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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Round-Up

The Next Best Thingby Jennifer Weiner: Weiner's novel is based loosely on her experiences producing a short-lived sitcom for tv; as such, it gives one an insider's look at show business (to which I say, "blech").  It is a fun and light novel, better written and more interesting than a lot of other "chick lit," as is generally true for Weiner's work.  However, she includes at the end of the book the short story "Swim" which focuses on a different aspect of the heroine, and I think I'd have preferred a novel more about that than Hollywood.

The Ocean at the End of the Laneby Neil Gaiman: short and engaging enough that I read the whole thing late one night when I should have been sleeping.  It is an inventive and scary story with some thematic similarities toCoraline.

The Magiciansby Lev Grossman: Superficially, this book is a cross between Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia, but it would be a mistake to leave it at that.  The point of those two series is the stories they tell, the skirmishes and battles between good and evil.  The Magicians, by contrast, is more interested in how the introduction to a magical world affects a person -- the longing for a life as interesting as a fantasy novel, the benign contempt for ordinary people, the sense of entitlement the privileged develop.  It also touches on the danger of magic -- or any power or talent -- without a sense of purpose.  Even the most talented magicians must find meaning to their lives, and a way to cope with both dramatic events and ordinary days.

The Briar Kingby Greg Keyes: A straight-up fantasy novel (the first of four) about another world, like I haven't read in a long time.  Keyes's novel tells the story of kings, princesses, foresters, innkeeper's daughters, monks, and dashing swordsmen as they become aware of a grave danger to their world. My only quibble: in the prologue it becomes apparent that the humans, who were brought to this world by an evil race bent on enslaving everybody, are the "lost" colony of Roanoke.  This plot point, however, appears to serve no function at all in the greater story, and ends up being a little distracting as one can't help but try to match different cultures to their European counterparts (which makes no sense anyway; Roanoke was settle by the English only).

Friends, Lovers, Chocolateby Alexander McCall Smith: The second in the Isabel Dalhousie series, but the first I've read.  It's a quiet book with an unusual but low-key mystery, leaving lots of time for Isabel's musings on ethics, faith, love, and Scotland.  I enjoyed it, but feel no need to read any others in the series.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Macondo in Stitches

As I read One Hundred Years of Solitude, I couldn't shake the imagery from my head -- the yellow flowers falling from the sky, the butterflies tormenting a doomed lover, the ash crosses marking the 17 Aurelianos.  I wanted some way to record and play with the motifs and icons from the text.

I've started with a grid of 100 squares, inchies really, that I can play with:
Beadboy3 wants to stitch, too
I used white broadcloth from one of Mr. Beadgirl's old shirts, and machine-stitched a ten by ten grid with black thread, rather carelessly on purpose to keep the lines and angles from being too perfect.  I like how the black lines on white fabric evoke the black type on white pages of the text itself.

The first square is one of Colonel Aureliano Buendia's gold fish, which he makes when he is not leading rebellions and slaughtering his enemies.
I made mine with sequins and different gold threads, with a black bead for his eye.

I don't intend to fill every square, and this will be an on-going project that I work on as inspiration strikes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Alabama Flowers

In addition to having lovely patterns for clothes, the Alabama Stitch Bookalso has instructions for making flowers from scraps of jersey.  I'm almost finished with another skirt, and couldn't resist making a couple of blooms from the burgundy knit:
It was super easy -- cut two long strips of jersey, and on one long side snip every quarter inch or so to make fringe, then roll the two strips up together and stitch through the base to secure.  They will join the rest of my crafty flowers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beaded Beads III

These beads are all from a pattern by Sylvia Becker, from the Winter 1998 issue of Beadwork:
The pattern is an odd one, using odd-count tubular peyote but with distinct rows rather than a spiral.  I found it hard to keep track of the rows and the extra beads to complete them offended my sense of symmetry, so after the first two I modified the pattern to make it even-count.  In either case I ended up with a slightly squashy, blobby bead with a sturdy core.

These beads were begging to be strung into a simple necklace, so I obliged with some hemp cord.  I experimented with different spacers:
but I didn't like any of them, so I tried knots instead:
Much better.

Odd is better than even, so I omitted one of the pink beads.

I finished it by just tying the cord ends to a clasp and jump ring; that way I can add more beads if I make more.

Monday, September 15, 2014

To the Stranger who Stopped Me on the Street to Give Me Parenting Advice

I think Wendy Molyneux says it best:

"Oh nice lady, you are probably right! I should definitely cover his face always so he doesn’t get sun on it. If he is exposed to the sun for even one moment, even as I am simply walking from the mechanic to a coffee shop where I have to unexpectedly stop to feed him because my car broke down, he will probably immediately get sun disease or burst into flames."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Floral Garland

This idea came from the Crafty Chica, when she appeared on a long-ago HGTV craft show (they only do home renovation stuff now, boo!).  I can't find any trace of the show, segment, or even a photograph of the project, but I remembered enough of the basics -- pull apart fake flowers, glue the petals together in a chain -- to make it anyway.
For interest I layered two petal segments on top of each other, and added a sequin to the centers.  This is the only photo I have because the natural light from all the windows makes taking a decent photo impossible, but the garland is about 26 flowers long.  It is currently draped under my vejigante masks.

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Curtains for the Birds!

I decided I needed a new way to display my birds, and I got the idea of attaching a white panel surrounded by a colorful border, and using that as a curtain for a pair of bare windows in my living room.
(Despite the fact that the windows are on the north side, they still get enough light that I could only photograph the curtain at night.)

The white center was easy -- I had some nice fabric left over from simple white curtains I made for my bedroom.  It wasn't wide enough to cover both windows, but that would be fixed with a border.  Rooting through my fabric stash I found a collection of half yard and fat quarter cuts of bright Guatemalan-inspired fabric, which would be perfect.  I chose for the first border a half-yard of a bargello-like print in a rainbow of colors, which yielded a three inch border.  That wasn't enough, so I added a second border of five inch squares and five by ten inch rectangles cut from an assortment of wovens shot through with contrasting threads.  Satisfied, I held it up to the windows, and it still wasn't wide enough.  I was running out of fabric, but I took the two black fat quarters, cut them up into two and a half inch strips and had enough to border the whole thing.  But now the height of the curtain was way too long, and interfered with the air conditioner -- too bad I didn't pay attention to that dimension when I was sewing.  Off came the black borders on the top and bottom, along with an inch of the second border.  I finished the curtain by lining it with a spare white bed sheet, and I was done.

I don't keep my birds up all year, so I think I will use the curtain as a display for other things, too.  Like all my brightly colored, handmade ornaments -- I've finally reached the point where I have too many to decorate a medium-size tree, and I no longer display extras on the mantle (having become thoroughly enamored of my Three Kings display).  Maybe I'll put my Day of the Dead doohickies there, too.