Archive for October, 2013

The clothes we wear

Posted in Crafts at 13:21

I’ve been working on a cotton velvet dress for a couple of months now. It’s about 10% finished; I haven’t felt like sewing much. No particular reason, other than a lot of things going on, and it’s a dress for colder weather, so while it was hot, motivation to finish it flagged.

Last night I thought I might work on hand topstitching the sleeves. It needs to be done before I finish putting together the bodice – topstitching through closed sleeves is trickier than when they’re still open. Time passed this morning, I played a few games, watered the plants, admired my year-old orchid that’s bursting happily out of its pot in the humid, northern light of my patio. Checked my email, news sites, others. Came across an article titled “I got hired at a Bangladesh sweatshop. Meet my 9-year-old boss”. My heart sank. The Rana Plaza tragedy had finally spurred to action a few fashion chains, who signed a legally-binding agreement for fire safety and building improvements in their Bangladesh factories. Like the journalist who was hired, I did not realize that children younger than twelve were working in Bangladesh.

Meem, nine years old, works 12 hours a day, seated on a concrete floor, with no cushion or back rest. There are no windows in her building, the entrance serves as their only exit, and the washroom has a hole in the floor for a toilet. In and of itself, a hole in the floor, also known as a squat toilet, is not necessarily a bad thing; you can still find this type of toilet in France. However, no matter what kind of toilet is available, if there is only one for 45 people, and it is rarely cleaned, it is not sanitary.

Meem and the sewing helpers were paid the least, earning about $26 Canadian a month if they worked from 9 to 5 every day or about $32 if they worked overtime and stayed until 9 p.m. Most did. There were no weekends, except for a half-day every Friday, no sick leave, no holidays.

If a worker took a day off, it came off the paycheque.

Still, in a country where so many live in grinding poverty, Meem’s was a prized job, even though the minimum wage at this factory was between $30 and $38 a month.

“When I become a sewing operator, I will make very good shirts,” Meem promised. “No one will yell at me.”

That’s how big she dreamed: to graduate to a sewing operator one day.

I used to boycott name brands, until some of them finally signed on to the safety agreement. I only shop at those who have signed, but obviously, there is still a great deal of improvement that desperately needs to be done. Bangladesh textile workers do need these jobs; they pay well compared to others in their country, and allow women financial freedom that was rare before. Improving their wages and lowering their working hours would increase the cost of clothing items by only pennies. Industriall is a global union working towards sustainable industrial policy, and was one of the union signataries to the fire and building safety accord. You can see all signatories here. Hopefully it goes without saying that child labor should not be allowed – if wages were raised and hours lowered, adults would have the resources to care for children at home.

Ma roue est voilée !

Posted in Cycling at 19:11

Achter im Fahrrad

[Not my wheel – public domain photo by Immanuel Giel]

On my last ride home, I noticed the sounds characteristic of wheels going out of true: my V-brakes started going “shwish – shwish – shwish” on the front wheel, and when nearly home, a more alarming “scraaatch – scraaatch” on the rear wheel. I stopped using the rear brake – it’s better to use your front brake primarily anyhow – since I was afraid abrasive gravel or dust had gotten on my brake pads, which could damage the rim.

Once home, I cleaned my brake pads. Still the same gritty scraping noise. Ran my fingers across my rims, didn’t feel anything out of order, cleaned them anyhow. I have plenty of cotton scraps thanks to sewing, they work great for that sort of thing. Tried the rear brake again, and it still scratched a bit, but less than before. Holding the brake lightly, I finally noticed: it was scratching a very slow wobble, and when I tested more carefully, it was definitely once each full turn. I flipped my bike upside down and spun the rear wheel, standing still to watch for wobble. Sure enough, the wheel was slightly out of true.

I shuttered plans to commute the next morning. While I probably wouldn’t be in immediate danger from a brand-new wheel a few millimeters out of true, it is nonetheless one of those things that’s best repaired, since continuing to ride could stress the wheel inordinately at certain points, which could eventually lead to a nasty rim failure or spoke breakage down the road.

Naturally, then, the next item of order was to phone the local bike shop to let them know my wheels were out of true, and ask when I could take in my bike for truing. You can learn to true wheels yourself, but an LBS, as “local bike shops” are called for short in the cycling world, only charges 10-30 dollars/euros to true a wheel or two. It’s a quick job for someone experienced, and a good shop does it well. Then I realized… I have no idea how to say “out of true” in French. Google searches didn’t help much, so here is a mini-glossary! Sheldon Brown’s site has an otherwise excellent English-French cycling glossary.

wheel out of true = roue voilée
out of true (noun) = un voile (masculin, voile avec un e)
true a wheel = dévoiler une roue
damaged rim = jante endommagée

My rims aren’t damaged; I’ve been treating my bike very well. Thought I’d throw it in, though, since it does often go hand-in-hand with a wheel being out of true! For useful sentences:

My wheel is out of true = Ma roue est voilée
… by a few millimetres = … de quelques millimètres
The rim is damaged = La jante est endommagée
It’s very out of true = Le voile est prononcé
Truing the wheel will take a bit of time = Le dévoilage prendra un peu de temps

You may have noticed that le voile is a noun whereas our English “out of true” is used as an adjective. The closest translation to a similar noun in English would be “wobble”, though un voile is a technical term, not colloquial. As such, my phrase le voile est prononcé would rather literally be “the wobble is pronounced”, or turned in more natural English, “it has a pronounced wobble”.

It’s normal for brand-new wheels to go a bit out of true after several hours of riding. All will be repaired this Thursday, and I’ll be back in the saddle.