Eureka!

I had to start this post with that tremendous amount of enthusiasm, because I’m about to confess to being exceedingly naughty. 😉

Remember about two years ago when I had took my first adventurous steps into dyeing, and on a lark I grabbed two balls of ultra ugly Rowan Kidsilk Haze to toss into the leftover Kool-Aid? Ever since then, I’ve been on the hunt for some way to use the resulting cotton candy confection I produced in the process.

With only 454 yards of fairly gaudy, laceweight yarn, I was definitely limited as to what I could knit with it. I exchanged the seriously-ugly-yarn problem for the what-am-I- going-to-do-it-this-stuff problem. It wanted to be lace, but the print would overwhelm most patterns. Many hours spent on Ravelry looking for Pattern Right, but I came up empty every time.

Then the other night, when I was looking for something totally different, I found “It” – the pattern so perfect that I pinched myself to see if I was awake or having one of those dreams like where I wake up right before I pay for the utterly amazing antiques I found for next to nothing at a yard sale. (I’m still convinced that if I ever pay for them, I’ll get to keep them in real life.) I found the Horai Scarf by Hiroko Fukatsu. It was perfect – except that it called for 4 balls of yarn, and I had only 2. I tried to walk away from the pattern, but I just couldn’t keep my mind off it. Then I realized that it uses the yarn doubled, and the wheels started turning in my mind… Soon I discovered ilovemath‘s massive stash reduction, including 3 balls of Pearl Kidsilk Haze. She got my yarn to me at supersonic speed. Problem solved in spades!:)

End result? I’m double stranding my somewhat bold, handpainted yarn with a strand of the pearl, which is softening the overall effect and producing an ethereal cloud of starry down. I’m in love!

The pattern is extremely easy to memorize, and nearly as easy to work, though there’s a slight challenge in working the two K3togs into the same stitch at times, and a bit slower than working the more traditional stitch patterns. It’s well worth the added effort, though, and since the rows each add about a half inch, it’s growing quickly. It’s a battle for me to keep my hands off this project when I’m supposed to be doing other things, and I was so eager to work it last night that I totally forgot I’d not finished my Burridge Lake quota for this past weekend. Oops! I need to figure out how to squeeze in a few extra long knitting sessions soon… 😉

What would I change about the pattern? Not sure why, but my scarf is coming out dramatically wider than that of the designer, so it’s going to undoubtedly be length challenged. I’d frog any other yarn and start over with a smaller cast on number, but mohair would be enough of a nightmare to do that with that I’d probably loose half the yarn I’ve already knit into it, and I’d still end up with a shorter scarf than I’d like. I’ll find some way to make this work, but if you make this pattern, I’d recommend having at least one more ball available or casting on fewer stitches.

The other change I’d make is to not have all this other stuff I’m SUPPOSED to be doing making me feel guilty for finally knitting up some of my hand-dyed yarn. 😉

A Rescue

So, we’ve been making regular trips to my in-law’s home, sorting through an amazing amount of chattel, in preparation to sell the house. I will say straight off that much of this has been extremely challenging and difficult work. I can’t imagine they ever threw away much of anything, and when my mother-in-law’s mother died, they brought home half of her things to add to the already jam packed house. Since my husband is an only child, that makes for a whole lot of work for the two of us to do.

The last few weeks, we’ve been working in the upstairs. Although it was a finished room, it’s served as an attic for quite a long while. Once we thought we had sorted through pretty much everything, we discovered that there were four doors leading to large storage areas in the eaves. I wanted to cry when I saw them, heaped as they were with unidentifiable clutter. However, we’ve persevered, and so far, it’s turned out to be some of the best digging we’ve done. 🙂 A good 80% of what we are pulling out of those areas are just plain trash – old drop cloths, empty boxes, sacks and sacks of used Christmas ribbon and more. We really need a dumpster with as much as we’ve found.

However, the bit by bit sorting has paid off every so often. The last time we’d been up, I discovered a very old and worn handbag jammed full of doll clothes. My mother-in-law had given me her doll years ago, but looking at these items I started having some questions. There were several sizes of clothing, and none of it would fit Phyllis. Had there been another doll or two at some point? She’d acted as if Phyllis was her one and only, but… well… there was no one who would be able to give me any answers. How depressing!

Today my husband was pulling out one brittle paper shopping bag after another, and I was checking and chucking boxes by the dozen, bag after bag of Easter grass, and wads of yellowed, used tissue paper, stacking all sorts of very vintage Christmas lights and unused wedding gifts from the early 1950’s  in the sell pile, and pretending like my nose wasn’t clogging shut from who knows what I was breathing. Reaching into the next bag for the next wad of tissue, I felt something of substance. Pulling back the paper a bit, I had a bit of a start. There were two eyes peering back at me! I’m laughing now, but at the moment, I froze! Looking a second time, I finally decided it was safe, as it hadn’t moved, and much to my delight, this is what came out of the paper. 🙂

He’s Teddy Kuddles, a Knickerbocker toy. Based on where he was found and what was with him, he dates from the late 1920’s. He’s 13″ tall, plush, and has been well loved, but he’s still a sweetie. There’s a short zipper in his back which opens to a fully lined pocket. My guess is that he may have had a growler or music box, but that’s definitely just a guess. It’s much too little for him to have been a pajama bear. I’d love to hear from you if you know more about him. I enjoy teddy bears, but I’m not educated about them. Nor am I sure how to clean him or if I safely can. Seems he’s had some of the stuffing loved out of him, too. I’m really hoping that when I look throw the mounds of family photos we’ve salvaged, I can find a picture of my mother-in-law cuddling him when she was little. That would just make my day!

So, there was another bundle of disintegrating tissue paper under Teddy Kuddles, and now I was excited to see what else I might find. Sure enough, the next bundle felt like it also held a body, and I didn’t hesitate this time. Out of the shreds came a chubby dolly, painted cloth face, 14″ tall. Ah HAH! Certainly the owner of some of the clothes in the handbag!

I wish I knew more about comic strips of the 1920’s and 1930’s. She almost has to be a comic strip character with that face and the starfish style, four finger hands. Does anyone recognize her?

So then I noticed that the bag still has some weight to it, and there’s still more tissue paper. I’d gone from “happy surprise” state to making wishes, which I suppose is always a bad idea. I didn’t get my wish (want to guess what it was?), but on the other hand, I didn’t do too badly, either. 🙂 As found, here is the last treasure in the bag…

She’s unmarked, 15″ tall, and she is in simply amazing condition, particularly when you consider that she’s been wrapped in tissue paper and stored in a non-climate-controlled eaves storage area for decades. Based on my mother-in-law having been born in 1926, I’m going to say this little gal is from the mid 1930’s, which meshes well with her style. I’m very glad she has the painted tin eyes, as they hold up better than the plastic ones. I’m equally pleased that they are brown with her blonde hair – a combination one doesn’t see so often on dolls.

She has what looks to be an original hair ribbon, though her mohair wig was flattened by spending many years under a baby doll bonnet. The wig is also shedding, so it’s questionable how much styling I could actually do safely. She’s wearing her original socks and oilcloth shoes. And she obviously needs a bath and restringing.

I knew without a doubt that some of the clothes in the bag were hers, and she was happy to be reunited with them!This is just part of the clothing stash I found – mostly her things, with the other sizes stacked in the front.This is the biggest trial to me, though.

Quite a few of the clothes I found have this green gunk on them. It’s hard, and it’s tightly adhered to the fabric, some places looking almost melted into it. Several of the pieces are stuck together. I wish I could figure out what it is and how to safely remove it. I’m sort of nervous about messing with it, but I’d love to be able to put her back into her own clothes. If I wash this little dress and the green doesn’t come out, I’ll have no way to iron it. Looking for suggestions from people with more experience with this sort of thing!

And there was one knitted wool outfit for her, plus a pair of baby booties also of wool. Some little critters found these garments at some point in the last 60 years and reduced them to swiss cheese. I’m thinking that perhaps when things slow down a bit for me, there might be enough of the fabric left for me to copy the outfit for her. For now, I’m thinking it might be best to stick it in a bag in the freezer, though, just to be on the safe side…

So, that was my big excitement of the day. Not one of these fits into the category of my normal collections, but I’ve always fantasized about being one of those people who finds a doll in the attic of an old house. Now, I suppose I’ve actually done that, even if it wasn’t a doll of my dreams sort of find. Besides, it’s pretty cool that these aren’t just anybody’s childhood friends; they were part of the family many years before I joined it, so they have history. I’m just the caretaker, and I’m honored to have that privilege!

Double and Done

Right now I feel as if I’m enjoying an embarrassment of wealth in terms of really grand knitting projects. I scarcely know which I want to pick up each day when I sit down with my audiobook. I’ve been really bad about sharing them here, mostly because when I get free time, it’s tough to keep my hands off my knitting long enough to write a blog entry. I can’t ever remember a time when I had FOUR pet projects! Don’t get me wrong; I have a whole heap of UFO’s, and I’ve frogged the ones I don’t like, so there aren’t any losers. But you know how you tend to get a bee in  your bonnet about one particular project and have a tough time putting it down for a few days or weeks – or until it’s time to do the finishing work on it?  I have four of those right now, and it’s about making me dizzy! Let me introduce (or reintroduce) you to two of them.

On January 1, 2009, I cast on a long anticipated project – Shetland Garden by Sivia Harding. I knew I had some busy days coming, but I actually thought at the time that I’d have it done in a few months. Not. In fact, a few days into the year, I tucked it away ’til the next day, and that day turned out to be January 1, 2010. Oddly enough, history repeated itself, and this much desired project mellowed for another full year. Almost a joke by this point, I pulled it out again on January 1, 2011, fully planning to purposely pop it back into the project tub by the end of the first week of this year this time. You know… fine tradition and all… However, the strangest thing happened… nothing weird, new, or unexpected. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this situation. As busy as my life has been, NOTHING got in the way of me knitting this shawl, and better yet, it began growing almost magically. I have this weekend off from working at my FIL’s old house, so I’ve dedicated some of the extra time to the things I love doing – sort of an in home (much needed) winter retreat – and about an hour ago, the unbelievable happened; I cast it off and sewed in the ends. Then I sat blinking in amazement. It’s done. What will I do next year on New Year’s Day? Should I have done this to myself?

No, I’m NOT going to frog half of it from guilt. I’m not quite THAT crazy… yet. 😉 Finishing this has also given me another quandary. I’ve been longing for some decent snow, so I can do some more snow dyeing. Now I also need a beautiful spring-like day so I can block my newest shawl. It’s liable to be awhile, so I’m posting pix of it unblocked for now, just to share the excitement of being this far with the project.

I did make a few changes to the original pattern. First, I know myself well enough to know that mirroring the decreases was mandatory for me, Shetland tradition notwithstanding. On a cobweb weight yarn, it wouldn’t have really mattered so much, but with Dream in Color Baby being a rather heavy laceweight, more akin to sock yarn, the lean of the decrease really makes a pattern impact, and I love the way those lines make a secondary pattern in lace, so I did the mental gymnastics to make them symmetric.

The second change is a lot more serious. I loved this shawl from the first, but I felt that the original ending to it was just a bit too abrupt, not contributing to the artistic flow of the rest of the shawl. SO I went out on a limb and charted a new finale to the piece, which added a good number of extra hours to the project, but which I also think looks really nice – at least so far as I can see it unblocked and in close quarters. Did I say I was eager to see it blocked? 😉 BTW, once it is blocked, I can mark one UFO off my 2011 Goals. 🙂

Another 2011 Goals item is to learn to double knit. I’m happy to say that this is coming along quite well. I also must confess that I’ve apparently developed a new addiction… After watching Lucy Neatby’s wonderful DVD, Double Knitting Delight, again, I jumped into the deep end, choosing a fun chart by tina13 on Ravelry called Spinnschaf. Tina doesn’t give instructions, but she sure makes some grand charts for double knitters, and she posts them for free. They are great for people with some experience – or anyone who is just a plumb crazy beginner. 😉 Why pick a simple, large scale geometric pattern for your first project, when you have the option to pick something with oodles of details that will tie your brain into a Josephine knot, right?

It took me more rows than I would have liked to figure out just exactly how one does the edges correctly, and I’ve had a decent amount of experience, now, fixing various sorts of mistakes, but overall, this has been a really great experience, and I love the magic of knitting two sides at once, watching them come out as negative images. I’m also really loving the Stroll sock yarn from KnitPicks. I’m working with two lovely shades of the tweed, and I’m losing at least 5 minutes per work session just enjoying the way it feels.

Okay, enough for now. Wooly little voices are calling me…

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