26 January 2015

First Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge: a Paean to Flat-Felled Seams; or, What It's Like to Sew Fettuccine, and a Possible Pshat in a Little Poem by Sarah Schenirer

This year the HSF is the Historical Sew Monthly, which is a speed I can actually keep up with.
The motivation fits in nicely with my own sewing plans. So I'm in, way at the beginners' end of the HSFers.

The rest of this post is about clothes.

07 January 2015

35 by 35: A Bog Coat and Eustace Tilley

13, Bog Coat.

For Purim, my husband dressed as a Newspaper.
I made him a bog coat of tulle. Patterns don’t get much more basic than a bog coat. The tulle, to my surprise, behaved nicely.
Is it a good project for a beginner? The pattern is great. Tulle is hard to hold in place, but it hides mistakes nicely.

14, Eustace Tilley.
I went as a New Yorker. Loops decided to be the Princess of Lemons again.
I wasn't planning to make Persimmon a costume – time was at a premium. Too bad, I said, because it would be too perfect if the child of a newspaper and a New Yorker went as The New Yorker. But I simply do not have time to make her a Eustace Tilley costume.
And then it occurred to me that we could even put the pacifier on a string instead of a monocle – and suddenly it was just too too perfect and I had to make it.

Image forthcoming if I ever get the camera to behave.

Color – maroon for the coat, turquoise for the vest, white for the collar: all cotton or polycotton scraps left over from former projects. As much as I loathe artifice in dress, I sewed them all together and it was a one-piece garment.
Pattern – I slapped a pair of her pajamas on the dining room table and traced them. I am chuffed that it looks and functions like a garment, though it pulls in the wrong places when the occupant wiggles.
I did not plan the construction at all – just worked blindly. 'Oh, I need a collar this shape – I guess I'll cut here and see if that works. Oh, it didn't, so what if I cut here?' I topstitched everything to save time and occasionally resorted to ladder-stitching (what you use to close up a stuffed animal after it's been stuffed, since you can't get to the wrong side anymore) because, not having the mind of an engineer, I see ladder-stitching as the answer to all problems.
Is it a good project for a beginner? No. I should really learn to drape and draft. But a baby costume is a great project for a beginner, because no one, least of all the intended victim, will ever notice the craftsmanship.

Experiments in Teaching Medieval Jewish History, Part III: Islamic Spain and North Africa

The Chosen Path is an ideal textbook. But our school doesn't have it, so I made my own.
Some sources I liked, some of which I shared with the girls:

-Pictures of Islamic architecture from this place and time. Walking through one of those buildings with all the arches is like turning a kaleidoscope. I have seen the architecture of the Alhambra occasionally attributed to Shmuel haNaggid; at any rate, he seems to have been responsible for the building or restoration of much of it.
-There is a nice painting which imagines the court of Abd ar-Rahman III.
-Correspondence between Chisdai ibn Shaprut and the King of Kuzar. I made a mini-unit on Jews in out-of-the-way places – Yemen, India, China, Kurdistan, Kuzar – which I'm not sure I would do again. Most people just stick Kuzar into the unit on Spain, although Chisdai ibn Shaprut accomplished a great many more important things than this correspondence.
-Picture of Kuzari coin found in Viking plunder. (If you search for "Khazar coin" you can find a clearer picture.) I saw this in the Viking museum in Stockholm. Coins from Islamic lands have printed on them, in Arabic, the Islamic declaration of faith; this one, which was minted or re-minted in the kingdom of Kuzar, has one word different, so it says, “There is no god but G-d, and Moses is His prophet.”
-Shemuel HaNaggid by R' Asher Lehmann is a fun introduction to this era. I used the chapter entitled Cordoba.
-There is a wonderful handout floating around Neve that shows the seven “binyanim” of Hebrew grammar as seven multi-story buildings on a street, with good examples.
-Zemiros – Dror Yikra is by Dunash ibn Labrat; Ki Eshmera Shabbos, Tzam'a l'cha Nafshi, and that one with all the “kor”s in it for Shabbos Chanuka are by R' Avraham Ibn Ezra; Yom Shabbason (yona matza) is by R' Yehuda haLevi.
-Other poems by R' Shmuel HaNaggid, R' Yehuda haLevi, R' Shlomo ibn Gvirol, R' Moshe ibn Ezra (Nafshi ivisicha balaila). They can't go through life without having read Tzion halo tishali, which is kinna #36 on Tisha b'Av. (They said one of their previous teachers had them recite it every day.) The general favorite of the piyutim I gave them was Shachar avakeshcha by R' Shlomo ibn Gvirol. They also liked Elokai mishknosecha and Shalom l'cha yom hashevi'i by R' Yehuda haLevi. I had them pick some to write pastiches. I thought they would appreciate a piece of R' Shlomo ibn Gvirol's Ani ha'ish, which I remember liking as a high schooler; but it didn't grab them as it did me.
-Abu Ishaq's poetic attack on R' Shmuel haNaggid. Do I want to link to this? It's extremely nasty and does not deserve to be linked to. Here it is.
-Doubles: Poem in praise of R' Shmuel haNaggid by R' Yehuda haLevi. Part of a poem to R' Moshe ibn Ezra by R' Yehuda haLevi. Poetic correspondence between R' Avraham ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Tam.
-The Ibn Ezra also has a poem about chess.
-The Kuzari, by R' Yehuda haLevi – paragraphs 11-43 in the first section. Before I gave it to them I asked them to answer, in writing, “What is Judaism?” – the Chaver's answer is very interesting (he comes from a completely different angle than the Emunos veDeos).
-Rif and Rabbeinu Chananel – I couldn't find what I really wanted, but there are lots of mussary Rabbeinu Chananels. (Also, somewhere he discusses a recent invention called a table fork.)
-Ri Migash – according to Rabbi Geometry, the most famous Ri Migash is on Bava Basra 45a.
-Chovos HaLevavos – I couldn't pick just one piece to give them :) Rabbi Geometry says that the most famous perek is Shaar HaBechina, and that people don't learn the first one.

If I had a different sort of class I would have taped arches all over the walls and had them come in costume one day and recline around* eating oranges and reciting piyutim, both original and from the sourcebook. I didn't think it would fly with this group.

*actually, I am not sure what people, let alone the Jews, sat on in Islamic Spain.

Florence Nightingale

What follows is based on a single biographer's account, not serious research.

Florence Nightingale was a fascinating lady: intensely depressed; she heard voices; she hallucinated; she determined that she had a calling in life but it took her a number of years to decide that that was nursing (which at the time was unheard of for an aristocratic lady, and for good reasons) and every time she determined to leave home to attend the nursing school in Germany, members of her family said, “Oh, how can you leave us! Bring me my smelling salts – I shall faint!” and she relented and stayed.

Meanwhile, she wrote to hospitals around Europe requesting information on medical care, and stored the papers in her room in her parents' house, taking particular delight in the statistics.

The man she wanted to marry proposed to her; but she turned him down in the idea that he would interfere with her nursing work. This at a time when she had neither received training in nursing nor done any.

She was miserable and kept hallucinating because she felt that she ought to be nursing but could not bring herself to do it.

Finally, when she was thirty, she took the initiative to leave home and go to nursing school.

When she came home from the school, she took charge of a London hospital; then the government heard about her expertise and sent her to the Crimea organize the military hospitals there.

When the Crimean War ended she came back to England and spent the rest of her life organizing British, Canadian, and American hospitals. She is evidently responsible for modern medical care as we know it.

Cecil Woodham-Smith says (in a different biography) that the Crimean War produced two geniuses: the engineer who designed the Russian defenses at Sebastopol, and Florence Nightingale.

I thought that was a very impressive story.

I think it's fascinating that she carried her life in a box for thirty years before finally taking the lid off, and then turned out to be a genius.

The moral I take out of the story of Florence Nightingale is: if you know what you should be doing, do it; don't wait thirty years...!