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Friday, June 29, 2012

Neon Necklace

InStyle magazine had a tiny little picture of this necklace, made of neon "gems" and African vinyl beads (which look really cool and I should pick some up sometime).  I realized I had some neon "gems" of my own, and added some bright seed beads:

I made the necklace from the yellow and pink "gems." The lime and orange gems, too small for the necklace, were just begging to be made into earrings, so I obliged:

Neon's not really my thing, but I think the set will be fun for summer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Leather Cuff

Many many years ago one of the beading magazines I get had a great pattern for a bead-embroidered leather cuff.  I ordered the strips of leather and the copper cuff that would give the bracelet its shape:
And then promptly lost the pages that had the instructions.  Not a big deal, really -- I know how to bead-embroider, and it was wasn't hard to figure out that the cuff would be sandwiched by the strips, and I probably would have changed some of the embroidery anyway to make use of my own beads and favorite colors.  Nonetheless, the kit lingered in a basket for a very long time.

Until I received the April 2012 issue of Bead & Button, which had a pattern for a leather bracelet by Tamara Scott; instead of beading right onto the leather, the instructions had you make the floral components first, and then sew them on.  Perfect!  And because so much of the leather background would be exposed, it would work up quite a bit faster than the original pattern.

I had to make some adjustments, of course.  My leather strips were narrower, so I made fewer and smaller flowers and leaves:
I was on my own putting it together, since the Bead & Button pattern just backed the embellished leather and added a snap for closure.  I sewed my two strips of leather together on one long side with a beaded whip stitch (the picot edge from the pattern took too long), inserted the copper cuff, sewed up the other side, and then trimmed and sewed closed the ends.

Here it is:
And it only took me almost 15 years!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett

The people at goodreads were right -- the sequel to The Magicians and Mrs. Quent is much better. With the pastiches out of the way, the plot picks up quite a bit, and the last chapters in particular are enthralling.  Beckett has also taken all the disparate elements of the the first book -- rogue planets, magicians, illusionists, witches, deadly woods, weird day lengths, politics -- and started to tie them all together coherently.  I've already started the third novel and I'm excited to see what happens next.

My only complaint with the second (and, to a lesser extent, the first) book is the large portion devoted to the Eldyn character.  While he is a genuinely likeable character, it is not at all clear yet how his story is going to tie in with the others, or the over-arching plot, so a lot of this felt like a waste of time.  Moreover, it is his storyline that involves Beckett's analogue to the Catholic Church, and (no surprise) I was quite disappointed with the results.  While Eldyn's interest in becoming a priest was handled sensitively, by the end of this book it was clear that the Altanian Church was home to corrupt hypocrites and unforgiving puritans -- a depiction all too common nowadays.  And it was completely unnecessary!  Just a few character tweaks here and there, and Beckett could have had the exact same plot results without having every religious figure be a jerk.  In fact, given that many religions throughout history and in literature often claim to be the light that fights against the dark, it stands to reason that the Church here would be a valuable ally against the Ashen.

The rest of the book more than made up for this, and like I said, I'm onto the last volume now.  I'm so glad I started this trilogy after all three volumes had been published!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Every Quilt Is a Learning Process

She said, with a sigh.  Friends of mine are expecting, and the baby shower was yesterday, so I got it in my head to make a simple baby quilt.

Some aspects of this went well -- I had a stack of Beatrix Potter fat quarters I never got around to using for my own kids, so the fabric was picked with no effort on my part.  I chose 4" finished squares sewn into nine patches, made 12 blocks, and sewed them together three by four.  No sashing, no borders, and the part that took the most time was cutting the squares.  Various tips I've picked up over the years even meant that almost all the little intersections matched.

That was the last part that went well.  I picked a yellow fabric with tiny white dots for the background, only the manufacturers had coated the fabric with something that made it so slick the feed dogs on the machine couldn't grip the fabric.  I finally had to wash out that finish, which was risky because I hadn't washed the fat quarters (generally one wants to either wash all the fabrics before cutting and sewing or none of them, to prevent uneven shrinking).  I taped the backing fabric quite well onto the floor before layering the batting and top, and smoothed the top over and over while pinning.  And yet I still got a couple of the dreaded folds in the backing when I quilted it.  Worse still, on the front one row of squares got bunched up, and I discovered the problem too late to fix it.  (Next time I'm ironing the top, even if it looks like it doesn't need it.)  As for the uneven quilt stitches . . .

It looks okay from a distance:
And it survived a wash.  Good thing the baby won't notice the errors.

I do better with small things.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Round-Up

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen: Yet another delightful and easy read, and a nice change of pace after The Shakespeare Wars. I did find the writing to be a bit clumsier than her other books, but I nonetheless enjoyed the heck out of it. One thing I appreciate about Allen's writing is that as pretty and gentle as a her books are, there is a genuine recognition of the suffering people endure in life. Her happy endings may be predictable but they are never cheap.

Buttons and Bones by Monica Ferris: I will keep buying these books as long as she keeps writing them -- I can't help it.  This was as enjoyable (if lightweight) as the others.  It should have been proofread by an editor more -- I caught some inconsistencies -- and the ending was a bit unsatisfactory, but I appreciated that the 70-year-old mystery was not completely wrapped up, which was a realistic touch.

Button Holed by Kylie Logan: This first volume in a new line of crafty-cosy mysteries centered around a button store got off to a rocky start. In an attempt to set this narrator apart (something I did appreciate), Logan gave her too much of an arch, jokey voice that got annoying quickly.  Once the actual mystery got going, however, the witticisms were toned down and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story.  The next one is already in my Amazon shopping basket.