Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our retro FAIL living room

I have a confession.

But first, I wanted to thank you all so much for your delightful comments on my Knit it in Flag colors pullover! I was really tickled. I think it's going to be really great this autumn, and I think it needs a nice pair of wide-legged trousers to wear with it! Hopefully this autumn I'll be back in sewing mode, but right now I'm in knitting and decorating mode. :)

Now, onto the confession. You're dying to know, right?

Readers, our living room is one big, huge, FAIL. There, I said it.

As I've mentioned, we're only just starting now, after five months in the Golly Ranch House, to really think about painting and decorating. We've made a few furniture purchases since we've moved that we thought would work out, and we've been trying to make our previous furnishings work since of course we can't go out and buy all new (or old) stuff.

Our living room is long, and much more sizeable than the living room in our condo was. When we moved in, it was a catch-all room for things that didn't fit elsewhere. We setup our television in the den, and first talked about doing a more "formal" sitting room for the living room with no television.

Five months in, we realized this was a stupid idea. This was not us. We can only comfortably sit three adults in the den. So friends over for a movie? Difficult. Not to mention it's a small room, so setting up our Wii (which we don't use a ton, but we'd like to be able to when we do want to) or our turntable isn't possible. Dumb.

We considered swapping the t.v. into the living room, but the fact remains that it's the coldest room in the house (a fact that will not change, though will hopefully eventually be improved by lined pinch pleat drapes). In winter I want the option to be able to cozy up in the warm den to watch a movie. This meant a new t.v. for the living room. We struggled for a bit with being a two television household but whatever. We got over it.

But something else was bugging us about the living room, other than the lack of a t.v. and inability to play any music whatsoever, since of course we didn't bother setting up music in a room we never seemed to use. We were trying to cobble together too many things that didn't work. For awhile, we thought "oh no, art and color on the walls will perk it up". That wasn't it.

Eventually, we faced the fact: our living room is a retro fail. So here I am, airing my dirty retro decorating laundry. This is the living room that we hate.

Incidentally, this week I learned there is actually a time of day I can take semi-decent photos in this room, yahoo!

It's not horrifying, no. Sure, any of the pieces on their own are pretty fabulous. But all together? It doesn't work for us. It's awkward and uncomfortable. It doesn't make us want to hang out in it. Here's why.
  • The vintage two-piece sofa. It's a great (dare I say downright stunning) shape, but needs to be reupholstered as the color is faded and gross (a fact that wasn't apparent of course until it was bought and put in the living room). We could get it reupholstered for this room, but it won't change the fact that it's just not the comfy couch we really craved in the living room. We want to love it in our living room... and we don't.
  • A rug that doesn't work. It's a lovely rug, but not our style. Let's call it a family heirloom (so it's not going anywhere), but it just doesn't work in this room, so it needs to go elsewhere. (Sorry it's rumpled in this photo, you can tell by that and the painter's tape, tape measure, IKEA catalog and laptop what we've been doing in this room lately.)
  • Floral Danish modern chair. I love this chair, but hate the upholstery. It seems to bring everything down around it and doesn't match anything we have possibly come up with for ideas, plus the fabric is not in very good shape in the first place and already worn through in one corner. We bought it this summer with the idea to eventually get it reupholstered. Eventually is now.
And the other half:

The awkwardness continues:
  • Red/green chair we've had forever. It's comfy, but could also stand to be reupholstered, and having had this chair for at least 12 years, I'm just sick of the fabric.
  • Mirrored walls. Okay, this is easy to resolve. We actually like these gold-flecked mirrored wall panels that came with the house, but it's another awkward spot right now for sure. The length of them makes designing around them weird.
(And in fairness, the chartreuse Eames repro chair is only next to the other chair for color inspiration purposes, so it looks awkward where I put it but it's not an actual design issue in the room.)

Like I said, we thought getting some paint up on the walls would help, so we diligently went through two rounds of paint samples, initially staying with lighter greens because of all the green we already have in the furniture and our two lamps, and then trying some darker greens and greys in a second round.

But wait, that photo needs a caption.

Yeah. Yesterday, I came to terms with the fact that I don't want another green living room. I don't want the green lamps in the living room. I don't want the green pillows in the living room. I don't want green walls in the living room. And Mel was in complete agreement.

We did that in the condo, why do we have to do that in the house?!

But if not green, what? How do we incorporate the furniture and decor we own and mix in new things? What needs to get reupholstered, and what just needs to leave the room already?

This has been our struggle for the last few days. And finally, we hit on it. I'm not going to go into details yet, but we're comforted in seeing some examples after countless hours of trolling the Internet for images and ideas to prove that our ideas aren't completely crazy, nor completely out of touch for our modest vintage ranch.

All I'll say now is we're going to mix a bit of contemporary with a bit of vintage. We're going to breathe new life into our older comfy sofa (the green one above) in three ways, and get the Danish modern (don't know if it's exactly Danish modern) chair reupholstered in a nice, bright color. Actually the shape is so cool, it's worth a closer look...

We now know the piece of furniture (once we find one) that will make the mirrored wall work, and how we'll use it to make a second focal point in the room, instead of the strange space it is now. My dad will be in town briefly over Labor Day weekend, so we're enlisting him in installing our new t.v. on the paint samples wall and fleshing out the idea we have for an entertainment center, inspired by a suggestion he made.

In the end, you can see the only things that will actually remain in the room from the two photos I showed above.

Newly purchased plants will get vintage planters. The Danish modern chair will get reupholstered. The Eames repro rocker will stay. My grandpa's painting that's between the mirrored panels (it's only up there currently so it's not sitting on the floor) will be reframed. The bamboo end table and coffee table set will stay for some months most likely, eventually to be sent to their original intended location in the basement (where they will hang with the pink sofa), to be replaced by other solid wood vintage pieces. Everything else shown will get re-purposed in other rooms.

After weeks and months of having no idea what to do with this room, we finally have a shared goal in sight. We have struggled and struggled in this room. Seriously, dear readers, I was growing to hate my own living room! Not now. I can envision almost every single thing I want to happen in this room. I'm so excited, I'm about ready to pop. (I promise I won't.) Slowly over time, I'll share our plans as they develop.

First up? Painting next week. A color I would never in a thousand years have thought I'd paint on the walls in my home, until we made a joke in the paint department of Home Depot and realized we may actually have hit on a good idea: grey. It'll be our neutral palette to bounce off of. Somehow freeing ourselves of color on the walls opened up a world of possibilities for us (who knew?). It'll work, it'll rock with our other colorful plans, it'll be awesome.

And when we're done with it all, hopefully we'll have transformed this retro fail into a retro win. Stay tuned to find out if we can pull it off. I have plans to share every step along the way!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Knit it in Flag Colors - finished Ravellenic Games project

Well hello my friends! I know, it's been awhile! I expected to share with you my progress on my project during the Ravellenic Games, Ravelry's knitting version of the Olympics that coincide with the Olympics. However, not only have I been caught up in watching the Olympics (London, you're doing an awesome job!), I had to change my project. I started off with fair isle legwarmers for autumn, but then couldn't watch the coverage while looking at my colorwork chart, so I pulled out a long-languishing work-in-progress sweater that I hadn't touched since winter of 2011. I had the body knitted but no sleeves and no collar, so in the last week and a half I finished the sweater and crossed the finish line!

It's a vintage pattern from Australian Women's Weekly in 1942, called Knit it in Flag Colors. And though initially intended for a different flag, this project couldn't be more appropriate for the London Olympics, don't you think? It's a free pattern, available here.

Here's the original sweater:

And now for mine, knit in fingering weight yarn and a slightly looser-than-normal gauge of 6.5 spi. The body is shaped with paired increases from the ribbing to the armholes, like an inverted trapezoid (which I talked about last February in the Briar Rose KAL). My Ravelry project page is here.

Obviously, I made a few changed, including flip-flopping the red and the white (my white is actually un-dyed yarn, but looks very bright next to the blue). One fortunate occurrence of not knitting on this for a year and a half is that when I picked it back up, I realized I was trying to decide what to do about the sleeves when I last worked on it. This time around I opted for long sleeves since I almost never wear my short-sleeved knits. I was talking to Liz from last week when I met up with her (incidentally, I adore her and can't believe it's taken this long for us to meet!!), and we commiserated with one another about this. So, long sleeves it was. (Which I knit slightly too loose at the upper arm, oops.)

I opted to carry the stripe and color changes across the sleeve cap instead of knitting the intarsia stripes up the sleeves like the original pattern. To do this for a highly patterned project, the sleeve cap has the be the same number of rows from the armhole to the cast off as the body is from the armhole to the shoulder. That means the sleeve cap is going to have a bit more ease in it, which worked perfectly if you're into 1940s styles, because you can just gather that bit of excess up into a beautiful gathered sleeve cap. Of course that wasn't imperative for this project since the last color change was further down my arm, but I still used the same technique.

Another alteration I made was the collar. Instead of knitting two pieces flat and then seaming them to the neckline, I simply picked up stitches (along the inside, since the collar rolls out) and knit it out from there. Instead of folding under the edges and hemming it, I used ribbing as the border and bound off very loosely. When blocking, I had to roll the collar exactly the way I wanted it to lay so that the white from the inside didn't show at the roll line. I also took a little stitch at the very center front to get the two halves to lay perfectly butt up against one another.

I fretted about the collar color and solicited advice from friends on my Ravelry teams, and in the end I'm really glad I went with red. Blue (which I started with) was too flag looking, and white would have faded into the background.

The back has a little surprise! (Other than my messy hair.)

A four button placket! Now, remembering that I knit the body a year and a half ago, when I went to put it all together I realized my top two buttonholes were slightly closer together than the others, and I have no clue why I would have done that (unless it was on accident). But the top button is mostly hidden by the collar, so I don't really care.

I used a hidden snap closure at the upper edge of the band so that it didn't pull open slightly from the weight of the collar on the left side. Per the pattern, I used a double crochet stitch the edge the buttonband. These are cute little  moonglow buttons from my vintage button stash. I'm so glad I went with red buttons! I love the little 'pop'.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with this pullover! It's not the most exciting thing in the world, but I think it will work nicely for autumn. (Crazily, it is cool enough here today that when I took photos, I actually wasn't dying from heat like I would have been any other day this summer!)

I hope to get back to more regular blogging soon. I've been having a bit of style ennui which has translated into blogging ennui. I know I've completely failed with keeping up on my Made and Making posts, and I've wanted to post again for the Vintage Knitting College series for ages and haven't pulled that together yet either. Sorry! I've also been really on a knitting kick, which means no sewing has happened. It all just means I haven't had much of anything to share.

Anyway, I do hope you're doing well and enjoy my latest knit!

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