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Friday, August 24, 2012

You Gotta Try this Recipe!

Ice cubes.

The sad thing is, I once had to teach Fr. Beadbrother how to boil water.

Hat tip: Catholic and Enjoying It.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Crazy Quilting . . .

. . . demonstrating how nit-picky and fiddly I can be.

"Christine's Blossom":
(So-called in the Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool.)  I used a tiny little needle to stitch a tiny little running stitch through tiny little pieces of 3mm ribbon.  And I did it eight times.

Oyster stitch:

Zig-zag coral stitch:
I did the stitch first along the stitch, and then thought the shape would be perfect to layer over a piece of rick-rack.  I tried running it under the stitches, but they weren't quite the right length or width. I unpicked all my pretty stitches and sewed it again, this time couching down the rick-rack.

Laced herringbone stitch with detached chain:

Loop stitch with seed beads and bugles:
Notice that I wasn't nit-picky enough to make sure all the stitches were the same height.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Life, a User's Manual by Georges Perec

In the introduction, Perec spends some time meditating on the art of puzzle-making.  Not the commercial, mass-produced puzzles of today, but real, hand-carved, no-two-are-alike wooden puzzles.  The puzzle carver will put a great deal of thought into every single piece, cutting the pieces not only into shapes that reflect the puzzle's theme and the future constructor, but also into shapes that will trick and mystify her.  Each piece, in fact, will be its own little work of art.

That's what this book is.  Perec, a member of Oulipo, has created a verbal jigsaw puzzle which depicts every room in a Parisian apartment building on June 23, 1975, just before 8 p.m.  As the narrative moves from room to room, describing its contents or the people who are in there at that moment or who once lived there or who had an encounter with the inhabitants, the reader tries to "piece" these vignettes all together, to see what relation, if any, each chapter will have to a puzzle-maker's revenge promised in the first chapter.

But that description almost places too much emphasis on the mystery, as such, because the vignettes also stand on their own.  The book is filled with stories, summaries, lists, advertisements, articles, recipes, puzzles, mathematical equations, descriptions of paintings, and mini character studies, covering every aspect of life -- birth, death, love, hatred, passion, revenge, good, evil, banality, redemption, success, failure, betrayal, and hope.

That's the remarkable thing.  There is so much in this book on every level, that if ever a work cried out for annotation, this is it (Perec does include a plan of the building, a chronology, a list of stories told, and a detailed index, all of which I appreciated).  There are a host of  allusions, quotations, puns, and general cleverness, some of which get lost in translation and most of which I missed entirely. There are meta elements, such as one character planning a painting which is in fact a visual representation of what Perec has written, and Perec deliberately adding a failure to his work to mirror the failure of a major project in the narrative.  And then there is the structure itself, which Perec imposed for his own benefit, not ours.  Perec's narrative moves through the building, ten stories by ten rooms (including the stairwell), via the knight's tour.  He also used a Graeco-Latin square to govern what lists and objects each room got (a process I still don't fully understand). 

But even without all this, the stories stand on their own as a meditation on humanity.  It's not necessary to understand what Perec was doing to enjoy the book (case in point -- I learned most of the structural aspects not from reading the text but from Wikipedia).  It is a truly remarkable book, one which I will be reading over and over.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Can't Believe I Made This

I was flipping through Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing when I came upon the hat pattern.  I should have known better than to do another project from this book -- the instructions are notoriously sketchy, and many of the patterns have construction errors, like the pillow case or the pot holder that does not have nearly enough padding to allow one to hold a hot pot. 

But I have a big head and a massive amount of hair, so the only way to get a sun hat to fit me would be to make it.  But this pattern did not give dimensions, and was for only one size, so I'd have to adjust the pattern myself.

But I had the cutest line fabric just waiting to be used, that would make a great summery hat.

So I searched online, and found as I expected lots of blog entries about the problems with the pattern.  Which helped me figure out what to do.  I lengthened the crown piece and brim piece by one inch and used a quarter inch seam, so it would fit my head.  I used my old geometry knowledge and the pi function of my calculator to resize the circle of the top part to the right size (pi!  I love pi!).  I hacked off an inch and a half from the width of the brim, because many people said they could not see when wearing the hat.  I remembered what my Dear Jane instructors told me about sewing curves, that the "too small" curve should be on top so that the feed dogs help ease the fabric of the "too big" curve (thanks, Diane and Judy!).  And . . . I actually managed to put it together.

There are errors, of course.  I forgot that with directional fabric you need to, you know, take care with the direction when cutting out pattern pieces, and so the fabric for the crown was upside down.  There was not enough fabric to cut another crown whole, so I had to piece it.  There are a few tucks here and there, the fabric on the brim got a little bumpy in one section (not sure why), and the stitching is not particularly straight.

But I have a cute sun hat!

Monday, August 13, 2012

My New Obsession: Sewing Clothes

I haven't done much of it, except for a few skirts here and there, because I'm not that good at it.  I just am not precise or careful enough when sewing pattern pieces together to make them look or fit right.  And yet sewing my own clothes seems like something I really should be doing, given how hard it can be to find something off-the-rack that fits me right, and how picky I am about colors.

Sew Fearless, however, has inspired me.  She recently did a few posts on a Simplicity pajama pattern that looked so easy and fun I had to try it.  One pattern piece, two pieces of fabric, three seams? Surely even I can do that.

And I did:
To make the project as least-risky as possible, I bought sale fabric and made the shorts, not the pants (appropriate to the season, too).  I made the waistband a little too loose, but that's hardly a problem for pjs.

I also tried something I've been meaning to for a while, which was to make a permanent pattern rather than cutting up the tissue pattern pieces.  Using a material akin to interfacing has several advantages: it's a lot sturdier than tissue paper, it is easier to pin, it smoothes out better on the fabric, and it gives me the flexibility to adjust pattern pieces without destroying the originals.  In this case, I traced the pattern for the shorts onto the interfacing with some fit adjustments and cut that out, rather than cutting the tissue, which would have cut off the legs of the pattern for the pants.

I'm already planning another pajama bottom, this time the pants.  A local quilt store is closing, so I picked up a great remnant for a song.  I am also now ambitious enough to try to make a sun hat.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Next in the Circle Series

I've started the third and last panel in my embellished "circle series."  The idea came from Katherine Shaughnessy's The New Crewel, specifically her Circle Sampler.
 As usual, my camera did a crappy job of capturing the colors.

Satin stitch:

French knot stalks:

Stem stitch:

Spiderweb stitch:

French knots:

Blanket stitch:

Straight stitch:

Chain stitch:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Minding My P and Q

I keep going back and forth on the light red.  Sometimes it looks soft and pretty, sometimes garish and tacky.