Monday, February 09, 2015

Knit 1, Purl 1, Sip Tea

I've mentioned before how I allow myself to buy birthday presents for me during the month surrounding my actual birthdate.  This year I started early.

I blame a magazine called "Tea Time".  I pick up a copy now and again because I love to read the recipes for tiny sandwiches, biscuits (cookies) and scones that would be fitting to serve at an afternoon tea.  While standing in line to check out of a crafts store the other day, I glanced over and the current issue of "Tea Time" had a lovely picture on the cover of a tea set in my china pattern, Royal Doulton's Old Country Roses.  I figured it was a sign that it was time for me to leaf dreamily through an issue.  It had been awhile since I had picked up a copy.

So I went back to the office, and while eating my lunch, began to idly thumb through the magazine.  About half-way through I stopped and said "I must have".

The article I don't remember a thing about.  What caught my eye was the tea service that was being used.  The teapot had a ribbed knitting pattern embossed in the porcelain, as did the tea cup and, oh my, the tea cup had a ruffled edge saucer.  The next page showed a spread of cookies displayed on a footed cake stand, also with a ruffled "knitted" edge.  I was in love.

I hastily headed toward the back, hoping for a buying guide that would tell me where I could find the set.   I got lucky (I thought at the time) and the source for the tea set was listed.  I knew that as soon as I got home, I would be checking the Internet to find out where I could buy.

Alas, I found the website and the company did indeed have a "Sweater Collection", but it was not the same pattern as the one in the magazine and it did not look like they carried that particular pattern any more.  I liked the new version, but it was just not as tempting as the one pictured in the magazine.  I was not happy.

But I am a genealogist and when I don't find what I am looking for in the obvious place, I've learned to hunt around for a back door that might lead me to my goal.  I began to run searches on every kind of combination I could figure out that might lead me to the knitted teapot I lusted after.

It wasn't long before I had identified the exact set I wanted.  I headed to Amazon, my source for all things that I can't find anywhere else, and was delighted to find that they had the teapot and the cake plate, but no dessert plates or tea cups.  But, I now had the exact wording to use in my next round of searching, and it wasn't long before I found the tea cups/saucers and the dessert plates located through the online catalog of Bed, Bath and Beyond.  But Bed, Bath and Beyond didn't carry the teapot or the cake plate.

So naturally I placed two orders and waited.  In a few days I had the Amazon order, sitting on my front porch when I got home from work, box bashed in on the side and just sort of tossed against the door.  I opened it to find that there was virtually no packing to cushion the two cartons containing the teapot and cake plate and the box holding the cake plate was in pieces.  I cautiously lifted the box and found, to my relief, that the interior of the china boxes had been well padded and both pieces had made the trip intact.  I was DELIGHTED with my teapot and cake plate and couldn't wait for the order from Bed, Bath and Beyond to arrive.

And I waited.  And I waited.  

Bed, Bath and Beyond was taking their own sweet time getting the rest of my set shipped.  

But today it finally arrived and I love, love, love my knitting tea set.

Now the other thing that "Tea Time" did to me was cause a big shifting of china.  My Old Country Roses China had been resident in the small kitchen china cabinet and I needed one of the shelves for my new tea set.  So today I've spent a hour or so emptying out the large china cabinet in the dining room and finding homes for the contents and moving all the china and stem ware to the dining room.  I decided to make the kitchen china cabinet a tea cabinet, leaving my fancy Old Country Roses teapot and the new every day Old Country Roses tea set I got for Christmas in the upper shelf and the knitting tea set in the lower shelf.  It's looking good in there.

Of course, you notice there are now three teapots and three makes a collection.  Let's hope this time I'm content to have a collection of just three.

I'm going to have to come up with a reason to host a tea-sippin' knitting party, I guess.

I did not feel too, too guilty for starting the birthday indulgences two months early….but then while I was wandering around Amazon looking for knitted teapots, I stumbled across a piece of my luggage collection that I didn't have yet…and it's due to arrive next week.

It looks like this is going to be an expensive birthday.


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Fandom Shawl

I think the term we will use is "fangirl".  I sometimes develop a fatal attraction to something and then get so totally focused on it that I will look for ways to incorporate my fascination into my daily routine.

Which is how The Perfect Storm Shawl came into being.

The name has nothing to do with the fact that the shawl is made from a stormy grey yarn.  It has to do with why I found the yarn in the first place, why I chose the color and why I chose the pattern.

First sign of impending storm:

I adore good yarn and I love experimenting with fibers that are new to me.  I was reading the Yarn Harlot's blog one day when she mentioned some fantastic yarn she had acquired from Indigodragonfly. I thought the yarn was gorgeous, so I hopped over to the website to find out more about it.  The yarn was sold out - because a lot of folks read the Yarn Harlot's blog and anytime she rhapsodizes over something, you can bet it's going to sell out in a great big hurry.  I was disappointed, but I kept poking around their website and discovered that they had developed colors based on some television shows I am very fond of.  I think I had in mind that I might get some Doctor Who inspired yarn, when I discovered that they had a grey, variegated yarn based on the Belstaff coat worn by BBC Sherlock, calling the color way Cumberbacchanal.  I could not pass that up.  I'm a huge fan of Cumberbatch and  a bigger fan of Sherlock, so it was a no-brainer.  I would get a couple of skeins of a 70% silk/30% camel yarn and make myself a Belstaff flavored shawl.  (If you are not familiar with Sherlock, here is a link to a good view of the coat.)

Second sign of impending storm:

I did not have any particular pattern in mind at the time I placed the yarn order.  (The yarn order in itself was an interesting adventure.  There were 2 skeins in stock, both of which I ordered.  When the owner was preparing shipment, he discovered that they were from different dye lots and sent me an email to find out what I intended to do with it.  When I told him, he graciously volunteered to fire up the dye baths and make a new batch  so I could be sure that my shawl would not have any chance of a color shift halfway through.  This is the kind of service that makes me love dealing with the smaller independent yarn companies.  I've already placed a second order and after working with this lovely, lovely yarn, I will most probably return in the future.)

As I reviewed my collection of shawl patterns, I was reminded of an ebook I had ordered with patterns based on and named for London Underground stations.  I decided it would be a lovely idea to pair the Sherlock inspired yarn with a central London themed pattern.  I had 7 to choose from….

Third sign of impending storm:

Also bubbling on a back burner of my mind of late is a trip that is in planning for a couple of years hence.  Little brother, sister-in-law and I are scheming to take a tour of Britain together and, as is my wont, I have been gathering materials and tour books to study so I can familiarize myself with points of interest that we need to include in our itinerary.  One of the first things to go on my notes of must-see-in-London was Westminster Abbey.

I turned out that one of the patterns in the ebook was inspired by the cathedral windows of Westminster Abbey.

The Perfect Storm Shawl was born:

After the storm:

As I was knitting the shawl, a little niggling sense of discontent kept popping up.  It is a well known fact in the Sherlock fandom that the fashion coordinators decided to make the coat a bit different from those that were available to the general public by adding red stitching around the top buttonhole.  I needed to add a touch of red to make the vision complete and I did not think it was going to work to add a touch of red to this luscious shawl.  I considered adding a red outline stitch to one of the cathedral windows, but I didn't think that would really work and might actually detract from the overall effect.

And then I realized that I had a flapper hat pattern tucked away that might actually work as a companion piece.  I WOULD NEED MORE YARN and some of it would have to be red.

So I got back on the Indigodragonfly website and looked for a compatible red yarn.  Thankfully they still had a supply of the Cumberbacchanal in the same silk/camel combination, so I ordered an additional skein and crossed my fingers as I checked for any sign of a red in their inventory.  And, lo and behold, there was a red yarn inspired by the Sons of Anarchy television series, which I thought looked like a great contrast.

My track record with hats is not great, but I am off to a good start and persevering.

And the final indication that this was a combination project meant especially for me?

I visited the Indigodragonfly website just after Christmas, wanting to see what other colors in this lovely yarn might appeal to me….only to find it completely gone from their inventory.  Further research indicates that the lace version has been discontinued, which makes me fear that the DK weight I am using for these two projects may also be discontinued.

So my "Sherlock Shawl" was re-christened "The Perfect Storm Shawl" since everything came together just right to make it happen.

Now the only thing that still remains to be solved is to figure out how to include this shawl and hat in the luggage when we go to London so I can get my photograph wearing this shawl in front of Westminster Abbey and in front of the 221B doorway on Gower Street in London.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

In Need of a New Year's Resolution

The thing is - I come by my compulsive collecting habit honestly.  Both my parents set horrible examples for me in my formative years.  Both had a thing for glassware.  I inherited a closet full of assorted glassware, a good portion of which is what I'm selling in the booth I've rented at a local antiques store.  Some I can price and transport to the booth without a second thought.  Other pieces are stuck in something of a limbo stage.  We would pull out the pretty glassware at Thanksgiving and Christmas and some of the pieces evoke memories of family gatherings long ago.  The memory of those holidays in a simpler time makes it a bit more difficult to part with some items, even though I don't really like them all that much. Still others I immediately put on the "not going anywhere" shelf.  This includes china that my grandmother acquired in my behalf, the china Mother bought with the Christmas money received from the church, the punch bowl that was another Christmas present from the church, and certain pieces that have been in my peripheral vision since I was a toddler.

At one point my parents decided to collect a single goblet from their various antiquing sojourns, of which collection I am now in possession.  The only goblet I am truly emotionally bound to is the single goblet that passed down in the family from my great-great grandmother Mobley, the sole survivor of a set she brought with her when the family moved from post-Civil War Georgia to McDade, Texas, in the early 1870s.  That one has a position of honor behind the glass doors of my antique bookcase.  The other goblets are a variety of patterns and colors and, while making a great display on a shelf, really don't have any sentimental value to me.  I got all of them down a couple of weeks ago and washed them and started to price them…..and hesitated.  They ended up back on the shelf in limbo status while I try to decide how I really feel about them.  The same thing happened when I started sorting out Mother's collection of toothpick holders.  I can always sell them later.  Better safe than sorry.

Because sorry is how I feel about some of the things Mother discarded when we made the major move from Smiley to Bastrop.  She had several sets of dishes, some given to her and some she acquired at various stages of married life.   She gave a complete set of Fiesta dishes to a church member that I would dearly love to reclaim.  They were nothing special to her.  Fiesta ware was what everybody her age had lived with and owned at some point and nobody knew that it was going to become collectible a few short years after she passed them along.

During the packing process (which she was doing on crutches, as she had torn a ligament in her ankle just as the move was getting into full swing), she made the decision to dispose of the various sets of dishes and keep just a plate or two or maybe a bowl from each set as a reminder/souvenir.  As I was beginning to sort out all the various glassware with an eye toward selling some of it, I ran across the stack of odd plates.  Most of it I had no qualms at all with slapping a price on and toting it out to the booth.

But there were a few dishes of one pattern that gave me pause.  There's nothing really special about them, but I just liked them and hated to let them go.  I don't remember ever eating off this set, but I seem to remember that we had a big pile of the various pieces that all carried a scene of buildings or items that fit into the Victorian England time period.  Mother had kept a cake plate with a snowy shop scene, two plates with a different view of the shop, a saucer with a teapot and a small plate with a clock.  The dishes were produced by Royal China and the pattern was called "The Old Curiosity Shop".

I finally told myself it was silly to hang onto a few odd dishes and I popped prices on them and carted them out to the booth, where they've been on display a couple of months with nary a nibble of interest.  Every time I would shuffle them around to fresh up the booth, I would have that twinge of regret.

Then yesterday I stopped briefly by an estate sale that was right on the way as I made my way to Austin for a little Christmas shopping and later some Christmas cheer at little brother's house.  The sale was held in multiple rooms of a church annex, with proceeds going toward some needed remodeling of the church.  As I walked into the second room full of odds and ends, my eyes fell on a stack of familiar green and white dishes.  There were 12 pieces wanting a new home and as I told myself repeatedly that I did NOT need to get involved, one of the folks I know who was running the sale walked up and slapped a price on the whole lot for a price I couldn't resist.  So I came home with the beginnings of a new collection and this morning I retrieved the 4 pieces I've had for sale and brought them back home.  I have this serious affinity for rescuing strays, and this is how I'm ending up with multiple sets of flatware and multiple sets of dishes.

The Old Curiosity Shop - Cake Plate with handles
I now have two
The Old Curiosity Shop - Dinner Plate
I now have three
The Old Curiosity Shop - Soup Bowls (top left with lamp picture, I now have five),
Serving Bowl (bottom left with work bench picture)
Saucer (top right with teapot - I had one and now I have two)
Bread dish (bottom right with clock)
Not a bad start and I've about made up my mind to try and assemble a whole set.  Like I don't already have enough dishes to feed a small army, but what can I say?

Well, one thing I could say is I should be a little more careful.  It turned out that the pile of dishes I bought weren't all from the same pattern.  Of the twelve pieces I bought, four of them were from a different set of dishes, also produced by Royal China.  A little research online revealed that these were  the "Colonial Homestead" pattern and mostly depict items or rooms or buildings associated with an Early American Home.  One of the smaller plates has a spinning wheel and the pie dishes (see picture below) also include a bit of a spinning wheel at the bottom edge.  I like spinning wheels.  I think I'm in big trouble. 

Colonial Homestead
Bread & Butter Dish (at top, with grandfather clock and table/bench)
Platter (at left)
Pie Dishes (at right, two of them)

Well, in my defense, I can always decide to sell them later on.  Once you become an antiques dealer, half of the fun is acquiring what you like and using it until you tire of it and then passing it along to the next person.  

I guess there are worse things you can inherit than the collecting gene.  And as vices go, antiquing isn't really all that bad.  


Friday, November 07, 2014

Springtime in November

It's been a long time since I wrote a couple of posts about the flatware that my cousin Amanda and I received from our Grandmother Wilcoxen.  The first was in 2009 and gives the beginning of the story, which you can find here.  The second post was about a year later (here) when I was successful in building my own flatware set to completion and beyond.  I mentioned along the way of my intention to try and complete Amanda's set as well.

Unfortunately, Amanda's Springtime set was a lot more popular than my own Grypsholm set and the prices were consistently higher than I was willing to spend.  I dropped the idea for the time being and stopped checking for eBay listings.

But recently, as I began clearing closets and looking for items I could sell in a booth I rented in a nearby antique mall, I stumbled across the odd lot of flatware I had received from Amanda and was reminded what a nice set it was.  I began again to idly keep an eye on what was being offered on eBay.

The pattern pieces that come onto market are still priced a bit steeply in my opinion, but I decided to keep watching and created a search request that alerts me to new offerings.  About a week ago, a mixed lot of 16 assorted pieces in the pattern was priced at about $1 per piece in a Buy It Now offering and I snatched it up.  Less than a week later, another mixed lot of 49 pieces was offered at auction.  I had to monitor the auction for several days, but the price stayed low and I crossed my fingers, setting my alarm to be sure I was sitting poised at the keyboard in the final minutes of the bidding.  With seconds to spare, I made a last ditch bid at the highest price I felt comfortable with.  To my surprise, no one else was bidding at the last minute and I won the auction for less than $25.

So after years of thinking I should do something about completing that set of flatware, in about a week I made a huge step forward to do just that.  I went from no knives to 24 knives, 6 teaspoons to 22 teaspoons, no forks to 11 forks.  I also picked up a few serving spoons, a few salad forks, a few more soup spoons and an extra gravy ladle.   Still need forks and I hope for some iced teaspoons to wander into view, but for the most part I have accomplished my goal.

Now, what I need with another set of flatware (I had 3 full sets of stainless--everyday, better and best-- before I decided to tackle this mission), I do not know.  But it makes me feel a sense of accomplishment to complete my Grandmother's efforts towards her granddaughters' hope chests.

Of course, in my case, that turned out to be a hopeless chest.  Little did she know.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Getting in Tune, Part 2

A small coda to my previous  post:

 Music was the primary thing that Daddy and I had in common.  While there is a bit of musical ability on my maternal side, the real musical genes came down through my Grandmother Ivy.  She was the eldest in the William Henry Frankum family, which collectively was double, maybe triple, dipped in musical talent.  They could all play something - fiddle, guitar, piano - and most of them and their descendants did and continue to sing and make music at every opportunity.

The older I got, the less that Daddy and I had to talk about, but there was always music.  (And, to a lesser extent, Westerns.  We both liked reading Louis L'Amour westerns and watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies.)  We just did not have a lot of common interest and he was frankly baffled at the fact that both his children ended up working with computers, something that had him completely buffaloed.

So while other folks may fondly remember playing a game of catch in the side yard with their fathers or going to ball games or rebuilding engines or what-not, the thing I remember fondly are the Sunday nights we would go over to the church early and spend an hour playing hymns together before services.  We would switch around, one of us on the piano and the other on the Hammond organ.  He could play by ear and I could only play by note, so I would start something and he would join in and we would make our way through whatever hymnal I had at hand.  I learned a lot of old songs that way, some of them wonderful songs that have sadly faded into obscurity.

I inherited other things from my father - primarily half of my ability to write and a sad inability to understand math - but the love of music and the ability to make music definitely came from him.

Buddy Wilcoxen, tickling the ivories in the 1950s
At Aunt O's house, with me already getting ideas of collaboration,
Mother holding David in the background

Aunt O (Ora Lamb), my grandmother's sister,
playing their father's fiddle, 2003
Little brother on the guitar, left, and cousin Dean Frankum on fiddle


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Getting Back in Tune

One of the hobbies/activities that took a real hit during the period of time I was involved in caregiving for my mother was the piano.  When I was growing up in Smiley, from the 4th grade through 12th grade, I took piano lessons from Mrs. Bell and I spent a good portion of my free time sitting at the piano in the First Baptist Church sanctuary next door, playing and practicing, hours at a time.  I probably wore a rut in the sidewalk between the parsonage and the side entrance to the church, I made that trip so often.  

I had wanted to play piano for as long as I could remember.  Before we moved to Smiley, I can remember sitting and picking out tunes on the piano at the church annex where we lived in Victoria.  It was inevitable that I would take up lessons as soon as the opportunity (and the funds) permitted.  In 1964, the musical portion of my education commenced.

A 1971 musical program
Dress by Mother and orchid corsage by Daddy
Senior Recital, 1972
Dress again by Mother and I believe there is another orchid peeking out
courtesy of my father
I seldom went a day without spending some time at the piano.  In addition, I was drafted by the church, first as a backup and then as a regular, to play piano or organ at Sunday services and I regularly provided piano accompaniments at the annual school Christmas programs and piano marches at the 8th and 12th grade graduations.  Under protest, I also played for quite a few weddings and funerals.  

When I graduated High School and we moved to Bastrop, I continued to provide piano for church services, weddings and funerals on weekends and during holiday breaks from college.  Practicing was limited to time I could grab on those weekends and holidays and the odd occasion when I would borrow a piano practice room at the college.  We still had no piano at home and we no longer lived next door to the church, so it took more effort to get time at the keyboard, especially with so much of my time having to now be devoted to my academic studies.

When I graduated from college and began full-time employment, I resigned from my duties with the church.  There was just no energy or time available to devote to a second job, and so I lost my ready access to a piano.  It should be no surprise that the first big investment I made (after a car) was to buy myself a piano.  The first one was an antique upright that was gorgeous as a piece of furniture and lousy as a musical instrument.  Still, I had a piano with a full set of 88 keys that were not quite in tune but satisfied my need to sit down and touch base with my musical side.  A few years later, I gave up the antique in favor of a brand-new upright, which is still with me.

Unfortunately my job kept me busy and tired out and there was little time for the piano.  Then when Mother's health failed and we moved in together so that I could take care of her, it was hard to find any time to play and what time I did have available usually coincided with her sleep time, which I did not want to disturb.  For a good ten years, I barely touched the piano at all.  

It took a year or so after we lost Mother for me to regain the energy or the desire to sit down at the piano again.  I was appalled at how rusty I had become.  I could barely make it through the simplest pieces, my fingers could not seem to find the right notes any longer and my back would begin protesting in a very short period of time.  I was disgusted and frustrated.

But, I decided the only cure was to start spending some regular time every day at the piano like I did in the beginning.  I started with the old Baptist and Broadman hymnals.  I figured I had spent more time playing those old gospel songs than I had playing anything else and those would come back the easiest.  I was right.  The sense memory in my fingers would take over from time to time, adding in all those little chords and furbelows that we church pianists would tuck in to fill out the spaces between the sung notes (that "Baptist roll" as one of my uncles used to call it).  Whenever I got upset at my lack of ability to play that Beethoven sonata that featured in my Senior recital, I would spend a half hour pounding out gospel music.  Gospel music is always good for the soul.

It has taken almost a year of sitting 15-30 minutes a day at the piano, but I suddenly realized a couple of weeks ago that I was having less trouble grabbing those notes in the deep left end of the keyboard without looking.  I was having less trouble reading the notes in the upper and lower registers when the music would take off above and below the normal staff.  I was having fewer instances of suddenly forgetting what key I was playing in half-way through a song.  I was beginning to make my way through that Beethoven sonata (well, at least the first movement) slowly, without having a sudden temper fit in the middle and crashing my hands to the keyboard in frustration at the sheer volume of wrong notes coming out of my hands.

A few days ago I was watching an old Remington Steele program that ended with a lovely and simple piece of classical music.  I don't know how I knew that it was by Chopin (except I've always had a penchant for Chopin and Beethoven), but I was certain it was and I pulled out some of my classical collections to see if I could find it.  Oddly enough, I flipped right to a Chopin Prelude that turned out to be the piece in question.  I slowly made my way through it and almost made it through without messing up.  It has become my most recent practice piece that gets played over and over.

Maybe I knew what it was subliminally, but I don't think so because I had never learned to play that piece and did not have a recording of it.  I think I just recognized that it had to be by Chopin and maybe some friendly spirit or intuition led me to turn to that book and that page and find that piece like I was following a homing signal.  I took it as a sign that I was headed in the right direction as I try to rejuvenate my old love affair with the piano.

I'll never again rip off a Chopin Etude or a Beethoven sonata the way I did when I was 18, but maybe I can polish a few of the less involved favorites with this steady practice program I've taken on and maybe one of these days I can be relaxed and easy with the piano again.  It's one of my oldest friends and I am having a really good time getting reacquainted.

A quick reunion with the piano at the Christian Church in
Bastrop.  The Calvary Baptist congregation met in this building
when it first organized.  I spent many a Sunday playing in this beautiful
 Victorian era auditorium.


Monday, February 18, 2013

I'm Not a Poet and I Know It

My father wrote poetry.  He wrote a lot of poetry.  He wrote it for fun.  Just about everybody he knew would get an original poem for their birthday, their anniversary or any other date of importance.  I found it bizarre that anybody could do that.

I can't write poetry.

My mother occasionally wrote poetry.  She usually opted to write prose, but every so often she would dash off a bit of poetry.

I can write prose.  I can't write poetry.

Every time some teacher would get it in his or her head to throw out an assignment to write a poem, I would panic.  I would try to bribe one of my parents to fulfill my assignment and save me from the disgrace of having to admit that I can't write poetry.

I stink at writing poetry.

Today I was poking through a book where I keep odds and ends such as obituaries, comics clipped from the newspaper or a magazine, and the odd quotation.  I was surprised to come across a poem that I wrote while I was in college.  I think it may be the only example of poetry that I know that I wrote all by myself and that didn't make me want to apologize for doing so.

I can remember writing the poem in desperation.  I was taking a literature course and someone who had taken the course warned me that the professor was going to have us write a poem, using a particular rhyming convention.  I think I had a case of the vapors when I heard that I was going to have to write a poem, let alone a poem with a specific number of lines and a particular rhyming pattern.  I dreaded the day I would walk into the class and get that assignment.

So I decided for once in my life to try and get the task out of the way ahead of time instead of sweating it out under pressure.  I knew I would not be able to come up with a rhyme for "cat" under pressure.  I surprised myself and actually got a half-way acceptable stanza written and I breathed a sigh of relief and stopped worrying about the assignment that was going to hit me.

I can't remember now what this kind of verse is called.  What I do remember is that the professor never did give us the assignment to write a poem in this style.  All my worry was for naught.

But, I have one poem that I wrote.  And this is it.  Be kind.  I can't write poetry to save my life.  Those genes passed me by.

The weary man walked down the narrow road,
The pain was in his eyes for all to see;
Upon his back he bore the heavy load
Of all the things he once planned he would be,
In other days when youthful dreams were free.
The ways of life he doesn't understand,
The reason for his trials he cannot see.
He lives with his mistakes the best he can,
And now he finds himself an old and bitter man.

(Poem written in 1975, while attending Mary Hardin-Baylor College)