Monday, 8 August 2016

June Reading

Nearly caught up now thank goodness!

June was another poor month for books quantity wise, but I did enjoy them!

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was a book I saw on a Buzzfeed list I think, probably in the vein of 'if you loved Gone Girl then try...' and whilst it was no Gone Girl, it was a decent thriller, I hadn't worked out the ending before it happened which is always good! Some of the characters are a bit annoying, and I didn't entirely warm to the protagonist Lee/Nora. The basic premise of hen party in the middle of nowhere may be a little bit eyerolly but where else would you make it so ruddy mysterious....

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (told you there was more S J!) was a brilliant story, again with the house as a character. Didn't predict the twist, and I shan't spoil it! Jackson really exquisitely paints the characters of the two sisters and their senile uncle, although you do forget that Merricat is supposed to be 18, perhaps because of a combination of intentional child like characteristics, but also because 18 year olds today are much different.

Make Some-Thing Up by Chuck Palahniuk really does contain things you can't unread. The book is a collection of short stories and one in particular, Cannibal, is stomach churning. The new "Guts" I should say. I actually had to put the book down for a while after I read it which is not really something I do! Overall a good assortment of stories but I really prefer his full length stories.

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk was, in contrast to Make Some-Thing Up, a light and fluffy read! The story revolves around a 13 year old girl called Madison, who dies and goes to hell, and whilst in hell decides to take over and rule it. The book is insanely satirical and funny, and if you have ever been a 13 year old girl you will cringe at how well it captures the slightly narcissistic nature of teen girls.

Sometimes The Wolf by Urban Waite was a library random choice. I was drawn in by the McCarthy comparison which obviously it did not live up to because McCarthy is God... It was a bit of a slow starter but it was good once it gained momentum. I think it would make a good film, in the style of No Country For Old Men. The wolf part of it isn't really as much of a thing as you would expect given the title.

Well there you go, that's June wrapped up. I know that there is barely anyone who is reading my posts, but I wondered if it would be preferable to include more of the story of each book as well as my thoughts and random ramblings? I'd love any feedback readers have the time to give, and thanks in advance!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Patchwork Elephant Cushion For MIL

Towards the end of last year I made a cushion for my MIL (I also entered it in a "just for fun" competition at WI since it fit with the theme of "Indian Summer") which incorporated a badly patchworked elephant design appliqued onto a sun design, which in turn was appliqued onto a turquoise cushion cover. I found a perler bead design for an elephant on Pinterest, and converted that into the patchwork design.

 I had originally planned to make the sun patchwork too but it was too much hard work ha ha.

I cut out loads of utterly piddly little squares from scrap, decided I must have been slightly insane to think it was a good idea, then decided I was actually insane for continuing on with it!

It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be and soon enough had a vaguely elephant shaped design.

As you can see it is quite honestly a terrible job. I normally choose EPP for a reason ya'll ;) Next step was to attach the elephant to the sun, and add some sparkly accents to give it a bit of a special touch. And an eye, just to stop it looking more  weird.

I then attached this to a turquoise fabric which was then sewn into a cushion cover with some velcro to secure it closed.

I can't find a picture with the cushion pad inserted but it probably shows the design better like this anyway. Despite it being incredibly poor patchwork, my MIL was thrilled with the cushion as she loves elephants. I'm not in a hurry to repeat the mini patchwork experience but I was pleased with how well the design translated into fabric.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

May Reading

Another book catch up, sorry!

 May was a slightly better effort with 7 books read.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was a really good read. I have seen the film version (The Haunting) with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones many years ago when it was out at the cinema, and it goes without saying the book is better! I had never read a book by Jackson before and I really got the bug. I loved her gothic storytelling, and the use of the building as a character which maybe sounds odd but if you've read this then it makes sense I swear!

The Martian by Andy Weir finally provided an explanation about the film (which I haven't seen) being nominated as a comedy. It is really rather humorous, and you cannot fail to fall in love with the character of Mark Watney the disaster attracting, wise cracking, regular Joe. I absolutely cannot imagine having the internal strength to survive being left on Mars, and I was on the edge of my seat right up to the end. I also may have cried a tiny bit at the end.

The Encyclopedia of the Dead by Danilo Kis was a birthday gift, and sadly I didn't really enjoy it all too much. Short stories are always hit and miss for me, but this was just not really my jam. My other half enjoyed it though so not all is lost! Kis is Yugoslavian, and his translated work is likened to Borges and other Eastern European writers I would not be interested in picking up. Mostly it was just a bit boring.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart was one that had been on my radar for a while and finally picked it up at the library. A group of kids spend their summers on their Grandparent's private Island and are spoiled and rich. One of the group suffers from a kind of temporary mental illness and finds it hard to remember what happened on the island one eventful summer. It was a quick read, I didn't work out the ending until quite near the end - an all round enjoyable YA read.

Devotion by Ros Barber was spotted on the shelf at the library and called to me. I totally judge books by their covers (well I get compelled to pick them up) and this had my name all over it! I love the beautiful watercolour skulls in a big way. The story is set in the near future (specifically ten years after the death of Richard Dawkins) where religious fundamentalism is considered a mental illness. The most interesting part of the book is the concept that a medical procedure can give you a religious experience of the "God spoke to me" kind. I really enjoyed the story, a very happy accident!

Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers is an interesting read, slightly eccentric characters make the novel more interesting than it would be if the characters were normal. Sadly I cannot help but compare all of Carson's work to "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" which is one of the best books I have ever read, and this book isn't as good. The racial injustices described within the story are still relevant today and really are rather saddening, an odd but poignant read.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn is a very short story originally published as part of a collection. It is enjoyable, but ultimately I would have preferred it expanded into a full length novel which I think it very easily could have been. It also relies on the atmosphere of the house in which the story finishes off to enable it to have a little bit more punch to it, which I did enjoy especially after the Shirley Jackson.

Overall I enjoyed most of the books I read during the month, and spoiler alert - I got more Shirley Jackson out from the library because I loved her style so much!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

April Reading

Very late getting these up!

 April was a busy month, and I didn't get much in the way of reading done.

So that's two "self help" books, two graphic novels, and a non-fiction about chopped off heads...why yes, sometimes when I look at my life I do feel like it's a wee bit on the eccentric side of things!

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Reubin  was a birthday gift that I had been holding off from buying. Having discovered the Happiness podcast, I was desperate to dive into Gretchen's books and it didn't disappoint! I found the account of Gretchen's year long project to increase her happiness to be honest, funny, and relatable. I am not one for self help type books, but this one read more like a funny year long memoir than a cheesy "you can do it, and I will show you how" style book.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Reubin was  snapped up no sooner than I had finished the previous book. Again I was familiar with the sort of content and things like the four tendancies from the podcast, but it is a useful text to consult when wanting to change your habits. I find the subject of habit formation very interesting and Reubin goes into just enough detail to be informative, but not so much to swamp you. More self help than the Happiness Project is, but not cheesy/cringy about it.

The Wicked + The Divine Vol 1 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie was a birthday gift.  Most people who read graphic novels have probably heard of this series, but if like me you were put off by the premise of gods sent down to Earth reincarnated as "rock stars", please give it a go anyway! This is a funny read - obviously a bit over the top given the celebrity status of the characters - with a more interesting plot than the premise of the series eludes to. Lucifer is my favourite character so far, mainly for the hilarious Daily Mail burn.

ODY-C Vol 1 by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
was also a birthday gift. This is one of the most insane graphic novels in my collection, its bright in your face illustrations, coupled with the fact it is a retelling of Homer's Oddysey but set in space and genderbent, makes for one hell of a crazy read! I liked it, but mostly felt like I wasn't sure what was going on...maybe I should read the original story before going back to it.

Severed by Frances Larson promised a weird and compelling read and completely delivered! I cannot tell you just how interesting this was - I mean severed heads span a lot more fields than one would imagine. The book is not really very morbid or gross*, and each chapter discusses a different area of severed heads from the history and significance of shrunken heads, to skulls as war trophies during Vietnam. Educational throughout, and will provide you with enough fun facts about heads to trot out at dinner parties for the rest of your life!

*I am morbid and interested in "gross" stuff so my judgement may be skewed haha!

Well 5 books may be poor compared to previous months but they were a great selection nonetheless.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Panto Prep

I had meant to post up the second part of my embroidered Ginger Jeans next but I haven't got round to any photos yet.

So one of the reasons I was not blogging over the winter is because I was busy beavering away with preparations for a panto which really eats away at your time *insert oh no it doesn't joke here*.
One of things I love most about being involved with a theatre company is the fact it throws you curve ball after curve ball and no request is ever too weird!
Do excuse the terrible photos, many of which were just taken off my instagram feed.

There was copious amounts of blinging to do, costumes to make significantly bigger, collars to make, and a million miles of ruffles to be made and added to a flat looking costume.

Mop caps and bonnets were two of the completely new to me tasks! Needless to say I had to work it out on the fly, but the results were fine.

Bloomers were made based off of a pj bottom pattern, I made them looser than intended and elasticated the leg holes.

One of the more unusual tasks was to take a comically large jacket (think Lurch from the Addams Family) and make it into a regular sized jacket and a matching tie. This is one of two ties I made for that character, the other was in a fetching blue sequin fabric.

This is a picture of it in action! I chose to keep the collar of the original jacket and work the smaller one around that. Guesstimating the sleeve cap was a bit nervewracking, I didn't have enough fabric to re do them if it went tits up, so I was relieved when it went according to plan!

Making two copies (copy shown above) of a dressy type of shirt was probably the second most nerve-wracking thing! I literally just had to spread out the fabric on the floor, draw round each piece of the existing shirt as best I could whilst it shifted everywhere, and hope for the best! Collars, facings, elasticated cuffs....not perfect results, but perfect enough for panto!

I sadly don't have pictures of everything I made, but other bits off the top of my head are:

* 28 tabard style knight costumes edged in handmade gold lame bias binding (not my idea of fun!)
* sashes and cummerbunds galore
* cropped trousers
* harem style trousers
* tutus
* sparkle tanks
* ballet costume style bodices
* ruffled poncho

I'm sure there was more, but I started with it in October so my memory isn't exactly fresh!

Stay tuned for the next part of my panto recap!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

March Reading

March was an 11 book month! Did I do anything else for leisure last month? Well perhaps not as much else went on as it could have!

The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin
was picked up at the library having spotted it on a stand and becoming interested because of the character of the Axeman in American Horror Story: Coven. I thought it was an alright read, nothing to get me really excited but just enough going on to keep me turning the pages. Historical crime fiction is, as I expressed with "The Devil In The Marshalsea", not my favourite of genres, but I enjoyed the multiple points of view as the investigation was underway, and New Orleans in 1919 was an interesting time and place. Worth a read.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is about a mixed race family in the 1970's, and I was shocked at how much of an issue it was back then. It tells the tale of a family whose lives are shattered by the eldest child Lydia's body being found in a lake nearby their home. The story is mostly concerned with the expectations and actions of the family unit, and how their own neurosis have shaped the course of Lydia's death, and how their lives are different after the event. It was an incredibly emotional read, and I couldn't put it down.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
is the follow up to You (which I really enjoyed). It follows the protagonist Joe in his move over to L.A. and his psychotic behaviour is worse than before. I found the celebrity name dropping and unrealistic behaviour of incredibly rich characters a bit too much - it was not a book that was made better for having gone Hollywood. It is expected that there will be a third book, and I look forwards to reading it, but You was a far better book in my opinion.

The Revenant by Michael Punke was purchased after seeing the amazing film of the same name. I know books are usually different to the film but was shocked by how different fundamental parts of the story were. I really liked the book, kind of like a McCarthy novel set in the snow. I preferred the ending in the film but I would recommend the book highly.

Inequality And The 1% by Danny Dorlin
g is a book as unsurprising as it is shocking. I find this often in non-fiction - You are aware of the facts but seeing it all in one place makes in very impactful. I know economics is not for everybody, but I wish everybody would read the book. Given the awful effects some people are suffering through the implication of idealistic austerity, it leaves a particularly bitter taste in the mouth. Probably the most important book I will read this year.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn was thankfully better than Sharp Objects, but not as good as Gone Girl. I did like the basic idea of the story which is that a woman's brother is in prison for murdering the rest of their family when the woman was a very small child, however many people believe that he was innocent and the police went for the easy conclusion, not the right one. There was still a few characters which were so unbelievable that I eyerolled incessantly when they featured (Diondra). Didn't work out the ending before it happened either which is a plus.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel was a fun little post apocalypse story which focuses on a traveling theatre troupe who venture from settlement to settlement playing classical music with their orchestra, and performing Shakespeare. A novel and lighthearted take on how the world will remember the old life in the new life, and yet still manages to convey the sheer terror of the realisation that the world is ending and the loss felt by those old enough to remember "before" clearly.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins gripped me from the start. I thought the characters had enough about them so as to be neither too run of the mill, or too unrealistic. The portrayal of a woman suffering alcoholism after a devastating break up, obsessed with the life that should have been hers and unable to move forward, was written incredibly well. A good page turner, most definitely worth reading!

Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey was one of my random library finds and it was so. good.
It follows the story of a woman who basically gets up one day and leaves her home in the US, and travels to a remote place in New Zealand without so much as a mention to her husband, mother, or friends. At its core it is a heartbreaking story of mental illness and the responses of people who do not understand or accept it.

All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Remarque also appeared during a random library trip. A very powerful story about the second world war told from the point of view of a young German soldier. It begins with the group as schoolboys being urged to enlist, and is told through the eyes of one of the boys. All too often even today we forget that the German soldiers were not monsters hell bent on destruction and death, but were also naive young men who no more wished to kill someone than you or I. Remarque himself got exiled from Germany for his views, and was seen as taking a n unpatriotic stance. The visceral images described in the book (not even in great detail) took a while to sink in after I had finished reading, and I cannot even imagine how terrifying it must have been for them. An incredible book.

The Diary Of A Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith was another library random choice. The book was short, and a bit odd! It was an amusing enough faux diary of an unremarkable man and his fairly unremarkable life. I understand that it was originally published in sections in a magazine/journal, and probably seemed less absurd then! Neither a must read, or a terrible book.

So that concludes the March round up! Has anyone read any of the books? If so, what did you think? Are you inspired to pick one of them up?

Happy reading folks!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Embroidered Ginger Jeans Part 1

First I must confess that I started these jeans back in October last year...taking slow to a whole new level here!

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the Ginger Jeans from Closet Case Patterns, and as a disclaimer I should add that I received the pattern free as a tester, but I wouldn't have made like 7 pairs if I didn't love the pattern off of its own merit! (I probably have mentioned it before but I haven't posted in such a long time, and can't be bothered to check back to see if I did)

For the yet again failed FESA sew along, I listed making two replacement pairs of Gingers, and used some really great broken twill denim off eBay, such great quality, and no twisty legs woohoo!

So then I had one of my slightly infamous 3am ideas - anyone else get these?! - and decided that I simply had to have skulls embroidered on my butt pockets. Because they're skulls and it's me. So a bit of googling revealed that it was a thing, a couple of US brands did skull butt jeans, and a bit of pinteresting threw up a few choice designs. I purchased one from Urban Threads (who are cheap and wonderful and will have whatever embroidery you're looking for!) and sized it up and printed it off. I decided for the sake of needing some to wear immediately I would make up one pair as normal, and since the embroidery completion was glacial it was a smart move!

As I was using black denim (obviously) I needed to use the tissue paper method to stitch my design as the pockets needed to be mirrored as identically as possible so risking free hand was not an option. I traced the designs onto tissue paper that was slightly thicker than usual, not sure what it came with, it is a bit like that really terrible toilet roll at school that was like tracing paper.

 I just tacked the tissue paper down to stop it shifting. I chose to use two shades of grey, a lighter one for the skull part, and a darker one for the swirly bit to the side. The pockets were interfaced so there was no risk of stretching out.

Once it was finished I pulled through the tacking stitches. Then I very naively thought I would pull the tissue paper off in one piece. I have no idea what kind of brain glitch was responsible for that idiocy because as I'm sure you will all realise, it looked like this...

 Doh! So out came the tweezers, and eventually I got all the bloody stuff out!

So at this stage it was December, not too bad! Queue second pocket being finished in March. This is why I went ahead and finished the other pair, I know myself well enough to know that no matter how much I *had* to go through with my idea,it would take me forever to actually get finished.

Well, the finished pair are pretty much identical in design and spacing. I do wish I had done them a bit further in though. It looks better when all the edges are folded inwards so on the finished pair they don't look too odd.

Part two will show the finished jeans.

Have you ever incorporated embroidery into your handmade clothing? If so would you do it again or was once enough?!