The House of Tatterdemalion


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A Story without a Moral.

April 29th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Abby's feet

What’s this a picture of? My friend Abby’s feet. In the socks that I knit her for her birthday. The second project I’ve knitted, and the second pair of socks I’ve knitted.

When I’m not posting, you can be pretty sure I’m sick or busy. Usually busy. I spent the last month frantically knitting these socks. Based upon the expectations I had from my previous (and first) pair of socks, I had assumed that I could knit these socks in two weeks, if needed. Well, it was needed, but it took me twice as long as I expected.

It wasn’t because I decided to dye all the yarn with Kool-Aid.

kool-aid color

It wasn’t because I knitted tulips into the heels.


It wasn’t even because she had feet longer than the pattern, and so I had to rip out one of the already-completed white toes, and add two more color stripes to the pattern.

from the side

No, the problem was that the pink socks were knit out of a relatively thick yarn, and the striped socks were knit out of a relatively thin yarn. So I had to cast on 32 stitches for the pink socks, and 64 stitches for the striped socks. In other words, the striped socks had twice as many stitches as the pink socks, so of course they took twice as long!

Because of this minor miscalculation, the birthday present was about two weeks late, even knitting in every spare moment I had. I use the phrase “spare moment” rather loosely, because I wasn’t ruling out things like eating, or breathing, or making a chocolate-mocha cheesecake as her birthday cake. But I did have to stay up to 11 o’clock the night before I went to her house, still trying to finish the toe to the last sock. Which I didn’t. So I had to finish it up the next morning, right up to the minute I walked out the door. And I was an hour or so late. And I hadn’t really finished them, because after her excitement wore off a little, I had to weave in a few loose ends. And there were tension-holes at the heel I never did fix, which is kind of embarrassing. You can see them if you know where to look, and if you don’t know where to look, I’m not going to tell you.

sock pair

You may be thinking that you see a moral to this story, but you would be wrong. Because there. is. no. moral. I’m sure of it. I know it. I’m positive. No moral at all.

Except “Chocolate-mocha cheesecakes cover a multitude of sins, including late birthday presents.” That might be a moral.

Anyone want the recipe?

Posted in Knitting | 3 Comments »

A Story with a Moral

April 18th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

pink socks

What’s this a picture of? My feet. In my socks.

I knit those socks out of yarn my great-grandmother gave me, and it’s 100% wool. It’s also an almost pepto-bismol pink, but it was free, and I didn’t want to use something expensive for my first pair of socks. And my first knitting project, unless you count the scarf I made for my father when I was nine—a mile wide and two miles long, and more dropped stitches than I can count. That was a long time ago, though.

I did improve my skills from one sock to the other, which pleased me.

sock cuff

My casting on got better. The top one is my first sock, the bottom one is my second try. With the second one, I cast on in knit two, purl two, which really makes your head hurt the first time you do it.

sock toes

And here are the toes. They’re a little bit fuzzy, because I’ve been walking around in sock-feet, but you can see how the top one (first try) is kind of mangled, and on the second sock I’ve managed to graft the toe together invisibly.

But I didn’t teach myself; I had lots of help. (And here comes the moral.) My quilting buddy is old enough to be my grandmother. Sometimes, when she doesn’t feel like quilting, she knits instead. The first time I saw her working with 4 double-pointed needles like it was a tamed hedgehog, I knew I wanted to learn someday. And I said as much. And she assured me it was really very easy, and she’d be glad to teach me.

Actually, over the course of severeal months, I said “someday I want to learn how to knit socks” several times. She kept offering to teach me. I did mean it, all of it, especially the “someday” part. But finally she put down her knitting, looked me in the eye, and said, “Well, T., how long do you expect me to live?

I started learning to knit sock the very next week.

Posted in Contemplations, Knitting | 2 Comments »

What should you wear?

April 14th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Are you a people-watcher? You know, go sit in a public place and just watch people go by, and maybe make up stories of who they are and where they’re going? Or if you sew or are interested in fashion and the like, you look at what they’re wearing, and wonder where they got it, or what they were thinking when they bought it? You’d probably really enjoy The Sartorialist. It’s kind of (ok, it really is) supposed to be about clothes, and the combinations thereof, and you will wind up getting a fair amount of runway shots and such. But a lot of them are really just people you would see on the streets of NYC (probably because, um, the guy who does the blog lives in NYC. And takes pictures of people on the street).

I think some people visit just to look at the outfits (which is a waste, because it’s much more fun looking at the people). The critique them, they gush over them. Sometimes, scarily, they’re inspired by them. I certainly would never go to The Sartorialist to learn how to dress. But that is one thing that The Sartorialist has firmly cemented upon my mind—I always thought so, but now I am convinced beyond measure. Fashion and style have very little to do with clothes. It’s all about the attitude. Nothing else matters, really. Because no matter how ridiculous or hideous anyone looks, there is always someone gushing about how “perfect” or “flawless” the thing is, and usually it comes down to attitude. Not so much the clothes but “I love the way he/she wears that!” So it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it.

Unfortunately for me, you and probably the Sartorialist, he doesn’t have any permalinks, so I can’t link to individual posts (and their ensuing comments, which can be nearly as hysterical as the outfits themselves, out of pure absurdity and nothing more. The commentators can be so pretentious and cultured when viewing something that looks like garbage, much like those that comment upon modern art. Or the Emperor’s New Clothes). However, you can “click on the picture to see it larger” and then link to that, which I am going to do, but if you want the full flavor, you’ll have to go the blog and look around yourself.

Here is one of the few I managed to find a way to link to. Side-splitting, isn’t it? People say things about this like, “Oooh I love it, edgy grunge at it’s best – and outside of Marc Jacobs. It doesn’t get much better than that!” and “love love love love love love love it.” and “love how she pulled off this colorful look so effortlessly. it just works for her…like she rolled outta bed, threw it on, and was out the door. NICE!” and “I can’t say how many times I see girls attempting this sort of look and falling short. She truly has perfect execution: the perfect length of the scarf, the slightly offsetting colour of the boots and the fabulous hair.” and “exactly what do such fabulously dressed people do for a living?!” and my personal favorite “I love the outfit. So randomly matched.” I laugh and laugh and laugh. The curious thing is that so many of those comments are from “anonymous”, which sometimes makes me half-wonder if someone is going around getting kicks out of writing all those comments.

Not, mind you, that I have any problem with that lady dressing like that. She looks happy. And that’s exactly my point. If you can’t look in the mirror before you step out the door and say “Man, I love the way those clothes look together,”—well, you’re not being stylish and fashionable. If you work against your self, who and what you really are, you’re always going to look a bit “off” or “not quite right”. The main thing is to be utterly certain that it’s what you want to wear, that it’s the perfect thing to wear. That shows—that feeling, that certainty.

And that means that fashion or style is not exactly sharable; of course I would never wear that. I’m not her. We’re not the same—why should we try to dress the same? She likes it; good for her. I don’t; good for me! I don’t feel any guilt for not liking what she’s wearing, ’cause if she likes it, that’s good enough. All I’ve got to worry about is if I am happy with what I’m wearing, not imposing my tastes on other people.

(And by the by, what do think that lady is thinking? And where do you think is she is going, and what is she doing, and why did she decide to wear those clothes in particular?)

That said, don’t go thinking this is the only type or style that the Sartorialist shows photos of; he’s really quite wide-ranging.

I’m not sure quite what you’d call this one. I think I’d settle for “Um. . .very colorful!” But you can’t deny there’s confidence oozing all over the place. No doubts here, man!

Lots of times, impeccable suits are photographed. Sometimes from the front, and sometimes from the back. And often times, close ups of the collars, or cuffs, or ties, or especially the “pocket squares”. And people in the comments fuss like crazy if the sleeves are just a tad to short or just a tad to long. Jackets have to fit perfectly, dagnabit! (And the one I just linked to, by the way, is a prize specimen. Despite the fact that the guy is listing to one side and so one sleeve is a little too long and the other a little too short, we are assured this suit fits perfectly in every way.)

Sometimes, a person just catches his eye, apart from what clothes they’re wearing, like this lady. Don’t you agree that’s a very striking face? I love striking faces. I never understand all this fuss over “beautiful” or “flawless” faces. To me, “striking” is a much greater complement—not that I’m insinuating this face is flawed or ugly. Just that it’s very, very striking. The kind of face you wish you could remember forever, because you know you’re not going to see another one like it.

Yes, this dude is fashionable. People loved his mix of arrogance (see the look on his face? see the way he stands?) and humility (OMG, that guy is filthy!!). It was a picture taken in Paris, which is what made it great in some people’s eyes. For other people, it just made them wonder how they could only take showers once a week and still always carry their bread around in their armpits.

(Tee-hee-he. Yes, I’m still laughing.)

In this one, I discover that I, too, am stylish. Because she is just wearing baggy jeans and t-shirt, just like I do all the time. ‘Cept probably not. Because I don’t wear suede boots. And I don’t like wearing scarves.

Very, very fashionable. What else would you call it? No, really, what would you call it? I love the look on his face. I’m still trying to figure out what he’s thinking. I’m not sure if he’s pleased with the attention or if he’s a camera-phobe. “Yeah, yeah, so I’m not dressed normal. What’s it to you?” And hey, what’s up with not wearing socks? Don’t you people get blisters? Sticky shoes?

Isn’t this hideous? I’m sorry, I really think it’s hideous. I think that guy must be having a mid-life crisis, and it shows. I can forgive everything except the jeans. And all the rings. What is wrong with people that they feel like they need all that metal on their hands?

This was billed as being worn “naturally and effortlessly”. I call it “genuine happiness showing through regardless of clothing”, and so I like it a lot. Doesn’t it make you want to smile? Okay, maybe I’m just a girl. It makes me want to smile, anyway.

This one makes me crack up. Yes, I know it was deliberate. But I still think it’s hysterical, and I reserve my right to laugh when I see biker-chic meets, um, French garden tea? You don’t have to laugh if you don’t want to. You can call it striking, instead, and remember it forever.

This guy is utterly, utterly batty. He might be the living definition of “batty old man”. I love it.

Personally, I wouldn’t be very happy with the dry-cleaners if I was this guy. And what is it with this no-sock wearing thing? Come on! Didn’t your mother teach you how to get dressed? I guess not. The guys aren’t wearing any socks, and the girls are wearing socks with high-heels. My grandmother would be appalled.

I loved this one. I’ve always been a big fan of capes. The Sartorialist said he loved how she dressed goth but kept the sweet innocent face. But he was still a little nervous approaching her to ask if he could take her picture. Personally, it was one of the few shots I’ve seen that made me want to say “Oh, it’s so perfect! I just love it!” in my best girly-girl voice. I love that cape, the trim on the hem, the lined hood. It’s velvet, so it must feel wonderful and have a great drape and movement. And the over-coat; I love the cut of the over-coat. And I always love long dresses, and I love it that it looks like she’s wearing comfortable shoes. And I can’t believe most people in the comments wasted their time trying to figure out what time period or look she was going for. Who cares?! I just want that cape! Please?

I am so going to have to sew myself a velvet cape someday.

This is now called the “deconstructionist” look. Last I knew, it was called the “I’m a bachelor, and the pants were too long” look. But I guess I’ve been out-voted. So I guess I can’t tell the bachelors they ought to be ashamed of themselves any more. I guess now I have to call them stylish.

Don’t you think this is a classic? It must be a classic. Why does it look so darn familiar? Don’t tell me! I like wondering.

I’m told this guy is going for the Bo-Ho look. Can anyone tell me what the difference is between the “Bo-Ho” look and the “Hobo” look?

I’m probably going to get in trouble for dissing all this high fashion. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Speaking of such, this one is a very good follow up. It’s one of my favorites. Especially when the Sartorialist informs me that “This man has style in his bones.” In all seriousness.

Tee-hee. Yes, I’m laughing again. There was much compliments on the effort that went into getting this “look”. Tee-hee. I never knew there were so many fashionable people around here. And they can do fashion effortlessly. Accidentally, even. Wait, it doesn’t count if it’s by accident, does it? You’re just a slob who doesn’t care about your looks if you do it by accident. But if you do it on purpose—wow, you are like, totally talented, man! What a look!

My favorites, though, are usually of the distinguished gentlemen who still believe in wearing hats. Like this guy. Or this guy with a bowler; I bet you though nobody wore bowlers anymore. Bowlers were made for guys like that. It looks so perfect on him, it almost looks as though he’s been imported from the past. Apparently, in some places of NYC, the past does cling on, though fading. And the past is never without it’s hat. Sometimes it’s a happy old man, sometimes a somber old man, but they’re always wearing a hat. And the thing about wearing hats is that they do such a terrific job of framing the face, making the many years and the deeply-etched character stand out all the clearer.

So, yeah, The Sartorialist is a good place to go if you like people-watching. Or clothes-watching. But one thing that the site will always be driving home is that personal style is just that—very, very personal. No cheap imitations will do; it’s the real McCoy or nothing. No amount of fashion rules or guidelines or being up on all the treads is any amount of compensation for wearing what you want to wear. And being completely unapologetic if it does break all the fashion rules and guidelines and trends.

To thine own self be true, people, to thine own self be true.

Posted in Contemplations, Fashion, Websites | 1 Comment »

Considering my past history. . .

April 5th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

. . .Namely, my past history of craziness, and most specifically, of getting into a lot larger of a project than I ever intended. I don’t start out thinking “Let’s see how time-consuming and difficult a project I can come up with?” Actually, I usually start out thinking I am making a simple project. Sometimes I am—simple doesn’t equate “easy” or “quick”. But usually, what does me in is my fixation on “doing it right”—or, at the very least, doing it my way, regardless of words of reason to the contrary.

In October of 2000, I decided I would make a cross-stitch for my father’s birthday (in late November). I’d never really done any cross-stitch—just enough to know it couldn’t possibly be that hard (read: one, small, tiny project). The perfect grid of holes was there, and all you had to do was get a needle through them in an “x” shape. A child could do it.

True. But did you expect me to keep it that easy? Of course not.

The project I had in mind was to cross-stitch a short Psalm I knew he enjoyed. That would take up the most space, and then I would do a fitting border. I commenced to finding a border that would suit the Psalm, pouring over the piles and piles of cross-stitch magazines an aunt had given me. I finally found one that was perfect—it was a border in the style of 14th century illumination. Plus, since it wasn’t a solid design (it had lots of open spaces), it would mean less stitching.

It’s from “Cross Stitch and Country Crafts”, Jan/Feb 1990; the pattern was designed by Barbara Ann Richter.

The original pattern

That settled, I progressed to charting out the words. I did it once, in a very basic font I’d seen in a different project. Then I did it a second time—because the first one was so utterly plain, and it would never go with the border. Of course, I couldn’t find a font that would look right (despite much searching, both in books, on the ‘net, and in magazines). So first I drafted my own alphabet, and then I charted the words for the second time.

It was at this point I discovered that the border I had chosen was much too small to fit around the words I had charted. So I commenced to re-drafting the border, keeping most of the elements, but adding in more to make it larger. As I neared the finish of this re-drafting, I suddenly noticed that all the charts in the magazines had difficulty ratings. My curiosity was piqued—I went back and checked the difficulty level for the border I’d originally chosen.


Of course.

Unperturbed (but slightly amused), I continued. I bought all the floss I needed, but had a hard time finding a piece of canvas large enough for my design. I did finally find some, but it was something like 20 (maybe 18?) stitches per inch. I got in “parchment” color, and I was good to go.

. . .And go and go and go. I got all the letters sans the capitals done by his birthday. The rest took me about 2 years to complete. A lot of people thought I’d never finish it. I tried not to think about it, but kept plugging away. I did finally finish it, but by that point I was pretty well sick of it, and even though it’s hanging on the wall I never look at it much.

Pictures to prove my point:

This is the whole work. . .

The whole piece

A slightly closer view of the scene at the bottom. Note the bird in the vine on the right.

Lower right

The upper left corner. . .There’s an owl in there, and you can see that there are metallic threads, right? For the serifs on the capitals, I used the metallic thread mixed with the red; I outlined the capitals with pure metallic. The gold leaves and finials were stitched in metallic mixed with brown.

Upper left

A few more detail shots. You can see, among other things, the decorative stitching done on top of the color blocks in the border. The blue border with all the French knots took a particularly long time. You can also see that I outlined every single stupid leaf in black—that took a loooooonng time. The vines are stitched out of a combination of blue and black.

You can also see that the majority of stitches aren’t “whole” cross-stitches but are “3/4” stitches, which means that instead of sticking the needle through those nice, pre-made holes, I had to stick the needle up through the center of the grid, which was much less convenient. But it made for much nicer shaping! You’ve probably also realized that what I thought was a blessing (open design! Less stitching!) was really a curse (lots of moving around and color changing!).

More detail

If you go back and look at the whole piece again, you can probably pick out more animals this time. The left side, from the top down, has an owl, a snake wrapped around the border, a lil’ humming bird, a bird I think is a wood-pecker, and a moth. The right side, from the top down, has a dove, a bird that I don’t know what is (don’t know my birds very well), a butterfly, a snail, and another bird I don’t know what is. Most of the vines on the right were part of the original design; most of the vines on the left I drafted.

And then there is the quilt. I got this brilliant idea that I was going to make a quilt to commemorate my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary. It was my first quilt, naturally, and I started it with about 6 months to go, naturally. I wanted it to have an old-fashioned sort of look about it (as though, perhaps, to indicate the longevity of their marriage), so I wanted it to be a scrap quilt. I chose a pinwheel block.


Because it would be so easy to cut and put together—all the pieces would be the same shape and size, and there would be nothing to get mixed up.

Even non-quilters are laughing at me for this one, because of course the pinwheel block has eight points which all must meet perfectly at the center! And also because, don’t ask why, I chose to cut it so that the completed pinwheel blocks were only 4″ by 4″.

As I charted this out on graph paper, I started to realize exactly how many blocks that would be. I decided to add borders. This wound up to be the equivalent to robbing Peter to pay Paul—yes, there were less blocks to cut and piece, but of course I intended to fill all of those borders with quilting. Did I mention I was going to hand quilt this whole thing? And that, in anticipation of the quilt shrinking slightly when washed, I was making it king sized? And quilting a decorative medallion in the center 12×12 block? It was my first quilt, what did you expect?

It’s been about 2 1/2 years since their 25th, and I’m still quilting the darn thing. And everyone wants to know when I’ll finish it, and how close I am to finishing it. I try not to think about it. Every time I do, I remember that the closer I get to the edge (I’m quilting from the center out), the more time it takes to get all the way around the quilt. It’s really a bit terrifying to think about it, so I try really hard not to. I did get the top pieced together in time for their 25th, but that was all. One of my brothers says he thinks I’ll get it done by my 25th wedding anniversary—and I’m not even dating. Optimistic type fellow, I guess. (I’m hoping to finish it by next year, for a total of 4 years work. But don’t quote me on that. It might be 5 years.)

This is the center block, the first hand quilting I ever did, and mostly of my own design. (I printed out pictures of floor tiles off the internet for inspiration.)

The center block

A close up of the center block, with my fingers for getting an idea of the scale:

Close up of center block

This is the quilting on the pinwheel blocks. I chose (against the advice of all others) to not quilt the pinwheels, but to quilt the secondary (and much smaller) pattern.

Quilting diamonds

This is the first border, in which I’m quilting words. This was also advised against. Here, I’m quilting the date of their wedding. You can see the freezer paper template I’m using; I traced my words onto the freezer paper, ironed the freezer paper onto the fabric, and then began cutting out the letters as I worked. I then trace the template onto the fabric with a washable marker, and quilt the letters. Crazy, no? It took a looooooot of time, but I’m happy to report I am now finished with that border.

Quilt the numbers

This shows you the composition of the quilt: center block, a section of pinwheels, first border with the words quilted into it, second section of pinwheels, second border (which will be quilted in a lattice pattern), and the final set of borders, including a border of the “hourglass” pattern (the secondary pattern in the pinwheels).


Needless to say, it was of very little surprise to me that when I endeavored to sew myself a dress, I first had to teach myself pattern drafting from scratch. What else would I do? I suppose I could have raised sheep, sheared the wool, spun the wool, woven the fabric, and then learned pattern drafting. I’m rather proud of myself for not having that brilliant idea, actually.

That dress, also years in the making, is finally starting to come to a close, which is what brought all of this to mind. When working on the dress, I thought I would be thrilled to the core to finish it. I thought it would be one of the most exciting days of my life to date.

Mostly, I find that I’m already sick of it. I’ve spent so much time on it, I hardly even want it any more—I just want to be done already! This hasn’t kept me from fiddly details, and far more work that $4/yd fabric deserves (including a lot of hand stitching and some print matching). Of course not. It just means that my mind is already elsewhere—I took my sister’s measurements for drafting for her. I’m starting to work on the dress pattern for the next dress I hope to make.

But really, I feel a bit of a knot in my stomach. What’s next? I don’t mean “next” as in “whatever shall I do tomorrow?”. I mean “next” as in “what is the next overwhelming project I will heedlessly stumble into?” And, while we’re asking questions, how long will the next one take me? 8 years? 10 years? I shudder to think. Finding “things” to do is easy—I have dabbled in, not only embroidery, quilting, and sewing, but also knitting, basket weaving, calligraphy and even book binding. The list of things I’d be interested in trying some day is too long to begin. Any one of these things could suddenly explode into a Major Project, with no warning at all. These things aren’t planned you know, they just happen.

In the meantime, my list of “minor projects” is long enough to keep me busy for years to come, so I know I won’t be sitting around bored. (As if!) But the plain fact of the matter is that I rarely spend much time without at least one years-in-the-making-masterpiece. I fully expect that sometime within the next 6 month, I will once again find myself stumbling into water that goes far above my head. . .and then flounder about in the project for awhile, till I get my bearing, and then settle in for the long haul.

I expect it, but I don’t know when it will come, or what it will be. It’s rather like waiting for something horrible to jump out from behind the bushes; you don’t know which bush it will be, or what the boogyman will be like. . .and sometimes the anticipation is the worst part!

Posted in Contemplations, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »