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December 09, 2008

Hothouse Flowers

When I was first married, we lived in a small apartment in Colonial Williamsburg. By day, the spousal unit was a student at William & Mary and I kept house and cared for our firstborn son, a tiny bundle of smiles and mischief with brown eyes and strawberry blonde hair. We had very little money.

In fact, we were below the poverty line for a family of three. But somehow we got by anyway, even if sometimes in between paydays laundry got washed in the bathtub and damp clothes festooned the inside of our tiny apartment, turning it into something reminiscent of an Asian bazaar until they were finally dry enough to be hung in the closets. In those days, I constantly searched for ways to make the place look more attractive. We had little furniture beyond what our parents had given us and back in the 1970's people didn't have an abundance of extra things to spare the way they seem to now.

Two mattresses with pillows were our living room "sofa". An old empty TV console turned around backwards so you couldn't see the hole where the screen used to go made a neat end table. My Mom had given me a Danish iron and wood bookshelf that was very 1950s - it was one of my prized possessions. One of our only pieces of real furniture, and sort of stylish too. So I filled in with houseplants.

Down at the Williamsburg Pottery factory if you haunted the place, you could occasionally buy rootbound houseplants for $1.00 or $1.50. That was all I had to spend. I would dig up dirt from the woods behind our house and repot them, cutting away the old, dead roots that had wound around and around until they choked the plant almost to death. They usually didn't look terribly healthy, but I fed them water from the unit's boiled eggs. Poor man's fertilizer. They came around eventually.

But I learned to stay away from the ones that were spindly and tall but had hardly any roots. They almost always died right after you brought them home. After some concerted research at the library, I found out why: they had been overfertilized at the nursery; forced to grow leaves and stems and flowers rapidly.

But they grew so fast they never developed a good root system. So as soon as the fertilizer stopped and they were moved out of the Florida sunshine into the relative dark of someone's house, they starved to death.

Reading Robert Samuelson the other day, I thought of those plants:

The "wealth effect" refers to the tendency of people to adjust their spending as their wealth -- concentrated heavily in housing and stocks -- changes. When wealth rises, spending strengthens; when wealth falls, spending weakens. For the past quarter-century, higher stock prices and home values propelled the economy forward by inducing Americans to spend more of their incomes and to borrow more. In 1982, the personal saving rate was 11 percent of disposable income; by 2006, it was almost zero. The lowered saving rate added about $1 trillion annually to consumer spending -- more shoes, laptops, books -- out of total of about $10 trillion.

This is what I don't understand about so much of the hand-wringing over the financial crisis. By any measure you care to name, this was an unsustainable rate of spending.

People were living beyond their means.

In a little under a generation, our personal saving rate fell from 11% of disposable income to nearly zero. There was nowhere lower for it to go, and people cannot continue to live with no savings indefinitely. That is not a healthy state of affairs. What was fueling our economy was the money we withdrew from our own piggy banks.

But the piggy bank was empty.

I don't understand the talk of getting back to where we were. Where we were wasn't smart. And ultimately it couldn't last forever.

I don't understand talk about having to let people stay in "their" houses. If you haven't finished paying for something yet and you can't afford it, it isn't yours yet. You borrowed money from someone else - from your neighbors, who let the bank use their money to make loans - to buy that house. They expect it back.

With interest.

And now it seems we are reaching farther and farther into our own back pockets - rifling the sofa cushions for spare change - to bail one feckless company after another out. I understand not wanting to see people hurt in a bad economy.

What I don't understand is the premise that we can - or should - get back to where we were, as comfortable as it was. Am I losing my mind?

Posted by Cassandra at December 9, 2008 08:46 AM

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If think that you are about to lose your mind, move quickly to convert yourself into a bank holding company. That way you'll be eligible for federal bailout money. A lost mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Posted by: spd rdr at December 9, 2008 10:47 AM

Am I losing my mind?

No. I've never understood how so many people, and the country itself, thinks it is possible to live beyond your means indefinitely.

I blame "the greatest generation". People my parents' age lived through the Great Depression, fought and won a world war, then when the war was over worked hard and built a superpower. They succeeded too well. They were so successful that my generation got lazy and felt entitled to the riches without going through the struggle.

I see it in myself, that impatience for the rewards of life. But because I recognize it, I try to steer myself away from that kind of attitude. I hope my kids don't become the kind of spoiled brats that are currently running the country.

Posted by: Suburban Scarecrow at December 9, 2008 10:58 AM

I thought it was a mime that was a terrible thing to waste....

Posted by: Snarkammando at December 9, 2008 11:04 AM

You are right of course. I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, and have long wondered how so many people can afford to live in such expensive (but usually just large and ugly) houses and drive such expensive cars. I make what I consider a very good income (a little over $120k, which is more than I ever would have imagined when I was younger), and I can't afford those things. Now I'm realizing that the answer is and always was very simple: They could't afford it, they were living beyond their means.

If we could just convince the government to stop bailing out people and companies, we would have a painful short term, but we would be on the road to recovery. If people would understand that they are responsible for their own decisions, and must bear the responsibilities for bad decisions, they would quickly learn to make better decisions.

Posted by: Tim K at December 9, 2008 11:10 AM

No, it's a waste of time to waste a mime with an invisible weapon.

Posted by: BillT at December 9, 2008 11:12 AM

I used to pass by several McMansions on the way to work. Big houses, big yards, big cars in the driveway.

And *no* furniture in the house.

On the bright side, they won't have a lot of packing to do on moving day...

Posted by: BillT at December 9, 2008 11:19 AM

People living within their means and taking responsibility for their actions. What a novel concept.

Wonder what would happen if that took hold.

People would buy what they could afford, get out of debt, and not worry about losing their stuff. Companies might build better products that people would want. Governors wouldn't get arrested for trying to sell senate seats.

Naah! Never work.

Posted by: Schnauzer at December 9, 2008 12:03 PM

Well, I can't keep a perfectly lush and healthy plant alive, so kudos to you for keeping the spindly ones alive!

I went to college in Wmbg, and your post brought back memories.

There is something so weird in the idea of "having" things. More begets more. I was just in a video game store today and the guy was commenting on how they can't keep the Wii in stock. How it flies out the store within minutes after the UPS guy delivers the new stock.

I guess the economy can't be that bad after all, can it?

Posted by: Kimberly at December 9, 2008 12:55 PM

No, you're not losing your mind. The rest of the country lost it's mind a while back.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at December 9, 2008 01:08 PM

There is something so weird in the idea of "having" things. More begets more.

Given the constant Democrat instigation of rich and poor class divides, is it such a surprise that the poor would want to get richer and bridge that gap by buying up goodies and doing things the way they think the rich have it?

If the poor thought themselves rich, satisfied, at the top of their game, and pretty well off... would they feel this societal need to show off and live beyond their means?

Sociology is always an interesting subject for its ultimate expression provides the tool to control large masses of human beings.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 9, 2008 01:14 PM

It should have been obvious that it was impossible for housing prices to grow at 10%/year, forever...but until roughly the end of last year, there was very little media coverage that pointed this out. What tends to happen instead is that whenever a bubble really gets going, most of the media gets busy pumping more air into it.

"What I don't understand is the premise that we can - or should - get back to where we were, as comfortable as it was"...I think there's a lot we can do to increase productivity and hence increase the national wealth, but most policy moves seem to be in the opposite direction. In all the talk about the state of the auto industry, for example, there has been little intelligent discussion about the thinks the government could do--like depreciation tax policy--to stop putting manufacturing at a disadvantage vis-a-vis other industries.

Posted by: david foster at December 9, 2008 02:16 PM

No, you're not losing your mind - everyone else lost theirs for a few years. (Well, all right, for 26 years based on Samuelson's comparison of 1982 and 2008.) When you're in debt you're really spending money you expect to get in the future. The more in debt everyone got - individuals, companies, state and local governments, the Feds - the farther into the future they were all reaching to get spending money.

This worked fine as long as everyone was able and willing to stay in debt. But when the bubble burst - as bubbles always do - a lot of people and entities stopped being able to stay in debt and I sincerely hope the rest stopped being willing to do so. What this means, though, is that until we all get our debt paid off we're going to be living not just within our means but below our means. It's going to take a while to dig out of the hole we're in which means our future earnings are spoken for. My estimate of how long it will take to dig out is five years. (Don't ask me how I came up with five - just a gut feeling.) That means five years of an economy that's much, much slower than it has been for the past couple of decades.

So I disagree somewhat with Tim K when he says:

If we could just convince the government to stop bailing out people and companies, we would have a painful short term, but we would be on the road to recovery.

I think he's right with regard to the crisis portion of the mess we're in where things are going from bad to worse - some short, sharp pain would see us through that. But even after we stabilize the worst of the mess, we're still facing a long slog to dig out from under the debt pile and get back to where we can even live within our means rather than below them. And, like you, I really, really, really hope people remember this disaster and don't go back to living beyond their means again.

And I also hope the government doesn't short-circuit the whole necessary digging out either by massive infusions of funny money or by creating another bubble in, oh, say, carbon trading.

Posted by: Elise at December 9, 2008 02:32 PM

And, like you, I really, really, really hope people remember this disaster and don't go back to living beyond their means again.

So long as people believe redistribution of wealth is a good thing, they will live beyond their means.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 9, 2008 02:42 PM

We eat beans and rice twice a week. In addition to being very good for you and a complete protein, it is helping us pay the second mortgage on our first house.

One of the keys to living an affordable lifestyle is to stay out of debt. No credit cards, no fancy this or that, but as Tim said, living within your means.

We can't afford to eat out, even if we paid cash, because we have other things we are paying for, and we are on a fixed income. For now. We are paying for braces, voice lessons for a certain Songbird, as well as some school functions for a certain sweetie.

Our vehicles are old, but paid for. We can do some of the basic work ourselves, and anything more complicated we can take it to the well staffed, well equipped Auto Shop on Fort Mac and work on it ourselves.

Between the two of us, we can build and furnish a house, as well as clothe our family, and if need be, spin the fiber to dye and weave it into cloth.
I prefer a quieter existence. Keeping up with the Joneses is nothing more than a p***ing contest that no one wins.

Besides, with busy hands, I am free from the jealousy and plotting. I actually love the snide comments about 'why would you want to knit when you can buy it at Wal-Mart for $20.00? Answer:
Because I can. I can also control the content and the outcome of the piece.

How many people do you know who will either spin and knit, or weave their own clothes, and then WEAR them? I can only spin and knit, but my items get a LOT of use, as do the clothes I make.
So...I feel doubly blessed for having a skill that not only clothes my family, but gives me immense satisfaction in the process.

After that, I like to relax by doing people's taxes.


Posted by: Cricket at December 9, 2008 04:24 PM

I can sew, and have sewn and worn my own clothes. Often, I get depressed about shopping because so much of what I try on doesn't fit right for my body type. Right now, I'm working on something for my mom. I'd been at one of the chain fabric stores in town looking for fun fleece for those tie blankets (which I enjoy making - I've got "extras" I'm willing to part with for fair compensation :-P) - lots of people are getting blankets for Christmas this year, and I came across some ready-made scrub tops. My mom only has one that she wears for work (she's a massage therapist), and I thought it would be nice for her to have some more. Found a pattern on sale for something like a dollar, found some inexpensive fabric. I'd be done with it already if I wasn't having to do it in secret (Daddy's been helping me keep track of when Mom will be getting home so I can pick everything up in time). I'm already thinking ahead to next year's gift giving. I picked up an easy pattern for a handbag for a couple of bucks. Now, I just have to keep an eye out for fabric I like, and I'm always getting coupons in the mail, plus Joann's is always having some sort of sale. I also found a pattern for a skirt and top for myself that will be nice of the spring - just have to find some fabric...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at December 9, 2008 09:29 PM

I will admit (very reluctantly and with extreme trepidation) that I can sew.

And I've made boots -- that actually fit...

Posted by: BillT at December 10, 2008 07:53 AM

BillT, that is wicked kewl. The Engineer has access to all my machines. He learned to sew in high school, but I taught him more techniques.
I tend to like the old fashioned mechanical machines better, and they are my first preference for sewing. I have a treadle tucked away somewhere...restoration has been slow. However, he has sewn curtains, a slip for the Princess Kitty's blessing ensemble, he does the mending and he has made shirts for the male CLUs. He seriously wants to attend a Martha Pullen school.

Miss Ladybug, we need to do a fabric run. I have a Vogue coat I am making for the Princess Kitty. I got this fantastic brocade for a lining for it.
Our standard Christmas presents are sweaters with matching socks, hats with matching scarves and gloves or mittens, flannel sleep pants with matching sweat shirts or t shirts, and either a book, a CD or DVD. They get body care/grooming stuff in their stockings.

Yeah, we're cheap, but the aforementioned clothing items are homemade. I LIKE the idea of being able to do this.

I am also interested in making our shoes.

Posted by: Cricket at December 10, 2008 09:40 AM

The industrial sewing machine we had in our Aviation Life Support shop did a great job on leather, but you had to get the needle speed juuuuuuust right. Too slow and the thread would misfeed, too fast and the needle would break.

Posted by: BillT at December 10, 2008 09:50 AM

What, you don't use the blood of tangos to grease the thread? So inefficient of you, Bill. What would Greenpeace say if they knew you were using finite energy sources when the renewable human resource is just around the corner?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 10, 2008 10:44 AM

Around our house, MH does the ironing and sewing -- unless it's leather, then it's mine to repair or make. He also does a majority of the dishes since I do the majority of the cooking, and our house rule has always been: whoever cooks, the other cleans. He has been slowly assimilating all of my cooking tips and tricks for the last 20 yrs, though, so we're getting close to equal time for that chore -- just in time for SWHNOB to begin learning her way around the kitchen! Yay!! (I really dislike washing dishes and dusting.)

Posted by: DL Sly at December 10, 2008 11:44 AM

Uhhh there is such a thing as a leather needle, doncha know.

Real men do know how to do those housekeeping types of chores...but the division of labor has been what has gotten under the feminist craw.

The Engineer has been known, in his PA Dutch way, to detail the kitchen and organize everything...only trouble is, he doesn't cook all the time...it is me and the CLUs for home ec lessons.

Oh well. We have had some reeeealllyyy interesting seasonings.

Posted by: Cricket at December 10, 2008 12:17 PM

Uhhh I *know* there's a leather needle.

Get it going at 10,000 upsendowns and it'll shatter like a glass jackhammer.

Posted by: BillT at December 10, 2008 12:51 PM

I cook (most of the time), do the dishes, clean the house (I do windows), mow the lawn, clean the gutters, do the gardening, shovel the snow, take care of the dogs, and rake the leaves.

That's why I'm in Iraq -- I *hate* raking leaves.

Posted by: BillT at December 10, 2008 12:56 PM

Very good synonym there - "hothouse flowers". You've hit the nail on the head.

Posted by: Q_Mech at December 10, 2008 02:26 PM

Didn't you get an industrial needle for that type of machine? My serger is wimpy by comparison, and I have special needles for it!

Just curious and all the more to you for figuring it out and making it work.

I like doing housework...I really do. I even do windows and adhere to the German cleaning schedule we had in our apartment years ago: Windows every month, air out the pillows and blankies; polish the wood trim and wash the window coverings four times a year.

I just get a kick out of the Engineer's ideas of what he thinks would work for me with regard to efficiency. When he took over my sewing room, I had to put my foot down. It still needs to be taped and mudded, but I had to intervene with regard to what lights he was going to put in there and where. I have full spectrum Ott lights.

They were a pretty penny, but worth every dime.
Next is radiant heat in the floor.

Posted by: Cricket at December 10, 2008 06:12 PM

Sorry for the off topic, but...

By day, the spousal unit was a student at William & Mary

My sister graduated from W&M, class of 87. A few years later than the Unit perhaps, but interesting to me nonetheless.

Posted by: MikeD at December 10, 2008 10:22 PM

Your sister very likely was there with his youngest sister :)

Posted by: Cassandra at December 10, 2008 10:37 PM

I was out running errands this evening (dropping the Valour-IT item in the mail to the auction winner, looking for one of these, which took me from one store that was out of stock to another that had just the display item left. In that second shopping center is a Hobby Lobby. I was very tempted to do in and look at fabric (even though they never have as good a selection as Joann's or Hancock's). I've got to finish what I'm working on now (sewing & cross-stitch items) before I shell out the cash for many more planned projects... ;-)

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at December 10, 2008 11:17 PM

Didn't you get an industrial needle for that type of machine?

Yop. Good for heavy canvas and leather and a full 1/16th of an inch. Three speeds, and with leather, you had to set the slowest speed to insure the needle was at the high point, and, when you moved the strip, you had to restrain it during the feed or it would snag the leather and wouldn't punch through properly.

Some Lootenant watched me make a nametag for a flight suit by sewing velcro to the back of a leather patch, decided if it was simple enough for a warrant to do it, he wouldn't need any training. Next day, he turned the machine on -- with the gearing in overdrive -- inserted the leather and velcro, and stomped the rheostat.


The machine spit the leather out the back, but not before it had snagged. The needle actually bent before it shattered.

The Lootenant received remedial training and actually evolved into a pretty good ossifer -- and he always listened attentively whenever I spoke.

Posted by: BillT at December 11, 2008 01:59 AM

Pardonne moi while I engage in snickering. I learned a Thing or Two about the Care and Feeding of the Uniform. As I said before, I prefer the old mechanical household machines. They are still around while the machines that cost ten grand are languishing in a landfill, and their circuit boards are doing the Wal-E thing.

I have several 1950s era top-of-the-line (for that time) machines: Elna Supermatic (built in Switzerland and affectinately called the grasshopper machine), a Singer Featherweight and a Singer upholstery machine I snagged from a university's clear-the-irrelevant clutter sale. It was hiding out in the design college, so I got it.

I do have an electronic computerized Elna (one of the last models built in Switzerland in the early 90s before Elna was bought out by Janome and outsourced their manufacturing to Brazil) that is still going strong after 12 years.

Back to the uniform: When the Engineer was a lowly enlisted persyn, we had No Money. So, I turned the collars and figured out how to work the cuff issues on the Cold War era uniforms. I darned his socks. I estimate that my ancient Elna (friend of mine who were/are officers' wives just thought I was so quaint using an old machine...well, it was all I could afford) saved us nearly 2 grand in repair costs by not having to take it to the pickup point.

The aforementioned officers' wives were upset that they had to take their husband's uniforms in to the pickup point for repair, especially when they got the bill for two name tags, two branch and two ranks: 12.00. Turning a collar was 15.00.
Pressing was 3.00 per uniform.

I smiled all the way to the bank. When I offered to teach them how to do it, they just stared at me as if I had lost my mind. Oh well.

Now I am involved with a group of like minded women. Our goals and aims are simple: We are teaching each other survival skills like soapmaking, curing meats, bread baking from your own fresh ground grains (we all have grain mills, either electric or hand-cranked), organic gardening via edible ornamental landscaping, and sewing. Not just machine, but hand-sewing and embroidery.

Knitting and spinning are next. My friend and I, (who started this group) privately refer to ourselves as the Psychotic Penguins (see obscure Madagascar movie reference) but the name we use is "Pioneer Tech."


Posted by: Cricket at December 11, 2008 09:07 AM

with the Nanny State terribly worried about lye being a concern, you can't *get* red devil lye to make soap anymore. I know this because I made soap a LOT when we lived in MO, and it was starting to disappear from the shelves.

Sooo...digging through my back issues of Backwoodsman and Mother Earth News, I found some relevant articles on how to make your own.

I am involved in seeing if it will work.

Posted by: Cricket at December 11, 2008 09:12 AM


Where are you? That sort of thing sounds like fun!

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at December 11, 2008 09:56 AM

Lye is fairly simple to make -- there's even a series of recipes for special projects, such as gently bleaching embroidery yarn.

It's called "crewel lye"...

Posted by: BillT at December 11, 2008 10:06 AM

As I said before, I prefer the old mechanical household machines. They are still around while the machines that cost ten grand are languishing in a landfill, and their circuit boards are doing the Wal-E thing.

HA! I never learned to use your fancy "ma-chines". I do it the old-old fashioned way, with a bone sliver and deer intestines. Ok, not that old fashioned perhaps. But I do hand sew for all my clothing repairs. My stitches will win no beauty contests, but I've kept good clothes serviceable years after split seams and ripped pockets would otherwise have gotten them discarded. In fact, I've noticed that a lot of my store-bought clothes seem to have pathetically weak seams. I actually have wondered if they intentionally do that hoping folks will just throw them out and buy new ones.

Oh and I did see that you know how to live without your fancy "ma-chine", just thought I'd razz ya:
Not just machine, but hand-sewing and embroidery.

Posted by: MikeD at December 11, 2008 11:18 AM

Oh yeah, and while it's not particularly a useful skill, my wife taught me to cross-stitch. It can be very relaxing. Mind you, I've only ever finished one project, but I've got several active (that I haven't touched in years).

Posted by: MikeD at December 11, 2008 11:19 AM

First thing KtLW does when she brings new clothes home to introduce them to the dogs (they're a curious bunch -- don't like Sri Lankans, judging by their reaction to [Designer Name]'s creations) is have me remove the buttons and sew them back on again.

Posted by: BillT at December 11, 2008 12:16 PM

I do it the old-old fashioned way, with a bone sliver and deer intestines.

Deer *sinews*, Mike -- deer *sinews*.

Sheesh. Kids.

Posted by: BillT at December 11, 2008 12:19 PM

Hey! Are those my asterisks you're using?!? Did you *ask* before using them? I didn't think so.....
Sheesh! Old farts....think they *own* the world.

Posted by: DL Sly at December 11, 2008 01:18 PM

And people always say they will never use Chemistry 101's acid and base labs ; )

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 11, 2008 01:41 PM

Miss L, you would be most welcome at our gatherings. I held forth in MO, where there were a bunch of us, and now I live here in Georgia. We do this once a month and then go home and experiement, uh...practice on our families. My goal is to get so skilled at making do that were the Engineer and I told to lead or be part of a wagon train going somewhere that we could make it work.

However, Mike's point about a bone needle is well taken. I am sure he will be happy to chew the deer sinews for us. However, good sewing thread can be handspun. So can embroidery floss and crewel yarn.

Homemade lye: Make a hopper with straw in the bottom and wood ash on top and pour your rainwater over it; letting it run into the barrel underneath the hopper; it will leach out the lye. If you can float an egg in it, it's ready.

We didn't live near an Amish community, but even *they* use convenience items. Part of the reason I got involved in doing this was because our oldest son wanted to join the Kickapoo Trace Muzzle Loaders (re enactment group), and also, one winter in MO, with the snow two feet deep, our electricity went out. We have a wood burning furnace, so for three days, we cooked and heated the house with it. We also had kerosene lamps, so we played games, played outside, organized stuff, and Did Things together.

The Engineer had to go in to Fort Wood a coupla times (being essential personnel), but after five winters there, the children looked forward to snowstorms and power outages.

Posted by: Cricket at December 11, 2008 04:17 PM

Well, Austin's not exactly in the neighborhood... But I still think it sounds like fun. When I was working on my M.Ed., I ran across an article (while working on some other assignment for school) on how to make paper. I kept it, but I haven't been able to play with it yet. It might take me a while to put my hands on it, but I know I haven't tossed it...

I have read all of Diana Gabaldon's novels, and she includes a lot of detail about how people who lived 200 years ago had to do so much for themselves. Some things, you just never really think about what does into it...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at December 11, 2008 07:31 PM

I was thinking that...I was reading an article on weaving a few years back. To dress a loom to weave silk cloth takes several MONTHS. No wonder the stuff was so #$%$#^%$^ expensive!

My fiber mentor (I kid you not) spun and knit a wedding ring shawl. It took her the better part of a year to make it, and it was just breathtakingly beautiful. It did pass through a wedding band. In the Shetland Islands a christening shawl was knit for a bairn and then, if the babe was a lassie, she wore it for her wedding, and wrapped her first babe in it.

My sooper-sekrit ambition is to knit lace. I got a fair start on it, and it isn't too demanding to do, but it isn't mindless knitting, either, where it is just knit a row, purl a row, or knit or purl every row.

After that, I have bobbin lace to master. The poor Engineer is just beside himself because there are MACHINES that do that sort of thing. Duh. I KNOW that. I have a fantastic collection of machine made lace for heirloom sewing. BUT to be truly special, lace for a wedding dress or a baby shawl has to be hand made. Helk, if I were truly ambitious I would be rasing the (*&^ silkworms to weave the cloth and make the lace!

Not enough hours in the day, I tell you!

Posted by: Cricket at December 11, 2008 09:52 PM

But I need to plant the mulberry trees first. Tussah silk has too much tannic acid in it, which is why it is that lovely color...

Posted by: Cricket at December 11, 2008 09:56 PM

The cloth was 'velvet.' It took several months to dress a loom to make velvet.

Posted by: Cricket at December 11, 2008 09:58 PM

Do silkworms only live in mulberry trees, then? Or is that for the special kind of silk? There are so many things I'd like to do, or at least learn about, but there just aren't enough hours in the day...

Even simple things to make - like the fleece blankets I do - take time. But, so often, people don't seem truly willing to pay for that time. In 2007, I donated a piece of cross to Any Soldier to raffle off. It took me months to finish. I knew it was highly unlikely that any one person would pay what it was truly worth, for the time I put into it, but I figured a raffle could possibly raise that much. Unfortunately, Marty put it up at the same time as last year's Valour-IT fundraiser, so it only brought in about $500. I was greatly disappointed because (although I didn't actually track my time), that come nowhere even close to $1 for every hour I spent on it). The blankets I make only take about an hour to put together, but even then, it might be hard - if one was trying to make a little extra money - for someone (who doesn't think about what it takes to create) to be willing to pay a price that covers both the materials cost (even when you get the fabric on sale) and a fair amount for labor.

But, from another angle, when you are gifting those items you've made, they're worth so much more than just the materials you put into it, including more than if you had paid for someone's else's skills in crafting...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at December 12, 2008 12:40 AM

Silkworms are happy to live in wire cages, just so long as they have lots of fresh mulberry leaves to eat.

Problem is, you need lots of them - you need about 20,000 cocoons for a pound of raw silk. That's a lot of creepy-crawlies.

Posted by: BillT at December 12, 2008 01:17 AM

Hey! Are those my asterisks you're using?!? Did you *ask* before using them? I didn't think so.....
Sheesh! Old farts....think they *own* the world.

Cricket sent them to me -- she knits her own asterisks. And we *do* own the world.

Reminds me -- your rent is due...

Posted by: BillT at December 12, 2008 01:27 AM

Yep. I send asterisks all over the world after doing an asterisk assessment.

Tussah silk, if memory serves me, is from worms who have eaten a certain species of oak leaf. It is referred to as 'wild' silk.

My preference for fibers to knit are the more exotic ones. I invested in some truly wonderful cashmere yarn for gloves...and I am in negotiations for quivit. Silk velvet gloves lined in quivit.


Posted by: Cricket at December 12, 2008 12:14 PM

Nope, you're not losing your mind.

When my wife and I got married in 1985, we were given about $5000 cash in our wedding gifts. 3 years later, we still had that $5000 and some more, and were able to make a down payment on our first house.

In the meantime, we had lived in an austere apartment eating macaroni and cheese. We still were putting away $100 /month each for retirement.

Fast forward to today. Our income has improved greatly, and our chosen standard of living has improved much less than that. We still buy used cars with cash, but the cars are newer and in better shape. We pay off our credit cards when they come in, and the only debt we have is a 6.15% fixed mortgage for 30 years.

I say "what economic crisis?". We have cash in the bank, prices are dropping like a stone, and and we're in for some really good deals. My 401K has tanked, but I'm investing 2% more of my gross as of a couple weeks ago. It's all funny money as far as I'm concerned until I need to spend it and I have about a 10 year time horizon to play with.

But even if I lost all of my money, I have a lot of skills from designing data warehouses, to building furniture, cooking food, or reloading ammo. I'm not worried about earning money.

As long as my family is healthy, warm, fed and together, we're fine.

Posted by: Tony at December 12, 2008 02:17 PM

Reaches the long arm of oppressive socialism back and smacks Tony upside the head:

"then the Nanny State will declare you to have too much."

Tony, we are pretty much in the same position you are. My husband and I got married in 1985. We lived in Germany for the first two years of our married lives, and as an E-5's wife, we were supposed to suck it up with one or no car, grousing about life and how rotten Europe is/was/will be.

Instead, he saved his money, and I saved mine. I was able to pay cash for the very necessary crib and baby things we needed when we were expecting our first child. Not only that, because of the alerts and his long hours in the field, we ran the numbers regarding a second car, and we bought one. We could get a decent car for less than 400 dollars. So, we bought one. This way, I could jam around Europe with the baby while he was gone, and when he was home, take him to see the sights. We sold both cars for what we paid for them, and sucked it up in a cheap apartment while working our butts off.

While we have had some serious ups and downs, we have consistently tried to improve our lot. We have a great family and each other. You said it best: "As long as my family is healthy, warm, fed and together, we're fine."


Posted by: Cricket at December 12, 2008 02:28 PM