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Friday, August 30, 2013

Progress, But Not the Right Kind

Instead of working on Beadboy3's stocking, I got on a Mill Hill ornament kick, and finished off a few little kits I had lying around (Magic Kitty, Autumn Bounty, and Paisley Tree).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Round-Up

There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Troubleby Laurie Notaro: Notaro is a comedic writer, mostly non-fiction, in the style of Dave Barry, and it shows in her first novel.  The book is loaded with broad jokes and funny scenarios -- a bit too loaded for my tastes.  But the story itself is fun and the characters are engaging.

The Amelia Peabody series (first through fourth books) by Elizabeth Peters: I first read these as a girl (I think the second volume, the first I read, was in a book club mystery series my father got; each volume was in a different color striped with white, and contained three novels), and inexplicably wanted to read them again.*  They take place in the Egyptology world just before the turn of the last century, and increasingly serve as satires of adventure novels from that time.  Amelia is a hoot, the first novel in particular has a great romance as a sub-plot, and they combine two of my favorite things -- mysteries and Egyptology.  What's not to love?

Reading the Peabody books made me want to reread Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, partly to contrast the styles.  Only, it turns out I don't have it and have never read it.  I was getting confused with:

Murder in Mesopotamia: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries): Potato, Potahto.  The plot is superficially similar to Peters' The Curse of the Pharaohs, with a beautiful but difficult woman married to a brilliant archeologist, a murder, a house filled with suspects, unscrupulous antiquities dealers, superstitious locals, and so on.  They are completely different in style, however, with Christie displaying the prejudices of her time (prejudices which the Peabody series acknowledges, even if Amelia is too enlightened to have them).  Also, Hercule Poirot could not be more different than Amelia.  As with all Poirot stories, it is a highly enjoyable book.

I'd feel remiss if I did not also mention Arthur Phillips' The Egyptologist: A Novel, for a third take on archeology.  It's about an Egyptologist who is equally convinced that he is Carter's superior and that he is on the verge of a huge discovery.  It features multiple unreliable narrators and narrative styles, and is satirical, funny, pathetic, confusing, and disturbing.  I highly recommend it.

A Quilter's Holiday: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel (Elm Creek Quilts Novels)by Jennifer Chiaverini: Chiaverini's prolificness and my lack of interest in historical novels means I'm now only reading her contemporary Elm Creek books.  While this novel was enjoyable and contained one of my favorite characters (Anna), I'm noticing a stylistic quirk Chiaverini relies on too much, especially in the novels with multiple points of view taking place over a few days.  Instead of showing the action, she tends to have her narrators recount what happened, or their life history, as if it were a kind of biographical summary.  Occasionally such a technique makes sense or is at least necessary, but I wish she wouldn't use it quite so often.

The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World's Most Astonishing Number by Mario Livio: Livio is an astrophysicist who takes a detour to write about ϕ, a.k.a. 1.61803.... This is the number that shows up in the Fibonacci series, the Golden Rectangle, the Pentagram, the Golden Spiral, and so on.  Livio starts off with a history and explanation of the number, addressing the mathematical and geometric concepts I just listed, before going on to explore ϕ's role (actual and purported) in music, art, nature, physics, and even the nature of existence itself.  It's a great layman's discussion of the number.

*Oddly, just as I finished, Peters passed away.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Upcycled" Messenger Bag

From the Fall 2012 issue of Stitch (pattern by Betz White):

I don't like the term "upcycle" (just a hipper version of "recycled" or "remade") but I'm interested in any way I can reuse jeans that are too worn to be, uh, worn in public.  Two previous pairs of jeans became a long hippy skirt, and I've cut off many back pockets in all sorts of sizes for an eventual wall-hanging pocket organizer, but this pattern came along just as I wore holes into a third pair of jeans.

This is not the first time I've made something from Stitch magazine, and it's not the first time I've had problems with the instructions (in this case sewing the lining into the bag, and sewing the flap on).  I've come to the conclusion that the editorial staff maybe needs to do more pattern-testing; not only are the instructions not always as clear as they could be, they sometimes neglect details and considerations that may be small but that affect construction.  Moreover, in this particular project, examination of the pictures accompanying the pattern show that whoever made the bag constructed part of it quite differently from the instructions.  I think a beginning sewer in particular might become frustrated and discouraged, and that would be a shame because the projects themselves are pretty neat.

All that said, I do like the bag and the way I was able to use up almost all of the jeans.  For the flap decoration I made hexagons via the English paper-piecing technique, something I've wanted to do for a while:
I'd love to do a whole quilt like this, but who am I kidding?  I already have a gazillion finicky projects that will never get finished.

The plan is to use this as a diaper bag.  Of course, the idea came to me after I had sewn the lining in so I couldn't use waterproof lining, but oh well -- the bag should be washable.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pear Tree Partridge

A design by Mill Hill:

This is the second partridge ornament I've made, with the idea of doing a whole bunch of them.  I was hoping that could be my Great Stitching Project of Christmas 2013, but instead I should focus on the Christmas stocking for Beadboy3.  Which will probably also be my Great Stitching Project of Christmas 2014.  (So glad that I started it all with an enormous cross stitch stocking for Beadboy1, given how slow a cross-stitcher I am.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


More precisely, sardines, from a kit attached to the issue 29 of Mollie Makes:

The directions for attaching the waxed cord hangers were a little odd and resulted in a bit of a mess for the grey fish, so I switched to a more traditional construction method.

Sometimes it's nice to do a cute kit that requires no thought or planning.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Another little ornament from The Prairie Schooler, found in the 2012 Halloween special issue from Just Cross Stitch:
I actually modified the original chart a fair amount, to have it match the owl I made from the same designer.  I moved the "yeow," widened the design a bit, added the border, and changed the orange and light brown to match the owl.  You can see what the original looked like here.

The 2013 Halloween special has yet another design by The Prairie Schooler, a witch this time.  I'm tempted to also adjust that pattern, but when do I stop?