So you want to make bobbin lace

Every once in a while I will get it into my head to try something new, or something at least once. This has seen me try cable skiing, cross country skiing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, driving racing cars (once), driving karts, whitewater rafting, crochet, knitting, tapestry and building websites using WordPress.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been looking at the options involved in bobbin lace. This is not straightforward for rather dumb reasons. You cannot walk into a shop in Dublin (or if you can, I haven’t found it), peruse bobbins and bobbin lace making gear and do the instant gratification thing. So I bought my first bobbins at the Knitting and Stitching show a couple of years ago. I managed to buy six members’ bobbins from the Guild of Lacemakers who had come over from the UK to exhibit.

Since then, I eventually bought another bunch of bobbins in a tiny shop in Santiago de Compostela, along with 4 useful looking pins about a year ago. In the meantime, all sorts of interesting things have happened in my life. I acquired some useful looking aeroboard and then settled down to perusing the internet looking for Guidance.

At this point, a little diversion to a period in my life ten years ago when I started doing crochet and found it difficult to a) find patterns b) hooks c) fine thread. Hard and all as that was – and it has changed big time in the intervening years – it is nothing compared to the research required in trying to figure out what to do here.

There are minimal and unclear lessons in English on Youtube. Seriously. Youtube has everything on it but in English, the whole lace bobbin thing is unclear. If you want to learn how to do the lace stitches from the internet, in English (I keep banging on about the English here for a point), you really need to look at this site. Jo Edkins’ Lace School. The site was built in 2002 and is styled accordingly but in terms of the resources on it, it is second to none which I have found thus far on this journey. She also has two books available on Kindle. I will get them because I live in fear and terror at this stage that her website might disappear.

In terms of getting useful stuff out of the School of Youtube, you need to swallow your guts and dive into the world of videos not in English. It’s not completely scary but I recommend that you at least learn cloth stitch from Jo Edkin’s site first and then, here are the terms you need to learn:

  • tombolo
  • bolillo
  • fuseaux

These are the terms for bobbins in Italian, Spanish and French respectively. Bolillo also seems to refer to some sort of bread roll as well. It is worth searching for videos to watch even if you don’t understand them, just to get a feel for things.

Anyway, I finally got my act together and found Jo Edkins’ site yesterday. This was result number 3:

Some yellow thread, bobbins and cheap pins
Treasa’s third effort making lace learning from the internet

I’ve learned a lot over the last few days.

  1. I find the spangle jewelly things on the end of the English bobbins useful because the bobbins themselves are a touch on the dainty side.
  2. I like my Spanish bobbins more, possibly because my hands, although soft and light on the keys of a 1882 Bechstein grand piano are still lacking in the daintiness and stuff.
  3. Faking the whole work cushion thing using decent aeroboard works but I advise against aeroboard that is more than about 3 cm deep.
  4. Those pins are too thin. However, in my defence I was kind of limited in terms of what was available yesterday at 4.30 when I couldn’t find the box Which Has Vanished.
  5. Having watched a lot of Italian youtube videos (tombolo) I’ve decided I don’t really like the Italian bobbins either.
  6. Finding supplies is hard work. This matters because I don’t know if I can go with the whole aeroboard thing for much longer (certainly on the aeroboard I have at the moment anyway) and I do want some sort of a lacemaking pillow. But I also need it to fit into my life.

And so, another journey starts.

I apologise in advance

This annoyed me. For a bunch of reasons.

This was the number one reason.

It’s probably fair to say that many Irish women’s hair is overprocessed, heat-styled to within an inch of its life, dyed to smithereens and highlighted beyond recognition. And even if it is still in a relatively natural state, Irish hair tends to be quite coarse in texture – compare it, for example, to the silky manes of our Asian sisters.

So it is probably fair to say that if you’re Irish, you should be feeling bad about your hair.

This will explain the next blog entry which I will link here when I have written it, shortly.

Museum of Musical Instruments

I lived in Brussels until 1999 and at the time that I left it, it suffered from quite a lot of dereliction. I was back there in Decemer 2012 and it was still, in many respects, quite grey. The fact that it was winter probably didn’t hugely help there though.

However, I was there last week and obviously, in summer, the sun was shining and it was a bright and dressed up city. Quite a lot of the dereliction has been cleaned up; they have retained a lot of the building frontage so that renovated buildings still retain what are often beautiful art deco exteriors. I’d forgotten some of the more beautiful parts of town as well.

One building which really is worth a trip – particularly if you are a musician – is the Museum of Musical Instruments. The collection has been building up over time; there is a very fine collection of traditional instruments from across the world, including sets of pipes which I did not know existed, for example. They have a phenomenal collection of European stringed instruments and every variety of a violin which you did not know existed. When I was there, they also had a significant exhibition of the instruments of Adolph Sax.

The building it is housed in was completely derelict when I left Brussels. It was built at the end of the 19th century for a chain of department stories called Old England. I’m not fully au fait with the commercial history of the company but the shop was long past to history by the time I arrived in Brussels more than 15 years ago. It was an iron built building.

The interior has a lot in common with multistory department stories of the time (the old Samaritaine building Paris was not dissimilar for example) and there is, in addition to the musical instrument collection a rather interesting exhibition on the subject of the building as well.

All in all, I really enjoyed the trip in there so am glad to have gone and I would recommend it pretty much to anyone in the vicinity.

If you have to copy an idea that’s done millions of times before

…it’s probably not that romantic.

One of the panels on the Pont des Arts in Paris collapsed recently under the weight of all the love locks attached to it. Possibly the first couple who did the writing their names on a lock and locking it to a bridge and tossing the key into the waters before were being romantic (as opposed to litterbugs) but when thousands of people do it, it’s not romantic any more, it’s formulaic.

In the same way as getting engaged at the top of the Eiffel tower is unlikely to be romantic and more likely to be kitsch, that is.

The Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin is wrecked with the wretched things as well. Throwing metal into the river isn’t exactly ecologically sound either. I don’t know why people get a warm fuzzy feel about this.

Romance really isn’t something that grows from copying stuff a million other couples have done before you. Feb 14 is not romantic. And the amount of money involved is not a KPI for romance either (so the value of your engagement ring doesn’t count either).

Romance is a feeling. Not an action. Not a price tag. And not the destruction of a communal area.

 

Maven is my girlfriend

Have a read of this.

Today one of our engineers delivered a presentation that contained inappropriate content at our AtlasCamp developer conference in Berlin, Germany.

The inappropriate content was:

Maven is my girlfriend

  • Looks beautiful
  • Complains a lot
  • Demands my attention
  • Interrupts me when I’m working
  • Doesn’t play well with my other friends.

Maven is a software deployment management tool. I’ve looked at it and didn’t like it but likewise, have not had cause to use it.

Apparently the slide was sort of okay because people at said conference didn’t object. Until it wasn’t okay because the slide reached twitter.

Then it mattered. You’ll note the Atlassian “Dude it’s not cool” post is highly vague on the inappropriate content and the comments are closed.

Quelle surprise.

 

Reality and fiction

One of the very few works of chicklit – for want of a better word – that I have returned to time and time again is The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy. Maeve Binchy has never, per se, been my favourite writer but that book spoke to me for several reasons; I felt greater empathy with most of the characters, they seemed to come far better to life to me.

There is one jarring scene in the book though, where Kit McMahon’s father is meeting his friend Peter for a drink. Peter has left the house in a temper because his wife is fighting with his two daughters for whatever trivial reason. He doesn’t want to deal with it because triviality is not what he is about at that point in time. Peter is the local doctor and that day, Peter has attended the death of a baby in one of the more rural locations around Lough Glass, the town where much of the book is set. The family of the mother have let him know that it is for the best that the child has died for he didn’t have any father, you see. The book is set in 1950s Ireland. Peter rails against this because the child could have lived, could have grown up happily in the care of his mother in the hills. There was no need for this child to die.

This baby, its mother, its family are tangential to the primary plot of the novel, almost unimportant in certain respects. Binchy could have chosen any sort of a bad day for Peter to have. He is a doctor in 1950s Ireland. TB kills people. Farm accidents kill people. Road accidents kill people. Polio is still a problem in the country. Instead, very deftly, Binchy includes a fatherless child of an unmarried mother, abandoned, if you like, by the father of that child. And the death of the child is preferable to his survival because he didn’t have a father. We know nothing about them; we don’t even know their names. They occupy at most a few lines in a novel of around, oh, seven hundred pages as far as I remember.

But the baby is not tangential to life in 1950s Ireland. He is a searing commentary on social attitudes in Ireland during that time. And, in certain respects, the mother of the child, no doubt a young woman, and almost certainly somewhat naive, had a lucky escape. She did not wind up where a lot of poor young women wound up. I don’t use the word poor in its sense as unfortunate (although it does fit), but in its sense as less well of economically. It is not the unmarried mothers from the well of families who wound up in the Mother and Baby Homes or the Magdalene Laundries for extended. £100 bought you out of staying in at least one of the Mother and Child homes for a year to work your costs off. And the healthy babies were adopted or fostered anyway.

I’ve always found that tableau of Peter, going for a drink with his friend to try and work through the idea that a child might be better off dead than loved by his mother and not finding the relief of talking it over because that just isn’t the night for it to be particularly jarring.

While the primary plot of the book focuses on a girl who does not actually wind up pregnant at any stage during the novel, the question of pregnancy before marriage is very much otherwise present in the book, and touched on in different ways. The town has the memory of a girl who reputedly drowned herself because she was pregnant. The primary character’s mother is believed by Peter to have drowned herself because she was pregnant also. When his own daughter winds up pregnant, he is only glad that things have changed enough that she does not drown herself. And it is not the only book in which Maeve Binchy deals with the question of pregnancy. Circle of Friends focuses on the issue too with respect to the fate of Nan. Pregnant. Father of child abandoning her. The edge of respectability such that her mother will not take on the child and pretend it is hers, a wonderful miracle and late pregnancy, wasn’t God so good to them to grant them another child with Nan already so grown up. In the book, Nan reviews her options dispassionately to the extent that she knows none of them are options at all in 1950s Ireland.

We need to make sure we don’t go back to that way of seeing things.

I’m mindful that much of what I have written here lately is less than uplifting. I want it to be different and I have some personal projects to deal with which might, if I am lucky, be more uplifting.

in the morning

I came across an article a few weeks ago (which I did not bother book marking because I have 11000 favourites bookmarked in twitter and who knows how many bookmarks in Chrome and what I’ve noticed is a tendency to save and forget which strikes me as non-optimal…) on the subject of not telling people to be morning people.

All over the place, there are articles about being morning people, early birds, and how easy it is to get up 10 minutes earlier and build up to gradually being a morning person. This is absolute rubbish. It’s easy to be a morning, if, and only if, you can structure the rest of your day to fit into being a morning person. I used to get up to go to work at 7.30 for a while in my last job and while it paid untold dividends in terms of what I got done between 7.30 and about 9.30, the corresponding exit time, which was 3.30, was something I never managed. Everyone around me working around 8 hours a day. I was working nearer 9 and a half. Presentee-ism is a bit of a killer. I never got out at 3.30 with hearing remarks about only working half days.

The thing is – I had very good reasons for doing the 7.30 thing – so I’m not going to bash it. What I am going to say is that there are benefits to being a morning person, even if you don’t rush out the door to work. On summer mornings, getting up at 6.30 can be a thing of absolute beauty. This morning, the sunlight at 6.30 was just gorgeous. It’s a good time to water the plants if you have any. There’s a feeling of untold peace around the place, unless you’ve got the greater spotted urban house alarm to deal with. Small things get done so much more quickly. You can relax over breakfast. If – like me – you’re the type with a taste in slowly cooked coffee on a very low heat, you have the time to do it.

And you can do it any day of the week.

Being a morning person comes with a price and that price may be more or less high depending on your view in life. You have to go to bed early. Being a morning person is not a recipe for burning down the amount of sleep you get. If I am waking at 5.30 – which I often am during the summer – I am falling asleep at 9.30, 10pm. I cannot burn the candle at both ends. And having your sleep disrupted at any stage messes things up.

But I find it worth the effort mostly when I’m not getting night disruptions. I feel a lot more alive; I get a lot more done. It fits in with the way my brain works.

I’m not in the business of telling people they should be morning people to get more money or get ahead. I’m more in the business of suggesting that if you feel better for it, there’s a lot to be said for it.

The wearing of the hairshirt and we are all complicit

Here’s a thing.

This morning, via twitter, an assertion that we are all complicit; we all knew what was going on.

I am sick to the teeth of sentences the key objective of which is to suggest that everything that happened is all our faults. IT IS NOT. In many cases, it cannot possibly be. The Children’s Home in Tuam closed years before I was born.

Collective responsibility is a way of ensuring individual responsibility goes ignored. When Michael Noonan or some other politician pops up and says we all partied we did not. I’m not sitting in an undervalued negative equity apartment I can’t quite afford to pay for because I did not party. Saying we all partied is only a comfort to those who did; it is absolutely no help to those who did not.

When a story like Tuam pops up, there is nothing to be gained by suggesting We Are All Complicit. Maybe half the population wasn’t even alive. How can they be complicit? Oh, let’s conflate it with some other social attrocity – “we permit it to happen”.

This is wrong. This is so wrong, and dishonest. Until we stop this nonsense of forcing collective responsibility, we will never stop things like this happening. Collective responsibility and the hairshirt allows the genuinely responsible to hide behind “We all knew about it, we all tacitly agreed to it”.

We didn’t. But some people made decisions, key operational decisions that are not the result of collective responsibility. Some organisations, likewise. These are the people who need to be taking responsibility; we do not need to be shoving hairshirts onto the population as a whole.

Living the life

The Journal wrote a piece the other day or today or something on a piece of property in Dublin, for sale, asking price, 12 million euro.

Let’s just clear up one minor detail and it’s this: if I had 12 million euro, I would not be buying that house.

Now, I don’t actually have 12 million euro which is of secondary importance here but fine. If I did have 12 million euro, I’d be sitting down with a lifestyle shopping list. And I’d be buying this. I could then, more than likely, live off the interest of the remaining, oh, six million euro change I’d get. Windsurfing in Maui every winter. Access to decent waves.

Way to go.