The House of Tatterdemalion


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Tuorials are Fun!

September 3rd, 2009 by tatterdemalion

Occaisionally I still get comments on my pattern drafting tutorials. I hope people are taking me seriously about asking if they have questions, because I have fun making those tutorials.

This is basically just a note to say “This Blog Is Not Dead and Gone Forever.”  Yes, it is technically in sleeper mode, but there is still a live person behind the wheel. When brilliant inspiration strikes me, I will be back. Or if you ask me a question.

Anyone out there having problems with pattern drafting?

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August 6th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Just once, I’d like us to be able to set up a tent without me having to sew the binding back on, from getting a guy-string tripped over. It tears the the fabric right where the binding is sewn on, so I have to rip out a yard of sewing and then sew it back onto the tent. I suppose it’s better than having to patch a hole. But I’d be happier if nothing tore. It’s rather awkward to try to sew the fly for an 8-man tent in a room that is only like 9 x 10 feet big to begin with, and especially when that room already has to store your entire fabric, pattern and notion stash, as well as an ironing board, my desks, my sewing books, and an easy-chair for reading it. Can you say cramped? But at least now the fly is fixed, so it’s doesn’t need to be stuffing up my sewing room any more.

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To his hallucinations, he introduces himself as 'Grandpa'

August 4th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

My grandfather has Alzheimer’s. This is really not too unusual; many elderly people have Alzheimer’s. In light of that, it is rather peculiar that so many people seem to have no clue how this disease effects people, or how the symptoms are manifested. It’s a common misperception that people suffering from Alzheimer’s don’t realize how the disease is effecting them—for example, don’t realize that they are speaking gobbledy-gook. Sadly, Grandpa is all too aware of the shortcomings he has because of his disease, and it’s one of the hardest things for him.

This can be somewhat mitigated by not drawing his attention to his problems. If Grandpa is trying to wear the waste-basket as a shoe, you don’t laugh at him, or do anything to draw attention to the fact he is totally wacko. You say “Would you like to get your shoes on, Grandpa?”

And he will usually say “Yep. That’s what I’m doing.”

Then you say, “Actually, that’s a waste-basket. Here’s your shoes.”

If he is particularly aware that day, he will be mortified to suddenly realize he was trying to do something as foolish as wear a waste-basket as a shoe. If he is his regular loopy-self, he will say something along the lines of “You mean I’m not supposed to wear this? Well, if you say so.” (Only confusion, not humiliation.)

He comprehends that he no longer “gets” the world around him, and that if someone else interprets the situation in a radically different way than he does, he usually accepts, though usually a bit incredulously, that we are right. His general outlook is that “something” is usually wrong, and that other people can fix it.

But when he is caught up in what he is doing, he often times has no consciousness of oddity. If one brings it blatantly to his attention, it humiliates him beyond measure, and does nothing to help the situation. Our general rule of thumb is that if it’s not harming anything—himself, others, or things such things—just to let him carry on until he tires of it.

By “we”, I guess I’m generally referring to me and one of my brothers. My brother lives full-time with my grandparents, caring for them both, but particularly Grandpa. I go up once a week, on Friday. I do some housecleaning, and watch Grandpa while my brother does the grocery shopping for the week.

We watch the inconsistencies in his symptoms. People like to try to get it on a nice, neat grid line. Having trouble in the bathroom? Oh, his mental capacities are only at the level of a 2-year old. That kind of categorizing would be very convenient, but is totally inaccurate. There is no consistency, reason or rhyme.

Grandpa has taken to calling for his brother closest to him. He will walk around the house calling “Gene? Gene!” One time my brother asked him why he was calling for Gene. Grandpa responded, “I don’t know. I know he’s not here. I guess just because he’s my favorite brother.” Even he had no reason for what he was doing, he simply felt compelled to do it.

I was talking to my aunt (a nurse practitioner) at a recent family reunion about his Alzheimer’s. She mentioned how Alzheimer’s patients, as they lose the ability to remember, lose their sense of self. We asserted that Grandpa was certainly not like that (at least, yet).

For one thing, “losing memory” is patchy. Grandpa and I can have running jokes from week to week to week. He will know exactly what I’m referring to, and laugh along with me. I can keep him posted on developing stories, and he will remember and follow what I’m saying from week to week. But on the other hand, he is nearly incapable of remembering my brother’s name. Today, he went as far as to ask me to write my brother’s name on a piece of paper, so he could keep it in his pocket and refer to it when he next forgot.

And for the other thing, he still has a sense of self. He introduces himself to his hallucinations as ‘Grandpa’. When I mentioned this to my aunt, it seemed so natural to say. He sees children we don’t see—‘cute little buggers’, he says. He thinks they’re grandchildren of his. My brother and I, we don’t try to “correct” him, as he tells the empty chair that he is Grandpa. He is isn’t harming anything. It would only humiliate him to be told he is talking to an empty chair. If he asks us who it is, we do tell him that there is nothing there, or he is seeing something we don’t; but if he just tells that the kid is too shy to talk back, we let it slide.

Upon reflection, I realize that it’s really rather surreal to say “Oh, no, he knows who he is. He introduces himself as ‘Grandpa’ to his hallucinations.”

But Alzheimer’s is surreal.

It is also a very emotional disease, for the afflicted and those that care for them. They are slowly loosing their mind. There is nothing anyone can do to stop that—they, or you. It’s brain damage, like a stroke, except instead of gradually improving, they continue to grow worse and worse and worse. There is nothing inherently difficult about helping a 79 year old man get back into his sweat pants. But it is difficult to watch your grandfather be stripped of all dignity, to be incapable of doing even the most mundane things he used to do without thought, and to know that he knows he is losing all dignity.

You might call this post an apology for my erratic posting and abrupt dropping off the face of the eWorld. But I don’t think that’s very accurate, because I’m not very sorry. This is important, and this comes first. Writing comes long after. But you can call it an explanation, because it is. The weekend is usually my best time for writing, but I spend all Friday at my grandparents. That generally leaves me emotionally drained on the weekend , and being female, I am at least 97.3% emotion to begin with. This means I’m not really good for much, and if anything at all, much more suited for physical labor, things I don’t have to think about and can practically do in my sleep. (All of which I’m rather embarrassed to say, because my brother is dealing with it basically 24/7.)

That leaves 4 days a week for me to do anything else that needs my attention, or deal with anything else that happens to pop up, as things will. This means that, yes, my blogging is erratic. And yes, unfortunately, sometimes I drop off right in the middle of a conversation. (Laura, I’ll try to respond this weekend!) In a nutshell, real life is asserting it’s presence forcefully, and there isn’t enough of me to go around for all of it and the eWorld. Real life gets the lion’s share, and the blog only gets the leftovers. Not, mind you, that I don’t have plenty of things to write about—just that I don’t always have the time to get them from mind to keyboard. I suppose you’ll all just have to sit on the edge of your seats with baited breath.

Posted in Contemplations, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

A Brambly Ramble

July 21st, 2007 by tatterdemalion

This has been a most unsatisfactory week. Among other life-changing crisis’ (crisises? crisi?) is when I discovered a nice, big, fat, thick book I had been reading and enjoying didn’t have a three week lending period, but a two week lending period. Drat! I was just getting to a good part, too. It was called Woven into the Earth, by, um. . .I don’t have the book to check it against. Else Ostergard? I suppose I should look it up. Ha! I remembered right. Here it is. I actually find that the best thing to use Amazon for is to keep feeding its preferences so that it starts recommending you books that you never knew existed but desperately need to read. That’s how I found this book. (And then I inter-library-loaned it. And it was out of system. And they wouldn’t let me renew it. And I think they place a two-month restriction on getting the same book out of system. It’s sad. Really sad. A tragedy, almost, I think.)

Anyway, so this book is about the clothes they found when the excavated old settlements in Greenland. Greenland, they say, was settled during a warmer time, and lasted for only a brief 500 years. And I get all caught up in how sad that is, that a little civilization was just a blip on the timeline, only a mere 500 years. And then I remember that the US is only 230 years old, give or take a few decades depending on who’s counting, and that people think the original pioneers are an ancient people, and that anything from the 1990’s is vintage. And then I go to see if I really remember how old the US is, and then I realize that, duh, it has nothing to do with when the first European settlers/immigration started happening (if only the natives knew about border security), which really started back in the 1600’s, which would be, like, 400 years ago. (Ya think we only have another hundred years to go?) And that if you try to do an internet search on things like that, everyone is more interested in telling you how Columbus wasn’t the first, and the first settlers weren’t either, and besides, real Americans were mound builders and crazy people living in Alaska, or anyway, the land we call Alaska now, even if that wasn’t what it was called then, and if you want to know anything about the Mayflower, all they can tell you is the complete passenger list and genealogy of everyone descended from the Mayflower, well, not the Mayflower, exactly, because that’s a ship, but anyway the descendants of the people who came over on the Mayflower.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah.

So Iceland got over populated, and there wasn’t enough land to support everyone, and so people started dying left and right. Then a bunch of people thought to themselves, “Hey, if we stay here, we’re going to die. If we build a ship and sail off into the sunset, we might die, or we might find some place where we can live and not die. Any chance is better than no chance!” And away they went. And they found Greenland, which was green at the time, but is now quite icy, thank you very much. So was it a weird 500-year warming? Or did we go into an ice age, and now we’re returning to normal temperatures? Was it just the auto-thaw feature of this world? It’s kind of hard to believe in global warming when you’re digging old civilizations out of the ice, you know.

Wait, never mind. Pretend I didn’t say that. I can be plenty controversial all by myself with out getting started on controversial subjects. Let’s not go there.

Anyway, the point is, they buried people in the ground when it was thawed. Then it got cold, and basically put the whole area in the deep freezer. So what garments that were buried are still quite well preserved. This book is all about the clothes.

It’s about what fibers they used, and how they twisted them (s twist or z twist?), and how they wove them, and how they dyed them, and how they sewed them, and lots of other stuff. They scrutinize things so carefully, it makes me feel rather embarrassed. Imagine having your sewing literally taken under the microscope! Other times, the hypothesizing of the writers made me feel embarrassed in a totally different way, a la Motel of Mysteries. There was one point where they were saying (basically; I no longer have the book in my hands to properly quote it), “In this house in one of the back rooms, we found a whole sack full of what looks like the loom weights we found in the other houses. But they can’t be loom weights, because the loom was in the front of the house, and this was a much smaller room with a lower ceiling, and in the back of the house, probably a bedroom. So we don’t know what these things are that look like loom weights, because they’re in the wrong room.”

Anyone who currently has an item misplaced or stored in it’s “improper” room, please raise your hand!

Although it was fascinating reading, it was also rather melancholy. They talk about cracking open the bones to eat the marrow, and using stale urine to treat the fabrics for dying, and taking all the pen cleanings, cutting it into chunks and using it for a fire. I know all these things. I’ve long known that if you’re starving, you’ll love eating the marrow out of bones. I’ve known for ages that urine was frequently used in treating fabric. It’s well known fact that dung has multiple uses. I know the old adage that every animal has “just enough brains to tan it’s own hide”.

But it’s melancholy because it speaks of a daily struggle just to stay alive, to feed and cloth the ones you love. Nowadays, people don’t even know what they’re saying when they say “what do you do for a living?” They think they mean something like “what meaningful contribution do you make for society?” or “what do you do besides eat and sleep?”, but no one really means “what do you do, in order that you may live, and not die?” Nowadays, people consider living not as a privilege or something earned, but as something they have a right to. They don’t believe in the “right to pursue happiness”, but the right to be happy—something they are owed, something they reasonably expect to have. People not only believe they have the right (that is, if need be, everyone else has the responsibility to see to it, if they aren’t) to eat and be clothed, but that they have the right for medical care that someone else pays for. They deserve it. It is only reasonable. It is what life should be like.

But this book speaks of a different type of world, a world of which I sit at the cusp. I can see into it, just as I can see into the world where people clamor for things they think they deserve even if they don’t pay for them.

I don’t provide food for my entire family from the labor of my own hands and the sweat of my own brow. But I’ve made enough meals, worked enough ground, gutted enough animals that I can taste the effort that goes into it. I can guess all too clearly what it is like, the quiet anxiety in the back of the mind as you put the garden in, that it will fail; it won’t produce enough. I know what it is to put away food in hopes of sustaining people in the winter. I know what it is to feed people who are exhausted in every fiber of their body. All too clearly I can feel the hopes of the women, weaving hoods as tight as they might—not out of pride, or amusement, or entertainment, but out of a strong urge to protect. The tighter they weave, the warmer and drier their loved ones will be. Every stroke, every effort, is not some meaningless occupation but provision and care for the men and children and elderly they love. Every action has behind it, driving it on, love for those who will be on the receiving end of those actions.

I can see, in bits in glimpses from my life, my imagination, things I’ve read, things I’ve seen. I can imagine spinning, spinning all the time, hands working independently of anything else. I can see people working together, laughing and coordinated, young with the old. I can see truly working for life.

But only in bits in glimpses.

Because I have yet to see it fail. I have held many children in my arms, but I’ve yet to lay one in the uncaring dirt, dead and no longer anything but an empty body. Sometimes, after reading disturbing things, I have actually dreamed of holding dead children, children I know and love. But I have never felt life stir within me, set my hands to spinning, and then weaving, and then sewing—and knowing with each inch of progress that this work will clothe my child. I have never put hundreds and hundreds of hours into the work of making a child’s clothing—clothing that is meant to carry the child on in life—and then, seeing it have no use but to carry the child in death to the ground.

You see the perfectly preserved clothing for a child, the child itself long gone, and you wonder what the cause was. Did it get too cold? Did it get sick? Did it starve? Did it have a freak accident?

And you know you are no better. If it was you, and your hands—nothing except your hands—could you have kept it from dying? Could you even have kept it alive for so long! Stupid mistakes are so fatal. They say the first person who tried to settle Greenland forgot to gather hay the first summer he was there; and naturally, the animals starved and the people were quick to follow, though I believe it said some were able to escape, to flee back to populated land. Could you learn quick enough, hard enough, fast enough to keep your loved ones alive? Or would you have to watch them die at your failing?

How hard, how hard to live each day as a struggle for life, but how much harder to struggle and fail.

And that is the end of my blitherings for now, though I have a lot more to say on the matter. If I was proper, I’d edit this thing down from a ramble and try to knock it into a shape that vaguely resembles an essay, but the hassling week is not yet over, and I’ve things I must do before I sleep, so I can do things as soon as I rise tomorrow. It’s not quite so brave as struggling for life, but it must be done anyway, and so I go.

Posted in Books, Contemplations, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Problem with being verbose. . .

July 14th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

. . .is that, among other things, you get 98% of the way through writing a post, and suddenly discover that you are sick of sitting in front of the monitor, and being still all except for your fingers. Then you have to choices: keep writing, and invariably have a sloppy ending, or stop writing, and have had spent a nice big chunk of time without having actually gotten a post finished. And if you take the second route, then you have to come back to a post that is 98% done and you are already tired of, when your mind has already moved on to other subjects. Endings written in this fashion are rarely satisfactory either.

Yes, my unfinished drafts are beginning to pile up.


Posted in Contemplations, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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