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Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Plastic Bag Holder

Even though we use canvas and cotton bags whenever we can, we end up with a boatload of plastic bags from various food stores. This is not a horrible thing -- they are perfect for scooping out the cat litter, for one -- but storage can be a pain. Many years ago Beadmom gave me a canvas holder, the kind where I could shove the bags in at the top and pull one out of the bottom when I needed it, but I've long needed a second, and decided to make a pretty one for the kitchen.
I used this tutorial, although there are a ton of them out there. The fabric is from the Wizard of Oz collection I still have pieces of. I adjusted some of the measurements to compensate for the fewer bands of fabric I used, and I omitted the elastic at the top. (The bag also came out wider than I expected, and if I were to make it again I'd probably reduce the circumference, but no biggie.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

Beads! Lots and lots of beads!

My friend from one of the quilt classes gave me a shoebox of beads that she no longer needed:
Not that I needed more, but I had fun sorting through and organizing the lovely colors.

We decided that I would make her a piece of jewelry as a thank you, and she mentioned she liked pins and purples. The perfect project immediately came to mind -- a flower pin designed by Allie Thompson from the February 2005 issue of Bead & Button, using lots of different seed beads. I had always intended to make a red one for myself, but I never got around to it because I'm not really a pin person.

The finished product:
As I added the rounds of petals the base warped a bit, so I ended up eliminating a set of petals here and there. Once the flower was done, I sewed on a pin back, as per instructions.
I hope it holds up! (If it doesn't, Diane, let me know and I'll fix it.)

When I told Beadmom what I was working on, she hinted rather broadly that she wanted one too, so:
I really should make one for myself. I could always put it on a bag.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ooh, Just Ki . . .

Eh, I got nothing.

The latest on the Daisy Chain ABCs sampler:
As per Alicia's instructions, the long-and-short stitch I used for K had me needle going into the same holes as the stitches before, rather than into the previous stitches themselves (like split stitch), which resulted in a cool, brick-like effect. I could not bear to do more satin stitch, especially on a curve, so I did the O with two layers of blanket stitch.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Impromptu Heart Sampler

On Wednesday I had to teach Beadboy2's kindergarten class a craft, so of course I chose embroidery. Like embroidery I've done with Beadboy2, I used plastic needles (ordered really cheap online!), burlap, and wool thread. To save time and frustration I threaded and knotted the needles beforehand, and even knotted the thread to the needles to avoid having to rethread them. The demonstration was a success, in that the kids had a lot of fun, and the results were varied and tangled and crumpled and cute.

On the train ride into the city after, I realized I had a scrap of burlap and some wool thread left, so right on the train I started a little sampler:
I used a variety of techniques: cross stitch, couching, fly stitch (hat tip to Wild Olive), detached chain stitch, queen stitch (it forms a blunt diamond, and three nested together make a pointy heart), rhodes stitch, back stitch, french knots (a miniature version of a french knot heart I made ages ago and which I will blog about at some point), and satin stitch.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

36 Squares Done!


I've been working on this quilt for, ahem, about 15 years. The problem was that, although I had learned as a child how to do patchwork by hand and with templates, these squares were the first time I used a sewing machine, a rotary cutter, and quarter inch seams. So by the time I got to block 30, I realized that these 9.5 inch blocks (unfinished) were really anywhere from 8.5 to 10.5 inches -- and how could I possibly put them together with sashing? Not to mention my error in choosing 9.5 inch squares, necessitating a whole lot of them for a queen size bed . . . .

So the project languished for years, until it came to me (I don't remember how) -- frame each block with a border, and cut that to 12.5 inches. This would allow me to "fix" the sizing errors and would leave me with big enough blocks to make a decent sized top once I added borders.

By the end of last year I finished the last of the blocks, so last Friday I made use of the design wall at my quilt class to figure out the layout. I even sewed the blocks into rows. I'll put the rows together, add borders, and send it off to be quilted. The end is in sight!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pretty Pearls

When Beadgrammy died, Beadmom let me choose a few pieces of jewelry to remember her by. One item I picked was this triple strand of "pearls":
I never actually wore it, though, because it wasn't really my style. Then I saw this necklace on the French General website, and I realize it would be a perfect way to redo the necklace. I took out my rosary pliers and some gold-colored wire (22 gauge dead soft rather than the half-hard I wanted, but it should hold up) and made a bead chain from some of the pearls:
I prefer the look of single beads rather than the double ones in the French General version.

The fun part was rooting through my boxes of stuff for charms. I found an unusual gold-colored milagro, because I can't get enough of milagros. I found this old cabochon from who-knows-where:
And used nail polish and my fingernail to scrape off the black paint before gluing it onto a brass base. A cute little brass cross was really a connector with two loops, so I added a ruby swarovski crystal to pick up the red in the heart above. A brass heart and key were the last touches.
Pretty, delicate, and meaningful.

I still have lots of the pearls left. I think I'll make another bead chain with the rest of the pearls from the strand I took apart, and leave the necklace with two strands to be displayed with my other grandmotherly things -- a fabric heart made by Beadmom from her Beadgrammy's hankies, and a tiny sweater and shawl crocheted for my by Beadabuelita.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Book Review and a Carmen Miranda Necklace

Miss Scarlet's School for Patternless Sewing is the second book by Kathy Cano Murillo, and like her first, it was fun and light and colorful. Miss Scarlet is a young woman who wants to be a fashion designer, and whose style is heavily influenced by the fictional Daisy de la Flora (whose designs sound awesome). She sets up the classes to raise money, and bonds with her students which include an elderly woman with a mysterious connection to Daisy. There are no surprises here, and like Cano Murillo's previous novel the point is the healing power of art and craft. Also? More typos. The publishers really need to improve their editing process. Or hire me -- I'll proofread!

Anyway, in addition to providing me an enjoyable read, the book also inspired me. Carmen Miranda and her style of accessories are mentioned more than once, including the fruity jewelry she was famous for. I had a little collection of glass fruit beads, so fun and colorful earrings seemed like a no brainer.

Unfortunately, once I had wired the beads together I realized the resulting cluster was way too heavy for an earring, so I made it a pendant instead. I strung it with some cheap green glass beads and a few flower dangles to balance the pendant, and now I have my very own "Carmen Miranda necklace":
I'll have to make some matching earrings next.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Confederacy of Dunces

John Kennedy Toole's life was short and sad, involving alienation, professional disappointment, and finally mental illness. After he committed suicide, his mother spent five years trying to get his manuscript published before she got the attention of an author, who spent another three years getting it actually published, whereupon it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (of course).

Given this background, A Confederacy of Dunces is not what many would expect, and that may be why it took so long to get it out there. It is an absurdist comic masterpiece, filled with all manner of oddball, pathetic, or just plain weird characters and lots of slapstick humor and broad satire, with little in the way of actual plot. Toole has been praised for his depiction of New Orleans and its subcultures, not to mention the dialects he faithfully records, and while I cannot opine on the accuracy of the accents, I wholeheartedly agree that he wrote a fantastically vivid description of the city and its people (although I sometimes wonder where all the normal, competent people are hiding). While Toole's satire is sharp, it is never mean-spirited, and you do end up rooting for the various characters (well some of them, the ones who have a fundamental decency in them).

The centerpiece, of course, is Ignatius J. Reilly, the "hero" of the book. He is a man in his 30s, overweight, over-educated, unemployed, living with his long-suffering mother, absolutely convinced of his own superiority and that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. My suspicions grew as I read the novel, until I finally reached this piece of advice Reilly gives another:
Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too. For the contemporary period, you should study some selected comic books. . . . I recommend Batman especially, for he tends to transcend the abysmal society in which he's found himself. His morality is rather rigid, also. I rather respect Batman.
That clinched it -- Reilly is Comic Book Guy. A puritanical, more-Catholic-than-the-Pope, proto-Comic Book Guy (the book is set in the early sixties, and I can just imagine what Reilly would have had to say about Vatican II). And like Jeff Albertson, Reilly is a real ass, alternately horrid and pathetic. He has nothing but contempt for everyone around him. He has grandiose schemes but refuses to take any responsibility for their disastrous (and hilarious) consequences. He mistreats his mother, and when she stands up for herself he guilts her into backing down (one of the delights of the book is seeing Mrs. Reilly ever so slowly grow a spine). And yet, in just one heart-breaking paragraph towards the end of the book, Toole leaves you truly sympathizing with Reilly and wanting him to triumph over those that mock and bully him. It is such a small yet profound moment and a testament to Toole's skills and sensitivity, and to the humanity at the core of the novel. Fittingly, the book ends with the tiny possibility that maybe, just maybe, Reilly and his girlfriend/nemesis Myrna can smoothe each other's worst traits.