On Shoddy Workmanship

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An engraving by William Morris. Note the skunk proofing.

You’re in a hurry. You’re frustrated and impatient. You say to yourself, “I don’t really need to secure this skunk proofing, my vegetables will be fine.” You might call it shoddy workmanship. I call it half-ass-itis. I’d say it’s the number one sin of the DIYer and I always know when I’m doing it.

There are those whose personality tends towards careful and elegant craftsmanship. You’ve probably met such a person. They craft their own musical instruments and win the blue ribbon at the county fair for their perfectly textured quince jam. I’m not that person (I’m more like this NSFW video). But we have freedom of choice. That’s what makes us human. We can change.

I had a rude reminder of my shoddy workmanship the other night when skunks breached poorly secured bird netting that protected a newly planted bed of vegetables. But at least I can do a better job of securing my skunk proofing as a start. Step by step, I vow to pay more attention to details. Otherwise they’ll be no home grown vegetables this winter.

Craftsmanship is not to be confused with perfectionism. A craftsperson is not afraid to make mistakes, to fail and to learn from setbacks. But to cut corners and know you’re taking an easy shortcut is to fall into halfassitis mode.

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Morris’ craftsmanship was a reaction to the newly industrialized world. I can’t think of a better role model for countering halfassitis thinking.

Do you suffer from halfassitis or are you a detail person? Comments!

Closed vs. Open Floor Plans

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One of the things that attracted us to our house is that it had been neglected for most of the 20th century. With the exception of the bathroom, there was no horrendous 70s or 80s era “remodeling.” Our home’s most unfashionable characteristic is a closed floor plan. Even the kitchen still has an almost 100 year old swinging door.

I’m nearly certain that the next owners of this house will knock out the kitchen wall and put in one of those bar stool counter thingies. Before they do that they may want to read these arguments against the open floor plan from a mom’s perspective. Summary: sometimes what goes on in the kitchen should stay in the kitchen.

Coincidentally I just visited three historic early 20th century mansions. All, of course, had completely separate servant/kitchen quarters with their own entrances. One even had a room just for preparing flowers and a kitchen devoted entirely to cleaning game shot from a balcony off the second story (the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills!). The “out of sight, out of mind” servant is one of the chief arguments used for the open floor plan: that is, that an open floor plan liberates the cook (often the woman of the house) from the servant role.

But I’m not so sure. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to hide the mess and noise of the kitchen from the rest of the house. Likewise I appreciate that the back bedroom that serves as my office and a guest room has a door to hide my chaos. If Dwell Magazine ruled the world, our homes would be one big open warehouse, and then I’d have to be tidy.

What do you think? Are you pro-open house plan or do you like doors? Why?

A Homemade Mattress?

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The Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac

 Addendum 3/23/14:

Check out Making Cotton Mattresses at Home, from the University of Florida’s library collection. Similar to the USAID booklet below, but better quality images, and a description of stitching a rolled edge. Thanks, Amy!

http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00084614/00001/1j

Addendum 8/2/14:  From the comments, a solution!

You can read my meanderings below, and you can go through the many, many comments, where there’s lots of buried gold, but for the time-pressed who are ready and raring to make themselves a mattress, I’d just go to this PDF of a 1965 USAID booklet on how to make a cotton stuffed mattress:

http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNAAW960.pdf  

It’s the most detailed set of instructions I’ve found anywhere. Thanks, Sammi!

***

This is the story of my life. I read about some old domestic technology or product that makes a lot of sense. Perhaps it is obsolete. Or perhaps it is only done/made in more enlightened countries. Nonetheless, I want it. So I have to make from scratch.

Yesterday we met a great couple, Renae and Dimitri. Renae mentioned she was thinking about making her own mattress. I was intrigued because just that morning I’d woken up with low back pain. Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: the ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb the prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants–or opting for a less toxic but less comfortable futon.

So, when Renae said this, I was fascinated. I’d never considered making my own mattress.

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