Saturday, October 31, 2015

Time to get sewing

The Harley Quinn inspiration picture that DD showed me.
A bit tight for a teen, but looks like a fun costume.
The least disgusting costume I could find RTW on the internet.
But only available in Australia for > $100 and with a warning that the fabric is sheer and requires a full-body flesh-toned body stocking.
Sigh.  Why are RTW Halloween costumes for women so slutty?

Difference between men's and women's costumes.
The costume is done, mailed off to LA, and tried on for size. It fits! More pix and construction deets after she's debuted the costume.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Tsunami Forecast

I sometimes contribute to the Native Intelligence section of LA Observed.

If you need some frightening reading for this weekend, may I recommend Santa Monica tsunami forecast?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I feel so used

The GOP presidential debate is taking place right now at the 11,000+ seat Coors Events Center on the CU Boulder campus.  Only 1,000 of those seats will be filled.

Most of the tickets are going to GOP donors or potential donors.

The community of Boulder gets road closures of main arterials during peak commute hours in exchange for 0 seats for the event (and a 2-day! closure of a bicycle arterial).

The campus hosting the event?  At first, they got 50 tickets, then 100, then 150.
University officials told the Daily Camera this week that of the 150 CU tickets, 99 tickets are for students, 17 are for faculty and 34 are for event volunteers, the nine members of the Board of Regents, plus a guest each, Chancellor Phil DiStefano and a guest.
This event just gives the national press an excuse to run lazy and stupid stories like this.

The GOP gets to borrow the veneer of economic vitality of this STEM-heavy community while not mentioning how much of Boulder's high-tech economy is due to the THREE national labs and the only major research university in the Rocky Mountain time zone--all fueled by federal spending they want to cut.

Meanwhile, the residents and students are told to stay home and avoid the streets.  What's the GOP plan for the small businesses that will be empty tonight?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Speed Sewing 2

My first time in Boulder, I took a shirt-sewing class.   With practice, I got pretty good at it.

But, Bad Dad is so hard on his clothes and not discerning enough to warrant my precious sewing time.

He did ask for short-sleeved shirts that he can wear in lab, that don't require ironing, and look presentable enough to step into a meeting.

I purchased 5 shirts at Goodwill on Saturday for the princely sum of $14.  (The olive green solid shirt is a more expensive technical outdoor shirt, but a bargain at $4 instead of the > $100 they normally cost new.)
Three of the shirts mutated from long-sleeved to short-sleeved thusly:

Measure and mark off your desired length + 1.5".   (I cut mine 6.5" from the underarm seam for a ~5" sleeve length.)  Notice that the sleeves taper toward the cuff.  Stitching a smooth hem will not be easy.
If you turned up a hem the way short-sleeved sport shirts are normally hemmed, by turning under 1/4" and then another 1", you'd have a mess.  The sleeve circumference varies about 3/4" between two spots 2" apart along the length.

You need to turn under a smaller amount, about 5/8".  This way, the difference between the two circumferences is manageably small.  Turn under 5/8" once.  Make 4 snips near the underarm seam that extend just shy of the fold.   The snips won't show, but they will allow a little bit of extra girth.  Turn under 3/4".  Stretch, steam and press to help the hem lie flat.

The hem area will still a bit shorter than the sleeve once the fabric relaxes.  Use C = 2πr to your advantage.  Hem from the outside so that the smaller part is on the inside of the cylinder.
Give it a good press again with steam.
Three short-sleeved shirts for lab.

In other news, I finally finished DD's Halloween costume and mailed it off to her priority mail so she can wear it to school on Friday Oct 30.  I also altered the green mock-wrap top to reduce the front gape.  I just need to make her birthday outfit, stitch curtains for the guest room, finish the last pair of pillows and I can engage in some selfish sewing.

Speed Sewing 1

Sunday, October 25, 2015

It was just one of those things...

It was just one of those weeks. Something that I thought should be straightforward, but tedious, turned out to be really hard. Several times, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought I was going crazy because commands that used to work, generated screenfuls of error messages.

It got so bad at one point, I did the UNIX equivalent of "WhereTF am I?" and typed pwd (print working directory) and THAT generated errors. There was nothing left to do but to log out (of that interactive session on the supercomputer) and log back into a different node. I mentioned the odd behavior to a coworker, but neither of us connected that incident to the database migration that took place the day before.

I know, those of you more familiar with databases are probably laughing your head off right now.

Finally, after 4PM on a Friday afternoon, all but one interactive node and about half the (75,000) nodes lost contact with the disk system.  There was nothing I could do by hanging around the lab while the IT team worked to rescue the machine.

It was time to go out in the field for some riparian ecosystem research.
 I didn't use my car at all this weekend.
Boulder's bicycle network, and my condo's central location, let me do everything I needed to do by bike.  The trees are so glorious this time of year, I took the loooong way whenever I ran errands.

Oh, I bought the most expensive fabric I've ever bought this weekend.  I thought it was the Liberty Tana Lawn at $44/yard, but it was a heavier shirting at $66/yard.  I didn't check the price until after it was already cut and rung up.  But I love the print and the feel of the fabric; it is wide enough that 1.5 yards should yield a very luxurious shirt.  Think of all the money I saved on gas by not driving.  That can buy a lot of fabric.  ;-)

OOPS, I checked my receipt and Liberty's website.  It is a Tana Lawn after all, and I paid $66 for the 1.5 yard piece, not per yard.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Democracy 3

This November will be my first time to vote as a Boulder, Colorado resident since the 1990s. Fortunately, I can rely on the help of my friend who writes the Colorado and Boulder Ballot Issues blog to help me sort out the issues.

FWIW, Boulder politics hasn't changed much since my last stint.  Many candidates give lip service to affordable housing, but don't lift a finger to do anything about it.  Worse, they block attempts to ameliorate the severe housing crisis faced by moderate and low-income workers* in Boulder.

Boulder is the most expensive housing market in Colorado both to rent and to buy.  What has city council done?  Say yes to a new Googleplex, as well as hundreds of thousands of square feet of new office space while severely restricting construction of housing.

After navigating the Boulder real estate market as both a renter and a buyer (and a remodeler), I have a few thoughts about how the city could improve the situation.  ;-)

Please read Colorado and Boulder Ballot Issues for very well-informed and reasoned arguments about how to vote on the myriad issues that Colorado in general and Boulder County in particular will vote on this November.

* The land purchased by the city to build permanently affordable housing has shot up in value while the city has dragged it's feet on building said housing.  Meanwhile, some council members propose to sell the valuable site in the transit village to the highest bidder (adding to the supply of $2000+/mo 1-bedroom apartments in that neighborhood) and put affordable housing on the outskirts of town.

Not only would this delay the delivery of affordable housing, but it's a giant FU to those that need it.

After all, don't low-income single-parent families NEED walkable neighborhoods and good transit options even more than families that can afford reliable cars and a stay-at-home parent or nanny to schlep the kids around?

Monday, October 19, 2015

When Bad Mom met Buttons Grandma

A friend, who also leads a CO-CA existence for family reasons, invited me over to help clear out her fridge before she left.  She also invited her oldest friend in Boulder, Button Grandma!

After dinner, we convinced her to bring over her newest lot of Victorian glass brilliants (glass + metallics) so we could get first dibs.  The dining table light wasn't the greatest, but it was an Aladdin's cave of goodies.

The gold ones:

 Some of the silver ones that caught my eye.

 Decisions, decisions.
They are more than a century old, not in perfect shape, not cheap (but IMHO, a fair deal), so I set myself a limit of $20/20 buttons.

These came home with me:

 The intricacy of some of these is incredible.  Some didn't photograph well with my point and shoot.  These are two of the medium-intricacy ones.

 Gratuitous shot.
Dinner, conversation, good company and buttons!

Matched sets are very rare and expensive.  Our mutual friend showed me how she uses more affordable singleton buttons, matched for size (and with harmonizing shapes/colors), for her shirts.  I'm going to copy that idea.

Next time, I'm going over to with my sewn but buttonhole-less shirts to find the right buttons.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


But not the ones from the pillow poll.
I mis-remembered the size of the pillow inserts I had purchased and made plain black cotton canvas backs for a 24-25" pillow forms.
I purchased the canvas from the Colorado Fabrics Home Dec remnant rack for a song.  The helpful ladies at CF taught me how to reduce bulk at the edges by using an invisible zipper 2-3" in from the edge.  If I didn't tell you the zip opening was there, would you see it?

I pulled out my Japanese jacquard fabric and realized that it is only 42" wide so I need 20" pillow inserts.  I went into the closet and found that I had, indeed, purchased 20" pillow inserts.  That sent me the Elfriede's for the "B" side fabric.

Hmm, how can I use the pillow backs that I put so much work into already?

I stopped by Home Goods on my way home from work and picked up two 26" pillow Euro square pillows.  I carried these home on my bike.  The nice ladies at HG taped the pillows to my bike rack and panniers to save me from having to come back with my car.

On my last trip to LA, I found excavated this heavy-weight black/white cotton jacquard on my shelf of home dec fabrics.  I bought this in 1997 for use in our first apartment in LA together.  When we moved into our townhouse, I put the fabric away and forgot I had it.  Sometimes, it pays to be a packrat.

The other AB + AB pillows are in the queue after DD's Halloween costume and back-to-school wardrobe.  Due to the prolonged heat wave in the western US, Fall clothes are not yet needed.  If I drag out the back-to-school sewing, can I plausibly call them birthday presents?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Border Art

No, not quilt borders--I mean national borders.

With refugee crises around the world, we've been hearing a lot about 'sovereignty' and 'controlling our borders'.  I have mixed feelings about it, and a deep mistrust of anyone who claims the answers are easy.

We have a border fence between the US and Mexico.

Fence photo courtesy of Guardian.
It is an environmental disaster.  Some would say it is a human disaster.

Today, I read about a bunch of artists who erected a string of Helium-filled balloons perpendicular to and on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

They purchased these adorable balloons.  Apparently, they sell them in Home Depots and Ag supply stores to discourage birds from eating field crops.

The store-bought balloons come printed with giant eyes to scare birds away from crop fields.
Usually, fences lie ALONG a border.  But, artists, being artists, look at things a bit differently.

They put their fence ACROSS the border, in a straight line.  It's like they are stitching the land on both sides of the border together.

When is a fence not a fence but more like a tie?
The artists and the journalists, failed to mention that we have an actual string of balloons already along the US-Mexico border.  Read the US Customs and Border Patrol information site about the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) program. Aerostats are a fancy name for tethered balloons.

Map of actual Customs and Border Patrol network of aerostats (big balloons).

The TARS balloons are bigger--much bigger.

My, what big gas tanks you have!
If you file a FOIA request, you can read what I've written about field operations of very large balloons.  But, that was in a past life.  Today, I just wanna blog about art.

Now let's look at another brilliant piece of border art.  Artist Ana Fernandez painted a section of the fence separating Tijuana and San Diego to 'erase' it.

More border art on the fence between Tijuana and San Diego.
Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why the future of diesel engines matters

No other automotive vehicle fuel surpasses the energy density of diesel by weight or by volume.

Chart from US Energy Information Agency
More fuel comparisons from 
Gasoline Gallon Equivalent from Wikipedia (they agree w/ figures)
GGE via Wikipedia
Until the advent of gas-electric hybrids (like my Prius), nothing matched the driving range of diesel engines. That made them ideal for long-haul trucking and passenger vehicles in remote areas.

Diesel engines also produce more torque than gasoline engines.  (Explained by my friend's husband, who sounds mighty defensive about his grad school.)  This made them a good choice for buses, trucks and locomotives that pull heavy weights over steep grades.  It also makes them fun to drive--that famous Fahrvergnuegen.

We knew that diesel engines are polluting.  We also know that they emit more CO2 than conventional gasoline to produce the same amount of energy if you take the alkane lengths and balance the redox equations.  (You can do that in your sleep, right?)

We knew all that.  But the diesel car manufacturers were telling us they could dramatically reduce the downsides of diesel without sacrificing performance.  They said that they could reduce smog-forming NOx and SOx (nitrogen and sulfur with various numbers of oxygen atoms) that hurt plants and animals.

We now know that is a lie.  Real-world driving tests now show that diesel automobiles of many companies exceed the legal limits.  VW is just the most egregious of the violators (by nearly an order of magnitude!).

And then there is Black Carbon (BC).  It's not only unsightly and unhealthy in the cities, but it's also melting snowpacks and glaciers and accelerating global warming.  Notice the high BC emissions in Europe, India and China due to their heavy reliance on diesel for transportation?  It's no coincidence that the snowpacks in the Alps and the Himalayas are declining so rapidly.

Black Carbon emissions inventory courtesy of

The problem is that these projections are based upon vehicle emissions tests that we now know are frauds.
Projections courtesy of
It's time to do some deep thinking about how we get around.

Now I'm going to stop hyperventilating and knit with some pretty yarn while streaming something escapist on Netflix.

Another angle:

Bad apples or bad culture? Explaining Volkswagen’s malfeasance

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mining Water 3: Simplicity 1666

I hope you are not sick of t-shirt refashions because I have more.
When you make stuff from junk, people give you their junk.  I accepted a pile of shirts and fabric graciously from a declutterer.  This salmon pink was so pretty, and looked so great with this paisley rayon jersey, I sewed it up right away.
Does this look like the pattern envelope?
I didn't think so either. But take a look at the designer's own version of Simplicity 1666.
I omitted the zipper because the neck opening is sufficiently large and the knits are sufficiently stretchy.
Made in January 2014 and blogged in October 2015.

Oh, I used an OOP Vogue skirt pattern meant for wovens.

Knit + waist elastic = no zipper

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mining water 2

As long as I am showing t-shirt refashions aka water mining, I thought I should show you this beloved shirt.

A few years ago, DD outgrew pink and decided she likes hipster graphic Ts.  I duly purchased silkscreen supplies, but never got around to using them.  (Life got busy.)

Thrift stores are full of graphic Ts.  Smaller ones get the Quick T-shirt refashion hem treatment.   Larger ones are recut at the shoulders/sides while preserving the neckline as shown in World Water Day 2015.

But these musical birds got the full treatment. I 'fussy cut' around the motif to place the birds optimally. Then I cut sleeves and a new neckband from a coordinating fabric (remnant from SAS Fabrics) and sewed the t-shirt together from scratch.  This t-shirt has been loved and worn to death in the past ~3 years so I thought I'd better document it (with holes) before it goes into the rag pile.

The birds are just awesome.  Each one is uniquely hipster in its own way and does it's own thing musically.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Mining Water 1

Do you like cotton jersey pillowcases? I purchased a set of cotton jersey sheets ~20 years ago. The pillowcases wore out first, because I like the softness next to my face. The jersey sheets, OTOH, took so darn long to dry that I didn't think they were worth the energy premium over other sheets.
I found half a dozen XL or XXL cotton t-shirts at a thrift store when they were $1 each.  It looked like an XL person took a bunch of cruises and got a shirt for each destination.  Large or XL t-shirts can be a cost-effective way to get good quality cotton jersey.

Moreover, at ~900 gallons per XL cotton t-shirt, it's an excellent way to mine water.  If the thrift store is in your neighborhood, you are even mining water transported to your local watershed!

I trimmed the sleeves and top part off to make rectangular shapes, preserving the hem.  I then augmented the length with rectangles of denim that I purchased online but weren't suitable for the project I had in mind for it.

In about 90 minutes, I had 6 pillowcases.  The backsides of all these Ts are plain and soft against the face.  I left the motifs on the outside because I find them amusing.  If the motifs bother you, just use the t-shirts inside out.  If the inside-out hems bother you, sew the denim or other fabric rectangles on the hem/opening side.

I found a blouse-weight soft 100% cotton dark indigo denim in the remnant bin at Joann's ca. 2009 and used to make ruffle skirt #1.

unvented this style of skirt because 2/3 of a yard of fabric (even if it is 60" wide) is not sufficient for four tiers of ruffles.

I liked the fabric so much, I went back to buy more only to discover that the dark indigo color had been discontinued.

I found a light-weight denim from Robert Kaufman at, but it was too heavy and stiff for the t-shirt I wanted to make.

Fortunately, Joann's brought the dark color back in 2011 so I got the t-shirt I envisioned after all.

This time, I bought plenty and Iris got denim ruffle skirt #2.

I'm glad that the mail-order denim found a good use.