Month: August 2016

Owl Backpack: Halfway Point

The interior is almost complete — I still need to stitch the zipper strips onto the bag, but it actually looks like a bag now:


The side pockets are assembled and ready to be attached. I really like the grommets.


The back of the backpack has been assembled too — the straps are mounted & the D-rings are in place.



We went to Joann this evening and picked up a zipper foot, so I can get the piping stitched up tonight.

Owl Backpack: Beginning Assembly

Anya’s owl backpack is starting to come together. I’ve got all of the pieces cut, and the insulation bits are glued to the laminated bits. The glue needs to set for 24 hours.

The owl has been assembled – I want to embroider the face and maybe some zig-zag lines on his body and wings. The face and wings have a thin batting so I’ll get a quilting effect with embroidery. The body (pocket) does not have any batting because it is already a little thick with the laminate layers.

I’ve got the bias strips cut for the piping, and we picked up some 325 paracord to use as the “string” in the piping. Tomorrow, we’ll get the grommets installed on the mesh pocket casing. We should start assembling the bag once that is done!




Owl Backpack – Cutting Pieces

I just started cutting the pieces for Anya’s Owl Backpack (a pattern we found on Moda BakeShop). I am making one tweak to the pattern — the front pocket (a.k.a. the owl’s body) is going to be lined in the laminated fabric. Leaky pens, melted crayons … hopefully this will mitigate staining.

We finished cutting the front and back pieces tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll cut out the top/side/bottom rectangles. I didn’t realize the bird fabric is 54″ wide … this may be the lining for several backpacks as Anya grows ūüôā

I think the polka-dot fabric looks rather nice with the laminate. There’s a bird the same shade of blue, and there’s a bird the shade of pink I’ll be using for the piping and zipper.


The pattern itself I found a little hard to follow. I love that they save paper/ink by not printing a bunch of rectangles, but there are instructions to cut a specific size rectangle from one of the fabrics or another scattered throughout the document. I read through the entire thing three times before I found the rest of the backpack back exterior. To avoid missing any pieces, I searched through the document for the string ‘cut’ and listed out each piece. This list is categorized by fabric. Odd, since they have a “recipe” at the beginning of the article, that they don’t do something similar.

(2)    15 1/2 x 2 1/2    zipper opening interior
(2)    8 3/4 x 4 1/2    side of backpack interior
(1)    10 1/2 x 4 1/4    bottom of backpack interior
(2)    <backpack back pattern>    front and back
(2)    <owl belly pocket>    owl pocket lining

(2)    8 x 4        side of backpack insulation
(1)    10 x 4        bottom of backpack insulation
(2)    <backpack lining pattern>    front and back

(2)    15 1/2 x 2 1/2    zipper opening exterior
(2)    8 1/2 x 4 1/2    side of backpack exterior
(1)    10 1/2 x 4 1/2    bottom of backpack exterior
(1)    10 1/2 x 9    backpack back
(1)    <backpack back half-circle>    backpack back
(1)    <front back pattern>    front
(2)    22 x 4    straps
(2)    2 1/2 x 4    strap attachment mount

(2)    5 1/2 x 7 1/2    mesh pocket

Piping Fabric:
(2)    7 1/2 x 3 1/2    mesh pocket casing

Random fabrics for owl:
(1)    <owl pocket lining>    owl pocket
(2)    <owl face pieces>    owl face
(4)    <owl wing pieces>    owl wings

Home Automation Lagering

We are about to make mead (we got near 30 pounds of local honey!). In researching mead-making, different yeasts have different alcohol tolerances … so you make a dry mead by using a yeast with an alcohol tolerance at or above the level your starting gravity would yield if it were fully fermented. A sweeter mead means you have a yeast whose tolerance is lower than that value … the greater the difference, the sweeter the mead. We are going to make a dry mead with Lalvin 71b-1122, a just slightly sweet mead by adding a little more honey but still using Lalvin 71b-1122, and a sweeter mead using Lalvin D-47.

71b-1122 has a very broad temperature range (59-86 F – and how cool is it that Google returns a yeast profile summary if you search for “71b-1122 temperature range”). D-47 is more particular — a published range of 59-68 F, but reading through homebrew sites has us wanting to stay around 63 degrees. Our sub-grade level is cool, but not that cool. Especially as fermentation warms up the fluid.

Scott is developing a home automation controlled fermentation “chamber”. The beer refrigerator is now plugged into a smart outlet. One of the Arduino kits we got has a temperature sensor. We can have a temperature probe monitoring the must and cycle the refrigerator’s power to keep it within a degree or two of our target.

Projects: Backpack Acquisitions Complete, Sleeping Bag Project

We got presents! While we were mowing the grass¬†yesterday, I noticed a couple of boxes at our garage door. All of the bits and pieces for Anya’s owl backpack got here. Still haven’t¬†unpacked the boxes, but I should be able to get started on her backpack this weekend!

Anya has been asking for a sleeping bag —¬†primarily for camping in the woods, but I’m sure she’d use it as an indoor blanket too. I found a simple looking tutorial at¬† and think that’ll be my Christmas present project.

I’m thinking about using a black fabric with metallic gold stars for the bag exterior and a minky green for the interior. I found a zipper with gold teeth and green tape at The Zipper Lady¬†— by the¬†yard zippers! You can add your own bottom and top stops. Maybe case some elastic in the print fabric and use it¬†to hold the¬†bag when it is rolled.

BagExterior ZipperBagInterior

Elector Unfairness

Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but the electoral college process subverted the popular decision and irrevocably changed our country’s history. Essentially this country is set up to elect Republicans, and only a supremely popular Democrat can win. This year, though,¬†we’ll see if a Republican can actually be unpopular enough to overcome the party’s advantage.

What advantage? Well — each state has a specific number of electors based on population¬†but¬†(a) at least one and (b) they also each have two more electors.¬†Three electors doesn’t seem like it should make a big difference, but calculate the number of people represented by each elector in the most and least populous states and the impact is clear. One elector from California represents 713,000 people. One elector from Wyoming represents 195,000. And, yeah, Texas may be conservative and Vermont may be liberal … but on the whole, Republicans have an electoral advantage.


State Electors  Population  # People / Elector
Wyoming 3              586,000                   195,333
Vermont 3              626,000                   208,667
Alaska 3              663,000                   221,000
North Dakota 3              758,000                   252,667
South Dakota 3              865,000                   288,333
Delaware 3              946,000                   315,333
Montana 3           1,042,000                   347,333
Illinois 20         12,801,000                   640,050
Pennsylvania 20         12,802,000                   640,100
New York 29         19,795,000                   682,586
Florida 29         20,612,000                   710,759
Texas 38         27,862,000                   733,211
California 55         39,250,000                   713,636



The Time Travel “Bad Guy”

I saw a commercial for a television show called “Timeless”, the premise for which is apparently that some malevolent person has stolen a time machine and is trying to use it to change history and destroy the country. So the protagonists are “saving” the country by undoing whatever changes are made. But what if the change initiator has no ill intent. They are going to stop the Hindenburg from crashing, or get a ticket on the Titanic to keep watch for iceburgs, or introduce the germ theory of disease centuries earlier all to save lives and help people. But to maintain temporal continuity, the “time police” have to prevent (or undo) these changes. A philosophical anti-hero doing the ‘right thing’, but would people still consider them to be a “good guy”?

Back to School Project: Backpack

I’ve got a quick-ish back-to-school (is it really back for someone who has never gone to school?). Anya has been wanting a backpack for school – more because Daniel Tiger has one than any actual need for it. We googled toddler backpack and found a really cute owl one from Moda’s BakeShop.

Selecting the project took under an hour – Anya likes owls. Finding the pattern, though … that was an embarrassing number of hours over the next two days. I finally ended up on the designer’s Flicker group and found a comment with someone else who totally loved the design and wanted to make it … but couldn’t find the pattern referenced in the tutorial. Answer: if you scroll down to the bottom & open the ‘printer friendly’ version … it’s not just a printer-friendly version of the tutorial. It’s got the pattern appended to the end.

Finding a piping got rather challenging – the site with the best price on the fabrics I wanted had almost no piping. I didn’t want black or white, and I didn’t want to order it from another site (5$ shipping on 3$ worth of piping, not a deal). Checked out the options at JoAnn’s, but didn’t find any I liked there either. Then I found a great tutorial on making your own piping, and I’m rather excited to try it. I found a good write-up on using piping too – hopefully the piping will be a professional looking touch.

I’ve got a spotted twill fabric for the bag and a pink quilting cotton for the piping.

Small_0430500 Small_EF-293

And some cute birds for the laminated interior.


I’m not going to make the interior pocket, but I am thinking about lining the front pocket with the laminated fabric. If any crayons/pens/etc get tossed in there, they won’t seep through and ruin the bag. Maybe I’m being extra-paranoid, but I just ruined a purse by leaving it in the car … and the handful of crayons that I keep in there melted into the fabric. If I make a three layer owl body – twill & laminate on the front, then another laminate attached to the bag – I’ve got some safety. I am also thinking about adding a little batting to the front twill/laminate sandwich & stitching some zigzag’s to suggest feathers.

I am also thinking about embroidering the eyes and beak – saves trying to applique the little pieces onto the face, and I will be able to get a cuter look than if I try to do it in fabric.

Modest swimming costumes

I read an article on BBC News last night that asked a question I’ve often wondered why people ask: Why do some people find the burkini offensive? I remember news stories in the 1980’s and 1990’s about the scandalous thong bikinis showing up on beaches near you with all the near-nakedness and permanent mental scarring. Communities banned these strings with a few patches of cloth amid debate about the offense such attire engendered. Cannot say I was personally offended by any near-nakedness … but I understand that there is a social convention that failing to sufficiently cover oneself is undesirable. Rarely is the convention reversed — apart from compulsory nude beaches, and to me that’s more of a “you are not wearing the proper uniform” than “ack, CLOTHING!” thing.

Ostensibly, the offense some people seem to find in a “burkini” — which is about as far away from a thong bikini as one can get – is perplexing. When I was in Egypt, people at the beach in Alexandria had everything from thongs to long sleeved shirts, long slacks, and hijabs. Not wanting to embarrass my host, I wore fairly modest surfing apparel – a long sleeved rash-guard and neoprene leggings. It’s comfortable. You don’t have to worry about reapplying sunscreen all over your person. You don’t get sand in places you would much rather not have sand.

The whole “offense” discussion is a red herring. I doubt anyone is actually being offended by not seeing enough skin at the beach. Otherwise surfers out in SoCal would have been harangued to stop wearing exactly what I purchased to swim in Egypt. The real offense, such as it is, is that (1) someone is displaying anything that identifies them as Muslim and (2) people do not want to admit their own prejudices. Like don’t-ask-don’t-tell, they’d be comfortable with a Muslim at their beach as long as they couldn’t identify the person as such.

Now the legal¬†justification is secularism … which is at least reasonable sounding. The potential disproof of that notion¬†reminds me of the short-lived school prayer initiative in my senior year at High School. Instead of the legal battles that went on in other districts, I simply asked the Superintendent how many subversive teenagers he thought I could find to sign up to read prayers from non-traditional religions – and, sure, you could get a bunch of kids to read Christian prayers … but it’s a sign-up to read one thing, and we’ll get in queue too. How long will¬†parents support having their kids exposed to¬†Pagan, Wiccan, Satanic … there sure are a¬†lot of religions out there to which people take offense, and as soon as you tell me *my* religion cannot have a prayer read but yours can, we’re out of the murky free speech realm and into clear separation of Church and State territory. We had exactly zero prayers¬†read in our morning announcements. I would love to see a line of beachwear reproducing the stations of the cross, Star of David prints,¬†Buddha prints. Oh, a different outfit for each of the Hindu Gods. How many people wearing¬†those would get fined? And how many people¬†would support the ban after people start getting fined for¬†their religious iconry.