Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Doll's New Clothes

I sewed some cold-weather clothes for Red Hair Girl. The top of old scraps and a button ball was good, but she hated the pants I made from my auntie's old socks. 

"You can have this back."

She set out to make her own. We were at a Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee, drinking Mocha Mexicana: espresso, steamed milk, cocoa, cinnamon, and guajillo chile (a fruity pepper).

Red Hair Girl is like Toshiro Mifune, not Mary Tyler Moore. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Spooky Pineapple

This mechanical coin-eating pineapple-head bank is at the wonderfully bizarre House on the Rock in Wisconsin, where bink  & I stopped on our way to visit my auntie this past weekend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017



Taking out and washing both sides of my storm windows yesterday (& feeling virtuous--it's not an annual occurrence), I noticed how much clearer the windows are without screens. Is it OK to leave them out over the winter, I wondered?

In fact, it's recommend, by this window co.
window screens block sunlight; taking them out allows in more warmth from the sun.

I grew up in a house that was left to its own devices, and I'm in awe every time I discover another simple gadget for home maintenance.
Yesterday, a razor scraper.

Along with washing windows, I'd touched up the trim. Someone at the coffee shop had advised me to leave a tidy line of paint on the glass, to create a seal. Mine was more of an expressionistic swath.
I went to the hardware store to buy razor blades to scrape it off, imagining holding one between my fingers, but of course someone has created a holder (several someones, several holders).  

Turns out it's sort of fun to scrape paint off glass, smooth and satisfying, like popping garden peas out of a pod, as those of you who've done it know. (Right?)

Still, it's a big job, even in a small apartment. 
I'm motivated to do it this year, I think, by having been in my father's uncared for house this summer. That house sold recently––for one-third less than the original asking price. I'm thrilled and relieved it sold at all, considering how dilapidated it is, even if it has got beautiful bones.
(Dilapidation, however, wasn't even the main impediment––the lack of a driveway or anywhere to put one was.)

My sister sent me a photo of a fox sunning in our father's backyard, taken by a neighbor after the house sold. Sister said the fox is a spirit guide, reassuring us that the buyers are the right people for the house.

We never see things the same way. 

I say the fox could hardly approve: my father (jokingly?) called his backyard a prairie restoration project, but it's a ramble of weeds and scrub trees--perfect habitat for urban wildlife. 
The real estate agent says the new owners are excited about restoration--actual restoration, not neglect. The fox will have to move on.


I'm trying to stave off dilapidation myself, and have been disheartened that I've been hobbled by another long-lasting workplace injury:
The stiff calf I complained about when I was working at the thrift store did not go away after I quit back in August, like I'd assumed it would. 
(I quit because the boss was a bully in an exploitative workplace, not because of my leg, but I'd have had to quit soon anyway or work in increasing pain, as many people trapped in these physically injurious jobs do.)

The physical therapist says I've got Achilles tendonitis--another slow-healing injury, like the tendonitis I got in my forearm working as a nursing aide, unexpectedly trying to lift a man with my thumb. 
[Tip: don't do that.]

I'm faithfully doing my stretches and heel drops, feeling a little dismayed at how much work it is to maintain this old house (me).
But what's the option?

Uh, yeah, so, the house sold, so, with my siblings, I'm going to be an heiress. It'll be nowhere near enough to retire on or anything, but it will give me freedom from needing to get a job until my tendon heals.
And it'll give me options. To have such freedom––me, a single woman––is an incredible luxury in the entire history of the world. (And hot running water too!)

Sensible people tell me, Don't squander it. But what if I bury it like acorns and the world blows up and spring never comes?
Weird, weird world that we think not irrationally in such terms these days.

Well, whatever I do, I feel almost giddy now not to have to choose the cheapest everything––like you do when you're short on $––at least for a while. When I looked at the razor scrapers, I bought the one with the most comfortable, cushioned handle ($5.99), not the cheapest little hard one ($2.99).

Monday, October 23, 2017

Excited to try...

I'm excited about the book I bought at the nearby Birchbark Books and Native Arts this weekend:
The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman [his Instagram], 2017,  University of MN Press.

I'm interested to read about the food culture and ethnobotany of my region, and I may even try some recipes, like these corn cakes with toppings and a berry sauce called wojape--recipes here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Up North

Mz rented a car and invited me to go up to Lake Superior for a couple days this past week. This is at the breakwater by the lighthouse of Two Harbors, MN.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


bink and Red Hair Girl, at coffee this morning

Jar of Threads

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Wire of Buttons

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Finds from the textile center's garage sale. (I'm starting to suspect that what I like most about sewing notions is photographing them.)

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Blog Is Ten!

I've been blogging here on l'astronave for ten years, as of today:
Happy Birthday to blogging me, and love to all blog readers, past, present, and future! 
(I hope to write more later today, but right now I'm off to a garage sale of donated fabrics, etc., inside at the Textile Center.)

Birthday GIF ^ by the artist Maggie Rudy, of MousesHouses,
who makes her amusing mice from felted wool and pipe cleaners. 
Her book City Mouse, Country Mouse is out later this month.

Friday, October 6, 2017

For Michael: Bob & Timmy & Lassie

Michael at Orange Crate Art has written another hilarious Timmy and Lassie fanfiction: "The Poet", featuring a Famous American Poet!

In solidarity, I present Bob & Timmy & Lassie:

[photo collage by me--
and here's another one by me, featuring Julia Child]

Robert Frost sitting on a wall here

"I Am Not A Monster"/ Our Disordered States

I highly recommend this amazing TEDx talk,  I Am Not A Monster: SCHIZOPHRENIA [below] by Cecilia McGough, a young woman studying astronomy at Penn State. She talks with clarity about living with schizophrenia and discusses her work to start a non-profit, Students With Schizophrenia:

Her talk is so valuable to me, and fascinating, and I bet would be to many others. Understanding what other people go through helps to understand what it is to be human. 

Mostly I've only met people––in nursing homes where I've worked that housed the most disenfranchised poor people––who were so caught in schizophrenia that they couldn't talk about it to me. 

I mean, they could tell me their reality, but not meet me in mine, so I had a hard time seeing it as anything but unfathomably scary. It is scary, but it's not as foreign as I'd thought. Kinda looks familiar, even, like my fears and nightmares, but amped up beyond easy recognition.

Ceclia McGough says to other people with schizophrenia,  
"You're not crazy."
That startled me, I have to admit, and humbled me. Especially since Trump became president, I've been aware of people with mental illness asking us to stop using the word crazy to describe disturbing people and situations like that. 
I have long used that word unthinkingly and automatically, but after listening to this young woman, I'm going to stop now. If I can't think of other words that don't add to people's hurt or imply they are monsters, that's just pathetic on my part.

Disordered Tissue 

I recently went to the physical therapist because my calf got  stiff working at GW and it has not healed itself in the two months since I quit. She told me my stressed Achilles tendon (connects the knee to the heel) had laid down new tissue in an effort to heal from overuse, but it wasn't able to heal (not enough time between stress) so now I am limping around with "disordered tissue".

How 'bout if instead of saying Trump is "crazy", I say he is disordered tissue? It's like my nation is trying to heal but instead has laid down this material that further constricts and painfully limits us. 

The p.t. told me that my tendon will heal, but it will hurt more for a while because I need to traumatize it more, in a controlled way, through gentle stretching and exercise, so it will grow new, helpful tissue.

What might that look like for our country?
I don't know---maybe something more like Jimmy Carter talking about North Korea?
Jimmy Carter: What I’ve learned from North Korea’s leaders", Washington Post, October 4, 2017.

According to Carter (and this makes sense to me, from the little I know from reading about the country and just from what I've seen of human nature), North Korea is acting like my stressed tendon--trying to secure itself but making things worse---and Trump is acting like me who kept walking on it, stressing it even further. 

Now that's disordered.

Cecelia McGough's  blog,  I Am Not A Monster: SCHIZOPHRENIA: sites.psu.edu/ceciliamcgough

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Acute, Not Cute

I was complaining about all the curlicue cuteness associated with sewing, but  when I look one centimeter further (than "sewing notions" on Pinterest), of course there's a world of sewing where cuteness is neither here not there. 

Looking up the word's etymology, I see "cute" was a shortening of acute, meaning “shrewd,” “keen,” or “clever.”
Like the fabric art of  Louise Bourgeois, better known for her sculpture. 
I love Bourgeois's hooks-and-eyes (I'd just photographed some myself): they make a pretty flower pattern against the pink cloth but also look like military machinery marching in formation.

Pages, below, from her fabric book, Ode á la Bièvre

 Some of them are quite pretty:

And as I've said, I do like cute things too. Here, for instance, are some bunnies & friends messing about in the margins of some medieval text:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I do like cute things that are cute.


I bought this Victorian advertising card for Clark's ONT Spool Cotton (and on the back, text advertisement for Milward needles) because it made me laugh.
I have an informal rule that if something like a greeting card makes me laugh, I buy it to give away. Though in this case, I'm keeping it. 

It made me laugh, the way the one avid kid is pushing the bouncy-headed baby (who is taking it in good humor).  Another kid in the back is crying--they're acting just like real humans, not cutesified dolls. 

I don't relate much to how modern people depict sewing-related stuff  as cutesy (rampant on Pinterest, for instance)--the enormous volume of cuteness minimizes fabric arts to a ditzy hobby, not something that produced the Bayeaux Tapestry (which was embroidered by men and women in professional workshops, I just read).

However, there's often a silly side to most human endeavors, and I enjoy that here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


 Sharps in the Milward (Redditch, England) needle wallet ^ that came in a plastic baggie along with an empty box that once held darning silks and a half-full bottle of corn remover: $1.98.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Art of Mourning

I feel buffeted––do you?–– by the unceasing parade of ––what do we call them? public murders?––anonymous murders perpetrated by my fellow humans, here and around the world, by terrorists or troubled children, agents of the state (soldiers, police) or some lone sad fuck. 
These murders seem to have become a feature of our modern world, from (in my personal memory) My Lai to Columbine to this latest in Las Vegas.

I feel the need for a . . . a policy or something about noting and responding to the latest ones on my blog. They come so thick and fast, sometimes I note them, often I don't. I would like to acknowledge them somehow.

I don't think my US culture is all that great with mourning customs; we tend to overemphasize active emotions such as cheer, or anger, and don't give much time to low, slow grief. 
But we used to. 
Mourning art--specifically hand-stitched samplers and pictures and jewelry––was a popular form of needlework in early America. These memorials didn't have to be for someone you knew:
"Contrary to popular belief the stitchers of these memorials were not necessarily in mourning over the loss of a particular loved one but were creating a popular form of needlework. If they had no one close enough to them to memorialize, they might dedicate it to a well-known figure that had died or inscribe the tomb 'sacred to friendship', or simply leave it blank."
--via Antique Samplers
Mourning sampler (silk and chenille embroidery), United States, ca. 1800, from the Cooper Hewitt Museum

It's important, I think, to pay heed to loss and horror, sadness and shock. So maybe I'll post one of these when needed. Or maybe I'll design and stitch one--the act of embroidering is meditative---it gives grief its due.

Color Schemes (Textiles)

I'm starting to keep track of textile designs & colors that catch my eye.
There are many, of course---here are a couple I love a lot (and one that confuses me). They could almost go together, thought they're centuries apart--the horse could be running through ferns... (Though what's going on with the Christmas tree thingie, I do not know.)

1. Fragment, Coptic Egypt, Roman period (30 B.C.- 641 A.D.)/Arab period (641-969), 6th/8th century CE, Art Inst of Chicago

2. From a teaching-aid folder produced by the Needlework Development Scheme, UK, 1956, "illustrating various ways in which embroidery stitches could be used and designs interpreted."

3. And, what's this
"Man in Blue Boots Attacks a Christmas Tree"???
Another Coptic fragment at the AIC, which gives no further info than that it's from the same 6th/8th century CE era as the horse:

Oh Snaps

You have to dig around, looking for sewing notions at antique stores--sometimes they are hidden inside other things. This tin was so fun--I pressed on the right-hand corner, and it popped open to show snaps, and hooks and eyes inside

This is my favorite kind of find--the kind that catches the wear and tear and everyday use of everyday things. (And if you look more closely at these little things, they are marvels of engineering.)

Also, one dollar.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


It's raining and I have a head cold, but I'm going out with L&M in a little bit to an apple stand in the country (they pick their apples, you don't have to wander around in the rainy orchard).

I went to a second embroidery class yesterday.
I loved the teacher's "mod flowers" so much, I followed her instructions and didn't even modify her color choices:

The teacher's blog: Threads of Inspiration 
Her other patterns are cutesier---I was hoping for mid-century sci-fi rockets or something--guess I'll have to design those myself. 

Classes at the textile center are pretty expensive ($60+ for a three-hour class, plus a materials fee), but they've been great--well prepared, thorough, good material packets––not like cheaper but hit-or-miss community ed. 
The teacher yesterday had her BA in textiles--that interests me--the history, sociology, and science of textile design. I think that's what I'll be doing this month--looking into that more.

Also: more sewing in public.
It's interesting--if I'm alone, pretty much every time someone talks to me, and often tells me interesting things. (More on that later--I have to go.)

This is pretty much the same as a photo I posted a month ago of me sewing in public, but I want to post this one too because the sign in the background cracks me up. Here I'm working on elephants, last month, a lion.

Photo last week by happify--those are her cloth buttons on table.