Friday, October 7, 2016

The Soggy Crouton

A simple salad of mixed greens dressed with olive oil and wine vinegar ordinaire is greatly enhanced by fragments of foccaccia -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Worth Mending

High-end Japanese fashion design is a reliable source of inspiration for the many daily choices I make about life support. Miyake's "Making Think, Making Things and Making Reality." is as good a design shorthand as any I have encountered. 

Azby Brown's history of the Edo period, Just Enough, illuminates the drastic economies generated by the culture's response to a near-terminal environmental crash. Brown's chapter on the home economy of samurai families shows how similar the values are to the sensible practices of navy housekeepers in the US. I find it particularly significant that samurai matrons used the same fabric in all the family garments.

Miyake is showing a version of the flannel shirt that is a witty and gently exhilarating take on the plaid cotton staple of our soggy woods. Japan has a patchwork tradition that joins straightforward rectangles of worn cloth. Miyake's printed shirt is a delight to observe.

Miyake's thinking appears to influence northern European fashion designers. The First Avenue boutique near the Market carries a couple of lines that have proved to be excellent value calculated at cost per use. Over the ten years I have experimented with shopping there, I have yet actually to wear anything out. Line drying is the key. 

I won't hesitate to invest the time and attention it will take to mend and patch one of these garments when it has become a weary friend. The sewing machine is long gone, but a needle threader, pat of beeswax, spools of cream colored and navy thread, ancestral English needles, German scissors, and an heirloom thimble remain.

Japanese design trickles down to the Great Big Hiking Co-op over four or five years. In my world, it's better value to pay three times as much on the front end when something turns up in the Market boutique. The garments are cut from such good fabric in such clean lines that they can be used for any occasion. The Christmas Miracle Department Store chain has a house label that echoes such thinking now and then. Think silhouette. The State of Maine mail-order catalogue is another source of good deals on classics of this school of thought -30-


More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Point Of Etiquette

When inspecting someone else's motorcycle, put your hands behind your back to assure the owner that your intentions are honorable -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

An Old-School Gift

Now and then my grandmother would open a letter to find a top-quality handkerchief enclosed. A new handkerchief came with a little sticker from the maker pasted on. It had no label. Recently I hunted up fine linen men's handkerchiefs in lieu of ornamental pocket squares. Good goods are still on the market, but I had to call Victoria to order some. Paying for the handkerchiefs taught me that finding one in an envelope is a gift indeed.

Should you opt for craft rather than disposable, accept only hand-embroidery, if any. Following are directions for laundering flat work, as pocket, table, and kitchen linens are called. 

These technical comments are for 100% Irish linen. A good handkerchief is cut and hemmed perfectly on grain, thread by thread, so that it can be folded accurately. Perfect grain ensures that it lasts as long as it is meant to.

Linen is back on the market, but the old way of indicating quality, the thread count, is not. The number of threads per inch of weave tells how fine the work is and how long the fabric is likely to last. Recent hemstitched handkerchiefs can be  considerably coarser than the old stock. They will do, though, as ritual accessories backed up by a pocket pack of disposables.

Wash a handkerchief in hot water and line dry, pulling the grain square as you hang it. When damp-dry and tender to the touch, press with a hot iron. I use a table pad, the fastest way to finish flat work. Iron from the back to emphasize the grain of the fabric on the front. Iron on the front to flatten and polish the appearance of the piece. I prefer to iron from the back because ironing causes wear.

A piece that is hemstitched, with a row of little holes along the fold of the hem, is vulnerable to tear eventually if the hem is pulled while it is being ironed, so work carefully. Those holes are perforations. If you are lucky enough to own hand-embroidered linen, iron from the back on a padded surface and cover the embroidery with a thin white cotton cloth to protect the stitching from wear. A piece of unbleached muslin or flour-sack towel will work.


For all pieces, remove from the work surface and leave flat until bone dry before folding. Store flat if you have room. Never iron a fold. The net has a world of fop-tech for folding. A straightforward double fold folded to the width of the pocket and inserted with half an inch parallel to the top of the pocket is the simplest. I would check the preppie clothing chain for current practice -30-

More after the jump.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Silver Polish

Nothing beats the combination of the first rains of autumn and a shallow action flick for freeing time to prepare the holiday table. Prudent housekeepers cut worn cotton knits into palm-sized wipers that are ideal for polishing silver. Store the wipers in an empty tissue box for easy access. I prefer polishing with the German compound sold in a yellow tube at motorcycle shops.

Once silver and brass are in good condition, keep them that way with careful storage. I use silver every day, washing it by hand and storing it in a dedicated chest. When I return pieces to their slots, I put them on the bottom of the pile to rotate the collection. Serving pieces live in specialized silver cloth bags.

When bright work is bright and windows are sparkling clean, it's easy to contemplate the long grey months of a Northwest winter -30-


More after the jump.