Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Knitting Secrets

I'm afraid I won't be able to share some of my knitting projects this spring.  I don't want the recipients to see them ahead of time.  Three! friends of mine are expecting.  (I actually know several more pregnant women, but only these three are close enough friends that I want to knit things for their babies.)  Two are due in summer, one in early fall.  This month I knit a gift for one of them.  I shared it on Ravelry, but there will be projects I cannot even share there, because two of my friends are also knitters.

So, instead, photos of older projects.  I sent the Mizzle shawl to a friend who spent last week receiving radiation therapy.   It was a long distance hug.  I wish I could have been there in person, but since she was in isolation all week (literally radioactive - her husband has a Geiger counter), I guess the long distance hug was just as good. 

Yesterday, I had the chance to photograph a hat I'd knit and given last fall, forgetting to snap a picture before giving it.  Isn't she cute?  She's looking at Trixie.  It was overcast, so I had to use the flash - not the best picture.  Sorry about that.

I didn't use a pattern for this one.  It's a simple cable with a pointy crown made from Lion Brand Baby's First.  This yarn is so soft, a 50/50 cotton/acrylic blend.

Her mommy says this is their favorite hat because it does not slip down over her eyes. I call it Cabled Pixie, because I think she looks like a winter pixie in it.  LOVE those cheeks!  (I secretly call her Cheeky.)

I also knit two chemo caps this month, but I haven't photographed them yet.  I am almost to the point where I will have to buy yarn in order to knit more hats.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

thoughts on: The Snow Child

The Snow ChildThe Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child is inspired by the Russian fairy tale: a childless, elderly couple builds a girl out of snow, and she comes to life, spending each winter with them, but disappearing each summer. Centering around that tale, Eowyn Ivey's beautifully written debut novel explores the grief and healing of a couple whose infertility and loss has driven them to despair. Unable to bear the constant reminders of their loss, Jack and Mabel leave comfort and their families in Pennsylvania and move to the Alaskan frontier, thinking that isolation will shield them from pain and perhaps bring them closer together. Sadness permeates their lives. Failure looms over them. Despite their love, they are drifting farther and farther apart, unable to even share their grief with one another. And then, in a rare moment of gaiety, they build a snow child, and she comes to life.

Whether she is a feral child or was made of snow and magic, Ivey leaves her readers to decide. The true magic in her story lies in its realism. Broken and bitter, we watch a middle aged couple as they begin to see each other with new eyes, eyes opened not only by their love for the snow child but by the harshness of the Alaskan wilderness and the kindness of their neighbors. We are witness to the healing power of forgiveness and the willingness to love despite pain. Their love story is what kept me entranced from the first page to the last.

Monday, February 20, 2012

thoughts on: A Lucky Child

A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young BoyA Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy by Thomas Buergenthal

Thomas Buergenthal's memoir is the sweetest, least graphic holocaust survivor memoir I've read.  He attributes his survival to luck, but he also emphasizes the careful training he received from his parents - both in cleverness and moral strength - and the kindness of many strangers he encountered.

Beuergenthal has devoted his life to Human Rights, and currently serves as the American judge at the International Court of Justice.  In his epilogue, he talks about how his experiences through the holocaust and living in post-war Germany shaped his passion to protect others from what he experienced. 

This would be an excellent choice for a young teen to read. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

thoughts on: The Paris Wife

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Were it not for my book club, I'd never have picked up this book. I prefer non-fiction to historical fiction. It is distracting to me to be wondering, "How do you know she thought that or said this?" However, I had heard so many good things about The Paris Wife that I set aside my reservations and tried my best to just enjoy the book as a work of fiction, and not think of Hadley or Ernest as real people.

That made it worse. Written as a first person narrative, McLain's Hadley never caught my interest. She neither garnered my sympathy nor excited my curiosity. She was too removed even from her own story for that. She lacked passion. She lacked depth. I thought more than once that she seemed to be sleepwalking through her own story.

I wanted to toss the book aside, but, for book club, I rewarded myself with PBcups for continuing to read it. That is sad. Delicious, but sad. Unlike the book, which was neither delicious nor sad. Just blah.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

thoughts on: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne Valente obviously loves words.  She plays with them, twists them this way and that, and bends them just so, creating imagery with them that is almost familiar yet quite different.  It fits perfectly with her story itself - familiar pieces of puzzles molded into new shapes, put back together to create a new picture.  A picture not only different than expected, but darker. 

Beyond and through her whimsical way with words, Valente gives us a heroine on a journey.  Yes, that journey, the coming of age one.  Trials and tribulations and a cast of peculiars, all taking our heroine, September, from Heartless Child to a young woman who not only has a heart, but has lost it.  The journey here is fast paced, almost rushing forward, pushing September to make decisions in haste, to learn quickly, to give everything, to grow up fast. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Inspiration from a Small Friend

One of my little friends wrote me a letter, which included this drawing.  Turtles are her favorite animal, so she has drawn me many of those, but the mermaids were new.  And inspiring.  As soon as I saw her lovely artwork, I began thinking about making her a playset based on it.

I searched online, and found the mermaiden pattern from Wee Wonderfuls.  I'd looked at this book before, and not liked the style of the dolls.  They are very anime influenced in their features, which seems very popular these days, but I prefer eyes not be located on cheeks and heads not be wider than torsos.  However, the size (about 7 inches tall) was what I wanted.  So I printed it out.

I trimmed a bit of width off the head and began tracing the pattern. I quickly discovered that my cutting and sewing skills were not up to par for this pattern. As written, the pattern uses four layers of fins and bit of quilting and lining things up just so.  After a frustrating couple of hours, I abandoned the instructions and simplified the assembly.

The Wee Wonderfuls pattern uses a solid piece of corduroy or velvet for the hair, but the mermaids in my inspiration drawing have long flowing hair.  I used scraps of Lion Brand Homespun for hair that looks rather seaweed-y.

I cut pieces in two lengths, one twice as long as the other, then ran them through the sewing machine to make little wig pieces.  The shorter piece I sewed at one edge, then an inch lower.  It was sewn on the back of the head, at the neckline and almost at the top seam.  The longer section was machine sewn in the middle.  That seam was placed at the top seam of the mermaid's head.  The hair that fell in back was lightly sewn in place.  The hair that fell in front, I pulled to each side and tacked down.

I'm very happy with the hair.  I told my husband that the mermaids are like Hollywood starlets who lack any natural gift beyond having fabulous hair.

As you can see, I put the eyes in their usual spots.  It's hard to tell in the photos, but they have different eye colors:  brown, blue, and gray-green. 

I think these would be quick little projects for people who sew well or regularly, but they took me all day.

The following day, I made the sea turtle.  Originally, I was going to knit a turtle, because although it might be slower than sewing, I find it less frustrating.  After finishing the upper shell, though, I decided that the knit looked too heavy and dark next to the happy mermaids.  So I searched my scraps for happy turtle colors.

I did not use a pattern.  I drew a turtle and cut out the pieces.  For the shell, I lined the top with a piece of interfacing/batting and sewed swirlies on it in different colors, to make it look more under-water-y.  I think I could have skipped the batting.  It took a few tries and a lot of seam ripping, but I think he looks friendly.

Here is the turtle with one of the mermaids.  My husband said the turtle should be large enough for a mermaid to ride on its back, so that was my aim. 

When I was finished with the turtle, I decided I should make a bag to keep the playset in.  (So much less likely to lose pieces when they have their own home.)  Then I discovered I still had this blue shiny sheer fabric, and added it to the bag to use as ocean.  I think my friend will LOVE seeing her drawing come to "life" this way.

I wish I could be there to see her face when she opens the bag!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My glasses needed a new case

Remember when all glasses came with soft fabric cases?  Now, it seems like they all come with hard cases.  I switch back and forth between my regular glasses and my prescription sunglasses all the time - it's so sunny here, year-round!  I don't want to fumble with opening a hard case, and the soft ones I bought are so loose that my sunglasses kept falling out in my purse.  I finally got annoyed enough to make a new one. 

I used scraps I'd saved.  The corduroy was left from a bag lining, the flannel sleds interior from jammies I made last week.  A piece of old mattress pad acts as cushioning between the two fabrics.  I made it slightly smaller than the slippery soft one I had on hand.  It's a snug enough fit that the glasses do not fall out if I tip them over, so no more glasses tumbling out in my purse to get scratched by keys.  Just what I wanted!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Thinking of Sandy, knitting more chemo caps

Last weekend, after almost four year struggle, my friend Sandy lost her battle with breast cancer.  I will miss her, but I'm rejoicing in her ultimate victory over death, taking her place in the presence of Lord, freed from pain and sin and suffering.  I'm also saddened beyond words for her husband and two young sons.

I thought of Sandy with every stitch I knit this week.  Two chemo hats, for two more people fighting back cancer.  My prayers will be with them, too, though I never know their names.

About the hats:  the blue one is Boardwalk by Elizabeth Pederson.  I knit it in Lion Brand Cotton-Ease.  This was left from a sweater project.  I'd forgotten how soft it is while knitting.  When I run out of leftovers, I will buy more Cotton Ease for chemo hats.

The second hat is Odessa by Grumperina.  It is available free at Ravelry.  It was knit in Sirdar Silky Look.  This is a discontinued yarn.  A friend gave a bag of it to me, including a partially knit sweater.  I'm using it for hats.  It's lighter weight, so I thought this shorter beanie would be a good match for it.  Even when it gets warmer, women might like to cover their bald heads.

thoughts on: The Forger's Spell

The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth CenturyThe Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick

Han van Meegeren was the 20th century's most successful forger, making millions selling fake Vermeers during the depression and WWII.  His buyers included Goering, which led to his eventual arrest.  In order to avoid being tried as a collaborator, he confessed to having forged what was then considered the greatest Vermeer ever found.

Dolnick investigates van Meegeren's story, revealing as much about the art world as he does about forgeries.  Van Meegeren's forgeries looked nothing like Vermeer's paintings.  It is painfully obvious now, but Dolnick shows why people accepted them as authentic - for both personal and artistic reasons.  Many of the chapters explored techniques involved in forging, both van Meegeren's and others, or delved into the personalities at the head of the art world, both collectors and experts.  Van Meegeren's forgeries worked, not because he was a gifted artist, but because he was an astute judge of character and a skilled technical craftsman (he invented his own paint from Bakelite!).  Fascinating.