December 2011


I know it is customary at this time of year to review the highlights of the last 12 months.

However, due to excessive sleep deprivation I can honestly say that I have almost no memory of 2011.

At some point, though, our baby disappeared and was replaced by a small boy.

Who turns out to be awesome.


Lucky us.


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I had been thinking that I had finally hit my stride with sewing: finding a style that works for me, that reflects my sense of shape, color, and proportion, and that fits my lab-based 15-month-old-toting lifestyle.

But I didn’t realize until I saw these three pictures together just how much I use the same shapes and proportions over and over.  (Not to mention the same pose.)

I guess the nice way to look at it is to say that I have developed a “personal silhouette.”  Alternatively you could say that my style is formulaic.

I also think its funny that that most common element is a bright or contrasting horizontal strip at hip level.  According to any pattern company’s measuring scheme I am a pear shape, with hips about a size wider than top.  So the conventional wisdom says I should try to draw attention away from the hips by wearing tops with a lot of detail and unbroken bottoms in a single color.  The conventional wisdom also says I should wear high-waisted styles to make up for the fact that I’m short, with a normal torso and dwarf legs.  But that sort of style just doesn’t feel like me.

I think there are a couple of elements that make this formula work.  One is wide necklines that emphasize the shoulder line.  Another is a relatively unbroken top that makes the torso the main visual block.  There’s not too much shaping at the waist: I find that drawing attention to the waist makes my hips look wider by comparison.  But drawing attention to the shoulders keeps them in proportion.  I don’t think I would have stumbled on this scheme if it weren’t for sewing.  A couple of years ago I put on this top, skirt, and cardigan that I’d made and thought for the first time that I felt pretty good about how I looked.  I took a picture to commemorate the occasion and set about looking for other combinations that produced the same effect.

Anyway, the main reason I took these pictures was to show that I have in fact been sewing the past few months.  Sweaters, mostly.  The first one is a sweater-coat using New Look 6685.  I made it straight from the pattern with no muslin, trusting the knit and the loose shape to solve any  fitting issues.  (They did, mostly.)  The second one is a glorified t-shirt with a hem-band.  But it ended up taking me almost 2 months to finish because (a) the fabrics were two of my favorites: a sienna brown silk-wool blend knit and a gray faux-suede, (b) I spent ages trying to decide exactly how long to make the top and how wide to make them hem-band (proportion is everything!), and (c) something possessed me to install an exposed zipper on the back.  In part because of the back zipper it is a little over-fitted through the shoulders and not quite as comfortable as I had hoped.  So it goes. The last one is my favorite.  I used a Burda raglan-tshirt (02-2010-112) for the pattern and shamelessly cribbed the black trim and exposed front zipper from this jacket of theirs.  The gorgeous painting in that photo isn’t mine— we bought it on our fall vacation in Vermont.  Something to aspire to.



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Retirement Party

When I was a little girl I thought that everyone’s mother was a mathematician.

My mother had a PhD in math, and so did my best friend’s mother.  So I reasoned (by induction) that this was true of mothers in general.

It wasn’t till I was much older that I realized how unusual my mother was.  That not everybody’s mother went to graduate school in math.  Not everybody’s mother taught herself to do systems administration.  Not everybody’s mother ran the computers for a department of eighty faculty and hundreds of graduate students.

It was also at this time that I began to understand the pride my mother took in her work, the joy she took in helping people solve their computer problems, and in figuring out new things.

It is because of my mother that I approached my career as I did.  Of course I could go to graduate school in science.  Of course I could learn to program computers.  Of course I could learn to think in the Fourier domain, if that was what it took to complete my project.

Part of the reason my mother is retiring (she tells me) is to spend more time with her grandson.  Going back to work after Joey was born was one of the most challenging things I have done.  But I knew I had to do it.  So that one day I could be an inspiration for my son in the way that my mother was for me.

So when my father told me that the math department was throwing a party to celebrate my mother’s retirement, I knew wanted to be there.  So I could tell her that— as much as her career meant to the mathematicians, to the graduate students, to the retired professors and the academic staff— it meant as much to her daughters.


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It is no secret that I am a fan of gray.

But that’s cheating of course, because there are an infinite number of grays.  Gray is to color as shadow is to light.  Gray is what makes color sparkle.


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