.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hair Diaries: Step Into Liquid

As Becky over at WAZO News eloquently commented a few months back, finding a place to get your hair cut when you move to a new town can be a real challenge. It took me about nine years to find someone I really liked in San Francisco, and then we up and moved. So it was with trepidation that I began my salon quest in Boston.

First I tried a local place called Judy Jetson, thinking its space-age industrial decor boded well for someone who wanted something a little more modern than the typical Cambridge-lady-in-loose-linen look. It wasn't horrible, but the cut seemed amateurish to me, and the receptionist was snippy, so I moved on.

Next, at a friend's suggestion, I tried Harvard Square's "Diego" (something about that name makes me need to put it in quotes), and things went wrong, very wrong. I think the place has a decent reputation, so maybe I just had a run of bad luck, but first they got the day of my appointment wrong, booking me two weeks out without saying so. Then the woman who cut my hair gave me layers way above my ears, not a good look for straight shoulder-length hair, lopping off a fringe of side bangs I had not requested for good measure. (I told friends I felt like I had a mullet, but they kindly insisted I was wrong.) And finally, another stylist did a very nice hair color on me that unfortunately was nothing like what we'd discussed. And so I bid Diego adieu.

Today, thinking it might have something to do with the Ladies-in-Linen influence, I crossed the river and headed for the South End, hoping for something a little more edgy and fun.

I found it at Liquid. My stylist was Cheryl. Somewhere in her late 40s maybe, but not letting that cramp her style one iota, Cheryl was decked out in a little red rocker girl dress and a big studded belt with a silver handcuff buckle. Her hair was dyed black and cut in a sort of shaggy-yet-coiffed short do. It was like having a really, really nice version of Chrissie Hynde cut my hair.

As I got into the chair I set down my ground rules: no layers shorter than my ears, please, and I really never wanted these side bangs. I explained that I wasn't happy with the current proportions of my cut. Tentatively, not wanting to hurt my feelings, she gently ventured an opinion. "The way the last stylist did it, it kind of looks like a mullet." Thank you, Cheryl! Thank you for putting it out there and calling it like you see it. I knew it was a mullet. It was a risky move, but she earned my trust.

A few brief snips later, balance was restored and the mullet was banished. Cheryl eschewed complicated styling products, just going with a little bit of yummy-smelling soy-based pomade. Lovely! Just what this under-employed, can't-be-bothered-to-style-her-hair mullet survivor was looking to smear into her air-dried locks and make them manageable. And Cheryl's $30 fee (unheard of back in San Francisco - can you imagine?) left me with plenty of money to buy a little magic soy paste jar of my own to take home.

As an added bonus, the lavatory was decorated all in Elvis pictures, and a framed photo of Marcia Brady graced the front counter. The receptionist was not snippy to me, au contraire, in fact, she complimented me on my bag. Oh, and the salon chairs are upholstered in leopard print. Cheryl actually hugged me goodbye. Kind of crazy, but when Chrissie Hynde wants to hug you, do you tell her no? "Welcome to Boston!" she said in farewell.

I left Liquid a happy customer, noticing only cheerful things on my way home.

Spring flowers!

Easter-egg-colored buildings!

Sun-dappled historic homes!

Followed by mini shopping sprees at Anthropologie and Sephora. There's nothing quite like a good hair day.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Millerton: From Clocktower to Rail Trail

In recent months, the Somervillain has been spending a lot of time in the rural hamlet of Millerton, NY, moreso than in her adopted Somerville, it has sometimes seemed. So let's take a little tour, shall we? It is a bundle of contradictions, for such a small town.

Here is the cute main street, notable for its clocktower building. The vehicles that cruise it are pretty evenly split between local pickup trucks and out-of-town city-person BMWs.

Dutchess County is horse country, and horsey types shop at the Salem Saddlery ...

... but Dutchess County is also near the Berkshires, land of James Taylor and Deadheads, so for the hippie types, we have Healthy Being.

Those who need workboots and flannel shirts go to Saperstein's ...

... and those who need a $70 chocolate torte go to Millerton Market. "Great food," indeed. Let them eat cake!

There is a lot of high and low in Millerton, and not a lot in between. As the volunteer lady at one of Somervillain & Co.'s favorite shops, Thriftique, told me, "I have to drive 40 minutes just to get a spool of thread!" (Thriftique currently sports a lovely window display for St. Patrick's Day, by the way. See all that green?)

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail: a 15-mile paved bicycle trail that cuts right through the heart of Millerton. This, as I understand it, is part of what drew all the Weekend People up here in the first place.

Here, for example, is Oblong Books & Music, which I once saw featured as the setting in a New Yorker cartoon. You know a place has become part of the Manhattanite's universe when it shows up in a New Yorker cartoon.

Irving Farm
coffee house is an actual spin-off of a Manhattan cafe - the original is located on Irving Place near Gramercy Park. But it doesn't matter that it looks like the ultimate weekender hang-out - everyone in Millerton goes to Irving Farm. Coffee, the great equalizer.

But if coffee is not your cup of tea, try local tea-maker Harney & Sons:

Or pick up your papers, tackle, ammo, and Pendletons at Terni's (a.k.a. "Phil's," for those in the know):

Don't eat at "Coach Ali's" Diner unless you like your food stuck on your silverware. Sorry, Coach Ali, we want to love you but them's the facts!

And finally, Somervillain's favorite spot in Millerton, the Millerton Moviehouse.

It may have a crummy sound system and uncomfortable seats, but it offers a surprisingly good selection for a place that only shows three movies at a time, a nice mix of mainstream and arty, and most important of all, at least it is there!

In a town where you can buy a $70 cake and a new shotgun but not a spool of thread, that is saying something.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Autumn-Palette Granny Squares

Rounding out the recent crafting binge is this work in progress, a granny square afghan that I started this fall in a burst of crochet enthusiasm.

I'm still enthusiastic, but this is a big project, and it's been interrupted several times by the arrival of various friends' babies (see baby surprise jacket, previous) and the necessity of making Christmas presents. At this point I'm about halfway done.

I started the project in part because I wanted to try to use up a bunch of random bits of spare yarn I had. That's the whole point of granny squares, right? But I also wanted a sophisticated palette, and before I knew it I was going out to buy new skeins of yarn to keep the color scheme harmonious and consistent. I still have ended up using a lot of that leftover yarn, but I am probably generating a near-equal amount in its place.

I had a lot of charcoal gray alpaca lying around so that's what I chose as the background color. I've had to buy lots more skeins of that, too, as it turns out, which makes this quite the luxurious (and expensive) afghan, but it really is fantastically soft and toasty. The yarns I'm using for the squares include some mohair blends and heather tweeds, which create interesting variations in the texture of the blanket. I love the names of some of these colors, too. Like the tweedy beige yarn is called "Biscuit," and it's true, the color and texture of it look exactly like a McVitie's Hobnob biscuit.

Just like a quilt of cloth scraps, this blanket carries its own personal memories and associations. The charcoal alpaca is from a pair of socks I knit for my dad, after many years of him wistfully hinting, "I've always wanted a pair of hand-knit socks." I bought the fuzzy Rowan kid mohair on a solo trip to England, when Rowan yarns were harder to find in the U.S. I didn't have any particular project in mind for it, but I loved the colors so much I had to buy some of it. There are remnants from that baby surprise jacket in there, too.

I am not a greens-and-browns kind of girl generally speaking, mainly because yellow-based colors look bad on me, so it's been fun to spend time with this family of hues. I was heavily influenced in this choice by the excitement of my first autumn back in New England, and anticipating the need for cozy blankets to get us through a winter of cold-night movie-watching.

The first granny square afghan I encountered was one made, appropriately enough, by my own grandmother. She had come to visit us in Chicago from Michigan, and in my memory she crocheted and stitched up an entire blanket in the course of the week she was with us, which may be possible but probably is not an accurate memory. That visit was also memorable because she and my dad got in an argument about something and she went home in a huff.

That part of the memory is not so pleasant, but I do remember enjoying having my grandma stay with us. I am one of several dozen grandchildren, and was the only grandchild living in another state, so I didn't often get her all to myself. I was fascinated that she could make all those scattered pieces into something whole, and by the way the border of each square receded once the seams were stitched, leaving the bright centers of the squares to pop against the dark background. The colors she was working with were pretty garish on their own, but once she'd ordered them into the right pattern something shifted, and suddenly they were like a stained glass window.


Schiaparelli Baby Hat Homage

This is a project I actually decided to rip out, as I desperately needed the lilac Debbie Bliss cashmerino for a cardigan I'm trying to finish before Baby Girl Twin outgrows it (Baby Boy Twin's striped pullover hoodie is thankfully completed). But it can live on in cyberspace, and now that I've documented it, hopefully I can recreate it someday.

The intarsia bow design was inspired by a link a knitting friend sent around awhile back to this kit replicating Elsa Schiaparelli's 1927 trompe l'oeil bow sweater.

I was so charmed by the design I wanted to try my hand at something like it, though on a much smaller, more achievable scale. I apparently didn't aim small enough, as I started the hat a good two years ago and never saw the project through, but it was more about the process than the end product, as much of knitting is for me.

If you're interested in trying your own custom intarsia (color design knitted as part of the fabric), don't be shy - it's pretty easy. My low-tech method was to sketch out a grid approximating the scale of my stitches, then draw the design I wanted over it and count the stitches (grid boxes) of the two colors in each row. It took a little adjustment during the actual knitting process, but overall the design turned out pretty much as I'd imagined it. Next time, I'll knit it for keeps.


Crafting Interlude

While it's been quite a dry and mild winter in the Boston area, the last few weeks it's gotten a lot colder, leading the Somervillain to spend much of her time indoors. The outgrowth of this (in addition to catching up with her video library of favorite romantic comedies and period dramas) has been lots of progress on needlework projects, several of which happen to have been inspired by iconic original designs.

One of these is Elizabeth Zimmerman's "baby surprise jacket," introduced to me by our friend Claire. I admit up front that my favorite thing about this pattern is its name. But it also has the exciting distinction of being knit in a single piece, a sort of undulating rectangle, which is then folded in on itself in mysterious origami, fabulously becoming a boxy little cardigan. This ingenious design eliminates the tedium of stitching in the sleeves, and also does away with the armhole seams that can be especially bulky on an infant.

Zimmerman designed the pattern in 1968, and its era is reflected in its earthy-hippy style. I made the sweater for a Berkeley newborn, so this heritage is perfect. I felt encouraged by Zimmerman's exhortations to avoid pastel yarns, which she argues are unflattering on little babies (and also stain easily), and made the bold choice of a heathered brown. Again, it helps that this baby lives in Berkeley (though the sweater would fit in up in the Scottish highlands, as well).

I chose neutral shell buttons to provide some contrast and pick up the white flecks in the wool.

The jacket knit up longer in the torso than I anticipated, and the neck opening seems awfully teeny ... also the placement of the buttonholes looks a little awkward to me. I'll have to wait for feedback on these potential flaws from the sweater's new owner though ... or perhaps from his mother, as he is not yet two months old.