Monday, June 30, 2014

Lizzie Newell has moved her blog to See you there. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Building a Sewing Table

I was inspired by the documentary “We the Tiny House People.”
After seeing the creative things people did with very little space, I realize I have plenty of space. I just need to utilize it better. Below is the before picture, but not entirely. This is after I tossed out some things, bought rolling carts, and stuffed the rest of the sewing projects into the rolling carts.

I went off to hardware land (Home Depot and Lowes elbow to elbow). I was in search of something to use as a table top. At Lowes I found “laminated project panels.” I went off to look for table legs when I spied pine 1x2s—light bulb. I’d make the legs out of 1x2s. I jotted notes and skipped home to draw up plans.

I’m using scrap wood from the garage to try out how it will go together. I’m quite pleased that I’ve cleared off my drafting table. And I’m finding that the roll of brown paper which I’ve been using for sewing patterns is just the right size. I just unroll more when I need it.

Then off to hardware land again to buy the materials. Sorry no pictures. While there I realized I might as well make two tables, so I bought 14 8’ lengths of pine 1x2s, 2 6’ lengths, and two project panels. While headed out I noticed a young man laying out pieces of wood. He was designing a pirate’s treasure chest to use with kids at his church, such fun.

I’m checking the height of the table for sewing. I’ve got the table top on the rolling chest and propped up with 2x4s. You can’t see the 2x4s, because I’ve clamped the lip of the table in place. I’m making sure I’ve got enough clearance underneath.
Back to the drawing board.

I changed the dimensions and so had to redraw the layout. Notice the paper weights. These are cans from Michael’s crafts filled with my rock collection. When I bought the cans I didn’t know they would make such excellent paper weights.
I had to stop here because high winds were forecast. I had to get the apples off my tree before the wind did the job for me. I also need to process blueberries and raspberries before mold beat me to it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Antigone and The Hunger Games

My niece and nephew have been acting in plays put on by TBA Theater. As a good aunt I buy tickets and attend the shows, usually wonderful productions which showcase the talents of young actors and actresses. On Friday watched Antigone, a TBA show which my young relatives weren't in. They sat next to me. Wow! What a powerful show. I was particularly impressed by the portrayal of Creon, the leader of Thebes. Antigone was originally written by Euripides, a contemporary of Socrates, back in the fifth century BC. That play has been mostly lost but Sophocles wrote another version also in the fifth century BC. The Antigone put on by TBA was based on a play written by Jean Anouilh in the 1940s.

Earlier this week on Tuesday I watched the movie The Hunger Games, also an excellent show. As I stood in line to get in every teenager I spoke with had already seen the movie and was going back to watch it again. Teenagers love this movie.

It occurred to me that The Hunger Games and Antigone have nearly the same plots. They both occur in the aftermath of a rebellion. To put down the rebellion and intimidate the populace, civil authorities decide to stage an intimidating spectacle. In Antigone, this spectacle is a man's body left to rot out in the town square. In The Hunger Games it's the televised sacrifice of young people from outlying provinces. Along comes the heroine who in both dramas lives with her sister after the death of their father. The heroine, for personal reasons, defies the edict with the full expectation that she will die for doing so. In the interest of maintaining public order, civil authorities can't or won't relent. Antigone is condemned to being buried alive. Katniss, heroine of The Hunger Games, is condemned to . . .well you'll have to see the movie. Then Antigone takes her own life and the man who loves her takes his own life as well. In the play by Euripides , this double suicide is miraculously averted, making the ending of both dramas nearly the same. Both dramas are tragedies with lots of dead bodies.

I view the ancient Greeks as the originators of speculative fiction, what is sometimes called social science fiction, or dystopian science fiction or, as Margaret Atwood labels it, ustopia. Those who write such fiction follow in the footsteps of Plato in designing an imaginary society and using it to examine the relationship between the state and the individual, but most of all to tell a good story. Sir Thomas Moore continued this tradition in 1516 with his Utopia. And now here is Collins with The Hunger Games once again getting young people thinking, asking questions, and talking just as Socrates did back in the fifth century BC.  With the TBA production of Antigone, we have young people not engaging in Socratic thinking, but doing powerful interpretations of Greek tragedy. I am delighted that young people are interested in such dramas and in such discourse. It gives me much hope for the millennial generation and for the future.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Neighborhood Enclaves

During my morning walk, I strolled into a cul-de-sac of duplex houses. Following a footpath worn in the grass of a backyard, I discovered a break in a fence and a trailer court which I'd never explored before. The trailer court has a chain link fence all the way around the perimeter. This fence certainly hadn't kept me out. Judging from the path worn in the grass, I suspect that the break is used primarily by trailer court residents walking to the grocery store.

Outside the fence were both the duplexes and a row of those breeder-box snout houses, the kind with small yards, gray T1-11 siding and, in the front, a garage--not all that different from my house actually.

I was thinking that the fence was an example of how people of different socio-economic strata isolate themselves in their own neighborhood enclaves, snout-house residents and duplex residents, not associating with trailer-court residents. Then I noticed the barbwire atop the fence angled outward. So, it seems the trailer court residents were keeping out the snout-house and duplex riff-raff. In most places the fence crossed the snout-house backyards keeping out only the children who might be playing there. Odd. Then it must be the owner of the trailer court who put up this barbwire-topped fence in some mistaken idea of safety. I think management of the trailer court should remove the barbwire. It's offensive, doesn’t actually do anything, and might have some value as scrap. Let's hear it for recycling.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

submission and Dominance

I've been told that inequality in sexual relationship is unhealthy and even evil. Despite this I still find submission appealing, and situations of dominance and submission seem to appear in much of my fiction. Judging from literature, imagery, and cinema, many people, maybe even most people find submission to be erotic. It's not rational preference but an emotional and physical reaction to the idea of submission, pain, and suffering. These images and ideas include the passion and crucifixion of Christ.

I find I'm attracted to submission but not to sadism. For me, the ability to relieve pain and suffering is far more powerful emotionally than the ability to cause pain. I was married for seven years to a man I dearly loved and who died of a painful hereditary disorder. He spent the last three years of his life in constant unbearable pain. I allowed him to take the dominant role in sexual play and this delighted me. I could give him for a brief time the ability to control pain, something which medical personnel and religious practitioners couldn't do as much as they tried.
For me, my love for my husband was, and still is, a powerful emotional cocktail made of faith, sorrow, compassion, pain, and eroticism. It still brings tears to my eyes. I cry nearly every time I receive the holy Eucharist or follow the Stations of the Cross.

For me willing sacrifice in order to relieve suffering is sacramental. It is also erotic and so is the biblical teaching to submit to one's spouse. I'm not sure where my attitude puts me in relationship to feminism and to traditional Christianity. It may put me as blasphemous to both.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kuspuk Making: The Pattern

Several years ago, a co-worker had offered to teach a class in kuspuk making and I bought fabric to make one. The class didn't happen. I've had three or so yards of lovely batik fabric just waiting. The color is sort variegated blue and gold and reminds me of tundra in August.

A kuspuk is a traditional Alaskan woman's summer parka with a hood and, around the bottom, a sort of ruffle or peplum. A kuspuk is to Alaska what an aloha shirt is to Hawaii. They're usually made out of calico with commercial braid used for trim. The hoods are usually close fitting to keep mosquitoes off. Even though they are called "summer parkas," they are often worn indoors year round and are used by Native dance troops. They're easy and inexpensive to make and cool enough to be worn inside while engaged in vigorous activity.

I remembered buying a pattern as well and went through every one of my sewing drawers.

Nope. Had to buy one. I went to four stores before I found a kuspuk pattern available. Apparently kuspuk making has been a popular activity this Christmas and "Kuspuk Pattern by Lois" put out my Alaskan Patterns seems to be the one and only pattern in usage.

Unsure if I should make myself a size 16 or size 18, I made a preliminary muslin out of an old sheet. A muslin is to writing what a draft is to a novel, or a white-build to making cardmodels. A jewelry maker once told me first make it out of copper, then silver, then gold. So I made part of the kuspuk out of an old sheet. Good thing I did. The fit is horrid.

A shirt, jacket, or other such covering can be imagined as three elliptical tubes with the arm tubes intersecting the torso tube at an angle. Imagine that we've got the tubes intersect this way. We cut an arm tube open and flatten it out. The top of the arm shape now looks a bit like a sinusoidal curve. It might even be a sinusoidal curve--I'm unsure of the mathematics.

The sleeve on the kuspuk by Lois is cut nearly strait, no hint of that lovely sine wave. To make it worse this sleeve is going into an armhole which resembles a slit. This would work if she'd gone back to the old peasant method of construction with everything made out of rectangles and putting gussets under the arms. This works better with hand-sewing than machine sewing. It is nice for ironing, however, and so good for undergarments. The chemise for my regency gown is constructed in the old peasant method. This old method can be done without a pattern and without cutting. Fabric can be ripped into rectangles or woven initially as rectangles.

Some computer programs convert 3-D shapes to 2-D shapes but I use the paper, scissors, and tape method. I make a guess as to the shape, cut it out of paper, and tape it together. I make adjustments with scissors and tape until I've got those nice elliptical tubes. Then I cut it apart and retrace what I've got onto a new piece of paper. Voila a pattern.

I buy readymade patterns either when I want to understand how something is made or when I want to jump ahead in the process to the interesting parts. So with the kuspuk pattern I spent 20 dollars for Lois to figure out the shape of sleeves and hood. Very disappointing that she had skipped this crucial part of the process herself. The pattern is worthless, everything else I can easily do without any help.
I'm not sure way Lois had such a poor understanding of tailoring. I learned about sleeves by making doll clothing. I made some truly awful miniature shirts. Fortunately they were made out of scrap and so didn't cost me anything.

I looked at pictures of kuspuks on the Internet and found that this sleeve fit problem is endemic. Whole dance troops are performing with badly fitting sleeves and probably accidently ripping out the underarm seams. Lois recommends double stitching the seam under the arm, so it seems she was somewhat aware of the problem. We all seem to be camouflaging the bad tailoring by making kuspuks out of fabric printed with flowers and the like. "Tailor" is the right word since the word originates from French and means "cut."

Lois may have been a good seamstress but she was a lousy tailor.

I am now fantasizing about designing and publishing better kuspuk patterns. I can't decide if I want to do raglan or in-set sleeves.

Structural Unemployment

Listening to NPR I heard about "structural unemployment." At last! Someone talking sense about the current state of the economy. We've been looking at the economic problem wrong. It's not that we need more jobs created; we need the right jobs created.

Here is how I see the situation. We had the real-estate bubble with too many resources (labor hours) going into building houses, houses which were too big and expensive for people to pay (work) for. So the market crashed. We needed to move construction workers, real-estate agents, and mortgage brokers into jobs producing things we actually need.

That crash brought the rest of the economy down as we cut costs (labor hours) from things we actually need such as education and scientific research. Exacerbating the situation we are undergoing a shift in retail, more goods bought on the Internet and less in actual stores. We must move retail workers into new jobs.

To get back to deploring resources effectively, someone has to decide how to what we need, then borrow money to for it. We've got three groups who could make the critical decisions and take the risk. Consumers could take out loans to buy things which will make their lives better, but consumers are already carrying too much debt, and they can't buy things unless the stuff is available.

Businesses could borrow and make guesses about what consumers might. But business, like government, has been cutting costs and reducing both risk and inventory, making wanted and needed goods unavailable.

Where are you Steve Jobs? We need men and women with vision, those who understand what customers will want and are willing to take risks, take out the loans, and hire people.

That leaves the government taking the risk, but government barrowing will only work if it's backed up by vision, the understanding of what sort of investment of labor will pay off in the long run. Here is opportunity. Some necessary services can only most effectively provided by the government, services such as: education, public health, mass transportation, research, and job retraining.

But as I see it the bottom line, the things we most need as a nation are vision and courage. With these, we can put people to work doing jobs which need to be done. I think all of us: consumer, businesses, and government, should stop agonizing over cutting short term costs and instead consider long-term investment.

I'm doing my part. I went out and bought a new refrigerator. In the short term, I'm spending--gasp, pant, pant, panic--more money, but I hope in the long term it will save me money in energy costs.