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Friday, December 23, 2016

Pre-Christmas Miscellany

A quilted bag from a kit:

Crocheted peppermints:

A travel oratory:

Door No. 9 has lovely ones which were my inspiration, allowing me to use my Our Lady of Guadalupe fabric:

A knotted rosary, awaiting a crucifix:

A Crocheted Christmas tree made from the last of the yarn my cousin gave me:
Good thing my cousin took a picture, because I forgot to
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent Calendar Day 18

Merry Christmas! Jo over at Serendipitous Stitches is running her annual Online Advent Calendar, and she asked me to participate today.

First up is some stitching.  With no big project to occupy my time this season (except painting my living room; such a good idea to do that two weeks before Christmas), I decided to focus on finishing up various designs I stitched over the last couple of years.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree, to add to my collection:

The Victoria Sampler's Gingerbread Garden and matching ornament:
Taken on a gloomy day, unfortunately

And Shepherd Bush's 2000 Years Ago series:
This is actually the second time I've stitched them.  Years ago I stitched the first seven and had them in a nice stack, awaiting the arrival of the eighth pattern, when they somehow ended up in a donation pile my husband gave to a charity.  I haven't quite forgiven him yet, but I do hope someone out there is enjoying them.

Jo also asked us to write about a special decoration we take out every year.  I think for me it is the Advent Calendar I made for my children, particularly since this year I finally figured out how to work it so it is liturgically accurate each year.
The pockets are attached with pins to the background, allowing me to rearrange them as necessary.  It's a fun annual tradition to teach my kids about the different symbols and feasts of the season, while giving them a little treat each day (if they start to complain about the quality of treats -- i.e. not enough chocolate -- I threaten to replace them with Bible verses).

I hope everyone has a joyous and peaceful holiday(s)!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

The newest Harry Potter book is really a play written by Jack Thorne based on a story by Rowling.  The change in format affects the storytelling -- a lot of the pleasures of Rowling's world-building and descriptions are gone, but the dialogue shifts the focus from plot to relationships.  It takes a little getting used to, but quickly becomes a compelling (and quick) read.  A bigger issue is the fact that unlike the original seven, this story is clearly meant to appeal to adults, and those skeptical of fantasy in particular.  Underlying the play was the sense that Thorne was telling us "yeah, it's got wands and spells, but it's really about fathers and sons!"  It's not that that's a bad thing, necessarily, but I missed the whimsy and fun of the originals.

There were enjoyable parts -- I got a kick out of how many people in different timelines were shocked by the idea of Ron and Hermione's marriage (that pairing always seemed forced), and I liked that the plot had a time-turner as a MacGuffin.  Rowling created them for Prisoner of Azkaban, but quickly realized their existence pretty much ruined the plot of the series, so she had them all destroyed in Order of the Phoenix.  With this story, Rowling and Thorne explain just how dangerous it is to mess with the timeline; a hoary subject, to be sure, but necessary to show how they should not have been used to try to defeat Voldemort.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Little Joys Quilt

Last year the Fat Quarter Shop had a Little Joys quilt-along.  And I was sooooo proud of myself -- I started it in September, had the top pieced by late October, and had it all set to quilt by mid-November.  Then I quilted it ... in April.  And bound it Friday night.  But it's done!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent Calendar Finished -- for Real this Time

This year Advent is 28 days, the longest possible, and given that it's a leap year I had to make two more squares.

St. Lucy, whose feast day is December 12:
She is the patron saint of eyes, so the pair of eyes milagro seemed appropriate.  And in various Scandinavian celebrations she is symbolized by a crown of candles.

An elf, suggested by Beadboy2 because by now I was completely out of ideas and feast days:

The solution to the changing liturgical calendar was to come up with a new background onto which I could pin the requisite number of pockets each year.  For that I sewed together 36 squares of various red fabrics, added a red and white print border, and backed it with red felt:

Rather than quilt it, I tied each intersection with a silver-lined bead:


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Round-Up: Witchy Edition

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: A witch, a priest, and an atheist meet up at a bar.  It's not a joke, it's the set-up of a novella where the three women team up to defeat the demonic forces (personified by a British version of Walmart) threatening their town and the world.  I loved it -- a fun, spooky story that handled everyone's beliefs, and resulting crises of faith, respectfully.  The only real flaw was that it was so short.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman: A lovely, lush novel I return to every few years.  Gillian and Sally, descendants of a long line of witchy women, do their best to lead normal, unmagical lives, but of course magic won't leave them alone.  Twin themes of sisterhood and passionate love dominate the story.

Babayaga by Toby Barlow: The last two survivors of an ancient coven of Russian witches try to survive in post-war Paris, alongside American ex-pats who may or may not be CIA agents, a nefarious scientist, and Frenchmen being French.  It was an entertaining book with some interesting concepts, but there was an underlying cynicism about human nature (especially feminine nature) that marred it for me.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab: The plot -- someone or something is snatching the children of a small village -- was an intriguing riff on the Pied Piper of Hamlin, but the story suffered from a surfeit of YA tropes: the impulsive, tomboy heroine; the male relative who tries to make her more ladylike (an odd thing to insist on in a peasant village where day-to-day living requires physical labor from everyone); adults who are either weak or evil; angsty teenagers; secret-keeping; and misunderstandings galore.  The ending, too, was unearned.  Too bad, because there was the making of a genuinely spooky story here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Restocking the Esty Store

With milagros and religious medal necklaces:

A couple more pairs of bobbin earrings:

I also decided to sell the rest of my embellished Lotería cards:

Sunday, November 6, 2016

All Souls

After the candy and fun of Halloween came Mass and prayers for the dead and still more crafting.  I set up a little altar on my mantle where I put various trinkets and icons, to which I added this skull:

It's a papier mache skull which I painted white, and onto which I glued beads, medals, floral doohickeys, and so on.

I had a pair of skull earrings I've worn for years, getting lots of compliments and even a few sales of duplicate pairs, but I finally lost one of them.
The lonely little guy
I found in my stash another identical skull (just one; wonder what happened to that guy's mate) and made a new pair for myself, with glass flower beads this time:
The floral motif is more obvious, but they are heavier, too.

I made white chocolate skulls for Beadboy2's class Halloween party:
Buying ready-made frosting flowers is so much easier than trying to decorate them myself with gels and icings!  I just used a dab of melted chocolate to attach them.  They were a big hit.

St. Gertrude's prayer for the souls in purgatory:

Eternal Father, I offer You the most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen. - See more at:
Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
Eternal Father, I offer You the most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen. - See more at:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen. - See more at:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen. - See more at:

Monday, October 31, 2016

Trick or Treat!

The talented Jo of Serendipitous Stitching is hosting a Trick or Treat blog hop today.  Unfortunately I already showed off my seasonal cross stitching earlier in the month, so all I have is this unfinished Prairie Schooler witch from the 2013 Just Cross Stitch Halloween issue:

But that's not very exciting, so here's a design I finished years ago, "Too Many Treats" by Birds of a Feather:
I don't normally cross stitch such large designs, but I couldn't resist this guy.  This evening my kids will be joining the cat with an over-filled stomach -- one year my middle son got mad at me because I made him stop eating candy, then got mad at me for having let him eat the candy when it upset his stomach, then got mad at me a third time for not letting him eat more once he started feeling better. Fun times.

And now, my assigned letter:


For the next letter, visit Fireflies and Cats in the Garden.  Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Another Swirly Pumpkin

I decided not to carve a pumpkin this year; instead I painted the stem copper (I will save it once the pumpkin decays) and added swirls to the body.  Because I have not cut into it, I'm hoping it'll last through Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Halloween Quilting

This wonderful design is from Jedi Craft Girl, although I ended up sketching my own tree.  And for several uninteresting reasons, I also made it a bit smaller.

I was determined to get this up over the mantle by the middle of the month, so that meant machine quilting, never my forte.  After quilting around the tree and cat, I opted to stipple-quilt the background.  On the one hand, it does a great job of making the moon, tree, and cat pop and it adds a lovely texture.  On the other hand, I suck at it, which is frustrating.  Some of it simply has to do with practice -- this part, done towards the beginning, is not great:
The stitches run from tiny to enormous, and there are weird lines and cross-overs where I lost control of the rhythm. But other sections are much better:

But then there is my inability to properly baste a quilt, which leads to unsightly puckering:

And then there is this lovely spot on the back in a corner, the result of trying to rush through before my kids came home, and discovered too late to fix:
Bad for quilting, but kind of a neat effect
Finished is better than perfect, and it's not like I'd ever submit this for judging, but it is still disappointing.  Some things I do very, very well, and others ... not so much.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

What a delightful fantasy this book turned out to be! Nina is a librarian who loses her job due to budget cuts.  Impulsively, she buys a large truck, fills it with books rescued from the library, and moves up to a quaint little town in Scotland to drive around selling books to people with no libraries and no book stores.  She falls in love with the land, helps a troubled teen, meets a couple of potential love interests, and wins over the locals by selecting the perfect book for each one.  By the end of the novel, I began seriously consider looking into permit laws and regulations in NYC (it would certainly solve the rent-is-too-damned-high problem for bookstores here.)

The story is told from Nina's perspective, but every once in a while Colgan would shift to another (minor) character, and give us a couple of paragraphs from that perspective.  It broadened the world of the novel for me, showing that there are other stories -- difficulties, heartbreaks, happily-ever-afters -- going on off stage.  Colgan is a smart, engaging writer, and I look forward to reading other works of hers.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Halloween Woolwork

The pattern is Betz White's "Autumn Sampler." I used linen fabric, wool felt, and Caron Collection's Watercolours thread.  It is temporarily in my quilting hoop; I haven't decided yet whether to make that permanent.


This was a lot of fun to stitch!  I'm looking forward to making some of White's ornaments, too.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Halloween Cross-Stitching

A swirly pumpkin, from the 2016 Halloween issue of Just Cross Stitch, designed by Angela Pullen:
It's part of a whole series, nine total, but as tempted as I am to make them all it probably won't happen.

A stitchy witch by M Designs, from the 2012 Halloween issue:

"Haunted House," a free design by the Snowflower Diaries (stitched last year, finished today):

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tempting Treasures

The August issue of Bead & Button had a lovely set of earrings designed by Bonnie Riconda, "Tempting treasures wire frame earrings."  The wirework was as basic as can be and clearly explained, yet I still managed to screw it up, resulting in some, uh, textured frames.  I chose coral, ruby, amber, amethyst, and dyed turquoise beads.  For fun, I arranged the beads differently in each earring.
The color is better
The clarity is better

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is a collection of linked stories, most set in a Maine town and all either featuring or mentioning the title character.  Strout captures the feel of a small New England town, and each story is moving in its depiction of the ordinary pleasures and heartbreaks of life.  But it is Olive herself who is the standout of the collection.  She is unlike any other female character I have encountered -- brittle, complicated, abrasive, passionate, and hurting.  She can be remarkably insightful in some ways, as when she acknowledges how much fear rules her life, or with her ability to see right to the heart of people she has only just met.  Yet she can be unthinkingly cruel, and is frustratingly blind to the effect her manner has on others.  Given how often people inanely debate whether a female character is "likeable," Olive Kitteridge is a revelation.  These stories, and Olive herself, are utterly captivating.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mmm ... Donuts ...

The one on the left is made of felt, pattern from the Winter 2010 issue of Quilts and More. The right is crocheted, from the issue 65 of Mollie Makes (I modified the pattern slightly by replacing some of the single crochet stitches in the last round of the frosting with double and triple crochets, to add an organic feel).

Friday, September 16, 2016


Cacti appear to be the newest craft trend, popping up everywhere; and who am I to resist?  The Crafty Chica had a post that served as inspiration, so I grabbed some sage green yarn and crocheted a few:
I used patterns (or parts of them) from here, here, and here.

Coincidentally, the free kit with issue 68 of Mollie Makes included two mini hoop frames and eight cactus patterns.

I started thinking about how to bead a three-dimensional cactus, but I'd better set that aside for now, to focus on seasonal crafting.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

Joining the Inspired by Reading Book Club seemed like a no-brainer; I've been inspired more than once by what I read.  I won't be able to participate every month, but I look forward to those times I can.

August's selection was The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston, about a young widow who moves to a small house by a lake in Wales, and learns she has an unexpected connection to the lake's past.  A book with magic, folklore, and archeology is right up my alley, and for the most part I enjoyed the story.  Tilda is the widow in question, and Brackston does an excellent job depicting both her depression and her growing powers as she realizes that she is descended from a witch -- Seren -- who lived by the lake hundreds of years ago.

However, for a novel about powerful women there were odd gender politics.  The only other women of note in Seren's story are the main antagonists, who are, of course, jealous of her beauty and power and especially the love the local prince (married to one of the women!) has for her.  The nameless women of the village don't fare much better; Seren makes her contempt for their ordinary lives quite clear.  In Tilda's story, there are practically no women at all; even Tilda's mother (who never actually appears) is apparently only tolerated because of Tilda's love for her father.

The story was nonetheless enjoyable, and inspiration hit right away.  I had picked up an issue of Chain Maille Jewelry, and in it were instructions by Rebecca Mojica to make a Celtic Spikes pendant.  The pattern called for colored rings but I only had silver rings in the right sizes, which was apropos.  I strung the resulting pendant on a length of green velvet:
That's not text from The Silver Witch; I had to return it to the library
Silver and green work quite well for the lakeside setting, the moon, and the heroines themselves.

I look forward to seeing what everyone else made!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Jewelry Round-Up

A woven, beaded bracelet:
Whoever created the pattern was really committed to having it be photo only, with no written instructions, which left out some minor steps I had to figure out myself.  The finished product has a wonderful feel, and I want to make another in opaque colors.

 A Byzantine chain in colored aluminum rings:
 I bought the rings originally in the hopes of finishing the chain mail pendant I've been working on, but I foolishly bought the wrong size (I mixed up inner and outer diameters).  So I made a bracelet instead.  The rings are a slightly finer gauge than what works best for this weave, but they make for a fun accessory.

A bead soup necklace: