Living not-so-lightly at Casa de Nake-id

Let’s talk some more about this living-lightly-on-the-planet thing.

A number of years ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about a gentleman who wanted to buy footwear that caused as little harm as possible. Obviously leather was out. I don’t remember the exact issue with tennis shoes. Too toxic maybe? Oppressive labor practices? There were problems with rubber and plastics, too. Anyway, every type of shoe he investigated had a questionable provenance. Finally, he settled on a pair of those Chinese canvas shoes. These he considered a compromise.

Wool, as we all know, comes loaded with political baggage. Austrailian and New Zealand ranchers practice mulesing, a horrific practice that mutilates the sheep while ostensibly saving its life. It can’t be great to be a silkworm, either. I guess if you had to pick you’d want to be one of Jen’s goats. Or my friend Meredith’s alpacas—great views and a pack of floppy dogs to keep the coyotes at bay.

If you surf enough in the knit-sphere, you’ll find this cool group of vegan knitters. I occasionally take a spin through their web ring. For the most part, they’re young and hip and cool, and while I might be cooking chicken for dinner I visit hoping some of their youth, coolness and hipness might rub off.

Then there are the problems with dyes. Natural dyers use cochineal (Dude, bugs!) to get those great crimsons. And the acid dyes make me worry about the health of our fabulous handpainters.

Clearly, I have no answers. And like you, I’m not about to stop knitting. What I’m saying is that “voting” with our dollars is fraught with complexity. Does “Fair Trade” make something “green”? Does “organic” guarantee that workers are treated fairly? It’s all a bit like American Apparel, which manufactures goods in the U.S. and pays a decent wage. They even sell organic goods. The dark side? The CEO is an alleged poster child for sexual harrassment. 

Got a good compromise out there?

Green jeans?

I tend to think of myself as a bit of a fashionista--albeit without the budget. So when this came across the transom last week, it put my Costco knickers in a twist. The New York Times reported that fast fashion, trendy items from the Targets and H&Ms of the world, contribute to global warming because of how the garments are manufactured and then cared for--that is repeatedly washed, dried and then discarded.

Living on Earth recently did a fine piece on the environmental devastation wreaked by the denim industry; how the chemicals and processes used in “distressing” jeans are polluting nearby waterways. The water is blue, but not in a good way.

Obviously, all these amazing yarns we love aren't so green either. What's a girl to do?

***

Some late breaking thoughts in the comments:

1. Move to a farm. I suspect many of us, however, might still want to wear cute cropped trousers while tending our crops.

2. Recycle yarn. There's an intrepid knitter at The Lamb, who is forever scouring thrift stores in search of cashmere and wool sweaters she can rip, restyle and knit.

3. Hang clothes to dry. Even in the midst of this ferocious winter, Mitch has been hanging laundry in the basement, Lord love him. Your jeans turn out a bit crunchy, but the added moisture in the house is certainly welcome. Another benefit: Our natural gas bills have plummeted.

4. Donate. Give older clothes to charities such as Goodwill Industries, ARC or women's shelters.

5. Knit or crochet old tee-shirts into rugs. Invest in a rotary cutter and slice those “non starters“ into super-absorbant strips and stitch up a rag rug.

 

 

Wednesday Miscellany--Luddite City

We don’t have Netflix, which to hear my friends talk is like saying, we don’t have indoor plumbing. We don’t have Tivo, expanded cable or satellite TV. And we don’t live in a sod hut, either.

It’s not like we’re anti-TV, quite the contrary. We love TV. In fact, I think Mitch would fall weeping to the floor if he couldn’t see Ann Heche Thursday nights. It’s that here in this self-employed household, we spend so much on telecommunications—two phone lines, high-speed Internet, two cell phones, not to mention health insurance—to incur extra monthly expenses seems like a commitment.

So instead of Netflix, I request films from the library online. Granted I’m like 500th in the queue to get An Inconvenient Truth, but I should have Transamerica by the weekend. And it’s free, if you don’t count city taxes.

The lesson here, if there is one to be had, is one of patience and serendipity. I have no idea what books or films will show up at the library or when. And, it’s not that important, since we’re likely to fall asleep watching or reading anyway.

So, while we’re off warming our bones in Scottsdale (for those of you unmarried gals, choose inlaws in a balmy place), your assignment is to read or watch something not published or released in 2006–7. I just finished 900–pages in eight-point type of Herman Wouk’s 1962 novel, Youngblood Hawke. Women wore gloves. Everyone drank afternoon martinis. And cigarette smoke filled the restaurants and publishing houses of New York.

Can’t wait to see the movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stingy

I’m not much of a charity knitter. This isn’t something I’m proud of, and faced with so much generosity in Knitville, I suspect I feel a might guilty. The tradition of charity knitting runs deep in our craft. Whether it was socks for soldiers or sweaters for orphans, knitters have always clicked away for people in need. This is one of the things that make knitters so cool.

Bear with me while I rationalize a bit: I’m more likely to knit for a loved one who’s sick or in need of comfort than I am to knit for a cause. I made a lavender alpaca shawl for a friend who suffered a miscarriage, a colorwork kippah for my father-in-law after his cancer diagnosis (thank God, he’s doing well), a gaggle of yarmulkes for a family wedding, and the community afghan for my sister-in-law in the wake of her husband’s death.

Of course, sometimes I get all selfish, too, and want to knit cute wardrobe items exclusively.

But then I ran across this (originally spied on JenLa’s blog): Socks for Audrey. Even a hard-hearted knitter such as myself softened when reading about this young girl undergoing so much treatment—only 14 years old! So I went about trying to find pink sock yarn—Audrey’s preferred color—ordering two skeins of Memories in Geranium from Knit Picks. These, unfortunately, turned out to be more red than pink. Clearly this wouldn’t do.

Then, feeling absolutely dreadful about Ms. Violet’s breast (Miss Violet of the eponymous “Lime and Violet” knitting podcast), I purchased a skein of the Violet’s Pink Ribbon colorway from spinner/dyer Lisa Souza. (A portion of the proceeds go to help defray Miss Violet’s medical expenses.) The divine Ms. V still doesn’t have a diagnosis, so keep your needles crossed. I liked the idea of combining Violet’s Pink Ribbon sock yarn with the Audrey knit-a-long.

Demand was so great for the Violet’s Pink Ribbon that Lisa completely sold out (there’s that generosity thing again). Dying stalled as she awaited a fresh shipment of yarn. Happily, mine arrived in the mail Saturday, and I decided it’d be perfect for a pair of girly fingerless mitts for Audrey; a young woman can only use so many socks. It’s not really charity knitting, but it is, sort of.

Antone is unimpressed. He just wants to gnaw on the swift.

Antonelikesaudrey

Still life of Violet’s Pink Ribbon on swift with wild life

Glam weekend

For someone who sits in front of a computer with dirty hair much of the time, this was quite the weekend. A passel of girlfriends came in from Westcliffe to attend a preview party for Design After Dark, which featured a talk by celebrity designer Barbara Barry and synopses by the eight participating architectural/design firms involved in Design After Dark. The event was held at the Denver Design Center in the Henredon showroom. For those of you who are familiar with the Denver Design Center, you know that it’s the original lock box; it’s easier to get space in a bomb shelter than it is to breach the DDC fortress. To get in, one must either be a member of the trade, press, or tagging along with aforementioned members of the trade or press. Apparently those rules have eased somewhat, but for this do, we needed invites.

Our friend Sally, who is an amazing oil painter, also happens to be Barbara Barry’s sister, hence the tickets. We came, we saw, we “meeted and greeted,” ogled the furniture, which is glamorous and understated at the same time, met Barbara, who was wearing the sweetest little black dress, and had just a grand time. We had a lovely dinner at Ocean; for me, big fat scallops and a walloping portion of wasabi mashers, and French fries tossed in truffle oil and Parmesan that we all shared. The food and company were delightful, but most impressive, perhaps, was the flat-screen monitor in the bathroom stall playing Pirates of the Caribbean. (Disconcerting that. Who wants Johnny Depp to watch them pee?)

Saturday, we spent the afternoon in the Daniel Liebskind-designed building at the Denver Art Museum, after lolling about a Cherry Creek makeup studio all morning. Since I wear foundation about as often as I shave my legs, I didn’t have them create a custom-blended foundation for me, but had a grand time watching the affair; it’s quite the process and less expensive than you’d think. At the museum, I reuuped my membership, netting a branded tote bag in the process, and then we began diving into galleries. With no square angles, it becomes a fascinating place to view art, as if the walls and art are in conversation together. Some of the curatorial decisions struck me as bizarre, why stash a small selection of Oceanic art behind a wall of high modern art? But other choices, the Radar exhibit from the Logan collection, wow, the most articulate assemblage of contemporary art I’ve ever seen.

Yesterday, I spent the day in recovery. And shaved my legs.

To Sally, a big “mwah” for the “in.”

 

 

Cocktail attire

I’m attending an event this evening in which “cocktail attire” has been requested. Twenty years ago an invitation of this sort would have sent this recipient into paroxysms of delight and hours of planning, gathering and beautifying. Today, in desperate need of a haircut, I’m wondering:

A. Can I squeeze my fat ass into the black silk pants?

B. Will said fat ass then freeze off when negotiating the frozen streets of Denver?

What a difference 20 years make.

I’ll either wear this, sans flip flops and avec mohair:

Fancypants

Or this, sans pencil skirt and avec cigarette pants:

Verybarbie

Wednesday Miscellany: The What-the-hell-am-I-doing Edition

Since the only fashion design classes available in the Queen City of the Plains involve upholstering sofas the size of aircraft carriers, we have to engage our inner autodidacts. Design help arrived in the form of comments. Deb is a thinking-woman’s knitter and she recommended the sadly out-of-print Knitter's Guide to Sweater Design by Carmen Michelson & Mary-Ann Davis. Other resources have crossed my desk, too. Please don’t my word for it, since I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but see for yourself. So without further ado:

1. Designing Knitware by Deborah Newton.

2. Ann Budd’s smart little book: The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns.

3. Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti

4. Mom, who knows I’m a wannabe, has been forwarding links from the Knit Design Yahoo Group: Fashion Era has fashion drawing instructions. This book showed up Figure Templates for Fashion Illustration by Patrick John Ireland. And Y2Knit is offering an Illustrator II online workshop on creating basic schematics starting, um, tomorrow.

Well, it’s a start. Anyone else want to weigh in?

 

What the hell am I doing?

Writers often find themselves in the position of learning new stuff. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve said, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” Or “I’m in over my head this time.” People who hire writers think we have magical powers to absorb industry lingo, technical data and politics and deliver dynamic, clear copy.

Yeah, maybe.

This was especially true when I freelanced for the telecom industry and had editorial dominion over a “resystemization newsletter”; the company was retooling all its software for the year 2000 and I got to write about it. And write about it. And write about it. Here’s a sample of my work: “When an application enters beta testing, it is tested in a controlled lab environment where software, hardware connections, database interfaces, hands-on user performance and developer trouble-shooting are tested together. During system integration testing, the application is stress tested and checked for overall system compatibility.”

 I wanted to disembowel myself.

I recently wrote about a military family where I got completely flumoxed by the 21st battalion air squad this or the 101st brigade and division that and is a major a bigger deal than a captain—I should’ve remembered from “MASH,” huh?—and is Tikrit south of Mosul which is North of Baghdad and is it Ali al something air base in Iraq or Kuwait and let’s not even discuss the acronyms.

So now I want to design a sweater or two and have no idea where to begin. I love the Knitware software, but really need to figure out how to do it more organically. Is every set-in sleeve same? Surely not, that would be too easy. And how do necklines change if an armpit changes? Do you just measure old sweaters and do the math? And how do you handle sizing? And where does one go to learn? Then how do you “draw” schematics electronically? Does Microsoft Publisher do that?

Anyway, just askin’, 'cause I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Nobody's safe

Just when I thought I could ignore Etsy, this pops on my screen. (Scroll down to view the knit sheep mobile.)

Don't make me knit you

I don’t need you Lizard Ridge, I really don’t. Liz (at this point, we can use our diminutives, no?) go find some other knitters. There’s a nice Leapin’ Lizards Knitalong just for you. They’ve even posted links to discounted Kureyon sources and everything. Please, someone tell Liz to go away. I don’t want to be her friend.

Then Stephanie had to go knit Liz and she looked splendid. Just stunning. So, now I’m like all jealous. I’m thinking I wanna be friends now, but can’t get around the wave thing. I’m thinking, she might be too high maintenance, too needy. OK, I give. I’ll knit one square. Just one. Just to see if I'm up for the challenge. I’ll only get one skein of yarn. That'll protect me. Then I’ll forget to pick up my wraps. And I’ll break the yarn. And I won’t block it. And, I'll tangle my skein into a knotted mess. So there.

Golly gopher guts and gosh darn. Know what? It’s like hanging out with the cool kids by the locker, it’s that good.

Lizard

Noro Kureyon, color 184