Archive for April, 2012

Here at Thrifty Swift headquarters, there’s a virus going around. Well, two, actually.

The first is this wicked head cold that floored me on Tuesday but is gradually on its way out. There’s little I despise more than the chapped skin you get around your nose when you have to blow it every ten minutes. My neti pot and I have been fast friends this week, and I’m glad of it. Everyone else who has had this thing is telling me it hangs on for weeks, but two days in and I’m back up to my normal level of energy. Fingers crossed!

The other bug is a wicked case of Startitis. I have been buying yarn, patterns, and fabric like it’s going out of style. It’s the annual spring onslaught of the Webs anniversary sale, the Textile Center garage sale, and the impending Shepherd’s Harvest Festival. I am going to MAKE ALL THE THINGS!

This week’s exciting project is making this dress:

With this fabric:

I’m headed back to DC in early May for a bridal shower with the Church Ladies, so I’d like to get this done in time for the trip. I think it’s perfect for church, don’t you? (No, Mom, I’m not trying to be provocative. It’s effortless.)

Check back later this week for my basic tutorial on adjusting a pattern for a professional fit, and an easier way to cut and sew for accuracy and speed.


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Hi! I’ve been working like a fiend behind the scenes on a whole bunch of secret knitting – there’s unfortunately going to be a lot of that in the coming months. I’m doing something akin to building a trousseau in advance of my wedding, only instead of making quilts and table linens and whatnot, I’m making gifts. There are a lot of people in my life to thank this year, and a lot of good friends I want to acknowledge, and of course, there’s presents for my sweetie… so yeah, there’s not going to be much knitting I can show you for a little while.

I do have ONE public project, though! I’m making the #17 Cowl Neck Pullover from the 2011 Holiday issue of Vogue Knitting. I don’t do the projects in VK very often; they tend to be a little over-the-top for me. This one gave me a pretty plain canvas as far as the shape went, and I was able to make it daring with a little color.


Don't mind all the electrical cords; I've been reduced to taking photos at work these days.


I love green in all its glorious shades, but this isn’t one I’ve tried to wear before. It’s Classic Elite Yarns Pirouette in Chartreuse, held double with a laceweight strand of dark gray cashmere from a frogged Ralph Lauren twinset that I found at the thrift store. (Best way to get fancy yarn for cheap!)


It’s still pretty bright, but I think it’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to wearing it this fall with a long black tank and black skirt. I hope it’ll be just enough to brighten dreary days without being overwhelming!

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It’s actually been these past two weeks in tech. Tonight is opening night, and I haven’t been this glad to be out of rehearsal in a while. Remarkably, it’s not because this process was particularly long or arduous, because it wasn’t. Things went smoothly, everyone did their job, and we didn’t work particularly strenuous weeks or anything – week one came in at under 60 hours, which is always nice. No, it’s just that everything else in my life feels like it’s behind the 8-ball.


Our illustrious lighting designer (and my boss).

I shot these pictures toward the end of focus call two weeks ago, before the set was loaded up with props, furniture, etc. I love the starkness of a single light against the bare countertops and the wood floor. I think this show looks great; I can’t really publish full photos of anything for copyright reasons, but I’ll try to snap some detail shots to show you as this run gets underway. It’s set in the Brooklyn loft of a relatively well-to-do couple, and the livability of the space is great. Small, but great. I don’t think I could ever live in NYC; I have too much stuff and need too much space to be comfy in the kind of apartment I could afford. Hell, there would be nowhere to put all my yarn.

The show itself is remarkable. It was nominated for two Tonys when it was on Broadway, and it’s getting a lot of play around the country now that the rights have opened up to regional theaters. The subject is near and dear to my heart – ostensibly, it’s about the relationship changes that the central couple go through, but to me it’s all about journalism.

The play takes place in NY during the Iraq war. Sarah, a photo journalist, has just come home wounded by a roadside bomb. Her long-time partner James settles in to take care of her. He, too, was in Iraq, but came home weeks earlier after a mental breakdown due to PTSD. As the play unfolds, we watch the relationship between Sarah and James morph and change; they pull together and apart as they re-examine what they want out of their lives following Sarah’s brush with death. Despite the extraordinary context, their strains and heartaches are familiar – infidelity, depression, questions of identity, marriage, and children.

Anchoring all these interpersonal dramas is a question of journalistic ethics. A disclosure: my father is an editor and spent many years as a reporter in and around the halls of Washington. Although he was never a war correspondent, a lot of the questions asked in the play apply in broad strokes to everyone working in the news media. It asks what role a journalist is obliged to play – independent observer or activist.  When Sarah is confronted by a dying child, she takes his picture rather than giving first aid or trying to save his life. One of the other characters questions her decision – isn’t that a cruel and cynical way to behave in the face of human tragedy? Sarah argues that it is the job of relief workers to try to save the child; her job is to take the photo, to show the world evidence of what is happening, and to record truth for posterity. The scene leaves Sarah to justify herself to the audience, but neglects to mention what I feel is the most compelling argument in her favor.

I feel for Sarah; she has to believe in what she does in order to face it every day. She says it’s not up to the photographer “to step into the frame and fix things they don’t like,” and because she is a journalist, I think she’s right. We depend on reporters to be impartial, to look without judging, and to tell the facts as they are without analysis. The news media has become the target of so much vituperative criticism in the last decade – gone are the days when the family gathered around the 6 o’clock news after dinner and watched as the nation’s reporters read off the stories of the day. The right and left political machines have both pitted themselves against the fourth estate, accusing it of bias, manipulation, and stupidity. The public has come a long way from calling Walter Cronkite “the most trusted man in America.” There are still institutions doing their best to lay out the facts and let the people decide what they mean, but those are admittedly fewer and farther between. The play portrays Sarah as cold and detached, but I think she has a good handle on why she has put herself into a war zone – it is her duty to report the truth, not to alter it. She knows that if she gets involved, the picture changes.

If we as citizens cannot trust our media to be impartial and honest, we cannot make the decisions we need to make. We can’t elect officials, we can’t push for social justice, we can’t put pressure on the people who make wars to stop the fighting. Countries run by oppressive regimes often hold their power partly by abolishing the freedom of the press – in an open society they would be roundly condemned by other nations, but in secrecy they can commit atrocities. The current situation in Syria, where no journalists have been allowed,  is a perfect example of this – for over a year Bashar al-Assad has been killing his own people, and the response from outside the country has been slow in part because the situation has been unverifiable for so long. The good reporter takes this charge seriously; his is not merely a job but a responsibility.

Whew! If you’ve hung with me this long, thank you. I know this post didn’t really have anything to do with theater, other than the title. That’s how you know a play is good: when it riles up its audience, and asks them to think about things. Tonight is opening night, which means that I’ll be sitting through this one fifty or so more times. I’m looking forward to it. I’m pretty sure it will be unpacking itself for quite a while.

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Yesterday marked a year since the passage of one of the brightest lights in the American theatre community. Tom Proehl was one of the best mentors, friends, and lovers of the art and craft of theatre in the Twin Cities and elsewhere, and someone who I loved and admired in all my interactions with him. He was a brilliant manager, someone who everyone desperately wanted to please; indeed, the worst thing I can think of would be to disappoint him somehow. He listened to everyone and worked harder than anyone else. To him, there were no jobs less important than any others – in fact, he came up through the Box Office before reaching the administrative levels, and he never forgot what it was like to deal with patrons or the day-to-day mundanities of making a playhouse go.

Most of all, though, Tom shone. He loved people with his whole heart and made everyone feel special. He loved his field and genuinely loved theatre. He gave freely of his tremendous passion and energy, and also of his tremendous hugs. His eyes laughed all the time. He was beautiful and brilliant and I am so lucky to have known and worked with him. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already since we learned the shocking news. So rest in peace, Tom, and with love. Know that those of us you left behind are thinking of you and remembering you fondly.

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Wow, have I been gone a long time! The last couple of weeks have been hectic, and I haven’t made the time to blog like I should. I’ve been entirely consumed by this:


This is the interior of our shower. Last fall, I noticed that the wall had started to bow inward. After Hay Fever opened, I took a week off to rip it all down to the studs, get rid of the mold, and start over.

I’ve never tackled this kind of project before, so the whole thing was a learning experience. The first step after the demolition (which was a TON of fun, by the by) was to replace the insulation and use a mold abatement product on the wood underneath. Luckily, the mold wasn’t too bad – most of it was in the fiberglass and went into the dumpster. It was in the 80s all week that week, and there’s nothing like hauling around fiberglass insulation in a respirator, goggles, long sleeves, and gloves to make you enjoy the hot weather.

After the new insulation, I hung a layer of roofing felt as a moisture barrier and then put up new wallboard. For wet areas like shower walls, regular drywall can absorb water and start the mold problem all over again, so this is Hardiebacker. That’s a brand name, but any kind of cement backer board will do.


Next comes thin-set mortar and the tiles – aren’t these white ones so much better than the brown that was in there before? We also decided to add corner shelves for storing shampoos, etc. The old tub had one crappy soap tray right in the stream of the shower, so the soap would melt three times faster than it should have. I use this luscious olive oil soap that my Mom imports from Nablus as part of a fair-trade organization supporting women in the Palestinian refugee camps, so I want it to last as long as possible. It’s the only thing that keeps my skin from completely peeling off my body during our dry Minnesota winters.


The tiles going up!

Tiling is easy, but a little tedious. Things have to be checked for level and square every couple of rows, and you have to work on small areas so the mortar doesn’t dry on the wall before you get the tiles on. I made liberal use of little plastic spacers to keep everything even, and a co-worker loaned me his tile saw so I could make decent clean cuts. Don’t do this job without one! It made all the difference between a professional-looking finish and a crappy one.


See how I moved the soap dish there? So much better for my fancy soap. I’m not quite done – still waiting for caulking to dry so I can put on the new tub fixtures that R bought. It’s definitely not perfect, but I learned a lot during this process, and I feel confident that it’ll be water tight – hopefully it’ll last for the next 30 years.

Do you ever take on DIY projects? How have they gone?

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