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Monday, December 31, 2012

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

I finished monsterbubbles's "Day One" (partridge in a pear tree) ornament, from the 2009 Just Cross Stitch Ornament mag:

Rather than pick one designer and make the Twelves Days of Christmas series (it was too hard to pick a favorite), I plan to do the "first day" ornament from several different series.  Just as well, given that Heather Holland Daly, the designer behind monsterbubbles, only did the first and fourth days before moving on to other things.

Friday, December 28, 2012


I was watching some sort of Christmas special a couple of weeks ago, although not a very memorable one because I could not tell you the title, the characters, the story, or if it was a cheesy-but-addictive Hallmark movie or a holiday-themed episode of a show or even a commercial.  The one thing I do remember?  One of the female characters sported giant snowflake earrings.

I immediately started craving a pair -- something beaded, or course.  I looked through my stack of patterns and found a seed bead and crystal snowflake ("Flurries in the Forecast"), from the October 2004 issue of Bead & Button. This is what the pattern produced:
But the snowflake has too many arms; snowflakes are supposed to have hexagonal symmetry, and so mine would.  Also, this snowflake was floppy.  The instructions recommended dipping the snowflakes in floor wax to stiffen them, but that would have required me going all the way back up to my sewing room and spending a whole five minutes looking for my floor wax*, and that was out of the question.  Instead I added a little bridge between each spoke.

My version:
By reducing the arms to six there was no room for the central crystal, but I don't miss it. 

The weirdo snowflake will go into my tin of beaded missteps, which I will someday sew up into an arty collage of mistakes and false starts.

*Floor wax is kind of a problem for me.  I desperately need it for the hardwood floors in the house, but despite searching in every general store, dollar store, and hardware store I've been to in the last two years, I can't find any at all.  Why not use the bottle I already have?  Aside from the fact that jewelry-making is far more important to me than cleaning, the bottle I have for stiffening purposes is way too small to cover even just the most-worn floorboards.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Grinchmas!

The bundle of How the Grinch Stole Christmas fabrics I found last year was irresistible. This season I made two little quilts for the Beadboys, to replace the Halloween Monsters:

I was up until 11:15 on Christmas Eve sewing the bindings closed, so I could put the quilts up on their doors as a little Christmas surprise.

I also made two little ornaments for them:

These were super easy to make.  I just sewed a bit of the fabric onto felt, leaving a gap to very lightly stuff the ornaments.  For the square one I used back stitch, and added buttons to the corner.  For the round ornament I used a very large stem stitch, sliding on a size 8 delica bead onto each stitch.

There's lots of fabric left, including a panel with the cover of the book that I want to turn into a wall hanging for me.  I could also make a bunch more ornaments to serve as little gifts, because who doesn't love the Grinch?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Blanket Stitch Sampler

I made this years ago but only finished it now:
The (very basic) idea came from from Quilting Arts magazine, back when they showcased more handwork, and had artists experimenting with different embroidery stitches.  I took a package of Christmas-colored decorative threads and a piece of burlap, which had a low-enough thread count to accommodate the thick and varied strands.  Then I set to work stitching sections of blanket stitch all over, threading ribbons through some sections, layering on more stitches, and adding a few blanket stitch wheels.

I've backed it with heavy-duty interfacing, delicate cream silk from and old slip, and then white felt to keep it stiff.  And in a flash of inspiration two hours ago, I added two grommets at the top, creating a quick and interesting way to hang it.

I want to do more like this, especially with feather stitch -- that would lend itself well to a variety of textures and weights.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Brights

White and beige are lovely, but I also crave color.  So I made this bright Christmas tree with scraps of felt and beads:

The pattern for these ornaments came from Artsy Crafty Babe:

The tree itself was a bit of an adventure.  Two Sundays ago we stood in a muddy field in the rain and picked what I thought was a perfectly modest tree and brought it home.  We arrived exhausted and too late to put it up that night, so we left it on the floor.  The next night Mr. Beadgirl came home very late, and woke me up in the middle of the night to help put the tree in its stand.  And that's when we noticed how enormous it was, now that it was in a living room and not the great outdoors.  It was so big we could not put it where we normally do, and so left it in the middle of the room.

 Two days later I reconfigured the furniture to find a spot for it and Mr. Beadgirl moved it into place.  Only it was tilted in its stand -- every time Mr. Beadgirl adjusted it, it slowly shifted back.  The last straw was Friday, when I spent the morning putting the lights on in anticipation of the tree-trimming party we were having the next day.  The tree began leaning quite dramatically, making me nervous.  And then the stand broke, and water started leaking out all over our wooden floors.  I unplugged the lights and mopped up as best I could, then went out to find a new tree stand.  I came home in time to watch the tree slowly fall over.  The top came to rest on a radiator, which managed to keep the trunk parallel to the floor, so with a little grunting and swearing I got the old stand off and the new one on.  Then with a great deal of grunting and swearing I managed to get the tree upright. I don't know how, given it was almost twice my height and incredibly heavy, but I have the scratches to prove it, all over my arms and torso.  I spent the rest of the day smelling like pine sap.

The tree is now stable and secure in its new stand, and nicely decorated with all my childhood and handmade ornaments.  It is also still crooked, but screw it -- I'm not going near it again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Round-Up

Seven Men by Max Beerbohm: I stumbled across a reference to this book in The Moving Toyshop, and intrigued, I got it from the library.  It consists of five short stories about six men (Beerbohm is the seventh, a character in his own work), with satirical, supernatural, and postmodern elements (I seem to have a knack for finding these "postmodern before there was modern" works).  They tell the tales of fin-de-siècle writers, intellectuals, and bon vivants, and several of Beerbohm's observations made me snort out loud.  The first one in particular, "Enoch Soames," is a masterpiece of tragicomic meta-ness, and the best one in the group.

Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: I watched the movie version recently, and it was not good -- while absolutely gorgeous to look at, the script was underwritten and the story perfunctory.  So as a corrective, I re-read the book.  It is also gorgeous, and moving, well-told, and filled with wonderful characters. 
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson: This sweet little romance deals with the racial, social, and class boundaries in a quaint English village.  Major Pettigrew, a widower, first becomes friends with, and then falls in love with, a widowed Pakistani store owner.  Both have to contend not only with local prejudices but the prejudices and baggage their own families bring.  Simonson is originally from England, so presumably her depiction of an English village is fairly accurate (if somewhat exaggerated for satirical and quirk purposes).  And yet, the open and casual racism and classism exhibited by the characters was horrifying to me.  I live in Queens, one of the most diverse places on the planet, so I sometimes forget other parts of the world are still quite insular.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym: Grace, a great secondary character from Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (I kind of wish her story had been told), is one of Pym's excellent women -- fine, capable, unmarried women who busy themselves with their churches, good deeds, and occasionally the personal business of others.  Because of Grace I had to re-read Pym's novel, which is the wonderful, funny, clever, poignant, satirical story of Mildred, an aforementioned Excellent Woman.  I love Mildred -- she's responsible for one of my favorite lines:
Let me hasten to add that I am not at all like Jane Eyre, who must have given hope to so many plain women who tell their stories in the first person, nor have I ever thought of myself as being like her.
 Rex Libris: I, Librarian and Book of Monsters by James Turner: A comic about a 2,000-year-old librarian who fights the forces of evil?  Of course I had to read it.  These two volumes collect all the issues, and as one would expect there are all sorts of literary and publishing jokes and references.  I didn't like the art at all (it has the cold, sterile look of most computer-generated imagery), and the story was a little heavy on the action and a little light on the characterization, but I nonetheless enjoyed it.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant: A fun young-adult collection of steampunk stories.  The tales run the gamut, tone-wise, from nihilistic to Dickensian to exhilarating to weird.  Standouts are Shawn Cheng's "Seven Days Beset by Demons" (one of two comics, short, spare, and funny), Dylan Horrocks's "Steam Girl" (heartbreaking), and M.T. Anderson's "The Oracle Machine" (slyly witty, and a surprisingly accurate depiction of the Roman Republic).  On the other hand, Holly Black's "Everything Amiable and Obliging" had an intriguing idea, but was way too short to do it justice.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Whites

I spent an enjoyable weekend making felt ornaments.  The first batch are from Indygo Junction's "Winter White" leaflet.  I've used the pattern before; a few years ago I made this stocking for myself:
And this ornament for my mom:
I also made a star for my aunt.

This time around, I made another star, a bird (to join my flock), and a cross, embellished with buttons, beaded applique, lace, embroidery, and seed beads:
These guys are staying with me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Well, That Took a Long Time

I finally finished the monsterbubbles Christmas ornament stitched on copper mesh:
Like I explained then, sewing through the mesh was a big pain.  I had to poke holes through the waste canvas into the mesh first, and use very short lengths of thread because the repeated pulling through the copper caused the thread to break easily.  The edges of the mesh kept catching the threads, too, and I poked myself with the super sharp needle more than a few times.  Removing the waste canvas also took quite a bit of time.  Long story short -- as neat as it is to cross stitch on unconventional materials, I'm in no hurry to do it again.

Once the cross stitch was done I punched holes of different sizes in the surrounding copper, and whip-stitched the edges.  By then I was done done done working with the mesh, so to finish it I simply trimmed the edges and folded them over twice.  Good enough!

In the meantime, monsterbubbles appears to have closed down, or gone on hiatus, which is too bad.  Heather Holland Daly had some beautiful designs, including a partridge I'm working on now (on linen).