The Golden Compass

I read this book a year or so ago at the recommendation of a friend, and was so smitten I quickly finished the series. I was very excited to hear that they were filming the series, though not so much so when I heard the rumors that all the religious material was going to be removed for fear of offending anyone.

I have to say, though, that once I saw the site, I was hooked. I know I’ll go see it no matter what. The images are gorgeous, and seeing Iorek Byrnison running across the snow field with Lyra on his back… it took my breath away.



No, there’s no cow in the room. I’m talking about the online printers who call themselves Moo. I’m crazy about their mini cards which I got through Flickr (though you can upload directly to Moo if you want to.) 100 cards cost $20, and can be any assortment you want. On the back you can choose up to five lines of text, which makes them wonderful mini business cards. Or you can use them as trading cards. There are a number of groups on Flickr which do trades of Moo cards.

To the left is a small sample of the group I had printed. Now granted they don’t print the entire pic, but you get to choose what part they do print. I’m very happy with my minis, and now that they’re making notecards, I may just pop for a set.

Left to right, Top: Angel of Bronze, Tango, Three Graces
Bottom: Cover of Tibet altered book, flower fragment, Descent of Lucifer.

Yarn as Crazy Salad

Feza Dazzle, off white Remember this post? Well, I managed to snag a skein of Feza Dazzle in off white for about $25, and it arrived Monday. So on Tuesday I sat down and opened up the skein. It was kind of dirty, which explains the price, I guess, but it told me pretty much what I wanted to know. The lengths of yarn are at least ten feet long, probably four or five yards, which I find a bit long for the kind of work I do. And they’re simply knotted together with about half inch tails left on. This stuff is a nightmare to work with, too. I tried putting it on my yarn swift and ended up with a rat’s nest of dusty, off white yarns. I tried winding it on my ball winder, and though it more or less worked, the minute I started pulling the yarn from the ball center, I started getting big snarls coming up. Finally I just wound a ball by hand and so far so good, but I estimate that I lost about four hours trying to work with this stuff before I wound that last ball.

Skinny scarf I carried it along with some Berocco Quest and Opulent FX (both, apparently discontinued by Berocco, which makes me very sad because they’re wonderful yarns.) and created this skinny little scarf. I still have to fringe it, but I’m actually quite happy with the way it worked up. Because I crocheted it along the long edge, I did get more interesting changes of yarn from the Feza than I would have if I’d crocheted short rows across. That’s why I’m not crazy about having such long sections of each yarn. And there are a lot of very similar yarns in the skein so that while it seems like a great variety, there are really only a handful of basic types: ribbon, mohair, eyelash, ladder and thick-thin.

My attempt at Feza-style yarn After I finished the scarf, I got to wondering if I couldn’t put together a Feza Alp style yarn from my stash. So I chose some basic colorways — red, purple and pink — and about twenty different yarns in different styles. I cut three two-yard lengths of each and started tying them together, trying to vary the color and texture enough to keep the blend really interesting. This wound well on the winder, but I was careful about not tying together two snarly yarns in a row. I did three repeats, though they weren’t in the same order all three times, and ended with approximately a 120 yard ball of yarn (a bit more than half the size of a Feza skein.) Then finally I decided to try working with it.

Pouch/purse beginning The colors really made a huge difference for me. While I’m not in any way opposed to the idea creating an item in one color, and using texture — either types of yarn or different stitches — to add visual interest, I have to say that based on a couple of swatches I knitted with the Feza Dazzle, I didn’t find the mix all that impressive. And considering how much I adore novelty yarns, that’s a biggie for me. I started crocheting a small pouch/purse, and so far I’m really liking the mix. I get about a round and three-quarters out of every section so the changes come fairly quickly, and keep the bag looking fresh and exciting.

Ultimately, I suppose I could achieve the same effect by switching yarns every couple of rounds, but where this mix will really show to best advantage is in a larger project like a scarf, sweater or afghan. I think it’s pretty darn cool right now, but it was a labor of love, so I’m supposed to feel that way. I’m going to attack it with knitting needles next and we’ll see how it shakes out.

Picking up from yesterday…

(Apologies. I got sidelined by an unexpected guest, and never did get back to the recs.)

There’s another category of craft book which I find tremendously appealing: the books which expose the reader to the idea that a craft may also be an art form. Some of these are more “coffee table” type books, such as The New Beadwork which, though they impart information about the history of an art or craft, its current state, featured artists, etc., function more as inspiration than learning tools. Still others inspire and teach, and this is the category in which my second pair of recs belong.

The first is Crocheted Wire Jewelry by Arline M. Fisch. When I was searching for a good, solid book on crocheting/knitting with wire, all of Fisch’s work was highly recommended, and once I began to look through this book, I understood why. While there are good sections on materials, tools and crochet basics, the projects themselves look daunting even to someone who is more than passing familiar with all of those things. They are, in fact, dazzling. The notion that you can spend some quality time with this book and recreate the projects shown is almost unbelievable, and yet, most of them have instructions which take up no more than a single page. And once you begin to realize that these pieces are, perhaps, not much more fearsome than a granny square, the inspiration sets in and you find yourself thinking “Hey, I can do that! But… I think I’d change this bit here, and try something a bit different there…”

Along with the instructions, Fisch includes photos of crocheted wire jewelry made by various artist as more food for inspiration. “See what can be done?” they say. The siren song to any artisan.

Three-Dimensional Embroidery by Janet Edmonds is, to put it bluntly, not your granny’s embroidery book. In fact, I doubt granny would even recognize Edmonds’ work as embroidery. Even I had some problems in that area until I started paying close attention to the process instead of the result, and recognized that the extensive information about design and construction was a necessary prologue to the more familiar aspects of surface embellishment that we expect when we see the word “embroidery.”

Edmonds’ work is extraordinary, and, like the pieces in Fisch’s book, it really does make the reader aware of the links between craft and art, between function and form. From stark woven pieces to fantastically embellished ones, this book is all about the scope of stitched fiber work, and how the reader can explore that broad territory.

Both of these books teach, they inspire and, for me at least, raise my expectations of what these forms can accomplish, what I can accomplish working within them. I recommend them both very highly.

Piles and Piles of Crafting Books

A few recs:

There are all sorts of crafting books, ranging from the strictly useful to the wildly inspirational. The former category is probably the largest because most people want substantive material that will help them learn, exercise or expand on their knowledge of a particular crafting technique or form.

I would place Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers squarely into this category, with one caveat: It presumes a working knowledge of knitting stitches and techniques. There is a glossary of abbreviations, a quick tutorial on felting and one illustrated technique (cable cast-on.) The bulk of the book is taken up with patterns for constructing knitted flower for embellishing your knitwear or other projects. Some are merely stitched, some require felting. Some are simple, some complex, but there are very few projects which require more than one page of instructions; often, far less. They are, in fact, deceptively simple. If you’re not at least approaching an intermediate level of knitting, you might find yourself in a bind (pun intended) with some of these flowers.

I would also place Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories in the same category, though it takes the process further, with an excellent tutorial on the basics of soldering, the materials that are needed, alternative materials, and necessary precautions. It’s been years since I did any soldering, and this book would be the perfect addition to my craft library if only for that information. But there’s a lot more here. There are projects which allow the crafter to build on the information in the tutorial. This isn’t necessarily a book I’d recommend to old hands at soldering, however, one of Bluhm’s stated purposes here is to provide inspiration for crafters to take the techniques and run with them. And I do think she succeeds at this. Though there are a lot of pretty basic paper-sandwiched-between-soldered-glass-pieces projects, there are a number of other projects which made me think “Hmmm, I wonder if that would work with…” I’d say that if you’re new to soldering, or if you have done it in the past, but never used it in some of the ways altered artists are using it, then you might want to take a look at this book.

I’ll have another couple of recs later today

Spring cleaning in spite of the snow

Chicago’s been getting snow for the last two days. Snow, slush, ice crystals pinging out of the sky so hard that when they hit you, you feel as if you’ve been stung. Happy spring, people of Chicago! And while I have plenty to say about global warming and its role in the funky weather that seems to be happening all over, I’ll save that for my personal journal.

Amber and Green beaded bracelet What I wanted to say here is that I’ve done some spring housecleaning, partly because this place needed it and partly because I’m avoiding listing things on Etsy because it’s so tedious! I never liked listing stuff on or eBay, but they weren’t things I’d made, so I thought this would be different, exciting. And it was. Okay, the first one was. After that I started wondering how to automate the process so I could get back to the real business, which is making stuff. Right now, in my living room, I have two Tunisian crochet hooks, one regular one and a pair of knitting needles, all holding project pieces, and a pile of ten or twelve skeins of yarn. It’s not like I don’t keep busy.

Two Memory Wire Rings That’s the real problem. I’ve kept too busy over the last two years. I’ve knitted and crocheted, strung, twisted, tied, cut, hammered, sewn, painted, glued, folded and tied in knots any number of materials. I have finished and half-finished items everywhere, and it all has to be photographed, measured, cataloged, priced and listed while all I really want to do is get back to those project pieces in the living room. I’m not very good at this kind of thing, obviously. I’m pretty sure my accountant looks at me and thinks “What am I going to do with this woman?”

So I’m taking a break to write a chatty little blog post, and show a couple of photos of the things I’m putting on Etsy. And I do have to admit that some of the photography has been fun, especially once I started using props like my artist mannequin and my dancing bears candle holder. And sharing things is always fun. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have such a ginormous daily reading list, or belong to so many Flickr groups. Though a lot of them never have any activity, which is a shame.

It’s chilly in here and I’m feeling sleepy. Mike came by to install a new sump pump so I need to stay awake until he’s finished, but I’m thinking a nap might be a good idea. You know, to get the energy back up for more listings.

Yes, I’m impossible. It’s part of my anti-charm.

Calloo, callay!

She chortled in her joy. Take a look at what I just finished:

"Gypsy Girl"  Scrumbled bag

This is a scrumbled (freeform knit/crochet) bag entitled “Gypsy Girl” It’s taken me forever to finish, and has some pricey yarn and beads in it, so I doubt I’ll ever earn back what I put into it. But I’ve finished it!

The photo could be better, but I really didn’t set up to do photos. I just wanted to get this one posted because I’m proud of it. I also had a heck of a good time making it. *g* More views later.