UntitledI turn 31 today, so to celebrate I’m offering 30% off all my self-published patterns* through the end of the month.

Just enter the code BDAY30 at checkout and happy knitting!

*Quince & Co. patterns not eligible for discount

The ruffly shirt in 2014

As a craft-blogger, who reads a lot of craft bloggers,  it seems as if we’ll often make something, take some photos, put together a blog post, and it’s on to the next project with the previous one never to be seen or mentioned again in blogland. We share how the project turned out fresh off the needles or sewing machine, but we rarely take a look back at how it fits into ours lives. (Me-made months being the major exception).

Part of the reason I started blogging is because I wanted to share my creations with a like-minded community of makers. The excitement of showing off what I just made.  Heck – finished object  is my 2nd most frequently used tag and accounts for 25% of my posts here.

But this year I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability of fashion in general and of my own closet in particular. Emma’s post on wardrobe metabolism and the life cycle of clothes was one that really hit the nail on the head for me. One item in particular that should out from that piece was bullet #3 – “Keep tabs out what works & what doesn’t.”

This isn’t about reviewing the pattern, but the project. If you see someone (or multiple someones) making a the same pattern multiple times, you can get the hint that it’s a keeper. But individual projects can vary so much, even out of the same pattern. I’m certainly guilty of getting caught up in shininess of a newly-completed project only to find out weeks, or months down the road that it just doesn’t work – the fit was off, the fabric was a poor match, it just doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore (or never did).  Or perhaps I didn’t care for it at first when I was being over-judgmental on my construction technique at the time, but I now wear it at least once a week.

So in an attempt to show how my projects have stood the test of time and/or to learn from the mistakes of my yesterdays, I’m going to better document the role of handmade items in my life in two-ways:

  1. I’ll tag the post anytime something I made appears in a post, even if it isn’t new. For my clothes, it’s me-made; for LMC’s stuff, mama-made; and for items I made for Mr. Cleaver, miz-made.
  2. The Tried and True Review, where I’ll look back at old project and discuss how it’s held up since I made it, both successes and closet rejects.

First up?

Ruffly Shirt

The Sew U  Ruffly Shirt

Made: August 2008, the last thing I made in Chicago, before I moved to Maine. Almost six years ago!

Update: I still wear this –  actually, I’m wearing it today. I wear it 2-3 times in a month in the summer then retire it for the cooler weather.

Fit: It was a relaxed fit to begin with, so this one had held up when weight changes pushed other shirts aside.

Style: It’s cute, without being overly cutesy.  It’s a little bit retro with the polka dots and it looks nice enough for work.  I need some more similar things in my closet.

Materials: For $2 fabric from a garage sale, this has held up surprisingly well. It’s super-duper lightweight cotton, so I have to wear a camisole underneath, but it’s great for summer. I do have to iron it after washing though.

Construction: In truth, this is not the greatest sewing job, but it hasn’t effected it’s wearability. The collar stand and bias binding on the sleeves were both new techniques to me at the time and are rather sloppy in places. I could still use work on collar stands. There are also multiple lines of stitching along the ruffle on one side where I had some trouble in attaching it. But it’s all white on white, so unless you’re unreasonably close, you wouldn’t notice.

Lesson(s) Learned: Mistakes are most obvious to the maker and don’t mean that it isn’t still usable

Final Verdict: It’s a keeper, and I’d make the whole thing over again, but better this time.

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

I was recently introduced to the term Wahlheimat, a German word, like so many German words, that crams a lot of meaning into a few letters. In this case,  Wahlheimat means home of choice, which is a perfect way to describe my relationship with Maine.

All told, I’ve now lived in the state for about seven years total, but even when I’ve lived here for another 50 years, I’ll still be considered “From Away,” the title of Mainer forever out of my reach.

Fortunately, my From Away status doesn’t taint Little Miss Cleaver’s true-blue Mainah credentials (though if you talk to people Down East, living in the Greater Portland Area may).

So it only seemed fitting to make her a blue Maine tee, featuring our state mammal (the moose) and our most quintessential, but unofficial state phrase – ayuh, which dialect blog names America’s oddest yes

It’s made out of more of the sun-protective jersey from Rockywoods and of the tees I’ve made to date, this one is by far the best sewn.

I pulled out the (rather slim) manual for the Pfaff Select 3.0 and got more into the weeds on its stretch-stitch capabilities. By using a combination of the straight stretch stitch, the “closed overlock,” and a double needle, I got what is a professional-looking and sturdy final product.

I don’t know how prevalent these stitches are on non-Pfaff machines, but if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to pull together a tutorial.  Let me know!

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In my book, a girl’s first baseball game is a big deal. Going to a SeaDogs games was another of those moments I dreamed about sharing with LMC as soon as I knew she was coming. Even so, it caught me a bit by surprise that I got a little teary-eyed when we walked out of the concourse into the sun-lit fields of Hadlock Stadium.

Any attempts to actually watch the game are mostly moot at this point, and if you asked LMC what her favorite part of the experience was, and she could speak in sentences, I’m pretty sure she’d say the french fries. But it’s harder to find something more summery and American and wonderful than a minor league ballpark on a July day, particularly when your team is up by four runs.

The only thing that could perhaps be more perfectly summery is a field of sun-ripe strawberries. I’ve already noted LMC’s love of berries here before, but it’s something else to be in a whole field of them. We made it to the last picking day of the summer at Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth, and while the berries on the ground were no longer numerous, they were still delicious, and fortunately the farm stand was still well stocked, since the berries we picked seemed to mysteriously disappear…

Perennial Bed

Kiddie Pool

The Garden

Baby Tomatoes

Kiddie Pool

Kiddie Pool

Untitled

Attack of the Woodchuck

Violets

Kiddie Pool

Kiddie Pool

Perennial Bed

Fresh Salad

After 3 years, my perennial beds have become well-enough established that I’m going to have to do some dividing and moving come fall, which means that for now, I’m blessed with a crowded bounty of flowers.

These photos are about a week behind, as we’ve all been laid low with some kind of summer virus, but the days have begun warming up and plants and the people are responding in kind. The tomatoes and peppers are dropping their blooms and starting to make their fruit. We’ve harvested our first lettuce and made the first batch of basil pesto.

LMC helped me harvest the basil leaves for the pesto, with a few tomato leaves thrown in for good measure. Picking tomato leaves is a new favorite pastime, which means that the fence is sometimes as much for the kid as the critters.

Despite my first fencing efforts, my broccoli was once again ravaged by a woodchuck, which I now know definitively as the culprit because I caught it in the act. From my brief internet research, it looks like my next step is to bury a portion of the fence.

It’s also warmed up enough to bring the kiddie pool in action, which LMC loves to play in, provided I join her and she doesn’t have to sit in the water. I think there are fewer things that bring greater joy to a toddler than moving water from one thing to another thing. As a bonus feature, when the pool isn’t full of water it makes a great dance floor!

Lamassu-3359LamassuLamassu-3389 Iran 2007 081 Persepolis Gate of all NationsLamassu-3424Untitled

What is a Lamassu?

  1. A winged, human headed bull frequently seen in ancient Mesopotamian (modern Iraq & Syria) myth and art – most frequently as looming sentinels at the gates of major cities.
  2. My latest shawl design for Quince & Co. yarns

How does one morph into the other? Where that’s where the fun of designing comes in!

Back when I was in college, I was a Theatre major and the midst of my Senior year, I decided to swap my English minor for one in Classical Studies, following my increasing interest in the topic. I had an excellent Latin professor (Ortwin Knorr), who got me interested in the subject beyond the language and introduced me to Roman Cookery and the Archaeological Institute of America (of which there are sadly, no Maine chapters).

I had taken a lot of Latin courses, but to complete my minor I took two additional classes: Introduction to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Art History.

My textbook for the Art History class is the only one I regret selling back, but it was the Old Testament course that has had one of the longest lasting impacts of any of my school courses. Taught by professor and archaeologist David W. McCreery, this 100-level course was the hardest course I took in my college career. But, as they say, nothing worthwhile is easy.

One day while discussing Noah’s flood in Genesis, Professor McCreery mentioned that there was an much earlier, but very similar, version of a Great Flood story that appeared in the Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100–2000 BCE). Following class that day, I stayed late to express my interest in the Gilgamesh tale, but as the professor was busy with another student at the time, I merely stated my interest and left conversation for another time.  It was to my surprise then, when at the next class session, he handed me one of his personal copies of the tale (Herbert Mason’s verse narrative), with the following inscription:

October 2004
Dear Leah
There is a lot to learn from this “oldest story ever told.”
Enjoy!
Dave McCreery

I fell in love with the Gilgamesh story, particularly his adventures with the wild-man Enkidu, so much so that I wrote and produced a play about it. It’s a story that’s stuck with me ever since. So when I was talking to Quince about doing a new shawl design, it was Gilgamesh, and his Mesopotamian brethren that sprung to mind.

As is the way nowadays, I started collecting some images on Pinterest and I kept coming back to two things, the lamassu and king’s beards. There was a distinct texture and style of the beards that the more I looked at it, the more knitterly they seemed. A stitch dictionary provided the trinity stitch that mirrored the curly portion of the beard by the mouth, and some time with swatches and graph paper yielded the banded columns and feathery bits I call Gilgamesh’s Beard and Lamassu Feathers.

Since Mesopotamia was part of the fertile crescent, a gentle crescent shape  for the shawl seemed only natural and of course, when given the option to pick my yarn, I had to go with that ancient near-eastern fiber: linen.

—-

And that is a long story behind a fairly simple shawl.

If you’d like to knit one for yourself, the pattern is available now from Quince & Co. or Ravelry.

And to make the long stretches of trinity stitch go faster, I suggest you listen to the following while you knit (I did!).

 

 

Photo Credits:

  1. Quince & Co.
  2. Lamassu  by Jasmine Ramig
  3. Quince & Co.
  4. Iran 2007 Persepolis Gate of all Nations by David Holt
  5. Quince & Co.
  6. Untitled by E.N.K

Gyros

Faux Dome - Christ Pantocrator

Dolmades

Trying Spanakopita

Trying Spanakopita

Saints Icons

Baptism of Christ Icon
Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Entry into Jersusalem Icon

One of the tastiest days on the Cleaver family calendar is the day we visit the Greek Food Festival. Hosted annually by the Holy Trinity Church in Portland on the last full week of June, we start anticipating our visit as soon as the weather gets warm.

It’s not that you can’t get good Greek food in the area other times of the year, it’s  just that there’s something about the food that you get at the Festival that makes it extra delicious. We eat light in the morning so we have plenty of room to stuff ourselves with dolmades (lamb and rice-stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita, gyros, and loukoumades. And oh the loukoumades – the Greek equivalent of a light crispy doughnut hole, made fresh and served in a honey-nut syrup.

Despite being rather full, I gave Mr. Cleaver some serious stink-eye when he suggested only getting one serving of loukoumades this year.  It only comes once a year! Even LMC, who for the most part was too busy taking it all in to pay much attention to the food, loved the loukoumades. She ate her little snack and danced her little toddler dance to the Greek music playing on the loudspeakers. Happily swaying back and forth with the taste of honey on her lips. We usually go in the mid-afternoon on a weekday to avoid the crowds and lines, but it would be fun to go see the live music and dancing one of these years.

We did however take the opportunity to get a  private tour of the church from Father Sarantides himself. If you ever get a chance to see the inside, I’d highly recommend it. Holy Trinity features a number of stunning small and large scale icons throughout the sanctuary.  All we had to do was ask one of the volunteers and they set it up. They’re truly beautiful.

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