Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zero Waste Shorts

Inspired by Timo Rissanen (Fashion Creation Without Fabric Waste Creation), I managed to cut out a top, a bias skirt and this pair of shorts with just 3 yards of 54" wide linen.  There are no scraps bigger than 6" square after I was through.

The eagle-eyed may see where I pieced together the waistband piece.
I didn't have enough left over for pockets, but I found a lighter-weight coordinating cotton madras in my collection.
It's not terribly exciting, but it is comfy and suitable for bicycle-commuting.  I don't necessarily want to wear spandex bike shorts when I walk from my bicycle locker, through the main courtyard, across the cafeteria, up the stairs, down the hall, across my department main office bay, in front of my boss and our secretary...

My only beef with it is that it would be easier to ride if the shorts were shorter.
But then they wouldn't be safe for work...

At first, they looked like baggy pajamas, but I trimmed the crotch depth 1/4" at the CB, 1/2" at the sides and 3/4" at the CF at the top edge.  It isn't noticeable in the side view, but it improves the overall fit.
I can't believe that Butterick 5358 is discontinued already.  I originally bought it for the cool tied pants, only to discover they were some sort of weird applique thingy.  The pleated and pull-on shorts and capris are nice, though. 
It was a quick project, 2-3 hours total, including time fussing with the crotch depth.

Pattern Review is here.
Zero Waste design in the NY Times.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Down at the Creek

Lair means hanging out at the creek and wearing tie-dye (and being eaten by mosquitoes).  Our creekside location virtually guarantees we will be bitten, but we love our cabin anyway.  We spent an entire morning, sitting on our secret flat rock in the middle of the creek, playing with watercolors.  Don't tell the EPA, but we cleaned our brushes when switching colors by dipping them in the creek.

At Camp Blue, there are different neighborhoods, each with their pros and cons.  We've nicknamed them "beachfront" (creekside), "theater district" (campfire area) and no one name has stuck for the hillside.  Some people like "the heights", some like "hillside village", others don't like village and call it "hillside estates"; but I like "azure heights".  What do you think?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back From Camp 2010

We are back from Lair, caught up with laundry and unpacked (mostly).
The wildflowers were disappointing. Breathing Treatment went week 2 (late June) and the flowers hadn't peaked yet. Another coworker went week 4 (early July) and said the wildflowers were the best since 2005-6. They looked past their peak in week 6, July 17-24.

We saw some lupines by the highway near Camp Blue; many DYCs on hikes and DWCs in camp. DYC/DWC is the scientific name for damn yellow/white composite. (Damned if I can key it!)  I painted a DWC tile to commemorate 2010. The yellow iris is from 2009. You can see other Lair commemorative tiles in A Sense of Place and Back from Camp.

We moved from week 2 to week 6, due to Iris' school and camp schedule.  We managed to keep our favorite cabin by the creek.  Coincidentally, our next door neighbors in both weeks are Stanford alums that never attended Cal.  They left their red shirts at home to better blend in.  ;-)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Textured Lives and a Contest

Last Saturday, we spent the afternoon in downtown Los Angeles. Our main motivation was to see the exhibition of MOCA's greatest hits. We all enjoyed the pre-1979 collection at the main museum space. But the post 1979 work at the Geffen Contemporary (aka the Temporary Contemporary), was very uneven. Iris was so disturbed by the warped Christmas tree forest and bloody Santa, she ran out of the gallery in tears.

We took the free shuttle back to the main museum and poked fun at bad modern art to try to put her at ease. Iris and Mark then happily walked off to TCBY and the LA Main Public Library while I took the shuttle back to visit the Japanese American National Museum. The Textured Lives exhibit was so disturbing, it was my turn to cry.

I am a fan of the Sri Threads blog, written by Stephen Szczepanek, whom I have blogged about in When the Everyday Becomes Art.  He collects and sells Japanese folk textiles.  He has a beautiful and highly informative blog.  He introduced me to Okinawan Bashofu, woven from the fibers of the banana leaves, and Kudzu fiber cloth.  These are highly labor-intensive and gorgeous fabrics that you don't see every day.

So, it was with a light heart and fibery anticipation that I set off to see the Textured Lives exhibit.  I took a few photos (w/o a flash!) before a lady in the gallery told me to put my camera away.

There really weren't many textiles for an exhibit about textiles.  It was only at the end of the exhibit that I saw a video with the curator of the show, Barbara F. Kawakami, that I realized that the show is not about textiles.  Textiles were only a way for her to get the survivors of the Hawaiian sugar plantations to speak about a horrible chapter in their lives that they would like to forget.

One of my fellow grad school classmates at CU Boulder grew up in Torrance; her mother worked in my company (in the same satellite program where I started!) and her grandparents worked on a Maui sugar plantation.  I had heard about the difficult living conditions for the plantation workers from her.

She spent summer vacations as a child with her grandmother in Maui, living in an old plantation shack.  She said that, after seeing where her parents came from, she never complained about conditions in her home in Torrance.

Her mom told me about how, when she was a working mom in the 1970s, there was no such thing as day care.  When school was out, she had little choice but to send her kids to her mom.  My first day at my first 'real' job, my friend's mom came over to my desk to introduce herself and tell me where I could find her in case I needed anything. 

Anyway, time to quit digressing.

I had also learned from an article (or was it from the book, The Language Instinct?) about the origin of Hawaiian pidgin.  Plantation work crews were never more than 25% of one ethnic group because the plantation owners believed that rebellion and unionization was less likely if the workers could not communicate with one another.

What was there to rebel against?  OMG, where do I start?  The exhibit starts with an example of a work contract and a timeline of how many workers came, and under what kinds of conditions.  At first, it started out decently, when the program was run by the government.  Workers came out for 3 year contracts, worked in the fields for 10 hour days, 26 days a month; and were paid $15/month (not a bad wage in the early 20th century).  After their contracts were up, the men could return home with a good nest egg.

It was after that 'trial' period, when the private contractors took over, that the system became exploitative.  The new contracts still paid $15/month, but required the men to pay for passage out of their pay.  It looked like a reasonable deal, until they got to the islands (a 12-14 day sea voyage) and learned that their pay was docked for every possible thing.  Food, lodging, clothing all cost exorbitant amounts because the plantation owners set the prices.   Basic work gear like a hat cost 75 cents!  It took some people 30 years to save enough money for passage home--if they survived at all.

The sample contract also states that, if a man's wife worked, she would get $10/month.  Out of loneliness and desperation, men sent away for 'picture brides', often by using the pictures of younger men.  Some of these picture brides came willingly, others had their pictures sent without their knowledge by their fathers.  All would become trapped, just like their husbands.

The world that they came to was so different than what they expected!  You can really see that in the three rolls of Bashofu at the beginning of the exhibit.  The  bride brought a trousseau of fabrics that she had dyed and woven to sew clothes for her new life.  She ended up never having the time to sew them up.

Women woke up at 3 AM to cook breakfast before they headed into the fields to work 10 hours, just like the men.  After the fields, they cooked dinner, laundered, and foraged for food so that they wouldn't have to buy it from the plantation stores.  They wound their obis tightly so that the hunger pangs were more bearable.  And they mended the clothing.  Sugar cane leaves are sharp and will slice through just about everything.  There was always mending to do.

Many of the clothes can be seen only in photographs because they have long since been used up and worn out.  One wedding dress, seen only in a photo, was refashioned into an outfit for working in the fields.  She had spun, dyed and woven the fiber for her wedding kimono, only to have to cut it up for work clothing in the fields.  She didn't have the money to buy any other fabric.


If you are in the LA area, I highly, highly recommend you see this exhibit.  Though the original artifacts are meager, the oral histories in the exhibit and the book are fantastic.   There are also many faithful reproductions.  There is no excuse to miss the exhibit;  admission is free on Saturday, July 17, 2010.   See it before it closes on August 22, 1010.

The Contest
Author, curator, collector and donor Barbara Kawakami said that studying textiles helped her earn entree into the lives of the survivors.  None of them wanted to talk about plantation life at first.  But she would ask them about the textiles; they would talk first about the textiles, and then continue talking about their lives at the time they made or wore them.

Ms Kawakami had an interesting life, too.  She left school early due to lack of family funds, apprenticed with a dressmaker, and worked while raising a family until, at age 53, she went back to school to earn a GED and a bachelor's in textiles and a master's in history.  Her senior thesis project was the genesis for this project.  She traveled all over the islands and to Japan to interview the survivors she wrote about in Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii 1885-1941.   She wrote a fantastic book using textiles to tie the stories together.

Because I am in a male-dominated field, one of the first things I do when I hit a new town is to join textiles groups to meet other women.  Quilt guilds, American Sewing Guild, American Knitting Guild, the Embroiderer's Guild--I used to join anything that met at a convenient location and time (pre-motherhood).  The oral histories I have collected in knitting and sewing circles have been priceless.  I learned so much from the South Bay Quilters' Guild; this place felt like home immediately.

Write down a fiber-related oral history that you collected in a comment, or leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.  At the end of August (23:59 PDT Aug 31, 2010 for you sticklers), I will select a winner and send them a copy of Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii 1885-1941.  But I think you should all see the exhibit and buy your own copy; push her amazon ranking way, way up.

Here's the Okinawan bashofu from the exhibit. The bride had harvested, spun, dyed and woven the threads.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hello, sunshine, my old friend

We woke up to an unfamiliar sight today, bright sunshine. We've been experiencing unusually cold and foggy weather in coastal Los Angeles for the past three months. Check out today's weather in Hermosa Beach, California (courtesy of Weather Underground).
More specifically, look at the solar radiation density.  See the nice, smooth curve as the sun rises and then sets?  Not a cloud in the sky all day!  (The eagle-eyed may notice that our solar radiation peaked at 1 PM daylight savings time, which is actually noon local time.)
Even at 7 PM, the view from Aviation boulevard, looking southwest towards Hermosa pier, showed no traces of the marine layer creeping inland for the night.
Contrast that with a week ago, on July 6, 2010.
Just compare the solar radiation at 11 AM PDT on July 6, 2010 and today, July 13, 2010.
It was 180 watts per square meter versus 800 watts per square meter today.  That's more than 4x the sunshine!  (Additionally, we are a week farther from the summer solstice so the sun is lower in the sky,  resulting in a lower cloud-free incident solar radiation density.)  

The global average is about 342 watts/m^2, depending upon solar activity; a graphic is shown in Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change.

As an extra bonus, Scott B, who gets paid(!) to blog about the weather, posted an animation of the fog rolling out of the LA basin.

Here's a teaser, but go to his blog to see more here1 and here2.

Visit the CIMSS Satellite blog for this type of insightful commentary and interpretation:
In terms of the coastal fog and stratus in southern California, GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (below) showed how slow these features were to burn off in some areas. In fact, a number of locations in the San Diego, California area experienced record low maximum temperatures for the date — including a daily high temperature of only 65º F at San Diego International Airport (labeled SAN on the images), which was 10 degrees below the normal high temperature (75º F) for San Diego on 06 July. It is also interesting to note that heating of the higher terrain of some of the offshore islands appeared to help initiate the earlier clearing of the marine layer stratus cloud deck.
I just love watching the channel islands perform a veil dance with the clouds.

And I want to know, how do I get Scott's paying gig?  ;-)

The sun came out for just one day, and already the hills are on fire.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The death march is over (sorta)

I meant to post a timely follow-up to Wandering Scientist's post, Anyway You Do It, It Is Hard, but time is something in short supply at our house.   Go read her thoughts about combining science and motherhood, particularly about the division of housework in two-scientist families.

I can attest that couples are in a competition for time.  That time can be spent pursuing activities that get us ahead at work, improve our health or overall well-being, or keep the household running smoothly.  I  bet you can guess which is the least personally and financially rewarding.

I've been on a death march (endless slog) since we got home from our NYC trip during spring break.  If you read Bad Dad's blog, you know he is a big film fanatic.  When TCM announced their first ever TCM Classic Film Festival, he bought a pass with my blessing.  At that time, he didn't have too many work travel commitments so I figured a long weekend of single motherhood was doable.

Then I watched in horror while one business trip after another was announced.  In a 35 day period, Bad Dad was scheduled to be home for 8 evenings (and ~12 mornings)!  I breathed a sigh of relief when his last field experiment was postponed, only to be broadsided by the news that he was being sent to the Gulf of Mexico to study the effects of the oil spill.  (Only weeks earlier, he had been flying over nominally operating oil rigs near Santa Barbara and they had been waiting for a non-nominal case.)  That trip took us into week 5 and 6 of the death march.

(In fairness, I should add that this was a death march for him, too.  The life of a field scientist is hard, hard, hard.  The only thing he wants to do when he gets home is to take a shower and sleep.)

After he got caught up with sleep, the Ring Cycle was playing at LA Opera.  He's also a big opera fan and some tickets were available at the last minute at cut-rate prices.  How often do you get to experience the entire Ring Cycle in your home town?  He spread that out over the next week and a half (week 7-8), so he was home some nights in between.

Some people might think this is all manageable because I work part-time (36 hours/week).  But, I work part-time because of my health.  I am officially classified as 'partially disabled but able to work' except for occasional flare-ups.  My last flare-up was in late February, following an infection, and I was put on a reduced (20-30) work schedule for the month of March to give me time to recover.  I didn't magically become well when April 1 rolled around.  In fact, I have been suffering from chronic fatigue and joint pain since then.

May and June are terrible months for working parents.  There are so many end of year school activities, especially because Iris graduated from elementary school in June.  (And why do the schools expect so much volunteer time from the mothers and so little from the fathers?)

In addition, Iris had to have a new graduation dress for the occasion, particularly because we were warned by the school ahead of time that she was up for an award.

She said that she wanted a silk dress--she was ready for something more grown-up.  I had originally shown her a yellow embroidered raw silk from my fabric collection, but she wanted a smooth silk.  We went to Joann's and bought a pattern and some cotton to make a 'wearable muslin', a mock-up of the dress that she could wear for less dressy occasions.  After we tweaked the fit, I made the final dress in a silk twill with a large-scale print.

I should save the dress journey for its own post.  Both dresses were lovely.

In the long slog, I did manage to do some creative endeavors just for myself.  I did accomplish some things at work for which I was given kudos.  I didn't get much exercise and would have liked to sleep more, but that is a constant in my life.

Given the odd 15 minutes to do something creative, or to blog about creativity, I chose to make something.  Eventually, I plan to post about them here and on Ravelry or Pattern Review.  Or maybe not. If I don't get caught up with project notes by the end of the summer, I may declare bankruptcy and just blog the new projects as I complete them.