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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Finishes

On Saturday I got a rare two hours free of children, chores, work, and events, so I hid up in my sewing room for a delightful afternoon.  In addition to taking in a couple of skirts and starting a fabric pumpkin pincushion, I finished three little ornaments:
The stocking is by Pat Mazu, from the same September/October 2010 issue of Needlepoint Now as the "Fall Tree".

The design on the upper right is"By the Full Moon" by Tracy Horner of Ink Circles, from the September/October 2010 issue of Just Cross Stitch.  I used similar threads and fabric from my stash, rather than the materials called for.

The lower ornament is "Acorn House" by Jeanette Douglas, from the September/October 2011 issue of Just Cross Stitch; again, I used materials from my stash.

The stocking I made into an actual stocking, complete with a little lining that I slip-stitched in place.  For the two square ornaments, I sewed each one to a piece of cotton, wrong sides facing, all the way around.  To turn them right side out I cut a little x in the backing fabric, stitched that hole shut, and covered it with a button:
It's not the nicest of finishes, but it's fast, and that's what's important nowadays.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Tree

An Ada Haydon design:
The stitching directions are from Needlepoint Now's September/October 2010 issue.  The tree was meant to be stitched on a specially painted canvas by Haydon, but it was too rich for my blood (and in fact I don't think the canvas is available anymore).  So instead I used 18 count black canvas and threads I already owned (although I kind of wish I used purples instead of pinks, now).  Mostly I kept to the stitches Haydon used, too.

The only problem area was the band with the bats -- the background stitching would leave a lot of the canvas exposed, and black bats on a black background would not have worked.  Having painted canvas before, I thought I could paint this little band orange.  But paint thin enough to not gunk up the holes barely stained the black threads. After three coats, this was the best I could get:

I stitched the bats anyway, but the background looked not great:

So I added the background stitching (not what I had originally intended) in strong orange threads, and that helped quite a bit:
To finish it, I just trimmed the canvas, folded it back, and whip-stitched it to black felt.  And with plenty of time until Halloween!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Round-Up

The Next Best Thingby Jennifer Weiner: Weiner's novel is based loosely on her experiences producing a short-lived sitcom for tv; as such, it gives one an insider's look at show business (to which I say, "blech").  It is a fun and light novel, better written and more interesting than a lot of other "chick lit," as is generally true for Weiner's work.  However, she includes at the end of the book the short story "Swim" which focuses on a different aspect of the heroine, and I think I'd have preferred a novel more about that than Hollywood.

The Ocean at the End of the Laneby Neil Gaiman: short and engaging enough that I read the whole thing late one night when I should have been sleeping.  It is an inventive and scary story with some thematic similarities toCoraline.

The Magiciansby Lev Grossman: Superficially, this book is a cross between Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia, but it would be a mistake to leave it at that.  The point of those two series is the stories they tell, the skirmishes and battles between good and evil.  The Magicians, by contrast, is more interested in how the introduction to a magical world affects a person -- the longing for a life as interesting as a fantasy novel, the benign contempt for ordinary people, the sense of entitlement the privileged develop.  It also touches on the danger of magic -- or any power or talent -- without a sense of purpose.  Even the most talented magicians must find meaning to their lives, and a way to cope with both dramatic events and ordinary days.

The Briar Kingby Greg Keyes: A straight-up fantasy novel (the first of four) about another world, like I haven't read in a long time.  Keyes's novel tells the story of kings, princesses, foresters, innkeeper's daughters, monks, and dashing swordsmen as they become aware of a grave danger to their world. My only quibble: in the prologue it becomes apparent that the humans, who were brought to this world by an evil race bent on enslaving everybody, are the "lost" colony of Roanoke.  This plot point, however, appears to serve no function at all in the greater story, and ends up being a little distracting as one can't help but try to match different cultures to their European counterparts (which makes no sense anyway; Roanoke was settle by the English only).

Friends, Lovers, Chocolateby Alexander McCall Smith: The second in the Isabel Dalhousie series, but the first I've read.  It's a quiet book with an unusual but low-key mystery, leaving lots of time for Isabel's musings on ethics, faith, love, and Scotland.  I enjoyed it, but feel no need to read any others in the series.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Macondo in Stitches

As I read One Hundred Years of Solitude, I couldn't shake the imagery from my head -- the yellow flowers falling from the sky, the butterflies tormenting a doomed lover, the ash crosses marking the 17 Aurelianos.  I wanted some way to record and play with the motifs and icons from the text.

I've started with a grid of 100 squares, inchies really, that I can play with:
Beadboy3 wants to stitch, too
I used white broadcloth from one of Mr. Beadgirl's old shirts, and machine-stitched a ten by ten grid with black thread, rather carelessly on purpose to keep the lines and angles from being too perfect.  I like how the black lines on white fabric evoke the black type on white pages of the text itself.

The first square is one of Colonel Aureliano Buendia's gold fish, which he makes when he is not leading rebellions and slaughtering his enemies.
I made mine with sequins and different gold threads, with a black bead for his eye.

I don't intend to fill every square, and this will be an on-going project that I work on as inspiration strikes.