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Friday, December 26, 2014

Ornaments for everyone

For Beadboy1, his beloved Kermit in cross stitch (I modified the pattern somewhat to make his face symmetrical):

For Beadboy2, a Ninjabread Man:

For Beadboy3, who has no pop culture preferences yet, a Mistletoe Monster (pattern by Tina Lewis from the 2012/2013 Quilting Arts Gifts):

For a generous aunt, as a thank you, a tin ornament (instructions by Judy Coates Perez, from the 2008 Quilting Arts Gifts):

For the always awesome Beadmom, another tin ornament:

(My machine, long-overdue for servicing, started acting up at this point.  I tried to cover the worst of the glitches with ribbon flowers, always appropriate for the Virgin Mary.)

For me, the Jeweled Pear ornament from Mill Hill:

Adding a bird fetish makes it another Partridge in a Pear Tree ornament.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Magician King and The Magician's Land

Grossman's adult mash-up of a little Harry Potter and a lot of Narnia continues with The Magician King and The Magician's Land, only this time the parallels are to Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle, respectively.  The second book opens up our world a little bit, too, as the story focuses in part on Quentin's friend, Julia.  Julia was rejected from the magical school of Brakebills, but the spell to make her forget didn't quite work, and she spends the following years in an increasingly desperate and single-minded journey to learn magic by other means. The depiction of an underground world of safe-houses and unofficial practitioners is neat, but Julia's journey is a dehumanizing one -- literally so, preparing her for a final transformation.  Because Julia is so eager to shed her humanity and her connections to other people, it became hard to really care about her or her journey.

The third book tracks both Quentin on Earth and Eliot and Janet on Fillory.  All three have matured greatly over the series, a satisfying development and one that suits Grossman's reworking of fantasy tropes.  Several loose ends are also wrapped up, although there is a bit of an unfinished quality to the narrative. But then, that's only fitting since much of the story is about what happens after you graduate from the magical school/come back from the magical land.

As much as I enjoyed the trilogy, however, it took me until the climax of the third book to realize what it was the bothered me about it, and it is the lack of a moral center.  Grossman is a smart, inventive writer, and is quite insightful when it comes to the trilogy's themes of maturity, responsibility, and the need to find a meaning in life.  But the characters (and narrative) are concerned, ultimately, only with themselves and the people around them.  It's a world where there are magicians, formally educated or "street smart," disciplined or wild, but there is little mention of a code of conduct or guidelines for interacting with the mundane world.  The characters care about each other, and make efforts to do right by each other and their charges, but there is no concern with "the greater good."  Niffins are wild, evil creatures that were once human, but while the return of one niffin's humanity is touchingly handled, the moral dimension is almost completely ignored.  The climax of the third book deals with the time-honored themes of a deity's sacrifice and the cycle of death and rebirth, but where genuine self-sacrifice, and sacrificial love, suffuse the Narnia books and even the last Harry Potter novel, the sacrifice portrayed here is anything but; because it is imposed on the unwilling victim, the brutality and cruelty of it cannot be elevated into something meaningful.  It is a very pagan scene, and it fits with the worldview Quentin has:
The world was fucking awful. It was a wretched, desolate place, a desert of meaningless, a heartless wasteland where horrific things happen all the time for no reason and nothing good lasted for long. ... The world was a desert, but he was a magician, and to be a magician was to be a secret spring -- a moving oasis.  He wasn't desolate, and he wasn't empty.  He was full of emotion, full of feelings, bursting with them, and when it came down to it that's what being a magician was.  They weren't ordinary feelings -- they weren't the tame, domesticated kind. Magic was wild feelings, the kind that escaped out of you and into the world and changed things.  There was a lot of skill to it, and a lot of learning, and a lot of work, but that was where the power began: the power to enchant the world.
 But it is not a worldview I share.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Candy Cane Garland

From the Purl Bee:
I was mystified by how to construct it, until I read the directions and realized I had made a paper version as a child:
When I wasn't looking, Beadboy3 took a bite out of it. Literally.

I need more gingerbread and candy cane ornaments.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Button Garland

Inspired by something I saw on pinterest.  I strung them onto perle cotton and tied a half-knot to keep them from sliding around.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Stocking

Jo from Serendipitous Stitching is hosting an Advent blog hop, and I (along with Jeremiah's Mom) have been chosen for today.

My Christmas stitching is the Shepherd's Bush stocking for Beadboy3, which I've been stitching off-and-on for the past year:
 Frankly, I'm kind of shocked I actually finished it with three weeks of Advent to go!

I backed it with velvet, as I did the first two, and fortuitously I had in my scrap bin a purple velvet dress one of my cats tore up years ago.  For the trim and loop I machine-sewed a purle ombre ribbon around an old and ugly length of cord, then hand-stitched it into place between the stocking and lining.  Done!
Waiting to be filled by Santa:

Jo also asked us to write about a favorite gift.  I'm not sure I have a particular favorite, but there are a number I remember over the years -- the cruise ship for some dolls that "Santa" left half-built, and which I finished while waiting for the rest of the family to wake up; the lovely set of notions and sewing gadgets my mom gave me one year; the joke wedding gift a colleague gave me, a copy of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, which ended up being one of the more useful gifts I've ever received.

One particular memory stands out, however, from my early childhood in Puerto Rico.  Back then Three Kings' Day was a much bigger deal for children than Christmas, because that's when we got all the toys and fun stuff.  One year my father collaborated with my godfather, an executive at a toy company, to give away lots of gifts to all the children from the local village.  At the end of the day, there was one lonely Barbie doll left, so I got to keep her.  She had a skirt that changed colors, I think as a result of some sort of lighting?  I don't remember the details, but I do remember the pretty colors, and how lucky I felt.

Happy Advent, everyone, and I wish you all a fabulous and peaceful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


I never got around to blogging about it, but one of my ongoing projects this year was making some simple skirts for myself.  It's too cold and dreary to take out the skirt I made from linen and a summery Liberty of London print, but the second Alabama Chanin skirt fits right in with the season:
This time around I constructed the skirt first, which allowed me to make the hem accurate and also tweak the fit a bit since I lost some weight.  This ensured that the rose stencil would be even all around the bottom of the skirt.

The stencil came from the Alabama Stitch Book, although I smoothed out some of the edges for ease of stitching and cutting (and simply colored in the two tiny segments at the center):
For the reverse applique I switched to perle cotton rather than using the recommended upholstery thread, and that turned out to be a great idea.  Size 8 thread obviated the need to double the thread, the cotton was easier to work with, and I think the knots will last longer (some of the knots on my other skirt have started to come undone, because the thread is so slippery).  The cotton may not be as strong, but that's not an issue for this part of the sewing.

In a burst of activity, I also pulled out a boring black cardigan I had been meaning to embellish for years, and finally did it:

I sewed a strand of sequins up and down the front and around the collar, then sewed on some black rhinestones in the corners.

After photographing them I stacked the two pieces together to put away, and realized they work quite well together -- festive (and warm) enough for Christmas Eve Mass!