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Pig in the Suburbs


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Knitting: Dresses for the Winter

Wisteria2.2

Wisteria dress

Years ago, I knitted the Wisteria in its original sweater form: https://opiegp.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/wisteria/

It was beautiful, but the yarn I used was wrong for the project.  It was too soft, the sweater grew, and I never wore it.  I finally frogged it this past spring, and a couple of weeks ago I decided to reknit Wisteria as a dress.

Pattern:  Wisteria, by Kate Gilbert, from Twist Collective Fall 2008.

Yarn:  A DK weight merino/cashmere/silk yarn from Lambspun of Colorado.  This yarn has been a few projects and has held up beautifully over the years.

Modifications:  The pattern converts into a dress without fuss.  I added some bodice darts at the back to prevent “poofing” under the yoke, added darts in front and back (along with those at the sides) for smoother skirt increases, and shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length.

Thoughts:  The yarn was perfect for this project; it is light, and the dress conforms without clinging.

Bryn Mawr2.1

Bryn Mawr dress, version 2

I knitted my first Bryn Mawr dress also with the wrong sort of yarn: https://opiegp.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/knitting-for-the-fall-vortex-street-pullover-bryn-mawr-dress-halliard/

Again, the yarn was too soft, and the dress was incredibly clingy and picked up static like crazy.  But I loved the pattern, so I reknitted the sweater this past spring.

Pattern:  Bryn Mawr dress, by Alex Capshaw-Taylor, from Interweave Knits Fall 2013

Yarn:  Sport weight mule-spun Elsawool in undyed medium grey.  This is a cormo wool, and I love it as much (if not more) than merino wool.

Modifications:  I opened up the neckline, and did not bother with the skirt hem.  I knitted the sleeves on from the top using short rows to shape the caps.

Thoughts:  The pattern was as fun to knit this time around as last time.  More important, the dress fits well without cling, and the cables still show up even with the darker yarn.


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Henry James: The Awkward Age

One of my rituals when visiting Santa Fe was stopping off at Nicholas Potter Books; unfortunately, he had to close his bookstore a couple of years ago.  There are a few used bookstores scattered around Santa Fe, but I have not found one quite like the old Nicholas Potter Books.  I mention this bookstore because while I have the complete Henry James on Kindle, tablet, and iPhone, I still like to read him in book form.  About 5 years ago, I found a Pantheon’s The Novel Library edition (1949) of The Awkward Age.  It has teeny-tiny print on very thin paper, and is just a tad too big to fit in my pocket.  When I started to read the book, I did not need glasses . . . .  I finally finished the book last week, and am currently on my second prescription for reading glasses.

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Henry James, 1910. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection, Digital ID ggbain.04703

My favorite Henry James novel is The Ambassadors: it is his most approachable late work, the least elliptical, and with the most sympathetic lead character.  The Awkward Age is not in that league, but I can see the progression from that book to his final works.  The short version of the story is that of two girls, Nanda and Aggie, the former too much exposed to a corrupting society, the latter cossetted to the point of imbecility, and how each breaks out of her awkward age.  Surrounding them are mothers and guardians and friends, each with his/her own set of beliefs on the role of society and the moral code, and each acting ultimately not for the girls’ good, but for his/her own benefit.  The tale is told almost entirely in dialogue, and that made it a difficult slog.  Without a lot of clues about the people populating the play, I was left to my own devices about how to feel about the whole arc of the story.  All the characters talk … and talk … and talk … and it is never clear exactly what they are talking about and how they actually feel about anything, or anybody, in their lives.

I think I tried too hard the first few years to read every word, mull over every sentence, with the result that I would put the book down for a while, then have to reread from the beginning.  The trick to reading this particular book is to pretend you really are in the drawing room with the characters, and just “listen” semi-attentively as you would at a cocktail party populated by people you don’t particularly like.  You know you are going to miss some things along the way, but really, does it matter if at the end of the night, you do in fact get the gist of it all?

A random conversation between Mrs. Brook and Vanderbank:

“I called Nanda in because I wanted to.”

“Precisely; but what I don’t make out, you see, is what you’ve since gained by it.”  

“You mean she only hates me the more?”

Van’s impatience, in the movement with which he turned from her, had a flare still sharper.  “You know I’m incapable of meaning anything of the sort.”  

She waited a minute while his back was presented.  “I sometimes think, in effect, that you’re incapable of anything straightforward.”  

Indeed.


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A Maker

Just recently, a couple of weeks in fact, I became aware of the term “maker” as applied to crafters/artisans/diyers . . . .  I like it.  I am a maker of things useful and otherwise, interesting and otherwise, beautiful and otherwise.  I make.

Cavy On

A Floor Mat for the Guinea Pigs!

Pattern:  The letters are from the Moda “Spell it with Fabric” blog hop, reduced to 3/4 size.

Fabric:  The blue background fabrics are from Amy Butler’s “Daisy Chain” collection; other fabrics are stash scraps.

The Cavies (aka guinea pigs Tula and Chia) live in the basement in the summer; their house is at the bottom of the staircase.  I made this floor quilt for the landing in front of the cage, partly for The College Kid’s amusement, but mostly because I have never made fabric letters.  The backing fabrics are Joel Dewberry home decor weight scraps, the batting is also made up of scraps from other projects, and the binding is made from one of Mom’s nightgowns.  This was a fun project, and the letters were addictive to make.  I also sewed a whole set of letters at full size for one of Emily Dickinson’s pithy poems . . . .  that one is a “someday” quilt.


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A Lesson in Quilting

Chain Link front

Chain Link Quilt

A few years ago I entered my “red-and-grey” phase and bought a bunch of — you guessed it — red-and-grey fabric collections.  And then I couldn’t figure out a good pattern for them, so they all sat in the stash.  Last year, I ran across a vintage block pattern from the 1930s that formed the basis for the Chain Link Quilt.  The pattern appeared as part of the “Nancy Page Quilt Club” series, a Depression-era creation of an enterprising home economist named Florence La Ganke Harris (1886-1972).  In the original pattern, the block finished at 10.5″ square, but of course the size is easy to manipulate by varying the width of the patterned strips.  The block is easy to assemble, and as the author commented in the advertisement, the “over and under effect is both good and unusual.”

I broke into my Etchings by Three Sisters jelly roll, and began to assemble the blocks.  And then I got bored.  This is why the finished quilt ended up with patches of bright blue, greens, and yellows, most of which came from Mom’s housedresses.  She was, after all, born in the early 1930s.

Pattern:  Chain Link Quilt, from Florence La Ganke’s Nancy Page Quilt Club.

Fabrics:  Etchings, by Three Sisters; various red and greige scraps from the stash; patches from Mom’s housedresses

Modifications:  I used 2.5″ strips, so the finished block was somewhere around 14.5″ square

Thoughts:  

1.  I should have planned better for the over-and-under effect, but I piece the same way I knit, more or less on the fly.  Oh well.

2.  I know some people say that you are not a REAL quilter unless you actually quilt your own work.  Well.  Fighting words, right?  I learned TWO new skills with this project: (1)  Quilt-as-you-go, and (2) actual quilting.

For the QAYG, I wasn’t thrilled about any one method out in blogland, so I came up with a combination method that involved a fair amount of hand-sewing.  Since I have more than a touch of OCD, it’s all good.  As for the actual quilt pattern, I probably should have gone with something curvy/flowy, but at the time I was quite enamored of Anne Bright’s “Square Dance” pattern, so that’s what I went with.

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The back, as well the batting, were all scraps; the purple is part of a sheet (c. early 1980s) from Mom’s linen closet.

I love the border fabric.  I love all the hand-piecing and hand-sewing I did on this project.  And I love Mom being part of this quilt.


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Travel Diary: Amsterdam

August 4 Sunday

Took a carriage and drove about the city and about the locks.  Went through the royal palace.  The large [] hall is 1 hundred feet high and very handsome.  Then went to the [Rijks]museum and saw some of the pictures.  Saw one by [Rembrandt] which is very fine called the Night Watch.  Then went to a very nice cafe and took dinner.  Then went to the Zoological Gardens which one of the finest we have seen.  The houses here are all built in blocks and have hooks in the attic to haul things up by.  They are very homely and some of them old.  We saw one marked 167-.  They bend over on back and all most all are out of the perpendicular.

August 5 Monday

Took a drive to the Zuider Zee and saw them building sluice ways.  The water of the Zuider Zee is 30 feet higher than Amsterdam  The carriage left us at the diamond cutting establishment and we went through it.  First they split the diamond and then cut it and then polish it and there is a great deal of work in it.  There are over 10,000 people in the diamond work in Amsterdam.

Then we went to the old silver shops and I wanted to buy some thing but everything is very expensive.  Passed by the Beurs where there were a great children playing.  They allow the children to play there a few days in August and September because in the 17th century some boys that were playing there found out a conspiricy against Amsterdam by some Spanish.

Some of the women here wear very queer head dresses and wodden shoes.  Some of the headdresses have a metal piece behind and a white [muslin] cap over it and gold ornaments on the side of their face.

Miss Mary’s diary ends here.  According to a local notice in May,  Dr. J. B. Andrews had taken a three-months leave for an European vacation, so I am assuming Mary had a second booklet to continue her travel diary.  The last few pages consist of items she bought (and their prices!) as well as a list of gift recipients.  Dr. Matzinger made the list, although at the time she finished this diary she had not found a present for him.  

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It has been an interesting journey for me:  I have been digging around in the attic, so to speak.  The diary is not historically important or personally revelatory — Mary was only 14 years old, after all.  But I appreciate her naiveté and the assumption of American exceptionalism that peeked through even in her mind-numbing recounting of destinations.  I would love to know what she looked like.   I hope a family portrait exists.  Mary and her mother were both prominent members of the Buffalo Historical Society (at some point they presented the organization with a portrait of Dr. Andrews), so I think somewhere in the archives is a picture of her.  The Racist Salon Owner accused me specifically (and historians in general) of being a snoop.  Perhaps.  But I do in fact know where the line is, and I do know when to stop.   I stopped digging around the time I figured out who left the diary at the bookstore.  The diary is now making its way to one of Mary’s other descendents.  I already miss her young voice.  


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Travel Diary: Germany

July 31 Wednesday

Took a walk around town and it is the prettiest town we have seen.  Went to the [Trinkhalle] where the hot water from the springs comes and the people come to drink.  The town is full of trees and a little stream runs through it which makes it very pretty.  Went to some very pretty shops and bought some things.  In the afternoon took a drive to the castle which is a very picturesk ruins.  It was destroyed by the French in 17 uncle Louis XIV.  From here we got a lovely view of the surrounding country and Baden Baden.  In the evening went to the [Conversationshaus] and heard a very nice concert.

August 1 Thursday

Left this morning about nine oclock for Heidelberg and arrived about noon.  After lunch drove to the castle which is the finest ruin in Germany.  It is very large and has a great many old carved stone figures on the out side of it.  The oldest part was built in 1294 and other electors added to it.  In the cellar is [] tun which holds 50,000 gallons and a statue of the court jester who drank 30 bottles of wine a day and also a clock made by him.  It has a clock face on the outside but when you pull a string a foxes tail flies out.

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Karl Lange: Grosses Fass (Heidelberg Tun), 1896. From Karl Pfaff, “Heidelberg and Umgebung,” Heidelberg: J Horning, 1902. Digital image from Wikimedia Commons.

We went into the museum which has things connected with the castle and also the engagement ring of Luther.  Got a nice of [][] outside a church with stalls to sell things in a workshop built around it and also the university.  Took the train at 3.50 for [Mainz] and arrived about six oclock.  After dinner took a ride on the street car and saw the cathedral which is very queer looking and has five towers on it each one entirely different from the other and also the statue of Gudenberg.

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Gutenberg memorial with Mainz Cathedral in background, 2005. Imgage by Ingo Staudacher, released into Wikimedia Commons.

August 2 Friday

It rained this morning but [] after a while.  Took a steamer for Cologne.  Saw a great many old castles ruined some restored and was very much interested in them.  Saw two castles that they call the Cat and the Mouse.  In the Mouse bishop [Hatto] was eaten up by mice because he had some peasants burned in his farm.

(Much confusion here, with Maus Burg and Katz Burg being mixed in with the legend of Archbishop Hatto of Maiz and the Mäuseturm (or Mouse Tower), a stone tower on a small island in the Rhine near Bingen am Rhein)

Saw some castles restored and they looked very pictureske.  A number of castles belong to the Prince and Princess of Prussia.  Saw the ruin of Reichenberg and the legend about it is that the seven beauty daughters of Reichenberg were bathing in the Rhine and some changed into rocks.  We saw some rocks but did not know which they were.

(More confusion with castles and legends:  The seven sisters lived in the Schönburg, and were heartless coquettes who refused to marry the knights who came to ask for their hands in marriage.  The river god turned them into rocks for their mockery of the worthy suitors.  Such a typically mysogynistic fairy tale.)

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Schoenburg and Oberwesel, the Rhine, Germany, c. 1890-1910. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID ppmsca.00873

The ruined Rheinfels castle is very large and handsome.  Saw the ruin of Rolandseck castle which was built by Roland a nefiew of Charlemagne to overlook the island of [Nonnenwerth] where his betrothed Hildegard had taken the veil.  The legend is that Roland went to the wars and Hildegard heard that he was killed and took the veil and when he came back he built the castle to overlook the nunnery and when he heard she died he was killed by the news.

Farther down the river we passed near the ruined castle of Drachenfels which is one of the most pictureske castles on the river and near it a new castle which is very handsome.

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Ruin of Castle Drachenfels in Koenigswinter, Germany, c. 1890-1905. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID ppmsca.00823

Arrived at Cologne about half past four and went to the [] Hotel.  Took a walk and went to the Cathedral.  The front is more beautiful than the Milan one but the interior is not as well proportioned I don’t think.

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Cologne Cathedral, Germany. Image c.1885 by Anselm Schmitz (1831-1903). Wikimedia Commons.

The stained glass windows are beautiful.  We went into the sacristy and saw the gold and silver box all set with precious stones that they say holds the skulls of the three wise men. It is the finest thing of the kind in the world.   After dinner took a drive about the city and went through the new part.  The houses are all built in blocks but they are very handsome.  The handsomest thing of the kind we have seen.

August 3 Saturday

Took a carriage and drove through the old part of the city and in the window of a house saw two wooden horse heads.  The legend about it is this at the time of the plague this man who owned the house wife died and they buried her in the church of the apostles and she was buried with her wedding ring on.  The grave diggers noticed this and after the funeral dug the body up to take the ring off.  This woke her from her trance and she went to her house and asked admission.  When her husband heard who was at the door he said my wife is dead and she would no more come back than my horse would look out of the loft of my house.  Just then he heard the stamping of hoofs.  And the horses heads were put there to commemorate this event.  We looked into the Church of the Apostles.  And went into the Church of St. [Gereon] which is finished in fresco which is very pretty and it also has very pretty stained glass.  Then went to the Church of Saint Ursula where we saw the bones of the 11,000 virgins that were killed by the Huns at Cologne.

St. Ursula

Treasury of St. Ursula, Cologne, the Rhine, Germany, c. 1890-1900. Image from Detroit Publishing Co., 1905. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID ppmsca.00812.

The bones are arranged in glass cases along the walls of part of the Church and in another part of the church the walls are filled with bones and little pinholes to look at them through in the walls.  There is a monument to St. Ursula and her bones in the Church and a wine jug that they say came from the marriage feast at Cana in the sacristy but we did not go in.

Then we went to the Cathedral and then to the shops.  Left for Amsterdam at 1.40 and was late so arrived about 8 oclock.  Saw lots of wind mills on the way.


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Travel Diary: Geneva, Lausanne, Basel, Strasburg

July 27 Saturday

It rained hard this morning but we walked over to the castle of [Chillon] and saw where [Bonivard] was confined and where they hung the prisoners and pushed their corpses into the lake and also where the prisoners were made to walk down three steps and then fell down to the bottom of a steep hole where knives were fixed.

Took the tramway to the steamer to Geneva.  Arrived at Geneva about half past two.  Went to the [] store and walked about some.

July 28 Sunday

Wrote letters this morning and in the afternoon took a drive.  Saw the Russian Church

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Vue de l’eglise russe et des toits de Geneve, 2008. Image by Dragunsk Usf, from Wikimedia Commons.

and went inside it is not a bit like other churches.  Drove out by the handsome homes but they are hidden in trees so could not see them.

July 29 Monday

Left Geneva 12 oclock and took cars to Lausanne where we changed and passed by [Neuchâtel] and along the lake.  We had the last view of Jungfrau and the Bernese Alps.  We arrived at Basle about half past eight.  Went through 21 tunnels.

July 30 Tuesday

Drove about Basle and went to the Cathedral.  There are some very pleasant residences.  The Cathedral has the ugliest roof I ever saw.  It looks like oil cloths and the carvings over the door are awful.

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Basel Minster, c. 1890. Courtesy of Swiss National Library nbdig-18118.

Took the train to Appenweir where we changed for Strasburg.  On the way to Appenweir saw some storks on the roof of a church.  Arrived at Strasburg about half past two.  Took a drive about the town and went to St. Thomas Church where we saw the tomb of Marshal Saxe.  Then drove to the Cathedral which was built in 1015-1439 and saw the old clock which is very intersting.  In the cathedral there are some very fine old stained glass windows and an old pulpit which has carved on it the family of the sculptor and their little dog.  We saw the clock strike three.  First a little angel turns an hourglass ([]) then a skeleton strikes the hour and an old man walks out.  When it strikes twelve the apostles walk around.  It also has the signs of the zodiac, the moons and other things on it.  Then drove to the new place and went throug it.  It is very handsome.  Left for Baden Baden about 6.30 oclock and changed at Appenweir and [] and arrived about half past eight.