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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

I first read Clarke's Novelwhen it came out, and in honor of the BBC series that just premiered (good so far!, and thanks to Bookwyrme for alerting me to it), I reread it.  I think I enjoyed it even more this time around; it is a richly detailed, well-researched story steeped in Regency Englishness.  Strange and Norrell are the two magicians fated to bring magic back to England, which they do amidst the Napoleonic wars, the madness of King George, and the dangerous mischief of a fairy king.  The book is also sprinkled with smudgy, atmospheric illustrations by Portia Rosenberg and footnotes that hint at an elaborate history of magicians, especially the Raven King.

It is a quietly subversive book, too.  The two protagonists of the title are white, wealthy gentlemen, but they are not heroes.  Norrell is selfish, fearful, and petty, and has pretty much every prejudice that exists.  Strange is much more likeable, but he has the casual arrogance that comes with privilege and easy success.  Neither one of them gives a thought to the consequences of their actions until it is too late, and by the close of the novel, neither one fully understands what happened.

It is, instead, the people marginalized by English society -- a black servant and son of a slave, dismissed and silenced women, servants, the poor, the mad -- who are more aware of what is truly going on.  Their experiences serve as an important counterpoint to the dealings of Norrell, Strange, and the Cabinet ministers, and help us piece together the true story.

There are rumors floating around from a few years ago that Clarke is working on a sequel; I dearly hope that is true, because I want to spend a lot more time in this world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hip Pockets

Now that it's summer and I'm wearing lots of cute skirts and dresses with no pockets, I needed a way to hold a cell phone and keys, and maybe a wallet, when I go out but don't want to lug a big bag around.  Elizabeth Bailey's Hip Pockets design (from Quilts and More Summer 2007) was perfect -- a small bag with two zippered pockets, an open pocket, and a long strap:
I used two different fabrics with a subway design, which seemed appropriate for the project.  Canal Street is not a stop I actually use that often, but the tilework is pretty and it was the right size for that panel.

The long strap, over five feet, is made from three strands of purple yarn I braided together.  Braiding such a long piece is daunting, and can get easily tangled on one end and slack on the other, with uneven tension throughout, so I came up with a system to make it more manageable:
I knotted one end together and hung it from a hook on the wall while I braided it. I bundled up the end of each strand in a loose knot to keep the lengths workable, and used a binder clip to keep the braid from unraveling whenever I had to pause (which was frequently, since my damn wiener kids insisted on things like dinner and attention).

I'm tempted to make more of these, but zippers and I do not get along.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Gemstone Loops

This idea came from, where else, Martha Stewart Living.  I only caught a glimpse of the project, but it wasn't too hard to figure out.  I strung an odd number of beads onto Fireline beading thread and knotted each set into a circle, linking them together.  To keep it casual I used leather cord, trying my hand at slide-knot-thingies to make it adjustable (I need some practice).

I couldn't tell you what kind of gemstones I used, but at least some of them are rhodonite.  Maybe rhodochrosite, too, and fancy jasper?  It's a shame I never got into the habit of writing my purchases down.
The drape is fabulous; they'd make a great bracelet, too.

My ears got lonely so I made a pair of earrings to match: