mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
Options for today:
  • Unpick a dress binding that's just a tiny bit puckery.
  • Watch Ep 2 of The Stuarts for mocking purposes.
  • Work on fic (The Thick of It wingfic, don't ask).
  • Watch The Bitter Tea of General Yen.
  • Fiddle with bias fabric and make more cockades.
Non-options for today:
  • Obsessively reload pages on Malaysian Airlines crash in Ukraine.
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
All the pictures of this are in a Tumblr post because the tools over there are better.  

Anyway, a year or so ago Spoonflower had a contest for the best ocean-oriented prints.  I liked one of the runners up better than the winner, and asked the runner-up to make the fabric available.  I bought a panel.   When it showed up, it was too large to be incorporated into a skirt and the wrong shape for a pillow.  I set it aside.

A couple of weeks ago I tripped over the Spoonflower envelope, unfolded the panel, and thought.  I figured out that if I trimmed a strip across the top, the fabric would be close to a reasonable tote bag size.   I took the fabric with me to a quilting store, found a complementary fabric for the lining and another for the back, and came home.

For the last two weeks I've been having a bad cold and a migraine; a lot of the time I was lying in bed or going to sleep I was plotting out tote bag: which fabrics should go where, how the panel should be quilted for best effect, how to attach handles, what sort of interior pockets would be most useful.      When I was on my feet, I was messing around with the fabric, a rotary cutter, a quilting ruler, and my trusty Featherweight, adding bits of fabric here and there to make a rectangle twice the size of a totebag.   Then I quilted the panel along the lines of the pattern, quilted the back in spirals, took the strip I'd cut off the top and turned it into a thing pocket, added a knitting-needle pocket and a pencil pocket (both cut to size), added handles, and (I believe I mentioned this) felt smug.

It's nice to feel competent.   It's nice to just jump into the air and know that my skills will lead me to a safe landing.  And it's nice to have a brand new project bag for knitting!

On Making

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:43 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
If you have that sort of mind, making things is ridiculous fun. Taking a few ordinary materials and some post-industrial tools that you have bought at substantial expense and manipulating them into a useful object is entertaining, and when you're done you have a table, or a circuit, or a dress. You can get items customized to your own tastes without having to pay a fortune... as long as you don't cost in your own labor.

The catch is that, until you've spent years practicing the necessary skills and learning which materials suppliers have quality goods, the object you produce won't be as good as the ones created by either an industrial business or a custom maker. There are decades and centuries and in some cases millennia of expertise lying dormant in any created object. Much of the time, your sloppily welded, rough-sawn, lumpy-seamed object is good enough, and you can have fun looking at it and saying "I made it!" Somebody who works in the craft/industry you're emulating will look at the same object and see a macaroni drawing hung on the refrigerator.

I first noticed this when I worked in a company full of very, very bright engineers. Far too many of them were confident, by virtue of that brightness, that they could do anybody else's job. They knew more about kitchen logistics, or ingredient buying, or repairing sprinklers, or cleaning than the professionals -- because of the mathematical or mechanical (mostly) intelligence that had gotten them through the top schools. The truth is that anybody else's job looks easy until you watch them do it. I am always astonished when (with permission) I sit on the floor and watch what the electrician, the plumber, the carpenter are doing to my house. You need to know a lot of stuff about how a house is made to walk into any particular house and sort out its mechanical systems. Plumbing is like surgery -- knowing where the pipes are in a platonic object isn't the same as having your hands deep in the guts of a particular object.

Take me. I've been sewing for over forty years, off and on. Note the "off and on". I sew when I feel like it, when I have the spare time, when I'm not doing the job in which I have professional expertise. When I go to a class with serious costumers, I am always, always the last person to finish any step in the process. My finished garment or object is clumsier than those produced by the everyday seamstresses (sters), because I don't have the hundreds or thousands of hours of practice that they do. Their objects, in turn, seldom approach the highest standards reached by people hundreds of years ago who did nothing but hand-sew all day, every day. Very, very few can handspin a thread fine enough to match the Shetland or Orenburg spinners. Indeed, not that many can handspin a thread fine enough to weave. You cannot get linen approaching the finest quality produced in the 1600s, either handmade or machine-made. People who work in living history museums, when interviewed, always marvel at the skills they are imitating.

Another example of this is backyard farming. Animal shelters are starting to have a problem with abandoned urban chickens (note useful debunking). Why? Because eggs can contain either hens or roosters, and roosters are useful only as food. Straight-run hatchery chicks are less expensive than sexed chickens*, and backyard chicks have no guarantees at all. Finally, the maximum lifespan of a layer is years longer than the useful egg-producing period. Farmers solve this problem by killing unwanted chickens for the stewpot (historic) or fertilizer (modern). Many -- not all -- backyard farmers don't want to slaughter birds themselves, so off to the shelter they go. (I am very, very skeptical of the article's using Marin shelters to minimize this; Marin is its own little planet.)

Anybody keeping backyard goats quickly discovers that male goats are nasty creatures that not only stink but can cause your does' milk to be inedible. Again, the historical answer is roast kid or goat curry. This takes goatkeeping from the pleasantly pastoral to the ineluctably bloody. I haven't even touched on the thousands of nasty diseases chickens, goats, and pigs are not so much heir to as enthusiastic boarding-houses for. Similarly, free-range backyard eggs taste fabulous, but the downside is fighting predators that can't get into a closed battery house. Animal husbandry is a matter of both skill and luck, and no matter what scale you practice it on, there's a lot of unexpected death.

I love heirloom tomatoes. The hybrids don't, in general -- Early Girl is fabulous -- have as deep a flavor as the open-pollinated plants. Propaganda notwithstanding, the heirlooms in my garden are much more disease-prone than the VFNT** F1 hybrids.

Crafts are awesome. Making things is awesome. Growing things is awesome. But if creating something at home makes you undervalue the expertise and skill of people who do it on a commercial scale, you're doing it wrong.

* Yes, chicken sexing is a real skill, and an esoteric one. You try looking at a new-hatched chick's ass and figuring out which kind of cloaca it has.

** Huh. It isn't VFNT, any more; the toughest hybrids are now VFFNTA, which means resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria leaf spot. How many beginning gardeners know to look for those letters?

This entry was originally posted at http://mme-hardy.dreamwidth.org/259510.html, with comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment there or here.

On Making

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:43 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
If you have that sort of mind, making things is ridiculous fun. Taking a few ordinary materials and some post-industrial tools that you have bought at substantial expense and manipulating them into a useful object is entertaining, and when you're done you have a table, or a circuit, or a dress. You can get items customized to your own tastes without having to pay a fortune... as long as you don't cost in your own labor.

The catch is that, until you've spent years practicing the necessary skills and learning which materials suppliers have quality goods, the object you produce won't be as good as the ones created by either an industrial business or a custom maker. There are decades and centuries and in some cases millennia of expertise lying dormant in any created object. Much of the time, your sloppily welded, rough-sawn, lumpy-seamed object is good enough, and you can have fun looking at it and saying "I made it!" Somebody who works in the craft/industry you're emulating will look at the same object and see a macaroni drawing hung on the refrigerator.

I first noticed this when I worked in a company full of very, very bright engineers. Far too many of them were confident, by virtue of that brightness, that they could do anybody else's job. They knew more about kitchen logistics, or ingredient buying, or repairing sprinklers, or cleaning than the professionals -- because of the mathematical or mechanical (mostly) intelligence that had gotten them through the top schools. The truth is that anybody else's job looks easy until you watch them do it. I am always astonished when (with permission) I sit on the floor and watch what the electrician, the plumber, the carpenter are doing to my house. You need to know a lot of stuff about how a house is made to walk into any particular house and sort out its mechanical systems. Plumbing is like surgery -- knowing where the pipes are in a platonic object isn't the same as having your hands deep in the guts of a particular object.

Take me. I've been sewing for over forty years, off and on. Note the "off and on". I sew when I feel like it, when I have the spare time, when I'm not doing the job in which I have professional expertise. When I go to a class with serious costumers, I am always, always the last person to finish any step in the process. My finished garment or object is clumsier than those produced by the everyday seamstresses (sters), because I don't have the hundreds or thousands of hours of practice that they do. Their objects, in turn, seldom approach the highest standards reached by people hundreds of years ago who did nothing but hand-sew all day, every day. People who work in living history museums, when interviewed, always marvel at the skills they are imitating. You cannot get linen approaching the finest quality produced in the 1600s, either handmade or machine-made. Very, very few can handspin a thread fine enough to match the Shetland or Orenburg spinners. Indeed, not that many can handspin a thread fine enough to weave.

Another example of this is backyard farming. Animal shelters are starting to have a problem with abandoned urban chickens (note useful debunking). Why? Because eggs can contain either hens or roosters, and roosters are useful only as food. Straight-run hatchery chicks are less expensive than sexed chickens*, and backyard chicks have no guarantees at all. Finally, the maximum lifespan of a layer is years longer than the useful egg-producing period. Farmers solve this problem by killing unwanted chickens for the stewpot (historic) or fertilizer (modern). Many -- not all -- backyard farmers don't want to slaughter birds themselves, so off to the shelter they go. (I am very, very skeptical of the article's using Marin shelters to minimize this; Marin is its own little planet.)

Anybody keeping backyard goats quickly discovers that male goats are nasty creatures that not only stink but can cause your does' milk to be inedible. Again, the historical answer is roast kid or goat curry. This takes goatkeeping from the pleasantly pastoral to the ineluctably bloody. I haven't even touched on the thousands of nasty diseases chickens, goats, and pigs are not so much heir to as enthusiastic boarding-houses for. Similarly, free-range backyard eggs taste fabulous, but the downside is fighting predators that can't get into a closed battery house. Animal husbandry is a matter of both skill and luck, and no matter what scale you practice it on, there's a lot of unexpected death.

I love heirloom tomatoes. The hybrids don't, in general -- Early Girl is fabulous -- have as deep a flavor as the open-pollinated plants. Propaganda notwithstanding, the heirlooms in my garden are much more disease-prone than the VFNT** F1 hybrids.

Crafts are awesome. Making things is awesome. Growing things is awesome. But if creating something at home makes you undervalue the expertise and skill of people who do it on a commercial scale, you're doing it wrong.

* Yes, chicken sexing is a real skill, and an esoteric one. You try looking at a new-hatched chick's ass and figuring out which kind of cloaca it has.

** Huh. It isn't VFNT, any more; the toughest hybrids are now VFFNTA, which means resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria leaf spot. How many beginning gardeners know to look for those letters?

This entry was originally posted at http://mme-hardy.dreamwidth.org/259510.html, with comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment there or here.

On Making

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:43 am
mme_hardy: (angry)
If you have that sort of mind, making things is ridiculous fun. Taking a few ordinary materials and some post-industrial tools that you have bought at substantial expense and manipulating them into a useful object is entertaining, and when you're done you have a table, or a circuit, or a dress. You can get items customized to your own tastes without having to pay a fortune... as long as you don't cost in your own labor.

The catch is that, until you've spent years practicing the necessary skills and learning which materials suppliers have quality goods, the object you produce won't be as good as the ones created by either an industrial business or a custom maker. There are decades and centuries and in some cases millennia of expertise lying dormant in any created object. Much of the time, your sloppily welded, rough-sawn, lumpy-seamed object is good enough, and you can have fun looking at it and saying "I made it!" Somebody who works in the craft/industry you're emulating will look at the same object and see a macaroni drawing hung on the refrigerator.

I first noticed this when I worked in a company full of very, very bright engineers. Far too many of them were confident, by virtue of that brightness, that they could do anybody else's job. They knew more about kitchen logistics, or ingredient buying, or repairing sprinklers, or cleaning than the professionals -- because of the mathematical or mechanical (mostly) intelligence that had gotten them through the top schools. The truth is that anybody else's job looks easy until you watch them do it. I am always astonished when (with permission) I sit on the floor and watch what the electrician, the plumber, the carpenter are doing to my house. You need to know a lot of stuff about how a house is made to walk into any particular house and sort out its mechanical systems. Plumbing is like surgery -- knowing where the pipes are in a platonic object isn't the same as having your hands deep in the guts of a particular object.

Take me. I've been sewing for over forty years, off and on. Note the "off and on". I sew when I feel like it, when I have the spare time, when I'm not doing the job in which I have professional expertise. When I go to a class with serious costumers, I am always, always the last person to finish any step in the process. My finished garment or object is clumsier than those produced by the everyday seamstresses (sters), because I don't have the hundreds or thousands of hours of practice that they do. Their objects, in turn, seldom approach the highest standards reached by people hundreds of years ago who did nothing but hand-sew all day, every day. Very, very few can handspin a thread fine enough to match the Shetland or Orenburg spinners. Indeed, not that many can handspin a thread fine enough to weave. You cannot get linen approaching the finest quality produced in the 1600s, either handmade or machine-made. People who work in living history museums, when interviewed, always marvel at the skills they are imitating.

Another example of this is backyard farming. Animal shelters are starting to have a problem with abandoned urban chickens (note useful debunking). Why? Because eggs can contain either hens or roosters, and roosters are useful only as food. Straight-run hatchery chicks are less expensive than sexed chickens*, and backyard chicks have no guarantees at all. Finally, the maximum lifespan of a layer is years longer than the useful egg-producing period. Farmers solve this problem by killing unwanted chickens for the stewpot (historic) or fertilizer (modern). Many -- not all -- backyard farmers don't want to slaughter birds themselves, so off to the shelter they go. (I am very, very skeptical of the article's using Marin shelters to minimize this; Marin is its own little planet.)

Anybody keeping backyard goats quickly discovers that male goats are nasty creatures that not only stink but can cause your does' milk to be inedible. Again, the historical answer is roast kid or goat curry. This takes goatkeeping from the pleasantly pastoral to the ineluctably bloody. Free-range backyard eggs taste fabulous, but the downside is fighting predators that can't get into a closed battery house. I haven't even touched on the thousands of nasty diseases chickens, goats, and pigs are not so much heir to as enthusiastic boarding-houses for. Animal husbandry is a matter of both skill and luck, and no matter what scale you practice it on, there's a lot of unexpected death.

I love heirloom tomatoes. The hybrids don't, in general -- Early Girl is fabulous -- have as deep a flavor as the open-pollinated plants. Propaganda notwithstanding, the heirlooms in my garden are much more disease-prone than the VFNT** F1 hybrids.

Crafts are awesome. Making things is awesome. Growing things is awesome. But if creating something at home makes you undervalue the expertise and skill of people who do it on a commercial scale, you're doing it wrong.

* Yes, chicken sexing is a real skill, and an esoteric one. You try looking at a new-hatched chick's ass and figuring out which kind of cloaca it has.

** Huh. It isn't VFNT, any more; the toughest hybrids are now VFFNTA, which means resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria leaf spot. How many beginning gardeners know to look for those letters?

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