Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What I've been up to lately

We tend to hibernate in the winter and not socialize very much, but I've been busy with various projects.


Close up of the wilderness I'm attempting to tame

Work on the brick path stalled, since the ground was frozen, and then wet and I'm stymied by the problem of making it level and how to deal with the slope. Instead, I've been vigorously pulling up vines and cutting down brush along the perimeter of our property, and preparing a garden bed. I have modest plans to plant radishes and Swiss chard and if these are successful, I may plant more things next year. My long term goal is to have most of the backyard converted to vegetables and bee hives. Our lot isn't big enough for a true urban homestead, but I think I could grow all the vegetables we need.

State of the brick path at the moment

Here's how it looked before I started


I recently read The New Bohemian Handbook by Justina Blakeney and it inspired me to take some steps to make my house more pleasant and comfortable. First step was a deep clean, in which I washed all the walls (so many cobwebs) and generally dusted and tidied. I focused on the living room, which we don't use to its potential because it is dark and cold and there's just something uncomfortable about it. I can't go crazy redecorating because we are going to have to rewire this room (indeed the entire front of the house) but I am looking at lamps, and after stalking large gilt mirrors online, I found a piece I really love to put over the mantle. It instantly brightened the room. There's a lot more to do, but this is a start. I wouldn't say that my style is truly Bohemian, but this book has some interesting exercises in it and is a useful resource if you're trying to figure out how to make your house a place you truly feel good in.
Space over the mantle

The mantle needs a vignette now. I'm working on it.

Inspired by a sign I saw at the Women's March, 2017, I designed a knitting pattern that depicts Trump as a simple set of triangles.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture at the march, 
but then I saw a photo of it in a book!

I used excel to design the pattern

Crude, but I think it's recognizably Trump and his KKK friends

I knit a second one, similar to the first only missing the KKK figures and hung it on a tree in Washington last weekend, when I was up there with a group of friends.

I know it's crooked, but it was unbelievably uncomfortable, hanging this, even with two friends. A man who was walking past yelled at me to take it down and then called me a traitor. Also, the tree was too big, but I'd already really upset a squirrel and there were no other remotely suitable trees nearby. 


I haven't been to nearly as many protests this year, but I'm going back to DC for the March for Our Lives protest on Saturday. Also, I participated in a spur of the moment chance to heckle my congressman as he arrived at an unpublicized event downtown. He actively hides from constituents. He was willing to meet with local white supremacists, but won't talk to constituents about issues related to healthcare or the republican tax cut.  Therefore, the strategy is to find him at events like this and ask him the questions he won't answer. There are some good videos out there of him furiously telling a woman that her family's healthcare doesn't matter because she's "just one family" and angrily saying that he won't answer yes or no questions.

Any of you guys planning to march this weekend, either in DC or at your local marches? The NRA must be destroyed.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Negotiating Charlottesville as a Pedestrian

I grabbed a screenshot of this headline because it exactly mirrors my thoughts about being a pedestrian in Charlottesville. The article pictured above is about Dublin (which has issues where pedestrians are concerned) but it translates to Charlottesville.

To be a pedestrian in Charlottesville is to know rage. Inconsiderate drivers are one thing, but in this post, I'm focusing on how local government is responsible for terrible pedestrian conditions. 

There are a lot of construction projects going on around town, particularly along West Main Street and absolutely no accommodations have been made for pedestrians, who are shunted from one side of the street to the other and back again because the sidewalks are closed. West Main is a busy, dangerous street to cross, particularly after 4:00 pm, when it has the highest volume of pedestrians and drivers. 

Yesterday morning, I walked down West Main to the library at UVA. Here's some of what I saw. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, West Main is one of the busiest streets in the city of Charlottesville. It is the connector from downtown to the University of Virginia. It sees heavy pedestrian, car, bus, and bike traffic. It is absolutely unacceptable to allow developers to take over the sidewalks and bike lanes here.

^Little traffic because it was early Sunday morning. 

Rumor has it that my office is moving back to this area so I'm going to have to walk through this mess every freaking day. And sure, these projects will end, but there's always a new one. I've already seen a few other projects from beginning to end, when different sections of sidewalk were blocked off, again with no pedestrian or bike accommodations. I have spoken at town hall meetings with city council, I have emailed city council, I have had numerous emails with Charlottesville's bike/ped coordinator. I've attended city forums about bike/ped issues. I have specifically asked that developers be required to provide temporary sidewalk access and I'm certain I'm not the only person addressing the city about this, and yet nothing changes.

Essentially, if you are an ordinary Charlottesville resident, you are a serf. Following that analogy, city government represents the ruling class, real estate developers are the nobility and the rest of us don't matter except for our payment of tribute (taxes) with which city government rewards the real estate developers. We serfs are supposed to passively accept that construction projects may shove us into the street.

At its heart, the pedestrian issue is a class issue. Is it a coincidence that the best conditions for pedestrians are found in the richest neighborhoods in the city?  The people building all the hotels and apartment buildings around town are the ones with the money. City council gives them what they want and lets the rest of us go to hell. Since pedestrians aren't a well-funded lobby group, we are at the mercy of local governments. They may choose to make things nice for us, or they may not. It's mostly not. 

It makes me wonder what our streets would look like if pedestrians and cyclists had a lobby group as powerful as the NRA. What do you think bike/ped conditions would be like if that happened?

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Wild World of Sewing your own Lingerie

I've discovered that sewing your own bras is a fun and extremely gratifying activity. It never occurred to me that it's possible to make a bra yourself until Ladybird, one of the sewing bloggers I read, wrote a few posts about the Watson Bra pattern. This bra meets all my requirements: pretty, but with no padding or underwire.  The Watson Bra pattern can be bought online as a PDF download. Ordinarily, I shy away from PDF patterns because scaling the pieces to print correctly is intimidating to me. Bra pattern pieces, however, are small enough to fit on a single page and the pattern comes with instructions on how to scale, so I had no difficulty.

For my first attempt, I bought a bra making kit from the Tailor Made etsy shop. Bra sewing is tricky in that it involves narrow seam allowances, curved seams, and lots of raw edges to be finished. On the other hand, if your finished bra isn't perfect, you can still wear it because no one can see it. My first and second attempts are far from perfect, but I wear these bras all the time because they're pretty and comfortable. They can also be laundered with no fuss because there are no molded cups or underwire. Below is a little picture essay on the process. Apologies to those of you who follow me on instagram, since this may be a rerun for you.

First, I traced the pattern pieces onto stiff cardstock

I made a practice version out of an old tee-shirt

Tracing the pattern onto the back of the fabric

All the pieces cut out. The fabric is a scuba knit - medium thick with a firm stretch.
The bra cradle is lined with powernet mesh. All of this came in my kit along with all straps and elastic, hooks, and a piece of stretch lace that I used as an overlay for the inner half of each cup.

Finishing the inside edge with tricot elastic

Cups sewn into the cradle - this is the hardest part


Sewing the top of a cup through the loop that holds the strap.

The finished bra - this was view B, with a narrow band.

I couldn't wait to make another bra, but for my second attempt, I ordered a different scuba knit fabric and a "findings" kit, which is a set of lingerie elastic and hooks. This time I made view A, with the longer band. I'm happy with the second bra too. Both of them fit perfectly. (Watson Bra sizes range from 30B to 40D.) These bras are more comfortable than my store-bought bras. Now I'd like to branch out into different types of fabric. Unfortunately, the fine dressmaking shop in Charlottesville went out of business. There's a quilters' shop, but I doubt they have lingerie fabric. Joann's has lots of stretch fabric, but all of it is unspeakably ugly and they don't carry a full range of lingerie elastic, so I guess I'll be shopping online. 

Second attempt at the Watson Bra - the topstitching is tragic, I know, but I hope to get better at it. By the way, I realized this post sounds a bit sponsored, but it's not. I'm not promoting the products I linked to, just sharing in case anyone is interested in attempting this project. I really had a lot of fun sewing these bras.