How to Make Rope from Rags

I was doing laundry this morning and decided I wanted to try to save some money by drying my clothes on a clothesline. I had two major problems. 1) I didn’t have rope to use as a clothesline. 2) I currently live in an apartment and an outside clothesline just isn’t possible. So, after surveying my pad, looking for places to secure a line to that would be level and could withstand the weight of wet clothing, I set out to solve problem number 1. Rather than get in my car and drive all the way out to some store to fork over hard earned money on more rope than I actually needed, I decided to use resources I had at home already and make my own rope.

I have a lot of fabric laying around, so I had plenty to chose from, but I certainly didn’t want to use my good cotton for such a project. What I used was a old shower curtain I’d picked up from Freecycle in a bulk fabric box some time ago. It’s a fabric shower curtain, not a plastic or vinyl. Of course, you could use just about any old fabric. Old sheets, old clothes, etc. It doesn’t have to be pretty because this is strictly a utilitarian project.

I cut the curtain into strips of fabric. Starting with 3 strips, tie them together at the top in a knot. You can now begin braiding the strips together.

Once you’ve braided to about 2 or 3 inches from the loose end, it’s time to start joining in the next strips. What I did was lay each new strip on top of an existing strip, so that as I continued braiding, I was braiding with 3 double strands (6 strips). Because this causes the rope to suddenly become thicker, I gradated the new strips so the new thickness wasn’t as sharp.

As you can see, I have the 3 loose ends of the new strips hanging out from the rope where I began joining them in. These loose ends can be cut off later.

I would like to note that while this homemade rope may not have industrial strength, and I cannot vouch for just how strong it is, it is sufficient for the vast majority of the everyday tasks most of us would require rope for.

In the end, my rope was a success. My jerry-rigged clothesline however, not so much. As I don’t seem to have the space to adequately dry a full load of laundry in my apartment, I may need to rethink this afterall…

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Trojan T-Shirts

I was playing around on facebook today, when I came across a Gizmodo article entitled Free T-Shirts Given to Neo-Nazis Revealed a Secret Message After Being Washed. You can read the entire article here.

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Now, I am head over heals in love with this entire concept. From a social standpoint, I adore the message of peace and tolerance that the shirt conveys. As a crypto-buff, I admire the use of steganography (the art/ science of hiding messages). But most important, for the purposes of this blog, I am intrigued by the technical process. In other words, I see this and have to ask, “How did they DO that?”

While I don’t know too much about more complicated dying processes (yet), I know there are 2 basic elements to dying or printing: dyes and resists. Dyes are the what actually penetrate the fabric and create colors. Resists stop the dyes from penetrating into the fiber either in part or in full, this is how all manner of batiks and marbleized effects are done. According to the article, the top image washes out in the first wash. The top image could possibly have been created using some kind of resist, which would not stick to the fabric when washed. However, looking closer at the image of the shirt after washing, you can see that the black of the t-shirt isn’t as dark, in fact it seems that the top layer has broken up into fine particles and dispersed throughout. This might be a resist used in combination with some other paint or dye.  In the commentary to another article on the same shirts, a commentator called Phisrow suggested that “…a starch-binder adhesive mixed with titanium dioxide or a similar pigment powder…” would most likely account for the effect.

Sadly, I do not have an answer as yet as to how they pulled it off, even after spending the last 2 hours searching for an answer on teh internetz. However, this just makes me all the more in awe.

Emulation: Part 2

What is a furry?

Trying to define exactly what is furry is actually quite an undertaking, despite my familiarity with the subject. You see, furries and the furry fandom are quite complex. From a very basic standpoint, a furry is an anthropomorphic animal, either a human dressed as an animal or an artistic representation of an animal taking on somewhat human characteristics (sometimes –but not always – bipedalism, speech, primate-like hands, etc). From this definition, Mickey Mouse would be considered a furry, as would the guy dressed as the Easter Bunny in the mall every spring. However, it’s not quite that simple. The furry fandom (the over-arching community of people who consider themselves furry, or who appreciate furry art) isn’t even in total agreement as to exactly just what constitutes a “furry” and what is just some guy in a bunny suit.

The Costume

When you look into the wardrobe of the furry community, you’ll find a wide range of selections from a fursuit that covers the entire body and face, to a simple collar. As aspects of furry culture enter the mainstream culture (mostly by way of anime), it is becoming more common to see people wearing mittens that look like paws or hats with ears on them. (In fact, I believe one of the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch books has a pattern for knitted cat ear hats.) However, as these elements become more acceptable and more mainstream, is it still “furry”?

My friend, Emily, in a knitted hat with cat ears. Yes, she made that 🙂

A Shared Culture

It seems to me, that what really sets apart a furry from a mall employee in a bunny suit, is a shared culture or sub-culture. Tygerwolfe, the author of Furry Logic (source 5), did some Freshman level ethnography of sorts on “Prancing Skiltaire” furries. Noting the demographics, she found most of the group (whose human forms could be visibly observed) were Caucasian and males predominated. In asking some of the furries why they chose to become furries, the responses were along the lines of respect for/ wanting to emulate their chosen animal and wanting to not be human for awhile. Indeed, being a furry allows for actions such as nuzzling or grooming which are inappropriate as a human, but are perfectly acceptable while one is “in character”. I can definitely see the allure of this… even as humans we have a need to feel loved and accepted, and physical closeness/ touch can be hard to find in everyday life sometimes. Several of the furries she interviewed also stated that they dressed as their chosen animal to feel closer to it somehow.

Mental Shifts

A mental shift is simply what the name implies, your mind shifts focus.  As Vexen Crabtree (author of source 3) points out, a mental shift itself is a normal thing, “Rugby players performing a dance before a game are enticing a mental shift. Some football fans hype themselves up to the extent that they undergo a mental shift whilst attending a game. Certain forms of martial art train and entice adherents to perform mental shifts during meditation or training…” In this context, the shift is from the human self to the animal (furry) self. There is a large overlap of furries and therians (people who feel such a deep connection to their animal that the animal is a part of who they are, or that they harness the animal’s spirit or power – similar in concept to having a spirit guide, but slightly different) and so, for some, becoming furry can be a near spiritual exercise.

In Closing/ Food for Thought

I first became acquainted with the term “furry” around 2005. I was looking up pictures of foxes (I’ve always been fascinated with them… they’re just gorgeous creatures) and chanced upon the artwork of Justin Pearce. Though, in a sense, I’ve been drawn to furries since I was a small child, long before I even really knew what they were. I can remember, as a very little girl, pretending I was cat. I used to try to curl up and sleep on the arm or back of the couch like our cats did. I would lick the back of my hand to wash my face and try to have conversations in cat-speak with our cats, as if I had some inter-special link to them that no one else had. Many children, actually, mimic animals as part of play. Even as adults, animals still hold importance and power for us. The Ranting Gryphon (source 4) wrote an interesting post that discusses the use of animals as symbols/ communication/ language. He cites company and team names incorporating animals in the names:

Without our animal symbols, the Miami Dolphins would be the Miami Intelligent-Yet-Very-Quick-And-Elegants. You would no longer own a Ford Mustang. It would be a Ford Wild-Majestic-And-Powerful. We use animals to capture the essence of their character in our communication, and in doing so, we add a fanciful and whimsical flair to our society and our human world.

He has a good point. Animals do carry cultural significance and symbolism/ connotations, so many that we would come up lacking if we erased them from our lives. It also makes sense considering how important animals have been to us in the past. Animals were the central subject matter of cave paintings, some of the earliest gods were animals, or part animal-part human. From a certain standpoint, furry-ism, if you will, is really just a re-boot of some very old concepts.

Sources

1) Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furry_fandom

2) PeterCat’s Furry InfoPage.  http://www.tigerden.com/~infopage/furry/

3) An Intimate Exploration of Furry Fandom.  http://www.humantruth.info/furry.html

4) The Ranting Gryphon. http://ranting-gryphon.com/Information/whatisfurry.htm

5) Anthropology 100 – Furry Logic. http://www.tygerwolfe.com/?page_id=344

6) Furry Psychology 101: Types of Furry. http://skuffcoyote.livejournal.com/70336.html