Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Now I'm really insulted

The LA Times rarely gives the south bay region any coverage. And, when they do, they parachute out of the sky and botch it.

El Segundo was formerly known as an aerospace hub in the shadow of Los Angeles International Airport and a refinery town — its name derives from the 1911 selection of the spot by Standard Oil Co. of California for the company's second oil refinery.

But recently the city has begun to attract a variety of creative businesses that might once have looked down their noses at the humble burg of 17,000 residents.

I've written many times about my affection for my daytime hometown of El Segundo. But I take exception to the categorization that my work--and that of my colleagues--is not "creative".

I was so mad to read a LAT columnist describe ES as "lily-white", I didn't trust myself to blog about it at the time. Take a look at the school demographics. Take a look around at lunch-time. Not only is the town diverse, but the dining parties are diverse. That is, friendships form over shared interests beyond superficial ones of race.

The farmers' market is also fun. I wore a me-made linen skirt to the market last summer before dining at the Farmstand.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon

In the last flurry of nesting activity before giving birth, I went a little crazy buying dragon fabric at the Cotton Shop in 2000. I used a leftover scrap of pink dragons for the outside yoke of Simplicity 2689. The body and yoke facing were from two preconsumer waste bits bought at SAS Fabrics.

I still have a two pieces of dragon fabric left to sew up*. If I do finish them, I will buy more before the dragon fabrics are retired for another 12 years.

* One's destined to become a dress and the other a pillow or vest. It shouldn't be too hard to finish those.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tide Pooling 2012

Oops. While I was gearing up for and staffing the Wellness Fair, I postponed looking at the tide tables. It looks like our family missed a wonderful opportunity this weekend. The mid-afternoon low tide reached -1.4 (1.4 feet below mean low tide). Whenever the low tide reaches about -1.0 or below, the tide pools at Abalone Cove are exposed.

Photo courtesy of Steve Wolfe's slideshow of Abalone Cove.

If you had gone this weekend, the weather would have been windy, chilly and you might even have experienced intermittent rain showers. However, the tide pool denizens are more likely to be active in cold and damp weather than on hot, sunny days.

Hardy folks who went yesterday might even have been treated to the sight of TWO WHALES BREACHING SIMULTANEOUSLY. From the ACS/LA logbook for 21 Jan 2012:

As of 21 JAN 2012

Southbound Today --------------- 17
Northbound Today ---------------- 0
Total Whales Today ------------- 17
Southbound Calves Today --------- 0
Northbound Calves Today --------- 0

Season to Date (since 1 Dec 2011)

Southbound -------------------- 472
Northbound ---------------------- 5
Total ------------------------- 477
Calves South ------------------- 16
Calves North -------------------- 0

Message from the observers: High winds and BREACHING gray whales! Two different whales were breaching at the same time: one breached four times, and the other breached once. A short time later, another whale breached three times; we actually found this whale when it first breached. We saw flukes on three of the ten sightings. All sightings were within a mile offshore; one was just beyond the kelp line. We also spotted a large pod of common dolphin. The day ended with a series of three green flashes; the last flash turned blue at the end.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society takes their census of the near-shore migratory route from the patio of the Palos Verdes Interpretive Center. Local newspapers had reported an unprecedented number of whales sighted in the early season. (No one can tell if this is a shift toward an earlier migration or a shift in routes or an increase in total whale population.)

Our family stopped by Point Vicente on our way home last weekend with our binoculars. The whale census taker on duty said that she had only seen two whales that day. We did see countless birds of many varieties, a large pod of cavorting dolphins just beyond the kelp line and two sea lions lazing on the rocks.

There's still plenty of good whale watching opportunities this year. And there will be another good tide pooling opportunity at Abalone Cove the weekend of February 18-19, 2012.

More info:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Call of the wild: read me a quilt 2012

When cleaning out Iris' room, we found a copy of Call of the wild and this stuffed dog that barks when you squeeze it. It begged for a delectable mountains quilt for the read me a quilt program. (The book+quilt combos are given to children in the LA County foster care program with the help of Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA.)

I started with this fabric sample donated by Robert Kaufman, when the fabric was discontinued.

I made three delectable mountains blocks by sewing two roughly 18" square pieces of fabric into half square blocks. Then I sliced them vertically in three places, reversed their order and sewed them up into liberated delectable mountains blocks. I used my ruler strictly as a straight edge and did not look at the markings.

I used two fabric samples, 5 purchased 1/2 yard fabrics (I lacked suitable sky fabric), 1.5 yards of yardage from my collection for the mountains and then improvisationally pieced the rest using fabric from my scrap bin. Inspired by Completely Cauchy's, Scraptacularity, Part I, in which she pieced straight strips into log cabins and then cut them up as fabric, I pieced my backing log cabin style. Can you see how the backing was constructed?

The pieces ranged in size from fat quarters to this tiny triangle.

While piecing the quilt, I relived memories of past projects. Many of the blue/green fabrics were leftover from a baby quilt from pre-blog days; that baby is now in 7th grade. The gray faux bois were also used in the gray tiered skirts in Hello Goth!

The blue shirting with green stripes came from one of Bad Dad's thrifted shirt. When the collar & cuffs became too frayed to be presentable, I cut the body up to make a blue tiered skirt shown in Blue. The sleeves were cut up and used for this quilt.

Piecing scraps into fabric is labor intensive. In analyzing why I am drawn to quilts that are traditionally associated with African American quilt communities, I realized that I appreciate both the visual texture derived from the worn nature of the old fabrics and the labor-intensive and miraculous act of making something from nothing.

The process is part of the quality of the quilt, the inherent thingness of the thingy that Robert Pirsig wrote about in Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.

This is my entry for the Scrap Attack Quilt Along.

Scrap Attack Quilt-Along

Past read me a quilts:
2011: Treasure Island
2010: Cat in a hat
Artful resourcefulness from fiber artist Abigail Doan

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sea creature?

Is this a cuttlefish?

No, it's a citrus fruit called Buddha's hand!

Just one finger makes a lovely vinaigrette as shown here.

It was not in your CSA box. But, I share my hyperlocal garden bounty with other area gardeners. Right now, my Meyer lemon tree is groaning under the weight of many lemons. I traded a few for this Buddha's hand.

I can't use the entire thing, so I am offering up chunks of this to other CSA participants. Email me if you would like some. I also have Meyer lemons, rosemary, oregano and bay leaves to share.

Better yet, drop by the Adams Middle School Wellness Fair this Saturday, January 21, 2012 from 10:00AM to 1:00PM at (where else?) Adams Middle School.

I will be there. Stop by to say hello and pick up some hyperlocal Buddha's hand, Meyer lemons, rosemary, oregano and bay leaves!

This was originally posted at the Adams School CSA Blog, but I thought this was too cool not to share here, also. Please come by and say hello. Better yet, sign up for regular CSA deliveries.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Moonrise on the 10

Coming home after a full day out and about LA.

Postconsumer waste sewing

LA Times Garbage Maven, Susan Carpenter, explored what to do with old clothes. She's only recently began researching the topic. Read my wardrobe refashion, quilting and sewing posts for some of my experiences/ideas.

Many sewing blogs focus on sewing the latest patterns and fabrics. I do pattern reviews of recent patterns, too, in the hopes of helping out others as they have helped me. However, very few people show their more mundane projects like turning old t-shirts into rags or old towels into terry mop covers for cleaning hardwood floors.

So here's how I turn our worn-out hole-y t-shirts into rags. By themselves, they are too thin. So I cut off the sleeves and neckline/shoulders, turn the shirt inside out (so that the graphics stay on the inside and don't grab/drag on the furniture it polishes), fold them mid-torso, and then sew down the edges to hold it all together. These are now 4-ply thick, absorbent, lint-free and sturdy.

These rags are used and washed repeatedly until they fall apart.

The sleeves are separately sewn on one end to form a polishing mitt. Socks are used to polish shoes or for bicycle chain lubrication. They get tossed when they are dirtied.

Leftovers from sewing projects get thrown in a 66 quart bin of scraps. The bin was overflowing and I made 6 baby togs for two toddlers. The blue and white ensemble was made from scraps from my PJ pants (black) and a t-shirt (blue/black print) project.

The pink and purple ensemble was made from an old tie-dyed t-shirt (itself a refashion) and scraps from the two kits hoodies. I had to patch together fabric for some of the pieces. Kids clothes and quilts are perfect for using up scraps.

Here they are, lying on another post-consumer waste sewing project. More on that later.

OMG, I just saw the original leopard hoodie back in 2009 in Camouflage. Cute, cute, cute!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mr Daisey goes to Shenzhen

Ever wonder who makes your stuff? Mike Daisey did and he went to China to meet the people who make his Apple stuff. The result is both humorous and heartbreaking. Don't miss Mr Daisey and the Apple Factory.

This confirms the stuff I read Factory Girls, a book that follows the lives of several teenage girls that left the countryside to seek factory jobs. The girls report that factories don't allow them to leave on their (once monthly) day off if the guards suspect that they won't return. If a worker can't leave when the conditions are intolerable, then they are slaves. (You say involuntary labor, I say slaves.)

There's so much else I want to talk about, but I don't have time.

Follow these links instead:

Monday, January 09, 2012

Vogue 8605

Doesn't thislook much better than this?

It looked so sad and baggy on the dressform that approximates my figure, yet it looks so fabulous on Pennamite. The pattern illustration is deceptive. The simple-looking design contains no bust darts and it looked like a loose-fitting sack that would fit anyone.

In reality, it was an engineering marvel with bust darts incorporated into the shape of the collar, which were integrated into the front pattern piece. The body has only a front/collar and a back piece (aside from two rectangles for the button/buttonhole patches, pockets and a curved piece to finish the collar).

I finished it beautifully with bound seam allowances and a window buttonhole. I used a wool blend crepe (mostly wool from the way it behaves when steamed) and a small amount of linen/rayon plainweave for the contrast.

I sewed a size 12, which should fit my measurements. But it was huge. I might try making this for myself in a much smaller size (8?), but am not sure that it still wouldn't sag up front. It was engineered to flatter a womanly figure. If you've got one, then I heartily recommend this pattern for you.

It looked so great on Pennamite, and she took the lifetime Wardrobe Refashion pledge, that I offered to make her another one in a drapey graphic black/white check in my fabric collection. She replied that she would accept one, but wouldn't I want to make myself something from the fabric? What she doesn't know is that I have more than one black/white fabric. ;-)

I think the next one will have a giant snap so I can eliminate the buttonhole. I will also serge finish the seam allowances and hems, allowing her to add some of her crochet designs to trim the collar. Because we already have the fit worked out, it can be a 1 hr project. I can cut and sew while she crochets the edging.

Why do I want to foist clothing on a friend instead of sewing for myself? Have you seen the custom shoes and art handbags that she creates? You can purchase one of her creations at the Pennamite Zibbet store, or contact her for a custom commission.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The planetary cost of cashmere

So Zo asked her readers what bullshit they had uncovered recently. I emailed that I have a whole blog series about bullshit and that I felt a rising rant about cashmere bullshit. I promised to write this post and cross-post it on her blog.

So why was I so upset?

Last month, I had toured the giant Macy's in Union Square (San Francisco), which contained racks and racks of cashmere. They represented a lot of goats! 20-30 years ago, cashmere was a rare luxury, not an ubiquitous gift sold for $49.

Where did they all come from? How could there be enough goats in central Asia to make so many sweaters in so many outlets?

The media was full of stories about how to be a discerning consumer of quality cashmere or how to avoid being fleeced by adulterated cashmere. Newspapers need to write upbeat stories that draw many readers and teach them how to consume (products from their advertisers). But fearless bloggers like Zoe question whether this consumption is even necessary.

I was in San Francisco for the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting and had met Ryan Boller from NASA Goddard, who was showing an improved algorithm for the detection of aerosols from space.

The global dust belt has not received as much press as the global fashion weeks so you might not be familiar with this story. (Aerosols can be dust, clouds--both liquid water and ice, pollution, sea spray and volcanic ash). Occasionally, dust can be injected into the jet stream, a fast-moving river of air that circles the globe. Asian dust ends up in north America, American dust ends up in Europe, European dust ends up in Asia and so on.

The Sahara desert used to be THE major source for dust, but there are other smaller seasonal sources, such as glaciers grinding rocks in Alaska. The amount of dust is rising, and global dust season is lengthening due to both growth in dust sources (industrialization and desertification) and lengthening of local dust seasons.

In recent years, Mongolia has become a major source of dust. The Gobi desert is spreading up into the Mongolia Steppes and the goats did it. Or rather, we did it, with our collective lust for cashmere.

Pastoralism Unraveling in Mongolia explains
Sukhtseren Sharav has a herd of 150 goats and 100 sheep, and as they chew their way through everything else, and the sharilj spreads, he must shepherd them ever higher into the mountains to find fresh grazing land.

The lack of foraging terrain is not Mr. Sharav’s only worry. The price for cashmere, the wool made from the fleece of his goats, has plunged 50 percent from last year. The price of flour, his most essential food staple, has more doubled.

These are hard times for Mongolia’s cashmere industry, which provides jobs and income for a third of the country’s population of 2.6 million and supplies about 20 percent of the world’s market for the fluffy, feather-light fiber, prized for its warmth, delicate feel and long wear.

To compensate for low prices, herders have been increasing supply by breeding more goats — a classic vicious circle. Mongolia’s goat population is now approaching 20 million, the highest ever recorded.

Environmentalists and social scientists say this is destroying biodiversity and pastureland, and undermining herding livelihoods. But goats are hardier than other livestock, breed faster and can survive on sparser resources: so, the more the land is degraded, the more herders are driven to switch from cows, camels or other less destructive herds — another vicious circle.
This is a tragedy for the herders with global consequences. Aerosols are a strong feedback to the global radiative budget. In plain English, this means that dust traps heat. This can have both local and global consequences as the trapped heat changes the global air circulation, impacting storm patterns, heat waves, etc.

Ryan shared some examples. You can find more in the NASA Earth Observatory Dust, Smoke and Haze page. Take a look at the dust traveling from Mongolia toward China in April 2011.
The sparsely vegetated grasslands of the Gobi frequently give rise to dust storms, especially in springtime.
Here's another example, from May 2008.
According to a May 27 report from the Agence France-Presse news agency, dust from this storm pushed Beijing’s pollution levels to the highest level, prompting the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau to warn sensitive individuals to stay indoors.
Seeing the global-scale devastation caused by the cashmere industry, and learning of the suffering it has caused Mongolian herders has taken the luster off cashmere for me. I didn't purchase any this year (though I did knit a cotton/cashmere blend sweater this year with yarn purchased and stashed previously).

If you already have cashmere, don't sweat it. Take good care of it so it lasts. I have cashmere sweaters that are 25+ years old (one bought new, two bought at thrift shops).

I hope that, after reading this, you will consume more carefully, and in smaller quantities. I further hope that your natural curiosity and bullshit detector will lead you to delve deeper.

I recommend:

Monday, January 02, 2012

2011 Wrap-up

Imagine a collage of the 74 things I sewed and knitted in 2011 right here. Further imagine that I threw in some highlights from our family travels. Imagine that the Picasa collage software lost all my carefully selected images and added random ones that I did not want .four. .times. and that is why there is no collage here.

Instead, you will get pictures of the first and last things I completed in 2011, the Japanese Feather and Fan and Akimbo Shawls, both in Malabrigo sock yarn.

I took time off at midnight to toast with my family, but then I went back into the sewing room and finished another pair of pajama pants from Vogue 1146.

There is no point in modeling yet another pair of serviceable and comfy PJs.

My first FO made completely in 2012 is Vogue 8605 and it was a partial fail. I finished it beautifully with bound seam allowances and a window buttonhole. I used a wool blend crepe (mostly wool from the way it behaves when steamed) and a small amount of linen/rayon plainweave for the contrast.

But, it was a painful and time-consuming way to learn that the Vogue Woman patterns, even loose ones like this, are sized for a womanly D-cup, which certainly does not work for me.

I started tracking my projects on a spreadsheet and was surprised at the 2011 total.
  • I made 34 things for me and 40 things for others.
  • Iris received 18 of the 40.
  • Some were really quick.
  • Eight of the items were simple baby pants; I can turn out 3 in an hour when I batch them and I don't have to change serger thread colors.
  • But some took .forever., like the pirate-themed improvisational quilt.
  • 13 skirts
  • 16 tops
  • 6 dresses
  • 4 jackets
  • 6 scarves or shawls (2 sewn, 4 knitted)
  • 2 nightgowns or PJs
  • 12 pairs of pants--all knit pull-on style
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 7 sweaters
  • 1 complete quilt for charity
  • 5 quilt tops for charity
  • 1 wall hanging for our home not included in count above.
I started the first project of 2011, the feather and fan shawl, while sitting on an ocean-view balcony in Zanzibar. I finished the last project of the year at home, chatting with my family. It was a challenging and rewarding year.

I wish you the best in 2012.