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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Square 3

This one was inspired by lots of things -- the bird's nest in a tree in our backyard I noticed for the first time, the nests embroidered by Amy and others in the 39 Squares group, and a wire-wrapped nest pendant with three pearl "eggs" I saw on some website (which I really wish I could find again, I want one of those pendants).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Feeling Stitchy Button Swap

Feeling Stitchy organized an embroidered button swap last month, and gave me a partner to swap with (you can find her at Chicory Nits).

My partner told me she liked color, so I knew I'd be using lots of bright shades, but it took me a little longer to settle on the designs. I decided to take my inspiration from Taíno petroglyphs and other pre-Columbian designs (my mom gave me an old book of hers a while back, filled with nothing but pre-conquest Mexican motifs). The results:
From left to right, top to bottom: the Taíno symbol for water, my interpretation of a Taíno sun motif, the Taíno coquí, a Taíno baby, another motif combining different elements, and a version of a pre-Columbian Mexican flower.

The buttons I received:
So exciting! I especially love the lower left one, the heart and arrow on fabric with writing. Maybe I'll make some kind of valentiny, vintagy thing with it. The bigger buttons I think will make great ornaments, layered onto wool felt.

In addition we exchanged a little chocolate and some craft supplies and notions. Fun!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

36 Squares

Amy at 39 Squares started a wonderful embroidery project at the beginning of the month: every day for 39 days she will embroider a one inch square, creating a sampler (five by eight, the last will be blank) that will showcase a variety of techniques and images. Lots of people have joined up to do the same, and of course I must too, because this project is perfectly suited to me -- small (making it possible for me to finish) and varied (so I don't get bored).

I decided on 36 squares because it is a square number (ha) and six is a prettier number than either five or eight (a perfect number, if you will). I chose 28 hpi (threads per inch) linen, because an even-count (same number of warp and weft threads) fabric will allow me to use counted-thread stitches if I want. I am also using leftover threads from previous projects:
and whatever doodads strike my fancy.

So, the first square. I was stuck on how to start, and thought it should be something personal to me. I thought about my initial, J, and that brought to mind all the beautiful illuminated letters we have been looking at in my History of the Book class, and the first square was born:
I'm really pleased with it.

The next square, then, needed to be writing to continue the theme:
I deliberately did not plan the writing out, so the look is what I intended. I'm not crazy about it, though, and I may redo it in the future.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Comic Book Tattoo

Comic Book Tattoo is a collection of short stories in comic form, each inspired in one way or another by a Tori Amos song. Given the large number of stories (over 50), it is not surprising that the collection is hit or miss -- there are some excellent stories in there, some not so excellent, and some that are downright cringe-inducing. And for the most part, the difference in quality seemed to depend on how the artists and writers were inspired by the songs. Many of the better stories ("Little Earthquakes," "Crazy," "Toast," "Devils and Gods") were only loosely inspired by Amos's lyrics, taking their own impressions from the words and crafting their own stories that linked thematically to the songs.* One had nothing at all to do with the lyrics, taking its inspiration from the title alone, "Bouncing off Clouds," to create a cute little fantasy. It was when the writers tried to adhere too closely to the songs that they ended up with stories that were weak or precious, because Amos's lyrics can be beautiful and evocative, but they sound nothing like the way people talk in real life. Even otherwise good stories like "Take to the Sky" and "Here. In my head" were marred by forced inclusions of her lyrics, causing me to roll my eyes quite a bit.

There are exceptions to this, however. "Little Amsterdam" and the adorable "Snow Cherries from France" among others, managed to tell cohesive, interesting stories while hewing closely to the lyrics. "Pandora's Aquarium" by Dame Darcy went all out and embraced Amos's lyrics in all their weird, quirky, nonsensical wonderfulness; the result is an amusing little vignette about an underwater Catholic school with mermaids, nautical nuns, and pearl-diving.

My favorite, "God," by Jim Bricker and Craig Taillefer, took a different literal track. It starts out with two friends on a coffee break, one of them complaining about his job until, at the last panel of the first page, he uttered his version of the first line of the song -- "Sometimes God just doesn't come through." I groaned out loud, but turned the page to see his friend awesomely challenge him on that statement. The rest of the comic is a clever, funny philosophical debate on God and human expectations.

*This doesn't always work. Some writers developed their own stories that thematically suited the songs, and it still resulted in triteness.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Katmandu Mandala

When it comes to embroidery I'm generally of the mindset that more is more -- you can never have too much embellishment. The quilter Mark Lipinski seems to agree, because he designed a line of cotton fabrics specifically for embellishment. Naturally I was all over that, and I picked up a piece of the orange fabric with mandalas and paisleys printed on it.




From the inside out: The innermost ring is straight stitch in lime green with blue AB seed beads. The twelve-pointed star is in purple straight stitch with red AB seed beads woven in and out of the points (unfortunately the weaving effect is not as prominent as I had hoped). The next ring is back stitch in pink with yellow french knots, then green bugle beads with green french knots. The ten-pointed star is made from turquoise back stitch points with yellow satin stitch inner points alternating with pink chain stitch points with yellow seed bead inner points. Between each point is a star made from lime green straight stitches and a green silver-lined 8° seed bead. The next ring is feather stitch in red with blue purple-lined square beads. The ring after that is straight stitch in blue surrounding multi-colored sequins anchored by purple french knots. The final ring is cretan, bosnian, chevron, herringbone, and cross stitch (I got bored) in purple, threaded with pale green shimmery ribbon, and topped with beaded rosettes in dark pink and pink.

I want to applique this onto a patchwork made from brightly-colored scraps, but after that I'm not sure what I'll do with it.

Check out what other people did with this fabric here.

Beadboy 2's First Attempt at Sewing

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Wow.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up Junot Díaz's book -- a novel that mixed Latino culture with nerd culture (something I can relate to -- if this song were called "Latina and Nerdy" it'd be about me), a post-modern book filled with arch references to literature and pop culture and lots of footnotes, certainly a well-written work of art (it won the Pulitzer). I didn't expect that I would devour the book in a matter of days, sitting on the commuter train and wishing it hadn't arrived at my stop so quickly. The mix of cultures and time periods and allusions was intoxicating. The book shifts between Oscar's and his sister Lola's lives as immigrants growing up in 80s-90s New Jersey, struggling to overcome family history and everyday indignities, and scenes set in the Dominican Republic in the 50s and 60s, detailing the horrors their family endured during the Trujillo dictatorship. The subject matter was sometimes harrowing, but there was a great deal of humor, too.

The most startling thing, though, was the language. Díaz uses a mix of Spanish and English, slang and ten-dollar words, complex sentences and fragmented phrases. The result captures your attention from the first page, and pulls you along faster and faster -- but never so fast you miss the images, the plot, the beauty of what he has created. This is a carefully crafted, exhilarating book, and I can't think of a single flaw.

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Progress

I'm on quite a roll.

This is a MillHill pin cushion I beaded and cross-stitched quite a while ago (two years, maybe?), but I never finished. All it took was filling a little cloth bag with emery (to keep needle and pin tips sharp) and sewing it shut (trickier than it should be, and I think I dropped some emery into my sewing machine YAY), then folding the fabric around the little bag and slip-stitching that shut. Now I have a nice, weighty storage spot for needles and pins by my machine.

This was a project from the 2008 Just Cross-Stitch Christmas Ornaments issue. I received the magazine that September, and to ensure I'd finish the ornament in time (ha!), I even bought the kit for it rather than searching for the fabric and threads myself. I did manage to finish the stitching a few days after that Christmas, but then it languished. But hooray! Earlier this week I made and attached the beaded garland (modifying it slightly from the pattern, so that the ends are beads not thread), and then sewed it to the backing fabric. The pattern did not give directions for how to finish it with the enclosed silk ribbon, so I picked the easiest way: wrapping the ribbon around the seam (especially necessary because I was too lazy to pick a matching thread) and tacking it in place with leftover beads. I tied the ends in a bow at the top, and added another length for the hanger. That hanger is not sewed on very securely, though, so I suspect I will have to redo it. But it is finished!

This is the sewing machine organizer I wrote about previously. Having cut out the fabric, I couldn't bear to let the project languish again -- I really need those pockets to keep me from losing my thread clippers and seam ripper. So I ventured up there late one night and whipped it up in just an hour or two. Looking at it now, I see I forgot to clip some threads; where's that clipper . . . .

Next up: finishing a tote bag. I cut the pieces out a few years ago, so it's about time I sew it up.