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February 2007
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Posts from March 2007

Stitches tell a story


Close-up of Irish Creel bag knit with Fisherman's wool by Jelisava

The pattern for this bag is from Folk Bags by Vicki Square: "The natural color and basketweave stitch ... pay homage to the color used in Aran sweaters and to the fisherman who daily uses this fascinatingly shaped basket to hold his catch."

Aran sweaters are artistic arrangements of different stitches -- cables, diamonds, and knots, to name a few -- that may tell a story about the knitter or the wearer. Fisherman's wool gets its name from the undyed wool that was used to knit sweaters that were exposed to the elements -- the unscoured wool retained its natural oils or lanolin. making the sweaters water-repellant.

Continue reading "Stitches tell a story" »

Trinity of Glass


Trinity of Glass Door Knobs in the morning sun / March 2007

I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy.
What a source of power!
I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

    ~Thomas Edison

Let it fly


Engraving of the Ardagh chalice (c. 800-899 AD); Irish Celtic work / via NY Public Library ID 704443

Last night I went to hear the great Irish poet and priest Father Michael Doyle of Sacred Heart Church in Camden tell stories and read his poetry. He can make you laugh ("the Irish dance at wakes and cry at weddings") and cry (the reading was "in memory of those you miss most"). Through his stories he brings to life generations of his family and life in Ireland (his grandmother would use over 100 pounds of flour a week and cooked over an open stove and then watched 8 of her 13 children "round the bend" in the road on their way to America). 

"One of the great gifts from God to us is the imagination...the little children have it. If you lose your imagination, you lose a lot.
So let it fly -- it's a great gift to you."

"God protect us from the merely practical."

    -- Father Michael Doyle

Obsess . . . NOT!


"Fisherman's Knit Cable Bag" by Jelisava / Feb. 2004

You don't have to pay a lot of money for a designer bag. You can make your own designed by . . . you. This is one of my "designer" bags. I was trying to learn how to knit cables so I made the bag entirely of cables (plus a bit of the I-stitch on the flap) and used Fisherman's wool because it shows off the cables, is inexpensive, and has a nice tactile feel to it. Why let Stuart Weitzman have all the fun?       

What will you do with our dreams?*


An Iranian girl attends Friday prayers in Tehran, September 2006 (Atta Kenare / AFP / Getty) (via Time Magazine)

Yesterday was International Women's Day. The Iranian government released more than 30 women who were detained after protesting at the trial of four women's rights advocates. Last year women in Iran launched a One Million Signatures Campaign to demand the repeal of discriminatory laws against women (these include: divorce rights, child custody rights, increase in the legal age of girls, abolishment of laws that support honor killings, fair employment rights, inheritance laws, etc.).

"When we hold peaceful protests, we are greeted with violence . . ."

"I have no doubt that in the end this motherly and womanly love will prevail over the male-oriented system of control."

    -- *Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani

Three excellent books that I've read about Iranian women:
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azir Nafisi
Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

"Women and men must struggle, be united, be of one heart and mind, and pay the necessary price to achieve equality in society. In sum, they must hold themselves responsible and rely on each other."

-- Sima Loghmani (one of the organizers of the One Million Signatures Campaign)

Silence is full of music


Jackagewia and Ronniehontus Ukes / Lake Chrisann / Feb. 2007

We arrived at a quiet Mountain House in the middle of the night, after driving through the snows across the dark tundra of Jersey, to find the ukuleles cuddling on a chair in the sun room. The beautiful silence of the Mountain House in winter -- tick of the clock, crackle of the fire, sigh of the dog -- was all around us.

Music and silence combine strongly
because music is done with silence,
and silence is full of music.

     -- the "physical poet" Marcel Marceau

Seven colors in his palette



Two Bedcovers: (left) produced at John Hewson's factory in Philadelphia; considered the finest example of early American block printing / (right) made by Zibiah Smallwood Hewson (wife of John Hewson); center and possibly other textiles printed by John Hewson (via Philadelphia Museum of Art)

John Hewson was the first printer of calico fabrics in the American Colonies and a Revolutionary War hero (read his account of escaping "to the Jerseys" after the jump). He  held what were considered "extremist political views" in his native England and with the help of Benjamin Franklin, he came to Philadelphia where he settled in my mother's old neighborhood.

"He opened a calico printing factory in 1774, near the Delaware River at the foot of Gunner’s Run, now Aramingo Avenue. At that time Richmond Street was called Point-no-Point Road, and Hewson’s address was listed on the Point Road. As closely as we can currently estimate, Hewson’s place was located where (surprise! surprise!) Hewson Street, named for him, begins today.

Not only was Hewson the first calico fabric printer in the colonies, his work was also of the highest quality. According to scholars of textile history, Hewson’s textiles were unmatched in America at that time, and rivaled those of Europe. His chintz fabrics made him famous and were printed with wood blocks; a different one was used for each of the seven colors in his palette; pink, red, blue, yellow, black and brown. Green colors were added by “pencilling” in blue and yellow dyes." (via Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

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Spring break in MiMo


Art Deco panel in Miami Beach (via Miami Design Preservation League)

It's that time of year for college students to take their spring break. I can recall my first college spring break when I took a 21-hour bus ride from New Brunswick, NJ to Florida and shared a room in Miami Beach with three friends. The bus fare and hotel cost me around $100 dollars. I don't remember what we did for food. I do remember the Palm trees and that the ocean was incredibly blue and clear. I remember that Jane's denim skirt disappeared and we later saw someone from our bus wearing the exact same skirt. I remember playing pinball with Nancy. And I remember driving somewhere into the wilds of Florida to visit Peggy's cousin who lived in a very air-conditioned house. As the bus headed back north, I couldn't bear the thought of missing Easter dinner at Grandma's house so I had the bus driver drop me off at the Maryland House rest stop on 95 and asked my dad to pick me up there. I made it just in time for dinner. If I had it to do over I'd be sure to go see Miami's Art Deco National Historic district -- full of hotels and apartment buildings built in the 1930s -- and the Mediterranean Revival (or "Med Deco") and MiMo (Miami Modernism) areas, too.

Express yourself


Each bird loves to hear himself sing / Franciska's Gallery

I heard someone on the radio talking about YouTube and how it allows you to "express yourself" (it was said as if it were in quotations and with a slight snear). It surprised me -- when did it became a bad thing to express yourself? Are we living in a version of George Orwell's 1984 where we are all supposed to speak, act, and think the same? Just because a few people are paid lots of money and are featured on the radio, tv, etc. does that mean that they are the only ones allowed to express themselves? It is human nature for people to express themselves in creative ways -- to paint, to draw, to sing, to act, to build. All these activities are encouraged (and praised) when we are small children, but often derided when we get older. We owe it to ourselves to be creative and to encourage each other to be creative, so . . . go express yourself!

Take a walk back through time


via, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records / 2341 E CLEARFIELD ST (Northwest Corner - Aramingo Avenue and Clearfield Street-2341-2343 East Clearfield Street -- Bens Hardware) / Sept. 4, 1951 / Photographer: Atheniasis T . Mallis

This is a photo from the street where my mother grew up in Philadelphia's Port Richmond neighborhood. It's from PhillyHistory, a photo archive that contains over 2 million photo records of the city that date from the late 1800s. Archive photos are searchable by proximity to an Address, Intersection, Place Name, or Neighborhood. New images are being added all the time.

The site also has a Historic Streets Index that tracks changes to street names over time. My great-grandmother lived around the corner from my mother, on Clementine Street. According to their records, it looks like Clementine St. from "Richmond to Cedar Sts., n. of Clearfield St." was called "Division" before 1897.

Pick a neighborhood or street and take a walk back through time (another image after the jump). 

Continue reading "Take a walk back through time" »