Tag Archive | books

More thrift store fun

A trip to the thrift store is great entertainment for me. I don’t even necessarily have to have something in mind in order to have fun poking through all the weird and wonderful things there. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to do much browsing on my own since having kids and Granota and Konik don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I do. They grumble and complain and try to do headers out of the cart just to escape the horrible monotony of watching Maman shop. And, because I’ve always got them with me, I can’t take the time to examine clothing and try things on, so I stick to the outer fringes of the store. But that’s ok. That’s where the books and sewing patterns and notions and other odds and ends are.

I went to two different stores last Wednesday (and Granota and Konik thought they would surely die of boredom) and didn’t find much, but I am excited about the few things I did bring home. First, two sewing patterns. They are uncut and still factory folded. I really like that skirt with the inverted pleats. The suit on the left intrigued me. I’m not sure I would ever make it or ever wear something like that, but you never know. And, at only 99 cents, why take the chance on regret?

By “New Look” I believe we mean “90s Look.” Not that that’s a bad thing.

Next, I found this book: Complete Home Crafts by Miranda Innes. This is my kind of book. The aesthetic doesn’t always match my own, but the projects in and of themselves are great for inspiration. And there are some I really gravitate towards.

I really, really want to do this

Kind of a sucker for citrus in the kitchen

Pretty and useful

I think what I love most about this book is that the majority of these projects are beautiful and practical. I love to be surrounded by beautiful things, but how much better if they are things I can actually use or that serve some purpose? That’s a win-win right there. Why have just a TV tray when you can have a built-in checkerboard (ok, painted) right on it?! I already have a very nice checkerboard, but what else could I put on that TV tray…? Hm, gets the wheels turning. There are all kinds of step-by-step projects including lampshades, cushions and throw blankets, stenciling, collages, decoupage… I want to do it all! Need a place of my own first, though. Humph. In the meanwhile, I’ll daydream.

I likes it

The other book I got is called Making Patterns from Finished Clothes by Rusty Bensussen. Currently, I can’t think of one RTW piece in my closet that is worth the time and effort to copy. In all actuality, most of the store-bought stuff really needs to be turned over to the rag basket, but I have to keep them in the rotation, otherwise I’d be nekkid 5 days of the week. Notwithstanding the pitiful state of my wardrobe, you just never know when a book like this might come in handy. It seems like a great reference to have around! I think the information on drafting patterns will make it worth the whole $3 I spent on it.

Coming up next week: A blue cardigan I crocheted!

Shopping spree

That’s right, I spent money just because I felt like it! So take that 10-months-of-unemployment-followed-by-a-part-time-minimum-wage-job! What led me to feel so fancy free? Mr. Gren got moved up to a full-time position at the ol’ home improvement warehouse. Woo hoo! Still minimum wage, keeping our little family of five comfortably below the poverty line. But hey, it’s more income than we’ve had in a year, so it’s kinda like being rich. So I cast off the shackles of our self-imposed Austerity Measures to buy things for my very own self instead of for the kids’ selves, which is normally where the money goes.

First stop was the thrift store. That’s right; I’m really cutting loose. I poked around through the book section and found a couple of sewing books to add to my collection. There are all kinds of helpful things like making welt pockets, bound buttonholes and how to properly line a dress. I’m looking forward to improving my sewing techniques.

I've heard of Nancy before.

Then, I hit Joann’s for a pattern sale. I’m still not going to pay full price for anything. I’ve been moping around with nothing to sew for myself because my fabric stash does not match my pattern stash. Potentially, I could add several more pieces to my wardrobe, if only I had patterns suitable for the fabrics I have on hand. I spent a good hour flipping through the pattern catalogs, marking down the ones that caught my eye. And, miracle of miracles, the store actually had all of them.

Soon, these clothes will all be mine! Muwhahahaha!

While I was at the store, I needed to find some fabric for the pajama party sew-along. I spent another hour cruising up and down the aisles, feeling stuff, looking at fiber content, debating… I finally settled on a soft, drapey cotton in aqua. I would have liked something with a pattern, but it’s hard to come by outside of the quilting cottons. And quilting cotton to me feels like sheets, and sheets on sheets sounds like a lot of friction when I’m just trying to get comfy in bed. So, drapey aqua cotton it is. Although, I had this horrible vision just as the lady was cutting it, “Oh man, pajama pants in this are going to look like scrubs!” Ack! Not the look I’m going for. I’ve got some ideas to (hopefully) break that association.

New jammies by the end of the week!

I was so excited about all my new patterns that I didn’t sleep well at all that night. All I could think about was what I was going to sew first. The next morning I wolfed down my cereal and then set to work straight away on the peasant blouse. The sewing is all done on it and now I’m working on a crocheted trim. I’ll put up pics of that next week. And, theoretically, there should be plenty more sewing goodness in the weeks to come!

Oh, and my grand total for all of this: about $30. Big Spender, baby.


French Friday #1: How it all began!

For most of the week, the topics here will be craft-related, but on Fridays, we’ll (see how I included you there?) have a little feature on France or French-themed things. Why France, you ask? Well, it’s a good thing you’re reading today then, because I’m about to tell you. It’s like instant gratification! And if you really want to get into the spirit of things, kick back with a pain au chocolat and play a little accordion music in the background. I’d recommend some good wine, but some of you might be underage. 😉

Park behind the Hôtel de Ville in Grenoble

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I was in a funk. We had moved to a new town just six months before, I didn’t have any friends and I had nothing to do. My mom decided that, if I was just going to hang around the house, I may as well get something out of it and handed me a copy of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. I sat out in the backyard under the big shade tree and read. I wasn’t expecting much at first. The last time I had had a parent-initiated book assignment, I was underwhelmed (Sorry, Dad, I still don’t like The Red Badge of Courage). But this book was different. The swashbuckling appealed to my romantic imagination (yes, Dad, I know there were swords in the Civil War; it’s not the same), it opened up an entirely new world to me, and I learned lots of fun words like sacre bleu and carte blanche. And that, my friends, is the key. I had already taken three years of Spanish at this point in my education, plus, I had memorized the “Ape-English Glossary” in the back of my Dad’s boyhood Tarzan book (there, Dad, that was a winner!). The little light bulb blinked on and I realized: “I love learning languages!” So I signed up for Spanish and French in 10th grade.

Hôtel Sully in Paris

Aside from a few funny moments at the beginning when I answered my French teacher in Spanish (not helped by the fact that I had Spanish class just before!), I was quickly picking up the new language. I continued taking both French and Spanish concurrently through high school and, by my senior year, it was obvious that French was the stronger of the two, so I chose it for my college major. My philosophy was, “Do what you’re good at.” And I was very good at it. (It’s ok, I’m allowed to brag a little: it’s my blog. Besides, very few people know this about me). There is a National French Contest for high schoolers called Le Grand Concours. The first year I took it, I placed second in the state. The next two years, I placed first in the state and was just a couple points shy (ie. perfection) of winning outright. When I got to college, I tested out of the first year and a half of classes. They had to invent classes in order for me to have enough credits to fulfill my major. I graduated magna cum laude.

Inside our apartment. I loved the sun coming through in the late afternoon.

And what did I do with all that fabulous French knowledge? Not a lot, at first. But a year and a half after I got married, an opportunity came up for my husband to pastor at an English-speaking church just outside of Paris, where we stayed for three years. It was just right for us — he got to speak English, and I got to speak French to my heart’s content and live in a country that I love. And not a day goes by that we don’t wish we could be back there!

This is not the church he where he pastored. 😉 Interior of Notre Dame de Paris.

I have plenty of stories from our time in France (and photos!), plus the semester I spent in Grenoble, and the week-long trip I took with my high school class to Paris. Plenty of things to share on French Fridays! In addition to my love of the language, the history, culture, architecture, and art all fascinate me and all play a role in my aesthetics. So even when I’m not directly talking about France, it’s likely that it has somehow influenced what I do. I hope you will enjoy hearing about my other home. And don’t worry: I got all the bragging out of my system this go ’round.

The Woolen Rhombus

Shortly after my son, Konik, was born and still had that fresh newborn smell, I decided I would crochet him a pair of woolen diaper pants. They would serve partially for warmth on those cold autumn nights and, after being felted down, would also be a nice waterproof barrier to keep any potential diaper leaks from leaving the little guy with soggy jammies. Happy for an excuse to leave the house by myself, I went to the fabric store and perused the yarns. Lingered over the kitchen cotton. Caressed the bamboo blends… What was I here for? Oh right, wool. Oh, lovely wool, look at all the marvelous colors you come in! After several more minutes of visualization-through-osmosis (that means I have to touch it all), I finally selected Patons Classic Wool in the Harvest colorway.

Looking back on this decision, I can now see that it was heavily influenced by postpartum hormones. In my right mind, I avoid orange like the plague, I shun red, and I steer clear of lime. Oh, sure, there are times when each of those colors serves a purpose, but, in this case, they combined to exact a mischievous revenge. I blithely bought two skeins.

A year later, I’ve got an itch. An itch to try something new. I’ve been hearing about Tunisian crochet (it’s not just for afghans anymore, kids!); I saw a book in a catalog: Tunisian Crochet, by Sharon Hernes Silverman. I must have this book! No matter that the internet is probably littered with free patterns and instructions, the book is it. So I bought it. At this point, I didn’t have a single Tunisian crochet hook, but I still enjoyed flipping through my brand new book, admiring the patterns.

Christmas came and oh! what joy! One of my nephews sent me Tunisian crochet hooks! Once the flurry of the holidays was over, I set out to teach myself this new craft. Facing a move in June, I resolved to bust through as much of my yarn stash as possible. Rummaging through the bin (and the other bin, and the large bag, and the smaller bag, and that cloth bag), I found a full skein and a half of the soon-to-be infamous Harvest wool. Why not use this stuff up? This was going to be fun! Except… one and a half skeins of yarn doesn’t go very far. Well, there is a pattern in the book for a pillow; I suppose that will suffice. Except… I don’t really like that stitch, so how about… Ooh! This honeycomb stitch is pretty cool! So I Franken-patterned and got to work. A couple of rows in and I realized, as I looked around the living room, that the last thing this house needs is another pillow for the kids to throw on the floor. I’ll beat them to the punch and make it a rug! Pleased with this decision, I kept plugging away. Tunisian crochet is not quick.

75% of the way through its formation, we had a couple of trips to take, and my Harvest colored wool rug was set aside. And with it, everything that I had learned about the honeycomb stitch. My confidence in my abilities, however, was still intact. Pride, you are a wicked imp. When I finally picked up my, um, creation, I struggled through the last few rows. Try as I might, my brain could not wrap itself around the honeycomb stitch. A mighty battle between my perfectionist nature and my desire to Just Be Done With It ensued. Impatience was the victor, so I chose to ignore the badly formed rows and stitched and stitched and stitched until a mere six inches of yarn was left. Ha, Patons Harvest Wool! I have vanquished thee! But my celebration was cut short by the underwhelming appearance of the finished product:

It barely measures 20 inches “square” (as it were), which makes a rather paltry rug. Its dimensions are too odd to even sew together into a pillow, and it is pretty obvious where the stitch pattern took a turn for the worse. That portion also has the annoying tendency of rolling up like a scroll. Again, not a particularly rug-like characteristic. I have dubbed it The Woolen Rhombus and, while it didn’t turn out quite how I had envisioned (ok, nothing like what I had envisioned), it is useful: it stores one and a half skeins of Harvest wool until I have time to rip it out and make something else!!

You may be wondering whatever became of the wool diaper pants. After felting, the wool came together nice and tight and Konik got to wear them for all of about a week because they shrunk down to such a ridiculously small size; my daughters don’t even have any dolls for these to fit.

Those are one inch squares.

Harvest wool hates me.