Red Chair Watches: The Bill

But first, a sort of throwback Thursday picture — because Mom’s house is full of stuff that have survived thousands of TBTs:

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This can of Woolite powder has been under the guest bedroom sink for as long as I can remember.  Mom and Dad moved to the “new” house almost 30 years ago, and I am pretty sure this container moved with them from the old house.  It would never have occurred to Mom to get rid of an unfinished can of anything if it were still usable, but the interesting thing is that she had a newer (newer being a relative term) bottle of Woolite under the same sink, sitting just in front of the old canister.   I understand that on Ebay, people sell this sort of vintage items for decorative purposes.  Perhaps I will leave the can on the counter for decoration.

On to The Bill, a British police drama that aired between 1984 and 2010.  I had never heard of it until this past summer, when I suddenly discovered YouTube.  Now, I have known  about YouTube (I once subscribed to the Queen’s YouTube updates), but I did not know just how much stuff was available on YouTube, legal or otherwise.  And then this past summer, I found all the episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and I binged.  I eventually landed on The Bill, and even with incomplete series, there are many hours of mindless and entertaining watching available.

I enjoy the time travel; in a sense, I “grow up” again while watching the series.  The hair!  The makeup!  The clothes!  The technology!  I remember the first cell phones — I owned a fairly clunky Motorola in 1995, back when phones had antennae, back when minutes cost an arm and leg, back when people talked loudly on their mobiles so that all the peasants would know they had mobiles.  I watch The Bill, and I remember.  I remember the Thatcher years, the economic depression, the racial unrest.  I think the series did a decent job of reflecting those unsettling years.  The episodes don’t always have neat endings, and they shouldn’t.  The characters are not always likable, and they shouldn’t be.  There are some amazingly politically-incorrect moments, as there should be.  And as a historian, I love the reminders of where we were, where we went, and where we could be.

Knitting for the Winter: Dickson Dress

I love the idea of a knitted skirt, but I don’t wear skirts: they don’t tend to sit in the correct place on my body, they creep up or down and end up everywhere except where they should be.  On the other hand, I have an ongoing love affair with knitted dresses, so when I see interesting patterns, whether for tops or cardigans or skirts, I turn them into dresses.  Hence, the Dickson Dress:

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Pattern:  Dickson, by the wonderful Norah Gaughan.

Yarn:  Lambspun of Colorado DK-weight merino/silk/cashmere blend yarn, in the colour “black platinum.”  At least I think that is the colour name.  I bought the yarn about 15 years ago, and until two years ago, it was a sweater coat.  I did not realize until I started working with the yarn that there were two distinct shades of black.  I know that is the nature of hand-dyed yarn, but nevertheless I was surprised because the owner of Lambspun has always been amazingly careful with her quality control, and I have never had problems with variations within each dye lot.  Anyway, when I frogged the coat I thought I had separated out the two shades, but I was wrong.

Modifications:  This is a top-down dress knitted in the round.  I improvised the V-necked bodice and did my usual knitted-on sleeves with short-row shaped caps.  I didn’t feel like “finishing” the neckline, but I did do two rows of single chain crochet at the back neck (in a pink yarn!) to prevent the dreaded stockinette roll.  The skirt portion is the actual Dickson pattern with not as many rows of ribbing at the top.

Thoughts:  Another winner from Norah Gaughan!  The problem with improvisation is that I never quite know what the garment will look like until I do the final blocking and get it on my body.  I like how the neckline turned out, but the sleeves, which were meant to have a bit of puff, looks a bit wide.  The skirt portion turned out great, pity about the line of color change.  Sigh.  But, I will wear it and I’m sure that shade change will be less obvious when the dress is in motion 🙂

Red Chair Reads: Illustrated Homes

As part of my small effort to pay more attention to other people’s dreams, I started volunteering at a tiny non-profit bookstore located inside an independent coffee shop.  The store’s inventory is even more hit-or-miss than usual because all the books are donated, but once in awhile something interesting shows up:

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Be still, my architectural historian heart!

Eugene Clarence Gardner (1836 – 1915) was a 19th-century Massachusettes architect, and seemed to have had a successful career despite his questionable actions as the “only superintendent or engineer” present at the building of the Mill River Dam, which failed in 1874, killing 139 people.

This particular book is called Illustrated Homes:  A Series of Papers Describing Real Houses and Real People, and was published in 1875.  According to various contemporary reviews, the book would have cost somewhere around $1.50 to $2.00 at the time, which of course was not the price I paid for it couple of days ago.  It is a fun read, and is illustrated with floor plans and architectural renderings of presumably real houses.

My favorite plan is the tiny house Gardner designed for a gentlewoman of reduced circumstances: it is about 400 square feet, with no bathroom (other plans in the book typically included one bathroom) and no actual kitchen.  It is in fact a one-room cottage with a sleeping alcove, four closets (the lady had insisted on the four closets for storing her clothes and china), and a lean-to tacked on to house a sink.  The cost of the house?  $500.  What I find interesting is that no matter how big or small the houses, Gardner’s houses all look the same; he seemed to have really liked the Eastlake style.

And the quote of the day:

Architecture is often suggested as a suitable profession for women.  I doubt if they would succeed alone as well as men.  But a most efficient architectural partnership might be established by a man and his wife.  Her artistic taste and perceptions of the finer points would bring forth plans and designs which his matter-of-fact judgment would reduce to the requirements of actual practice and the comprehension of the builders.  

A sign of the times, indeed.