Dressing Ethically

Today is the one year anniversary of the fire that killed 1,133 workers in a Bangladesh garment factory. “Who makes your clothes?” As a person who sews I am tempted to feel smug and proudly answer, “I did.” But who made the fabric? The buttons? The zippers? The needle on my sewing machine? I don’t know.

Living ethically is a lot of work and I’m lazy. I care. I really do, but I don’t even know how to find out these things. I have to rely on the media to tell me about things like the fire in Bangladesh so I will know which clothing not to buy. But things get really complicated. Look at the labels. It’s all made in Bangladesh or some other place where children work 16 hours a day for fifty cents and are beaten for complaining. It makes one want to throw up one’s hands and say, “Well, sheesh! Why don’t we all just start sewing together leaves from the plants in our back yards and wear those?”

Thanks to the demand, there are now a few companies producing ethical clothing. (There’s no way I can write that sentence that doesn’t look weird.) If you work at it you can live ethically. But can you trust the claims of people who are trying to make money? And if you buy clothing that is 100% made in the USA are you starving some orphan in Bangladesh who was counting on that fifty cents a day, however hard earned it might have been?

I do appreciate that there are people out there keeping a watch out for this kind of thing. Just by reporting they can force manufacturers to clean up their acts. So keep reporting and I will shop ethically when I can. Just don’t expect me to go nuts about something over which I have no control.

High Chair

I would like for you all to know that I’m not the only maker in the family. My husband built this high chair. We have several other pieces of furniture that he built. This is just the most recent.

Now that’s impressive.

(He didn’t make the tray. That and the hardware came with the plans.)

Easter Earth Day Dress and Perky Young Girls From the 60′s

Here is last week’s sewing project. I did not originally plan this as an Easter dress but as I was working on it I thought about wearing it on Easter but I changed my mind because the weather was a bit cool. To start with, I must say that I do like it even though I’m about to complain a lot.

The pattern is Simplicity 1882. It’s one of their “Amazing Fit” patterns. The fit is not amazing. I can accept partial responsibility for that but not the entire responsibility. It has separate bodice pieces corresponding to different bra cup sizes so I used the one for my size and it was too big. I made some adjustment but size wasn’t the only problem. I have seen tutorials for full bust adjustment and for small bust adjustment but I have never seen a tutorial for how to adjust princess seams for girls that live a bit farther south than the girls the pattern was designed for. (if you know what I mean) With most patterns this is not much of a problem for me but this pattern was designed for exceptionally perky young girls that live way way up north. (if you know what I mean) I had an epiphany (I like that word, “epiphany”) to try it with the weird, pointy bra that I never wear because it looks too 60′s. That actually did improve the fit, somewhat, and doesn’t make this dress look too terribly pointy.

Another thing about this pattern… The description on the front of the envelope says, “Softly Pleated A-Line Skirt.” This is beyond misleading; it’s an outright fib. The skirt has no pleats. It has darts. No problem. I made an honest pattern of it and sewed the pleats I expected in place of darts.

Now for the good points. I love the pockets. The yoke and pocket is a single piece that folds. Now I know how I’m going to add pockets to the fake pocket Vogue. It was worth getting this pattern just for that. I did have to add a couple of inches of depth to these pockets because they would have been too shallow to be of much use but that was very easy to do.

The fabric is quilting cotton, which I use for dresses all the time. It worked okay but I wouldn’t recommend it for this pattern because the extra thicknesses of fabric for the collar and pocket trim make the seams in these areas rather bulky. It’s okay but I think most seamstresses would likely prefer a lighter fabric.

I put the zipper on the side instead of the back, which means I could have eliminated the center back seam but I didn’t think of it. This is the second time I’ve done a side zipper and I’m totally sold on them.

Overall, I really do like this dress though I think my favorite parts are the fabric and the pockets. I don’t know if I will use this pattern again or not. Aside from the fit issues I really prefer a bit fuller skirt. That of course is easy to change and perhaps I could figure out how to fix the fit but why bother? There are so many other patterns waiting for my attention.

Slow Reading

Fillyjonk has been thinking about slow reading and that reminded me of an article I bookmarked months ago titled “In Praise of Slow Reading” but, to my horror, I discovered that I have deleted the bookmark. Of all my gazillion bookmarks why did I delete that one? Fortunately, there’s that Google thing. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the article on the Google thing. I did find a NY Times article with almost the same title but that’s not it.

I also found In Praise of Fat Books and Slow Reading. Yes! Hooray for fat books! I consider 500 pages merely a good start. It takes me a long time to get through a book though. Slow reading is one of many things about which I can honestly say, “I was doing that before it was even a thing.” (That’s what happens to you as you get older. You start to realize that almost every new “thing” is really an old thing.) I sometimes wish I could read faster so I can get through more books in my lifetime but I don’t want to rush through books just so I can say, “Look, I’ve read all these books.”

Spritz, the new speed reading app that everyone’s talking about, makes me sad. And it makes me tired. I tried it and, yes, I could read about 400 or 500 words a minute but it feels like a test and after less than a minute I’m mentally worn out. Perhaps with practice I could get used to it enough so that I wouldn’t get the worn out feeling but I don’t think I could ever enjoy reading like that and I wonder how much I would be able to remember if I read a whole book or story that way. I like to be able to stop and re-read a sentence or a paragraph or turn back to something I read a few chapters back. (The latter is the one thing I don’t like about Kindle. You cannot easily return to a previous chapter.)

I see a lot of hand-wringing about fewer and fewer people reading books so it’s tempting to hope that new technologies will get more people reading but it seems to me that reading for entertainment has always been a bit of a fringe thing. People who read are weird. We get people asking us, “Why? Why don’t you just see the movie?” and strangers who see us reading in public and insist on talking to save us from “boredom”. And, the most bizarre thing to me, people who think that if you fall asleep while reading it must be because the book is boring and when you explain that the reason you fall asleep reading is because the book is so interesting you can’t put it down even if it’s 3:00 AM (or in my case more like 11:00 PM) and they don’t believe you.

Yes, we readers are weird to everyone else, always have been, and I am confident that there will always be weirdos in the world as long as weirdos keep having children and reading to them and raising them in homes filled with fat books. Getting people who weren’t raised this way to read? I’m not sure that’s possible. I think maybe a part of their brains didn’t develop properly, poor things.

Random Linkage

Soviet Future – how Soviet artists imagined life in space

There’s a name for it – Names of things that you might not have known have names. I actually knew several of these.

Weird Food Flavors – I would try both the ice creams because it’s ice cream. The ginger ale Kit Kat and the cheese Kit Kat don’t sound too bad. We eat cheesecake so why not cheese candy bars?

Solar Phone Charger – Neat, if obvious, idea: it has a suction cup so you can stick it to a window.

Retro Board Game Curiosities

Space Colony Concepts – From the 50′s thru the 90′s

Winning Portrait – Wow!

Easter Egg Diorama

Wizard of Oz Illustrations – Wonderful

Beautiful Abandoned Castle

A Little Sewing

Finally, I have something cute to show off. The lovely young lady for whom I made this (my granddaughter) is not available to model it right now. I’m not even sure if it will fit. It is 6 to 12 month size so I’m hoping it will fit sometime this summer.

The pattern is Kwik Sew 3776 and the fabric was a piece that I have had for a really long time. It was almost a yard that I had left over from something else. I liked it a lot and had planned to get a coordinating solid to go with it and make something for myself but I had no idea what. I’m glad I did this with it. It’s the right thing for this fabric and I hope she gets to wear it a lot this summer.

I actually finished it a week ago but only put the snaps on it this afternoon. Kind of a funny story about the snaps. Ages and ages ago I put several leftover snap sets into an odd little glass vial with a plastic stopper. It’s slightly smaller than a 35mm film canister. I have no idea where it came from or what was originally in it but at the time it seemed like the perfect thing to put a few snaps in and it’s been sitting in one of my sewing machine drawers for literally decades. So I had snaps for the little romper. But when I poured them all out and sorted them into the different pieces I discovered that they weren’t all the same and I did not have four complete sets of one kind, which is what the pattern called for. So I waited until today and bought a package of snaps. Then when I started putting on the snaps it looked to me like there wasn’t really enough room for four so I only used three. And those old leftover snaps? Still in the drawer. It would make sense to just throw them away but they’re perfectly good snaps. “I’ll find a use for them someday.”

Color Theory Hypothesis

Kelly and family are moving but first they had to have the whole place painted because the previous resident’s color choices just weren’t their style. Personally, I didn’t think the old colors were bad – well, most of them. The kitchen was highly unappetizing and the one dark blue was way darker than I like, though not really bad. The new colors are more classic – light, soothing neutrals and pastels. The kitchen, though still neutral, looks much brighter and friendlier.

Anyway, as I was looking at the photos I thought the “before” looked like an HGTV “after” from back in the day when they still had real decorating shows instead of mostly real estate shows. And that started me to thinking. I’ve always realized that those shows are primarily about selling paint but I didn’t quite get how it really works. I don’t want to sound too conspiracy theorist about this but, see, I always thought it was all about showing people what they could do with their rooms so they would want to repaint but there’s more going on than that. The decorators on those shows (or designers as they like to be called now days) always encourage people to let them paint the walls bold, trendy colors that make most people uncomfortable. But most people prefer neutrals on the walls. The color, if there is any at all, is in pictures and furnishings. So, they paint the walls these bright colors and they know that if the family doesn’t rush to the paint store as soon as the TV crew is gone, in a few years they will move and the next family to live there will repaint the place. So no matter what there’s a guaranteed paint sale.

Even though I like a lot of color myself, and sometimes wish other people were more colorful, it has always annoyed me the way designers on those shows are always pushing people to “go outside your comfort zone” and “don’t be afraid of color”. It’s called a comfort zone for a reason and why wouldn’t you want to be comfortable in your own home? But anyway, I have mixed feelings and if I was a designer I’d probably be exactly like the rest of them – encouraging people to be more colorful.

I thought I’d use this as an excuse to post a picture of my kitchen. This was taken two years ago and it hasn’t been this clean since. I really miss this. I would like to see this every day but we have more stuff than we have kitchen and the most frequently used stuff always sits out on the countertop. The back of the island is actually the same yellow as the walls. It’s washed out in all the photos. I’m not sure but I think my countertops are the same as the ones in the Sedinger’s new kitchen.

Color Change

I did a little redecorating for spring. If you’re still seeing pink try refreshing the page. I already sort of miss the pink background. Chances are it will be back someday but for now I wanted something to go with the dandelions.

One Author

If you could only read the books of one author for the rest of your life who would it be? Several writers give their answers.

Tough question. I would want to choose someone very prolific but also good. Those two things don’t always go together. On the other hand, I could pick someone not so prolific but highly re-readable. Or I could pick someone who writes really long books, like James Michener. But if I have to pick only one author I want it to be a really good, prolific science fiction author because that’s what I find the most entertaining. Best of all would be prolific, long books, highly re-readable. So… I haven’t really answered yet have I? Well, it’s a tough question.

Spammers Must Die!

I just had a brilliant idea for an episode of Criminal Minds. A serial killer is tracking down spammers and murdering them in really bizarre and horrible ways. The team do their job as usual but some of them express regret that they actually have to stop the guy. When they finally catch him (or her; it could be a woman) he says something like, “You can stop me but you can’t stop us all. Spammers have to die. Everyone knows that. They have to suffer for what they’re doing.” And the show ends with Garcia announcing that there’s just been another spammer killing.

Random Linkage

Giant Arrows – Fascinating.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – I haven’t been to this one but there is a pharmacy museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma that is quite fascinating. I could spend hours in there just reading all the labels on the old bottles. There’s some scary stuff there.

The Secret to Happiness – Well, temporarily at least. But we knew this already.

Fuel from seawater? – Interesting, but experience tells me there will be a catch.

Kitschy Living – Oooo! Kitsch! An awesome Tumblr!

It’s Funny to Me – A funny pictures blog. Some actually are funny, like this one.

Rock stars and their pets

Cherry Blossom Watching

Button Globes

Nerd Approved – A blog of cool, nerdy stuff.

Again and Again

The problem with remakes. While I get his “too-soon-ness” reasoning, remakes of older classics bother me even more. I just roll my eyes at the Spider Man reboot. “Didn’t they do that just a few years ago?” But in the case of well known older movies (60′s, 50′s, 40′s…) remakes sort of horrify me. I think people should see and appreciate the originals. They were classics for a reason. Would anyone dare to remake Casablanca, for example? Oh good heavens, I hope not!

If Hollywood is out of ideas why not dig up forgotten movies – whether 20 years old or 60 years old – that were poorly done in the first place and make a quality modern version? But I seriously doubt that they are truly out of new ideas. The problem is that the money counters want guaranteed success (understandable) and the way to get it seems to be with names that are familiar to people. (less understandable, to me at least)

Quotes From Here and There

You people are so crunchy, I can’t even keep up with you.here (Ha! Reference to people being crunchy reminds me of this tshirt)

After consulting many blogs and wardrobe planning books, I have learned that I am what is called a “table top dresser.”there

But let’s be honest, it’s impossible to study the past without feeling something. Confusion, fascination, excitement—this is what motivates historians to spend their days poring over obscure manuscripts.here

Word spacing, one assumes, was not quite so high on their list of priorities.there

In one of those crazy coincidences that can fuel an entire cottage industry preying up those easily duped by conspiracy theories, April 22 also happened to be the birth date of the leader of communist revolution in Russia, Vladimir Lenin.here

Introvert/Extrovert: Nature or Nurture or Both?

We keep trying to categorize people. That’s not entirely wrong; we can’t help it. It’s the way our brains are wired. The problem is that we too often believe in the absoluteness of our categories. Everyone is either an introvert or an extrovert right? Could it be that’s not true – that maybe some people are somewhere in between or a little of both?

Suppose nature made you an extrovert. You like attention and love being around people. But then you go to school and the other kids reject you or even outright bully you. In time you come to feel that being a loner is safer. You discover that being alone with your own thoughts can even be pleasant. You are an introvert. But if this happened to you couldn’t you still retain some latent extrovertedness? Because it’s your nature, crave the company of others and secretly long to be the center of attention but because of your experiences never be comfortable with the attention you crave?

Or maybe some people are just born in between? Craving company or craving solitude, at different times depending on mood?

Yeah, More Sewing Blogs

See, here’s the thing. I’ve got these in my bookmarks and I can’t remember if I’ve linked to them already or not so here they are, possibly again. I need to just add them to ye olde links page but I keep telling myself, “You can’t keep them all.” Packrattery happens in cyberspace as well as realspace which is why I have a links page instead of just a few links in the sidebar. (And yes, Firefox spellchecker, “packrattery” is a real word and I spelled it correctly. I should know because I just now made it up myself.)

Anyway here are the sewing blogs, each with an additional link to my favorite recent(ish) post.

Wanderlost – Ooooo! 40′s

u&mii – Nice! An American dress in Britain

Lucky Lucille – And more 40′s fashion and fabrics appropriate for sewing them.

Cashmerette – It’s tea time dahlings. I think I’m really going to like this post if I can ever get all the photos to fully load.

Seamstress Erin – Wow. She sews, she knits, she even strings pearls.

Lin3a Rosa – Ah, you know I can’t resist sewing links.

Inside Out Style Blog – Actually not a sewing blog and not really a blog. It’s all about style, like How to Style Print Pants. I don’t know if I could ever do print pants myself but I do sort of like some of those print pairings.

Oops, almost missed one…

Sew Smitten – She finds wisdom from a tea bag.

A Very Mixed Review

The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter was on Amazon’s list of monthly (or was it weekly?) Kindle specials. It was very cheap, and it looked like my sort of thing. It is a more or less average colonial rebellion story. In this future all the nations on Earth have been consolidated into just three nations and there is a Council, which has its own military “to keep the peace.” Alden, a member of an elite unit in the Council military, ends up working with Lunar colonists who are fighting for independence. It’s actually a reasonably entertaining story. Not great but it is a kind of story that I enjoy.

On the negative side, this book needs some intensive editing. It is full of obvious mistakes that made me feel that the author was a high school student who struggles to maintain a C average in English. Just a few examples: He used the word “formerly” when he meant “formally,” “disposed” when he meant “deposed”, “diffuse” when he meant “defuse”, and, most hilariously, “yolk” when he meant “yoke”. There are a number of awkward or confusing sentences, especially near the beginning of the book. Worst: “They moved past him towards the large windows that faced the street.” There are only two people in this scene. If “they” refers to those two people, as it must, then who is the “him” that they move past? Another problem was that transitions between flashbacks and the story’s “present” are handled rather awkwardly. There are also what are clearly just typos, the most frequent being failure to leave a space between words, as in “itwas” or “threedozen”.

The ending leaves readers with a big mystery. There will be a sequel and I will probably read it in spite of all the very annoying flaws in the first book because, you know, I have to know what happens next. I just hope the author discovers the value of proofreading, editing, and correct vocabulary before he publishes the second book.

Star Trek Continues

The coolest Star Trek reboot you’re probably not watching. How come I did not know about this until now? Of course, only the original is the original but this looks, possibly, not bad. (I know, glowing review, right? “Not bad”) Unfortunately, due to our primitive Internet situation we have to limit the amount of video we watch but I might try an episode one day when I’m not planning on doing anything else online for the whole day.

Random Linkage

Zoological Atlas – Lovely 19th century illustrations

Vintage Ads – That first product is hilarious.

Itchy Feet – “A Travel and Language Comic” – These are really good.

Wound Man – a middle ages medical illustration

10 Inspiring Bookshops – Ooooo! Want to visit that one… Want to visit that one… Want to visit that one…

15 Famous Landmarks Zoomed Out

Who Would You Pick? – Well… Beethoven. Duh!

Angkor Wat on Google Street View – Wow

Ancient Stories Linked With Geological Events

Foodiggity – food art and culture

Wine Barrel Hotel – Cozy

Mini Star Wars Adventures

12 Famous Shipwrecks You Can Visit

15 Bizarre Human Body Related Facts – I already knew #6. #15 is especially interesting.

25 Things You Might Not Know About the Web – Yeah, I knew most of these and a few, like #25, are just opinions anyway.

The War Between Butter and Margarine – Interesting history. I buy Land O’ Lakes Light Spreadable Butter. My mother only used margarine and I did too until a few years ago when I started seeing articles that margarine might actually be more unhealthy than real butter. I like the idea of using something real (even if it’s really only half real)

Something Neue

I just got my first Neue Mode pattern and there are a couple of surprises. First, the envelope is huge. It doesn’t fit in the little plastic drawer/bin where I keep my patterns. The other surprise is that there are no directions. That wasn’t a total surprise because the order confirmation email said that I would have to download the “sewing guide” and included a link to this PDF. That’s it. One page.

I’m not worried about it. I’ve been sewing a long time and rarely look at the directions anyway. I’m sure I can figure it out. But if you’re new to sewing and are not particularly adventurous you might want to hold off a while on trying Neue Mode patterns. One thing – it doesn’t say so directly but I’m getting a feeling from this “sewing guide” that this pattern is intended for knits only which is not what I had in mind for it. I really just got it for the asymmetrical yoke and had radical plans that would end up with a dress that looks almost nothing like the cover picture. Oh well. I’m still confident that I can work it out somehow.


Yesterday I finally, after procrastinating for months, uploaded an updated version of my infamous links page. This morning I discovered a mistake. A mistake of the “How the hell did that happen?” variety. Oops. I don’t have time to deal with it right now but hopefully it won’t be months this time before I get around to fixing it.

Quotes From Here and There

Dr. Boli hardly knows what to say, not least because he seldom thinks about what he is doing when he writes. This reader’s question has led him to undertake an exhaustive analysis of his own handwriting for the first time, and he has concluded that his goal in forming letters is the same as his goal in everything else: to achieve the greatest effect with the least effort.here

Like an ice skater, the Earth leans into its curve, tipping its northern continents towards the Sun, packing more sunlight into every square inch of surface.there

Sorry. Only two this week. I’ll try to make up for it next week. Or the next. Maybe.