Saturday, April 27, 2013


I watched the conclusion of The Great British Sewing Bee tonight and I have only one thing to say: #oldpeoplearegoodateverything.

Ann deserved to win the competition and all of the participants were worthy competitors.

The epilogue confused me.  It said that Ann had recently taken up quilting.  That's not true.

Look at Ann Rowley's Flickr stream, particularly the Patchwork and Quilting sets. There are examples of her quiltwork going back several years.  Check out the label on her Stars in the Garden quilt.  The quilt was started in 2005 and finished in 2007, years before The Great British Sewing Bee.

Exploring Ann's Flickr photostream, you can learn that she knits, crochets, quilts and makes garments.  She can pretty much do anything well.  Is this among the neatest and best executed tubular cast-ons you have ever seen?

#oldpeoplearegoodateverything and may we all live to make it true!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ciclavia April 2013

Iris passed up a chance to ride between Venice Beach and downtown Los Angeles on the back of the tandem. She stayed home to do whatever it is teenagers do at home. Bad Dad and I rode Ciclavia to the Sea on our own. I practiced stoker photography.

It was pretty thrilling to ride city boulevards without worrying about dodging cars and trucks.
Crossing California 101.
Crossing Interstate 110, the Harbor Freeway.
We saw about a dozen of these double decker bikes.  They show incredible skill getting on and off these elevated bikes at intersections.  You'd be even more impressed if you knew how crowded the event was on the west side.  (Follow that link for physics professor Clifford V. Johnson's photos of overcrowding and thoughts on how to make the next Ciclavia better.)
Bad Dad refused to pack any ride snacks, preferring to forage off the land. In Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles, Jonathan Gold wrote, "There may be as many as 500 Salvadoran restaurants in central Los Angeles, and at least half of them are pretty good."  The route along Venice Boulevard gave us a chance to sample the odds.

We are happy to report, we struck pupusa gold at Con Sabor!  We picked it because it looked like it could be a good place, didn't have a line out the door, and had bike parking.

Neither of us ordered stuffed pupusas, but they brought hot, fresh plain ones with our entrees.  I ate shrimp in garlic sauce with plantains and Salvadoran rice.  Yum.  I was also impressed that they offered about 30 different pupusa choices, half of them vegetarian.
We are going back. But, just like the reviews in Yelp warns, the food is good, but the service is slow. They cook it to order so bring a good book or conversationalist while you await your food.  We ate so much, we negated all the calories we burned and then some.

The next Ciclavia follows Wilshire Boulevard, between Downtown and the Miracle Mile (aka Museum Row aka Midtown) Los Angeles on June 23, 2013.  If you see a family with a silver Tandem, do say hello.  Contact us in advance and we can meet up for Ethiopian food in little Ethiopia in Midtown.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

National Park Week

In the midst of Earth Day Week hoopla, you may have missed the announcement of National Park Week.
Did you know…that from Monday, April 22 – Friday, April 26, the national parks waive all entrance fees? So, whether it is your first trip, or the latest of many memorable park experiences, there couldn’t be a better time to get out and explore!

Did you know…that with 401 parks coast-to-coast, every American is less than 100 miles from a national park experience? National Park Week is the perfect opportunity to explore and enjoy these amazing places — so check the calendar of events, lace up your boots, pack your bag and set out on a national park adventure uniquely your own!
That's right. Sequestration be damned! The the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation partner to waive park entrance fees all week.

You needn't feel left out just because you can't make it out of the city this week.  Did you know that the NPS operates small historical sites/parks/museums in cities around the country? We visited the Statue of Liberty in Disney vs NPS.  NPS also operates Ellis Island, Angel Island...

Go find a park near you!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Shortcut

This video from National Geographic makes many of the points I keep harping about, so I don't have to bother writing another earth day post from scratch.

Thinking holistically and extrinsically, taking shorter showers is fine, but consuming less things that take enormous amounts of water and energy to produce is even better.

Cotton is a notoriously thirsty crop, so consuming one less t-shirt frees up enough drinking water for 900 people for one day.  This is not an academic tradeoff.  Water is routinely diverted from other uses in food-scarce dry and poor countries to produce cotton, a cash crop sold abroad. 

Meat is also high up on the water and energy footprint scale.  After some trial and deliberation, we've decided not to go completely meatless, but to enjoy vegetarian meals more often than not.  YMMV. But, if each household trimmed back their consumption by 20% (of any good), that's the same impact as if one household in five went cold turkey and the rest did nothing out of the mistaken belief it was an all or nothing proposition.


Friday, April 19, 2013

The Onion Nails It

This is the bestest front page I saw all week.

Pay particular attention to the center column of "Recent News"

Scroll down further to see BREAKING: We're Doing A Bad Job
After soliciting information from the public regarding the quality of our reporting and taking an honest look at what we’ve done in the past hour, we have learned that not only is our coverage substandard, but atrocious. Sources confirmed that, if we’re being honest, we have done nothing but waste your time. Moreover, reports indicate that nothing will actually be worth reporting until the second bombing suspect is apprehended or killed.
Also note the satirical Op-Ed "by" Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President Of The National Rifle Association, I Won.
The truth is, you never had a fucking chance. I had Congress in my back pocket the entire time, and so when that big gun control proposal reared its ugly head, we gradually chipped away at it, snipping away provisions for an assault rifle ban and restrictions on high-capacity magazines until all that was left was the idea of expanding background checks to keep military-grade killing implements from falling into the hands of criminals and the mentally unhinged, a relatively innocuous measure supported by 90 percent of Americans.

And, because I was winning by such a large margin at that point and was on my way to a blowout victory, even that tiny little provision didn’t stand a chance at being passed into law. In fact, it couldn’t even clear a minor procedural hurdle. Hell, legislators from both sides of the aisle came together yesterday and crushed it right out of the gate, making me, and the groups that finance me, very, very happy.
During edX section meeting the morning, our TA held the section from her apartment because Boston was on lockdown.  Another student said that the police helicopters were flying over her area looking for the fugitive.

I think that what Boston has experienced this week*is* horrible.  But, I would also like to point out that police helicopters fly nightly over parts of Los Angeles looking for armed and dangerous murderers and that doesn't make national news.  I covered this in Our Children so you know where I stand.

Just in case you haven't had your fill of news, may I suggest:

It's time for the silent majority to stand up and hold our elected officials accountable.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Grandma Sewing

I had uploaded these pictures and entitled it Grandma Sewing before we left for our Santa Fe trip, but didn't have time to write the post.  The premiere of The Great British Sewing Bee in the interim and the ensuing brouhaha over age and experience versus youthful enthusiasm is entirely coincidental.

I made another (5th!) Simplicity 2938 last month out of a thrifted men's shirt and a little bit of cotton lawn from SAS.  Actually, I used the same orange and white cotton lawn in my own blue and orange Simplicity 2938.  This one is petite-sized and will go to the same friend who received a brown and green version in Care package.

The center panel is double layered and the princess seams are enclosed inside the two layers.  See this photo-tutorial of the technique.  Topologically, it's the same technique used to sew double-layer shirt yokes without hand stitching.  I'm pretty sure that I inherited my topological abilities from my foremothers.
I bound the neckline with bias strips cut from one of the sleeves.  The ends of the bias tubes are sewn at 45 degree angles so that the seam allowances spiral around, leaving no one place in the circle especially bulky.  RTW does not do that, except at very high price points.  But, grandmas might have done that and I aspire to that level of workmanship.
The armholes were also bound with bias tubes.  These are a bit puckered because I did an experiment to see if trimming my seam allowances more closely can substitute for clipping curves.  I can save you from reproducing that experiment because you can see that it didn't work.  Nevertheless, the armholes are still comfortable and the puckering should not be apparent to the casual (non-sewing) observer.
I used flat-fell seams at the shoulders.  Tops hang from the shoulders and I find that the weight of the top dragging against the skin there can chafe.  I prefer to avoid serged or zig-zag finishes at the shoulders for that reason.  Better t-shirts are taped across the back neck and shoulders for both structural support and to reduce chafing.

In the photo below, you are looking at one shoulder seam, from the inside.  The row on the left is stitched from the inside; you are looking at the "right" side of the stitching.  The row on the left is stitched from the outside so you are viewing the less pretty "wrong" side of the stitching.  The better the machine, and the better the stitch balance, the more closely these two sides resemble one another.
I employed French seams at the curved side seams.
This is grandma sewing--the kind of sewing that our grandmas did with resources available to them.

Fabric was scarce and costly.  Cloth was cut into men's clothes.  When those wore out--usually at the seams--they were carefully picked apart and used for slightly smaller women's clothes.  When those wore out, they were cut up into children's clothes or for patchwork items.

This shirt had a wonky spread collar and a bleach stain on the shoulder.  But its beautiful cotton was worth the $2 I paid at the thrift store.  The cotton lawn is pre-consumer waste from SAS Fabrics.  I used thread leftover from other projects and a well-used pattern, making this top 100% recycled.

I want to make a related point.  Our grandmas did not have bins full of patterns (as I have).  They had a few that they used over and over.  Familiarity allowed them to sew faster because they had already fitted the pattern to the intended wearer.  Sewing quickly was important because they had many other demands on their time.  Time is a resource.

Our grandma probably had a machine that could only sew a straight stitch, but did that better than most of today's cheap machines with their 150 stitch patterns and plastic parts*.  IMHO, single-needle tailoring, with only a straight stitch, trumps all other shirt seam finishes for beauty and wearability.  It takes a bit more time and skill, but it's worth the time and practice to produce something fabulous.  Our grandmas could probably pull off single needle tailoring relatively quickly because that's all they practiced.

BTW, our grandma's clothes probably lasted longer than ours because they weren't worn out in tumble dryers.  She hung them up on a clothesline--correctly.

*Stitch patterns are done today with software and not metal cams.  Software is much cheaper than precision-made metal parts.  Thus, we have $99 machines that can sew 150 stitch patterns--all of them badly unbalanced.

Enjoy these Links:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

First, do no harm

I am NOT sick, but I wish this article was available, years ago, when I was seriously sick.
For a Sick Friend: First, Do No Harm: Conversing with the ill can be awkward, but keeping a few simple commandments makes a huge difference
It's a short article with 10 simple rules.  I've heard all the don'ts mentioned in the article and can affirm that they all make the sick person feel even worse.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Go Seamsters!

I have been away for a week so I didn't have a chance to watch The Great British Sewing Bee until today. I found it compelling, even if the drama was a bit contrived. I would much prefer to watch people sew than to cook. (YMMV)

The BBC bios of the contestants.
BBC page for the show with links to watch it in the UK.

The full episodes are also on YouTube for those of us outside the UK.

An A-line skirt in 3.5 hours in an user-friendly fabric should be doable, but a fly front men's trouser in 4 hours?  Really?  Does the skill, time and effort scale?

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

One of the great things I notice about people who make stuff is that they are generally nice and likable people.  There are no villains and it was sad to see contestants sent off at the end of each episode.

The challenges didn't show off the skills of Mark, who was sent home after the 2nd episode.  The steampunk costumes he sews for himself are incredible.  Who wouldn't have a soft spot for a guy who says, honestly and unironically, that he enjoys evenings sewing in the living room next to his wife, each of them at their own sewing machines, with the telly on?

82 year old Ann is the favorite to win.  I like this tweet.
This old woman shouldn't be allowed on The Great British Sewing Bee, she's obviously going to win #oldpeoplearegoodateverything #unfair
I really like the hashtag, #oldpeoplearegoodateverything.