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Friday, October 29, 2010

Too many tricks and not enough treats

I'm getting annoyed at how busy I've been the last few months, because always the first thing to go is my stitching time. The latest obligation was making the Beadboys' costumes, which I promised them a while back. It wasn't too bad, but next year I may give myself a break and go store-bought.

Beadboy2 is a knight, since he has been slaying imaginary monsters and bad guys with a nerf sword, tree branches, a yard stick, a wooden spoon, a toothbrush -- basically anything he could get a hold of. A few years ago I made Beadboy1 a robot costume using tinfoil-covered cardboard --
-- so I recycled that idea for the breastplate. After I cut it out from cardboard I brought it to Beadboy2 to make sure it was not too big, and the ungrateful child complained "mommy, why did you make it out of that? It's supposed to be gray [metal]. Why isn't it gray? Mommy, it has to be gray." I then brushed a thin coat of thin white glue to the front, and placed a sheet of tinfoil on top. I folded over the edges of the foil and secured it with duct tape, and added gray bias tape for the ties. Et voila:
I wanted to paint a cute coat-of-arms on the front, but Beadboy2 wouldn't hear of it. So he painted a knight (red blob at the top of the coat-of-arms), a robot (purple rectangle in the lower right corner), a robot knight (purple blob in lower half of coat-of-arms), and two Gs, his initial.

For a shield, I covered a frisbee with duct tape, and formed a duct tape handle on the back.

Again, Beadboy2 was the artist. The orange stick figure is me, the G is self-explanatory, the black blob by my head is a hand ( . . . I don't know), the big red blob is an apple with a big stem, and the small red blob is a space ship that is going to get the apple ( . . . yeah).

The rest of his "armor" (which I forgot to take a picture of) consists of disposable foil loaf pans folded in and shaped into greaves, shin guards, etc., an idea I got from Martha Stewart.

Beadboy1's dragon costume was a lot easier. I took a green hooded sweatshirt and sewed on red felt triangles from the hood to the waist, and sewed orange felt half-ovals to the front to form the scales of the belly. For the tail I pieced together two long green felt rectangles, drew (and sewed along) two lines to form a long skinny triangle, trimmed the excess, and stuffed the tail. More red triangles finished the tail, and I sewed it to the back waist band of the sweatshirt.
(Not a great picture.)
(The chink in Smaug's armor.)

I sent the two off to their schools this morning with the costumes. Beadboy1 adored his, and wouldn't take it off. Beadboy2 was pestering me all week to wear it, but when he got to school decided he did not want to anymore. With a bit of coaxing from the teacher, he put on the breastplate and shield. And then this afternoon he ordered me to make him a Spiderman costume. Right. Maybe next year.

With the costumes done, I thought I could spend the morning stitching and crafting for myself. So of course, I got a call mid-morning from the school nurse that Beadboy1 was sick.* I did manage to whip up this little jack-o-lantern before I had to pick him up:
The idea of using sewing notions and game pieces to adorn a felt pumpkin came from some magazine I bought a couple of years ago. This is a sewing jack-o-lantern: the eyes are buttons, the nose is a bobbin, and the hanger is the end of a measuring tape. If I ever get to go into my craft room again, I will make another with dice, dominoes, and game tokens.

*When I went to go get Beadboy1, he was pale and dehydrated, but in a good mood. When I took him to the supermarket, he insisted on packing and repacking the cart. When I took him to Beadboy2's school, he was well enough to eat a lollipop. And by late this afternoon, the two of them were running amok throughout the house.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oh Yeah, Square 16

I am shamefully behind in this "stitch an inch every day project"; actually, I don't even think "behind" cuts it. But I forge ahead nonetheless, with the next square:
A leaf, in honor of my favorite season. I thought snipping a square of copper mesh from the monsterbubbles Christmas ornament I'm working on would add a bit of interesting texture to the piece. Remembering that the mesh is easier to sew on when I poke all the stitch holes first, I traced a teeny little maple leaf on a piece of paper, laid it over the mesh, and poked holes along the stitch lines. Unfortunately, the holes were almost impossible to see with the white linen underneath the mesh; good thing the design was so small, it still worked up pretty quick. I love fall leaves, but my area of Queens seems to be populated with trees that don't look pretty as the leaves die -- instead of lovely shades of gold, orange, red, and purple, the leaves turn a grayish brown before crumpling up. So I'll have to settle for this little red leaf.

Speaking of the monsterbubbles ornament:
I'm slowly making progress. (Uh, the photo is sideways, because I forgot to rotate it before uploading it.)

And a little Halloween stitching:
This is a Prairie Schooler design from last year, and will be an owl.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where's Fluffy?

I watched Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist the other night, and I couldn't resist embroidering this little motif:
This is the logo of a mysterious, publicity-shy indie band in the movie. They were just a MacGuffin, in that their only purpose was to have Nick and Norah spend most of the movie trying to find them, but I thought the bunny was adorable and perfect for a four-inch hoop.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman, by Lawrence Sterne

This book took me weeks to finish. It is a long book, densely written in the eighteenth-century style, cluttered with dependent clauses. I must confess that sometimes the the rhythm of these interminable sentences put me to sleep. Which is not to say I did not enjoy the book -- I did, quite a bit. Tristam Shandy is filled with jokes, puns, digressions, anecdotes, absurdities, tangents, stories, sermons, doodles, hyperbole, suspect medieval learning, questionable advice, promised chapters that never materialize, and untranslated quotations in French, Greek, and Latin.

The premise is that Tristam Shandy has set out to write his life and opinions, but so often gets sidetracked relating the adventures and conversations of his parents, uncle, household staff, and local villagers, that by the end of the book he has not gotten beyond his fifth year. This state of affairs is mimicked on a smaller scale throughout. Sex acts, including the one that resulted in his conception, are interrupted, anecdotes are cut off by digressions from other characters, stories are stopped just as we get to the juicy bits, chapters are started over and over, and the book itself does not so much end as just stop. More literally, Shandy's penis is cut short, i.e. "circumcised," when he is a toddler by a falling window sash, and his Uncle Toby is rendered impotent (figuratively and literally) by a war wound. Much like the Fisher King, Uncle Toby lives in a sort of stasis, unable to do anything but spend his days recreating battles over and over and going in conversational circles with Shandy's father. Shandy's father himself is full of opinions (on such important topics as the importance of names and significance of nasal shapes), with the plan of writing and publishing them, but he never seems to complete his research or his writing (making him a jollier, red-blooded Casaubon). No wonder, then, that Shandy cannot complete a story.

There are typesetting layout jokes, too, enough to please any fan of post-modern meta fiction: black pages, changes in fonts and size, a preface more than a hundred pages into the book, line drawings to illustrate the digressive nature of different sections, and so on.

And this is just the stuff I caught; I am sure I missed any number of jokes and puns and references because of my general lack of knowledge of eighteenth-century history and culture. The result is, as has often been said, a post-modern novel before there was modern. A book right up my alley.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Last Sunday I had a little table at my village's Arts Festival, selling jewelry; as a result, for the last few weeks all of my non-school, non-family, non-internship time was used preparing for the show. It was fun, and I even made a tiny profit, but it was a lot of work (especially for Mr. Beadgirl, who was responsible for handling the two Beadboys hopped up on cookies and bouncy-houses).

My wares:
My Halloween/Day of the Dead wares. I got the idea for the spiderweb earrings from Beadwork, which regularly runs articles on different stitches; this stitch is built from five spokes of ndebele stitching connected with strung seed beads. It didn't take much at all to see all the resulting web was missing was a little spider in the center. Every pair I've ever made has sold almost immediately. The skull earrings, calaveritas, were inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skulls covered in brightly colored frosting. The first few pairs I made I embellished with fringe in seven colors, but for this show I decided to try a new look -- beaded daisy chain flowers in yellow and orange, to represent the marigolds often used in Day of the Dead celebrations. These are my favorite, and had they not sold I'd've kept them for myself. During the show I made another pair, this time with skull beads with a vertical hole, which took some time to work out the construction (I eventually tied the thread ends into two knots, threaded the headpin between the knots, and buried the knots in the hole). The skulls look like little flower pots:
But I think I need more flowers (I ran out of orange beads). The skull necklaces were an obvious pairing.

Milagros necklaces. Not much to say except I love these, and have one I wear often.

Birthstone earrings, with swarovski crystals and tiny ear wires suitable for women and little girls. These were very popular when I sold them through my cousin's store.

Funky fiber beads. I wrap strips of fabric around a length of straw and tie some fancy thread or yarn around them; sometimes I also wrap colored craft wire strung with beads.

Some other pretty necklaces (I didn't get pictures of all of them).

Button earrings. I layered two to three buttons and strung craft wire through the holes, twisted the ends of the wire together, and then formed the twist into the loop for the ear wires.

Felt ball earrings. I got the idea from the felt necklace I made. The larger felt balls didn't have holes, so I sewed the findings on. The colors are not my favorite, but they were the only ones I had in pairs.

Bookmarks, which I threw in for variety. The two embroidered ones are left over from the bookmark swap. The others are cut from the paper cloth I made, and sewn onto felt backing.

At the last minute I realized I needed bags, but I didn't want to spend any more money, so I used some pretty wrapping paper. I cut out long rectangles and folded the long edges in a quarter of an inch, put glue on the edges, and folded them up. It's not a major achievement, but I was pretty proud of myself.

Over the next few days, I'll be listing in my etsy store the leftover jewelry.