arts


Way back in the day, I took a lot of programming classes. I like programming–it’s concrete and creative with more than one right answer but clear right answers–when you get it right, you know it, because the thing does what you want it to do. GIGO is an old programming idea: garbage in, garbage out. If your input is no good, no amount of programming can fix that.

It’s not just for computers, though. It is absolutely true of my brain. Put garbage in, garbage comes out. If I want my writing to work, I have to expose myself to writing that works. Lots of poetry makes me poetic; lots of newspapers makes me journalistic. I strive for a good mix–some weeks are more successful than others. And of course, in the end, I still have to sit down and write. No amount of good input can make the words come out. This has been a week of blogs and more than my usual number of conversations. But it’s time to write now. Just. Sit Down. And Write.

I have a great many friends who are math and science geeks. They include a chemistry/physics teacher, a biology teacher, and a couple of advanced geometers (people who work with geometry). My brother just finished his PhD in artificial intelligence, my father is a chemical engineer, my mother’s degree is in applied math, and I have a friend working on a doctorate in bioengineering and nanotechnology, with some connection to microfluidics. Her husband is an actuary. Then there are the friends who work in software security.

I’m so glad I spent time in computer tech before I headed into ministry.

Anyway, recently knitters and crocheters have been working on ways to use their crafts to make 3D representations of advanced mathematical stuff. There’s a klein bottle hat, for example, and a number of other things that I understand much less.

All that was important to explain this fabulous and fun cartoon. Props to Stitch Witch for the link.

I grew up in the suburbs of New York. Graffiti was a way of life and an art form. Sure, it was illegal, but if it was beautiful enough it could win you over, and often did.

CNET has a photo gallery of “green” graffiti now–no spray cans, just creativity. Some of it is digital, but some is not.

What can we transform?

So print publishers are struggling, newspapers are going out of business, independent presses and novelists are having a heck of a time. Whether or not computers and Kindles are sounding the death knell for books as we know them, they are becoming a part of the publishing landscape. In a time when major booksellers control most of what gets printed and therefore most of what is available, period, the web and electronics are pushing back. Novelists and creatives of every stripe are working with forward-thinking geeks to work with the technology and open up the possibilities.

Nicola Griffith, author of a number of exquisitely crafted, every-word-chosen-for-a-reason print novels, is working with her fans to develop a new cooperative publishing model. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s grassroots, and she’s got a lot of people on board. Read about it here: Ask Nicola.

Publishing doesn’t get much more democratic. The best writers will write, the best artists will illustrate, but everyone can do something to make this project go. Check it out!

Yarn Harlot, that is. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a former doula turned professional knitter and writer-about-knitting. She also writes a highly entertaining and very sweet blog. As part of her latest book tour she went to London for a few days; on her last day she went for a wander and wandered right into a cathedral. The whole travellogue is wonderful; her description of her atheist faith is beautiful; the comments from four self-identified UUs is icing on the cake. We (your clergy) work so hard to get people past the odd sort of shame that seems to hang over liberal religion, that it’s very gratifying to see evidence that some people are really claiming the beauty of this faith.

If you have any affinity for art, architecture, or travel, go look. Aside from a few random pictures that include a stripey sock, there’s nothing very knitter-specific there, just a whole lot of beautiful photographs and accompanying prose. Yum.

I’ve posted several times about furoshikis, the Japanese squares of fabric that can be transformed into carrying bags and wraps of all kinds. A little while back I noted that there was a book, and promised a follow-up if I could get my hands on it.

I found it. Gift Wrapping With Textiles by Chizuko Morita was, unbelievably, in the Bangor Borders. Now that I’ve had it for a few months, I feel qualified to comment.

The truth is, almost all the really useful wraps are demo’ed on YouTube or diagrammed on the Japanese Ministry of the Environment furoshiki. There are a few good additions in this book, notably a large folio carry (think framed art), the long tube wrap (think rolled posters), the kimono wine wrap (not as useful as the ordinary bottle wrap, but prettier), and the backpack (uses two furoshikis, and really only good in a pinch). Everything else is either a reapplication of a basic concept or cute/pretty but not useful as such (and here my New England pragmatism peeks through). The instructions are generally good, especially the section in the beginning about the different sorts of knots and how to tie them. there are a few places where the wording is a little tricky, but nothing insurmountable.

If you’re planning to convert your life to a furoshiki-only existence, get this book. If you want a lot of instructions about decorative wraps (the title is, after all, about gift wrapping) with flowers or rabbits or kittens worked into the tying, get this book. Otherwise, see if you can get it at the library.

The question of religious dress is complicated, especially if you don’t live in a cloister. As I said before, it should be practical. It should fit with my values. But “practical” includes “can wear it without it becoming the center of attention”. What often happens when I wear a salwaar kameez to work is that people’s brains stop short at my clothes and they don’t hear anything I say that doesn’t involve the word “India”. As a minister it’s not all about me. But my clothes can make it all about me, which is bad if my goal is to get folks thinking deeply about religion or something.

So okay, it should blend in. What’s out there already?

Of course we have to consider the all-purpose robe. With the right cincture (belt) it might even blend in.
Knowing how practical the salwaar kameez is, that goes on the list of models.
The sari has that infinite-size-changing quality, as does the sarong, and in pants, the dhoti.
Lots of women committed to subtle plain dress are choosing jumpers.
I have to say, overalls are pretty comfy, and I’ve seen some professional-looking ones.
There’s also a thing called “fat pants” or “thai fisherman’s pants“–a kind of stitched wrap pant–and ordinary wrap pants.
For warmth we have the usual: jackets and sweaters, leggings and tights. I’m not dealing with overcoats, socks, or underwear–that’s a whole other headache.

So just in major indoor clothing we have:
1) six yards of undraped fabric
2) robes
3) tunics
4) baggy pants
5) skirt
6) pants or skirt with bib front
7) jackets
8 ) sweaters
9) wrap-around clothing: pants, skirts
10) vests

That’s a good selection of options to start. Really, only shirts are missing. Perhaps a pirate/renaissance shirt? Of what we have, robes, tunics, baggy pants, jumpers, overalls, and wrap clothing can be inherently size-flexible.

To make others size-flexible you’d have to add something subtle: elegant lacing, adjustable buttons, something.
To make them sustainably produced they’d have to be of organic fabrics, sewn probably by one’s self or in a cottage-industry model, preferably fairly locally.
Then to make them affordable, you’d need to have the option of mixing and matching your entire wardrobe–maybe a palette of tans, whites, and blacks to start–so that you only needed maybe 20 garments for a whole three or four season wardrobe. That would also help reduce the overconsumption that tends to come with seventeen different reds in one closet. (Now you need seventeen of any red accessory…)
With natural and unique fabrics I can’t imagine how to make the red from one dye lot match another, so incorporating color would be tricky.

Of course, there’s always a simpler way. One of my rural colleagues has taken to wearing black Carhartts for work. It’s tempting.

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