Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bloomsday 2010

I have been remiss in reporting milestones in our microclimate. When we returned from our trip to NYC, we were greeted by a cereus in full bloom. It looked like the flower had been open for 24+ hours. (The blooms on this plant tend to last 2 nights.) So the first cereus bloom of 2010 was April 16-17. It was April 28 last year.

The same orchid pictured in Bloomsday 2009 bloomed later, and the flowers are dropping earlier.

The columbines have come and gone.

The irises popped open around May 17, which puts them on par with last year.

Iris harvested our first strawberries last week.  That's behind 2007, but we also planted them later.  They never made it into the house.  She ate them without washing, while walking the 10 feet from the garden to the dining room.  I am glad that our veggies are 'unsprayed'.

Notice the general messiness of our kitchen garden?  That's called natural pest control.  The garlic chives and green onions are supposed to ward off insects.

We also have new dresses, both from current Burda patterns.
The sleeves puff out like little flowers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2010 El Segundo Bike to Work Challenge Results

I admit that I was tempted not to bike in today, when confronted with the rain mist this morning.   But, I waited until 8:30, when the rain lightened up and biked in. It felt great.  In raw totals, my team did not win.  However, the metric that really counts in my book is the ratio of bicycle-commuters to total employees.  We win that one handily.

From the press release:
Congratulations to the official winners of the 2010 Bike To Work Challenge -- Raytheon !!!!!
The rain truly made this year a challenge to cycle commute, but 131 employees safely cycled to work. The total includes Los Angeles World Airport's Westside Welcome Station/Pitstop at World Way West, Equity Office's Welcome Station/Pitstop at the Howard Hughes Center, and Electronic Art's Welcome Station/Pitstop at EA.
The breakdown was as follows: 
1. Raytheon 38
2. The Aerospace Corporation 30
3. Boeing 20
4. Los Angeles Air Force Base (Military/Civilian) 17
5. Equity Office / Howard Hughes Center 9
6. Electronic Arts 6
7. Los Angeles World Airports 5
8. DirecTV 3
9. Mattel 2
10. Scitor 1
The numbers are drastically down from 2009 and 2008.  Everyone blamed the weather.  In bicycle meccas, Amsterdam and Portland, today would have been labeled a fair weather day.  I think that we are not used to damp bicycle commuting and lack the proper raingear.  Heck, Angelenos are not even very good at damp automobile commuting.

On the bright side, the odds of winning the raffle were very high.  Both Bad Dad and I won DVD players.  Because we only have one TV, and it is already hooked up to a newish Blu-ray player, we didn't need another DVD player.  We gave them away to coworkers within minutes of winning.

If you didn't bike in today, you have another chance at some serious SWAG. 
Thursday, May 20:  In addition, Raytheon and The Aerospace Corporation will co-host a Pit-Stop at the El Segundo/Nash Green Line Station from 6 to 9:30 a.m. in honor of the 16th annual Bike-to-Work Day.   All cyclists are invited to stop by for refreshments and giveaways.  This is but one of the 40 pit stops throughout the LA region.  View the Google Map of all Bike to Work Day Pit Stops.

Pledge at the link below to be part of the solution and win prizes. In addition, obtain information about 40 pit stop locations, local events, free rides, and bike safety tips. Visit
http://www.metro.net/around/bikes/bikes-metro/bike-to-work/ for more information.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Granny Squares on Steroids

My, grandma, what big crocheted squares you have.

They are so large, she needs to crochet them with a broomstick.
They make Jack and the beanstalk giant-sized crocheted and felted granny squares and braided rugs out of merino wool roving.  Read more at Oversize Felt Rugs, Born in a SoHo Loft.

Bike to Work Week 2010

With all the calamities that have occurred recently at coal mines and natural gas and oil rigs in the past couple of months, I had hoped that people would make the connection between their personal behavior and the loss of life and environmental degradation.

I haven't seen a reduction in LA traffic.  Have you seen people use less fossil fuels and conserve more?

Help us turn this around.  Spend this weekend getting your bike and gear ready for Bike to Work Week 2010 (link goes to the national site).  If you live in the LA metro area, visit the Metro Bike Week LA website for the calendar of events.  If you live in the South Bay, read on.
A record number of cyclists are expected to give bicycle commuting a try and leave their cars at home in honor of Bike-to-Work Week, which will be held May 17 through 21. The following events are planned.

Bike-to-Work Week Events

Tuesday, May 18: The 11th annual Bike-to-Work Challenge with other El Segundo employers (Boeing, DirecTV, Equity Office/Howard Hughes Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Los Angeles World Airports, Northrop Grumman, Playa Vista, and Raytheon)will be held.

The Aerospace Employees' Association (AEA) Cycling/Bike Commuter Club and Aerospace Commuter Services will cosponsor a challenge to see who can attract the most bicycle commuters. All cyclists who ride their bikes to work that day, regardless of the starting point or whether they rode with the group, will receive a continental breakfast, a T-shirt, and promotional items.

When cyclists arrive at work, they should go to Aerospace's Visitor Lot/Gate C (located on Douglas Street), turn left before the security guard shack, and sign in anytime between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. to receive their cycling rewards.

In addition, Los Angeles World Airports will hold a Westside Welcome Station/Pit Stop at World Way West for all Bike-to-Work Challenge participants who ride in from the Westside. Beach cities riders can make a pit stop and join others continuing the ride to the Aerospace Welcome Station.

Thursday, May 20:  In addition, Raytheon and The Aerospace Corporation will co-host a Pit-Stop at the El Segundo/Nash Green Line Station from 6 to 9:30 a.m. in honor of the 16th annual Bike-to-Work Day.   All cyclists are invited to stop by for refreshments and giveaways.  This is but one of the 40 pit stops throughout the LA region.  View the Google Map of all Bike to Work Day Pit Stops.

Pledge at the link below to be part of the solution and win prizes. In addition, obtain information about 40 pit stop locations, local events, free rides, and bike safety tips. Visit
http://www.metro.net/around/bikes/bikes-metro/bike-to-work/ for more information.

Friday, May 21: Bike to School Day
Help the next generation develop life-long bicycle commuting habits.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vogue 8657

I am shocked that no one guessed that my new top was made with Vogue 8657.

Here's how it looks on the pattern envelope.

 Here's how it looks on me.

I cut the sleeves on the bias for visual interest.  I made a long buttonhole in the front to thread the belt through, but it looks better on me if I the belt around, rather than through the right front piece.  Even then, the front flaps open; it's better suited as a jacket instead of a top.

The top uses a great deal of fabric because everything but the sleeves are self-lined.  I wanted something softer and lighter for the inside layer, so I used a textured rayon with a tone-on-tone black plaid weave.  It turned out to be a good coordinate.  Forewarned by Noile, I cut the top 1.5" longer than the pattern.  It was a good call because the top falls right where I like my jackets to hit.

The pattern didn't mention interfacing, but I interfaced the neck edges.  The waviness at the bias right front attests to the need for thin strips of interfacing along those edges, too.  Interface up the the points on both sides; those edges are along the bias.

You may also notice the absence of bust darts.  I pinched out half the bust dart height, and then eased the front to the back along the side seams in the bust area.  This creates enough room for an A-cup, without sewing arrows pointing toward a bust point (that may not actually match your figure).  I learned that trick from Vogue 1695, a Perry Ellis pattern from 1986.  The 1980s was an awesome decade for flat-chested girls.  I could sew Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis patterns right out of the envelope.

My main beef with this pattern is the sleeve cap.  You can't tell in these photos, but there is very slight visible pucker at the top of the sleeve caps.   It wasn't the bias that caused the puckers.

The sleeve is a victim of The Myth of Sleeve Cap Ease.   When I cut out the top and looked at the sleeve piece, I thought, "Those are mighty tall sleeve caps."   I should have stopped and compared the sleeve pattern piece with the front and back pieces to compare heights, and taken an appropriately-sized tuck across the sleeve cap to remove the ease.  But I trusted the pattern and plowed ahead.   I should have listened to my inner alarm bell.

Look at the pictures in Sleeve cap ease is bogus for further proof.

If you don't look too closely, it looks like a nice outfit.  I wore it for 10 hours one Saturday, and it was comfortable and fun.  The fronts are nicely balanced so that they naturally fall to form a nearly symmetrical v-neck that stayed symmetrical, sitting or standing.  I don't understand how the patternmaker who could achieve that couldn't make a proper sleeve cap.

The skirt is the out of print (OOP) Vogue 9679.  I wrote about it in Unsuitable for obvious stripes.  When I cut out the top, I realized that I could either make a matching belt, or I could eke out a pair of shorts with the remnants.  I made zero waste shorts.  If you are a patternreview.com user, my pattern review is here.

Noile had a really bad experience with this top.
I used an extremely light — almost handkerchief light — rayon blend.  Doubled, it folds; it does not drape.  If you want flow, you’ll need to use the thinnest silk you can find, or chiffon.
I disagree; I think that you need weight to force the front to drape. I used midweight linen and rayon and it falls nicely.

The other problem is something that I used to do often.  I bought patterns for the figure I wished I had, instead of the figure that I do have.

OK,  so there are several problems here.  The first is what I have in common with Judi Dench.  Dame Dench has been quoted as having said (either to Charlie Rose or to USA Today, I can’t seem to track it down):
In my mind’s eye I’m 6 feet tall and slender as a willow, and I’ll go through life like that.
She is five feet, one and three-quarters inches tall  (156.8 cm).  I am five two and a half (158.8 cm).   Not unlike Judi Dench, in my mind’s eye I am six feet tall (182.9 cm) and a Swedish Amazon.  This is possibly why I am drawn to patterns like Vogue 8657:
Noile normally has to adjust patterns to accommodate a full bust.  I adjusted this to accommodate a small bust.  Honestly, I think this design only works for the flat-chested.  I don't know why they drew the pattern with B-cup sized bust darts.

BTW, I am not a 6" tall amazon, though I would like to be.  (I would have gotten a lot more playing time in my club volleyball days if I were taller.)  I am 5'5", with a 16" back waist length, 1/4" shorter than the 16 1/4" quoted in the Vogue Measurement chart for a size 12.  I needed to add 1 1/2" length at the hem to make it look like the pattern envelope.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

When it pays to procrastinate

I read in a decorating book that you can expect to decorate a child's room three times--before they are born, when they are a young child and can express their own preference, and again when they hit their teens.

When we bought the house, we painted all the walls a creamy white.  When I was pregnant, we painted the bottom half of the walls in the nursery periwinkle blue and I stamped some graphic designs above that.

We've been very busy and have put off repainting Iris' room to gold, her favorite color.

This week, she told me that gold/yellow is no longer her favorite color.  It is now blue or purple.  Actually, it is the color between blue and purple; she thinks it is called periwinkle.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


I invoke 1984 in a good way.  I moved from the despised suburb* to Berkeley in Fall of 1984.  Hand-knitting was undergoing a resurgence and I could buy nice yarns and patterns in the US.  (I learned to knit in Germany in 1983.)  Don't judge this issue by the cover.  There are dozens of fantastic knit and crochet designs inside, but they put the least attractive one on the cover.
I stopped knitting in my first year of grad school.  I made the mistake of knitting at an evening seminar and garnered more attention than I was comfortable with.  I was one of the few women in that department, and it was scary enough without being marked as FEMALE across my forehead.  So I stopped knitting until that afternoon with my deceased friend.

I had wanted to knit this sweater since 1984, but I didn't get around to it until 2002 or so.
When I resumed knitting, I was using too wool-ease, an acrylic/wool blend readily available at Joann's and Michael's.  It was fine for baby knits that get washed often, but I really wish I had used better quality yarn for adult sweaters.  The cost savings is so small compared to the knitting effort.  Here's my wool-ease rendition.
Back then, I knit in the round as much as possible.  I didn't like to purl, so I knit only the center panel in reverse stockinette.  By knitting in the round, I could smooth out the traveling stitches of the tree branches by moving them one stitch per row (instead of 2 stitches every other row).  But I think the sweater loses something by not being entirely in reverse stockinette.  Actually it loses something by not being in a luscious high-quality wool.

The sweater was recently culled from my closet and sent to Bek, who sends me goodies from Australia that I can't get in LA.  Her blog is not always safe for work, but she has a highly attuned bullshit meter that makes for good reading.  The sweater will keep her warm while she writes her thesis.

Recently, I have been drawn toward patterns and magazines from the 1980s.  I find the fashion magazines from that era more interesting.  It was the era before designer labels became more important than DESIGN.   Brand hadn't become a verb yet.

Vogue editorial pages always contained at least one outfit that you can make yourself with Vogue patterns.  It ran in the regular "More dash than cash" section.  Vogue UK recently revived that section for one issue.  Fehr Trade posted pictures of the feature.

Elle published a monthly knitting pattern.  Vogue Knitting paired their sweaters with pants and skirts made from Vogue Patterns, for complete DIY nirvana.  The models were taller and thinner than the general population, but they weren't as skeletal (or as uniformly pale) as today's models.

There's a scene in the documentary, Paris is Burning, in which an old-timer to the drag ball scene observed that, in the beginning, people made their own costumes.  The ball competitions were about style and workmanship.  By the late 1980s, the competitions were about having expensive labels.  The young males had resorted to shoplifting and prostitution so that they could obtain the designer labels.

I share the horror when I look at today's fashion magazines.  Up to the early 1980s, clothes were still made domestically by middle class union members for middle class consumers. We've off-shored our clothing production so that we can produce 'mass-luxury' in far-away factories, which are surrounded by barbed wire so that the laborers don't run away. 

In Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, Dana Thomas showed how, over the last 20-30 years, the cost to produce a 'mass-luxury' item went from 15% of the retail price to 10%.  Over the same period, the amount spent on advertising went from 6% to 11%.  We've effectively given up production in order to focus on advertising.  Compare the numbers of people employed in clothing manufacturing and marketing/branding over the last thirty years.  How can this be sustainable? 

* With 20/20 hindsight, I realized that a suburb on the water, midway between Silicon Valley and San Francisco is a damn good place to call home. I should have been more grateful to my parents for the financial sacrifice it took to buy a home there.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Sixth Photo

sewdistracted asked me to repost my sixth photo.  I wasn't sure if I should use the sixth photo that I posted on my sister's blog or on mine.  I posted there for a while until she kicked me off in 2005.

When I saw that the sixth photo on this blog is one of my all-time favorite pictures of Iris, I knew what to do.  It was originally posted here.  Click on the link to see the lake.

I was very sick in March of 2005.  I heard about the 30 mile long lake that formed in Death Valley during that El Nino winter on NPR.  I had to see this sight.  Bad Dad thought it was a lousy idea for me to travel in my condition.  But, I thought, if it was a once in a lifetime event, and my lifetime was looking kinda short at that time, then I had to go see it.

Iris and I wore mommy and me Panama hats (which are really made in Ecuador).

We approached Death Valley from the southern entrance.  When we went over Salisbury pass, we were shocked by the fields of "Desert Gold" DYCs (damn yellow composite) that carpeted the alluvial fans that surround the valley.  Iris called the place "Springs Meadows". 

I was struggling to breathe and walk at the same time, so Mark was in charge of Iris and the camera.  He lured her out to a spot where he could frame a picture with her, the flowers and the snow-capped peaks in the distance. 

On the way to Death Valley, we stopped by Mitchell Cavern for a tour.  I had bought her sunglasses.

She lost them by the next day.
She was so cute at that age!  She's still cute, but in a different way.

Me Made May 1

During our cold snap a couple of weeks ago, I wore my own knitted creations three days in a row. Once I was on a roll, I decided to see how long I could keep it up. I've been wearing something that I knit, sewed or dyed every day since then.  This morning, Iris even joined in and wore both a top and skirt that I sewed for her!

That makes me an ideal candidate for Me-Made-May. The great thing about Me-Made-May is that we get to define our own rules for success.  I don't have any desire to make everything I wear.  But, I will challenge myself to wear something that I made or refashioned every day through May.  I did my semi-annual closet purge and inventory last weekend.  There were so many lovely things that I want to enjoy more often.

I don't have the time and energy to post every day, but I will try to post weekly through May, usually on the weekend. This is what I wore on May 1. You will have to wait to read the review of the jacket pattern. A free gift for the first person to guess the pattern! Leave a comment with your guess.
If you are new to this blog, you can see some of the things I have
See what others are wearing in the Me-Made-May Flickr group.