Monday, December 17, 2012

Please don't

Please, don’t tell me “I’ll pray for you”

When a friend on Facebook loses a spouse, pet, family member, or otherwise encounters a downturn of one kind of another, I watch the repetitive posts of “I’ll pray for you” being put up on the friend’s page.  So what does “I’ll pray for you” really mean?  Are you praying because you have no intention of doing anything else but doing exactly what you’d been doing before, except that you typed “I’ll pray for you” on the person’s comment line? Is “I’ll pray for you” the new way of saying that you care but that you’re not going to, for whatever reason, get off your butt and do anything real to show your condolences or help the family in their time of need?

So you’re praying because you want to and not because it’s going to benefit the person in their hour of need.  Admit it.  You might believe that prayers work wonders, but nothing works wonders like getting out there and helping.  If you really wanted to help that friend, you’d actually “do” something.

When someone in a family died near us when I was growing up, my mom went into casserole mode immediately.  She made food for the family to eat after the funeral was over and nobody was going to want to cook.  She made comfort food because she knew they’d need it. She often filled their freezer with food, and then later on brought over baked goods and sandwiches.  She knew that it's hard to even function when you're in grief.  She did something.

Mom would offer to babysit the children if there were any, so that the folks could go attend to whatever they had to do for the funeral.  That's doing something.  When my uncle died, we flew to Illinois and mom immediately went into “doing laundry” mode so my aunt would have less to do while suffering in grief.  Helping could involve pitching in and helping with housework, yard work, or whatever.  It didn’t involve praying.  Mom got to work and tried to lighten the load.  Dad helped with things around the house as well.  Mom was the organizer of the help brigade.  She did something.

 When somebody in the family died, we’d go to visit the family left behind to say that we cared.  If they were far away we’d send handwritten notes and letters, but not just at funeral time, we’d do it later on so they’d know we remembered even after the funeral was over.  Mom taught us to “do” something.  True, this was in the age prior to Facebook, but even now, handwritten personalised notes are always appreciated more than a one line repetetive response on a computer.

 When my mom died, some family friends came to the house at first, but after the funeral was over, my dad, sister, and I were left sitting and looking at each other.  We weren't even able to think yet, much less function.  We had plenty of people that said “I’ll pray for you” to us, but you know, it was a non-effort on their part.  There was an empty house, empty fridge since we’d been busy with the funeral, and no food around.  There was nobody that came over to offer my dad to run to the store for him, because he was pretty devastated in his grief.  But there were plenty of “I’ll pray for you’s.” 
I've got to tell you, the Jewish way of "sitting Shiva" and having food brought to the house where friends are received for a week by the mourning family really beats the Christian way of having a funeral and maybe a quick lunch and then everyone going home for the grieving family.

 I also heard a lot of “god’s will” stuff when my mom died.  That’s when I stopped believing.  I got through it, so did my dad and sister somehow, but we were all so much more cynical as a result of it.

 So when my sister most recently died, I got a whole bunch of “I’ll pray for you’s” on Facebook.  I know people sometimes don’t know what to say, so I didn’t take offense.  But the one message I got was a handwritten letter from a month or two after from a dear friend that actually said something and let me know that he really cared.  And you know what?  He never once said that he’d pray for me.  And it was beautiful. 

 So if you want to pray yourself that’s fine, but leave me out of your feel-goodisms, ok? If you want to pray for the kids in CT’s families, I’m sure they’d rather you sent them a couple of dollars for a burial fund for their child, or how about sending a tray of food in a week or so when the families are dealing with the vacant chair at their dining room table.  Maybe you could send a couple of small toys for the rest of the children of the school.  How about maybe sending a small monetary gift if you can to the parents to be used to get the surviving kids some mental health help.  You could also do some volunteer work on their behalf.  But it all requires that you DO, rather than that you pray. 

 Also, how about not assuming that your Jesus holding their little lambs pictures are appreciated since quite a number of the families affected were not ardent, or even Christians?  Not everyone believes in Jesus, or even in god, though few are going to get into it on Facebook or wherever you’re posting the “I’ll pray for you”.  If you’re sorry for the loss, just say so. 

But whatever you do, please don’t say you're going to pray for me.

In the Aftermath

I took this from another post on Facebook but it pretty much sums up how I feel about the whole gun issue.  If you want to comment, read the entire article first, please.  Thoughtful comments will be admitted, those that are hateful or show lemming like lack of thinking/reading/consideration will not.  Serious dialogue needs to happen so these types of horrific deeds won't continue to happen.
I'm confused at the confusion. Seriously.

A. Countries with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths than we do. That's just a fact.

B. Countries with just as many guns, but who educate their gun owners, have less gun deaths than we do. Fa...

C. Countries who have guns, but offer Universal Healthcare that provides things like help for mental issues, have less gun deaths and suicides than we do. Fact.

D. Countries who allow hunting and personal gun ownership, but don't allow guns that are unnecessary for anyone but a soldier, have less gun deaths than we do. Fact.

E. Every country has rules involving driving a car or getting a prescription drug AND buying a gun, we only worry about the first two, and they have less gun deaths than we do. Fact.

F. No one in those countries is crying about their rights being taken away, but I can only assume, that is because those people might see the right to LIVE as being a tad more important than the right to feed your man-gun-love issues.

G. Every time someone mentions gun laws, someone cries about how we are going to take your gun away, which is NOT what anyone is saying (just watch how many people post under here about how we're going to take their gun away - wish some of you would learn how to read).

H. It's not about YOUR freedom, it's about OUR safety. We also have DRIVING LAWS, meaning you have to prove to us you can drive, you can see, you can buy insurance, you can put your seat belt on and you can avoid driving drunk...if you can't do these things, you don't get to drive. Same thing with guns....prove to use that you are smart enough to have a gun, because walking around with a gun and no brain is about as idiotic as letting you drive through town without a brain.

I. Again, no one wants to take your gun away, we just want less idiots to be able to buy the types of guns that can kill 20 people in one minute. I repeat, no one wants to take your gun away.

J. You can cry that guns don't kill, people do. Or that people don't kill, guns do, but the fact is that idiots kill and guns just make it easier for them to kill more people faster. Yes, they could stab you with a pen or chop you with a sword or beat you to death with a puppy...but fact of the matter is, they can't do the same amount of damage as they can with a semi-automatic, and to pretend otherwise is just stupid. Gun + Idiot = problem. And this country is full of guns and we either need to have massive education reform or gun laws...and you and I know we're never fixing education.

K. Saying the bad guys will get guns ANYWAY, so what's the point...that's about as stupid as saying your two year old is going to hurt themselves ANYWAY, so just hand them a chainsaw and a bottle of bleach and stop trying to stop something that is inevitable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The poem "Shirt" by Robert Pinsky

Triangle Factory Fire.  The hoses couldn't reach the fire.
Most of you know that I'm a student in addition to the other things I do.  I had to do an analysis of a work of poetry for a Literary Criticism class.  I chose this poem, Shirt, because it evoked very strong images in short, it spoke to me.  If you really, really read and digest the poem, it will haunt you.  Here is the text of the poem:

Shirt, by Robert Pinsky

The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—

A pile of 40 bodies of women that jumped to avoid the flames
The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped up to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—

Like Hart Crane's Bedlamite, "shrill shirt ballooning."
Wonderful how the patern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
to wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.

I wrote a paper analysing the poem, you might find it interesting.  Feel free use it in your research or work as long as you cite it.
100th anniversary memorial for Triangle Fire in New York

Upon Respect for a Common Item

Examining “Shirt” by Robert Pinsky

By Vicki Michalski

 University of Maryland University College

            A simple object rarely given any thought evokes in author and former national poet laureate Robert Pinsky a collection of images focusing upon the shirt he wears; of the fabric, of design, of colors, of pattern, of the construction and elements of that shirt, of the machinery that made the fabric and the garment, of the people that made his shirt, of the history of those that labored to make shirts in the past, of the owners of the mills in which those laborers worked, and even of the tragic loss of life of many of them in a historic fire at a shirt factory.  Pinsky’s “Shirt,” sometimes presents a confusing jumble of images and historical background that asks the reader to consider the history of textiles along with the physical shirt itself. 

The poem asks the reader to look at items that are commonly taken for granted not just as objects, but as the product of material, lives, work, history, and design.  Reviewer Olivia Kay feels that Pinsky’s writing “shows that simple objects have the ability to generate a wide array of thoughts.” (Kay)  In asking the reader to think about a common item, “Shirt” teaches the reader to look closely at other seemingly simple things in life for the meanings that might not be so readily apparent.  By the end of the poem, the simple garment, the shirt, is an integral part of all the hands that created it.  (Bates) 

The poem “Shirt” is a poem narrated by the poet as he reflects upon his wearing of a shirt.  He lets the reader know that he is the narrator by his use of images of the shirt “This armpiece with its overseam to the band/Of cuff I button at my wrist.” (Lines 5-6) though he frequently switches back and forth from the present wearing of the shirt to the history of the shirt and the workers the produced it. Because of this constant switching from the physical shirt to the scene of its production and back again, (Gilbert), the poem is not in strictly chronological order. 

The poem is written as a series of sixteen sections of three lines each, in which Pinsky takes the reader from the sweatshop where his clothing is made to the physical shirt, bringing the language of manufacture and machinery to the reader and adding the history of workers that have made shirts in the past.  (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)  Pinsky said that while writing, he became “hypnotized…by the sounds of the consonants in the language for the parts of those handsome old machines:  the treadle, the needle …the bobbin.”  (Brodeur) Pinsky uses that rhythm throughout the poem, albeit slowing it down for thoughtful images, or speeding it up a bit in the thick of the tension of the poem. 

The poem’s lines do not rhyme, yet the work employs rhythmic elements in the sentences.  Pinsky’s sentences are sometimes as short as two words, or sometimes as long as six or more lines.  One of two short sentences found in the poem is “The code.” (Line 9)  These two words break the rhythm of the work and slow the reader’s progress in the poem. Immediately after this break, the poem returns to a longer rhythm, though the author creates tension as he discusses the scene observed by a witness across the street from the Triangle Factory fire.  After the fire, further tension is created in a discussion of the workers that only escaped the fire through being dropped or jumping from the building to certain death.  The tension in the poem resolves only when Pinsky takes the reader back to the fabric, the mills, the machinery and those that labored to get the fabric to the factory, regaining the fluidity and rhythm of the earlier part of the work.  Even the inspector that made sure that Pinsky’s shirt was correct appears in the work, returning the reader to the garment once again, and causing the reader to reflect another time upon the physical attributes as well as the labor that went into making the “Shirt”.  The other two word sentence is “The Shirt” from the very last line of the poem.  This effectively ends the rhythm, and forms closure to the poem.

Pinsky uses repetition as an effective tool in “The Shirt”.  He repeats details of the construction and fabric of the shirt multiple times in the poem.  When he brings the reader back to the details of the physical shirt each time, he changes his emphasis somewhat, visiting different aspects.  In this way, his imagery is used to focus the reader’s attention back on the shirt, though the images are at least slightly different each time he returns.  This imagery gives the reader more appreciation for the design decisions and physical work that went into making the shirt that the reader might never have thought about before. The fabric, the pieces, the construction, where the fabric came from, and the work necessary to produce it all become part of the finished product.  The shirt also becomes inseparable from the conditions under which sweat shop textile workers toil and sometimes die to make cheap manufactured goods like the shirt.  The poem reminds readers of the importance of appreciating the history and work that go into each item used in daily life, and in this way, to not take anything in life for granted.

In the first section of the poem, Pinsky uses “isolated noun phrases” (Gilbert) to draw the attention of the reader to the various pieces of cut fabric that are sewn together to form the physical shirt.  “The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,/The nearly invisible stitches along the collar” (Lines 1-2) (Gardner, Lawn and Ridl) These short phrases acquaint the reader with the variously named pattern pieces of fabric and types of sewing that have become the product that becomes the shirt.  The many parts come together as a whole.  Pinsky finishes the first section by telling the reader that the shirt is not made locally, like many products.  “Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians” (Line 3)  But as the reader discovers in the next section, these workers are no different than workers anywhere.

In the second section, Pinsky continues by humanizing the workers in those other lands, pointing out that they take breaks, eat, and talk about a variety of subjects while they work just as the reader might do in his or her own job.  “Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break/Or talking money or politics while one fitted/This armpiece with its overseam to the band” (Lines 3-6) This imagery transports the reader to his or her own neighborhood, and life, pointing out that the foreign sweatshop workers are no different than the person that wears the finished shirt. 

In section three, Pinsky brings the reader back to wearing the shirt as he buttons it up. “Of cuff I button at my wrist.” (Line 7)  He then quickly returns the reader to the garment factory with images of machinery found there, but also inserts a quick reference to the workers and their struggle for worker’s rights. “The presser, the cutter,/The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,/The treadle, the bobbin.” (Lines 8-9)  His mention of “the union” in the middle of the mechanical tools of the garment worker’s trade gives the reader a moment of pause since it is imbedded in the middle of the tools and machinery of line 8 and 9.  He does not separate “the union” from the other tools that the workers use in the making of the shirt.  The reader might not have thought about this entry being an integral part of the history of the garment, though Pinsky obviously wants the reader to consider it as such.  Then comes the one short sentence that breaks the rhythm, and with it, the reader’s fluid reading of the work. “The code. The infamous blaze” concluding line nine initially puzzles the reader, especially if the reader is not familiar with the historical information to come.

The reader will become immersed in the garment worker industry’s worst disaster in section four.  “At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven./One hundred and forty-six died in the flames/On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—“ (Lines 10-12, section 4)  The author writes this section with an immediacy in his prose.  The speed of the poetic rhythm increases, as does the tension in this section.  The author seeks to educate the reader about this historical event that shaped the way that workers in the US were treated after the disaster.  Pinsky creates imagery that causes the reader to read on with urgency, expecting to get more information about the fire.

Pinsky’s mention of the Triangle Fire again asks the reader to think about the workers that created the shirt, inviting more understanding of the hands of the human beings that made shirts in the past and lost their lives while doing so.  When the 275 girls that worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company’s factory in New York City began to collect their belongings to go home on Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire started.  Many workers perished in the fire, as the materials needed to create the shirts fueled the fire.  The Triangle Factory was located on the 9th floor of the Asch building in the garment district.  (The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Trial: Building and Safety Laws) Workers found that the only fire escape available to them collapsed under the weight of people on them, and fire department ladders could not reach them on the 9th floor, the streams of water could reach only the 7th floor. Some doors that led to the stairwells were locked, and those that were unlocked opened inward, quickly being forced closed by the rush of women trying to escape, again, in violation of “the code” which required the doors to open outwardly and not be locked in any way during business hours.  (The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Trial: Building and Safety Laws) There were no hydrants in the factory, only 27 buckets of water to use to fight the fire.  These horrible conditions forced many women to endure terrible deaths in the flames and smoke.  When workers found that they could not escape, some jumped out of the windows to death on the street a hundred feet below as discussed by Pinsky in Sections 4-7. (Leap for Life, Leap of Death) As mentioned in the poem in line 11, the death toll for the Triangle fire was 146 employees.  The women were aged 13 to 23 years, the average age was 19.  (Leap for Life, Leap of Death)

“The code,” in line 9, refers to the New York City codes that were violated and not as stringent as they should have been, leading to a great loss of life during the Triangle Fire.  The New York Laws did not require the Asch building to have fire escapes that led to the ground. Instead, they led to the second floor skylight which could not hold the weight of people upon it.  Sprinklers were not required in New York City buildings at that time, and fire drills were not required either.  The building was slightly short of the height that would require non-wood material in it, so the wooden building had plenty of wooden fuel to burn. The doors at this time were not unlocked while workers were in the building, so the women could not get out on one end of the building.  Nets used by the firemen were insufficient for the weight of people falling or jumping from a high floor, so they ripped and did not help the women.  (The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Trial: Building and Safety Laws)  The owners of the business, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, were tried for manslaughter, but later acquitted as the safety regulations in place at that time were deemed to be insufficient.  (Leap for Life, Leap of Death)  This disaster changed American labor unions and labor laws, created stricter fire safety codes to protect laborers, and created a clearer set of guidelines that employers must follow to protect the safety of their workers.  (Markowitz and Rosner)

In section five, though the reader thinks he or she has learned a bit about the Triangle fire, Pinsky extends the tension by telling the reader that “The witness in a building across the street” (line 13) saw the tragedy and must have more information.  Pinsky’s prose creates one very large sentence that flows quickly across sections four to six, speeding up the reader’s eye while propelling the reader to more information about the tragedy. “Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step/Up to the windowsill, then held her out” (Lines 14-15)  Pinsky has created a powerful image of a man helping the girls out of the window onto the ledge, holding them out, and then dropping them to their death, presumably a less painful death than being burned alive.  United Press reporter William Shephard, an onlooker, said at the time “…thud—dead.  Sixty-two thud---deads.  I call them that because the sound and the thought of death came to me each time, at the same instant.” (Leap for Life, Leap of Death)  And so it is with Pinsky’s images in the poem, each figure in the poem becomes real, and conjures the thought of death in the commission of making a simple shirt. 

Section six continues the horror as the male “helper” continues to help the young girls to their possibly quicker and less painful deaths.  The man held each girl “Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.”  Pinsky has inserted a period here in line 16, to slow the reader down in order to think about the reality that the images create.  The next line, line 17, creates a short sentence to again slow the reader down: “And then another.” This continues to confront the reader with the enormity of the situation, as if there were many women lining up to make the jump to avoid dying in the flames.  Continuing with line 17 “As if he were helping them up” completes the line and quickly pushes the reader to line 18 where Pinsky again reminds that though the image of the male helping the women looked normal at that moment in time, that the man was actually helping the women go to their certain death. “To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.” (Line 18 This line brings the reader to the end of the section, completing the image with a period to again break the rhythm.  Pinsky also creates a transition that propels the reader into the next section to find out more about the people he has introduced the reader to.

Section seven continues the image of the man on the window ledge, showing the emotion of the event: “A third before he dropped her put her arms/Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held” (Lines 19-20)  The reader can easily imagine the third woman he helped off the ledge being so caught up in emotions of fear and gratitude for his help, and knowing that she was soon to die, she kissed the man.  The man would not have wanted to prolong the girl’s fear by postponing what he was to do, so he helped her to her death as well: “Her into space, and dropped her.” (Line 21)  Completing the section, “Almost at once” (Line 21) brings the reader back to the image and the tension of wondering of what will happen next, causing the reader to look for a conclusion in the next section.

“He stepped up to the sill himself, his jacket flared” in section eight, line 22, makes readers hold their breath as the male helper steps up onto the window ledge, bringing the man to where the girls were just moments before.  The reader thinks “Oh no!” and though he or she knows what must happen next, the reader hopes that indeed the man will not jump.  Pinsky cleverly crafts the image of the man prior to this point so that the reader does not know quite what to think of the man’s actions.  By putting the male helper on the window ledge, the reader is confused, waiting impatiently for a resolution as to exactly why he is there.  The end of line 22, and lines 23 and 24 answer quickly with an unforgettable image: “his jacket flared/And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,/Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—“  Readers can imagine his clothing flying up due to the air rushing by as the man fell to his death with the girls.  The reader feels sad and let down by the deaths of the man and the girls, yet Pinsky is not finished thinking about the “shirt” yet. 

Section 9 begins with a reference to another poet and poem: “Like Hart Crane's Bedlamite, ‘shrill shirt ballooning.’” (Line 25)  The word “bedlamite” in Hart Crane’s poem “To Brooklyn Bridge” refers to an insane person, an lunatic, a madman, (Wordnik)  like the man that would jump to his death with the women he helped.   His “shrill shirt ballooning” of line 25 is a direct quote from “To Brooklyn Bridge” by Crane in which the image of another person falling is made ”A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,/Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,/A jest falls from the speechless caravan.” (Lines 18-21, “To Brooklyn Bridge”) (Crane)  The male helper in Pinsky’s poem, is the person throwing himself off Crane’s Brooklyn bridge, insane with the tension of the moment as he jumps off the building and to his death on the street below.  As the man is propelled downward, the wind makes his shirt balloon up, bringing the reader back from the man falling to the street to the shirt itself again. Pinsky said in an interview, that he had read the account of the young man helping the young women and then jumping himself in Irving Howe’s book The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, adding that the account was likely fake and in the realm of “what might have been.”  (Brodeur) Now Pinsky writes; “Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly/Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked” (Lines 26-27) These lines not only direct attention back to the fabric and construction of the shirt, but also momentarily cause the reader confusion as he or she wonders how to reconcile interest in the garment with the horrors of the man falling to his death.  The tension eases as the poet moves readers back to the garment itself again, with the prose leading easily into more attributes of the shirt in the next section.

Finishing in section ten what began in the last line of section nine, the “twin bar-tacked/Corners of both pockets” (lines 27 and 28) the precision involved in the construction of the corners of the pockets of the shirts reminds the poet of the strict rules relating to the rhyme of some poetry or of a chord found in music.  “like a strict rhyme/Or a major chord.” (Lines 28-29) While still painting an image with words of the perfection and regimentation required with the construction of the pocket tacking of the shirt, Pinsky runs images from one line into the next to speed up the rhythm.   He takes the reader then into the types of fabrics that shirts might be made from; ”Prints, plaids, checks,/Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans” (Lines 29-30) inviting the reader to imagine various garments that might be made from the many different fabrics available.  This section is all about pattern.  The lines read quickly, easily, and rhythmically.   They blend nicely into the next section which then changes direction and feel.

While readers are pondering the “clan tartans” in the last line of section ten, Pinsky transitions into section eleven in which readers learn that those tartans were “Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,/”  In this image, the mill owners that created fabrics that were not really clan tartans are compared to the literary hoax of Ossian. According to the article “Top 10 literary hoaxes” which was published in the U.K., in the 1760s poet James Macpherson supposedly discovered fragments of a third-century epic by a poet named Ossian.  Macpherson said that he had “translated” these works from the Scottish Gaelic, and the works made their way around the literary world of that time which was very much in the midst of a “primitivism craze.” (Guardian News and Media, Limited)  The Hoax was created because people yearned for things more primitive, older, and historical.   Similar to the Hoax of Ossian, mill-owners were able to capitalize upon consumers’ desire for things historic and ancient, inventing supposedly historic clan tartans to sell to the unsuspecting public.

In the next line of section eleven, “To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed/By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,”(Line 33) refers to the Scottish workers that manufacture Macgregor Tartan cloth, encouraged to produce the clan fabric with pride for the MacGregors clan though the pattern and the cloth they made were likely part of the  false inventions as the hoax of Ossian.   The MacGregors clan was known as ferocious and war-like, living by the sword throughout the 1800s, (A History of Macgregor Tartan) so this clan name would be an enticing one to consumers. Amazingly, Pinsky wrote this line with knowledge that “Highland Scots being considered as sub human by the English who tried to tame them as factory workers.” (Brodeur) A parallel can be drawn to the Triangle workers who were considered so untrustworthy that they were locked into the factory to avoid their pilfering a shirt. 

In section twelve of Pinsky’s poem, the mill owners used the not only the name of MacGregor to identify the Tartan they would invent, but also the historic Scottish clan names of “Bailey and MacMartin.” (Line 34 in section 12)  Owing to the public’s fascination with things historic and ancient, the mill-owners again felt that the fabric would sell if named something that sounded historic, though it actually was not.  The rest of line 34 brings the reader to a new subject: the kilt.  “The kilt, devised for workers” (Line 34) The kilt, according to Pinsky, was another myth that had been attributed to ancient history, but was later debunked. (Brodeur)  The majority of Scots regarded the kilt as a barbarous form of dress, calling the few Highlanders that wore the kilts as “redshanks” to indicate that their legs must have been red with cold.  Though never the “national dress,” a few Scots did wear the garment and it gained popularity, so it became associated with Scottish dress “to wear among the dusty clattering looms.” (remainder of Line 35)  .

Again returning the reader to reality, though with more of the history of the shirt mingled in; “to wear among the dusty clattering looms” of Line 35 brings us back to the textile mills, where workers produced the cloth on looms after the thread was produced from raw fiber. “Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,” (Line 36) This line paints images of the workers that bring the fiber into the factory, loading it into machines that will card or arrange the fiber to be spun into thread, spinning the thread, and then weaving the thread into the cloth that will become the shirt.  Pinsky wants to take the reader even further back in the process of making cloth which he does so in the next section.

Section thirteen presents images of the people that brought the fiber to the weavers, carders, and spinners of line 36, as well as the sewers in the shirt factory.  “The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter” in line 37 lists for the reader in noun phrase form, some of the people that had to work to produce and transport the fiber to that the mill would then spin into thread and weave into cloth.  “The Navvy” in line 37 refers to an unskilled worker, the word comes from that of a laborer on railroads or shipping, earlier, one that worked in navigation, usually building navigation canals, thus “navy/navvy” or navigation.  (Navvy, Definition)  These workers brought the cotton in for the textile worker, in what is known as a sweatshop due to the heat and generally poor conditions.

“Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton” (Line 38) returns the reader to the image of the worker sweating while working, with the refuse of the machine and manufacture all around her.   The next line ties this worker to the image of another worker that made her job possible:  “As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:” (Line 39)  While references to the Triangle fire stir the reader to appreciate the tragedy of lives lost in the history of producing the shirt, these two lines tie two images of history together in just a brief moment, causing the reader to ponder the conditions of the slave as connected to that of the sweatshop worker.   The shirt might not be a product of slave labor in the present day, but those sweatshop workers of far off lands work just as hard and under as difficult conditions as their historical counterparts.  (Gilbert)  Pinsky draws attention to the injustices in the textile industry in section thirteen, which he continues in the next section.

“George Herbert, your descendant is a Black/Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma” in Section fourteen, lines 40-41 refers to Welsh poet George Herbert that was educated in England in the 1600s.  Herbert preached, wrote poetry, was a public orator, and is considered one of the great metaphysical poets of all time.  (From the Academy of American Poets)  Herbert wrote a poem titled “The Collar” as a possible point of entry into Pinsky’s poem, (Gilbert) but it might also be possible, given immigration and integration that Herbert (or any person) could have a descendant that was a black woman from South Carolina.  Pinsky again makes the shirt, down to the women that inspected it, no different, and perhaps related to, any person.  “And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit” (Line 42) The reader again faces how integrated everything and everyone really is. Even Herbert, or the black woman Irma, that inspected Pinsky’s shirt is perhaps part of the large extended heritage of the wearer of the shirt.  Again, the garment, the reader, and the people involved in producing the garment have been drawn together.

Section fifteen moves the reader from the people that made and inspected the shirt to the physical shirt itself by sharing the experience between the inspector and the wearer:  “And feel and its clean smell have satisfied/both her and me.” (Line 43 and a portion of line 44)  The imagery of the “feel and clean smell” has further enhanced the reality of the actual shirt using more senses than Pinsky used thus far in the poem.  Additionally it continues to meld the inspector as part of the textile industry, with the wearer, and even with the reader, drawing the reader’s attention to the connection that each participant has with the finished product.  The simple shirt that had been taken for granted before reading and pondering the poem is now more appreciated by the reader. 

“We have culled its cost and quality/Down to the buttons of simulated bone,” (Remainder of line 44, line 45) finishes out the fifteenth section by switching now to the mill or factory owner’s voice.  The owner has culled, by definition, reduced or removed some of the shirts, eliminating those that were not desirable for whatever reason.  (Definition of Culled) In this line, culling refers to the negative action of reducing or removing some of the shirts’ “cost and quality”, making the shirts a cheaper and less desirable shadow of what it was in the past.  In finishing up the image on the next line “Down to the buttons of simulated bone” (Line 45) Pinsky has further alluded to the reduction of cost and quality by pointing out that the buttons now are no longer made of bone as they once were, but are now “simulated”, most likely with plastic or some other cheaply produced material.  In these images the reader realizes that the garment is more cheaply made all the way around, from materials, to labor, even to the buttons sewn onto it.  The image of cheaply made buttons forms a smooth transition into another repetitive noun string in the last section, section sixteen.

“The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters” (Line 46) again brings attention back to the garment that the poet wears.  This noun string puts another list of items that are pertinent to the shirt into images for the mind of the reader.  “Printed in black on neckband and tail. “ (Line 47, first portion) causes the reader to pause for a moment, remembering perhaps his or her own shirt, and looking for the printing that might or might not be in both locations just as Pinsky has noted.  This line slows the reading down and gets the reader ready for the last string of images as the work draws to a close. “The shape,/The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.” (Remainder of line 47, and Line 48)  These words deliver a noun phrase string that incorporates an image of each portion of the components of the shirt.  Again, Pinsky has included physical and historical images, reinforcing to the reader that the poet feels that the labor and the history of the item are important and should not be taken for granted or forgotten when looking at any common, every-day item such as a “Shirt”.

Works Cited

A History of Macgregor Tartan. n.d. 4 September 2012. .

Bates, Robin. The Triangle Fire and the Face of Labor. 24 March 2011. 4 September 2012. .

Brodeur, Brian. How a Poem Happens: Robert Pinsky. 12 December 2010. 4 September 2012. .

Crane, Hart. "To Brooklyn Bridge." Weber, Brom, ed. The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose of Hart Crane. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1966. Print. 4 September 2012. .

"Definition of Culled." 2011. Mirriam-Webster Dictionary. 8 September 2012. .

From the Academy of American Poets. 2012. 6 September 2012. .

Gardner, Janet E, et al., Literature: A Portable Anthology. Third Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013. Print.

Gilbert, Roger. "On "Shirt"." 2000. Modern American Poetry. 3 September 2012. .

Guardian News and Media, Limited. Top 10 literary hoaxes. 15 November 2001. 4 September 2012. .

Kay, Olivia. Poetry analysis: "Shirt", by Robert Pinsky. 28 February 2012. 2012. 3 September 2012. .

Leap for Life, Leap of Death. n.d. 3 September 2012. .

Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition. 2012. 3 September 2012. .

Markowitz, G and D. Rosner. "From the Triangle Fire to the BP Explosion: A Short History of the Century-Long Movement for Safety and Health." New Labor Forum (Murphy Institute) 20.1 (2010): 26-32. 8 September 2012. .

"Navvy, Definition." 2009. World English Dictionary through Web Document. 6 September 2012. .

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Trial: Building and Safety Laws. New York Building Codes Relating to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Disaster. n.d. 3 September 2012. .

Wordnik. Bedlamite, Definititions. n.d. 4 September 2012. .




Monday, August 20, 2012

Quilted wool batting in Civil War (repro) overcoat

I've been asked by a few reenactor friends to photograph my largest and warmest Civil War era paletot (overcoat).  The pattern I used was from Katerina Gnagey under her pattern name "Kay Fig".  I have added a foot of length to the bottom of the pattern all around.  All of Kay's patterns are very well researched, documented, and contain notes and information for an accurate reproduction of the original garment or garments used to create the pattern.  The paletot is shown to the right, and I made it bigger than usual so it would accomodate a thick wool dress, a knitted sontag (vest) and another unlined wool shorter paletot.  The day was very cold, and I had to stand outdoors at a memorial ceremony for over an hour, yet I stayed warm except for my feet.

I put the wool fabric for the body of the paletot together and then added the velvet ribbon trim.  I put the lining fabric right side down, put a layer of wool batting on top of it, and then flipped each piece so that the batting was on the sewing machine bed and I stitched on the fabric in a square pattern.  I didn't need paper or any type of stabilizer, but you might if you're using a finer fabric such as silk.  I had made my first paletot ever in a class with Carolann Schmitt, and when asked if the batting should be "sandwiched" between two layers, she had replied at that time that the original garments that she'd seen only had one layer of fabric attached to the batting. 
I was using real wool (from a fleece) batting that I had processed (washed, picked, carded, and made into a batt) by McClellans's Frankenmouth Woolen Mill from some fleeces I bought from a shepherdess.  I'm a spinner so I always have wool fleeces around the house.  I love these batts in quilts as well, they're warm but not too warm.  The consistency of this wool is different than the wool batting you buy at a fabric store but either works just fine.  My lining fabric is cotton.
I did each piece of the lining separately and then when I was very close to the edges, I put the pieces together to form the lining.  Then I went back and finished up the quilting to the edges of the seams.  I hate hand work, the entire paletot is done by machine except for sewing on the buttons, hooks, and eyes.  Here is a view of the batting quilted into the coat. I put the body of the coat together with the lining and sewed it together around the edges at the sides and top, leaving the bottom hang free.  I hemmed the lining and the wool separately.  Don't forget to add your collar while you're sewing together the lining and the wool.
Here's another view of the inside of the coat.  The piece sticking out at the bottom is from the front side of the coat, it just happened to be lying that way.  You can see where I opened up the seams and then quilted them in that position.  Also I usually turn back a portion of the front edges (lining and wool together after they're sewn together) on each side to make a nice opening treatment but since I was making this paletot to go over a lot of clothing I didn't do it this time.  This allowed me plenty of room for all that other clothing underneath.
Here is one of the armseyes.  When I was applying the batting, I tried to keep the wool out of the area that I knew I would be sewing into the seam.  You can see that I've done the same type of quilting in the sleeve lining.  I did this in the same manner as I did the body, I added trim to the outside of the wool, then I added the batting to the lining (before I sewed it into a circle) and then sewed the lining to the wrist portion of the sleeve, carefully matching up seams.  At this point I pulled out a bit of the batting that had expanded into the armseye area, sewed the sleeve into the armseye, and trimmed down the excess batting.
This photograph shows the buttons and closure of the paletot.  I used large hooks and eyes for the closure since I don't like to make buttonholes by hand, and I wasn't sure if I'd need to change the fit for the future.  The area in which the eyes and buttons are located is the area which I would normally fold in half down each side and whip stitch to the back to have a smaller front piece as well as a nicer opening.  This one looks just fine though, so either way will work.

I added a piece of velvet ribbon in the mid-back at the Civil War waist and put two buttons on it, but I'm glad I promised to do a photograph, I noticed that I'd lost one of the buttons and need to replace it.  I probably would have worn the paletot again with a missing button if I hadn't really looked at the entire piece.  Please let me know if you have any other questions by replying and I will answer you as soon as I possibly can.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Olympic knitting project

As the 2012 Olympics progressed from the opening ceremony through the competition to the closing, I watched and enjoyed what I could of the games, and worked on a knitting project.  The local yarn shop near me that I love the best had a "Ravellenic Games" in cooperation with (which is a yarn lover's website) promotion where anyone that wanted to signed up a pledge to try to finish a project of our choice during the games. They awarded prizes randomly to people that had a complete entry, but the biggest prize for me is to have another finished project!

I did a lot of knitting this summer since I took the semester off from school.  I also did a lot of cleaning and cleaning out, I moved my office and sewing room from a bedroom on the top floor down to the basement, though I'm still in the process of unpacking it all and going through things that were pushed into boxes.  The office part is usable, but things are very cramped down in the basement.  That will take time to finish up.  The best part, though, is that we have a guest bedroom again, it's a very sunny and cheerful room and makes me happy to look in as I pass by.  Our orange cat, Oliver, also spends time in that room since we have to separate him from the other resident felines.

But back to knitting.  My Olympics project this year was the February Lady sweater that I'd wanted to make for several years.  First I had to complely frog the back of a large aran sweater that I'd started for my husband (but was too awful to finish) and then I started my sweater earlier in the summer and decided that I wanted to finish it during the games.  It was lace and took quite a number of hours stitching but it's finished and I love it.  I can't wait to be able to wear it.  I lightened the picture a little much, it's actually a deeper, pretty turquoise color.

In other news, school has now started again for me this Fall semester.  I'm taking a full time schedule so I will probably not be knitting much if at all.  I'm going to try to use knitting as a de-stressing strategy, but with 12 credit hours this semester, I doubt that I'll have a whole lot of time to knit or anything else.  Oh yeah, I will have to make time to work full time, too!  Oh, and clean, cook, and do all of the other things that life entails.  But still, I'm excited about having finished two sweaters this summer, besides two wraps, two berets, a pair of mittens, and a large shawl.  Knit (or study, in my case) On!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My windstar and an academy award

So what in the world does my Windstar (which looks a lot like the one pictured here, but isn't exactly the same because I couldn't find a perfect picture and was too lazy to get off the couch to go outside and take a picture) have to do with winning an academy award?  It's kind of complicated.  It's also kind of amusing, in a 50-something seeing right through her 20-something's plotting kind of way.

You see, my 20-something year old son is living at home right now (did I say rent-free but temporarily while he supposedly gets on his feet?) and using my Windstar.  It's a great car, but it's nearing 300,000 miles right now, and I need it to last me a few years more before it gasps its final breath.  It just got a brand new transmission a month or so ago which has really set us back a ton, but that's another issue.  To make this a little shorter, I'm trying to preserve the car.  I've told my son repeatedly when he's assumed he's going to drive his Boy Scout troop to a camp out, or drive to somewhere other than the necessary days at work, that he is not to take the car anywhere, anytime, for any reason that is not essential.  I thought that was pretty straightforward.

A little background here.  He dated/got engaged/moved in with/broke up with/had to be rescued from with all of his stuff a similarly aged female in the short span of September of last year to moving in with us in April of this year.  They were "in a relationship" on Facebook after one day. They were engaged in one month.  They moved in together within 2 months.  Then they were broken up in about 4 months but he still lived with her for awhile since he was using her car. September-April.   That's a total span of 6 months for those that are counting.  We packed and moved his stuff out of the apartment over Memorial Day weekend.  That was 6 weeks ago.  She lived in the next state.  I didn't want my car going up there.  He plotted and tried a variety of ploys to take my car up there but eventually had her come and pick him up on weekends prior to his moving in with her in that neighboring state.  I caught him in a couple of lies and figured I'd let it go since he was moving out of my house , butat that time I didn't see him moving back in with me after only 6 months.  His girlfriend, or should I saw fiance, was really different.  There, that's how I'm going to put it.  But I guess when you get engaged in a few weeks, and move in within a couple of months, you don't notice that kind of stuff beforehand.  Some people also drive their significant other nutso and I wasn't there to see it so I can't say what happened.  Either way, they were both to fault for moving so fast.

So fast forward to now, 6 weeks past that girlfriend, son is home again, and still without a car.  There are many excuses why he has no car, says he's saving, so he's been driving my car to see the NEW girlfriend who thankfully lives really close by.  He's told me three stories about how he met her, and three versions of how long he's known her, but supposedly he just spent time with her for the first time over the weekend, and on Tuesday they were "in a relationship".  Are you freaking kidding me?  No, I guess he didn't learn anything last time around.  Then, on Thursday she posted on his page that she wanted to spend her life with him.  Sounds like a middle schooler that's desperate, doesn't it?  Just like the first girlfriend he had, but there are a couple of differences.  This one is nearly 5 years younger than him, and has a child that's under a year.  She or her parents (or grandmother) that she lives with should know better than to get the child involved with my son so quickly, but maybe they're looking for someone to step in as a dad for the kid.  I don't know if I should giggle or gag, only this is serious, for not only the child, but for my kid.  Deja vu?

He says when I ask about the Facebook stuff that they're casually dating, yet he's been there every day this week.  Yeah right.  Casually dating.  And he tries to tell me that I'm out of date on what status changes mean.  I'm laughing now.  I'm friends with a ton of people in their 20's from our kids and co-workers, reenactors, and other people I know.  So duh, no, I'm not out of date.  And don't get me started on how many versions of how the girl got pregnant with the child I've heard now.  Nothing against the child, but just get the story straight, it's taking me too many brain cells to keep the stories straight.

So he goes to see her last night, and I tell him to be back by 9.  At 11:25 he texts to say he's on his way.  He finally makes it home after 1am.  He's driving my car, which I told him wasn't going to happen for anything but work again because he can't be considerate about getting home at a decent hour...before I go to bed.  My bedroom sits in the front of the house and the car coming in wakes me up.  Plus I don't sleep until my ancient Windstar comes in because it's ancient.  Needless to say I was up until 4:30am because I was so pissed. I yelled, he tried to placate me, and I calmed down.  He's burning some pretty important bridges with me. 

So here's where the academy award happens.  He texts me today from work to say he will have to work until 8pm.  (Really, I think, raising my eyebrow.)  So I tell him to do what the boss says and that I might drive out to his job and see him around 7pm.  Then he starts going on about how burned out he is (he's been getting off rather early this week to go spend time with the new girlfriend.)  I'm thinking "burned out?"  He's gotten off early (for him) every day and didn't work this past weekend at all. Do you think it's sleep deprivation from him getting in so late?  NAH, he says he functions better on only 4 hours of sleep.  So even when he's in his room, he's messaging with her anyway.  She lives at home and doesn't work.  She has help for her parenting duties because mom and grandmom, dad, and brother live there, so she can sleep if she needs to.  But he is getting tired, admitted or not.  He's never mentioned being "burned out" at this job until this point...just kept saying how much he loves his job.  I guess having this girl makes him 'burned out".  Go figure. 

So the texting conversation continues.  I told him to keep his social activities to the weekend, separate from work during the week, and the response is that he might have to work on Saturday.  (There is still a lot of time on the weekend.)  Then he gets into how he needs his social activities and his friends to keep sane when he's burned out.  He's worked 60 hours a week in the past and it was fine.  He's worked 50-60-70 hours a week before the girlfriend and everything he said was about how he loves his job.  Now he needs to have social/friends to hang with or he's going to get burned out.  Now mind you, he hasn't had any friends to "hang with" besides girlfriend #2 and #1 and his former girlfriend from North Carolina since he moved back from North Carolina June 2011.  He sees this friend occasionally for a few hours, but that's been it.  I asked him about friends when he moved back,  he told me he didn't keep in touch with anyone from High School, he didn't fit in, and didn't really like anyone from that time period.  So all of a sudden he's got all these friends from his High School to hang with.  Really? (Imagine the eyebrow raise now.)  I didn't even respond.  Why bother? 

And that's after trying to link a co-worker with meeting this girl when I know he met her on the internet.  That's no big deal to me, but why the elaborate story?

What a performance.  Honestly, the whole conversation was such great acting that I almost (just almost) felt badly about seeing right through it. Come on, it's not like she's going to de-materialize if he doesn't see her every moment.  I'm sure they text all day anyway, I just hope she doesn't cause him to lose his job.  Then he'll be homeless, carless, and jobless.  Maybe he can move in with her big happy family. 

It reminds me of my daughter sneaking around in middle school to see a boy because "She had to see him".  Emphasis on "had to".  But middle school is middle school, he's in his mid twenties.  That gut wrenching drive to do anything to see that person...even if it means your head goes completely up your ass and you stop thinking logically, it's just not smart.  It's tough to be enfatuated and lose all of your brain cells to the point that you don't realize that when you make things up, people are on to you, and you start doing stupid things in all other areas of your life.

I told him point blank that if he takes my car to her house against my wishes there will be serious ramifications. (Like as in "Move your Ass out right this minute".) and that I will know.  Trust me.  I will know. It's not like he isn't very close to getting a car...but it's always "I don't have enough money this week."  That story is best left for another day.   And it has nothing to do with her per-se, she's just another desperate young girl that has been charmed by someone paying her some attention.  A desperate young (19) girl with a baby.  But I just don't understand anyone that can be totally in love to the point of already proclaiming that she wants to "spend the rest of my life" with someone after less than a week.  Even a week, even a month, really screams desperation.  What kind of dating website is he using where he's finding these girls? Why don't girls realize how important it is to really get to know the guys they date over a period of time?  Why doesn't she realize that her child depends on her to make sure this guy is a keeper over a period of time.  I would imagine that abusers and creeps hone in on these types of girls, and that's alarming.  No, I am not calling my kid one of those kinds of guys.

Perhaps girlfriend #2 should talk to girlfriend #1 who thought the same thing about everything being perfect immediately and has a different opinion now.  I actually feel sorry for the girl because she seems nice, and I know that he's leading her on.  And her family seems to like him too.  I hope they slow her down if not for her own sake, for the sake of the child.

But I digress again, I apologise.  So I decide to take a drive over to visit his work site this evening.  I figure I'll leave at 6:15 or so and miss most of rush hour and go say hi to him at work (if he's even there) but he calls at 5:30 to say that he's going to be able to leave.  He gets home and he's not hungry at all and wants to go to bed right away.  Since there has been so much deceit, I'm wondering if he didn't get off early again (he can get off after 3ish) and have dinner with her on the way home.  But he brought the car home and is home before I go to bed so I'm satisfied.  But I can't wait to see his pay stub for his hours.  lol

So I can't wait to see how this plays out over's pretty amusing so far.  And my Windstar is sitting outside.

Monday, July 16, 2012

News from my waistline

I hate to admit it, but I've been slowly gaining weight, especially since my sister passed away at the end of June last year. We went to Hawaii in April for our son's wedding and when I saw the pictures I easily saw that I was the largest woman there.  It broke my heart.  I knew that I'd been gaining but I didn't come to terms with how bad I was looking until I saw the pictures.  It was just a little bit here and there, but it was getting difficult to button my pants and my knees, back, feet, and ankles were screaming at me! I just got off the scale, I have now lost about 8 pounds in 15 days. It's no gimmick.

 I'd done weight watchers many times before, but I would always feel sick while I was doing it.  .  They really push processed foods on people, selling their own brand of bars, smoothies, and snack foods, as well as pushing their yogurt and such found at the grocery store.  I'd read "The China Study" and seen the fantastic documentary "Forks over Knives" so I knew how harmful dairy foods are, and that there is more calcium in plant milks, something that Weight Watchers fails to mention.  The science is there to link animal foods to disease, heart disease, stroke, cancer, alzheimers, diabetes, the list goes on.  So I had to rethink what I was doing as far as food was concerned.  I knew I was snacking a lot, and grazing on a lot of breads and things like that because I wasn't eating animals (but I WAS eating seafood which is horrible for's higher in Cholesterol than meat!) but I didn't have a direction in terms of what to do about gaining weight or reversing the trend.
You know I'm very committed to the vegan lifestyle, and I found that I was using too much of the meat substitutes that were mostly made up from oil. I was also eating a lot (A LOT!) of carbs, and not being careful about things that had egg or milk in them like I should. I kept getting vertigo and would be able to look back and see why (maybe butter on the veggies or something like that). I was talking about looking for a book I'd heard about called the Engine 2 diet.  Hubby said he wanted to look over the Engine 2 diet  as well so I bought the book one day at whole foods. It gave me a very easy to do and consise clean up of my diet.

So far it's been great. I have lost a little bit daily, and my mood swings are gone, I feel good, and the only issue that I have is if I don't drink enough water while I'm flying to keep me hydrated which is certainly not the fault of the diet. This is basically an easy one, it's just vegan, but tells you how to get the amount of fat (oil) and salt and sugar out of your diet...very well put especially for the men in the audience. Their website (link above) is fantastic and you can food journal there and ask for help from the community if you'd like. The science and studies behind their diet are included, so you can do more research if you'd like. The science and studies are linked to their website, and they follow the same recommendations as all of the University studies that have been coming out. 

Best of all, I am NEVER hungry! I'm hoping to be able to get back into my reenacting clothing by the time our Conference on the Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860's comes around in March of next year again.  Hubby keeps asking me if I miss anything (he's doing the diet as well) and I honestly can't think of anything that I miss.  Even eating at resteraunts is very doable, the waitstaff has been great about making meals for me that are all plant based.  I don't know if hubby will continue to improve his health, but his blood pressure is already down to within normal limits from being high enough in the past that his doctor wanted to put him on meds.  I can't wait to see how much his cholesterol numbers have improved!  I've seen my hematocrit go way up...that's a measure of the red blood cells in your blood, or anemia.  It's perfect now.  I feel great...and I don't ever want to go back to feeling like crap after eating again.

Color Affection Finished

On the knitting/crochet website there is a list of "trending" patterns that are very popular.  One of them was the wingspan pattern that I finished up a few weeks ago, and another is the "Color Affection" shown here which is a really neat wrap or shawl pattern.  I just finished it a couple of days ago and got it blocked and washed over the weekend so I thought I'd post a picture.  I did my Color Affection in Louet MerLin Wool and Linen yarn and it has a very nice feel to it.  It is cool enough to use for a slight chill on a summer evening, yet also has enough wool in it to be used in the Fall and Winter.

This wrap had so much knitting to it (it's huge, but it was impossible to photograph the whole length of it) that I've made sweaters that had less stitching to them!  It took me a little over three hours just to bind off the last row.  I used linen grey, burgundy, and eggplant for my wrap, and yes, that's an eggplant plant just above it in the middle of the planter!  It's a quick and easy knit that got too large to take to work, though I did do the majority of stitching on breaks at work and in the car going exploring in Philadelphia with hubby driving.  Now, on to the next project!

YAY, Another fleece carded

I've been trying to have a meaningful relationship with my Patrick Green Super Card here, but it's been challenging with working and other things on my agenda this summer.  This morning, I finally finished carding another of my stash of shetland fleeces.  It's been a long process trying to work on the fleeces that I've had stashed in my basement and there is still work to be done.  A couple of weeks ago, my dear hubby picked two of the fleeces for me so that I could card and not worry about having to do the picking as well.

For those not familiar with the wool processing process, here is a quick overview.  Sometimes I send my fleeces to be processed by a woolen mill, and I get the finished wool back as long "snakes" of roving, ready for the spinning wheel.  But when I have small fleeces, the woolen mill can't process them, or when I'm poor, I opt not to pay the $8.00 or more per pound to have the work done for me.  My personal favorite woolen mills are "Gurdy Run" outside of Harrisburg, PA, and McClellan's Frankenmuth Woolen Mill in Frankenmuth, MI.  I really like the way each mill processed the wool, but the fleeces I'm working on are too small to send to them.  But I digress.  Here's the "by hand" process: 

When I buy a fleece from a sheep and wool show or a shepherd, it's dirty and greasy, so it needs to be carefully washed in hot water and dawn soap (the best thing I've found) to get rid of most of the natural lanolin.  This is a time consuming process since the wool will felt if it isn't handled properly. Then the fleece is dried on a screen either on my back deck or when the weather isn't great, in my living room.  After that, it is picked which means that the locks are separated in some way.  I have a picker which is a scary thing that has incredibly sharp points that pull the locks apart, but some people do this step by hand.  I wear a welding apron and welding gloves when I do this because the points of the picker are scary dangerous.  I keep the picker locked with a padlock and key when I'm not using it.  The picker has been living in my dining room with my carder but it will need to go back to the basement prior to school. 

Then after the fleece is picked and looks like the fiber next to the carder, After picking out the small ends and pieces of hay and brambles by hand, I run it through the carder which will line up the fibers in a pretty straight line, open up the locks, and basically produce a "batt" which I then take off the carder drum and roll in a tube so that I can spin from it later.  The carder also gets rid of a lot of barnyard matter like straw and grass that has gotten stuck in the fleece.  The bag to the right is made up of batts from the fleece that I just finished. 

I have three more Shetland fleeces under the table ready to pick and card.  Shetland sheep are fairly small with the largest fleece being around four pounds, all the way down to two pounds.  It's been taking me a couple of weeks per fleece to process them and get them ready to go to the basement to wait for winter when I will hopefully have time away from my school work to start spinning them.  I have the three shetland fleeces you see here ready to pick and card, plus one that is already picked to card.  I also have a number of other fleeces and portions of fleeces ready to pick and card, but my goal this summer was to get all of the Shetlands ready to spin so I'll forgive myself if I don't get everything I have finished.  The ones remaining are tan and brown, beautiful colors indeed.  Then i have to begin to work up the Corriedale, Rominov, Finn/Romney, and CVM fleeces I have already washed that are ready to be processed, as well as the colored wools I dyed a number of years ago that also need to be picked and carded.  I think that the CVM and Finn will probably be sent to the woolen mill to do, they're huge fleeces.

Somehow I think I'm not going to get it all done prior to going back to school August 13th.  I've been knitting too, but the biggest thing that has cut into my time working on the wool has been work.  Still, I'm happy to have a job, and to have some time at work to knit. :)  That's what getting the wool ready is really about, using it to knit beautiful things!