Sewing pattern testing vs. scientific peer review

There is an interesting discussion going on in the GOMI craft forum right now (yes, I’m an avid GOMI lurker) in response to the recent pattern testing call and associated interview questions put out by Itch to Stitch.  Working in academia, I play an active role in the scientific peer review process.  Interestingly, this process is actually very similar to the sewing pattern testing process, with a few key differences.  Since I recently reviewed a paper and these ideas are fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share my completely unsolicited personal opinions.  :)

(1) If you want to volunteer your time and money to pattern test, go ahead!  Really, I have no problem with people who enjoy this process.  I choose how to spend my time and money, and everyone else should have that same right.  Do whatever makes you happy.

(2) Personally, I have never and will never test a pattern.  If indie pattern companies start compensating testers with a fair wage and reimbursing them for all materials and supplies, it might be a different story.  But for now, when the company I would be helping will be making cold hard cash off of my time and money that are requested for free, it turns out to be a pretty raw deal for me.  This is economics, pure and simple.

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Aqueduct Quilt: piecing the back

Aqueduct Quilt - quilt top and back together

It was a three-day weekend here in Boston to accommodate all the hoopla associated with the Boston Marathon earlier today, which means that I basically sewed for three days straight.  Not complaining.  :)  It also means that I made a ton of progress on my Aqueduct Quilt!  I’ve been obsessed with this project lately and have enjoyed the opportunity to let it take over my life for a few days.  In other words, I’ve been in sewing heaven.

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Aqueduct Quilt: piecing the quilt top

Aqueduct Quilt in progress 2 - finished quilt top

Roman aqueduct in Segovia

Work continues on my Aqueduct Quilt!  This quilt was inspired by my trip to Spain last fall, and in particular by our stop in Segovia to see this truly awe-inspiring Roman aqueduct in the heart of the old city.  I absolutely loved seeing this ancient structure and thought the stones of the arches would translate nicely into patchwork.  Hence, a quilt was born.  :)

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Adventures in quilting

Geometric quilt blocks 1Hold on to your hats, folks: I’ve been quilting!  I recently joined the Cambridge Modern Quilt Guild, a newly-formed organization that meets right here in my neighborhood, and I’ve been having fun experimenting with a different type of sewing.  I’ve done plenty of quilting in the past (see my finished Mariner’s Compass Quilt and Tulip Quilt), and even more so during my childhood and adolescence, so it certainly isn’t a brand new experience for me.  However, since I’m a bit rusty on the basics and never made it to many of the advanced techniques, I’ve been enjoying the learning process.

Over the past week or so, I made the 6 blocks you see above using a fat quarter bundle that I won (!) a few years ago.  Each block is 12.5 inches square and is composed of half square triangles arranged in a geometric pattern that I randomly found in a Google image search.  No fancy pattern to purchase.  Each triangle is 3 7/8 inches along the side.

The blocks were made for the CMQG’s first charity project, which involves donating pieced and quilted blocks to Soy Amado, an organization that provides quilts to homes for children previously living on the street.  It has been such a nice change of pace meeting with other quilters in person and doing some work for a good cause.  What a great reminder that we’re all human beings behind our computer screens!

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Weekend happenings

Johanna Basford Secret Garden - Koi Pond coloring in progress 1A funny thing happened this past weekend: my boyfriend’s mom was in town, and she was staying in our guest bedroom (aka my sewing studio).  Soon after arriving, she curiously surveyed my sewing table, on which various projects-in-progress had been piled up as I had cleaned up the room to prepare for her visit.  Her various inquiries resulted in (a) a lesson in how to operate the serger (fun!), and (b) a tour of my newfangled adult coloring book.  Later, when both John and his mom independently decided that afternoon naps were in order, I found myself temporarily banned from my sewing room (aka the guest bedroom) and needed something to keep me occupied.  I grabbed the coloring book and got going on a new page.

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Carolyn Pajamas in railroad denim

Carolyn Pajamas in railroad denim - finished

It should be no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I enjoy sewing the same pattern over and over (and over…) again.  What can I say?  Once I go through the trouble of tracing, muslining, and adjusting a pattern, I like to get as much mileage out of it as possible.  Plus, there’s just something so satisfying about starting a project without all the fuss of fitting – just cut and sew.

So, here I present to you yet another pair of Carolyn Pajamas, this time in short sleeves and shorts for the upcoming spring and summer months.  The main fabric is a railroad denim that had been marinating in my mini-stash for over a year.  Since I don’t stash fabric, the fact that this piece had not yet been put to good use was driving me crazy.  It was one of only 2 uncut pieces of fabric that I currently own, and it was long overdue for its time at the sewing machine.  I had originally bought it to make a pair of pants, but I recently changed my mind and decided to use it for PJs instead.  Done and done!

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More flannel Carolyn Pajamas

Flannel Carolyn Pajama shorts - finished project

I sewed something!  Can you believe it?  I can barely believe it myself.  :)  This is a pair of Carolyn Pajama shorts using the leftover flannel from my winter PJ set, which has been getting plenty of wear over the last few months.  I had just a bit (maybe 3/4 yard?) of fabric leftover and wanted to put it to good use.  Plus, this was a quick and easy project to lure me back into the sewing vortex after my unexpected and much too long hiatus.  (I’m wearing it with a hacked Renfrew tee that I made last summer, which has also gotten a ton of wear.)

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Subway reading update

Despite all the challenges of my new job, one major perk is all the forced downtime while commuting on the subway.  As I’ve mentioned before, the subway is so crowded during rush hour that reading is really the only viable way to avoid awkwardly staring into a stranger’s face (which, by the way, is just inches away from your own face) for 45 minutes straight.  Thus, I’ve been reading pretty consistently for about an hour and a half, five days a week, for the past 5 months.  Other than all my fellow Bostonians egregiously invading my personal space, it’s been great!

I’ve been meaning to start a list of books that I’ve read, just for myself, to track my progress and look back fondly on my favorites.  Here’s what I’ve read since I started my new job, with a little commentary thrown in for good measure:

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

This is one of two sewing-related novels that I started with.  This was a light, cute, fun, and somewhat sad story about a how a small town deals with a big-city dressmaker who was cast out many years earlier.

The Pink Suit – Nicole Mary Kelby

This novel follows the story of an Irish immigrant who sews the famous pink Chanel suit for Jackie Kennedy.  I found the book to be rather sad considering that nothing seems to work out for the well-intentioned Kate.

Now we get into classic novels… hands down my favorite type of book to read.  :)

East of Eden – John Steinbeck

This was my second time reading this book about three generations of men tragically acting out the biblical story of Cain and Abel, and pondering what it means to have a choice between right and wrong, good and evil.  It also features one of my all-time favorite characters in literature, Cathy Trask, who is just so deliciously bad.

The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

This book is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a rambling, sometimes confusing, and often ridiculous story of a man of “pure good” unknowingly wreaking havoc on unsuspecting, well-to-do Russian families.  It also involves an illustrious romance in which two tortured souls are united… at least temporarily.

Resurrection – Leo Tolstoy

This was in interesting read.  As one of Tolstoy’s last works, it’s filled with his extreme (and arguably bordering on insane) religious beliefs.  It follows the story of repentance of a man who permanently altered the course of a young woman’s life, and of her staunch refusal to let him achieve it.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Say what you will about Rand’s highly controversial objectivist philosophy.  Love it or hate it.  Either way, this is a story of epic proportions with lots of twists, turns, and unforgettable scenes.  In my opinion, this is literature at its greatest.  Just skip over the 50-page philosophical rant toward the end.  (Rand’s other major work, The Fountainhead, is very similar and just as fantastic.)

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Another favorite.  This book is great, great, great.  I was furiously turning the pages the entire time.  It follows the story of three guilty minds: one who chooses to be evil, one who has no choice in the matter, and one (the protagonist) who can’t really decide what the heck he wants.  With explosive scenes, mounting suspense, and hilarious Russian characters, this truly engrossing book has something for everyone.  If you read one book on this list, read this one.

Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky

This short novel contains the haphazard musings of a truly unhappy, spiteful, and downright unpleasant little man.  He purports that men willingly act to spite themselves, against all reason, and tells the tale of one eventful night that sent him “underground” for 20 years, ruminating on what a horrible person he is.

Not bad for a few months!  If you couldn’t tell, I love 19th century Russian novels.  Perhaps THE definitive 19th century Russian novel is next on my list…:)

What have you been reading lately?

Coloring: Beemused

Johanna Basford Secret Garden - Beemused

“Beemused” – Ink design by Johanna Basford in Secret Garden, coloring and addition of various critters by me.

This page took quite a bit longer than I had expected, but hopefully it was worth it in the end.  I have to admit, I’m not 100% convinced about my choice of yellow for the background, but it’s too late to change it now.  Onward!

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Coloring: Fantastical Fern

Johanna Basford Secret Garden - Fantastical Fern full

“Fantastical Fern” – Ink design by Johanna Basford in Secret Garden, colored by me and John.

That’s right folks, my obsession with adult coloring continues.  Truth be told, I’m a little afraid of starting to sew again after hurting my back a few weeks ago, so I’ve decided to just take it easy for the time being.  I can still feel twinges of pain when I move in certain ways, so apparently the back is a fickle and slow-healing beast.  Ok back, you win, coloring it is for now.

Back issues aside though, I’m really into this coloring thing.  :)

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