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Heavy stuff, wot?

These topics have been bouncing around in my brain, lately. Why? Well, a number of incidences.

#1. Searching Ravelry for something to knit for a new baby, I come upon an adorable cow hat that the new mother would adore. My technician also thought it was cute, but her initial response was, "Is that a free pattern?"

#2. FB'ing back and forth with a cousin who is new to knitting. She's taught herself, via books. And (much like I did) discovered a while into the procedure that she'd been twisting her stitches by knitting through the back loops all the while. She commented that she ought to have taken a class. Probably true. But, I also suggested that she open an account on Ravelry (I <3 Ravelry, BTW), and she commented that she hadn't yet, but she loves free patterns - so if there are free patterns, she will.

#3. I'm signed up for a Mystery Knit-Along that starts this summer. I like this designer's work, her stuff is usually pretty clear, and her aesthetic generally is something that appeals to me. And, while she's always suggested certain luxury yarns, this time both she and her group mods/test knitters nearly got out the iron maidens in an effort to discourage anyone from using anything BUT the suggested (and pricey) yarns and beads.

#4. Reading through a number of online sewing tutorials, and the comments included therein. The same for cooking blogs. My favorite are the comments to the effect of, "I made this just like the recipe, except I substituted X,Y, and Z and it didn't turn out. This recipe sucks!!"

#5. The recent cessation of publication for Australian Smocking and Embroidery vs the alterations in format for Sew Beautiful.

#6. E-mail contacts I sometimes get via my own web presence.

Where does this put my head?

Frankly, people who will only ever knit a free pattern annoy me. Which is not to say that I don't or won't knit a free pattern. I have, and I will. There is one OTN right now. I understand that certain fan-written patterns based on copyrighted or trademarked symbols often may NOT be sold without violating that trademark/copyright.

I've also had many the free pattern that is badly written. Outright mistakes, stitch counts that don't match, poorly designed charts, etc. This is beyond frustrating, especially when you can easily determine that if you take the cast-on row and then follow the instruction for the next row, the ending stitch count does not and cannot match what the author claims it will. Now, on Ravelry it's common for authors to have their own forum and support their work. They will often answer questions, post corrections, and generally update their .pdf's as needed. This is less common with the free patterns, which are often abandoned after writing, authors never to be heard from again.

It doesn't take many bad experiences with patterns - free or purchased - to begin to understand the value of a well written pattern that has been tech edited and test-knit or -sewn. To appreciate it when a designer updates patterns to remove errors. (ESPECIALLY on Ravelry, where your downloaded patterns are stored in your personal library and notifications are presented when any of them are updated by the author.) The work, time, love, and obsession that goes into creating that pattern are worth something. Some one's talent is worth something. Now, whether you like that pattern enough to pay what the author is asking is a personal decision. But to categorically decide only to ever knit free patterns both narrows your choices AND relegates you to a pool of work that is of lower quality and likely will give you less satisfactory results. Do so at your own risk.

There is another side of the coin, however. As a designer, once you create that pattern and publish it, it's no longer in YOUR hands what people do with it. Insisting that any change in yarn type or cast on method or insert attribute here will ruin the integrity of the pattern and the resulting work a lesser item that was "not what you designed" isn't really helpful, either. Granted, I've seen marvelously complexly designed pieces that somebody (proudly!) knitted in the Red Heart Super Saver Rainbow colorway. And yes, it makes me want to go wash my retinas, too. but that was the choice of the person who bought your pattern and put all that time into knitting it. Granted, going way outside the suggested range of yarns/gauge, and then complaining that the pattern "doesn't work" isn't kosher, either. But substituting a simple wool yarn for the luxury silk blend specified, in the same weight, shouldn't affect a shawl pattern ALL that much. Quit bitching at your customers for having budgets/yarn diets/different tastes.

Which circles us back to.... responsibilities of the pattern/recipe user. You cannot read a recipe, alter it mightily, and then complain to the author that it "doesn't work." Now, I have tried recipes from a lot of web sites, including Martha Stewart, that have flat out failed as written. This is a different issue. But, before you take the author to task, be certain that it wasn't your own execution at fault.

The same goes for online sewing tutorials. When a blogger posts a piece on a specific item they made, detailing how it was done this does NOT entitle you to demand all the details necessary to replicate said project but in a different size/fabric/style/etc. This person shared their craft with you. For free. You don't get a professionally graded/tech edited/measured and drafted pattern to your own specifications as a "thank you" for merely reading the post. Either you can make those mental leaps yourself, or you can't. Ask a question, certainly. But don't demand that the author spoonfeed you the mathematics to alter the project for yourself. They owe you nothing.

There seems to be a lack of appreciation for the design work and technical expertise required to draft a pattern, regardless of the medium. Australian Smocking and Embroidery was a favorite magazine of mine, largely because there was a multi-size pattern for each featured garment included in the center pull-out. Yep, it was expensive. But I often bought it anyway. It's been discontinued. I'm not sure if that's because interest in smocking is waning in general, the exchange rate with Australia has gotten steeper - or because too many people didn't see the value. Why pay $16 for AS&E when Sew Beautiful is only $6? Well, largely because SB might have ONE pattern. It's other features will tell you what commercial pattern to buy so that you can replicate the result. You're viewing someone's modification - not the from-scratch design work of AS&E. (I could have this wrong. It's possible that SB survives because it's new editor has also moved to include more modern "boutique" style children's clothing and away from solely smocking and heirloom work.)

And then again, there are the hobby pattern lines whose designers, when contacted about trouble with their patterns assume that the entire problem lies with the person using it. Maybe. Maybe not. I've come to understand that there is a wildly different approach between people who were formally taught to sew and people who "picked it up." The biggest bane of my existence, these days, is people who are "self taught" in an SCA context. Not because there is anything wrong with teaching yourself to sew, but because they have this attitude that modern sewing is for dummies and that they can forgo any of the basic books and lessons as being unnecessary. So they often have these "stealth holes" in their knowledge that don't crop up until they've already done something more-or-less unfixable. Now, modern sewing is not historical sewing. BUT - you either need to study historical sewing in detail and learn the whys and wherefores. And then stick TO historical technique.... Or learn modern sewing from the ground up, so that you understand the concepts and can decide what your options are should you decide NOT to flat fell the seams on your cotehardie. Don't try to cheat and put in a facing, if you don't know what a facing is!

Even with some of my own articles and blog posts, I will get comments/e-mail from people who want me to send them a pattern. Or tell them how to make a historical style I've discussed. Worse yet, want to know how to adapt a particular pattern to make an entirely different style. Can I? Probably. Will I, for the delight of Jolene Webbity? Hell, nos.

In short, I'm a little aggravated both with the grabby-hands attitude of people who think that since patterns aren't a "thing" and therefore should be free. And equally aggravated with people who create patterns and then believe they have some sort of control over what gets made with them and how.

Short version - buy patterns, don't photocopy or download, follow the directions. Or, if you choose to go off the reservation, don't insist anybody but you is responsible for your results. Appreciate the effort that went into the pattern. Appreciate the time and love that went into the resulting object.

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/354732.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

A Sisterhood of One

(note: Yes, we're doing Golden Seamstress again. Deconstruct to follow the event. Possible live-blogging DURING event)

But at the moment, I have other things on my mind. (I know, how bizarre, right?) I've been chewing through cozy mysteries at the rate of 3-4/week. My latest favorite series is Melissa Bourbon's Magical Dress Making mysteries. I love the sewing references, the setting, the historical aspects, and the relationships between the main character, her mother, grandmother, etc. And I'm a little jealous of it. Yes, I know it's fictional, and in a way no more a realistic representation than the average romance novel is to real relationships. But I miss the feminine companionship.

Don't get me wrong, I love me mother dearly. She is, quite possibly, the sweetest woman on the planet. But we're not "that" mother/daughter. I am distinctly NOT a Klooster. We don't mesh the way that my mother and her sisters do. (To be fair, SOME of her sisters. Even my mother, the queen of "fair and equal" will admit, when pushed, that she has a favorite sister). I adore her company - in small doses.

There are a number of aspects of my life that are just isolating. The first is having special needs kids. The other "Autism Moms" are a rather frightening bunch. I got absolutely harangued once at a birthday party for vaccinating my youngest even after my eldest was "diagnosed." I don't meet my kids' friends' parents, as a rule - because they don't really have them. I've never formed a local alliance of moms who do things together or watch each others' kids because I don't feel like I can ask anybody else to watch my kids. We don't do the usual after school activities. I can't let my kids go play outside without me.

I spend enough time at work and looking after my kids that I don't have a lot of social time myself. Since we quit the SCA, most of those people have more or less drifted out of my life. Which is unsurprising. We talk and hang with people with whom we have a lot in common. The SCA tends to be a lifestyle. Sometimes an all-consuming lifestyle. If you no longer share that, you no longer have a lot in common.

And then there is the remark John made to me last night when I was sniveling about it. "The problem, honey, is that you're a genius." Now, I think this is overselling the point. But it is a fact that high intelligence is, in and of itself, isolating. It was a massive damper on my social life in high school By college I had learned to paste a veneer over it, so as not to freak people out. But it's always a better situation when you have friends to talk to who at least get what you're saying.

I do have some sweet women in my life, but most of them are too far away for us to spend time together very often. It doesn't really fill the need for that sort of companionship. Nor can I figure out how to remedy the situation. I'm just not even IN my hometown that much, during waking hours. Most of the quilting groups are well above my age bracket. The local knitting store is... sort of not my bag. (I've been in it enough to work out that the regular patrons are not My People, if you will. Heck, I can kind of tell that from the stock). Sewing is experiencing a resurgence with my age group, but the only thing going on locally tends to be beginner classes. Nor do I have the time to teach/host/otherwise commit to being somewhere on a regular basis. My job doesn't work that way.

Anybody want to drop by, split a six pack of hard cider, ponder the mysteries of men and discuss the relative merits of different embroidery fibers?

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/354376.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Many of you who are on FB are aware that my house is sort of in shamble. OK, strike the "sort of." It went like this: Massive rainstorm ---> Flooding ---> back pressure in the city system ----> failed sewer line ----> Blackwater contamination ---> basement stripped up carpet, drywall, and furniture. So I'm still pretty discombobulated and probably will be till I get all this dealt with. It's pretty hard to sew/embroider/whatever when we're crammed into what WAS my craft space as temporary living area.

Since I'd committed to an article at History Unstitched AND was helping [Bad username: alysten.livejournal.com] research a new outfit, I'd turned up some more info on the Kaasmuseum portraits and updated one of my articles. Go look if you're interested:

Oh, and go subscribe to History Unstitched! http://historyunstitched.com/ Then you can read my article, and lots of other, even better ones.

Which has brought me full circle back to my website. A. I need to migrate it over to a more updated version of Joomla! And I'm afeared.
B. I debate about adding to it. I could do a tour of the Dutch provinces. I could start following costume development through the later centuries. I could work on the basic garb articles.

But then I start to wonder if it's even worth the effort. Mostly because the primary audience for a lot of it is the SCA. And I have two rather profound problems with SCA "Corporate Culture."

A. "Gimmee!!" - The attitude that you should give whatever you have to other SCAdians because they're SCAdians. This might be research, materials, time, whatever. I've come to resent this attitude. Yes, I might have 2 tubes of ultramarine blue goauche. This does not, however, obligate me to give one of them to someone else who "wants to do scribal stuff but doesn't know where to start." (Read here: doesn't want to purchase their own supplies. And sometimes it's not material things but knowledge. "I want to make X, and I know that you've done it, so tell me how to do it so I don't have to go figure it out for myself." Essentially, the attitude that, for example, if you've worked out how to construct a men's Burgundian outfit, you should not only make your research available BUT should effectively create a pattern and spoon feed someone else so they can make the pretties. Because, you know, "Garb isn't really my thing and I don't want to have to get into the details. I just want it to look right," I think this is a larger problem with costume than with anything else because that's the ONE item you must have to participate. So if it's not your thing, you still have to make SOME kind of an effort. And very few people are willing to purchase items at what is a fair price for the seamstress. I'm even starting to really get annoyed at people who want to borrow a book I've purchased and photocopy a bunch of stuff out of it so they don't have to buy it. NO. Be fair to the author and go buy a copy.

B. "Yer doin' it Wrong." No matter how exquisitely correct your outfit may be, sure as shootin', you'll find someone, somewhere, who will feel the Need(TM) to waltz up and tell you you've got it wrong. Usually based on misinformation. Granted, I don't "event" any more. But it frosts my cookies in a serious way when I've helped someone make something (or been the source of their information) that's evidence based... and they get hassled about it by Baroness Snark. So. Freaking. Tired. Of this. The Elizabethan Costume List on FB is supposed to be a "snark-free" zone. Who are we kidding? The snark, it happens. And it must be inherent in costume because it just bubbles up. With Attitude(TM). I've backed down from time to time, even when I know I'm right - just because the argument isn't worth the emotional energy.

So... what to do tonight? Plan some articles? Or make a vintage-styled mending kit for my modern sewing.... Hmmmmm....

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/354273.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Social pressures

I've been pondering a couple of imponderables for the last few days.

The first involves social media, and whether it is better to remove from your circle of acquaintances (which I won't use the word "friends" to describe) those people with whom you have little in common and whose own expressions normally irritate you... or to maintain them and thereby avoid creating a "bubble" in which you surround yourself with people who think only as you do - allowing yourself the fantasy that EVERYBODY thinks as you do. Mostly I ponder this in regard to a lot of the people on my FB feed who I know either solely from the SCA or solely from high school - and in neither case was the relationship more than mere acquaintance at best.

The second is wedding related. Possibly I have immersed myself in vintage writings, items, and research to the point where I am very much behind the times of what is considered "acceptable" and what isn't. Heck, when I got married it was gauche to send wedding registry cards in the invitations. I doubt anybody thinks twice about it, now. In this case, I still get a twitch about second weddings. To my mind, if you've been married before you probably shouldn't be going in for the whole white dress, twinkling candles, posh reception sort of affair. Something smaller - family and close friends, casual supper sort of thing. Is it just me? Granted, the white wedding dress doesn't symbolize what it once did, but it just seems particularly out of place when the bride's children are participating in the service.

Meh. Off to go grump about kids today in private.

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/353722.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Or - what I'm up to these days.

I'm going through one of those period where I sort of step back and realize just how isolating having children with Autism can be. *sigh* I need a social life. It's taken about this long for most of my SCA-only friends to fall away. And I notice the gap, but I have no desire to get back in.

My costuming motivation is currently pretty much shot. I have lots of things I SHOULD be doing, and I really ought to look at migrating the web page to the latest version of Joomla. And words cannot express how much I really don't want to be bothered.

Work is crazy busy. Why it is that the busy season (heartworm + lots of people's annual vaccines) needs to coincide with various companies having their national sales meetings - thereby firing up their reps to get under my feet just when I don't really want to be bothered - I have no idea. It's making my days longer than I would like them to be.

The girls continue to make progress, albeit slowly. Rori should start in the transitional preschool next year. I DO think it's the right move. And if we don't, she could well get locked into another track that won't push as hard - and not have any chance whatever of being mainstreamed later. A hope I still cling to in the depths of my heart.

Nerdwars has at least upped my knitting productivity. Though with spring approaching, I'm starting to get the sewing bug. Just not the costuming bug. I'd rather make some cute dresses for the girls. And maybe a quilt. Or some curtains. Or both.

The husband took his Project Management exam this week, though he won't get results until next week or so. It's been a 1 year saga getting this done and I'm glad he finally TOOK the exam. I can't quite say that I don't care whether he passed or not, but I'm pretty close to that ambivalent about it. Among other things. Frankly, I'm sort of hoping he can pick up a contract with G4S or a similar outfit. It would be good for his ego, and make him in general easier to live with. Even if the trade off is playing "single Mommy" for a while. Worth it in the long run.

I need a nap. I need a social network. I need a support system. What I have is a full schedule at work. Oh well, we works with what we gots, right?

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/353462.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

The Great Purge

I have to say that the SCA has more or less slid out of my life with relative ease. And that the longer I give it, the less I have any twinges about the decision. One thing you do begin to note, however, is the amount of sheer crap you accumulate. The Great Purge has begun. And it's going to take a while.

Phase 1 is to clean out my sewing room and storage area. It needed doing anyway, as the storage area got a little wet a while back, and it needs to be stripped to the bare walls and re-organized. I've done this before, but this time instead of just putting it all back, I've been pitching the junk/scraps/bric-a-brac. And I've so far packed up one entire tub of fabric and schlepped it off to the current Midrealm Princess for her use. I also divested myself of a lot of early garb attempts both from the Renn Faire and SCA. Whether or not the local Gold Key has any use for it, I neither know nor care. They can pitch it if they don't. I filled the trash bin with junk, one bin with fabric to give away, and another with "garb" - such as it was.

I've also taken down and removed all the server files for the Pentamere site. That's now dead in the water - and, to be frank, if it wasn't going to launch without my impetus than it wasn't time anyway. I'll leave it at that.

Now that the garabage has been collected, I can probably take another run at the storage area with the plan to pitch yet more junk. Extra costume-y type fabric... I'm not sure whether to dump or if I should give it to someone. The trick with that is to find someone who wants it that I can get it to, easily. With very little effort or expense on my part. Otherwise... trash. I'll hang on to the linen and the wool, as that has uses outside of costume-related work. Other stuff I'm being pretty harsh with getting rid of.

After that, the next step may be to rid myself of books that I don't need. A lot of those are heraldry-related. Possibly some metal-work, certainly some cooking tomes. I might post a list later and see what anybody here wants.

In other news, I did take a small vacation in the land of Not Coping on Tuesday. I need to learn not to do that. The change in vector afterwards is almost physically painful. BUT I did get my eyebrows done and got to be girly for a bit. Shopped for vintage Christmas ornaments. And spent some time hanging out at the local coffee shop, listening to who the other half lives.

I still haven't found my center entirely. But I'm going to keep working on getting my work space set up, clearing the last two commissions in my scribal pile, and deciding where my happy medium will be craft-wise. I might start with some regional turn-of-the-century Dutch costumes for the girls for Tulip Fest. But 16th century isn't really speaking to me just now. Eh.

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/353231.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

I'm still around

Yeah, I've sort of wandered away from LJ and DW. One reason is flat time constraints. Another is that, between my divorce from the SCA and the last US election cycle - well, it was easier to NOT post open wounds. Ya know? Nor to encourage overmuch arm twisting or attempts to convince me that I should stay in the SCA or change my political stripes. I've also pruned a few people off my FB list that I really only knew from the SCA - if that's you, and that was the only thing we had in common, please don't be too offended. I lose track of things easily. And I lost a lot of patience with the general level of vitriol and smug superiority throughout November. I had to lower my "twitch threshold."

At the same time, I've been working on the GF blog. Also indulging in a resurgence of knitting, to include participation in Ravelry's Nerd Wars. Still have an interest in Vintage sewing, hair, and decorating. Update that to include Vintage cocktails.

My eldest is back in Irish Dance classes, this time with more enthusiasm. The younger isn't quite old enough.

In short, I've lost a lot of my commonality with the community I'd built here. And I'm not sure if I have anything ELSE in common with LJ/DW-land. Or if I want to expend the effort to build a new one that suits my new pursuits. But... still around.

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/352921.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Readin' and writin' - go win a book!

One of my co-workers presented me with a couple of cat-themed "cozy mysteries" for my birthday. Her assertion is that between my various ongoing research projects, children, and rather intellect-intensive profession - my brain needed a break.

I have decided that I rather like cozy mysteries. They're light, refreshing, and engaging. And, as promised, require little in the way of thinking.

More entertainingly, I discovered one that is themed around a main character who collects vintage pyrex, buys some kitchen antiques, and in a lot of other ways resembles, well, me. ;-)

I wrote a little note to the author on the topic (accusing my cats of e-mailing her at night), and she offered up a signed copy of the book to give away.

Now, I really did like the book. And I'd like to give her a little boost. So, if you've got the time, zing over to my blog and enter?


It's OK if you "know" me. It's OK if you don't normally bother with gluten free.

And if you've got time to sort of "boost the signal" on this with whatever social media you choose, please do.

I'd like to have more than two people enter. :-)

Thanks, all!!

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/352661.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


One of the quandries of dealing with Autism is what to do with the girls.

They're both in school programming all day.

When they get home, do I leave them to do their own thing? Do I push? What do I push? Academics? (Workbooks, flashcards, reading, basic math) Physical activity? (Dance, swimming, gymnastics, playgrounds) Art stuff? (music, drawing, painting, etc.)

How HARD do I push? Do I pick one thing that each of them SEEM to enjoy at the moment, and focus on it in the hopes that success will encourage them and that activity might help improve other facets of their abilities? Or go with divergent things - knowing that with them, not having time to repeat/repeat/repeat will mean that at best they'll be just skimming the surface, however much they enjoy it?

Do I MAKE Them practice? Because that's the only way they're going to do it. Unless one or both of them suddenly is seized by an as-yet unidentified obsession for something.

Did you have a "hobby" as a kid? (piano, violin, dance, softball...) Did you pick it, or did your parents? Did they have to make you practice? All the time? Some of the time? Did you eventually quit? How do you feel now about having quit?

What about extra academics? My mother had workbooks for us in the summer. Yours? I'm still not sure whether Mom pushed apptitudes that she saw, or that she wanted to see success in. Was I a math whiz? Or did she sort of "create" that? I certainly never could hang with the real Math Club in college. But I did have some success in the statewide math competition, among other things. Possibly it's a function of my scanner brain again. Once I'd gotten to what I considered "competency" I no longer had enough interest to lose myself in the "higher maths"?

I don't want to "ruin" my children - either by failing to push hard enough or by arm twisting into things they don't want to do. I'm not sure Liesl can as yet get the connection between practice and success. In fact, I'm not sure she really gets the connection between what she seems to WANT to be able to do and what the beginner steps are. Is it OK to push a little through some of the basic stuff to GET to the "fun parts" and then see if she can take it from there?

Any advice, anyone?

This entry was originally posted at http://femkes-follies.dreamwidth.org/352204.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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