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Monday, May 27, 2013

A Good Task When I'm Feeling Under the Weather



I had originally used these pretty mother-of-pearl rings to try to keep the skeins neat, but it never worked well; I think size 5 and 3 pearl cotton was just too thick.  This idea (did I get it from Wild Olive? Pinterest? Who knows?) works much better; on one end of the stick I wrote the size of the thread, and on the other the color.

I started with a bag of 75 sticks, and I only have seven left -- that's a lot of thread!

What do I do with all these rings, now?
Jewelry is an obvious solution; a ring might work well with the steampunky earrings I'm contemplating.  There are lots of ways I could link them into a bracelet.  And, of course, I could use them to store more delicate threads, or keep threads sorted for a particular project.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Time to Work on this Again

Since a lack of proper supplies is keeping me from finishing my more recent projects.

The T is in long and short stitch; rather than have the stitches share holes, giving the bricky look of K, I split each previous stitch.  The U is in fly stitch; I don't think I've seen this stitch stacked so densely before.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

I've been a fan of Bender's modern, slightly magical, slightly eerie writing since The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is no different.  This is a lovely, sad, quiet book that takes the trope of superpowers and uses it in an utterly ordinary way to get at the difficulty people have in understanding each other and themselves.  Rose is a little girl who learns she can taste a cook's deep-seated emotions in his food, a talent that is borderline unbearable when she notices the despair in her mother's cake.  The story follows Rose into adulthood as she very slowly comes to terms with her power, relying on junk food made by machines and taste-testing the area's restaurants in search of a happy chef.  What makes the story even more poignant is that she can't use her power to understand the one person she really wants to --her brilliant, troubled brother, drifting slowly away -- because he never makes anything.

I noticed almost immediately a peculiarity about Bender's writing, that she does not use quotation marks or any other form of punctuation to mark dialogue.  This creates a queer sense of distance at first, making the reader even feel even farther from the other characters.  But this is entirely appropriate for a first-person narrative, since that distance reinforces the idea that we are in Rose's head.  The technique is even more appropriate for this story in particular, given that, with the exception of her brother, what Rose wants is nothing more than distance from the people around her -- her troubled mother, the friend wallowing in her depression, the angry baker, the fruit picker with money troubles. 

At least two other characters in the book turn out to have similar "powers," but while each of them found a different way to avoid the unwanted talent, Rose, who at first does the same by relying on the aforementioned junk food, eventually comes to accept, and even take charge of, her ability. There are no dramatic revelations or tidy little endings, however; some things cannot be unknown, and some things are unknowable.  Rose simply decides to help where she can, and accept what she cannot change.  In this sense, the novel is really a coming-of-age story with an unusual spin.

Monday, May 13, 2013


They're very popular right now, and all the neat projects I've seen online have my mind percolating with ideas.  Unfortunately, I have too many unfinished projects right now, and I don't want to start another one.  Fortunately, Wild Olive came to the rescue with an adorable hexagon necklace -- just enough to scratch that itch.

Task one was deciding on a fabric -- a bright pink for summer?  A pretty calico?  A dramatic print?  Unable to decide, I went ahead and made four:

Next step was to pick the felt backing, and almost immediately found the perfect color for the calico, so that made the decision for me:
The charm is extremely lightweight; I'll test-wear it, and if it flips about too much I'll sew a tiny metal washer to the back to weigh it down.  The others I'll save for another project.  I'm already thinking of doing a riff on crocheted granny squares, and surrounding the black hexagons with rows of brightly colored ones.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is the third volume in the "Cemetery of Lost Books" series, and it felt less like a proper novel and more like a prelude to the fourth book. There is no plot to speak of -- the mysterious event that precipitates the action simply leads to an extended flashback that fleshes out some details from the previous books and makes more explicit the connection between the two protagonists.  Back in the present, a very short investigation leads to an abrupt and unsatisfactory conclusion, which presumably sets up the fourth novel.  There's nonsense about a romantic subplot that's just an excuse for some machismo, and that's about it. And no, the icky situation from the end of the second book is not mentioned.  (Perhaps it has not happened yet?  Or is a delusion?)

The lack of story also means there is a lack of the atmosphere Ruiz Zafón is so good at.  The characters, as usual, are likeable or interesting, but this was just a wisp of a book.  I hope the promised fourth volume will bring this all together.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Round-Up: Kate and Cecelia Edition

I continue my quest of rereading books from my childhood so I can catch up with the sequels.

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: This is an absolutely delightful book, that takes place in an alternate Regency England filled with wizards, witches, dances, parties, and enchanted chocolate pots.  It's a novel in letters, purporting to be the correspondence between two cousins, Kate and Cecelia, as they get caught up in magical and romantic plots.  It is sweet and funny and sparkly and . . . really, I can't say enough good things about it.

The Grand Tour: Unfortunately, the sequel is not quite as good.  The story is interesting enough, involving a magical plot to turn Europe into an empire, but the telling is not as engaging.  This time around the text is excerpts from Kate's private journal and Cecelia's deposition, but the format does not work as well as the letters did.  As an astute reviewer on noted, the best part of the first book was the relationship between the two friends; this time around, however, we miss out on Kate and Cecelia talking to each other.

The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After: The second sequel, and a return to the letters between the cousins (and their husbands, this time around).  That brought back a lot of the fun of the original.  The story was good, too, and Wrede and Stevermer fleshed out their world a bit more.  I found the ending to be abrupt, but that may be because my Kindle tricked me into thinking I was nowhere near the end of the book.

Although this series predates it, it struck me as a light and fluffy version of Susanna Clarke's excellent Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.  So now that's next to be reread.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

More Circle Embroidery

Oh, my poor neglected triptych.

Knotted cross stitch:

Overcast stitch:

Split stitch:

Threaded back stitch:
I ended up with an odd number of back stitches, so I had to fudge the end a bit.

Seed stitch: