Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Eyes Have It

I almost feel as if I'm cheating: this weekend I bought three well-worn stuffed animals at antique stores, to take home and repair. 

The thing is, I know from working behind the scenes that thrift stores don't put beat-up old animals out for sale––they send them off to salvage & recycling. Antique stores label them "well-loved", however, and sell them for sometimes quite a lot of money. And now I've looked, I see eBay and Etsy can be even more expensive.

This panda was $6, which is the low end for vintage animals. (I'd guess it's from the 1960s, like me.) I instantly loved it––not the case with all animals, by a long shot. And it didn't have any eyes at all, so obviously it belongs in SNARP (the Stuffed Needy Animal Rescue Project).

It looked a bit disturbing eyeless though, so this afternoon before I started any clean-up, I sewed a couple button eyes on its straw-filled head, with some white felt behind, for contrast.
So much happier!

Artisanal Stuffed-Animal Repair, Paternally Curated, Familially Sourced, & Gifted by Me

 My sister asked me to restore a pair of stuffed toy chickens that my mother bought for our father back in the 1960s, back when they liked each other.

I am very happy to. 

Here's the rooster of the pair,Taouk. > 
The hen is Livia.

Mostly the chickens are just in need of a bath and new stuffing, but you can see this felt beak needs repair.

I was a little surprised that during lunch my sister referred to something else (nothing to do with toys) as "artisanal", a word that strikes me as ridiculously overblown in most cases.  
E.g., artisanal sea-salt.

Words coming into and out of vogue don't usually bother me much, but this trio of related words---artisanal, curated, and sourced-- bugs me with its pure puffery. Oh, and there's gifted too, as in, someone gave you a present.

"I was gifted with a curated set of artisanal salt sourced at the sea."
I.e., someone gave me some high-priced salt.

This craze for using salt "to take your food to the next level" [actual ad copy] really bugs me.
I first noticed it with sea-salt caramels. Chunks of salt on candy makes some sense. (Pearson's Salted Nut Roll!) But it spread, and the other day I was served a croissant at a swank restaurant with salt dandruff on top. Even after I brushed the flakes off, they made for a very salty croissant.
I miss when unsalted butter was in vogue.

And it doesn't matter what you call it, salt is salt. It's all sodium chloride, and all of it comes from a salty body of water––a sea––even if the sea evaporated eons ago.

What's next, artisanal MSG?

a pleasing number

Not quite 007, but I liked the number in my Blogger stats this morning:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Flying Monkey Repair, III: Action!

Here's Flying Monkey, all repaired from being lost and squashed in the alley––plus I sewed it a felt jacket with flying designs on both sides, because it's an action monkey.
(What you can't see it that I replaced the smashed noise-maker with a squeaker that squeaks when you squeeze Monkey's tummy.)

And here's 8-seconds of action:
Or, "action..."
Really, it can fly much farther than that.
One day soon, when I've stopped playing with it, I'm going to put Monkey up on a telephone pole near where I found it, with a tag saying I've repaired it and am returning it to whoever dropped it or whoever can give it a home.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Flying Monkey Repair, II: "things go round and again go round"

In a comment on this morning's "Flying Monkey Repair" post, Art Sparker quoted Wallace Stevens' poem "The Pleasures of Merely Circulating":  
"The garden flew round with the angel"...

The poem also asks, "Is there any secret in skulls?"

Yes, yes there is.
As I was repairing Monkey's head from the inside (below), I was thinking of how much work some humans put into
1) designing this creature, and 
2) constructing the many, futzy little pieces of it--its little ears alone would defeat me.

I've always thought of stuffed animal rescue in terms of benefiting the toy and its once and future owners, (and my own psyche), but today all of a sudden I saw it also honors the care and skill of its makers. (Not reflected it its price: brand new, this toy costs $5.72 at Walmart.)

Art Sparker also suggested I leave Monkey's eyes as they were, but I'd already sewn on an old glass replacement button, and a new button nose too.
Its original eyes and nose were plastic childproof ones, but I guess "childproof" doesn't mean you can run it over with a car, and they had broken, leaving a sharp plastic shaft.

Monkey is whole again (mostly), and I'm almost done making a felt vest modeled on the Wizard of Oz flying monkeys.

I'm getting cranky from hunger though, so I'm taking a break to go out for a hamburger and beer now.

Flying Monkey Repair, I

“Jesus, I’m / going out / and throw / my arms / around.”

--found on Orange Crate Art, who explains it's "an untitled poem from Lorine Niedecker’s Next Year or I Fly My Rounds Tempestuous (1934), a work made of short handwritten poems pasted over the inspirational aphorisms of a two-week-per-page calendar"
This Flying Monkey, below, is the neediest stuffed animal I've yet scooped up––I found it yesterday in the alley, soaking wet and run-over by a car––quite icky––
so I'm showing the after-the bath photo first.

I'm drinking coffee this morning in one of the hand-painted, speckled stoneware mugs ^ I've become enamored of (Otagiri-type, made in Japan). This mug ($1.49 at Goodwill) is one of my favorites.
Ever since Marz got into Starsky & Hutch, I've reevaluated 1970s design style, which I hated when I when I was a kid––but I like some of the designs now.

And here, below, are the BEFORE photos--those rubber tubes allow Monkey's arms to work as slingshots, to fly across the room. Before I did anything else, I gave Monkey the hot tub treatment, with a friend (also picked up in the alley):

With some new stuffing, Monkey will fly its rounds again:

I found the original toy online--they have noise-makers inside (I took the smashed pieces out when I removed all the stuffing), and a cape;
I am going to make a flying-monkey jacket from Wizard of Oz for this toy--along the lines of (but not as excellent as) this one by costumer and body-painter Breanna Cooke [links to her instructions]:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mending Round-Up: "Who Made My Clothes?"

Sarah Corbett, founder of Craftivist Collective and the School of Gentle Protest, "changing our world one stitch at a time," interviews Orsola De Castroof––fashion designer and co-founder of Fashion Revolution, which asks, "Who made my clothes?"

scroll right for full image > >  >

Mending Round-Up: Lee Mingwei

Lee Mingwei, The Mending Project [link to youTube], a participatory installation (2012)
"During gallery hours, I was seated at [a] table, to which visitors could bring various damaged textile articles … and watch as I mended the article.

This emotional mending was marked by the use of thread which was not the color of the fabric around it, and often colorfully at odds with that fabric, as though to commemorate the repair. …
My mending was done with the idea of celebrating the repair, as if to say, 'something good was done here, a gift was given, this fabric is even better than before.'"  --Lee Mingwei [text from his site]

More bear repair, by Lee Mingwei, from Fibres of Being blog:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"That's going to take a long time."

I was darning in the sun at the food coop this afternoon, with Julia. 
A woman came up and asked what I was doing, as people do when you sew in public. (I like that.)

When I showed her, and explained that darning this old handwoven blanket is like darning a sock, she said she'd never heard of darning. She thought it was a great idea, though, to repair a family heirloom.*

Another woman seemed unimpressed. 
She said in a flat voice, "That's going to take a long time."

That doesn't necessarily mean she disapproved. 
Maybe it's an international phenomenon, but I'd say hers was a classic old Nordic Minnesotan  response, to offer discouragement, to express some version of "That won't work".
I don't know--it's like it'll keep the trolls away or something.

Come to think of it, Sicilians can be like that too:
expressing too much joy at, say, the birth of a baby, could attract il malocchio (the evil eye) and invite  bad luck. So maybe being discouraging is a safety precaution in lots of cultures.  
At least in the past.
Modern Minnesotans are more likely to say things such as, "Failure is not an option."
(Talk about god-annoying hubris...)

But anyway, I'd just been saying to Julia that I hoped the blanket would have enough holes to keep me busy all winter, so I replied  happily
"Yes, it's my winter project! It keeps me warm."

*heirloom: 1472, ayre lome, from heir (q.v.) + loom in its original but now otherwise obsolete sense of "implement, tool." Technically, some piece of property that by will or custom passes down with the real estate.

Filling In

My auntie and her yarn friends hold up the blanket I am now mending, showing the biggest worn-through spot. 
The friends are all accomplished in working with fiber, and they were interested to examine the handwoven blanket, give me advice, and help me choose the right weight of yarn to mend it.

Because that gap is so big, I was going to patch it with cashmere from an old sweater rather than darning it, but I was inspired by how Celia Pym rebuilt with darns alone a tattered Norwegian sweater, below--it's a cool story (at 1granary) in itself.
 The chunks of darning have such a pleasing heft:

So, today I clipped the most worn area of the blanket onto paperboard, to hold it steady while I stitch some guidelines and outline the shape of the hole––in hopes that the massive darn that will fill it will lie fairly flat.

Friday, November 10, 2017

In the Slipstream of Time

My father, Paris, 1968, photo taken by my mother

Darn, 1, 2, 3

I thought I'd record the basic steps of darning, while I'm at the early stages of darning this ragged wool blanket. 

Basic darning is simple. 
1. Find a hole.

2. Stitch around the hole, to help firm up the surrounding area. Then, starting on firm fabric, weave lines with your needle in and out of the original weave, and across the hole. These are the stationery warp threads.

 3. Weave the other direction, going over-and-under your first lines--these are the weft threads. 
Warp and weft are weaving terms, and essentially you are using your needle to re-weaving the fabric.

 That's it!
It does take some care to make smooth and even darns, especially working with raggedy edges and holes. Luckily perfection is not the goal, and you can see I am not near it, but the darns are functional, and, I think, interesting for the eye.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Post No. 300; Come to Tea in London?

Hello, Blog Friends!

In only three other of my ten blogging years have I put up more than 300 posts, so I'm happy to see I've reached number 300 with this one.
And it's a happy one: 
looking for more about mender-extraordinaire Celia Pym [article about her in Make It Last], I saw she teaches darning workshops––in London.  I immediately signed up for her March workshop;
it starts a couple weeks after my 57th birthday.*

I've always wanted to repeat my 40th-birthday celebration in March 2001, when I invited any friend who could come to join me for tea at the Hotel Russell in Bloomsbury, London.

That's me [gosh . . .] in London at forty, far right, below, with my sister and my father, who, obviously, both came. (Gee, sad to think my mother was still alive, but too emotionally incapacitated to come.)

Well, huh––the Hotel Russell is reopening this winter as The Principal and looks impossibly expensive, so I'll choose someplace else, but I'm going do the same thing, seventeen years later:
I invite you, my friend, to meet me in London for a birthday tea in March.

I know London's expensive, esp. for those of us in the USA to get to, but flights from the US have gone way down---at a quick glance, they're as low as $400 round-trip.  
(I haven't looked into airbnbs yet--hopefully they're cheaper than previous lodging options.)

And the tea's on me.
Or, whatever you want to drink.
Hardly any birthday guests in 2001 drank actual tea. These are most of them, below--you can see they were drinking G&Ts and fruity cocktails.

L to R: my art-historian friend ATK, toasting me; my sister; father (he was in that sour of a mood); and my friend Barrett:

L to R, below: the lovely Polish waiter taking the request of Ms. Borealis; Mrs. and Miss Martyn; and me:

Maybe we could all bring a sock to darn.

So... think about it?

 * After I signed up for the darning workshop, I realized there's a small problem:
the second-of-two classes meets March 30, and I'm supposed to be in Dallas on April 4 to talk about my toilet history book on a nonfiction-authors panel. (I don't think I've mentioned this yet. It's for the Texas Librarians conference!) 

But, it's more important to me that the darning classes take place close to my birthday. (Maybe I'll just skip the second class, so the travel doesn't make me ill--signing up for the class is partially an excuse to make this trip.)

Repair Artist: Celia Pym

Looking for more visible-menders, I came across Celia Pym––(her website; her Instagram)––her darns make me almost hyperventilate with envy: Sweater mended, below, for 94 y.o. retired GP Bill, knit by his late wife:
And bear repair ^ (like my Stuffed Needy Animal Rescue Project)--I like the "before" sling too.

Celia Pym says:
"I darn and am looking for holes in people’s clothes and the stories that accompany them; repairing these holes and returning the mended garments. It is a way to briefly make contact with strangers. I am interested in the spaces the body occupies, the tenderness of touch and the ways in which we go about day to day life".

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why didn't someone tell me ...

Marz and I were walking to Rainbow Chinese Restaurant last night.

"Why did you get Seinfeld from the library?" she said, having seen the DVDs at my place.

"Because I love Selena Meyer*!" I said. "I didn't know Julia whats-her-name was Elaine---I've never seen Seinfeld, so now I want to, to see her."

"You've never seen Seinfeld?!?"

We're at the restaurant. It's only 5:30, and there's hardly anyone there yet. I ask the host and the two servers--all young, white people--standing by the red-silk and lanterns in the entrance area, "Have you guys seen Seinfeld?"

They look at me suspiciously. 
"Why?" says the host.

"Well, my friend and I were just talking about it--I've never seen it---and I wonder if everyone else has..."

"You've never seen Seinfeld??!"

They've all seen it.
"I've seen every episode," says a server. 

"You weren't even born yet." I say.

"I'm Jewish." She turns to the host. "Seat them in my section."

She's a great server. She checks the tea pot---"Is your water still hot?" but she doesn't hang around, asking personal questions. 
But toward the end of our meal, she does ask, "So, you really never saw Seinfeld?"

"No. I was working evenings, and, you know, back then it wasn't easy to see shows if you missed them, unless you programmed your VCR, which I could never figure out..."

"So you're not here because of the Chinese Restaurant episode? I thought you were here because of that---it's my favorite episode. You should go home and watch it on YouTube."

We tipped her 29 percent, went home, and watched the episode (on Hulu--my DVDs are of the seventh season), and I'm... like... 


It was so ridiculous, funny, and weird (yet so recognizably normal), and woven together so smartly.
As everyone but me seems to know, the whole episode takes place as Seinfeld and his friends wait for a table at a Chinese restaurant.

My favorite detail is that they're in a hurry because after dinner, they're going to a one-time showing of Plan 9 from Outer Space, and Seinfeld is soooo excited to see again "the worst movie ever made!"

It is.

I can relate:  Plan 9 from Outer Space is hilariously clunkily bad, and I loved getting to see it at a movie theater on my birthday a few years ago.

By the end of the episode, all of their plans have gone awry, mostly due to the mysterious mismanagement of the host, and Elaine suggests Seinfeld go to the movie by himself.

Right! These are important, real-life issues!!! 
Must watch this show from the beginning. 

And now I understand why if you walk into a Chinese Restaurant asking about Seinfeld, the staff will look at you like, What are you insinuating?

*Selena Meyer, vice-president in VEEP, [my favorite modern TV show] is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays Elaine in Seinfeld.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Election Day

Weird to think, one year ago we in the US were going to vote for the first woman president. 

*pauses to imagine alternate universe where this went well*

Today is dry and sunny, with a high of 35º F, and I'm going to vote to re-elect my city council member--
the one who got new bike lanes put in;
protected bike lines, with safety bollards, the lane running on the curb side of the street, so you don't have to worry about someone parking their car opening their car door in your face.

Her opponent is anti-bike lanes, so this vote really matters--as  ghost bike memorials > for bicyclists killed by cars remind.

I don't feel as strongly about the mayoral race so am extra-pleased we have ranked-choice voting: I can choose three from the huge cast of characters. I wish we had that for all races.

And that's me for politics today.


After voting, I'm going to the physical therapist, where I can report that I woke up this past Saturday and my locked-up Achilles tendon was finally better. Yay! It's been three months.
(It's not completely well: it's still stiff and achey––but not stiff as an iron bar anymore.)

For the first time since I quit Goodwill, last week I went shopping there (not the outlet I worked at), and I felt such a pang of longing, being there:
I'd loved working at GW at first, you know, and only as the
slow-squeeze of the boss's boa-constrictor management style set in did that change.

Did I ever mention that once during my paid 15-minute break, I'd crossed the street to the grocery store to buy a little chocolate cake for a coworker's birthday---and the boss told me we weren't allowed to leave the premises on company time?
For safety reasons, he said.

Anyway, at this other GW last Wednesday (senior day! 25% off for shoppers 55 years+), I missed the work so much, being with customers and stuff, and I thought when my leg is better, I will get back in shape (gradually!) ... again (again, again, again), and then I can look for some similar work.

With the money coming from my father's house, and with low-expenses (biking is free), I'll be able to afford to work such low-paying jobs (GW paid $10/hour)--
though, come to think of it, this year the city council voted to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour... but that won't take full effect for five years.

At any rate, I'm in that giddy state that comes with the release of pain. I even feel hopeful about politics this morning:
in only three more years, we can vote for president again.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The First Darn

My first darn on the old woven blanket. 
For now, anyway, I'll leave the hole open. This blanket is so holey, and threadbare in spots, I'll have plenty of chances to try different darning styles. (The tapestry needle is ideal.)

The BBC podcast A History of the World in 100 Objects is the perfect accompaniment to handwork:
The beginning episodes I listened to are all about how tools make us human---that is, our ability not just to make and use tools, which animals do too, but to make tools more complicated than we need---to imagine uses beyond what's currently called for--and then to make or add unnecessary whirligigs and whatnot: art.

The original "Put a Bird on It" [Portlandia skit]: 
a Bird-Shaped Pestle, from Papua New Guinea (100 Objects episode 6)

One Object

I'm starting to listen the podcast of the British Museum's  History of the World in 100 Objects this morning, and to darn a tattered and holey wool blanket from the early 1960s––from my childhood, that is. 

I'd forgotten this blanket until my sister brought it to me from our father's house this summer, thinking I would like it. 
Sometimes we do agree. 
I more than like it, as an object, and its history too:
it was woven on a loom by Emilie Tari, my mother's best friend when I was little. I didn't plan this to coincide, but today would have been my mother's eighty-third birthday.

I'm not sure what needles will work best. I'll start with one from this ^ old "Bell Brand Packet of Best-Steel TAPESTRY Needles, Size 18, Made in Hong Kong". 
The yarn is from a nonprofit women's cooperative in Ururguay, Manos del Uruguay. They call the color spirulina, but to me, it looks like the yellowy greens of a fresh-cut avocado. 

I'd started darning socks with different colored yarns a couple winters ago, and I was further encouraged by  my friend Julia , who darns as she walks [via her instagram]:

. . . and by the "visible mending programme" of Tom of Holland [his blog]--especially the way he outlined the little holes in this darned Welsh blanket:

Sunday, November 5, 2017


I've been reading a book on the couch all afternoon, eating oranges and putting their peels on the radiator. Now it's dark, and outside somewhere there's an acorn in the frozen soil, where a squirrel buried it, sleeping custard-colored in its shell. 

Far from worrying I'm too slow, I wonder why I've been going so fast.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Polar Bear & Arctic Fox Go to Look for the Dead Whale," by Marz

Art by Marz:

"Polar Bear & Arctic Fox Go to Look for the Dead Whale"