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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Flora the Spring Bird

The pattern is by Wendi Gratz of Shiny Happy World, by way of Sew Mama Sew.  Wendi's tip for transfering the embroidery design onto felt was to use Sulky Sticky Fabri-solvy; I didn't have that, but I did have a Sulky water-soluble stabilizer, which I figured would work just as well once I realized I could mark it with a regular pen.  (The instructions say it is for machine embroidery, but why limit oneself?)
It worked beautifully.  No worries about precision tracing, I could correct any errors as I stitched without having to make sure my stitches covered the marks.  No worries about removing marks, either, and the film dissolved perfectly in a 15 minute warm water bath.  I will be using this for all my felt-embroidery needs.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Last Call by Tim Powers

Boy, did I love Last Call: A Novel.But then, that should be no surprise -- an urban fantasy novel that incorporates ancient mythology, the Mob, Arthurian elements (including my beloved Fisher King), Tarot cards, mythic archetypes, and allusions to and quotations from "The Wasteland" by T.S. Eliot (my favorite poet) is pretty much guaranteed to please me.  Better yet, Powers is a great writer, whose prose is rich with symbolism and allusions to art, pop culture, history, and mythology. 

The story itself is about Scott Crane, a retired poker player who realizes he unwittingly sold his soul years ago to a man determined to live forever.  Scott's plan to win back his soul becomes entangled in a magical power struggle as various factions vie to become the new King of the West. Powers has a wonderful way of mixing together historical events and figures, oddball fictional characters, and inventive magic to create a narrative with real weight. 

I also recommend:

American Godsby Neil Gaiman, which has much in common thematically with Last Call.

The Anubis Gates,also by Powers.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A non-Christmas Ornament

I gave away my second Maltese Cross ornament to my mother-in-law, so I made a third one for myself.  This time I used Wildflowers thread in Nefertiti, to match two other ornaments I made years ago, now hanging from my bureau:
The patterns of the other two were (apparently) part of a series exploring different stitches, and come from a mysterious needlecraft magazine -- for the life of me I can't remember the name, it's not printed at the bottom of the pattern pages, and googling the designer (Lorna Reeves) got me nowhere.  It's a shame, because I'd love to track down the rest of the series.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Round-Up, Christmas Edition

A Child's Christmas in Walesby Dylan Thomas: Thomas is most famous for his poetry, so it is no surprise that this prose work is remarkably lyrical and impressionistic.  Thomas strings together memories from his childhood to form a perfect Christmas, where even the snow was better than it is now.  A lovely little story.

The Lump of Coalby Lemony Snicket: A slight but amusing "fable," with Snicket's trademarked wordplay and sensibility.

Holidays on Iceby David Sedaris:  I read this every year, to prevent any undue seasonal sappiness.  The stories are a mix of fiction and (exaggerated?) memoir, skillfully satirizing the expected targets -- commercialism, empty pieties, and Christmas letters.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: After spending most of my life avoiding Dickens (I found Oliver to be a twit, and it took me three tries to get through Bleak House), I finally read this and enjoyed it (it probably helped that it was so short; this edition pads it out with a long introduction, a chronology of Dickens's life, and a glossary).  The best part was the last "stave" -- Dickens expressed well Scrooge's elation bordering on hysteria and tinged with the slightest fear that it was too good to be true.  It was also fun to compare it to all the different versions I have watched this season.

 The Tick: Giant Christmas Cavalcade: The Tick started out as a superhero parody for the New England Comics stores' newsletter, but proved so popular he soon got is own comic, cartoon, live action show, and merchandise.  This collects some of the Christmas annuals, and features the Tick fighting cowboys, weekending in a chalet, and putting on a Christmas Pageant with all the other heroes and villains.  My first exposure to the Tick was watching the cartoon in college, which was absolutely brilliant, so I'd been meaning to check out the comics for a long time.  Unfortunately, these stories weren't that great.  Reviews indicate that the original comics are much better, so I'll seek those out next.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On the Last Day of Christmas

I finished this pretty design by Hermanson Hardanger, from the 2003 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments:
I used hardanger fabric instead of linen, and green pearl cotton instead of metallic braid.  You can't really tell from the picture, but the backing felt is dark green.  It's a little too big to be an actual tree ornament, so net year it will go up on my wall of Seasonal Stitchy Goodness.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Couple of Royal Ornaments

To add to my Magi collection.  This is from 2009's Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments, by The Cat's Whiskers Design Studio.  I used cotton floss instead of wool, changed the colors a bit, and added crystals to the crowns rather than Algerian eye stitches.

This is my own design, so to speak:
I wanted a stitchy representation of one of my favorite poems.  The crown charm is tied to the hoop because I haven't decided if I want to keep it on.

I also made an authentic King Cake for the day, Northern French variety.  I neglected to take a picture, but you can find the recipe here (the chocolate version), and boy was it good.  And easy.  I even put in a little French feve, of the baby Jesus, in the center.  It turns out the antique French mini-creche set I bought years and years ago is actually a set of feves for Epiphany cakes.  Kismet!