The Sewist

I sew, knit and crochet hats. (Not all at the same time. Whaddaya think I am - a machine?)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happy Friday...

What's a little flooding when it's the beginning of the weekend? Water can't dampen my spirits when playtime beckons! Anyhow, I just wanted to let you all know that I will be reinventing the blog, doing something a little different, still talking about my grand passions, hats and stitching apparel. Sew (pun fully intended) stay tuned, and I'll be back back soon. Over and Out, Mary Beth

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

You Never Know Where
Your Hat Will Take You

In this case, my hat led me to the canine you see above. I was on my way from my morning work-out when I encountered this little pooch wandering around across the street from my apartment.

I have to tell you, I'm not one to pick up strays, dandelions with questionable provenance, or even wrapped pieces of bubble gum on the street. However, after I saw a small dog demolished by a bus a month ago (somehow it got loose and was trying to visit friends), I couldn't let the same fate befall this creature.

First, I grabbed this little gal by the nape because she was aiming to travel somewhere where large metal vehicles go. Then I called 311 on my cell phone, begging them to come and pick up this peachy dog pronto. When I realized that I might be waiting a while in this big city we call Chicago where emergency 911 calls take greater precedence, I took my unnamed mammal home. I called the city's hotline again from there.

When I realized that my town's finest would likely take this poodle to the pound, I decided to hold off and see if I could find the dog's owner on my own. I started asking strangers on the street if they knew of a missing pet. One, two, three, no one knew. Someone suggested I put a listing on Craig's List, so I did.

In the meantime, I felt like the instant mother of a newborn, like I'd just given birth to a baby and I didn't know I was pregnant (the fodder of many a dream, I have to say). It's been a while since I've had pet in my household. It's been more than a year since Freaky, my feline, graced this place. I don't have a litter box, a lead, or even a collar in my possession.

I felt a little panicky. Would this creature with big soulful brown eyes chew me out of house and home? Destroy my shoes (I put a few out of harm's way)?. Piddle where she shouldn't? I was nervous to say the least. I set out a pot of water in my kitchen.

Later in the day, I bought a bag of Purina Alpo Prime Cuts. I placed a bowl of the latter out just before I made off for Arcadia Knitting to get some assistance on my pleated skirt pattern (it arrived a few days ago, hurrah!) and then my lindy-hop class. I was skittish about leaving my found treasure alone in my condo so I barricaded her into my kitchen with an inflated air mattress so she couldn't leap into living room.

She didn't like that in the least, protesting Loudly. I left her, hoping I wasn't causing any psychological harm (actually I was more concerned about her making a mess). I put out a couple of sections of the Chicago Tribune before I locked my door.....

Oddly enough, I noticed earlier she had no interest in pattern pieces for a top on the floor in my bedroom. Freaky would have ripped those to shreds faster than you say, "No, Get Away From there!"

How do your pets (or lack thereof) get along with your belongings and hobbies?

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hatty Road Trip
I cannot figure out why I favor my little H&M black straw hat. Is it all the pins that advertise my every pet cause (ranging from Lifesource to railroad safety) to my hobbies (crochet, travel) and foods (White Castle). Or is it just because it's darker than dark and it goes with everything?

I think it's the latter. My white straw hat with the baby-blue ribbon doesn't seem as versatile, although it would be much more comfy when the sun beats down mid-day. WIth that hat, I feel like I need to coordinate the blues and whites in the hat with what I'm wearing. So that fedora is much more likely to stay at home and make friends with the dust mites gossiping in every corner.

It's funny how one hat can become such a favorite. It's like a much-loved food and how you never tire of it. Right now, that's fresh pesto sauce for me. I can eat it every day, and I often do because I'm working in my home office where no one has to encounter my post-lunch breath. Much like that H&M find, my favorite skirts are in a pile on a bedroom dresser. I hardly ever go into my closet - not even to grab another garment. Everything I don most often is within arm's length or in a cedar closet nearby. I daresay the wardrobe could disappear in a poof of firecracker smoke and I might not miss it. Not the belts I've made with grosgrain ribbons and vintage 1930s buckles, nor grandmother's baubles, not even the 1940s platform shoes purchased at antique shops and vintage shows. What I'd shed tears for would be for the apparel and shoes that gets the most wear: all versions of New Look 5671, my Victoria's Secret bras, the Born Drilles with their interchangeable velcro leather flowers.

At times I feel more lame than a woman with a pair of crutches that I wear the same clothes day in, day out and week after week. I haven't figured out the percentage, but I'm betting what's on my body in a given 7-day period amounts to less than 10 percent of the clothing I own, not accounting for the growing stash of fabric amid the dresses, tops, skirts and pants in the aforementioned closet.

What are your favorite clothes and hats?

(By the way, the picture above? It was taken outside a gas station in Beverly Shores, Ind. yesterday. Admire the old railroad depot, still in use, in the background.)

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blue Skies
Smiling At Me...

Nothing but Grey horizons do I see (at least right now. Rain's in the forecast.) But I did order Blue Sky Alpacas' pleated skirt pattern. Finally. After admiring it in scads of yarn ads in knitting magazines for the past year. Even though I already have other patterns I could tackle right now, this particular skirt is the one I want to do, it's been in the bulging (okay, collapsing) filing cabinet I call my Brain just yearning to be Made for the Longest Time.

How eager am I to start? So ready-set-go that I've already bought the yarn (a merino wool) and swatched a nice little 4-inch square. If my gauge's wrong, I am going to be a little bit peeved. Just a wee bit annoyed because I don't mind knitting up little 4" by 4" stockinette panels. Really. It's easy compared to the labor of creating a garment that needs umpteen decreases, increases, and Lord knows what else.

So this is going to be one of my many fall skirts. In fact, I figured if this skirt looks nice enough, I'll make at least two more. I adore knitted wool skirts, especially ones that stop the Chicago Wind like a brick wall. In my part of the world, you need all sorts of tricks to keep the elements at bay. A skirt as cute as this is one way to cope with the freezer we call Illinois in December and January. I'm not likely to be in Hawaii at that time of year (although one never knows), so I like to look cuter than cucumber (which you know doesn't do well in our climate during Christmas time) traipsing about in the snowy slush.

This skirt is admittedly preppy. It does definitely seem to want an argyle vest, and I'm happy to oblige. However, since I'm a Kwik-Sew pattern freak, I'm certain this knit will be making more friends with surplice-jersey tops with bell sleeves than anything remotely reminiscent of junior high or high school.

And at night? I figure I can take my knitted creation out on the town with a beret. What you WON'T see me doing is painting anything in it like the model above. Why take a chance getting paint on a garment you've spent hours creating? Good grief. This gal should wear a smock at least.

Anyhow....what fall clothes are you sewing or knitting?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Jumble
of Hat Projects.
Notice I didn't say UFO (unidentified flying object or unfinished fabric object, take your pick) or uncompleted sewing projects. Every craftster has their own definition of what's done or not, what's meant to hemmed, sewn up and likewise, ignored and ditched.

I look at this Banana Republic paper shopping bag and I see three hats, cut out about three years ago. What I find particularly intriguing is that they're all snipped from vintage fabric. One's a sailor print cotton from a resale/antique shop on the Chicago's Way Northwest side, another I think is from a thrift store that was plowed under to make way for a swanky Chicago condominium building and the other is from a defunct vintage apparel shop in Oak Park, Ill.

All this stuff is from a time when I was fascinated and I had to have vintage fabric. Knit fabric? I would have shuddered at the mere mention of those words then. I was all about rayon, 1940s, and Depression-era chic. Less you think I've ditched my retro roots, I haven't entirely. I can't. Unless I sell at least a box's worth of fiber acquired from eBay in the late 1990s when prices were good. In fact, I got five yards of this amazing Hawaiian polyester print that I'm going to use to make a halter-dress one day very soon.

While I sew more now than I ever did then, I don't hanker for all that old rayon, cottons, although I might jump and bite if I saw some really adorable 1950s border print (like the one with piano keys that got away on Vintage Martini not too long ago) or an incredibly dainty vintage eyelet ((I'm a sucker for that fabric type, particularly the all-cotton variety).

Even if I don't finish these hats, I see them as a happy opportunity to revisit my late 90s self, when I was all about swing dancing and the dancers I had crushes on then, the retro-style clothes I sewed out of cotton and denim. And the cool, one-bedroom apartment with an interior red brick wall that I rented...Those were good times!

And if I don't complete the hats? I've already pinned parts together for someone else to finish...perhaps my 90-year-old self. Ha! I actually know a rug hooker who set aside a project in the 1970s and then finished it some 17 years later. So it does happen, folks!

What projects have you set aside for future fun?

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Knitting Socks?
Not Now. Maybe Never.

I just can't excited about knitting socks. No matter what permutation, stitch or yarn is used. I think it's largely because socks are hidden for the most part, unless you're one of those people who wear your pretty socks with your dresses, skirts, shorts, and culottes, just like the models in knitting magazines like Knitscene or Vogue Knitting.

I don't wear socks unless I'm wearing pants and it's really cold outside or I'm going to bed. Chances are the socks I'm wearing will not only be hidden by my garment but my shoes too. You couldn't tell I'm wearing a toe-warmers made in China or right here in the U.S. Consequently, you wouldn't know if they were a pricey cashmere blend or a cheapo cotton/poly variety.

That's the main reason why you won't see me knitting socks. Cuz you won't see 'em when I'm done. I want to be able to show off my work without having to yank up my cuffs every five seconds. "You see these? Took me forever. First one was finished last year. The second one I had to make a bet with my cat to finish." What I wear tends to be strictly utilitarian, bought by the six-pak at Marshalls. And when I get a hole by the big toe? I sew it up on my sewing machine, using whatever color thread is on the spool since no one's going to see my socks unless we're talking about the five seconds in the locker room when I've doffed my sneakers and I'm about to bare my feet.

I'm cool with knitting hats, skirts, sweaters, cardigans, purses, gloves, leg warmers, maybe a pair of knee-length lace stockings. Anything that the public can see, because I want to be able to brag about my work easily. I don't need to burn any calories in the process which is what would be required with showing off anything hand-knitted on my feet.

It's highly unlikely I'll be knitting socks for others since I'm unlikely to expend that kind of energy for myself. My greatest fear would that the recipient of my hand-made footies would never wear them OR they would wear them to death and then TOSS them when they get a hole in the area that gets the most friction. I just cannot handle either kind of grief, which is why I sew and knit for myself because I appreciate it all. I even wear my "mistakes" (also known as apparel with designer touches). Last night I wore a sleeveless hand-sewn shell that had some wonky binding on it to bed. It was comfortable, perfect for the extra-humid nights we've been having lately (no, I don't use air-conditioning).

Anyhow, less you think the 100 percent merino wool sportweight yarn on the needle in the picture is intended for my ankles and below, the answer is no. It's for a Blue Sky Alpaca knitted pleated skirt. Something sensible that I can Show Off Without Effort.

Tell me why you knit socks (if you're so inclined) just so I understand.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Whoa Sweater!

Here's the sweater I've yakking about for the past month. It's the same exact top on the cover of the Summer Issue of Vogue Knitting's knit.1, except my version is cuter. Much. But that isn't that to be expected about when you're talking about a baby you've birthed. I think this top was a no-brainer - directions and stitching were so straightforward. The hardest part was the last part - the ribbing at the hip. That had to be adjusted with the helpful ladies at Arcadia Knitting. Will I be bragging about this project the way my mom talks about how I was her "easiest" baby to bring into the world? (My mother tells me that it took a mere two hours for me to exit her womb, shake off the placenta and start breathing on my own. I credit my narrow shoulders and my eagerness to be independent!)

This is also the first bonafide sweater I've made aside from ponchos and skirts, which are essentially the same. My latest creation has armholes and a defined waist. It made its debut Tuesday night at my library talk with the chartreuse skirt and my Born drilles (sandals) with matching, detachable leather flowers!

It felt a little odd to have this cuff of ribbing at my neck, but overall it's comfortable. I really adore how it's sleeveless, making it perfect for my city's infamous humid summer days. The chevron effect on the bodice is slimming too. My only little complaint is that I found myself tugging up the ribbing at the neckline. I think I'm used to fabric with stretch. I wonder if this 50s-like wonder could be knitted with a cotton/poly stretchy fiber?

Would I make this magazine-cover project again? Sure, with a slightly better yarn. This is the kind of apparel you could wear to work (with a lightweight shawl so you can survive indoor air-conditioner) and out on the town. I suspect I'll be wearing this with a pair of jeans and turquoise earrings one day soon. Now I just need to find some new blue flowers for my sandals. The others are lost. eBay here I come!

What knitting projects are you most proud of?

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Your Hat Will Find You.
Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to go to the YMCA for my thrice-weekly water pilates/aerobics program, I couldn't find my H&M hat. I looked everywhere in my posh pad...underneath two Sunday's worth of the Chicago Tribune, atop the air mattress temporarily parked in my living room and the jumble of white work-out socks, sneakers and wedgies on my hardwood floor.

It wasn't there, and it was mostly certainly not hanging from a hook on my coat rack, which is where I've hung the hat's colleagues.

So I had to think long and hard about just where this topper might be. Could it be in my Ruth's car? She gave me a ride after we made our customary fabric purchases (I got a multi-hued boucle knit for a work-related project and another remnant, but I cannot remember what it is).
How could I return to my home without a covering on my head? It seemed most impossible. I feel barren without my hats, particularly this one which I've personalized.

So I rang up Ruth and got her voicemail. "Ruth, did I by chance to leave my hat in your car last night?" I say. I replay the events of Monday night again. I sat down in the sewing machine department to hear Ace Seamstress Mac Berg's scintillating (and it really was. I took detailed notes) discussion of how to interface and line a jacket. I distinctly remember setting my chapeau down on a counter next to a sewing machine.

But I can't recall picking it up or even bringing it into the remnant room with me. How could I forget such an important accessory? Still the store is where the Hat Must Be. So I a jot down on my to-do list: Call Vogue.

Soon enough I'm answering calls and caught up in the merry world of Work. Later in the day the phone rings. I look on the caller I.D. It's Vogue. They must be calling about my hat!

Sure enough the business office has my precious possession. Later that day after I got caught up in what I needed to do in order to feel like a Productive Woman, I went to Vogue to reclaim my lost item. I felt Naked walking out the door without something on my noggin. Now, I could have worn one of my other H&M hats, but it made no sense to wear what I was going to be reclaiming. So I wore my oversized 1970s style sunglasses, smeared on some sunscreen and dodged Ms. Sun outside. Really, I put my hands up like I was try to avoid the papparazi and not this big yellow orb in the sky.

I manage to keep a goodly amount of UV rays at bay since it was late in the day (4 p.m.) and I made a beeline for my favorite store in the Whole Wide Universe. Naturally, I went straightaway to the business office to get my Baby back! I rang the bell. "I'm here to get my hat. It's right there," I tell the clerk, pointing to the black-straw wonder on top of other Lost Stuff.

It turned out Mac knew that was my hat and she had my phone number (must be on the lay-away slip for my serger). Now tell me how is it that my hat, which doesn't even have my name on it anywhere, can find me in a store where I regularly shop, but when I lose a hat with my name tag sewn into it at shopping mall I've only frequented twice, it's gone Forever? Don't people Google the names of people scribbled on shoes and sewn into mittens? I mean I found as much as I could about a certain military man, whose name was inscribed into a pair of 1940s white-cotton sailor pants I bought a few years ago. I learned where he was stationed but that was about it. Now there's a whole online database for WWII military. Perhaps if I looked today, I'd find out more about my man, and ultimately, his work attire. Unfortunately, I've donated this particular piece of apparel to the archives of a local college, and I cannot remember the sailor boy's name!

Do you ever try to find the owner of things lost in your home or business?

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