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Friday, August 28, 2015

Little Stitches Calico Quilt

The idea for this quilt came from Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion. She had a lovely quilt made from big squares of sweet and old-fashioned prints, interspersed with embroidered squares.  I made a few changes -- four-inch squares rather than seven-, and instead of the farm animals I picked embroidery patterns from Aneela Hoey's Little Stitches. I also used only calicoes in yellows, greens, and purples, because I have a weakness for them.

I thought I'd found the perfect fabric for the backing -- a vintage yellow linen, just wide enough for the top, but I didn't notice until too late that there was a small section that was not wide enough.  I had to patch it with a skinny strip:
That was fun to quilt through.

The finishing technique Paulson used is now a new favorite of mine.  Instead of sewing on my mortal enemy binding, or even folding the back over for a false binding, I layered the back, front, and batting right sides together, sewed all the way around (except for a gap at the bottom), turned the quilt right side out, and slip-stitched the opening closed.  Quilting each non-embroidered square was the very last step.

I've written about the embroidered squares before, but I like them so much I want to show them off again:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Everyone Loves a Clown! -- Part Two

The Circus theme for Beadboy1's summer school program culminated in a day at the circus, by which they meant a day of circus-themed festivities.  We were asked to send the children in as clowns, but we didn't actually have a clown costume.  In other times I would have purchased one, but finances are tight and the thought of making one was overwhelming, given the short notice and birthday-celebration-filled weekend.  Until, that is, I found this super-easy tutorial.  A t-shirt from Mr. Beadgirl, two lengths of ribbon, three pompoms (two were already made!), a length of stretchy orange velvet, and fifteen minutes of sewing and gluing resulted in this:
My only regret was not having a red nose for him to wear.  But knowing Beadboy1, there's no way he would have kept it on all day.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thread Heaven

I couldn't resist this project when I found it poking around Mollie Makes, so I made my own:

I made some changes along the way, however.  I used DMC embroidery floss in lots of colors:
oooh ... pretty ...
Because this thread is thicker than the thread used by the Mollie Makes people, I only needed 60 strands instead of 137.  Each skein was just long enough to provide three lengths of 2.3 meters, so that meant 20 colors.
ready to start!
From there I followed the directions until the end; I wanted a proper clasp rather than just tying the ends together.  On the end of the necklace where all the strands were folded in half I took the length of yellow thread holding them together and wrapped it around and knotted it a few more times:

I then opened up an eyepin and hooked the loop around the yellow thread, closing the loop again:
The skinny eyepin is hard to see!
I threaded onto the eyepin a nice, sturdy cone (Bali silver):

and cut the excess wire, finishing with a wire-wrapped loop:

The other end of the necklace was trickier, because it had the cut end of the threads. At the point where I wanted the clasp I tied some red thread around the braids as securely as I could:

and then nervously cut off the rest of the braids:
I used the ends of the red thread to tie a loose loop that I could use to attach another eyepin:

and finished it off with another cone:
I thought about trimming the ends of the thread, but I kinda like the way it looks like fringe.

To finish the necklace I used a toggle clasp, which I extended on either side with a bit of silver chain.  The original length fit well enough around my neck, but in the summer heat and humidity the necklace felt more like a scarf.

I love it.  So does Beadboy3; he keeps trying to yank it off my neck.

These I'll save for another project.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Novik's Uprootedis a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable fantasy novel set in a world inspired by the Kingdom of Poland.  Novik takes a number of fantasy and fairy tale tropes -- the beautiful maiden, the unconventional girl with hidden powers, the dangerous wizard, the arrogant royal, the woodland horror -- and twists them slightly, creating a story that while not exactly unpredictable is nonetheless different from what one expects. She also adds depths to fantasy conventions, giving the characters credible motives without undermining notions of right and wrong and convincingly mixing the practical with the fantastical.

Novik makes good use of the concept of roots, both literal and metaphorical.  The Wood is quite literally taking root in the valley, swallowing up village after village and entangling the people who get caught; the magic used to fend off the Wood similarly depends on a deep connection to the land.  But Novik also plays with the way people are rooted to their past, their families, their hometowns, and what happens when those roots are severed -- or when one refuses to become rooted in the first place. Watching Agnieszka recognize her roots, and the Dragon allow himself to form roots, was quite satisfying.  I know Novik has said this is a stand-alone novel, but I'd love to have more of these characters and this world.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hooked on a Classic, or How I Learned to Stop Resisting and Starting Crocheting

I spent my girlhood trying out almost every craft out there, but I dropped some on the way because I only had so much time and an impossibly long list of projects to complete before I die.  One of those I dropped was crochet, despite the cute little doohickies (so quick to make!) and brightly colored granny squares (love!).  And I stayed strong, for over twenty years, before I finally succumbed thanks to two freebie kits from the Mollie Makes magazine.

The first one I tried was the dreamcatcher -- a crochet doily/mandala attached around the perimeter to a plastic hoop:

I broke out my trusty Complete Guide to Needleworkfrom Reader's Digest and got hooking:
And so it begins ...
Reader's Digest assured me tension was not an issue, as long as my stitches were the same length, but that's not really true, and my center doily thing ended up just a bit too big for the hoop. 
See it bunching at the edge?
 Also, apparently I was crocheting into one loop rather than two, which seemed easier to me (I suspect doing it correctly results in a sturdier fabric, not that that matters in this case).  And, of course, I had to figure all this out backwards, because I'm left-handed (although, to the book's credit, they do demonstrate a few stitches for both hands).

Once I finished, I added some beads to the fringe because why not?

There are some cultural appropriations issues with this project; the little intro from the designer claims "Dreamcatchers were traditionally used by the First Nations of North America ...."  Dreamcatchers originated by the Ojibwe people, later adopted by a few neighboring groups. The idea of dreamcatchers representing all indigenous cultures as a whole is a very recent notion, and one not looked upon too kindly by many people of those cultures; there is an unfortunate tendency to treat all indigenous tribes as interchangeable. And then, the packet for the kit advertises it as "Scandi style," which is ... odd.  I guess it's a reference to the color scheme?

The next crochet kit was for a little frame with petals around the edge:
And here is where I ran into some trouble (aside from the occasional wonky stitch, clearly visible above) -- lots of patterns in the round tell you to make x stitches into y stitches from the previous round, with no guidance on how to distribute those stitches in the base.  I tried to keep it symmetrical (i.e. 1-2-2-1-2-2-1, eleven stitches into seven stitches), and I think that is what's expected, but it's probably something one picks up by crocheting with an expert buddy.

They suggested framing an inspirational quote, but I don't roll that way.  Instead I will stitch or embroider a little motif for the center.

I've already got several more crochet projects lined up.  Because I'm insane.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Everybody Loves a Clown!

The "theme" of Beadboy1's summer school is the circus, and he was assigned a project to do at home, something he could share with his class.  I picked clowns because that's something he likes about the circus (second to food, and I wasn't interested in helping him do a presentation about popcorn and cotton candy and hot dogs).  I even did some research about clowns with him, although I'm not sure how much of that he retained.*

Making a clown face suited my crafty inclinations, would be quick and easy to do, and would be fun for Beadboy1.  I pulled together some supplies:

I then had him glue it all together:
According to his teacher, he was thrilled to show it off.  He's a sweetheart, and so easily pleased.  (Usually.  We're entering the tween stage.)

*For the curious, there are four main types -- Whiteface, Auguste, Character, and New Vaudeville.  Some replace the last category with the Tramp/Hobo.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Round-Up

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline:An interesting look at a time period when mysterious "Sea Peoples" attacked nations throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Cline's thesis is that the Sea Peoples were actually not as mysterious or as unified as scholars previously thought, and that there were a variety of interconnected factors, events, and changes that led to the collapse of so many civilizations.  The book is well-researched, but a little repetitive; I think it would have worked better as a long journal article rather than a book.

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev:A delightful romance with Indian protagonists.  There is a lot of melodramatic plot, befitting the Bollywood influence, but fortunately the prose isn't too purple.  The best part was the glimpse into Indian cultures, and the differences that arise in such a culturally diverse country -- north and south, city and country, modern and traditional.  Also, the food; I've been craving Indian food ever since I read this.

Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain:This starts out like the typical Regency romance, with an aristocratic rake, a virginal spinster, debauched nobles, a no-nonsense elderly family member, and an eeeeeevil nemesis.  But then, the rake and the spinster actually talk to each other.  A lot.  And in the process they get to know and trust each other, and learn about themselves and what they really want.  As a result, the expected happy ending for the couple was absolutely earned and quite satisfying.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke:After re-reading Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, of course I re-read these stories set in the same universe.  They are wonderfully English and atmospheric, and beautifully enhanced with illustrations by Charles Vess.  Ms. Clark, please write more!

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger:A modern take on the epistolary novel, comprising of emails, notes, memos, legal briefs, court filings, statutes, and caselaw.  Sophie's handling of her first (and only) divorce was fun and frothy, if a bit unrealistic; the memos between her and her partners are remarkably casual and personal -- good for narrative purposes, but a lawsuit waiting to happen in the real world.  The novel is set right around the time I began practicing law, and I finished the book all nostalgic for that time and thinking maybe I should go back to litigation (ha!).