since this box had remained sealed up during the entire nine months we were at our first flat. Now that paints, canvas, clay and inks are easier to get to, maybe we’ll get to them. We bought a transformer, so that we could use the sewing machine without it running a million miles per hour … and our first wee sewing project was to make “draft excluders” to push up against our doors, to block out the cold. Next is finding small enough nails, so that we can hang some art, instead of just propping it against the walls. T.’s got a skein of fine copper wire she’s been meaning to crochet into one of those airy looking beaded necklaces she’s been eying — like the one Is made way back in February.

And after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll pick up the knitting needles and whip up something like a manly cowl. We’ll get there, slowly but surely. Remembering beauty, appreciating craft. Perhaps we’ll even dress up and go out somewhere.

Life is short. Art is lasting. Here’s to bringing back beauty.

Sewing: 110V vs 260V

So, the one piece of technology we determined that we could bring with us on this journey was the old sewing machine, because it’s merely electric rather than electronic (i.e. it doesn’t have a computer in it). We figured this should work out fine, provided we got an adapter for the plug. What could happen? Hah!

Sewing here … is much more of a challenge, much more stimulating. You see, this little sewing machine was running wonderfully on 110V current. Now we’re feeding it 260V current. The slightest touch of the pedal and the machine leaps ahead, going full-out, consuming fabric as fast as it can. It’s … frightening. We expected something like this, but still, we weren’t quite prepared. Nor were we prepared to burn out its little light-bulb. Too much juice, do you think?

Fortunately we’d already done most of our tailoring on the other side of the ocean, but we’d left a few things aside because we couldn’t find the appropriate color of thread (I have 2 orange shirts) or because we simply forgot (as in the coat in the pictures).

After the one coat, we’ll be leaving the sewing machine alone for a while, to concentrate on knitting up a few more warm things. The current experiment is with using 2 colors of yarn on the same loom. It’s turning out to be interesting, if a bit more tedious than simply one color, and it certainly has you paying attention a bit more. We’ll see how long this scarf takes – we’ve a feeling we’re going to need it!

Three Steps to Vegetable Art

‘Tis the season to think of summer camp, badly painted mugs, macaroni projects, string art and powdered tempura paint! Of course, as the wind fairly blusters, it may not seem like June, but it is, and it’s the time of year when back-porch crafts get started, since usually the only knitting and baking that can be done is that which requires the least warm discomfort.

But since it’s still windy – here’s one for the knitting gang. The ├╝ber cool Loom Knitter’s Circle Magazine is up with their second edition, and I really do want that beaded bag! How people think of designs for loom knits is beyond me, but make sure and check out the loop stitch at the bottom of Keeping You In Stitches. Impressive!

My new project is actually kind of an old one. Last summer we planted Chinese birdhouse gourds. I would offer this as a great project for anyone with acreage to spare and isn’t troubled by a conquest-minded plant with stinking sap running rampant throughout all available space. We planted these lovely gourds and then regretted them almost daily once they fruited. We had to hack at them with machetes practically, and they ate the cucumbers. By the time the stalks dried and they were ready for harvest, the gardening season was long over. We left them in disgust on the ground through frosts and rain and finally pulled them up early this year… and left them in a pile, planning on burning them or something, since they were now coated in black mold.

Fortunately, when we got a look at the gourds before we turned over the garden, we realized they had… cured. Without any work on our part, they were dried and seasoned and ready to be sanded and painted. Granted, that was a big job, requiring face masks, eye protection and sandpaper, but we’re fairly pleased with what we ended up with – sturdy, clean, lightweight wooden vessels.

So far, this is what we’ve come up with. Here’s hoping some birds actually… use them?