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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Round-Up

The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogyby Nora Roberts: I picked this up because I wanted more witchy books after finishing Harkness's trilogy, and it was October, and I generally like Roberts.  Unfortunately, the trilogy was a disappointment.  The structure, the characters, the not-very-conflicting romantic conflicts, even the scenes were too similar to her previous books; I get that Roberts doesn't want to mess with a successful formula, but I'd like to see her experiment more.  Moreover, the witchy plot itself was too thin -- there was little attempt at world-building or describing the magic, and the antagonist was one-dimensional and uninteresting.  Things did improve in the third book, once Roberts was finally free to focus on the final battle.

The Charnel Princeby Greg Keyes: The second in the tetralogy was just as entertaining as the first; Keyes has created both an engaging world and a fascinating plot.  The very short chapters alternating between the characters sometimes made the narrative a little choppy (more than once I'd skip ahead to read several chapters pertaining to the same storyline), but they certainly serve their purpose of making the reader think "just one more!"  I do have two issues:  1) The series fits into the sub-genre of "dark fantasy," which means there is a fair amount of violence and destruction and a high body count, something I don't enjoy, especially when the majority of the tortured and dead are ordinary background characters just trying to live their (fictional) lives. 2) The Catholic Church is, apparently, evil, which at this point is not only annoying, it's a cliche.  It's the same problem I had with Becket's trilogy, and I can't help but think of the storytelling opportunities if there were multiple factions within the Church (like there are in the various governments) or if the Church were not actually evil, just a rival with the same goal of saving/preserving the world but different methods.

Boxersby Gene Luen Yang: This is one half of Yang's masterpiece about the Boxer Rebellion, and is told from the viewpoint of a Chinese peasant who leads a rebellion against foreign influence and abuse.  Yang's clean and youthful illustrations contrast with the complex story, and his spare storytelling elicits both sympathy for Little Bao's experiences and ideals and abhorrence of the actions he ultimately takes.  As soon as I finish the Keyes series I will pick up Saints, which tells the other side of the story through a Christian convert.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bobbin Earrings Tutorial

Browsing pinterest the other day I came across these bobbin earrings, and I just had to make my own version:

They took all of 15 minutes, too.

Start by threading your, uh, thread through one of the holes in the bobbin, from the center out, leaving a tail of an inch or two:
Rather than use actual sewing thread, I used a thick embroidery thread, the Caron Collection's Waterlilies in one of my favorite colors, African Sunset.  Yarn would work well, too, and novelty yarns could add some interesting texture.

Wrap the thread around the bobbin, anchoring the tail:

Keep wrapping until you get close to the outer edge of the bobbin, and cut the thread.  Using a large, blunt needle, thread the end under a few wraps and out a hole on the other side, to secure the other tail:

Trim the tails flush with the bobbin and add a drop of fray check (or glue or clear nail polish) on the ends, to help keep the thread from unspooling:
It's hard to see (a good thing!), but the fray check is on the hole at one o'clock.

The next step is adding a finding.  The earrings on pinterest used a very large ring through the center of the bobbin, but I didn't want the bobbin spinning about freely.  I tried wire wrapping but it looked messy and spindly:
Heavier gauge wire would have been better, but I didn't have any in the right color.

Instead I switched to chain to create a hanging loop.  Attach a length of chain (mine is five links, make sure yours is an odd number too) to one of the bobbin holes with a jump ring:
and repeat on the other side with the other end of the chain.

Attach your earring finding to the center link:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On the Last Day of Christmas

My Christmas stitching isn't done.

Yule Sampler by The Primitive Needle:

Gingerbread Garden by Victoria Sampler:

I did manage to make Wild Olive's adorable bell/hoop ornament:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Candy Canes Galore

One of the things I enjoy about the actual Christmas season is that after spending all of Advent (and most of the fall) focused on stitching for other people, I can finally relax and make some stuff for myself.

When putting up my candy cane garland in the kitchen I realized I needed more candy cane ornaments.  A perusal of pinterest led me to this pattern for earrings made from size 15 seed beads.  Thinking larger beads would make a good-sized candy cane, I started with size 11 beads:
I love it, but it was still a little small, so I tried next with size 8 beads:

Of course, I could I resist candy cane earrings?
That candy cane on the right is actually the first one I made with size 15 beads, but it came out wonky and misshapen, probably because my damn wiener kids were pestering me while I made it.  So I stuck it into the beaded stocking I made a few years ago:
Maybe I can make a tiny beaded teddy bear to go with it.

And now that I've made five candy canes and written "candy cane" a gazillion times, I'm done.