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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Pine Hollow

I joined another quilt-along because apparently I wasn't busy enough. Amy of Diary of a Quilter is running the Patchwork Forest Quilt-Along based on her Pine Hollow pattern. The second week's task was making the small pine trees:
I'm making a wall-hanging (somehow, I don't have a Christmas-themed one), so I only needed 11. I'm using the green and aqua prints from a fat-quarter Christmas-themed collection I picked up ages ago, along with a white snowflake fabric. Part of me wishes the greens and aquas were brighter, but I like the low volume that results. Tomorrow there's no school because of Yom Kippur, so I'm looking forward to making the medium pine trees. That, and applesauce for the kids, and maybe a pie for me. Yum.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I've delayed writing about this book because I'm not sure what to say. Which is not a reflection on it -- The Goldfinch was an engaging, compelling read. It opens with an explosion at an art museum that kills 13-year-old Theo's mother; in the ensuing chaos, he witnesses the death of another patron, an elderly man who makes cryptic remarks about his work and life, gives Theo a signet ring, urges him to take a painting (the titular "Goldfinch") both had been captivated by, and tells him to find his business partner.

But this is not the start of some grand quest for Theo, involving centuries-old secrets and mysterious people; it's just the confusion and jumbled memories of a dying man. Instead the novel is about the power of art -- the way it captivates and transfigures people, the obsessions it can inspire, the greed and corruption is reveals. Theo's life is forever affected by the death of his mother, and the painting he effectively stole serves as the only thing connecting him to life. Tartt's depiction of his state of mind, the damage that can't ever be repaired, is thorough and heartbreaking. Her descriptions, too, of what art means to Theo, his mother, his mentor, even his criminally-minded best friend, are similarly affecting.

"A meditation on art and mortality" doesn't do it justice. I've been thinking about this novel for days after I finished it, a testament to Tartt's skills.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Falling Leaves

Years ago, Quilters' Newsletter Magazine wrote about the Original Leaf Applique quilt made in 1890 by Corean Liggitt (1872-1946), including templates of the different leaves Liggitt used. Last year I realized I needed a fall-themed quilt for my wall (I love my tree, cat, and moon quilt, but that's not always the vibe I want). I pulled all my red, orange, and purple batiks and cut out one of each leaf shape, using fusible web to applique them onto a 12" by 18" center:

And then the usual Christmas stitching got in the way, including finishing the Minecraft quilt, so I put the project away. A few weeks ago, after a rather awful summer, I became determined to finish it. Last weekend I sewed up a bunch of maple leaf blocks:

Friday (a blessed day free from my usual obligations) I sewed them on as a border and quilted the whole thing around the center and between the maple leaf blocks. At a loss over how to quilt the center (I did not want the agony of more free-motion quilting), I opted to tie the quilt with embroidery floss and some sparkly beads:

Friday night and Saturday morning I bound the quilt (despite Porcupine's best efforts to prevent me).

I was done! And It makes me so happy to look at it. Fall is my favorite season, and I'm really hoping it's a good one this year; I could use some peace.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Gravity Is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty

The same year Abigail begins receiving chapters from a mysterious self-help book, her brother disappears, never to be seen again. Gravity Is the Thing is a novel about how these two events affect Abigail and her choices for decades. The narrative is disjointed and fragmented, uniquely illustrating Abigail's thought processes but also mirroring the messiness of life, where there aren't tidy little resolutions and clear-cut sequences of events. "Causation is complex," Abigail, a former attorney, likes to say. But even that simple statement is challenged by another: "life is full of memories, stories, and facts, and we push our way through them ... and now and then, we pluck one, pull on the seam and make that responsible for everything. ... Which ... is wrong." It's only when Abigail realizes that causation may not matter at all, at least not in the way she thinks, that she can finally live her life free of the blame and self-doubt that has weighed her down. (See what I did there?)

The story is by turns funny and gut-wrenching and profound.  It's also resolutely grounded in real life, despite the self-help book's assertion that Abigail and her companions can learn to fly -- there's not a hint of magic realism here, as characters remind us repeatedly that humans cannot fly, ever.  Instead the novel finds magic in the relationships between the characters, in the small, ordinary events that can brighten a day or cause a major shift in understanding, in the coincidences that change everything, and the moments that free us.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Millicent Finds a Mask

I could not resist this design from the 2013 Just Cross Stitch Halloween special issue:

I absolutely love the mix of patterns for the moon, bird, and wing. I did change some threads to make use of my stash, but kept to the variety of metallics, variegated threads, and solid floss the original has.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Book Round-Up

A Rare Murder in Princeton by Ann Waldron: This volume is part of a series centering around a journalist who solves murders at Princeton, in this case the murder of a book collector who promised to leave his collection to the University. The writing, especially the dialog, was surprisingly awkward. So were the characters, but that's not so surprising given they are academics and bookish sorts.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis: It's rare that I don't finish a book, and yet here we are. It's a middle-grade fantasy with lots of imaginative, intriguing parts, but the story never coalesces into a whole. Worse, the reaction of the parents to the kidnapping of their baby was, frankly, absolutely off-putting. I understand the point -- get them out of the way so the older sister can go on her quest -- but there are far more credible ways to do that.  The novel was especially disappointing given how much I love Colin Meloy's songwriting as part of the Decemberists.

The Stories of English by David Crystal: A thorough and detailed look at the development of the English language, with a particular focus on all the contributions -- vocabulary, syntax, pronunciation -- from other languages. I find this sort of stuff fascinating, although I will admit my interest petered out towards the end, when he was discussing the English language in the 20th century.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey: As you might guess from the title, basically a rom-com in book form. This is the author's first adult novel, and I did find the story a little too antic and juvenile for my tastes, but the characters were fun and the reason for the heroine's obsession with romantic comedies was touching.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin: This retelling of Pride & Prejudice, set in an Indian Muslim community in Toronto, was wonderful. Unlike other Austin fans, Jalaluddin does not feel the need to slavishly copy the characters and plot points of the original, instead developing her own story. She also understands that the social commentary of P&P is just as important as the romance.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Summer Book Club QAL

Kate Basti of Quilt with Kate ran a QAL the first half of the summer, centered around her adorable Tall Tales block. I don't like foundation paper piecing at all, but I couldn't resist. And despite being so sick all summer, I did manage to spend a couple of weekends participating -- probably because I only made a wall-hanging for my door (a door-hanging?) rather than the full-sized quilts others made.

I used some Anna Maria Horner scraps for the book covers, solids for the bindings, and a handy text fabric for the pages. Because the rest of my fabric was in storage, I used plain muslin for the background. Which was way too boring:

Brightly-colored frames made it better:

To add texture to the background (and get in some much-needed practice) I forced myself to free-motion quilt the muslin. No close-ups, though, because I'm still no good at machine quilting. Or basting.

My cat, "helping" with the binding:

Again, I don't enjoy paper-piecing, but this block came together so quickly and easily I'm tempted to make more.