Friday, May 18, 2018

The hard way to downsize

by Kathleen (why am I bothering putting that tagline in... it's not like Caroline ever blogs anymore... hint hint Caroline)

Less than a month after that last post I had a computer tragedy. My encryption chip died, and with it all my information on my hard drive was locked away. Forever. That's my spreadsheets, my files, my class sylllabi, my guild/committee/school meeting minutes, my downloaded patterns, my photos. All of it.
Now I'm kicking myself, not only for not backing up onto an exterior hard drive, but for not blogging everything always... I'd have more of my photos saved online anyway. I was able to find some of my pattern purchases, knitting and sewing, saved in my email. And thankfully my recent knitting ones have been incorporated into my Ravelry account. If I really wish I had one I'll repurchase it. And I guess if I don't miss them I didn't need them.

So... I have been posting, but on my Instagram... coneryka. And I hope to get my repaired computer up and running soon. At which point I will re-download what I can. Re-write what I must. And back everything up within an inch of it's cyberlife!

Okay. Lesson learned. Class dismissed.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Happy New Year

by Kathleen

... As another year of both same old same old, and new opportunity rolls around.
I don't do resolutions. I don't have a problem with the idea of considering making changes, but most resolutions... well, most of the time they're too big, too amorphous and unwieldy, to actually accomplish. Lose weight, exercise more, read more, clean more, don't procrastinate, don't complain, be an entirely different person...
And thus those irresolute resolutions last for a month. Maybe less. And those initial bombastic public  announcements meet public wallowing in humiliating failure at the end. (What's not to like? Uhm...)

So instead of resolving I'm just going to try to take a little more time here and there to accomplish a task. Every now and then I'll make a conscious effort to shut off the electronics and stand up and walk around. And maybe get some things I want to get in my life... in my life.
Starting with some personal sewing and knitting. Well, technically ALL my knitting is personal, but very little (if any) of my sewing is. And I love planning, own tons of fabric, and need clothes, so I'm going to try to do just a little more. If it works I am rewarded with clothes I like, that fit me, in my colors and fabrics! Yay! If it doesn't, then that's okay. No punishment. No humiliation. But no cool clothes... that's its own punishment.


A gentle challenge... gentle is the word used by the originator... put out on Instagram. Pick nine items to create in 2018. They can be knit, sewn, crocheted, woven, woodworked... as long as you are creating it counts. There are no prizes, no voting, no winning, no competition. Just do something... do what you can. And share it!

 Four tops, all of soft knits (and one printed sheer knit). The solid blue is the body of the one and trim for two others (if I have enough...). They are all tunics with interesting seams, split colors, or shaped hems.

Probably my favorite fabric of the bunch.

 This pattern is associated with a Craftsy class taught by the Tilton sisters in being creative with piecing, and pattern and color mixing. The green color is way less violent in real life...

This printed sheer is used as trim at the neck hem and sleeve hems. I'll need to cut the body of this one out first to make sure I have enough for trims on the first two...

This black, and black and white are the heaviest of the knit fabrics. But still soft and drapey.
Three pairs of pants. Two in soft knits and one in a drapier than usual grey denim... it might have rayon in it? The patterns are all elastic waist with seams and panels for interest. The examples on the envelopes show them with an emphasis on the shapes that I think a softer knit will make more subtle. 

Sorry the pattern doesn't read well in the photo. It's another Marci Tilton. This is a very, very soft, medium wieght rayon knit.

This is a medium weight crepe... very drapey and luscious.


And these will be made longer than the pattern examples.

And some knits. Cranberry Trellis fingerless mitts by Mary O'Shea, sold as part of a scholarship fundraiser by Knitspot. The Birches cardigan by Anne Hanson of Knitspot. And a Point Pinos cardigan by Amy Herzog through her Custom Fit software... made specifically to fit my measurements with my yarn at my gauge.

I need these mitts right NOW!

I also need the sweater now!

But this sweater will be perfect for Spring time wear. I'm making it in a cotton lace weight (held double), that I've bought in four colorways (because that's what the store had) and then ombre dyed to blend.

So that's the plan! (Stan) And I do love plans...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

In the land of Canaan

 by Kathleen

But in this case, it's pronounced kuh nayn'... Canaan Valley in West Virginia.
We had a lovely weekend, very early in the spring, with a bunch of friends who have celebrated one couple's co-ed bachelor/bachelorette  party yearly for the last 20 years. It's full of beautiful country, big group canoe trips, with singing and music at the end of the day. I don't canoe, but I do like a walk in the woods...

The entrance (or exit, depending on your direction) was lovely... moody and dark.

The well marked path occasionally led to boardwalks over sunny marshes,

before plunging back into the snow filled deep woods.

Green was just staring to pop out in the form of tiny buds on the trees, what looked like irises, and a fair amount of skunk cabbage.

There were fallen trees whose root systems made a sheltered place for aquatic life to wake up into the new year.

And whose bark offered a delicious lunch to insects, who offered a delicious lunch to the birds.

I didn't see much wildlife, although there were deer tracks throughout, and I heard several birds including an owl. It was beautiful, but alternated between snowy cold and melty mud... and I hadn't planned for the walk, so I was wearing the wrong kind of shoes.
But next time I'm bringing hiking shoes and exploring more!

The night we arrived it was snowing like crazy, but we settled in to the rented cabin with our friends, had a good, belly warming supper, lit a foot warming fire, had an everything warming drink, and some heart warming music.
I sang while I knit... multi tasking at its best!

And the next morning we had visitors...
In spite of all the signs warning people not to feed the wildlife, these deer had minimal fear of humans. They knew where the hand outs came from. Silly things... they're lucky they live in a no hunting park and wildlife reserve. They won't be so lucky if they ever go further afield.

The second day the group went canoeing (again) and I hiked (again). But this time my walk was on well trod paths. We went to Seneca Rocks.
Seneca rocks is a fascinating geologic formation. It's a slice of a highly compacted rock angled straight up at 90 degrees, and then eroded to make a kind of "razorback" ridge. Though there is a well maintained path leading to an observation deck on the left (as you look at this photo) side, the top edge is accessible only to climbers. It is a very popular spot for rock climbers, and there were multiple groups ascending and descending while I was there.

Same photo angle, slightly closer, much bigger. There's people up there right now...
I didn't walk to the observation deck. It was a beautiful day and there were way too many people heading there for my taste. I went around to the right, on a wider path (I think it was a vehicle accessible road), which followed a tumbling stream, and got me close to a couple of ascent starting points. I did not ascend.
Then I spent a lovely hour in their visitor center learning all about the history of the area, and the specific geology, flora, and fauna of the rocks.
Another great meal with friends, some wonderful music, some adequate knitting, and we called it a night. It was a short, but soul feeding weekend. I hope I can do it again next year.

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 is 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.