Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Right to Our own Feelings Part 1: Things Fall Apart

Note: Well, it has been six months since my last, relatively carefree blog post. Maybe you should follow me on Instagram if you want happy pictures; I've been putting them there. In this post, I'm working out something that needs to be analyzed, and it's taken over a week so far with not much progress. So here's to Socrates and avoiding the unexamined life which is not worth living. Part 1 of who knows.

I feel like I should have been carefully chronicling the events of 2020 thus far. The vague uneasiness about the strange new flu coming from China, the first rumors of it spreading to this country. Trying to go on, choosing not to live in fear and to continue life as usual for the sake of the children, and then having fear and isolation imposed on us in the blink of an eye by the very political leaders who, five minutes previously, were celebrating absolutely open borders and no restrictions whatsoever. Being lectured on how selfish and irresponsible it would be to go out and buy masks; only to be shamed what seems like a few days later for not having them on at all times. Looking forward to major events for my children: prom, concerts and school plays, a Spring Break trip to Arizona, two graduations... only to have them yanked away on March 12. Wednesday, planning for the trip to Arizona, the tasks that needed to be finished before then. Friday, everything was canceled. Abruptly. Teachers scrambled to craft something resembling school lessons for the rest of the year. Everyone worked from home, or lost their work altogether. The streets and skies were as silent as the days following 9/11, but without the comforting feeling of coming together in unity after a terrible attack. The Saturday before, getting together with the Mom's Breakfast Club at the Kitchen Table Cafe... the Saturday after, everything quiet and anxious.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm an introvert and of course, we introverts know how to thrive without a crowd of people around, at home, pursuing our own hobbies and interests. But these, as virtually every ad reminds us lately, are "uncertain times," and the things you need to stay sane in uncertain times -- work, church, school, community -- were all taken away as well. Some of us practice activities like music, knitting, quilting, reading, etc. to help us cope with a tendency to anxiety or depression that is only going to get worse when we are deprived of the activities of normal life and the social interactions that used to keep us centered.

In the first few weeks of lockdown, I was optimistic that I could distract myself with knitting and quilting beautiful things. I queued a bunch of free patterns on Ravelry (although they are still suppressing my profile pictures and bio, so the ownership is still as bigoted as ever) and started Bonnie Hunter's Unity quilt... all of these are very exciting and beautiful and I'd like to work on them, but as the days of deprivation wore on, I have struggled on Sleeve Island of one sweater that I started last fall, and forced myself to finish three extremely basic baby quilts... because babies continue to be born despite the quarantine rules, and babies need blankies. The same with all my grand intentions of cleaning and organizing my house... a nice thought, and of course absolute cleanliness is mandatory now, but there is just no mental/emotional bandwidth to complete them.

And then, just when we were celebrating graduations and births and friends as best we could in our drastically reduced circumstances, adapting to the new world order that had been imposed on us, peering into screens or putting out posts on social media or pretending to celebrate from six feet away through a mask -- the riots and civil unrest started.

I suppose it was inevitable: Jeremy Boreing, of the Daily Wire, had a very apt tweet analyzing the causes on May 30:

  1. Instill fear
  2. Lock people in their houses 
  3. Drive tens of millions out of work 
  4. Remove the pressure valves: Sports, Concerts, Bars, Theaters, Lunch with Friends... 
  5. Close the churches 
  6. Dehumanize through masking the healthy 
  7. Wait 
  8. Strike match...

It must have felt like this when the Iron Curtain fell over the old Soviet bloc. Suddenly neighbors were viewed with suspicion and the usual social channels became filled with political recriminations. People hunkered down in their increasingly inadequate homes while gangs of Communist thugs roamed the streets, determining who needed to go to the Gulag next and doing their level best to erase history and remove every trace of the old order. Ordinary citizens lived in fear over things they had written, said, or even thought in the old days, and dreaded the midnight knock at the door.

Except now, the police are the enemy. The military are tools of oppression. Every mention of the current President must be one of condemnation... or you will be cancelled. If you have a business, well, if it's located in the downtown of a major city, you better show prominent support for the BLM and Antifa terrorists, and even then expect to lose your entire inventory and have your store smashed up. Maybe, if you're fortunate, you will say the right things to appease them and be allowed to continue doing business on social media. But you better not have any police officers or military members in your family. You better say the words they want you to say, read the books they promote. Better kneel in front of the occupiers, just to be safe.

Well, I refuse to go along with this madness. Yes, there is a political component to what I'm writing, but I think it goes deeper, and a fair-minded human being with very different political views than mine would agree with my fundamental right to feel what I feel, think what I think, and with very limited restrictions, say what I want to say, even if it goes against the woke groupthink currently in power in our country.

In the next part, I want to go back to basics, which helps many people struggling with overwhelming adversity. And the first step to psychological survival, as I see it, is owning your feelings and thoughts, and accepting that you have a right to do so. Indeed, it is what proves your existence.

Cogito, ergo sum.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Knitting Updates

In the time I have not been blogging I finished a pair of socks:
 These are "Rough Waters" from Lisa K. Ross (Paper Daisy Creations). They are part of the "Socks of Narnia" collection of patterns, and I knit one sock during the Lots of Socks KAL back in February-March. I was able to whip out the second sock fairly quickly once I started on it. The yarn is, I think, Mountain Colors Bearfoot Sock yarn. And I have been working on a second pair of "Non-Euclidian" socks in Patons Kroy, which are for a Christmas present and not finished yet, but I'm liking them so far.
Every so often I go on Ravelry and queue a bunch of patterns. A few weeks ago I impulsively started this yoked cardigan by Lea PetajaWomen's Lace Cardigan using some years-old lambswool/nylon from an unraveled thrift store sweater. I have loved knitting something other than socks for a change, on size 4 needles, and I've already divided for the sleeves and am working on the stockinette body of the cardigan, so the tough part is done. Actually, the tough part for me is finishing the cardigan, but details details... Most of this designer's patterns are free, and they are all quite pretty. I'm enjoying the knitting of this one.

Steve and I finished watching the latest season of The Crown. And with the girls we are working our way through Star Trek: the Next Generation (we finished the original series, but watching them with a modern teenager was quite the experience... even TNG has plenty of cringey moments.) And Monk, and the Great British Baking Show. So these are some of the TV memories associated with these knitting projects. And if I need to stay up late to finish the Christmas socks sometime, I can watch a few episodes of NCIS.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Wake Up, Sleepy Blog!

Yes, I've been neglecting the blog for the past two months. No post November, I guess.

There was a quilt finish during the time I've been away:
"Tone it Down" was from an APQ quiltalong several years back based on the low-volume Burgoyne Surrounded quilt in the Feb. 2014 issue. Designed by Lissa Alexander, I believe.
 I just loved all the pastels and bright colors against the low-volume backgrounds, and I used many of my vintage sheets and some of my reclaimed shirtings. It was a fiddly quilt, where I laid out each block with dozens of different fabrics before piecing it, but it was a completely happy quilt to piece.
 It's 75x93", seems to fit a full size bed pretty well.
 I used Bonnie Hunter's Scrap User's System idea of 10.5" blocks pieced together for the backing. I had cut a big stack of fabrics up into these sizes and used them all up for this backing and the one I pieced to go with my Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt, which will maybe be the next one to go on the quilting machine.
 I now have three finished quilts that I plan to give to my sisters and step-mother this month. En Provence above...
And Grand Illusion. That's three quilts quilted this fall and I'm pretty happy about that. Of course, it's just in time for the start of the next Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt-along, "Frolic", which you can find at the link. I've been hooked on these since 2011 and Orca Bay. It and Allietare are still on my bed, I gave away Easy Street, Celtic Solstice and soon the two above, and On Ringo Lake and Good Fortune are waiting to be quilted.
 Frolic is supposed to evoke the happy feeling of a field of Texas wildflowers under a clear aqua sky. I have a lot of scraps in the blue colorways, which I think of as "China blue." They are blues, light and dark, with just a hint of heading to the purple end of the spectrum.
 "Framboise" is the rasberry color that makes this quilt pop. I don't have a lot of fuchsia pinks in my stash and since the three quilts just finished all had pink in them, I wanted to make a less obviously girly quilt... so I am probably going for closer to "cranberry" or "cherry" or "watermelon" with a bit of "burgundy wine" mixed in, but I'm not opposed to a bit of pink. All of my reds have to not be leaning toward orange, but maybe a bit toward purple.
 I have plenty of greens in that yellow-leaning, grass-green shade. I am a little short of aquas. I love the little skull and crossbones on that one but I'm not sure how appropriate it would be. I do want to use what I have, but that is the one color in the mix I am tempted to supplement. I thought about changing the colors, but decided to go with Bonnie's.
Here is so far on Clue #1. Lots of cute little 4-patches. They are so fun to make! I do love a variety of scraps in every quilt I make. I am trying to cut an extra strip or two for my Scrap User's System every time I have to cut a piece of fabric. That way I can use up some of the smaller and older pieces in my stash and replenish the variety in my strips. And if I impulsively decide to start a new quilt, I go to those strip boxes first. Of course, that does mean the quilting process is messy and there are scraps ALL OVER my sewing area!

That's the news on the quilting front! I'll be linking up to Bonnie's show-and-tell post on Monday when it goes live. You can check out what other quilters are doing with this pattern, and join the Frolic festivities!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

En Provence Quilt - A Finish

 I took the final stitches in the binding and label for En Provence yesterday evening. Today was a crisp and clear Fall day, so I put it on the clothesline to get some photos.
Maybe I take too many pictures, but it seemed like it was only fair. You work on these quilts for multiple years and then all of a sudden, they are done. Ready to be packed up and given to someone who will hopefully enjoy them. It's only fair to have a photo session. Speaking of which, Quarta needs to get her Senior photos taken before we ship her off to college. Hmm.
 Anyway, En Provence was the mystery quilt starting in the Fall of 2016. It was the quilt top that I used as a background picture for my first smart phone, and it's still on there. It really is a gorgeous pattern, with the motion of the purple accented with the sparkling magenta stars. I seriously depleted my purples and neutrals when piecing it.
The quilting pattern I chose was squiggle-loop-flower, with a couple different types of flowers I repeated more or less randomly. I depleted my cone of Robison-Anton eggshell thread when I was quilting it. I used to buy it at Joann's, at the dealership inside the store, but they don't carry it anymore. I will have to look for another source for better-quality machine quilting thread. I picked up a spool of Aurifil at Craft Warehouse, but I've never tried it before and really, I'm on a roll (sort of) with machine quilting. I want to encourage myself to get a bunch more done, and that means buying a big cone of thread. And probably a few more extra-wide backings, since piecing backings is kind of a drag.
I really like the light check fabric I used for the backing of Grand Illusion and the label on this quilt. I also like the kind of grunge-looking extra-wide backing (and binding) I used for this one. Maybe another trip to Joann's and another coupon to buy another backing for when I'm ready to quilt On Ringo Lake. I have been piecing a backing for the Tone It Down quilt, which I want to do next. And I finished piecing the Scrappy Trip Around the World top, which I'll share next time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Political Tuesdays: Child Activists and the Adult in the Room

You've all seen it. A Swedish teenager, whom I won't name because I believe excessive media attention does terrible things to children, impassioned and outraged about climate change, scolding the adults she thinks have failed her and stolen her childhood: "How dare you?!"

The adults in her life have failed her, but perhaps not in the way she thinks. Her parents and other activists who have promoted her as the face of climate change have ignored her underlying needs for something much more basic: unconditional love in a safe environment. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe all humans, including the disabled, have the right to think, believe, and say what they wish. And she is sincere in her beliefs, and she has a right to express them. It doesn't have to be pretty. It also shouldn't be so public.

This girl has many serious diagnoses: Autism/Asberger's, OCD, anxiety, depression, selective mutism. Any one of these would seem to indicate caution in use of social media and exposure to large crowds and intense pressure. Together in the persona of a teenage girl who, in her own words, is not mature yet, they create the perfect storm. Her speech yesterday, in a foreign country and foreign language, was terribly painful to watch for anyone who loves someone with these conditions. She has been suddenly catapulted to fame and prominence by activists who set her schedule and control her public persona, and are happy for their cause to profit from her angst. Her face was contorted, she was gasping between phrases. Her psychic pain was obvious, and for adults to use it for political advantage is unconscionable. That wasn't the impassioned wisdom of a child grieving for the future of the world; that was a panic attack, a highly publicized meltdown which will, unfortunately, typecast her forever. How will she be able to bear watching video footage of herself? How could anyone with intense social anxiety? Her parents and handlers seem to want to create a patron saint for the environmentalist movement, but I fear they have created a martyr. "How dare you?! indeed.

Her treatment has been rightly characterized as child abuse, in my opinion. It's exploitative, designed to manipulate public opinion. And when the climate justice warriors have moved on to another short-term celebrity, she has to continue to grow up and find her place in a world she has been taught she can't trust. Michael Knowles was criticized for calling her "mentally ill," but aren't we supposed to be removing the stigma around mental health issues these days? Still, focusing more negative  attention on her is not healthy. Somebody, somewhere, needs to get her a glass of lemonade, some cookies and a quiet, cool, dim room where she can listen to Mozart or whatever makes her happy. That's the question. Does anything make her happy? Maybe a positive affirmation or two that is not predicated on the end of the world. She did get one, from perhaps an unexpected source:

"She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" (Donald Trump's tweet)

This also caused outrage in the media. They assumed he was speaking ironically and intended this as a mockery. But remembering that irony is not always understood by those with autism, or by young children, I'm not so sure. Sometimes, if you tell someone she seems happy and has a wonderful future, she will be that way. It has the virtue of not having been tried yet. I hope it works.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Political Tuesdays: Ravelry Gag Rule and the Knitting Witch Hunt

For my previous blog post about the Ravelry Gag Rule, see No Yarn for You!

Funny thing about Ravelry, as the crackdown on Republicans who knit is almost 3 months old now. I don't like it as much as I used to when I added to my queue far beyond my life expectancy and spent hours browsing patterns and projects. I still love the genius of the pattern database and the ability to track projects, but I have serious qualms about whether my personal data is safe there now. I know for a fact that my kind is not welcome there, and they have no proof that I have ever violated their terms of service. So they have not been truthful in their suspension and continuing punitive actions against me. But I'm also concerned about their handling of personal and financial data. A week or two after the purge, Casey, the site owner, responded to a woman who wasn't banned but didn't want to financially support a site that is biased against her by buying patterns on that interface. He responded in the GOP group, the only conservative group left on Ravelry after Conservative Knitters was forced to close. It is an open group; anybody with an account can read or comment on anything, and trolling, open or anonymous, is a way of life. Contrasted with "Stitching Liberally", "Atheist and Agnostic Knitters," "Lazy, Stupid and Godless," "Rubberneckers", "Wingnut Watch" (started as "Sarah Palin Must be Stopped!" back in 2008) ... it's a pretty small and quiet group. And they aren't really allowed to talk about anything. Anyway, Casey responded to this woman, who was, in my opinion, legitimately upset about funding a knitting site that engages in political blacklisting and censorship, with the comeback, something to the effect that "I looked it up and we've only made about $5 of profit from you." Now supposedly this was to underscore that boycotting the site would only punish the designers who sell their patterns on the site. But if site owners have access to your shopping record and private financial records, don't they have the legal obligation to keep that information confidential? Can we trust them when they say they are not punishing Republicans, when, in fact, they are punishing Republicans? The woman he interacted with is no longer on the site. Apolitical groups like "Christian Knitters" are now having their members harassed by the trolls.

I was getting pretty depressed about the fact that despite purging my profile of any political content, and asking nicely... twice...they still have not restored it. So all you see when you go there is a gray outline person, no pictures or personal information about me at all. Kind of defeats the purpose of "social" networking. I've posted a few times in chat threads but the fun is gone. However, a few weeks ago, after my second request, I looked up Casey Forbes, just to see if he had made any further statements or was acting less like a fascist. I found a tweet that is both terribly depressing and yet explains everything, and I realize that the ownership of Ravelry have bigger problems than the fact that they aren't inclusive or honest at all.

"Friends, I'm trans. My pronouns are she/her/hers. My name is Cassidy. Cassidy is actually my birth name, aren't I lucky?"

I was sure at first it was a weird joke, like many that Casey has made in the past. But no, apparently not. And it does explain a lot. Let me say (I can say this, can't I?) that Casey has been married to Jessica for over 12 years and is the father of a school-age daughter.

This YouTube interview with Kathrine Jebsen Moore, a Scottish writer for Quillette, is worth the listen. In it she describes - back in February - the witch hunt that began on Instagram, against knitters who were not sufficiently "woke" for the social justice warriors. I now understand some of the background behind the spillover onto Ravelry. Kathrine is a good account to follow on Twitter if you are intrigued by the phenomenon which is being called "cancel culture" of bringing social and economic pressure to bear on people you disagree with, to disenfranchise them and force them to assent to your viewpoint.

You can find the first of Kathrine's articles here: A Witch Hunt on Instagram
She wrote a second in early June, even before Ravelry dropped the boot: Instagram's Diversity Wars Revisited
And at the end of July: Knitting's Infinity War, Part 3

The witch hunt may have started a long time ago, but it is still ongoing if you do not pay lip service to BIPOC knitters and their concerns. (Black, Indigenous, People of Color. The fact that I had to look up the acronym is proof positive for these people of my White Fragility. But I won't be reading that book, so there.) Caitlin Hunter, the talented designer behind Boyland Knitworks, seems to be the latest object, because she didn't speak out strongly or penitentially enough when challenged to be more inclusive. She had the audacity to publish a new knitting pattern instead, and hence, in these people's demented mentality, she was fair game for gaslighting and abuse. So she has hired a consultant to increase her diversity awareness and promised to try to do better. SHE DID NOTHING WRONG! Somebody needs to say it. It is the social justice warriors who need to apologize, but won't.

From back at the end of July, a long and depressing "Daily Covfefe" video on the phenomenon of intolerance and abuse in the knitting community, using the Quillette articles as a starting point. Caution... quite a bit of language.

The language aside, this is a disturbing trend. People are being financially, socially, physically and psychologically abused, and these are not just isolated incidents. Nor are the victims universally white, conservative, Christian, or otherwise "privileged."

Yeah, I used to think Twitter was a scary social media platform, and Ravelry and Instagram were the friendly places. I'm not at all so sure anymore.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Machine Quilting

 I finished machine quilting "En Provence" in mostly one day. I think I may have had a breakthrough of sorts. The lack of stitch regulator means I have to pace myself, and it is more difficult to stop and start, so I just keep going until the quilt needs to be rolled or the bobbin runs out. I used my all-over squiggle-loop-something pattern. This time the "something was flowers. Little double daisies as above...
 and little chicory flowers. My breakthrough is finally figuring out that machine quilting is just doodling with thread. And no one cares if doodles are a little uneven or lopsided. My original mistake may have been buying Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Machine Quilting 22 years ago. It was excellent as a treatise in perfectionism, but I have come to the point where I'm happier getting the quilt done and thinking of the quilting as doodling.
I even cut and stitched the binding on the same day. Now the hand stitching will take longer, but I'm really happy with the overall effect.