The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Luxury

The world’s quickest, and quite possibly worst, finished object pictures.

This dress evolved over the course of time.  It started with a serious crush on this dress  Also pictured here, because apparently I’m a style stalker now (if you are curious, it came from this adorable little shop.  I asked.).  Now, I have enough self-awareness to realize that much of the appeal lies in the cozy scene and setting of this particular image.  But that’s where my search for fabric that looked like it belonged on a couch circa 1976 began.  My intention was to make a shirt dress in the same style.

One of the things that I love about the book Women in Clothes is that it totally validates whatever your style may be.  To be honest, there are a great many days for me where the mood of the day can only be classified as “frumpy”.  And I actually don’t mean that in a derogatory way, more that the message I wish to convey to myself and anyone else who happens to be paying attention is that comfort is a great priority and I have no interest in trying to impress anyone or calling attention to myself in any way.  It’s kind of like going cocoon-mode.  With this dress, I totally wanted to embrace that.  This was meant to be my comfort dress.  I was basically going for a glorified mu-mu.  The first thing I would reach for when it was unbearably hot and I wanted nothing clingy or fitted.

In my great fabric search I found the fabulous cotton-silk blend voile (pictured above), which kind of changed everything.  It somehow reminded me of this dress, which I’ve worn and loved for over 20 years now, but which is sadly starting to show it’s age.  Instead of the makings of a crisp shirt-dress, I now possessed a fluttering, drape-y, semi-sheer cloth to ponder.

The final piece of the puzzle came when I was style stalking* that really beautiful woman who we sometimes see at local cultural events.  She had on this beautifully simple, sheer brown paisley dress that cinched at the waist.  It was a real ah-ha moment for me when I realized I could run some slender elastic loosely through the mid-section to make it a bit more flattering without sacrificing the comfort factor at all.

I self-drafted the pattern, using an old nightshirt as a reference.

I have more fabric, since the dress was originally going to have sleeves.  I think a scarf from it would be lovely, but I haven’t totally ruled out a blouse or perhaps some silky/slinky nightwear?

* Just so we’re real clear, by “stalking” I mean when we happen to be somewhere and she, with no prior knowledge on my part, happens to be at the same place, I try to discreetly check out what she’s wearing.  And yes, I promise to introduce myself the next time our paths cross!

What do you consider luxurious?  For me it’s all about comfort, sensuous fabric and a departure from the practical.

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And it was summer-

warm, beautiful summer. ~Hans Christian Anderson

After dinner swim…

This girl cracks me up.  This is the funny face you get if you ask for a smile…

Maybe some peek-a-boo?

I made BBQ Pizza with Chicken, Bacon and Cilantro.  We used our own crust recipe.  I omitted both the cumin and the maple syrup from the sauce and switched out the apple butter for pumpkin puree.  It was very good.  I think it may be even better with the apple butter: motivation for putting up extra jars this autumn.

Mairi Rose has been all about popsicles this summer.  This left me scrambling for some sort of popsicle mold.  I could not bring myself to buy the plastic ones.  These stainless steel ones look great.  But when you add up the per person price for as many people as we have?  Eeek.  Steep.  Finally, I spent $10 on a set of made-in-Spain tempered juice glasses.  We fill them up, pop in a spoon which we already have, freeze and voila!  A couple minutes on the counter and they pop out perfectly.  The ones I got are actually a little big for this purpose, which of course everyone is seriously thrilled by.

I had a conversation years ago with a friend who was trying to build an ecologically sound, healthy house.  He was talking about how in the name of recycling and conserving resources you could go out and buy an incredible artisan crafted sink made of say, reclaimed copper for thousands of dollars.  Or you could go to your local salvage shop and get a previously owned sink for $30.  I often try to think in those terms.  There isn’t always a simple, less splashy and obvious solution, but often times there is.

I’m reading The Secret Garden to the younger children.  I used to read it aloud ever year, but it’s now been several years since I have.  Long enough that they don’t remember it.  The older two, of course, could probably tell you the story inside and out!

Another pair of toddler socks done and her looking like a wee, woodland sprite in them.  The yarn is leftover Stroll Sock Yarn, from Elijah’s vest, in “Peapod” and “Forest Heather”.

The world….I don’t know what to say.  It always seems almost vulgar to post about quiet, sweet everyday life in the face of so much suffering.  To say my thoughts and prayers are with those who are in pain seems both trite and obvious.  Like most people, I don’t have any answers.

Edited to add dress details because a couple of people asked.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Guest Post by Dandy

I am very pleased to welcome my neighbor, friend and mentor Dandy to this space today! 

The day I stopped by to photograph Dandy for this piece was the first time I had been in her room since they did some remodeling and I just couldn’t resist photographing that as well.  Without further ado, I give you Dandy….   

Smiling My Way Through the Day

Living in the woods makes me wear browns and greens; it’s all that digging up of rocks and being still to observe wild life.  It has been a delightful quiet existence, but hermit time is now over.  I am leading an exercise class and dancing with a new troupe.  It’s time to bring more color into my life.  We all have so much beauty and uniqueness to share, and the gentlest way to mesh with others (aside from commenting on the weather) is to simply **present oneself**.

COLOR: What colors represent me best today AND do I want combinations that clash or not?  Clashing is always an interesting statement- one that I rarely utilize.

FABRICS: I love rayon & linen.  Wool, cotton, silk & synthetics are all there for us.  Do you ever mix fabrics?

As a late adapter, I have at last embraced leggings!  God, I love leggins. But then more attention needs to be paid to socks and shoes.

I LOVE socks!  My current favorites are tan with worms crawling on them.  More and more of us are shopping at “Sally’s” and “Willy’s” (Salvation Army/ Goodwill), but they can only sell new socks, of which they have so few.  So I buy socks at the best-in-the-world little small town hardware/general store.

ACCESSORIES: People who live in the woods understand that dressing up to go out means putting on earrings, so make that jewelry perfect for you.  I’ve taken to wearing a necklace that jingles an enchanting tinkling sound while I walk, sending it’s own pretty greeting.

I think if we spend maybe five minutes before we dress, checking in on our mood, life might be more fun.  Do my clothes reflect me and my mood accurately, or shall I dress to bring in something I wish to feel- “bass ackward” as they say.

Either way, I find that if you are AWARE that you are presenting your self as a gift to your fellow passengers on this planet, it makes for more delightful interactions…..a wee butterfly just landed on my hand as I write this; she concurs.

Note from Melody: I asked Dandy to tell the story behind the sets of earrings that she made for herself and her daughters….

When I was in the middle of child rearing, I came to a point where I desperately needed something creative to do for myself that used very little energy. I went to bed one night asking/begging for help. In my lucid dream that night, I was on top of a huge rock behind our house – the rock abutted an almost vertical cliff, out of which grew a lovely hemlock with exposed roots. As I sat on the rock, a small man around 3″ high – very grave, serious person- came from the earth beneath the roots of the hemlock. His wife was right behind him. They showed me earrings made in a book form.

The earrings I made are what the small man showed me.

Dandy is a 63 year old happily married woman with four adult children, who loves to listen to 100 year old people; dance with a dance troupe; and water big pine trees’ bark in the hot sun. She loves seeing earth spirit images in bark, snorkeling with her husband in the ocean and making forest paths to enable fellow humans to walk in the woods without ticks dropping on them.

A huge thank you to Dandy for joining us today!

What’s inspiring you this week?

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An Open Letter to Sufferers of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTS, Lyme Disease and Chronic Illness in General

Because I am sometimes contrary, in the very post after I stated that I rarely talk about chronic illness in this space, I’m now talking about just that.

I often get asked for advice about living and cooping with chronic illness.  In the most recent round of emails I felt like I was talking to more than just the person I was writing to, so I decided to share some of my thoughts here.

No matter how alone you feel, know that you are not actually alone.  That there are many people who know your pain.  Too many people.

Creative thinking is your best friend.  Think about all of the things that you love to do and the things that you need to do, the most important things, and find ways to make them easier.  Readers of my blog know that for me one of those things is knitting.  Supporting my elbows on a nursing pillow has helped to eliminate a lot of strain on my body.  Perhaps a special mat at the kitchen sink or stove would help to alleviate pressure on your joints?  Maybe you really do need that air conditioner or extra pillows to support yourself during sleep or just a really comfortable place to sit and rest.  Seemingly little things can make a big difference in quality of life for us.

Make your home and life accommodate you in as many ways as possible, not just in what you surround yourself with, but how you approach tasks.  For example being in the garden might be easier during certain hours.  For me that’s before the sun breaks the treeline or after it sinks below it or on cooler, overcast days.  Instead of bending or kneeling to work try sitting with all of your tools in reach, maybe on an old folded up blanket for a cushion.  Weed or plant as far as you can reach and then slide over to the next spot.  Find ways to keep doing what you love.

Nature is the great healer.  Seek solace in the great outdoors.  I say this full well knowing how complicated that statement is for those with Lyme.  A stunted half-life confined indoors with fear is often harder.

If your children are affected, forgive yourself for not knowing sooner, for not understanding what it would be like.  Guilt can not help them now, only love and commitment can.  Forgive your own parents for not having or seeking the answers.  In most cases, they just didn’t know.

A hot bath can take the edge off of many kinds of pain (just be careful not to pass out getting out of the tub!).

Diet makes a huge difference for myself and my family.  My husband could eat a brick and his body wouldn’t notice, while the rest of us have to turn away many healthy foods because we can’t handle them, never mind the junk!  It’s hard.  Very hard.  But it keeps us going.

Try to find ways to manage your pain.  You won’t always be able to tough it out.  Hurting people tend to be angry people and angry people tend alienate the ones they love.

Sometimes all you can do is hope that tomorrow is a better day.  That’s ok.  It might be and it might not be, but never lose hope.  Never lose hope in the future.  Never stop trying to find ways to improve your quality of life, but (!) do not wait until that miraculous “someday” when things are “better” to start living your life.  This is the one body you get.  The one life you get.  Use them both to their fullest.

Try to take the time to find beauty in life and be grateful for something everyday.  Some days this will be hard.  Some days it will be impossible because you won’t be awake for long enough or lucid enough or able to tolerate your pain.  Keep trying.  The first day that you can is, in and of itself, something to be thankful for.

Resist the temptation to define yourself by your illness.  It is an aspect of your life, perhaps even a very large aspect, but it is not who you are.  Chronic illness takes so much from a person, do not let it take your identity as well.

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days of pink lace

I’m still reading and enjoying The Summer Book.

I’m trying to pull myself out of a long standing food funk.  Breakfast one day last week: Cinnamon-Raisin Meatballs, broccoli from our garden and half a Japanese yam.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of making sauerkraut, even though my children love it and it’s excellent for them and good too just to have around to pad out meals.  After years of successful kraut making, we were experiencing problems with mold growth.  It was frustrating and wasteful and at some point I just gave up.  This time I used this method, packing it in a Fido Jar to ferment and it turned out beautifully.  We get our jars at our local Farmer’s Supply, but you can also find them here.

I’ve also been experimenting with making vegetable based “cheeses”.  I added some fresh herbs from the garden to the batch above.

Speaking of the garden, these purple radishes have grown amazingly this year.  I wish I could remember what variety they are!

The first pair of little toddler socks are done and seriously a more adorable, little, rosy, lacy pair of tiny ankle socks has never been seen.  I always want to nibble her toes when she wears them.  They are made of yarn leftover from this dress and bonnet.  Would you just look at her perfectly precious, tiny baby self?  Darling little love of my heart.

There are so many small projects going on all the time here, but little to no time to share them.

The chicken coop is well underway!  So far we’ve managed to use all salvaged materials.  Once we get to the siding I think we’ll be investing in some local rough-cut lumber.

Someone discovered her old Moses basket!

Do you know the trick of blocking hats and bonnets over an inflated balloon?  Just blow it up to about the size you need and balance it on a bowl.  Or, as in this case, with a very tiny bonnet, a large mug.

One of my oldest and dearest friends just found out that her fifth baby is going to be her first girl.  If that isn’t a reason to knit a pink lacy bonnet, I don’t know what is!  (you can’t tell me that there is never a reason.  I simply won’t believe you.)

This is my Flora Irene pattern again (also here and here).  I have three patterns either ready or almost ready to go out to test knitters.  But the test knitting process requires my being ever available and quick to answer questions.  And as my over-flowing inbox will attest, that is *not* in the cards at the moment.  frustrating.

Oh, have I mentioned it’s reversible?

I often get asked why I don’t talk more about chronic illness and how it effects our lives.  I guess the simple answer is that there is enough heartbreak and sorrow in the world.  And I’d rather devote my precious little time to trying to put some beauty and joy out there.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Thinking Ahead

I’ll have a new project to share soon.  Having spent the better part of this last week feverish and swollen and snotty, posing for pictures did not rank high on my agenda.  Besides, I’ve already shared a “Thinking Ahead” project.

I knew going into this project that it was going to be a hard sell.  The majority of my readership consists of mothers.  Convincing mothers to take the time to make things for themselves?  Talk about themselves?  Think about themselves?  Post pictures of themselves?? I smile and nod at all the lovely women I know who tell me that they plan on joining in, knowing that most of them will not get around to it.  And that’s ok.  We all know how it goes!  But every week I get emails and comments from people telling me that they have been inspired by these posts.  And there always seems to be an interesting dialog going in the comments.  It’s a good thing.  I want to hear more voices and see more people get involved.  I’m very grateful to those of you who have bravely shared your projects thus far!

To answer a couple of questions and just as a reminder…..

* Anyone can join this community!  Male, female, young, old, all are welcome!  In my opinion, the more diversity, the better.  This whole project is about discovering and sharing your own unique sense of style and no two people are going to have the same thoughts or projects to share, which is the true beauty in this.

* You do not have to post a project.  You can share an idea, thoughts about fabric, inspiration, plans for the future, musings on self care and your own process of cultivating your own personal sense of style.

* You may add photos to the link up from a blog, Facebook, Flickr and I believe, Instagram.  If you’ve never done it before, the process is really quite simple.  If anyone needs help with this, please feel free to contact me.

Our next challenge is July 25th – Luxury, now you know you want to get involved with that!

I am very excited about next week!  As I mentioned at the start of all this, from time to time I plan on bringing in a guest blogger to talk about style, sewing/knitting, the process of self discovery and anything else that might come up along the way!  My first guest is very near and dear to my heart, so I am hoping you will give her a particularly warm welcome!

And you? What are you working on/dreaming about/discovering this week?

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Thinking Ahead Part One

I don’t know about you, but I am in desperate need of clothes for autumn.  And apparently I’m now taking my fashion cues from my 7 year old!  This olive colored, cotton velour was actually meant for leggings for Mairi Rose- cotton velour leggings being her favorite sort of pants.  But when all of my leggings started falling apart, I began to wonder if there wasn’t enough fabric to cover me instead.

In my head I pictured myself wearing these with a long, oatmeal colored, tunic sweater, while ever so causally curling up with a book on a stormy autumn day.  It should be noted that in this fantasy I also had really long shapely legs.  Hey, if you are going to have an active fantasy life, you might as well have some fun with it.  The leggings are now done, but I’m still lacking the sweater and the legs.  Books I can manage.

To make these I took my most comfortable pair of (totally worn out) leggings and after closely examining their construction, turned them inside out and carefully trimmed off the seams.  I then used the pieces as my pattern, being sure to add the seam allowance back in.  I’ll be using this pattern again, but I will change a few things as I go along.  Mostly I don’t like the way I put together the waistband.

I learned something very valuable with this quick project.  With careful cutting I can make myself a pair of leggings from a single yard of fabric.  I just have to do the waist in two pieces instead of one.  Sometimes it pays to be short after-all.  Who knew?

Are you starting to think about cooler (or warmer, depending on where you live!) weather coming and what that might mean for your wardrobe?

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Comfort and the Miracle Sweater

Sorry for the delayed post folks!

That last picture is what happens when Elijah refuses to stop taking my picture.

While I could certainly make a case for the comfort that is this sweater, my posting it today really has more to do with it being finished and photographed rather than cut out and draped over the back of my rocking chair, which is how you would find my planned comfort project.

This sweater had some sort of cosmic destiny.  It was meant to be created.  Everything just fell into place in a way that completely defied logic.  It was like loaves and fishes or the oil lasting for eight days.

For starters, I wanted to make myself two cardigans this year; a heavy duty one for serious warmth and a cute cropped sweater for over dresses to extend their wearability well into the cooler months.  I had thought a good deal about this and had very particular patterns in mind.  The first in grey, the later in brown.  So, when Corina sent me brown yarn, the exact recommended yarn for the pattern I had in mind, it seemed meant to be.  Only….the pattern called for 5 skeins and I only had 3 1/2.  Still I dove right in, resigning myself to either shortening the sleeves or knitting contrast color cuffs or ?

I knitted away and despite my exhaustion and working almost exclusively in the middle of the night when my mind felt addled and dull, it grew, steadily and almost flawlessly.  My fingers seemed to have a mind of their own and inch upon inch of sweater tumbled from them, without my really realizing how.  And the yarn…it held out.  I saved the sleeves for last and carefully divided my remaining yarn, holding my breath as I knitted what turned out to be almost an entire full length sleeve.  I did have shorten the cuffs, but since I’m quite petite, it didn’t matter a bit.  They ended exactly at my wrist.  With the very gentlest of blocking I found there was even enough for a fold over cuff.

Oops! I forgot to add a Ravelry link! Here you go.

A new challenge: July 11th- Thinking Ahead

What have you been working on or thinking about this week?

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And so it begins…

My allergies have been awful this year.  I’m the human equivalent of a machine gun, sneezing in rapid-fire succession, with Seraphina chorusing, “Bless you Mommy!  Bless you, bless you, bless you, bless you!”, one for each and every sneeze like a courteous echo.

It’s a funny thing to have a family of dancers.  Seraphina saw one of those photos above and casually said, “That Galen flying.” As if one of her siblings taking to flight is the most natural and expected thing in world.

I just started reading Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book.  It seemed fitting.  Recital season is over and now the summer begins in earnest. We had our first pond trip of the year.

I’ve been knitting little toddler socks. The Violet-Girl needs socks and I thought that if I used bits of yarn leftover from other projects and knit a pair here and there over the summer, by autumn she could have a nice little stash of them tucked away.

I was asked about a recipe for the chicken soup in this post.  I’m afraid I don’t really have a recipe!  I never do for things like soup.  It just cut up whatever veggies I have about that sound good.  Usual for this sort of soup would be carrots, onions, celery, yam is nice, parsnips, perhaps some turnips or Jerusalem artichokes, maybe some cauliflower.  Add the chopped up veggies to chopped up chicken, cover with home-made broth (that part is important, it makes all the difference in the world), add some freshly crushed garlic or finely chopped garlic leaves and let it simmer until everything is soft.  At the very end I’d add in lots of greens, kale in this case.  Salt to taste.  For this particular soup I stirred in coconut milk and lime juice after everything was cooked.  Fresh cilantro makes a nice addition as well.

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Summer Solstice

The children found a fallen and abandoned nest in the woods, nothing very out of the ordinary about that, but this one happens to be lined with a lock of Mairi Rose’s hair!

Breakfast fixin’s from the garden: garlic scapes, onion tops, sweet thyme, mint, pineapple sage and regular sage to season our sausage patties.  Lemon balm for tea.  Once the sausages were cooked I tossed all the greens from the bottom of the basket; collards, kale and the last of the bolting spinach, in the pan with the juices, added a bit of broth, then covered them and steamed.

 

We usually have a Solstice celebration.  Last week I was thinking about how I wanted to do something special, but I never really got beyond that thought.  The day of, on my way up to put the baby down for a nap, I told them all to come up with a plan while I was away.

This is what they came up with: A picnic dinner in the garden.  Burning the Swedish Torch that Iain made a few months back.  Baking and eating strawberry-rhubarb pie (as we are not currently eating any sweetener or grains and they made up the recipe themselves, this part was kind of gross, but they seemed happy with it anyway!).  And launching rockets.  I added a sun inspired craft and our celebration was complete.

 

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