I have to apologize for my prolonged absence this past autumn and winter. When I came home from my splendid Toronto adventure and the even more splendid conference of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals at Yale U, I fell into a big, fat, black hole, and it’s taken me all these months to crawl out of it. For the most part, I felt like this unfortunate kitty …
… with bouts of self-pity of the locked-into-the-bathroom-and-bawling-one’s-eyes-out variety thrown in for good measure. Assembling the aformentioned unfortunate kitty didn’t help, even if the result was rather pleasing, if I may say so myself …
Not even hosting two tea-parties helped (despite the huge amounts of yummy left-overs) (people went home with doggie bags and I was told I had baked too much cake) (this is not true, btw; it’s just that my friends didn’t eat enough cake!).
And no, buying two more Nordic Ware bundt cake tins didn’t help either. What’s worse, the fir trees surrounding the Fairytale Cottage cake broke off when I attempted to free the cake of the tin. Thus the fir trees became strangely shaped bushes, but thanks to copious amounts of chocolate icing you (almost) couldn’t tell they were supposed to be trees. Ah well …
In the end, it was the writing that did the trick: one day I sat down with my AlphaSmart and took up the threads of a story I started back in … uhm … 2009, I guess. It’s a rather over-the-top story, BUT (and this is really the most important bit) loads of fun to write, and thus I threw myself into it with gusto. Naturally, I once again committed a naming faux pas, yet thanks to my ever watchful, native-speaker friends, they were caught in time (unlike poor Heavens to Murgatroyd! Troy). So my poor, homely, potato-nosed, cousin-to-hero secondary character is NOT nicknamed Flopsy after all (due to the Beatrix Potter connection) (having been reared without Beatrix Potter, I had no idea of the existence of a fluffy rabbit called Flopsy – see that’s one of the dangers of writing in a language not your own: you never perceive the pitfalls until you’ve stumbled straight into them!)
Anyways, I’m having a great time with my still titleless WIP – so far the heroine has managed to shock a carriage-load of strangers, the hero and the hero’s sister (who fainted, poor girl) and I’ve high hopes that she’ll manage to scandalise the hero’s mother in no time at all. The hero surprised ME by suddenly talking dirty about things not to be mentioned in the company of ladies.
Now I only need to find a title for the WIP – must be a title suitable for the first book in a trilogy. “Irresponsible Pleasures”???? Hmmm ….
Must also find suitably silly new nickname for the unfortunate Flopsy. I first thought of Grannie, but alas, my hero’s called Griff, so we wouldn’t want another male Gr-name in the novel. (This just shows you with what kind of difficulties we writers have to deal with. Names! Silly names! Titles! Characters behaving shockingly!)
Corduroy Wes has got a new friend:
It’s little Miss Rosie Red (made from a Hop Skip Jump pattern)!
She likes music.
Veeeery much so. And if you give her a few books to sit on, she can even play the piano!
Here she shows you the itty bitty (red!) flowers that adorn her stylish trousers:
A ribbon of tulips! Aren’t they cute?
But for now, little Miss Rosie hasn’t got much time to think about tulips or other flowers. Instead she dreams ….
…. of foreign shores. For in just a few days, Rosie will go on a long journey to Australia – more specifically to “Meet Me at Mike’s” in Melbourne for the fourth annual Softies for Mirabel project: people from all around the world send them handmade softies, which will be displayed in the store window during the first week of December. Afterwards, the dollies and stuffed animals will all be wrapped up and donated to the Mirabel Foundation.
Miss Rosie can’t wait to hop on that plane to Australia!
Two centuries ago, women sent their friends on the hunt for worsted wool and new crochet patterns when they visited the big city (lovingly described by Elizabeth Gaskell in Cranford) and American scrap-quilt enthusiasts placed ads in the newspapers to find other women with whom they could exchange fabrics. Needlework wasn’t just something that women did. It allowed women to be creative; it formed the basis for friendships; it resulted in acts of charity; and, indeed, it could even become an expression of patriotism (the picture shows the cover of a knitting book published in New Zealand during WWI – you can find the whole story here)
Two hundred years later, the “gentle arts” still fulfill similar purposes (with the exception that needlework is no longer considered a necessary female accomplishment – today most of us sew, knit, crochet, etc. because we want to and not because we must). What is different today is the scale: thanks to the internet, the world is quite literally open to us. We swap patterns on blogs with people from all corners of the world. We can buy books and magazines and fabrics from Japan, France, Australia, the Netherlands, the USA, etc. Styles and techniques easily cross borders, are adapted and re-interpreted, cross borders again, and so on and so forth. Private charity drives reach enormous dimensions online as people from different countries rally together to knit blankets, sew softies, make quilts, and so on. (You only have to read Craft Hope or Quilting for Peace to know what I’m talking about!)
If you stop to think about it, it’s astonishing and amazing and vastly thrilling and gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. 🙂
Who says practical things can’t be pretty and smell good? 😉 French lavender = bliss!
At the moment I’m in New Haven, CT to attend a conference on Victorian periodicals. My paper deals with Richard Doyle’s illustrations for Punch. Like this one. Or this.
So while I’m away, I’m going to entertain you with some pictures of my recent redwork projects. Here’s little Sue Bonnet and her duckie (this reminded me of the duckie in our backyard):
She was placed on top of a jar of homemade lemon curd:
This is Wes …
Wes lives on one of the bookshelves in my mini-library. He likes to climb on boxes:
Here he is galumphing around the table:
Wes is one of the softies from Hilary Lang’s brandnew book Wee Wonderfuls:
I’ve been reading Hilary’s blog of the same title for several months now, and I couldn’t WAIT for her book to be released. I’m happy to report that so far it did not disappoint. 🙂
I chose Wes as my first project from the book because A) he looked cute …
… and B) because he consists of only six main pattern pieces (not including the ears) and it looked all very straightforward and easy.
Ha! Famous last words and all that! (If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember the pin I sewed into my first quilt. Or what happened when I decided not to make my quilt back bigger than the front.)
This is my first softie consisting of more than two pattern pieces, which might explain why I had some trouble at first to figure out how Wes ought to be put together. There are pictures in the book, of course, but sometimes I’m a bit dense and therefore it took me some time to realise what the underbelly pieces were for. (Duh.) When the penny had finally dropped, it was indeed all very straightfoward.
My cutting technique left something to be desired, and as a consequence I had some problems fitting the gusset(s) to the side pieces. To make matters worse, I ended up with two different-sized head pieces = not good. (Note to self: Tracing, cutting, you needz to improve itz!) Luckily, it’s relatively easy to improvise when you sew softies. So I improvised, and I have to say I’m quite happy with the results. 🙂
Take a cute pattern and a cuddly fabric, add some thread, pins (please notice my lovely tomato pin cushion which I got from my Mum!) and a sewing machine …
… and you might end up with this:
Mr Bunny is one of the crafting projects I finished last week. He is a variation of Miss Chibi-Kitty and of this little bunny (I found the pattern here) — only this time I used the sewing machine. I wasn’t quite sure whether I would be able to do all the tight curves on the machine, but me and the Carina managed just fine.
For the bunny’s body I used some of the leftovers from the fabric with which I filled my first quilt (LINK). It’s very soft and so was perfect to make a present for a baby girl. I embroidered Mr Bunny’s smiley face …
… and also added the initial of the baby girl’s first name in order to personalise the gift. I sure hope she and her parents will like Mr Bunny!
PS: Sorry if the colours in the photos come out weird on your computer. The ‘puter that I normally use to work on photos has died (which is also partly the reason for my lengthy absence), so I have to use another and for some reason or other, I’ve got difficulties with the picture editing programme. Hmph.
When you write a novel, strange things happen sometimes. Like, you’re planning this fantabulous gothic romance and then – bang! – in walks this female character with sturdy boots and proceeds to stomp all the gothicness to dust. (That’s rather disconcerting, let me tell you.)
Sometimes characters talk to you. (If they actually call you, like, on the phone, you might want to consult a doctor, though. Just saying.)
Sometimes characters insist on being somebody else.
Did you know that exactly the same thing can happen when you do embroidery?
You want proof?
Then let’s have a look at a little bunny from that super-cute Japanese crafting magazine I got a few days ago:
This little bunny:
Do you see the cute little ears? And the cute little bunny tail? And now, may I draw your attention to this little bunny:
Well, as you can plainly see, the little bunny didn’t want to be a bunny. It wanted to be a mouse. I made two attempts to rectify the situation, but it still looked like a mouse. So I finally decided to go with the flow and let the bunny be a mouse.
The bunny was happy.
I was happy.
And I hope the recipient of this little bag will also be very happy.
Here’s the inside. I lined the bag with a very smooth, satiny cotton:
After I turned into a crafting-loving person, it was only a matter of time until I would stumble across Japanese craft books. They’re so mean, the Japanese. Really, really mean. They produce craft books filled with such cuteness it hurtz. Huuuuuuuurtz!
You don’t believe me?
Then have a look at the following pictures. This is an embroidery magazine called Stitch Idées:
I ordered vol. 11 a few weeks ago on ebay and it arrived yesterday. As if the projects depicted on the cover weren’t already cute enough, these are the kind of projects you can find inside:
Embroidered bunny stamps!!!!
After this terrible cuteness-attack, I was forced to order the following today:
Fairy tales! Of course I have to have an embroidery book featuring fairy-tale projects! I’m a folk lit scholar, after all!
A peek at the inside cuteness:
And here is an edition filled with spring projects:
And then there’s the stylish birdie issue:
So now, I only need a bit of time. 🙂
O, the things you do to keep yourself from grading papers! I, for example, are in the process to succumbing to red hot button-lust. Aren’t these darlings pretty?
I’ve already got these – I love the slight retro touch. They would look lovely on a pastel pink Sencha blouse.
But these are very cute, too:
And these, too:
Apart from succumbing to button-lust, I’m also smooching with the Muse again these days. (Yay! She’s back!!!!). And I’m happy to report that I’ve got names for my hero (George Augustus Frederick Griffin) and heroine (Carlotta Staunton, short Charlie), for her best friend (Emma-Louise, short Emma-Lee) and that I’ve finished the first chapter this morning. 🙂