Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Hymnbook

All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

Read Full Post »

winter spinning wheel yes

Lest yesterday’s poignant piece leads you to believe that we harbor sadness around here, please think again.  I experience the poignancy of change, but always with gladness and appreciation of the moment and season at hand.  Each has its beauty and meaning.  Each is accessible when we have layers of wool, and I do.  Each has its unique message, new every year.  And due to God’s faithfulness, each season will return.  So I will take you on a photo tour throughout our home, which we dearly love indoors and out.  Indoors is especially cozy and inviting.

Above you will see one of my two highly efficient fine spinning wheels on which I produce beautiful yarn for knitting.  For 18 years I raised my own spinners’ flock of quality wool sheep:  Border Leicester, Cotswold, Romney, Targhee, Corriedale, and Shetland—plus Angora goats for mohair.  I still have some of my Shetlands’ gorgeous brown wool.  But being a color freak, now I purchase dyed fleece and roving from suppliers of which their are loads—readily accessible online.  The green wool in the baskets pictured here is Merino—the world’s softest fiber with the exception of silk which I also order and spin.

In this spinning wheel scene you can see some of our eastern exposure winter garden.  Here the fussy, shade lovers reside.  When we moved to Nashotah in 2009, it didn’t take long for us to realize that our violets did not enjoy our new home as much we did.  Here we have natural gas heat, and alas there is a heat duct blowing down over both of our winter gardens.

The succulents featured in the next photo do not mind hot dry air a bit.  But African violets are really jungle plants.  They thrive on the moist ground in the humid section filled with tropical trees and lush undergrowth in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes.  Now, after 5 years of prematurely loosing violets, I have installed them in Wardian cases (one of which is visible behind the wheel)—attractive little greenhouses patterned after an invention by a 19th century English doctor (Dr. Ward) who built the house-like glassed in shelters to protect his plants in his London home.

 

winter garden again yes

Above is a glimpse of our southern facing indoor garden replete with succulents.  These plants, along with my Louis L’Amour novels provide a western fix for the Colorado and New Mexico aspect of my life.

Winter shawls yes

Back to the fiber thread (pardon the pun), here are some recent renderings from my yarn baskets and knitting needles.  (Unlike many folks, I knit all through the summer, even outside on the warmest days.  That is called “being a knit wit”.)

On the left is a shrug in process, knitted with my handspun yarn.  Next is a finished fringed shawl, also in handspun.  The almost center garment is a cape.  I make loads of these, because they are so much fun!  As well as adding buttons for decoration, I include buttons and button holes so that the garment will stay on the shoulders with comfort.  On the right is a HUGE poncho, probably good down to 20 degrees above zero over a big wool sweater.  The cape and poncho are made from commercial woolen yarns with a few funky synthetics thrown in for fun.

winter soap yes

And saponifying—that is, soap making—another year round delight.  These bars, made just yesterday, look good enough to eat. But I wouldn’t advise that!

winter painting yes

And art making, also enjoyed year around but really beefed up on winter nights!

winter tea yes

And winter tea parties.  Of course I continue my beloved iced tea all year (I didn’t think I had any Southern blood in me, but that’s what friends below the Mason Dixon line do).  However, when company comes, it’s hot tea and a chance to show off my English tea pots.  Guests may pick their pot, and cup and saucer of which there are MANY.

Winter Patio

Finally, here is a shot from last year.  It’s coming!  I’m thankful for all of the above, especially for my family and corgi, and of course for books bending multi shelves and stacked like leaning towers all over the home!

When the sun shines again (and it will) I’ll try to get some shots of glorious color.  That’s coming too—hopefully before the above pristine stuff!

©Margaret L. Been, October 2014

Read Full Post »

My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 2014

Read Full Post »

More Potato Chips!  With button holes and buttons, no less!   Like with the edible variety of chips, you can’t stop at one!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2012

Read Full Post »

With apologies to readers who are not knitters, and couldn’t care less, here is another pattern that is fast turning me into a dyed in the wool (or in the above-pictured case, cotton) “knit-wit” because I simply can’t stop knitting.  I knit in the car, I knit in bed at night, and I even knit in restaurants if Joe decides to read USA TODAY.  Since my potato chip scarf is still getting lots of hits, I decided to post more on the wonderful obsession of knitting.

Weeks ago my daughter-in-law, Cheri, made me a shawl like the one featured above—but in a winter weight.  When recovering from major surgery, Cheri knitted amazing items for many family members and other people she knows.  She knits like “a house afire”.  (One of my mother’s famous colloquialisms.)  For all I know, Cheri knitted something for our president—but considering her household’s prevailing political sentiments, I doubt that very much!

Anyway, I loved the shawl so much and wore it a lot—and then, guess what?  Spring/summer arrived way ahead of schedule.  The beautiful wool (my favorite fabric) shawl make me feel like Salvador Dali’s clocks, just dripping and draping all over the place.  So the answer was to get ahold of the pattern and make myself a summer weight shawl.

The above-pictured item represents the end of a decades-long war for me, a war with (and aversion to) the circular needle—which has become so trendy that it’s nearly impossible to find a standard old-fashioned set of straight needles in the upscale shops.   (Don’t panic.  Wal-Mart still has the traditional aluminum straight needles.)

So much did I want to make this shawl (and hope to knit many more!) that I grabbed ahold of a circular needle and began.  The shawl starts with 3 stitches.  Working 3 stitches on a 40″ flippy floppy piece of wire is indeed a “stitch”!  You add 4 stitches every other row in this pattern, so the garment grows.  Once it begins to shape up, you are very glad to have 40 flippy floppy inches of wire on which to work.  And I discovered one reason why the circular needle may be so popular:  it’s much easier on the hands and wrists than the straight needles!

Very much fun!  You can use any size needle and weight of yarn for this pattern.  It would be gorgeous with a fine, thready fingering yarn knitted with a large needle for anyone who might have the patience for such a challenging enterprise!  The garment is finished when it reaches whatever length you desire.  It can be a scarf or an actual body shawl, Civil War era style.  At the bottom, I doubled the amount of stitches by knitting in the front and back of each one—thereby creating the cute ruffle.  But a knitted border in a pattern stitch would be nice as well.  Maybe I’ll try that next.

Margaret L. Been—March, 2012

Read Full Post »

I foresee a day coming when people will turn around and walk the other way when they see me approaching—for fear that I’ll corner them and start telling them about the Potato Chip Scarf.  They’ll say, “Yikes!  Here she comes, charging inexorably toward us with Potato Chips wound around her neck.”

Oh well, at the risk of driving non-knitting readers stark raving batty, I can’t resist posting my latest finished “masterpiece”—this time a Potato Chip not joined at the ends, so the curves and bends dangle and wave in the breeze.  A lampshade seemed like a suitable model. 

Obviously, when I latch on to a good thing, I just don’t let go.  Fashion scarves are so much fun, economical to make, and abounding in creative possibilities with all the gorgeous and funky yarns available.  I do not see any end in sight—except for that ultimate end!  I may very well have knitting needles in my hands and a ball of yarn dangling from me when the Lord takes me home!

Thinking of the scarves and shawls I hope to make, I recalled something from the 1940s which was “the latest thing” in the small town where I lived:  a lacy triangular scarf called a Fascinator.  These came in lovely pastel shades, and they were available at the dress shop in our town for the hefty price of $2.00 each.  Joe says that would be about $28.00 in today’s money.

I remember saving and saving to buy my sister, Ardis, a Fascinator for a Christmas gift.  I am not sure those small town doozeys were haute couture in Madison, where Ardis attended the University of Wisconsin.  But she was gracious about my gift, and I’m sure she loved the thought!  An 18 year old and a 10 year old are worlds apart in what they consider to be smart and chic apparel—at least that was the case back in 1943.

Just for fun, I looked up “Fascinator” on Wikipedia and learned the following:

“A fascinator is a headpiece, a style of millinery.  The word originally referred to a fine, lacy head covering akin to a shawl and made from wool or lace, but mostly feathers.  Today, a fascinator may be worn instead of a hat on occasions where hats were traditionally worn—such as weddings—or as an evening accessory, when it may be called a cocktail hat.  It is generally worn with fairly formal attire.

“A substantial fascinator is a fascinator of some size or bulk.  They have been mentioned in the press, due to Queen Elizabeth pronouncing new standards of dress required for entry to the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot.  In 2012 Royal Ascot announced that Women will have to wear hats, not fascinators, as part of a tightening of the dress code in Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure this summer.  In previous years, female racegoers were simply advised that ‘many ladies wear hats’.

“Bigger than a barette, modern fascinators are commonly made with feathers, flowers, or beads.  They attach to the hair by a comb, headband, or clip.  The fun, fanciful ornament is often embellished with crystals, beads, or loops of ribbon, and attaches via a comb or headband; some have a small, stiff, flat base that can be secured with bobby pins.  They are particularly popular at premium horse-racing events such as the Grand National, Kentucky, Derby, and the Melbourne Cup.  Brides may choose to wear them as an alternative to a bridal veil or hat, particularly if their gowns are non-traditional.”

So the 1940s lacy headgear sold in my small town dress shop was a replay of the age old Fascinator in one form.  I could easily knit something similar to what I remember giving my sister for Christmas.  But I have to admit that the spin-offs pictured above are also “fascinating” to me.  I probably would not wear one to church.  But I think it would be great fun to prance around at the local super market, or in my favorite antique malls, wearing a Fascinator that looks like a combination peacock in full dress and a hyper-active ceiling fan!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Read Full Post »