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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This Year's Eggs

I've had Easter egg embroidery patterns (from the defunct Needlecraft Magazine out of England) for almost 20 years, and this year I finally made two of them:
The rabbits were for me, the cross for Beadmom.  As usual, I embroidered perfectly egg-shaped eggs that became lumpy when I sewed and stuffed them.

These earrings are from a Fusion Beads pattern:

This year I decided the Beadboys would dye blown eggs, that way I could keep them for future craft ideas.  Over a week I carefully blew out eight eggs, and Easter Monday we sat down to dye.  Only I didn't think about the fact that hollow eggs float, so we had to hold the eggs in the dye with our fingers.  And I didn't add vinegar to the dye because we were also dying marshmallows, but that meant the color didn't take as well as I wanted.  The sad result:
One of the eggs didn't survive the process
The kids didn't care, but I did.  So a few days later I brushed on some watercolor paint, keeping it streaky for a homemade vibe (... yeah, that's why they are streaky):

Enjoy the rest of the Easter season!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Brown's first novel, The Weird Sisters,is a smart, delightful book about three sisters who come home to their parents to lick their wounds and help their mother through a bout of cancer.  As tends to happen in these kinds of stories, each sister confronts a truth about herself and sets off on a new, hopefully better path.

At the start, the three sisters describe themselves as failures, which is not a term I would use.  Lost, certainly, and stuck in a rut, and having made some really bad decisions, but "failure" has a ring of finality to it that I don't think applies to them.  None of them has actually failed; for Rose and Cordy, an earlier stage of life has simply come to an end, and even in Bean's case the problem is not in her capabilities but in bad habits she needs to leave behind.

What makes this novel better than others of its ilk is how smart it is.  Brown does not make the mistake of thinking that a man will solve each of their problems, nor does she downplay the consequences of their behavior.  There is no false dichotomy between the city and the small hometown, between a career and a family, between academia and the real world.  While the end result for each of the family members is not surprising, it is not unearned, either.

What makes this book stylistically unusual is the choice of a first-person-plural narration.  The three sisters narrate the story together, as a "we," which does an excellent job of showing how these three people, as different as they are, have a shared history and love for each other.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ojos de Dios

I found a pinterest these incredible complicated Ojos de Dios (God's Eyes) and I couldn't resist.  So I cut a couple of chopsticks in half (... with a steak knife), got out my stash of size 3 perle cotton, and set to weaving.
Not quite as neat and professional as the ones at Honestly WTF, huh?  They are constructed by starting two traditional ojos and then weaving them together to make the eight spokes.  That's the part I had trouble with, weaving the two together with the turquoise thread; no matter how many times I did it, I couldn't get the thread passes to lie properly.  I think it would have been neater if the spokes were flush with each other, and indeed when I poked around on the interwebs I found that the artist who inspired all of this, Jay Mohler, often notches the sticks so they interlock at the center.  That was beyond the capabilities of my steak knife, however.  I plan to pick up some wooden swizzle sticks/cofffee stirrers, which are nice and flat, and try with them.  I might also try gluing all four sticks together from the start, rather than weaving and attaching two ojos, and see if I can weave the
same patterns.  (Although in that case, maybe having thick spokes would make it easier for the threads to go under the spokes I'm skipping ... hmm ...)

I did have popsicle sticks, which are nice and flat, but too wide to work with eight spokes.  So I tried six:
I also reversed some of the weaving with each color, to play with the negative space.  This one makes me think of a rose.

Some people use the process of wrapping the thread around the sticks to meditate on God, but I can't say I was meditating on anything more than making sure the threads lay properly.  Ojos de Dios are also placed in homes to bring blessings, which we could certainly use.  They now hang with a large painted Sacred Heart milagro and a glass "evil eye" charm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sometimes it's about Texture

The pendant is an inexpensive one from Michael's.  The three strands of the necklace are a silk ribbon, size 6 seed beads, and a metal chain with large links.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Round-Up

The Blood Knight by Greg Keyes:this is the third in the tetralogy, and things finally pick up for some of the storylines.  Anne stops reacting to or running away from things and begins to take control of her life and destiny;  Stephen keeps reacting rather than acting, but he also learns quite a bit about the power struggle underlying world events, which means we learn it too.  Other storylines, however, lag -- Leoff's big role was in the second book so he has little to do here, and Aspar continues to bounce around from one quest or task to another.  Given his prominence in the books, and certain hints, I assume he has an important role to play at the climax, but there is little preparation for it, as far as I can tell.

The Born Queen by Greg Keyes:a mostly satisfying conclusion to the story.  Keyes had some unusual ideas and concepts that made for an interesting world (including the idea that the secret, dangerous power kept hidden from man really should be kept hidden).  Unlike some other readers, I was also satisfied with where various characters ended up, Stephen being the only exception.  The problem wasn't his motivation for his actions in the last book (I thought that made sense, given what happened), I just wanted something different for him.  I do wonder how far in advance Keyes plotted out the narrative; over the course of the four books, characters and plot elements that appeared crucial in earlier novels were sidelined (or vanished entirely) at the climax, and there were some abrupt changes in focus, meaning, and significance.  The impression I got is that Keyes had some key concepts in place from the beginning, but that the story got away from him (or perhaps he just changed his mind).  Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable series.

Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth by Naguib Mahfouz:a slim novel about Akenaten's rule, told from the perspective of the people around him -- family and friends, supporters and enemies and opportunists.  I've always found this brief period of Egyptian history utterly fascinating and completely mysterious -- how much can anyone truly understand the actions and beliefs of another, whether 3000 years ago or in the immediate aftermath?

Saints by Gene Luen Yang:the companion volume to Boxers, and just as awesome.  Four-girl's journey parallels ___ as they both struggle with religious belief, the injustices and cruelties of life, and ordinary adolescence.  Yang is a Catholic, and so it's clear where his sympathies ultimately lie, but his telling of this historical event is nuanced, fair, heartbreaking, and even a little funny.

The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle:I picked this up at the library on a whim; it's the 8th ( I think) in the "Bibliophile Mysteries" about a bookbinder who keeps getting caught up in murder investigations.  The prose was a bit over-written, and there was some serious wish-fulfillment in some aspects of the bookbinder's life, but it was an enjoyable read with some fun tidbits about rare books, which of course I loved.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Button Hoop Sampler

Doe-c-doe has a wonderful floral pattern with lots of circles for displaying buttons, so of course I had to make one for myself -- cream wool on taupe linen:

My first thought was to use a variety of stitches, including buttonhole and the pretty laced backstitch for some of the circles:
But it looked too busy.  I then tried stem stitch for the outer circles (having used split stitch for the inner ones):
But the combination of the twist in the thread and the direction I stitched resulted in a ropey look I didn't like at all.  So I went back to split stitch, and that really was the best look:

The finished hoop is on the wall with some other button projects.  A yo-yo and button nine-patch from a long-forgotten quilting book:

A button wreath from a long-forgotten craft book (my memory is great!):

And a framed display of three vintage mother-of-pearl buttons given to me by a sewing buddy (thanks, Maura!):

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tango Bracelet

Mr. Beadgirl gave me the Tango Bracelet Kit for Christmas, and here it is:


Between this, the flower earrings, and the candy canes, I've done a lot of beading with the herringbone stitch, and I've come to love it.  It's versatile (as these three projects show), it works up quickly but is still sturdy, and it has an interesting texture.  I must do more!