Thursday, July 26, 2012

A hat person?

Last weekend, I finished knitting my first hat.

It's supposed to be modeled after the hat Hermione wears at Godric's Hollow in DH: Part 1. I used this pattern, which was thankfully very simple. There's a bit of ribbing at the bottom, and then the body of the hat is a sort-of basketweave stitch. That part of the pattern was easy enough to memorize. The decreases stressed me out a bit, but mostly because I had to switch from my beloved bamboo needles to metal DPNs, and my stitches kept trying to slide off. :) You can read more project details here.

I cast on 12 extra stitches (120 in all) because I was afraid if I didn't, the hat would be too small. But apparently I didn't have to do that, because my yarn was pretty stretchy. The hat ended up being a little too big, which was the last thing I expected. The ribbing at the bottom isn't snug like I think it's supposed to be. But that's the hat can be worn slouchy (as shown below) or as it should be.

The Hermione way of wearing it:

I'm not quite sure if I'm a hat person or not. I went through a phase several years ago where I wore one, but haven't since. I've always been a bit envious of girls who have the confidence to wear a hat. :) I love the idea of wearing hats during the winter, so I think when the weather gets cooler I'll try to become a hat person.

You can see here how it's too big...that poof in the back?

{I spy one of my (several) white hairs in this picture. I'm twenty-one and have white hairs. But that's a topic for another post.}

I love the swirly shape on the very top. The top, the end of the hat, was something I was worried about, because you don't bind off. You just sort of end, and then thread the yarn through the stitches and knot it. Much easier than I expected.

Thanks to my mom for taking the outside photos again. Photo shoots with me are always awkward...a little something like this. As I'm heading outside in sticky, 95 degree Virginia heat wearing a wool hat: "I'm a lunatic. This is crazy." After she shows me the third or fourth picture in a row where I look as if I'm about to fall asleep: "Ew. Could you take another one, but not zoom in so close? Maybe it would be better if I don't even look at the camera." And after it's all over: "Thanks, Mar." {Now that I've managed to get my parents addicted to Lark Rise to Candleford, I've taken to calling them Mar and Par.}

I'll likely knit this hat again, but in a solid color. Probably purple, like Hermione's. But for now I've started my next knitting project. Here's a sneak peak at my progress so far. Ten points if you can name the movie it's inspired by {it's one of my favorites}. :)

Until next time,

Friday, July 20, 2012

Making books.

I have been making books like crazy lately. There's something especially lovely and satisfying about binding a book...or maybe I just feel that way because I'm a bookish person. :)

Sometimes I make the covers from scratch, with recycled cardboard covered with paper or fabric. But I keep an eye out in thrift stores, etc. for old hardback books with pretty covers that I can reuse. That's where these two came from: I found the green one for $1 at the Salvation Army and the red one came from the local library book sale.

{Even though these were obscure books that I seriously doubt would be read by anyone again, and I told myself that I was giving them another chance at life (okay, I'm getting a bit dramatic here :), it's always a nerve-wracking thing for me to cut a book apart. But I keep the insides, too, for collages and journaling and such, so no part of the book gets trashed. Except for the outside spine.}

I had a crafty inspiration book, but it was all jumbled together so I rarely used it. I decided to divide up my ideas into two books: a sewing one and an embroidery one. The green one is my sewing book.

It's coptic bound, which is nice because it (for the most part) lies flat when it's open. I've only made three or four books bound this way, so I still need to watch a video to remember how to do it. For these two books, I used this video and found it a lot more helpful than the one I previously used. I used my usual waxed thread in brown.

I should probably wipe away the excess glue from where I stuck on the buttons. :)

Instead of covering the insides of the covers, I left them just like they were: writing and library stamps and all. For the pages, I used my favorite multimedia artist paper.

I added tabs to keep things organized. I might go back later and add more.

My embroidery book.

I used doubled embroidery thread for this one. I love the way it turned out, and I'm looking foward to seeing how durable it is compared to the waxed thread. It was easier to handle, though it tangled a lot.

Inspired by Meredith's embroidery on paper, I decided to give it a try on the first page of my book. It was pretty interesting. I had one little spot to tear- the top of the 'o' in embroidery.

I pulled the old library card slot (don't you miss those things? Writing your name on the card and such?) off of the back page of the original book and reattached it on the back cover, to preserve a bit of its character as an old library book. :) Plus it'll be a handy place to put the sticky notes that I have scattered everywhere with ideas scribbled on them.

In Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird, she mentioned a quote by Flannery O' Connor that said that anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of her life. I thought that was funny and it kind of stuck with me...Sometimes I stumble across something that triggers a memory, something that I thought I had forgotten. So when that happens, I'm going to start jotting down the memory.

That's what this book is for. I found this vintage picture book at Goodwill, and I rebound it using a type of Japanese stab binding. It was my first time doing that binding, and overall it turned out okay. The technique came from At Home with Handmade Books, by Erin Zamrzla. I have collected tons of craft books, but I don't always make many projects out of them. I've made four books so far from this one, so I'd say that's worth it. :)

I kept some of my favorite pages from the original book and bound them back in with the artist paper. (I kept the rest of the pages, too, to use for other things.)

There were a few little problems. The cardboard on the book is a bit fragile and tore some around the holes I punched. And the binding on the back of the book is loose. I don't know how that happened, unless I just didn't pull it tight enough? It wasn't this loose at first, but I kept fiddling with it and made it worse.

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New projects.

It seems that I've been writing a lot about movies lately and not so much about crafting. I go through phases, I suppose. :) I have been making some things, though, so I thought I'd take a break from the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland musical reviews to share.

Besides making things, here's a glimpse of what I've been doing:
-Reading a lot.
-Totally failing on my book-buying resolution this month (due to library book sales and the cheap bookstores in town) and on my walking resolution over the last couple of months (due to the sticky, miserable Virginia heat. Have I mentioned that I'm ready for fall?).
-Feeling nostalgic while playing MarioKart with my little cousins on their Wii {I used to have a lime green N64 and I was a big Mario fan}.
-Listening to The Artist soundtrack nearly-constantly.

Last November I finished reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts and decided to start my own list of 1,000 things I'm thankful for. This year I've been trying to add three things each day. I passed the halfway mark a couple of days ago (though I think I will likely keep going even after a thousand) and finished filling up the book I was writing them in.

Perfect excuse to make a new book, right? :)

This little book was super simple. Eight pieces of paper inside, folded in half. A piece of cardboard (recycled from a USPS priority mail box, I believe) for the outside, covered with a bit of fabric from some fabric quarters that a sweet friend sent for my birthday. Lavender cardstock on the inside covers, and a few quick stitches to hold it all together. The finished book is somewhere around 3.5 x 4.5 inches.

I am a bit obsessed with knitting just now. I ordered some extremely (ridiculously) cheap bamboo needle sets from eBay that came last week, and as soon as they arrived I couldn't help but start on my next project. I know that some expert knitters might cringe at the thought of cheapo no-name needles, but I've used three of the sets so far (a straight set and two circular needles) and have been very impressed. I'm sorry, but I can't afford to spend lots of money on expensive yarn and needles! Nearly all of the yarn I own was purchased on clearance or with a coupon. :)

{When I compared two of my bigger-sized bamboo needle sets, Clover brand and the cheap ones, I honestly can't tell any difference at all. Except in the price.}

I'm working on a hat. This hat, in particular. It's surprisingly easy so far! It's basically similar to a basketweave stitch pattern (like my scarf, which ironically was knitted from this same yarn, but in a different color). I cast on extra stitches because I was afraid the original amount would be too tight for my big head. :) But I think that was unnecessary because my yarn is really stretchy.

I've knitted a bit further than I had when I took these pictures, but I haven't started the decreases yet. So we'll see how surprisingly easy I find it then. :)

And finally, I've been working on a series of embroidery pieces for the Etsy shop. This idea has been floating around in my head since the beginning of the year, and I'm excited to finally work on it! I'm even considering having the patterns available in my shop, if I can figure out how to make a presentable PDF. :) Anyway, I won't share too much until I'm further along with the project, but here's a glimpse:

Until next time,

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Strike Up the Band.

Strike Up the Band was the second Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musical, released in 1940. Mickey and Judy star as Jimmy and Mary, high school students who have formed a dance band from their school band. The famous bandleader Paul Whiteman is hosting a high school band contest, but Mickey figures it will cost them $200 to get the band to Chicago for the audition {I'm clearly trying to see how many times I can use the word "band" in one paragraph.} They put on a melodramatic act to earn the $200, but then have to decide how to spend the money when an accident happens to one of their friends.

I realized while rewatching this that the Judy and Mickey films might just be some of my favorite musicals (and you guys know how much I love musicals). They're not the best, but they're just so much fun. I don't know what being on the set of these films was really like, and maybe I'm being fooled (and they're just really good actors), but most of the time it looks like all of these young people are having a blast. A good example of that are the La Conga number and the Drummer Boy scene in Strike Up the Band. You can't help but smile when you're watching them. {Not to mention the gorgeous 40s party dresses the girls are wearing.}

Annie and Phil are the buddies of Jimmy and Mary, and I have to say they're more interesting than the secondary characters in the first film. By the way, Phil is played by the same guy who plays the slightly obnoxious Pepi in The Shop Around the Corner. Willie, a younger friend who has a crush on Mary, is cute at times but annoying at others. :) June Preisser is here again, playing a wealthy girl very similar to her part in the previous musical. And of course they found a way to fit in her acrobatics again. Twice.

The music in Strike Up the Band is great, too...very catchy. The song Our Love Affair is one of my favorites, even though it's accompanied by a creepy orchestra of fruit musicians towards the beginning of the film. Yes, I'm serious- fruit playing instruments. It's actually good animation for the time period and sort of mesmerising, but it is strange and random. I like the film's finale, which is a medley of all of the songs.

This film has plenty of comedic moments but also has some serious ones. The more dramatic moments generally come across as cheesy, I think. Jimmy's relationship with his mom (she wants him to be a doctor like his father instead of a musician) is a bit over-the-top.

Oh, and Judy's character works in a library! I thought that was pretty neat. She even has a song there, as she's closing up for the night.

I have to talk about Nell of New Rochelle. It's the act that the band puts on to raise money for the trip. It's sort of a spoof of melodrama. Basically the whole act is shown in the film, which takes up a chunk of time and puts Strike Up the Band at the two-hour mark.

When I first watched it, I was like what? But it's honestly hilarious. A villain with a great laugh, Mickey Rooney in makeup, the kid Willie playing a baby, the threat of a character being tied to a train track (and another sent nearly through the sawmill)'s weird and funny. {Willie's song to his father makes me laugh.} It sounds bizarre, but you just have to see it.

Have you seen Strike Up the Band?

{Read my review of the first Mickey/Judy musical, Babes in Arms, here.}

Until next time,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Babes in Arms.

Last night I watched Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland's first musical together, Babes in Arms, again. I don't think I've ever written about their four musicals on here, so over the next week or two I'm going to.

In case you didn't know, Mickey and Judy made four musicals together (besides several other non-musical films), beginning in 1939 and ending in 1943. They are so stinkin' cute together. I love that these movies were the films that teenagers would have watched back then {infinitely better than modern-day teen flicks *ahem*}, that this is the couple that they would have swooned over and talked about.

All of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland's musicals have several things in common:
1. Slightly lacking, repetitive plots. Nearly every film can be summed up in "Let's put on a show!" :)
2. At least one over-the-top, extremely long and extravagant musical number, created by Busby Berkeley.
3. A big cast of children and teens, including a couple of interesting minor characters who play friends of Judy and Mickey.

So...Babes in Arms. Here's the basic plot of their first musical. Mickey (how convenient that Mickey Rooney played someone who shared his first name :) and Patsy (Judy Garland) are the children of formerly successful vaudeville stars. They live in a community full of former vaudeville stars and their children. But with the popularity of motion pictures, vaudeville is dying and the people in the community are struggling to pay their mortgages and grocery bills. Mickey's dad creates a sort-of reunion tour for his fellow vaudeville stars, and they head off (apparently leaving all of the children at home alone...what?). Mickey has had a bit of conflict with his dad because he (Mickey) insists that if they're going to bring back a vaudeville revival, they have to include new material instead of the same old acts. Upset that his dad wouldn't heed his advice, he decides to put on his own show with all of the neighborhood kids. Meanwhile, a local woman is sure that the children are being mistreated and neglected, being raised by vaudevillians, so she's trying to send them all off to a work school to learn a trade (gasp!) instead of relying on show business for income.

I really like Babes in Arms, though I think it is lacking the tiniest bit in a couple of ways, compared to the other films. First of all, this musical of the four probably has the most songs that I'm not too crazy about. It introduced "Good Morning," which is one of my favorite classic movie songs, so that's a good thing.

But I'll have to be honest here...I don't like opera-sounding music or operatic voices at all. I've tried, thinking that maybe they'll grow on me, but they never do. That's why I've never been able to really appreciate Kathryn Grayson and other classic film stars like that. Howard Keel is about as much as I can endure. :) And in this musical, the two major supporting teen characters are Mickey's sister and her fellow, and they both sing in an operatic style. I'm sorry- I like the song "Where or When," but not sung like that! I like the jazz vs. opera scene, which jokingly puts Patsy against Mickey's sister, and makes it even more clear to me that I will always prefer a jazzy/swingy style to opera.

And speaking of Mickey's sister and her guy...they're not the most interesting supporting characters. In the later musicals, there are some really amusing ones, but these two are rather dull. So those are the things I don't like (and mostly it's just a personal thing- not a reflection of the movie itself). But there are tons of good things about Babes in Arms. :)

Like the fact that the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) is also the villain in this movie. It was the second film that year in which she co-starred with Judy Garland and played the villain.

And what about Baby Rosalie, played by June Preisser? She's a wealthy former child actress who flirts with Mickey and squeezes her way into the lead part of his show. She's hilarious to watch and has some very creepy yet mesmerizing acrobatic/contortionist skills.

I love the kid adorable! And this film contains one of my favorite moments of the four musicals: Mickey Rooney's impersonations of Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore. They are surprisingly accurate and very funny. :)

I also enjoy the slightly spoofy Roosevelt number towards the end. Another thing that several of the films have in common: very patriotic musical numbers.

Here's a bit of trivia about Babes in Arms:
-This musical was MGM's biggest money-maker in 1939, even grossing more that year than The Wizard of Oz!
-The Roosevelt scene was edited out after FDR died in 1945. It was thought to be lost for a long time, until it was rediscovered and added back into the film for the DVD release.
-Johnny Sheffield (aka, Tarzan's son and Bomba the jungle boy) was apparently in this film, though I didn't notice him when I watched! He would have been 8 years old at the time...I'm definitely going to keep an eye out next time. :)

{I felt like I needed to mention that there is a blackface minstrel number. These were common in 30s/40s musicals, though now they, of course, feel offensive. I am always against altering classic movies in any way- whether it's to edit them, convert them to color (or black and white, if they're in color), or to remove offensive content. They're a product of that time period and should be left alone. But I wanted to mention it because it can be rather shocking and unexpected when you first start watching old movies!}

Have you seen Babes in Arms?

Until next time,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Lark Rise shawl.

Being a blogger sometimes drives you to do strange things...

Which explains why I was standing outside this afternoon wearing a shawl in ninety degree weather.

When I first started watching the lovely BBC mini-series Lark Rise to Candleford, I noticed the shawls that the Lark Rise women wore. Particularly the unusual one that Emma Timmons wore over her dress, which crossed in the front and tied in the back. So when I found a very similar free pattern on Ravelry, I decided to give it a first knitted shawl.

And nearly a month later, it's finished! The pattern was really simple, even for a beginner knitter like me. I had to watch a Youtube video to figure out how to do the increases, and even then it took me about twenty minutes before it finally clicked. :) The majority of the shawl is twenty-eight repeats of four rows. All garter stitch. It was repetitive enough that it wasn't stressful, but varied enough that it didn't get boring.

I don't imagine myself wearing a shawl out, but it will come in handy around the house this winter (especially in the sewing room, which can get chilly). Plus it was nice to try knitting something new, something besides scarves and dishrags.

Next, I think I'll be attempting a hat. :) But first I'm going to take a short break for some embroidering, which I've been missing lately.

{You can find more details of the project here. I apologize for the messy hair- I'm trying out a new no-heat curling method...the hairband one. My hair is curly/wavy naturally, but the longer it gets the less curl holds in the back. Doing it this way, it actually doesn't look too awful when it's up (much more attractive than rag curls :), unless you're like me and have pool hair and a headband that's too small for your head. Ahem. It's also the only effective way I've found so far to keep all of my thick hair up off my neck during this hot, sticky weather. Thanks to Mom for taking the pictures.}

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sheriff Taylor.

I was so sad to hear that Andy Griffith passed away this morning.

I've been watching The Andy Griffith Show for as long as I can remember, so it really has a place in my heart. And real-life Andy Griffith always seemed like a gentleman and a genuinely nice person (a rare thing in the entertainment world).

I think anyone who has ever watched the show has learned something from wise Sheriff Andy Taylor, who always managed to solve problems and conflict in a clever, easy-going manner without hurting others. :)

{The Darling version is my absolute favorite, but this one seemed more fitting right now.}

Until next time,