Sunday, December 4, 2016

Disappointed with my own side

It's been two years since I made a post on this blog.  I've been contemplating whether I should just take it down or not.  Social media sites seem to take up so much of everyone's time these days, I'm not sure anyone bothers to read non-commercial blogs anymore. But the recent election year, and the election itself just last month, has me feeling a need to write things down.  If only to get my thoughts to stop swirling around in my head over and over.

As a progressive I am profoundly disappointed with a whole bunch of things regarding the recent election, not least being that Trump is now President-elect.  What a nightmare come true that is.  Another thing is the analysis of voting demographics that's been coming out.  I'm not sure shocking is the right word.  Those of us living in the west and Midwest were probably not as surprised as people on either coast to find out that so many college-educated voters, including college-educated women, voted for Trump, rather than voting for Clinton as expected.  Yes, the economy and job outlook is better than after the 2008 crash caused by the Bush administration.  But there are many people in lower economic brackets who have not felt any benefits.  I see those people every day here in Idaho.  I talk to them in the course of doing my job.  I've heard over and over again about what happened to people's livelihoods in 2008.  Bankruptcies, homes lost, businesses closed, lay-offs, couples living in two different states just to have employment.  Highly-trained adults working two or three part-time jobs just to get by, or moving in with other family to save money.  The headlines brought alive in a personal way.  And our congress seeming to take one misstep after another, or taking none at all.

The people starting to see better times out here are real estate investors and builders, large corporations, bankers, and college administrators. While anyone employed by them still teeters on the knife edge. You never know when your employer is going to cut your hours, downsize the workforce, make you a “contractor” rather than a full employee, or put you on temporary furlough until there's more work coming in.  I've seen it all happen over and over.  The reality for my husband and I is we're getting older but we're not getting ahead.  Health insurance premiums are more and more expensive, with higher deductibles, and yet they cover less and less care. We have less disposable income than we used to.  I'm afraid to quit or lose my job at my age (late 50's) because I might never find another one that pays as well.  We can't make it in a lower income bracket and still have something to live on in retirement, if we ever get to retire.  So the rage and desperation many people are feeling is not surprising at all.  And neither is the quite evident frustration voters showed with the status-quo Democratic choice of nominee.  I did not have much enthusiasm for Clinton as a candidate.  Mostly because I felt we needed someone new in the job.  Whether you believe all of the smears and accusations thrown at her by Republicans or not (which I do not), the fact remains that the vast majority of people of any party did not like her.  Of all the candidates to nominate in an election with so many horrendous GOP choices, why in the world did the DNC choose Clinton?  The least electable democrat of our generation.  Really?!  It was our election to lose, and boy did we.

And this leads me to the behavior of the DNC leadership during the election.  Probably their worst offense was deciding on the party nominee *before* the Primary election even happened, and then working behind the scenes to make sure Clinton won, without any regard to the expressed wishes of the party membership.

I live in one of the reddest states in the union. In Idaho, Democrats still caucus for their Primary. Yeah, it's a pain, and there are other methods that would be more time efficient and more inclusive of shift workers, people with young children, and disabled people.  But at the same time it's exciting.  To be in any room packed full of people and know that none of them are Republicans
is unheard of in this state.  I think this might be one of the main reasons the Idaho Democratic party keeps the caucus; the morale boost we all get from seeing that we really DO have more democrats in Idaho than would fit into a phone booth.

This year there were lots of younger people, and many older ones who had not bothered to vote before.  Standing in line we talked to people near us, and overheard conversations between many people saying they had never done this before.  So many new faces, all of them excited to be there and have the opportunity to vote for their candidate, overwhelmingly Bernie Sanders.  Judging from overheard conversations, multiple speeches in between rounds of voting, and our own chats with others, most people were there because they were excited about Sanders, a candidate who has consistently stuck to his principles and policies for 30 years.  Sanders shows a clear awareness of the anger and discontent which people in upper-income levels do not seem to see or acknowledge.  I chose Sanders for his platform, because it had good ideas for how problems might be solved in a way that would bring more equity to the economy, for everyone.

That excitement and passion about getting involved is exactly what the Democratic party needed, and still needs.  Those people and many like them in other states should have been embraced and welcomed.   Instead they were ridiculed
by their own side, and then vilified over supposed behavior at state conventions that was later found to not actually have occurred!  Most of it was deliberate exaggerations and misstatements by the DNC, in an effort to discredit Sanders.  And then, as we all heard in the news, DNC fingers, mostly in the person of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were put on the scale to make sure the DNC's preferred candidate won.

The blindness of those actions is breathtaking.  It shows an appalling disregard for the pain and anger so many are feeling over economic policies that disadvantage the vast majority of people in this country.  If the DNC was so sure of winning with Clinton, then why not let the process proceed honestly?  Clinton would most likely have got the party nomination.  Instead, the DNC screwed over all of Sanders' supporters, and then still had the arrogance to take those votes for granted.

One of their obvious calculations was that loyal democrats would vote for whoever their party's candidate turned out to be, whether they liked her or not.  Ok, that's fine.  It's what you do in party politics.  Where the DNC really miscalculated was assuming that all those passionate new voters, mostly independents with no particular history or allegiance to the Democratic Party, would be so afraid of a Trump presidency that they would fall in line as well.  And as we now know from some of the demographic analysis of the vote, that is NOT what happened.

If the DNC's behavior is not addressed and corrected, then the party leadership cannot expect to regain the trust and confidence of its disillusioned members. Even more importantly, it will not gain support from the many new voters who might come to regret their protest vote this time around.  Democrats as a party are in as much disarray as the Republicans.  And if they want to win back any ground at all in two years, or four years, then they'd better start reforming things and recruiting new leadership that the majority of party members can trust.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Italian Renaissance Dress, part I

I am gradually drifting back to costume making after decades of either avoiding it, or not being in a situation where I could easily cut and sew detailed garments - or even have a reason to spend the time and money making one.

So here I am, in the planning stages of making an Italian Renaissance dress, from around 1495-1510-ish Florence.  Transitional I guess you'd say.  Not a gamurra and giornia combination, and not quite the Tudor-like mid 1500's.

In many ways this dress will be similar to the one I made back in the late 1980's, using this painting by Gentileschi as my inspiration:
The one I made back then ended up longer in the waist than I wanted, and I think the lacing was further back than the painting.  And of course I used big metal grommets, and my chemise was Tudor rather than Italian.  But I had got lucky with my fabric - found a remnant of wool/silk blend summer-weight suiting that was a perfect texture (boy do I miss the LA garment district).  Put a contrasting fabric band at the bottom and the neckline, and altered it enough to pass as German/Landsknecht peasant, but without sleeves.  It was a good learning experience for me, because I was working without a pattern, using a previous front-lacing bodice as a starting point.

Anyway, after regular wear for six or seven weekends in a row over two or three years in the hot LA climate, and then being stored for around 25 years (really?!  has it been that long?!), it's looking worn.  And it has some issues (aside from the grommets), like boning pop-outs, stains, etc.

So now I'm going to make this Italian gown.  A friend is in the SCA and they're doing an Italian Renaissance event in late January.  Even my husband is interested in going - it's Italy after all, and close to the period of the early violin makers.  So, I've been researching paintings, patterns, fabrics, historic construction methods, and looking online at what other people have done, trying to get a complete mental picture of what Italian dress of the period was like, and what area and date I want to go for.  I knew I wanted to move away from the lower-waisted almost-Tudor styles, and I did not want to make a separate corset.  My old one won't work for it.  Done that, been that uncomfortable.  And why not do something different?  Women in this transitional period weren't yet using a separate corset (pair of bodies).  The stiffening was all part of the dress itself  -  or at least that's one theory, and I'm going with it.  I'll be reasonably HA and let the rest of it go.  If I don't, I'll never finish in time for the event I plan to wear this to, in January.  Heck, I'm going to hand-sew the darned eyelets and embroider the neckline of the camicia.  But I will *not* be using reeds, hemp string, or glue-stiffened fabric for the bodice.

Found some reasonable fabrics at Home Fabrics for the outer layer of bodice and skirt, others for the underskirt, and 100 % linen for the camicia.  With those chosen, I've been gradually collecting all of the other bits and pieces.  Tracked down some brass aiglets online, as well as brass lacing rings and linen lacing cord.  I've also been having a lot of fun choosing beads for the jewelry.  There's another money&time-trap for you, beading!

I worked with a friend to take all of the appropriate measurements, with the initial intention of drafting my own bodice pattern.  The old ones aren't quite right for this, even aside from (ahem!) size changes.  But after a few unsuccessful tries, I found myself avoiding the task and putting off getting started.  I am, unfortunately, too fussy and not good enough at drawing.  So the heck with it, I ordered Period Patterns #41, Italian Renaissance Gowns 1470-1505.  Just got it yesterday and I think it'll do for a starting point.  I may not be good at drawing patterns, but I can alter them! :-)

So, here's my progress...

These are all of the fabrics I've decided on so far.  Not silk or wool - those are beyond my budget, and as of right now beyond my skill level.  I know they're not perfect, but if I end up ruining something I know where to get more and I can afford to replace it.
This is just a mock-up of what I'm thinking of.  L to R, bodice, skirt, under-skirt banding, and under-skirt trim.

My initial inspiration, top left.  Yes, it's from Racinet, but it's generally what I'm thinking of, in terms of bodice shape, sleeves, fabric use.

 Close-up of the bodice (L), and skirt (R) fabrics.  The camera doesn't quite capture the red.  The fabric itself is less pinkish.
I'm thinking of red underskirt fabric, with rope in the hem covered with the striped fabric.  Then a band of the small squares fabric.  Not sure yet if I'll use one row of the squares or two.

The pattern.  I'm using view IV, but I'm not sure about those sleeves.  I might go with the sleeves on view VII instead.

And, the beads!  Well, freshwater pearls mixed with various beads anyway.  And aiglets.  Surprisingly hard to find the kind I wanted.  But I did.

Still need a few things, like lining and under-skirt fabric, the rope for the hem, wool felt padding for the bodice, and other bits.  Still have to decide on the boning as well.  That may have to wait until I've got a muslin bodice made.  I'm planning to do side lacing, and if it needs to flex horizontally as well as vertically, I may have to use spring steel bones.  Rigilene will probably be the light boning for keeping the front smooth.

Anyway, progress has been made.  And now I have the pattern I can get started on cutting out and fitting the bodice.  Once that's done the rest is gravy (well, except for the dang hand-sewn eyelets).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Finished Scarf!

I finally finished my first slip-stitch project last night, Red Leaves on Snow.  The pattern is called Morning Dew Scarf.  It did not go perfectly, but the errors are small enough to be acceptable.  One of the big challenges was keeping my stitch tension loose enough, so I didn't end up with a tight little strip.  This is stretchy and squishy.  The other challenge was keeping the leaves aligned across all the rows.  I made a few counting errors and didn't see them until rows later - too far to be able to unravel back.  So I had to keep an eye out when working the red leaves.  I'm really happy with the yarn too.  This is Knit Picks' new one, Andes Del Campo, in dove gray and hot rod red.
You see it here pinned out for blocking.  I'm hoping it will dry by tomorrow and I can wear it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy 2014

Put 2014 in the title just to get used to writing the new date.  Let's hope it's a good year for us all.

I've been surprised lately by how much I'm enjoying making things again.  It feels good to have this much creative urge.  I used to do a lot of sewing and embroidery in my 20's and 30's, then got busy with other things.  In the past three or four months I've become much more interested again, although the crafts have changed somewhat.  Now it's crochet and sewing, with possible expansions into spinning and leather-work.

One of my recent efforts is a small purse.
 I have a store-bought one in a similar shape that's just a bit too small.  This is a better size.  I traced the curve from a wooden violin case my husband has. I've been using it this week and I'm mostly happy with it.  The strap is tough and useful, but I might eventually change it to leather.  This is the third bag I've made with this fabric.  I still have about a yard of the purple, and some small pieces of the light green.

Yesterday I went back to the home fabrics store and found five fabrics that all coordinate, in a different color scheme, plus some linings and a few trims.
  I'll probably end up getting more trims as needed.  There are some cool fringes, tassels, and cords out there, but I think you have to be careful it doesn't look like you stole them from your grandmother's drapes.

I want to make bags with a medieval/fantasy influence to them.  But not over the top, and still useful enough you'd want to use it on an everyday basis.  It's the process of design and making that appeals to me most, but I can't use 20 purses!  So I'm going to dip one toe into selling and see how it goes.  I think I have a ways to go in the quality of the finish, but the only way to improve is to Do It!

Today I looked through some costume books for pictures of purses and bags.  I need to do more research, but it was surprising how few books on historic dress include purses and bags.  So I'll keep looking.  Paintings are a good source.

I  also drew out a few shapes based on medieval decorative motifs, enlarged them and started cutting out on some light fabric, just to see how they make up.  There may be some adjustments, but I'll wait til I've made them up to see how they work.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day 2013

Wow.  It's been far too long since I wrote a blog entry.  So much has happened since July that it's too overwhelming to think about catching up.  So I'll just mention the missing events as they come up, if they do.  I've been pondering whether I should continue having a blog or not.  Seems like I waste far too much time on Facebook and Ravelry, which leaves a lot less of my online time for actually writing something.  So I'm going to see how I do at making weekly entries for a few months.  If that doesn't happen I may have to take the blog down.

I've become a lot busier with crafts and new activities in the past six months.  Crochet of course, and lately a lot more sewing.  Mostly small things, like bags.  I made two purses out of upholstery tapestry fabric this fall, for Brenda and myself.  I think they turned out pretty well.  There are always little mistakes one makes in sewing that are more trouble to fix than not, but Brenda liked hers, and I really like mine too.  I also made Ken a tote bag for music books and a matching mic bag, out of a red and gold tapestry fabric he chose.  The mic bag stands out a lot more than the typical black vinyl ones, so hopefully it won't get lost or misplaced like the old one.

I also crocheted three pairs of fingerless mitts to give as gifts this year.  It's a forgiving stretchy shell stitch, so not too scary to make for people who aren't around to try them on.  And I finally finished Teri's scarf!  Whew!  I think she liked it.  Of course now I have a bit of vacation after Christmas so I'll be starting some new projects, and working on the older ones I put aside while I was making gifts.

Ken and I decided to try learning Italian this summer.  We're using an app called Duolingo.  He's progressed a lot further than I have.  I kind of put it on hold these last few months but I want to get back to regular practice now the gift-making rush is over.

The other new thing I've started is learning to play piano for the band.  The Bru just lost two members, so they're down to three now.  It means learning chords - something I never did in all those music lessons I had in school.  I just didn't have that kind of piano teacher.  Ken and I play together at least two or three days a week.  It gives him a chance to play tunes at a slower pace than when he's with the band.  My level as an accompanist is still pretty basic, but I have an idea of where I'd like to go with it, having listened and danced  to Scottish and Irish music for over 30 years now.  So I'll keep working.

We are still doing the calorie counting.  He's lost over 30 lbs, and I've lost 20.  I think I've reached a plateau now, but I'm pretty happy at this weight, so I'm content to stick here.  I think Ken is too.  He looks so different than he did a year ago.  Really trim.

Our master bathroom is still a work in progress.  In fact it's more of a hole in the ground than a bathroom at this point.  There's still some tearing out of the existing walls, floor and fixtures to do.  Then we'll have to get the cast iron plumbing replaced, and replace the termite-damaged floor joists and sub-floor.  After that we'll have the much funner task of choosing new flooring, paint and bathroom fixtures.  Yea!  Hopefully our furnace and water pump will hold out until the bathroom is paid for.

Friday, July 12, 2013


An old friend is dying.  It won't be long now.  In the 1980's, when we were dating, I was close to his whole family.  But we broke up by about 1989, I moved away, and I haven't been part of his life for nearly 25 years.  Then his sister found me on Facebook.  It was good to get back in touch a little before the end, see that he's been happy in life.  It was a shock to find out about his cancer.  In your 20's, if you ever bother to think ahead to what life might be like, you never imagine your friends ever dying, especially in the prime of life.  It's seems so unfair.

It was from Tim and his family that I learned most of what I know about costume making, research, and hand-work.  They got me started, and I learned the confidence to make things on my own.  He was full of life and creativity, always making things, coming up with ideas for new projects and bringing his friends into them.  I see from comments on his Facebook page that I'm not the only one to have been gifted with little objects either made or enhanced by his imagination.  So I wanted to share a few of them...

 My Elizabeth medal from 1988, part of a limited set given to various friends in honor of the Armada year.
 A decorated toy - wonderful detail.  Each wheel hub has a different tiny sun or moon painting.
The Landsknecht raccoon, costume hand-made by Tim, complete with little beer stein, belt-purse, feathers on the hat, and codpiece.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Gardening

 It would seem that Summer is starting tomorrow.  After four or so days of cooler temps and lots of rain, temperatures are jumping up from mid 80's today to high 90's tomorrow.  The next four days will be over 100 F.  Not my idea of fun at all.

After two days of frequent rain the garden is doing well.  This afternoon I went out to the veg garden and pulled up a whole pile of weeds by hand.  The ground was nicely softened up, so they came out easily, roots and all.  There's still some left, but a large area is mostly cleared now, and I can see where the raspberries are again.  I'll have to dig over the empty ground, but I'm not sure I want to do it in the coming heat.  I guess if I go out early enough it might not be so bad.  We'll see.  The raspberries look a little behind this year, but they're coming on well.  The canes are only about 3-4 feet tall, but I already have one pink raspberry showing.  I'll have to get out there to stake them and put up the bird netting pretty soon.

I've been filling in the empty spaces in the new area of the future cottage garden.  It's kind of a wedge shape following the edge of a future spiral path to the center, so for now I call it the triangle garden.  Anyway, it's doing pretty well.  This is the 'Terracotta' yarrow, and a nepeta.  The nepeta's flowers are bluer than this photo.  That blue-purple color just doesn't show up well in photos.  The iris are probably doing a bit too well.  I need to dig them out and re-plant them more sparsely, but it's such a big job.  I've been putting it off.

The plants I put into the newer section I cleared last May almost all survived.  I think I lost the dark-leaved Aster horizontalis over the winter.  The rose 'Strike It Rich' only has one surviving stem growing out of the root ball.  But it's doing ok and has a good number of blooms.  Probably needs feeding.  The weigela florida almost didn't make it. I thought it was dead this Spring, but then a few leaves sprouted from the bottom.  It's still just a little bunch of variegated leaves, but it's alive.  Guess we'll see how it does this year.  I need to keep it watered!  The purple sedum, geranium 'Phillippe Vappelle', geranium sanguineum, and the shrub (can't remember the name just now) are all fine.

This year I've put in a white campanula, a dark-flowered Brown-eyed Susan, two pink-flowered Snow in Summer, creeping dianthus, geranium biokovo with dark pink flowers, lavender 'Hidcote', two penstemons, agastache 'Apricot Sprite, a late-blooming aster, and the coolest looking sedum I've seen for a while, sedum sieboldii 'October Daphne'.  It forms a mound of pale green leaves with pink edges, and has pink flowers in late summer.  I already had some early summer blooming things in there, so the later-flowering agastache and sedum seemed like a good idea.

In the side garden across the drive I had a volunteer echinacea that self-seeded into the gravel walk from the echinacea 'Magnus' that used to be in the bed.  Last year when the Magnus died (they don't seem to last long) I moved the volunteer into the empty space.  It did very well this season and got a lot of flower buds.  But when they started to "open" the flowers didn't have any petals, just the fluffy brown centers.  So I dug that out, put in some new dirt, and planted echinacea 'Baby White Angel', a lower-growing white variety.  I hope it will do well, and won't shade out the veronica in back of it.  I also put in a new aquilegia I found at D&B.  The leaves are greyish-green on red stems.  The flowers are supposed to be red and yellow.  It may not flower this year, but it seems to be growing well and putting up new leaves.

So far this season the watering has not been a big chore, but it will start getting harder now the weather is getting hotter.  I bought a soaker hose for the new part of the triangle, but haven't put it out yet.  Need to do that.  At least we've got most of the sprinklers working.  Still having a problem with the ones in the side garden, so I have to water those plants with a hose for now.
I have some photos of the new plants that need uploading, so watch this space...

Ken and I are still calorie counting with Lose It!  He's lost 35 lbs so far, and looks great!  I've lost 15.  But in visiting our doctors we found out our bathroom scale is 5-6 lbs light.  I've lost the pounds, but I'm not down to the weight I thought I was.  So I'll keep going for another five pounds or so.  It's getting a bit harder to stick to my calorie allowance as it goes down, but I'm developing the habit of controlling portion size.  I'm hopeful I can stick with it.  It's so different from when I was younger and exercised every day.  I could eat nearly anything and not really gain.  But I'm feeling good and am much happier with my reduced size.  I'd prefer not to go back.