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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Be Crewel

Har Har. I finished the next two letters:
B, done in stem stitch:
To finish the B I'm supposed to add three interior rows of stem stitch in the lighter red, but I like the way this looks so much, especially between the yellow and turquoise, that I'm leaving it this way for now.

C, done with threaded backstitch, backstitch, satin stitch, detached daisy stitch, straight stitch, and french knots:
I used just one strand of the wool when lacing the back stitch of the C, which gave it a, well, lacier look. I love this stitch, and I must use it more often. Satin stitch, on the other hand, is my mortal enemy, which is why the leaves don't look great.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Love and Rockets: New Stories no. 1 by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez

Love and Rockets was one of the first "alternative" comics to come out of the 80s, and I have intended for years to read these highly acclaimed books -- but where to start? I knew that the Hernandez brothers created a number of characters they followed over the years and tackled a variety of genres, resulting in an expansive universe. Three weeks ago, while in the library looking for some other books, I saw on the shelves New Stories no. 1, and figured I might as well start there.

And what a place to start. It is a collection of stories by the three brothers (they are now publishing annual trade paperbacks, and this is the first). Gilbert has the most stories, and they are by turns poignant, surreal, serious, and satirical. Mario contributed only one story, a broad satire on colonialism complete with corrupt priests, greedy Spaniards, and stupid Indians. But Jaime's story, a two-parter that bookends the collection, was the standout. He creates a superhero series out of some of his long-standing female characters, and the results are an incredible riff on the superhero genre, combining the pulpy, retro, occasionally goofy feel of 40s comics with feminism and girl power. There are competing teams of mostly female superheroes, and the plot centers around motherhood, in a kick-ass kind of way. There's even a female analogue to Batman, a woman who is inspired by the detective abilities of Miss Marple and who wears a costume to intimidate superstitious and cowardly criminals. And what's the scariest thing a woman could be? Why, old and ugly, of course. This is brilliant. I love, love, love this story. LOVE.

I now have to read every Love and Rockets story, preferably from the beginning.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Little Stitching Goes a Long Way

The advantage of a project like this is that it really doesn't take much sewing to get a lot of impact. I was able to embellish four of the dots on the fabric this weekend:
(I'm getting really mad at my camera. The green of the fabric is completely washed out.)

Close ups. A shisha mirror:
I attached a shisha mirror with yellow thread, encircled it with pink feather stitch, and added purple and orange beads. There are lots of techniques for attaching the mirrors; for this one, I used a sort of modified buttonhole stitch, and I plan to use the "shisha stitch" to attach another.

A fake shisha mirror:
This shisha is not an actual mirror, but a plastic ring covered in blue with a reflective sequin attached to the back. I sewed it on and surrounded it with french knots, long stitches, and beads.

More french knots and beads:
surrounded by a loose chain stitch and bugle beads, to allow the colors of the fabric to show through.

An organic-looking burst:
I used seed stitches in the center of a beaded ring, and then added french knots, fly stitches, and more beads.

I already have a plan for this piece when it is finished. Remember this? I want to put that and this on twelve inch squares of some fancy fabric (maybe crazy patchwork), make two more embellished circle pieces, and put all four together for a wall hanging.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Because I Don't Have Enough to Do

I am joining Feeling Stitchy's August Stitch-Along (one week late). Last week's assignment was to find a printed fabric to stitch on, and pair it with threads. For years I had been meaning to do the "Beaded Patterns" project from Color on Color, which is pretty much what it sounds like -- find a fabric with a print consisting of simple shapes, and embellish it. Perfect for the Stitch-Along.

Here are the materials:
The fabric I bought several years ago with this specific project in mind. The threads are left over from various cross stitch and embroidery kits; this seems like a good way to use them up (I won't be using black or white, though). The beads are little mixes I've accumulated over the years. I've thrown in a few shisha mirrors, too, which I may use.

I'm off work now until the middle of September, so on the one hand I will be home to sew. On the other hand, I'm off work because summer school and day care have ended for the Beadboys, which means the sewing will have to happen between meals, snacks, toilet training, laundry, coloring, breaking up fights, filling and refilling the little plastic pool in the backyard, and so on.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Round-Up

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges: An odd little bestiary that covers fantastical animals from all over the world, from the earliest tales to modern legends. Borges cites all sorts of literary sources for his descriptions, only translating some of them, and there are both the very common (unicorns and dragons) and the very obscure (the Sow in Chains and the Ink Monkey). It is far from comprehensive, but the real reason to read it is to experience Borges' incredible prose; of sylphs, he concludes: "Romantic poetry and the ballet find them useful."

Spain: A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali with Gwyneth Paltrow: Batali and Paltrow (a lot more likeable than you'd think in this book, although still remarkably un-self-aware), the luckiest people in the world, tour the best of every restaurant and kitchen in Spain. This was a Christmas present from Mr. Beadgirl, who knows how much I love Spain and Spanish food. I was lucky enough to travel extensively through Spain as a teenager and young adult, and the pictures and text brought back a lot of memories. Spanish cuisine is tied with Puerto Rican as my favorite, and the book is dog-eared with recipes I want to try.

Dracula the Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt: Knowing I enjoyed Bram Stoker's Dracula, Father Beadbrother lent me his copy of this ostensible sequel by Stoker's great grand-nephew. This was . . . bad. Really bad. So bad I stopped reading after two chapters and skimmed the final few. Although in their very, very long afterwords the authors say they wanted to avoid the cliches of modern vampire lit, they are all here -- an explicit linking of Dracula to Vlad the Impaler, even though it is not clear Stoker made that connection or wanted to; Dracula is really your friendly neighborhood vampire; the revelation that Mina is Dracula's true love and a vampire, and Harker is a drunken jerk; the inclusion of Stoker as an actual character who wrote about Dracula and got it horribly wrong (what a way to honor your ancestor's legacy); the assumption that being a vampire is an awesome solution to the "problem" of mortality; gory violence; sensationalized sex involving nubile young women (that's why Elizabeth Bathory's in the book, as a lesbian, natch); and a lame "The end . . . or IS IT???" ending. The writers also took what I call the Kitchen Sink Approach to Historical Fiction, incorporating Jack the Ripper (of course), famous actors of the time (gotta have celebrities!), Aviation pioneers (cutting edge technology!), and the Titanic (why not!). A totally revisionist interpretation of Dracula despite purporting to be otherwise, and poorly written at that. Boo.

Songs from the Seashell Archives, Vols. 1 and 2 by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough: These two books (very poor editions riddled with typos) collect four stories set in the same universe. These are light, comical fantasies that incorporate lots of folklore and fairy tales with a modern sensibility. So, for example, there is a red tapeworm that uses bureaucracy to keep people out of a castle, the witch from Hansel and Gretel is an ancestor of one of the protagonists, and to avoid falling under an evil wizard's spell one must take his words with a grain of salt, literally. I read these long ago in high school, and loved them, particularly the first two -- the protagonist was a brown-haired, decidedly un-princessy witch with unusual powers. I'd all but forgotten them until a month ago, when I had a dream which was basically a recreation of a scene from the second book (how imaginative of my sub-conscious). After that, I had to reread all of them, and I did. They held up pretty well, although as I said the first two were the best, and reading all four in a row was a bit much. The fourth ended with a major plot-point unresolved, making me wonder if Scarborough had intended a fifth novel. According to her website she did write a short story about it, so perhaps someday I will hunt it down.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Quilt is in American Patchwork & Quilting!

The October issue of American Patchwork & Quilting has an article on the Dear Jane class at the City Quilter, which is where I made my quilt. They have a tiny picture of my quilt in the magazine itself, and they direct you here where you can read a blurb about it. Be sure to look at the other quilts, they are stunning!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fabric Hunting Was Much Easier

My original plan was to pick a light purply-blue fabric, which I thought would contrast nicely with the leafy greens and teal I was intending to use. However, because I had to buy new threads, I couldn't quite get the shades I was envisioning. So I went through my fabric stash, looking for a good neutral. White and off-white were out, because I wanted the white thread to stand out. Blues and purples were out, as I explained above. Posie gets Cozy used a brownish olive fabric in her kit, and I thought of using something similar, but it wouldn't work with the threads I chose -- plus, I wanted to make mine a little different. I finally settled on a greyish-pink linen, remnant of a skirt I wore for years until the waistband finally stretched out too far to fix. (I used another piece of this fabric for my Bear Footprints embroidery). I think (hope) this will work nicely with the reds and greens.

I traced the design with a permanent pen, a fine-point Sharpie, as per Posie's instructions, which was horribly nerve-wracking. And then, finally, I could start sewing: