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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Super Bangles

Shaped beads have been popular in the beading community for a few years now, with manufacturers coming out with new shapes and configurations frequently.  As a result (and, I'm sure, the result of advertising pressure) various beading magazines have increasingly focused on these beads, much to my dismay.  My beading budget is currently quite small, and I prefer projects that are more generic in the beads they call for, so that I can work out of my stash.

But I couldn't resist two beaded bangles made with the two-holed beads known as Superduos and Twins.  One tube in each of three colors was enough to make both bangles, with plenty left over:

The top bangle is from the "Super Spiral Set" pattern by Michelle McEnroe, from Bead & Button's February 2014 issue.  The instructions say it only works with Superduos, not Twin beads, but I am skeptical of that.  It's got a nice heft and drape to it, and I love it.

The bottom bangle is from the "Lasso Loops" pattern by Teresa Sullivan, in the Beadwork April/May 2013 issue.  I twisted the rope once before sewing the ends together, the better to see all three colors; otherwise the pretty strawberry red, my favorite, would have been on the inside. The instructions explain the section where one steps up every round will develop a slight curve, the better to form the inside of the bangle, but I didn't think about that when planning the colors.  Also, Sullivan writes that the pattern works with either nymo or fireline beading thread, but I found the nymo to result in way too floppy a tube (I was also afraid it might not stand up to wear and tear as well).  This pattern called for Twin beads, but the Superduos worked just fine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This Year's Eggs

I've had Easter egg embroidery patterns (from the defunct Needlecraft Magazine out of England) for almost 20 years, and this year I finally made two of them:
The rabbits were for me, the cross for Beadmom.  As usual, I embroidered perfectly egg-shaped eggs that became lumpy when I sewed and stuffed them.

These earrings are from a Fusion Beads pattern:

This year I decided the Beadboys would dye blown eggs, that way I could keep them for future craft ideas.  Over a week I carefully blew out eight eggs, and Easter Monday we sat down to dye.  Only I didn't think about the fact that hollow eggs float, so we had to hold the eggs in the dye with our fingers.  And I didn't add vinegar to the dye because we were also dying marshmallows, but that meant the color didn't take as well as I wanted.  The sad result:
One of the eggs didn't survive the process
The kids didn't care, but I did.  So a few days later I brushed on some watercolor paint, keeping it streaky for a homemade vibe (... yeah, that's why they are streaky):

Enjoy the rest of the Easter season!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Brown's first novel, The Weird Sisters,is a smart, delightful book about three sisters who come home to their parents to lick their wounds and help their mother through a bout of cancer.  As tends to happen in these kinds of stories, each sister confronts a truth about herself and sets off on a new, hopefully better path.

At the start, the three sisters describe themselves as failures, which is not a term I would use.  Lost, certainly, and stuck in a rut, and having made some really bad decisions, but "failure" has a ring of finality to it that I don't think applies to them.  None of them has actually failed; for Rose and Cordy, an earlier stage of life has simply come to an end, and even in Bean's case the problem is not in her capabilities but in bad habits she needs to leave behind.

What makes this novel better than others of its ilk is how smart it is.  Brown does not make the mistake of thinking that a man will solve each of their problems, nor does she downplay the consequences of their behavior.  There is no false dichotomy between the city and the small hometown, between a career and a family, between academia and the real world.  While the end result for each of the family members is not surprising, it is not unearned, either.

What makes this book stylistically unusual is the choice of a first-person-plural narration.  The three sisters narrate the story together, as a "we," which does an excellent job of showing how these three people, as different as they are, have a shared history and love for each other.