Lets Play Dress-Up!

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Mardi Gras Wreath

With only one week to go until Mardi Gras, all of New Orleans is in a gold lame, bejeweled and sequined tizzy. Everyone is out in a frenzied search for those last minute costume bits, gloves, wigs and, of course, more jewels…always, more jewels.

Even our canine friends got into the act at the annual Barkus parade, despite a day of gully-washing rain. 

Here at Royal Rags HQ, we are in the final throes of preparing for the 31st annual New Orleans Mask Market where Miss Laura’s glamorous full-circle cloaks will be for sale alongside Gabriel Q’s fantastical human-sculpture creations.

Miss Laura's DressIt has been a great honor to sew and fit Miss Laura’s own gown; and though I cannot divulge a photo, I can say that it is wrought of emerald green sparkle lame with touches of leopard and black and gold foil coin-dotted chiffon. Think fierce feline cupcake set loose in King Arthur’s court.

My own costume (though not nearly so grand) is coming along after several revisions. It is turquoise chiffon with a zebra glitter pattern. I hope I shall be dazzling.

We’ve made our chapeaux.

IMG_3752 IMG_3754

And today, I will take on these giant 8′ bat wings.

Bat Wings

Glory be.

Mardi Gras Mask

New Orleans or Bust!

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Big Parade

Wind, sleet, snow, pouring rain and every conceivable type of precipitation made for a drive that was…shall we say, unpleasant? For hundreds of miles, Mother Nature let me have it! But, I made it, all in one piece, and just in time for the big parade.

Krewe du Vieux Parade

Believe it or not, I know these people!

I spent Sunday catching up with friends and today will dive into the miles of sparkly, vibrant, smooshy fabrics that Miss Laura has chosen for her famous Mardi Gras capes. It’s a great treat for me; I love to sew but I am rather conservative and, let’s face it, there’s not a lot of call for iridescent, bejeweled chiffon in Prince Edward County!

Janis's King Cake Cheesecake

Here is a little slice of heaven…King Cake Cheesecake concocted by Janis Rogers of Buffa’s Bar & Restaurant. Janis is a good friend who creates magnificent cheesecakes for every occasion. If you’ve never experienced Mardi Gras, you’ve probably never had traditional King Cake. Usually a risen dough filled with a cream cheese mixture or jam or marzipan and finished with a sprinkling of colored sugar, King Cake is a yearly staple.  It is eaten every day between the Epiphany (or “Twelfth Night”) and Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) which marks the last day before the start of the Lenten period. Almost every bar and restaurant has a King Cake on the counter; it takes on the most marvelous incarnations. Whatever the filling, King Cake has a surprise inside, a tiny, golden baby doll, or “Frozen Charlotte” as they’re traditionally called. If your slice of cake contains the baby, you are responsible for providing the cake the next day.

Here’s an inspired version! The King Cake Burger! If I get out of here without gaining 20 pounds it will be a miracle!

King Cake Burger

Going Nowhere

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Teddy Knits!

Today is the day I had scheduled to leave on my trip to New Orleans. Due to a huge storm of freezing rain, sleet and snow sweeping the south, it appears that I will be going nowhere today. Thanks to sister Tracy and Miss Pam at Blanchard Farms in Columbia, Mississippi for the heads up.

Mississippi Weather Map

I guess I’ll unpack this big bundle of knitting and watch the Olympics. I’ll turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Knitting Packed Up

Knittin’ Pretty

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Sochi Cowl

I love it, I really do. I don’t know why, but I do :)

I just cannot stop with this! It is the simplest project I’ve worked in ages, yet I’ve enjoyed every stitch. I’m dying to wear it, but, like a really good book, I’ll be sorry when it’s done.

It seems I’ve spent the last couple of years cramming my head with a million different techniques, as if I was trying to make up for every moment in my life that I could have been knitting and wasn’t. It feels really good to go back to basics and execute a simple thing with my very best effort. That means invisibly weaving in ends, seamless (or at least consistent) color changes and perfect tension. After all, with eight feet of garter stitch, there’s really no excuse for errors, right?

I’m very pleased with the simple edge technique I’ve been using. The thought of a choppy and uneven edge on a field of garter has often deterred me from using this stitch. This edge is very easy; it’s simply a matter of slipping the first stitch purl-wise with the yarn in front, yarn over and knit to the end of the row. The first stitch and the yarn over are subsequently worked together. I was a little dismayed at first that the edges were not identical (one edge rolls to the front, the other to the back), but despite many attempts at correction, I found it was pretty easy to live with because it is so very smooth. I’ve used a provisional cast-on since this will eventually become a cowl. I intend to close the loop using the kitchener stitch.

Olympic Ring StripesThis is my Ravellenics project (see my Olympic ring stripes?) so I believe I’m a little ahead of my goal. Perhaps I’ll have time to knit a matching hat before the Olympics are over!

 

Olympic Knitting!

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2014 Ravellenic Games

Aaaaand….they’re off! So begins a solid three weeks of weeping over sports. I’ve just shed my first few tears while watching pairs skating and doubtless will maintain moist eyes until the hockey final.

Team RosehavenTomorrow at 11am EST, we’ll be casting on our projects for the 2014 Ravellenic Games. Since I’m leaving next Wednesday for New Orleans where it is Carnival time, my project had to fit a number of special criteria; it must be portable, it must be easy enough to knit while watching TV, knitting in bars and, most likely, under the influence. I know I’ll be spending the bulk of my Mardi Gras time sewing, so it had to be a fairly quick project. Though we’re not allowed to use the Olympic Rings, torch or any other icon associated with the IOC, I wanted my project to incorporate many different team colors. Using up some stash was a requirement too, so I pulled out some worsted weight left-overs…

Olympic Stash

…and will augment with, I think, a royal blue and a golden yellow to make this:

Garter Stitch Scrap Scarf

This is an image I pulled from Pinterest and though I certainly didn’t invent it, it was not associated to an existing  pattern. I think I’ll clean up the edges a bit using this edge stitch. Also, I’ll use a provisional cast-on (Judy’s Magic) and kitchener stitch it together for a seamless join. Pretty fun, eh?

Crazy Scrap Knits

A few years ago, I made this scrappy scarf and gloves and have worn them to death so I’m sure this multi-colored cowl will remind me of Winter 2014 for many years to come!

Pardon My Garters!

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Garter Stitch Mittens

A few posts back, I mentioned a love affair I’ve been having with garter stitch. Not that I’ve carried the fascination into a project or anything (yet), but I’m so delighted when I see the stitch used in edgings, as a counter-foil to stockinette or even as all-over patterning. It’s just plain sweet :)

Garter Stitch Sweater

Garter stitch got its name because it’s perfect for…well…garters! It is elastic, flat and will not roll and so was an obvious choice for the tops of socks and stockings and an excellent finished edge for sweaters. Years back, it was thrown over in favor of ribbing but more and more we’re seeing the garter stitch return to its rightful, honored place.

Sometimes, particularly on projects that are worked in the round, I see purl-every-round-in-the-round masquerading as garter stitch. It’s not the same thing, though. It’s reverse stockinette. Pretty and useful, but not really garter stitch. Nope. Sorry, but you gotta knit a round and purl a round to make garter stitch if you’re working in the round.

Though I’ve got a million things to do and what seems like a million projects going, I’m tempted to spend today digging up worsted-weight leftovers and making this:

Garter Stitch Scrap Scarf

Don’t know why I love it but I do! :)

Just a Few Little Things

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GoldenFleeceSheep-GraphicsFairy2

I really don’t want to talk about the weather. It’s Canada. It’s winter. ‘Nuff said. So instead, I’ll just write about a few little things.

Beach House Swatch1) Remember the orange sweater for which I’d knitted the color work yoke? Well, it’s off. I didn’t love it and it seemed like a terrible lot of stockinette for very little pay off. I’ve chosen another pattern which I think will keep me interested. I have a lot of this yarn. It’s first incarnation was my eyelet throw which occupied an honored place on my progress bars for what seems an eternity. Eyelet no more.

Beach House Pullover

2) Just in time to warm up a dreary winter afternoon, this arrived!

Quince 7 Co Sparrow

Demo ProjectI’ve recently discovered Quince & Co. (thank you, Lesley) and have fallen in love with all of their yarns (and most of their patterns), some of which will be in stock at Rosehaven within the next week or two. I ordered this skein as a ‘sneak peak’ so I could knit up a prototype of the little item we’ll be demo-ing at the spring CreativFest. It’s so lovely, this yarn. Like most linen, it is very crisp when first worked but it softens up with the warmth of your hands and actually develops a little halo. Divine.

3) I had no idea that Mags Kandis, author of “Gifted” and “Folk Style”,  lives right here in Prince Edward County! She’s been a favorite designer of mine for a long, long time and now I find she’s been right under my nose. Who knew? If I hang around the streets of Picton and stalk her, I may actually get to meet her! I am toying with the idea of knitting her Modern Quilt Wrap as my project for the Ravellenic Games which casts-on during the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremonies. That is, if I can find the yarn.

Modern Quilt Wrap

4) I’ve started the designs for the spring bags and kits. I have a nifty idea which I think will modernize and simplify them. I’m having a good time on-line fabric shopping; our local fabric stores are a constant source of disappointment to me. More on that later; I don’t think I’ll have anything concrete before I leave for New Orleans.

Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to print! Have a lovely day :)

Bits and Bobs

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Convertible Mittens

There is a LOT of knitting going on around here lately! Perhaps it’s due to a bout of cast-on-itis, but more than likely can be attributed to the weather. It has become really unpleasant to be outside. I’ve also been doing a little knitting for the shop, which is nice because it gives me the opportunity to work with yarns I wouldn’t otherwise. The convertible mittens above were knit for a client with Noro Taiyo. Can I be honest? (Please don’t hate me.) I did not love this yarn. There. I said it. I found it incredibly weak in many places, over spun in some spots and under (or not at all!) spun in others. The yardage was weirdly off and <whew> the price! Honestly, I’d be offended if I’d paid for it, even at Rosehaven’s (really great) prices. I do love art yarns, but this one is just plain sloppy. sorry.

I’ve been having a little love affair with fair isle knitting lately. After all, what could be better than a pretty strand of yarn? Two!

Gnome hat

Here’s a little prototype of “Gnome” for which I’m currently writing the pattern. In addition to adult sizing, I think it should be sized for kids. Size grading has never been a long suit for me, not in sewing and certainly not in knitting. I’m learning ;)

Socks

Proto SockThere are footless socks laying around everywhere. They’re in various stages of completion so that I can use them for our sock class. It was slated to begin last Saturday. Then, this happened:

White Out

Just to round it out, here’s a finished project! This is the Hepburn Pullover I started the day after Christmas. Actually, I finished this sweater about 2 weeks ago and have worn it a couple of times. I love it, but I wish the cables were a little less subtle. Oh well, they’re like perfume… done right, one must get very close to the wearer to smell it ;)

Hepburn Pullover

A Mardi Gras Love Story (from long, long ago)

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fleur

I awoke this morning to sub-zero temperatures and a sneezy-weezy head cold. Is it any wonder that I am looking forward to my upcoming trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? After 12-plus years of celebrating fat Tuesday, this will be my first in a couple of years. It’s meaningful. I can’t wait. Quite by coincidence, I came across this touching (and true!)  story this morning as I shivered over my coffee mug:

MardiGrasCanalStreetTwainLifeOnMississippi

In the year 1768, escaping the poverty of France and imprisonment on an English ship, a young French immigrant landed at the port of New Orleans determined to make a success of himself in the new world. Ambitious, hardworking, driven and full of ideas, a young Julien Poydras stood ready to make a noise in Louisiana at any price. 

012908_artifact3_1As the Fete de Mardi Gras, 1769 approached, young Julien was ready. With an empty belly and a head full of ideas, Julien resolved to use the celebration as a business platform. He’d be masqued; no one would notice his poverty. He’d be rubbing shoulders with the best families in New Orleans. This was not a party for Julien, it was an opportunity!

As it is to this day, Mardi Gras 1769 was filled with romance. The city overflowed with music and wine, celebration and a sense of joyous abandonment that verged on the reckless. Julien, however determined, succumbed to the magic of the day. He met a lovely girl. They danced and drank and fell in love. Julien vowed to go to her family and ask for her hand as soon as the 40 days of Lent had passed. Through letters, they promised to stay close to one another and they did. Julien left New Orleans right after Easter bound for her home on a bayou of West Baton Rouge.

ball

He must have been planning even as he trekked past the walls of Rampart Street and through the swampy country that surrounded the little city. He must have planned how he’d use her dowry to establish a home and a business for the two of them. Imagine his disappointment when he reached the address she’d given him. No family plantation met him at the end of his journey, only a tiny ramshackle fishing hut. He knew no dowry would come with the lovely girl and, though he loved her, Julien was practical. He turned and, with a broken heart, walked back to New Orleans without knocking on the door.

But her letters continued to come. She was sure some misfortune kept Julien from coming. She wrote for a year, the hope gradually draining from her letters. So touched was Julien that he decided to go back to the bayou to find her, dowry or no. This time, he was greeted by a funeral wreath on the door of the humble shack. The people on the bayou knew little of her, only that she’d had no family at all. They took him to her grave. It was marked with a little stone on which was inscribed simply “Dormir perdida”, “sleep, lost one”.

Julien de Lallande Poydras never married. He was named the first delegate from the Territory of Orleans to the United States House of Representatives and amassed an enormous fortune, much of which was endowed upon his death to an asylum for women, a home for orphaned girls and, most importantly, provided dowries to the many poor and nameless women who immigrated to the Territory of Orleans. Women from the bayous of West Baton Rouge received dowry cheques from Julien Poydras right up until the middle 1950′s.

There is a major street in the Central Business District of New Orleans named for him and next to it…one named Perdido. Together at last.

Happy Mardi Gras!

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