Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When She's Not Scrubbing or A Very Slight Aquaintance With Permaculture in which Straw is Spun into Gold. Sort of.

Now that Rapunzel has joined the ranks of the blue collar workers you can well imagine the fascinating details of her custodial life. Or janitorial life if you prefer. BUT, you may be asking yourselves, what does she do these days when she's not off to town a-scrubbing? Obviously she's been sadly neglecting her blog, so what is her excuse for her absence of late?

Rapunzel has been tres busy recycling.

In Ye Olde College Dormitories there are all the mod cons an 18 year old student could desire. Running water, heat, cooling, a cafeteria, private kitchens, computer labs, lounges with televisions, bathrooms to accomodate a crowd, and a laundry room. It is this last item that concerns us today.

In the laundry room students wash their clothes in automatic washers. Eventually they  return and put the clothes in the automatic dryers. Within a day or so they will remember to come back one more time to find their clean and dry clothes, which have by now have been flung out of the dryer in a heap by some other student.

 Each laundry room has a Lost Box, where newly single socks and other oddments collect. Not just honestly lost items collect here, it is also the place where students toss things they don't want, and don't want to bother to dispose of properly: gum wrappers, hair elastics, capless flash drives, dryer lint, fabric softener sheets, caps from flash drives, soggy pencils. And T-shirts. Specifically T-shirts from events, that have graphics printed on the front, and often also on the back.  After the wonderousness of a special event has passed it is often found that the event shirt is in fact pug ugly and the fashionable and discerning student would not be caught dead wearing the shirt a second time. So these franky dreadful shirts are tossed away. As if there is someplace called AWAY where things actually go.

    It falls to the dorm custodians to periodically deal with the things students fail to come back and retrieve.  Nasty things go into the proper trash can ,which being on the opposite side of the 10 foot wide laundry room and right near the exit door is apparently too far to walk for 18 year olds.  Cute things go to co-workers with children young enough to admire teenage fashions.  Cast off boxer shorts go straight in the trash can because boys are undesputeably gross. And then there are the ugly event shirts, which No One Really Wants. Having only been worn once or twice they seem too "good" to throw away, ("good" here is a subjective term) and the best of them are made of sturdy thick cotton knit which lasts and is comfortable.

   And so it happens that a fat stack of unflattering t-shirts accumulated on my closet shelf this winter. Most of them in shades of green and gold, two colors which do not flatter my complexion in the slightest. I had thought that they would be useful to wear while mucking out the henhouse, and doing other dirty, messy, smelly or likely-to-snag type farm work, thus saving wear and tear on my dresses. The reality is they were too ugly in their original state to be worn even at home alone in a secluded valley where I'm only seen by colorblind people with four legs.

   On contemplating my wealth of ugly t-shirts several thoughts tumbled about in my cogs.
 One is that when designing a quilt if your design just doesn't look good the best solution is generally to Add More Color. You cannot have too many colors in a quilt.
  The second thought is that the first principle of Permaculture is Whenever Possible Use What You Have On Hand to accomplish what needs to be done.  My handmade long sleeved dresses are awfully hot to wear in summer, and  something looser and more airy would be sooo nice. What I had on hand was a heap of ugliness. Coincidence? I think not!
   Then I recalled the colorful hand printed African political fabrics we have in the back rooms one of the museums  here on campus, and the cheery colors of folk clothing in general.

   It quickly occurred to me that the best possible thing to do with ten ugly green and gold shirts would be to chop them into large chunks, sew them back together, thereby making two play dresses of them. And so I did. Sew.

   Two of the shirts  (one for each dress) I simply laid out and cut straight across a few inches below the arms, to create what would be the slightly high waisted bodice, although bodice seems a fancy term for this particular project. I also whacked off the sleeves, thinking with my rather pudgy arms  magnificent biceps it would be nice to have roomier sleeves.

   The remaining shirts I cut into panels like this, each shirt making two panels, front and back:

I used one of the cut off sleeves as a pattern and added a bit to the width and length, then cut two pair of sleeves from panels of shirts. In my case two of my shirts had large blank areas, and I wanted graphics on the skirts, so I cut my new sleeves from blank parts, taking advantage of the t-shirt hem as the lower edge of the sleeves to save having to hem them.  I fitted the new sleeves to my bodice shirts pleating them a bit to fit the arm scye. Which is probably one word, armscye. (It seems to be one of those words that look funny either way and I'm not looking it up, I am busy. I have a life to do!)

I then played around with the remaining panels, and settled on five panels for each skirt as a good width for moving around in. I tried out the panels in various positions putting my favorites in the front. When I'd found an attractive arrangement (the term attractive being used very loosely here) I pinned them up matching the already finished hems, trimmed the top edges to even them up and sewed them all together.
Then I took some of the whacked off sleeves and again using the original hems to advantage  and measuring with my outspread hand I cut generous pockets for both dresses. These I sewed into place on the skirts. 

 Lastly I pleated the skirts onto the bodices and presto chango*, Bob's your uncle**: Two astoundingly beautiful dresses, had for no cash outlay at all and made with precious little time for the amount of good clean fun that was had by all (me).

Psssst:   Do not tell the Christ's Temple Apostolic Assembly, but I seem to have put one of their Youth Rally shirts next to a large green witch. I suspect they mightn't approve, but perhaps it will do her some good.

So there you go---that is where I have been during some of the time that I wasn't here. (How is it that a blog seems like a place?) 

 The Manimal claims there is so much green in these dresses that when I'm out in the forest he can't find me.  Perhaps I should look for some pugly t-shirts in hunter orange?

Aside from my highly unfashionable upcycling project (and I will not argue if any of you prefer to call it downcycling) I've also spent a good deal of time mending the fences around the gardens, as spring planting time is here and we're trying to feed ourselves more than the local wildlife, or the domesticated hens for that matter. 

      One of the joys of fence mending is that one gets to be out in the sunshine all the day, breathing fresh spring air (aaaachooo!) and watching cock fights.  As a paid profession cock fighting and the gambling attached to cock fighting are illegal in Indiana, and for good reason.  Whitney and Lonesome George are not professionals, however. 
 I filmed a bit of their antics to show you just how unprofessional they are.  In the course of a single day George, the young upstart, beat the bloody L out of Whitney and left him for dead Three Times. But Good Old Whitney, official cock of the walk, is not one to give up so easily.  Fully recovered from the fray, he is currently abiding in the henhouse with all the pretty ladies while Lonesome George  the troublemaker is stuck on the other side of the fence muttering to himself and making do with Schmutzy the free-ranging white rabbit for company.

There's lots more film of the battle.....including the final highly dramatic scene I think of as the car chase, but alas I cannot get it to load on blogger. I may make a Facebook album of it to save it for posterity.  Roosters are punks, that's all there is to it. Roosters only understand three things, food, sex and violence. That is apparently all there is room for in a Very Small Brain, and indeed it is enough to keep their species going. We larger brained beings do have rules here though, to protect our own species.  If George the Troublemaker begins attacking people he will become George the Soup.

I shall close with an inspiring quotation from the wall of a temple built in Fatehpur Sikri India by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. .

Isa* Son of Mary said: "The world is a bridge. Pass over it, but build no houses upon it."

Perhaps this is the philosophy of roosters. They're here for the journey, the adventure, the experience. They don't concern themselves with trying to make it last.


*presto chango seems to have the ring of truth here, as I did chango the cast off shirts to dresses, which if not exactly magic is a form of alchemy, is it not?.
**As for Bob's your uncle, I took a bit of literary license here. Bob's not my uncle, he's actually my cousin by marriage..  But he's old enough to be my uncle. I had rather a wee schoolgirl crush on him half a century ago, he was handsome, kindhearted, and a great storyteller, which is really all a six year old wants in a man.

*Isa.  If you're not Persian you may know him as Jesus. Frequently quoted, also no doubt mis-quoted, and sometimes mis-identified as Anon.


  1. Ahem! Where are the picture of you wearing these dresses?

    This is such a brilliant idea!

    Well done that girl! x

  2. Yes ma'am. Your wish is my command. Pictures to follow when the sun comes out. We're currently enjoying some spring thunderstorms and lovely dark skys which my little green camera is no match for.

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