The House of Tatterdemalion


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Dark Brown Wool Skirt

September 27th, 2008 by tatterdemalion

These photos were shot the same day as all the cherry-dress prictures I uploaded. We took a lot less pictures of this; I think it is because it the outfit suited me so much better it seemed less awkard. The lighting was awful though, because it was either too dark in the shade or far too bright out of it.

This garment is held in contrast to the cherry dress in other ways, besides what I mentioned in my last post. After taking such a ridiculously long time making the cherry-dress, I challanged myself to “just do it” for my next garment. Just draft it, cut it, and sew it. No muslins. No obsessing. No looking back. And that’s what I did.

The waist is not snug enough, and the skirt has a tendency to slide down. I didn’t make belt carriers, so I can’t properly belt it into submission. Because it slides down, it is a few inches longer than I meant it to be, which can be frustrating on stairs.

However, I’ve worn it more times than the cherry-dress, and I’ve loved wearing it every time. It is exceptionally comfortable, I find it very flattering, and it is incredibly warm. I always used to pity people who wore skirts in bitterly cold weather, as imagined the icy-cold drafts so easily slipping under the hem. Instead, I was far warmer wearing this skirt; I think it follows the same logic as why mittens are warmer than gloves, for one thing. The only downside to that is while I would be comfortable walking around outside, I would sometimes find myself breaking into a sweat inside of well-heated homes. And if this is a testament to the insulative powers of wool, then I think we should all go back to making the investment in wool clothing, from sweaters to long-underwear, and save about a gazillion dollars in heating bills during the winter.

At some later date, I’ll post pictures showing construction details, but I hope you aren’t looking for too much in the way of instruction, because I always forget to take notes and have to re-figure it out the next time. My only hope is that if I keep sewing often enough, I’ll actually be able to remember how to do thing from garment to garment.

Under the Willow Tree:





Deep red looks better on me than a lighter or brighter red.

on the bridge

Don’t ask me what I was looking at, because I don’t know. You don’t want to see my face anyway, because I was squinting in the harsh sunlight. You do know they predicted an overcast day, don’t you? I suppose that should have been our first clue it wasn’t going to be.

uno Yes, my skirt has pockets! Two of them! They came out very nice, but when it came to working on the next garment with pockets, I didn’t have the foggiest idea how I’d done them before. I’ll show you better pictures later.


Blotchy sunlight makes your face look weird.


Now I’m not blotchy, but it’s far too shady. And my hands are itching to work on something. Standing around doing nothing is counter to my nature. I should have taken along my knitting, or something, but that of course would have obscured the skirt, which we were attempting to document. So my hands hang awkwardly.


The End.

Posted in Cloth, Color, Completions, Projects | No Comments »

Dyeing to know?

November 17th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

So you may possibly remember me mentioning my efforts to dye yarn green, and having less than stellar results. The most civilized answer to what color the yarn is has been “kahki green” or “something you would wear with combat boots”. I don’t have any combat boots. . .

Things got odder and odder when I tried dyeing test swatches with (alternately) slipskin grapes and pokeweed berries. Though the dye bath was deep purple and a brilliant fuschia, the yarn kept coming out brown, of all absurd things. So I inter-library loaned 14 hundred million books in an attempt to figure out what on earth was going on. I found lots of dots, but didn’t managed to connect them all until the 14 hundred million and one book. Dots:

  • Don’t use well water for washing your wool; the minerals in the water will form soap scum!!! (Big deal.)
  • Iron added to a dye bath will “sadden” or “dull” the colors.

For some absurd reason, it took me until I found the The art and Craft of Natural Dyeing by J.N. Liles before I finally realized what my problem was:

. . .for practically all natural dyes except madder, logwood, weld, and brazilwood, soft water is best. In former times, rainwater was considered ideal, riverwater next best, and well water the last choice since it often contained the largest amounts of dissolved salts. Not only do salts alter tehcolor of some dyes, but they can sometimes cause spotting, particularly on piece goods. Iron contamination can really create havoc with bright colors.. . .If iron contamination is suspected, dissolve a few crystals of potassium ferrocyanide in about one-half ounce of water. Add a little vinegar or weak acid. If the solution remains clear, it is iron free, but if the solution turns blue, iron contamination is present. The blue color results from the formation of Prussian blue, which is iron dependent.

Alas, I don’t happen to have a few crystals of potassium ferrocyanide hanging around, but I suspect (very, very strongly) that this is the problem. Certainly I was using well water, but my first reaction was “we don’t have that many minerals in the water!!”. After all, a few houses down the street has huge problems with iron staining, and if you go up the street the other way, there is so much sulfur in the water I can smell it across the room as soon as the tap is turned on. Our water, on the other hand, is wonderful. It has no off tastes of either iron or sulphur (is it sulfur or sulphur? they both look wrong at the moment). The fact of the matter is, it’s probably closest to spring water, as the well is very, very shallow. (We sometimes joke it’s just a buried 5 gallon bucket.) The water table in general runs very close to the surface, and it is not at all unusual to have a bunch of springs spontaneously pop up in the lawn every Spring, sometimes force the water several inches into the air.

However, I should have known better. Because it is also a plain fact of the matter that there’s a lot of iron in the ground around here, and you don’t have to go far to find it. When I dig up potatoes, I only have to go about 8 inches down before I find pale gray clay streaked with the rust of iron. So even if our well water is practically little other than run-off from the hill, it stands to reason it can pick up a fair amount of iron on the way.

The bad news is that I won’t be able to use my most ready supply of water for dying.

The good news is that I probably won’t ever have an iron deficiency, and that my water probably provides more essential vitamins and minerals than your average breakfast cereal.

All of that fascinating discussion aside, I do highly recommend The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing. He takes his dying seriously, and goes into detail. Of all my inter-library loaning, it is the only book I actually want to buy. Most other books give such scant information, or absurd repetition (pick plant; crush plant; soak plant; dye with plant. Pick some other plant; crush plant. . .etc) that they’re simply not worth it. This book is very fascinating, packed with information, and not something that someone only interested in quick-and-easy novelty dying would be interested in. If you really want answers, get this book.

Posted in Books, Color, Dyeing, Technical | 2 Comments »

Color, revisited

August 25th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

I meant to do pictures with my post of seasons/colors, but pretty soon I realized not having pictures ready was keeping me from writing the post. So I wrote it without pictures. But then someone just happened to take a snapshot of me that was just too easy to crop (though entirely unprofessionally), so now I feel obliged to post pictures.

I’m not much of a picture sharing person, at least, not pictures of me. I’d be just as happy if no one ever discovered what I looked like, and I remained a mystery forever. Everyone would have to lay awake at night wondering what I looked like, for all of eternity. Ok, so really I know that no one lays awake at night wondering what look like. At least, I hope they don’t. I’d be rather disturbed to discover that anyone did.

The point is, you aren’t going to see pictures of me all that often. But when I do post pictures of myself, I believe in the unvarnished truth. The varnished truth is so common, it is expected. Sometimes people get upset or disturbed if the truth isn’t varnished. If you aren’t used to seeing the unvarnished truth, try squinting.


What do you think, white or cream? I’m not sure that’s the right shade of “cream” or “off-white”, but that’s half the problem anyway. A yellow cream? A green cream? A cream with pink undertones? What counts as cream? And what counts as white? I’ve seen a lot of whites “in real life” that seemed to have blue undertones, and it seems that this white vs. cream is supposed to determine blue vs. yellow. The white that I used here doesn’t have any blue undertones to it (to my eye). It has more of a gray undertone, I think.


Personally, I don’t think either white or cream does much for me. I guess if someone put a gun to my head and made me choose, I’d pick the white. Or, wait—maybe the cream. But really, I think I’d avoid either color in large amounts. By the way, I notice in these pictures that my glasses look kind of silvery. I think that’s mostly glare; in real life, they are a gold sort of color, though a pale gold. (I suppose this would also be a good place to warn against the fact that, you know, monitor colors vary, and cameras can’t always capture the truth, so this can neither be scientific nor conclusive. Just so you know.)

Blue red or orange red? Also known as crimson or scarlet? (Which I can never keep straight and always have to look up, because I think of “crimson” as an orange (or yellow) red and “scarlet” as a blue red, but the powers that be disagree with me.


The difference here is pretty subtle; I think I didn’t make my blue-red blue enough. It might even still be a yellow-red. I was trying to pick colors of the same intensity, and the blue-reds always wanted to be a lot darker.

Let’s try this. . .

dark redcream

Here’s a more extreme example; a kind of eggplant color against a salmon or coral color:


Personally, I think the eggplant color look a million times better on me. They say you can tell which colors are better for you by which colors put more emphasis on your face. In other words, if the first thing you notice is the color, its a “bad” color for you. If the first thing you notice is your face its a “good” color.

How about greens?


Again, I would say the blue-based, hands down. But if you’re still not convinced, here it is again with brown:

Now let’s look at color intensity. . .


Which did you chose? (I take to the dark blue.)

In this pink example, you can see how my darker pink is also more blue.


Here’s another green example:


How about these three?


Pastel pink or dusty pink?


I don’t like either of them. Sometimes you just can’t save a color, no matter what you do to it. Like orange, for example.


I don’t like dusty rose or yellow or mint, either


But I like black and charcoal, even though my Mom thinks they’re ugly colors.


Light gray or dark gray?


I could go on comparing colors for nearly forever, but there isn’t much point to it. I’ve already made up my mind before I even started changing background colors. And I think that at this point, either you have already discovered what I mean about what colors are good for me, or you have already discovered that seeing different colors behind the same face doesn’t help you pick out “good” colors for that person. Either way, I think my work here is done.

But if you have found it helpful, try it yourself. Get a totally honest snapshot of yourself in natural but overcast lighting (outside on a cloudy day), crop out your face, and keep changing the background colors. This is pretty easy to do in this modern, hi-tech day of digital cameras, timers on cameras, and fancy-shmancy photo-editing software. Or you could go do it the low-tech way, by standing in front of a mirror and holding colored paper or fabric up to your face. The good thing about doing it the low-tech way is that you can really get much more subtle colors with fabric than you can on a monitor.

And, by the way, Laura, though I never got back to you in the comments, I too have an irrational dislike of tan, and it’s cousins ‘camel’ and ‘ecru’. I can’t decide if it’s because they look dirty to me, or if it just reminds me too much of corregated cardboard. And I think “early spring run-off” is just a more polite term for “mud-season”. “Early spring run-off” brings to mind sparkling clear streams, but in reality, it just means everything gets turned to mud.

And you’re right about it sometimes not really mattering, because no one will sell you what you want anyway. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good green? Everyone wants to sell me kelly green (a green leaning toward yellow), olive green, sea-green, over-cooked aspargus green, lime green, jade green, mint green, apple green, split-pea soup green, and sage green, but almost no one wants to sell me hunter green or forest green. Bah humbug.

Posted in Color | No Comments »

What's your season?

August 9th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

D’ja ever look into the “season” personal color theory? Odds are, if you’re reading my blog, you have. But, for those that haven’t, the brief summary is that people fall into four different categories, depending on their skin tone, eye color and hair color. For some peculiar reason which, despite all their best attempts, never makes any sense, they chose seasons to represent the four groups–Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Depending on your season, different colors are supposed to look best on you. This system is meant to help you know which colors are “best” on you.

I think this system was designed for insecure people.

I mean, first of all, you have to try to figure out what characteristics you have. If anyone has too much time your hands, can you please tell me how to differentiate between brown hair, dark brown hair, medium brown hair, light brown hair, sable brown hair, chestnut brown hair, mousy brown hair, brown hair with golden undertones, and brown hair with reddish undertones? And what do you do if your hair is one color up by your face, and another color by the time it gets all the way down to my lower back?

Then, when you think you’ve finally got all of your attributes categorized, you realize that none of the seasons allows for anyone of your composure!

If you are still an insecure type person, I suppose you have no choice except to go to a certified color technician to get you all figured out. If you’re like me, you snarl a few things under your breath about what an incompetent system this is, and skip right to the color palettes to see which one is “right” for you, and then reverse engineer which “season” you are. (And why the heck do I want to know what season I am? No particular reason. Just me being me.)

I have randomly selected a personal color site to quote from, but they’re all basically the same. I searched for “winter personal color palette”, and you’ll find a bunch that way. Some try to help you figure yourself out by comparing yourself to popular celebrities, others start by trying to get you to determine if you are “warm” or “cool”.

If you have “cool” skin tones, you’re supposed to look better in silver accessories (glasses, jewelry, etc) and pure white. “Cool” people are supposed to have pink undertones to their skin, not tan easily, and prefer blue-based reds (leaning every so slightly toward purple).

If you have “warm” skin tones, you’re supposed to look better in gold accessories and cream or off white. You’re supposed to have yellow undertones to your skin, tan easily, and prefer yellow-based reds (leaning slightly toward orange).


I know I’m not a Summer. A Summer is supposed to like cool, soft, muted, dusty colors. They’re supposed to wear silver. They’re supposed to avoid black, stark white, orange, and all yellow based colors. I understand avoiding all yellow based colors, but I detest wearing anything muted, soft or dusty. It needs to be a strong, deep color.

At first glance, Autumn colors look like they might be interesting, because they have some nice earthy tones, like deep brown or dark green. They wear gold. But I know I’m not Autumn, because they like yellow based colors, and I won’t get near them with a ten foot pole. Or at least wear them.

Spring colors sometimes catch my eye for their clearness (the opposite of dusty), but they also tend to be yellow based. Their worst crime, though, is simply being too bright. Strong, yes, but not deep, and I wear deep colors.

This leaves Winter. I generally like the most colors out of Winter palettes; they have my favorite dark green, and the dark, blue-based reds. I start having “issues” with the second half of their palette, though, because they include pale, “icy” colors, and I don’t like pale colors on me. It’s just a no go. However, Winters main problem is that they insist that Winter looks good in silver, and that is most emphatically not true for me!

I know what I wear. I wear dark, strong, clear, blue-based colors. I like blues that lean a little toward blue (forest green) and not any greens with yellow in them (lime, chartreuse, olive). I like red-based blues (royal blue, etc.) but not yellow based blues (blues that are starting to look green, like “marine blue”). Any blue-based red or pink is good, as long as it is not bright, not pastel, and not dusty. Deep dark purple is okay, and I think brown is okay as long as I follow the rules of dark, not dusty and not yellow based. Dark charcoal gray is good, and I even like black, even though my Mom thinks it’s an ugly color. Yellow, coral/peach, and orange all look hideous on me.

On that description, I think I would be a Winter. But Winters are supposed to like pure white and silver. I don’t think either cream or white looks particularly good on me (I want dark color!), but I tend to lean toward cream. It’s supposed to be a neutral, right? Well, whatever other skin terms you want to throw at me, my skin is not a pure, brilliant white. It’s just not. So a pale cream or some other slightly off white tends to fade away better.

And I do not wear silver. I have to wear glasses, and I can tell you for sure that any silvery type metal makes my face look flat and dead, and as soon as I put a gold-ish color frame on it makes my face come all alive again. I’ve always worn “gold” watches, never silver. Silver will look dead, and make everything around it look dead. Gold will look alive, and make everything dance with life.

I deduce that winters main theory is that you have either dark hair and a light skin tone, or dark skin and a light hair tone. I definitely have a dark hair and a light skin tone. I don’t tan easily, I think my skin has pink under tones, and I’m definitely drawn to blue-based colors (blue being the complement to my pink under tones). But, I do not wear silver!

I think I have figured out the crucial flaw. Winters are not supposed to have freckles. Those things are only supposed to be on Springs and Autumns, those warm people who are supposed to wear gold metal and yellow.

And I have freckles.

Dark ones too, usually, not the really pale ones you see on red-heads. I have them on my arms, and on my cheeks. And on my legs. And I even see one on my second toe on my right foot, and another one an inch and a half away from it.

And freckles do not get along with silver.

So what season am I? A warm Winter? A global-warming Winter? Stick season (after all the leaves have fallen but the snow hasn’t yet)? A mid-winter thaw? Mud season?

Posted in Color, Contemplations | 2 Comments »