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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bunny Foo Foo Now Has an Egg

Pattern from here.  I used a plastic egg (the kind for kids' egg hunts; there are currently a bunch floating around my living room) rather than a styrofoam one.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Book Round-Up

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist: What an odd book this was.  It's Victorian steampunk, which I love, but the story is more twisted and ugly than I expected. I didn't love the novel (the first of a trilogy, natch) -- way too long, with too many repetitive and unnecessary action scenes -- but Dahlquist has some intriguing ideas and a good writing style so I will keep reading for now.

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones: What a fun, enjoyable novel this was!  With very little exposition and traditional world-building, Jones nonetheless created a vivid story involving magic and technology, unconventional heroes, multiple worlds, a decaying empire, an a wacky sci-fi convention.  Some elements are a little dated (the portable, magical fax machine cracked me up), but I loved this novel and I was sorry when I finished it.

The Drowning Spool by Monica Ferris: The seventeenth (!) needlecraft mystery wasn't quite as good as the others.  Ferris did an admirable job detailing characters who aren't perfect or don't make great choices but nonetheless deserve justice, but I missed the regular characters, and the mystery itself was forgettable.  She also appears to have dropped the potential storylines she hinted at in the last book, which is too bad.

Hip-Hop Family Tree Book 1 by Ed Piskor: The first comic book in a series that will detail the history of hip-hop.  There's not much of a traditional narrative because Piskor opted to take a more fragmented, impressionistic approach, but that serves the thesis -- that hip-hop resulted from the confluence of many disparate trends, people, and circumstances -- well.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen: Another lovely, comforting read from Allen, whose description of a hot, humid Southern summer practically caused my hair to frizz.  I think the characters were too blasé about a major reveal late in the book, but I especially loved her portrayal of Selma, a character that in other novels would have been a one-dimensional villain.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

1 Year of Stitches: Week 15

The picture's not great, but you can see the little motifs I stitched this week -- a crown of thorns, a lamb, and an Easter egg for the holidays.  I also saw the Mummies exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, and was inspired to stitch a creepy little Chinchorro death mask.  There was some beautiful embroidery on some of the wraps that I wanted to sketch, but Beadboy1 had other ideas (mainly, to go home) and he pretty much dragged me as fast as he could through the exhibit.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Little Bunny Foo Foo

Last month I itched to start crocheting again, maybe a cute little brown bunny to sit next to Maggie Rabbit.  After searching pinterest and ravelry, I settled on this pattern by Lisa Power.
I used buttons for the eyes, and felt for the nose.  There weren't any specific directions for sewing the bunny parts together so I had to figure it out myself, with mixed results.  Originally I planned a dress for her like Maggie's, but then I was inspired to make a crown of flowers from some scraps of Liberty fabric (and they hide the messy joinder of the ears to the head!).

Here they are together:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

I've missed some of the months in the Inspired by Reading group, so I scrambled to read Where'd You Go, Bernadette? in time for this week's discussion/reveal. I'm glad I did!  Semple's novel was a thoroughly enjoyable depiction of funny, troubled, exasperating people, and a touching meditation on creativity, mental illness, and responsibility.

Rather than make jewelry, I went in a different direction.  Bernadette is an architect whose masterpiece was a house made entirely of recycled, salvaged, or local materials.  That inspired me to make my own house from my stash:
I placed fabric scraps on a piece of heavy interfacing and sewed all around and across the roof to make a house shape.  A leather tag from an old pair of my husband's jeans and a keyhole doohickey became the door. I attached another hardware doohickey to the roof with beads. The upper windows are scraps of metal mesh from an earring organizer I made, and the bottom windows are the plastic tags from doses of Xopenex I had to give Beadboy1 during one of his many hospital stays -- you see, like Bernadette's daughter, my son was also born with a serious heart defect and needed surgery as an infant.  And like her, he has asthma triggered by viruses (I know all too well how school nurses overreact to coughs out of an abundance of caution).  The hand embroidery was done with floss left over from various stitching kits.  Once I was done with the house I backed it with felt and machine-stitched once more around the perimeter. 

Taking broken, used, defective, discarded things and making a home and a life -- I think Bernadette would approve.

Monday, March 27, 2017

1 Year of Stitches: Week 12


The long-term cross stitch project I'm working on has some pretty little forget-me-nots, so I used the same thread to make an impressionistic version:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

1 Year of Stitches: Week 11



I spent St. Patrick's Day sewing with friends, so I stitched this that night:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'm so Behind!

The Inspired by Reading book club's selection for February was The Ladies of Grace Adieu, but only today did I finish a piece inspired by it (especially sad given I've already read the book twice).  The stories are mostly dark and elegant, so I made something to match:
The beads are vintage faceted glass in deep purple, and I added sections of black chain between each one (I still need a black clasp). I think it will go nicely with a black and purple cross I strung onto purple ribbon a while back:

Still no word on a sequel.  Sigh.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Biggest UFO

... Is the quilt for Beadboy1, started more than a decade ago (good thing I had the sense to make a twin-sized quilt, rather than a crib quilt!).  The problem is that I was overly ambitious, and planned a sampler quilt of star blocks in different styles, techniques, and sizes, which has greatly slowed down my progress.

I'm determined to finish it this year, so the last few months I pieced together the center using a (hand-pieced!) (don't look to closely at the center) lone star as the focus, surrounded by a bunch of 4.5- and 6-inch stars (see what I mean about ambitious?):
That's only about a third of the quilt (minus the borders), and the only other squares I have done are:
So there's still a lot of work to do.  But: progress!


Sunday, March 5, 2017

1 Year of Stitches: Week 9

Another week that kicked my butt.  Not much stitching this time.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

1 Year of Stitches: Week 8

Because I am a big dork, I embroidered my name in Tolkien's Elvish script, and his Dwarven runes (Moria-style).  Then Linear B.  Then the dancing men from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock stories, and St. Thomas More's script from Utopia, and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book Round-Up

Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber: The movie is a guilty pleasure at Christmastime, so I thought I should finally read the book.  The storylines are fleshed out more, and there were some subplots that were dropped for the movie.  While she has some genuine insights into human behavior, the resolutions of the various storylines were too pat.

And Then You Dye by Monica Ferris: another enjoyable outing with an interesting mystery and, as a bonus, the return of one of my favorite characters.  I am interested to see where she goes in the next few novels, because things seem to be gearing up for a shake-up of the characters and setting.

Death's Old Sweet Song by Jonathan Stagge: An enjoyable, old-school mystery, of the style they really don't write anymore.  It caught my attention because the murders are based on an old, old song I sang as a child (and sing to my children) -- "Green Grow the Rushes-O." The novel had some frank discussions of sexual mores and a touching subplot involving what we now call PTSD, which serve as a reminder that past generations weren't always as naive and ignorant as we like to think.

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel: Bechdel's previous comic left me wanting to know more about her mother, so when I saw this at the library I snatched it up.  Unfortunately, it is more about Bechdel's own issues with her mother, and the therapy she's had over the years, rather than her mother herself.  Still, Bechdel's writing and drawing are as compelling as ever.

In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent: a layperson's guide to invented languages, and their (few) successes and (many) failures.  Okrent's writing is delightfully witty and down-to-earth, and she does an excellent job showing the idealism and tragedy that underlie so many efforts to build a better language.

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller: your standard young-woman-flees-personal-and-professional-disaster-in-the-city-and-finds-true-happiness-in-the-country novel.  Miller's heroine is more unconventional than most, which was a nice change of pace, and the book made me both hungry for the delicious meals the characters made and nostalgic for my childhood in a small New England town.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Calico Heart Garland

The idea came from Sarana Ave's Heart Strings.  I made mine longer and with more hearts, using my pile of new and vintage calicos.  It's all hand-stitched, too.  I used tan wool and a running stitch to sew the fronts and backs together, leaving a gap for stuffing:
Once I stuffed them, I sewed up the last bits and strung them onto hemp cord with a large, dull needle.

For the moment I have them with my birdies:
(I'm still working on the best way to display the birdies.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

The Privilege of the Sword was unlike any fantasy* novel I've read.  The novel contained all the elements one would expect from a story like this -- the young protagonist who is not as lady-like as she is supposed to be; the flighty, more feminine best friend; the rakish, dangerous lord who breaks all the rules; the corrupt, vengeful antagonist; the aging mentor; the street-wise orphan; quasi-regency society; romances both true and false; the supreme importance of honor -- but nothing played out as I expected.  Kushner did something entirely fresh and unusual, yet mostly plausible, with these tropes.  The result was a compelling novel I took in as if I were completely new to reading fiction; no small feat given how much I've learned about story-telling conventions over the years.

I don't think I will read the other two novels in this series, however.  For all that I appreciated, and even enjoyed, what Kushner did, the world she created is not one I want to return to.  Despite all the ribbons and lace and swordplay and adventure, it is a fundamentally amoral, materialist world, filled with people who are clever and witty but not sincere, always seeking pleasure and never experiencing joy.

*I use the term loosely.  It is set in a world similar to but not our own, yet there was no actual magic.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

1 Year of Stitches: Week 5

Tried some new stitches this time in addition to my favorites. The dark fuschia line is the braid stitch, and the purple line next to it is a mystery stitch I found on pinterest (with a dead link, natch); I think it is a combo and variant of the heavy chain and broad chain stitches.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Renaissance Jewels

I got Blueberry Cove Beads' Renaissance Box for my birthday:
Ooh, pretty!
I couldn't resist all those red beads and gold(en) charms, so I made a necklace:

The little treasure chest charm on the top strand opens up; I'll have to find something dear and tiny to put in it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

1 Year of Stitches: Week 4

A new job, the flu, and the current state of political discourse conspired to kick my ass these past two weeks.  Some nights I stitched literally one stitch, and some nights I stitched nothing at all.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Year of the Rooster

The Chinese New Year celebrations of my friends and neighbors reminded me of the March/April issue of Piecework I bought years ago, which had a cute little pattern for an embellished rooster for the Chinese New Year.  I didn't make it that year, though, so I hung on to the pattern.  Periodically I'd pull it out but it was the "wrong" year, and I'd wish I had patterns for the other animals (I even tried my hand at designing a dragon one year).  And what do you know -- it's now twelve years later and the year of the rooster again!  ... And I can't find the pattern anywhere.

While looking for it, I found a pattern for Chinese lanterns by Aimee Ray, from the SewNews holiday issue.  That would work, and has the added benefit of not being tied to any particular year.  ... But apparently I didn't save the templates that came with it.  So I winged it, sketching out a pointed oval about 12 cm by 5 cm and sewing six of them (cut from pale pink felt) to make a fat sphere-like shape. I stitched red flowers and gold stems on each side.  Then, scrutinizing the pictures from the pattern, I added red felt "caps" to the top and bottom.
The pink is much paler in real life
It's kind of wonky, so I suggest getting Ray's etsy pattern, a fancier version than the SewNews pattern.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Telperion

The White Tree:
The design itself is specifically the White Tree of Gondor, but I did not use a black background and I did not add the stars and crown.  I did use rayon floss to give it a lovely shimmer, as if the tree were glowing.

Before rinsing off the embroidery stabilizer:
I kind of like the nimbus it gives the tree branches; I bet I could get the same effect with netting on a future project.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter Woolens

The winter coat I received for my birthday required a new hat -- the old one, knitted by my mom, was a bright magenta that went well with my old black coat but clashed with my new, wine-colored one.  Buying a hat wasn't an option (my head is too big), so I decided to use my newly acquired crochet skills to make one.  The pattern I picked was the Chain Link Slouch Hat by Jennifer, which was overly ambitious on my part -- half way through the hat I finally got the hang of the chain pattern, and then had to rip out almost all of my progress because I realized I had been doing it wrong.  I also made the hat shorter, so it fit like a cap rather than slouching at the back of my head.  I am quite pleased with the results:

The deep purple mittens and scarf my mom knitted went beautifully with the new coat, but of course I promptly lost one mitten.  No way was I going to try to crochet that, but I did have a deep purple wool sweater that I felted years ago.  Using Martha Stewart's guidelines I cut out four mitten shapes and sewed them to each other on the machine.  They were rather plain, so I added some lazy daisy flowers in various colors of tapestry wool.  This was a super-fast and easy solution to the lost mitten problem!
Now I'm all set for the commute to my new job.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Hill's debut novel, named after a creature from Norwegian mythology, is an impressive mix of satire, political commentary, folklore, MMORPG gaming, and family relationships.  Samuel, a supposed writer and bored professor, is suddenly thrust back into the life of the mother who abandoned him when she apparently commits an act of political violence.  I must admit, as much as the novel held my attention from the very first page, early on I thought Hill was veering into tired academic and romantic cliche.  I should have trusted him from the start -- he always veered away from the obvious and did something new and smart instead.  The result is a cynical yet somehow big-hearted novel that embraces the messiness of people.

Hill is particularly astute at recognizing the futility of trying to control one's life. The primary characters think that if they make the right choices their lives will unfold perfectly:  Samuel visualizes his life like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Faye thinks that if she does the right thing, follows all the rules, and uses all the right products, she will meet society's expectations and be happy.  Pwnage has grandiose plans of everything he is going to do differently tomorrow, which will solve all his problems and bring back his wife.  But that's not how life works, and there is no such thing as the perfect life -- sometimes fate or coincidence intervenes, sometimes the actions of others screw everything up (or give an unexpected boost), sometimes there are second chances, sometimes things stay unresolved, and sometimes big decisions don't actually matter too much in the long run. So Samuel stagnates, Faye hides from the truth of herself, and Pwnage sinks into fantasy and the illusion of choice, until they are finally able, each in their own way, to break free of their expectations and live life.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

1 Year of Stitches

Inspired by Hannah Clair Sommerville's project, Sarah Barnes at Brown Paper Bag has decided 2017 will be her year of stitches, and has called for stitchers of all kinds to join her.  How could I possibly resist? 

Week One:

I won't be taking pictures every day (unlike the rest of the country, I still have a dumb phone so picture-taking, -uploading, and -posting is a production), but I will be trying very hard to stitch every night, even if it is literally just one stitch.  (I've already missed one night; does stitching the next morning count?)  Every week I will post my progress here and in the Facebook group.  I have no plan so far, except to stitch whatever I feel like.

If you would like to join, the details are here, and the Facebook group is here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Christmas Miscellany

"Yule Sampler" by the Primitive Sampler:

"Santa Lucia" ornament by Of Female Worth, from the 2005 Christmas Ornaments magazine:

After putting up my gingerbread and candy cane doohickeys in the kitchen, I noticed a gap that called for another gingerbread man, so I crocheted one:

I made two SuperDuo bead Christmas trees, but my mom claimed one for herself (apparently she was the only one of her friends without a fun Christmas tree pin):

Finally, a Magical Christmas Bracelet, which I extended into a bangle rather than add a clasp: