Thursday, September 19, 2013

So much fun...

it must be illegal:

The yarns are all 8/2's cotton, sett at 24 epi.
(click on photo's for bigger)

All of this texture on 4 shafts and six treadles.

It's Julia Larrabec's Linen draft from Marguerite Porter Davison's book, p. 63.
Julia Larrabec, or her linen weaver, was a genius!

There are errors in the draft as presented in the  book.  I corrected it, then shortened it because this is just a sample.
Oh, and I added the color stripes because I thought the structure and the darker color would combine to give a recessed appearance to that area of the cloth.  The true test will be the wet finishing.
 
This is just the right half of the threading.  If you wish to duplicate, just mirror image the first half.  It should give you a total of 200 warp threads.
Correction:  Don't mirror image the whole draft....just continue the straight draw for the center section.  Then mirror image the M's&O's border section.

Just another missive from the land of the easily amused.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How about some book reviews?

There was a lot of reading this summer.  Given the dominance of gender politics in the last election, it's not surprising that is the theme in a lot of current literature.  So in these reviews I will make the last the first.

Last night I finished When She Woke by Hilary Jordan. 
Hilary Jordan knows a thing or two about the meanness of the human spirit as expressed in bigotry and hatred of "the other". But she also knows how to write a character with indomitable spirit. She's done it twice now: first with Mudbound and now with When She Woke. Though the settings and story lines are very different, these  themes are shared by the two books.

As the book opens, Hannah Payne awakes to find herself in a Chrome ward in Texas, where she will be in solitary confinement and video monitored 24-7 for 30 days. She has been given a virus that turns her red which is part of the punishment for having had an abortion, a result of an affair with her married pastor (is this story sounding familiar?).

This is a futuristic society where Los Angeles has been reduced to rubble by a terrorist act. Roe v. Wade has been overturned after "the scourge", a virulent STD which left many sterile, threatened the population and babies and the ability to reproduce became highly valued. A cure for "the scourge" has been found. Sadly in this society, there seems to be no cure for fulminating, fundamentalist christian bigotry that has become rampant and insinuated itself into government and public policy.

Prisons have been deteriorating, and the public policy solution to incarceration is to use viruses to tint convicts various colors that align with their crime. There are yellows, blues, greens, and red is for those found to be guilty of murder. And in this futuristic society, everyone can be tracked by the government at all times.

Jordan has done more than a passing nod to The Scarlet Letter in this book. The main characters have the same initials: Hannah Payne: Hester Prynne. The adulterous minister Aidan Dale: Arthur Dimmsdale. While in a "christian" group home for "rehab", Hannah names her aborted child Pearl, the same name as Hester Prynne's love child.

Upon her release from the Chrome Ward, the story becomes action packed and Hannah learns the perils of living as a marked woman in a hateful society. There is suspense, action, hatred, and love. Hannah is a strong character and her strength draws her to those who can help her.

The book is well written and the story line is compelling. In addition to The Scarlet Letter, I would also compare it to Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale.

Another story with the theme of gender politics is The Birth House by Ami McKay.   I admit to having a soft spot for Canadian writers.
The narrator of this story is Dora Rare, the only female child born into the Rare family in five generations. She is born in the middle of six boys. The setting for the novel is Scott's Bay, Nova Scotia at the beginning of WWI.

Her father, uncles, and brothers are shipwrights in an era where wooden schooners are fast being replaced by modern steel shipbuilding. Farming is also a mainstay of life in this hardscrabble country. Dora is not a beauty. But she loves to read, a practice that her father discourages in the belief that reading will make her unfit for marriage. As the eligible male population is bled off to the war in Europe, Dora's mother engineers an apprenticeship to the local Acadian eccentric and midwife, Miss Marie Babineau.

Through this vehicle of midwifery, various aspects of women's issues and control over their bodies are explored. Ancient Miss Babineau teaches 17 year old Dora the use of herbs and lore to help women with infertility, pregnancy, labor and birth, unwanted pregnancies, and even sexual satisfaction. Dora quickly learns that suffering and loss are a part of living.

Meanwhile unscrupulous, ambitious Dr. Gilbert Thomas enters the community with his modern "scientific" approach to obstetrics. He has little respect or regard for women and their bodies beyond the money he can make from prepaid insurance plans for delivering their babies at a far away hospital, rather than in their homes which was the norm for the community. The transportation and expense were beyond what most families could afford, but the doctor appeals to the vanity of the husbands. In addition he sets out to disparage Miss Babineau and exploit Dora's youth.

At this point, a marriage of convenience is put forth for Dora that her parents make it impossible for her to refuse. The stipulation is that she must give up her practice of midwifery.

This story of women's issues unfolds against the backdrop of the war in Europe, the influenza epidemic of 1918, the introduction of allopathic medicine to rural Canada, the Halifax explosion, and the Great Molasses Flood of Boston in 1919.

The author does a great job of weaving the story together. I'm not sure that the "extras" of folkloric remedies and the recipe for groaing cake add much to the book, though.

And I'll wrap up the gender politics theme which combines human trafficking in All Woman and Springtime by Brandon W. Jones.
The author has taken on the topics of North Korea and human trafficking in one big gulp of a story. The story centers on two young women who are about to age out of a women's orphanage in North Korea.

Gi (Gyong-ho) was orphaned in a concentration camp after inadvertently revealing a trivial infraction by her family's care of "the Dear Leader's" portrait hanging in their home...it had dust on it. Her torture in the camp is graphically described and she survives only by withdrawing into a world of math and numbers, an area in which she is a savant.

Il-sun is the daughter of a deceased military officer. Her older brother died in a concentration camp because of his outspoken behavior. She became orphaned when her mother died in her early teens. Il-sun has dreams of marrying well and living happily ever after in so far as that is defined in North Korean terms.

Part 1 of the book details their lives in the orphanage and their work in a sewing factory. The deprivation, hunger, and meanness of spirit is brought home through the narrative and anecdotes. Gi is merely trying to survive and is looking forward to when she and Il-sun will leave the orphanage. Il-sun is acting more like an adolescent that a westerner might recognize. It is Il-sun's flirtations that move the story into the second part of the book.

Part 2 chronicles their transport across the DMZ between North and South Korea under the belief that the North Korean authorities are after them. Instead they, along with another young woman, Cho, are sold as sex slaves to a South Korean thug. Again the narrative brings home the effect of their isolated lives in the North. One anecdote described how startled the women were to see an overweight person and their first interaction with fast food. The rest of this section describes their captivity as sex slaves and the machinery of the porn empire their captor has built. Some of this is brutally described. With the help of another captive woman who is South Korean, they develop an escape plan with a tragic outcome that causes all four of them to be sold.

Part 3 of the book takes place in Seattle in a Korean mafia owned brothel. They are kept indoors and not allowed to wear shoes. They are "branded" with the gang's tattoos as is the madame and the shady doctor who comes to care for them. After more suffering, there is an upbeat ending to the book.

The story is compelling. The author's writing is adequate to the story. In journeying through the story, there are characters that are introduced then left behind. Some reviews fault the author for that, but I suspect that it brings home the nature of human trafficking....people (mostly women and children) disappear and are never heard from again. So we don't learn what happens to the mistress of the orphanage, or the woman who saved Gi from the concentration camp and other characters. Given the topics, it would have been artifice to have them all tied up neatly at the end of this story.

Okay.....something a little lighter in the form of a family saga:  The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver.  I've tried, and I really can't write a better review than what Ed Goldberg wrote here.  I loved this book.

These last two I listened to as audio books:
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer are a group of teens who meet at a New England summer arts camp in 1974.  There are 6 talented, bright, and somewhat privileged teens.  A bit full of themselves, they dub themselves "The Interestings".  The book moves back and forth in time as they graduate from high school, attend college, and move into their adult lives.  A core group of four of the members continue to be connected a bit more than I find believable for the era....I would believe it more with the Facebook generation.  Otherwise the author has done her research and the cultural data in the book as time passes is spot on.  The narrative moves back and forth in time.  It is mostly omniscient, but tends to be more from the viewpoint of Jules Jacobson, the character who becomes a mental health social worker, than the rest of the characters.  I found the story to be engaging as an audiobook, but am not sure I would have had the patience to read it.  Think The Big Chill for the generation that followed.

And we'll finish off with a little nonfiction, the memoir of Sonia Sotomayor:  My Beloved World.  The audiobook is narrated by Rita Moreno, which was a huge plus for me.  Sonia Sotomayor's memoir gives us a candid peek into the early life of the first Hispanic, female Supreme Court Justice of the U.S. The first portion of the book deals with her diagnosis with Type I diabetes at age 7, the dysfunctional marriage of her parents and her father's struggle with and demise from alcoholism.

She shares the joys and heartaches of belonging to a large extended family of Puerto Rican descent growing up in the Bronx in the 1960's. A central figure in her life was her mother, who placed a high value on education. She demonstrated this to her children by earning her LPN despite language difficulties, and by sacrificing to send both of her children to private Catholic schools.
 As a carry over from her mother's influence, much of this memoir focuses on the author's educational experiences and achievements, which are truly remarkable. Including a full undergraduate scholarship to Princeton followed by law school at Yale. She was married from 1976 to 1983 to her high school sweetheart, but the demands of her work in the district attorney's office and her husband's graduate school created a divide that could not be bridged and the marriage failed.

Her early law career in the district attorney's office, then later in private practice are chronicled in an almost case study style. The author seems to use these cases to explain how her style as a judge has been formed by experience.

In some ways the book is surprisingly revealing for a Supreme Court Justice. And yet, once the book is finished, one can't help but feel that she has also been quite reserved. I greatly appreciated (and derived some hope) from a section at the end of the memoir where she discusses the importance of making decisions based on the context of a situation rather than rigidly sticking to some ideology.

Well...with that comment, it appears I have unintentionally ended up back where I started.  So, there you go.  Six books that I found worth reading.   I'd be interested to know if you read them.  But now, I'm off to wind a warp...and maybe listen to a book.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The princess and the pea or....

 How I finally got a good night's sleep.

For the past 5-6 years we have been in the market for a new mattress.  I am very picky about mattress for a number of reasons.....both professional and personal which I won't go into here.  I also have a lot of experience with various types of foams and postural support in my professional background.  So it's pretty easy for me to spot when a mattress salesperson is just that...a sales person who doesn't know diddly about the product, only the amount of commission they will make.

First there were a lot of conversations with people who had recently acquired mattresses.  Not many of them were happy.  And there was one memorable exchange with my dental hygienist that had tears streaming down both of our cheeks as we laughed hysterically.

My next approach was to pay attention to the mattresses we slept on in motels when we traveled.  Every stop, I ripped off the sheets before we left and made notes about the mattress we slept on.  Around the same time I started doing this, manufacturers started working with hotel chains to feature their mattresses.

So we did get to sleep on the glorified air mattress that has "Number" in the name (that was a fail...note to manufacturer:  if you are going to promote the product in that way, you'd better make sure it is maintained properly.)

And there were two places that featured the therapeutic foam mattress which begins with "T" ........both times I woke in the morning lying on my side with my feet in the air.  The foam compressed under my center of gravity (ahem....hips) and my feet were dangling in the air.  Other features of this mattress:  They are very heavy, very expensive, build up heat as you sleep on them, and there is a lot of friction resistance when you try to change position on them.

And there were many, many of the "S" manufactured mattresses on our hotel odyssey.  Some with pillow tops, which mean they aren't flippable.  And why would you want to attach a pillow top, which would be the first thing to wear out anyway?  Some were comfortable, but there was no way you could find the exact same model markings in the retail market.

I mentioned flippable:  yes, I am a mattress flipper.  On each change of the seasons...all the solstices and equinoxes...our mattress gets either rotated or flipped.   It allows for a change in weight distribution over the mattress and extends it's life. 

So I did what every person of the 21st century does....googled.  There are a lot of "The truth about mattress" sites out there.  All put out by the manufacturers.  I did find The Mattress Lady who offers a lot of good information about what's generally commercially available.  My dh is a Consumer Reports devotee....I am less so.  My opinion is that CR researches the most popular brands and runs their assessment from there.  I am a skeptic about why things become the most popular and prefer that it not be the criteria that limits my search.

Another site I found is The Mattress Underground.  This was the first site that suggested the possibility of using a small, independent, local manufacturer.  What a concept!?   Who knew they existed over the shouts of all the cheap mattress outlets that dot every major road in our area?    A short list of manufacturers is here.

I noted that one of the manufacturers was in Holland, Mi.  where I attended the MLH conference last month.  So I stopped in to check them out.  Here...you can check them out here.  We went with the Traditions Line.  The prices were reasonable and within the range of the big "S" companies we had looked at.  A week later, dh and I drove over and spent the afternoon going from mattress to mattress.  We "spec'd" out a mattress and it was delivered yesterday, within two weeks of ordering it.

What a great night's sleep I had!!....except for the skunk who sprayed in our yard at 2 AM, and I can't blame that on the mattress.

And yes...this mattress is flippable and has a 15 year warranty.
Sweet Dreams!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

getting ready for fall...

The scarves are finished:
They are cousins.  The one on the left has a reddish brown weft.  The one on the right has a burgundy weft.  Most of the yarns used are 8/2 tencel or ringspun rayon.  The purple background in the decorative bands is 10/2 rayon.

Scarf 1

Scarf 2

They came out pretty much as I hoped they would.

Also finished another prayer shawl to turn in on Thursday night:
(My apologies for the picture quality of these.  This camera just doesn't take good textile photo's the way my old Nikon does.  But the batteries for the Nikon only last for about 5 pictures.   I think that's what has put a damper on my blogging mojo.)

If you've been following the blog, you've seen a few of these before.  I see that this is the second one I've done in this color.     I think I'm about done with knitting this pattern.  Last night I started a prayer shawl from the Hamako Child of the Sea pattern last night.  It is in bright red Red Heart yarn.....not a yarn I would usually pick, but prayer shawls must be easy care. 

How are you getting ready for fall?