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Friday, June 24, 2016

Book Round-up: Comics Edition

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: This is a collection of short horror comics with a fairy-tale feel.  Like the best horror, they use tension and creepiness to scare, rather than gore and explicitness.  The illustrations are striking -- painted on black, the colors are mostly muted blues, browns, and greens, which makes the occasional use of red that much more vivid.

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton: The second Hark, a Vagrant collection is filled with Beaton's signature kooky comics that take on everything from vintage illustrations to historical events to 80s pop music. These were lots of fun; Beaton has a knack for off-kilter takes on mundane subjects.

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon: Weldon's book is a comprehensive tour of Batman from his origins to the present day, covering not just the comics but also the movies, TV shows, toys, and even literary works inspired by the character.  The takeaway from this enjoyable book is that there is no one version of Batman -- every generation and every cultural group latches onto and embellishes certain traits.  Also, Weldon never misses an opportunity to stick it to Bob Kane, the co-creator of Batman, so that's fun, too.

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman: Gaiman finally wrote another Sandman comic, and it's a treat to return to that world.  This story is a prequel, in a sense, of the original 72-issue comic, showing us what Sandman was up to right before he was captured in the opening pages, and why he was so weak.  The illustrations are lavish and detailed, meant to be explored and savored.  Now I want to reread the rest of the comics, in light of the information we are given here.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel: Bechdel's highly-memoir of her relationship with her father is moving, wry, and filled with literary allusions.  I particularly love the way Bechdel draws the faces of her characters -- simple, endearing, and quite expressive.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cross Stitch: the Next Generation

I take Beadboy2 to his soccer matches on Saturday mornings, and sit on the sidelines working on the Sunday crossword.  But one Saturday the paper was late, so I took some cross stitch instead.  One of Beadboy2's teammates had a 5-year-old sister who was utterly fascinated by the pretty flowers I was stitching, so I showed her what to do and she made the following stitches on the leaf:
I told her father that there are cross stitch kits for kids; I hope he picks one up for her.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Adventures in Chain Mail

I went through a bit of a chain-mail obsession a couple of months ago.  The triggering event was the purchase of a package of large black jump rings for a button project; they didn't work for that, so I looked for another use and found a bracelet with the European 4-1 pattern in Chain Mail Jewelry:
Photographing this was tricky.
The original pattern called for alternating rows of titanium and rubber rings, allowing the bracelet to stretch over one's hand.  I just had the rings so I made the bracelet longer.  The rings are inexpensive and kind of scratchy, but it's fun and slinky on my wrist.

Not satisfied with one project, I opened up a mixed bag of rings I picked up ages ago, in all different colors and sizes.  A little bit of math later, I was able to adapt another pattern from the book to make a "crochet mandala":
Unfortunately I don't have the necessary small rings to keep all the rings on the edge nice and flat rather than floppy, so this piece is unfinished.  I could just sew the piece onto felt or something, but I'd prefer to keep it unlined.  I should figure out a solution soon (or find the right rings) because I love the colors.

I had actually made the earrings that go with this back when I first bought the book, using silver:
They are a little stiff, though, because I couldn't quite get the right sizes for the rings (perhaps because there are different ways to measure the rings and it is not always easy to go from one to the other).

I want to make more.  Urban Maille has great kits.  Mr. Beadgirl gave me the kits for three bracelets 10 years ago (sheesh); I should do some virtual window-shopping to see what's new.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Button Flowers

A few more to add to my bouquet:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

How good was The Golem and the Jinni? So good that on the way home from work, I was so engrossed in the book I missed my stop and didn't realize what had happened until I was two towns over.  The story, set in New York City in 1899, tells of of two magical creatures who unwittingly come to America and must make sense not only of the new country and its cultures, but of humanity itself.  The Golem, created to be someone's wife and widowed shortly after she is awakened, joins the vibrant Jewish community in the Lower East Side.  She does not fully understand what she is, and is terrified of her own strength and overwhelmed by the hidden thoughts and desires she senses in everyone.  The Jinni, by contrast, is arrogant and self-assured but cannot remember how he was trapped in the proverbial magic bottle for a thousand years.  The two meet, and despite their wildly different world views they bond over their shared estrangement from humanity.

The novel is, of course, an exaggerated version of the immigrant experience, and shows how hard it can be to find a community and a sense of belonging.  What makes it stand out is the sheer humaneness of the writing.  Wecker does not shy away from depicting the prejudices, injustices, and violences that happen when people get together, but she also shows the genuine, unforced goodness people are capable of.  I find this to be utterly refreshing in modern literature, which sometimes seems to drown in its own cynicism.

Wecker is reportedly working on a sequel -- yay! -- but until that comes out I will make do with a necklace inspired by the book.

Two strands intertwined was an obvious choice. Jinni are creatures of fire, so for Ahmad's strand I picked faceted glass beads in a beautiful red.  Golems are made of clay, so I used clay beads from an old Egyptian beading kit.  For a bit of variety I also added cinnamon disks -- especially appropriate since Chava becomes a baker. (I made the disks myself by soaking cinnamon sticks until pliant, using a hole-puncher to cut out the disks, and poking them with a needle before drying.)

I laced the two strands together to make a knot in the middle.  I started with the two strands, each pair of ends joined with a bead tip and one half of the clasp:

With the strands "pointed" in the same direction, I place one on top of the other (here the faceted glass under and to the left of the clay):

I picked up the clasp end of the faceted glass and folded it over to the left, placing it under and past the loop at the other end:

I picked up the loop (the center of the faceted glass) and unfolded it to the right, over the clay:

The last step was to pull gently on each end to tighten the knot.  There's probably a fancy name for that kind of knot, but I wouldn't know.

It can't hold a candle to Ahmad's intricate jewelry-smithing, but it makes a wonderful reminder of a wonderful book.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Daisychain ABC


Actually, I finished the stitching quite a while ago, but it took me ages to find a good frame.The framing process itself was easy, and came out pretty well if I do say so myself. Alicia's framing tutorial was quite helpful.

Its spot on the mantle is temporary, but maybe not -- Beadboy3 is enamored of it and loves to call out the letters, and I don't have the heart to move it somewhere where he won't be able to see it easily.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Just in Time for Pentecost

I managed to finish one last Easter egg:
It's a Lizzie*Kate kit, "A Little Grey Hare," and the last thing I bought from my beloved local needlecraft store, Lazy Daisy Stitchery -- they've closed their brick-and-mortar store, but are still open online.  I omitted the little beads on the Easter eggs (they didn't stand out enough and there weren't enough of them to make them worthwhile) and made the tulips solid-color (just a preference).