Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Suspend-to-RAM and Other Troubles

I'm running KDE 4, with some grumblings on three different machines, and the "sleep" and "hibernate" options behave badly, in different ways on each machine. In my search for solutions, I ran across a way to suspend to RAM from the command line.

root@britomartis:/home/rebecca# pm-suspend

I still get a "kerneloops" message, but the keyboard and wireless don't lock up this way.

I just replaced the desktop computer I've spent so much time trying to fix lately. It was cheaper to buy a debranded, no-OS machine than to buy replacement parts that might or might not have worked. I tried to get along with the laptop as my main machine, but it was not ideal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I've Been Doing Lately

Here's a peek at what I've been up to lately:

I'm enjoying revisiting my ecology textbooks and reading new PLoS ONE articles. I wish I didn't have to do it on such a tight deadline, but that is the way these things usually go!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ravens at Dawn

The ravens have visited us regularly all winter. This isn't surprising, but this is the first year they've spent so much time here since we started spending time here. We've had bluebirds all winter, which is also unusual. Birds of opposing omens?

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Quilt Project Long-Deferred

I've been in a tizzy the last few days, mostly a positive sort of tizzy, because some gainful employment has come my way. It involves quite a bit of advance preparation, so I'm frantically developing reading lists, lectures, and assignments for courses that should have started a few weeks ago.

This means that some of my other projects are moved to the back burner. The wool quilt top is completely assembled now, and I've pieced a backing from orange, gray, and blue fleece scraps. My next free afternoon will find me safety-pinning the top to the backing. I hope the wool/polar fleece combo won't be so heavy and bulky that I can't use the sewing machine to tie the layers together, but if it is, I can always tie it the slow way with a needle and thread.

While I see a way to finish that project sometime soon, I may have to put the next quilt project aside for a while. That's happened before. I think it was 2000 or 2001 when I dyed these muslin pieces. A couple of years later, I made half-square triangles of them. In 2005 I started assembling these for window quilts, but soon discovered I didn't have enough fabric to cover the windows. That was when I put the hand-dyed muslin away again and took up fabric scraps unsuitable for quilting to make curtains. The scrap curtain project took about six weeks of steady sewing, but the results did please me, and helped keep the old house a little warmer in the winter. I'm still using them in the new house, one pair in the bedroom, the other in the living room.

Last summer, I hauled out the slow-developing project once more, and finished sewing the half-square triangles into blocks (finished size eight inches by eight inches). I discovered I had 56 complete blocks (and a few odd bits left over). I could make a seven by eight block rectangle, but I started thinking I could instead make curtains for my sewing room. When faced with indecision, sometimes it's best to wait for inspiration. Just last month, I decided I needed a cloth to cover my dining room table (which is where the computer sits in the living room), and these hand-dyed colors would be just the ticket to brighten up the place. I hauled out the blocks, and some flannel scraps for backing, and that's when I got the phone call that sent me into a textbook-seeking, reading-list making tizzy.

Tizzy-wise, I also got some bad news about one of my other occasional teaching jobs--"Nursing program shut down." It looks like there will be far fewer teaching occasions for me there for the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Testing New Sewing Patterns

2011 was my year for going back through my collection of disappointing patterns to see if fitting alterations could make any of them useful. With the exception of a loose-fitting shirt style and the frequently pre-tested jacket, I didn't find any overlooked treasures. Given all that pattern-adjusting and sewing with no new clothes to show for it, I decided to bite the bullet and order some new patterns. (Oh, for the days when they cost $1.25!) This "Vogue 8598" blouse with shoulder-princess seams was the winner of the bunch. It was easy to make the full-bust adjustment (or maybe I just have had a lot of practice lately), and that was the only change I made to the basic design. I wore this blue rayon shirt Friday, and it fit fine and didn't reveal any design flaws or tendencies to bunch or pull under a jacket. The shirt collar is a little over-sized, so next time, I'll replace it with a more "normal" menswear collar. I'm planning to try it next in a crisp cotton, and if that works well, perhaps I'll use it for the cotton-linen blend I dyed last summer.

This tunic pattern, "Vogue 7858," was half-price the day I ordered patterns, and I thought it looked intriguing, perhaps as a light-weight over-blouse for summer air conditioning. This turned out to be one of those cases where Vogue's drawing doesn't match the pattern. The side front horizontal seam doesn't sit at the bust, as the drawing shows, but well under the bust, giving quite a different garment shape. A quick look at the multi-size tissue pattern also revealed that the sizes were not graded--larger sizes were simply wider than smaller sizes.

Years ago, Vogue was reliable for excellent line drawings and accurate estimates of wearing ease. The blouse pattern above (Vogue 8598) was just as depicted on the pattern envelope. Still, since I'd already blown the money on pattern and postage, I made some pattern alterations, and sewed a muslin. I thought it looked promising, so I cut it out of some Guatemalan cotton fabric I bought in Costa Rica in 1983. I was really glad to have the serger for neatly-finished seams on the ravel-y hand-woven.

While the muslin (made of actual muslin) seemed to be the right size for an over-blouse, the finished garment in a heavier, coarser weave seems a bit too large. I think it has a future as lounge-wear, but I'm unlikely to use it as a light jacket in work settings. (These days work clothes are less in demand than lounge wear, so this is not a problem.) Should I ever sew this again, I would definitely use a smaller size One size smaller, or two? I'm not sure.

Despite the way their pattern line's name fits with my philosophy, I've never had much luck with McCall's "Stitch and Save" patterns. Still, the price was right, and I'd been intrigued with this Empire style blouse since I first saw an expensive custom-designed version of it several years ago. Although the pattern is adaptable for various bra-cup sizes, my first muslin indicated that I needed a further full-bust adjustment, and some narrowing at the shoulder seams. The second muslin seemed to fit, so I tried it in this blue silky polyester (from my mom's 1980's collection).

Ah, if only I had tried sitting down in the muslin, I could have saved this fabric for some more successful project. When I sit down while wearing jeans, my, um, need for wearing ease around the waist increases. In fact, even when I was as young and nearly as slim as the model on the pattern envelope, that wearing ease issue was there for me. I suspect the jeans-wearing model herself never made the mistake of sitting while wearing this fashion. I ripped out the side seams and added substantial gussets, so I can sit down, but I suspect when I finally wear this blouse out and about that it will not be a success in either comfort or appearance.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Looking Forward (and Back) to Dyeing Adventures

I really enjoy dyeing fabric and fiber. This is a three-yard length of cotton/linen blend, dyed last summer. I can never resist tossing a few fabric scraps into the dye-bath, just to see what happens. These over-dyed scraps are indigo denim, black denim, and a cotton print.

Dyeing projects outdoors in the summer is the most pleasant way to work, but, unfortunately, at that time of year, we seldom have enough water in the well for the recommended amount of rinsing. I'm always looking for ways to get color-fast fabric with minimal water use. That's why I was very excited to find Melissa Will's Fabric Dyeing 101. In her hand-dyed fabric business, she's worked out a process that conserves water, electricity, and price-y fiber dyes. She's put together three e-books (priced for the frugal among us) detailing her methods for dyeing, for teaching dyeing workshops, and for managing a home-based business. (The business book is free, and a very enjoyable read, whether or not you're contemplating a fabric-dyeing business.)

Once I finish a few projects and clear some work space, I'm looking forward to trying her methods on a small scale, indoors.

Melissa's put up a link collection recently. It includes Paula Burch's dyeing pages, where I learned much of what I know about fabric dyes, and Melody Johnson's "The Lazy Dyer". It was Melody's blog that pointed me to Melissa's e-books, and I found Melody through a search for modular knitting patterns almost exactly a year ago.

Fabric Dyeing 101

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Instant Productivity for a Period of Sewing Disappointments

I'm freeing some space in my fabric scrap storage today by cutting out a tried and true underwear pattern in cotton tee shirt jersey. I won't sew them right away, but at some future moment when I've been mending, or sewing unsuccessful muslins, or feeling unproductive, I'll sew up a few pair of underbritches, embellish them with lace remnants, and restock my lingerie drawer.

I cut these out last winter at the same time I sewed this clothesline-full, and I decorated them with left-over stretch lace from other projects and completed them during a recent period of sewing disappointing muslins for new patterns. Instant productivity.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Wearable Jackets, At Last

I bought this jacket pattern in 2007, and started altering and experimenting with it. I made full bust adjustments and a couple of muslins, and thought I was in business. About that time, some work obligations and the new house project intervened.

Recently, I decided to try again. Making a lined suit jacket with shaped lapels is a big time commitment, so I thought a wearable test garment would be in order--unlined, with simple, self-faced, button-to-the neck lapels. I made a new pattern piece for the center fronts, selected a jacket-weight navy blue fabric from my closet, and sewed it up. Once the buttons were in place, I could see the fit was good except in the shoulders. Home-made shoulder pads fixed that jacket, and I narrowed the shoulders on the pattern pieces. I don't have pictures of that jacket because the fabric proved to be unwearable--the loose-woven polyester attracted every stray hair, feather, and dust fleck on Droop Mountain. I salvaged the buttons and wrote that jacket off as another "muslin."

This time, I pulled out velvet upholstery fabric my mom bought in the 1970's. It's a pretty color, and, because I haven't come up with any better use for it in 30+ years, it will do for a fourth "muslin." The fit this time seems just right, and I'll probably use it for outerwear in the spring and fall. I slapped a pair of patch pockets on the front, because I didn't even want to think about making welt pockets in this coarse, ravel-y fabric.

I was so pleased with the simplified, unlined version of the jacket that I tried it again in this cotton velveteen yardage I had previously dyed using a low-water immersion technique. The serged seam finish is so tidy and attractive that lining would not add that much, and I think the button-to-the neck lapels and patch pockets are the right look for these casual jackets. I believe I'm going to cut out this same pattern in wide-wale corduroy next.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Staircase Spiral Mohair Socks

It's another pair of fine-gauge mohair socks, finished last week with yarns from the Reagan administration. I still have a small collection of odd balls of fine-gauge luxury yarns like this mohair. I was especially attracted to the shades of pink we favored in those days, and this intense fuchsia yarn looked appealing next to this pale gray.

I love to use odd balls of yarn to knit Fair Isle patterns, but I am over-supplied with heavy socks, so I chose a slip-stitch pattern from Barbara G. Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. These patterns only use one strand of yarn per row, so they don't add much bulk (or warmth) to the finished socks. This is "Staircase Pattern," on page 65 of my edition.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

More Fox From the Trail Camera, and an Owl Too

Here are some better pictures of one of our fox visitors.

A barred owl has been a regular visitor to the deer carcass for several weeks.

During the day, titmice, bluebirds, downy woodpeckers, ravens, and red-bellied woodpeckers have also visited, but they don't usually trigger the camera's shutter.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Pre-Dawn Visitor

This gray fox visited late last night, but didn't come closer to the camera this time.

Just before dawn, this much larger guy showed up. Coyote?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Authentic Period Doll Clothes

A year ago, I unboxed my grandmother's doll, cleaned her up, and determined to make a period dress for her. She's still sitting on a bookshelf, in her underwear, like many of us who work from home. The rules I found on period costume for antique dolls seemed to kill the fun of making doll clothes. This fabric was inappropriate, that trim was a synthetic fiber, any style ideas I had were not authentic. It was as if I had invited a really pedantic Civil War reenactor to live in my head.

My own dolly (from Christmas, 1962) was also inadequately attired. This year, when I dragged out the Christmas decorations, I was inspired to dress her up. She's a "Tiny Tears" doll, one of the types that you could "feed" water with a scale model baby bottle, and then you'd have to change her diaper. She has "tear ducts" that would also leak water. The little pink and white dress she came in has long since vanished, but it occured to me that the pastel baby yarn I had recently used for socks would be adequate to knit a dolly layette. I looked at a vintage knitting book from my mom's 1950's collection, and just made up a pattern for the "soaker" and the knit lace jacket. It entertained me greatly for a couple of evenings, and I feel confident it's "authentic" in style and materials.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Early Grasshopper Catches the Radish

Garden seeds came in the mail today, and, because the ground is bare and workable, I raked some damp soil loose and planted beets and radishes. That's where I found this guy.

This is shockingly early for little grasshoppers here. He was not only hatched and growing, but warm-blooded, quick, and hard to photograph. I foresee a good year for garden pests (but not for gardeners).

Friday, February 03, 2012

Excessive Cuteness: Rabbit Shepherds Sheep

It's a rabbit, showing a border collie how to herd sheep. The blogpost is in Swedish, but you don't really need any more explanation: Gardsbacken: Champis, den vallande kaninen :)). Strangely enough, I found this link on an Alaskan quilting blog I follow: For My Rabbit Loving Friends | Crazy Shortcut Quilts. And to think I wasted all that time with LOLcats.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Poetry Feast For St. Bridgid--Weaving a New Eden

Since 2006, I've participated in a "silent poetry reading" for the Feast Day of St. Brigid (or in honor of some more pagan Brigid--at your preference). I'm not aware of any cross-blog activity this year, but it's a good day for a poem.

Here is Sherry Chandler reading Looking Over into the Promised Land from her 2011 book, Weaving a New Eden. I just love this book of poems. I've tried several times to write an explanation about why it's so wonderful, but I'm reduced to gushing fandom.

Weaving a New Eden is a women's history of Kentucky, moving from Rebecca Boone and the other frontierswomen through Sherry's ancestors ("The Grandmother Acrostics") to the present day and back again. These stories strike some chord in me that rings and resonates in a way that I can't describe. Few poets leave me wordless like this.

I've enjoyed reading Sherry's blog for as long as I've been reading blogs--she writes about poetry and poetics, cats and dogwood trees, and the many and varied books she reads. You can also sample a few of her poems online through her blog.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Google and Gingrich--They Don't Get Me At All

Some people who live on remote mountain ridges worry about the government tracking their movements and infringing their rights. I assume that's why Newt Gingrich called me on behalf of the NRA a few days ago, to warn me that "Obama's gonna take your guns." (His elocution was a little more sophisticated, but he was just echoing the same old theme I've been hearing since 2008.) Of course, I asked Newt why Obama hasn't gotten it done yet, but, being a robo-call, Newt didn't answer.

I'm more concerned about giant corporations than intrusive government. When I found this link to Google's ad targeting data based on my searches, I expected them to know things about me I feared to admit even to myself. I imagined an ominous combination of Santa Claus and Orwell's Big Brother. Instead, it seems, Big Brother doesn't get me at all. Here's how Google sees me:

Your categories:
Business & Industrial
Computers & Electronics - Software
Computers & Electronics - Software - Operating Systems - Linux & Unix
Shopping - Apparel
Localities - North America-USA-South(USA)-West Virginia

Your demographics:
We infer your age and gender based on the websites 
you've visited. You can remove or edit these at 
any time.
Age: 35-44
Gender: Male

I expected all those searches for antique crochet patterns and sewing supplies would have given a different demographic profile. But perhaps midlife male computer nerds are exploring their softer side with vintage-styled handmade lace. And, from an advertiser's viewpoint, Wal-Mart is the only place in our area where you can buy steel crochet hooks and computer hardware.

To see how Google identifies you as an advertising target, you can visit Google's Ads on the Web.