"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Countdown to Pearl

I received word from the breeder, today, concerning which puppy she THINKS we are likely to get. It is not final, for sure, in stone. But guess what...it is the little girl I have been dreaming about and I never even told the breeder because I didn't want to jinx it. I still don't want to jinx it.

I hope I am not jinxing it!

But know what? We'll fall in love with any pup we get.

Happy Weekend.

photo of Pearl? (from the breeder)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

When Quilting and the Law Collide

Among quilters and homecrafters, there has been much concern about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that has been set to go into effect next month. Many ladies who quilt for charitable foundations (Project Linus, Quilts With Love, preemie quilt organizations, quilts for abused children, etc.), have been putting their efforts on hold until they know whether Congress will put an exemption in for charitable items or, perhaps, whether there will be an official clarification that such items are exempt under the current law. I haven't read the law in its entirety so am not sure how it could include charitable contributions - but I know that those organizations have expressed much concern.

For those home crafters who make a living or supplement their income with craft shows, Etsy, yard sales, flea markets, etc., this is potentially devastating, particularly with the current economy. Likewise, craft sales, an old standby for many churches, could be affected. And of course, the law is much broader than simply textile items.

I'm not trying to be an alarmist. I simply wanted to point out the controversy that is currently in the spotlight for crafters and charity quilters.

I think the law needs an overhaul. And fast.

Here is a recent commentary from Forbes that explains:

Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
Walter Olson 01.16.09, 4:21 PM ET

If someone you know volunteers at a thrift store or crochets baby hats for the crafts site Etsy or favors handmade wooden toys as a baby shower gift, you've probably been hearing the alarms about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Hailed almost universally on its passage last year--it passed the Senate 89 to three and the House by 424 to one, with Ron Paul the lone dissenter--CPSIA is now shaping up as a calamity for businesses and an epic failure of regulation, threatening to wipe out tens of thousands of small makers of children's items from coast to coast, and taking a particular toll on the handcrafted and creative, the small-production-run and sideline at-home business, not to mention struggling retailers. How could this have happened?

Congress passed CPSIA in a frenzy of self-congratulation following last year's overblown panic over Chinese toys with lead paint. Washington's consumer and environmentalist lobbies used the occasion to tack on some other long-sought legislative goals, including a ban on phthalates used to soften plastic.

The law's provisions were billed as stringent, something applauded by high-minded commentators as a way to force the Mattels and Fisher-Prices of the world to keep more careful watch on the supply chains of their Chinese factories.

Barbed with penalties that include felony prison time and fines of $100,000, the law goes into effect in stages; one key deadline is Feb. 10, when it becomes unlawful to ship goods for sale that have not been tested. Eventually, new kids' goods will all have to be subjected to more stringent "third-party" testing, and it will be unlawful to give away untested inventory even for free.

The first thing to note is that we're not just talking about toys here. With few exceptions, the law covers all products intended primarily for children under 12. That includes clothing, fabric and textile goods of all kinds: hats, shoes, diapers, hair bands, sports pennants, Scouting patches, local school-logo gear and so on.

And paper goods: books, flash cards, board games, baseball cards, kits for home schoolers, party supplies and the like. And sporting equipment, outdoor gear, bikes, backpacks and telescopes. And furnishings for kids' rooms.

And videogame cartridges and audio books. And specialized assistive and therapeutic gear used by disabled and autistic kids.

Again with relatively few exceptions, makers of these goods can't rely only on materials known to be unproblematic (natural dyed yarn, local wood) or that come from reputable local suppliers, or even ones that are certified organic.

Instead they must put a sample item from each lot of goods through testing after complete assembly, and the testing must be applied to each component. For a given hand-knitted sweater, for example, one might have to pay not just, say, $150 for the first test, but added-on charges for each component beyond the first: a button or snap, yarn of a second color, a care label, maybe a ribbon or stitching--with each color of stitching thread having to be tested separately.

Suddenly the bill is more like $1,000--and that's just to test the one style and size. The same sweater in a larger size, or with a different button or clasp, would need a new round of tests--not just on the button or clasp, but on the whole garment. The maker of a kids' telescope (with no suspected problems) was quoted a $24,000 testing estimate, on a product with only $32,000 in annual sales.

Could it get worse? Yes, it could. Contrary to some reports, thrift and secondhand stores are not exempt from the law. Although (unlike creators of new goods) they aren't obliged to test the items they stock, they are exposed to liability and fines if any goods on their shelves (or a component button, bolt, binding, etc.) are found to test above the (very low) thresholds being phased in.

Nor does it get them off the hook to say an older product's noncompliance with the new standards wasn't something they knew or should have known about (let alone to say anyone was harmed; the whole controversy from start to finish has gone on with precious little showing of real-world harm to American kids from most of the goods being banned).

Thrift store managers, often volunteers themselves, have no way to guess whether every grommet or zipper on a kids' jacket or ink on an old jigsaw puzzle box or some plastic component of Mom's old roller skates would pass muster.

"The reality is that all this stuff will be dumped in the landfill," predicted Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops. Among the biggest losers if that happens: poorer parents who might start having to buy kids' winter coats new at $30 rather than used at $5 or $10.

And even worse: Since the law does not exempt books, children's' sections at libraries and bookstores will, at minimum, face price hikes on newly acquired titles and, at worse, may have to rethink older holdings.

After all, no one has the slightest idea how many future violations lie hidden in the stacks and few want to play a guessing game about how seriously officialdom will view illegality. "Either they take all the children's books off the shelves," Associate Executive Director Emily Sheketoff of the American Library Association told the Boston Phoenix, "or they ban children from the library."

Antique dolls? Old model-car collections? Musical instruments? Vintage bicycles? Some will go underground in private collectors' clubs, others will be tossed on the bonfires of the new Cultural Revolution.

A traditional attraction on the heritage festival circuit is the kids' dance or performance troupe in ethnic, pioneer or frontier garb, often handcrafted with the sort of ornate detail (beads, pendants, lace inserts, etc.) that will not be practical to test.

The same goes for Native American kids' cherished moccasins, buckskins and powwow gear. Making matters worse, many foreign producers of craft and small-batch toys and clothes, chary of liability under the law, are planning to exit the American market entirely, a step already taken by three German toymakers.

In recent weeks, as thousands of crafters and retailers began to compare notes and realize that they would soon be left with stocks of unsalable merchandise, forced out of business or both, the protests have begun to mount: alarm-raising at hundreds of blogs and forums, a torrent of Twitter discussion, YouTube videos, endangered-products lists, Facebook groups and so forth.

A group called Handmade Toy Alliance is calling attention to the law's burdens in that area. Booksellers are mobilizing. Yet prominent consumer groups have continued to defend even the law's more extreme applications, and their spokespersons are dismissive of public outrage. "I haven't heard a single legitimate concern yet," Public Citizen's David Arkush wrote last month.

The consumer groups--and the congressional offices of key CPSIA backers Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif.--have blamed opposition to the law on "misinformation" and "confusion."

Defenders of the law point out, for example, that item-by-item enforcement at thrift shops is unlikely to be an enforcement priority any time soon for the Consumer Product Safety Commission's 100 field investigators.

The thing is, few librarians, eBay sellers or knitters want to be told that they're outlaws but at too small-fry a level to attract the authorities' attention. They want to be legal.

Besides, the law grants enforcement authority not only to the CPSC but to the 50 state attorneys general, which means anyone who ships nationally, small fry or not, is at the mercy of whomever turns out to be the least reasonable attorney general, a post for which there is always considerable competition.

As CPSIA opponents mobilize, the phrase "unintended consequences" is often heard. Part of the irony, after all, is that the Hasbros and Targets, with their standardization and economies of scale, can afford to adapt to such rules as part of their business plan, while the sorts of enterprises that initially looked to benefit most from the Chinese toy scare--local, organic and so forth--are also the ones who find it hardest to comply.

But the failure here runs deeper. This was not some enactment slipped through in the dead of night: It was one of the most highly publicized pieces of legislation to pass Congress last year.

And yet now it appears precious few lawmakers took the time to check what was in the bill, while precious few in the press (which ran countless let's-pass-a-law articles) cared to raise even the most basic questions about what the law was going to require.

Yes, something's being exposed as systematically defective here. But it's not the contents of our kids' toy chests. It's the way we make public policy.

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of The Rule of Lawyers and other books. He edits Overlawyered.com.

photo - Evelyn in the snow - just so there would be a picture on the blog

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Paradise in the Icestorm

This is my late mother's teddy bear.

During the time she was sick, I had a heck of a time keeping Jezebel from stealing it. I kept having to take it away from her. She'd sneak in when Mom would leave the door open and run off with it.

Mom insisted when she was dying that she wanted it to go to her first great grandchild. I doubt if she thought about how that could set up a fierce competition but the kids don't seem too worried about it. It would be a sad state of affairs if they had a falling out over a stuffed animal.

I suspect it still has Jezebel's scent on it.

So anyway, we were iced in so I finished quilting the Amish Nine Patch, this afternoon. We had about three inches of snow covered with a thick sheet of ice. Evelyn wasn't too thrilled with it and kept breaking through the top crust. She decided she'd rather stay indoors. Sometimes I wonder if she is really a Samoyed. She stayed with me in the quilting room most of the day. She is darn near as good a quilting buddy as Jezebel was. I don't have to step over her to get around but I am not sure if that is a bad thing. I was always having to worry about dropping the iron on top of Jezebel because she was under my feet. Evelyn picks wide areas and sprawls four paws up.

I started out custom quilting it but it looked horrible. I ended up spending an hour ripping out stitches and then decided to just use my Flower Power panto.

I used a mulberry colored thread by So Fine. Blessedly, I had excellent tension and I think the color worked well.

Here are some pictures of the quilting. It really showed up on the black.

Here are some parts of the quilt that show the quilting.

The backing I used was "Paradise" by Michael Miller. Husband wears lots of Hawaiian shirts and I bought this fabric years ago with the idea that I would make a quilt for him. It is so bold that I haven't dared do anything with it. Well, and I lost it, too, but that is another story.

You know, I think I like the backing better than the front!

This only goes to show that buying fabric you just fall in love with sometimes pays off - even if it is psychotic and doesn't go with any of the rest of your stash.

It wasn't perfect, but the backing goes well enough with the front, I think.

Evelyn jumped up on the bed as soon as she saw me lay out the quilt top. She knows this is the time to howl!

There has been a lot of discussion on the news, today, related to President Obama's comment about closing the schools in the District. He was bemused that they did so and said that they needed to bring some "flinty" Chicago toughness to our Nation's Capital. He pointed out that in Chicago, not only don't they close the schools in icy weather, they still send the kids out to play at recess. The news networks apparently thought this would ruffle some feathers and went looking for a story of disgruntled and insulted residents. No luck. I think most of us agreed with the President. Wimpy Washingtonians!!!But I still enjoyed quietly working on my quilt, at home. The tropical backing made me forget all about the ice outside.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blankets and Crates and Psychotic Fabric

Evelyn took a little snooze on the Patriotic Quilt, this afternoon. She is just so darn cute.

That girl is a walking smile!

Look past Evelyn and what do you see? Yup - there's Baby Pearl's bedroom crate! We are definitely getting set up for the little one.

I raided my stash, pulled out a bunch of minkee fabric and whipped together some additional blankets for the baby. I didn't put in any batting and don't plan to actually quilt them. These are just so soft and I had them on hand.

And it is not like I have any grandbabies to quilt for!!!

Ahem, as I was saying...

Pink blankets downstairs, blue upstairs. No real reason.

Evelyn helped me to bring up two of our crates. One is in the master bedroom (where I am sure I will be spending some time sleeping on the floor next to it from time to time in the coming weeks).

The other is in the living room.

Do you like that pink?

Recall the Amish Nine Patch?

Here is what I am using for backing. I have been looking for just the right project to use it on. Let's be candid - it would HAVE to be just the right project for this fabric to not look psychotic.

Off to eat some cheetoes!!