Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Colorado Fabrics trip report

I've posted some of these pictures on IG, but wanted to put down my impressions about the rebirth of Colorado Fabrics in their new home.  I have no affiliation with them, but a great deal of loyalty as I've shopped with them for 29 of their 30 years in business.

Even before I moved from Berkeley to Boulder, I had heard about both Tattered Cover Book Store and Denver Fabrics.  They were the premier stores in the time zone and among the best in the nation.  Legendary would not be an understatement.

Did you know that National Jewish Hospital in Denver began as the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives?  Jewish girls and women who worked in the garment industry in NYC were especially susceptible to consumption both due to crowding and inhaled fibers, which weakened their lungs.  National Jewish treated the sick, without regard for ability to pay.  Jewish organizations raised money to send the sick out to Denver and to pay for their medical care.

The women and girls who recovered founded the garment manufacturing industry in Denver.

All this is a digression to say that there were a lot of garmentos in Denver with links to the NYC and LA garment trade; one family founded Denver Fabrics.  The array of top quality old stock designer stuff sold on rolls at DF was amazing.  As .the. fabric store for the outdoor-obsessed Rocky Mountain region, they also stocked a room full of outdoor recreation fabric.  Add their bridal and home dec departments and you had one stop shopping.

Oh, if you joined their DF Club (mailing list) for $15/year, they gave you 30% discounts on all patterns and books and loaned sewing VHS tapes for free.

Denver Fabrics moved from Denver to bigger quarters in Littleton, but then had to downsize a few years later (but in the same location.)

Times changed.  Amazon arrived.  Joann's perpetually marked patterns down by 40%.  Manufacturing moved overseas and designer dead stock was harder to source.  People quit sewing garments and moved to quilting.  Times were so lean, the former owners sold the name, Denver Fabrics, to Fashion Fabrics Club in STL.

Some long-time employees of DF bought the store from the founding family and are trying to reinvent the sewing store.  It's a totally different time and I have to be careful to not lament what I miss.

The biggest change is that they moved from Littleton to south Aurora and doubled the floorspace to 40,000 square feet.  It's cavernous.
Plenty of parking and you'll need it to get to suburbia.

Panorama from the front entrance.

New NY Designer stuff on near right racks.  Older stuff on shelves to left and behind.
The aisles are wide.  The store feels empty.  However, an employee told me that they do have 1.25 the fabric as the Littleton store and 2.00 the floorspace.  I hope that, over time, they can add to the fabric so the place feels less cavernous.

This is the place to shop in Denver if you need to make a wedding or special occasion dress.

The depth of the silk selection is impressive.
Their large stock of quilting fabric rivals a standalone quilt shop.  I didn't get a photo because quilt fabric doesn't thrill me as much anymore.   I was impressed by their longarm studio.  You can pay someone to quilt your top, or take a class and rent time on the machine to DIY.

Longarm studio.  Rent time or pay someone to quilt for you.
 They stock an array of backings and battings at fair but not bargain prices.  That pretty much sums up their pricing strategy.  I hate places that mark stuff up and then have phony sales.  CF treats the customer respectfully, and prices realistically considering their overhead.
Batting sold at realistic prices every day (not Joann's mark-up or internet bargain prices.)
 I also like the convenience of having aisles and aisles in the center devoted to a plethora of notions.  You want to sew bags?  They have patterns, findings/hardware, interfacing and materials all in one place.  You want to sew couture?  Outdoor?  Home Dec?  They got you covered.

Bag findings, patterns and material all in one place.
I found it a bit exhausting so I just purchased some specialty notions from the center of the store and then cruised the bargain area.

Oops, did I mention that they had a well-organized bargain fabric area?  CF is also an odd-jobber of fabrics.
Bargain fabric ($3-$5/yd) is organized by color in a rainbow.
 Yes, it's a rainbow.  The moderate and lower quality stuff is in this back area--all $3-$5/yd.  The higher quality odd-jobber stuff is in the front and costs more.
Also bargain flat folds.  Not pictured, the bargain silk remnant area.
Refer back to the panorama to see the wool and knits sections.  They are each roughly the size of the special occasion silk section.

I ran out of steam and did not explore the Home Dec or Outdoor area last weekend.  They sell high quality pillow inserts at reasonable prices.  They're much better than stuff I ordered off the internet or found at IKEA and only slightly more expensive.

You'll have to imagine the thread and zipper selection.

I was disappointed in the button selection because I remember the wall of a la carte buttons in the old, old store.  It wasn't quite like Britex, but maybe half the selection.  Today's CF selection is kind of pedestrian in comparison.

They sell machines and have a classroom and a meeting room (in addition to the longarm studio.)

The staff is very helpful and knowledgeable.  They are the best part of shopping at CF.

It's almost 41 miles each way from Boulder.  (With each successive move, they get further and further from Boulder.)  I had to make IKEA and LL Bean runs, which are sort of in the south Denver area.

South Denver is undergoing explosive growth.  Roads are congested and constantly under construction.  People drive way crazier in Denver than in California.  I almost got t-boned by a jacked up Jeep that was cutting in and out of gridlocked traffic.  How he could have not seen a minivan is beyond me.  I arrived at CF so shell-shocked, my pulse did not go down to normal after a full hour of stroking fabric.

I stroked this silk crepe de chine remnant while walking around the store.  It came home with me.
It's not really worth it to drive 82 miles round trip to visit CF when I have Elfriede's Fine Fabrics (EFF) literally right around the corner from my home.

EFF is a jam-packed jewel box of a store that has a surprising amount of what I need (and didn't even know I needed.)  In fact, I found that CF didn't have the French grosgrain that I wanted.  I know that EFF stocks it.  It's in a drawer and you have to ask, but they have it.

Additionally, Boulder has a Joann's and Fabricate.  Then I have The Fabric Store, Mood and SAS in my neighborhood in LA.  There are also many other great fabric stores in LA in areas that I frequent less often.

I've decided that everything is much farther away in Colorado but traffic moves (somewhat) faster.  Overall, CO means more time spent driving than LA!

I did found out that the light-rail H line comes within 2 miles of CF.   I can bike to bus rapid transit (BRT) from Boulder to downtown Denver's Union Station, bike a mile through downtown Denver traffic to the light-rail station, take it to 9-mile station in Aurora, and then bike through Cherry Creek Reservoir state park to the store.  It can take 2 hours each way if I time it just right.  Or I can just shop local.

If you are flying into Denver, CF is off I-225, due south of the airport.  You can land, pick up a rental car, and shop CF on your way to the mountains.

Colorado Fabrics is having a grand opening on Saturday March 4, 2017.  It sounds like great fun.  I hope you check out the store because I hope they stay in business a long, long, long time.







Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kettle Logic

Last week, I am called bullshit on a climate denier and exposed some of her rhetorical devices.

I want to call your attention to kettle logic, a rhetorical device that posits multiple reasonable-sounding arguments, but that contradict each other.

The term, kettle logic comes from an example given by Freud:
Freud relates the story of a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition and the three arguments he offers.
  1. That he had returned the kettle undamaged;
  2. That it was already damaged when he borrowed it;
  3. That he had never borrowed it in the first place.
The three arguments are inconsistent, and Freud notes that it would have been better if he had only used one.
 Logically Fallacious does a very good job summarizing it:
two or more propositions are asserted that cannot both possibly be true. In a more general sense, holding two or more views/beliefs that cannot be all be true together.
I have heard it in use so many times in the last month, I stopped keeping track. I'll just give one example, that of the role and necessity of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

First, Republicans in Congress proposed abolishing it altogether by saying that a federal agency cannot protect the environment as well as state and local agencies can.

Then, Trump nominates and the Republicans confirm Scott Pruitt who, in his confirmation hearings, said that he does not believe that California can make it's own environmental standards.
Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt said at a contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday that he cannot commit to keeping in place the current version of a decades-old federal waiver that allows California to set emissions standards stricter than elsewhere in the United States.
Which is it?

Should environmental standards be set at the national level, so that companies do not have the burden of complying with 50 states' different standards?

Or should states and local governments have the right to make decisions for their unique environmental and social challenges?

The status quo has the federal government, through the EPA, set the *minimum* standards, and allows states and local governments to set higher ones at their discretion.
Two-thirds of states choose to do no more than what is required of them by the EPA while the other third of states -- including New York and California -- set higher standards than required at the federal level, Walke said.
10 Million people live in Los Angeles county, between a mountain range and the sea.  In the early 1970s, millions of automobiles, which met federal standards, made LA unlivable.  People my age remember days when children had to stay indoors, even at recess, due to unhealthy air.  If you spent even a short time outdoors, your eyes would sting.

California asked for, and was given permission, to set a higher emission standard.  13 states have adopted California's automobile emission standards, including highly populous New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

In effect, the US has two auto emissions standards, the minimum federal one and the stricter California one.  States get to pick which is more appropriate for their circumstances.  That is not too burdensome to business and protects the health of people who live in high-density areas.

CA emissions controls cost more and it might be overkill for low density states such as Wyoming.  But, it is certainly necessary in California.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Los Angeles Weather and Climate

I was so shocked when I read this, it took me a while to figure out how to respond. I choose #sciencenotsilence.

 While I am aware that I have political differences with this sewing blogger, I had been prepared to look at our commonalities instead of our differences. I even took her on a tour of the Olmstead District in Old Town Torrance and introduced her to Momen+ fabric.

I'm not going to link to her blog, because that would drive up the reputation ranking of these #fakefacts. I'm just going to share a screen capture so you can see what I am talking about.


Deep breath here.  I read her blog because she is an extremely prolific and skilled sewer, knitter and photographer.  She is highly competent in her areas of expertise.  I read her blog so I can learn and be inspired.

I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I cannot let lies go unchallenged.

My blog is not glossy and professional.  I do not sew prolifically.  I sew and blog late at night.  I take photos with my phone or a compact point and shoot--often with poor lighting.  Why should you believe me and not her?

I work as a data specialist at one of the world's premier weather and climate data archives.  Prior to this, I earned a BA in Mathematics and a BS in Chemistry.  Then I earned a PhD writing models to compare theory with precision physical measurements.   The expertise I developed led to a job in an Air Force research lab running weather models and performing weather satellite Cal/Val (calibration and validation.)  I have also run climate models, but only at an introductory classroom level.  I eventually landed in my current position.   I am working in my third national lab.

I could earn much more money using my math, statistics and computer skills to spy on your web behavior to influence you to buy stuff you don't need.  Instead, I'm busy trying to preserve the best quality data available for future generations.

I am proud to be part of the global weather and climate enterprise.  It takes a huge amount of international cooperation to study our planet for our common safety and good.  I would never take part in an international conspiracy to lie to everyone.   It's absolutely ludicrous.

The reason that scientists are so alarmed about global warming is because it is a threat to all life on earth.  We're all going to fry together unless we work together to change our behavior.

So let's unpack the statements:
I don't believe in global warming
Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."  He's right in that the planet is frying whether or not you believe in it.  But it's not a good thing.
or climate change or whatever they are calling it these days.
Don't blame the scientists. Blame the political appointees in the Bush 43 administration that forbade federal scientists from using the term, "global warming." Our scientific findings and reports were even scrubbed by fresh out of college political science majors with no science expertise whatsoever but fantastic partisan bona fides. But that is another rant.

The Obama administration did not renew that rule and some scientists drifted back to using global warming, while others use climate change. The planet does not warm uniformly, so there are good reasons to use CC when referring to some effects.
To me, it’s all weather, in some ways it’s predictable, in others it’s not.
This sows confusion.  "Oh, well.  We don't know for sure so let's ignore it."  No, we cannot ignore it and it is not confusing at all.

Actually, weather and climate are different things to scientists. The simplest definition is "Weather is what you get; climate is what you expect."

Edward N Lorenz wrote a classic explanation.

Weather is on a short time-scale and we are really good at predicting it. In fact, a 10-day forecast today is as accurate as a 3-day forecast was 20 years ago. I've written about Verification Statistics for my work blog. Weather verification is ongoing and published openly on the web. We got nothing to hide.

Climate models are similar and also very different from weather models. They have all the same physical models of how air, water and trace gases behave. But, they also vary in their external forcings (e.g. sun) and boundary conditions. Both types require millions of lines of computer code.

Early weather and climate models were not so good but both experienced continual improvement. Weather models are easier to verify and improve because of their short time-scale. I'm not going to live to see the verification statistics of 2100 climate simulations.  I'm going to have to trust that, because climate models verify well with the past, they will preform similarly well in the future.
What has been happening these last few years in California is predictable and following a pattern.
I don't know what she means by this. Is she referring to the El Nino/La Nina cycle that reverses every year of two? Or is she referring to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a similar warm/cool ocean pattern that occurs on much longer timescales?

When the cool phase of the PDO lines up with La Nina, rainfall plummets in southern California.  We expected a few very dry years and we got them.  We got a longer dry spell than we were expecting and there is much research about why that occurred.  Overall, scientists were less surprised than the media.  I don't know if you can blame the scientists or the professional weather communicators who are hired more for ratings rather than scientific accuracy.

This next paragraph took me a long time to unpack.
Simply put, we get rain in the winter, then we get a few years of drought, we always have fires, but at some point, we have massive fires all over the state. The following winter we will have an abundance of rain and snow, then come the mudslides. Maybe back to regular rain for a while and then the cycle repeats.
Have you studied rhetorical devices? It's useful to understand how people try to persuade you, even when the facts aren't clear.

Consider the false dilemma. They set up an either or situation. If A is right, then B is wrong. But the fancy talk obscures that there is no real logical connection between A and B.

Yes, California's normally dry summers would qualify as a drought practically anywhere else. That's just our climate. Fire is a perpetual hazard in the American west. Burned areas are prone to mudslides the following winter. All that is true.

Just because weather and seasons are cyclical does not mean that the climate is not changing.


2016 was the hottest year globally in modern history.  Higher temperatures cause more water to evaporate both directly and indirectly through evapotranspiration of plants.  Even with the same amount of water, high temperatures will create drier and more combustible forests.  We are already seeing this.  The fire season is starting earlier and ending later.  We are experiencing wildfires in January!

Just because it rains in the winter, does not mean that our climate is not changing.  No one is saying that climate change = no seasons.  In fact, we expect more weather extremes in both precipitation and temperatures.  That is exactly what we are experiencing.

The Sierra snowpack is a complex and highly alarming subject that deserves its own post at a later date.

Next, I plan another post about kettle logic and how it is weaponized to confuse people about science.

I haven't sewn anything since early December so I might as well blog about science.  #resist

Burda 6919 for my daughter was a success.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Illuminating Infrastructure

I'm very nervous about the state and direction of our nation right now and am unsure about how to deal with it.

I want to get back into the habit of writing quick posts to share interesting things I come across.  At the very least, I hope to inform and entertain a few people.

I'm fascinated with infrastructure*.  It's so ubiquitous and reliable that we stop seeing it.  Yet, our comfortable lives would not be possible if we didn't cooperatively build and maintain our common infrastructure.

I recently learned about my neighborhood lift station, a place that pumps sewage uphill so that it can continue to flow downhill to a sewage treatment plant.  These stations are scattered all over the place, but they are usually designed to be as nondescript as possible.

I wish my neighborhood lift station was as cool as this one in Calgary.
That's a shame, because we then stop thinking about the everyday magic of infrastructure.  We flush and forget until something goes wrong.

Check out Calgary's solution that combines public art and the visual display of status information.
The crisscrossed LEDs on the Forest Lawn Lift Station form a graphical map of the 9 kilometers of pipe that feed into this building. Inside, a pump lifts Calgary’s wastewater to higher ground so it continues to flow by gravity to the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. Connected to instruments inside, the lights change color according to water volume and demand: blue when water flows freely, red when the system is taxed.
I'm not a Canada fan girl, but I love the names.  The sewage treatment plant is called Bonnybrook!  Forest Lawn means something very different in Los Angeles.  LOL.

I first learned about this art/infrastructure project from a highly negative newspaper article that I refuse to link to.  Honestly, I think that the $236,000 (Canadian) is a reasonable price to pay for
  1. a real-time visual display of system operational status 
  2. public warning system for when their infrastructure is over-taxed
  3. public education about infrastructure
  4. cool art (Art is supposed to get you to see and think about things differently so this might reiterate point 3.)
Forest Lawn is just one of 40 sanitary wastewater lift stations in the city (Calgary); 33 more handle just stormwater. And yet, until this project, “I’d never seen one once,” says Surtees. “[They’re] not visually present in the fabric of the city.”
If I can see when my local lift station is over-taxed, I can delay my shower or my load of laundry. Alternatively, if I see that the local sewage flow is running sluggishly, I might start the clothes or dish washer earlier to help keep the water pressure up.  If we see that the system is running red (overtaxed) much of the time, we can plan to upgrade to a larger pump before a catastrophic failure.

Isn't it cool to see a map of how our homes are all connected by our common infrastructure? To see the shape and size of our network?

Walking My Watershed contains pictures of my local RB stormwater basin, which I will write more about soon.  Now that it is actually raining during our rainy season, the pictures will be more interesting.

* My work is commonly described as data infrastructure. IMHO, my work is fascinating, but it's not fodder for this blog. Read my work blog for more about that; the link is on the right.