Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Winter Knits With Capra and Andean Treasure

Beret in Andean Treasure, shawl in Capra DK

I try to start knitting for the Winter season somewhere in Fall.  I don't always manage it, mind you.  Often I'm knitting for Winter IN Winter, when it's 5 degrees F, and I think, "Huh.  Maybe I could use some new mittens."

I was good this year though!  Got done in time for the cold snaps.  And I'd like to take this opportunity to share two favorite yarn lines that helped me do just that.

That beautiful deep, dark red hat is knit in Andean Treasure from Knit Picks.  It's a sport weight in 100% baby alpaca, and man is it ever soft!  The colorways are beautifully heathered too, giving the yarn added depth and interest.  So my hat isn't just red.  It's wine swirled with bits of chocolate.

The pattern is my own ~ just a plain beret knit up in stockinette stitch.  I enjoyed the yarn so much, I made matching mittens.  I'm just a tad pleased with it all.

You should feel this way about your yarn.

Speaking of chocolate, my brown shawl is knit up in Capra DK, yet another Knit Picks yarn.  This is a Merino/cashmere blend that is currently my #1 go-to yarn.  I've made hats, mittens, and shawls with it, and I'm currently knitting some up into a sweater.  It's not even the the tiniest bit scratchy.  You know how a yarn can feel soft in the hand but have little "pricklies" once you wear it?  Yeah, Capra doesn't do that at all.  It's 100% soft 100% of the time.

Capra yarn clouds

With that pretty cabled lace edge, the shawl is a bit of a favorite pattern as well.  The pattern name is French Cancan by Mademoiselle C, and as you can tell from the above photo, I've made three so far.

Though labeled as DK weight, Capra could pass for a worsted weight yarn, which makes it even more appealing to me.  The following hat took just under two 50 gram balls (219 yards), and that includes the pom pom.

Basket weave hat in Capra DK

Both yarns are extremely reasonable in price as well.  You won't break the bank knitting up a sweater in either of them, something that can be problem with popular yarns that run $20 or more per 100 gram skein.  Using either of these means not having to put up with scratchy "rustic" yarn in order to save a buck.  Especially so if you catch one of the many Knit Picks sales.  You know, they have them quite often.  In fact, they are probably having one right now.  :o)  So don't hang out here any longer ~ go check!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Victorian Gift Giving

As promised, a quick and fun post on Victorian gift giving customs.

Smallest period sock ever?

The following article from gets us up to speed quickly : A Victorian Lady's Christmas Gift Guide

The short version ~ handmade was highly valued, modesty and avoiding a sense of obligation was required, and re-gifting was considered appropriate.

Ladies looking to give something to the men in their lives had to first consider the nature of the relationship.  Was he a family member or related by marriage?  If he was, then it was just fine to offer a gift of a more intimate yet practical nature.  Smoking caps, sleeping caps, slippers, and shaving accessories were popular choices.  

If a lady could take the time to make something by hand, like something hand embroidered, that was considered even more valuable, as the giver was offering up her time as well as the gift itself.  In a way, she was offering a small piece of herself.

Men had to follow the same rules in considering the relationship first, but they got to skip the handmade part.  The idea was they worked hard for any money used to purchase a gift, and that was a man's best way of showing you he cared.  For a lady he knew well, a shawl or a piece of jewelry was perfect.  

Get this...a book was considered appropriate here.

I highlight this for a reason.  I found it odd that a book was thought to be an intimate gift given only to those close to the giver, and it wasn't until I read further that I understood why.

Gifts between acquaintances had an interesting rule, and that was not to create a sense of ongoing obligation.  In other words, don't give something too valuable so as to cause social awkwardness for the recipient.  A book will last a long time, and the recipient will feel obligated to think of you every time she or he picks it up.  Thus this was considered a no-no if you hardly knew each other!

What was thoughtful but not too intimate?  Candy.  Flowers.  Fruit.  Anything that had a short shelf life.  Because then the recipient's gratitude need only last as long as that last orange in the fruit basket.  THAT cracked me up.

Also a surprise ~ re-gifting was seen as correct and sensible.  It was better for a gift to find its way to grateful hands than to remain with a recipient who wasn't all that thrilled with his/her present in the first place.

Inspired by all the talk of handmade treasures, I made a couple of sweet ornaments for some history buds.  The photo at the beginning of this post is of a mini Civil War sock.  I took a pattern from 1865 and shrunk the numbers to create this little stocking, and I think it turned out great!

The second little ornament is a crocheted snowflake.  You can find the YouTube tutorial here ~  Crochet Snowflake  ~ generously created by Jonna Martinez.

I break the rules oh-so-slightly here in that I made something, but I think I can get away with this as both ornaments are quite small.  No strings attached, literally (ha ha) or figuratively.  I was simply in the mood for some seasonal creativity, and I'm lucky to have a group of people who will appreciate the quirkiness and old fashioned nature of it all.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Victorian Sugar Plums. Kind Of.

Really...they're just fruity nut balls.

Some friends and I have been digging into Victorian holiday customs, just for fun.  We've been learning about the origins of some customs we've been enjoying for years, and we've discovered some very old fashioned ones that aren't nearly as common these days.

Sugar Plums and Ginger Snaps are pretty familiar Christmas treats.  Did you know, however, that real Sugar Plums do NOT have plums in them.  I know.  What the heck, right?  Here's the deal:

The real Sugar Plum from the Victorian era was more like a peanut MnM.  It was a spice, a nut, or a seed covered in layers of hard candy and was technically known as a "comfit."  The "plum" in the name may come from two influences...

1)  Some of the candies were possibly shaped like plums.

2) "Plum" back then meant something sweet and desirable.  Naturally, these little candies fit that description.

I made the above pictured recipe ~ provided by a lovely fellow history lover and friend of mine ~ thinking I was recreating an old, historical gem.  Nope.  Those little sugary, fruity nut balls I made are good fun, and they are quite pretty, but they are definitely not Victorian Sugar Plums.

Wanna make them anyway?  Here's a link to the recipe.

Thanks to another fellow history lover, I was introduced to Varina Davis's Ginger Snap recipe.  (For those not familiar, Varina was the wife of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy during our Civil War.).  When we nerds get our hands on an authentic recipe, we can't resist trying it.  Especially if cookies are involved.

Varina Davis's Ginger Snaps

These turned out really well!  I was a little nervous.  Let's face it ~ that was a long time ago.  I don't trust ingredients and/or measurements to match up exactly with what we do today.  Turns out though I didn't need to worry.  They baked up beautifully.  If you love ginger and molasses, this is the cookie for you.

My next blog post will feature some Victorian gift giving customs.  Some are familiar, some are very old fashioned, and one is quite funny!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Little Black Dress #1

Fuzzy focus but kinda pleased with myself.

I did it!  I finally made my first little black dress.  Now I have the ultimate contrast for my pasty white legs.  :o)

I used Butterick B6448 again, and this time, I actually followed all of the directions.  This means I learned how to line the bodice.  While I appreciated learning a new technique, it was really touch and go there for a bit.  I had to watch a few videos on YouTube before totally understanding how that was all supposed to work.

The pattern is pretty clear if you make the sleeveless version of this dress.  But if you have sleeves, it's not quite clear how to keep them out of the way while pinning and sewing the bodice lining.  I mean, if you stare at it long enough, you figure it out.  You pull the sleeves back like you're rolling them up and over the shoulder, making it sleeveless.  They are then out of the way of the stitching line you're about to make around the armhole, and when everything is turned right side out, the sleeve is still lying nicely on the outside of your dress where it belongs.

But if you're a beginner, I could see this being confusing, as the stitching line changes a bit once you've set in sleeves.  A little extra diagram would have helped.

I used a medium weight linen that I picked up at my local Joann Fabrics.  My original thought was that it wouldn't need a lining, but then I panicked at the last minute and lined it anyway, including the underlining of the skirt pieces.  Probably unnecessary, but it feels nice.

The lining is where I've started to flex my Make Do And Mend muscles.  I used a fabric that I purchased at a charity resale shop.  It feels like bed sheet fabric to be honest.  It's nice and light with pretty little lavender flowers.  And it was $1.00 a yard.  Not true Make Do And Mend, as using something I already owned would have been more appropriate for that category, but close enough.

Linen wrinkles something fierce, but I'm hoping both the weight of the fabric and the lining end up reducing some of that.  I'll live with the rest because I really like linen.  So I'm a little wrinkled.  So what.

It's hard to see the lines on this dress, but the first photo gives you a good idea of the length (I'm 5'7", and I made a size 14.).  This second photo shows how swingy the 8 panel skirt can be.

I was being funny and hadn't actually planned on using this particular shot.  I don't even know what that pose is supposed to be saying.  "Ta da!" perhaps.  Anyway, it ended up being a good shot of the dress ~ and it's in focus! ~ so here it is.

A clearer shot of the neckline:

If you're someone who doesn't like a fitted waist, this is a great dress for you.  The dress just glides over my curves, hitting me in the right spots without being too tight.  I'm comfortable.  This could even be a Thanksgiving dress, where pie is enthusiastically consumed.

I will be making this dress a third time, though I'm not entirely sure I want to line the bodice again.  It's not a bad thing to learn, and being able to enclose the back zipper tape in the lining is very nice.  It looks so neat.  

But facings are pretty darn easy.  I'll have to think about it.  See if I can construct the dress the way I usually like to do it, and then leave the lining/facing decision until the end.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fingerless Mitts from 1855

1855 or 2017?

I decided to combine my love of knitting with my love of history.  The lace design on the above pictured mitts is from an 1855 issue of Godey's Lady's Book.  Click here to see the book itself.

The basic construction of the mitt is very similar to what we do today.  I made some modifications to the cuff, and in other minor areas, ending up with a modern version of this Victorian accessory.

Photos thanks to Naomi

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Learning Is Slow Going

There's a reason my husband calls me "Molasses".  About the only thing I do quickly is eat cookies.  So...this photography jazz is indeed progressing but doing so at Lori Speed.

A big surprise for me so far is the difficulty I have with product and craft photography.  You'd think it would be a snap, right?  Objects one can place wherever and that stay put should be easy.  You have time to consider some options.  You can mess with lighting.  You can take 40 photos, and the subject doesn't complain.  Perfect.

Yet staging these things seems to be a challenge.  I'm used to using these items, not posing them.  After many, many attempts over a period of days, I managed to get ONE photo I liked of my embroidery project:

I think I need to study more Instagram shots.  How do some of those photographers make the ordinary look so beautiful?!

I've noticed I have better luck with little critters.  They certainly don't stay put, but there's something about Mother Nature my camera likes.  My 50mm lens doesn't hurt either.  Here we have one of my daughter's caterpillars, who she lovingly named Skeeter.

I decided to bring my 18mm into the backyard for some shutter speed practice.  The focus wasn't perfect, but I managed to get this little beauty in flight.  And I got her wings! 

Finally, I turned to my favorite little critter.  I've read I should photograph what I love, and that will end up being my best work.  I suppose then it's no accident that my photos of Lucy always come out beautiful.  (Shot with my 50mm, during her first post-play nap of the day.)

Maybe I should pose Lucy with my embroidery.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June In 4 Photos

Galena, IL

US Grant's front door.
Civil War era quilt

At Elgin's Civil War Days, photo by Naomi

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My First Miette

To go with my vintage strawberry dress, I finally finished knitting this sweet little cardigan.

The pattern is "Miette" by Andi Satterlund.
The yarn is Knit Picks Gloss DK in the Cranberry colorway.

The original pattern calls for a cropped cardigan with some shaping to make it close fitting.  I made the cardigan longer and omitted the shaping, which results in a garment with some ease that flows along the lines of my body.

The simple lace carries around the neckline, along the button band, around each sleeve cuff, and again around the hem.  It's a pretty detail that adds interest to the cardigan without making it too difficult.  I think this is a great example of "less is more" ~ the tiny bit of lace framed by a stockinette body means the design really stands out.

I made the sleeves a bit shorter, as my intention is to wear this with summer dresses.  Plus I liked the way the shorter sleeve visually balanced out the entire garment.

The fabric buttons are made from my leftover strawberry dress fabric.  These buttons did me in!  And they are so easy to make ~  a part of me wants to knit more cardigans just so I have an excuse to make more fabric buttons.

Cute as a button ~ har har.