Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vintage finds, AKA the only shopping I've done in months

Last weekend was the Chicagoland Vintage Clothing, Jewelry and Textile Show, an overwhelmingly large show about an hour away from Chicago in Elgin. Last year I had a great haul. This year I was a bit more restrained, even though this show, more than any others, often has the largest portion of things to my personal style and taste (though not always my budget, of course).

Once we knew we were going to buy a house I stopped shopping of any kind that wasn't food or essentials... unless you call inspections and earnest money and packing supplies and iPad games to keep me sane "shopping" (I consider it essentials). So while it was a nice treat to actually go to this show, as it was the only vintage show or shopping I'd done since last year (wow!), I passed up a lot of great things.

Here's what I wore...

Outfit details: cardigan knit by me, pintuck blouse from Small Earth Vintage, wool skirt from Retro Kitten Vintage, 40s peep toe shoes from Randolph Street Market, vintage brown basket purse

Mel and I each picked up four things. (Mel's all went into the laundry already, sorry.) You'll have to pardon the fact that I clearly did not iron anything. They're going to get packed right away so I couldn't bring myself to iron, not even for the blog. ;)

These first two of my finds came from Nicole Hughes of BombshellShocked. I was so excited to see her there. Not only does she have great taste and prices on vintage clothing, she is a super awesome person!

First up is a pleated shirtwaist dress, white with a thin checkered print in red and light gray. I think this will be a great summer dress, and layered with a cardigan it will work nicely in spring, too. (I might even dare to combine prints and try it with my cardigan above.)

I love the mother of pearl buckle and flower-shaped buttons.

It has great puff sleeves, too.

The next is an absolutely killer pair of 50s pedal pushers. I commented to Niki when I bought them that I rarely find actual vintage pants that look good on me (more like rarely find them, period), and the two pair I have are both from her, and both pedal pushes from the 50s, and both plaid. I guess when it works, it works!

Have you ever tried to photograph pants on a dress form?

Yeah, it wasn't until I was actually trying to do it that I remembered there's no crotch on a dress form. Never mind the fact that the dress form currently stands in our living room and I look at it about a 50 times a day. 

So you'll have to make do with a photo on the hanger. Trust me, they look fabulous on. I can't wait to wear these this summer!

I need to sew up a top or two for them—what style or color would you recommend?

Oh, they also have a great label with a needle, fabric and scissors motif. It's really fun.

The third item on my list I got from Karyn Dethrow of Dethrose Vintage. I was so pleased to finally meet Karyn, who is gorgeous and charming!

I've been hoping to find more solid-colored skirts. I say "hoping" because of the aforementioned not shopping for months, so it's been more like "hoping in the future to obtain (or sew)". I go back and forth about why I don't really wear my short-sleeved sweaters in spring and fall as much as I think I want to, and I've decided one of the reasons is I don't have very many solid skirts to pair them with. This light blue one will be perfect. It will also be great with a yellow v-neck pullover I plan to knit from A Stitch in Time vol. 2 (just started swatching for it last night).

I love the details and the topstitching on the top of the pleats. I wish my topstitching could be this even!

And last but not least is a dress I bought from a vendor whose name I unfortunately don't know. If any of you out there who went to the show can identify her, please let me know. Her booth was upstairs, to the left of the entrance and she had a rack of some of the best printed cotton day dresses I have ever seen. Many in larger sizes, and all in beautiful, bold prints. (I'm actually kind of kicking myself for not buying this second one of hers I really liked.)

Now, it should be said that I don't usually wear a lot of purple. Actually almost none. It's never been a color I particularly liked. But I love this dress something fierce, and I already know it's going to be a summer favorite. Though it will require a bit more shopping to properly accessorize due to the aforementioned lack of purple in my closet. (Tsk tsk, what a shame, right?)

The whole thing is just a great mix of lavender, eggplant, white, navy, sky blue and royal blue. Throw in tiny polka dots, flowers and an overall checked print. And look at that amazing collar! I just love it.

Awesome pockets and buttons, too.

And last but not least, another fun label. I love the candy canes for Kandy Kottons.

So there you have it, that's what I found at the show last weekend. I won't be doing any more shopping again until after we've moved and settled in. As of this week, closings are a month away. Back to packing!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Pictorial Beret

I can't believe as I'm posting this, I've reached over 500 followers. Wow! I must say I'm incredibly humbled and flattered that there are that many of you who actually want to read about my mundane little life. :) I've been wanting to do a giveaway for this milestone, but being in the throws of moving, it's going to have to wait a little longer. Stay tuned!

Today I'm sharing my latest knitting project, a beret from A Stitch in Time Volume 2, Sunday Pictorial Beret (Ravelry pattern link). On a Sunday, no less. I can't believe I actually started and finished a project with everything that's been going on with the moving preparations lately!

But I'm not the only one with berets—in particular, this beret—on the mind lately. I know Stephanie of The Girl with the Star-Spangled Heart is working on the same beret, and Andrea of New Vintage Wardrobe just finished it, too.

I've had almost no time or energy to knit, and I've also been limiting my knitting as I'm having on and off shoulder and arm issues which knitting exacerbates (the issue is not gone but it's much better). But a couple of weeks ago I just got the urge to knit... something.

And I was inspired by a particularly wonderful photo from this woman in the 1950s in a striped red and white beret. (Love her polka dot gloves, too.)

{Source: Adore Vintage Tumblr | Daily Vintage Inspiration}

So I knit one for myself. Because you know I love my berets. This makes the third I've knit in 6 months (there's a vintage fair isle beret and a Halloween novelty beret, too).

Hats are often knit in the round, but this pattern is in garter stitch and knit flat and seamed, so it was easy to incorporate stripes. I just knit 2 rows in each color, carrying the unused color up the edge. (Seaming garter stitch stripes is a bit of a pain in the rump, but it's mostly covered by the bow anyway.)

I like it with this vintage Pendleton 49er (from Randolph Street Market last Fall).

I was on a bit of a red bender, if you can tell. I added a thrifted scarf, my favorite fakelite ring and handmade earrings I bought in Taos, New Mexico on vacation last year. The day was completely dreary so I just threw on as much of one color as I could, though I usually mix it up a little more.

(Incidentally this photo that reminded me I forgot to put on mascara. Whoops. I swear I always forget something.)

I don't really think of myself as much of a bows and frills kind of gal, but there was something about the bow on this beret I thought was really cute, and I just love it in stripes.

So I may not be knitting as much, or sewing at all right now (everything is packed up), but at least I now have a snappy little striped beret to carry me into Spring.

How would you accessorize a striped beret? I'm looking forward to playing around with it!

Monday, February 20, 2012

VKC: Planning colors for vintage stranded knitting

Hi everyone! Has it been long enough since I've been able to do a Vintage Knitting College post?? Good grief! I was expecting to have so much more time to devote to this, but with the condo selling/house buying, obviously life has gotten in the way. Thank you all for your wonderful comments on my last post, I can't wait until we've moved and everything calms back down so I can get back to regular blogging! :)

So let's talk a bit about what can either be the really fun part or the completely aggravating part of planning a colorwork project: selecting yarn and colors. But honestly there is so much personal preference involved that I'm just going to touch on a few things for you to think about.

Figuring out the original colors in a vintage pattern

When you start a stranded knitting project, it's not as easy as "Do I want a red cardigan or a blue cardigan?" If you're working with a chart that's in black and white or a pattern with no chart at all (see my post on charts and vintage knitting), you'll have to start off by coloring in a chart. But with what colors?

Colors in vintage patterns are sometimes pretty obvious. Bottle green, maroon, light blue, navy, yellow... easy. Linden green or cowslip... even if you don't know what those colors look like, you can look them up. But what about ripple? Maybe a shade of blue, like ripples in the ocean? Who knows for sure.

If you don't know a color name from the original pattern, you're going to have to guess. Fill in the rest of the colors in your chart and use your best judgment on what the missing color could be.

Let's take the pattern I'm knitting, Bestway #82, Classic Fair Isle Jumper. (Incidentally, I added to the Ravelry database here awhile back.) I created a color chart from the pattern, but let's pretend I couldn't figure out the color fawn. I picked a dark brown to fill in those squares on that part of the chart.

Compared side-by-side to a more appropriate lighter brown, you can see how the dark brown recedes against the red. You wouldn't know for sure how it would look until you swatched of course, but it's a pretty good approximation for how the colors will contrast against each other.

Tips for picking colors for vintage stranded knitting:
  • Pick clear color combinations. You might have two shades of one color in a project (medium blue, navy blue), but don't pick too many shades of a single color or things will get muddy. You can look to resources on color theory if you'd like, but your eye will also tell you what works and doesn't.
  • Don't use multiple colors that are too similar in value. Kelly green, brick red, steel blue, gold, pumpkin orange... nothing will pop out in a palette like that. Kind of like the example above with the brown against the red. Make sure to incorporate some lighter and darker colors for contrast. Use a darker blue, or a pale yellow, a brighter red or a dark piney green. In any given row, you're looking for contrast between the two colors used. In many patterns from the 1940s, they used strong color contrasts which I personally really like. (You may not, and that's okay too!)
  • Chart your colors before you ever pick up your knitting needles. It's not a substitute for knitting a swatch, but a pre-cursor. It's a fast and easy way to play with colors and narrow down combinations before you ever buy any yarn. If you need ideas, peruse vintage catalogs for color palettes you like. The cover of vintage sewing patterns can be nice for this, too.
  • Feel overwhelmed? Chart the original colors, then change one color at a time. If it's too daunting to envision an entire new set of colors, just start small. Change pink to red, light blue to yellow. See if you like what you've changed. You'll be on a roll soon enough and before you know it, you'll have an entirely new chart and all you'll have to do is pick yarn.

    Tips for picking yarn for vintage stranded knitting:
    •  If you're trying for a more authentic vintage look, avoid heathered, kettle-dyed and variegated yarns. Look for solid colored yarn.
    • If you plan to steek your project, 100% wool is a must if you secure the steek by hand (hand-sewn or crochet). If you plan to secure your steek with a sewing machine, any yarn will work.
    • Lots of vintage stranded pullover patterns are short-sleeved. Stranded knitting is by nature thicker and warmer than regular knitting, so if you plan to keep the sleeves short and want to wear it in warmer months, consider using a cotton blend rather than 100% wool.

    Now, all that being said, don't feel like you have to be tied to replicating an authentic vintage look! Pick whatever yarn and color palette you'd like! While I generally try to pick colors and yarn that have a vintage feel, sometimes I just go where the wind takes me. I've used hand-dyed yarn for vintage patterns (I'm doing that with a separate vintage stranded project right now), and I've picked colors that might not have been that authentic to the era of the pattern. And there's nothing wrong with that.

    What yarn and colors did I pick for this project?

    When I first charted the pattern, this was my chart.

    The original pattern used yellow, powder blue, mauve, fawn and green for the colorwork and dull blue for the ribbing. My chart was based on the original colors used in the pattern except I replaced mauve with red. (I hate mauve.) I selected St-Denis Boreale, a wooly fingering weight yarn which I also used in my Bestway #B2637 stranded cardigan. It's a yarn I like a lot.

    Now, you saw me knitting with this color scheme in my post on tension in stranded knitting. But you know what? Back in early December, I decided the colors weren't really doing it for me. I think it's because I opted for a dark brown for the ribbing, and I just didn't like it the way I wanted to. So I cut the ribbing off to work it in another color, but by the time I went through all the trouble I just decided to scrap the whole thing and start over.

    After trying not to have a heart attack over kissing 10 inches of knitting good-bye, I played around with the chart and came up with this instead.

    I decided to bring the ribbing color into the colorwork section and reversed the light and dark sections in the top section. I swatched with a different yarn, liked what I saw and ran with that. Here are my swatches, which were both knit in the round on double-pointed needles, then cut. (If you do this, pay attention to gauge change. My gauge over a small diameter is always tighter than my gauge over a larger diameter.)

    (Side note: notice the darker red in part of the swatch on the left? I duplicate stitched over a red I thought was too pink. It's a good trick to employ if you're unhappy with one color in your swatch. You can see that the pinky red was too close in value to the light brown.)

    I'm now using Quince and Co. Finch, a tightly twisted fingering weight wool that I'm loving working with for the first time. One mistake I made was picking a lighter blue for the center stitches of the X O X pattern, so the green and the blue are too close in value. At the time I swatched I know I had some reason for not wanting to swap the lighter blue for the darker blue I can't remember why now, since it was 2 months ago. Ha ha!

    The other funny thing is since I've been so busy with the upcoming move, I also don't remember what motivated me to pick a pumpkiny orange, which is typically not a color I wear. I wonder why I didn't go with red? Oh well, sometimes it's good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone... maybe that's what I was trying for, or maybe I wanted to fill a wardrobe gap. Who knows, but I'm sticking with it now!

    What's next for colorwork?

    I'm sorry to say that the next Vintage Knitting College post likely won't happen until after our closings at the end of March and we've moved. I've barely had any time to do any actual knitting. Everything except about 2 inches of this sweater was knit weeks ago. :)

    So this is the perfect time to open up the comments for questions: what issues related to planning out vintage stranded knitting projects would YOU like me to talk about?

    Feel free to leave a question in the comments, and I'll either do a Q&A post if there's enough questions, or I'll incorporate your questions into my next couple of VKC posts!
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