Search This Blog

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Huichol-Inspired Earrings

The pattern for these earrings came from The Art of Beadwork, a wonderful book that shows traditional beadwork from all over the world, along with modern projects inspired by the different techniques and styles.  The earrings I made were by Robin Bergman, and were inspired by the shapes and designs in Huichol beadwork from Mexico.

The first step was to make several different components using square stitch -- two flowers, two ribbons with bugs on them, and an arrow:
I go back and forth on the colors.  I had a very specific palette in mind, inspired partly by the jewelry highlighted in Beyond Buckskin's pinterest, but despite the dozens if not hundreds of Delica shades available, I couldn't get quite the right colors.  In the picture you can also see an aborted half-flower; the instructions called for doubling the thread, which got tangled with pretty much every stitch.  Using a single thread worked much better, and the results aren't noticeably floppier.

The different components are then sewn together into earrings (I omitted the third earring, which consisted of several flower shapes):

These earrings are quite a bit longer than I expected; they brush my shoulders.  But I'd been looking to make them for years, so I'm glad I finally got it done.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Legalese for Parents, or Why Children of Lawyers Become Lawyers

The other day on Facebook a friend of mine complained that she felt her two children were miniature lawyers, and every day she was adjudicating cases like Kids Who Want to Dress Crazy v. Winter or Kid v. Vegetable.  I'm quite familiar with that caselaw, and as I wrote earlier, I've had my own experiences with forum shopping and adverse possession.   Another person pointed out how with children there is "a significant lack of attention to precedent,"and that's true too -- no matter how many times I say no to a cookie before dinner, they will not stop asking.

My friend has a theory: those of us who are (or used to be) lawyers are inadvertently teaching our kids semantics and rhetoric and how to argue.  And it's true -- like the good little litigator I was, I back up my arguments with facts and reason and I use words carefully, thereby modeling how to make arguments stronger.  Add to that a child's natural propensity to argue, and we have effectively bred mini-lawyers.  It makes sense; my father was an attorney, and our arguments over the dinner table used to drive him nuts. I seem to have passed down the same trait.

Which is how then-four-year-old Beadboy2 came to defend his scribbling on a closet door, by pointing out that I told him not to draw on walls.  We live in fear of his teenage years.

Monday, April 15, 2013


The pattern is a Log Cabin, Courthouse Steps variant; I think there is a name for the specific placement of the blocks, but I don't remember what it is.

I did it with the quilt-as-you-go method.  Traditionally, the pieces of a log cabin square are sewn onto a foundation square of muslin* from the center out. In this case, the foundation was a square of batting on top of a square of backing; that way the seams that attached each piece also quilted the three layers together.  This construction technique is not necessarily faster, but it is easier if you aren't skilled at quilting lap-size or larger tops (which I most assuredly am not).

As usual, there were problems.  Over the years I've improved the accuracy of my quarter-inch seams, but using a walking foot and sewing through three layers made it trickier.  As a result, the first few squares came out too small, and I had to add these ridiculously narrow strips to get the squares to the right size:
For the rest of the squares I made the outer pieces extra wide so that I had room to trim the squares to the right size.

This block-placement also requires careful consideration of color, and while I did plan out the first two rows, I decided to wing it for the rest.  So of course I ran out of certain colors, and I had to change the placement of some of the rows, and the colors are not spaced exactly as I would have liked.

Can you tell which square I did first?
Usually I don't have to worry about matching thread to the backing until the end of the process.

I started this quilt long before we moved to this house, so I consider it a happy accident that the colors match my living room so well.

*I find it easier to just machine-piece the rectangles together without bothering with a foundation; that also makes it possible to quilt the final product, rather than tying it because of the extra layers of fabric.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Round-Up, Joan D. Vinge Edition

The Snow Queen: I first read this way back in high school, and re-read it to refresh my memory for the sequels.  This novel is loosely structured around Andersen's tale "The Snow Queen," but it also owes quite a lot to Dune.  Like that book, it involves a huge galactic empire far into the future, the domination of corporate interests, a planet deliberately kept technologically ignorant because of its valuable and unique resource, a quasi-mystical group with access to ancient knowledge, and so on. Despite her florid prose, the world Vinge creates is quite fascinating, and many of the secondary characters are intriguing.  Unfortunately, the two main characters are awful.  Moon is pretty much a Mary Sue, and a lovesick one at that.  Her journey takes her through a variety of cultures that are intended to prepare her for her grand destiny, but rather than really take advantage of this, she focuses only on reuniting with her lover, Sparks.  And Sparks is horrible -- a whiny little excuse for a man who, when he can't get what he wants, proceeds to commit atrocity after atrocity, all the while never letting up on the self-pity.

World's End: This shorter novel focuses on one of the side characters from The Snow Queen, BZ Gundhalindu.  It is a much tighter, more straightforward story of how BZ comes into his own, in a way that ties into the fortunes of the the would-be galactic empire, the Hegemony (and which promises some interesting delvelopments for Tiamat, Moon's home planet).  Vinge sure does like to make her characters suffer, however.

The Summer Queen: the direct sequel to The Snow Queen.  It's long, very long, and could have benefited from some editing down (losing a couple hundred pages of characters' navel-gazings would have helped).  It was also a mixed bag.  The world Vinge has created is fascinating, and most of The Summer Queen is taken up with Tiamatans struggling to play catch-up with technology rather than having it develop organically (heh), and the Hegemony racing to recapture lost technology that would reopen the galaxy, two subjects Vinge depicts quite well.  And as before, the secondary characters are a good mix of virtues, flaws, skills, and personalities.

The problem is with Moon and Sparks, again.  Moon is supposed to be a visionary queen, all but single-handedly merging two vastly different cultures, preventing a genocide, and standing up to the Hegemony, but most scenes involve her moping about because she's delicate and worn out, or dwelling obsessively over her love for a man not her husband.  Sparks is flat-out infuriating. He never fully atones or takes responsibility for the atrocities he committed in The Snow Queen, he refuses to acknowledge his own role in the breakdown of his marriage, he selfishly and coldly abandons his own children, and like the big sulky baby that he is, he re-embraces great evil, knowingly and willfully, because his life is not how he wanted it to be.  He is a reprehensible character, which would be fine if anyone else at all saw this, and if the text didn't try to make us feel bad for him.  Towards the end of the book he makes a big "sacrifice" we are supposed to find touching, but it's really just a way for him to run away from his life.

I think the problem is that Vinge has focused too much on the romantic relationships in the books.  That was the problem with The Snow Queen, where Moon's obsession with getting Sparks back seemed downright petty given what was going on; as a result both their characters suffered.  And then Vinge decided that the love between Moon and BZ would make a better story, but she couldn't figure out what to do with Sparks.  Don't get me wrong -- I love a good romance, whether it is the central plot or just a side event.  But because of the huge themes and world-changing events going on in this universe, focusing so much on the love of a few characters, and depicting it as all-consuming, made me want to slap them and tell them to get on with saving the world.

Tangled up in Blue: Like World's End, this benefits from a far shorter page length and a much tighter story; Vinge even toned down on the obsessive love factor!  It takes place over a few weeks during The Snow Queen, and involves a police investigation that answers a few lingering questions from the rest of the series.  The dramatic irony runs high in this one, so it is better (and worth it) to read it after the other three.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Overheard on the Street

"I'm not drunk! I'm just having trouble walking."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Quick Fix

I've been lethargic and uninspired lately, but I did manage to put together a bracelet for my cousin, with swarovski crystals and hand-made glass art beads: