Sunday, June 26, 2011

Slow Fashion

We reached home at a quarter before midnight on Saturday. By Sunday night, not only is everything unpacked, but everything has been cleaned and put away, including the laundry.

While I slaved away on the home front, Bad Dad took the car for a wash, hunted and gathered groceries, took Iris to CTY camp registration, bought her textbooks and supplies and coordinated camp carpool plans. They are now at a classic film screening. He signed them both up for a Last Remaining Seats, a summer classic film series in "movie palaces of downtown L.A.'s Broadway Historic Theatre District." They have returned. It's official. She is as squeamish about Sunset Boulevard as I am. Anyone who takes a 10 year old to see Sunset Boulevard deserves the Bad Dad moniker, n'est pas?

I took advantage of the time alone to inventory their clothes and make up a shopping list, mending pile and sewing plan. They're actually not that long.

I had inventoried my own clothes before the trip, bringing a suitcase of clothing to friends in Boulder who would provide a better use for some of my clothes.

The arms of Big Apple Cardigan and Wren grew while I wore them. I felt like I Alice in Wonderland during her shrinking phase as my hands retreated into the sleeves. Those two cardigans look so much better on their new owner, a 15-year old competitive swimmer with her big shoulders and long arms.

Similarly, sweaters whose sleeves had shrunk look much better on a petite friend. I also left her the Leaf Yoke Ensemble and Katrina Rib. My closet feels so much lighter.

Anyway, I've been mulling over a couple of things my daughter said about our fashion differences.

First, she said that I should wear my shirts untucked. I remember having this discussion, at a similar age, with my own mother. She prefers her shirts untucked. I asserted myself by tucking in my shirts. Now my daughter is asserting herself by not tucking her shirts. This must be a generational thing because a friend says that her kids tell her that shirts shouldn't be tucked.

The second thing is a bit more serious. She remarked that there is such a time lag between my sewing plans and actual production, that the clothes will have gone out of fashion by the time I finish them. Thus, one needs to buy trendy clothes quickly, before they fall out of fashion.


I do not want to participate in fast fashion, where kids toil to make t-shirts for other kids (Gap), or the garment workers are locked into the factories (like just about every cheap mass-market retailer) or the workers have to sue just to get paid their wages (Forever 21). This blog is about the antithesis to fast anything. We make everything from elemental carbon and water in this household*.

This is one reason I signed up for Wardrobe Refashion, a program where people commit to not buying mass-market clothes. It's like Weight Watchers for people who over-consume clothing because you get to buy one new item every two months, like WW food points. Exceptions are made only for clothes needed for work. Thus, WR forces people to rethink their consumption patterns to only what they really need, what they can find used, or what they can make.

She was just upset because I sewed a bunch of things for her in January and February, and then went on strike until June. I was upset to see the things I had laboriously made for her thrown on the floor in a trampled mess. I decided to behave more like The Selfish Seamstress until her behavior shaped up.

I broke the strike with a tunic for her made out of a skirt I bought from Goodwill two summers ago. I was going to turn this skirt into a pillowcase when she intercepted and said that she wanted it for a sundress. Two years of growth later and the skirt only stretches to tunic length. So perhaps her criticism about my sewing production rate was legitimate.

She has issued a press embargo on her clothes until she has debuted them in front of her friends. Thus, I cannot show the tunic, which we both think is the cat's meow.

Luckily, I am a year behind in blogging about the clothes I have already made for her. So I will show you another item I made from thrifted pre-softened jeans. These flares were a bit too tight at the knees so I slit the side seam in the offending area and inserted a flash of purple flowers in the seam. 1970s retro-groovy!

*This is an old affectionate joke about UC Berkeley synthetic organic chemistry professor, Henry Rapoport. He was a spatial genius. In lecture, he used to switch writing hands to give the audience a better view of the blackboard. When he was trying to explain a complex reaction, he used to write with both his left and right hands simultaneously. Try taking lecture notes in his class!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crested Butte

The first time Bad Dad and I visited Crested Butte, we approached it from Marble via Schofield Park on our loaded mountain bikes in early August. The glacier-carved alpine meadow was carpeted with wildflowers--like the sleepy scene in The Wizard of Oz. We didn't think anything could be prettier than that.

When we carried our bicycles over the avalanche chute at Schofield pass, we saw the most jaw-droppingly beautiful scene. This doesn't even begin to describe the beauty. It's still early in the wildflower season.We introduced our daughter to mountain biking by riding up to Peanut Lake.
She was a real trooper. Not only did she ride off pavement for the first time, but she even rode the lower loop trail, which was still wet and muddy in sections. I worried about how she would handle the mud*. She plowed right through it, filling her mama's heart to bursting.
We turned around where the trail hit the water in the Slate River. Notice the mud on our backsides. That's why Crested Butte is nicknamed "Crusty Butt".

* The wagon trail between Marble and Crested Butte crosses the Crystal River in several places. It can be quite deep, even in August. I found out just how deep when I fell over during one crossing. I kept my panniers dry, but I was soaked. Amazingly, I didn't mind because it brought me eye level to the meadow and I noticed more flowers. But my butt was quite crusty when we made our way to the inn that evening.

We were so tired, we were passed by an old lady on a five-speed climbing out of the old mining town of Gothic, the last climb to Crested Butte. When I grow up, I want to be like her.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Calvin Clean 1985-2011

Do you remember when patterns were almost always sold at full price and we bought only a handful of patterns per year? Fewer were introduced and retired from the catalogs each season so we took our time and selected carefully.

Vogue 1507 is one of the first Vogue patterns I ever bought. I was so new to sewing, I bought by my RTW dress size (8) instead of the pattern size based on my measurements (12). I was also so naive, I bought patterns for the figure that I wished I had rather than the one I do have. If I were a six-foot tall slim-hipped wonder, I'd look like 1980's Calvin Klein muse and model, Josie Borain. Alas, the pattern has sat unused for 25 years.

I was inspired by several denim t-shirts seen at the Spring 2011 shows like this Celine one with a bateau neck. Photos courtesy of; click to see their coverage of the Celine spring 2011 collection.

Take an iconic American uniform of jeans and a t-shirt, and combine the two to make a denim t-shirt. Fashion geek genius!

Just to drive the point home even further, Stella McCartney added contrasting "jean orange" topstitching.

What's more iconic than a t-shirt from the designer who brought us "nothing comes between me and my Calvins"? I dug out the pattern.

It was a very easy and fast project. I had some very lightweight denim lying about--the same stuff I used for Iris' blue 4-tiered pleated skirt. Because of the over-sized nature of the cut, a size 8 fits just fine. I shortened the top by 3" (from 27" to 24") and added 1.5" of ease around the hip.

  • Josie was also a Classic Elite sweater model!
  • No, you actually do see spots in the mirror. I thought my camera lens was dirty until I realized that terry cloth fuzz from Household Sewing had flown all over the cutting area and stuck to the glass. What a mess. I should pick up a vacuum someday, but that would cut into my sewing time.

Speaking of keeping notes

UMBC eBiquity managed to combine two things near and dear to my heart, robots and construction notes! Moreover, the robots crawled under the Great Pyramids of Giza to discover the red writing, which were later deciphered to be builders' measurement notes. Add in the great pyramids and a mystery solved, it's really a trifecta.

Robot discovers construction notes.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Sewing Notebook Meme

Lucky Sew and Sew posted her Ten Years of Sewing Notes and Records and I found it fascinating enough to see if we can start an internet meme. Inspired by her swatches, I've started stapling my swatches to my project notes, too. I hope more people post their notebooks so we can all improve our record-keeping practices.

I found notebooks starting in 1994, the year I bought a new Bernette 740. My grad student budget stretched only to a Bernette, not a Swiss-made Bernina. But the purchase qualified me for a series of Bernina owners' lessons. Because I had just missed the last series, Studio Bernina owner Susan Igou gave me a quick one-on-one lesson to get me started.

I have never experienced sewing lessons like Susan's. If you live in the front range and want to move your sewing skills up a notch, you couldn't do better than take a class with her. She explains the why and the how exactly the way a techie needs.

Anyway, she taught me the importance of keeping a good notebook. At first, I tried to keep my clothing construction and quilting life separate.

But switching notebooks proved cumbersome. (Did I really believe that taking up quilting would help me use up my sewing scraps and reduce my stash fabric collection?) Eventually, I used one notebook at a time.
I even started pasting in inspiration photos.
I admired turquoise and print mixing in 1997. I still do in 2011.
Everything old is new again. Look at the bias cowl blouse at the bottom right. Doesn't it look like the blouse in the top book?
The blouse is out of this book. I haven't made anything from this book yet, but Carolyn has made several items and they all look great on her. On her sidebar, she translates the title to Unique Clothes Any Way You Like by Natsuno Hiraiwa. I bought it at Books Sanseido in Torrance. They had several copies last time I was there.

Please join this meme and post pictures of your sewing notebooks and provide a link in the comments to her original post, Ten Years of Sewing Notes and Records.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Correlation does not imply causality: the algebra version

We've come a long way since the controversial "Math class is tough!" Barbie.

I have repeatedly mentioned that our school district places ~20% of the 6th graders in a math class that compacts the CA 6th grade and 7th grade math curriculum into one year. Those kids are then able to take algebra in the 7th grade, putting them on track to complete calculus by 11th grade. That's the de facto honors math track.

Nationally, it is quite rare. Even within California, only 6.7% of all 7th graders do so--mainly in well-to-do and high-tech areas. That 18.5% of the kids at my daughter's Title 1 school (40% of the kids are poor and/or have parents who did not complete high school) did so last year is a source of pride for our community. (Even though kids of highly educated parents are more likely to be on that track, a significant number of at-risk kids take the class alongside them and do fine.)

I was chatting with my daughter's pre-algebra teacher at open house, when I lamented that the 7th graders wouldn't be segregated from the 8th graders in algebra. I had hoped my daughter could continue in a fast-paced math class. She has often told me how much she liked that class and the teacher. I was worried that the 8th graders would slow the 7th graders down.

If you look at the CST Algebra 1 test scores for the entire state of California (below), you will see that 7th grade algebra students score much, much higher (430 vs 350 ) than 8th graders. 9th graders fare worse and 10th and 11th graders do even more poorly.

Then the teacher said what appeared to be a non-sequitur. She said that we could sign her up for gender-based algebra.

When my daughter asked us to fill out a gender-based algebra form, stating our preference that she be placed in an algebra class of all girls, we reluctantly signed it. It was her preference, not ours. My husband and I had assumed that the class would be filled with girls who were NOT math-confident.

The teacher elaborated that the school district superintendent was a big proponent of gender-based algebra and that education scholars were following the results in our district with great interest. I said the results are not statistically valid because of selection bias. At this point, I was still clueless, assuming that the girls' scores would be lower than the boys'. But I couldn't understand why the superintendent would so strongly support this program because he struck me as a data-driven guy.

Then the teacher said that the parents of the boys complained because the girls' algebra class had become the de facto honors math class because only the girls very serious about math signed up for it. The boys were relegated to algebra classes with a higher percentage of kids who had difficulty with math. To be fair to the boys, she would also teach a boys only algebra class next year.

Her point was that gender-based algebra test scores look really good because of selection bias.

I would like to point out that 7th graders test higher than 8th graders in the same math class because of selection bias, too. In a perfect world, kids take algebra when they are prepared for it. The kids that are ready at a younger age are more likely to excel than the kids that take it at a later time. But, you can't take the same kid and throw them in a higher level class and expect them to do better. (With the exception of bored and under-achieving kids.) Sorry, putting Kindergardeners in algebra is not going to make CA stack up against Singapore. ;-)

Correlation does not imply causality is my statistical pet peeve.

Just the same, I went to the assistant principal in charge of curriculum to explain that my daughter really, really wants to take gender-based algebra next year and could he check to make sure it doesn't conflict with her preferred electives?
We've come a long way, baby. Even MIT has matriculated more girls than boys in recent years.

CST Algebra I (California overall)
Result Type 7 8 9 10 11 EOC
Students Tested 31,492 274,508 269,800 118,412 56,830 751,042
% of Enrollment 6.7 % 57.3 % 52.3 % 23.8 % 12.1 %
Students with Scores 31,480 274,182 268,975 117,798 56,451 748,886
Mean Scale Score 430.9 350.3 307.9 290.1 282.3 323.9
% Advanced 50 % 16 % 3 % 1 % 1 % 9 %
% Proficient 35 % 30 % 19 % 11 % 8 % 22 %
% Basic 11 % 24 % 26 % 23 % 19 % 24 %
% Below Basic 4 % 22 % 36 % 42 % 45 % 31 %
% Far Below Basic 1 % 7 % 16 % 23 % 27 % 14 %

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Mariposa (Schwaan)

Email marketing really works. I received the Berroco Knitbits newsletter with a link to the newly-released Norah Gaughan Volume 8 pamphlet. I went out to the Slipt Stitch at lunch to buy it.
Notice that my version is not a literal interpretation of the cover sweater.
I really do not need the textured band around my hips, especially at the huge gauge of 3 stitches per inch. I also don't love the lace netting at the base of the triangles. I like the way it echoes the lace netting bands at the bottom, but I don't need it if I eliminate the bands.

Thanks to the magic of Ravelry, I had the collective wisdom of the 50+ people who had knitted the pattern before me. (Ravelry is crowd-sourcing done right. It's the category killer of online knitting communities.) Many got rid of the bulky bands at the bottom and substituted yarns at slightly different gauges.

One person mentioned that she didn't like the many holes in the base of the triangle and substituted one row of holes instead. Another person said that she didn't want bulky seams and knitted everything but the inset in one piece. That might have been the same person who mentioned short-row shaping to eliminate the weird triangle extensions at the neck.

In a recycling fervor, I hauled out the bag of Rowan Summer Tweed (70% silk/30% cotton/+bonus vegetable matter) that my sister sent. She had abandoned a project that was just not right for the yarn so I ripped it out and salvaged the yarn. There were the equivalent of 6 balls of this purple color, 2 in a dark blue and one in a chalky white. I tried to knit it at the recommended 4 sts/in and got a texture resembling cardboard. Moreover, knitting the yarn at this tight gauge made my hands and wrists hurt. When I switched to a larger needle, the resulting fabric had an appealing soft, drapey quality that matched its color. (3.5 by 5.5 sts/in)

Changing the gauge meant that I had to adapt the stitch count and all the shaping. I also had to rechart the lace triangles--these are 29 stitches wide. You can see the short-row shaping at the top of the sleeves. While I was changing everything else, why not change the neckline finish?

Note the short-row shaping of the back shoulders. Since both the overall gauge and the ratio of row and stitch gauge was drastically different, I changed the raglan shaping sequence.

My short-row shaping chart on top with a partial table of raglan shaping below. In case you haven't noticed before, I am a strongly visual person.
I also added back waist shaping. In this pattern, you can't add front waist shaping without destroying the geometric design on the front.
Another project from freebie reclaimed materials completed!

Ravelry link for project.

Two people told me that the sweater reminded them of a butterfly. I work in El Segundo, home of the endangered El Segundo Blue Butterfly. It's a scrappy little thing, less than an inch across and it lives on the ocean bluffs sandwiched between a giant oil refinery, the main water treatment plant for metro LA and LAX, one of the ten busiest airports in the world. Its habitat is the last undeveloped area along the Santa Monica bay coastline.
I really respect the denizens of El Segundo for the way the community embraced this little butterfly. Instead of decrying the endangered species act and mouthing off about government interference and landowner rights, the entire town rallied to save and restore the habitat.

Mariposa (the Spanish word for butterfly) street is named it. Many business names in El Segundo contain the word Mariposa or Butterfly. You will see it on the sidewalks, on signs--the library even commissioned a blue butterfly quilt design. (I took a photo of it before I noticed the sign saying that the artist does not want images of the quilt to be posted on the internet and I am respecting her wish. But, if you are in ES, I urge you to see the gorgeous quilt.)

The town really identifies with the scrappiness of this little butterfly. Anyway, that is why I think of it as my Mariposa sweater. I've had a difficult time this year with my health and this sweater, in my favorite color, is a reminder to me to hang tough.