Monday, March 6, 2017

by Kathleen

I have a friend from grad school, lo these many, many... many years ago. We overlapped for a year... him as a directing grad student and me in costume, and we worked on a of couple projects together, including his thesis show.
He's now doing a touring one man theatrical company,, and I've had the pleasure of working with him on several of his recent projects.

The first was his Lotto' Shakespeare. Using a bingo ball roller he has the audience pull  out 5-6 different names of plays (and characters) from which he has memorized a monologue. He never knows what will be pulled that evening and has to be prepared for all possibilities. He must have over 30 monologues altogether!
For this he wanted a basic Elizabethan doublet and breeches costume, with shirt. We initially considered options such as removable sleeves, but decided that opening and closing the front would give him enough play to create a change between characters.
I chose a nice blue brocade (to go with his eyes)...
Open sleeves to show the shirt in front, and to give better movement through the armscye.

Ornamented with black trim and gold buttons.

Looped tabs at the shoulder.
And a rather fun lining.

And the whole shebang in action...
photo by April Petersen, from

The next costume I did was his Hamlet... a one hour, one man version he calls "Breakneck Hamlet". It was another double and breeches, but I got a little fancy for this one. The shirt was fancier (than the one seen above), and I did some fabric manipulation in the garment as well.

 We learned a few things from the first costume...We learned that the shirt needed a taller collar and shorter front placket. And that I wanted interest... a ruffle with contrasting edge trim.

The trim was done by making a folded edge ruffle and then doing a thickly serged edge onto the fold. I swung the blade up out of the way so as to prevent cutting anything accidentally and went slowly... oh so slowly.

As everyone (?) knows Hamlet dresses in all black. But on stage that can be kinda... dull. especially since in a one man version there are no other costumes for him to play off of. So I looked for a way to add interest... and first added texture.
I started with a satin that was quilted in 1" lines and added another line in between

From this I made shoulder yokes and the sleeve crescents.

And I added lines of black braid trim in diagonals across the chest. 
Nice enough... 
but still too black on black, and not enough punch.

So things were semi-undone and... I started playing with sparkle.

 Decorative stitches and silver metallic thread...

So much better!
The addition of some sliver piping and silver-black velvet trim and...

photo by Dale Jessen, from

This may be the second costume... a mostly exact re-creation after his first was part of a load stolen from his car. What the heck are the thief going to do with a custom made Hamlet costume? Oh well. One of the challenges he has to deal with as a travelling player, storing his livelihood and living out of his car for most of the year.

Right now I am working on a third costume, and a totally different look... Breakneck Caesar! We've had our first fabric fitting and I'm in the middle of deconstructing and reconstructing things...

But it's gonna look pretty dang cool when complete...

Thursday, January 26, 2017


by Kathleen

A few random photos of a few random times this past Fall...

The last of the garden gifts... misshaped beets, scraggly carrots, and some self planted and quite delicious butternut squash.

A thyme flavored adult beverage at our favorite local watering hole.

Knitting around the bonfire with friends and loved ones.

A very late second bloom on our clematis. In spring they cover the iron fence in profuse abundance, but there's nothing like an unexpected shot of beauty, even if  small, in the middle of bleak November.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


by Kathleen

I read a fair number of decorating blogs. Some I like their sense of style, some I like their writing, some... I just haven't taken them off my bloglovin' list yet. 
Many of the more "professional" ones seem to magically poof their rooms... from dull and bare into fully completed, painted, decorated, finished to the Nth detail showpieces. Yeah. That's not how it works in the real life me-world.

When we first moved into this house three years ago last July, there were things that we did right away because we couldn't stand to live with them any longer than we had to. We took up the first and second floor carpet to reveal untouched red oak flooring. We started cutting out the half dead and horribly overgrown hedges (cutting back many flowering shrubs makes them bloom more the next year). And we painted some walls, including the icky yucky ugly kitchen wallpaper.
And then we... stopped.

We had plans (boy, did we have plans!). But in the real world there are limits to our time and money, and to our energy after a long work day. And so painting cabinets, changing hardware, and things involving saws and wiring waited.
So I am thrilled, tickled turquoise even, to show that we did a big old bunch of work on the kitchen... finally!

Here is the kitchen from the listing agent as it was when we bought the house
The wallpaper was a speckled lattice with fruit design (that never looked clean). The cabinets were cream fronts with faux wood grained bases, and colonial style handles and hinges. There was a cooktop (an out-of-production Jenn-Air with two burners and a useless grill insert... that's two burners, TWO!) and a small wall oven. And a humongous non-functioning microwave... I have never seen a microwave that big or more broken.

Our immediate plan was paint the wallpaper, and toss the microwave, and that we did. The we planned and plotted and started collecting... I got a very nice used range for $75. We found a stainless steel range hood for $25. We got three metal and one wood sliding cabinet inserts for free from a friend who moved. We took the doors off the left upper and over-frig cabinets. We gathered paint chips, copied and shared inspirational photos. We got our ducks in a row.
Until finally... we were ready.

The first step was the heaviest construction wise. Jeff took out the cooktop and cut out the base cabinets for the range placement.

We knew about this dead fan, but...
(Hello back yard!)

this one next to it was a surprise.

Opening in base prepared, box for range hood made, and hood attached. Also right side upper cabinet gone. (the box to the right covers the AC vent for the next room so it'll have to stay)

Sides get closed in, painted and a surprise is added to the shallow right box.

A slide out knife board!

Very, very scary wiring... ooooooo.

Shiny happy new wiring! 
(new skill for resume... pulling 50 feet of heavy gauge wire)
Also note lovely slide out cabinet insert... ooh ah.

Somewhere around here we painted the one upper cabinet and all the remaining walls white.
Then we could put the range in place and attach the stainless back splash.

Some time before, we had made an admittedly bold choice for the color we wanted on the lower cabinets. We were concerned that we were crazy... not for the first time. So we painted one set of cabinets and lived with it for several months. We found our love for the bold turquoise didn't fade, and we embraced it for the remainder of the base cabinets... and decided to use it as an accent on the window frame.

We also put up a temporary wire rack to hold spices... 

And after looking for some time we lucked out on a handle style we both liked going on sale JUST as we committed to the work.

We want to change all the fixtures, but could only manage the over sink one this time around.

Still have one more magnet strip to apply. (and no, we have no children in the house and none visit)

DONE!!!        for now...

This is phase two complete. This was a big work load as it involved all the cabinetry, some heavy duty wiring, and the range replacement. We still want to move a microwave into the cabinet above the wall stove (which we've kept). Make a more permanent, interesting, cabinet for spices. Replace the other two light fixtures. Change out the sink for an apron front style (I say stainless, he says white porcelain). Treat the vent covering box in some way. Paint the toe kicks black.
And two more biggies... change the counters (black we're thinking) and floors (still very up in the air, but probably a gray/black/white tile design).

But that's for another day... or rather another year.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lowering the drinking age

by Kathleen

So what do you do when a baby shower is approaching and you want to make a cute gift in limited time, while also giving it that personal touch?

Well, when the father is a master brewer...

You make baby beer socks!
That's a lager on the left and a stout on the right. 

The lager sock is a basic toe-up with short row heel, but after deciding that I just don't like toe-up even when it's short and tiny, I did the stout top-down with a heel flap. I got fancy on the lager foam with short rows and bobbles, but it was taking too long and I was late (as usual), so the stout has a smoother, creamier garter cuff. 
To the above right you can see the third yarn that I didn't get to... it was going to be an Irish red, but honestly I didn't like the color... so when I ran out of time I didn't worry about it.
The sock yarns are Plymouth Encore, DK weight, mostly acrylic. The foam is whatever off white I had laying around (the lager has silver sparkles!).

They were a big hit! And as the mother started getting weepy that I'd hand knit for her baby, I made her laugh by pointing out the beer connection. Couldn't ask for more than that!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blue Bobbles

by Kathleen
I was going through my photos (although it seems easier to delete bad, duplicate, and unremarkable photos in digital albums, it seems harder to get around to doing so), and I realized that I never shared this shawl I made some time ago. 
Juneberry by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.
We were spending the day in DC, and I saw that Fibrespace (a yarn store in Old Town Alexandria) was open. I'd been by there before, but it had never been open, so I struck a deal... Jeff went to visit a small bookstore down the block and I went into the yarn store (and a good time was had by all).

One technique I'd never done was bobbles, so when I saw that this gorgeous lace pattern, with it's wonderful border, made using sport rather than lace weight, contained bobbles... 
And then, I found a beautiful locally hand dyed silk and wool blend yarn by Neighborhood Fiber Company (the one purchase I allow with no justification needed is local small artist dyed yarn and rovings)...

It was a match made in heaven (well, technically in DC).

It's been several years now since I made this, and I wear it a lot... like, pretty much every day during the winter. It's the perfect size to wrap around my neck and tuck into my coat when it's really cold out. Or drape over my shoulders when the room is just a tiny bit chilly. It's so pretty, yet it's perfectly functional as well. A most successful knit.
And I can do bobbles now!