Category Archives: Fashion

How to get the mothball smell out of clothing

Two years ago I resorted to storing my winter woolens in mothballs after a particularly nasty clothes moth infestation wreaked havoc on my yarn stash. That was a painful week, throwing out skein after skein of expensive yarn because–grr–the moths had a particular fondness for the skeins that cost a fortune!!! I didn’t want to lose any handknits to those damn pests so rather than relying on lavender, cinnamon, and bay leaves (which repel, not kill), I went the mothball route to ensure all buggers were dead.

Here’s the thing about mothballs: they smell terrible. And yes, I know, they’re terribly toxic too, but my infestation was so great, I figured one or two seasons of mothballs would be a risk worth taking as long as I was careful handling them and I minimized my and my family’s exposure to them. I would not use them if I had young children in the house, and we store off-season clothing in a room where our cat isn’t allowed.

So back to the smell–it seems like mothballs evoke all kinds of different images and memories for people. For my mom, the smell reminds her of walking to school in her winter coat and every time she moved, getting a whiff of mothballs she hoped no one else could smell. My friend says the smell makes her think of “old people.” For me, I think of a metal wardrobe my parents had in the 70s. It must have stunk of mothballs.

Mothballs are a sure bet at killing moths and larvae, but what you can’t count on is getting the stink out of your clothes afterwards. The first year I used mothballs, I did what I thought was the logical thing: I washed all my stored items to remove the residual smell. Unfortunately, not only did it not work, it actually made everything smell worse!!! Drycleaning? Useless, as well as expensive. So I tried some other tactics, such as soaking garments in white vinegar and water (helped a little) and storing them in a plastic container with some baking soda (which maybe masked the odor more than killed it). I also tried lavender sachets and even “Febrezed” some of my more “hearty” knits. Eventually I couldn’t smell the mothballs when I would take the item out of the container or my closet, but here’s the weird thing — if the garment got damp, such as from rain or being in the snow, it would start to reek of mothballs again. So frustrating that I couldn’t get rid of the chemical odor!

Near the end of last winter, I was doing some research to find out if mothballs can repel snakes (nope–snakes can’t smell). I hit on a description of naphthalene, the chemical in mothballs, which said naphthalene gas is broken down by bacteria, fungi, air, and sunlight. WELL! No wonder water didn’t work so well for me! I piled all my woolens in a laundry basket and headed out to our sunny backyard with a bag of clothespins. By the end of the day, all of the woolens I’d hung up on our clothesline were virtually free of mothball smell. For good measure, I aired them out the next day too, and for the rest of the winter, I could wear woolens that didn’t smell as though they’d come out a steamer trunk in my great-grandmother’s attic.

That’s what I’m doing today — airing and sun-cleaning all my woolies for the coming winter. What I do is every hour or two move things around and flip garments over so they don’t get sun bleached, especially if there’s a fold in the fabric. (I ruined a sweater when I was a teen by leaving it in the sun too long with the arms crossed across the body. Learned that lesson early!) Some of the heavier items, like my Aran cardigan, will get a second airing tomorrow. Then I’ll handwash everything to get rid of any dirt or insects that landed on the garments while airing and then store the clothing on shelves lined with lavender and cinnamon sachets.

 

Kwik Sew K4032 fleece jacket

 

First, a very happy 90th birthday to HM The Queen. I love the portraits that Annie Leibowitz captured of her with her family, especially the one with Princess Anne. Just lovely!

Yet another sewing project, Kwik Sew 4032, view B. I’m not sure what possessed me to attempt sewing a zippered fleece jacket as good quality ones are fairly priced around here. I think it had something to do with making my son a blanket out of the gray fleece, which was surprisingly good quality–despite it coming from Joann Fabrics of all places–and wondering how it would look with my favorite spring green color. Thus, a fleece jacket was born.

I had nothing but trouble with this project from the beginning, mostly operator error, although for the first time I was baffled by Kwik Sew’s instructions i.e. why was I instructed to cut out three pockets instead of the two I needed? and some confusing graphics. The parts I thought would be bearish — the collar, zipper, and topstitching — ended up turning out okay, while other parts — those darn zippered pockets! the hems! — had me with a seam ripper in hand for hours. Do I need to point out how difficult it is to rip out stitches in fleece, especially stretch/zig-zag?

Despite all the challenges I had here, it turned out well enough to wear on a brisk hike or an early morning bike ride. It is cozy warm and I like how it can be zippered up around my neck to block out wind. My husband gave me the highest compliment by saying it looked store-bought. Before he could ask me to make him one, I said I was retiring from the fleece garment making business. If I sew fleece again, it will be to make blankets, or maybe a simple ski hat or mittens.

Another caution: this is a unisex pattern but duh! I forgot and cut out a size medium. It is HUGE on me. I shortened the sleeve by a good inch on the pattern but still had to take another couple inches off while sewing. I don’t mind the extra room around the shoulders and middle as I like room to layer … just a word of warning if you’re looking for a snugger fit.

We’re off to Connecticut today to spend some time with my family. Have a good weekend!

 

 

Sugar blues

O’s face looks completely normal now, not even a rash. The only itchy bits are on his arms and legs. We’re hoping everything will be healed up by the time he leaves for camp on Sunday.

Yesterday we went out to Target and bought what he needed to get him through two weeks at camp — mostly underwear and socks. We figure he can double up a couple days on stuff like shorts and sweatshirts, but not so much on underwear and socks. I also found some swimming trunks in his size for $6.50, so into the basket they went … saves me some time at the sewing machine this week. He was rather grumpy during our shopping expedition, as was I (sugar withdrawal), and we forgot to buy a couple extra beach towels. Otherwise we’re all set to pack him up … except for the stuff I have to sew.  Oh, and he needs a haircut. Hopefully we can squeeze in an appointment before the end of the week.

I survived Monday without eating any sugar. My sugar cravings hit mostly in the evening, so the last couple hours before bedtime were misery. As I was driving past Bedford Farms on the way back from the gym, it took every ounce of self control not to drive in there and order a cup of Muddy River ice cream … I would have dived in with gusto! I stuck with it, though, bypassing my evening cup of warm chocolate malt Ovaltine with more than a little regret. My thinking was definitely foggier yesterday … I’m hoping after a few days, I’ll be able to think a little more clearly. Just happy I’m not teaching this week; I’m not sure my students would appreciate my incoherent thinking!

A couple days ago when I was waiting for a prescription to be filled at the grocery store, I spent some time looking through the paperback books and actually bought one. I usually take books like this out of the library or buy them used, but I was so in the mood for a summer read. It’s a James Patterson bio/thriller called Zoo, and as usual with his novels, it’s fast paced and just what i need intellectually right now … meaning I don’t have to think too hard as I read a couple chapters before bed each night. The only problem is, I’ve been having disturbing dreams. The other night I dreamed a rabid bat attacked me, so I fed it to a flying skunk. (Yes, you read that right.) And last night marauding bears and tigers made their appearances … so I’m not sure this is the best reading before bed. Maybe I’ll have to finish it up by reading in the morning. (Just learned this book as been made into a tv miniseries, which I think I’ll skip.)

Crafting

Not much to report on the sewing front. Taped the pdf pattern for O’s board shorts together. Today I’ll be cutting out the fabric. I also signed up for a free sewing class in early July at my local dealer. She told me I probably won’t learn that much, but I figure if I learn a couple tips or two, it’ll be worth my time.

Pebble Beach shawl

Because of my sugar withdrawal yesterday, I had to rip back on my Pebble Beach shawl a couple times. (Missed a couple yarnovers, grrr.) It stinks when I have to rip back a row because now each row is over 200 stitches. Yes, I know I should use a lifeline, but weirdly enough I don’t mind tinking, especially when the yarn is easy to work with as this yarn is. It’s hard to see but the color of the yarn is starting to change from cream to pale mint. Lace is so not pretty before it has been blocked. 😉

One of the pattern books I ordered off eBay showed up yesterday. It’s from the 1960s, a collection of cabled cardigans put out by Reynolds yarn under the name “Mary of Holland.” I did a bit of poking around to find out who, exactly, Mary of Holland is, since the pattern book doesn’t say. The only thing Dutch about these sweaters are their names: Rotterdam, Utrecht, Dordrecht, even The Hague.

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The model on the cover looks a lot like my college friend Staycee. 🙂

I thought the cabled designs were really pretty. I’m sure my brother will deem them “Denchy.” 😉

The Kelly Cardigan

The Kelly Cardigan, pattern by Erika Knight

The Kelly Cardigan, pattern by Erika Knight

Finally, the cardigan of my dreams!

A few months ago, I started thinking about how much I wanted a cardigan sweater that had a dressier look. Most of my handknit cardigans are knit from practical, sturdy heavy-duty wool and, paired with jeans, look fine. But I could never wear them with a wool skirt or trousers and look, well, polished.

Now I have a sweater I can swan around town in.

This was my first experience knitting with two strands of laceweight mohair/silk held together, and I have to say it was a complete joy. Any fears I had about knitting with this feathery substance were quickly forgotten, especially after I got past knitting onto the cast-on row, the only really tricky part for me. I used KnitPicks Aloft in the color Carbon. My only “complaint” was knitting such a dark color in the dead of winter wasn’t always easy, especially with my poor eyesight at night … but otherwise I loved every minute knitting this sweater. Wearing it is even better. It’s like wearing a cloud. So soft and warm!

Even seaming it was fun! A few months ago, I had purchased a Craftsy course on seaming, which was very helpful since it’s one of those knitting tasks I tend to avoid at all costs. The instructor, Chris Bylsma, is very good: calm, competent, reassuring. I highly recommend this course to novice or nervous seamsters. I prefer the look of a seamed sweater and now that I know I can do a competent job, I won’t avoid seamed patterns any longer!

One note: I put the buttons on the right button band for the simple fact that snaps are used for fastening. The buttons are purely decorative when the cardigan is “buttoned up.”

If you want to read more details about the cardigan, they’re on my Ravelry page.

I plan to knit two more Kelly Cardigans: a red one and a cream one. I’m going to lower the neckband on these next versions, as well as add some torso length to accommodate my long waist.

Utilitarian, fashionable … or both?

Heart Pops Hat

Heart Pops Hat

Kelly Cardigan

Adding moisture to the air

New hygrometer

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Back garage, winter 2015

 

Greetings from snowy eastern Massachusetts!

I’ve been trying to up my game with my knitting this winter, although I was thinking about it this morning and wondering why. You see, I tend to knit a lot of utilitarian items: wooly socks, felted mittens, hats that can be easily spotted by drivers on the road, thick wooly sweaters…these are the types of garments I wear 95 percent of the time. However, I long for a wardrobe that’s stylish — I look at knitters like Leslie and the Rainey Sisters and think, “If only I thought a little more about fashion!” (Haa, just noticed that the Rainey Sisters knit the Heart Pops hat I talk about further on … guess I’m on the right trail!)

As I left the house this a.m., bundled up in simple wool socks, a reflective knit hat, and my bright red mittens–my first ham-handed attempt at felting, complete with wonky acrylic cuffs!–I came to the conclusion that it’s okay to be more of a utilitarian knitter. I’m happy with these items. They work for me and the life I lead here in New England. I’m just never going to be a wearer of delicate lace shawls or high-style cardigans. By the way, the hats above are from a free pattern I downloaded at WEBS called Heart Pops. I’ve been knitting these up in stray balls of yarn I’ve found around the house. I’m not a pink girl, but I’m really loving the pink and white version — so cute!

So all this thinking about fashion is why I chose to knit the Kelly Cardigan from Erica Knight in an effort to look a little bit more, in the words of Project Runway, “fashion forward.” It’s a simple cardigan design, but knitted in mohair/silk yarn, it’s luxurious … and warm! The yarn is Aloft from KnitPicks in the color “carbon.” I would have liked to knit this in Rowan Kidsilk Haze, but I’m sticking to my Yarn Diet in 2015 like white on rice. I’m happy with Aloft … the only part that’s fiddly with laceweight silk/mohair yarn held double is knitting the first row on the cast-on stitches. After that, it’s smooth sailing, unless one has to tink back or rip out stitches. Luckily that hasn’t been an issue for me as this pattern is simple and smooth sailing. You don’t even have to knit buttonholes (snaps are used), although I am going to sew on some jet and crystal ones for some additional pizzazz. I think I could get addicted to knitting with mohair/silk yarn — it’s like knitting a cloud!

The air here has been so dry. A couple weeks ago I was at my doctor getting an asthma check and she told me our interior humidity should be around 40%. We have a large humidifier upstairs, but nothing downstairs, where I spend most of my day. My husband bought a hygrometer, and yikes! Our humidity level was around 20%. So I borrowed a trick from my mother-in-law … when we used to ski out west where the air is even drier than it is here back east, she would fill pots with water and boil them on the stove to add moisture to the air. I go one step further and add cinnamon sticks, cloves, and leftover Meyer lemons. Mmm, our house smells so good! We all notice a big difference with the additional moisture. My skin isn’t as dry and flaky, and none of us have had any nosebleeds this winter. (I also leave bowls of water around the house near our heating vents … not sure if this helps but the water does seem to evaporate fairly quickly.)

Lastly, some photos of the snow in our side and backyards. We’re supposed to get 3 to 6 inches more this Friday. My son has not had a full week of school since the holidays. He may be making up time until July at the rate we’re going with this weather! The snow has not kept the cardinals away this winter … I’m seeing more of them at the feeders. They’re so pretty, but boy! they’re bossy! It’s hard to believe that in a little over a month it’ll be time to plant my peas. Will the snow be melted enough to do so?

The Duchess of Cambridge and her court shoes

Of course I’ve been keeping up with the Cambridge’s grand tour Down Under and reading all the breathless commentary on stylish Kate. She certainly has a great pair of pins, and today I learned her secret: nude court shoes!

Here in the U.S. we call these shoes “pumps”: closed-toe, low front shoes with heels. According to the fashion press, nude pumps/court shoes give the illusion of long legs when the color of the pump and the skin are similar. Which makes sense, as your eye tends to stop when you get to a jolt of black or red at the feet.

Sign me up!

According to the folks in the know at the Daily Mail, Kate’s preferred court shoe comes from London-based retailer LK Bennett and these shoes are, unfortunately, sold out in the U.K. If you’re stateside, you can purchase the style “Sledge” at Nordstrom for just $345.

If you, like I, don’t have a royal allowance for footwear, here are some lower-priced options.

Here’s the Madden Girl Fastenn pump for $34.30 at Belk. The LK Bennett pump is a bit more taupe, but I think the Madden Girl version would work better on someone with fair skin. It must be a popular choice with Kate admirers because most sizes are hard to find: Belk was the only online retailer where I found a variety of sizes available.

If you’ve got more dosh (sorry, I’ve been reading the latest Elizabeth George mystery), the Cole Hahn Chelsea pump is very similar to the LK Bennett court shoe. They’re currently $199.00 at Zappos … and free shipping. Like the Madden Girl pumps, though, popular sizes are unavailable at the moment, but Zappos will let you know when your size is back in stock.

The Michael Kors Ionna pump is quite nice, too, and a more reasonable $130 at Zappos — that is, if they have your size. The only thing I don’t like is the bling on the back of the heel.

I saw some other nude pumps by Kate Spade and Christian Louboutin, but if I can’t afford LK Bennett, it goes without saying I can’t afford these versions either.

I’m curious to see the “nude” effect on my own legs, so I’m heading down to our local Marshall’s to give it a try. I’m not so sure about that platform look; my mind goes to porn films, hookers, and Times Square in the 70s, sorry. And those heels — some of them are 4″ or 5″. Never mind walk in them. Could I even stand? We’ll see … I’ve sewn a bunch of skirts in the last couple months, and I’m eager to see if nude pumps are the trick of the eye my figure needs. 🙂

McCall’s 3341

McCalls 3341, view C

Closeup of M3341 skirt fabric

Still too cold to model, so here’s another winter creation on my dressform. McCall’s 3341 is a tried-and-true a-line skirt pattern for so many sewing bloggers that there’s not a lot I can add to the kudos out there. It’s my go-to pattern for simple summer skirts, as well as dressier numbers, such as the one you see above. Here I’ve sewn up view C.

The fabric is a remnant I picked up years ago at Fabric Fix (now closed) in Manchester, New Hampshire. I’ve always loved the pattern and brocade weave. It’s upholstery fabric, I’m sure … it ravels like no one’s business, so every seam edge in this skirt has been serged. No lining, as the fabric has a lot of body and it’s something I would wear with tights.

The closeup shows the detail of the brocade. I like the tiny cherry blossoms. 🙂

The blouse is from Brooks Brothers and is one of my favorites. The only things I don’t like about it are the French cuffs, which is why the sleeves are rolled up. (Note to self: buy some blingy cufflinks.) The scarf is a genuine Hermès, a gift from a generous ex-boyfriend who reads my blog occasionally. (We’re still friends.) Thank you, S. I wear it a lot!

One of my goals this year is to upgrade my work-at-home wardrobe. Because I spend most of my day in the kitchen or in front of my computer, I basically live in jeans, knit shirts, and sweaters. My corporate clothes from the 90s are all out of fashion and probably a couple sizes too small, so it’s great to finally have an outfit I could wear to a professional meeting and not look like a total slob.

Cooking, knitting, staying warm

Homemade Potato and Pea Samosa

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Still here. For some reason, I haven’t been able to log in to WordPress. I’m pretty sure it’s because my web host has been under a hacker attack.

The arctic chill has me spending a lot of time in the warm kitchen. This week I’ve made potato and pea samosas, hamburger buns, pop tarts with cinnamon filling, wild rice pilaf, and a potato-crusted quiche for my Paleo husband. Tomorrow I’m planning on a parsnip soup, a recipe I follow from my oft used copy of Jane Grigson’s Good Things.

And I know at least one of you can tell what I’ve been knitting. 😉

I had my last physical therapy session last night. My improvement in range of motion has been dramatic. Now all I have to do is get off the blood thinners, and I’ll feel like I can put this latest medical drama far behind me.

Last weekend I finished refashioning a skirt I picked up at the thrift shop a couple years ago–a beautiful plaid Talbots skirt. I’m happy with the results, and it looks great with my newest knit cardigan, which I’ve yet to show off here. As soon as it warms up, I’ll have the resident photographer set up a shoot outside.

Thistle stole

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(Photos posted with kind permission of Mary Scott Huff)

Like most knitters on Ravelry, I am constantly adding patterns to my queue. The problem is there’s not enough time in the world to knit everything I would like to knit.

But now and then, a pattern comes along that stops me in my tracks, and I tell myself, “I must knit that NOW. If I get to my deathbed without having knit that, I will enter the afterlife with a very unhappy soul.”

Thistle by Mary Scott Huff is one of those soul-stirring patterns for me.

Huff is one of my favorite knitting designers, so it’s not really a surprise that I fell in love with this gorgeous stole. She specializes in colorwork, and her patterns are stunning. I’m pretty sure the pattern for Wedding Belle in her book The New Stranded Colorwork got me back into knitting.

What I love about the stole of all stoles: obviously the colors–the bright green edging, the multi-shades of purple. But that it has thistles, the national flower of Scotland, made it irresistible to my Anglophile sensibilities.

Huff writes in the pattern headnotes, “Legend has it that during the King Haakon’s Viking invasion of Scotland, the Norsemen tried to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness, the invaders removed their footwear. As they crept barefoot, they came across an area of ground covered in thistles and one of Haakon’s men unfortunately stood on one. Shrieking out in pain, he alerted the Clansmen to the advancing enemy. The Scots then defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Largs, saving Scotland from invasion. The important role the thistle played was recognized, and it was chosen as Scotland’s national emblem.”

And while I’m not a huge fan of tassels, here they work. My stole shall have tassels, too.

I have to wait until January to begin this project as I have so much holiday knitting/sewing to plow through in December. I’ve sent my mother a picture of the pattern, and I’m sure I’ll be getting a gift certificate for yarn in return. My mother is such an enabler; I, on the other hand, encourage her! 😉 Meanwhile, I continue knitting up my Christmas gift list of cowls, boot socks, and hot water bottle covers and dream of Thistle.