Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not just a baby doll

I only remember having one doll as a kid.

My black baby doll

She originally belonged to my cousin but my aunt gave her to me after I cried like a brat as we were getting ready to leave. I was probably four years old but I still remember the day I sat crying in the backseat, hugging the doll like it was the end of the world until my aunt said I could have her.

I never really gave it much thought that I had a non-white baby doll.  After all, I was a Hispanic kid in a Caucasian family, color just wasn't something I saw.

It turns out there's a bit of interesting history behind this doll.  She was created in 1972 by Shindana Toys, believed to be the first company to mass-produce ethnically correct African-American dolls.  After some research, it looks like her name is Zuri.

Shindana was a division of Operation Bootstrap, Inc., an offshoot of the civil rights movement founded two months after the Watts riots of 1965.  Based in South Central LA, Shindana's goal was to create black consciousness and positive self image among African-American children and foster love by producing dolls and board games that children of all colors could relate to. They eventually produced Asian, American-Indian, Caucasian and Hispanic dolls before operations were ceased in the early 1980's.

Thanks to Shindana's profitability, other spin-offs such as The Honeycomb Child Development Center were created, where children of the neighborhood were cared for and given an educational head start. Shindana played a significant role in Operation Bootstrap by spreading profits and The Dream throughout the community.

She's more than just a doll, she's more like a bit of civil rights history.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


That feeling you get when the stench of cat poop strikes your sinuses, then you realize your cat was running around the house because a turd was stuck on her and not because she was excited that she took a poop. No, you make a mental note, this is the wrong cat, this cat doesn't get excited about pooping.

And then you realize the poop is sitting right next to you on the carpet. As you clean up, you realize you have to check the rest of the house because you would rather not repeat the experience of a turd surprise when you wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Dyeing fiber with real acid dyes

After my recent foray into dying yarn with food coloring, I decided to take a yarn dyeing class with acid dyes at the Eugene Textile Center.  I can't believe I've never been to this place!  They have a large dyeing kitchen and tons of spinning wheels and looms.  I don't spin or weave but if I did, this is where I'd go.

By the way, if you're thinking, eek, acid dyes!  Acids!  Don't worry, it's not acid you see in the movies that eats through your glove, then your fingers and now you're stuck in a contaminated room that bursts into a billion degree fire just to clean up the contaminates that could kill all of earthkind. Nope, it's vinegar.  Sure, there's some chemicals involved and you should still use gloves, but it's not the mad scientist kind of thing.  Or is it? Hm.

I didn't take many photos or any notes because I was too excited and thrilled to be in an artsy atmosphere.  It made me feel like my old self again.  I'm thinking maybe I should start tapping into that.  Anyway, Janis gave us several fibers; some silk, yarn, roving, some sort of animal somethingorother, we picked a color, put it in a kettle and then on the burner for a while. That's the short version.

Roving, fabric, silk and some other stuff

This is how mine turned out. The point of this experiment was to show us how each type of fiber takes up dye differently.  For example, the silk (as seen in the middle with a kind of seafoam coloration) didn't get to soak up as much dye as everything else.

The yarn turned out darker because it was a natural brown to begin with and the silk has a tinge of green because it was cream colored.  I'm sure the fact that the starting color affects the end color is a no-brainer but it's still interesting to see the end results for ourselves.

Everyone at my table chose similar colors

Everyone at my table chose some sort of blue.  We didn't realize that until we spread them all out.

Yarn, silk, and various rovings drying in the sun

Our roving and yarn spread out to dry. After a few minutes on the spin cycle in the washing machine, it only took about 5 minutes for it to dry in the sun.

Next we got two different types of roving and some sort of yarn. I'm pretty vague about these because I know nothing about roving and because this yarn didn't come with a label on it, I'm totally out of my element. I just now it came from a sheep.

Our yarn and roving drying

Those are my three in the front on the right. My roving turned out darker than I expected, probably because I was a bit heavy on the dye. Interesting note, all our fibers were heat set in the same pot together and yet nothing was contaminated by another dye!

Dyed yarn and roving

Anyway, this is how it turned out.  It was fun and I'm glad I took the class.  I don't want to spill the details on how we dyed everything because I'd like to encourage you to take the class. The Eugene Textile Center is a great place and deserves your business.

As always, the arts are the first to go when there are financial troubles and we all know how the economy is going.  If you're not in the Eugene area, check out your community and see what type of opportunities you  might have to support a local artisan.  If you're not into dyeing, I'm sure there's something out there you would enjoy.

And now I must go as there is a bit of a cat poop situation brewing.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


This last spring we went to the Saturday Market where I bought fresh figs.  For some reason, it never occurred to me we could get them fresh here.  To be honest, I didn't even know what a fig looked like.  I've only seen them in cookie format.

Intrigued, I did a little research. We all know figs are high in fiber, but did you know they can help control or lower blood pressure and cholesterol? They can also lower insulin for insulin injection dependent diabetics.  They're high in calcium, iron, vitamin C and antioxidants...this was enough to make me go out and buy my own fig tree.

I had several to choose from, so I picked the one that seemed would best fit someone who had no idea what she was doing:  the Lattarula, also known as the Italian Honey. The tree is only about six feet tall and since it's so young, I wasn't expecting it to produce anything.  But a few weeks ago we noticed little tiny figs growing on it.


With temperatures dipping into the 30's, I'm not sure if the seven baby figs on the tree will have a chance to ripen, but I sure hope so. Anyone know if these little guys have a chance?