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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween Stitching

"Haunted House" by the Snowflower Diaries.

"Fall Pumpkins" by Elizabeth Talledo, from the October 2014 issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Fall of Leaves

I fell in love with this pattern immediately.  It's not even the main design -- that would be "Autumnal Equinox" by Leann Baehman*, a statement necklace with a bead-embroidered centerpiece and a riot of leafy fringe.  Off in the corner of the third page they had a small photo of earrings made from the toggle clasp Baehman designed for the necklace.

so pretty ...
I found making the teardrop base fiddly, I think because my size 11 beads were not very consistent in size.  But the fringe more than makes up for it -- fun to plan the colors, fun to make, fun to play with, fun to wear.  My new go-to earrings.

*From the August 2015 issue of Bead & Button.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Chad Harbach's The Art of Fieldingis the best novel about baseball I've ever read.  Ok, it's the only one, but it is still an excellent work.  The story follows four characters at a midwestern college during spring semester; each person's life go abruptly askew (like oh, say, an errant ball that must be fielded), forcing him or her to reevaluate expectations and assumptions.  Schwartz and Henry are on the baseball team, which thanks to Henry is on the verge of winning a title for the first time ever; Affenlight is the president of the college, who up until now has led a very predictable and contented life; and Pella is his daughter, home for the first time in years to recover from a bad marriage.  Just a chapter or two in I found myself peaking at the last pages to make sure things turned out ok, I was that invested in the story and characters.

Of course, the book isn't really about baseball, despite the wonderful, nitty-gritty depictions of that sport; that's just the tool Harbach uses to explore the characters and their relationships with each other as they each face a crisis of their own doing. The relationship between Henry and Schwartz in particular drives most of the book, extending out in rippling circles and ensnaring the other characters. Affenlight is famous (in academic circles) for a book he wrote years ago about Moby Dick and "the cult of male friendship in nineteenth-century America"; The Art of Fielding could be seen as a twenty-first-century riff on that. Modern American notions of masculinity, combined with both homophobia and a growing acceptance of homosexuality, have resulted in an odd distrust of close male relationships unless there is the cover of something else like whaling or baseball.  And so, because of team loyalty and a shared goal, Schwartz and Henry don't actually think about their bond, especially the pitfalls, until it is almost too late.

Pella's story, and her relationships to the other three, do not fare quite as well.  Unlike all too many male authors, Harbach gives her an actual personality, thoughts and opinions of her own, and goals independent of the men in her life, but all the pieces don't quite fit together.  This is just a minor flaw, however, in an overall engaging and wonderful novel.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fall Crocheting

I just can't stop.  I made a cute little pumpkin to go with the others, from this pattern:
I used a mystery yarn from my stash (used for this jack'o'lantern), which I think is a worsted but seemed a little thicker than the other worsteds I have, so I used a K-sized hook, which is supposedly on the upper end of the recommended range, but I think it was too big -- you can see the batting, which I don't like.  I'm learning that for a lot of the projects I'm drawn to, one is better off using a much smaller hook than recommended.  I also didn't realize I was supposed to make the stitches in the back loop only, so the ribbing was lost.

I tried again, with a smaller hook (H, I think? or maybe G):

Much better!  I'm sending this one to my mom.

Next up was a leaf, with pretty, pretty variegated yarn that was also bulky and bumpy and tended to split.  Having learned my lesson, I used a smaller hook for this project, but of course that was a mistake.  The fuzziness of the yarn and the smallness of the stitches made it very difficult to make sure I was actually putting all the stitches where they were supposed to go, and the result is kind of messy:

I tried again with a larger hook, and that was much neater (and easier).  However one of the downsides was a visible gap in round two, between the chain stitches used to represent the first stitch and the last double crochet:
When I wove in the ends I ran a stitch just behind this gap to close it up.

Here it is with a metal mesh leaf I made a number of years ago:

For good measure, I made another out of the pumpkin yarn:

The pattern is even easier with "normal" yarn!