Friday, March 18, 2011

On Gardening

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Lupine and larkspur coming up fast; delphiniums and cleomes should be next!
When J and I moved into our current apartment together last July, it was our first apartment together.  We'd stayed together, for a few months at a time, but always in apartments that were "J's apartment" or "Eileen's apartment."  At the time, I was too busy to appreciate it: I was getting ready to take my exams, we had a lot of shit to move, and as soon as I was done with my exams, both sets of parents came to visit us.  Then there was the rush of the holidays, and I only now feel like I'm really settling in to this apartment as home.

And not just because it's not busy any more.  In the fall, I put in bulbs that my mother, J's mother, and some dear friends sent me.  (As an aside, how wonderful is the phrase "fictive kin"?  It comes up a lot in my academic work as an abstract idea, but there are several older women I worked with back in Snowy City who I became very close to which make its meaning very real).  And now those bulbs are starting to come up!

I got out yesterday and pulled up some very enthusiastic weeds, and besides what I had planted last fall and the crocuses which have gone wild from our neighbors' yard, I found a big bed near the house of crocuses and snowdrops blooming under the weeds.  I only planted a handful of crocuses and snowdrops, last fall, but now our back yard is practically purple there's so many of them.  Our downstairs neighbors (we're in the top floor of a duplex) have been here for several years, but neither garden or know much about plants, nor do our landladies, and none of them thought that there had been much flowers put in.  There's so much here!  I can already see big patches of daffodils, tulips, and daylilies that I didn't put in, and there's a giant wisteria vine growing over one patch of fence and an old rose bush that needs some TLC.

I'm so excited and happy to have a garden this year.  Not only is what I put in coming up, but I feel really connected to this house having a pre-established garden and permission from the neighbors and the landladies to do whatever I want.  My parents are divorced, and the first thing my mother did when she bought her own house after the divorce was to move all of her established plantings to the new place.  That always felt very significant to me, and the last series of apartments I've been in have felt very temporary (despite all the holes I've put in walls!) because at the end of it, you're not supposed to have any impact on the space.  We're not going to be in this apartment forever (or even much past next fall) but it's a nice feeling to create a space with someone.

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So happy spring, everyone!  I hope it's warm enough where you are to start playing in the garden, or at least warm enough to start peeling off layers.  

J and I will be in NYC next week for spring break vacation/research trip (hopefully less eventful than our last trip), so I'll miss the peak of crocuses, but hopefully there'll be lots of daffodils when we get back!  And since it'll be part research trip, part vacation, expect pictures of all the ridiculous things we'll buy, eat and do.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Late night reupholstery

So last night, in the throes of grading madness, I broke out the staple gun and reupholstered one of the office chairs.  I had been writing or grading in this chair all day, and the scratchy old polyester faux wool was driving. me. crazy.  (See the original here).  It was stained up when we got it, plus the rough texture itched through thin skirts and attracted way too much cat hair (this is the cat's second favorite chair in the house).  Had to go.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Feminism, Clothing, and the Politics of Vintage

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Does this dress make my feminism look too big?
I guess this last series of posts has started to look like me-made-March, but this post isn't exactly about this outfit.  This weekend was busy-busy-busy with hosting students admitted to the graduate program, and some comments made by the prospective student who stayed with J and I got me thinking about the politics of vintage and vintage-look.  Normally I wouldn't gender-identify someone, but I think it's important for the story to know that the guy who stayed with us was, in fact, a guy (although I've had the same reaction I got from him from women occasionally as well).

Our program doesn't have a lot of money, so to save prospective students from having to pay for their own hotel rooms, we arrange for them to stay with other graduate students, usually in their areas of study.  I didn't have anyone coming in this year in my area of study, but we do have a guest bedroom, so we got a prospective.  Our areas of study and methodological/theoretical approaches didn't overlap at all, but we had a lot of "you love that TV show?  I love that TV show!" type commonalities.

[Trigger warning]

What we did not have in common was our fondness for rape jokes: specifically, our guest's fondness for them, J and my lack thereof.  Who tells a rape joke to someone they've just met, especially someone whose house you're a guest in?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Conference clothes?

I've been thinking for a while that I need another good blazer, so next month I'm going to do the pattern ~ scissors ~ cloth RTW Tailoring Sewalong.  I have this vintage Evan Picone blazer that I just love:

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It just goes so well with everything, it has a nicely distinct waist (I tend to look lost in boxy silhouettes) and it's got nice structure without feeling stiff or rigid.  I really like it for teaching and conferences, because it's comfortable and can make jeans look professional, but since I only have the one blazer, I can't do that look for all three days of a conference or too often in a month of teaching.  So I'm thinking about doing this jacket:

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It essentially has the same lines, and I'm not sure if I should stay with three buttons or go down to one.  I tend to like one button cardigans and blazers better than more buttons because I have a short torso and I don't like being all buttoned up, but it might be nice to have some variety.  I'm trying to clean out my stash, so these are the fabrics I'm thinking about:

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The pink and the purple on the sides are lining fabrics, and the stack in the middle is the suiting wool.  I have a TON of the black and white plaid on the bottom (something my mother gave me) but I don't really care for it. It's very soft, and it's got kind of a slubby finish, so it reads a little too much like something my mother would wear.  Maybe some of it will go into a pencil skirt one day, but there's like seven yards of it.  The others are a periwinkle, a gray, and a maroon:

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I like the idea of the gray best, but I already have a gray blazer!  I think two of essentially the same cut and color would be a little much.  The periwinkle reads as fairly gray in most light, but it's so light in color that I'm not sure whether it would go with my professional clothes.  I like the color of the maroon, but it just seems odd for a blazer to me.  I originally got it for the center look of this pattern:

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But I think this pattern reads as more "light coat" than blazer, so I've been putting this off because I already have too many spring/fall coats.  I have this awesome houndstooth:

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But there's only a yard of it, and my blazer pattern needs two yards.  The houndstooth might go into this little Butterick Retro vest at some point (the B look on the left):

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So I guess the point of all this is that I don't know which fabric to do, and I don't want to buy more fabric (I have an entire dresser and a rubbermaid of stash fabric!).  Is maroon an odd color for a blazer?  Maybe I could get away with it if I wore it with something dark and more sedate.  Help me out, I need to get rid of some of this fabric.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Projects under construction

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Sewing kitty is hard at work
Let's take a break from my political ranting, and get back to what really matters: sewing, grad school, and pictures of cats.  This week is shaping up to be very busy, in part because our department is bringing newly-admitted but not-yet-committed grad students for a visiting weekend, and I'm hosting one, hosting the department wide party for all of them + all the current grad students, and buying booze for said party.  Plus I've got a lot of my own projects floating around half finished.  

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The first gratuitous cat picture up top is the fabric I'd like to use to recover our office chairs; this second one is their unfortunate current state.  Two chairs for a grand thrifted total of twenty bucks isn't bad, since the casters are really smooth and the frames of the chairs are both solid, but the upholstery is just terrible.  The ikat fabric up top is a good upholstery weight, and I don't think it'll pick up too much cat hair.

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Speaking of reupholstering things, J and I are gearing up to reupholster our yellow velvet couch,  We've reupholstered armchairs before, including the green one here, but the couch is a much bigger commitment, and it has mock tufting.  The yellow velvet has really grown on me, but it's worn off in big patches all over and there's tears in the velvet where the stuffing is coming out.  I think we could get through it in a weekend, but it would mean being couchless for a weekend, and that's where we live most of the time.  And by we I mean my library books and I.

And I apologize for turning this into a cat blog, but short of J holding on to a struggling ball of unhappiness, there was no way to keep the cat out of the pictures today.  Wherever the camera went, he wanted to be, so that's where he is.  Illustrating the cat hair repellent qualities of the new fabrics or something.

So here's a picture with no cat in it:

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Return of the Mannequin
Here's fellowship dress #2.  What's with all the slim skirts?  I don't own any other pencil skirts or slim skirted dresses; I don't know where these last two came from.  I also don't know where I'll ever wear this, since it's too heavy to be a summer dress, too sleeveless to be a fall dress, and too short to be a winter dress.  And I rarely wear anything short sleeved when I teach.  

Anyway, this is from the same pattern as the last fellowship dress, with the princess seams closed and turned into regular waist and bust darts.  I'm not totally happy with the dress, since it's WAY louder than what I usually wear, and it's lined with a bright blue that makes it feel a little cartoony to me.  I'm going to let it sit for a few days while I think about it/do some academic work for a change.  

Right now it's at that stage of the project that I was complaining about a while back with my State Capitol research--most of the way through, but not quite sure if it's going to be worth it on the other end.  I think part of the problem with this dress is that I'm happy it's stash busting (I have an entire dresser + full of fabric) and I like the look as an idea, but I'm not sure I'll wear it.

But maybe I can wear it to an archive or something--I just got my first acceptance letter for one of the fellowships I applied for, at an archive in southern California.  I've never been.  Maybe they wear sleeveless, heavy wool dresses in California?  I'm just so happy to have one that I'll wear whatever they tell me.  Two more of these short term ones and I can put off a semester of my grad school funding; if I get a big one I can take off a year.  That might be too much to hope for, though.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Snow Day

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Snowmaggedon '11 continues, and for this, I present the Punch Buggy (actually J's creation): brandy, black raspberry brandy, orange liquer, blueberry liquer and lemon.

I drove J to work today in order to have the car for errands, and ended up stranded at the coffeeshop next door to his liquor store for several hours.  Fortunately one of my errand stops was in the same complex as his store, so I was able to buy many, many buttons before camping out in the coffeeshop and writing a few paragraphs for a paper I'm presenting in a few weeks.

J's work actually ended up closing early due to the bad weather, so I made him drive home, but it really drove home how fortunate (privileged?) I am in academia that I was able to cancel section last week due to bad weather with nothing more than an email to the prof and the students.  That's part of the benefit of being salaried rather than hourly, in that the hours I am in-building don't directly translate to the pay I receive, as J's hours in retail do.  My wages, benefits, and hours aren't the direct effect of union efforts, but it really worries me that the system I benefit from is under attack.  And not just because I benefit from it--because it seems to me the best way to maintain a happy, stable country.

I'm following the Wisconsin/Ohio/Indiana/anti-labor and anti-women news lately rather closely, but I'm having trouble making sense of it and I don't really know why.  I'm teaching anti-labor history in the course I TA right now, but the motivations as explained to me and as I read them in the materials for the course are so cartoonishly evil that they're easy to dismiss.  (Maybe this is part of the reason why my students find it so easy to dismiss connections between what they read and what they see?)

I think part of the problem is that, whether because of my liberal-midwest-elite-SLAC education or my liberal-poor-working class upbringing, I've come to see unionization, progressive tax codes, education, reproductive choice, and social safety nets as so self-evidently intrinsic to this functioning of this country that I can't see the logic of Republican attacks on them.  And there must be some appeal to that logic, or so many people wouldn't have voted Republicans in last election cycle.

But if the other side's logic is really so hard to find, is it much of a logic at all?  I can concisely state the pro-choice, feminazi socialist agenda is three sentences or less; I can't do the same for the pro (unborn) life, fiscally retrogressive capitalist agenda, and not for lack of trying.  I think it's emblematic of the problem that the right uses partisan rhetoric while the "left" tries to hang on to discourse or dialogue without another participant to dialogue with.  (And I am skeptical and disappointed in the state of the left in this country, which anywhere else in the world would be the centrist or even right wing).

So I suppose the point is this: booze good, politics disappointing and disheartening.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I want to be middle class when I grow up

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The fellowship dress in action
Or, in which my supa-sekrit identity is revealed.  It was tights weather here for few days, so I made the mistake* of wearing my new dress to school.

(*I once TAd for Dr. Smackdown, a very senior and well-regarded female historian of women, and one of the first tenured women faculty, who told me and the other TA to never wear skirts when teaching lest we lose the students' respect.)

Anyway, I've spent the last few weeks conquering my bibliography and sputtering in incoherent rage over what's happening in Wisconsin and in the GOP's war on women and born children.  I just taught Grapes of Wrath today, and it felt much more like teaching a realistically near-future dystopia than period fiction.

My students were unimpressed when I tried to bring up the possibility of parallels between the anti-unionism in the novel and current anti-unionism.  They think the Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, etc, anti-collective bargaining bills can't possibly succeed, and even if they do, there will still be unions, won't there?  And it's not like people would be reduced to getting five cents a hundredweight of peaches without unions, because we've come so far since then, people wouldn't stand for it.  

They're very optimistic.