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Friday, April 29, 2016

Yarn and Stone

Mr. Beadgirl gave me a lovely skein of turquoise yarn for Christmas.  Images of crocheted jewelry on pinterest, the (fictional) power of turquoise in The Woodwife, and these color combinations percolated in my brain for a while until I made this:

I started with a long (very long) cord I made using the double chain stitch -- I wanted to be able to wrap it around my neck at least three times.  Then I rooted through my gemstone bead soup mix and picked out coral, amber, pale green chalk turquoise, and purple-dyed turquoise beads to sew on at intervals.
I liked the colors, but the result was a little flat, and I felt the necklace needed some kind of shine.  After trying out different metallic beads, I remembered the leftover metal charms and fetishes from an earlier project, and scattered those onto the cord.

For the clasp I tied a loop at one end and knotted on a large coral bead on the other:

I still have a lot of yarn left.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

What would you do if you could go back in time?

Kate Atkinson's recent novel, Life after Life, is not exactly about time travel, but its protagonist nonetheless tries to prevent World War II.   Ursula is born on a cold, snowy night in 1910; what follows is her life, or rather, lives, as she lives over and over. She is stillborn. No, she dies as a toddler.  No, she survives the London bombings and the end of WWII, unless she is killed between the Wars.  Atkinson tells her story over and over, each one different in big ways or small, showing how much in life is random -- and how much is inevitable.  But Atkinson adds a supernatural element, as Ursula is increasingly subjected to a feeling of déjà vu and therefore tries to avoid the dangers she senses.

The first part of the book is particularly harrowing, as we see just how easy it is for a child to die.  But it is utterly compelling, too, and one quickly becomes obsessed with seeing each iteration of Ursula's life play out.  This is a magnificent, powerful novel, not just about fate and chance, but also, ultimately, about the horror and futility of war.  It's a cliche, but I truly did not want the book to end.  Ursula may be just one person, but she has a multitude of lives for us to explore.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sari Tassel Beads

My latest creation:
inspired by the February box by Blueberry Cove Beads. 

I coveted that box the moment I saw it, but I couldn't justify the expenditure, especially since I already owned recycled sari strips:
little bells:
and glass beads from India:

Inspiration struck almost immediately.  I cut a few four inch (or so) lengths of the sari strips and used brass craft wire to tie them together, making a wire-wrapped loop at the top:
I folded the strips down and used more wire to wrap around the bundle, creating a tassel:
Then, using beading thread, I attached to the base four strands of small glass beads, ending each with a brass bell:
Love them. 
 When I shake my head, I hear the bells tinkle together!

For good measure, I made a second pair to sell through my etsy store:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Little, Big by John Crowley

A multi-generational family living in an weird, crumbling house, surrounded by off-kilter villagers living in relative isolation from the rest of the world -- In many ways, Little, Big is like an Anglo version of 100 Years of Solitude.  Crowley has written an unusual novel about fairies and the human clan that serves as a bridge between them and the rest of the world.  There is a timeless quality to the narrative, with its lush depictions of nature and its populace with family names like Mouse, Cloud, and Bramble (my favorite: the law firm of Petty, Smilodon, and Ruth), that makes the occasional reference to a phone, car, or tv, jarring.  That timelessness and sense of wonder suit the themes of the novel -- presence and absence, real and unreal, belief and unbelief -- perfectly.  Crowley's language and imagery are gorgeous, and the world he creates is vibrant and full of wonder.

But. Something is keeping me from wholeheartedly embracing Crowley's fiction, and I think it is that his worldview is too different from mine.  In Little, Big there is an absence of good as a concept, as something for anyone to strive for.  We get muted references to Eigenblick's crusade and the rebellion of those against him, but no sense of what either side is fighting for or what the consequences will be for ordinary people.  Ariel Hawksquill, one of the most powerful people in the world, spends much of the book trying to figure out who Eigenblick is and what he means so she can choose a side; but when she makes the choice, it is almost entirely for her own ambitions, not for any greater purpose (good or bad).  The fairy creatures are wholly amoral, as is expected, but the humans are, too, never extrapolating their kindnesses and cruelties and everyday concerns into a larger worldview.  The result is that I felt a certain distance to the narrative.  I enjoyed the novel, and I admire it, but I didn't love it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Crafting

I'm not getting nearly as much done this year. In addition to increasing my hours at work and dealing with Beadboy3's terrible twos, it seems I can't finish anything I start, whether because I lack the right materials or I can't solve a design problem or even I just lose interest.  But I did get some Eastery stitching and crafting done.

Shiny Happy World's Fancy Felt Egg:

An egg wrapped in fabric strips:
There are a ton of tutorials out there for this.  I cut not-very-precise 1/4 inch strips and wrapped them around one of the kids' plastic eggs, using Modge Podge to hold it all in place.

I like to display my eggs in a big bowl on the mantle, but because I've used so many techniques (and bought some made from all sorts of materials), I've tried to get a more cohesive look by limiting the color palette -- pinks and purples, greens, and teals:

I can't resist a cheery yellow, though, so I got a little bowl for them, too:

I also stitched Down Grapevine Lane's Bunny in a Hoop:
Rather than lots of floss colors, I used the Caron Collection's Waterlilies silk thread in "confetti."  Easter lasts 50 days, so I should be able to finish the hoop, ha ha!

Friday, March 18, 2016

More Granny Squares

With the arrival of the second set of Bon Bon mini skeins, of course I had to crochet more granny squares.  This time I focused one using a different combination of four colors for each square.  But how many squares would that result in?  I remembered an old formula from my school days: n(n-1)(n-2)...(n-(x-1)), where n is the set of options and x is the number of objects per permutation.* So if each square uses four colors and there are eight colors total, the solution is 8x7x6x5=1,680 permutations.  That's a lot!

But that assumes that order counts -- pink/purple/green/orange is counted separately from purple/orange/pink/green.  I wasn't that fanatical.  I had to look up the "combination formula" I really needed: n(n-1)...(n-x-1) / x(x-1)...(x-(x-1)) -- 8x7x6x5 / 4x3x2x1 = 1,680/24 = 70.  A much more manageable number. 

But who was I kidding?  There wasn't nearly enough yarn.  So after the fun but pointless math, I simply organized the squares I did have into matching pairs, where the two together had all eight colors, and for the unpaired ones I crocheted matching squares with the unused colors.  The result was sixteen squares, which will make a nice pillow top someday:

I also crocheted a couple of ornaments in my favorite color combinations, from patterns designed by  Annoo and the Lazy Hobby Hopper:
Mine are lumpier than the originals
I only have a little bit of the yarn left over, but these items and the mandala are a pretty good output for two sets of mini skeins.

*I'm most certainly using the terminology and symbolism wrong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ursula's Candy Animals

The matriarch of 100 Years of Solitude is a formidable woman: she finds a route from Macondo to the rest of the world, horsewhips her grandson when he turns into a petty tryrant, and spends decades keeping her family and her home from falling apart.  She also starts a successful business making milk candy animals, and I had the perfect plastic charms to illustrate that:

For the curious, here is an interesting post and recipe for milk candy, or canillitas de leche, and here are a couple other recipes.