This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for March, 2011

Western Wall Tunnels

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 30, 2011

Aqueduct, Western Wall Tunnels

This morning a group of us from work went on a tour of the Western Wall tunnels as part of a project celebration. The tunnel network runs along the full length of the western side of the Temple Mount (Har haBayit), close to half a kilometer. The virtual tour on the Kotel Web site has a virtual tour with a map and video clips (runs in Internet Explorer only). Wikipedia has a short article on the history of the excavation. The photo above was taken near the far end of the tunnel, in the Herodian aqueduct.

The photo below shows our group listening to a guide describing the stones. They are photographed in front of the largest stone (just behind their heads), also called the Western Stone: “Weighing 517 tonnes (570), it is one of the largest building blocks in the world. The stone is 13.6 meters (44.6 feet) long, 3 metres (9.8 feet) high and has an estimated width of 3.3 meters (10.8 feet).” It is also described as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by human beings without the aid of powered machinery.

You can see the incised edges of the ashlar masonry, beautifully fitted together without mortar. It’s really impressive!

Largest Stone, Western Wall Tunnels

A mechanized model of the Temple Mount was used to show how the terrain changed over the years as the area around the portico was filled in and built up during the medieval period.

Model of Temple Mount, Western Wall Tunnels

Two teenage girls pray on the women’s side of Wilson’s Arch.

Wilson's Arch, Western Wall Tunnels

A very long tunnel…. It runs along the western wall, from the Great Hall to the Herodian street.

Long Tunnel, Western Wall Tunnels

The next photo shows the vaulted ceiling over the Herodian street. There are a couple columns in the wall, but it was too small and dark to get a really good photo of the whole room without a wide angle lens, which I hadn’t brought.

Ceiling over Herodion Street, Western Wall Tunnels

Another photo of the aqueduct, this time with some of group for scale.

Aqueduct, Western Wall Tunnels

The aqueduct leads to the Struthion (from the Greek word for sparrow) pool, a water reservoir built by Herod the Great in the first century BCE.

Strouthion Pool, Western Wall Tunnels

Strouthion Pool, Western Wall Tunnels

Strouthion Pool, Western Wall Tunnels

Posted in Israel, Judaism, photography | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Embroidery from Abandoned Bag

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 28, 2011

Embroidery recovered from bag

I’m a magpie. When I see a discarded object that looks interesting I bring it home. This bag, left on top of a garbage bin, caught my eye while I was on my way to work (in my neighbourhood it’s very common to leave things that others might want, like outgrown children’s clothing or old towels, in a bag on top of the bin for others to take). I photographed it because it was obviously handmade and heavily patched. When I noticed that there was a bit of Arab embroidery on one panel, I stuck it in a plastic bag and put it in my backpack.

Abandoned Bag

My husband was really grossed out by my bringing it home but the bag wasn’t smelly or terribly dirty. It was a bit damp from the previous night’s rain. Here’s a photo of the bag spread out, with all the patches and home-made strap exposed.

Abandoned bag

The bag evidently began life as a cushion cover. In the next photo you can see that a clever recycler used the zipper of the cushion cover as the bag’s closure. The back and front of the bag were made from the same cheap, black Aida cloth typically used for tourist-shop embroidery. A red, flowered print lining had been inserted.

Abandoned bag

Taking the bag apart was a lot harder than I imagined because the lining and straps had been machine-sewn with heavy-duty thread and close stitches. It required quite a lot of cutting with a seam ripper to dismantle the strap and lining. Taking the cushion cover apart was even harder because the fabric and thread and zipper were black and the cushion cover was lined with a lining that had started to adhere to the stitches. At this point, the dismantling process became a lot dirtier. The bag itself was fairly clean, but years of use as a cushion cover had allowed particles of dust and dirt to seep through the threads of the black fabric and to be trapped between the liner and fabric. I put a towel over my laps to protect my clothes and the chair I was sitting on because so much gunk was flying around.

At the end of the process I had a pile of rags and dirt on the floor, along with well-laundered tissues and bits of thread. The grey and white rags on the left are the original lining of the cushion cover.

Abandoned bag

Here’s the back of the embroidery. There was a little damage in one corner where part of the design had been caught in a corner gusset. Otherwise, the embroidery was intact and in fairly good shape, although faded.

Abandoned bag

The photo at the top shows the embroidery panel after I washed and left it to dry. It’s typical tourist-shop embroidery, nothing special. The shape is meant to mimic the bodice of a traditional Bedouin dress but this piece was not a recycled dress panel. The fabric is too flimsy, the piece is too small, and the fabric was an exact match with the back of the cushion cover. The thread is cotton, probably perle 8. It’s not of sufficiently high quality to frame (like the old mola that I found sewn into a bag at a craft show), but I’ll find a use for it.

Update (Mar. 28, 2011): Someone requested that I post the measurements. I totally forgot! It’s 31 x 29 cm (11 inches high x 12 inches wide).

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Book Review: A Scuola di Puncetto Valsesiano

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 24, 2011

A Sculoa di Puncetto Valsesiano

Carlo Rosetti, Paola Scarrone, and Angela Stefanutto, A Scuola di Puncetto Valsesiano (Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso, 2009). 112 pages. €30, available from (excellent service! No affiliation, just a satisfied customer.)

Sample page:

A Sculoa di Puncetto Valsesiano

Puncetto Valsesiano, an Italian needle lace, has captivated many with its elegant, austere designs and apparent simplicity. The only materials required are a needle and thread. The lace is created entirely with a simple overhand knot, made by looping the thread around the needle. Unfortunately, there is very little information about Puncetto in English, apart from the Anchor Manual of Needlework and Gentle Arts.

You are probably wondering whether this book be used by someone who doesn’t read Italian. The answer is “Yes,” as long as you are comfortable with schematic diagrams (like the charts in Burda crochet magazines) and enjoy solving puzzles. These diagrams are comprehensible without knowing Italian (I’m currently working on a short glossary to translate terms found in this book, which may make some things easier). Each small red square represents a single stitch, 2 rows. The blue square represents 2 stitches, 4 rows, and so on. When you skip a single stitch, the small vertical red line may look like a knot, but it is actually a loop; you are skipping one loop or two knots.

An important point to keep in mind is that the diagrams are a graphical shorthand for describing the Puncetto motifs. They are not exact depictions, in the way that filet crochet or cross-stitch charts are. Because successive rows of stitches are offset, like bricks in a wall, they cannot be shown on a grid. I recommend that you practice the simpler motifs, such as blocks, spiders, etc., before you tackle the more advanced design because if you do not have a good grasp of the structure of the basic motif, you will run into trouble (usually too many or not enough stitches when you finish a row).

This book provides a rich variety of motifs and edgings, far more than I’ve seen in any other source. There are “stars” (“stars” are actually the small square motifs that form the basis for strips and doilies), corners, edgings, scallops, picots, circular motifs, triangles, diagonally worked corners, and doily centers — even leaves, much like the leaves of bobbin lace. The basic knot is briefly described with photos. In theory, a beginner could use this book and develop a large repertoire of motifs. The only materials required are a needle and cotton thread, usually size 30, but sometimes size 80-100 is used, with correspondingly fine needles.

The sample page above contains a fairly typical lesson, with a motif on the left side and a gorgeous finished piece on the right. Before you get too excited, you should know that this is not a pattern book. For example, the wide edging with corner on the right page is not accompanied by an actual pattern. However, if the pattern is not too complicated, you should be able to duplicate it if you master the basic motifs. That’s the beauty of Puncetto — once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s fairly easy to copy patterns from photographs. The photos of Puncetto that appear on dark blue backgrounds (left page in the photo above) are the only ones accompanied by instructions.

I made one of the motifs, #12, “Ragni piccoli uniti,” and found the chart to be accurate. DMC Cebelia 30 with a size 26 tapestry needle worked very well.

I do have a few quibbles about this book. First, there are no page numbers. The numbers beside the titles refer to sections, usually dedicated to a type of motif. I often had trouble remembering where to find things in the book. It also means that the book cannot be indexed. There is a table of contents at the end of the book but the numbers refer to sections, not pages. If you need to refer to a motif, you will have to use say something like “Section #38, 52-stitch square.”

Sometimes the coloured squares appear to be out of sync with the grid. The reason for this is that the grid of grey lines is based on two stitches; a single, small square is two stitches wide and two stitches high. Patterns based on three stitches look strange when superimposed on the grey grid (for example, the two large squares of #20, Stelle con rosette piccole ed autin), but the stitch count seems to be accurate. Each square or stella has a label indicating the size of the base you need to work (for example, Punti 46).

The quality of the book is generally very high. The paper is heavy, the colour reproduction is good, the diagrams are clear, and the photos are beautifully styled, lit, and sharp enough to count the stitches. The weakest part of the book is the binding. I handled my book fairly gently but the cover is starting to fall off. It’s not a deal-breaker because the signatures are sewn and the cover can be glued later if necessary, but one expects a soft-cover book of this price to keep its cover longer than a week. It’s probably best to photocopy a working copy of a pattern rather than leaving the book open. Despite these shortcomings, I highly recommend this book.

Broken Binding

Posted in Crafts, Puncetto Valsesiano | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Time-Lapse Video of the Aurora Borealis

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 24, 2011

How many of us get to see the Aurora Borealis, let alone a time-lapse video of it? Norwegian photograher Terje Sorgjerd took these photos over a week, around Kirkenes and Pas National Park bordering Russia, in temperatures around -25 Celsius. He describes it as “Good fun.” Brrrrr! I didn’t know camera equipment and batteries could function in that cold for that period of time.

Also worth a look are his photos of the volcanic eruption a year ago, taken with — are you sitting down? — a 70mm lens. Some of us would give our right leg to be able to take photos like this, but from a safe distance!

Seen on Boing Boing

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Puncetto Italian/English Glossary

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 22, 2011

I’m still working on a review of the basic Puncetto Valsesiano book and hope to finish it soon. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of words from both books. I hope that it may save you some time thumbing through dictionaries. (If you notice any errors, please let me know! Thanks.)

Italian English
agganciarsi connect
aggiungo add
ago needle
alzarsi con … build up (sides of motif)
andata “going” (working left to right)
anello ring
angolo angle, corner
asoline slots
autin Not an Italian word. Describes square worked diagonally, like a diamond
base base
buco open (square)
cambio exchanging (threads, adding a new thread)
chiusura close
cimosa edge
colonnina column
consigliano recommended
destra right
doppiare doubling (thread)
eseguire do, make
fare do, make
filo thread
foglioline leaves
gamba leg (e.g., spoke of a scallop edge or part of spider)
girandole pinwheel motif
giro round (when working a circular piece  like a doily)
grande large
inferiore lower
inizia begins
insieme together
larghezza width
lasciare leave
laterale side
lavorano work
lunga long
lunghezza length
medio medium
mezzogiro “half-turn.” Interrupting a horizontal row to work backwards, then forwards. Analogous to short rows in knitting/
motivo design, pattern
nodo knot
ogni each
particolare detail
passaggio step, stage
piccolo small
pieno solid (square)
pippiolino picot
puntine triangular points, often used to decorate edges of handkerchiefs or tablecloths
punto stitch
ragno spider (motif)
ragna superbia Literally “proud” spider. Complex spider with double or triple “legs”
ragnetto spider
ricordarsi remember
riga row
ritorno “returning” (working right to left)
rosetta little rose (4 rectangular blocks arranged in a circle)
rotondo round
salta skip (a knot)
schema diagram, pattern, layout
senza without
sinistra left
spiegazione explanation
stella Literally “star.” Refers to basic Puncetto squares
stelle miste mixed stars (squares)
stessa same
stoffa fabric
striscia band, strip
terminare end, finish (vb)
tessitura weaving, webbing
testa di morto Death’s Head (X in a space), now often called Cat’s Paw, because it sounds nicer.
tutte all
uguali equal
ventaglietto little fans
verso destra to the right
verso sinistra to the left
vuoto empty (square)

Posted in Crafts, Puncetto Valsesiano | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 21, 2011

I’ve never been to the Adloyoda Purim parade in Maale Adumim before because we don’t have a car, I live about a mile from the main part of Maale Adumim, and Purim morning is usually a very busy time. We have to hear the reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther), give mishloah manot (gifts of food), and organize a festive meal in the early afternoon. This year we were invited to friends for the meal. Because I was making dessert, I had enough time to get to the center of town to photograph the parade. I was also lucky to get a lift from a neighbour.

Flickr pool with more photos here.

One thing I noticed is that because the Adloyoda is a community parade, there isn’t much separation between spectators and parade marchers. The parade was just getting underway (the truck on the right is carrying the mayor) and a little girl stopped to gawk at a performer on stilts. You wouldn’t see something like this in most parades! The organized marchers represent various schools and organizations in Maale Adumim.

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim, 2011

The marchers were organized between the library and the community center. I took this photo from the footbridge over the street.

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim, 2011

Mayor Benny Kashriel on a truck with posters made by kindergarten children

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim

I have no idea how long these karate students were able to keep up these poses while marching but they were fun to photograph.

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim, 2011

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim, 2011


These dancers have male “partners” made from cardboard boxes and tubes hanging off their right arms. Clever!

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim, 2011

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

I’m not sure what the white costumes symbolize but their sign says that they are community representatives for the Matnas (community center).

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim, 2011

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

Tomer Rachel school below. Their costume is a pun on the name (tamar = palm).

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

These guys were the last marchers in the parade and the most visibly religious of the groups, although I noticed that there was a contingent from the Tsemach haSadeh school, a religious school.

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

Adloyoda (Purim Parade), Maale Adumim 2011

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Happy Purim!

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 20, 2011

I managed to get up the hill with my not-quite-healed foot and photograph the annual Adloyada parade that marks Purim in Maale Adumim (and other places, most notably Holon). Then I hurried home and arrived in time to photograph the street dance in my neighbourhood. I baked an apple galette, wrapped it in a bath towel, and my husband and I took a taxi to join some friends for the festive meal. Our son decided to go to the other side of the country — Karnei Shomron — for the meal and then will go directly to his yeshiva. As he put it, “We drink. We party. We throw up. We sleep.” I’m glad to hear that the rabbanim and madrichim (rabbi teachers and counselors) are around to keep an eye on things.

I will post photos or a slideshow when I’ve sobered up sufficiently. 🙂

In the meantime, I’m posting a link to the Purim street dance of 2009. Amazingly, it’s had over 3500 views, quite a large number for something as isolated as a local Purim celebration. Someone told me this morning that people are still watching it because it gives them a warm feeling about Purim in Israel. I really like this video because it was one of my first videos, taken when I could barely hold a camera straight. It was beginner’s luck that I happened to zoom in on the bus driver when one of the kids handed him some candy. Where else but in Israel would you have a kid giving mishloah manot to a Jewish bus driver whose route is being blocked by a Purim dance? I recommend that you watch it with the sound on, because I edited it carefully and it does make a difference. The sound track is the original. I didn’t dub the music.

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Purim Costumes

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 20, 2011

I live close to a pre-K, so I took these photos on Friday morning when the children were arriving in costume for their Purim party.

Purim Costumes

I love the expression on this little girl’s face. She wasn’t scowling at me. She was squinting in the sun and had her tongue out the side of her mouth at the same time.

Purim Costumes

There are always lots of brides. I’m surprised that this one turned out, considering I was 2 stories above her and she was walking behind a fence.

Purim Costumes

Snow White and Noah, with a foam ark over his shoulder (it looks like a shoulder bag but it has “Noah’s Ark” written on the side).

Purim Costumes

Purim Costumes

Older children, on their way to school.

Purim Costumes

Purim Costumes

One of the requirements of the holiday is to give at least two items of food to a friend. That’s why this little girl in pink is carrying a basket of sweets.

Purim Costumes

In the middle of the morning, when there’s no traffic on the streets, the pre-K children, the teacher and her assistant go into the street for one quick song and dance in a circle. I wasn’t able to photograph them in a circle because the trees in the garden between my building and the street have grown so big, so I ran downstairs to take a few photos.

Posted in Israel, Judaism, photography | 3 Comments »

Puncetto Books Arrived

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 18, 2011

The books that I ordered on Puncetto Valsesiano (basic and coloured Puncetto) have arrived! I will try to post reviews.

I’m also working on a spreadsheet of Italian words with English translations that may help you if you own these books. I just need to track down a couple more terms and read them through a few times. No, I don’t read Italian, but I can read French and Latin and Italian is not a difficult language. The Google translation site is a very useful resource!


Posted in Puncetto Valsesiano | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Digital Painting 101

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 18, 2011

I found this video on Lifehacker. It’s a time-lapse video of Matt Kohr’s Photoshop drawing tutorial. I’ve never tried digital painting but I have great admiration for people who do it well.

Actually, this is more than just a time-lapse video. It’s narrated and summarizes his earlier tutorials in the series.

The entire set of video tutorials, Digital Painting 101, is found on Matt’s blog, Ctrl+Paint. He posts mainly videos about Photoshop, although he also has some brushes and textures for download.

If I ever win the lottery, which is about as likely as a heretofore unknown wealthy relative dying and leaving me a fortune, I’m going to buy a Wacom tablet and retire to a desert island with all my craft supplies until my hands give out.

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