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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Even More Little Stitches

I had fun going through this and this looking for different ways to stitch leaves.

I'm not sure if these will make it into the quilt, though; I think the red might be too strong compared to the other embroideries and the calico fabrics I picked.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blood Orange and Clementine Granita

This is a recipe I actually adapted from Everyday Food. The recipe called for carefully emptying twelve clementines to use as little bowls, scraping them and freezing them and rolling them in sugar and so on, and that was the first step to go, because really.

The recipe also called for two cups of juice, from 24 clementines, but I apparently had extra juicy ones because only six got me more than a cup of juice:

And here's where I began deviating from the recipe.  We had two blood oranges in the fridge, and I love love love them, so I used them to get the rest of the juice:
Such a pretty color!

Next I boiled together a quarter of a cup of water and sugar each.  The recipe called adding a piece of ginger to the mix, but ginger is not my favorite, and more importantly I didn't have any.  Instead I used a cinnamon stick, a classic pairing with citrus (and it was right there on my kitchen counter!)

Once the simple syrup cooled I added it to the juice, along with a tablespoon of lemon juice, poured it into a glass 8x8 pan, and stuck it in the freezer for a few hours.

There wasn't a lot of room in there, so it froze a little lopsidedly:

Rake it gently with a fork, or stab it forcefully, depending on your mood:


This was absolutely delicious -- the tang of the blood oranges worked with the clementines, and the cinnamon added a bit of complexity.  I'm sure ginger would also be good, or mint.  It was also a very easy and forgiving recipe; it'd be even easier if you used some fancy juices from a store.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Purple Prettiness

I've had a yucky week, so let's look at something pretty:

This piece started with the cheesecloth.  Some years ago I was painting . . . something, and keeping in mind an idea about not wasting paint I got from some . . . book (I think it was about mixed media) (my memory is great, isn't it? I should keep notes about my projects), I dabbed the leftover paint onto a chunk of cheesecloth.

Once it dried, and I realized the open weave of the cloth would be perfect for free-form cross stitch, the next step was easy -- use a variegated thread to "sprinkle" cross stitches all over, anchoring the cheesecloth to a piece of silk.

Given the organic, loosey--goosey feel of the embroidery, I wanted to leave the frayed edges of silk exposed.  That required mounting it onto another background, this time purple wool.  For interest I first felted on some burgundy wool roving, before attaching the silk with fusible web.

It still needed something, so I used another variegated thread to border the silk with deliberately uneven feather stitch. 

A close-up of the embroidery:

I need to trim the edges of the wool a bit, but I think I am otherwise done.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cinderella's Prince

Because of Hurricane Sandy, Beadboy2's "Book Character Day" was postponed from Halloween to Valentine's Day (thanks so much for telling us just a few days before, school!).  And of course, Beadboy2 no longer wanted to be a knight.  After yet another argument over whether he could be Batman (the school does not recognize comic books as a legitimate form of literature), and my trying in vain to get him to be Sloppy Joe (so easy to do!), he decided on the prince from this beautiful retelling of Cinderella.

This, I could work with.  He wore his knight costume, minus the plastic armor parts, which left him with a silver tunic and black leggings.  I took a rectangle of purple polyester "shantung silk" and hemmed it on three sides.  On the top I sewed a casing, ran through it a length of black cord, and sewed onto the ends large silver buttons (to keep the cord from slipping out of the casing).  Along the bottom of the cloak I top-stitched on a wide black ribbon with silver details, a lucky find that matched his costume perfectly.

(I had to wrestle the cloak away from Beadboy2 long enough to take a picture, and if you look closely you can already see signs of wear; he puts his clothes through a lot.) (Also, that's his nerf sword in the picture, as he readied to pounce and take back the cloak.)

For the crown, I cut out a suitably pointy piece of cardboard and covered it with tin foil, and glitter-glued on some plastic "gemstones." The remaining length of black and silver trim was just enough to fit around his head.

I keep telling myself "no more homemade costumes," but I just can't help it.  It doesn't help that Beadboy2 is so stubborn and opinionated.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stitched Hearts for Grammy and Abuelita

Beadboy2 had been asking for a while to do more stitching, so I set up the hoop again with another piece of burlap and some purple yarn (his favorite color).  On his own, he decided to stitch the outline of a heart, and then I showed him how to fill it in with more stitches.  He then stitched another one in red, one for each grandmother:

He wanted to cut them out right away to mail them, but I explained they would fall apart without a backing.  I pinned the burlap to a piece of tan felt and machine-sewed around the hearts a couple of times to secure the fabric; a walking foot kept the coarse weave of the burlap from shifting under the needle.

The results:

I mailed them off to Grammy and Abuelita, along with paper valentines from Beadboy1.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Overheard on the Street

Father: Madeline, if you don't come now I'll . . . uh . . . I'll make you get a tattoo!

Little girl: [giggle]Noooooo![giggle]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crafty Round-Up

A couple of finishes, first:

This garland I started years ago, by gluing pairs of felt circles onto a length of lace trim.  I spent the next few years whip-stitching the circles closed, a few at a time and even while it was on display, when it occurred to me.

I finished this heart sampler by doing a modified nun's stitch around the edge:

Inspired by the adorable embroidery designs in Aneela Hoey's Little Stitches and a patchwork and embroidery quilt in Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion, I embroidered this little kitty:

and these little birds:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Paisley Earrings

That one paisley I made for my Crazy Pumpkin --
-- wasn't enough, so I made two more for a pair of earrings to match this necklace (the one by Aasia Hamid):
The pattern is from the June 2011 Bead & Button, designed by Julie Glasser.

While rooting through my sewing room, I found another pattern for paisley earrings, using almost the exact same stitch.  This one was by Jane Lock, from the August/September Beadwork.  Why stop at one pair of paisley earrings when I could have two?
I think it is fascinating that the same concept and stitch results in two very different looks.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

I don't know what took me so long, but I've finally read A Canticle for Leibowitz, and it is one of the best, most engrossing, most moving books I've read in a long time.  The book is divided into three parts, each a window into a post-apocalyptic society as humans struggle to regain what they have lost.  Miller only gives us a few characters and a smattering of details about what happened, but it is a testament to his skill that he is able to evoke so much with so little.

Shortly after a nuclear war devastated the planet, the surviving humans have turned their rage not just on the leaders responsible, but on any literate person.  Leibowitz is a former scientist who converts to Catholicism and founds an order of monks -- "bookleggers" -- dedicated to preserving any scrap of scientific learning they can.  In the first section, 600 years later, the abbey is still keeping "Memorabilia" safe and hidden from the violent, willfully illiterate tribes around them.  As the novel opens, a novice out on a Lenten fast stumbles upon a fallout shelter linked to Leibowitz, something that has major repercussions not just on their mission but on the canonization of their founder. This section has obvious parallels to the so-called Dark Ages, after the fall of Rome, when Catholic monasteries copied and recopied not just religious texts, but Greek, Roman, and Arabic works, in an effort to preserve their contents.  It is from this tradition that our university and educational system sprang.

The next section is the weakest, but still worthy in its own right.  600 years later, humans are on the verge of another Renaissance, and a secular scholar from the city-state of Texarkana travels to the abbey to examine the Memorabilia.  Many people have described this section as a battle between faith and science, but that's not what's going on at all.  The monks, after all, have spent over 1200 years preserving what scientific knowledge they could, and it is a monk who is the one to rediscover electricity, much to the scholar's chagrin.  Instead, the point is that faith cannot be divorced from scientific progress.  Humans should not let their pride and curiosity outstrip their morality; just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

The final section is the most moving.  Another 600 years have passed and humans are once again on the brink of nuclear war, having learned nothing from their own history.  All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.  Eden, Rome, America, Texarkana; the nuclear fallout is another Fall of Man.  And once again, a handful of monks are tasked with preserving whatever they can of faith, hope, and humanity.  It is tragic and profound and beautiful.  Go read it now.