And she is done.

quilt of squares,originally uploaded by dorywithserifs.

and a few nine-patches

ozzy and the quilt

I’ve been working on this quilt slowly in fits and starts for quite some time, but in the waning days of summer I managed to power through and get it done. Here’s the whole quilt top being examined for defects by Ozzy.

It’s since been quilted and the binding is mostly done. It’s by far the largest quilt I’ve made–a perfect twin-bed sized monster. The size was unintentional, I kind of just kept cutting blocks and making little nine-patches, and when I bough the batting and then when I took the measurements to the Brooklyn General Store to buy batting, the lady told me it was exactly a twin-sized quilt!

This quilt incorporates some gocco-printed “awesome” fabric, some spoonflower printed milkbottle fabric, and some screen-printed mason jar fabric from the class I took with Kurt what seems like eons ago.

ozzy and the quilt

thrift and craft

worksite accients

I’m a few pages into a book I picked up at a used bookshop in Rockville, MD–the book is called “In Cheap We Trust” (by Lauren Weber), about the idea of thrift, frugality, and cheapness. Pop sociology and good summer reading (I hope). In this into, though, she writes that “thrift advocacy has always carried a whiff and often a stench of preachiness.”

Let me state: I don’t agree.

This statement came after a bit of discussion of the need to patch and mend and darn when good were scarce, and got me thinking about the world of craft and its connection to thrift. It’s true that the two are not synonymous: there are big-box-craft-stores on the side of the highway with aisles Martha Stewart branded official scrapbooking supplies; there are very shmancy brands of yarn that are just another thing to covet or splurge on; even knitting a sweater out of reasonably priced yarn isn’t going to be cheaper than buying something new. But craft is thrift not in the sense of paying as little as possible for anything, but in the sense of being careful and conscientious about things and objects and materials. Advocacy of this sort of thrift is not preaching, it’s exploration of how things are made and what things can be used for. It’s full of wonder.

charming darning (explorations in darning techniques from karen barbe)

I also think of my rad friend Becky Johnson, who I had the immense pleasure to see speak at Etsy when she came through Brooklyn in June. She officially spoke on the subject of “Crafting a Well-Rounded Business” but really she spoke about what she does (tour America in the summers, selling her wares at craft shows and visiting boutiques and other sites-of-handmade), and how she makes it work. One of the points she made to the room full of lovely Brooklyn Etsy ladies seeking success, is that her version of “success” is a wildly different recasting of the idea that you can craft your way into a profitable business. Becky’s success is that she makes her life work on not very much income, in part because the principles of craft and thrift encourage sharing, reciprocity (she talked about being able to travel widely and have somewhere to stay because of the art-and-craft community she has cultivated), and a very different sense of what’s important and worth spending money on. Her successful craft business is not about winning at capitalism, it’s about existing on sort of the outside edge of capitalism.

(my friend becky)

I just read a book called “The Chairs are Where the People Go” by Misha Glouberman, and in a short section titled “Social Capital” he points out that artists and other creative folks may not have a lot of money, but they are certainly not “poor.”

I think this might be related the point that Weber is beginning to make. Thrift out of necessity is what it is, not particularly virtuous, just a way to live within your means. Weber’s feeling of “preachiness” is a similar sense of discomfort to Glouberman’s disapproval of artists considering themselves poor. In this understanding those claiming thrift or poverty are trying to set themselves off as different from what is expected of folks in their socioeconomic position, and receive some sort of credit for it.

Its true that the poverty of artists and musicians is different than the systemic poverty that really exists in our world. But the idea (and this is not the point that Glouberman makes, but is the point implied by Weber’s statement) that anyone who lives outside of the capitalist matrix is inherently smug about it feels really defeatist. Being able to take on a different mode of life is really valuable. Being able to make that work–through thrift, barter, art, travel, and careful darning of one’s handknit socks–is what is really exciting and inspiring about all of my friends amazing diverse lives and professions.


The image up at the top of this post is of the “Worksite Accidents” Gocco prints I received from Becky for pledging her Kickstarter campaign that she used to fund this summer’s craft tour. Here it is in its milieu on my kitchen wall: most of these things are thrifted.

worksite accident print

Reading McClelland Generously

I’ve been thinking a lot about this Mac McClelland thing.

McClelland is a journalist who wrote an article in GOOD Magazine about having PTSD after she experienced and reported on a wide range of horrifying atrocities, including a rape in Haiti, and how she used violent sex as a means to deal with the PTSD. The tile of that article is “How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD.”

I read the article twice, first after I saw it on twitter and again after I saw it on Jezebel. I was really impressed with the piece–I found it honest and courageous, but mostly I was moved by the discussion of What It Is To Do Journalism, especially as a lady, in situations that are dangerous, complicated, difficult, and emotionally charged. I think about this a lot regarding the research that my academic friends and colleagues do–I am impressed that a friend who studies municipal anti-immigration legislation manages to seriously interview his subjects without displaying contempt for these folks’ racism. It seems even more important to think about this with regards to journalism, as we read and listen to these stories and reports every day.

So here I was, thinking about how exciting it was that this bold piece of writing was going to open up all sorts of avenues for discussion about feminism and work and news and the place for personal narratives. I noticed some negative comments about the way she described the violent sexual encounter, most of which were dismayed at the lack of details about how to make sure that it was the right idea, and how it was discussed and executed to be both helpful and safe. Those critiques felt right on.

But then a second round of criticism rose up, from those who felt that McClelland was sensationalizing and misrepresenting Haiti in order to tell her own, self-centered story. Jezebel printed an open letter from a group of female journalists and researches that cover Haiti, in which they write:

she paints Haiti as a heart-of-darkness dystopia, which serves only to highlight her own personal bravery for having gone there in the first place. She makes use of stereotypes about Haiti that would be better left in an earlier century: the savage men consumed by their own lust, the omnipresent violence and chaos, the danger encoded in a black republic’s DNA.

This didn’t feel quite right to me. It seemed to ignore the fact that this was McClelland’s personal story based on her experience; it seemed to undermine any solidarity that is so necessary among women in a field that has its own difficulties for women. (In McClelland’s original post she writes about CBS’s Lara Logan, who was raped while working in Egypt, and the disturbing fact that some people “blamed the reporter for putting herself in a risky situation, and for being reckless enough to enter one when she’s so hot.”). Mostly, though, I didn’t feel that McClelland’s piece did any terrible damage to the image I have of Haiti–I am aware of the horrific things she writes about, but have no illusions that that applies to all Hatians.

But then I notice that one of the signatories on the letter is a friend of mine, Susana Ferreira, who I had the immense pleasure of working with in Toronto in 2006, and who was in journalism school with Zach (finding friendship in the fact that they were both loud, mouthy, Canadians). I trust that Susana knows what she’s talking about–she is a journalist and I am not, she has spent time in Haiti and I have not, she is much more aware of the work of journalism and the situation in Haiti that I will ever be, so it sure isn’t my place to argue with her about these things.

This morning I read this piece on The Rumpus, titled “Still With the Scarlet Letters” by a Haitian American woman who manages to excellently articulate my thoughts on this, with a lot more acuity that I feel like I am able to manage. Go read it.

I still think that there are some questions that remain unaddressed, though.

1. The writers of the letter critiquing McLelland accuse her of taking the incidents she describes out of context. However, McLelland’s other writings on Haiti, her journalistic pieces, are available and easy to find. Here is the Mother Jones article she was writing in the backdrop to the GOOD piece. I’m sure that there are a great many people who read the exciting article about violent sex therapy and didn’t look at her other writing or anything else about Haiti, but I don’t think that’s McLelland’s fault. But I don’t know the way journalism works very well–do we consider each article individually? Ought we to look at a writer’s oeuvre? Or do we need the whole collection of writing about post-earthquake Haiti, from multiple voices, to get a picture of how things really are?

2. In academia, we talk about “reading generously.” That is, looking at a piece by what it is trying to do, and evaluating it based on whether or not it succeeds, before moving on to address whether we think it’s goals are valid at all. This is how I want to read McLelland’s article, and why I am satisfied with the comments that chide her lack of detail about her decision to deal with her PTSD in a certain way.  Do we read generously when we read journalism, or just uber-critically from the outset?

3. With that in mind, how and when do we talk about how to do the emotionally charged work of journalism (and, in some instances, academic research on the social world)? If McLelland is continuously slammed for misrepresenting Haiti, that just serves to distract us from talking about the issues she is trying to raise about her work. How do we talk about what it means to consume research and writing without understanding how that work is produced?

4. Finally, we can’t stop picking apart what “rape culture” means, and we can’t stop thinking the impacts of sexual violence on victims and well as observers and everyone who lives in a world where these things take place. When can we talk about fear, emotional damage, and the overwhelming horrificness of the world, and still work to make change in the ways that we know how?

Sorbetto accomplished!

Rather than waiting until August, I made the Sorbetto top the other day. It was easy and pretty fast–the bias tape part was definitely the most time-consuming part.

sorbetto top

A bit of confusion about seam allowances: the pattern says they’re 5/8″ except around the neckline and armholes where they’re a 1/4″ — because attaching the bias tape had its own instructions, I figured something else had to have a 1/4″ seam allowance, so I sewed the shoulder seams at that. I don’t think it made that much difference and I’m happy with how it fits. On a pattern with such few steps, I think it would have been nice if it said “sew shoulder seams at 5/8″ specifically.

Here’s another picture that’s not that different. I hadn’t finished putting bias tape around the armholes in either of these shots. And now comparing them to the pictures on the pattern website, mine seems less scoop-necked. I can fix that when I make another, which I will.

sorbetto top

Fabric is from the Knittin Kitten in Portland, I think.

I think that I don’t want to call it a “top” though–it’s a shirt. What’s the deal with the word “top” anyway?


tall buildings

So Mount Prospect Park, which is right near me, is apparently the highest point in Brooklyn. Which is a silly thought because there are so many buildings in Brooklyn, which are clearly higher, and Mount Prospect Park is a park, which means it does not have tall building built on it (although, given NYC’s love of public private partnerships, that could change).

My real question though is this: If you accounted for elevation, would the ranking of the world’s tallest buildings (and structures, okay CN Tower, you can play too), change?

Maira Kalman

maira kalman pavlov's dogOn Monday I made it to the Jewish Museum to see the Maira Kalman show Various Illuminations (Of A Crazy World). It’s amazing–a wonderful mix of art and objects, and even some of her textile work (which I didn’t realize she did). It’s up until the end of July—go!

(I have previously expressed my love for here here)

If I was an Artist, I would want to be Maira Kalman. It may be because her handwriting is a much better version of mine.

after august first

I have comprehensive exams coming up, which means that even though the semester is over I spend most days sitting at my desk, reading articles, and taking notes on them. Sometimes I take breaks to read books, or re-organize my piles or grouping methodology (I have piles, stacks, binder-clipped bunches, papers wrapped in large elastic bands, file boxes, and paper and plastic folders). I take the exams at the start of August and then I can allow myself a short break for some actual summer activity.

And I think that I might read Infinite Jest again.
infinite jest

I didn’t participate in Infinite Summer because I’d just finished reading it. I liked the idea of a schedule and discussion, so maybe I’ll follow along with it on my own. Reading on a schedule seems just like what I’m doing now, though! Maybe I just need the slow intake into normal reading.

(I also want to visit Toronto, go to D.C., make a lot of jam and pickles, and sew a Sorbetto top. In a blog post the other day, my awesome friend Kat referred to me as Awesome Person Who Does Things, which is the nicest thing ever, and I feel like I ought to live up to it.)

But Infinite Jest! It beckons! To be read all at once and not over a period of 3 or so years. Maybe my mom will lend me her kindle? Anyone have experience with kindle IJ and the footnotes?


look up!

New blog header. That’s all!

we will not be shushed

Last year, Sarah Zarrow and I had a great time at the Brooklyn Public Library’s 24-hour Read In. In an effort to stop the budget cuts that would shorten hours, close libraries, reduce services, and lay off librarians, the read-in was a public declaration of how important the library and reading are.

Saving the Library for Dummies
Man with bicycle on the plaza

Though most of those cuts were prevented (well, delayed, really), they are of course on the table again. Every time I go to the BPL’s website I get hit with this splash page image:
save the library

All of which is to say that the read-in will happen again this year. From 5pm Saturday (june 11th) until 5pm Sunday (june 12th) on the plaza outside the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch, folks with take turns reading aloud. Last year people read stories, poems, recipes, and lists from John Hodgeman’s The Areas of My Expertise. It was a great event–good to be out taking full advantage of the public space, seeing people come out of the park or the greenmarket and wander over to see what was going on, doing something so important with such a charming, wholesome event.

The Magpie Librarian makes a pretty great case for why this matters and why you should come.

So does this puppy:
puppies against cutting the library budget


windowfarm,originally uploaded by dorywithserifs.

these are all in the garden now

These are seedlings started on the windowsill–they’re all in the garden plot now.

Blogging, Grad School, Making Things

Rhubarab Jam

Oh man! When best-blogger-ever (and classmate) Rembert Browne linked to my blog this morning I was awed and flattered! So nice to be included in a roundup of grad-school bloggers, most of whom have way better and cleverer blog names than I. Rembert writes “500 Days Asunder,” and Judy’s is “Taiwanderlust.” Amazing.

Anyhow, I thought I better make good on the promises of a blog that shows off stuff that I make when I’m not doing work. And thankfully Rem’s shout-out coincided with the opening of canning season! Yesterday I transformed 2 and a quarter pounds of rhubarb into 6 half-pints of rosemary-rhubarb jam.

Rhubarab Jam

Happily, one of the jars didn’t seal, so I just dug into it, eating it with fresh ricotta on a baguette that my friend Naomi brought over. And then the other Naomi and I got on our bikes and took a tour of the old brewery buildings of North Brooklyn.

brooklyn bike beer blitz
brooklyn bike beer blitz (notice the barrels embedded in the building)
brooklyn bike beer blitz
brooklyn bike beer blitz

Spatial Perception

I often claim that my greatest skill is that I can always pick the right container for the stuff I need to contain. Marissa at Food in Jars admits that she’s not, and recommends taking your storage jars to the store. I, on the other hand, take immense pleasure in picking the right jar from my collection and having the beans/quinoa/nuts/buttons/leftovers fit just right. I guess I have the plastic bags left over, which Marissa doesn’t, but I don’t think that the coop could handle it if I brought jars.

Here are the results of a little photograph-as-I-go experiment that I conducted the other day with a bagful of split peas (bought to make this soup). What you’re seeing is in real time, folks!

split peas into a jar
split peas into a jar
split peas into a jar
split peas into a jar
split peas into a jar
split peas into a jar
split peas into a jar


Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd Ingredients

Lemon curd! The first canning project of 2011. As I open and eat the things on the shelf, I rue not having kept better track of what they all were and where the recipes came from, so the 2011 canning diary shall serve as a record of this year’s jars of yum. And first up: lemon curd.

The recipe is from Put ‘Em Up, page 174. I used 4 meyer lemons from the coop, one regular lemon. Zested the meyers, some of that zest went into the curd, the rest got mixed with salt as per this idea. 4 eggs from Anna & Naf’s chickens. The whole thing made 3 half-pint jars, and 3 quarter-pint jars.

It was unreasonably delicious when I licked the spatula (and the bottom of the pot), but the mixture separated a bit during canning. It’s totally fine when I stir it up before eating, and it stays together pretty well in the fridge, but I don’t think that it’s as jelled as it could be. This is either because 1) I didn’t strain it as the recipe said to do, or 2) I should have cooked it for longer. Sherri Brooks Vinton says it takes 10 minutes of whisking to thicken, other recipes on the internet say 20.

I’m going to try grapefruit for the next curd, and will probably cook it for longer.

(Photo above is not my kitchen. It’s from binah06, on flickr)

Hexagons for Karen and Sammy

I have awesome friends, Karen and Sam, who got married this past September, at a Bowling Alley in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Karen and Sam!

Hexagon Piecing Tattoo!At the wedding, I met a friend of theirs who had this rad hexagon paper piecing tattoo. (Please excuse the terrible picture). We got to chatting about hexagons; at that point I had never attempted making them because the whole things seemed so finicky and daunting and I was convinced that I needed to take a class to learn how to do them. But oh how I love the way they look! A few weeks later I sat down with the internet and a hand sewing needle and my bag of scrap fabric and figured it out. Of course, it was kind of finicky and tedious and the prospect of doing a whole quilt like this continued to seem daunting. I made a few random blob shapes and declared myself done.


Of course, at this point I still hadn’t gotten anything for Sam and Karen, and remembering the pillowcases I’d made for Jamie and Rufus, I decided that I’d do that again. Pillowcases are a great gift idea–hand made and lovely but not months and months of work. So I appliqued the hexagon blobs (well, one blob and two hexagon flowers) onto grey fabric, and sewed them up into pillowcases. I used some bird fabric and a chopped up old pillowcase (that had an interim life as a pillowcase skirt, that ingenious new-sewist project that is actually unwearable because people and pillows are very different shapes, as it turns out) for the edging, and voila! Pillowcases!

Pillow Cases
Pillow Case Edges

Whale Hero

David has these great paintings by Johanna Wright. They’re both of the Whale Hero (though only one of the paintings has that title)–a scrappy-looking big blue/grey whale, smiling a nervous kind of grin, saving folks (Whale Hero) or being celebrated (Whale Parade).

Here’s Whale Hero:
Johanna Wright's 'Whale Hero'

And Whale Parade:
whale parade

It was the little patches on the Whale that did me in. I loved them, and wanted to recreate them, so I made David his own whale.

The Whale

I haven’t made a lot of softies, it’s never really been appealing to me as a thing to make, but boy oh boy did I want to make a whale! I just drew a simplified version onto newspaper, cut it out and traced it with seam allowance onto fabric to make 2 pieces. I embroidered a mouth and an eye on each piece, and sewed on some patches–I used white glue to stick them, and then zig-zag stitched around them, they were too tiny for pins. I got a bit stuck on the stuffing part, I left the open bit (to flip it right side out and stuff) by the base of the tail, so that turning it right side out would be easier, but it made it really hard to hand sew it shut. I did an imperfect job, but that’s alright because The Whale is a scrappy guy.

Ozzy likes it:
Ozzy and the Whale

and David too:
David and his Whale

crochet pirate

crochet pirate,originally uploaded by dorywithserifs.

granny hexagon, and hook!

If you make a silly face and brandish a hook, you’re a pirate! I mean, I am, and here’s me playing around with hexagon crochet. My hexagon paper piecing project has been delivered to its recipient (photos soon!), now I have something in the works for these.

New Orleans Stories

I hand-sewed a final seam on something the other day, and turned on a podcast from The Moth to listen to while doing it. I just reached over to my computer and clicked the most recent one to play. The host introduced The Moth, what they do, etc, and then said “Today’s story is from Mack McClendon.” Mack McClendon! I know that guy.

See, in early January I took 9 students from the University of Vermont to New Orleans on a Jewish Funds For Justice service learning trip. For a week we volunteered, heard from speakers, took tours, ran sessions, and had great conversations about race, class, history, activism, and social justice.

One of the organizations we worked with was The Lower 9th Ward Village–a community centre started by Mack McClendon.

Mack Talking to the Students

Mack was incredibly generous with his time and stories. In this photo above, the UVM students are asking him questions and recording his responses.

In his Moth story, Mack speaks about the building that the Lower 9th Ward Village has: how he set his sights on it, and how he acquired it for use as a community centre. It was incredible to hear him tell this tale on the internet radio, to everyone, and also have a personal experience with the building, and a sense of pride in having seen the UVM students use that building to build relationships and build their own community .

Here’s the building from the backyard:
Lower 9th Ward Village Building

Listen yourself: Listen to Mack.

Graduate School Girl Uniforms

I am posting more dated Cat and Girl because I have no photos of projects to show off. Also, because I’m back to school and giving my cardigans some heavy wear.

grad school girl uniforms

tidy desk

tidy desk,originally uploaded by dorywithserifs.

New semester! I tidied up my workspace, filed last semester’s papers, bought a new printer, and now I have space for being a good graduate student.

Becky shared her workspace shot the other day and I wanted to do the same. After being away for a lot of winter break (in Vancouver, and New Orleans), it’s nice to, as Lindsey says, “re-nest.” And all the better to do so right here.

Also: Happy Birthday Megan!