Sunday, May 29, 2022

Spanish Colonial me.

I promised y'all last week that I would post a photo of my rebozo when I was finished weaving it. Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that the rebozo is part of my costume as an interpreter at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum here in Santa Fe. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
Well, it's done. This week, I fixed a few blips in the weaving and washed it. I realized y'all would probably want to see the whole costume, though, as it's a whole lot more interesting than just seeing a long, rectangular piece of cloth. So here you go, and please excuse the unmade bed in the background that I only kinda sorta managed to crop out. 

Under the rebozo, I'm wearing a peasant top. It's from Lands End, and drapier than it should be -- I thought it was mostly cotton when I ordered it, but it turns out it's a blend of cotton, modal, and -- whoopsy! -- spandex. The skirt is all cotton. There's a sash that's hard to see in the photo -- I'll get to that in a minute -- and you almost can't see the shoes at all, which is a good thing because they're brown suede flats and they are not historically appropriate. The shoes we're supposed to be wearing are called tewa boots. Don't bother googling the term; Mama Google will think you mean boots made by Teva, the shoe manufacturer. I'm a big fan of Tevas, but they don't make anything like the boots that everybody in Northern New Mexico wore in Spanish Colonial times. You can click here to see what the footwear looked like in those days.

Anyway, I'm hoping the rest of the outfit will be sufficiently convincing that nobody will notice that I'm not wearing the right kind of shoes.

Now, about that sash: Surprise! I wove that, too. The yarn is a cotton/linen blend that a friend gave me last year. I decided to attempt to weave a twill pattern for the first time ever. Here's what it looked like on the loom (yes, that's Tigs on the floor, and you don't want to know what he was doing when I took the photo): 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
To make plain weave like the rebozo, you go under one warp thread and over the next, all across the fabric, and then reverse it on the next pass, so that you go over the thread you went under the last time, and under the one you went over. But for 2/2 twill, you kind of think of your warp threads in groups of four. You go under the first two warp threads and over the next two on the first pass; then on the next pass you move over one warp thread, so that you go over one, under the next two, and over the last one, and so on. That's what gives you the diagonal slant. With any luck, you end up with fabrick that looks like this: 
Stolen from
If the pattern looks familiar, it's because you've seen it on your favorite pair of jeans. Denim fabric is a 2/2 twill.

Anyway, it was an interesting experiment. The end result looks a little rough in some places, but I think it will pass for the costume. Next weekend is my first volunteer gig. I'll let you know how it works out.


I had intended to do a split post this week and address the recent rash of mass shootings, particularly the one in Uvalde, Texas, that put the lie to so many of the NRA's talking points. For example, the army of "good guys with guns" in the school parking lot didn't stop 21 people, most of them kids, from being shot to death.

Rather than keeping you, however, I'll point you to an interview I read in Politico earlier today. A couple of researchers have studied a whole bunch of people who committed mass shootings over the past several decades. These researchers have identified a profile that fits such individuals -- one that would make it easier to stop such incidents before they start. The question is whether the political will is there to implement their suggestions, which, for one thing, would require a huge investment in mental health screenings and treatment. So far, the will has not been there; for all the bleating conservatives do about how troubled these individuals are, they are also quick to scuttle any actual funding for mental health treatment. Still, I found it an interesting and balanced read, and I recommend it to you.


These moments of balanced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The pandemic's not over yet, folks -- get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Atwood and GRRM in my hometown.

The rebozo is finished -- well, the weaving is finished, but I need to fix a thing and then wash it. So I'll post pictures next week. 

I have a lot of to talk about this week anyway, and it's even writing related. Not mine, but that of a couple of my favorite authors. 

This weekend was the inaugural outing for the Santa Fe Literary Festival.

Lynne Cantwell 2022

It's kind of mind boggling that we haven't had a literary festival here before; we have world-class art, world-class opera, world-class food, and lots of resident authors, but no big events centered around books -- until now. So of course I couldn't miss it -- although I had to pick and choose amongst a ton of interesting author events because the ticket prices were insane, even with the discount for New Mexico residents. Here's hoping they're a little more reasonable next year.

Anyway, I settled on one Saturday session and one Sunday session. Yesterday's was Margaret Atwood. Picking her session was a no-brainer, as she's one of my favorite novelists ever. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
(She was not actually blue, you understand. My phone camera did a weird color shift when I tried to take a photo of the jumbo screen above.)

I have to wonder whether the festival organizers knew, when they scheduled Atwood's session, just how topical it would be. She's famously the author of The Handmaid's Tale, of course. When the draft Supreme Court decision on Dobbs was leaked, she had quite a bit to say about it in a piece in The Atlantic, and she reiterated many of the points in the article yesterday. But she also talked about the writing craft a bit. She's a big procrastinator, she says, but once she starts writing, she's all in. She likened it to going swimming in the cold lake waters in Toronto, where she's from. First you dip a toe in the water a few times, but eventually you realize you're just going to have to jump in and get it over with. She said at that point you say, "It's not so bad" -- but of course you're often telling that to your friends to lure them in. As both a writer and someone who grew up swimming in Lake Michigan, I can confirm both the experience and the lure.

She's also written a trilogy of dystopian novels. She says she is sometimes asked why she doesn't write any utopian novels to kind of balance it out, and she said -- and it's true -- that if everything's going along perfectly, where's the story?

"Where's the story?" makes a nice segue to the session I attended today: George R.R. Martin, famously the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of fantasy novels upon which the Game of Thrones TV series is based, and which fans have been after him to finish since long before the TV show began airing. He wryly commented today that it appears he'll be writing the books until he dies. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
(Again, the folks on the screen are a lot less blue in real life.)

Martin is a busy guy (to ASoIaF fans' endless chagrin: "Put that other stuff aside and finish the books!"), and he talked about some of his projects today. One of them is a TV series called House of the Dragon, a prequel to Game of Thrones based on his novel Fire and Blood. It's set to premiere on HBO on August 21st. He's also been involved with Robert Redford (yes, that Robert Redford) in creating a series based on Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee novels. The show is called Dark Winds and it's set to premiere June 12th on AMC. I'm pretty excited about this one -- it was shot on the Navajo Nation, which sprawls across New Mexico and Arizona, and Martin says they made sure to involve Native Americans as both actors and behind the scenes.

Martin didn't have a lot of writing advice -- he talked more about Hollywood, which makes sense as that's where his focus is these days -- but he did mention that every writer hates the question, "Where do you get your ideas from?" (Can confirm that, by the way.) He says the late sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison had a great response. He'd tell people that his ideas came from Schnectady. But then he stopped saying it because too many people believed him.

One Hollywood tidbit: Martin claimed that the high-concept pitch for Game of Thrones was "The Sopranos meet Middle Earth."

Atwood flew in from Toronto, but Martin -- and his interviewer, Douglas Preston, who is a prolific author on his own -- had a much shorter commute: both of them live here in Santa Fe. And they're both investors in a new excursion train operation called Sky Railway. Martin talked about how he used to have a toy train that went around the Christmas tree while growing up, and how having your own actual train is so much cooler.

It made sense, given the local connection, that attendees at the Martin session this morning got a little treat. It was yummy. (Yes, that's Frida Kahlo on my sock.) 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
And with that, we segue back to a poem about food by Atwood, which she read yesterday morning. I'm posting it here without permission and hoping her publisher doesn't come down on me for it (or, at least, comes down on this blogger first, since I stole the images from their post). Atwood's in her eighties, and she says it feels to her -- with war and shortages and so on -- like she's been through it all before.

These moments of bloggy trains, coconuts, and TV shows have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Weaving a rebozo.

Even though there are plenty of hot social topics in the news this week, I decided to take a break from that sort of thing and post about my new weaving project: a rebozo for my costume as a volunteer at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. But wouldn't you know it -- the use of rebozos is in the midst of a cultural-appropriation brouhaha. 

I'll explain all that in a sec. First, I want to tell you what the heck a rebozo is. 

Dama con rebozo - Juan Rodríguez Juárez
Museo Nacional de Historia, Mexico City

The striped wrap that the woman in this painting is wearing around her shoulders is a rebozo (one that's a lot fancier than the one I'm making). Basically, a rebozo (it's pronounced reh-BOH-zoh) is a long rectangular piece of cloth. Wikipedia describes it as looking like "a cross between a scarf and a shawl." It originated in Mexico, but it's unclear when; a number of indigenous cultures use similar woven articles. The earliest description by a European was written by Friar Diego Duran in 1572. Other influences on rebozo design were probably the Spanish mantilla (you might have seen pictures of these lacy shawls -- Spanish women would stick a tall comb in their hair and drape the mantilla over it); a Moorish garment called a rebociño that's similar to a mantilla but shorter; and, much later, the Filipino mantón de Manila (flamenco dancers wear these).

Anyway, back to Mexico. Women used the rebozo as sort of an all-purpose garment: over the head, for protection from the sun; around the shoulders for warmth; and as a carrier for all sorts of things, including babies.

In fact, the rebozo has experienced a resurgence over the past several years, both as a baby carrier and as an aid to women in labor. Here's where the cultural appropriation thing comes in. There's a movement among some doulas against White women using rebozos to aid women giving birth. One blogger calls the rebozo a "sacred garment" and says there have been cases where inexperienced White doulas have actually harmed their clients by using a rebozo in techniques they haven't been properly trained in.

I don't know anything about rebozo-related birthing techniques, so I can't speak to that part of the critique. But a rebozo -- a utilitarian piece of cloth -- is a sacred garment? Where did that come from?

The only thing I can think of is this: During the Mexican Revolution, women called Adelitas used their rebozos to carry both babies and weapons past checkpoints. Because of this, the rebozo became a symbol of women's strength and feminity. Frida Kahlo wore them. Mexico's then-First Lady, Margarita Zavala, wore one when she met with our then-First Lady, Michelle Obama, in 2010. 

Today, rebozos come in all sorts of patterns and colors, often with intricately-woven fringe.

Mine isn't going to be anything like that.

The rebozo came to New Mexico with Spanish settlers in the 17th century -- back when it was a simple rectangular shawl, used both as shade from the sun and as a carry-all. This is the historical period I'm going to be representing, so there won't be anything fancy about my rebozo. Here I have it started on the table loom: 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
It's going to be light blue with very basic fringe. With any luck, it'll be about 21 inches wide and about six feet long when it's done. The yarn is 5/2 cotton -- if you're a knitter, that translates to laceweight -- and I'm making it very drapey, to make sure I have enough yarn to finish the thing.

I'm hoping that no one reading this accuses me of cultural appropriation. Granted, I'm not Hispanic. But my rebozo's intended use is as part of a historical reenactment. I won't be using it to carry a baby, and I certainly won't be employing it to help any pregnant women give birth.

I'll post a photo when it's done, hopefully next week.


These moments of weaving blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and stay safe!

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Happy Domestic Infant Supplier Day?

Yeah. It's about abortion. 

Today is Mother's Day in the United States. This past Monday, somebody at the Supreme Court revealed the high court's take on motherhood by leaking to Politico a draft of the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The final opinion isn't due out until June or so. But this draft makes it clear that a majority of justices voted initially to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal across the country. 

Written by Justice Samuel Alito, the draft states that "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start." It goes on to say: "It is time... to return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives." Many pundits have interpreted that to mean that the Supremes want to kick the issue back to the states; in other words, state legislatures would be able to restrict, or end, access to abortion for their residents. And legislatures in conservative states are champing at the bit to do it.

But perhaps the most inflammatory statement in the draft -- other than that it would overturn Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe -- is a footnote that contains a quotation from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. If you've been wondering what that tweet in the screengrab above is about, here you go:

Nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent.

Yes, that's right: the Supreme Court appears set to champion the business of forcing women to bear babies they don't want so that others can adopt them.

Here's a link to the CDC report, which was released in 2008. The quote in the Supreme Court draft brief  can be found in the conclusion on page 16. The report is a statistical survey of adoption in America. What it doesn't do is suggest that women who can bear children ought to get cranking.

In fact, there are adoptable kids in America right now. Of the 400,000 or so kids in foster care on any given day, about a quarter of them are available for adoption. Why aren't those million women taking any of those kids? Well, as the CDC report states, women looking to adopt want a kid younger than two who is not disabled and isn't part of a sibling group. Note, please, that the average age of kids entering foster care is eight. 

Moreover, one-third of the available-to-adopt kids are of color. Now, I know there are white folks who would adopt a child of color; I know a few of them myself, and kudos to them. But the fact remains that a lot of people looking to adopt are in the market for cute white babies.

In any case, ending legal abortion isn't going to produce enough babies for every person looking to adopt to have one. The CDC says about 630,000 legal induced abortions occurred in the United States in 2019. But not all of them would have resulted in a live birth if they been carried to term. Women decide to abort for a multitude of reasons, after all.

Moreover, the Guttmacher Institute says there are fewer abortions now than there were when the decision in Roe was handed down. That's partly because fewer young women are becoming pregnant; in 2017, there were just 87 pregnancies per 1,000 American women between the ages of 15 and 44 -- the lowest level ever recorded.

Ending abortion isn't going to solve the adoption supply chain issue. Women will still end unwanted pregnancies; they did it before Roe, and they'll do it again if Roe is overturned. They just won't be able to do it as safely as they can do it now. Which ought to piss off every American woman, particularly those who claim to be pro-life.

One other thing: I saw a comment this week that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought Roe was a bad decision. I had trouble believing it, so I looked it up. What Ginsburg thought was that Roe was decided on the wrong grounds. Instead of making it a privacy issue (that is, the decision on abortion ought to be between a woman and her doctor), Ginsburg thought it should have been based on the idea that women have the same rights as men.

I understand why she thought so. But here are two things to ponder: 1) the Supreme Court at the time Roe was decided was comprised of nine men (eight of them white) and zero women -- the likelihood that they'd accept an equal rights argument was probably vanishingly small; and 2) the right to privacy established by Roe was used later in a whole host of cases -- everything from the availability of contraception to interracial marriage to gay marriage. Would those decisions have broken the same way without Roe as precedent? It's hard to say. But with Roe gone, it's not outside the realm of possibility that these other rights could be in danger, too.

Anyway, getting back to the draft opinion in Dobbs: The leaker may have done us a favor. Assuming the vote doesn't change between now and when the final opinion is handed down, we have more time to remind everyone about the rights we're losing. The best way to fix this is for Congress to legalize abortion across the country -- and the only chance we have of that, given the current mess in Congress, will be to increase the percentage of Democrats in both the House and Senate. Keep that in mind when you get ready to vote this November.

Oh, right -- and happy Mother's Day.


These moments of righteous blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed! And remember to vote!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Pretty blankets.

I may have mentioned that I'm going to be volunteering at El Rancho de las Golondrinas here in Santa Fe this summer. It's a living history museum situated on the Camino Real, the royal road that led from Mexico City to Santa Fe, back when the Spanish were intent on conquering what's now the Southwestern United States. 

The museum covers a couple of hundred years of northern New Mexico history, from the Mexican settlement of the area in the 1700s to the turn of the 20th century. The building showing the earliest years is the placita, the little plaza, which depicts what life was like when the ranch was a paraje, or an official stop, on the Camino Real. Settlers had to make almost everything themselves, of course, being far from civilization as they were, and among the things they did was weave their own cloth. As you might imagine, that caught my interest. So that's the part of the museum where I'm planning to volunteer.

To prepare, I've been reading some stuff about the history of weaving in New Mexico. Churro sheep first came up from Mexico with Coronado in 1540, but the conquistadores weren't interested in making clothing from their flock -- instead, they ate them. It wasn't until Don Juan de Oñate arrived in 1598 that sheep were used for anything but food. That's when weaving began to take off. 

The Pueblo Indians were already weaving when Oñate showed up, but they grew and wove cotton, not wool, and their looms were different from the kind the Spanish brought with them to the New World. Weaving became a big part of the local economy, with tens of thousands of blankets being sent south to Mexico as trade items by 1840. 

I won't get too far into the weeds here. But as I was reading one of the handouts, some of the terms stood out for me. Saltillo-style weaving, for instance. I'd heard of saltillo tile -- the large terracotta tiles used in flooring across the Southwest -- but Saltillo weaving? What did it look like?

Dear Reader, I have googled and found photos, and now I will share them with you.

So the earliest weaving patterns were horizontal stripes. (I've stolen most of these photos from this webpage, and I hope Centinela Traditional Arts doesn't come after me for using them.) 

A striped blanket.
Horizontal stripes are stupid easy to weave. Even I can do them. You just go back and forth across the loom with one color 'til you decide to switch, and then you go back and forth with the new color, and so on. The earliest blankets were made with undyed yarn -- churro sheep come in shades of black, brown, and white -- although sometimes the yarn was dyed with natural materials. Chamisa, for example, makes a yellow dye. But not all natural dyes were local. Indigo blue had to be imported from Mexico. Cochineal red is made from little bugs collected from cacti -- no, really -- and it was also imported.

So the early blankets went south, and Saltillo blankets came north in trade. Those often had stripes at either end and a triangular motif in the middle. New Mexican weavers began to adopt and modify the style. 

Blanket with Saltillo elements, including the central medallion.
When the Santa Fe Trail was established in the 1820s, trade in New Mexico turned away from Mexico and toward the eastern United States. That's when commercial dyes became popular. By the mid 19th century, local weavers -- including many Navajo -- had moved away from natural dyes and began developing their own designs. One non-Indian style of weaving developed in New Mexico during this period is the Vallero. I found this example here. Isn't it dazzling?
A Vallero-style blanket.
As amazing as these later blankets and rugs are, I expect I'll stick with stupid easy designs for my own weaving projects. But I'm hoping to learn how to dye yarn at Las Golondrinas this summer. I'll let you know how it goes.


These moments of dazzling blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!