archive for February, 2007
this book is taking over my life, i swear.
now i’m pretty sure i’m safe posting this as i’m pretty sure my recipient doesn’t read here. anyway, even if she did she won’t know she’s my recipient until too darned late.
as soon as i heard of coloriffic swap-o-rama’s existence i started getting excited. how much fun would it be putting together a colour-coded swap for a crafty chick? it takes a while for new memberships to get processed, so when i finally got in it felt like i’d been granted access to some amazing secret club. and it has been such a pleasure putting together a package in springlike greens and blues (oh and it’s pure co-incidence that it co-ordinates so well with the new look blog, i swear) my only problem being trying to stick to some kind of a budget and not just adding every cool thing that sprung to mind.fantastic tutorial from craftapple. the process was nice and straighforward except for the rayon embroidery thread that just wouldn’t unwind off the spool properly and kept wrapping itself around the spindle pin and fucking up the tension. honestly, i could sew for about 3 or 4 inches before i had to stop and untangle it each time. turning the reel the other way up helped a bit, and for some reason the green thread was much worse than the blue.
i had to unpick one side of the first one as i’d sewn it too tight, but once i found how much slack i needed to leave the other came together seamlessly – so to speak. i really like how these have turned out and i can see myself doing more variations in future.
i’m just a little concerned that my offerings aren’t quite pale enough for the colour theme. pastel figures hardly at all in my stash, i’m a saturated colours girl all the way down the line. so although the blue/green combo suits me down to the ground, i’ve failed to really nail the mint/sky blue thing which is a bit of a shame. still, i had to use some of what i have and this is the best i could do. hope it will do.
M has been away with the grandparents for 2 whole glorious days, giving me 2 whole glorious days to do stuff in glorious peace and quiet. i’ll be very glad to see her when she gets back in half an hour or so, but since this is likely to be the last stretch of time i get to myself for a long while, i’ve been making the most of it.
first i got the new banner stitched together. it’s all stitched as you see it, no clever special effects, but i photoshopped out the white foreground fabric. i fused the foreground onto a firm interfacing to allow me to just cut the letters out – there was no way i was going to turn under all those edges, no siree. i wanted to include as many of my different interests in it as possible:
- s is made from recycled fabric (my favourite festival-going dress of all time)
- t is merino/bfl felt that i made and dyed with food colours
- i is ready-dyed merino that i blended on hand cards, spun and knitted
- t is crocheted
- c is more of the carded/spun/knitted merino
- h is vintage fabric, you can’t really see the pattern but it’s a fabulous ?60’s tree print, i have a whole set of large curtains in this plus some spare bits. i can’t bear to part with them even though it’s unlikely i’ll ever have anywhere to hang them.
i’m really pleased with how it turned out, i had this idea for it way back when i first thought about revamping the blog and it’s almost exactly how i imagined. any layout problems with it – if it does anything weird on your browser – or takes forever to load – do please let me know.
isn’t she a cutie? she’s actually my v2, as v1 is still in production. she’s a belated kinda-valentines pressie for M’s best friend. we’re a non-valentines household usually, but they made cards at school, M chose to give hers to us (as school intended, i presume) but T gave hers to M. cue T getting rather upset that no-one had given her a card. M made a card the next day, rather out-of-genre since it was of a tropical island (she thought it up and made the whole thing by tearing and sticking paper herself, it was fabby). but T had admired the octopus i was working on, so we thought she might like one of her very own, in pink, her favourite colour.
the pattern (here) was a joy to work, up to a point. there was no indication of the finished number of stitches per round, so when i thought i may have screwed up there was no way to check. the way the legs curl is just so damn cute, but the pattern was rather opaque when it came to the part where you attach the underside of the legs to the underside of the body. since each is done as the leg is worked, it’s not possible to just rip back the bits you realise are totally wrong without undoing the entire underside of the legs as well. i still haven’t figured a way of working them i’m totally happy with, and i got no reply to a plea for help from the pattern maker.
yay for working to the quality control standards of 4 year olds is all i can say. still, everyone who’s seen them wants one, so i’ll have plenty of time to practice and work out a method i’m happy with.
okay hands up who knew custard creams (the biscuits themselves, not the filling) are made with custard powder…
i swear this isn’t turning into a cooking blog, i mostly wanted to share my excitement at our latest purchase: 101 (really!) cookie cutters in every shape under the sun, from lakeland – i only slightly wanted to show off my biscuits
when the parcel arrived thismorning we played guessing games about what could be inside, M spent ages getting in through the tape and unpacking the box. we got every single cutter out and pondered over what it was supposed to be, we counted all the numbers and went through the whole alphabet, she spent half an hour or so acting out convoluted stories with them, we eventually made some biscuits. then she spent the rest of the evening occupying the
box boat they arrived in with an assortment of stuffed toys. tomorrow we may get round to decorating them. now that’s what i call play value
so i thought long and hard and i figured that my chances of making it as a photographer were marginally less infinitessimal than my chances of making it as a musician. so i’m selling my guitar to pay for a new camera. i’m rather ahead of myself as the picture was taken with the new camera, but there’s the joy of interest free credit. perhaps for symmetry’s sake i should compose a song about the camera?
to be fair it was a pretty easy decision to make. i’m an averagely talented/interested amateur photographer when i put my mind to it. i am oh so very much a total guitar noob, even after a concerted stint of practicing for hours every night, doing the theory and everything. i was utterly obsessive about it when i got it, but i haven’t actually touched it now for over a year. i always thought i would pick it up again eventually and had no immediate need to liquidate the funds it represents.
but i use my camera most days, and once i’d got it into my head that a digital slr wasn’t totally out of reach financially any more i just couldn’t shake it. when i went to our local camera shop to have a play with the various options i’d researched they made me an offer i couldn’t refuse and i came home with my new toy.
i got the new nikon d40, here’s a few reasons why:
it was the lens that really decided it for me though. the one thing i wanted to ensure was that any new camera i bought at least matched, and preferably exceeded, the performance of my pentax k1000 manual film camera. that camera has always reliably turned out the most beautiful atmospheric shots for me, that i’ve never matched with anything else. the secret is the relatively fast prime (i.e.non-zoom) lens, that provided a natural angle of view (50mm), pretty good low light performance (cos you already know how much i don’t dig flash) and a beautifully shallow depth of field, which pretty much always makes a photo look better to my eyes.
here’s a nice article on 50mm lenses: the forgotten lens. of course it all gets more complicated when you move to digital, as most cameras (unless you get one the really expensive ones) have a sensor that is smaller than 35mm film and this affects the angle of view you get for a given focal length. essentially to get the equivalent angle of view to a 50mm for digital to actually need a lens around 30-35mm.
i really wanted something faster than my pentax at f/2 (these wide apertures simply aren’t available in zoom in my price range) but that makes everything bigger, heavier, and oh so much more expensive. i ruled out the competition for various reasons and ended up with a head to head on the canon 400d (or outgoing 350d) + the canon 35mm f/2 lens versus the d40 with the sigma 30mm f/1.4 (expensive body + cheaper lens vs cheaper body + more expensive lens, both combos absolutely maxing the budget). and my heart ruled my head. the canon set was smaller, lighter, higher spec, but with the lens wide open the shallow depth of field made every pic on the nikon/sigma speak to me (and this was pics of the inside of a camera shop ).
so far it’s working great. i really wanted to get available light shots in subdued indoor lighting at night, and it’s doing that for me. it’s wonderful having the (fast, quiet) autofocus attached to a decent lens – i’m getting candid shots of M that just weren’t possible before – if i wanted a quality pic i had to manually focus it (fully manual camera) and with shallow depths of field there’s not an awful lot of focussing leeway.
and as a final accessory (for the moment at least) i got myself a subscription to jpg magazine. i’ve had a great time browsing through the submitted photos and voting, it’s much more concentrated than flickr, people only seem to post their absolute best shots, and smaller so a bit more manageable. the current issue is available as a pdf download, and there’s a $10 coupon code off a subscription in the back.
lovely lovely buttons these are great cos all the buttons i have are quite “grown up” and these have much more preschooler appeal. M could spend a good half hour or more acting out a story with these.
more acquisition than creation going on around here lately, so here’s here’s the lowdown on my latest scores. (lots of pictures + not much text is prolly a recipe for disaster layout-wise, but what the hell.curtain samples for 50p each. they remind me of this amy butler fabric, and i really like the colourway, it’s fresh and very different from my usual inclinations. emmarose papery. these notecards are letterpressed and have a crisp weighty, tactile impression that oozes quality. apparently they’re opening a london office any moment. yay! superbuzzy. it was the russian doll fabric that lured me in – i’d been pining for it ever since i saw alex use it – but i appear to be in an unexpected yellow phase at the moment cos this is the one that i love best right now.
i’ve finally written up the pattern for boo’s dress: here. i’ve taken some close up pics of the frill detail, and general views, but i can’t include them in the page without it screwing up the layout have linked to the gallery, but that takes a while to update the tags so if you can’t see them find them on my flickr: here.
we’ve got a brand new link on the left that i’m really excited about. it’s the equivalent of an lj friends page, only my clever fella made it especially for me out of stuff we found lying around on the internet*, isn’t he clever?
i don’t like huge long blogrolls (and i particularly hate that word), although i appreciate the desire to link back to people who inspire you. i just don’t find them particularly useful as a visitor. occasionally i will pick a random link from a sidebar to follow, perhaps a name i’ve seen in a couple of different places, but in general i don’t find them a good way of finding new blogs. i do like friends pages though – i love having the chance to browse through posts at random until i find one that interests me enough to check out the blog. browsing content rather than titles works for me.
so after much swearing and googling we’ve got a whole page devoted to my daily reads but it may need a bit of tweaking. i’ve set the options to display the 20 most recent posts from all the blogs i subscribe to (listed at right, apols for css alignment nightmare, is on the list), and i’ve chosen to display full posts rather than excerpts.
i would really appreciate some feedback on this – is the page taking too long to load? should i have fewer posts? would excerpts work better and do the same job of giving people a chance to browse and find fantastic blogs they may have missed?
*to be fair, it’s a wordpress plugin called friends rss aggregator, but it’s not the most straightforward thing in the world to install, and i’m a hard task mistress, so it doesn’t make him any less clever
another simple but recommended project, especially for preschoolers who recognise some letters but aren’t yet reading. i wrote out the words we needed, we identified the letters together and went through a pile of catalogues from the recycling finding nice big colourful examples. placing each cut out letter in the appropriate spot on top of my written example made it easy to spot which ones we needed next.
it’s good for looking at different type styles and capital vs small letters. M loved spotting the different letters and felt very clever when she deduced a new one (she doesn’t know “r” yet, but could work out the sound because she knows “oo” and “m” and what the whole word said). it also introduced some new punctuation – she recognisies “explanation marks” and that question marks usually mean “what?” (thanks to asterix) – but this is the first time she’s encountered an “impostro-me”
we enjoyed finding the letters so much we decided to add an extra word, it was M’s suggestion to make it fantastic. i can’t claim originality for this idea, it comes from crafty ideas from junk, recently picked up in a charity shop.
oh and i get that this rather lets the cat out of the bag on M’s identity, but i figure that pictures aren’t searchable, so once this drops off the front page she can return to her shadowy secret life just out of the frame in my photos (lol, if photos had a soundtrack you’d certainly hear her singing in the background on most of mine).
until recently i’d always posted small size images like this…
… that link to a larger version in the gallery. then i changed to include larger sized images, like the ones on my recent posts. now i’m coming to rather like the text wrapping with smaller images (if i can get it under control a little) but i don’t think it works with the larger ones.
i like the fact that smaller images make the page faster to load, and i like the fact that it keeps the whole site looking cleaner. i like having a large number of posts on the front page rather than expecting people to dig around in the archives, and the smaller images help with that too.
on the other hand – does anyone really bother to click through on the smaller images? do they even know it’s possible? does it mean than most visitors don’t get a chance to see the larger sized versions and the site looks rather dull as a result?
i really can’t decide so i need opinions – big pictures or small?
(in case you’re considering the effect against the header image the current one is temporary – the new one will have a white background, so should feel a little cleaner and not overpower the post images so much)
upgrade seems to be done fine, i’m starting on the new look, but it’s going to be piecemeal – and live – so please bear with the half-dressed look in the mean time
update: i’m having major problems with the text wrapping – i don’t dislike it on the whole, but i’m finding it impossible to add a hard break where necessary. so pictures and text are aligning strangely at the moment, sorry. it’s pretty otherwise, though, don’t you think?
update: phew, patterns should all be fine again now. please let me know if you find any broken links or unexplained weirdnesses.
it seems to me that, when it comes to design, the victorian era is often overlooked. perhaps because it’s so ubiquitous – in the uk at least. huge swathes of our towns and cities were built in the 19th century, a quarter of us live in houses built before 1919. and if we don’t live in a victorian house, we’ve been accustomed to using victorian buildings all our lives, so much of our infrastructure – schools, hospitals, police stations, doctors’ surgeries, etc. – is housed in victorian buildings. victorian flourishes and flounces surround us; mouldings, coving, glorious decorative tiling that often survives on hallway floors or fireplaces; all are commonplace. and familiarity breeds contempt.
we only did away with the last of the surviving victorian interior aesthetic after the second world war, and not effectively like they did in the states. that dark wood furniture, those velvet curtains, those panelled doors, they lurked gloomily on for a long time. it’s stuffy, it’s fussy, it’s the antithesis of modern, and we all know how much we love modern. even those who dig old stuff tend to go for the atomic, the mid century, or simpler, rustic, country style. everyone (except perhaps the crazy quilter) neatly sidesteps victorian, it just isn’t cool.
i can’t say i’m any exception to the rule, but i do recognise that the more celebrated movements that grew out of the end of the victorian era – arts and crafts, art nouveau – had their roots well and truly in the victorian age. the modern was born out of the heart of the old fashioned. and i have a huge fondness for ceramic tiles, particularly victorian and islamic designs, which share a combination of botanical and geometric motifs, brought together with some kind of magic that must be specific to the medium (but to a degree is often echoed in textile design).
and i’ve already shared my love of browsing for original sources. so when i found a copy of f edward hulme’s suggestions in floral design (1878), a book that is apparently seminal in the development of art nouveau – most astonishingly – at a price that i could theoretically afford, how on earth could i resist?
i haven’t yet had a chance to read the text, i’ve been too distracted by the illustrations – crisp chromolithographs, many highlighted in gold. all astonishingly beautiful, and often surprisingly “modern”. sadly i don’t think i can afford to hold on to the book – i sank a chunk of my digital camera fund into the purchase, and i’m really aching to move on with that. so its stay with me will be temporary, but i’ve taken the chance to record all 52 plates while i have them, and put them into an inspirational flickr set. i’ll try to annotate the pics as i work my way through the text.
while it’s not the same as the stunning originals, the good news is that the illustrations at least are available in reprint under the title victorian floral designs in full color, although i don’t know whether the text is reproduced alongside them.
such beautiful designs couldn’t have been developed without a thorough understanding of the subject matter, and f edward hulme is probably best known today for his series of volumes illustrating familiar wild flowers, pages from which are readily available as prints. if you’re digging these as much as i am (heh, can you tell how much i dig them?) you might also be interested in christopher dresser’s studies in design, from the same era, available in reproduction.
deer are the new birds, don’t you think? the animal of choice for the discerning crafter.
fabric from gp & j baker’s gatsby collection, 92% linen 8% nylon.