Sunday, November 30, 2008

Container Ships

"Every year somewhere between ten and fifteen thousand containers are lost at sea because of big waves or storms. Eight feet wide and up to forty feet long, they tend to have quite a lot of air in them, so they float in the water, wreaking havoc on small boats and local fishermen before they sink to the ocean floor – filled with our computers, our dishware, our jeans."

I found this remarkable statistic (or remarkable to me, anyway) on p. 316 in the epilogue of Rachel Louise Snyder's new book from Norton called Fugitive Denim : The Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade.

All afternoon I could not stop picturing the lost containers – thousands and thousands and thousands of them – very slowly corroding under five or six miles of salt water.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Iris Power

This iris plant has decided it is springtime, due perhaps to recent rains and warmer days than anybody would expect at the end of November. And up it shoves, lifting the brick that obstructs it.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age ... 

The once-famous Dylan Thomas poem hummed inside my head when I looked at this sidewalk sight.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Slipcover completed and the room put back to rights, with its new element looking, I think, right at home.

My daughter and her husband have not seen it yet, so the sofa is a touch apprehensive, waiting to find out how they will like it when they return to San Francisco from their sojourn on the East Coast. Like all of us, it longs to be admired.

Again, this fabric was obtained from Though when I checked today in their "upholstery weight" section, this whole pattern line appeared to be no longer stocked.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Slipcover V

This project of slipcovering the sofa-bed has turned out considerably more complicated than I anticipated, mainly because I knew nothing of the rigid hardware built inside the thing. The serious commercial upholsterer who put on the burnt-orange corduroy in the 1970s took the piece completely apart, but I don't have the equipment or the space or the experience to do that. So I must invent workarounds like the odd-shaped pieces above to give the illusion of upholstery once everything is back together and the innards are hidden.

All this time I had been postponing the day when I would have to deal with the odd-shaped trapezoids that constitute the side-pieces of the backrest. Today was the day I had been postponing. So I figured out an approach (via about 20 tentative sketches) and then gradually got on with it. I use the black-headed tacks when they will be covered by another layer later, but I use the smal brass "escutcheon pins" when they will remain visible.

As luck would have it, both yesterday and today I had window restorers inside the San Francisco apartment of my daughter and son-in-law, these genial window restorers introduced and urged upon me by the building maintenance guy. They took the windows off their hinges and planed and sanded them, replaced the hardware, rehung and repainted the windows, also scraping and repainting the wide (formerly grimy) ledges surrounding the windows on the outside. Very nice guys, skilled workers, but I felt like thrust into this uncomfortable responsibility for something I knew nothing about. They wished me a Happy Thanksgiving when the left today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Land Line

This phone was a 16th birthday present to my daughter in 1992. We lived in an old house at that time, and part of the birthday present was to pay for a jack to be extended into her bedroom so that she could talk to her friends on her own with the door closed. Already, it seems like such a quaint gift. But cell phones (not to mention their ever sleeker offspring) were not even a gleam on the horizon in 1992.

Now it is 16 years later, and the phone is still hard at it. There has to be a phone on the land line in my daughter and son-in-law's apartment in order to operate the building's door buzzer, and the birthday phone serves this purpose. Proudly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Slipcover IV

Today's progress on the slipcover involved three wide pieces of fabric to cover the front sections of the sofa-bed mechanism. My daughter and her husband left for the East Coast this morning for five days, and it is understood the project must be completed before they return to San Francisco.

I discovered an earlier layer of upholstery than I had known about before. It now appears to me that this piece of furniture was manufactured in the 1950s and covered originally in a sensible charcoal/slate/cocoa tweed. Actually not a bad-looking fabric. But there are only vestiges of it in hidden places on the existing sofa. Because in the 1970s it was redone by a professional in a burnt-orange textured corduroy. This color ruled the decade, alongside harvest gold and avocado green. Now in the year 2008 arrives a third layer, a post-millennial print in shiny cotton.

Most of the attachments today were made not with sewing but with rows of brass tacks. I felt like leather-loving Stella on Season 5 of Project Runway. She was always bang, bang, banging with her mallet on grommets and snaps, to the obvious annoyance of the other designers who worked more quietly. Luckily, no neighbors seem to be home in the Sutter Street building during the day, or at least nobody who has complained yet.

I had to go back to Cliff's on the way home tonight in order to get several more packages of these excellent small Escutcheon Pins.

As I was leaving for the evening, with the light fading, I took a last picture of the empty apartment as it prepared for an unaccustomed spell of silence.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two Unrelated Quotes

Well, I was expecting doom and hell fire when I saw this fire-hydrant Bible verse, but it turned out to be a quite kindly-intentioned act of vandalism. And this is my commandment to you: That you should love one another as I have loved you. A small freelance Holiday Season billboard, apparently.

In addition to fire hydrants, I am reading fiction. The second (unrelated) quote of this post comes from a new novel by Tim Parks called Dreams of Rivers and Seas.

One does not question the mental processes of visual-image perception that moment by moment construct the world around us, even though experiments have shown how fallible those processes can be. One does not question them because to do so would mean chaos.

The story concerns westerners in India – scholars and aid workers and journalists – whose perceptions are consistently shown to be inadequate.

The books of Tim Parks veer wildly in quality, I think. But that is a good thing, because he is hopeful and ambitious and willing to fail sometimes. My favorite, before this one, is called Destiny.

It is about a couple whose adult son commits suicide.

Neither of these two novels even really tries to resolve any of the various moral terrors that are described. But the descriptions themselves are serious and convincing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tree Trimmers

The annual tree-trimming party came early this year because various vital family & friends would not all be available at a later date.

See the follow-up to this post here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Slipcover III

The small sofa I am recovering for my daughter and her husband in their San Francisco apartment is in fact a sofa-bed. Today I had to provide for a fabric-opening for the metal handle that allows a person to yank the heavy bed-frame out of the sofa.

To face the opening I used some leftover bias tape from a brown-printed summer dress I made for my daughter earlier this year.

When the sewing day was done I stowed all the equipment out of the way. The young people can now enjoy an ordinary weekend in their apartment, minus the use of their sofa.

But then before I left the apartment I found myself taking a few pictures because the late-afternoon daylight demanded it.

Books are on every wall and surface.

And there is a system of arrangement that is too intricate for my understanding.

The top of one bookcase expresses a marine theme. I remember that mirror from the 1970s, hanging near the door to check your hair. But in those days it was painted turquoise, with the carved blossoms picked out in pink nail polish by the benevolence of my mother-in-law.

And renewed thanks to those who created a space so amenable to visual plunder.