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Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Last Two Squares

A poinsettia:
Not my favorite flower, but it certainly belongs in the season. I think I should have added a fourth green leaf.

A dove:
I was completely out of ideas after 22 squares (the drum was a suggestion from one of my quilt classes), so I asked Beadmom for ideas. After naming a bunch I'd already done, she suggested a white dove (Prince of Peace and all that). That would have required appliqueing it onto a colored square, and that on a white square (a technique I had done before), but a search of flickr showed some prettily embroidered birds, and I decided to embroider my own floral pattern. It adds a nice color, and technically the dove is still white, just embellished.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pressure Is On

I've got another five advent squares done; just two more to go! Plus, sewing them all onto the backing, and making a baby in a manger, and getting them numbered, and finding a way to hang it . . .

A shepherd and sheep:
Pretty cute, if I do say so myself. I used a combination of needle-felting and applique, with a little embroidery. I thought about trying to define the shepherd's body more, but I didn't trust myself to do it right (especially since I'm on a time crunch), and Mr. Beadgirl likes how he looks like he belongs on South Park.

He looks a little plain, but again, I'm afraid of screwing him up if I add more detail. And now that I see the picture, I realize I have to finish his second antler.

A drum:
When I was little, every Christmas my grandfather would dress up as the Little Drummer Boy and come down the stairs, banging on a drum. Add my father dressed in a Santa suit and coming up the driveway in a tractor, and defective trees that were s-shaped or two-headed or completely bare on one side, and it made for some interesting Christmases.

A Christmas light bulb:
The old style, with big, rounded bulbs. Those were the ones my father wanted to use on the tree, but my mom always made him use them outside. I used floral wire to mimic the electrical wiring. But this bulb won't blow out!

A present:
The least exciting of the squares. I wanted pretty sparkly ribbon, but I did not have any in the right width. I may someday replace the ribbon with something nicer.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book Round-Up

Shopgirl by Steve Martin: A lovely little jewel of a novel. I thought the prose was a bit overwritten on occasion, but Martin excels at character development. He has a way of cutting to the core of a character with just a few sentences, and within the first few pages of the book I was invested in the characters and their growth. Although the humor of this novella was more subtle, it reminded me quite a bit of L.A. Story, my favorite Martin movie.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris: I have encountered Sedaris's writing before, in his collection of essays entitled Holidays on Ice (which caused me to vow to never take the Beadboys to see the Macy's Santa). This collection is just as witty and demented. His description of foreigners in a French class in Paris trying to describe Easter in broken French, for the benefit of a classmate who had never heard of it, had me in hysterics on the train. I also learned that Amy Sedaris has an evil, evil sense of humor.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: After finishing Tristam Shandy I needed something light, and this was perfect -- pretty and fluffy and magical. I really enjoy her books quite a bit, and I am looking forward to the next one.

Blackwork by Monica Ferris: the latest in her needlework mystery series, and as with the others it was an enjoyable read. The "Wiccans are people, too" PSAs were a tad heavy-handed, and the attempts to suggest the Wiccan character may have actual magical or psychic powers were completely ludicrous, but those are minor quibbles. These books are not brilliant or profound or sophisticated, but Ferris does have an ability to create interesting, nuanced, albeit quiet, characters.

The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee: On the other hand, this first book in a new needlework mystery series was a total disappointment. The book was filled with flaws such as forced dialogue, absurd leaps in logic, faulty motives, and unrealistic scenarios. Each one on its own was minor, but together they added up to a deeply implausible (and silly) book. The protagonist is driven to solve the mystery because she supposedly needs to clear her name, but only an idiot would have considered her a suspect. The police apparently had no qualms about letting her in on their investigation, and the lawyers did not really act like lawyers (Lee's understanding of what creates an attorney-client relationship almost caused me to throw the book at a wall). Frankly, I was shocked to learn that Amanda Lee is a pseudonym for a woman who has written many other mysteries.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More Advent Squares

Despite a virus striking the family low this week, I was able to finish another two advent squares (and take pictures of a third I finished a few weeks ago).

Saint Nicholas:
In keeping with the Catholic imagery I've been using for some of the squares, I decided that instead of "regular" Santa Claus I'd do Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children* and the origin of Santa. I've given him a red Bishop's miter (he was a bishop) and a long bushy beard made from while wool I needle-felted down (the mustache did not come out as defined as I would have liked).

*He's also the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, and thieves. Which reminds me of California v. Greenwood, the Supreme Court case denying an expectation of privacy in trash, which lumped together "animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public," all of whom have access to garbage left on the curb. (Take-away lesson -- don't put evidence of a crime in the trash; find a more permanent way to dispose of it.) I bet you didn't expect a post linking Christmas, a Catholic saint, and the Fourth Amendment.

An angel:
We've always topped our tree with a star, but angels are a common Christmas image, given their job heralding both Mary's pregnancy and Jesus' birth. The wings are from the defunct Artgirlz company (so sad, they had awesome stuff), the face is a milagro, and the halo is a large sequin. (With my fingerprint on it, drat).

A Nutcracker:
What's Christmas without the Nutcracker? I adore both the ballet and the original book (which includes a lot of great elements that did not make it into the ballet). This nutcracker is based on Maurice Sendak's illustrations. I'm kind of impressed with how well it came out -- I really didn't think I could pull it off.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Steampunk Jewels

After the week I had, I decided to forgo my usual Saturday late-morning nap and instead hang out in the craft room while Mr. Beadgirl took the boys out. Several months ago I bought Steampunk Style Jewelry, and I've been dying to make something steampunk ever since. So I sat down and rooted through boxes and tins of beads, charms, watch parts, keys, and metal doodads I've been hoarding over the years. I created a bunch of charms and pendants, and hung them from a brass yoke-chain. The results:
I used an s-hook clasp to finish it, that way I can shorten the necklace (symmetrically) if I want.

Close-ups of the individual components:
I took a plain brass bottle cap, turned up the edges with pliers, drilled a hole through one edge, and glued on (with Modge Podge) a circle of paper with vintage handwriting. If you look closely, you can see the brush strokes in the gel medium, so I have to be careful with that in the future.

The coin is a British pence, which I drilled a hole through.

This is an old key from who knows where, a copper milagro of some indeterminate shape (I've never seen another like this), and a glass pearl.

The charm on the left is from a pair of brass rose earrings that I adored. Unfortunately, one flower broke off the ear wire years ago, and I've been saving it for something all this time (the other earring seems to have disappeared entirely). I glued the flower onto a brass cabochon disk with two links, and added a glass pearl dangle.

The charm on the right is a brass button (really, a giant rivet) from a pair of jeans. I threaded it onto a head pin, with two pearls to hold it in place.

These are vintage watch parts; some time ago I picked up a little collection of old parts -- gears, watch faces, watch handles, and so on. The one on the left is a large, broken gear. The one on the right is a watch face that I drilled a hole in, and added a small washer for interest.

More watch parts, tiny ones this time. I placed tiny gears and other parts in a large brass cabochon disk, along with a steel circle stamped with the number 3 that I've had for years (I have no idea where it came from). I then filled the disk with Diamond Glaze, which hardens after 24 hours into a glass-like consistency. About half way through, a bunch of tiny little bubbles showed up, which I was not happy about. And there's nothing I can do about it, grrr.

The centerpiece, a big old-fashioned key with a glass pearl dangle.

The charm on the left is a fabric and copper link, made by wrapping a strip of velvet around a copper wire, and wrapping a thinner wire on top of the fabric. (On the other side of the necklace I have another link like this.) The technique is Deryn Mentock's, and originally appeared in Belle Armoire Jewelry. She's now selling a tutorial in her etsy store. (Well, she was, as of yesterday.)

The charm on the right is made from a little glass bottle I filled with more teeny watch parts. I then cut up a wine cork to get a chunk to cram into the top, and wrapped copper wire around it to make a loop for hanging.

Another British coin (20 pence) I drilled through, and a brass scarab charm (very Victorian).

The last charm. The brass plate is apparently from an old men's accessory company, and I have no idea where I got it. I glued on top a broken fleur-de-lis I've had for many years (in fact, I think it originally belonged to my mom, since I've had it since high school).

I'm quite pleased with this necklace; it even impressed Mr. Beadgirl, notoriously oblivious to jewelry, who immediately identified it as steampunk.

Finally, while waiting for different components to dry, I even started putting together another necklace, this one more Victorian in style:
Once I find some seed beads to match the larger beads, I will weave the seed beads in and out of the filigree flower, and finish the rest of the necklace.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Are you kidding me?

It's getting kind of laughable, the things that keep me from taking time for myself. Most recently it was TWO plumbing emergencies in TWO days, caused by my damn wiener kids first shoving toys down the tub's drain and next trying to flush a washcloth.

I did manage to stitch two more squares on the Stitching Along project, which at this point I should re-title "A Year in Stitches" (I wonder if I am the only one still working on it).

A jack-o'-lantern, for Halloween:
Stitched after a very tiring trick-or-treat outing, a stiff drink, and take-out. It is entirely in french knots, and I blended two shades of orange for the pumpkin and very dark gray and very dark brown for the features. The squished right eye makes him look like he is winking, and is probably the fault of that stiff drink.

A sugar skull for All Souls Day:
I was initially going to use the turquoise for some little design on the cheeks, but the background looked so empty I tried to make it fancy, kind of like stipple-quilting.

If I ever get to make anything ever again, I will make the last few squares I need for the advent calendar.