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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Garden in my Jewelry Box

I glued vintage cabochons into bezels, and linked them with dyed green turquoise. The chain came from a commercial necklace I took apart.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Present for a Little Girl

whose birthday party is Sunday. The party has a Wizard of Oz theme, so of course I could not buy any old present when I have lovely Wizard of Oz fabric in my stash.

A tote bag:
With a poppy field lining:

A drawing case:
(A note pad is supposed to go in the pocket to the left, but I have not bought it yet.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Year of the Dragon

The schools around here make a big deal of the Chinese New Year, which made me think of an old Piecework issue that had instructions for making a cute embroidered felt rooster for 2005. Of course, I never got around to doing it then, and subsequent years would need a different animal, but last week I decided to try my hand at designing my own pattern.

I studied the old pattern and the pictures of silk and cotton dragons in the accompanying article. I also read up on Chinese dragons, and how they are shaped like snakes, with four (usually) legs and no wings, and then sketched out the little guy. I decided the legs, tail feathers (or whatever) and head crest would be easier to manage if they were separate felt pieces attached to the body. I used the fly stitch to give the appearance of scales, and embroidered a few more details for the face and tail. The orange thingies are supposed to be flames coming out of the mouth; it didn't quite come out the way I'd intended. Otherwise, I'm quite pleased with the cutie.

Mr. Beadgirl reminded me that this is not the first Chinese dragon I've made. Years ago I made one out of beads and wire, and gave it to Mr. Beadgirl because he was so taken with it (usually he is indifferent to my work). Mr. Beadgirl christened it Edgar, and he sits on his desk at work.

Mr. Beadgirl just emailed me a picture of Edgar:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

The Broken Teaglass was a Christmas present from Mr. Beadgirl, and just what I needed during the Christmas season -- not too heavy, not too light, intriguing, and a quick read.

The plot starts when Billy and Mona, editors at a dictionary company, discover in the company's citation files references to a mysterious book, "The Broken Teaglass," one that does not appear to exist anywhere else. The mystery of what the book is doing there is resolved rather quickly, and in a non-surprising way, much to my disappointment. But this is the only complaint I have; the mystery as to the contents of the "Broken Teaglass" (rather than its form) is satisfying.

Of course, in a novel like this the mystery is only part of the point. The oddball characters Arsenault created are engaging, and the slow reveal of what's going on with Billy (for lack of a better way to state it) is well done. And on yet another level, this is a book about storytelling -- the stories we tell each other and ourselves, the reasons why we tell (or don't), and who "owns" the stories once told. I look forward to reading more by Arsenault.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rose Ring

A quick little pick-me-up after a rough day. The rose is an inexpensive button, and I used size 8 seed beads and fireline (run through the beads three times) to make the ring. I love it! I have another button, which I am thinking of making into another ring to sell, but what size?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Steampunk Bracelet

The inspiration for this design came from some awesome zippers I found in a tiny little quilt/fabric store in Carlisle, PA, on my way to visit Beadmom and Fr. Beadbrother. Unlike the dyed plastic zippers of today, these had brass metal teeth and were nice and big. I snapped up the zippers in black, brown, beige, and burgundy and plotted what to do with them.*

The bracelet came together over several months. I first unzipped it and cut off a length from the end to wrap around my wrist, with extra to spare for finishing. I turned the teeth out so the brass would serve as a kind of picot edging. I tea-dyed some white lace and sewed it between the two strips, and then I sewed on various watch parts, using crystals to hold them in place.

The last step was to make a loop on one end from gold-painted size 6 seed beads (I hope the finish does not wear off, but if it does I can replace the loop) and attach a gold-plated button on the other. The button is quite plain, but it was the best fit for the bracelet. If I ever find a suitable charm, gear, or watch part I'll glue it on to the top.

Unfortunately it's winter, which is long-sleeve weather, which on me means sleeves to my knuckles. So I can't really show the bracelet off yet.

*While I was in the store, the proprietor and another customer, both in their 50s-60s, spent the entire time complaining about how young women today don't know how to sew a button and have no interest in sewing. Apparently they are unaware of the growing popularity of needlearts among all sorts of people -- crafty types, hipsters, green/eco types, young homemakers, artists, city people, country folks, retro and vintage lovers, people on a budget, and so on. Also, I wonder what they thought of me buying zippers. (I didn't tell them I would be "repurposing" them.) (assuming I still count as a "young woman.")

Friday, January 13, 2012

Definitely Elegant

The design over all, that is. My D is not elegant, because I apparently was a little shaky when I traced it, so the lines are crooked and those shapes in the center of each side can only be called polygons, not diamonds. Plus the white thread was not great at covering all of my shaky purple permanent marks (I wish I'd known about Pretty By Hand's tip of marking the spot for a detatched chain stitch with just two dots, for the top and bottom). Once I finish the rest of the sampler I should tear out the D's stitches and redo it, perhaps . . . ah, who am I kidding? That D isn't changing.

The E came out nicely, however, which is surprising given how much I hate satin stitch. I used the weave of the linen to keep the stitches spaced evenly, so perhaps that's the secret.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I just barely finish him in time, given that today is the last day of Christmas (the Baptism of the Lord). (Actually, I thought yesterday was, given that it was the Sunday the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, and I was really bummed that I hadn't finished by bedtime, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn I was wrong.)

I'm not doing another project like this for a while. As much as I love a lot of the cross-stitch designs out there, I find cross stitches kind of tedious. The bead embellishments on these kits are even worse -- not the size 11 beads, which are attached with a half-stitch and work up quite fast, but the size 15 beads, which are attached with a cross stitch. Which means going through the bead twice, which is very fiddly and takes quite a bit longer than a regular cross stitch. These designs had a lot of size 15s, so I'm glad to be done.

"Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
The the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our palaces, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Few More Christmas Crafts

As it seems to happen every year, I have a large Christmas project I struggle to finish before the end of the season. This year, whenever I took a break from cross-stitching the Magi, I worked on a gingerbread garland from Super-Cute Felt:
I made mine with only gingerbread people, using cookie cutters for the pattern. I had originally meant to change the garland a bit, to make it not so similar to the one in the book -- I considered embroidering the men and women instead of using "frosting," as I did for this guy, but that was more work than I had time for. Simpler embroidery and buttons were considered too, and then a mix of all the styles, including the frosting, but before I knew it I was following Howard's instructions, down to the little silver beads (left over from the beaded snowflakes). A testament to the success of her design.

I also tried to make an kitschy ornament by taking Christmasy fabric scraps and Mod Podging them on to a styrofoam ball, but that was not quite as successful:
The glue made the fabric dry darker than I expected, and the overall look is harsher than I wanted. I might try to coat it with a dusting of fin translucent glitter (does it exist?) to soften it and make it sparkly.

The lovely ornaments from SewFearless came out much better:
My ornaments were clear glass, not metallic, so I added a sheer wash of gold paint to the dried paper. I also covered up the ornament hanger doohickies with with gold floss, since they were silver-colored.

In a couple of places this year I have seen references to a "sewing tree," and I think I want to do that next year -- a small potted tree for my dining table. I have lots of ideas for the ornaments: these ones (thanks, Jodi!); beaded spools from my favorite mixed media maven, Kelli Perkins (thanks, Monika!); smaller versions of these guys:
(thanks, crafty people I don't have time to track down now!); this lady I apparently stitched all the way back in 1999 from who knows what designer:
a nicer version of this rather junky ornament:
plus maybe some new ribbon ornaments (the ones that weren't fiascos). And yo-yos and buttons of course, and rick rack . . . this could be a lot of fun!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Shakespeare Wars

This book was an intense and rewarding read. I picked it up as a corrective to the idiocy that was Anonymous and its hype, because it covers the real, meaty issues about Shakespeare -- the interplay of the different texts, the vicious debates over spelling and language and meaning, the arguments over why, exactly, Shakespeare's works are so compelling. Rosenbaum is ideally suited to the task -- an academic outsider (a journalist) who is highly literate and educated, he is also profoundly passionate about Shakespeare. His writing is casual, engaging, and snarky, and he has little patience for those he thinks have foolish or very wrong ideas (to his credit, he will also openly acknowledge his own mistakes).

There is so much to think about in this book that I could write a dozen essays. Rosenbaum reminded me how much I love Hamlet, and how immersed I once got in debates and discussions over Hamlet's age, costuming, the brilliance that is Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Gertrude's role, and so on. Rosenbaum also vindicated my love of love for Luhrman's movie William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, and the absolutely stunning opening monologue. (Despite the fact that I never cared too much about the play. They are too young for eternal true love. There are too many misunderstandings and stupid things in the way of love. And they are too willing to die because their passion cannot be fulfilled, when there is so much more to life. I prefer my heroines tough and strong, like Jane Eyre, who is parted from Rochester not because of misunderstandings or foolish pride, but because of her integrity and moral strength. But I digress.)

I'd also love to have lunch with Rosenbaum, and ask if he ever saw the Hamlet O-groans that appeared in Frasier, of all places (starting around 1:45). Has he read Neil Gaiman's "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream" and "The Tempest", issues 19 and 75 from the Sandman comic? What does he think about the conceit of the fairies being much more capricious and amoral in "real life" than in the play, and the absolutely sinister version of Puck (something I can never not think of whenever I see any other portrayal of him)? Or the moving way Gaiman tied together Prospero and the end of Shakespeare's career with the ultimate fate of Dream? What does he really think about Oxfordians? (Snerk.)

If there could be a theme to all the disparate Shakespearean questions and puzzles Rosenbaum discusses, it would be one of ambiguity or multiplicity. Which of the two texts of King Lear is the "right" one -- the Quarto or the Folio? Which of the three Hamlets -- the "good" quarto, the "bad" quarto, or the folio? Did Shakespeare leave each play once written, or did he revise his works over time? If the latter, which then would be his final version? Did he have both literary and stage versions, or were the stage versions (shorter and with directions) products of directors and producers? What spellings and punctuations should we use (sallied/sullied/solid, shroudly/shrewdly, O/o'), and are they the result of Shakespeare's intent or decisions by later printers and typesetters? What did Shakespeare mean with particular words he chose, like "accidents/accidence" -- the primary definition (coincidence), a second one (resonance), one of his own devising, none of these, all of these at once? Are Lear's words in the Folio cause for hope or despair? How can a reader make sense of the myriad, conflicting ways one line about love in Sonnet 40 can be interpreted, let alone the rest of the poem?

The fact is, none of these questions can be answered definitively, and probably never will be. Rosenbaum repeatedly analogizes it to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, where an electron can never be pinned down precisely in both speed and location but instead occupies a penumbra of probabilities. Shakespeare's works, then, are "a wave-array of possible variations and interpretations of [] single word[s] or phrase[s]" (p. 90; see also p. 463 on). I (and many others) think this is Shakespeare's genius -- the multiplicity of meaning. The fact that you can read (or see) the plays over and over and find something new. The fact that there can be two or more perfectly valid understandings. The fact that the plays are flexible enough to allow directors and actors their own interpretations of a scene or character. What other writer can offer such sheer versatility?

I've often heard (and Rosenbaum mentions it) that we will be the last generation to be able to understand Shakespeare in its "original language"; future readers and audiences will need the works to be translated for them, much as Chaucer needs to be translated for most people, and Beowulf for everyone. Such a thing is inevitable; languages change or die, many of the great works of literature have to be translated for someone, and it certainly need not keep us from recognizing Shakespeare's genius. Yet it makes me sad to think of it, because much will inevitably be lost. Clever wordplay based on a multiplicity of meaning and similarity of sound will be gone. It will force editors to make decisions on spelling and meaning and punctuation, even more than they do now. Many of the debates Rosenbaum discusses will become available only to those few who can read "Shakespearean English" well enough to understand the stakes. That will be the true loss, not the silliness over Shakespeare's "lost" identity.